Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we debate, discuss, and dissect recent hip-hop tracks. Today, give ourselves credit for everything that we’ve done with Drake, wander into a Berlin cabaret with Jeremiah Jae, and crush some skulls M.O.P. and Pete Rock. Along for the ride is our distinguished panel of Marcus Dowling, Phil R, Damion M, Joshua Phelps, Shelly Bell, Briana Younger, Aaron Miller, and Hip Hop Hooray’s Leah Manners.
Drake ft. 2 Chainz & Big Sean
Phelps: Aaron said recently, “everyone can rap.” “All Me” is the complete embodiment of that statement, especially in Aubrey’s case, as he forces meaning through awkward rhymes by elevating his voice a little bit. They’re wildly pedestrian money boasts, edgy if only because he’s Canadian and a little bit impolite. Where his rhymes are soulless, milquetoast couplets, the hook is a complete 180 with an actual dose of emotion that is most excellent alongside Key Wane’s production. I’m going to try and enjoy it before it gets Yolo’d into overexposure. If you can separate it from the context that Drake actually came up with the help of bonafide TV stardom and signing to Cash Money at arguably Wayne’s career peak, it’s a powerful, crooning chest thump of self-satisfaction. I’m sure it’s already infiltrating pop culture and Instagram selfies (already at 64k, actually). The other star here outside of Key Wayne is 2 Chainz, who’s infinitely more comfortable over Wane’s subtle bounce and sounds like he’s having just a dumbed out oblivious blast, Givenchy sneezes and all.
Shelly: It’s always interesting to me what rappers project as appealing to women. “Dick so hard it make the metal detector go off”? I will pass on your metal dick, sir. I’m sure the rubbery dildo material feels much less damaging to my insides. I wonder what woman hears that and says, “Girl, 2 Chainz’ dick goes off in metal detectors – ooh.” As for Big Sean, he sounds a bit out of place. He starts his verse unapologetic then starts apologizing then ends with a fuck you. I don’t get it.
Drake has mastered the sing-a-long hook, and, apparently, he’s going to ride it until the wheels fall off. Unfortunately, nowhere in the song “Wheels on the Bus” did the actual wheels fall off. So as he continues to finagle the same topic over and over again, it leaves the world to sing obnoxiously as if he is teaching us some new parts of an old machine. Why do we sing “wheels on the bus go round and round” to pre-schoolers in 2013? For the same reason Drake appeals to the masses when singing “it’s all me for real.” People need to sing something they believe nobody can affect, even if it’s a bit delusional. You got a new job, you got a new girl, you paid some random bill, you got a new car, you lifted weights, you worked out, you broke up with your mate, you just got off work, you just smoked a jay: I cannot complain, I cannot… No help that’s all me… It’s all me for real! The wheels on the bus, still going round and round.
Marcus: All of rap’s emperors are wearing new clothes. Moreso than “No New Friends,” this may be the most effortlessly banal rap track of 2013. Drake “starting from the bottom” and really delving into what’s happening in the base impulse of the bloated, cash-rich vacuum that modern mainstream rap has become is intriguing. He really has absolutely no reason whatsoever to do this other than merely thinking that its cool. The sad thing is that Drake’s fascination with trappin’ and throwing hundred dollar bills at naked, tattooed women is making rap impotent when it really has the potential to fuck up the game in the best way possible. 2 Chainz exhausted all of his great ad libs in 2012, and now sounds tired and in need of a vacation. Big Sean? I swear he’s everybody’s favorite dude because he’s just sittin’ there in the studio in fresh Jordans and a new Gucci belt dripping swagu and appearing to be the coolest man in the world. It’s in the opulence of his success at speaking trapanese that overshadows just how absolutely lightweight his bars have become. But, yeah, this song isn’t soft like twinkie filling or cotton candy, it’s makes the impossible notion of eating a bag filled with air entirely too real. Drake’s forthcoming album should be called the Exploding Plastic Inevitable, cause that’s what it is. Sign of the times.
Damion: I hear yall, but this beat hits! I’m really not sure what that voice in the background is saying, but it accentuates the beat really well, and the snares are well placed. I like the chorus, but I could do without 2 Chainz and Big Sean. While I generally agree that most of Drake’s tracks are Charmin soft, I can appreciate his ability to go r&b and hip hop on the same track, with and without autotunes.
Leah: Meh. Beat’s good; raps are stale. Wake me up when the TDE remix comes out.
Phil: Letting 2 Chainz and Big Sean on this production is like matching a new pair of Ferragamos with head-to-toe TJ Maxx. In fact, I’d wager that Big Bad Sean was only allowed on “All Me” in exchange for letting Drake have this beat. Still, Drake should no better than this, and he kind of does, because let it be duly noted that this track was given away for free. Say what you will about Drake, but the dude exercises some serious quality control: “5AM in Toronto”, “The Motion”, and “All Me” are three freebies that most rappers would kill to have on an LP. And, personally, as long as Drake is staying in his smirky, shit-talking lane – and not, say, talking about catching bodies or threatening to go back to his “old ways” – I’m generally happy, even if he’s biting Big Sean’s flow on his first verse for some godforsaken reason.
Jeremiah Jae ft. Oliver the 2nd: “Guns N Butter”
Shelly: This song has the potential to be great, but the sample is overpowering. There’s way too much happening. This style of production is common amongst Jae’s evolving repertoire of hip-hop creations. Oliver the 2nd brought the song to life. It’s like he’s the gun, and Jeremiah is the butter. The instrumentation at the end was refreshing for about 5 seconds, then the repetition made it sound as if the producer was trying to force it into something else when it was already enough.
Marcus: The mixing on this track is terrible. The sample is too high in the mix and smothers the rapping. Also, if I wanted to listen to A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets album tracks, I’d listen to A Tribe Called Quest and Digable Planets album tracks. I hate these Jiggy McFloss kids who think their content is fresh as hell, but then would trip, stumble, and fall all over themselves if Q-Tip co-signed them by nodding in their general direction. The industry needs to stop co-signing wack dudes that they’d want as friends instead of crazy talented dudes who can actually be original and make fucking money. It’s not the music friends, it’s the music business.
Shelly: Marcus, hip-hop has been invented and now it will be recycled. It falls into the category of “there’s nothing new under the sun.” The pioneers have pioneered, now they will be engineered, mimicked, and introduced to a new generation as sliced bread. Knowing this, it’s a bit senseless for hip-hop heads to stay in the “don’t do what Tribe did and think it’s fresh” mindset. Of course the newbies will Christopher Columbus the fusion of jazz and hip-hop – it’s inevitable. Of course, they will merge rock, country, and rap then act as if it’s the newest thing ever. In fact, I dare say we need that if we ever want to get away from Big Sean, Drake, and industry manufactured versions of 2 Chainz (i.e. Trinidad James). They should absolutely give credit where credit is due, but Jeremiah Jae and Oliver the 2nd are nowhere near whack.
Leah: Shelly and Marcus are right about the mixing on this track – not great, and Jeremiah’s vocals are pretty drowned out – but, overall, it’s not a bad track, and certainly represents much of Jeremiah’s output so far in his short career. I like Jeremiah in part because he’s smart and he’s not afraid to put that on display with no little talent to back it up. Using a lilting German-language sample in a track named after a Goering quote about military vs. civilian spending is maybe too on the nose, but him spinning out the tale of drugs and trying to get by in the prison-like environs of the city makes me sit up and pay attention. I didn’t find Oliver the 2nd as compelling, because he seems out of place after Jeremiah’s verse. His delivery is solid, but it does sound a lot like a freestyle without much structure.
Phil: I dig the mixing on this track. There’s a tension introduced by the parity of the sample and vocals, and the overall effect is disorienting – intentionally so, I would argue. Jae’s decision (as a producer) to do this on his own track (as a rapper) is somewhat self-effacing. It helps that the production is probably the most interesting thing going on here. There’s some irony in criticizing Jae for stealing from past act’s playbook, and then ripping him for trying to do some unorthodox with that production.
Pete Rock and Camp Lo ft. M.O.P.: “No Uniform”
Shelly: Futuristic vintage! First off, when I saw “Pete Rock ft M.O.P.”, I immediately had butterflies in my tummy: One of the hypest concerts I’ve attended this year was M.O.P., and one of the dopest DJ battles I’ve seen was the Pete Rock vs. DJ Premier battle. I have been fiending for more ever since. This beat has the M.O.P. energy with a Pete Rock kinda smooth, and the result is undeniably enjoyable. I’m not a fan of the old school rappers yelling about hip-hop is lost, but I supremely enjoy hearing “Hip-hop is back / You rappers is worthless as shit” being yelled over this beat.
Leah: M.O.P. are known for yelling and darn if they didn’t go hoard on the beautiful bed Pete Rock made for them. I envy you, Shelly, because I’ve never seen them live. All I can imagine is reckless fist pumping and spontaneous crew-jitsu. Something about M.O.P. makes me want to punch walls way more than Waka or Future. They hype, in a sincere kind of way. Pete’s still got it.
Aaron: This track is an Instant Classic, equal parts A-list production, Camp Lo tongue-in-cheek chic, and brash, balls-out fire from M.O.P. I once read, in an intro to psychology class that a woman was institutionalized because she had the National Anthem stuck in her head for, like, 40 years. That’s pretty much M.O.P. in a nutshell to me: Hip-hop at it’s most basic and primal with lines that stay stuck in your head. I have “Ante Up” on permanent repeat in my head and I never get tired of them yelling at me. Camp Lo has always been an underrated lyrical treat and to hear them basically host a who’s-who of mixtape excellence with a master craftsman like Pete Rock is a testament to skills in the game. I would put this on the same pedestal as the O.C. and Apollo Brown joint from last year as far as maximum hip-hop purist points. These guys have all been the best at what they do for so long, it’s pretty much a no-brainer/banger type situation.
Marcus: Pete Rock once remixed Lady Gaga’s “Pokerface” into the 90s R & B crossover smash that it was dying to be. So expecting him to not take a sample of Fred “The Hammer” Williamson from epic blaxploitation classic Black Caesar, inspirational quotes and all of the RZA’s style he can borrow and not make a heater is absurd. I enjoy the fact that while this track won’t hit number one – or even gets a few spins in Funkmaster Flex or Red Alert’s DJ sets – that real ass New York rap ain’t dead. M.O.P. don’t get all “Ante Up” or ” You Don’t Know (Remix)” here, but they do show a level of talent and craftsmanship that you’re absolutely not going to hear from A$AP Ferg, or, hell, even Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era anytime soon. As compared to modern rap, classic rap was a guilded era. By that I mean that the skill of rapping well and in a manner deserving of reward was a protected art taught to many, but allowed to be practiced by the few who mastered the art. Even if not causing me personally to rob and shoot 100 innocent bystanders on record, it’s dope and shows that legends never die. “Hip-hop is back!” No. “You rappers is worthless as shit!” If we’re talking about New York specifically? For the most part, yes. Amazing times we’re living in…