Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks. Today, Flying Lotus’ Captain Murphy persona awakens from his slumber, Future unleashes a monster, and Jeezy’s Snowman cometh. As always, our distinguished panel consists of Marcus Dowling, Phil R, Jose Lopez-Sanchez of Dead Curious, Joshua Phelps, and Weird City Fest‘s Aaron Miller and Leah Manners (of Hip Hop Hooray too).
Captain Murphy: “Cosplay”
“It’s fun. It’s all fun,” Flying Lotus told BYT last year about his rap persona, Captain Murphy. “It’s so inspiring to feel like a new artist again, and one in a different world. There’s a rush in that. But, you know, the person is the same. I was doing that kind of stuff for fun anyway – there just wasn’t anyone hearing it.” This was a few months after Captain Murphy dropped his first mixtape, Duality, and at the time, FlyLo was promising another was on the horizon. Over a year later, we’re still waiting – he recently attributed the delay in part to giving too many beats to Kendrick – but this week we did get “Cosplay”, a one-off for Adult Swim’s summer series. Meanwhile, Flying Lotus’ You’re Dead! is out October 7.
Phil: This is first Captain Murphy track where FlyLo sounds like he’s found own voice. There’s a reason people initially pegged him for a pitch-shifted Tyler or Earl Sweatshirt: FlyLo was biting, which wasn’t all surprising considering he went straight from rap novice to the spotlight. But “Cosplay” is different. He’s dancing with the track. He’s riffing. Even the pitch-shifting fits the mood of the song instead of feeling like a crutch. Back to that mood: The production sounds like someone fused jazz and boom bap, peer pressured it into a few g-bong rips, and sent it in the direction of the fun house. Is this a good trip or a bad trip? An upper or a downer? I can’t tell, but I want to be there. More, please.
Marcus: Sometimes I miss the days when producers produced, rappers rapped and everyone was okay with the arrangement. Even the great Kanye West was shamed by Roc-a-Fella Records for trying to rock the boat. And yes, while Pete Rock certainly did a fair amount of emceeing, Pete Rock and CL Smooth’s biggest hit was “They Reminisce Over You,” a song that Pete produced and where CL Smooth handles the rhyming duties. All that being said, Flying Lotus is worlds ahead of himself as a producer than as an emcee, and it’s songs like “Cosplay” that make me want him to sit down the microphone forever.
Yes, he’s developing as a rapper. But, he still sounds like the lost Odd Future member here. Maybe that’s just his flow, maybe not? But the fact that his flow so closely apes the flow of rappers who are like, 100x better at rapping than he is just makes me listen to this track and think of every other rapper that’s doper than Flying Lotus that uses the same flow. As a comparison, let’s talk Action Bronson. For approximately his entire career until the middle of last year, he was America’s best Ghostface Killah impersonator. However, he dug in a bit deeper, got a bit more abstract, and then, “SHAZAM!” you get “Easy Rider” and Bronsolini’s a superstar on the rise. Maybe I just want this Captain Morgan thing to exist in a deep, dark corner until other rappers who are dope rappers tell FlyLo that these are dope rap records. Until then, can like, Joey Badda$$ or somebody have at this track? GOOD LAWD it’s great.
Jose: I would agree that FlyLo’s vocal delivery has some shades of Tyler the Creator that I’m not really fond of. The horrorcore elements of Odd Future’s act that have made it to mainstream hip hop seem like some kind of vestigial tail, a remnant of the collective stupidity that allowed for acts like Korn and Limp Bizkit and Slipknot to rise to the top of the charts for a brief period in the late 90s/early 2000s. This is not to say that there isn’t some artistic merit to what songs like “Yonkers” and “Captain Murphy” are doing, just that the singing feels kind of gimmicky when you take a step back from it all.
I’ve always found FlyLo to be better in theory than execution – that is, I get more excited about the idea of a new Flying Lotus song than I actually enjoy listening to his output. Liking his music is the cool thing to do, because he’s a Coltrane or whatever. However, this beat is something else. The dissonance and minor chords he’s playing with, and that gorgeous walking bass… it makes it all work, and might change my mind. FlyLo can put out a dark, jazzy, and progressive beat better than many in the game, but I guess I always expect so much more, for it to live up to the hype and the rabid foaming at the mouth that everyone seems to suffer from when talking about him.
Phelps: This track is great, he probably used most of his mana pool to conjure it up, feel me? If shit like this was around when I was playing Warhammer 2000 in a back room at Atomic Comics, Magic the Gathering on back porches, and Tele-Arena 4.0 on 8 node BBS’, I probably would still have been jerking off into socks while running scripts to get my dexterity up but with better beats on my stereo. I’m ambivalent on his rapping, it doesn’t anger me like a lot of producer’s who rock the mic. I’ll ride for this.
Aaron: Captain Murphy is the shit and I want this to be the Future of Rap. Flying Lotus is obviously enjoying the get to do whatever the fuck I want part of his career. He always seems to be at the bleeding edge of something, almost savant-ish in his delivery. Almost a genre unto himself.
I know it’s not for everybody but I am continually amazed at how popular Flylo is vs. how impenetrably fucking weird he can get. It makes no sense. I think the word progressive has lost it’s original intent and power but It seems as cheap to call him a producer as it does premature to call him a rapper.
Love this track. Moar Pleez.
Now that I got the serious shit out of the way, why y’all gotta be hatin’?
I’m less peeved by the fact that he may have been “biting” Earl and/or Tyler in the first round of Murphy releases and more impressed with the facility with which he jacked the style. It’s like he just went, “I can do that no prob,” and dropped some brain-bombs.
Tyler’s style is a little more accessible and easier to cop, but let’s not fuck around: If you can bite the internal Earl-flow, you are on to something.
I don’t think FlyLo will ever Hold The Torch for the real emcee crowd, but you gotta admit he appears to be extremely good at whatever he does.
Future released his second studio record just four months ago, but given that Honest was originally slated to be out last November, it’s not a huge surprise that the Atalanta rapper / singer / shouter has a new mixtape allegedly on the way soon. (The underperfomance of Honest commercially may be a factor in rushing something fresh out too.) The mixtape is called Evol, which is “love” spelled backwards and possibly a nod to his recent (rumored?) break-up with fiance Ciara. What we know for sure is that the first single is “Monster” and it was produced by Atlanta’s Southside and Metro Boomin. The latter twenty-year-old rising star was responsible for three of Honest‘s biggest tracks – “Karate Chop”, “I Won”, and “Honest” – and recently released a single of his own, “Chanel Vintage”, with Future. The former was responsible for Honest’s “Special”, as well as Young Thug’s breakthrough “Danny Glover”.
Leah: There’s really nothing in this track I like. Misogynistic, unoriginal, and he just sounds like a belligerent asshole. Sorry, Phil. Also, it sounds like he’s saying he’s a “mustard.”
Jose: Yeah, I’m with Leah. Future shat the bed on this one.
Phil: Just because Future produced the best rap record of 2014*, it doesn’t mean he gets a pass on everything, Leah. On contrary, the quality control of Honest makes “Monster” thud all the louder. Future just has a way of phoning in features and mixtape cuts that is incredibly frustrating**. It sounds like he spent fifteen minutes recording this, and that counts a bathroom break and a trip to the vending machine. Here’s the thing though: The dude is capable of tossing off a great performance. The other recent, significantly better Metro Boomin team-up, “Chanel Vintage’, is proof of that.*** That song is basic as fuck, but it sounds like someone lit a fire under his ass, and so it works. Here… well, is it possible to sleep-rap? Are we sure he’s awake? What kind of wack monster is this?
There are some real groaners here too. The Dungeon Family link is stupid and overblown, of course, but, c’mon, even with low expectations, the way “I can’t be scarred of none of you n*ggas / Yall some snitches” comes fumbling out of his mouth is embarrassing. Same goes for “These hoes will smash on one of yo n*ggas and be very proud.” “And be very proud” is on some elementary school poetry, gotta shit. Plus, in the bigger picture, why is he even making a track like this? He’s said he’s given up lean. He’s said he’s tired of street rap. He’s rich and settled. He is not a “young gunner” falling asleep at “the gambling house.” It may suck for him that he has to try harder now, but once you turn the corner, you gotta leave behind the boilerplate.
I will say, however, that between this and “Seen It All” and “Suicide”, I like this mini-movement of faintly Asian, eerie, “Shogun”-esque productions.
* I’m just being honest. **I tell the truth. ***Real street shit.
Marcus: “Ayo, imma hop on this track and give you that old school, fuck a bitch Future. None of that soft shit, none of that, ‘Ciara, imma marry you and give you a baby shit.'”
“Yeah, man. There’s a lotta hoes in the streets. She was basic anyway. That’s what’s up. I got like, 80 stacks at the studio for you in a Louis Vuitton bag”
“Naaah, imma do this for nothing. Imma do this so these street n***as out here know that I ain’t soft no more. Imma bring my new jump off to the studio with me too, and she MIGHT break y’all off, too.”
“Oh really? Bet. That’s what’s good.”
“Actually, you know what y’all can do?”
“Bring me some dirty Sprite, a pound of some purple ass weed, some E-Z Widers, and some steak and potatoes.”
“Steak and potatoes?”
“Well, a n*gga gotta eat, right?”
And after all the weed was smoked, steaks were eaten, dirty Sprite consumed, and homies broken off by the jump off (and her fat assed homegirls who showed up too), we get “Monster.” Is this actually how it went down? Probably. If not, then Future fell off on this one. The track is nice by an already established trap-anthem expectation. However, Future’s performance is just all of the way around bad, and something has to explain it, right?
Aaron: Pass. This song doesn’t exist and I yearn for a future with no Future in it.
NOBODY talks shit about my girl Ciara.
Rap muppet ass brain damaged buster.
Jeezy ft. Game & Rick Ross: “Beautiful”
Jeezy: “Holy Ghost”
In the wake of “Me OK” and “Seen It All”, Jeezy dropped two singles this week from the forthcoming Seen It All: The Autobiography.
Phil: Damn, guys, is this Jeezy record actually going to be good? I ride for both of these songs, even if it’s more of a “back seat of a Prius to the mall” ride and not a “Harley over the Grand Canyon” ride.
The Rick Ross appearance on “Beautiful” is funny, because these songs are exactly the type of “All Thugs Go the Heaven” lounge music that Rozay’s been trying to make for his last few records with little real success. Jeezy, of all people actually, somehow gets it right. It helps to have Def Jam springing for the top shelf shit, I guess.
It’s hard to listen to “Holy Ghost” without thinking of Freddie Gibbs’ “Real”, which is a shame, because the latter ether’d Jeezy with such ruthless specificity that the generic “BFF done me wrong” narrative of “Holy Ghost” can’t hope to compete. Still, Jeezy sounds good, and the production is on point.
The Snowman cometh.
Phelps: Jeezy really missed an opportune time to callback to Biggie’s “Get Money”/“spread like mustard” lyric around 1:50 on “Holy Ghost” but that’s OK – that’s the weakest verse on an otherwise pretty good flow over this creeped out synthy-bounce.
“Beautiful” is the star here though. Game, on a break from crossfit and kettlebells, fits well with the southern trap lords and I love how they weave in and out of each others verses some and in the chorus. I bet Yo Gotti would have rather been on this than just given a co-sign in Jeezy’s verse. Ross picking up the rear of the track renders the earlier verses somewhat forgettable unfortunately – they’re crushed under the weight of Rozay rolling over the keys-laden beats like “Even Deeper.” Unlike anything in the physical, Rozay rolling over beats metaphorically is always a good thing. One of the greatest actors of our generation.
Marcus: Somewhere, Rick Ross is loving the fact that the hook on this song isn’t merely objectifying women’s bodies, but rather it just steals their humanity and compares them to inanimate objects. In the bizarre game that is Rick Ross’ war with public opinion, he’ll consider this a win and keep it moving. Quietly, Game’s become one of the best rappers in rap right now. The idea that Game and Ross share a load here is intriguing because well, they actually balance each other out. Pop radio Ross is one rapper, album cut Ross is another. This is that laconic pop radio guy, and Game being his lyrical doppelganger is genius. And, yeah…Jeezy is Jeezy. A rapper’s rapper, he puts in fantastic work here.
“Holy Ghost” is good, but Phil is right. Freddie Gibbs and Young Jeezy not working out is the narrative in the back of my mind in listening to this one. The moment that happened, it broke the tiny little beating thug heart in this not-so-thuggish middle-aged man. I hear tracks like these with their bruising percussion and lush harmonies and want both Jeezy and Gangsta Gibbs’ voices to cut through the softness together like a modern age Priest and Eddie dealing “Superfly” and hard-ass crack rocks to wannabe G’s in gated communities. I mean, that’s the goal of rap these days, right? Yeah, it’s solid, but, by comparison to “Beautiful,” it doesn’t really stand out.
Aaron: Two things. I wanna know who did Jeezy so wrong?! Also is “Holy Ghost” his version of sensitive? So many emotions. I’d be laughing if I wasn’t afraid that Jeezy would hear me and shoot me and chop up my body and sell it in the streets. 7 out of 10 bang-bangs on this one. (Is it bad that I like that “CANNON” shout out so much? Cracks my shit up. I will be saying it all day now.)
Jose: Does anyone else think “Holy Ghost” sounds like it’s a beat tailor-made for Drizzy, not Jeezy? It has a lot of the hallmarks usually associate with a “Thank Me Later” era Drake song, but obviously Jeezy takes it and brings it to the trap (I can see all off you gnashing teeth already). It’s good, if generally uninteresting. At this stage in Jeezy’s career, I’m not really trying to hear about his rise and his life before rap. He’s been around long enough that I’d like more about what he’s doing now! How has your life changed since you dropped the “Young”? Do you get still get carded at restaurants?
All joking aside, it’s strange just how much rap is obsessed with street legitimacy as a way of elevating artists. At this point, I don’t really care if my rapper grew up selling rocks or Rockports – all that really matters to me is your ability to tell a gripping story, choose a beat intelligently, and have some modicum of originality. Rags to riches is the American dream, but as we’ve seen over past years, it doesn’t all have to be gangster rap for a hip hop artist to succeed.
“Beautiful” is great. Execution is flawless, production is lush, errbody just putting in their rap 9-5. Not much to say except that it’s a solid performance all around that doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.