Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks. Today, Eminem, Danny Brown, Big Sean, and the rest of Detroit take on the world; Big K.R.I.T. coronates himself King of the South; and Migos hit us up. As always, our distinguished panel consists of Marcus Dowling, Phil R, Joshua Phelps, and Weird City Fest‘s Aaron Miller. Also joining us this week is Clyde McGrady.
Eminem, Royce da 5’9″, Big Sean, Danny Brown,
Dej Loaf & Trick Trick: “Detroit vs. Everybody”
Earlier this week, Marshall Mathers made news for saying some awful shit in a freestyle, which usually means that he’s trying to drum interest for a new record, and lo and behold, he has one coming out! But it’s not an Eminem record – only a year after The Marshall Mathers LP 2, it’s too soon for that. Instead, Em is capitalizing on the success of that kinda sequel – which went double platinum at a time when not a lot goes double platinum – with a compilation from his Shady Records called ShadyXV. The collection will be a double offering: one disc greatest hits, one disc new material. The latter features mostly the (few) regulars on the imprint: Em, Slaughterhouse, Yelawolf, and D12. However, its final track, “Detroit vs. Everybody”, is a posse cut that reaches outside the Shady Records stable while still keeping everything in the Motor City. The six-minute, Statik Selektah-produced (!) cut features Em and Royce da 5’9″ alongside four outsiders: rap god Danny Brown, the increasingly not horrible Big Sean, up-and-comer Dej Loaf, and scene OG Trick Trick.
Phelps: Big Sean can still ruin a song. When it’s a 6-minute track, I just don’t have time for that shit. Move, Big, please get out the way. He’s just so, so deafeningly boring, but when rap Gods like Yeezy and Eminem ride for you I guess you can’t help but get gassed up. According to Fennessey, it took some heartbreak to bring out the best in this guy – what, we got a new rap game Taylor Swift over here? None of that shines through on this song, as Sean stumbles around the field with his helmet on backwards while seasoned, charismatic champs run rap routes all over him.
Statik’s track has some epic flourishes by anyone’s standards and the bassline is bolstered by some repetitive synths and piano that are borderline monotonous. When they drop out during Danny’s verse and switch up in Em’s, it makes a left turn in just enough time to keep you hooked.
Eminem is obviously adept in this format, saving his lengthy and uncomfortable bars for the finale but I think I had to take a shower after Brown’s line about the poor cross-eyed lawyer from Detroit billboards.
Clyde: Big Sean can definitely ruin a song. Any kitchen with him in it has one cook too many. (I still haven’t forgiven him for what he did to “Mercy.”) He is the audio equivalent of Rick James showing up to your house, high on Bolivian marching powder, and stomping all over your newly reupholstered couch. But even the musical wet blanket Ex-Mr. Rivera isn’t enough to extinguish the flames from Danny Brown and Slim Shady.
At this point in his career, Eminem has probably said everything he has to say, but I’m still amazed how well he says it, and how perfectly his flow remains intact. Also shout out to Em for referencing “It’s So Cold in the D”, one of the hottest videos ever released on these Internet streets.
Marcus: Eminem lost his head here. Everybody on this track is old enough to remember what rapping for your life on a posse cut used to mean in rap, so, yeah. Big Sean isn’t terrible by that standard. He’s just really average, and this, well, isn’t a record to be average on.
Em and Royce are the rap equivalents of what Dr. J would be in a dunk contest in 2014. Sure they USED TO fly in from the line, but, now they’re just content to show that they CAN still bang, Em’s notorious bars especially a memory of 1998 that starts off dope, but then gets incredibly jarring by rap’s 2014 standards. Big Sean is the Dee Brown of this dunk contest, swagged out in Pumps, but, yeah, past that, not doing too much else (but still winning). Danny Brown is playing this like he’s on NBA Jam, his double time flow “on fire!!!!” and featuring all sorts of sparks and shit flying off of him as his electric flow cuts through the air. Dej Loaf is here on the Brittany Griner “even the women are throwing down” tip, and then Trick Trick comes through with the industrial strength Shawn Kemp jam to close it out.
Aaron: Statik is one of my heroes. This is not his best work but I’m not mad. This beat is slick – maybe a little too slick. I believe that has more to do with Em and Royce on the track. We all know they have a fetish for those melodramatic anthem-style beats with choirs and pianos and shit.
Overall, this track doesn’t move me as a whole, so I have to chop it up a little:
1. I’m on a strict No-Big-Sean diet. Like I said before, everybody can rap now. He just makes me laugh like, “Who the fuck do you think you are, son? You JUST GOT HERE. Please stop talking all this Big Shit. I DON’T BELIEVE YOU. “
2. The beat flip when Danny comes is real nice, I wish there was more. Brown takes the win on this one. You gots to have style to stand out on a track that includes Royce’s punchline factory and Eminem’s bonkers Crossfit-raps.
3. Dej Loaf gives me the creeps, like Chief Keef or Bobby Shmurda and a lot of others. I just hear gunshots and babies crying and cities full of Black People dying. (I think I just turned into Curtis Mayfield on that one.) I understand that we are all hungry for the next authentic hooder-than-hood really-real shit, but “Try Me” was on some “Lord of the Flies” shit that gives me nightmares. Also, I’m not sure if what she does should be called rap. She definitely does not need to be on tracks with these cats.
4. WHERE THE FUCK IS BLACK MILK? GUILTY SIMPSON? INVINCIBLE? You coulda replaced Mr. Not-Terrible Big Herb on this track with like ten other rappers.
5. Lord Jesus with the rapping already, Em. The only thing more mind blowing and exhausting than his raps are the politics of moral ambiguity that follow him around. Love it or hate it, nobody raps like this, and I don’t even really like this song.
Phil: I’m having a lot of trouble getting past the budget cover art for this compilation. Em needs to up whatever pay-to-play he’s charging Big Sean and put it towards graphics.
Honestly, though, if we’re going to focus on Big Sean, “Detroit vs. Everybody” goes in the Pantheon of Not Horrible Big Sean Verses. Take that for what it’s worth.
“My homie wanted a Checy so I put my dog in a vet”? Ok, sure, groan.
“From futons to Grey Poupons”? Confused groan.
“I turned a blunt to a roach with dreams of bein’ a Beatle.” All groan everything.
But here’s the thing: At least Seany is hustling. He sounds good if you’re not paying too much attention. Faint praise? Most definitely. But the worst thing about Big Sean is the way that he drops a devastatingly corny line and then hangs on the rim of his seven-foot hoop like he just dunked on Dwight Howard. No one has more misplaced confidence than Big Sean. So, I’m going to give him props for keeping his down in the company of real rappers.
Big K.R.I.T.: “King of the South”
Big K.R.I.T. has been teasing Cadillactica for well over a year – #WeekOfKRIT was way back in March – but this week, we finally got the Mississippi rapper’s sophomore effort. “King of the South” is the album’s most recent single, and it’s another slab of indignant shit-talking that’s not too dissimilar from Rec-Room favorite “Mt. Olympus”. Like that song, “King of the South” boasts production handled by K.R.I.T. himself
Phelps: Damn if K.R.I.T. isn’t on some Twista level of torch-tongued flame throwing on “King of the South.” It’s not a particularly specific diss song but sorry T.I.: in one fell swoop this dude slap-boxed your crown off with a swift right while the left taps out some of the most trunk-punishing 808s since Outkast’s “Funky Ride.” Maybe they’re loud enough to wake up some of the veteran rappers putting out nothing but mediocre in the 404.
Clyde: I’m not sure if K.R.I.T. is going at Clifford’s neck or not but it’s impossible to hear the words “king of the south” and not think of T.I. here. It doesn’t exactly sound like it but since this is rap I assume he is. But there is the line “raised by the kings that went before” which sounds like a hedge against any claims that this is an out and out diss song. You could interpret it as an homage. And the way K.R.I.T. apes the late Pimp C’s annunciation, it sure seems like he is attempting to place himself in some sort of line of succession.
But regardless of the intent, this song is pretty great. Ever since Kendrick dropped that “Control” verse ,there seems to be a new focus and intensity to K.R.I.T.’s lyrics, as first displayed on “Mt. Olympus”. You can tell his competitive juices are flowing. (“Ain’t no love in The Coliseum. This shit here been a bloodsport!”)
I read in an interview that he made this song only three days before he had to turn the album in. Maybe it’s a sign that the somewhat cautious rapper (spurred by Kendrick) is willing to throw caution to the wind and take more risks now.
Marcus: This is as angry as I’ve ever heard K.R.I.T. before, and I’m not mad at it. Of course he’s coming at TI, Clyde. I mean, was he going to battle rap Big Homie Quan or Young Thug?
I have a homie of mine that I talk about battle rap with all the time. It’s tracks like these that would make me want to watch a battle rap pay per view. KRIT’s not even really organized and super-thoughtful here as he usually is. He’s marshaling his angst and coming at heads, and it’s entertaining. I’d love to interview KRIT again and ask him about how many heated schoolyard cyphers he was in as a child. That’s a part of the Southern rap tradition that I feel like didn’t really exist. There weren’t moments where dudes had to stand in a circle, get ragged on, and really have to come at somebody. I mean, I’m sure these things happened, but I don’t think there was a large enough critical mass of dope emcees to make it the level of epic that say, battling in Queens in the early 80s or Compton in the mid 80s must’ve been.
But, for a “first try at getting grimy directly at somebody,” I’ll give it a B. He has a “Control” in him too, and I like the fact that Def Jam is explicitly mentioned, because that’s who/what I think he goes in on. In a different major label era, he’s a super-duper-star for certain.
Aaron: Just damn. Holding it daaaaaaaahhhhhhhn.
K.R.I.T. is killing most everyone these days. His message is unmistakable: “DO NOT FUCK WITH ME ON THIS RAP SHIT, OK?”
I haven’t heard a rapper do his thing so fearlessly in a long time – introspective, humble-bragging Kendrick aside.
It’s not just shit talking either. It’s the resolute confidence of man who believes (Southern) hip-hop has one fucking lane and he’s driving the slab. Every other track is like a “Control” if you ask me. I don’t think you have to be too specific when you go this hard.
If it is about Tip, fuck it. What’s he gonna do? Take a break from Iggy and the fashion show and put an address on it or whatever? Say something, I dare you.
Migos: “Hit Em”
While good money was on Migos’ popularity not making it out of 2013, it’s now almost 2015 and the Atlanta trio are bigger than ever. Quavo, Takeoff, and Offset have a legit hit under their belts with “Fight Night” – and possibly another on deck with “Handsome and Wealthy” – and signed to Kevin Liles’ Atlantic Records imprint this summer. There have been some bumps in the road, though: club beatdowns, alleged robberies, and a Miami highway shootout. That last incident is touched on at the end of “Hit Em”, the lead single from Migos latest mixtape, Rich N*gga Timeline. The track was produced by Atlanta’s Deko and it sounds like Migos. Keep on chirping.
Marcus: OK. So, somebody had to win the ratchet pop-rap sweepstakes.
I mean, Young Thug is six months away from hitting that “getting paid in duffle bags for nightclub appearances” and “getting paid in laundered stacks of hundreds for d-boy mixtape features” level of relevance. Migos, though? They’re working with 300, aka Lyor Cohen and Kevin Liles’ Twitter focus group of a “record label” that ultimately just provides promoters and managers distribution. It’s pretty much the wackest hustle ever, and I’m actually mad at Migos for not going in on the ratchetmania and forcing Lyor Cohen to assign his “reputation” in the industry to the most out of control and overwhelmingly “street” music ever.
From “Versace” onward, it’s been a downward slide. “Fight Night” is awesome, but no “Versace.” And “Hit Em?” Well, it’s like they took this major label money and made a ratchet rap song they can perform on Ellen, on a shopping mall tour, or at a Bar Mitzvah without anyone blinking an eye. At every single point of everything surrounding Migos right now is pretty much everything right (and/or dangerous) about the internet and wrong about the recording industry not maintaining any semblance of classic standards. Soooo frustrating.
Clyde: I feel the need to state up front that I am somewhat of a Migos apologist. These dudes have charisma and personality sorely lacking from some of the more technically gifted MCs in the game (lookin’ at you Big Sean!). And as a southerner, I have no problem with simple beats and repetitive hooks. But DAMN this song is basic as hell. It’s extra regular. It’s as bland as a mayonnaise sandwich served with a side of potato soup washed down with a lukewarm glass of water. It doesn’t come close to the best of No Labels 2.
That said, along with the charisma, I admire the work ethic and the aspiration in this group. And this song isn’t enough to sour me on them.
Phelps: For months on end my iPhone will pick a track to play immediately after an album or playlist ends. No matter what. I could be flossing in the Isuzu with a girl to Checkers in the northeast for Big Bufords and spicy fries on the James Blake smoother than my milkshake tip, but when the record ends damn if Migos’ “Add It Up” doesn’t come blasting out the tattered 6 inch speakers. Then this girl (let’s be honest it’s probably my roommate Jason) has to see a grown ass man sing in horrible falsetto about Tonka trucks full of coke bricks and molly.
Say what you will about Migos (or don’t – “Hit ‘Em” has just one line analyzed on Genius, presumably because people read the lyrics and their fists involuntarily start punching themselves in the face) but these dudes are dumb funny and obviously having fun. They stay barking on the track, but with a more polished cadence on each subsequent tape. After a long day, when I just wanna stuff my dumb face with fast food, I can totally fuck more with a dude making childish machine gun sound effects and kicking nursery rhyme drug raps about pissing diamonds than self-serious technical blowhards. I think it just touches the M.O.P. lobe buried and rotting deep somewhere within my reptile brain.
Aaron: I can’t stand these Fraggle-rock-ass dudes. It’s like they forget they are on an actual track and they just stop rapping and get caught up in the grunting and yelling. I’ve never been impressed by whatever it is they do. I find it hard to swallow that there is actually a big money machine behind this stuff. It just seems like the;lowest of the low hanging fruit: It’s easy to make, easier to market, and it’s dumb, so please stop hitting me with it.
Phelps, how dare you even say the sacred letters M.O.P. in the same ratchet combo-meal smelling breath as these dudes. Migos would literally catch on fire listening to the clean version of “Ante Up”.
Phelps: It’s the gun noises. If you don’t have a rhyme and just insert a gun noise, it’s M.O.P. inspired. I don’t even know if I would call this rap, but, it amuses me.