Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, Jay Electronica travels the road to perdition, Freddie Gibbs is a bad man, and the unholy alliance of Juicy J, Kevin Gates, Future, and Sage the Gemini demand payback.
Jay Electronica: “Road to Perdition”
A Jay Electronica song hit the web a few days ago, his first new material since early 2014 oddity “Better In Tune With the Infinite”. (We’re not counting subsequent appearances on PRhyme’s record and the “Kingdom” remix.) Unfortunately, it was just a leak and there is no news of his long-rumored, possibly not real Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn). But: A new Jay Electronica song! It was produced by DJ Khalil and features a sample of Jay-Z’s “Success”.
MARCUS: OK. So, there was this amazing time when Diddy tried to sign Jay Electronica to re-launch Bad Boy, but at the last minute he instead decided to work with Roc Nation. Of course, this forced Puffy’s hand into signing French Montana as the crown jewel of the re-launched Bad Boy, and well, we’ve seen how that has played out…
In any event, while celebrating this signing, Jay Elec and Diddy went into the studio and recorded “Ghost of Christopher Wallace,” a song that should be listened to if only for Diddy’s (possibly ecstasy-fueled) three-minute rant about the state of the music industry. Also, Jay’s flow is razor sharp, making it one of rap’s most incredible moments ever recorded. I’d also wager it’s the moment when Jay Elec took a look at his career and was like, “Wow. That rant. I can’t be seriously considering doing this…”
Fast-forward five years and here’s Jay-Z and Jay Elec on a “Ghost”-simila track, and the only thing we hear from Hov is him telling him to not compress the track or Electronica’s vocals. Amazing, right?
Without any fear of sounding like a racist, let me just say that at present, the three most powerful songs in rap music are by black artists rapping about being really fucking awesome (without raping, robbing, murdering or popping molly) and being black at the same damn time. It’s a welcome change, and I love it. Not as bombastic as Kanye or as caustic as Kendrick, this is the pro-black anthem that is not damning of white people (or fellow blacks), too. Right in the middle, it’s still honest and maybe the best of the lot.
PHIL: These Jay Z ad-libs sound like watermarks. Why are they so high in the mix? And why are they sampled? What is the point of being on Jay Z’s label if you can’t get Jay Z to show up and spout some original, #rare nonsense? Can I get some “Atlantic Records for T.I. Clearance” chopped in here too?
AARON: This is the shit.
It’s interesting: I was just having yet another deep-ass conversation about Jay Electronica with a friend the other day. At some point, we realized that if you even try to hate on the man too much, you can feel your hip-hop credibility slipping with each haterish word. Street cred will literally fly out of your mouth like “Green Mile”.
He’s basically hate-proof.
Even as you try to make fun of him for not releasing the Album of all Albums that we have been waiting on for what seems like a lifetime, you realize he truly does not need us to keep it real. He is the anti-Kanye. Don’t get it twisted: The Yeezys and Weezys and Diddys of the world need us like a train wreck needs rubberneckers. They need us like a stripper needs dollars. They also need dudes like Jay to keep them connected with the kind of realness that money can’t buy. I bet Jay Z is mad confused on the inside like “YESSSSSSS. I GOT HIM, I GOT HIM, NOW WHAT DO I DO WITH HIM?” He’s like a greedy, overconfident child keeping lightning bugs in a jar even though moms has let him know that they will die in there.
He better not fuck this up.
Jay Elec-Hanukkah, meanwhile, is on some one-hand-clapping care-so-much-that-I do-not- give-a-fuck type shit. Even as he acknowledges all the attention from thirsty would-be co signers like Hov and the lot, he doesn’t waste too much breath on self-congratulation. I mean, he will tell you that he is some kind Zeus-Mohammed hybrid oracle-clergyman wizard that knows and sees all, but it doesn’t feel like bragging when he does it. It just kind of is what it is. (Random:I remember thinking his verse on “Control” felt like he quietly, calmly put a lid on that motherfucker, like he cut his verse from the study while reading 1000 year old scrolls.)
There may be rappers you like better, but there aren’t too many that can deliver a message as heavy or as resolute. He is Kanye without the bullshit. He is KRS without the strident did-it-all preaching. He is Hov if you replaced money with humility. He also go to kick it with Badu, and from what I can tell, every brother who has been blessed with her weird ass muse-control has gone instantly from “rappity-rap-rap-i’m-rappin” to “fuck it, peace, love, and dashikis.”
I’m gonna go ahead and cop to being a total Jay Electricity Stan, but I think we can all agree that he is more than just a little better than your average cat and with that comes a responsibility beyond reputation and record sales. You become a caretaker of the craft when you rap like that.
I’m gonna go listen to “Exhibit C” for the 12,000th time and goggle how to freeze my brain so I can be alive to cop his record in the year 9000.
PHELPS: It’s hard to get excited for another leak from 2011 yet another year after the last leak from the same year, especially one named after a thirteen year-old Tom Hank film most people probably forgot. Dope rhymes over a regal beat aside, if you want to be the dope ass gold chain that Jay Z trots out yearly to remind everyone that Roc Nation is culturally rich, so be it. But you’re not taking any risks here that aren’t financial. There’s no Jay Elec material that I don’t like – I actually love most of it – but I’m ambivalent on the wait for the “Album of All Albums” as Aaron put it. Not even making fun. Maybe it’s not in him or he’s too much of a perfectionist or just insecure like the rest of us to put it out. Check back in 2016!
LEAH: Somebody explain Jay Elect’s business model to me, please. What is he selling? Where is he making money? Is he cashing in credibility and wordsmithiness for rent and rolling papers? What’s his game? Because he can’t be making much from an annual leak of albeit good material, but not exactly career-making tracks.
MARCUS: He’s an A&R and ghostwriter. Best ear and pen in the game, right? Super-important part of the Roc Nation team. Never cashed in, but cashed out in an amazing way. Kind of incredible. Gets to release occasional material whenever he wants, too. Ideal.
PHIL: There is an assumption here that Jey Electronica leaked this track. There is also an assumption that Jay Electronica is the reason that a Jay Electronica record hasn’t been released, whereas we all cry FREE PUSHA T when Kanye sits on a record for like 8 months. Jay Electronica said in 2011 that this record was done. I don’t understand why he’s the one being questioned for strategy.
AARON: True. I just think that “they” don’t know how to sell it. It’s like Native Americans back in the day just didn’t have a reference for all that greedy white people shit, like selling land or credit. How do you market pure vision-based hip hop in today’s sludgey market of trap shit and anti-culture? It’s like trying to sell a Van Gogh at a pawn shop.
Freddie Gibbs: “Pronto”
2014 was Indian rapper Freddie Gibbs’ biggest year since gaining national attention with his The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs mixtape in 2009: He put out one of Rec-Room’s favorite records, Pinata, and followed it up with a Knicks (Remix) victory lap EP. So, maybe it makes sense that he avoided any real expectations with a surprise EP, Pronto, released unexpectedly earlier this week. The title track was produced by Mikhail & Pops, and it’s a solo Gibbs joint.
MARCUS: It should be a rule that the only people who are allowed to rap on trap records are people who can sound like they can kill three people before breakfast and (without the aid of even a state-appointed attorney) intimidate the jury into a not guilty verdict merely by opening his mouth. Gibbs’ hometown of Gary, Indiana was Chicago before Chicago was Chicago. As well, after Chicago gets gentrified, Gary’s going to STILL be Gary, so Freddie Gibbs on trap will ALWAYS be relevant.
Now that trap’s everywhere, it’s hard to truly judge if a production a) holds up to the classic standard or b) Mikhail and Pops’ production is somehow better than the post-EDM meets-R&B festival-to-top 40-turn up we’re used to these days. It’s somewhere right in between, spacey like trance but with enough of the OG thump to be dope as hell.
Actually, this whole EP is fantastic. Gibbs has been in the zone and getting better at it for five years now. Amazing.
AARON: GIbbs is always good, but I can’t say I’m pleased with the beat. I think my ears were so hyped on Pinata that it’s hard to hear this after that Madlib shit.
PHELPS: The world needs bad men, and Gangsta Gibbs might be the baddest of them all right now. Released on the anniversary of Biggie’s death and featuring a riff on Big’s “Nasty Girl”, “Pronto” pays homage while Gibbs spits mercilessly over this woozy, spacey-aged pimpin’ track. It makes me wanna pull the 8 Ball and MJG out the CD case. I don’t know what it is in the Midwest water, but when Gibbs flips bars faster than Chicago’s Twista and more menacing than the chopper by his side, no one in the gangster lane even comes close.
AARON: Don’t get me wrong. I’m definitely not hating on this track. I just wish that Madlib did an album with everybody – like, every six weeks.
Phelps is right. Gibbs has been and always shall be a Bad Motherfucker. As rap fans, we all do that shit where you divide rappers into random categories. Who’s real and who’s not? Who lives it and who just turns on the character?
Well, Gibbs is firmly in that category of dudes that you would not fuck with.
I saw him at Austin’s FFFFEST, and I was actually shocked to see him smile and crack a few jokes. He and Madlib just seemed to be having fun. He has settled into a very comfortable lane and is quite the showman. I was caught off guard by his machine gun freestyle cadence. It’s some mean shit. It’s like 48 bars per breath and it just don’t stop
Rewind to a few years earlier, when I saw him at SXSW, probably hot on the heels of one of his gazilion mixtapes. Dude was at Mohawk, one deep with pre-show game face on, shirt off, headed towards the stage. He was gonna walk right by me…
I looked away.
Anonymous in a crowd of hundreds, the possibility of making eye contact with Freddie Gibbs became a real issue, and I turned my head and looked at the fucking wall for 1 second. I was pretty sure that any lingering eye contact would result in an immediate contract out on my life, or worse, immediate dispatch in a public setting – violently, with cocaine flying everywhere.
I’m pretty sure Pusha T gets his weight from a guy like Gibbs.
I have met and/or rubbed elbows with a lot of rappers while working clubs in Austin. Some nice. A lot of dicks. Some so normal that I was actually bored to death; like, I don’t care about your kids and mortgage and healthy vegetables, dawg, – tell me some STORIES.
Not gonna lie, Gibbs scared me like a wild animal or a tornado. I believe every word that he says.
Juicy J, Kevin Gates, Future & Sage the Gemini: “Payback”
ANOTHER SONG FROM THE “FURIOUS 7” SOUNDTRACK AND IT FEATURES FUTURE AND KEVIN GATES. ONLY GOD CAN JUDGE ME.
MARCUS: In the great pantheon of “ayo imma fight yo ass…maybe even with guns” anthems on big budget Hollywood soundtracks, this is a pale imitation of Nelly’s “Here Comes The Boom” from The Longest Yard. I mean, it’s soundtrack rap for a movie that’s had variations on the same plot for almost two decades, so what are we supposed to expect – it is what it is. I like slow vocal on the fast-tempo production that’s happening all over this. The vocal’s tempo is occasionally exactly half the tempo of the track sometimes, so it’s distracting enough to be catchy. So many things to hate here, but I think all of these disparate and unlikable elements (not including Juicy J) cancel each other out, and it ends up being JUST okay.
LEAH: So this is a big ball of trash – sorry, Phil. On the bright side, Gates definitely has the best verse. I don’t know that that’s necessarily a compliment, when the second-best verse includes “You ready for us, cuz its about to go down” a la Jock Jams. I’m glad that major motion picture companies have begun producing all-rap soundtracks, but I didn’t foresee missing ol’ Kenny Loggins as much as I do.
AARON: This beat sounds like it was “produced” by a 60 yr old white guy who likes Miami Vice.
PHIL: Are they rapping over a peak-era Jerry Bruckheimer soundtrack? This combination of electric guitar, strings, and lasers was definitely in “The Rock” or “Con Air”.
The only war that Sage the Gemini is bringing is the card game.
Good Future verse tho.
LEAH: The Future verse is barely understandable.
PHIL: “I’m talking subliminal. I can’t even see me.” – Future (“Covered N Money”)
LEAH: He is the dumbest