Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks.
Today, Diplo assembles some night riders for Major Lazer; Snoop Dogg has a funky rebirth with Pharrell; and Boosie Badazz seeks retaliation.
Major Lazer ft. Pusha T, 2 Chainz, Travi$ Scott & Mad Cobra: “Night Riders”
When Major Lazer started out, it was a collaboration between Diplo and Switch, two producers who had met while working on M.I.A.’s Arular. These white dudes – American and British, respectively – decided to travel to Jamaica’s Tuff Gong Studios and make a dancehall-fusion record. The resulting album, Guns Don’t Kill People… Lazers Do, featured Jamaican artists on every track, along with a handful of American artists like Santigold, Nina Sky, and Amanda Blank. By album two – 2013’s Free the Universe – Diplo had seized control of the project, and began turning songs into more star-studded affairs, at least in terms of stars famous outside of Jamaica. Did Elephant Man and Busy signal still show up on the LP? Sure. Did its singles “Get Free”, “Bubble Butt”, and “Jah Partial” feature dancehall artists? Nope. Does that mean anything? I don’t know. But the first single from the forthcoming Peace Is the Mission, “Lean On”, featured MØ and DJ Snake, and carried forward that trajectory. On the other hand, Major Lazer’s latest single features Mad Cobra. It also features Pusha T, 2 Chainz, and Travi$ Scott, providing a peak into what G.O.O.D. Music might sound like with Diplo at the helm. Peace Is the Mission is out June 1.
PHIL: This is the best 2 Chainz’s verse in a minute. It exists almost entirely as texture, and it doesn’t even matter. Drip. Drip. Wet.
CLYDE: Absolutely agree. It’s the first time I’ve heard him deploy this flow or rhyme scheme. You can teach an old trapper new tricks!
MARCUS: This is the best trap song of the year. Hands down. Like, Mike WILL isn’t going to find two teenagers hanging out in the SWATS who are going to do better than this.
Trap and dancehall have needed to get together since last year, when Travi$ Scott and OT Genasis popped off in the same calendar year. Dancehall’s more than soulful swing and the ability for great toasters and vocalists to ride a riddim make this the case. Mad Cobra is, yes, the same Mad Cobra from 1992’s “Flex (Time to Have Sex)” fame, so this track is great off the break.
The secret to Pusha T’s excellence is that he finds his story in any track he blesses with his his voice, which makes it less amazing and more expected when he blows said track out of the water. As well, 2 Chainz is the best at execution in rap music right now by a long shot. Like, it’s unfair to put anyone else in the conversation. He isn’t “Mercy 2 Chainz” but then again, he doesn’t need to be. It’s like, he knows that just in cadence and voice alone, he’s a rare instant legend.
And I love Travi$ singing here, like in a way that I have yet to love Young Thug or anything Future’s done since “Turn On The Lights.” There’s this cool confidence (not aloof arrogance) there that doesn’t come off as just being either one or the other. That middle lane is where sustainability is.
Here’s the best thing about this song, though. It doesn’t ever need to be heard on mainstream radio (though it will) to be a hit. Between being played on Adult Swin cartoons, more Spotify streams than your favorite traditional rap star, and a constant worldwide touring schedule, this one will make a return on its investment for certain.
LEAH: Anybody else get chills when Pusha starts in? Just me? There’s not a weak verse on this track. I would bump.
PHIL: The only thing holding back “Night Riders” is [email protected]$ $¢o++. (Did I stylize that correctly?) Listening to this song is like watching an awesome TV show that cuts to a “Furious 7” commercial every thirty seconds. “Tonight we gonna set the streets on fire / All I need is a gas and a lighter.” Ok, what else would you need to start a fire? And is Mr. $¢o++ not currently in possession of these things? Because that’s like saying, “Tonight we gonna make a sandwich / All I need is a bread and a meat and maybe a cheese.”
PHELPS: Pusha. Bump. I see you, Leah. I’m drawing the conclusions.
Seeing “Jah No Partial” live at 930 Club was an open heart surgery with no anesthetic: Completely lucid and at rapt attention towards the dancers wining on stage, until the drop at 1:24 rips your chest cavity open and Diplo plants his 20 foot Jamaican flag into the wound from his Wayne Coyne bubble ball. It was a positive experience.
They could come and play that and this song back-to-back for 30 minutes and I’d pay at least $30 (is, $20 plus service fees.)
I’m not into Travis $cott’s hook either. Mainly because, hey, Diplo, maybe let Travis abandon the fake patois and spend a few more minutes on the verse, and let Mad Cobra do the hook in an accent that’s too real. Otherwise, bang on.
JOSE: This is straight fuego – a wonderfully textured and layered track, with that guttural bump-bump-bump that I fucks with (see what I did there?). I ain’t even mad with Diplo generally being an asshole, because at least he’s funny about it, and he brings these island cats to the forefront on the recordings and in live performances.
I was kind of hoping 2 Chainz would have more to say. All of you got me really excited and it was only like 10 seconds. Your name is not 2 Barz, sir.
AARON: Alright, alright, alright. I can get with this and I definitely not mad at Mad Cobra. Old school Rudeboy and the verse is murderous.
You already know I hate Travi$ Scott, but he doesn’t really fuck around on this track. It’s a little underwhelming to have him last on the track, but not too shabby.
Oh 2 Chainz. It’s one thing to hate a rapper because he can’t rap. That’s a no-brainer. What’s frustrating about Chainz is he’s a rapper that can rap but chooses to phone it in most of the time. It’s like he just randomly puts the gold dusted blunt down and is like, “Watch this, y’all. Just let me fuck wit ’em and rap for real this time.” He’s got this grown-up flow that pops up like once a year. (And, Clyde, I’ma let you finish but 2 Chainz verse on “Capitol” with Curren$y is the best 2 Chainz verse of all time.)
Pusha sounds like Cocaine Dracula walked through the door earlier than expected (not opened it; literally walked through it) and everyone got real scared for a minute like, “Is he gonna kill us? Nah, son, he’s just here for the party, chill.”
This song bang bangs.
Snoop Dogg: “So Many Pros”
“Snoop is good at social media, but he’s bad at music now,” comedian Hannibal Buress said at a recent roast, laying into beloved stoner Calvin Broadus. “Snoop, the only way you’ll get another hit is if you stand behind Suge Knight’s car in a parking lot.” This may be true, but the California rapper has an alternate plan: He’s hired Pharrell to produce the entirety of his forthcoming record, Bush. The two have a storied history together, teaming for hits like “Beautiful” and “Drop It Like It’s Hot”. It’ll be Snoop’s first record as Snoop Dogg since 2011’s The Doggumentary. (2013’s Rastafarian rebirth, Reincarnated, was credited to Snoop Lion; he collaborated with Dâm-Funk on 7 Days of Funk as Snoopzilla.) The tracklist for Bush features some marquee names like Stevie Wonder, Kendrick Lamar, Gwen Stefani, and T.I, but its second single, “So Many Pros”, is just good old Snoop. (Charlie Wilson, Chad Hugo,Rhea Dummett, and Pharrell contribute background vocals.) The single was preceded by “Peaces N Cream”.
CLYDE: We have a Chad Hugo sighting.
LEAH: This track is smooth as butter. Snoop hasn’t managed to remain relevant for so long by not cashing in on the dominant sounds of the day; here’s his funky, soulful rebirth that basically kicks Robin Thicke’s idiotic face right in its ass. He’s well on his way to releasing every laid-back cruising song of the summer on one album.
MARCUS: So, do I want to be the asshole here who wants to bring up the similarity of the basslines in the SOS Band’s 1980 hit “Take Your Time, Do It RIght” and “So Many Pros?” Given he had a significant hand in the whole “Blurred Lines” fiasco, Pharrell’s definitely locked into the timeless cool of 70s disco/mack vibes and knows that people who still buy records will absolutely buy these songs.
All that being said, Snoop’s definitely spent the better part of the last decade sliding into legacy act status. The track and video just feel like they could be used to sell Cadillac luxury automobiles, Snoop-as-Fred “The Hammer” Williamson the logical evolution of his entire rap career. All that being said, Pharrell’s there at legacy status too, the two guys having a combined 50 years of music industry experience between them. This one definitely feeling more like a layup than the slam dunk of a track it was when the same crew collaborated on “Drop It Like It’s Hot” a decade ago. A rap game legends game performance, it’s exactly what we should be expecting from them.
PHELPS: Anything that keeps Snoop from being the worst (Snoop Lion) is a step in the right direction. It’s funny that the previous single was “Peaches n Cream”, because this sounds lifted straight from 112’s remix and mashed with some tape off the Daft Punk cutting room floor.
Has anyone looked for lyricism from Snoop since Doggystyle? Hopefully not. But he’s in a perfect lane as the soulful vessel by which Pharrell drills 2015’s BBQ anthems into our heads. We all better start learning the miles and miles of hooks so we can participate.
AARON: One second. That is how long it took me to vibe out. This track instantly made me grab for a fake steering wheel and start swanging. Fuck Mark Ronson and his Uptown Pop Stank. This song jams, and the production value on the video is better than the last three Tarantino flicks.
Leah said it well. Snoop doesn’t need to adapt; he just needs to be Snoop. We all patiently put up with his shenanigans in recent years because we knew he’d be back. Not like this is a comeback or anything: The Big Dogg solidified his place as one of the few rap superstars well over a decade ago, so, yeah, don’t call it a comeback, but rather just a slick little electric slide-worthy reminder of who really owns this proto-pimp rap shit
CLYDE: “1, 2, 3, and to tha fo, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Pharrell is at tha do’ / Ready give your Uncle something to step to at the family reunion while he holds a Corona in one hand a plate of ribs in the other, trying desperately not to spill sauce on his new short set / And you know we bout to rip shit up.”
JOSE: This is funky, and sounds like the vibes were strong in the studio. Otherwise, it’s unremarkable.
CLYDE: Snoop has been going down this path for a while but am I the only one blown away that this is the same dude who made “Murder Was the Case” and “Deep Cover”?
AARON: Yes. I am blown away; in that same way I am blown away (in reverse, though) by nice Golden Age rappers like Slick Rick that spent the 80’s smoking dust, pulling pistols, and actually shooting motherfuckers.
You don’t have to stay hard to be hard in this rap shit; you just have to own it.
Plus, ladies don’t like guns, dawg. How you gonna pimp effectively catching cases and stashing heat all the time. Can’t a player just wear a $10,000 tuxedo with Chucks and reminisce about the hard old days? Didn’t you listen to “Thug Mansion” or “Ain’t No Heaven for a G” or ” Retire on 10 blunts a day”?
OK, that last song is not real, but I’m just saying: When you get old do you want an AK or a 401K?
PHELPS: Well, I think the point is that he’s not rapping, really. That’s cool to me. He laid out anything poignant or interesting that he had to say twenty years ago, but he can still be entertaining as hell. Better to do this than embarrass himself like Jay-Z.
AARON: You can’t be a mogul and a goon at the same time. Gotta grow up.
Boosie Badazz: “Retaliation”
In November, Boosie Badazz – the artist formerly known as Lil Boosie – released Life After Deathrow, a great mixtape from a rapper who sounded hungry and determined after five years in a Louisiana State Penitentiary. But Boosie’s got bigger plans. “I ain’t wanna come home and play with the mixtape game,” he told Complex last week. “I wanted to come home and hit ’em hard, get that machine behind it, be successful and show the world.” Part of showing the world is releasing a “classic” record: Touchdown 2 Cause Hell. The album is due July 15, and possibly features advances singles “Like a Man” and “On That Level”. It will certainly feature “Retaliation”, a recently released track produced by London on da Track, the Atlanta beatmaker best known for his work with Young Thug (“Lifestyle”, “About the Money”,“Take Kare”). Appropriately enough, Boosie just appeared on a Barter 6 track produced by London on da Track, the menacing “Can’t Tell”.
AARON: Boosie is mad serious. As he should be. His career is steeped in legit by-association gangster cred. He’s rolled with some of the hardest and been almost hot a couple times in the past. He is not here to be cute or give you gimmicks and punchlines. He is here to warn you that he is dangerous and the world around him even more so.
This (and a lot of rap from Louisiana) is one of those areas of rap where there is no distinction between the product and the environment. I don’t seek out this message in my personal rap world, but it is definitely an analog to today’s America, chock full of threats to black people from within and without. This is as far from conscious rap as it gets, but it still makes you think.
The picture painted here is grim and gritty, and I hope for recidivism in the form of more hot shit from Boosie in 2015
MARCUS: What everyone who tells the story of TAFKA Lil Boosie is that he’s a 15-year veteran who, in being incarcerated for five years, had nothing better to do with his time all day than get extremely great at rapping. I mean, one wouldn’t typically associate spending time in jail with sharpening one’s rap flow, but in the case of Boosie Badazz, that absolutely happened, and showcased on “Retaliation”.
London’s one of many producers bubbling out of Atlanta right now, so pairing his work with the out of prison and very much hustling Boosie makes sense insofar as trying to craft the insta-hit that Boosie ideally wants to get back on the map. If all goes welll with hthis mixtape, presume that there’s Young Thug, Future, Juvenile, TI and Birdman duets that are all possible. Brother is on parole until 2018, but insofar as straight cash payments delivered in duffle bags for club bangers and major label features, he’ll be okay. In the underground ecosystem of rap music, Boosie is a legend, and insofar as sustainably developing another crew of artists in the generation AFTER Young Thug (and yes, such a thing exists), it’s good to have him back (hopefully just not “for now”).
LEAH: This is the best creepy track since “My Mind Playin Tricks On Me.” Something about London’s eerie opera-hall wind-up and Boosie’s elongated “blooood” makes this really get under your skin, Halloween-novelty style. I’m into it.
PHIL: Boosie was a revelation on Life After Deathrow, but just as the rapper sounded frozen in time (in a good way!), so often did the production (not in a good way!). Here, it’s another story. There’s something about the about the way melody floats through London on da Track’s, er, tracks while still being grounded by beats that hit. It’s not revolutionary – just extremely well executed. Meanwhile, Boosie continues to sound absolutely terrifying. Just go ahead and reboot “Child’s Play” with Lil Penny, set it in Baton Rouge, and put this song on loop for 90 minutes.
One quick word to my friend London, though.
London, Boosie gives you a shout in the intro. (“Say, yo, London, what’s popping?”) That was nice of him. Then Young Thug lets us know that “we got London on da track,” as per usual, just in case we were confused that Boosie had another friend named London. Fair enough. But did you really need to drop another “We got London da track” in closing seconds? We got it, bruh. London was here. London Made-It. London on the beat, ho. Give it a rest.
AARON: It’s ya boy I-don’t-know-if-I-mentioned-his-name-is-London-on-the-track-but-it-is.
PHELPS: Just gonna file this in my “Songs I Don’t Want to Hear Dudes Rapping at Me on the Subway or Sidewalk” folder.
Also in my “Songs I will Bang Hard as Hell (In Headphones)” folder.