Mixtape review-41-P by Payroll Giovanni
Payroll Giovanni is my kind of MC. Mentally he is tougher than shark skin with a flow that can speedbag the beat to impressive levels. The other thing to love about the thirty year old rapper from Detroit is that he’s always working and its good smart work. His new mixtape (41-P) is the second release of the year following Big Bossin Vol. 2 with master producer Cardo. This might sound crazy but this self-produced mixtape….sounds better.
While Cardo is one of my favorite rap producers ever he sets up landscapes that are vibey enough to get lost in. To say Payroll has an urgent flow would be a vast understatement. He spits out these words as if he’s mad at the microphone and he needs production that pushes that rather than counters it. The great part is he knows, these beats are boldly propulsive enough to tell that story.
All you have to do is wait twenty seconds into the first track (41-P the title track) as he shifts into highway speed while the bass pounds. Not many rappers can move at this speed anymore, fast enough to be impressive but focused enough to be able to hear every syllable. The next track is Invisible which is beyond frustrated it is angry, dressing down obstacles the way a boss with a lot of balls in the air does. Another big reason why I identify with Payroll is that like a productive boss he keeps an emotional distance that is a combination of painful personal losses creating defense and a self-help guru-like focus on winning as a hustler.
The chorus on Excuses is “Bosses make money and workers make excuses.” He expands on it throughout the song “I had to figure out the quickest route, I had to jump in the game get in & out I wasn’t in the house. I’m in the field not to kill but to make a deal but I’m clutching steel to protect what I’m tryin’ to build.” He’s all game face moving packs and reinvesting in his circle but he is not unaffected by the wear and tear. When he makes clear on Nothing Nothing that the women clutching at him on his way up are nothing….they aren’t nothing or the song wouldn’t have to be made.
Hypnotized is my favorite song because it is the closest to watching the boss crack. You can read Payroll as a sexist if you want for the wildly hostile manner in which he speaks about women throughout 41-P. I think he provides a valuable window into a damaged social environment; one where the most attractive girl in the room spots you not because of your attractiveness but because she is staring at your rolex and “can smell money on you”. You can’t blame her, as Americans we all want to get as close to wealth as we can. The hustle isn’t just real for the narrator. Being the subject of that faux-affection must be the most validating & insulting experience and it has to warp the man behind the gameface. In his verse Payroll wrestles over what sounds like All Eyez On Me era 2pac production pulled through modern trap sensibilities. “What’s a golddigger gonna do with me when I’ve been rocking platinum since I was 13. Girl I’m too much for you you ain’t too much for me. ” She can’t possibly sympathize with who he is or come at him as an equal in the relationship (not in his eyes). In Interview he opens the door further by addressing direct questions in his song Interview. He talks Jeezy, indictments, beef, label changes & lays everything out quite frankly. The ingredients are present in 41-P for a long career with better beats and music that can be even more meaningful. Boss life presents challenges I can’t wait to see him face.
P.S. I don’t want to leave the lingering impression that Payroll Giovanni is somehow Beast from Beauty and the Beast with all these romantic walls up waiting for the right one (see: Hypnotize explanation) . He seems to have proposed marriage this April to a woman the Detroit Metro Times describe as “Detroit hair mogul Kendra Parker.” I don’t know what being a hair mogul entails but it’s definitely her hustle and kudos to both of them for winning together.
Stream or download below:
Song of The Year-Amen by Bobby Feeno
I always liked Arian Foster. Even though athletes rapping doesn’t always work out well I was pretty sure Flamingo and Koval (his debut album) would. Yes he did pick a Nintendo 64 lead character name (not for real but it does sound like it) to rap under but we’ve all heard worse. What I like about the album is how it cruises between designated hip hop subgenres. The production is soulful, lush, and instrumental the lyrics are intelligent but this isn’t conscious rap or the opposite of it.
Bobby Feeno didn’t put out the album of the year or set out to. He introduced himself and in the process of doing so took steps other mc’s would never take. Amen is the most unshakeable takeaway from Flamingo and Koval (named after the intersection 2pac was shot). The audio clip that begins it is impossible to shake from your mind (see: “…your thoughts ain’t my thoughts!!”) and his flow is so cool, casual and subtle in sarcasm that when Billboard asked him if he was trolling religion with this song he had to push back. Amen isn’t trolling but a nuanced clowning. The tone of his voice is like mine when my friend wears a really ugly shirt, I’m going give guff but I’m going to take my time with it… have some real fun. The lyrics are about as pointed as they can be especially as the song rolls on and over the church-like organ he says “all you gotta do is believe him, I know you can’t hear or see him but it’s just more pleasing when you got that faith. Hook line & sink brother drop that bait, heaven is high for you hop that gate and science is lying to you it’s not that great. So I asked the preacher why these kids are starving in our land and the preacher said it’s something we ain’t meant to understand.” He has the nerve to follow that last word with a chuckle so slight that it makes Amen bitterly cutting. That is right before a sarcastic and amen that sounds like a sigh.
The song is so vitally disrespectful it comes from the very core of what hip hop achieves at its most powerful. Arian Foster is in his 30’s like I am so he understands the genre in similar ways. That it is very fun to put on some Playboy Carti but the stuff that forms us tends to have real things to say and a real spirit behind it. So while you may hear Flamingo and Koval as an ex-football player trying his J.Cole on, I hear a cool guy with a frenzied mind trying to map out all the angles 2pac explored or would have if he had the additional time. Tell a friend about Bobby Feeno and then start listening to Foster’s fantastic podcast.
The Vulnerable Layer
A lot of old school hip hop heads do a fair (or unfair) amount of complaining about pink hair tight pants and tattoos. These new kids on drugs trap beats and repeating words over and over again…are a much smaller percentage of hip hop than you might think.
I noticed this last year. Youngboy Never Broke Again dropped an incredible project called A.I. Youngboy with all the bounce and flavor of a great New Orleans Hip Hop album and has been following it ever since with searingly personal content. The mixtape that followed was called Ain’t Too Long and wasn’t nearly as fun but instead presented a Boosie level of personal introspection and meditation on loss. He has continued that on his long and very good Until Death Call My Name. At the same time from the well watched streets of Chicago Lil Durk dropped Love Songs For The Streets and it wasn’t weird at all. Durk had begun the year before that drawing the camera lens closer and closer to his actual life friends and troubles, creating a relationship with his fans unlike any other young Chicago MC. That is really what stood out about this in 2017. These two are young! Durk is 25 Youngboy is 18 and they are opening up on tracks in ways we are not used to seeing from mainstream hardcore rap hungry young mixtape people.
This year has compounded the trend. Two very good albums that traffic in staggeringly personal content from rappers born in the mid to early 90’s have dropped. The most recent is from the production mind of The Internet, one of the best groups in hip hop. After the shockingly great 2017 Syd had I was prepared for how good Patrick Paige II Letters of Irrelevance could be or at least I thought I was. The more I relisten to it the more I shake my head at the intelligent design of it. The first song is called The Best Policy where Paige declares his problems with adulthood, his abiding desire to speak the unfettered truth and it sets the stage for what he is able to accomplish. The sonic landscapes shift with a sure hand and dazzling accuracy as we go from a perfect D’Angelo recreation (Voodoo) to a slapping great time with G Perico and Sareal (on Get It With My N’s). All the while if you listen he parses real truth of his topics. The end of the album makes it unignorably resonant. His Ode to Inebriation says “I don’t need a glass man F#$* a flask drink it in just what I bought it in just like my Dad” in a tone so heartfelt and angry that it is awkward and rewarding. You watch him deal with his demons and did I mention that the song after that (The Last Letter) is to his dead Mother?
Letters of Irrelevance just came out 05/18 it will no doubt grow on me over the months to follow. The project that has come into my top 5 albums of the year through the sheer force of its personality (released in April) is Saba-Care For Me. Saba deserves all the credit in the world for devastating lyrical work from tales of his uncle on Life to savvy intellectual critique of the music industry on Grey and possibly the best lyrical song of the year in track 9 Prom/King. In seven minutes and thirty one seconds he weaves an albums worth of content together and it’s not just pain. His pen paints friendship hormones nervousness unexpected calamity and everything in between. Its life in one song and while Prom/King stands out the other songs carry a similar weight. The other people on Care For Me that deserves a ton of credit are the musicians, great bass play, guitar work and subtle keyboard work that never overload the canvas allowing Saba to flourish and deliver on the promise of his last release Bucket List Project.
If someone tells you these new kids are trash ask them if they have heard Noname, Smino, Saba, Patrick Paige II, Isiah Rashad, Kamaiyah, and the list grows everyday. This is not a generation with a lack of artistic perspective or want to experiment it is an industry that gives you what they know how to make over and over for fear deviation will cost MONEY. So if you want depth pay for it. You’ll see more of it become visible and that necessary vulnerability will nourish your playlist.
Patrick Paige II-The Last Letter
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Tagged Aint Too Long, Care For Me, hip hop, Letters of Irrelevance, Lil Durk, Love Songs For The Streets, NBA Youngboy, next generation hip hop, Patrick Paige II, rap albums 2018, Saba, Syd, The Internet, Until Death Call My Name, young rappers, Youngboy Never Broke Again
#Bandcampgold-Veib by Shane Reis & God Damn Chan
From the stage Shane Reis has the authority of the most important guy in the properly humming kitchen of a restaurant. His music has always carried that ceaseless Joe Frazier energy: moving forward, finding optimal positioning, and getting off his best shots no matter what touches him or how hard. So the full length collaboration between Shane and God Damn Chan was destined to be interesting not just for the art but the force of will on display.
Chan has moved away from Maine (where Shane, the lobsters, and I reside) to L.A. but I still refer to him as the Swizz Beatz of Maine. He clicks together elements that fit, turns the volume as high as it can go (while remaining clean as a whistle) and when it’s done it’s done. Chan knows what he does and who he is. Both of these gentleman know exactly what they do well and manage to steaily put that in the foreground while they improve on the rest in the background experimenting and evolving, challenging what you came for by adding to it with showing any risk.
The bandcamp description says that while on tour they were soaking in Damn & 4:44 aiming for their own shot at cohesive timelessness. This is why Veib works on three different levels. If you just want to press play bump your head and not think go to track four (Tell Somebody!) and you’ll recognize the stinging gnarled Gangstarr boom bap and screwface headnod as Shane matter of factly beats the track like a speedbag. If you are invested in the journey and the mood the music conveys you are in for a treat. On JonSnow (IWantIt) an off kilter beat (that sounds like it has a harp sample) allows Shane to charm away in as refreshingly non-creepy a fashion as you can find in rap. He says “She’s a downer and an upper for real. I mean I’m in it if she lets me. She’s next level sexy.” Even amidst his most triumphantly authoritative declarations his sexy song has a clear “boy I hope she calls back!” excitement to it that is refreshingly human. He’s a hard nosed dude who has made the choice not to be a dick about it.
The third level of analysis on Veib is where I get in the weeds. My favorite thing about relistening to it is not how remarkably clean, cohesive, and different it sounds from any rap album in the state(or region). My favorite thing about relistening is catching the moments when Shane pretends to give his audience life lessons about maintaining your soul and who you are when in fact he is repeating this mantra to himself. I’m not talking about providing hot lines (if you want them you can have them see IKnowUKnow for “I never met a king, I never met a god but if I did it was living under the devil’s law.”) First mantra example is from TheVeibOfIt “Relax your mind and be who you want to be. Man, who cares what they think? If your you and that’s cool then that’s who they want to be…damn what a concept?” It’s framed as a volley sent at the countless who are losing themselves in fabricated expectations losing their own truth and by itself it could be seen that way. Add to it Witches Brew first verse “Try to keep up with the times but can’t find the time tho, too much social media $*&^ and I do it like you do but you don’t read to your kids ma dude.” Having kids is being terrified to disappoint them; it is learning how to catch as many balls as you can from mid air and only let the ones drop you can afford to. Keeping your artistic character together as you get bigger and bigger is similar, compromises must be made. If you worried I am stretching to make a point listen to We Don’t Care when he says “I’m not sold although they bought it, bought it doesn’t mean a lot. Earning often dreams a lie. And if the star players a bum, what kinda team they got? If you tell me you are then it probably means you’re not. Underdog forever, I pawed my way through steeper plots.” It is all right there, I will not lose even though everyone does. If you dig deep enough Veib isn’t chill at all. It’s the Friday rush during the holidays and the restaurant is earning like it never has before. We are the new kid doing the dishes and after peaking out at the jammed crowd and busy hosts/hostesses we turn to that dude who runs the kitchen who we count on to set the pace. We ask “What the hell are we going to do we aren’t staffed for THIS!”
He turns and says what Shane does on OrangeCrushGroove “Life’s a bitch but I’ve chose not to mistreat her.”
stream or download Veib below:
P.S. Track 11 Say Nothing has my favorite feature Kenya Hall who is an absolute treasure. Her album Learning For Miles v. 1 from 2010 is one of the must hear albums in the history of the Maine music scene. I could say more about her and the absolutely gripping ideas about racism Shane discusses on the song but I may have written too much already. Its great she is great. More Kenya Hall.
Mixtape Review-Doll Szn by Asian Doll
The intro track (Doll Szn Intro) on the mixtape Doll Szn does a spectacular job establishing who Asian Doll is for anyone coming late to the party. Immediately after you press play she vents and tears away the preconceptions you may bring to this music. She knows a large portion of sour folks are sucking their teeth muttering “She sounds like Nicki…” as if that is an adequate insult. In a minute and thirty five seconds she tears all of that away, distancing herself from the backstabbing rat race female MC’s are put on. Then it is time for the music.
Queen of Nightmares is a sparse piano beat she absolutely demolishes before and after the beat beefs up and the bassline tramples in. She goes in for two minutes straight before you realize this has no hook. She catches bodies like she’s been working out and gets a dudes beard off her dress. If you’ve never heard Asian Doll before and want to know if she can really spit, track 2 resolves that. When she uses her voice for singing it works out very well. Her chorus on Lose You is well done and never interferes with her bars.
I’ve listened to Doll Szn every day for a week and never got tired of it. The track sequencing is right on the money. After the sing-rap-single feeling Lose You, track 5 is Clout which could be a more rave friendly Three Six Mafia song. Doll has a modern flow that bounces melodically but she has gears and can move at different speeds. The harder the beat smashes the more electricity crackles out of her on every bar. Arm Froze is positively fantastic with a hook that sticks and a vocal performance in the verses that moves as effortlessly and impressively as the chorus.
My favorite single line in Doll Szn (and verse) is the very beginning of Miami as the Cash Money Mannie Fresh pacing of the beat pushes her she says “ever seen a real B*%^ that rub your nuts and hold a Mac clip?!” The mental image is one my brain had never conjured before and whenever that happens no matter the subject matter you have to give credit where credit is due. MC’s are not scientists they are entertainers so their goal is to remain important all the time. From the more radio friendly stuff like Lay Up to the very last song she is vitally important. That last song is called Savage Barbie and it is one of the very best of 2018. The beat radiates beneath her and she rides it with unruffled resolve. This is her sixth mixtape so you might be assuming she should have already marshalled her talents with this level of poise but that is not how it works. Ask Charles Hamilton. In a year of very unimpressive mixtapes Doll Szn stands out as a rock solid calling card from someone who just wants to work and get better so when she gets a chance for the whole world to look she’ll be a thousand percent ready.
Stream or download Doll Szn below:
Where did this Donald Glover come from?
After he hosted and musical guested on Saturday Night Live an enormous new audience checked into Childish Gambino for the first time unaware of the journey his music has gone on since 2008. Lots of people have heard the name Childish Gambino (aside from Glover and his acting career) and may associate it with music that sucks. “Is that the guy with all the references and the jokes and the self-pity?” Yes and no.
If you are one of the thirty seven million people that hit youtube and marveled at This Is America you may be wondering where this iteration of Childish Gambino came from. Having listened to Gambino since Culdesac I can answer.
In 2014 Gambino went about resolving his central problem: rapping v. singing. He had the technical ability to do well at both but the path to mixing the two wasn’t as clear as it was for Drake or others whose singing style synced up with their flow naturally. The idea was to give both talents an audition. Datpiff would get a mixtape of straight rap with the best beats (you can still find it on datpiff.com) & his follow up would be an R & B ep called Kauai. STN MTN is a fun mixtape with a lot of downloads/streams on datpiff but it ain’t Kauai.
The secret weapon for Glover has been Ludwig Goransson who has produced all of his work (alongside Glover). Their partnership has grown over the years (recently Ludwig did the Black Panther soundtrack) and Kauai was THE turning point.
The seven song ep did not light the charts on fire but confirmed that if Glover was to make music it needed to be grounded in something. He wasn’t going to be able to do what Future or Gucci Mane do and pump out the jams. All the songs on Kauai exist in a place and a moment that Glover uses as the setting. It’s specific to the Hawaiian environment. All throughout the drum sounds and synth have a uniquely tropical bend, and if you are wondering if I am projecting this onto the music just listen to the ocean break and the seagulls sing background on the Beach Picnic Version of V. 3005. In order to get himself in a place where he could create a radio friendly world beating song like Sober he has to have that setting and paint the foreground once it is there. Ludwig understood after Kauai that the setting was his work. That is why Awaken, My Love turned out so well and Camp is still not good.
Please listen to Kauai below:
The strange addendum to this is I’m not sure why after learning how different his creative process needed to be in order to succeed he decided he had to retire after this next album. He’s just cracked the code and now has the pull post-Atlanta post-SNL to do exactly whatever he wants. Why stop now?
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Tagged Awaken My Love, Black Panther, Camp, Childish Gambino, Donald Glover, Kauai, Ludwig Goransson, Saturday Night Live, singing v. rapping, STN MTN, This is America
Song Review-Mi Encanta by Husalah
I love the new Husalah album H the way I love watching Jason Statham carve through the world in Transporter 2. It is a lot of fun and more than a bit silly. He says bitch four or five times more than is logistically manageable (to say nothing of the long ethical debate) . He brags in ways that are so outlandish they are outstanding. Mi Encanta is the absolute height of giddy post-hyphy insanity. I wish I could find production credits the beat is amazing, the chorus is chanted very seriously in Spanish. The first verse is the stuff of legend. Husalah’s first spoken line after the chorus is “my life consists of getting kicks off, I get my kicks off soon as your wife sees me she tries to pull my dick off.” This leads into the line I ran around imitating for days after this album came out. He says “Husalah been out selling cocaine since I was a baby! Ask your bitch about me bitch I’m beautiful and gorgeous guns enormous.” The way in which he joyously extends out the words baby, gorgeous, and enormous just adds to the comical fantastitude of this cartoonishly unbelievable brag. The production is top notch Nuevo slap that kicks the energy up at all the right times and never falls below a Cadillac groove (the most Cadillac groove on H is Million Miles ). I could talk about how fun Husalah is for a long time but Mi Encanta is exactly what I needed in 2018. The charts are a post-apocalyptic landscape littered with sad junkie rap and overly righteous college kids talking down to their audience. Mi Encanta is bay area bounce with a Roger Corman movie attitude and an undeniable breath of fresh air.