Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, Kanye West goes all day; Action Bronson and Chance the Rapper sing the (baby) blues; and our very own Wale gets hitched to Usher.
Kanye West: “All Day”
The roll out of the new Yeezy record marches on. It has a name too! So Help Me God. And this week saw the official release of “All Day”, a song that leaked in shitty form last summer. The track is a departure from previous singles “Only One” and “FourFiveSeconds” in that it has a beat. Like those songs, however, it also features Paul McCartney, who shows up at the end to whistle and play guitar and recreate a 1969 song of his that was inspired by a Pablo Picasso painting of a guitarist. OK. Also receiving feature billing are Theophilus London and Allan Kingdom. (Siri, who is Alan Kingdom?) According to Pitchfork an insane 18 people share songwriting credit for “All Day”, which was officially produced by Kanye, Puff Daddy, French Montana, Velous, and Charlie Heat.
MARCUS: I get what Kanye’s doing here, but it’s in his absolute overexposure (and asshole nature) that he fails his own message.
The key to this song is that Kanye’s acting like some kind of “saved from the hood ass Father Flanagan ass n***a” for a whole generation of what I tend to think he perceives are lost black boys in a white man’s world. He’s urging people (mainly young black male people) to free themselves of the mental slavery of fulfilling stereotypical expectations and do a bigger (and better) thing for themselves.
However, at some point, somebody has to wake Kanye up to the fact that he’s potentially become offensive and is basically turning into half Karl Lagerfeld, half black Bruce Jenner. All day n***a. #blackbrucejenner
AARON: Ugh. More nonsense from the firm of West & McCartney. This is truly absurd. Can you imagine Paul sitting around whistling while Kanye says nigga 47 times? Yes, I counted.
AARON: Legit. I’m pretty sure that Lionel has more Grammys than Yeezy.
CLYDE: Can we include Lionel Richie as a special guest this week? Anybody have his peoples’ contact info?
LIONEL RICHIE: Well, when I first heard that Kayne had dropped a new single, and I was like…
The beat dropped and I was like, “Damn, Kanye.”
I mean, Kanye hasn’t rapped on a beat in a minute, so maybe I overreacted.
Then Kanye dropped his first 20 n-bombs.
And then he insulted Sade.
“All Day” was trying to my favorite new banger, but it just didn’t feel right.
Then Paul McCartney started whistling and it was time for me to dip.
LEAH: I waver between appreciating some of the things Kanye says because in the grand scheme of things it’s important to remember that there’s still racism and discrimination out there no matter how much money you make a year or how many Kardashians you’re married to. And sometimes I just think he misses by a mile and drops a real turd of a song on an unsuspecting public. This is one of those times. This song is terrible. Also the name-checks are ridiculous in the literal sense of the word. “This Ye Bangerr brought to you by AllState (TM). You’re in good hands, n-word.”
JOSE: You know when you’re really hungry, and finally come across something to eat that isn’t entirely satisfying or delicious, but you don’t give a shit and just wolf it down? Yeah, this song feels that way. It’s a hodge-podge of techniques and motifs that Kanye developed on previous records (“Monster”, “Mercy”, “Black Skinhead”), but relative to the other singles he has released recently, I’m just happy “All Day” has a pulse/beat. At this point, my expectations for So Help Me God are absurdly low.
DAMION: I hear what yall are saying. I really do. But I’m feeling this. The aspect of this song that Aaron counted is what I like about it the best. I know: You’re mad ignorant, Damion, blah blah blah. I like hip-hop where the artists talk shit, and this man did that for the entire song.
When I want to learn, I read articles or a book. When I listen to Kanye, I want a banger. This song is going to get heavy run in the clubs. The only part I lament is that this will inspire thousands more white kids to drop “nigga” as if its cool for them to do it now, which it is not.
CLYDE: I agree, Jose, if you starve a man for three weeks and then hand him a stale cheese sandwich he will devour it like Mom’s Thanksgiving meal and then ask for another. I am not saying this song is a stale cheese sandwich, but I am pointing out just how low of a bar Kanye had to clear after “FourFiveSeconds” and “Wolves”. And he clears it here. I love this song. And peace to tha god Lionel Richie but I also loved that Brit Awards performance where Kanye mobs on stage with 40 dudes and two flamethrowers. I’ve pretty much started every day since by watching it.
But now a word on The Meaning of Kanye. I am in conflict, similar to my esteemed colleagues Marcus and Leah, with the notion that Kanye is the most important pop star of his generation and that he is an absolute knucklehead. As a creative type, I get it. Kanye represents all the possibilities that open up when you ignore all the naysayers and believe in yourself– of what happens when you refuse to let people put you into a box, force them to see you how you want to be seen and then have them pretend like your genius was so self-evident to them all along that they didn’t ignore you for three years while you languished on their roster *cough* Jay Z *cough*. Hell, whenever I doubt myself I still throw on “Last Call” and listen to all 12 minutes. If it happened to him it can happen to meeeeee.
However, not everything this dude does deserves a future Black History Month shout-out. Some people are giving him unearned credit and reading his award show interruptions as revolutionary acts and not the actions of a man Stanning for his best friend’s wife because he is an asshole with impulse control problems and a very specific sense of industry award justice. It’s not like when he bum rushes the stage he is somehow honoring the ghost of Ida B. Wells. I mean can you imagine all the smug insufferable think pieces on white privilege we’d be inundated with if Justin Bieber just shitted all over a black artist’s moment like that? (Guess we’ll find out at next year’s Grammys when D’Angelo “upsets” T-Swift for best album…)
Kanye can preach all he wants about Steve Jobs and Leo Da Vinci or whoever the fuck genius he is comparing himself to today. But if he doesn’t make a hot album, his actions become that much more unbearable. This song is the first sign in the album release cycle that I will be gladly putting up with his ass for a little bit longer.
AARON: The biggest problem with Kanye is us. We are helping him sell the biggest artistic scam since Warhol. (Yeah, I said it.) We just can’t stop talking about every little fart noise he makes. It’s bad enough that he already thinks he’s Jesus H Picasso Christ without us egging him on.
Dude is not deep nor is he particularly smart. Period. He says the most basic shit like he just discovered time or gravity. He has out-Columbused both white people and actual Christopher Columbus. He just runs around going “water is wet” and “eat your vegetables” and “Beyoncé is talented” shit. Dawg, you are not an actual genius. Your publicist might be, but you are not.
I don’t mind when dumb rappers say dumb shit, but when dumb rappers start talking like heads of state and claiming to know the root of all society’s political, social, and artistic ills – and people start believing him – then we have a problem. FOH.
PHIL: Maybe he brings this sort of speculative criticism on himself by crediting everyone who works on his lyrics – as opposed to good old days of “don’t ask, don’t tell” ghostwriting – but with each album, it feels like a little more of the Kanye West disappears. He was never a great rapper; it was largely the willingness to air his insecurities and flaws that made him such a compelling MC. I mean, “All Day” bangs, and I’m not saying “Niggas in Paris” (this song’s most immediate apparent) was any more fulfilling, but if the strength of a Kanye song comes down to focused-group punchlines, it’s not much more than a disposable, empty calorie thrill.
Action Bronson ft. Chance the Rapper: “Baby Blue”
Another Rec-Room staple, Action Bronson, dropped off a new track this week, the fourth he’s shared from his forthcoming major label debut, Mr. Wonderful. We already weighed in on “Easy Rider” and “Actin Crazy”, and we slept on the laid back “Terry” (sorry), and now we have “Baby Blue”. The song features Chance the Rapper – whose “NaNa” Bronson guested on – and was notably produced by Mark Ronson, the retro fetishist responsible for current airwaves ruler “Uptown Funk”. Also, Bronsolino sings the hook! Or maybe it’s Chance! Hard to tell! Neither can sing!
MARCUS: OK. This song is fucking adorable.
It’s shit like this that makes Action Bronson a superstar. Nobody dies on an Action Bronson record. Nobody gets assaulted, nobody’s demeaned (unless they deserve it), it’s just a lot of really accessible fun. Oh my, there’s Action Bronson not singing the hook. And it’s great. When your weaknesses are your strengths, you can literally do anything you want.
And Chance the Rapper’s bars need to be recreated in a form similar to this video version of Lupe Fiasco’s “And He Gets The Girl.” Seriously. Watch that video. It’s phenomenal. As an OG blog-era blogger, any comparison to that era of Lupe and, well, yeah, you’re pretty much a superstar of superstars. And he’s not going to sign a major label deal and flake out, either! What a bonus!
DAMION: Chance the Rapper sounds like late 90’s Eminem on that verse. I’m not listening to this song again on purpose but I’m not mad that I heard it either. Next.
CLYDE: LOL at Chance the Rapper channeling not only ’99-era Eminem in that verse, but also ’95-era Alanis Morissette. I love it when rappers show humor. It makes this verse compelling even though he’s basically just saying “fuck you, bitch.”
MARCUS: It’s that whole “Friday” couplet. It’s my favorite thing in rap this year so far. On one level, it seems so small, but on yet another it’s completely amazing. Chance is great because even though he’s young, you get the sense that he’s put in quality hours on his craft. A lot of people don’t get that it’s not just putting in work, but that it’s putting in quality work that makes you better.
JOSE: I have nothing but deep love for both of these guys, and “Baby Blue” makes them even more endearing. This song shouldn’t work as well as it does, but it just has this weird “Mr. Blue Sky” vibe to it and I find myself listening repeatedly. Bronsoliño has built a lot of great cultural capital over the last few years, and his upcoming debut album is going to get a LOT of the benefit of the doubt.
I maintain that Action Bronson is at his best when he’s unhinged and rapping about lucid dreams, and we only hear a bit of that here, but this isn’t bad. Chance’s verse is pretty hilarious, as well. I like this.
PHIL: I bristle when Bronson even says “bitch” given his fucked perspective on women, but “Baby Blue” is a long way from “eyes wide like a chick that got the dick in the butt.” This is mostly just fun – that is, this is mostly just another vehicle for Bam-Bam to toss off fantastical boasts and instant quotables, which, of course, he’s quite good at doing. He manages to stick with the “girl done me wrong” motif for almost a minute before he’s like, “Ah, fuck it, I’M SHININ’ BRILLIANT WITH FIVE BRAZILIANS.”
The production, like most everything Mark Ronson touches, is just a tad too spit-shined for my liking. At a certain point, slick turns to sterile. Luckily, Chance’s verse grimes things up. He seems to really flourish in these sort of close quarters, narrowly focused guest spots.
AARON: I don’t know how I feel about Bronson, the current undisputed heavyweight champ of I don’t give a fuck, doing a sour grapes joint, but I’m feeling it anyway.
Chance is basically doing a pg-13 Shady impression,which is interesting, because going in, I fully expected his usual sing-song flow and obtuse punchlines. His version of mean still sounds like the nicest rapper that ever walked the earth. The kid must walk around with little birds on his shoulder and sparkles in his teeth like a Disney movie. I truly believe that he could have flourished in the mid-late 80’s positive rap days when rappers were still holding weight, crushing hoes, and shooting their cousins….they just didn’t rap about it.
I have been largely unimpressed with Mark Ronson because his vision of retro is super sanitized and the production is squeaky clean. I’m digging this – especially the end with those Kool and the Gang-ass horns.
Wale ft. Usher: “The Matrimony”
The follow-up to Wale’s #1 charting The Gifted is scheduled to drop at the end of the month on Maybach Music Group. It’s called The Album About Nothing, which, to state the obvious, piggybacks on his 2008 breakthrough, The Mixtape About Nothing. The first single from the album, “The Body”, featured an R&B crooner (Jeremih), and its recently released second single, “The Matrimony”, features another (Usher). This one was produced by Jake One and DJ Khalil.
MARCUS: There’s a cheesy radio announcer voice missing from this track, some top-40 iHeartRadio jock from like, “Jammin 102.5, WFGO, EL FUEGO, Tuscon’s Top Hits!” to be the bumper at the end of this track, mentioning to the most generic of music fans that the “Album About Nothing” features “Jerry Seinfeld, yes THAT Jerry Seinfeld.”
Jesus tap-dancing Christ this sounds corporate and sanitized as hell. But, that being said, Wale rapping about getting married is a far cry from the days that he rapped about getting a hands-free lap dance, comparing women to bags of money (or a “lotus flower bomb”) and sexing up women with the aid of diced pineapples, so I’ll take it. A career is a progression. This is progress.
JOSE: The most compelling Wale tracks have a ton of character; see the aforementioned “Lotus Flower Bomb” and “No Hands”, and even “The Break Up Song”. This track is just plain boring, and it’s hard to discern who sounds least interested being there. I had a hard time making it through one play through. Is Wale rapping about falling in love and getting married? Is this supposed to be him baring his soul? Shit, I am so sorry for his wife. Dude has the emotional range of a sponge.
CLYDE: “A wale is a thick plank of wood fastened to the side of a ship to provide protection from wear. The garboard is the wale next to the keel; the gunwale is the top such plank and covers the heads of the timbers between the main and fore drifts.
Wale is also a term for a horizontal member of a tieback wall which transmits the force from the tieback to the beams.”
That is the most interesting fact about wale I’ve ever heard.
AARON: 30 seconds, motherfuckers. That’s all I can do. At that point, if the rapping in my rap doesn’t start immediately, I’m peaced out.
I just said “Maaaaan, fuck this bullshit” out loud. Real loud, in the coffeshop where I work. Now all these adderal snorting study kids are looking at me weird and I feel like it would only make things worse if I tried to explain.
This song is saccharine, maudlin, milk toast, and a bag of thirsty puppies that really really need your attention. This song is stinky hot garbage. I don’t technically hate Wale, but I would have a hard time, even at gunpoint, to identify a rapper that I care about less in 2015.
Ursher may well be one of the smoothest most talented R&B dudes on the planet but he does not belong anywhere near a rap track. He’s just too mushy, and he probably stole Wale’s girl while he was cutting his verses.
*spins around, kicks shoes off, look at my abs and holler player*