Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we debate, discuss, and dissect recent hip hop tracks. Today, we go hard with Pusha T, let the club know that we are not accepting friend applications at the this time, and are besieged by Das Racist, A Tribe Called Red, and Indians from all directions. Along for the ride is our distinguished panel of Joshua Phelps, Marcus Dowling, Briana Younger, Phil R, Damion McLaren, Aaron Miller, and Hip Hop Hooray’s Leah Manners.
Pusha T: “Numbers on the Boards”
“Our family Hov brought that real hip hop shit this morning so me and Pusha wanna keep that feeling going,” oversharer-turned-Twitter-recluse Kanye West posted not long after the release of Jay-Z’s “Open Letter” last week, and true to his word, “Numbers on the Board” soon appeared on his website. The track, produced by Kanye and Don Cannon, is set to appear on Pusha T’s forthcoming My Name is My Name LP, which follows last year’s Wrath of Caine and 2011’s Fear of God mixtapes, along with a slew of appearances on G.O.O.D. Music-affiliated songs. Appropriately enough, Jay-Z even shows up briefly in the form of a “Rhyme No More” sample.
Leah: I love this dope Don Cannon/Yeezus beat, although I think that Kanye probably just dropped in the crowd-sounds and soul samples and left to look in the mirror somewhere, making Cannon the architect here. Pusha deals with the beat like a pro showing off his 16 years in the game and experience maneuvering with the Neptunes. I, like everyone else, wish he would stop rapping about cocaine for just one track, but at the same time, how can I complain when he does it so well?
Marcus: Everything about this is bone-chillingly cooler than being cool. Ice cold. I appreciate the fact that Pusha T (by default it seems) has ascended to the place of being pretty much damn near a rap legend, and thus must be depended upon for this type of performance. G.O.O.D. Music is a funny team in the sense that Kanye has surrounded himself with artists that – on varying levels – he idolizes. Even better is the fact that he’s spent much of the last 1.5 years honing and developing the G.O.O.D. Music concept into something bigger than an ego stroke, and ultimately more sustainable. In that creative space, stuff like “Numbers on the Boards,” in all of its paint-by-numbers Clipse-style blow rap brilliance, thrives and exists. Listening to Pusha T tell a story with rhymes must be like what watching Mihaelangelo paint the roof of the Sistine Chapel was all about.
Aaron: Push is just one of those rappers that can’t do much wrong. He could do better, but he can’t do bad. Sometimes I get tired of the drug shit, but he is pretty much the Poet Laureate Philosopher King of Cocaine Rap at this point. I truly believe that he sells the cocaine, a lot, like everyday. He is probably re-upping right now. Also, this beat is weird. I’m pretty sure it’s not a proper collab and Yeezy just farted some gold dust in the studio and got producer’s credit. It’s not boring, yet does not bang? Why you so average DJ Cannon? Because you have to be, to let all those mixtape rappers really shine, that’s why? It’s a little thin from a production standpoint. Pusha deserves a better track than this.
Damion: I like everything about this. The simplicity of the beat makes it sound kind of gutter and Pusha t kills it. He’s going Yo Gotti with this one. Yeah, it’s only one subject, but isn’t that how you want your role players to be? Pusha T is not at the top of the game, and he’s not gonna get there. He might as well just play his role very well, which he does. He’s the rap game Steve Novak. That’s really not a bad place to be when Kanye is cooking up hits for you.
Phil: Pusha’s approach to hip-hop is surgical. There’s no question that I respect both its proficiency and consistency. The dude has the steadiest hands around. But, at this point in his solo career, I’ve witnessed about sixty operations, and they’re all the same goddamn appendectomy. I’m tired of appendectomies. He’s proven that with G.O.O.D. Music that he can still steal a song with a guest spot, but when it’s just him, Push can’t keep my attention over the course of an entire track, let alone an album.
Phelps: I’m usually all-in for anything Pusha and, as fans, it seems like most people here are giving half-ass praise to this. And, it’s true, it doesn’t really warrant a lot of fanfare. The beat isn’t bad – it’s just there, and I think the most exciting part is the Jay-Z sample, when you think it might switch up into something with more feeling. A classic line, “One will leave you frozen / The other noddin’ and dozin’,” was delivered on “Grindin'”. Unfortunately, this song fits the latter and I hope Kanye released it like this so it can be a bonus track on the upcoming album, or just mixtape fodder.
Das Racist & A Tribe Called Red: “Indians From All Directions”
When Das Racist announced that it was breaking up late last year, hypeman and least valuable player Dapwell told Spin that the act had been planning to release “one proper album and then go on a farewell tour, release a proper breaking up statement that could have been really funny, maybe a weird, stupid video. Now, all of that has gone to shit.” “Indians From All Directions” is a track salvaged from sessions for that aborted second LP. It was produced by A Tribe Called Red, a self-described “all Native American DJ crew from Ottawa Canada” that remixes “traditional Pow Wow music with contemporary club sounds.”
Leah: I really love this track and that makes me sad for a lot of reasons. First, this would have been a great leg up to the criminally under-appreciated A Tribe Called Red. I’m also still mourning Das Racist breaking up, and what could have been. While Heems and Kool A.D. seem to really go all in on their verses here – including the inspired shout out to Indian reality TV – they’ve already stopped playing off each other like they used to. This could be a features track on a Heems mixtape with Kool AD in parentheses.
Bri: A Tribe Called Red is out of control on this production – in a good way, of course. Canada out here reppin’, as usual. I’m really impressed with this, and as someone who isn’t a die hard Das Racist fan, this makes me want to go check out the rest of their catalog.
Marcus: A Tribe Called Red are the finest EDM-to-rap producers in the world because their samples are from native drums, melodies and voices that are used in sounds that are foremost an inherently spiritual experience. Nobody else can, will, or probably should do that, so, yeah: This track is one of those happy accidents of fate where kismet allows for the walls between artists to shrink and for the once-thought-impossible to become altogether too real. Das Racist broke up. Not mad. That happens. But thank the lord this one gets to still see the light of day. I really think that Heems and Kool AD get super-inspired by the beat (and more importantly the men making the beat) and deliver the kind of performances that the rap fans who shied away from them because of their hipster affiliation probably needed to hear more of to realize that they had the talent to match their marketing. Stone cold rhymin’ about Indian TV? Wow. All for it. Related to all of this, A Tribe Called Red’s next album drops on May 7th. Cop dat.
Aaron: Oh yeah! This one makes my ears light up. Seeing as how All Trap Everything is currently smothering Hip Hop with the same drums and the wrong kind of bass, a clever sample-based track like is refreshing, to say the least. Heems and Kool AD ride the bounce quite nicely on this beat. ATCR’s production is next level shit. Electric Pow Wow goes hard. It’s difficult to deliver an instant identity with your music these days, and these cats have got it figured out.
Phil: To echo something Leah touched on, the saddest part of Das Racist’s proper debut, Relax, was how far the chemistry between Heems and Kool A.D. had degenerated in just a few year’s time. But, the most frustrating was how half-assed they came off, and the most disappointing was the repeated contempt they hurled towards their listeners, and so while it’s a bummer that the distance between them remains on “Indians From All Directions”, it’s refreshing to hear these guys sounding absolutely wired and pummeling a track. Maybe they were inspired by this gonzo beat. Maybe they decided after Relax to take Das Racist seriously – even if that meant “seriously funny,” as on Sit Down, Man – and couldn’t sustain that focus. I’d gladly chip in to Kickstarter campaign for a Das Racist “Behind the Music” to find out.
DJ Khaled ft. Drake, Rick Ross, and Lil Wayne: “No New Friends”
Almost two years after “I’m On One”, DJ Khaled has reunited the gang for a sequel! Drake, Rozay, and Weezy are back on the mike. Noah “40” Shebib is back behind the boards, alongside Boi-1da this time. And DJ Khaled is back doing whatever DJ Khaled does. It’s the first single from his seventh (!) LP, Suffering from Success, an album whose title was inspired by his a bald spot on his beard.
Bri: This song wants to be “I’m On One” so badly. I wish Aubrey would stop giving all these basic people quotables for their social media pages. But, anyways, my life isn’t changed by this one. It’s not bad either, though. It’s simply exactly what one would expect. No one broke the mold or stepped out of their boxes. But, to be fair, it’ll probably catch on after enough time and the right setting gets a hold of it. I think this really makes me realize how boring mainstream rap is getting. Two years ago, I just knew “I’m On One” would kill the summer. I hear “No New Friends” in 2013 and it’s like, that’s cool, I guess. The Das Racist track is infinitely more exciting.
Phil: Appropriately enough, Kool A.D. may have had the Drake Takedown of the Year on Fat Tony’s “Hood Party”: “‘All I care about is money and the city that I’m from’? / That’s dumb / Isn’t that exactly like the Tea Party platform?”
Leah: I have never heard a better or more clear demonstration of formula rap. They weren’t exactly reinventing the wheel with “I’m on One,” and this is just the same gold-plated 24″ rims by a different name. Also, it’s kinda mean. Who doesn’t like friends? And I don’t get it – if Boi-1da produced this (new north all up in it), what does DJ Khaled actually do? Is he the new Little Jon but with a more limited vocabulary?
Marcus: Y’all. We can’t take Drizzy feeling himself after cashing fourth-quarter paychecks, winning the fight and losing the girl seriously, right? Right? Really? We are. Oh no. For shame. Drake’s on his “fuck you motherfuckers who want to take my money” tip right now. All that “No New Friends” is his money talking faster than his mouth can manage to speak. Weezy and Rape Ross on this one are fairly terrible. However, to excuse them, one of them is rich as fuck and too busy skateboarding on the roof of his house to care what you think, and the other one is pretty much having the worst year ever, so there’s that. DJ Khaled is hip-hop’s Henry Kissinger, and sits all of the bosses at the table so they can break bread. Khaled’s also a street legend, the guy you go to in order to get that sheen of respectable ratchetmania on a track to send it over the top. But, yeah. The A-side/B-side of “Started From the Bottom” and “No New Friends” is pretty much universally basic and just enough to get everyone from girls with Tiffany bracelets to bamboo earrings locked down, which ultimately is the point. Related, Drake’s pretty much about have a goose-down gloved fistfight with Wale for the crown of America’s Next LL Cool J. Let’s file that one away and talk about that in a few months, shall we?
Aaron: The Horror. I throw your weak hook and sleepy track right back at you, Khaled. Fuck all y’all: There are no words to express how much I hate Drake. There is probably a long-ass German word that comes close, but I don’t have time to Rosetta Stone that shit right now. I wanna go back in time like Terminator and take out his moms. I hate Rape Ross too, but at least he is a million times realer at being fake than young Drizzle. And it’s about time we, as fans, stop letting Weezy slide on this phoned in bullshit. You’ve been rapping for 40 yrs and this is all you got?
Phil: Drake gets off on the wrong foot by queuing up that weak hook with “We in the club screamin”” Stop it, man. Stop fishing for it. No in the club is screaming, “No new friends.” That is a feeling that literally no one in the club can relate to. The very reason they came to the club is to make new friends, even if for a night. It would have made sense if he had said, “Popcorn poppin’ in the microwave and ‘Downton Abbey’ streamin’ on the Netflix, and we in the renovated row house all alone screaming, ‘No new friends, no, no, new” Or: “We a group of eight year old boys sitting in my tree house, you new to tha neighborhood and tryin’ climb in it, but read that sign posted for your convenience: ‘No New Friends No, no, new.” Drake’s scenario though? It’s not really resonating with me. Also, Aaron, you don’t want to bark up that Lil Wayne tree. I’ve tried. You’re in the presence of some Weezapologists.
Aaron: I am one of those Weezapologist at heart. I just feel he should be put on genius-rapper probation: No more guest raps,mixtapes,or lazy left-field diss tracks until he can deliver some solid album quality content. People are going to lose sight of how good he can get. I think that too much Young Money and a couple seizures made him forget how to get his motherfuckin’ roll on.
Damion: This was alright, but I don’t need to hear it more than this. The longer Wayne stays off that syrup, the better his music will get. But I didn’t think much of any of these verses. None of these guys were really feeling this beat. They slept through it.
Phelps: “Maybe your soul you’d sell to have Mass Appeal” – Guru.
I am so, so sick of Drake. Somehow, he tricked people into believing he’s not the bubble gum Beiber of rap, leeching on the tit of DeGrassi fans and social media trendfuckers. And with his Al B, it looks he’s got older women in his grip also. Rap is a business and things are going to be calculated, but how can you piss out the same mindless drivel over and over and live with yourself? Well, with a mansion and a yacht, I get it. But the only reason I’ll listen to a Drake song is because he’s got a producer I wanna hear or my girlfriend is controlling the car stereo. He doesn’t have to try hard, so, he doesn’t: He gets his milk for free while the world babies him. Literally, this is the image of Drake I have listening to this song:
“The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist” – Verbal Kint. POOF. VAMOOSE SONOFABITCH.
Marcus: To Philip and everyone here who thinks that this song is off point, when people are screaming “No new friends” in the club, you may be hanging out at the wrong clubs. When not covering rap, I do a ton of work in EDM, which involves a lot of hanging out in VIP sections and seeing exactly the kind of tomfoolery that Drake is discussing. While attending a giant EDM festival two years ago, I decided that I’d attend a megaclub’s afterparty. I was escorted into VIP, where my friend and I were met by a Nigerian gentleman and his two friends who were just hanging out for the night. They asked my friend and me to join them, and in the spirit of having a fun night, we did. They ordered four bottles of champagne, a bottle of Makers’ Mark, a bottle of Grey Goose and a bottle of Patron to their table, and, amazingly enough, without asking if we wanted to chip in anything, offered us shots and drinks on the house. While I abstained (I was “working”), my friend tentatively, then freely, obliged. As if it were nothing, when the bottles arrived, the Nigerian and one of his friends promptly stood up, shook the bottles of champagne, uncorked them, and sprayed the entire dance floor beneath us. Of course, in being surprisingly sprayed by champagne by two guys who fit the stereotype of every rich douchebag ever, some of the angrier patrons began to launch beer bottles up at our section, so much broken glass suddenly everywhere. The offending duo first looked at the people in shock, like “you guys don’t want to have us pour champagne on your head? Come at me bro!” This immediately caused more bottles to break at our feet, which brought security onto the dancefloor to not quell the situation, but to eject the people who were retaliating against our friends for the evening. As the bottle throwers were being escorted out and the VIP bottle poppers were left entirely alone, they took the time to give one final goodbye spray to them from YET MORE BOTTLES OF CHAMPAGNE. In some cases, the club is absolutely a place to NOT make new friends.