Song of The Year-I’ll Be Fine by Trae The Truth
More than any project before his new album Hometown Hero represents the uniqueness of Trae The Truth. His voice has always been raspy, stabbing, and relentless a fantastic guest feature flow to shake you from your comfort zone. Hometown Hero dresses itself to match. Thematically as honest as its narrator with features from people known for how real they keep it (TI, Boosie, Mozzy). Each song envelopes you in bass as he narrates harrowing stories that range from the stress of wearing awful clothes to the devastation of Hurricane Harvey. It is one of 2018’s best albums.
As great as the features are (particularly TI’s hook on Better Dayz) the song I’ll Be Fine is the absolute best. The hook stretches and relaxes as he explains the hurt and the strength/assurance he will use to move on. Trae wants to feel the pain of loss and not shut the emotions out but badly wants to control the pain. The verses carry that same conflict. He remembers the casket going into the ground in the first verse and wishes he could hug him one more time. As hard as Hometown Hero is it is still about caring deeply; for friends, family, about people who betray you, your own self-care, your city, state, world.
He swims along the deep bass and leaves any possibility of trunk rattling banger behind as he starts off with the verse, sung with both wistful distance and aged resilience. In Houston trunk rattling bass isn’t just for head banging anthems or turning up. Trae has always understood how valuable time is and he doesn’t waste verses. Hometown Hero is for us to understand that he has people he is talking to and if it seems too serious to you just listen to something else. When he shares stuff like “Time ain’t enough. Wish I could tell you how much it been rough. I had to face it. Everything through it was making me tough. My brother my friend everything bout me is still ABN loyal to death all till the day I’ma see you again.” It’s special because he has the fortitude to bleed in public emotionally without being at all manipulative. He’s not professionally sad instead he processes problems alongside blessings. Long live King Truth.
#Bandcampgold-MacGregor Park by Fat Tony
The bandcamp description says Fat Tony read a book on Houston hip hop and found out that the first rap single ever released in Houston was called MacGregor Park, which is where the title track and name of this album come from.
The resulting eight track project is one of my favorite finds of the year (as well as one of Bandcamp’s top 20 hip hop albums of 2017). Every beat slams in the way you would hope a Houston, Texas rap album would but in a really developed way. I love the wind instruments on Ride Home, the pounding bass on Swervin’ (a stupendous first track).
Tony is a no stress listen as master of ceremonies go. Even when he goes deep he never makes you grab the tissue box for a ham handed tearjerker. He nimbly and honestly discusses fights, food, weed and heavier topics with an earnest pitch in his voice and his pen “..swervin’ alone again back in the day, had no idea of who I really am back in the day made decisions I regretted then lie to your face, blame it all on another man I’m sorry ok…(Swervin’) ” Later when he says “you love me and my flaws I don’t even know why” he’s not sticking the landing of a backpacker line meant to signify how thoughtful he is, rather keeping his music representative of how he feels. While Taydex ,for the first 2 tracks, keeps the beats head nod centric.
I can’t tell you how much I love the Whataburger dedication Drive Thru. Part of this is that I lived in Killeen, TX for a year and now I live in Maine where the fast food options are to be pitied. I kind of miss 4 AM at Whataburger but the dedication Tony has to the song brings it back. Very few rappers are doubling their vocals to shout “Baked Potato!” God bless him for that. We should all shout baked potato more.
The other production force doing great work here is GLDN_EYE who produces the title track, Drive Thru, and Last Night. I don’t know if weird beats come to Tony or if Tony beckons them but GLDN_EYE gets it. Last Night sounds like old Nintendo theme music made into a reggae beat. The beat to Drive Thru sounds like the score for the movie Scarface done by Houston rap legend (my G.O.A.T.) Scarface.
What makes MacGregor Park so relistenable? It is expertly dexterous. The beats are so drastically different not just from what is on the radio but from one another that as an 8 song package it never gets boring to listen to. Tony is hooky melodic and utilizes his voice for as much singing as we are all comfortable with. He has fun, gets serious, gets scary (the park gets scary see the title track) but you always root for him to win. You get the impression that when he does really win he’ll still be eating Whataburger in first class.
Stream or purchase MacGregor Park below:
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-Fathers Day by Propain produced by Donnie Houston
For those not emotionally in touch with the subject matter this song deals with it may seem emotionally extreme. The loss of your father from your life (not due to death but knucklehead events) builds a savage hostility within that child that rather than subsiding…grows and grows with age.
This song is off the impressive Ridin Slab mixtape Propain recently released. The drawback on Propain is easy to explain, he’s rarely on beat. If you’re a technical snob you can glom onto that but the passion and intelligence that runs through Ridin Slab keeps it engaging when the flow fails.
Fathers Day showcases great storytelling, I love the moment fifty seconds into the song when he’s talking to the waiter about food and stops dead. It’s the glimpse of his father entering the restaurant that freezes him, that’s solid authorship.
The beat is twinkly piano keys and ooing, something warm and cute that might be behind a Boyz II Men song, it’s in perfect opposition to the confessional yelling that commences over top.
Ridin Slab has great beats, fun jams, impressive bars, and a vibrant soul. At the center of its beating heart is the sound of that heart monitor machine going flat and the pain doubling over into itself. This song is NOT representative of how Ridin Slab sounds, its got super fun tracks with Texas stars like Kirko Bangz, Slim Thug, Z-Ro and Doughbeezy. Amidst all the fun is a song that taps you on the shoulder and reminds you that we all earn the fun times with horrible events that leave scars. Ridin Slab gives you the fun only after you’ve earned it.
by Dan O
More than a few reasonable people would like to edit The Mack out of blaxploitation history along with the pimp rap it spawned. If hip hop is a culture it’s undoubtedly a family as well full of cousins you brag about and uncles you NEVER speak too. Pimp rap is that uncle for a lot of people. For every attempt at serious perspective made by artists like Suga Free and Rappin’ 4-Tay you get another GLC or Too Short. The latter category aren’t good but don’t really know it. The joke is not with them but on them. The Mack continues through hip hop skits to be important for its quotables, but it’s silly. Pimps don’t easily become narrators you care about. They speak in bumper sticker slogans that rhyme the way Bazooka from GI JOE did…painfully. The good ones leave their impression despite the odds. Like Mookie Jones.
On Mookie Jones Mack tape the Houston rapper stacks up rewind-able lines in a high breathy whisper. You have to raise the volume just to hear him sometimes. The proper backdrop is provided through production; Mookie wouldn’t even be heard behind Timbalands spring sound effects and rain forest noises. Cardo and DJ Burn One handle all but one track (which is co-produced by Cardo). Cardo has mastered the horn heavy sleek West Coast emulation you find on “And 1.” Burn one is a minimalist genius who can turn a potentially repetitive song like “DANK” into pure hypnosis with the right one-two bass drop. The smooth richness that flows on every track greatly helps the re-listenablity.
Mack is a strange listening experience because Mookie while breathtakingly good is not consistent. He switches gears. “I Need A Freak” and “Elbow Out the Window” are both very fun songs featuring inspired guest verses(Big Sant on Elbow and Gerald Walker on Freak) but Mookie is cruising, waiting for the necessary space and sound to shift out of neutral.
The Mack rollercoaster begins on track 2. The intro begins with the same Max Julien drop hip hop fans will remember going back through the early 90’s, supplemented with some interesting images; most notably Mookie rapping about being so unmovable that he pushes Hakeem Olajuwon off the block. As a sports line it’s a good brag but “Hate 2 Love Me” begins with an immense chorus that changes your impression of the Mookie Jones mission “When you ain’t suppose to do it, do it better than expected. Look at me you can use my life put it in perspective. There’s a method tied into it how you use it is the message. Can’t you see it…I can be your light…guide and give direction.”
Like Player/Pimp MC’s before him Mookie has a knack for humor(“If I tell you a duck can pull a truck hook it up…and watch that m#%$er move”—Elbow Out the Window). He can work a Goku reference in interesting ways but he doesn’t rely on it. On “Hate 2 Love Me” “And 1” and “A Million Ways” we get to see talent that leaves comparisons futile. On “A Million Ways” he begins his first verse with “Come up out that water like Athos, black ghost, mack dope…” It’s applause worthy as Greek Mythology rap references go.
Believe me he has more than enough sexually depraved imagery (woman chasing his sexual prowess like they need penicillin) but on Mack he takes the time to twist up a doobie for Trayvon and vow to wear his hoodie forever. By the time we hit the Poetry Vision Outro and it’s notably inspirational lines “A goal without a plan is just a wish. A plan without a date is just a dream,” you really believe he believes it. Mookie isn’t weaving nice things into his mean pimping for our listening pleasure. All of it represents him as an artist. Trayvon, Athos, cold wind mixing with the rain, and women in thousands of different forms. He never convinces you that his way of thinking is right but that was never the point. Mack gives the pimp perspective without dumping it in the comedy genre. It stands as a drama with a muddled yet intelligent narrator who fires off words in bunches and weaves them into a story once they reach the air. Maybe the best compliment to Mookie Jones I can give is that this tape isn’t a guilty pleasure at all.
Mack is available for stream or download below: