Young Gully-HM(Hustla Movement)5 mixtape review
Talib Kweli did an NPR interview where he put Drake and Kendrick Lamar in the same category as rappers just talking about “sex, drinking, and partying” holding himself up as the single shining example of consciousness in hip hop. It was surprising cause Kweli has a great ear for hip hop (having given Kanye an opening spot touring before anyone cared about his rapping). If you think about his position, it makes sense. In Kweli-world the only way to be conscious is to go Rap Game Bill Maher (funnel issues of the day through your prism and stick your finger out at everyone not thinking your way). The only way a rapper like Young Gully could be conscious according to the Kweli definition is if he penned a hardcore self congratulatory ode to the Pashtuns Uzbeks and Tajiks of Northern Afghanistan. Some of us (me included) think that this definition is limited and corrosive.
Young Gully’s new mixtape HM5 is the way that consciousness in hip hop is moving. HM5 uses autotune on almost all the tracks and it’s definitely very thizzler.com, very bay area. Finger snaps and bottle popping happen but they subside in favor of an attentive groove. The song Tonite (produced by Johnny Red of First Class Passengers) is a bend her over sex song in the most respectful form it can take(do you like Winston Churchill references in your sex songs?) but the chorus is fantastic and the vibe is excellently laid back. The project needs it along with songs like Personal Freak to take the air out of the intensity of Gully’s personal consciousness.
That’s exactly the kind of conscious that makes HM5 special, at times Gully speaks more generally against violence “If you gotta squeeze your hammer have a great purpose, cause nine times outta ten it probably ain’t worth it. Try not to get impatient on some N hatred otherwise the knowledge you inheriting is wisdom wasted (Diamonds).” Being anti-gratuitous murder doesn’t make you a conscious mc it just keeps you from being a maniac. It’s when Gully turns introspective that he digs in places other rappers get called corny for mining. On Girl with The Tattoo he gives one of the most accurate and beautiful descriptions of love I’ve heard this year “I knew her half of her life I knew half of her struggle. My view was limited; she showed me I’m trapped in a bubble. People told me to stay strong, I was lacking the muscle. She pulled me to my feet and helped me get back to the hustle.” Love is about respecting how much you don’t know about your partner and about how much they help you, that’s an important point. Even though he goes on to lose her, his knowledge in retrospect is impressive. It’s not about oil or Reaganomics, more about making your way through a turbulent world and comprehending it.
HM5 is seventeen tracks with one flow. Gully spits at a rat-a-tat-tat pace that goes from the first track to the last and it can be blinding. You can miss him wishing for an end to war on Listen To Your Heart or dishing on how much he hated anger management class in Make It This Far. He hasn’t developed that pause-at-the-right-line gene yet, he’s just spitting desperately no matter how laid back the sound bed. On Free he takes one of the slowest Janet Jackson songs and rips all through it. The words fly until he’s out of breath and the 2pac sample chorus comes in, it’s jarring without a doubt but it’s always interesting. As furious and packed as each verse is, every beat is just that restrained in its groove; Crezzpo, Johnny Red and more help keep things to a gentle head nod and keep the spotlight trained on Gully.
The name Young Gully is terrible and while HM5 does get better with each repeat listen it might not have enough accessibility to be your favorite mixtape, but it’s engaging and different. It has a deep abiding sincerity that it never sacrifices. When he expounds upon sex, how people want him to fail, or the brutal loss of love its all done with the I don’t have much time so listen spirit that you felt from Reasonable Doubt or feel now in Kendrick Lamar. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what Talib Kweli thinks about that.
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