Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, Pusha T and Kanye West steal our lunch money; Kevin Gates doesn’t get tired; and the Wu-Tang comeback soldiers on. As always, our distinguished panel consists of Marcus Dowling, Phil R, Joshua Phelps, Clyde McGrady, and Weird City Fest‘s Aaron Miller and Leah Manners.
Pusha T: “Lunch Money”
Pusha T has been teasing his sophomore effort – supposedly titled King Push – since before the release of his oft-delayed My Name is My Name last October. And while there was some hope in the Rec-Room corporate headquarters that the success of his first solo offering – and the single “Numbers on the Board”, in particular – might grease the wheels for a quick King Push release, it’s been mostly radio silence in 2014. But this week we finally got new Pusha! It’s called “Lunch Money,” and it was reportedly produced by Kanye West, which probably means that fifteen people worked on it, but that’s another story. Whether this is from King Push remains to be seen, but we’ll take it. We’ll also take some those Neptunes songs when you get a chance too, Push.
Phelps: As someone who has eaten at Pusha’s favorite crab spot, stood next to leather jogging pants at his Play Cloths shop in Norfolk (and bought a way overpriced T shirt), discussed his obsession with tennis on the phone, and tried to make bootleg MNIMN t-shirts but got blocked by the copyright folks at Custom Ink, I’m probably the last person who can write about this objectively. But if I had tWHOOOOOOOOO! HOLY FUCKING SHIIIIIIIIIIIIT.
My suspicion is that Kanye screened “Interstellar” at his house with the sound off, smoked a blunt to a FlyLo record, passed out, and had a dream about landing on Planet Pusha. When he woke up, he had made “Otis Part 2: Cocalien Takeover”.
Bottom line: Pusha just runs the pockets on any and all rappers who talk about cars, clothes and coke and puts a brick in the face of your anti-bullying campaign.
Marcus: I just wanna be in the room when Kanye plays Pusha “one on them ole techno ass beats [he’s] fucking with.” Kanye’s production with Pusha is on another level, Yeezus on his in-studio Phil Spector tip with Pusha as Ronnie (and note I only meant Phil and Ronnie’s in-studio relationship). I really think that Kanye thinks that Pusha is the perfect rapper, and that he actually wants him to be MORE perfect (if that’s possible), so he tries to always find productions that give King Push a whole new canvas upon which to paint.
Thankfully. we’re past that 2012-2013 Pusha era where Kanye was really in his head and Pusha really tried to give a fuck about trying to “hear” Kanye. On this track and “Bugatti” (which I’m probably was 150% hand selected by Kanye because, as it was stated here, it sounds like cocaine), Push has Kanye pretty much blocked out, and is just sitting back and chilling with the beat, meandering through and finding himself. The bars here are outstandingly ostentatious as expected, as outside of Drake, Push is the only rapper I’m completely sure isn’t spitting hyperbolic flows. Actually, these flows are moreso effortlessly hyperbaric – zipping up the rap game, stuffing it in a tube, and putting it to sleep, for its health. Big stuff here, as well, this album needs to be better than the underwhelming My Name Is My Name.
Clyde: Yep, enjoyed this one. As usual Pusha brings it with the rhymes, but I love this beat. And between that, and Pusha’s “grew up on Nintendo playing Contra” line, I feel like I’m in an arcade. By the way, what is that sound effect? Is it the Mario Bros. mushroom power-up? Shout out to Kanye and his magical production elves.
Speaking of Kanye, I can’t help but notice how Pusha re-appropriates Kanye’s “Act like I ain’t had a belt in two classes / I ain’t got it? / I’m coming after whoever who has it” line from “Gorgeous” into “If the crown ain’t mine / Tell me who am I behind?” here. Kanye = underrated lyricist.
And even though Pusha refers to himself as a “dope boy”, this is the first verse in a while that didn’t have me feeling like I had to wipe blow residue out of my ears when I finished listening. Which always makes me think: If you had to guess when the last time your favorite rapper touched a brick of cocaine, when would it be?
Jay Z: 1996
Rick Ross: Haha, yeah right!
Pusha T: Yesterday. Definitely yesterday. Yesterday, he stuffed some saran-wrapped Vaseline-slathered kilos into the trunk of a rented Toyota Camry and hit I-95 from Virginia Beach to New Jersey. No doubt in my mind.
Aaron: Damn. I think that I just caught a case listening to this shit. This is frosty like a chocolate cocaine sundae.
Clyde, I don’t think that King Pusha T the Great touches drugs at all. He’s probably like some kind of Ghost-Don that just comes up through the floor and says, “Where my money at?!” and then flies off. Goons gotta re-up with a ouija board and shit.
As far as production goes, this track is pretty sickening. I could use a crispy snare, but I’ve hated on Yeezy, so much my opinion is invalid. I don’t even care about Kanye or this fresh ass beat. If Push is the Realest Dude In Rap, then Ye is the unrealest – not in a straight wack kind of way, but in a literal “I don’t even know if the man is real or not anymore” way. This bizarro beat (or lack thereof ) is bananas, but at this point, after years of insane ego, Rap Game Navel Gazing, and relentless Kardashification, I just assume that Kanye is no longer a single man, but rather some kind of industry’s-hottest-whatever-you-need-right-now Borg thing. Or maybe he’s just a bunch of little Kanyes – producer Ye, rapper Ye, mogul Ye, Black Andy Warhol Ye, mainstream basic tastemaker Ye – and they’re all sitting on each other’s shoulders inside a studded Margiela trench coat.
Whatever he is at this point, he should fuck the dumb shit and just be Pusha’s full time producer and hype man.
Jose: Goddamn, this is some beast mode shit. The Pusha T-Kanye axis of collaboration has probably been the most surprising partnership over the last few years. I don’t think anyone really expected these two to hit it off the way they have, but there’s something that just clicks for both parties.
I have a hard time comparing Pusha’s more recent output to the all the old Neptunes tracks he and Malice were spitting over as Clipse. Both are outstanding, but with such different dynamics. Kanye might be a total sociopath, but the dude finds inspiration in some strange places, and as long as the collaboration with his 757 muse keeps bearing fruit, I’m a happy camper. As we’ve stated before, it seems like Yeezus needs a “worthy” adversary or collaborator to raise his game, and it sure as hell isn’t Big Sean.
Leah: My suspicion is that Ye just straight Finessed this beat, and honestly I’m not that big a fan of it because I keep waiting for the drums to drop in. It’s not terrible, but it just sounds one-button thin like a programmed Casio. Push goes hard, but again it feels like he’s fighting the track instead of riding it. I wouldn’t kick this track out of bed, but I don’t think it’s outstanding.
Kevin Gates ft. August Alsina: “I Don’t Get Tired”
For those who don’t follow Kevin Gates on social media and live an empty existence, the Louisiana rapper is fond of capping new items with #IDGT, or spelled out: I Don’t Get Tired. Because he works relentlessly. Get it? He’s like a sad but determined robot. Anyway, it actually has been another productive year for Get Em Gates: He released his second “street album,” By Any Means, in March, and has announced a second, Luca Brasi 2, is coming on December 15. (Please note that a “street album” is one released on iTunes, but also given away for free and not available in stores.) The album is a sequel to last year’s The Luca Brasi mixtape, which essentially served as his crossover to a national audience. This week he dropped a video for its first single, “Out the Mud”, in addition to a second single, “I Don’t Get Tired (#IDGT)”, which features excitable R&B crooner August Alsina. No word yet on when – or if – a proper label debut is coming. But the cult of Gates is growing: According to Complex, Live Nation allegedly paid Gates to cancel a Philadelphia tour stop recently because it was interfering with ticket sales for the Drake Vs. Lil Wayne tour the same night.
Marcus: Really? Is this where we’re at now? I want the rapper that raps while on adderall and drinking a vodka and Red Bull while smoking coke. Mainstream rappers are superheroes, and while we know that everyone gets tired, RAPPERS ARE SUPERHEROES and DON’T GET TIRED. I don’t like Kevin Gates because he breaks the code of being a basic ass mainstream emcee. He’s supposed to be a paint-by-numbers rapper. Cars, whores, clothes, tattoos, expensive meals, hustle, flow, and so on that every other rapper ever has ever had before and will have after him. But he somehow missed that memo.
I want to inform Kevin Gates that J-Kwon got with his groupie in St. Louis, his weed man in LA sold dope to Nipsey Hussle (when he had a major label deal), and he’s just another dude playing the game, stuck in the revolving door system of pop music. That being said, Kevin Gates trying to hold onto this social media embracing hipster rap thing is so fraudulently real (when he should be living as surreal a life as possible on someone else’s dime) that it hurts him in the long run. If his rap career is meant to be three songs, a mainstream album and a cup of lean, then, hell. Admitting that you “don’t get tired” just means that you ARE tired. Don’t get tired Kevin Gates. Falling asleep at 14:59 of your fifteen minutes of fame is going to suck.
Phil: Damn, Marcus. Poor Luca Brasi never sees it coming.
Leah: While I trust Phil’s taste, I never thought I’d get into Gates like he has. Well, this track may be a turning point with me. He’s not crying or pathetic. He goes hard. The beat punches. I’m into it. Well done, Philthy. Your deal with the devil may just be paying off.
Clyde: Yo Mike Jones 2.0, get some sleep, fam! We don’t need another Rick Ross situation. According to surveys conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, “at least 40 million Americans suffer from over 70 different sleep disorders. And 60 percent of adults report having sleep problems a few nights a week or more.” Most people with these problems go undiagnosed and untreated. SMH.
And don’t buy into the hyper competitive macho American work culture. Maybe take a nap, Gates. Stay healthy cause we need you around to make more mediocre rap songs.
Aaron: LOL Kevin Gates works soooooooo hard. It’s the Pursuit of Trappiness and shit.
“I Don’t Get Tired” is barely all right, and, admittedly, it got kind of a lazy one-shoulder-five-second turn up out of me, but Young Gates gets no pats on the back for this. You rap, son. It’s not like you are out there busting rocks or clocking in.
I’m not gonna lie. I’m old. I get tired as fuck some days and this song put me to sleep when whiny dude starts “sanging” real hard in the middle.
Twenty bucks says Gates was catching a nap when Alsina was cutting his part.
Phil: OK, everyone, hold onto your butts: I like a Kevin Gates song.
“I Don’t Get Tired” has all the hallmarks of a classic Sad Gates Banger.
Unhinged verses? Check.
Gates has a way of rapping where its like he’s just realizing – in this moment, in the recording booth – that he’s pissed off, and that resentment starts to snowball, and by the end of a verse, he’s so indignant that he’s tripping over his words. I love that shit. It’s like watching Hulk turn. Or maybe it’s more like Hodor harnessing his big, dumb anger. Regardless, Gates feels every past slight to a Drakeian degree. And so, yes, my man catches a lot of feelings, but whereas Drake is pissed that an old girlfriend used to not like all of his Facebook updates, Gates has been perpetually fucked over and has somehow come out the mud. He has every right to be bitter. Bitterness is what fuels him, like how in “Snowpiercer” [spoiler redacted].
Melodic knack? Check.
Gates knows his way around a hook. Period. And the way he can transition from hard rapping into melody is masterful. You can crush on Gates all you want for being an emo panda bear, but dude has chops. August Alsina could not be less needed on this track. The youngster doesn’t really mess things up, but his slickness doesn’t really jive with Gates’ rawness. Speaking of which…
Unflinching honesty? Check.
Marcus says he doesn’t like Gates because he “breaks the code of being a basic ass mainstream emcee.” That is precisely why I love Gates. The world is full of rap superheroes. We’re good on those, and 98% of them are full of shit. Gates is the antithesis. His only mode is Clark Kent. The guy is not cool. He overshares like a motherfucker. To wit: “Me and the woman I love on an air mattress / We share a cot, my hair nappy / Couldn’t afford flights, no air travel / Steal Rice Krispies like sand and gravel.” We have a guy willing to confess that it’s hard to be both a “full time father, full time artist,” and y’all are mad?
Awful sound effects? Check.
This isn’t a positive thing. But all Sad Gates Bangers have these sort of grotesque noises pumped into the background. I don’t know who thinks this a good idea. That being said, I do like this beat. The twinkling synthetic production reminds me of Stranger Than Fiction, which I’m partial to over the more standard analog trap fare of The Luca Brasi Story and By Any Means. Something about the raspy quality of Gates voice contrasts nicely with polished soundscapes.
In closing: Fuck you, fuck you, Leah you’re cool, fuck you.
Wu-Tang Clan: “Necklace”
Rec-Room was less than enthused when Wu-Tang Clan dropped a song called “Keep Watch” back in March, but we didn’t have much context for it, aside from the rumblings of a new Wu record. However, now we know that the iconic rap troupe’s comeback effort, A Better Tomorrow, is actually happening and that “Keep Watch” is on it, and some of us may be feeling some kind of way about that. Not helping matters is so-so lead track “Ruckus in B Minor”, which hit the internet a few weeks back. This week, we get another cut from the LP, “Necklace”. Does it change the tide of disappointment?
Aaron: This goddamned sample is so Wu Tang that I can’t stand it.
I’m feeling “Necklace” more than recent drops from Shaolin, but the production is still a little lacking. I know that Wu beats are traditionally sparse and drone-y, and this one does feel like it’s trying to sneak a little melody in there at the end, but, yeah, it sounds like a dust-off joint from the Wu archives.
All in all, it’s a fairly energetic granddad stunting in the whip offering from The Elder Gods.
Did I hear an accidental 2 Chainz shout out in there in the first verse? Careful, bros, relevancy is a hell of a drug.
Ghost is on point, as usual: “That’s what you get when you throwin on Cubans, drawers made of silk, a robe and a Ruger.” He’s sounding then times as hungry as the rest of the crew. (Oh you don’t get tired Kevin Gates? Holler at me in twenty years, bruh.)
Marcus: Ghostface. I don’t care about anything else on this record but Ghostface. I’ll explain why.
Every other thing on this record sounds like a dude who used to rap really hard just trying to cash a big paycheck. The key to being a relevant old rapper is to still rap like it’s a young man’s game. Listening to Ghostface’s bars: I don’t doubt that he says “fuck it” in Phuket and spits bars with Thai dudes rocking Wu Wear hoodies (like they’re still mad cool) on street corners. I appreciate that. If the Wu-Tang Clan want to release a mainstream album, they’re at least going to have to sound excited enough to want to compete with like Kendrick, KRIT or Run the Jewels. Just putting out solid material (that would’ve been a B-side in ’94) isn’t going to cut it.
But from having a conversation with the sample, to mentioning scrubbing his gold with Colgate toothpaste, Ghost really digs in like an OG and shows and proves. It’s such a refreshing thing to hear.
Phelps: If you’re going to make a song about chains and reference Cuban links, just make this a Rae and Ghost song, make “Cuban Linx Part 3”, and stop trying to make Wu Tang happen. They’re no longer greater than the sum of the parts, specifically Rae, Ghost, and GZA. Given that “Necklace” is those three dudes and a throwaway verse from a former-taxi future-Uber driver, I can definitely fuck with it.
This is grimy, non-single shit that would still move units in the 90s and have a bootleg video on basic cable. Out of all the Wu pushed out over the last year, this is by far my favorite.
Leah: Yeah, pretty standard Wu track. I’ve never been the biggest Wu fan, so I’mma say it’s all right. Nothing incredibly refreshing here, but it should satisfy diehard fans that they haven’t completely fallen off.
Clyde: I really wanted to like this song, but I don’t. I tried to convince myself that I’m excited about a Wu-reunion, but I’m not. The again, they gave us 36 Chambers, Supreme Clientele, Cuban Linx, Liquid Swords, Fishscale, and Ironman (If you can’t tell, Ghost is my favorite), so as far as I’m concerned, they don’t owe me anything.
Phelps: I really think that without Cappadonna’s verse, people would be feeling this more.