Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks. Today, we blow out some speakers with Yelawolf and a reurgent DJ Paul, go cruising for intergalactic chicks with The Game, and have a not mellow time with Odd Future’s Mellowhype. Along for the ride is our distinguished panel of Marcus Dowling, Phil R, Joshua Phelps, Aaron Miller, and Hip Hop Hooray’s Leah Manners.
Yelawolf: “Light Switch”
Juicy J has had a big 2013 – finally releasing his solo record Stay Trippy, dropping features all over the place, speaking with BYT – but DJ Paul, his cohort in Three 6 Mafia, has slowly been mounting a comeback of his own. Outside of the studio, he became a sponsor for alcoholic beverage Sizzurp, gave Justin Beiber pro tips on lean consumption, and got an insane scalp tattoo. Musically, he’s been busy too. In the wake his 2012 solo record A Person of Interest, he gathered past members of Three 6 Mafia to form Da Mafia 6ix and released “Go Hard”, an unapologetic six-minute banger. A full Da Mafia 6ix mixtape is in the works. Separately, Tuesday will see the release of Black Fall, a collaborative mixtape with Alabama rapper Yelawolf. It remains to be seen whether the album is intended as a companion to Psycho White, Yelawolf’s EP with Travis Barker.
Leah: Honestly, the mix on this is so rough that it’s irritating. Did they rip the Muse sample from a wax cylinder through a potato? But it sounds like Yelawolf is making up for the pretty disappointing Radioactive with some hard-as-fuck southern rhymes.
Marcus: Fuck. Yelawolf’s the perfect example of what happens when a mixtape rapper from the 2006-2010 era gets signed because of blog/XXL Freshman List buzz and the poor A & R has absolutely no idea of what to do with him. His best record – without argument – is still his 0-60 Trunk Muzik mixtape, wherein “Pop the Trunk” could’ve made him a superstar if it had the right marketing push. Instead, we got a sad-sack single with Kid Rock, a tepid album, and now he’s rapping on rock tracks with the guy from Three 6 Mafia who clearly didn’t have Juicy J’s charisma or marketing team. Even worse, they found a rap engineer to mix a rock track, and his degree or accreditation probably doesn’t exist to understand the differences in mixing the two genres, so the song just sounds like mud.
When the music industry gets it right, I praise it. When it does a man wrong, I fully lambaste it. This is one of those times. It requires is a nuanced knowledge of music, sociology and psychology to succeed as a music executive. There are too many bright-eyed college kids who masturbated to XXL or the Source, and too few grown ass men with college degrees or certificates from the School of Hard Knocks who almost got shanked at the Tunnel in rap right now. That’s not okay. Yes, Yelawolf’s engaged to Fefe Dobson. No, this shouldn’t be his greatest accomplishment as a mainstream musician.
Aaron: I have some problems with the beat, but this is a certified bangerama. As shitty as this beat sounds, it’s strangely legit within the larger context of the Dirty South production ethos. Nobody bangs Screw for the pristine audio quality and dynamics. It’s a clever chop on the sample by DJ Paul, but the track sounds like it’s locked inside the trunk of an ’87 Cutty approximately 4 blocks from the studio. Meanwhile, the vocals are all up in your grill.
I totally agree with Marcus: Yelawolf is a puzzling figure. As soon as “Trunk Muzik” dropped, I thought dude was instant superstar material. He was the first rapper in a while that I had to Google to make sure that he wasn’t somehow already famous and I just missed it. Nobody wants to be caught talking about some famous ass dude like he just came out. That’s like small talk suicide in the hip-hop community.
I’ve seen Yela a couple times. He’s fantastic live. Hell, at the last venue I worked, he hosted a listening party for his own damn mixtape, because some strange rap contractual obligation prevented him from “performing.” He basically just got hammered on Lone Stars, climbed on shit, and crowed-surfed with a mic, playing hype man to his own shit. He never actually rapped more than about 4 bars in succession. It was a really sketchy move as far as presentation goes. And it worked. Hype as fuck. Dude is an actual beast and no slouch on the showmanship.
I think if everyone had to battle Yelawolf and win best 2 out of 3 before a label would sign off on their next record, there would be about 5 records coming out. He should be more. Who do I complain to? Is the Illumati in charge of all the rappers now or just the ones with deified nicknames?
Phelps: When I see a solar eclipse, like the one I witnessed in Puerto Rico last year , I think “Oh no! Is the moon eating the sun?” I don’t know. Because I’m a caveman – that’s the way I think. Sometimes when I get a message in an email, I wonder: “Did little demons get inside and type it?” I don’t know! My primitive mind can’t grasp these concepts. But there is one thing I do know: When DJ Paul and Yelawolf cook up a banger over a slick Muse sample, then they are entitled to less over analysis and more double 12 inch cerwin vegas turned all the way up in the back of a slab. Thank you.
The Game ft. Skeme, Too Short, Schoolboy Q & Stacy Barthe: “Astronaut Pussy / Welcome to California”
Last December, The Game released Jesus Piece, the follow-up to big budget sinkhole The R.E.D. Album and the final obligation of his five record deal with Interscope. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, he waited until about a month ago to announce that he would not be returning to the label: ““Recently, [I’m] a free agent. [I] was signed to Interscope for my last five albums, which, of course, are all platinum. I been taking a lot of meetings and a lot of conference calls about my next move.” The Game doesn’t actually have five platinum albums, but that’s not important. What’s important is that he revealed this to Larry King, which is amazing. (Another gem… The Game: “There was a riff. We had a shootout in New York in front of a radio station.” Larry King: “Oh! Guns?”) On October 8th, he released his first mixtape as a free agent, OKE: Operation Kill Everything. Less than a week later, it was reported that he had inked a deal with Cash Money Records. Where The Game will take his sound for YMCMB remains to be seen, but OKE finds him floating back and forth between West Coast ratchet and more familiar soul productions. On the ten-minute “Astronaut Pussy / Welcome to California”, producer Big Pops flips Britney Spears “Toxic” on the front half, while Pilz handles the back. The Game is joined on the track(s) by three fellow Californians: ScHoolboy Q, Too Short, and Skeme.
Phelps: Someone really liked “Gravity”.
Aaron: Whoa, I totally forgot who’s track this was around the 6 minute mark, but I’m not gonna lie: I like it. The first beat is excellent.
Shit, it’s cool with me if the Game wants to get weird. The dude has a really strange hot potato career. Hasn’t he had like 30 record deals? Rap Chameleon? It’s some kind of reverse-protege action: He gets a deal, makes some new friends, and then claims to have always been there. The rigid Hip-Hop logic in my head tells me he shoulda fell off years ago, but he keeps getting slightly better. I don’t trust it. Wasn’t he everybody’s favorite rapper to make fun of, like, five years ago? I know I got my licks in.
Then he got a Premo beat. I didn’t complain.
He did that “Martians vs. Goblins” throwaway track with Tyler. Not bad.
Still don’t trust it.
Side note: I don’t think Kendrick is gonna like the second half of this song. Did Game just get a copy of “GOOD KID…” or what?
Also, did I miss something? Where is $hort Dog?
Leah: Aaron, Pusha beat you to calling The Game rap’s chameleon. Sorry, dude, but at least now it’s T gospel, I guess?
I like the first beat too, and The Game is obviously talented. He’s not an artist that I’ve paid a lot of attention to over the years – he seemed more prone to starting fights with Jay Z and jumping labels and dropping articles in his name than laying down interesting verses. The roster of YMCMB will likely be a good home for him, as long as he gets some of their gigantic marketing budget. If you split this into two tracks, I like the first, but the second sounds like a meandering and useless coda.
Marcus: I recently proclaimed Game as one of the five best rappers in rap right now. People tend to not like him so much because he is a not so much a chameleon as an anomaly, and we haven’t really seen many rappers from the West coast since say, Ice Cube be able to find their flow in as many different styles of tracks as he has. Game rhyming over a chopped up version of 16 Bit’s remix of Britney’s “Toxic” is well executed. Game’s rapped over Zombie Nation’s “Kernkraft 400” too, so his ear’s certainly attuned to sounds coming from out of left field. And I’ll totally agree with Leah here that the second song just feels like bloat when compared to the first. Yes, good for Game that he’s free from one label, but maybe putting out a mixtape without having a label to advise him on how to release singles was a bad idea.
Phil: I’m having a lot of trouble getting past the title. All I can think of is Black Bush saying, “Nobody knows what space pussy’s like… But we could find out! We can touch the heavens! Touch em! Touch that space pussy! Bring that information back to earth!”
Odd Future’s Hodgy Beats and Domo Genesis joined forces to form MellowHigh early last year, going on to release “Timbs” and “Go”, songs produced by Lex Luger and Thelonious Martin, respectively. But the project sat dormant for a year while Hodgy focused on MellowHype’s sophomore effort Numbers and Domo Genesis his Alchemist collaboration, No Idols. With those releases out of the way, the two kickstarted the project in April, and announced that Odd Future in-house producer Left Brain – Hodgy’s partner in MellowHype – had joined the group. At least for this album. We think. Anyway, MellowHigh’s full-length debut – self-titled, of course – drops this Tuesday. “Extinguisher” is our third taste of it, following April’s “Troublesome” and lead single “Yu”.
Leah: Damn, they go in on this. The beat was wearing on me a bit by the end, but they are carrying the OF torch maybe more than Tyler or Earl currently are, in a bombastic, self-aggrandizing style that they’ve clearly grown into. It’s not necessarily to my taste, but they really light a fire to the track collectively, and the crisp end might be my favorite part.
Marcus: It’s so cute when young rap dudes try to sound like old M.O.P. records. That’s the thing that gets me every time with Odd Future. All of these kids are all such devotees of the craft of rapping, and that’s great. However, sometimes they forget that the tape is running and they do their best impersonation of a rapper they love instead of rapping in a manner that showcases their unique personal voice. That’s what makes Earl Sweatshirt so great. He’s developed his own style, Yes, he’s also developed his own aura and strange mystique which makes him austere and not as intensely connective as say, Syd tha Kid, Mike G or of course, Tyler. But, yeah, for these kids to be so young and given so much, it’ll probably take an album for everyone to really find their footing as an artist. That being said, I’d love to revisit this trio in a year. They have tremendous potential.
Aaron: Runco, you are a dope-song-picking son of bitch this week. Take your pictures now. It’s the rare occasion that I like all of anything. I’m pretty sure you picked MellowHigh to bait me into spazzing out. You want it, you got it.
These dudes rule and are so hip-hop I can’t stand it. I can prove it: Leah likes them in spite of her own extremely good judgement. She has a conscience when listening to rap. I do not. She looks for the light and positivity and thinks about the community. I listen to MOP to relax and complain about how local rap shows have gotten too polite. I love art and can get heady with the best of ’em, but deep down, I just want conflict, resistance, and an obscene amount of bragging… with some art on top. These guys do that shit. So I’m not even going to review this track. FUCK THAT GOLF WANG WOLF GANG TRASH WANG LOITER SQUAD SWEATSHIRT MELLOWHYPE LIKE IT’S NOTHIN CUZ IT’S NOTHIN BIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIITCH!!
I’m going to see them tonight and probably will get punched by a child. So there’s that.
Phelps: For my money, the less Tyler the more better for all things O.F., he seems like a distraction at this point. These dudes go off like a bomb in your ears for two minutes and sound genuinely excited about rap, as opposed to some of the others in their clique. If they want to model themselves on an M.O.P. template, that’s fine with me. It’s rarer and rarer these days to have a hip-hop song pull you into a sweaty mosh pit of potential head cracks.
Aaron: I don’t dislike Tyler, but his cult of personality is starting to smother the projects. He is obviously a marketing savant though. He cracked the code on rowdy, post-racial (but still black and threatening) suburban skate middle-class, thug ,complain-rap.
Phil: TAKE CHAINS OFF. TAKE RINGS OFF. DON’T LET TYLER ON YOUR TRACK. ANTE UP.
If you’re going to bite the single greatest pro-kidnapping PSA of all time, there’s no room for fucking around. Hodgy’s verse is a little too cute for its own good. His “Stepford Wives” reference is half-baked, and personifying malice and karma is some precal high school battle rap shit. Domo Genesis is another story though. His verse is hardheaded, venomous bliss. “You like my kid / I’ll hit you with a belt”? M.O.P. are smiling somewhere right now.