Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we debate, discuss, and dissect recent hip-hop tracks. Today, we take a Caribbean vacation with Busta Rhymes and Nicki Minaj, wander down some dimly lit streets with Prodigy and Action Bronson, and listen to some motivational speakers at a Statik Selektah seminar. Along for the ride is our distinguished panel of Joshua Phelps, Marcus Dowling, Briana Younger, Phil R, Damion M, Shelly Bell, Aaron Miller, and Hip Hop Hooray’s Leah Manners.
Busta Rhymes ft. Nicki Minaj: “Twerk It (Remix)”
Pharrell claims to have sampled boiling water on his beat for “Twerk It”, but with its remix, Busta Rhymes aims to turn up the temperature with the addition of the Midas-touched Nicki Minaj. Both rappers have ties to the Caribbean – Minaj was born in Trinidad, Busta in NYC to Jamaican parents – and both rappers are tapping into those roots here. This is hardly a first for any of the parties involved: Pharrell cooked up a reggae-touched beat for Busta’s “Kill Dem” four years back, and the mercurially voiced Minaj could be heard dabbling in Patios as recently as French Montana’s “Freaks” earlier this year. “Twerk It” – in some form or another – is set to appear on Busta’s Cash Money debut.
Marcus: One of my favorite underrated local DC music people is Edley Shine (formerly of Born Jamericans of “Boom Shak-A-Tak” fame), who stays busy and partners with DJ JButtah using his amazing patois baritone for awesome reggae re-fixes like this. Hearing Busta Rhymes going the same route by embracing his West Indian roots sounds like what Edley does on a much larger level, so, of course, I love it. At this point, Nicki’s just doing whatever she wants and tapping into, like, 100 different personas with incredible accuracy, so I’m ultimately not mad at this track on any level. And Pharrell. Oh, Pharrell. He’s mashing up the dance in like five different genres right now. This is the year he cements his hall-of-fame status. Incredible.
Leah: I like Big Freedia and bounce too, guys, but let’s not go crazy on stealing her shit. Can someone help me identify what about this track makes me feel like it came straight out of 2006? Maybe it’s the forced mention of too-modern fads like Instagram and even twerking itself? Maybe it’s hearing Busta over a slow beat? I just feel like I’ve been listening to this for years already.
Marcus: Leah, this is one of those times that a song is focus grouped to death before it’s even produced. It hits on the most basic of pleasure centers for the most generic of radio listeners. This song is not for us, it’s for them.
Phelps: Busta on a slow beat isn’t necessarily a bad look (see: “Break Yo Neck”). “Featuring Nicki Minaj” is misleading, but she’s functioning just fine in the Lil Vicious/Barington Levy role while Busta pays homage to Buju Banton. It’s unapologetic pastiche, but we knew that when we heard the Laffy Taffy sample – that’s your 2006 right there! This is a summertime-pool-party-shit-while-I-hide-my-Bud-Light-Lime-A-Rita-in-a-paper-bag joint.
Bri: This is that awkward moment when the song called “Twerk It” doesn’t make me want to twerk at all. Sorry, Busta and Nicki, but Juvenile still has the best twerking song of all time. But I’m willing to admit that maybe after a fifth cranberry and vodka, I might change my mind if this dropped in the right place. I’m not saying it’s a bad song though – I kind of actually like it. And if that is indeed actual water (and even if it’s not), I love this beat in all of its simplicity. I’ll take it.
Shelly: Americanized rappers attempting their/their parent’s native tongue is entertaining. The best use of this song is to transition out of a DJ’s reggae segment of the night. It would make me twerk if I was already in the process of twerking it. It doesn’t spark nor expire the twerk. Give me a few shots and I will wind to it. I attempted to listen to the words, but after a few lines it seemed more relevant to try to find a place in the beat to twerk. The beat sounds like Pharrell slowed down the harlem shake, added bubbles and a snare. The only thing Caribbean about this is the woman yelling in the background.
Damion: I don’t understand how it happened, but Nicki straight-up ruins this version of “Twerk It”. This beat is dirty and Busta does his thing on it, but Nicki dioes the rap equivalent of throwing the alley-oop too high for Lebron. How do you fuck this up? It should have easily been 2 points. She’s for real Trini? That sounds like a fake accent to me. If this version came on at the club, I’m going to get a drink when she starts rapping. Maybe use the bathroom, check Twitter and Instagram, whatever. It’s unbelievable, and I’m not even a Nicki Minaj hater.
Aaron: I’m also having trouble figuring out how Minaj fucked up a perfectly good Bangeroni. I appreciated the Beenie Man/Vybz Kartel/Bounty Killer shout out in her verse, but something’s not quite right here. Ok, so they are both doing fake accents, right? Busta has tackled this whole patois thing before and killed it. His fake accent sounds like a crisp and clear stylistic nod to the best parts of dancehall. Nicki, not so much. She sounds forced and awkward.
I think Busta has The Curse of the Best Rapper (aka, Acute Andre3000 Syndrome). He just might be handicapped by his own awesomeness. He has been at the top of his game for so long that he’s running out of perfect, and fans are having to settle for slightly less. I suppose that’s one of those good problems. I’m all for him getting ratchet and staying relevant by cozying up to YMCMB – I just hope he doesn’t sacrifice too much quality to make a little young money.
Phil: Whenever I find myself beginning to find fault in “Twerk It”, a fire alarm is triggered unexpectedly in my brain, blaring, rattling my concentration. As my vision begins to blur, I realize it’s not really a fire alarm, but rather the memory of French Montana’s “Pop That”, a sensory assault masquerading as a “song” that was branded involuntarily into my temporal lobe last summer over the course of pool trips and late nights. The scary thing about “Pop That” was how it’s existence made perfect sense – it was a logical extension of a lot commercial rap trends, albeit if those trends had been soaked in water, fed after midnight, and exposed to light. “Twerk It” doesn’t have dissimilar ambitions to “Pop That” – mainly, inspiring the popping of that – but it goes about them while existing mostly outside of those trends. And it doesn’t give me a seizure. For a song from a 41 year-old MC on Cash Money Records, this is some weird shit: There is a whole lot of empty space here for something aimed at the dancefloor. If this comes on the radio, I’m turning it up.
Prodigy x Alchemist ft. Action Bronson: “The One”
This week, Prodigy and Alchemist released the follow-up to 2007’s excellent Return of the Mac, an LP titled Albert Einstein. It again finds the two working in tandem: The Mobb Deep MC handles most all of the rapping and Alchemist all of the production. “The One” also features an appearance from fellow New Yorker Action Bronson, whose last mixtape, Rare Chandeliers, was similarly produced entirely by Alchemist.
Leah: I can’t tell if I like Alchemist’s production on this track because it’s dense, gritty, and melodic, or because it sounds like MF DOOM.
Phelps: I think it’s also because P is on his “rock you in ya face, stab ya brain with ya nosebone” shit with this one. Gooood Laaaaaaaaaawd. Bronson sounds like he’s freestyling, but I’ll forgive it with lines like “foreign shooters like Turkoglu.” The hook is a little rushed, but, overall, this is hard as fuck. I’m about to walk two blocks to Whole Foods and start smackin’ summer squash out of people’s hands and spraying Kombucha in their eyes.
Marcus: Bronsolini’s rapping like he’s a wild beast loosed from the pack. Putting him with Prodigy over an Alchemist track is like serving someone a spicy Jamaican beef patty from a bodega, smothered in sriracha. Shit’s delicious as hell and the spice explodes in your mouth – but you can’t stop eating! Damn. Multiple spins on this one. Complementary styles and everything. Perfect execution.
Bri: [Walks past tracks made for people who love 90s rap]
Leah: #nonewfriends, Bri. Bronsolino on that Ninja Turtles tip.
Damion: This is one of those tracks where if you were in the studio and a little tipsy, you’re wildin’ out when Prodigy jumps on this. This beat is the truth and these dudes merked it – chalk line and everything. I know that Phelps said this already, but Bronson gets me with that Turkoglu line. Kevin Gates is gonna off himself when he hears this. This joint is going in the rotation immediately.
Aaron: Oh shit! This is just so ill. Alchemist can do no wrong on a track. Prodigy is one of those dudes that does not have to change shit for anybody. He’s had the same flow for the last 100 years and it never gets old. ALERT! Action Bronson might be one of the only new school rappers to food-rap his way into my Top 25, and I mean the real top 25 – not the fake, updated, hipster Top 25 that I keep on hand so I have something to talk about with children and EDM fans. Leah, I feel you on this beat: It’s very DOOM-ish. Fuck. They shoulda put MFDOOM on this.
Statik Selektah ft. Lecrae, Posdnuos, and Termanology: “Game Break”
Next Tuesday, East Coast producer and DJ Statik Selektah releases Extended Play, his fifth LP, and a typically star-studded affair. Appearing on the record will be [deep breath]: Action Bronson, Tony Touch, Raekwon, Joey Badass, Black Thought, N.O.R.E., Sean Price, Mac Miller, Mike Posner, Freddie Gibbs, Prodigy, Styles P, Bun B, Hit-Boy, Joell Ortiz, Evidence, Lecrae, Talib Kweli, and Flatbush Zombies. Following the release of singles “Bird’s Eye View” and “21 & Over”, Selektah has decided to give us one final taste before the main course, “Game Break”, a song that features three more emcees: faith-focused Atlanta rapper Lecrae, De La Soul’s Posdnuos, and Termanology, who shares Massachusetts origins with Selektah.
Leah: I’ve loved everything I’ve heard out of Statik Selektah. Termanology’s album is still in constant rotation on my playlist, as is 100 Proof, because they’re both examples of great, aspirational hip-hop that’s well-done and contains an actual message. This track is a solid example of how Statik meshes vocal talent with production to create a vibe that traverses listening and passes into thoughtfulness. I’m not a great big fan of the piano-line – feels a little too smooth-jazz to me – but Lecrae really runs with it. Pos is legend, but he doesn’t deliver the best lines he’s ever written And Termanology comes on strong at the end. Together, they sound like friends working on the same emotional wavelength, if not family. The overall problem with this track is it’s not gonna be in the club or the radio, and I kind of want to see Statik wrap some messages in a banger to get them a bigger audience. In the meantime, I’ll be backpacking around with this tape bumping in my car speakers.
Marcus: This feels so tired to me. It’s like, here’s Statik Selektah – respected protector of the classic rap legacy – acting like MJ at the end of the line, afraid to penetrate and sinking fade-aways from 18 feet. The sad part about this is that Jordan could’ve only done that successfully if he was surrounded by a team that’s both talented and still hungry. Thus, MJ with the ’01-’02 Wizards: a fail. MJ on, say, the ’01-’02 Sacramento Kings with Mike Bibby and Chris Webber in their prime and, yeah: That’s a championship squad. This track from the project just feels like rap for rap’s sake, which in my life right now, is kinda unnecessary. I respect the art, but as far as the impact? It feels negligible at best. “Bird’s Eye View” and “21 & Over” suggest a really special body of work. Sadly, this is pedestrian by comparison. That being said, I’d love to see Pos and the rest of the plugs take a young rhymer – say, Joey Bada$$ – under their wing. Young rap’s in need of old rap today.
Damion: I really like the lyrics. They’re saying some stuff that needs to be said. My only issue is the chorus: If you’re going to borrow from the late great, you gotta bring it better than this. You gotta make me wanna replay that Biggie track. I didn’t feel like that here. Instead, I find myself thinking, “Why you stealing his work?!” I usually like Statik Selektor, so I expected more. In the end, this one is going on the sidelines. Its getting a DNPCD: Did Not Play Coach’s decision.
Aaron: Statik makes the illest beats. I dig his penchant for flipping mellow 80’s R&B samples into slick street anthems. His work with Action Bronson is some of the cleanest, meanest shit out in years. This is a crazy nice combo. Pos is dope. Term is pretty much a rapper’s rapper. And Lecrae is hanging quite nicely with his preach and teach style.