Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks. Today, Lil Wayne is krazy like a fox; Busta Rhymes and Eminem jump around; and Lupe Fiasco stands next to Ty Dolla $ign. Along for the ride is our distinguished panel of Marcus Dowling, Phil R, Joshua Phelps, Aaron Miller, Jose Lopez-Sanchez of Dead Curious, and Leah Manners of Hip Hop Hooray and Weird City Fest.
Lil Wayne: “Krazy”
The rollout for Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter V continues with “Krazy”, the third new Weezy track of 2014. It follows the Drake-assisted “Believe Me” and soulful Carter III throwback “D’USSE”, and whether any of these songs actually make Carter V remains to be seen. But, anyway, here’s “Krazy”. Like “D’USSE”, it’s straight Wayne, and it features production from Miami beatmaker Infamous. These two have a history, having paired for “Mr. Carter”, “President Carter”, and a lot of the maligned Rebirth. Lil Wayne recently told MTV that the full Carter V would be here soon: “I think it drops in like September or August, I don’t know. It might drop before that in July, I don’t know. I’m finished,” Tunechi has previously said this is his last record.
Phelps: Me like this beat.
Leah: I don’t know, I was ready for it to really kick in and it never did. Weezy, though, lays some crazy verses on this, and I’m digging it primarily because of that. I’m disappointed in the hook, but I guess I have a whole album of hooks to look forward to this summer (hopefully). I feel like this track is only a taster for the new stuff – it comes off a little unpolished and rushed.
Marcus: I’m really all for Lil Wayne taking the entirety of 2014 to get his legs under him. This feels like a lyrical sparring session. Nothing too difficult, no crazy opposition tossed at him by the beat, just a way for an obviously more clear-headed Weezy to handle those wild juxtapositions of words that only he can see with greater dexterity.
At this point of Wayne’s career, there’s really no reason for him to put out a great album other than to have pride in his own craftsmanship. If that means that we get another Carter III, then I’m happy. If that means that we get 15 songs like this, well, I’ll still be happy because even at say, 75% of his former self, Lil Wayne is iconic and perpetually entertaining. Not mad at that.
Jose: We’ve been talking about Wayne’s redemption for a couple of weeks now, and I think Marcus hits it on the head: We know that his recent output is by no means Weezy at his untouchably weird best, but it’s a lot closer than he’s been in a long time. It’s strides in the right direction, and right now, that’s all that matters.
That being said, viewing this song in isolation brings its flaws to the fore. Musically speaking, it starts off really strong, but then just peters off into repetitiveness. Something about the industrial/mecha sounds flattens the impact of Wayne’s voice, the nasality and raspiness of which is usually in contrast to the smoother, “rounder” sounds featured on his standout tracks. I understand the desire to grow and explore new directions, but this beat feels more suited to machine gun verses than the pinball, “Space Jam” zaniness that I love from Wayne. This is good, just not great.
Phil: Even taking Weezy’s phoned-in recitation of penis-and-vagina puns into consideration, the most disappointing part of Tha Carter IV was how flat-out boring its production choices were. The Carter III was special not just because it marked the first time Wayne bottled mixtape weirdness on a studio record, but because he did it on one that genuinely felt like an event. “Let the Beat Build”, “Playing With Fire”, “A Milli”, “La La”: Egchk. These tracks were monsters. But Tha Carter IV? It sounded like it was made on a shoestring budget with an eye towards minimizing every possible risk. Of course, “How to Love” went quadruple platinum, so, you know, fuck a fanboy.
“Believe Me” had me believe’n (swoosh) that Carter V would be more of the same – essentially I Am Not a Human Being-level snoozefests – but lo and behold: “D’USSE” and “Krazy” are fire. They’re opposite sides of the coin – the former a warmly lit lounge, the latter a swarm of demonic robot locusts – and both go hard. Variety, imagine that. And, Leah, I initially felt a little cheated on their hooks, but the more I listen to them, the more those lulls feel like welcome respites. When everything is firing on full cylinders, maybe a few seconds to catch our breath isn’t a bad thing. Plus, as a wise woman once said: “HOOKS ARE OVER.”
Leah: Curses! I hate it when my own words are used against me.
Phelps: This doesn’t bang as hard in the money green Isuzu, but in my headphones the 808s enhanced the weird verses like drugs. And they weren’t even overpriced Beats. At this point, considering Wayne’s recent output, I’m happy to be fuckin with both his verses and the beat. I am gonna check in like the room is cheap; thank you, concierge Weezy.
Aaron: I listened to the track and chopped my own hands off so I can’t feel it. I’m officially tired of Weezy. He has always been one of the best doing some of the worst. For every banging ass perma-hit like “A Milli”, there’s 200 tracks of bullshit. The Law of Averages dictates that most of his catalogue will suck.
I still secretly pine for the No-Limit era Wayne when he was part of a team instead of a weird mirror-licking, swole headed, mogul type. And I could’ve used some double-time flow on this. Wayne shines harder the faster he raps. That story book Trap Flow is dead.
Phelps: I also long for the Lil Romeo Cash Money catalogue days.
Aaron: I’m taking a Lil hiatus. I’ll check back in after global warming swallows Louisiana and Tha Carter XXXXVI drops.
Busta Rhymes ft. Eminem: “Calm Down”
Busta Rhymes and the good folks have at Young Money have certainly been slow playing the release of the Brooklyn rapper’s Extinction Level Event 2. It’s been over a year since first single “Twerk It”, and seven months since “Thank You” – two songs that drew near universal acclaim on Rec-Room. But this week, the 42 year-old dropped the record’s third single, “Calm Down”, a whopping six-minute cut with fellow veteran Eminem. “We are respectfully trying to battle each other in a way that you probably never heard us battle in our entire careers,” Busta said of the song in September. The “battle track” was produced by L.A.’s Scoop DeVille, the man recently responsible for Vince Staple’s Rec-Room favorite “Nate”. Here, DeVille cuts up a sample from House of Pain’s classic “Jump Around”, which worked off a sample of Bob & Earl’s “Harlem Shuffle” itself. E.L.E.2 is still without a release date.
Leah: Em’s on to us, y’all: “I sit in front of my computer all day and comment on / Everything, I’m an expert on everything / Everything sucks, play the next song”
Phil: Really?! Rec-Room?! Too aggressive?!
Leah: We weren’t even as mean to Em as Twitter was to Busta.
Marcus: In my estimation, 75% of the mainstream rap I hear right now is completely deplorable. Thus, when this track kicked off with that “Jump Around”/”Harlem Shuffle” sample, I was fairly angry. Yes, even when that kickdrum came in heavy, I was still annoyed. Yes, I know. I have high standards. Shoot me.
However, after hearing the whole thing, this track should be titled “(Don’t) Calm Down.” I just want to do something crazy, like fistfight Chief Keef or hit Rick Ross in the kneecaps with an aluminum baseball bat. Maybe I can go down to Houston and find Tree, and like force feed him lean until his eyes turn purple. Or, like, buy Kevin Gates a lap dance and a steak dinner and make him incredibly, incredibly happy.
This is stupendous. It feels like nitroglycerin in rap form. Busta can dress like a clown at every BET Awards ceremony until the end of time if he keeps rapping like this. And Eminem just rolled up his sleeves and tried to hit the track with a mallet. In my mind, Em has Royce da 5’9” in the room judging the level of his raps with each take on this track, and they’re scribbling out and crossing off bars that for every other rapper ever would be the best lyrics they’d ever spit. Eminem sounds like he’s actually having fun here, and that’s great.
Eminem will never be 1999 era “stop the tape, this kid needs to be locked away” Eminem, but he’s now “my daughter is graduated and off to college, and I have an empty nest, successful career and label, plus free time to spare” Eminem, and in this case, he’s an occasionally super-reactive volcano of an emcee who now has the time and freedom to occasionally slam dunk a track like this.
Leah: I’m no hater on old-school beats, but this one doesn’t really do it for me. I find the repetition distracting and kind of exhausting. And there’s beat beef. Busta and Em go in, for sure, and it’s impossible not to respect Busta’s rabid intensity. They all ready on the firing line – another good sample in the track – but this beat keeps me from putting this track on repeat.
Aaron: Goddamn I love everything about this. The Bob & Earl “Harlem Shuffle” sample. The “Big Beat” drums. It is a little repetitive, but in a really dope Swizz Beatish kinda way. I think beats like this are a testament to how little you need to showcase two of the strongest emcees that ever rapped a rap. There is a level of skill that really transcends opinion. It’s cool if you don’t like Mozart or Coltrane , but don’t say it’s not good. The only thing this track is missing is some battle scratching at the end (and according to Twitter, Everlast on the remix)
10 mics for these lines. Em: “Don’t make me go take it back to the days of old of Sway and Tech on the radio when I was taking so much LSD and No-Doze I almost fell asleep on the Wake Up Show.” Bus: “ I’m bitin’ the beat up and it’s starting to heat up / Choppin’ off your foot and it’s mine / I’m putting my feet up!”
I can’t even. So fresh.
And say what you want, but Everlast was Krossover King of the world for a minute and House of Pain was the shit. Second album better than the first: A rare phenom in the 90’s.
Phelps: Are you jumping around?
Aaron: Always and Forever. #SHAMROCKSANDSHENANIGANS
Phil: This song really makes me want to listen to “Jump Around”.
Lupe Fiasco ft. Ty Dolla $ign: “Next To It”
In what’s become a trend this week, “Next To It” is the third single off Lupe Fiasco’s fifth LP, Tetsuo & Youth. In October, Lupe told Rolling Stone that the record was partially inspired by his upbringing in Chicago’s rough-and-tumble west side: “The content of it is like, ‘Oh, shit – I didn’t know Lupe could talk like that. I didn’t know Lupe knew that guy. I didn’t know Lupe was affiliated with that’… If you want to hear my political spiel or some pseudo-intellectual Lupe, go listen to Food & Liquor II.” But although he teased a song with Chris Brown called “Crack” – let that sink in – his first two singles were somewhat classic Lupe: an ode to hip-hop (“Old School Love”) and an anthem for cancer victims (“Mission”). With his third single “Next To It”, however, we finally get some of what he alluded to. The track features – and was produced by – L.A. Lothario Ty Dolla $ign, who finds himself very much in demand in the wake of his “Paranoid” and “Or Nah” success. And if Ty Dolla $ign is on the track, this probably isn’t another one for cancer victims.
Marcus: Enough is enough, already. I think Lupe Fiasco isn’t iconic because “Kick, Push” is a Motown-level pop classic, but he was the first one to realize that old guys in suits prostituting hipsters in skinny jeans wasn’t a recipe for business on a humanistic level. Well, he signed that deal with Atlantic Records, and he went down with the ship that his beliefs were stationed on, too. Thus, we get this janky trap shit right here, where the real star that makes the record “radio friendly” isn’t Fiasco, but rather Ty Dolla $ign. On one hand, there’s a tired revolutionary, the rapping equivalent of Bobby Seale hawking barbecue cookbooks, and he’s joined by a young dude completely complicit in the bullshit and throwing up a black power fist cause it just seems like a cool thing to do. I think the best word for this is sad. Just really, really sad.
Jose: This song is trying to do some interesting things, putting a sonic twist on your usual trap song. I like the truncated/filtered horns, and the beat is actually quite good. It might be the best thing about the song, in fact, because the lyrics are fucking boring. I understand the desire to work around the theme of perspective, and comparison is always a useful tool to provide some of that, but holy hell the rhymes on this song are tired. If I’m being honest, I haven’t enjoyed anything Lupe has put out since The Cool, and it doesn’t seem like that’s going to be changing.
Leah: Ugh. <washes hands of Lupe Fiasco>
Seriously? This is where we’ve arrived after all your railing against Obama, after all your semi-lucid political screeds against the 1%? Now your car would look better with 30 bitches and some titties next to it? I don’t mind rappers who have fun and never even pretend to defend the underprivileged, but you put yourself on a pedestal, Lupe. Now you can go fuck yourself.
Seriously. This is the same guy who wrote “Bitch Bad” against the exact same objectification he showcases in the track above?! This is the shit that makes me have aneurysms.
Aaron: I really like this beat. A lot. But this kinda shit from Lupe is two steps (in the club) back. You can’t find a young, famous black man with a more earnest and positive message than Lupe, and his recent freestyle on Sway in the Morning was fucking devastating. By Sway’s own account, it was one if the best ever.
It all makes no sense. In terms of skill and message Lupe should be at the top of his game and universally respected, but he won’t stop: A) whining about shit and throwing fits; and B) shifting his style up to pander to mainstream industry nonsense.
Recap: Lupe is 51% lame, 49% dope.
Phelps: My roommate didn’t like how I followed him around spouting literal interpretations of what he was doing with things next to him/it. It was kinda like in the late 90s when no one in my house could go anywhere without me saying “You just gonna walk in front of the TV HAH. You goin’ to the bar without invitin’ me HAH.” Shouts to Juvie.