Song of The Year-College Girls by P-Lo featuring Skizzy Mars
People who love fun hip pop music were a little let down by Lil Yachty’s debut album Teenage Emotions which turned out to be oppressively long and confusingly muddled with several elements that don’t serve Yachty well. If you are looking for the album to fill what Yachty was supposed to achieve P-Lo has done it with his new album More Than Anything.
It’s not fair to compare Yachty to P-Lo because the latter is a veteran who has worked closely with IAMSU for years and helped build the ratchet sound. P-Lo produces his own music as well as handing out bangers to other people. He knows exactly what works about his sound and builds on it without straying from it.
College Girls is the best example of P-Lo cracking the code on an earwig hit. The autotune isn’t overwhelming; the content is playfully sexual but not insulting. The baseline is amazing. Neither Yachty nor P-Lo are the world’s best MC but both have the ability to give the listener what they want, I vote for More Than Anything not just because it is six songs shorter but it is a tight shot group of the fun P-Lo knows I want to have. All the guests are in the right places. He’s been around too long to worry about proving anything. For P-Lo every song needs to win and as a listener I appreciate that.
FME 2016 MVP HONORABLE MENTION-YG
We used to crown “mixtape MVP” but the distinction between mixtape and album is unimportant at this point. Everyone has streaming services and no one pays per album, it is a heartless profit starved reality but it is our reality.
YG was almost my pick for 2016 MVP because he distinguished himself as an artist from everyone else on the planet this year and he did it with his music, his words, and his beliefs. In 2014 when YG released My Krazy Life to an avalanche of critical praise a lot of that went to DJ Mustard.
Mustard was having a huge year and he had hits but it was being presented as if he was the white hot sun of the ratchet movement…which is ridiculous. YG’s follow up album to My Krazy Life called Still Brazy is so important. It features two songs produced by P-Lo of the HBK Gang (IAMSU’s crew) and they were doing the exact same sound at the same time Mustard was. Rick Rock, Droop-E, League of Starz and anyone connected to E-40 predates them. People following the West knew this. Mustard was a part of it but not an originator and not the best at it. People reading the headlines and not the articles thought Mustard owned the West and was propping up YG.
YG charged into 2016 throwing B’s at the listener and smashing each song with his impactful delivery. Terrace Martin brought the burbling West Coast thump and the Roger Troutman talk box to Twist My Fingaz, Swish used all his colors to render the deepest most beautiful landscapes behind Still Brazy’s best tracks (Gimmie Got Shot, Don’t Come to LA, Who Shot Me, FDT). The guests are impressive from Lil Wayne and Drake to Kamaiyah, Slim 400 & Sad Boy. YG became a central part of this year’s narrative by releasing the smash mouth election anthem FDT (featuring Nipsey Hussle) and in a real way he had all the West Coast artists shouting “F_ Donald Trump!” Many were making references to Trump as not a reputable character (see Smoke Dza-Don’t Pass The Blunt to Trump) but YG is way more straightforward than your “lyrical” rappers and way more lyrical than your fun “party” rappers.
Before the end of the year he dropped an eight song project called Red Friday. It featured fun anthems full of braggadocio like I’m A Thug but also serious venting on police brutality (One Time Comin’). When I heard him on Left, Right in 2014 I thought to myself “this is a real move the crowd rapper” someone with a voice and tempo that needs all your attention. Still Brazy and Red Friday add more to our shared definition of YG. On songs where he feels personally affronted by someone it is shocking and powerful because he has deep wells of anger that are fascinating. The songs that are about his beliefs resonate because he can’t help but make his views of right vs. wrong vigorously present. His gang lyrics aren’t sensationalist but grounded, straightforward and powerful. Everything he speaks is vivid. He doesn’t approach these songs like Ali did Frazier, more like how Tyson approached Spinks.
He was one of the first names I thought of because he destroyed the box he was put in and that is what everyone is trying to do. It is not what he did wrong that cost him the award it is the unthinkable performance of the winner.
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Tagged DJ Mustard, Drake, Droop-E, E-40, FME MVP 2016, Honorable Mention, Kamaiyah, League of Starz, My Krazy Life, Nipsey Hussle, P-Lo, Ratchet, Red Friday, Rick Rock, Sad Boy, Slim 400, Still Brazy, Swish, Terrace Martin, YG
Mixtape Review-The Rest Comes Later by Snow Tha Product
2015 is full of projects I could review and many of them are more coherent and cohesive than The Rest Comes Later. The reason I can’t stop writing about Snow Tha Product is the depth of talent on display when she raps. Snow can flow fast but not the way you’re thinking. She’s not Twista, rapping at a spellbinding speed naturally. Listening to Snow destroy a song like she does on Bet That I Will is less like listening to Bone Thugs and more like watching Jason Stratham in Crank. She frantically wrestles with her place in the game next to model rappers Iggy and Nicki all the while rapping faster and faster with more anger and instability in her temperament. At the two minute mark of the two minutes and fifteen seconds she shouts “I don’t give a Motherf#$% if I ever go platinum!” On some of these songs you feel the sweat on her brow from the physical exertion and the psychological strain of floating in raps middle ground; not unimportant but not big enough yet. This is not something that I have pulled out from between the lines, check out two direct examples from Got Me This Far “Everyday I hear sh#$ about how I gotta change how I gotta adapt to the game, I know I’m stubborn, stuck in my ways, I call shots and that is not gonna change,” “Every man in my career said my attitude is bad cause I’m skeptical I question everything anything you f#$%*& ask. Why would anyone get mad? If I was man I’d be a boss…” What she’s experiencing is gender baggage at critical mass. When women are naturally prickly (and Snow is, I follow her on Twitter and Facebook) it gets called something different and awful. A female Kobe Bryant scares the poo out of society and that’s kind of her point. She’s the last one out of the gym and firing off song after song turned the F up. Lots of rappers turn up for their lead single and slide into Roger Troutman inspired slick laid back pimp strut for the rest but Snow keeps gunning. No Hoe goes hard and savage as does Whose It Is. It’s like that from song one (AyAyAy) where she talks about being mad at her mom (for chewing her out for being too hung over to go to church) and launches into a blistering Spanish language verse that is supposed to be her mom’s angry tirade to her.
The production is definitely Ratchet but only because that’s the best production for this kind of pace. Happy Perez, DJ Pumba, AK, and Luke White do fine work behind the boards but my favorite beat is Suavemente by Jomeezius The Genius. It manages the same 100 yard dash momentum while really digging in on that lush salsa sound we don’t hear incorporated enough into hip hop.
Part of the reason I love Snow’s music is that it comes in three dimensions. She is a shockingly attractive woman who gets very venomous when sex is discussed. She resents the rampant sexualization needed to break as a femcee, and just wants to rap. When she does and mentions things like barfing into a bucket before mom makes her go to church you either think “been there man” or “what a weird thing to talk about.” She’s not carefully crafting a persona, has little interest in sequencing the music to lead you into an emotional conclusion. The Rest Comes Later is anti-conceptual. It shouts screams, babbles and then stops and your left with eyes wide open pressing play again.
Stream or Download The Rest Comes Later below:
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Tagged 2015 mixtapes, AK, Crank, DJ Pumba, Happy Perez, Jason Stratham, Jomeezius the Genius, Luke White, Ratchet, Snow Da Product, The Rest Comes Later
Mixtape Review-Roachy Balboa 4 by Roach Gigz
The mental picture created when listening to Roach Gigz is that of a race car driver or X Games participant. He seems to have a flow faster than his mind if that makes sense. He doesn’t just surprise listeners with odd entertaining imagery at times he seems to surprise himself. His new mixtape Roachy Balboa 4 is full of smiling shake your head moments like stunting so hard you get a crook in your neck (Too Easy) putting in more work than your right hand (Like This) and the line “thank you Mom you did not abort me now I can get drunk and have orgies (Misfit).” This kind of careless freewheeling imaginative sex and party talk is what sucked America into early Lil Wayne and we are talking about skill level in that ballpark.
Unlike vintage era Wayne this isn’t someone who switches gears into different tempos. Gigz runs the track like the 7 seconds or less Phoenix Suns always pushing the ball. Not only does he never stumble but he can’t help but find the craziest things to say “kill that p#$% now we talk through a Ouija, psychedelic Gigz might walk through your TV (Zombie).” If you feel as if you’ve exhausted your love of ratchet let me pitch you. I don’t think you have. The problem is not the proliferation of a trend it’s the decay of its quality. Great ratchet is still inescapably dope and three elements hold it there: great flow, fun rewindable raps, and a beat that feels like the collective hum of a crowd losing their mind. All are present on Roachy Balboa 4.
While Jay Ant could bottle and sell his cool demeanor resulting in a large profit Roach is the opposite (their collaboration on this project I Just Want works despite any logical assumption to the contrary). He seems to be running with the bulls all throughout Roachy Balboa 4 trying to move faster and more uninhibitedly through whatever it is he wants to discuss whether its meeting women on Telegraph Ave or snakes. In my running of the bulls metaphor C-Loz is the bulls. He produces seven out of thirteen tracks including the first three which really set the pace of the race. C-Loz determination to maintain the stampede velocity is as pronounced as Gigz. Any sample used, every clatter or jangle or hand clap you can hear is moving in the same direction; forward and fast.
If you were to tell me that what Gigz does is stupid I’d call you half right. Have you ever had a friend that you thought was stupid but the more time you spent with him the more you found genius in what from far away seemed daft? That’s how it is for me. The first time I heard “rather be loved than feared rather make love from the rear (Talking My Sh#t),” my face looked like a confused dog but at this point if you think its stupid its my kind of stupid. The kind that glimmers like a sharpened blade and slices through ratchet beats. When you mention the top ratchet names or top Cali rappers Gigz should be amongst them. None of the others would even think about saying the stuff he does. That counts for something.
Download and bump Roachy Balboa 4 below:
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Tagged bay area hip hop, C-Loz, crazy sex talk, friends of E-40, Jay Ant, Lil Wayne, mixtape review, Phoenix Suns, Ratchet, Review-Roachy Balboa, Roach Gigz, Roachy Balboa, Roachy Balboa 4, Thizzler, west coast hip hop
Song Review-Bompton by YG produced by DJ Mustard
This sounds worse than it is but a lot of music people simply thought of YG as an appendage of DJ Mustard. He can organize the Mustard sound with his energy and flow but without it he’s ok at best. This all changed with his album My Krazy Life which dropped not too long ago and is filled with personal revelations that fit alongside its bangers (and great guest stars ranging from Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, even Drake does well). It has one of the very best Mother dedications in years (Sorry Momma) but it also gives the Mustard heads what they wanted which is ratchet @$$ ish like this. While Mustard is not the only purveyor of this sound he’s out in front of the movement (until people learn how dope Rick Rock is). While others like The League of Starz seem to experiment with levels of their sound Mustard seems to be refining its gorgeous singularity. Not worried if you are sick of Ratchet cause his beats will be so perfectly ratchet that you will still love them.
Why does YG call it Bompton? Blood way to say Compton, don’t worry about it. Feel free to bounce with the intensity of this tracks wobble and bathe in the fear and desperation of the Compton attitude again. This is the kind of anthemic track you can picture crowds yelling along with. Two of this year’s best rap albums are Compton introspections and the year is young. America never stopped loving the horror and intensity of Compton hip hop. What we sometimes don’t realize is that the world never did either.
Song Review-N The Traffic by Droop-E, J Stalin, and Nite Jewel
The first four times you listen to this song off of Droop-E’s Itunes EP Hungry and Humble you may only be able to focus on the beat. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. He’s one of the best producers in hip hop today partially responsible for breathing new life into his father E-40’s music when everyone looks for a new direction from the trailblazer. His signature production sound is not merely ratchet. While you can hear the beat smack and bubble and know this is the bay; Droop-E has a masterful knowledge of voices and where they should be. He already released a project where he took Sade samples and weaved them into bangers. This time he takes Nite Jewel (a wonderful Sade-like singer on the label Secretly Canadian) and lets her liquid cool smooth out what he bubbles up. So it pops your trunk while lightly seducing you if that makes sense. Don’t let J. Stalin’s sucking and F_ing crazy talk bother you that’s kind of his thing and he’s great at it. Dude has been releasing largely sexual content (that jams) for years. He drops them for digital purchase not mixtapes which is why I don’t ever spotlight them (they sometimes lose steam part way through).
Droop-E has also gotten much better as a rapper, fully holding songs down by himself at times on Hungry and Humble where he used to need the assistance of posse cut bars. I’m glad he’s putting out material and I’m glad Kendrick gave him a feature on the great Rossi Wine. If you have spotify hit Hungry and Humble up and you’ll find more hypnotizing headnodding production with fun knucklehead lyrics.
Mixtape Review-HBK Gang-Gang Forever
I can think of a lot of things the HBK Gang compilation isn’t. It’s not a taut concept record, something that feels like an album given for free. At the same time it’s certainly not a lazy collection of freestyles. The only thing I can think to compare it too is an outrageous musical house party with yelling and red cups and hook ups all over the place. Just like a packed house party it’s hard to keep track of who is in the room. At any given time you could be hearing CJ, P-Lo, Kool John, IAMSU!, Skipper, Sage The Gemini, Rossi, Jay Ant, Kehlani, Dave Steezy, Mike Dash-E and guess what…they are all rapping about the same thing. Almost every verse contained within Gang Forever relates to hooking up and who you plan to hook up with.
Most label compilations are trying to showcase the diversity and talent of the roster. This is not the case with rapping on Gang Forever. Since everyone is talking about the same thing and only one (IAMSU) has a transcendent flow the rest become a somewhat indistinguishable posse. Gang Forever showcases a brilliant diversity of production however. P-Lo does a remarkable job taking the legendary Message beat from Grandmaster Flash and filling it with hand claps and moving it into the ratchet genre on Can’t Hold Me Down. Jay Ant kicks off the speaker destruction with the beat for Go Crazy and SU jumps all over the beat. Not only does SU do the best rapping on Gang Forever but he contributes multiple slapping backdrops. She Ready is an example of his excellent production, it burbles and kicks into another wonderful IAMSU hook. Don’t let anyone tell you that ratchet production begins and ends with DJ Mustard. As talented as he is Rick Rock, Jay Ant, IAMSU, League of Starz, and a gang of others are just as good.
Every single song on the seventeen track mixtape feels like the smash lead single. It’s just as impressive as it is tiring. If you want to call it one note you are accurate but it’s proudly and admirably so. If HBK songs all sound the same they at least sound like one fantastically fun song.
I was certainly worried about playing this collection in the car with my wife. Any collection of music that includes the line “I’m up in your girl like mixed emotions” might not appeal to female listeners. My strategy was to skip right to the song Anita Baker and start from there. While it is true that Anita Baker does include the line “I’m a slide in it no I can’t swim but I dive in it. She got them thick thighs I’m dividing them.” The beat from HBK Joe is so gently soulful and the chorus is integrated with the sample so seamlessly that the experience of listening to it is like passing a painting at an art gallery and feeling your feet freeze you in front of it. Some things are just spellbinding. My wife felt similarly.
Having listened to SOOO much HBK music over the past two years I feel confident giving an “After IAMSU who is the next to blow?” power rankings
1.CJ-very good rapper and beat picker
2.P-Lo-great producer getting better as a rapper
3.Skipper-flow is very slow, slow sex jokes are creepy
I’m not including Kool John. Kool John is a whole other organism. A write up for a different time.
Stream or Download Gang Forever below: