Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks. Today, we help Eminem build a shrine to himself, get funky with Snoop Dogg and Dâm-Funk, and attend the screening for DJ Khaled’s latest big budget blockbuster. Along for the ride is our distinguished panel of Marcus Dowling, Phil R, Joshua Phelps, and Aaron Miller.
Eminem: “Rap God”
Kanye West may be a god – no substantiation needed – but Eminem is happy being a more modest “Rap God”. And even then, he’s just “beginning to feel” like one. So much for bold statements. The title is appropriate though, because unlike the previous two singles from the forthcoming Marshall Mathers LP 2 – “Bezerk” and “Survival” – “Rap God” sounds like Eminem rapping for the sake of rapping, and not necessarily gunning for the radio. Interestingly, he taunts his fans with the line “You’re stuck in a timewarp from 2004” on a song that drops references as timely as Monica Lewinsky, Columbine, Heavy D, planking, and beef between Fabolous and Brandy’s little sister, Ray J. The track was produced by DVLP, who’s biggest claim to fame prior to this was probably Rick Ross’ great “Rich Forever”. All of MMLP2 was executive-produced by Dr. Dre and Rick Rubin.
Marcus: I feel really fucking bad for Eminem. I could imagine that with Hailie being 17 and the homecoming queen, the last thing he wanted to do is record an album. She’s got one more year before she heads off to college, and I presume that the constant touring and recording schedule at some point had to suck when coupled with him being newly sober and recently divorced with joint custody of his daughter, so, yeah…40 and stressed-the-hell-out is no fun whatsoever.
“Rap God” sounds like what happens when you get somebody lacking significant creative motivation into the studio. You get a beat from here, revise some older raps saved in a notebook from there, and hit the studio to make an album whose lead single was used for a video game launch, and has the sheen of being an auxiliary revenue generator for Interscope Records (Shady/Aftermath’s parent) – a label that is flush with all of the cash, and probably looking at making some insane moves in the next three to five years. Eminem sounds perturbed and stodgy here instead of glib and funny, so while the level of the rappity raps are on point, it’s the snarky and surly undertone that smacks me as being bigger than his dope-ass bars.
Phelps: This is a by-the-numbers slog for Em over-top of a beat that Dr. Dre or Rick Rubin or their proxy made after discovering the Harlem Shake just two days ago when a producer on American Idol showed it to Jimmy Iovine who sent it over via AOL messenger. Technically proficient as ever, Em is basically out-twisting Twista here but it’s just uninteresting. Where he may have elicited shock and gasps with liberal use of the word “faggot” 15 years ago I just feel embarrassed for him on this record. Finding “Just Don’t Give A Fuck” as the B Side to the silly “My Name Is” in Plan 9 15 years ago, you’d wonder just where this kid would take rap in the 2000s. Now you just wonder why he’s making new records.
Aaron: Damn, damn, damn I like this track. I know that I shouldn’t, but I do. For the record, I’m a Stan and Eminem has been in my Top 10 since day one. I can’t help it. Have I had some misgivings over the years? Sure, but people eat weird comfort food that is bad for them and hold onto their favorite shitty, moth-eaten sweaters and shit. In my book, there are only two rappers that get a free pass for putting out bullshit: Em and Busta Rhymes. Too fresh to fail?
That being said, is there a such thing as too much, too late? This song should have come out in 2006. It’s like Shady will never be able to go hard enough to make up for a few crap albums. Normally, a track with this level of lyrical skill should be a firm hedge against Haterism, but it’s not. Sometimes a rapper can be so good that all people think about is the worst offerings in the catalog. (KRS, Nas, and Snoop are three good examples.) Rap has a way of judging itself into a corner with stupid high expectations and real rap fans hate Grammys.
This track has three tracks worth of rapping on it and is a little exhausting. His skill level has always appeared to be preternatural and, while not as satisfying as “Berserk”, Eminem’s “Rap God” status is undeniable and hard earned. I just don’t think this is the track to sell it. The Old Man in me is secretly getting a kick out of the dated references and Em’s tried and true, shove it down your throat approach to the craft. Sometimes I wish he would just start over, get on that battle rap circuit, make some diss tracks, and kill everybody 2.0. Also, he killed that “lookin’-boy” rhyme pattern like a boss. I don’t give a fuck what anybody says.
Phil: I hate Eminem. Always and forever. I hate the lowest common denominator shock tactics. I hate the squeakiness of his voice. I hate that he was the only other rapper on The Blueprint. I hate “Rap God” and its quiet desperation in trying to reestablish Eminem’s rap bona fides. I hate how he shows contempt for his audience and then claims to be “trying to help people through tough times.” I hate the necrophilia that is The Marshall Mathers LP 2 and digging up that Columbine joke. I hate that people think that just because a song spins its wheels for six minutes, it’s “epic.” I hate 7th grade boys and how their mere existence allows for this joker to fill his pockets every three years.
7 Days of Funk: “Faden Away”
In what’s being touted as his “first project with a single producer since… debut album Doggystyle,” Snogg Dogg has teamed with synth-funk revivalist Dâm-Funk to form 7 Days of Funk. The collaboration is Mr. Broadus second stylistic swerve of 2013, following this spring’s maligned reggae crossover Reincarnated. He’s shed the Snoop Lion moniker this time around, instead opting for a tribute to funk legengd Bootsy “Bootzilla” Collins: Snoopzilla. And whereas his Jamaican adventure received major label backing from RCA, this project will see release on L.A. indie Stones Throw, which is home to Mad Lib, DOOM, and Dâm-Funk. A full length is due in December, and the near six-minute “Faden Away” is our first taste from it. “We’re the babies of the Mothership,” said Snoop in the press release accomponying the single. “I’ve had funk influences in my music my whole career. Dam-Funk is cold. He’s keeping the funk alive and I knew I had to get down with him.”
Marcus: All hail Snoop Dogg. Moreover, all hail Snoop Dogg being willing to work with the right ideas to modernize his brand that are being presented to him by his management.
I imagine the conversation to convince Snoop to work with Major Lazer went something like this: “Yo, you smoke weed, right? Well Diplo has a side-project where he makes EDM for weed smokers.” “I don’t like all of Diplo’s EDM.” “Well, he and his team can make cool as smoke jams, too.” “Oh really? And if we do this, I get to go to Jamaica, and we can get VICE to film it and get me on as Executive Producer for whatever they do? Fo shizzle my nizzle.”
I presume the Dâm-Funk convo was a lot easier: “Wow.” “Yeah.” “Wooooow.” “Yeah.” “Lemme call Uncle Charlie Wilson.” [Dials phone] “Uncle. Yeah, it’s Snoop… Oh, you already heard?… Yeah. I know, right? This man is the truth.” “So Damon, when do we get to work?” “You tell me.”
This is perfect, and Dâm-Funk deserves it. I once saw him at the now shuttered 411 NY Avenue Warehouse in DC. The vibes in the building were off the charts and Dâm-Funk appeared so relaxed, yet he still delivered. It was one of those times when you leave a building and you see his future crystal clear and it involves tons of tracks like this with rappers like this performing on them. Snoop wears this track like house shoes. More rappers should have Snoop’s level of self-awareness. In an era where rap’s mainstream sales are waning, Snoop’s figured out how to jump out of having to compete with keeping up with the Joneses, but instead is working within the comfort of his own legacy.
Phelps: The Dâm-Funk production is nice, but that wack ass Snoop singing needed to be replaced by his old homies Tha Eastsidaz. There are no problem with Snoop’s rapping here, it’s fine, but whether singing here or making terrible music with Diplo, he sounds to me like he’s trading on his legacy rather than operating within the comfort of it. I get the feeling that Suge Knight may have been the only person who’d ever tell him, “No.”
Aaron: I might die of chronic poisoning if I hadn’t spent years developing an immunity. I have seen Dâm-Fun like 9 times and he is the illest. I don’t know how I feel about Snoop and his new anti-rapping thing, but I’ll take this over the strangely forced Snoop Lion persona that emerged in the last year. Sometimes I think it was just an elaborate scheme to make his next rap album comeback shine in comparison… or I guess you just don’t say no when Diplo calls. Either way Snoop is a marketing genius with one of the most powerful rap brands in history and I trust him implicitly. I agree with Phelps: This shit definitely could’ve used some old Dogg Pound or some Xzibit or something. Classic G-Funk.
All hail Stones Throw. If Snoop ends up on a Madlib track, I will lose my fucking mind.
Phil: The ultimate shame of the failed Snoop Lion experiment – beyond the record not being good – is that it casts a shadow over what’s been a quietly progressive few years from Snoop Dogg. At the least, he’s been refreshingly open-minded. Granted, he appears to be open-minded to anyone willing to pay him, but let’s not discredit that he stormed the Plastic Beach with Gorillaz and played hot potato with Robyn, and both efforts were legitimately awesome. Not a lot of rappers in their 40s would be willing to go these places – they tend to hole up and count their money, or shamelessly try to recreate past glory. (Cough, Mr. Mathers, cough.) I have very little interest in a proper rap comeback from Snoop Dogg, and I have no idea what I’d even want one to look like. This song is great. Keep Snoop Dogg Weird.
DJ Khaled ft. Rick Ross, Meek Mill, T.I., Diddy & Swizz Beatz:
“I Feel Like Pac, I Feel Like Biggie”
In less than a week, Miami producer / record executive / radio personality / short-haired wookie / professional yeller DJ Khaled will release his latest guestravaganza, Suffering From Success. He’s so serious! This album has already birthed two singles – “I’m On One” reunion and inevitable hit “No New Friends”, and Nicki-Rozay-Future slow burner “I Wanna Be With You” – but last week Khaled went and ahead and shared album cut “I Feel Like Pac, I Feel Like Biggie”. Another one! Unsurprisingly, a lot of people show up: Meek Mill, T.I., Diddy, Swizz Beatz, and Khaled butt-buddy Rick Ross. (It’s not even most crowded track on the album. That distinction goes to “You Don’t Want These Problems”, which features 2 Chainz, Ace Hood, Meek Mill, French Montana, Rick Ross, Big Sean, and Timbaland). “I Feel Like Pac, I Feel Like Biggie” was produced by The Beat Bully, the man behind two of MMG’s better 2012 songs, “Stay Schemin” and “Dreams and Nightmares”. He’s the best!
Marcus: Mainstream rap has become so vapid and formulaic that the idea of rapping a song about the two greatest emcees in the history of the genre is an exercise in uninspired boredom. Maybe Ma$e was right when he Instagrammed a picture of Biggie and captioned it with the following: “N***as sold u out BIG. I hate the way your legacy has been watered down.” There are some terrific things about Diddy thirst for 21st century fame like REVOLT, his cable channel that’s giving a ton of NYC progressives the chance to grow as professionals. However, then there’s moments like his rambling vocal stamp at the beginning and end of this record. The one at the end: “How you gon’ compare yourself to greatness if you ain’t prepared to be great,” is the most damning.
I love me some Meek Mill, and I am a fan of T.I. as well, but there’s absolutely nothing great, at all, whatsoever, about the song (except maybe the track, but I find it hard to believe that Diddy was referencing The Beat Bully’s production). Tip’s bars at the end referencing 1,001 2Pac and Biggie classics is cute, but not great. Meek Mill’s great because he has such a limited skill set at this point that his one truly great skill – screaming like a basic ass rap dude about the most basic ass rap shit – is hidden on a track with a ham-handed attempt at such levels of epic magnitude. And don’t get me started on Ross. When the Native Tongue-esque revolt comes to rap in the very near future, it’s going to be charlatans like him that are going to take the brunt of the attack. Relatedly, Khaled’s another charlatan of mainstream rap, too, but I’d love to see him blow everybody’s mind by putting together a conscious posse cut. I think he can, and moreover that it’s a thing that the genre desperately needs.
Aaron: This song is a damn shame. If you listen closely you can hear the sound of Big and Pac spinning in their fucking graves. Production is booooooooring. I don’t know about Pac, but Biggie wouldn’t be caught dead (see what I did there?) on a lazy ass,trap-snooze ,pseudo-banger like this. Even though Tip’s verse is one of the laziest I’ve heard from him in a minute. I’m pretty sure that T.I. is the only dude on here that would get a proper cosign from the Notorious BIG. The holographic ghost of Tupac would most definitely ride out on these lames. What is it with wack dudes invoking the name of the world’s two favorite emcees in a feeble attempt to maintain G-status. It does not work .Unacceptable.
I remember reading somewhere that it is estimated that over 2 million people claim to have attended Woodstock, when the crowd actually peaked at about 400,000. I don’t know if it’s a sound analogy, but I feel like this whole I’m-down-with-Big-and-Pac thing is like that. How many dudes can be down before the whole legend fizzles out? How many wannabes can one Rap Game ecosystem support? Also, how does Diddy sign off on shit like this with a clear conscience? Dude obviously heard a dollar hit the ground and popped up in a puff of smoke like ” Take that, take that, take that. I thought I told you I have no dignity – uh,uh,uh.”
Phil: DJ Khaled records are the rap equivalent of Gary Marshall’s holiday movie trilogy ( That’s “Valentine’s Day”, “New Year’s Eve”, and the forthcoming “Canadian Boxing Day”, for all you uncultured heathens out there.) Superstar cast! Big budget! Huge marketing rollout! But once you get past the opening credits, it doesn’t take long to realize that pretty much everyone is phoning it in, because, artistically, the stakes couldn’t be lower. And yet, because it’s such carefully calibrated test-tube entertainment, I find myself mindlessly drawn to it and hating myself for it.
“I Feel Like Pac, I Feel Like Biggie” is completely innocuous. Invoking Pac and Biggie is as see-through an attempt to imbue significance into a disposable song as they come, and if I was offended Khlaed doing so, I would be giving him more credit than he deserve. “I Feel Like Pac, I Feel Like Biggie” exists to troll people like us – success! – and to give birth to fifteen YouTube clips of Khaled waxing poetic about how everyone really channeled the spirit of Tupac and Biggie or some shit. Diddy’s participation is hardly a surprise: He rain-danced on Biggie’s grave until the skies dried up, and if Miley Cyrus wanted to make “I Am B.I.G. (featuring the Ghost of Christopher Wallace)”, he’d be at the studio fifteen minutes early, ready to spout nonsense all over the track. And, again, I couldn’t care less if he did. I hope he rolls out a Notorious B.I.G. hologram that has to take a seat every three songs to catch his breath.
The real offense here is this off-brand Jeezy hook. No one’s trying to get you, Swizz Beatz. You don’t go hard. You live a comfortable life. You married up, up, and away. Stop taking food off Jeezy’s plate.