Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we debate, discuss, and dissect recent hip hop tracks. Today, we rob kids of their lunch money with Killer Mike and El-P, m-m-m-m-m-make it bounce with Australian rapper and model Azalea Banks, and get high with Chance the Rapper and Ab-Soul. Along for the ride is our distinguished panel of Joshua Phelps, Marcus Dowling, Briana Younger, Phil R, Damion McLaren, Aaron Miller, Shelly Bell, Steve Place, and Hip Hop Hooray’s Leah Manners.
Run the Jewels: “Get It”
El-P and Killer Mike were responsible for two of 2012’s best rap records: the former’s Cancer for Cure (which Killer Mike guested on) and the latter’s R.A.P. Music (which El-P produced in full). And if these two didn’t step foot into a studio together for another five years, we could subsist comfortably off the fruit of their labors. Thus was their bounty, thus is their chemistry. But living off leftovers won’t be not necessary, as the two have teamed up as Run the Jewels and will release a full-length – for free! – on A-Trak’s Fools Gold Records in June. After an 84 second teaser for “Banana Clip”, “Get It” is the first real taste we get of the record.
Steve: Sweet 8oz baby Jebus, I love this.
Marcus: This song is like hearing The Highwaymen play “Highwayman.” For those unaware, the Highwaymen are a country super group comprised of outlaw country legends Kris Kristofferson, Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash who had an enormous #1 hit country song in 1985 from covering the aforementioned and eponymous titled Jimmy Webb classic from 1954. I love El-P and Killer Mike for the exact same reason I love the Highwaymen. They’re retro-fitted legends who carry a mystique of talent and craftsmanship that long after their first run of success makes then worth more in creating with the space of their legacy worth more than what their reality actually is. This song goes over easy, hits all of the head nodding, hearing-a-nasty-bar-face-making, classic-rap longing pleasure centers that any rap fanatic ha, and just makes you long for something that…wow…you actually are hearing. In being exactly what it should be, and nothing less or more than that, that this wins.
Leah: I’m here for the circle-jerk, you guys. Sorry I’m late – I was getting into an argument about Macklemore. Did I miss anything? In all seriousness, EL-P and Killer Mike are the strongest original voices in rap right now and however they’re making it happen, they need to keep doing it.
Phil: I don’t think two mammals somehow finding each other in the world has made me this happy since “Milo and Otis”. This partnership is almost too good to be true: El-P consistently giving Killer Mike the sort of bruising soundscapes that he’s deserved his whole, sadly unrealized career; Killer Mike teaching El-P that being a blowhard and having fun are not mutually exclusive; together, wrecking shit. This beat is more econimical and less fussy than anything on Cancer for Cure or R.A.P. Music, as if El-P finally realized that the smartest thing to do when the two of them are in the same room is to just get out of the damn way.
Bri: These two together is a wonderful setup for something classic to happen, starting with this upcoming full length. And this production? Epic. I’m actually not sure which is better, the rapping or the beat. How often can you say that, as of late? (Present company in the form of Chance The Rapper excluded.) Now that it’s official, this duo will be a beautiful and welcome addition.
Aaron: This beat is so ill that I can’t stand it. I got three words for y’all motherfuckers: James. Brown. Sample.
How the fuck do they do it? Who knew it was that simple? What do you do after destroying the game with two immaculate records? Just bring back the James Brown sample like it’s no big deal? That’s some gatekeeper, tastemaker, we-said-it’s-ok-shit right there. If I had a time machine, I would go back to 1988 and punch my 14-year-old self in the face with this record, leaving a scar to remind me that one day, El-P and Killer Mike will make hip hop real again.
Damion: This song is tough. The beat is tough. I’m feeling everything about this. The more I hear Killer Mike, the more I hate myself for not listening to his shit earlier.
Shelly: Out of the many lines I love in this joint, my favorite is “….in the company of women with opinions and fat asses.” Finally, a man that references my ass and opinion! My ass is usually what’s most important in hip hop! There are many more reasons to love this joint and Killer Mike. He spits raw, relevant, and unapologetically at all times.
Iggy Azalea: “Bounce”
Last week, Australia native and Wilhelmina model Iggy Azalea announced she had signed to Island Def Jam – though, oddly, she claimed this doesn’t affect her deal with T.I.’s Warner Music / Atlantic affiliate Grand Hustle Records. Given that she was previously on Interscope and is currently inked to Mercuty in the U.K., Azalea has been on a whole lot of labels for someone yet to release a debut LP! But, that’s purportedly set to change this summer with the release of the oft-delayed The New Classic. The club-aimed “Bounce” is the second single from the record, following in the wake of “Work”.
Shelly: Australian chick fantasizes about being a U.S. rapper. Leaves her hard-working two parent household and 12 acres of land to come here and “work on her shit.” I don’t feel authenticity when I hear Iggy Azalea. Her super sexy model with a booty look is a gift and a curse for the label’s push to portray her as some “started from the trailer park now we here” case. “Bounce” has a cool beat, but her voice annoys me. Anyone could have made this song. If drunk and partying in that one club where we get the drunkest, I would bounce to this, just because bouncing would be called for. Other than that, I could careless about Iggy Azalea and this song.
Marcus: I’ll make this statement right here, right now: When all is said and done, Iggy Azalea will be the winner of the female indie-to-mainstream rap sweepstakes. In an era where rap’s complete mainstream pop cultural dominance is not just a national, but a global occurrence, Azalea represents that the future is now. If you’re a rap fan who’s not aware of this, everything about Iggy, especially on this pop-dance number (check “Work,” “Pussy”, and “Murda Bizness” for more typical American rap fare) bristles against the eyes and ears. She’s the representation of everything rap once was, now just whiter and foreign. But therein lies her appeal. She is white (okay, let’s be real, damn near translucent), and she’s from Australia – a strange land to most rap (or just pop music) fanatics. There’s an other-encased-in-same quality about her that is perfectly represented here, that nobody before (or after) her will likely have. Her southern style flow, her disproportional posterior, everything except for her heart – are fraudulent. As a ground zero for hip-hop’s global re-expansion on a larger level (I appreciate that UK 2-step/funky, aka the unsaid universal urban code for “cool dance track” is being used here) she’s perfect. You can’t evolve without a starting point, and the start must be based in what is known, in order to best explore the unknown.
Shelly: I love it, Marcus! Let’s get real: She’s white and exotic, which equates to being more visually appealing than talented. Yes, I totally get it! That’s probably what’s most annoying for me. Privilege and misogyny at the same damn time! Gotta love hip hop, right? Awareness as a rap fan includes knowing the how and the why of a rapper’s career. Becoming a fan of a particular artist means you’re in favor of the particular how and why. Until her heart matches her posterior in sound and skill, my interest in her remains low. I agree that you have to start somewhere. When the industry is done playing hot potato with her, I am sure she will be the amazing everything that exotic women can be in the hip hop industry.
Leah: I love Ke$ha as much as the next person, but I don’t hear a lot of rap-rap-rapping here. This is a dance track, and it’ll make people dance. And it’s by a lady, and ladies need more exposure. 10/10 for what it is.
Phelps: 100% agree on more exposed ladies.
Phil: I don’t know if anyone could make this song, Shelly, but I know that someone already did: Kid Sister and XXXChange. It was over a half decade ago. It was called “Control”. It featured a whole lot more rapping. And I loved it. But the world has enough space for both of these songs. Like Azalea, this track doesn’t have an ounce of fat on it. And I hesitate to bring Azalea’s looks and physique into this, because I’d enjoy this song even if it existed in a vacuum. I reject the assertion that appreciating “how” and “why” are the hallmarks of true hip-hop fandom. A good backstory can inform and increase my appreciation of an artist, but a good backstory can’t be a barrier to entry for producing good art, in hip-hop or any other format.
Shelly: I hear you. I’m a fan of a good backstory and good art more than I’m a fan of good backstory and bad art. In this case, I am not a fan of Azalea’s art or backstory. I favor the “more exposed ladies” view. However, that begs the question of whether or not it’s favorable exposure. I guess any exposure of ladies works.
Aaron: I’m a fan of a good backside, uh, story myself. I am fascinated with characters like Iggy Azalea. It’s like when Gary Oldman or Tim Roth pulls off a really amazing American accents: She does such an authentic bad bitch impersonation that I can’t complain. I’m sure you guys have noticed that the arc of my critique bends toward Haterish, but while whatever she’s doing should not be working, it is. And I’m pretty sure that Australia is as far away from hip hop cred as it is from Atlanta, but if TI is down to ride, she must be up to something good, right? I’ll take her over Nicki Minaj any day.
Phelps: I would just like to say as a really, really, ridiculously good looking white guy, I’ve been getting by on my exoticness in writing about hip hop for a while now. 100% on board with Phil: This is filler on an A-Trak or Mad Decent mixtape, and usually that means a certified club banger – and that’s what this achieves to the fullest. While I’ll have to disagree on the ass being fraudulent, Marcus makes good points and I just can’t listen to her and not laugh at that southern trap rap accent – is she from Sydney or southwest Atlanta? Melbourne or Memphis? Well, Ke$ha is from Nashville and that’s the model we’ll see from Iggy once the labels get settled. She’s going to be massive.
Shelly: Aaron, I am also a fan of a good backside! Phil, there all types of folks skating by on all types of privilege. I totally agree on the point about the label’s influence on her future. I also agree that she is going to be massive, just not for the reasons I wish she would be. I am still not a fan of this track nor her, not yet.
Chance the Rapper ft. Ab-Soul: “Smoke Again”
This week, we finally got to hear Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap, possibly the year’s most anticipated mixtape to date. Following “Juice”, “Good Ass Intro”, and “NaNa”, “Smoke Again” is the latest song from the effort to receive video treatment. (Admittedly, none of these are not Hype Williams affairs.) The song was produced by Blended Babies and features Black Hippy conspiracy theorist Ab-Soul , who released his own “The End is Near” with Mac Miller last week.
Marcus: I’ve played this track four times in a row. Chance the Rapper is un-apologetically young – like in the way that Lil Wayne tries to be right now, but we all know he’s too damn old to attempt to even try to be. He also understands how to rap, instead of mumbling bars, hitting a punchline, then shrugging at the crowd and hoping that we’re all ironic and hipster enough to laugh at the jokes in everything. I love “Flamin’ Hots with cheeeeeeese / And a Kiwi Mistic / My dick is even collared / Cause she left all that lipstick.” That’s the kind of trill shit that a young dude writes from experience, and wants to giddily humble brag to the world about. I was 19 in the summer once, my Kiwi Mistic and Flamin’ Hots a can of Lipton Brisk iced tea and a three piece and dirty rice from Popeyes. I identify with laying in bed with greasy fingers and having that feeling of real basic ass motherfucking accomplishment. Kudos to him. Ab-Soul is just here all like, “Fuck it, I’m great; TDE’s great. Bar-bar… I ain’t gonna spit nothin’, cause I’m so fucking fly… Punchline.'” Old rappers must look at Ab-Soul the same way MJ stared at Iverson after that one time he crossed him up: Angry, jealous, and freshly been had. Overall, a fantastically fun song.
Leah: I am such a big fan of Chance, his voice, his lines (“Lean all on the square / That’s a fucking rhombus”), and his delivery, and this beat is catchy as hell. I wish in a big way he’d move away from the “bitches and smoke” scene and do something a little different but, as Marcus says so eloquently, he’s young. Like many rappers whose artistic abilities I’ve pined over but for their subject matter, it looks like I’ll have to wait and see if he can go in on some topics that I can connect to more personally. After Chance’s nonchalance and lyricism, Soulo’s verse on this is weak, especially his attempt to imitate Chance’s gruff rap-singing.
Bri: I’ll try not to make this too much about Acid Rap, but to Leah’s point, I think the mixtape does show to give us multiple sides of the same artist. We’ve previously talked about “Acid Rain”, where he shows us a more personal side, and on the project as a whole, he touches on love and relationships and Chicago’s violence. I actually appreciate his versatility.
“Smoke Again” is exactly what it sounds like: a smoker’s song, but for the everyday person, even those of us who don’t partake. I really enjoy his playfulness. Chance’s strongest asset is the personality that oozes through his songs. It’s like you want to be his friend. He’s so clever, but I think the average listener may miss a lot – which is just another strength. After all, the average listener doesn’t want to be slapped in the face with punchline after punchline. Ab Soul caught me off guard here. We don’t see a lot of Soulo doing typical rapper raps, and yet when he does he just skates over the beat and raps ten times better than your typical rapper. This song is great, and it’s definitely one of my favorites from the mixtape.
Phil: Ab-Soul’s attempt to sing is admittedly a little misguided, Leah, and it’s a lot flawed in execution, but in a way, it’s probably the biggest testament to this track, and more generally, to Chance. That is to say: It speaks incredibly loudly to Chance’s talent and his infectious enthusiasm that Ab-Soul, who has spent the past few year carefully carving out a very clear persona and style, completely abandons what we understand to be be his thing following the verbal fireworks that precedes him, to the point where he’s rapping about literally kissing ass, and then singing in a way that’s so awful that it makes me smile. That’s something that happens more than a few times on Acid Rap. Not the singing, but other artists – more established artists – not just meeting Chance half way, but completely stepping into his dizzying world. It’s a remarkable thing to witness two mixtapes into a rapper’s career, and more remarkable with consideration of what could follow.
Aaron: Chance is very clever, no doubt. He has Punchlines for days. A thoughtful delivery. And this mixtape is the biggest PR for LSD in a minute. But that sing-song shit is distracting. It makes me nuts. Rap or sing, dawg: You are killing me.
I like Ab Soul. He seems to make serious, government-hating, party rap. It’s chock full of bleak esoteric references, conspiracies, and lots of drugs, which is my favorite kind of rap. However, his verse here was lazy, and overall this track is not really the best team-up.
Phelps: It’s hard not to listen to this song without the context of the mixtape because, to be honest, there’s some massively corny tracks on it. This stands out but I can’t tell it’s because of the company it keeps or it’s own merits. I’ll give Blended Babies and Ab Soul the benefit of the doubt – it’s a perfect combination, but I’ll hold guarded optimism for what Chance will become with all these major labels battling over him. Hopefully it’s not the rap game Justin Beiber.
Phil: Rap game Justin Beiber? Because Chance young? Because Justin Beiber is from the south side of Chicago and famously took acid on Youtube? I’m gonna have ask for some clarification here.
Phelps: Young, sure and, after reading about the label competition, potentially susceptible to manipulation. A little money can go a long way in shaping a rappers sound, taking him down a road much different than well received mixtapes. Time will tell right? I dig this song but I listened to the whole tape before responding here so I’m disappointed there aren’t more like it. As far as the acid goes, Chance seems much too present and eloquent to be dropping too many tabs.