PartyNextDoor and Drake: The Questionable Collaboration

PartyNextDoor and Drake: The Questionable Collaboration

by Dan-O

I wish I could be a super fan like the people who wave the flag for Drake or Beyonce or Nicki. I admire it because faith in an artist is trust and they have absolute faith. I have trust issues. So we’ve heard the reference tracks where Quentin Miller does Legend and Company. It would be easier to adopt an old head mentality and assume that means Drizzy never wrote anything, that he has a farm of writers cranking out stuff.  Problem with that: Where were those dudes when Drake was coming up on the mixtape scene? Nobody rappers don’t get ghostwriters. Drake is still Drake. When he aligned with Weeknd he definitely pulled vibes from him and then Quentin and now I can identify a Drake-PartyNextDoor collab before you even tell me it is.

End of 2019 Drake did his epic Rap Radar podcast and was asked about his relationship with writers. He said he loves writing with others and gives people on OVO the freedom Wayne gave him. PartyNextDoor works at his own pace and hasn’t flooded the market because he doesn’t want to. Drake has featured on every release and tried his best to elevate his writing partner. Some of that makes sense. I’m not in the room so whenever I hear Party in Drake’s stuff and confirm it via writing credit I can’t snicker that he is using him because Party might just be chilling and enjoying the process. During the podcast interview Drake took some time to pitch the power and importance of artistic collaboration. It’s a complicated thing to discuss in a genre that started with one on one battles with singular credit to the winner.

Music history provides plenty of examples. The one I have been thinking about is Billy Strayhorn. He was a renouned Jazz composer, arranger, pianist as well as Duke Ellington’s right hand man for three decades. The maddening part was his sensibilities were so in line with Duke that Jazz historians have had a hard time separating which work is Strayhorn’s which is Duke’s and which is a combination. From Wikipedia: Though Duke Ellington took credit for much of Strayhorn’s work, he did not maliciously drown out his partner. Ellington would make jokes onstage like, “Strayhorn does a lot of the work but I get to take the bows!” Strayhorn floats around the legacy of Duke as do lots of other meaningful players who put in long stretches of work during his long reign in Jazz while contributing mightily.

When PartyNextDoor dropped his new album Partymobile I couldn’t help but wonder if Party isn’t the pure manifestation of dark R&B Drake (post-WEEKND). All you have to do is listen to Loyal and then Savage Anthem and you’ll want to go back and credit check on some of Drake’s harsher R&B.  Drake does not use collaborators like Kanye has but he doesn’t not use them. One thing I am dead certain about: PartyNextDoor would be a much bigger deal in music if he wasn’t with Drake. Partymobile is good.  How many people know Strayhorn wrote Take The A Train? If he had his own trio and had his name all over it, more people would. It is like Ice-T always says: it doesn’t matter if you’re the best, another will come along and people will give your crown away. It’s better to be first so they can never ghost you out of history.

Savage Anthem:


Quarantine Lifestyle: Book Edition

Quarantine Lifestyle: Book Edition

by Dan-O

Dirty secret time. Book people are like gardeners. They are serious about their grind. I respect it but I don’t function like they do. I can’t just slam through 400 page book after 500 page book. I have created my own system of staying in tune with different sources of information. I buy up a varied assortment of books and read a few pages of each while stashing them in different places (bathrooms, my backpack, next to my bed). I may read a book over a five year span. I have four or five books in my rotation, reading a bit from each whenever I get a chance, one will strike me above the others eventually and I’ll get through it. So I’m always reading but not in an impressive way where I’m finishing books all the time. I flip through these books and read article sized chunks the way you read articles on your phone.

Allow me to introduce you to my current band of books

What is Philosophy? by Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari

I thought this was going to become another vague exploration of vague exploration but that’s not how Deleuze and Guattari do things! They do wildly specific breakdowns of vague exploration. I had to include the chart because it messed me up. This is a chart of the concept itself and the parts of it. Deleuze is clear that every concept has a soft top and bottom where its definition depends on the definitions of other concepts. I already knew these guys were ON ONE as a writing team but I didn’t expect this chart so that is where I have left off.

The President by Miguel Angel Asturias

The President

This book is from 1946 it was written by a Guatemalan diplomat and writer. First few pages were pregnant women with malaria crying out while elderly blind fellow homeless people asked them to be quiet. This is an exploration of dictatorship from the ground level. I like it a lot but it is a concentrated dose of sadness. We just hit a point that might put this one in the drivers seat. Over a few pages he tells the story of the “town idiot” who has scarring memories associated with his mother. To mock him people go up to him over and over whenever he is asleep and yell “mother!” When this happen it shocks and awakens him, they laugh. At one point in a terrible day where everyone is hostile to him, he tries to catch one note of sleep and BOOM! A rich nobleman yells “MOTHER!” and he wakes in a total rage only to kill the nobleman with adrenaline and PTSD. End of chapter. WOW.

Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin


I have this collection of his early novels by my bed and another of his essays in my upstairs bathroom. These two collections are two totally different writers. As an essayist Baldwin performs his point and builds mightily to it. Very few people are as completely convincing. As a novelist he has super sonic empathy that rings through every character. Giovanni’s Room is about masculinity and homosexuality among men. It was published in 1956! The long term effect of caged desires doesn’t just rot the main character, Giovanni’s Room charts the collateral damage it has beyond the person who denies himself. This definitely has potential to be the book in the drivers seat. The only problem: I know that no matter how much I protect my heart from the tragedy that will unfold…Baldwin unmistakably has the power to break it and leave me as disappointed in the world as he was in 1956.

New Avengers by Brian Michael Bendis and David Finch


Your kid loves superhero movies my kid loves superhero movies and that is fine. I am not letting mine off easy. Every day during this quarantine I’ve read him an issue of New Avengers so that he can know how it feels to follow the adventures of these characters over time. He doesn’t have to be a comic book nerd but if he wants to be he needs to know it’s a damn discipline. Great art, great character development magic crowbars and giant dinosaurs. He’s really enjoyed it. I’ve really enjoyed how Bendis gives people who love Cap and Stark what they want while taking characters that at the time(2004,2005) had fallen by the wayside (Spider Woman, Luke Cage) and making them central to the story. My son has also been watching the first Avengers movie a lot and you can tell Whedon knew this book inside and out: make it big make it fun but always keep the journey personal. That’s been the formula for Marvel going forward.

Quarantine Lifestyle: Music Edition

Quarantine Lifestyle: Music Edition

by Dan-O

It is important that you stay safe and stay in. In order to successfully do that you need to keep yourself sane. I want to give you a layout of dope music running through my headphones while on lock down. You can check these albums out when you want to throw the headphones on and let the people you live with have some time without you.
Sorry You Couldn’t Make It by Swamp Dogg

One of my favorite moments from Hulu’s High Fidelity season one was re-enacting the part where Cusack calls that the store is about to sell a bunch of copies of what he puts on. In Kravitz version it is Swamp Dogg and she didn’t have to find the right song. Love Loss and Autotune is ill from the first track to the last; funny, sharp, and well executed. This time around he drives a hard pivot in another direction and somehow comes out with the Country album of the year!  Billy is a heart wrenching song about death, Memories touches the loss aspect even harder. The tempo is a tribute to a slower more solemn time in Country but if you are downshifting into some heartbreak this makes more sense than a lot of other choices.
Smokin’ Potnas by Curren$y and Fendi P

If you forced me to live as one rapper it wouldn’t be Drake or Jay or Travis Scott. I would be Curren$y. He’s completely self-sufficient and all his Jet Life people are solid folks he’s had in his circle for years. Sledgren who does a bunch of the production, Fendi P who collaborates with him on the album used to go by Cornerboy P I saw open for the Jet Life crew in Boston a thousand years ago. I’ve heard a lot of P’s projects because he just kept improving and on Smokin’ Potnas he really takes control of the hooks (Example: Swang). Curren$y sparkles with a flow he’s described before as “so off the beat it’s back on again” every verse is full of interesting imagery and a professionals emphasis. P explodes with energy, kills hooks. This is twenty six minutes of skillful change from mid to high tempo well crafted fun. Listen to One Night and Eye of The Tiger and I dare you to disagree!
Louder by Big Freedia

Freedia is the illest. This is your high tempo pick. When you want to have a family dance party throw this album on and enjoy. In only five songs Freedia gets features from Lil Aaron, Ke$ha, Icona Pop, and The Soul Rebels. Not only is the New Orleans bounce pioneer excellent at smashing speakers with hooks that lead into other hooks but knowing who does and doesn’t fit into the musical landscape. These songs are as bold bright and spectacular as the album cover. Become a Freedia believer it’s a cool way to be.

There’s No Place Like America Today by Curtis Mayfield

One of the things I dislike about the cult of Prince is that they paint him as a singular being in all of music history. Never before had a black artist learned so many instruments, written so many songs, crafted so many classics. These are eighties kids who grew up on him and don’t really know what came before. Sly Stone played everything and dropped classics. Curtis Mayfield was absolutely a god level guitarist and song writer in the same vocal range as Prince. I’m not pitting them against each other I just want Curtis to have his time to be acknowledged outside of the Superfly Soundtrack.  This 1975 near classic has dope love songs (So In Love), religious testimonial (Jesus), and political commentary all throughout. If you listen to Blue Monday People you’ll understand where he should be in the pantheon and how thick music history is with Black geniuses who never got the stage Prince enjoyed. Prince knew.

Sinthesize by Terrace Martin

Terrace Martin is one of the West Coast Jazz/hip hop new school collective with Brandon Coleman, Kamasi Washington. His instrumental solo album from 2016 Velvet Portraits absolutely bangs. This one is heavy on the synths, talk box, and all around Zapp and Roger vibe. If you are looking for something dope to play behind your day Terrace is brilliant with mood. This dude has multiple production credits on Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City and To Pimp A Butterfly, trust me.
A New World Record by Electric Light Orchestra

Seventies music was totally run by theater dorks and Jazz nerds posturing as rock stars. Electric Light Orchestra might be the best example of this. This album went platinum in three different countries gold in two more and it couldn’t be more ridiculous. Electric Light Orchestra is everything too much about Meatloaf on steroids. A tornado of violins, cowbell, synthesizers, and electric piano from start to finish. Thirteen year old Dan always described ELO as the music they put on when the fair ride started spinning too fast. So many years later I’ve decided to try and understand it…turns out thirteen year old Dan wasn’t wrong he just wasn’t ready to appreciate how weird that is. How incredible it is that this madness exists.
Hopefully this does you good for a while. Next post will be books. All genres on the table.

Song of The Year-Hit My Phone by Megan Thee Stallion featuring Kehlani

Song of The Year-Hit My Phone by Megan Thee Stallion featuring Kehlani

by Dan-O

You just can’t beat the kind of collaboration that unites two fabulously interesting artists coming off their best work. In 2019, Kehlani dropped the elegant and well crafted While We Wait while Megan Thee Stallion was everywhere. She dropped her Fever project, dropped some killer features and has started the new year with a fresh set of nine songs called Suga. It continues her tradition of shorter projects with a lot of musical momentum from song to song. She has energy to spare.  Some might be surprised that this big west coast ratchet song laced by Dj Swish/Jake One/Pop Wansel can fit Megan. Don’t be. She is not limited by her Houston roots. On the back end of Suga she has a few songs with The Neptunes that lean more towards R & B. She pulls it off because her motor is connected to a strength of determination that can’t help but venture forward and grow.  In the pop rap rat race my money is on her for the long run because while she might not flame up with a world beating hit right off…she has all the tools for a long and important career.

Kehlani’s voice is one of the best in R&B. She can give you enough different vocal tones in one chorus to leave your eyes wide open. When she stays within herself and her personal missions she is virtually unstoppable. The mixture of once-in-a-generation voice with Megan’s relentless flow over a beat that attacks speakers is a true hit. I hope YG and E-40 jump on the remix and make it a full on W’s up party.


Albums of The Year so far p.1

Albums of The Year so far p.1

by Dan-O

Since this site started in 2011 we have never posted a list. At best, posting the list distracts from a focus on good art. It moves the readers eye towards the numerical ranking aspect. At worst, It becomes an arbitrary insult that leaves every project not ranked #1 as less than. I’ve wrestled with this a lot. I make lists all throughout the year and circulate them to friends and associates. It’s a great way to keep track of what has come out thus far and keep fresh in your mind things that would otherwise drift.

The idea from now on:all the problems I articulated about lists in the last paragraph are end of year problems. At the end of the year I will NOT declare the best to fiftieth best album. Your AOTY list is much more important in March and August.

As a new year starts the top names hold their albums for summer or winter. Very few high impact releases come through early in the year. You read a lot of “It’s been slow so far” but it hasn’t. It’s a great time for independent or smaller names to shine. We have a LOT of great projects that have come out so far, here is my list.

  1. The Price of Tea in China by Boldy James x Alchemist
  2. Man Alive! By King Krule
  3. Aloha by Son Little
  4. Texas Sun by Khruangbin x Leon Bridges
  5. Funeral by Lil Wayne
  6. Chickaboom! by Tami Neilson
  7. Circles by Mac Miller
  8. Got It Made by Kamaiyah
  9. Untrapped-Yo Gotti
  10. Always Tomorrow by Best Coast
  11. My Turn by Lil Baby
  12. The Professionals by Oh No x Madlib
  13. Unlocked by Denzel Curry x Kenny Beats
  14. Immortal Flame by Cities Aviv
  15. Pop Smoke by Meet The Woo 2

I do not have different lists for different genres. Beyond sheer technical best these albums are in order of interest. The interest I have in revisiting and forming a lasting relationship with the project. Listen to the accompanying clips of whatever strikes you, it makes for a strange playlist.

The Greatest Sports Reference of Curren$y’s Career and The Roadmap to Roster Appreciation

The Greatest Sports Reference of Curren$y’s Career and The Roadmap to Roster Appreciation

by Dan-O

It is not that I’d like to hang out with Curren$y….I kind of already do. The combination of how much music he puts out with the strength and clarity of his voice means he’s always in my ear with something interesting.

I was explaining to someone how monumental Big Krit’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here mixtape was in 2010 when it came out. My sell was so passionate I decided to go back and listen. The song No Wheaties really stood out. Ski Beatz brought a rich flavorful beat to surf on and the featured guests were Smoke Dza and Curren$y. This makes sense, at this time all those guys were bubbling on the mixtape scene seemingly inches away from established chart success.

The whole conception of No Wheaties is that regardless of the lack of industry money behind them or radio play they will succeed and in a very important way that changes the game. See the chorus:

“We too hard to be crushed
Too gone to be stuck
Too fly to be touched
Too much to be us
So we, just let ’em do they thing
‘Cause we something like the A-team
And I ain’t talking about they team
I’m talking Super Bowl-great team
Undefeated all season
Champion shit; no Wheaties

Verse 3 belongs to Curren$y, speaking as casually as Cheech opening  the passenger door for Chong, he drops the best sports reference of his career. The one that truly defines him. His first two bars are

“Yea, John Taylor, just as nice as Jerry Rice
Still dump Gatorade on the coach and rock this ring.”

All too often fans simplify what is great. When talking 49ers dynasty in the 80’s into the 90’s it is Jerry Rice, Joe Montana all day but John Taylor is a three time Superbowl Champion (scored a touchdown in two of the Superbowl games), two time pro bowl, two seasons in top ten in punt return yards. A lot of self-appointed sports people couldn’t pick him out of a line up.

So in this analogy Curren$y is Taylor…what is the point?

The point: Taylor was great whether you know it or not. Jerry Rice knows it. The coaches and opponents knew it. Man never averaged less than thirteen yards per reception and ten is a new set of downs. John Taylor doesn’t need your understanding of his greatness, he lived it. He has the memories as well as the relationships which are even more valuable than the rings! Curren$y will succeed on his own terms, which means you might not register all the wins or you might not see his sales numbers and think they are successful next to ___. Later in the verse he continues “I seen it all from the bleachers, schoolin’ them/Giving lesson plans to the teachers/All from behind the scenes/Pulling strings, out for one thing.” He understands you can’t appreciate what you don’t see but that’s not his problem. He’s independent and in control of his success as an artist.

It is an important thing to think about in measuring artists to their own standard and not against an impossible one. Also, an important thing to think about next time your looking at the trophy presentation ceremony and hugging the star player is someone you never thought much of. It’s unlikely that they accidentally became part of a winning team. Not with this much competition. They earned more than you are giving them credit for. Rethink it.

Song of The Year-Pose (remix) by Yo Gotti featuring Lil Uzi Vert and Megan Thee Stallion

Song of The Year-Pose (remix) by Yo Gotti featuring Lil Uzi Vert and Megan Thee Stallion

by Dan-O

Untrapped is full throttle fun. Yo Gotti is a heck of a beat picker and Ben Billions really held him down on this album. He works directly on five of the fifteen tracks and they are all SLAMMING. Add to that Southside producing a song with Rick Ross, great beats from Streetrunner and this is clearly the workout album of the year (so far). This track stands tall above all else for the genius of its casting and the simple brilliance of its theme and hook.

A great rap career is much more than being the best rapper. Yo Gotti is a superb collaborator in his business deals as well as his music. Pose is overwhelmingly bass, built to destroy your car stereo and Gotti kicks off to establish the hook as well as the cadence all verses that follow will hold to. He sets the table and lets his guests shine.  Megan Thee Stallion is a truly unique commodity. When you see the meme’s on Instagram that have Lil Kim on one end and all the female rappers now who have the same vibe on the other side….Megan is not there. Megan doesn’t want to be the new Kim or Nicki she wants to be the new Pimp C.  She roars in a tight spitting window refusing to ever call a dude first, pimp rap on ridiculous.

I want to be on record as saying Lil Uzi Vert is the most talented Lil in the world and maybe the most talented of his generation. He closes the track with unreal braggadocio talking about people skiing off his neck; the kind of supernatural swag he flexed on Bad and Boujee. Yo Gotti has thrown the gauntlet down. You might put the piano sample on and spill your soul more than him but it’s going to be hard to make rap more fun than this. Not impossible but not easy.


G.O.A.T. Components-Lil Wayne


G.O.A.T. Components-Lil Wayne

by Dan-O

Albums (Classics and numbers)-I revisited Wayne’s place all time after his 2020 release Funeral. It is superb but let’s look at how good it is in context. Funeral is twenty four songs and Carter five is 23. That means from September 2018 to January 2020 he’s released 47 songs. Funeral went #1 which gives him a #1 album in four different decades. Think about it this way: Weezy was born in 1982, His first album was released in 1999(dude was like 16) and went platinum , in fact, every album after that went either platinum or gold until 2015’s Free Weezy Album. Carter 5 went platinum. That is 12 solo studio albums NOT counting mixtapes or Hot Boyz and other group albums. He’s worked himself silly, had the kind of success that changes the culture multiple times and done it all while staying as technically sharp (flow, delivery and wordplay wise) as any new hungry artist. Frankly, both Funeral and Carter five are better than 4:44. Longevity is not just about existing longer than others but about how long you can maintain your own high standards. A whole generation has followed him while he stays in his processes working relentlessly. is the greatest online archive of the mixtape revolution. If you go to the search page on the mobile app, frequently searched artists will pre-populate on the side: 50 Cent, Wiz Khalifa, but none of them even close to as large and bold as Lil Wayne. His vast collection of mixtapes record a time in his career where he used the chaotic powers in his craft aggressively. When Outkast took on the hip hop world to gain respect for the South they not only had Organized Noize behind them but the entire Dungeon Family. Wayne went platinum at 16 but by 20 the waves had crashed and it was just Baby and him holding Cash Money up.  The heart and mind of hip hop was still New York and it didn’t care at all about Wayne. All his successes were novelties. So he started grabbing beats from the radio and savaging them (on Nore’s podcast Drink Champs Wayne said he has never been paid for any of the mixtapes he did), laughing heartily as he created better versions. The best rappers at that time were organized with deep crews ,favorite producers, and million dollar videos (think about Flipmode, Ruff Ryders, Roc-A-Fella) and a shirtless tattooed Louisiana gargoyle laughed at all that like it was a joke. Eventually, he had a tribe that repped him relentlessly while the heads frustratingly asked “But what are his classic albums?!” “Are these even songs?!”

Guest appearances (Hooks and verses)-On Drink Champs Wayne stated that in one year he did twenty six guest verses while also explaining that during tours with Drake they have hook battles where they just sing important hooks and let the crowd noise judge who wins. After that interview I started asking people what their favorite Weezy hooks were and so many of them were on other peoples songs. My Life was a Game song Weezy made a hit. Duffle Bag Boy was a Playaz Circle song that put 2 Chainz on the map and he talks about it that way. No one knows it better than 2 Chainz.  Every collaboration Weezy does with Drake he roasts dude. He just has two or three gears he can shift into that you can’t catch. If Drake is Lebron, Weezy is Jordan. Watch the Forever collaboration where Eminem BODIES THE GAAAAMMMMEEE. You can see the work everyone put into their verse. One of Drake’s best hooks and first lines, Kanye comes hard with sex jokes, and Eminem locked himself in the Batcave for weeks cooking up with that verse. Wayne is the only one who feels like he hasn’t changed himself for the occasion, dressed himself up to compete in the market. When they cut to Kanye in the video he has a Michael Jackson Jacket on and is waving himself around to be loved. Just because Eminem said macadamia nuts in a tough voice doesn’t mean he won the song.  When they cut to Wayne he’s in a booth with Baby, blowing smoke into the camera. His verse is the best because it’s the only self-assured one, he delivers it rapping into the air with a hand over the shoulder of two different women.

Conclusion- If you compare any traditional top 5 dead or alive name with Wayne they will seem oppositional. Think about Rakim’s stone face against Wayne’s giggling joviality. He belongs in that special substrata of pioneering weirdos like Cam’ron and E-40. He’s offended me A LOT. His mistakes will live on forever as the most insane. Rebirth is my favorite bad album of all time because his level of commitment is amazing. He has no idea it sounds bad and if you tried to convince him he wouldn’t even hear you. A great artist must master the chase. If you don’t chase down your ideas you’ll never know what they could have been. Weezy has legs to catch every single one.

#BandcampGold-Aloha by Son Little

#BandcampGold-Aloha by Son Little

by Dan-O

I pre-ordered this album with five songs available. I burned through those songs like I haven’t with any album since Vampire Weekend-Father of The Bride. At the same time, My work situation got weird. I was locked in a stuffy room on a project with four people for weeks. Every day all day grinding and I just kept humming About Her Again,  randomly belting out with pain in my voice “You.. gonna mess up my head!”

About Her Again feels like a song that has always existed, like this is the thousandth cover of it and it always fits perfectly into itself. Like one of those plays that is great in every retelling (12 Angry Men) because it leaves no way to be interpreted incorrectly. While that is my favorite song on Son Little’s new album Aloha (and of the new year) it’s not the only one that feels like that resonant: Mahalia, Suffer, Neve Give Up, and Bbbaby all feel like they could have been sung by Donny Hathaway or D’Angelo.

On his 2017 album New Magic the Philly soul singer Son Little figured out that what his voice brings to the table needs accompaniment just as much as it needs space. The instrumentation needs to be immaculate but sparse. The gentle strumming that starts Suffer walks the same pace as his voice. That’s important. Leaving that space let’s the audience connect directly to every sung note and it’s powerful. Pop music is often background music or something to switch our brains off to. That’s not a dig, it’s an important function. It’s NOT Son Little’s function. Pop albums are more likely to get an intense six month run through everyone’s playlist and be forgotten. Aloha sticks to you and it was made to do that.

Think of Son Little like you would Tyler Childers during Purgatory era or J.S. Ondara on Tales of America. A soul singer much more likely to play the Newport Folk Festival than the Jazz Festival. You can pull up his NPR Tiny Desk concert from a while ago and he’s just a guy in a shirt performing with his sister. The collective body of these songs have a gripping approach-ability, The only song I am not into is 3rd Eye Weeping and I just haven’t connected to it yet. I don’t need to skip it or anything. As a unified piece Aloha has an incredibly strong ending. The last song is delicate and beautiful , After All (I Must Be Wrong), the song before that is a very groovy anthem about not quitting(Neve Give Up).

Aloha is the best use of Little’s voice to date. He doesn’t have Marvin Gaye’s pipes, instead he has Bill Withers lived-in-gristle and straightforward humanity. His songwriting develops from unique imagery (Belladonna is sneaky interesting song) but doesn’t over-complicate itself. With that voice he can turn a phrase over and over until it’s a story with a clear arc. All of it done with tone. This album is one we should hold up high when rock bands get bored and do an R & B album. Simply to ask: Can you bring the spirit like this?

Stream a few songs and buy Aloha below:

#Bandcampgold-The Professionals by Madlib & Oh No

#Bandcampgold-The Professionals by Madlib & Oh No

by Dan-O

It’s impossible to fairly discuss Madlib. If you like any of the levels of rap below pop superstardom, he is everywhere you go. He produced most of the important songs on my favorite Mos Def album (2009’s The Ecstatic) not to mention MF Doom’s high point (2004’s Madvillainy) and has forged one of the most important friendships in hip hop with Freddie Gibbs (2019’s Bandana and 2014’s Pinata). The reverence for his intelligence and execution became embarrassing and has made it difficult to observe his artistic life.

I first noticed this with Raekwon. Since he’s released Cuban Linx he’s a legend and if he releases a new album that slaps the response is “The legend is back! #dopeness” If his new album isn’t good it was “This ain’t Cuban Linx, dog.” It gave everyone a pass to stop critically observing him.

The Professionals is a perfect opportunity to soak in the progress. This is a full length collaboration between Madlib and his younger brother Oh No.  Oh No is a killer producer (he did two of my other favorite songs on The Ecstatic). In 2010 he formed a group with Alchemist where they rapped and produced under the name Gangrene. It was an opportunity for two genius level rap producers to mess around with different song structures and samples while having fun rapping with no pressure. They did 7 projects together and along the way became quite seriously good. Oh No became a dope rapper, as an afterthought, to his immense producing skill.

I am intrigued by what Freddie Gibbs has brought to Madlib’s production. Anyone familiar knows Madlib is a master of all different textures specifically showcased in his Beat Konducta series Jazz, Indian music, etc.  What the kinship with Freddie has done for him is instilled a real urgency to make these songs propulsive. It’s not enough to create an incredible vibe with the right sample and a piano part, this thing has to bang! I’ve been working out to this album since it came out. It’s top tier workout rap, which you might not have expected if you knew Madlib in 2010.

Superhumans is the posse track most heads will be drawn to. Oh No shares the spotlight with lyrical heavyweights Elzhi and Chino XL. Both of them bring their best qualities to bear, especially Chino XL who increases the pace of the song and name checks superheroes. As glorious an experience as it is, I am much more excited by the songs that work incredibly well with just the brothers (Madlib & Oh No). My favorite song is Give N Take, a real bass and synth West Coast banger. It’s a song Tupac would have played riding around Oxnard. This album has a killer run of songs from two to seven that are just trunk rattling fun. From the title track to CDP Smackdown its high adrenaline beats with dialed in verses. Buggin’ is such a great old school rap song. From 88 to 98 we had so many songs called or about Buggin’! Listen to the giant beat stomping forward on Timeless Treasures as Madlib clears a few seconds for the sample to take center stage before throwing it in the background.

The professionals is beats and raps. It won’t end up as the best album of the year, it doesn’t have a coming-out-of-rehab or heartbreak element but what it does have is energy and enthusiasm. The kind that carries repeated listening experiences from the first time to fifteenth without much fade. Other albums have energy like this but these two have been cranking out dope hip hop songs for decades. They should be slow and crusty and bitter, instead they sound like could be signed to TDE. It makes me very happy and looking forward to the full length project between Westside Gunn and Madlib that was announced at the end of last year.

Stream or purchase The Professionals below: