Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, Heems is like this or he’s like that; Action Bronson is actin crazy, as usual; and it’s just not one of Brain Rapp’s days.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DK75KPD4GEs
Himanshu Kumar Suri has always been a difficult figure to pin down. He’s just as likely to make a song summarizing the “The Bourne Identity” as he is to offer a withering indictment of police brutality as he is to go soft over the memory an old college girlfriend. And with Das Racist and on his own, he’s someone whose seriousness and commitment to rap have been big question marks, which, frankly, has also been part of his charm. But it sounds like with his proper debut Eat, Pray, Thug, Heems is looking to make a statement. He described the record to Grantland this summer: “The album is a manifesto about being a young chap, being a brown lad in post-9/11 America. Of how to put your best foot forward as a brown man, as a brown body in a state of affairs where the brown body is consistently policed by Babylon and the white man and the white devil and a system that’s created to put the black and brown body in prison.” Unfortunately, the record has been in both major label and sample clearance purgatory for three years. Fortunately, it will finally see release in March, and it boasts contriubtions from Dev Hynes, Harry Fraud, Son Lux, and Gordon Voidwell. That last producer is responsible for “Sometimes”, the first single from the record.
MARCUS: When Heems was one-third of slacker/hipster rap trio Das Racist, he thoroughly unimpressed me as a rhymer. The only song I ever liked by Das Racist was “hahahaha jk,” but that was more because Boi-1da flipped the theme to Days of Our Lives. Obviously, some time has passed – and while Heems has clearly developed considerably as an artist – I’m going to give this a big fat “not gonna listen to this ever again,” because of all the things Gordon Voidwell could do with this track, he just did his best DJ Mustard impersonation.
If Heems is trying to do some sort of “manifesto” about being a “young chap” who’s brown in America, I don’t necessarily want this set to tracks that make him sound like Tyga, Riff Raff or any one of like 100,000 emcees that have rapped over that now-insipid style. While I want to hear what he’s going to say, I pretty much can’t get down with this.
PHELPS: I wonder: Did this dude enjoy making this song? Admittedly depressed and anxious, it bleeds into the music and while he’s not 100% boring, he definitely sounds bored. I do appreciate he mentions “hyphy” as he rhymes over a re-worked “Tell Me When To Go” track, shouts to E-40. Heems’ paint by the numbers, technically sound raps aren’t going to tip the scales for him for anyone but the most ardent rap nerds.
JOSE: The real problem with this song is that it sounds uninspired. Das Racist could, and often did, border on juvenile raps, but they always made you think and/or laugh, and while their beats were unorthodox, they made you dance. “Sometimes” is a sonic assault with shitty rapping over it. I want to love everything Heems does, but this is Charles Barkley turrible.
LEAH: Disagree with all y’all. This track is fire. The chorus isn’t the strongest for sure, but Heems has shown his time away from the mic hasn’t reduced his ability to be both absurd and insightful. Looking forward to Eat. Pray. Thug. to the max.
AARON: “I knew Das Racist, and you sir, are no Das Racist.”
This is almost the Jam. I’m not even mad. Dude can rap. I could really use another beat. Heems sounds like a grown-ass man trying to go in on some introspective, tortured soul shit, but he’s at a cool party and people keep looking at him. It makes him nervous so he gets fucked up and now he’s trying to make jokes and people are leaving and it’s a little awkward.
Dude probably still has enough hipster cred to get a beat from almost anybody, right? I don’t know why you would put this kind of message on this kind of beat. Right now, only Run The Jewels is allowed to put think-raps on party beats.
Sorry, them’s the rules. I just work here.
CLYDE: “Sometimes I write hard / Sometimes I’m mad lazy.”
LIKE ON THIS SONG YOU MEAN? CAUSE YOU ARE MAD LAZY ON THIS SONG, HEEMS.
PHIL: People are mad at this song? I don’t get Rec-Room sometimes. Check your Das Racist baggage at the door. Lazy? Paint-by-the-numbers? Dude trots out like five flows here. This isn’t an easy beat for just one guy to handle, and Heems throws himself at it.
Do I prefer it when Heems is able to settle into the pocket a little more? Sure. But that’s not this song, and as a lead single, it couldn’t be better in summing up all the paradoxes that this guy has come to embody over the past six years. The fact that he owns up to all of them is awesome. If there’s a song this week for “the most ardent rap nerds,” it’s Action Bronson’s masturbatory fantasies. I listen “Sometimes” and I hear something very relatable. It bangs too.
Action Bronson: “Actin Crazy”
Last week, Action Bronson detailed the specifics of his much anticipated – and long overdue – major label debut, Mr. Wonderful: It’s out March 24th; has appearances from Chance the Rapper, Meyhem Lauren, Big Body Bes, and Chauncey Sherod; and features production from Mark Ronson, Party Supplies, the Alchemist, and Noah “40” Shebib. Of all those names, 40’s is probably the most interesting, since the OVO co-founder hasn’t made a song that didn’t feature Drake since 2012. So, “Actin Crazy”, Bam Bam and 40’s collaboration, is a bit of a rare thing. It’s also the second single from Mr. Wonderful, and a far cry from the psychedelic predecessor “Easy Rider”.
MARCUS: I love the idea that Bronson can do the super-ridiculous stream of consciousness thing that takes him completely out of the Ghostface Killah school emceeing into his own zone, and yet still be totally okay with on occasion painting within the established lines of “Ghostface wannabe” that actually brought him to the dance. The track here feels like it’s on the acid that Bronson was taking in “Easy Rider,” Bronson certainly more lucid and psychologically hinged than usual. If this were 20 years ago, this would be the single, the bit about “kiss ya momma on the cheek” being used for the hook. However, we’re in the current era, so, what the fuck is a “single,” or a “hook” or a “chorus?” We all know Bronson’s going to strip naked on Jimmy Fallon and eat sashimi off of his nipples anyway to become a superstar, right? Thus, can we agree that nothing in this conversation matters anymore and that we’re waiting for that Late Night appearance? Cool.
JOSE: Is Bronson starting off this song with a Drake impression? I know 40 produced this, and he’s been working exclusively with his man Aubrey for the last few years, but the first minute has all the hallmarks of an angry Drizzy track: repeated mantra, rags to riches story, chip on the shoulder to justify his bad/worst behaviour (sorry).
It’s a decent song, but after the glorious, free-association acid raps of “Easy Rider”, I can’t help but feel let down by this track. My favorite Bronson is the chest-thumping, wheeling and dealing variety, and he might have just dialed it back a little too much on this track.
DAMION: “All I do is eat oysters, and speak six languages in three voices” Bronson’s off-the-top style is legit and captivating. Every time he comes out with anything, it’s in rotation for me. The beat on this track is a typical, slowed down lazy beat that you give to someone who’ll spit something you want to hear. (No, not you, Migos!) Unfortunately, I think dude is going to have to stray from these type of beats a little really blow up – if/when he does look out.
LEAH: Being real here, even when Bronsolino shifts into high gear, he still sounds laid back. He never really breaks out of idling in this track, though, so I’m just not feeling any intensity at all. His stream-of-conscious style and delivery this time remind me more of DOOM than Ghostface.
AARON: “…Don’t even try to call I’m not available for nothin unless it’s stupid paper/Hop out the Studebaker with Anita Baker.”
I can’t even deal with the ten levels of greasy smooth shit Action kicks with lines like this. And thing that freaks me out is that he actually has a million of ’em. He does not repeat himself like a lot of rappers do. He’s got his go-to flows and self-shout-outs, but he appears to have this effortless, all-you-can-eat flow that keeps going and going. His mouth just raps without him and shit.
This song is typical Bronson, and by that I mean bananas. I have no frame of reference to even critique this guy anymore. He is solid fucking gold right now.
And, for the recor,d I always thought the Ghostface comparison was low hanging fruit. I see it, but the flow really is miles apart if you pay even the most blunted attention.
Leah, if DOOM and Action ever make so much as a single track together, I’m dead.
CLYDE: I usually hang on to Bronson’s every word, but Leah’s right: This flow is practically an audio Mobius strip. You feel like it should be going somewhere, but it never does. I hate it.
Brain Rapp: “Not Today”
Does it feel like everyone you know is either getting married, having kids, or whatever it is that they do on Facebook? You can certainly relate to Brain Rapp’s “Not Today” if you’ve finally come to the realization that you are getting old and there’s no way to avoid it. On top of Jazz Liberatorz production, the suburban Maryland rapper spits about the future, and reminisces about the past while dealing with his present.
MARCUS: Sometimes when I hear this song I get this vivid image of Brain Rapp being the white guy down with Artifacts in ’94 that crushes this random, made up in my head, B-side smoothed out remix to “Wrong Side of The Tracks.”
Other times, I hear this and I think that we need more “best friend raps,” and by that I mean that Brain Rapp comes off as ultra-relatable here, as in no pretense of swag, hype or whatever – just your really good friend who’s really excellent at rapping good.
In an era where everybody wants to lie, murder, steal and rape on records (still), it’s good to get someone into the mix who’s just really trying to have a conversation about how mundane life is when you’re getting old and feel completely out of touch. Similar to what Atmosphere did on their last album, I have a soft spot in my heart for this one.
AARON: This beat is immaculate, but, Christ, is this what we have come to? Dudes I never heard of making coulda-shoulda-woulda rap is not a good look. Do you even Old, bruh?
You know who gets to complain about all the shit that never quite went down as planned?! ME. That’s who. Regular, old people that listen to hip-hop and don’t understand why kids are so stupid.
And maybe Masta Ace. But that’s it.
And maybe anyone that hates the police or the government. But seriously, that’s it.
And I guess dudes that treat hip-hop like a culture and not a product and maybe walks the line between Swag and Humility.
And anyone who speaks the real on the ills of society and finding a way in this crazy world.
OK fuck it. I like this song. Whatever.
CLYDE: This song is mad literal. Like, I don’t think there’s a single metaphor on this track. Dude actually says “I got a lot to say” and “they don’t really notice all the real shit that I’m spittin'” (hey, a metaphor!) which, to be fair, is true because this is the first time I’ve heard of Mr. Rapp.
PHIL: “Not Today” is solid from balding head to mysteriously discolored toe.