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Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy.  Each week, we debate, discuss, and dissect recent hip-hop tracks.   Today, we fist pump to some stadium rap with Big Sean, fire up the grill at Good Belt Gang’s hood barbeque, and reminisce in the rain with Chamillionaire, Killer Mike, and Scarface.   Along for the ride is our distinguished panel of Marcus DowlingPhil R, Damion M, Joshua Phelps, Shelly Bell, Briana Younger, Aaron Miller, and Hip Hop Hooray’s Leah Manners.


Big Sean: “Fire”

The release date for Big Sean’s second LP Hall of Fame has slipped from December to February to June to August 27.  During that time, the ass-tatic Sean Michael Anderson put out three singles – “Guap”, “Switch Up”, and “Beware” – and none of them have particularly caught on, despite production from Kanye, a Common feature, and Lil Wayne’s presence, respectively.  Still, the G.O.O.D. Music labelhead has a lot of faith in Big Sean, at least according to Big Sean, who says Kanye told him that he had the potential to be best rapper alive.  His latest single,”Fire” – not to be confused with Meek Mill’s “Burn”, which Big Sean guested on – was produced by DJ Camper, and was released for free to Samsung Galaxy users, because Samsung and Def Jam are sitting in a tree, k-i-s-s-i-n-g.

Aaron:  This track is approximately 4 minutes and 22 seconds too long. I am tired of these singing-ass rappers, and I’m not feeling the faux stadium-rock production on this beat.

Bri:  Big Sean is a song ruin-er.

Phil:  “Fire” gets the prestigious A$AP Ferg “Shabba Ranks” Award for Song I Can Stand by an Artist I Can’t Stand.  As with the award’s namesake, some good production goes a long way – here, DJ Camper doing a pretty good job channeling mid-period Kanye, even if the chorus reaches a tad too ham-fistedly towards arena-ready, late-period Lupe.  Big Sean ruins songs because he’s trying entirely too hard to be clever, when clever he is not.  But “trapensese” (grooooooan) aside, he stays in a modest “started from the bottom, now I have some stuff” lane on “Fire”, and the song is all the better for it.  It’s easy to hate on this cheeseball, but held up against “Guap”, “Switch Up”, and “Beware”, I’ll take this any day of the week.

Leah:   I want an Andre 3000 Stankonia cheerleader sample of “TOO STRONG,” but I want it to say “TOO BLAND,” and I want to stamp it on this.

Phelps:  The pregnant pause before the “trapanese” line is the worst.  Was anyone checking for a Big Sean origin story?  Or his grandma’s advice?  I get it, Big Sean is for the children, but this beat is for Sunday crowds at a gospel brunch.  He’ll continue to sell a few records off affiliation but I’ll be happy when he parlays his Glee-star girlfriend into a Nick Cannon gig and hides his mic in a dusty drawer somewhere.  That should be sufficient success for someone who’s fashioned a Kanye-sponsored rap career out of a few bars in a Detroit radio station.  As Marcus who said once, Big Sean is maybe kept around so he can put Kanye on to the flyest new coutoure.  But, his raps are just K Mart, and like Rain Man said, K Mart sucks.

Marcus:  Big Sean exists so that the lowest common denominator class of douchebags at nightclubs can have a favorite rapper. The ladies here can probably empathize when I say that Sean’s akin to that dude at the club wearing Givenchy and Gucci that looks like he knows what’s up, but when you wake up next to him in the morning, he’s literally lacking in every area where it really counts.

Big Sean’s beats, adlibs and hooks are always fresh, but his lyrics never really are. This track is some hot garbage stadium rap-meets-EDM shit that pretty much only Macklemore is killing these days, and Sean doesn’t so much murder it as much as tap it with a stick. In 2008 – when Sean was my favorite mixtape rapper – I’d have memorized this song. However, it’s 2013, and since he’s still rhyming at the same level and bringing nothing else to the table – aside from being a sample-friendly one note wonder – I can’t support it. Big Sean is the Peter of Yeezus’ apostles, and is so desperate for a solo hit at this point that he’d probably deny knowing Kanye three times to prove he has no soul.

Aaron:   I don’t know if Big Sean got the memo, but everybody can rap now.  You gotta do a lot better than that to talk all that crazy struggle shit . I hate the way he delivers his punchlines with that I’m-the-shit-this-is-so-clever swagger. This is straight mediocre.

Bri:  I really had high hopes for Big Sean when he was just rapping on his little mixtapes. Finally Famous was a cute little debut, but Hall of Fame is clearly about to be 72 minutes of exasperation and eye-rolling.  If there were an award for delivering perfunctory-at-best bars with swagger like you just lapped the competition, Big Sean would be a top three candidate. Mediocre is right.

Damion:  If Big Sean ever reads this shit, yall need to pay for his therapist.


Good Belt Gang: “Hood BBQ”

We already dropped by Fat Tony’s “Hood Party” earlier this year, and now we’ve received an invite to “Hood BBQ”, the debut single from the exquisitely named Good Belt Gang.  The supergroup features a trio of NYC knuckleheads:  N.O.R.E., Vado, and a dude called Yung_Reallie, someone whose internet presence is pretty much just a MySpace page.  The most visible face here, N.O.R.E. has had a modestly big 2013, having finally released Student of the Game, an album that didn’t make much of a commercial dent but did feature bone-crushing, Pharrell-assisted single “The Problem (Lawwwddd)”, which wasn’t all too far removed aesthetically from “Hood BBQ”.

Leah: Good god, I hope they didn’t pay anything for this beat. In 2003.

Shelly:  Hearing about a “hood BBQ” on the chorus sounds so awkwardly placed. Songs about BBQs – and cookouts and parties – are usually much more fun enjoyable tracks. I thought maybe N.O.R.E. understood the dynamics of a party song actually sounding like you’re at a party based on  “I’m a G.”  This doesn’t sound like they’re at a BBQ at all. It sounds like a going away party for N.O.R.E.

Phelps:  It makes me sad to hear Nore start a line about rats and not somehow relate it to a type of cheese, although +1 for trying to pass off  “cigarillo” and “clitarillo”.  (This unconfirmed, as no one has saw fit to waste time putting these lyrics on Rap Genius yet.)  Nore was at his best when just flying off the handle, saying wild shit, from the CNN days to his years with The Neptunes, and now he’s dropping the most boring, literal rhymes over a speak-and-spell beat from whatever the Windows 95 version of Fruity Loops was.   As Shelley said, a sad swan song for one of the wildest.

Marcus:  Vado is one of my favorite rappers in rap that never truly got a chance to shine. As well, Noreaga made being an “Urban Beats” DJ at Providence College’s WDOM so much fun because I could play “Banned From TV” twice an hour, followed up by crazy Portuguese girls buying me Amstel Lights and mozzarella sticks at Club Eagles later that night. (man… college life… anyway…).  Thus, on the surface, I was so excited to hear this track. However, I’m 35 now, don’t drink anymore and just ended 31 days of being vegan. That being said, “Hood BBQ” feels like a throwaway track from a CNN mixtape from 1999 and underwhelmed me damn near to sleep. This song is like a NYC rap AAA baseball game: a few names you remember, delivering something close to what they once did very well, and some prospects you are fairly certain aren’t going to make it to the big leagues.

Aaron:  Aw man, Nore, King of the What What?,  Hustle Master, Lord of the Struggle:  What is this?  Is this a feel good song about bad times or is it a feel bad song about good times? I really miss the militant thug Nore from back in the day.

Phelps:  It’s missing that “militainment,” as per Nore’s own words.

Aaron:  I did end up with the line ” I hope nobody gets shot at the BBQ” stuck in my head.  I really hope nothing bad happens.  I’m worried bout this BBQ.

Damion:  I had to stop listening after “ima hamburger your helper.”

Phil:  Crazy at 22 and crazy at 36 are two very different things.  For a young emcee, crazy is magnetic, compelling and, in it’s own way, mysterious – is it an act, and what is this man capable of?  But a middle-aged crazy man?  That’s usually a little sad, and if it’s not contrived, unsustainable. You might end up complaining of chest pain and collapsing in a studio two days shy of your 36th birthday.  There’s no doubt that Nore was a more interesting act in his live wire prime, but I’m not going to begrudge him transitioning to the cantankerous, drunk uncle stage of his career.  In fact, I hope Yung_Reallie is his nephew or something.  But I’m fine with Nore’s contribution here, and I’m fine with him jumping on xeroxed 2003 beats, because I don’t know this old dog is learning new tricks.  If nothing, “The Problem (Lawwwddd)” proved that recipe can still cook up a win.  That song also proved that a little Pharrell goes a long way though, as can spending more than 46 seconds coming up with a chorus.

Chamillionaire ft. Scarface & Killer Mike: “Reign Fall”

It’s been eleven since the release of Get Ya Mind Correct, an album that came out when Chamillionaire (and his frequent collaborator Paul Wall) were near the top of Southern rap world. But the last decade has been an up-and-down experience for the quick-tongued Houston MC, marked by such lows as being dropped by Universal and appearing on a Weezer song called “Can’t Stop Partying”.  His Chamillitary Entertainment has transformed from a major label imprint to an independent label, and its on that label that he intends to issue Posion,his first full-length since 2007’s similarly titled Venom.  Last week, he released Reignfall, his third EP in support of that record.  It’s kinda title track, “Reign Fall”, was produced by J Starz Music and features Houston OG Scarface and Atlanta fire-breather Killer Mike, who returns the favor for Chamillionaire’s appearance on his “Anywhere But Here” remix.  Someone named Bobby Moon handles the hook.

Marcus:  Really? Really? This is a 1997 Funk Flex Hot 97 mix show rappity rap song:   sing-song Nate Dogg ish on the hook, some talk of “fallen soldiers” and “cloudy days,” the Smif-N-Wessun/Mary J. sample, and three rappers with a combined age of just over 100 years old sounding, well, 100 years old. I get frustrated when old rap dudes start rapping just to be active rappers. It’s like, if you lack motivation and have tons of money to invest, then why are you investing it in self-masturbatory salute for your scads of internet fans?  A Chamillionaire, Killer Mike and Scarface song sounds great on paper, but this execution is basic as hell.

I once saw Teena Marie and The Whspers live in concert. The best part of the show is that both The Whispers and Teena both alluded to having new material, but knowing without a shadow of a doubt that absolutely nobody (outside of die hard fans) really wanted to hear that. Now if Chamillionaire were still regularly touring and were semi-relevant with a big-time position at a label co-signing Fat Tony or something, then I’d probably care a bit more about this. However, as is, this track feels empty and like a total waste of Killer Mike and Scarface’s considerable talents.

Aaron:  I’m confused now. I might just need somebody to tell me if I like this or not. I  read the words Chamillionaire, Scarface, & Killer Mike and think, “automatic banger.”  Not so much.  It’s kind of alarming how not-cool this song is.  It’s like a pie full of all your favorite flavors:  By all accounts it should taste amazing, but it’s kind of salty and weird and off.

Bri:  Chamillionaire in 2013. Oh.

Phil:  “We can’t look back.  We gotta look ahead.”  Well, coming on this production, that’s a pretty rich statement.  But if I can take something away from this track, it’s the realization that I miss Nate Dogg more than I ever knew.  They can cancel the Nate Dogg hologram performance at Rock the Bells:  Bobby Moon has that shit covered.  Continuing with pastry metaphors, his hook is an awful Sarah Lee frozen cheesecake that I feel awful for enjoying so much.  Meanwhile, Killer Mike can do no wrong right now.  This sort of sappy track actually isn’t all that too far removed from a chunk of R.A.P. Music – most notably “Anywhere But Here” – but Chamillionaire obviously doesn’t have the luxury of an El-P facelift.  He does have a pretty sweet rhyme dictionary though, if “Reign Fall” is any evidence.