Tag Archives: Southern Hip Hop

Track Breakdown: Time Machine Edition-A.D. 2000 by Erykah Badu

Track Breakdown: Time Machine Edition-A.D. 2000 by Erykah Badu

by Dan-O

The public perception of Badu has always been that she is nuts. She dates important musicians and messes up their heads. I have to be honest…her discography is full of songs that make perfect sense to me. She’s weird but I’m weird and the public isn’t great at keeping a safe space for us. Her second album ,Mama’s Gun, was released November 21, 2000. It must have seemed like an especially odd album because that is the same month Creed was charting unironically.  The music on the charts was easy to figure out: Aguilera fit a mold perfectly, Britney Spears and N’Sync were branded within an inch of their lives. An audience looking for simple icons must have thought Badu certifiable. Only one other album in 2000 can be considered a partner to Mama’s Gun and that’s D’Angelo’s Voodoo. Both albums use a genre usually considered comforting in order to throw complex conversations at the listener.

I was definitely 20 years old and in the United States Army. We spent a lot of time going places and hiding from work that didn’t need to be done. I remember being in the Mojave desert in August under a Hummer (for shade) listening to Voodoo and Mama’s Gun. While stationed at Fort Hood I got a crash course in the levels of Southern Hip Hop (before it took over the world). My best friend was from SouthEast Atlanta and preached Dungeon Family, Kilo Ali, and Badu.

The world was so different once I picked up the language. Erykah Badu has forever after been my Neo-Soul Fiona Apple. While most major artists are hungrily announcing or pursuing accomplishments A.D. 2000 questions the nature of success. Not every Badu song is fancy poetry. Orange Moon (as an example) is just a pretty song about love. She always worked with the best musicians, the guitar-work on A.D. 2000 is light and precious and forms a groove that doesn’t resemble the hi-hat driven sound of Bag Lady or the horns dancing on Booty. Every song adds the ingredients differently. The music has to sound free in order for Badu to actually love it.

A.D. 2000 is a chant. She is really good at chants. “No you won’t be naming no buildings after me…to go down dilapidated. No you won’t be naming no buildings after me. My name won’t be misstated.” She says it over and over with very good reason. We all should. Don’t ever ever be under the impression that having a building wear your name is a huge benefit to your name. Your name should be more important than any building. You should make it that way. Paint with all the colors because you don’t have lots of time and the world is changing. Don’t ever let your name be misstated misapplied or mishandled. Guard it like Badu or Tom Waits does.

Mama’s Gun is not known as her classic. If anything, people think of it as her almost classic. Baduizm (her debut album) is supposed to be THE ONE but it never hit me as hard. We used to put A.D. 2000 on and freestyle while her voice rang in the background and the stereo set to repeat. No matter where she fits in the history of the music she has been my umbrella when the world rains down. She knows what’s important and uses her fears to focus on those things.

I remain thankful to live the rest of my life within the lessons contained in this songs chorus.

 

Song Review-Special by Gucci Mane featuring Anuel AA produced by Murda Beatz and Cubeatz

Song Review-Special by Gucci Mane featuring Anuel AA produced by  Murda Beatz and Cubeatz

By Dan-O

The reasons you should think of Gucci Mane as a genius lyricist are pretty straight forward: 1. Individuality-built his style on his own not a product of anyone or any other movement (in this way I think of him as the E-40 of Atlanta). 2. Bold experimentation-he’s always folding different talents into his universe and letting them inform it (Lil Uzi Vert, Rocko, Young Scooter, etc). 3-Depth-whether it is how he strings the rhyming together, the uniqueness of the words used or the observations… if you really listen Gucci is KILLING his bars.

Gucci Mane dropped a new album called Delusions of Grandeur which at 18 tracks long gives you all the different forms of Gucci on a polished ready-for-primetime level. Production wise he incorporates Kenny Beats, Tay Keith and J.White Did It into the fold with Southside, Zaytoven, and a bunch of recognizable names. Tay Keith did Sicko Mode, J. White Bodak Yellow, and Kenny Beats took Key! And Rico Nasty to the next level on separate projects. Gucci has always been an amazing talent scout and that continues here. Even Justin Bieber is perfectly placed singing the hook on Love Thru The Computer.

In regard to depth, a line on the song Special really blew my mind. He says “Like Cinderella they think I was born with chedda.” I flinched, and was struck by it…wait Cinderella was scrubbing the floor…we know that as the audience…what is he talking about it? As I thought about it the fog lifted. We know Cinderella’s story as the reader but picture the happily ever after of her life. Any person she meets post-“It’s your slipper!”is not going to know what we know. So she will smile keep her chin up, act stately, and live up to what they think she is. The truth is not even something she has the time to explain, nor does she have the faith they would understand. This mirrors his journey. When Delusions of Grandeur broke people were tweeting things like “GUCCI IS THE GOAT!!” “GUCCI NEVER MADE A BAD ALBUM!” I will tell you that when those mixtapes broke people were calling him disgraceful and dumb BEFORE he got an ice cream come tattooed on his face. I was dismissive of him partly because the wrong white hip hop fans wanted him for their new Flavor Flav. Serious people taught me to get serious about him but I was already suspicious based on killer guest features.

That’s what Delusions of Grandeur is about. Being the best at what you do, the last one standing from a generation with no one left that really remembers how hard it was to get there. No one to stop and say “How cool is it that in 2019 Gucci threw Anuel AA on this track to do a Spanish verse.” It’s a song about being special, not just how cool it is but how bizarre it feels.

 

Song of The Year-Speedboat by Denzel Curry produced by Rugah Rahj

Song of The Year-Speedboat by Denzel Curry produced by Rugah Rahj

by Dan-O

Very few people do what Denzel Curry does. That is what struck me when I listened to his new album ZUU and heard him rapping with Rick Ross over a crunchy jagged industrial beat. If you are an old school hip hop head you should rep Curry. He can rap. On that Ross collab the Florida MC says “My pastor making dollars like he’s Eric Sermon,” which is a heady EPMD reference. He knows the culture, can rap with anyone, and what he gives is not just a finished product but one with dynamic individual characteristics.

Speedboat is the best. It is crazy fun to listen to and exhibits impressive melodic and lyrical work. The bridge that leads into the chorus is

Pre-Chorus]
Jesus, please deliver us from evil
Please pray over all my people
What you see in life’s illegal
I don’t wanna use my Desert Eagle

The pauses he makes between each word adds even more gravity to the paranoia and violence PTSD discussed. Now check out the 2pac-esque chorus to go with it.

[Chorus]
Big talk, speedboat (Speedboat)
Pray to God I don’t get repoed (Repoed)
Didn’t go to college for a free throw (Swish)
People gettin’ killed through the peephole (Blah)
Have your money up before you go to war (Hmm)
Put the mask on like a luchador (Hmm)
My dawg didn’t make it to 21, so I gotta make it past 24
Big talk, speedboat (Speedboat)
Pray to God I don’t get repoed (Repoed)
Didn’t go to college for a free throw (Swish)
People gettin’ killed through the peephole (Blah)
Have your money up before you go to war (Hmm)
Put the mask on like a luchador (Hmm)
My dawg didn’t make it to 21, so I gotta make it past 24

Think about how much is discussed in that chorus? We talk about college scholarships, robbery, mortality ages in bad neighborhoods. You can feel it all coming after you(hence the 2pac comp). ZUU belongs on the year end lists because Curry is Floridas shining hope for the future. Not that the state doesn’t have talent but Denzel Curry has star power. When he raps it is important every time. That is an important distinction.  Curry can shout, rap, or compose a hook with equal dexterity and he doesn’t owe anything to a co-sign. No movement has him hanging onto it. His work and his voice got him here.

Song of The Year-Threat 2 Society by 2 Chainz produced by 9th Wonder

Song of The Year-Threat 2 Society by 2 Chainz produced by 9th Wonder

by Dan-O

Shout out to 9th Wonder who knows the transcendent power of the right sample. Go ahead and find The Truthettes- So Good To Be Alive and bask in how pimpish that gospel song already is. Pumping it up, speeding it up and passing it to 2 Chainz was a brilliant idea.

R.I.P. to all the 2012 white people ironically bumping 2 Chainz on some Trinidad James ish. That is all dead. 2 Chainz has legitimately put his energy determination and creativity into carrying the torch Weezy lit. Pretty Girls Love Trap Music was one of my favorite projects and to follow it with an album as great as Rap or Go To The League is fantastic. You probably heard about this album because it is executive produced by Lebron James and it does talk basketball but that’s just the beginning. This is a very personal album where he talks dead friend’s tax rates dope boy past framed next to sunny futures.

As to-the-bones groovy as this beat is nothing beats the moment when 2 Chainz vengefully spits “I’m so famous can’t even COUGH in peace.” He pulls in lessons from his coaches on jump shots and so much more. With fatherly pride he muses on the possibilities of having another child. While discussing the fact that he doesn’t get the credit he deserves he is absolutely right. The weird thing, I think only three people do. The spotlight has a terrible attention span so if you’re not Drake Kendrick or Cardi you are probably under appreciated. It might take another five or ten years for people to really start thinking about the legacy 2 Chainz has left on the game.  Not just being different but being relentless. It’s that kind of willpower that pays dividends in the form of top notch music like Threat 2 Society.

So you don’t have to look it up here is The Truthettes

Mixtape Review-#TDT by Big K.R.I.T.

Mixtape Review-#TDT by Big K.R.I.T.

by Dan-O

I would love to talk to Drake. When he went on Lebron James HBO show The Shop he was asked about the legacy of a truly great artist namely how to assess the ups and downs. The point he made has stuck with me, for Drake, a great artist is not defined by the consistency of output but their ability to navigate the extremes of success and failure. That’s what makes a great story. The great stories are what we remember and they cannot be triumphant all the way through to be interesting. I respect the argument it is eloquent but I strongly disagree.

The new mixtape from Big K.R.I.T. called #TDT would be the key to my counterargument. As a consumer, I love stories but I HATE wasting money. When a top tier artist completely flips what they are good at and go out on a limb…it better work out because I’m paying for the dalliance. I am not a rapper but I pay rappers for their music. I go to shows, I buy shirts, physical albums and purchase MP3 albums. My top tier artist is one I can pre-order without the faintest trace of concern, knowing they will deliver on whatever the cost is.

K.R.I.T. has a discography I can just throw on from any point in his career. He’s consistent and developing at the same time. His best album is always his last one. Dude invented his own sound. Every write up will talk about his debt to UGK (he does have a song called Learned From Texas on #TDT) but he didn’t jack the Pimp C sonics. He took the thump and drizzled blues all over it, soaked it in gospel. The first song (Energy) feels like an anthem but doesn’t crank at eleven like you’d expect an anthem to. Super soulful background singing and humming don’t counter the bass but work in tandem to create a car speaker paradise. No matter which K.R.I.T. song you put on it will sound great because he knows what K.R.I.T. sounds like. That has never been good enough for him.

#TDT is a primer for songs that are going to sound great live. Pick Yourself Up, Energy, Learned From Texas all have overpowering hooks and high energy verses. I’ve seen K.R.I.T. live and he is exciting. He has also improved lyrically by drastic lengths since he broke to the world on Krit Wuz Here. Glorious is devastating flow, gritted teeth, determination music. It’s about being free of Def Jam and being asked how it feels to be indy now. I’m sure the twisted part is he’s felt independent the whole time. He broke on mixtapes he produced wrote and performed HIMSELF. Got signed to Def Jam and no one in the building knew how to sell a dude from Mississippi. He stayed current through his own grind and stepping his game up (Mt. Olympus). The only relatable comparison people had for him was David Banner and I’m sure he was asked if he was like David Banner….nope. Nobody is like David Banner (both are great producers though).

1 Oh Oh is a stupendous relationship song. K.R.I.T. knows how to dialogue with a female audience without shaming them or making it narcissistic. Don’t ask me why I think K.R.I.T. is a top three MC and others don’t. You know the answer. His drawl is too southern for a pop audience that still has a lot of dickish opinions about Southern folks. They want their Southern rappers a bit foolish: shirt off and goofing. K.R.I.T. isn’t breaking down society like Kendrick he’s not NPR analysis fodder but he’s not just turning up. He’s a professionals professional like Sonny Rollins out grinding, discovering new levels of his saxophone, after all these decades. Those dudes mean more to me than the drama of the comeback.

Stream or download #TDT below:

http://www.datpiff.com/Big-KRIT-TDT-mixtape.923730.html

 

 

Mixtape Review-Savage Holidays by Boosie Badazz

Mixtape Review-Savage Holidays by Boosie Badazz

by Dan-O

Savage Holidays is the greatest Christmas rap album of all time. The ability of Boosie to be able to take his superpower (turning painful stories/imagery into stadium sized anthems) and apply it to the holiday season is nothing short of exhilarating. It is not just his pain either. At the end of the title track he directly inhabits the perspective of his Chicago audience and wears their distress “he was finally F*&$in’ shinin’ man that N_ he was bossin’ last year he was rappin’ this year he in a coffin.” The whole project is dedicated to the frustration and terror of being alive in 2019. It is as if Boosie spends his career dissatisfied that the rap world pretends everything is going so well when they know the truth is harrowing.

Death stomps through Savage Holidays leaving deep footprints. Santa Claus of The Ghetto builds up the dope boy as someone who gives back to the community, shines so the poor kids can dream to be as wealthy but the chorus begs for him to stay free as long as possible. Prison or death can take the dope boy away in the wrong swirl of a moment and Boosie makes sure his chorus is pleading, the song feels like it is from a ghetto kids perspective not his. It’s high level writing.

On Christmas List YFN Lucci talks about robbing for PJ Masks, Rich Homie Quan talks about getting drugs in his stocking but the first line Boosie says in his verse is “I just want to be with my family for Christmas.” He spits it as hard as any threat he’s ever hurled; levels it at the loneliness he explores without applying branding tactics to humblebrag package it.

Boosie is not all soul bearing, his sexual appetite is pervasive throughout his work and he certainly pushes forward with that on Savage Holidays.  Pussy Got Me Like is dick-on-ya-buttcheeks straightforward and leads into Cold Outside which is significantly less creepy than Baby It’s Cold Outside. He’s clear within the song that he wants to smoke up, laugh, hang out and have lots of sex which seems like a more balanced relationship than the original version. While some will say ending the song with a call for his female audience to twerk is less distinguished than the original I think it is distinctly more honest.

If you are concerned about offensive things than yes, temper your expectations. Boosie is as full of offensive thoughts as he is meaningful introspection and empathy. This project has a song called The Bitch Who Stole Christmas about the time honored seduction as robbery one-two punch. He is livid and shouts the details as if it happened minutes ago and the beat is haunting. My favorite song is This Christmas where his anger tires and over a scratchy guitar he mumbles about letting his people down, going to prison. He uses his voice as an instrument extending words and singing in a way that tortures the melody. The chorus is “This Christmas won’t be like the others. Bells will still be ringin’ children still be singin’ but things won’t be the same at all. I done let my people down, prison walls they closin’ in. Try my best to shed no tears but they fall when holidays are here. This Christmas…” Can you imagine how many people are spending Christmas with these feelings (especially in a country that adores locking people up)? With this pain? Now imagine having Boosie give you and your family this soundtrack. What kind of fan loyalty would you have at that point? That is how Boosie can remain so foundationally strong while never popping up in the trivial hip hop trends. He works from a base that needs him more than they need anyone else.

Stream or download Savage Holidays below:

https://www.livemixtapes.com/mixtapes/48920/boosie-badazz-savage-holidays.html

#Bandcampgold-Malik Ruff by Quadry

#Bandcampgold-Malik Ruff by Quadry

by Dan-O

Malik Ruff is an album I really like. I don’t have it numerically placed on my list of year end albums yet (it just came out November 2nd) but I really like it. The project washes over you. It balances a distinct ambiance that soaks your sonic pace and tempo with a real balanced perspective. Quadry gives us the joy of New Orleans bounce (he’s from Baton Rouge) on Louis and Pirelli. Both songs gives us permission to rock back and throw our head bop into high gear. Louis relies on the fun of yelling out “2!” which is very fun but Pirelli provides a distorted vocal bridge and lyrics upon lyrics. The song is a real talent showcase. Hot Headed is even better lyrically tackling political mayhem and how it causes our depression. The ambiance I referenced is like a mixture of Organized Noize and Tribe Called Quest. A lot of these songs don’t trample forward but thump at a beautiful pace.  1:04 PM is a great example, produced by Steve Lacy of The Internet, it is a tight song rich with guitar and a great chorus. His smoking and drinking and having fun takes place alongside his rumination about life and depression.

Malik Ruff does me the great service of never demanding I skip a song. Everything is perfectly placed and while I don’t recognize any of the guests featured (BoyBoy, Tev’n ,Anjelihs, Ida’ye, Black Party, Teo Halm) none of them bring weed carrier energy to the project. Everyone is here for a reason. It has snarling attack-the-night music (24/7) and very personal thoughtful material (Wesley ‘For My Son’). I bought this album halfway through the first listen. I just need it with me on days when I don’t feel hype or savage or maudlin or reflective but twenty five percent of each.  Dudes like this don’t break enormous. They become Big K.R.I.T., a respected cult leader of music that just sounds different, a hushed name thrown out in response to “Who could possibly be as good as (insert pop rap superstar)!? ”

Stream or purchase Malik Ruff below:

https://quadry.bandcamp.com/album/malik-ruff