Weekly Hip Hop-up
This week I digested a bunch of promising projects at very different stages of satisfaction. Let’s go over them.
Autotune is a gift with two curses attached, misuse and overuse. While Sean Brown’s nine track project Solitude has the weeks most fascinating and promising individual songs it has some real low points. Rollin is as boring and standard as One Crazy Ass Dream is insane. So which is more important? The high points where you are listening to a sonically huge banger (produced by Sean) where he loses his mind(everyone should hear One Crazy Ass Dream) in verses and laces a flawless hook or the sleepwalking stuff drowned in autotune that rolls right off the 2015 conveyor belt. That’s the thing about Solitude, its only nine songs so it’s too short to judge. We should obey this rule whenever we don’t have sufficient evidence to judge: if you have greatness in you, you can be great; at any time. All he has to do is find out how to mine the focus he has on his best songs (best song on Solitude:Feel Good) for an entire album.
Stream or download Solitude below:
One of the weird things about rap as a genre is how you encounter mixtapes you don’t want to like that MAKE you like them. This Summer is definitely more trap/drill music full of violent imagery strewn about its scorched ecosystem but the choruses are mighty. On songs like YNP (young n_ problems) it’s just flossing and flaunting, sneering and bouncing to the beat but he crafts a melody out of it like a snake charmer. This isn’t to say Issa doesn’t have engaging content, Only God has a moment where his baby’s mother admits she’ll probably never love anyone else and you can tell he doesn’t know what to do with that. He has points where he gives you a doggy door to look at his life and feelings. This doesn’t happen nearly enough (Boomerang gives me a headache…I don’t want to talk about it) over the course of nineteen tracks, however, and by the end you feel like your relationship with This Summer might not be a healthy one.
Stream or download This Summer below:
Ali is probably the mixtape I’m most interested in studying more from these releases. While Philly rappers are known for blistering aggression and scathing flows Tayyib has neither of those. He’s typically at a leisurely pace that doesn’t seem to fits the city’s snarl of a persona. No one could imagine Freeway or Beanie doing a convincingly awesome put-your-red-solo-cups-in-the-air frat anthem like How’s It Supposed To Be (Dave Patten is so great on the hook). Ali talks about days when his clothes didn’t fit right but never drops experiences that would alienate someone living in a different environment(even on Day In The Life which does get quite specific it feels soulfully applicable to you as a listener). He doesn’t fit into a Roots Philly neo-soul category or really anywhere else. 100 Bands doesn’t sound like any song that’s ever had bands in the title.
The Astronauts, DJ Gumble, and Ben Rosen do a great job giving Ali a completely unique sound. One based in bass and drums but not in a boom bap way, in a D’Angelo Black Messiah way. Ali is a mixtape bound to get more interesting the more you listen. At first you may be overcome by how slow the flow is and think not enough is being done but over the course of sixteen tracks you have to admit you’re having a very different experience from any other mixtape released this year and that’s something that demands attention.
Steam or download Ali below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Ali, autotune, Beanie Sigel, Ben Rosen, chicago drill scene, datpiff, DJ Booth, DJ Gumble, Freeway, Issa, Philadelphia hip hop, Philly hip hop, Sean Brown, Solitude, Tayyib Ali, The Astronauts, This Summer, Trap Music
Mixtape Review-The Iron Way by T-Pain
T-Pain is the Mozart of strip club music. No matter how many changes he has gone through I’ve never given up on him because I know that to be true. I know he is capable of stifling musical intelligence and flawless execution on very silly songs about strippers and butts, even if he does go into the more silly than genius realm on occasion. Just listen to the T-Pain produced Booty Butt Ass off of his new The Iron Way mixtape with DJ Drama; I just kept picturing Luther Campbell from 2 Live Crew with one single tear coming down his face like “that was beautiful.” He has more range with his autotune usage than anyone else in music (proof of this starts two minutes and fifty eight seconds in and goes till the end).
The most educated critic had to feel that roller coaster nervousness during the first listen of The Iron Way. The Jay-z song D.O.A. changed T-Pain in a big way. It wasn’t a diss to him at all, Jay clearly took to task people ripping him off, but T-Pain took the hit and became unfashionable. Part of this was that he was already over exposed; part of this is that he’s a goof. This is the dude who complimented Ray J’s dick size on live radio when the Kim K sex tape leaked. People were ready to turn their back before they did. So when the first track ,Kill These N_’s, started and fed into the blistering rap diss Trust Issues we didn’t know if this was all angry rap T-Pain. Little did we know the supremely zoned out and darn near tranquil Sun Goes Down(Audio Push are perfect guests on this one) and Need To Be Smokin were to come. Really every kind of song was to come; this mixtape is twenty songs long. If you like enormous rap anthems with rewindable bars you need to hear King where Bun B goes bananas and Big Krit sounds like Denzel looks in Man On Fire. If your into braggadocio reggae influenced finger snap hip hop then play Disa My Ting. He also drops the really sticky sweet club love song Heartbeat where he says “I can’t control it; it’s like your running electricity through me!”
As cheesy and novelty as Hashtag is the story of the relationships straining is very engaging and well-constructed. It’s a perfect example of what The Iron Way gives you. Its genius; well sung, super listenable and genuinely evocative but cheesy as all get out. You have to find a way to embrace both to enjoy it. Like forgetting while watching a genuinely brilliant Kung Fu movie that these are dudes fighting on strings. By the way Pain can rap too; his verse at the end of 15 is acrobatic and venomous.
T-Pain is not in a position to fade out because he can do too much. He’s a very good rapper, producer, and the king of autotune singing. Dude can construct incredible melodies that sticks in your head and this T-Pain ,the post-D.O.A. edition, has a bit of an edge. He understandably feels betrayed by an industry that shuns him while re-purposing his sound. That means the gushy booty music like Ever comes alongside fiery anti-industry anthems like Personal Business. The imbalance is a perfect balance.
stream or download The Iron Way below:
P.S. I wanted to give you my favorite silly lines from The Iron Way mixtape since T-Pain just can’t help himself.
“She make me bite my fist, I guarantee you ain’t seen a booty quite like this” Booty Butt Ass
“Put my face in her booty like a vanilla cake” Did It Anyway
Best line is “You actin’ like your style fell from the sky. The good news is…you got it from a hell of a guy.” Relax
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, Audio Push, autotune, Big K.R.I.T., Booty Butt Ass, Bun-B, D.O.A., datpiff, Dj Drama, mixtape review, T-Pain, The Iron Way
Mixtape Review-Beast Mode by Future x Zaytoven
I’m incorrect but I always think of Future as an amazing raw talent. The way basketball writers must have looked at Wilt Chamberlain. He’s not raw at all. The music always feels that way because of how he attacks it. A new project roll out for Future never encompasses a new direction with a different look and feel. He attacks what he does whether it’s about selling dope or buying cars or achieving love; always with no fear of seeming cheesy or emotional and always with the autotune at its highest setting.
When his album Pluto smashed rap music I called him king of the hookers, able to nail the chorus so precisely that you needed the song in your rotation. Not just his hooks but guest hooks. Beast Mode proves that the boundless energy it takes to throttle every opportunity is not just something Future brings to the hook, he brings it everywhere.
The whole project is nine songs long and entirely produced by Zaytoven, who has a great understanding of the push and pull needed in a good trap-ish beat. Zaytoven has been trending weird and minimalist at the same time, finding a way to make every beat sound signature and different at the same time. Listen to the sparse, strange Peacoat and you’ll understand. For Futures part he rarely relies on his R&B sensibilities on Beast Mode instead making his growls and verses catchy on Oooooh and even when his voice pulls into appealing croon it’s for the classic get-wealthy-with-me anthem No Basic which carries a heap of adrenaline pumped muscle.
As amped as No Basic can get you Where I Came From is a thousand times more subdued and doesn’t feel too far away from any other song on the project. Zaytoven weaves piano into his baseline better than 90% of producers and that sound fits Future like a glove. In a hushed melodic mumble Future talks about the feds coming to get them, selling out of his grandmother’s house, and lots of stark shocking images you may not catch if you get wrapped up in the melody. Maybe that’s the joke of it all. East Coast cats hear the melody and dismiss him but people that know how to listen to Southern rap can tell you that not only can Future sing and rap he does both about real situations. Even Real Sisters which is supposed to be about having a three-way with ladies and not caring if they are real sisters has a lot of penitentiary and trap talk.
I would also be remiss if I didn’t beg you to listen to Beast Mode in order to catch another fantastic Juvenile feature. They remake the structure of his Ha hit into Aintchu and Juvi is damn solid. He’s like the southern Jadakiss; wherever his solo album content may be (fantastic or forgettable) he still kills every feature in front of him and is almost on your top rapper list.
Watching Future make everything work on Beast Mode is like watching Wilt pull 40 rebounds and score 50 points over sweaty slow white guys and shaking your head like “man, the game is changing…” remember when we all thought he was just the new T-Pain? Feels like a long time ago.
Stream or Download Beast Mode below:
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Tagged Atlanta hip hop, autotune, Beast Mode, future, Jadakiss, Juvenile, mixtape review, Pluto, R&B, T-Pain, Trap Music, Wilt Chamberlain, Zaytoven
Six Degrees of Drake
The widespread success of Drake has caused the spread of a new sound. Does anyone remember when Ghostface Killah started doing sing heavy hooks and it was controversial? People were mad and questioning how hardcore his music was…now being able to sing or fake sing the chorus (sometimes several on one song) is mandatory. Thank Drizzy (and Kid Cudi) for that. The spread of this new sound has created a lane for like minded artists and some of them have put out some pretty great B-movie level mixtapes.
Gerald Walker-Yesterday You Said Tomorrow
I will be honest I used to listen to Gerald Walker and just laugh. He sounded just like Drake and stayed sing rapping about how dumb people were for thinking he sounded like Drake, over Drake beats. I downloaded every tape and actually looked forward to new projects just to be able to chuckle over the situation.
While I was chuckling Gerald Walker was making leaps and bounds. It doesn’t hurt that he can get a Cardo beat any time he wants (5 out of 11 on this project) or that he can switch into singing quite naturally. This is the most refined project in the history of Gerald Walker. He now has a cool detached bop to his flow that really suits him and the years in the game to justifiably teaching lessons on perseverance and patience on the hypnotically soulful Cant Have It All At Once “you don’t realize your worth nobody gotta give you sh__ if you want it go out and work. See I know N’s who got deals who was blessed to take the wheel and drive to they own success but they didn’t…shout out to Pill.”
All the funny things I looked for: the off-putting confessions, baffling missteps, and direct Drake lifts are gone. In place is a mixtape that glistens with professional polish from the balanced new school groove production feel to the perfect vocal mixing. I’ve listened to the song Nerves a thousand times and hummed it to myself in the supermarket. I used to suck my teeth when I saw Gerald Walker featuring on a track, shake my head when he sung his own name like it was the two most beautiful words he could think of. Now I’m singing along, so he wins.
Download or stream Yesterday You Said Tomorrow below:
Kirko Bangz-Progression IV
Kirko Bangz is NOT someone ripping off Drake. If he raps over every Drake beat for the rest of his career that’s something Drizzy OWES HIM. Kirko is actually from Houston. Remember Houston? That place Drake lifted his sound from.
Kirko turns the autotune most of the way up and belts out some straight up somebody-rockin-knockin-the-boots type music. They Don’t Know is perfect Houston 2014 booty music and the best part of Progression 4 is that Kirko is not nearly as emotionally cagey as Drizzy. Drizzy is half emotional half public relations expert for his emotions so every admission feels heavily vetted, Kirko just drops real live weirdness. Don’t Matter To Me is one of my favorite songs of 2014 so far. It starts like this “I heard about you baby but I ain’t worried bout you baby. I know some N’s had you fore I got you but it’s my time I got you baby. I head about the sh__ you did with Slim Thug. I heard Propain could have hit you at the club and I heard Doughbeezy had you on the southeast but let me tell you bout me. Girl I wouldn’t care if you was a prostitute and you hit up every rapper that I ever knew.” Only Kirko would make a catchy sexy jam about how many nasty things you can have done and still love him. Or make a song about how much he wants to bang Rihanna where he talks about her monkey in the first line (Love Rihanna). At one point in this mixtape he says he gets so much sex from lovely ladies he doesn’t have to do his chores. I don’t even understand that but I love it. Sometimes Kirko feels better than Drake not just cause he’s authentically Houston and brings B.A. Houston guests (Propain, Killa Kyleon) but because his music feels like what Drake would do if he lost his mind when he was drunk. Tell me you wouldn’t listen to that?
Stream or download Progression IV below:
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Tagged autotune, booty music, Cardo, Drake, Gerald Walker, Ghostface Killah, Houston, Houston hip hop, Killa Kyleon, Kirko Bangz, mixtape reviews, Progression IV, Rihanna, Six Degrees of Drake, Slim Thug, Yesterday You Said Tomorrow
Song review-Sittin On It by Jose Guapo featuring Young Thug & Pee Wee Longway produced by YDG
After the first session I felt like this song gave me internal bleeding it sucks so much. This is off of Jose Guapo’s new mixtape Jose’s World 2 which somehow beat out Chief Keef’s mumbled opus Almighty So for worst mixtape I’ve listened too in 2013. I’m selling stock in every one of these guys. Guapo for his part is unerringly mediocre at everything. His rapping is off beat and unconvincingly flossy, his hooks are soaked in autotune and thoughtless. Young Thug was considered a hot ticket earlier in the year because of his odd voice and its use on some high profile Gucci Mane mixtapes but reality doesn’t bear that out. While he doubtlessly has an odd voice it’s not the kind you want a lot of and when it’s used for the wrong purposes (like repeating Guapo and taco) it’s about as listenable as a fire alarm. Pee Wee Longway might be the strangest character of this bunch, as omnipresent as he is (check out how many mixtapes this dude has released at some point) none of them are at all important. He just keeps making music and dumping it into the information superhighway for someone somewhere.
This is definitely a collaboration that came together via internet communication, the vocal quality changes drastically from verse to verse. By the time we get to Pee Wee’s closing verse it sounds like he has a studio setup inside a robot’s pocket.
Jose’s World 2 is twenty dreadful tracks long and while it is the worst, this is the worst of it. You know a bad mixtape the same way you know something has gone bad in your fridge. You check it out and use common sense. That’s all you need to know. This collaboration didn’t work out. Here is the part where I admit that if these three teamed up for another collaboration I would listen. The lingering question would be…can it be this bad again? Could it be worse? I’d have to know.