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
D.C.C.-F_ck A Cosign mixtape review
The depth and scope of the D.C.C. can be intimidating. Let me start with what it means, it stands for the Dallas City Council. While not the best mixtape of this year F_ck A Cosign is a post DJ Screw Texas street attack needed in this trap v. ratchet market, with loaded tracks that can include any assortment of Tum Tum, Zilla, Quint Foxx, Lil Man, Lil Ronnie, Womack, Charlie Boy, or the ramblings of DJ Tuss. It’s hard to distinguish who is rapping at times and whose track this is that you are forced to just give into it and enjoy the songs. F_ck A Cosign is one of those great compilation projects that never feels like one. The cover (a re-envisioning of the N.W.A. greatest hits cover) calls the D.C.C. “Dallas Most Dangerous Super Group” but unlike other super groups the D.C.C. melds everything together so that frantic tracks like Play Crazy don’t feel like a collection of bars but fully formed musical experiances.
Being a fan of Texas hip hop the songs that engaged me the most initially were songs like Swisher Sweet Music and Daytonz N Swangaz; the straight head nod music that puts you in the Cadillac riding no matter where you are when you listen. It’s a credit to the group’s chemistry and production choices that the tape builds to be significantly more than that.
Zillaman and Double Double executive produced the project making sure that one song flows seamlessly to the next. Double Double also produced Play Crazy. Keise On Tha Beat drops a spooky Ghetto D era beat behind Day & Night (Lil Man, Tum Tum & Quint Foxx get so into it they do a Master P Unnnggghh on the chorus). The biggest name on the production side is Cardo who gives us the most pimpish beat (the track named Movie) on the tape next to 357’s Dallas Maverick Floor Seats.
The themes of F_ck A Cosign are easy to explain. Texas rap is different from all other form of rap (even Southern Rap) because it rejects everything but its own sound. It’s a candy paint world that isn’t impressed with your new trends or chart numbers. Images develop on F_ck A Cosign you won’t get anywhere else, on the first verse of All About A Dollar Quint Foxx tells us he has so much money he needs more thumbs to count it. The song showcases the same sinister feeling Day & Night had with a well appropriated Wiz Khalifa sample.
I needed D.C.C. F_ck A Cosign. I’ve written before about how there are two areas of regional rap that never change their identity: the bay and Texas. This has been the year that rap recognized the bay’s sound and ripped it off, sending it everywhere and making ratchet the most over used word in recent memory. I needed tapes like F_ck A Cosign and Killa Kyleon’s Lean on Me to prove that Texas rap remains unchanged. The samples, the interludes and the verses all support the Texas rap commandments: don’t lie to your people, don’t sell your people out, don’t ever doubt or pause your pursuit of success, and when you succeed take everyone who should be with you…with you. These are not just fun ideas to listen too, they make sense. It’s good to see a group like this come together to wave that flag again.
stream or download D.C.C.-F_ck A Cosign below:
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Tagged Cardo, Charlie Boy, D.C.C., Dallas City Council, DJ Tuss, Double Double, F A Cosign, Killa Kyleon, Lil Man, Lil Ronnie, Quint Foxx, Texas Rap, Tum Tum, Womack\, Zilla, Zillaman
Killa Kyleon-Lean on Me: The Adventures of Joe Clark
As active as my imagination is its still hard for me to envision a situation where Killa Kyleon would apologize for a lyric. His music exists within such strict street code that every recommended course of action feels lived within. That’s part of what makes the liberal use of the 1989 Morgan Freeman movie Lean on Me make so much sense.
Throughout that film Freeman brings a no-nonsense disciplined approach to learning and succeeding into a dank hopeless juvenile wasteland. This is how Killa see’s the rap landscape and his approach is noticeable different. While Lil Wayne might make fun of vagina’s and Emmit Till at the same time, Killa makes his civil rights references in the strictest most positive way for all compared “Mama birthed a King like Coretta did, daddy raised a King like Coretta’s kids. So I’m a King like Corretta is just minus the crown but I’m a G like that letter is (Lean on Me).”
I remember a Killer Mike interview where he said Bun B is the Rakim of the South and Pimp C was Kool G Rap. If you follow this comparison down the line you could make Kyleon into the Texas Styles P, relentlessly hardcore but never overstepping into shocking the listener with things he doesn’t believe.
While the movie comparison point works well for him the sprawling purple drug abuse that gets shouted out over the soulful redistricting of Bill Withers Lean on Me is off putting. Shouting out pioneers and heroes like Pimp and DJ Screw who were killed by lean and then shouting out lean itself feels powerfully unpleasant to people like me who lived through those deaths and the huge holes left by them.
Luckily the music is awesome. Its only nine tracks with absolutely nothing you can live without. Trakksounds and June James do an excellent job pushing a burly sound through your speakers that rightly suits Kyleon’s announcement flow. Lean on Me does a great job of operating between soulful smashing songs like the title track (or Batman!) and cool riding music like Cadillac. Mouse on Tha Track(who is often a rap collaborator w/ Killa) provides a smooth burbling soundscape for Killa to preach candy paint, chrome, and rims over. The Kyleon strict dedication can be seen in the track list with song titles like My N#$%@’s, My City, and No Vacation it’s easy to see Killa putting on for his city, his family and himself with a blacksmith’s dedication at pounding beats into finished product.
The problem with that last image is that this tape is so darn fun. Batman is such a fantastic song with Wonder Woman, Thor, Hulk and Human Torch references (“Wolverine, cutting up I think I’m Logan”). Batman rules in large part due to Mr. Lee who produced it with car stereo destruction in mind. The beat sounds like Godzilla running. What Lean on Me isn’t makes it so much better. It isn’t long enough to have clunker freestyles or throw away tracks, it’s a condensed testament to how commanding Killa Kyleon is over his music and how criminally overlooked he is. The only time in hip hop we complain about someone being underexposed is when we are consistently impressed by that artist. That description fits the afterglow of Lean on Me like a glove.
Stream or Download Lean on Me below:
Starlito-Funerals & Court Dates Mixtape review
It’s become pretty commonplace to hear a rapper call out that they make movies. Projecting that big screen cinematic larger-than-life story can draw in a lot of fans. Starlito’s new mixtape Funerals and Court Dates feels more like a play, spotlight on him as the sad clown Pagliacci oscillating between horrifying threats “that mac 11 get hot after 5 shots so I put a coolant on the nozzle…why stop? You can tell im on the syrup when ihop (Fi’e that dope up),” Tasteless jokes “she give me brain now I know what’s on her mind(golden girls and grahams),” and wrenching personal admissions “so unfortunate probably never know what a fortune is…but the materialistic world we in…probably never know how poor we is.”Money Cacti.
Anyone who listened to the Step Brothers mixtape Lito did with Don Trip knows that he can punch-line drop on a very high level. Funerals and Court Dates represents perfecting the mixture of different elements of lyricism. On the title track he exercises the kind of storytelling that feels more genuine than flashy “best friend in a nightgown….hospital visits im trippin they got me biting down. Every night fighting im livin just like im dyin now. My voice of reason just quiet down.” By the end his main character is in outright confession mode “son if your hearing this it means i aint make it. Loved your mama to death and drove your grandmother crazy. Take nothing for granted I was greedy and lazy..used the bullsh#t excuse of im feedin my baby.” Robin Raynell works well with Starlito bringing in a somber, outside voice(not sure you’d call it a chorus). Cy Fyre produced that song and two others, one being the super fun hand clap based beat that brings Lito together with one of Houston’s biggest commodities, Killa Kyleon.
My favorite guest performance is probably B-Rad who stretches and drones a semi-mumble behind Lito on Strange Fruit Roll Ups. The song includes a moment where Lito stops amidst threats to weak rappers and says “damn…right now it just occurred to me that…love is nothing but a word to me.” When someone explores these elements it gives way to biblical level contradiction. As poignant as that moment is, earlier you can find moments where he bites viciously into nameless mc’s like hitting a hip hop industry sized speedbag. He’s all over the place. He threatens to never stop firing his mac 11 but later on the song Lost states with tears in his voice “I’m pretty sure gunfire killed more dreams than excuses.”
It’s a play about violence and the cycle it creates. When he raps over Chief Keef’s Love Sosa beat he knows that you recognize it and mutates the beginning “These bitches don’t love nobody and the hoes is for everybody. Bought a pistol for $40 it probably came with a dead body.” Of course this title is changed to Love Hate Lito. The most shocking part was on the song Lost when he admitted “shit come from the soul, get on these songs be ready to tear up wit you.” It was the acknowledgement of the audience, the author and stars understanding of the experience created. Somehow he’s able to take a very short 11 songs and make them into one of 2012s most important lyrical statements, somehow he takes Kendrick Lamar’s Money Trees and makes it more depressing…naming it Money Cacti. In pursuit of money and getting cut up along the way, feeling useless and powerful at the same time Lito talks about trying to change while staying the same. As long as Starlito is here to smile and cry for the street life don’t ever let anyone tell you that rap music glamorizes violence, some of it does, but Funerals and Court Dates sure doesn’t.
stream or download Funerals & Court Dates below
Starlito, Funerals and Court Dates