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.
This is more of an FYI. I don’t like to bother freemusicempire readers with my other projects but I do co-host a philosophy podcast called The Overly Examined Life where we take subjects in real life that may not be deeply analyzed and fully explore them. Nihilism in Rap was really my baby and it was such a good chance to explore a really special album for the genre and for the American experience. We talk about the album, its connection to the rigged American dream, the legacy of Pac and the connection we all have to him. I recommend going on the whole journey, even a hardcore hip hop fan might end up surprised.
Mixtape Review-Fuk What They Talkin’ Bout by Tyga
I didn’t realize that I hated Tyga until I came across some internet list about hip hop’s most punchable faces and he was number one. I spoke to some wise music people in my circle and they confirmed…they would love to punch Tyga in the face. Maybe not love rather they would feel the obligation. His new mixtape Fuk Wat They Talkin Bout confirms that he’s seen these lists and really enjoys how punchable he is.
How intentionally annoying is Tyga? I will tell you that every single S on the back of the track list is replaced by the dollar sign. This is only the beginning. He has that pipsqueak voice that the kid in school had who started all kinds of fights but ran from every single one. The sex imagery is downright horrifying. On Stimulated he manages to make bank transactions into ugly bumpin’ with the chorus (repeated over and over) “I’m at the bank I’m penetrating, I’m putting in I’m penetratin’ I’m getting big I’m stimulated.” Can you imagine this poor teller? As he’s making his O face and handing his deposit slip over, he’s found some way to make this normal part of life lurid enough to hold his erections attention. In the verses he goes from knocking down beauties to pistol whipping enemies so briskly (and without description) that it comes off as the fakest stuff ever written. It’s not just that the braggadocio comes off as power fantasy; it’s the lack of imagination his fantasy generates.
The other shockingly offensive “what an a-hole” moment is Turbans. Where he promises to “throw the hoody on like a turban” making a joke out of not just the deaths of black people in hoodies (why is it ok for white people to just say they are afraid of black dudes in hoodies? We never seem to respond as a group “WTF!”) but the discrimination that Arabic and Muslim people have to deal with. It’s not like we get a payoff for this annoyingly childish comparison, it’s just two minutes and forty five seconds of Tyga attempting his mini-Wayne flow. On Ice Cream Man he compares women to hungry hippos and chunky monkey without really adding any perspective to the images. He just seems to shoot things out there and do his best to connect them to how he’s awesome. That’s how we get dumb stuff like “I like my Pie A La Mode!” which is an actual interjection yelled during this project.
The other really annoying part of Fuk Wat They Talkin Bout is all the implications that he is somehow comparable to Michael Jackson and 2pac. He puts interludes from both of them called A Voice 4rm Heaven, pt. 1 (features 2pac declaring that he retains faith even in the bad times. The difference of course is that while bad times for Pac were five shots to the chest, what are bad times for Tyga? Ugly Instagram exchange? Bad pictures of you and Kylie Jenner in the tabloids?) A Voice 4rm Heaven pt. 2 is Michael Jackson laying out the media conspiracy to ruin his career.
Tyga forces these comparisons with songs like Death Row Chain. In the song Scandal he declares that he’s “the reincarnated Michael Jackson”. He struggles to create an air of “enemies out to get me” on Rap Star (I will not use these dollar signs, sorry buddy). None of it makes sense; Tyga never articulates any activity that would inspire murderous enemies; unless he’s being hunted by disgusted bank tellers. I can’t even remember which song it is where he brags about watching his girl masturbate…maybe I blocked it out (Master Suite). It makes my head hurt. The notion that you would impress listeners by painting a mental image of you giggling, drinking Sunny Delight, watching your girl masturbate is so outrageous that I’m pretty sure he’s in on it. I’m pretty sure he’s trying to be the Ty Cobb of this rap landscape and you know what…I’m down. Tyga is so offensive and churlish and slimy that I hate his rap persona…but I kind of love hating it.
Stream or download Fuk What They Talkin’ Bout below(at your own risk!):
Sometimes we are just going to write about something about Hip Hop that we are passionate about. Usually this is because it’s been a slow time for mixtapes for one of us and we still feel the need to update the site. With that in mind, Dan-O comes to the rescue of filling up space with a track review of Scarface’s “Smile” Featuring 2pac off of the underrated album The Untouchable.
Track Breakdown: Time Machine Edition Scarface “Smile” Feat. 2Pac
When you hear the high piano plink and Johnny P comes in to sing you might get the impression that Tupac and Scarface teamed up to make a song “for the ladies”; something to improve their reputation for tenderness amidst the harder music they were known for.It’s called “Smile” from the Scarface album The Untouchable. The production credits Scarface specifically with the album’s horrorcore, G-funk Houston bounce, assisted by Roger Troutman’s synthetic glory laid on top of that slow southern rattle that Rap-A-Lot created. Tupac begins the song stating before his verse “Through all the rain and pain you got to be able to keep your sense of humor.” If you put Big Daddy Kane on a song with Rakim they would be trying to one up each other with clever imagery and metaphor. Tupac and Scarface; however, do a different dance. Comfortable sharing the spotlight with each other, Scarface’s influence on Tupac is apparent. They both burn the last word of each line so hard you think it’s the end of the verse but it’s not, and they both are within the Gangsta Rap realm of a different school than most. Confounded by death, never painting a picture with stable or fearless main characters, Fear, paranoia, and failure are always so very close to them in a way that makes you sympathetic to them.
So Smile is a different kind of collaboration where two storytellers that major in paranoia and strife try and push one another until the song reaches its full emotional potential. Scarface belts out “I often wish I could save everyone…but I’m a dreamer,” for once letting that dark crypt keeper of Hip Hop persona go and giving us a glimpse of joyful optimism. Later in the song he adds to the image “Stuck inside a ghetto fantasy hoping it will change.” Tupac, too, is trying to find this optimism but, he instead finds himself sorting through the negatives to get there “Unanswered questions keep us all stressing”, and “Cowards conversate so quick to diss us/ taking pictures/for the feds hoping to get us.” Still, he arrives at his point “born with less but you still precious…”
At the end of the song Scarface acknowledges that Tupac has passed, and half sings half speaks to him about angels carrying him home. When you think about this song, put it next to other hip hop duets. When Ice Cube and Chuck D finally did a song together, it was a politically charged anti-media blast called “Burn Hollywood Burn”. When Cube did a song with Too $hort on Short Dogs in the House guess what it was about? The song title is “Ain’t Nothin’ but a Word to Me.” Most of them end up like that, really. Fans have expectations, and rappers have reputations they need to maintain. But let it be known that when Scarface and Tupac did a song, it was a slow bubbling rap ballad about making you smile. Not making the ladies smile so they can have their pick of the best, but making you smile- the importance of smiling. If you listen to it and get a screwface because it’s too cheesy, then let it live in that place. Know that when ‘Face and Pac got together, the song they produced just had too much heart for you.
Top 5 misimpressions about Tupac
- Thinking about death too much catches up with you– for some reason we all give lip service to this. I’m not sure if it’s because we think his life was really Shakespearian, and it’s easy foreshadowing; or we just have a need to oversimplify. My response question to this? Why didn’t talking about death too much kill all the miserably depressing poets who did NOTHING but talk about death constantly? Baudelaire lived almost twice as long as Pac and, he was forty times as depressing. Flowers of Evil people.
- Pac’s best stuff is when he was political– Pac was never political, he occasionally dropped back into Black Panther philosophy, but his body of work is filled with songs like “Can I Get Away” or “No More Pain” that are personal stories which are what made him special. He’s famous for “Dear Mama” not his stance against Delores Tucker.
- Biggie was way better– Pac has a better discography, Pac has more diverse subject matter, Biggie has a better flow, Biggie is funnier, more hardcore. It really depends on what you’re looking for but to be clear neither one is WAY better than the other.
- Pac wasn’t a technically great MC – commentators say this sometimes and they never explain it. I take it to mean that they compare his flow to Biggie and downgrade him. Biggie’s flow is not the standard: it’s beyond the standard and that’s not fair. Pac could spit and with deep subject matter, he stayed in the pocket of any song he was on. What is technically wrong with that? By the way are technicalities what we look for in hip hop? If so tell Gucci and Jeezy.
- Pac was more emotional than anyone which is why people connect to him-Tupac was bright and had a gift for empathy, but it’s odd to conclude that he had more emotions then the norm or even a better grip on emotions. You don’t think Styles P has the same emotions as Tupac? Trust me that Styles P loves his mother as well. Pac just had the reckless honesty that most don’t have. He was a great artist with the need to project himself out as clearly as he could. He was better at his craft then most and more honest not more emotional.