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Allow us to reintroduce ourselves: Our name is Rec-Room Therapy. Each week, we discuss recent hip-hop tracks. Today, make loud noises with Diddy and Rick Ross, attend a funeral with 50 Cent, and regret our poor fortune with the Bay area’s Sage the Gemini.  Along for the ride is our distinguished panel of Marcus DowlingPhil R, Aaron Miller of Austin’s North Door, Joshua Phelps, Jose Lopez-Sanchez of Dead Curious, and Hip Hop Hooray’s Leah Manners.


Diddy ft. Rick Ross & French Montana:

“Big Homie”

Next week, Rick Ross will release Mastermind, his sixth album, and one executive-produced by Mr. Sean Combs.  “I was maybe 80% done with my album when I went and played it for [Diddy],” Ross said during an interview with Angie Martinez this week. “I just told him, I just want it to feel like the ’90s, you know, the mid-90s. And I asked him what I was missing. And you know, he told me.” On one of the album’s songs, “Nobody”, Ross basically does a Notorious B.I.G. impression on top of the deceased rapper’s “You’re Nobody (Til Somebody Kills You)” while Puff shouts.  Now, Rozay repays the favor by appearing on Diddy’s own “Big Homie”, a song that is allegedly the first taste of Diddy’s forthcoming comeback record MMM.  Coincidentally, this is the sound Rick Ross makes when he sees a sandwich.

Marcus:  I can’t really imagine any logical reason why Sean Combs needed to remake Rick Ross’ “B.M.F.” I mean, I get it. Diddy’s wanting to be a player in rap again (and well, when presented with the other options in the established mainstream game right now, it’s a wide open race), so making records that fit formats and knock in the club makes sense. It’s not like he’s going to say, take risks and make tracks produced by James Blake, diss literally every single other artist he’s competing against, or make art-house records that sound like Nine Inch Nails. Thus, the option we’re left with is to make a song for 1 AM at your favorite bottle service club, the soundtrack of either drinking Ciroc straight from the bottle or watching it cascade from a stripper’s ass into a goblet (because, yes, these men are kings, and if presented the option, I know they’d drink vodka from a goblet).

“My Rolls Royce spray cologne, the fragrance money.” No, it’s not Weird Al Yankovic, it’s Diddy. That’s all I have to say.

Jose:  Really, another Gary Coleman joke?  Diddy is stuck in a time warp where he (and Gary Coleman jokes) are still part of the cultural conversation.  I agree with Marcus – this does sound like “B.M.F.” with a facelift, but even then that song is four years old, which is like 28 in rap years.

If anything, I do think it will play nicely as a bottle poppin’ anthem.  But it will be swept away as soon as anything even remotely better comes along, which shouldn’t be hard.  And I do wish it had less Diddy, more Rozay – it’s strange to hear Sean Combs exert himself.  This beat says Rick Ross a lot more.

Phil: Sean must be looking across rap’s landscape and really feeling himself.  Drake and Rick Ross are repurposing old Wu-Tang hooks. Mase is back and getting work. 2 Chainz is making the kind of over-the-top, overstuffed blockbuster records that Puff used to specialize in.  Power music mid-90s revival!  The time is nigh!  And, yeah, to Jose’s point, his decision to party like it’s 2010 is a little odd, but these years in the company of Rozay have paid off in one respect: Diddy has realized that he doesn’t need to rap so much as shout! real! deliberately! And Diddy’s pretty good at shouting!  It doesn’t matter that he’s full of shit, because he’s always been full of shit. What matters is that it sounds like he’s having fun. He’s not grasping for the charts. Diddy does not need to make music. He can make low-stakes lughead rap to his heart’s content. I won’t complain about it.

Aaron: Heh. Big homie. Real big homie. Extremely large and possibly morbidly obese homie.  Never seen a homie so big. I mean, when he sits around the house he really sits around the house, am i right?

Sorry, I thought I told you I hate Trick Ross, and I think I just got turnt… all the way down.

I just wanna ask Mr. Sean Diddy Daddy Forbes-bragging motherfucker a question: How did you go from building a legacy wrapped up in an empire with a legend on top, carrying some of the mightiest rap weight in the known universe around in your custom bespoke tailored pockets to making fake Trap snoozers with Big Homies?

Shame on you mogul man, shame on you. You had one fucking job and you failed us all.

50 Cent: “The Funeral”

Last week, 50 Cent and Interscope Record called it quits after a dozen years of marriage.  This is probably for the best, as the two parties have done nothing but disagree with each other for years.  Most notably, the label has kept 50’s fifth LP Street King Immortal on the shelf long past it’s November release date.  That’s November 2012.  But things are back in motion for Curtis Jackson.  The day after splitting with Interscope, he inked a deal with Capitol Record and Virgin imprint Caroline Records, and announced that a different fifth LP, Animal Ambition, would be released on June 3.  Produced by Jake One, “The Funeral” is the first single from that record.  As for Street King Immortal, 50 says that’s on the way in 2014 too.

Marcus: I can listen to 50 Cent tell wistful gangster stories all day long. From the compelling voice to the small details, he’s a professional rap artist through and through. The larger tale of this record revolves around (in some ways) 50 Cent’s recent business decision to leave Interscope Records. That’s what it all boils down to these days for 50 is business, and rap, well rap is something he uses to add street credibility to his business aims. When that’s all rap is to you on some level, then why in the hell are you signed to a major label? 50 just needs his raps accessible, and with the market being depressed, a major label isn’t going to aid the reach of a recording from one of rap’s most renowned artists, ever. 50’s got a new album dropping. I’ll stream it, listen to it on my new SMS headphones and sip an SK energy shot afterwards. When you look at it like that, the song needs to have the same worth on a creative level as his SMS headphones and energy beverages have on a commercial one. I think he more than does that here.

Jose:  Absolutely love this beat, and Fifty’s flow and delivery on this is smooth as one of Cam’ron’s velvet capes.  I’ve listened to this, like, five times in a row, and I like how classic it feels.  He knows what he’s good at, and unlike Diddy on the last track, Fifty is perfectly comfortable giving us just that.  This is how you do a rap #tbt

Phelps: 50 is a problem in the best way.  People love to use the term “disruption” in tech circles and it’s just as apt a term for the trail he’s blazed, from gangster as fuck mixtape artist to flavored water magnate to bailing on Interscope.  It’s definitely smoother than the usual straight to your jugular singles or henchman flow that literally destroyed careers and an enemy’s label. The relaxed “Hate It Or Love It” flow vibes with his spot right now – the man has absolutely no worries.  Whatever the percentage of rap success is charisma – it’s high – he’s got it for days.  I’m not checking for 50 like the early aughts, but can’t give him enough credit for the empire.

Phil: Like Puff, 50 does not need rap. And he can probably leave rap alone – the game does not need him. But if “The Funeral” is Curtis beginning to squint ahead to his legacy, it’s a shrewd move. This song is going to earn him a lot more respect than being the creepy uncle on a Chief Keef song. (“She a hot tamale when she pop a molly.” Never forget.)  Dude can still rhyme.  More importantly, dude still has The Voice. If he wants to make a record of grimy, understated, half-mumbled, Prodigy street shit, I’m there.

Aaron: “Thats what happened/He just went on and on, til niggas started attackin/Actin like he’s the only motherfucker packin”

This line sums up what’s so great Fiddy. He always comes from a place of well-earned “fuck you”. You got shot once? You got money, deals, cars, hoes, clothes? Maybe you got tired of video hoes and just wanted to smash on Chelsea Handler – it’s all good.  Just remember the Fuck You part. That shit is played out when you’ve been cartel-rich for a decade. Dude is probably straight tired of lambos and pet tigers and custom firearms and helicopters and shit.

Something about a dope rapper who who manages to deliver like it’s no big deal.  It’s just supposed to be that way. Hot beats. Nostalgic hood shit in all it’s bloody glory.

I just took nine shots of SK and I’m ridin dirty today. Nobody better fuck with me.

Sage the Gemini ft. August Alsina:

“Down On Your Luck”

For the past few years, Iamsu! seemed like the member of the Bay Area’s HBK Gang most poised for notoriety beyond the internet.  But last summer Sage the Gemini – a 21 year-old rapper, producer, and recent addition to the clique – jumped to the head of the class with “Gas Pedal” and its follow-up single “Red Nose”. These were certifiable hits: One went platinum and the other gold.  Now Sage has a deal with Universal’s Republic Records and proper full-length hitting, Remember Me, hitting shelves at the end of March. He’s not taking advantage of the expanded rolodex, though: The album was produced by Gemini and other members of HBK’s production crew, The Invasion.  It’s fourth single is “Down on Your Luck”, featuring August Alsina, who has his own record out in April.

Marcus: I don’t think there were two urban artists I loved more in 2008 than Chris Brown and Trey Songz. Breezy’s “Kiss Kiss” (assaults be damned) is still one of my favorite songs ever. As well, Trey Songz in 2008 was on his “Mixtape Weezy”-type grind, and frank, ridiculous and altogether amazing raps like his cover of M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” pretty much tied him with Gucci Mane as being my favorite rapper (imagine what happened the first time I heard 2009’s “LOL“). Songz’s work was amazing because it displayed a level of honesty that R & B was lacking, and well Chris Brown was just in the zone.

Sage the Gemini and August Alsina’s “Down on Your Luck” feels like everything I loved about 2008, but stuffed in a commode. Sage describing the girl that has “mileage” and his “sluts” in Virginia really sounds like he really doesn’t *actually* know a lot about either. Also, those Fisher Price 808s have to get out of mainstream urban music ASAP. As well, the two tracks that Sage has had are hits are hits because of the production, and have very little to do with him doing his best Tyga impersonation (yeah, the mainstream is pushing Tyga impersonators…). Alsina is a bootleg Chris Brown, and well, given that Chris Brown has basically been blacklisted, that space for radio-friendly unit shifting R & B had to fall to somebody. He sounds mad generic, but, he’s being pushed like a star, so, we’re just expected to nod approvingly. There’s like 100 things wrong with this song. I can only hope that in describing five of them that you either a) listen and learn from poorly executed music, or b) not listen at all.

Aaron: For the REC-ord: This ain’t hip hop. It’s not super terrible or anything – it’s just barely a rap joint.

Looks like we got another singin-ass rapper.  I can’t believe dudes like this go Platinum.  I’m tired of bros writing rap tracks that sound like a hook compilation. What happened to a proper verse, dawg?

Y’all already know how I feel about autotune, so I will spare you my usual freak out. That shit needs to be outlawed under penalty of (career) death. Basically, the new rule is: ” If you can’t sing, don’t.”

I give it a strong 3 give-a-fucks out of 10, mostly because I dig the outrageous cover art. You know just chillin, sittin on these painted up dragon bitches like it’s normal. #photoshopgametight

Phil:  Give me three minutes and the T-Pain app and I’ll come up with a better hook than this.  And, for that matter, if you’re just going to repeat the same phrase over and over again, YOU BETTER BE SCREAMING THAT SHIT AT THE TOP OF YOUR LUNGS.  I like most of what I hear coming from HBK Gang these days, but this is a baffling choice of a single.