Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks. Today, take a trip in the Wayback Machine with Cam’ron (and Jodeci), listen to Lauryn Hill tell us that this world is bullshit (and we should go with ourselves), and channel our Mobb Deep affections with Boldy James (again). Along for the ride is our distinguished panel of Marcus Dowling, Phil R, Joshua Phelps, Briana Younger, Aaron Miller, and Hip Hop Hooray’s Leah Manners.
Cam’ron: “Come and Talk to Me”
“I’ve done made more millionaires than the lotto did,” Jay Z boasted on Drake’s “Pound Cake”, before going on to name a few benefactors. On that laundry list of former Roc-A-Fella execs and artists was one Cameron Ezike Giles, who’s taken issue with Hov’s story. “I don’t think Jay was necessarily taking shots at me,” Cam’ron said recently. “I knew Jay when he didn’t have a million, when none of us had a million, when Dame and them were on the come-up. I respect what all of us have done because I know where we all come from. But the way he put his lyrics [together] and made it seem like he made n*ggas money or put them in the place where they was supposed to be… He could’ve worded it like he helped n*ggas make more millions, instead of saying you made n*ggas millionaires.” This is an issue that Cam’ron addresses on “Come and Talk to Me”, the final track of his new – and several times delayed – Ghetto Heaven. The mixtape features some big production (Araab Muzik) and guest spots (T.I., 2 Chainz, Yo Gotti), but “Come and Talk to Me” is pretty much just Cam’ron rapping over a remix of Jodeci’s 1992 hit of the same name. On a related note, the Jodeci renaissance appears to be in full swing.
Marcus: Okay. When I was a scumbag alcoholic, Cam’ron was my favorite rapper. And when I was a child and dreamed of just being a scumbag lothario, Jodeci was my favorite R & B group. Thus, Cam’ron is one of my favorite rappers of all time, and the idea of him rapping over the track of my favorite Jodeci remix ever pretty much made my head explode.
Cam taking Jay down a few pegs is cool as well. I’m not going to lie: I wasn’t the world’s biggest Jay Z supporter until I turned 34 last April, listened toKingdom Come, and Jay just started preaching to me all of this stuff I really needed to know about my life. I always respected his legacy, just never thought he was the man.
Long before I was a hipster, I was a douchebag who found it entirely acceptable to wear pink and purple because Killa Cam said it was cool, and I once blasted “Get It In Ohio” while driving in a tricked out Toyota Yaris through Cleveland to a Browns game. But, yeah. If you’re going to do a video for this one, I need just K-Ci and Jojo in leather tracksuits (Dear Kanye, this was ALREADY cool back in ’92), and for Cam to be behind the wheel of a pink Range Rover as the three of them cruise down 125th street. It would only be fair, and I would be happy. And let’s face it: Clearly, the track was only made form my enjoyment, right?
Phelps: Maybe this’ll fuel the Cam renaissance the way that a similar stunt popped off 50’s whole career? Shout outs to Raphael Saadiq!
Bri: Cam is nowhere near as engaging as he once was, but still, I got somewhat excited to hear this. It didn’t really do it for me. I’m stuck sitting here wishing the Heatmakerz would just come flip the sample, Cam could make up a few words, and Juelz could pop out of nowhere. Such is life.
Leah: This Jodeci remix is pretty near a perfect beat. Vendetta against HOV aside, Cam is still the same multi-throwing smooth son of a gun he always was outside of Dipset. I’m not blown away by this, but it’s entertaining and nostalgic.
Aaron: This song sounds like it is 20 years old – in a good way. Why does Jay-Z even care about taking ownership in Cam’s million here, million there, DIY baller approach? I figured Lord Hov Gatsby would be too busy eating pheasant and getting Monsanto to produce his next record to give a shit.
Here’s the thing: Cam’ron is dope. He is not the best at anything, but he has crazy style and appears to have been at least 2 years ahead of every gaudy hip hop fashion and marketing trend ever. It was Cam who had a hot tub in the Lambo first. It was he who made it OK for hard black dudes to wear pink. He took “Stop Snitchin’?” out of the hood and put it on “60 minutes”. Hate on Kanye? That’s so Cam from 3 years ago. It was Killa that made it legit to rhyme a word with the same word. It’s punchline rap that asks you if you got the joke over and over again while elbowing you in the ribs and flashing a pistol. He’s a rap savant. Nobody gets more mileage of 2 or 3 basic rhyme patterns than Killa Cam (well, maybe Paul Wall). It’s just endless variations of the same shit, and I for one have always secretly enjoyed it while telling everyone I’m above it. Seven albums worth of that shit and he is still somehow borderline relevant and rich.
Phelps: I wanted to write something profound but it’s tough when Aaron just wrote the treatment for the Cam’Ron biopic. He’s not bringing anything new here, and that’s OK (pay attention, Lauryn Hill) because in his irreverent simplicity, there’s a genius that’s kept closet Cam fans like Aaron’s ear for 15 years plus. When most people rhyme the same words it’s wack as fuck, but with Cam or NORE, we just laugh about it. This is definitely not an improvement on the Jodeci track, but if he made a whole album of 90s R&B reboots, it’d get spins over here.
Phil: As David Wooderson once said: “That’s what I love about Cam’ron’s flow, man. I get older, it stays the same age.”
Lauryn Hill: “Consumerism”
After serving three months for tax evasion, Lauryn Hill was released from a Connecticut prison last week. To mark the occasion, she released “Consumerism”, a knotty and rapid clipped single recorded prior to entering the slammer. The cover art indicates the song is the first of a Letters from Exileseries. She gave some background in a statement accomponying the song’s release: “‘Consumerism’ is part of some material I was trying to finish before I had to come in… Letters From Exile is material written from a certain space, in a certain place. I felt the need to discuss the underlying socio-political, cultural paradigm as I saw it.” Following May’s “Neurotic Society”, this is the second track we’ve heard from Hill after a very long time away from the recoding studio. Rumor has it she’ll look to tour this fall.
Marcus: Between the age of 18-24, I on-again, off-again dated the girl that (at that time) I knew I wanted to marry. My idea was, that if we made it to 24, we’d get engaged, and then get married before I turned 30. Of course, when I was 23, I decided that this would be the best time to explain to her that I was wanting “a more mature relationship,” all spurred on by a random drunken hook-up with someone over the age of 35. The revelation of me cheating wasn’t the hardest thing – it was that it pretty much closed off a chapter of life that my now-ex was very much looking forward to experiencing. Of course, given that we were young, stupid and ultimately missing each other’s companionship, most of 2002-2003 was spent with my ex, making late night trips to my apartment as we succeeded in having the most frustrating attempted make-up sex arguably of all time. Unfortunately, the trauma associated with our split – as well as the time we had spent apart – had split us apart forever. But we tried. And tried. And tried again. And it wasn’t until she saw the handcuffs marks on my bedposts that she knew that this was ridiculous, and that we were both full of shit (for different reasons, obviously) and this had to stop.
When listening to “Consumerism,” I feel the same way about my relationship with the artistry of Lauryn Hill. When I was 20 years old, Lauryn released The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. I listened to the CD literally every single day for six months, and developed a relationship with her words that could only be compared to relationship my ex had with me. Of course, when the Fugees broke up and Lauryn subsequently went through her personal and creative decline, it broke my heart. Of course, like a simp, every time I hear that she has new music, I get excited and think that “the old Lauryn” is coming back, but it becomes more and more obvious – even hearkening back to 2004’s ill-fated Fugees redux “Take It Easy” – that she’s literally a different person and artist than she was before.
This is a new artist that I don’t like. The free-flowing poetry that is out of meter with the track itself is intentionally off-putting, yes, but in being that way only highlights that this once-great artist is definitely gone forever. But, yeah. She’s touring this? I’ll more than likely be there, and more than likely have the same “oh-my-god-is-that-her” reaction that I always have. Then, she’ll get down to the business of singing, and I’ll get down to the business of listening, and it will still all not feel quite right and break my heart again.
Leah: While better organized than “Neurotic Society,” “Consumerism” is still a tough nut to crack. Obviously, Hill is in a very different place than she was with Miseducation, and she’s willing to be very vulnerable to her listeners, but wrapping up superior attitude in a screed of isms seems a bit short sighted. While I fall on the side of appreciating her pointing out all the illisms of society, and I appreciate her rapid-fire delivery, without the hint of a solution it just seems like a reel of victimhood and I don’t see myself returning to this song much in the future. This beat is outstanding though, and the inclusion of the Slits sample is inspired. Let’s also not allow the irony of this track being released on iTunes to be overlooked.
Bri: I am absolutely not a fan of this. Not even a little bit. I’m not sure if that’s a testament to the song or my inability to let the past be the past. She can’t get them rhymes off as smoothly as she could 15+ years ago. Hopefully, if she’s serious about getting back in the studio, she will find a new path to travel. It doesn’t have to be the old, but I’d appreciate it if it wasn’t this either. A for effort Ms. Hill.
Aaron: I will never forgive the world for turning Lauryn Hill into an oppressed crazy person. I don’t understand how “Miseducation of…” Hill turned into this paranoid, marginalized, raw nerve. She is not entirely without blame for her weird shit: A decade of non-performance, tax evasion, and fair weather militancy is not a good look, but she did get a raw deal. There’s a shitload of white celebrities that owe a hell of a lot more than $1.8 mil who will never see a day in jail. Period.
I really want her story to be this rise-from-the-ashes, feel good, cautionary tale, but it’s ain’t happening. I want a Miseducation Pt.II double album with a billion A-List guest stars, but I’m not gonna get it. I think the afrobeat-ish production on this track is inspired, but the -ism trope is played out. The stress in her voice keeps me from judging too hard, because the message is right on the Money, even if the delivery is strained. We can mourn the old Hill and hate on the new one all we want, but she is more right than wrong when she speaks her mind. Fuck, all this ism got me so serious.
Phelps: Here we go, Lauryn With The Lid Off. This is the sound of her once again flushing her talent down the toilet, but I won’t say career, because does she even have one? She’s late to shows if she shows at all, and when she does, it’s just terrible arrangements of her classic songs. Her eccentricity makes Howard Hughes seem lucid. This song is audio equivalent of nails on a chalkboard. I had to go listen to Major Lazer’s “Get Free” – which this backing track appropriates – to lobotomize “Consumerism” from my brain. This is why people stop liking rap. It’s like some bizarro but infinitely worse word association in the theme of INXS’s “Mediate“, but that song was actually cool. Leah mentioned her reel of victimhood and that’s spot on. I feel like a real victim for having listened to this even once.
Boldy James ft. Earl Sweatshirt, Domo Genesis & Da$h: “Reform School”
Through the early stages of his career, Detroit rapper Boldy James has frequently drawn comparisons to casually ruthless and bluntly disaffected O.G. Prodigy. On the heels of a summer tour Mobb Deep, James takes that association a step further with the forthcoming My 1st Chemistry Set, a full length effort with producer Alchemist, a longtime Mobb Deep cohort . The album follows June’s great single“Chirps” and this spring’s Grand Quarters EP, but will be James’ first full-length since last year’s behemoth Consignment: Favor For a Favor, The Redi-Rock Mixtape. Not nearly as many guests join James on My 1st Chemistry Set as on that mixtape, but there are some familiar names, including Action Bronson, Vince Staples, Freeway, and on “Reform School”, Earl Sweatshirt, Domo Genesis, and Da$h. Stream the whole LP via Pitchfork now
Marcus: I get so damn frustrated with songs like these. It’s like hearing that Sesame Street song “One of These Things is Not Like the Other” on repeat ad infinitum. I get it. We’re at this point in rap where labels pay for verses from random dudes so that a whole bunch of bloggers will post their music, then promoters who honestly care very little about their talents can over-pay them non-taxable cash in duffle bags to perform in front of half-filled venues of people either too stoned or drunk to care. It’s just a bad cycle, and this song illustrates it very well.
There are dudes on this record who have handled pistols (Boldy James). There are dudes on this track who are the type of dude who brought pistols to that Fat Trel show at SOB’s in Brooklyn to likely show them off to Trel, then cried when someone was shot by a real thug (Da$h). Then there are dudes who probably know Alchemist and the label was advised to call (probably by Alchemist himself) to attempt to give this track some discernible level of depth (Earl & Domo). But yeah. Hot track (as expected), but so much of it is so damned prefabricated. Frustrating. Ugh.
Bri: I really like this song, but to be fair, I’m partial to slow beats with Earl Sweatshirt. And to Marcus’ point, I wonder how much Earl is charging for a verse these days. And when can we get a Earl x Alchemist tape? He’s one of few here who doesn’t run the risk of being outperformed by the beat.
Leah: Sounds altogether like Alchemist hooked Boldy up with some great talent, but it’ll take a while before I figure out why. Boldy’s not terrible, per se, but he doesn’t seem to be offering up anything new. His voice is The Game meets Prodigy and his lyrics come with a complimentary side of misogyny and violence. He’s altogether pretty meh for me. Earl dances on the slow-pulse beat with the respect it deserves, flirting with game imagery and nonsense both. Da$h seems to be rapping on a different beat, because he just pushes through it.
Aaron: This beat is amazing and I have no idea who the fuck Boldy James is. I just now discovered him on this very blog. He does a mean Prodigy impression.I thought that was actually P the first 4 bars. I like him but not a whole lot. He gets a free pass for being on a track with two of my newer-than-new school top 10: Domo is the unsung hero in the OFWGKTA/Mellowhype pantheon, and you guys know how I feel about Earl.
In the last 3 years ,twice, I have elbowed kids half my age in the neck trying to get up front at an Oddfuture show to see if Earl was there. What I lack in youth and stamina, I make up for in physical strength and a decade of club/venue work experience. Teenagers are not that strong by themselves, but they can overwhelm you with numbers and lack of mosh pit etiquette. Eventually, after risking a “Lord of the Flies” style beatdown a couple times, I grew up and realized that I had to settle for the small stadium sized joint where he was on stage 100 yards away with crap sound. It was still cool. I am almost 40. No big deal.#notweirdatall. Can someone please call me a Stan so we can laugh about it?
Marcus: Naaah, Aaron. I already put Earl in the Rap Hall of Fame, so I’m inclined to agree with you.
Phelps: I’m not really sure why or how this dude garnered Alchemist et al for his debut. He may be as disaffected as Prodigy, but he’s less likely to invoke anxiety with his psychopathic rhymes and more likely to just put you to sleep. I cannot fuck with this dude right now, but I’ll co-sign on Domo as his mixtape with Alc was one last year’s best. As far as Earl goes, he should work on something more substantial than throwaway mixtape tracks this fall.