Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks. Today, Mike WiLL Made It calls in some favors; Busdriver picks up a weirdo dream team of Aesop Rock and Danny Brown; and YG hosts a block party with Blanco and DB the General Along for the ride is our distinguished panel of Marcus Dowling, Phil R, Joshua Phelps, Aaron Miller, Jose Lopez-Sanchez of Dead Curious, and Hip Hop Hooray’s Leah Manners. This week’s “Summer Inturn Down For What?” participant is Emily Holland.
Mike WiLL Made It ft. Future,Lil Wayne &
Kendrick Lamar: “Buy the World”
Mike Will Made-It was Spin Magazine’s Artist of the Year, which, given the fact that he’s neither a singer nor a rapper, is a little nuts. But it speaks to the ubiquity of the producer’s songs in 2013: Lil Wayne’s “Love”, Future’s Ace Hood’s “Buggati”, Ciara’s “Body Party”, Miley’s “We Can’t Stop”, Juicy J’s “Show Out”, Rihanna’s “Pour It Up”, Future’s “Sh!t”… the list goes on. You listened to the radio for 20 minutes, you heard his work. Then there was “23”, a platinum single released under his own, and featuring the unholy alliance of Miley, Juicy J, and Wiz Khalifa. Released in September, “23” was supposedly the first offering from Mike WiLL’s full-length debut Est. in 1989 Pt. 3 (The Album), but since it dropped, it’s been mostly crickets on that front. Until this week, obviously, when the Atlanta beatsmith released the record second single, “Buy the World”, with Lil Wayne, Kendrick Lamar, and his muse Future, whose record latest, Honest, he executive produced. This marks his first pairing with K-Dot.
Jose: This track is unexpectedly open and bright coming from Mike WiLL. The Atlanta producer has consistently demonstrated that he has pop chops (see: “We Can’t Stop” and “Body Party”), but this track goes in a different direction and manages to shed some of that trademark Mike WiLL Made iT grime (which I think is what makes most of his beats so good). Everyone here is in a buoyant mood! It’s almost weird to hear.
Future handles the hook well enough, even though it’s not particularly memorable. Weezy continues to show us that he’s on the up-and-up, and it is promising, but he’s not hitting the high notes of 2009 quite yet. Kendrick has his usual strong showing, bringing energy to his verses to match the galloping/Timbaland-esque drum beat.
I ain’t mad at this, despite being a little saccharine and lacking in replay value.
Aaron: Jose, that is an amazingly diplomatic turn of phrase: “lacking in replay value.” You have a way with words, my man, and I am Citizen Kane slow-clapping for you right now. If Kendrick wasn’t on this track, I would’ve just written sucks with 5 X’s.
Marcus: This is terrific. Just flat out well done by everyone. It’s not 2014’s best song, but it’s like, song eight of 18 in a row, and will get turned up loud in the car by teenage girls headed to summer parties and is also something inoffensive that the homies sitting on the stoop can rock out with, too. Mike WILL doesn’t make hits right now, he makes lifestyle background music – which, given that “music doesn’t sell anymore,” is ideally what music should be best suited to do.
The best part of this track is actually Future. Yes, Weezy and Kendrick are good, but Future is better. Future only has to use three syllables to say three words, so we all clearly understand him here, which is better than pretty much anything else he’s done in recent memory.
As for Weezy, I think he’s getting himself together and ultimately holding it back for the album. The next Carter is forthcoming, and I think he’s going to snap on that one because, well, his brand needs that right now. Wayne (like Nicki, and many YMCMB artists, actually) base their brand success on the baseline notion that their raps will always be globally respected enough that well, buying their baseball cap or mascara will somehow align you with how dope they are at rapping. Please note that both Nicki and Wayne are both “rapping” again, as the past two years has seen both artists being perceived as less-than-top tier rappers, likely to diminishing returns across all of their personal-related brands.
Leah: I’m just so touched to see male rappers re-establishing their value and not giving away their bodies like they’re some sort of currency for mass market acceptance. When Kendrick says, “This dick ain’t for free,” it just really touches me that he knows his worth. It’s truly time for the rise of men in hip-hop who know that they are more than just their bodies and how women fixate on them. It’s really their talent on the mic that makes male contributions worthwhile, and I’m so glad that Kendrick is showing and proving here that he can rap with the rest of the women, and even goes so far as to call them “bitches.” So fierce.
All sarcasm aside, this song is okay. I don’t see a particularly superlative effort here from Weezy or Lamar, but Future, I’ll admit carries the song – a quote that now Phil will literally parrot back to me for forever, but I stand by it.
Aaron: Good call, Leah. It’s about time the scales flipped and men started assigning true value to the D. Without strong, confident role models to speak out and stand up for what’s right, most dicks would, in fact, remain free of charge until they were completely devoid of any resale value. Then you end up with a surplus of dicks, and people would always be throwing them out like that one skinny lamp I see in the trash all the time.
Emily: The low-key, moseying nature of the verses kind of explains how I feel about this track: It takes you on its little journey, but there’s no epiphany along the way. I don’t want to call it half-assed, because it doesn’t exactly come off that way – it’s just laid back and garners little more than a “meh” response and some head nodding along to its drums. None of the lyrics are really enlightening, or as enlightening as a rap lyric can be.
Weezy’s verse gives a lot of hope for his eventual comeback. (Lord knows I’m still recovering from that hospital scare last year). But, it seems like no one on the track was supremely invested in it. Maybe bump this in the background at a party, but I don’t see it as a song that will gain major traction with the masses. Nothing’s really pulling me in.
Phil: A minor quibble: What the fuck is happening with Mike Will and the awful fade-outs? He pulled this shit on Future’s “Never Satisfied”, and it was kind of funny, because Drake was in the middle of saying something and Mike Will drowns him out like a orchestra conductor at the Oscars. But here, when Kendrick sounds like he’s onto something with that “Hold up / We just wanna ball like grown-ups” quasi-bridge, “Buy the World” fades to black. It sounds like there was a guest verse they couldn’t clear coming in a few seconds later. I don’t get it.
Anyway, to basically repeat Emily, this song just never takes off. It’s a stand-up double when it could have gone for third base. There’s nothing wrong with a double, of course. There are things to like here. Wayne’s verse is pretty good, even if in the larger “Return of Wayne” narrative that everyone is desperate it for, it falls way short of “D’USSE”. It’s nice to hear Kendrick have fun. And the sustained range of Mike Will’s sound continues to be a pleasant surprise. As for Future, how some of you guys can turn up for this so-so hook while scoffing at everything he does on Honest is too much for my feeble mind to process.
Aaron: I’m gonna go out on limb here and say Weezy’s verse is hot garbage. I think he may be in the early stages of falling off. Is it possible for an artist to un-mature? Can we get him back on the Lean? Maybe get Busta to do some cross-training on tightening up his increasingly weak punch lines and not sounding bored.
The gulf of both style and talent between Future and Kendrick is almost shocking. Lamar’s verse sounds a little phoned in, and it still kills 90% of rappers in the game. I wonder if it’s a burden to be that good? It must be like being omnipotent… like, he just leaves the house and can see through walls and read rappers minds and shit. I wonder if he ever gets tired of leveling up? Most importantly, I wonder if Rec-Room can petition to have him play a young D.O.C. in the new N.W.A biopic? Million Dollar Idea. True story. Hollywood, fuck you, pay me.
I feel you on the fade out, Phil. That was a stone cold groove just wasted. That was my favorite part of the whole track and should’ve been the hook – no doubt.
P.S. You like my new steez? Instead of freaking out about why people like Future, O/D.’ing on Haterade and lashing out at the world around me, I just pretend like he’s not there. I didn’t mention my disdain for his raggedy robot-voiced nonsense one ti..
Busdriver ft. Aesop Rock & Danny Brown: “Ego Death”
Dizzying L.A. rapper Busdriver has a new record, Perfect Hair, coming out in September, and this week he shared its first single, “Ego Death”. The six-minute track features fellow underground mainstay Aesop Rock, as well as Danny Brown, who basically can show up on anyone’s track and it somehow makes perfect sense. Production comes courtesy of Jeremiah Jae, a fellow Angeleno who is currently signed to Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder.
Leah: While this combo may seem surprising, I first heard of Danny Brown several years ago when Aes Rock name-checked him as an artist he was listening to at the time and thought would break out soon (and he was right). And, obviously, notorious art rappers Busdriver and Aesop Rock make for a natural fit. Three weird, distinctive voices over this crawling, tomb-shaking Jeremiah Jae beat is maybe all I could have hoped for – and this track will open up new listeners to the others for people who only know about one rapper on this track. Each one brings his own, and Danny really sweeps the end with his raw energy. Just a big ol’ “fuck yes” to this.
Marcus: Good lord. This stuff used to only happen when I was a kid and I stayed up too late watching The Box and the video requests started getting weird. Now, it’s done because fuck it, who cares, and there’s some guy in selvedge denim hellbent on disruption in a corporate boardroom willing to foot the bill. I love it. The beat sounds like reverb on a blown amp in the best way, and Danny Brown sounds like he’s having more fun on this track then he’s had on anything in months. The cadence is fresh, the flow is tight, and I’m not worried about his level of relationship to sobriety when its over. As for Busdriver and Aespo here, they clock in and more than deliver as compared to say, Death Grips last week. I have no angst with art-rap, just stand, deliver and do so with purpose. Tremendous.
Jose: This is really dark, and shares more of a sonic palette with a lot of music I enjoy outside of the confines of hip-hop. And it works. This song is grimy and dark and loopy, and I fucks with this. It isn’t pretentious, or trying to shock us for the sake of shocking. Does it get a bit tiresome after the fifth or sixth listen? Sure. But it’s still good stuff. While Busdriver and Aesop are snarling at us, Danny Brown shows up, slaps his flow down over the beat, and keeps adding to his current “do-no-wrong” reputation.
Phil: Shout out to whoever introduced Jeremiah Jaw to El-P’s catalog. This is a good look for him. The hook is a little frozen in 2003, but I’ll let it slide because everything else here is on point. Danny Brown Features 4 President.
Aaron: I’m not sure why Aesop and Busdriver haven’t made a whole album together. It’s a perfect fit. Science has proven Aesop is wordiest rapper of all time, but the only reason he won is that the dude that made that chart forgot to add Busdriver. There is absolutely no way that anyone in any language has ever said more words than Busdriver. Untouchable style on some Unicorn shit.
Danny Brown continues to dominate. I was worried that he might get smothered by the insane rappity raps, but he goes hard as fuck and pretty much slams the door on this track. He is currently tied with Action Bronson for best punchlines in hip-hop.
Jeremiah Jae’s production is super nice, and he’ll be right at home on Brainfeeder with all the other awesome, weird, highly marketable beat stuff. (This track does have a certain El P-ish, Run the Jewelsian quality to it though.)
Phelps: I have dreams of someone rapping over DJ Shadow’s “Fixed Income”, and if this is my consolation prize, I’ll take it. A gritty, industrial ethos (see Earl’s “Hoarse”) and references to math rock? Pretty much in my wheelhouse, thank you – just call me the Electric Wizard. I fuck with this as a nice foil to the other easy going jams this week.
Emily: This is the shit that I’ve been waiting to download. I’m a sucker for clever, pun-filled raps and this is just perfect. The verses are super tight. How can you not love “’cause sleep and death have always been conjoined twins”? I could go on forever about the lyrics. I think that all the guys hold their own on this track, but I’d have to agree that Danny Brown coming in at the end really leaves me with that daze that kind of sweeps over at the end of a kick ass song. When I discovered Danny Brown, it was on a track with Childish Gambino and I kind of fell in love with the way his voice is his. It’s not an imitation and it’s not even like I can describe it as a super pleasant sound, but it draws me in and owns everything and says “you can’t fuck with me” no matter what lyrics he’s dropping.
YG & Blanco ft. DB The General: “Block Party”
When YG released his debut LP, My Krazy Life, earlier this year, some critics hailed it as “instantly classic”,“instantly essential”, and a “ratchet music masterpiece.” It sold pretty well too. So, at this point, you’d expect YG to coast for the rest of the year – keep releasing singles, tour, pop up with an occasional feature. And this is pretty much what he’s done. First, he showed up on the kinda racist ode to Hispanic friends “Vato”; then on Jeremih’s summer anthem “Don’t Tell ‘Em”. Notably, both songs were produced by DJ Mustard, unquestionably the most in-demand rap producer on the planet, and the executive producer / sonic architect of My Krazy Life. But as it turns out, YG is not checked out for the year: The Compton rapper has a mixtape in the pipeline with Bay Area emcee Blanco and his frequent collaborators Cookin’ Soul, a Spanish production duo whose style is a far cry from Mustard’s cool minimalism. The first cut from this project is “Block Party”, and it features DB The General and a Tupac sample.
Marcus: I was only mildly perturbed when YG was trying to do B-grade versions of Snoop songs. Now, he’s moved on to Warren G and DJ Quik? Well, I mean if we’re just going to be making 2014 pop rap into really generic and hollow sounding versions of every song we ever liked in the 90s, I suppose this is okay. All I really want now is for YG to just break down and do a St. Ides or Crooked I iced tea commercial. I was that goody two-shoes who grew up in the hood and drank my Crooked I iced tea out of a paper bag, just so you could think that I had a 40. Have I ever actually drank a 40? No. It’s just like why I don’t eat watermelon: It feels way too boring and stereotypical (and not in any way that feels positive), which is coincidentally how I feel about this track.
2Pac’s dead. Nate Dogg’s dead. Snoop is drinking soju with Psy, and Dr. Dre may or may not be a billionaire. We don’t hear much from Suge Knight or Warren G anymore, but, yeah. This song bores me because it fits a stereotype of something that was once amazing, and clearly can never happen again. Instead of getting sad about the old days, I just sit here really bored and thinking that it might be time to take a two-mile run over to my local &pizza location. Because man, &pizza? Absolutely better than YG.
Phil: YG is capable of being a personable, funny, and technically proficient emcee. On the majority of My Krazy Life, he is all of these things. But there are songs where he just seems to stumble out of the gate and never recovers. He awkwardly crams words where they don’t belong. His raps are boilerplate. Oddly enough, his second biggest song – “Who Do You Love?” – is one of them. “Block Party” is another.
Of course, YG only takes up a third of this song’s real estate. Unfortunately, Blanco and DB the General don’t fare that much better. The former raps “My chronic is bionic / It’s the bomb, Islamic,” which is all I need to say about his verse. The latter claims to “promote a million tweets,” which leads me to believe that he doesn’t understand how Twitter works, let alone the fact that I can see he only has 10,000 followers. Also, rappers just shouldn’t talk about Twitter. Stick to Instagram.
All of that being said, there’s a nice warmth and knock to this production, and Cookin’ Soul’s deployment of the Tupac sample is surgical. Purely as “lifestyle background music,” I’m surprisingly into this.
Emily: There is a certain amount of comfort and familiarity in the song (probably that stereotype-filling that Marcus was talking about). It tries to throwback, but just ends up being a so-so imitation, with a few new twists. I don’t even really want to talk about the lyrics because just why…. “I’m high as a kite”? Do people even fly kites anymore? Let’s get a new simile please.
I mean, it’s not necessarily a bad song, like I don’t want to turn it off immediately and it has a nice, soft nature to it. But after a slew of plays, it just fades into the background, overtaken by the fans in my un-airconditioned basement sublet and I don’t even really realize it’s there. I want to know it’s there.
Phelps: Some folks might as well tuck the whole summer in and move to a Vice-approved suburb but, for me, a subtle but effective reworking of Aly Us’ “Follow Me” baseline, Pac samples, and Ini Kamoze shouts just make me wanna ride my beach cruiser to Marcus’ house for a special brew. Full disclosure: I have drank a shitload of 40s. I been listening to more and more of YG – it ain’t nothin but a gangster party, y’all.
Aaron: Ok, I agree that this shit is boring and derivative, but early on I decided there was jam in there somewhere and I was gonna ride it out. And then, BOOM: 2:16 got me fucked up…who is that? Blanco or the General? That is the most irritating rap voice that I’ve ever heard and it ruined what little joy I was managing to squeeze out of this track.
More Mustard, less of everything else on this track.
Jose: Ok, ok this is derivative and unoriginal, and seemingly out of time. But that bassline is groovy as shit! This is a great summer (of ’92) jam, and YG’s verse was solid. The other two…eesh.
I would listen to an instrumental version of this all day. It would totally make the cut as the secret track on one one of those “Another Late Night” compilations, probably curated by Bonobo/DJ Kicks, and all the Scandinavian Hipsters would lose their shit.