Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week or so, we debate, discuss, and dissect recent hip hop tracks, albums, and mixtapes. Today, we joyride through the mean streets of Toronto with Drake, chum up to Earl Sweatshirt, and let our hair down for Azealia Banks. Adult supervision for these activities is provided by Joshua Phelps, Marcus Dowling, Briana Younger, Steven “You Only Get Half a Bar” Place, Phil R, Joseph “Jiggawatts” Minock, Damion McLaren, and Hip Hop Hooray‘s Leah Manners.
Drake: “5AM in Toronto”
The second taste from Drake’s third LP, Nothing Was the Same, “5AM in Toronto” follows surprise (?) smash “Started from the Bottom” and was produced by occasional collaborator Boi-1da.
Phelps: “All sweaters inside her luggage / You gotta love it”: This is what constitutes lyricism from rap’s resident shadow boxer? And who are all these supposed haters trying to take his money? Canadian taxes? A swing, and a miss, because no one’s there, no one cares. Isn’t it time to go back to acting?
Phil: Ooh, I want to channel my inner mean girl too: Drake, stop trying to make Toronto happen. It’s not going to happen. This song is fetch, though.
Steve: Phil, stop trying to make “fetch” happen.
Damion: I wouldn’t right off Toronto so soon. Just as basketball and hip hop were intertwined when they emerged here in the last 25 years, Toronto has a similar thing going on now. The best player in the country – and the best high school player since Lebron – is from Toronto, as are are a bunch of other really good players. I don’t really want to hear about Toronto either, but this might be forced on us sooner rather than later. I’m pretty sure Drake is about to put a whole team of little Canadian rappers, if he hasn’t already done so.
Steve: Agreed. There are a ton of good rappers randomly coming out of Toronto: Raz Fresco, the 6th Letter, Rich Kidd, Keegan Dinero, and the whole Bakersclub crew, just to name a few. I wouldn’t write off Canada in general; they’re obviously just trying to earn our trust so they can invade.
Marcus: The thing I enjoy the most about Drake is that he doesn’t have to be told that he’s the best rapper in the industry. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t, but he doesn’t need to be convinced that he’s amazing. Thus, I enjoy the fact that he’s created a place where he can sit and stare down at the rest of the world of music and take aim at people who he feels are trying to step in his lane. He’s not bold enough like Kanye to have a God complex; he has a “best” complex, and that’s something that great artists in any industry need to have in order to truly excel. In this vein, that “Drake featuring Drake” line is priceless. If this whole album is all about pot-shots and self-reverential absurdity based in one-sided truths, I won’t be mad at it. Drake’s evolving as an artist, and these eras for artists – though tedious – ultimately are necessary.
Leah: What y’ll don’t know about the New North?!?
Marcus: Toronto’s winning because they’re close enough to the US to still have American tastes in what great rap should sound like, but just far enough away from America to be able to use a different perspective on what hip hop culture can evolve into.
Bri: Oh Drake. How far we’ve come from So Far Gone. I’d much rather he go back to rap-singing about his heartbreaks and tucking his ego behind his fake humility. Nevertheless, this song is nice. But, if he is indeed dissing The Weeknd, then I’m on Abel’s side. Canada and artists near Canada (JMSN) are about to win very soon.
Leah: This track sounds like a Ray Lynch joint to me. Drake’s not terrible, but it needs some horns. I like the “guns with bullets that shoot backwards” line, because none of these rappers shoot a darn thing. I’m glad that he’s calling out the corporate glamorization of criminal culture to sell albums.
Bri: Gucci shoots. Wayne shoots (himself). Ross gets shot (at). So, that’s to be considered.
Phelps: I have to admit, that’s one of the most hated lines for me. It sounds so forced, and I took it more as a taunt that other rappers’ verbal jabs aren’t piercing Drake’s lotion exoskeleton rather than a corporate rant. But y’all are right: I did see Kardinal Official sitting in the 2nd row at a Raptors/Bobcats game, so they’re creepin on a come up, for real.
Leah: Hi, my name is Leah and I don’t like guns.
Earl Sweatshirt ft. Tyler, The Creator: “Whoa”
Over four months after “Chum”, Earl Sweatshirt releases a second single from Doris. The song features – and was produced by – Odd Future ringleader Tyler, the Creator.
Leah: Earl’s got multis for days. I gotta say that I love his flow, even though I can’t tell yet if it’s affected intellectualism or the real thing. Tyler’s indication in the beginning that OF might be maturing a little is exciting, but his GOLF WANG hook on just gets irritating. The production is on point.
Steve: Agreed. Great track, but the hook kills me.
Marcus: Earl Sweatshirt is a superstar. Tyler opens the track and confirms this, by hardcore “stanning out” for his dude. Doris is the album I’m waiting for, the magnum opus for the one guy who truly gets it. The Odd Future collective are like rap mathletes, the über nerds who only hang out with each other and tell jokes that kids who want to be as nerdy cool as they are laugh at just so that they can attempt to feel accepted. Earl’s not the leader, but he’s the best kid on the team. It’s been fun to sit back and watch their development as a unit. “Whoa” is lyrical bombast to the brink of murder, with BB gun pellets instead of buckshot. What differentiates Earl from much of anyone else in his generation is that most other young rappers chose to be audacious, whereas Earl impresses with sheer talent. It’s not so much that he’s smart as much as he’s talented with how words fit. This feels like more of a gift than anything that is really developed yet, which is both awesome and frightening. This is an incredibly well put together song. Lyrics, production, execution. All well done.
Phil: Aw yeah, it’s M.E.T.H.O.D. MAN. M.E.T.H. – wait, wrong song? My bad.
I want to agree with Marcus, and I want to disagree Marcus. Let’s start with the former: Earl is really good at rapping. I concur. The world concurs. But I’m not so sure Earl is good at making songs. At least, not yet. When I listen to “Whoa”, I hear two great verses that Earl scribbled in a notebook a long time ago, long before this beat existed. Whether Tyler made the beat as a vehicle for those verses, or Earl heard it and said, “I have some lines that would sound good on this,” is a moot point, because, either way, when you combine them with what Tyler is spewing, the end result lacks cogency. Or, worse, there’s a cognitive dissonance. Earl: stoned on wordplay, pulling “Star Wars” and “Harry Potter” references, reveling in that aforementioned über nerdom. Tyler: bragging about sock sales and Range Rovers. Look, I get that Earl – or the people surrounding him – may think that he needs a hype man, but Tyler is too blunt an instrument here, and I would argue elsewhere as well. As for Earl himself? He can get by on dazzling rhyme schemes for now, but at some point he has to learn to inhabit a beat rather than simply existing alongside it.
Joey: Sounds more like the R-E-U-P-G-A-N-G to me.
Bri: To Phil’s point, I kind of agree, but in a different type of way. He can make a song, but only if you are already an Earl/OF fan. I don’t know of too many tracks where Earl could sell a casual listener who isn’t listening or doesn’t care about the genius of it all. I don’t know of too many tracks (that don’t involve Frank Ocean) where you even think, “Oh, I could hear this playing on the radio,” but then again, I don’t think that’s what Earl, Tyler or any of them are after. With that said, I’m a huge fan and this is lyrical devastation – the kind of song where you just keep shaking your head because you can’t believe what you’re hearing. I think I’m always impressed by Earl because you see [pics of] him and it’s like YOU rap like THIS?! He carries it like he, himself, is unaware of how incredible he is. Doris needs to magically appear like now.
Azealia Banks: “Young Rapunxel”
After “212” and Fantasea and too many online feuds to keep track of, here is the lead single to Azealia Banks’ oft-delayed, major label debut Broke with Expensive Taste. Oddly enough, it is one of two prominent Rapunzel references this week.
Leah: This may very well be Azealia’s rallying cry for releasing her from the captivity of hip hop. She definitely leans more into kind of Euro IDM and horror styles here, and I think it suits her. I don’t think it’ll make her any friends on her new label, and I definitely think she’s crying wolf on “all this new drama” since she seems to be the common denominator in all the feuds. But she’s talented, wild, and not afraid to make noise, and I like it.
Steve: I’m pretty sure the screaming part is just a sample of Fallon Bowman’s line in “Brackish.” And that’s the last Kitty reference I’ll ever make.
Damion: The beat drowns Banks out. I really can’t get down with it, but I can’t hate on her. I like her style, love “212”, and think the game needs more girls like this. She’s someone who thinks outside the box – though she’s no Nicki Minaj – and has some real lyrical skills. Her second verse here is kind of hot, but I wish it was longer. And just like in “212”, someone needs to turn Bank’s mic up. Again, this beat is terrible, but I fuck with the producer’s name, Lil Internet. That’s hilarious.
Joey: I hate to sound like Grouchy Ol’ Uncle Swag, but is this what the kids are listening to today? This is a mess. The more songs like this I have to hear, the more and more I hate the hellspawn emanating from this marriage of rap and EDM. The people freaking out about this song on the soundcloud captions and the message boards are the ones that are either too young or too stupid to remember that the basic point of all this is to get people moving to a rhythm, not convulsing in place until the DJ creates a false, empty lull so he can “drop” the beat in the middle of the song, then going back to convulsing again. Nice stunner shades and lollipop. How was your biology test this morning? Oh, did Azealia Banks rap on this? Whatever.
Marcus: This song is terrible. I spend more time than most wallowing around in the toxic sludge that rap and EDM’s marriage has become looking for rare gems of brilliance. Lil Internet is a genius for this track, and Azealia Banks is an idiot for trying to rap on it. That’s Banks’ problem in a nutshell. In the (Rock Rock Rock Rock) Rock-and-Roll High School that pop music has always been, she’s the girl in the AP Swag class that barely got in and ultimately pulls down the average. Underground hit “212” kicked things off beautifully, Lazy Jay’s bouncy house track making us want more. However, in getting to the top by being a surly asshole and jacking Munchi’s moombahton and Baauer’s trap without permission or co-sign has earned her neither increased favor nor a plurality of friends. Working with Lil Internet’s very true-to-form take on classic 90s hardstyle is a better fit (more because, presumably, he’s cool with this, so there’s no fear of internet reprimand), but, yeah: In lacking the style of, say, the dude from Snap! or the lead singer of Rammstein, there’s absolutely no way to mix her voice on that track in a manner that allows for her to stand out and be heard. As an artist, Banks currently floats alone in the sea of public opinion. She swims to the left, there’s a slight possibility of acceptance and stardom. However, if she keeps swimming to the right, she becomes a pariah, cast adrift on her own private island, entirely unknown and alone.
Bri: I was never a fan of Azealia Banks. I’m still not. And I would listen to this… never. (Grumpy Cat Face) But, I guess in the spirit of the Rap-EDM craze, there are many people in the world who will appreciate this.
Logan: Just stick to directing music videos and ruling twitter, @LILINTERNET. This track is okay for about about 30 seconds, but then its wheels come off and it’s just a wagon full of flaming dog shit skidding into the mouth of Hell.