#Bandcampgold-Fuel City by The Outfit, TX
Pressing play on Fuel City by Dallas rap group The Outfit, TX is like discovering Three 6 Mafia for the first time. That is not to say they are doing Three 6, this just has the permissive energy of the best crunk you can think of. I love the beginning of Goin’ Up where the opening verse surges into yelling that takes on a three part shout harmony for the chorus. The Outfit, TX are masters in the art of high and low, whenever they start calm they lull you into a false sense of security they explode out from. They have brilliant songs where they turn all the way up (the first three songs: Big Splash, Phone Line, and Goin’ Up) but they are contrasted by whispery low key effortless swagger (Insumnia) and gorgeous middle ground sounds where the song does a hard bop while they maintain a heightened agitated cool (Dez Bryant, Look Crazy). The last similar group this good at flicking the tempo switch up and down to this extreme was Ying Yang Twins and it’s a favorable comparison. Ying Yang twins were one of those authentically dexterous groups, confident in who they were and so unified in talent you never sat back and thought either of them killed one the other on a track, their verses hung together and formed a real themed work(even when the themes were very closely aligned).
Fuel City is one hundred percent smash hits which is why it is only ten songs. They know better than to wear you out. As ferocious, jarring & scary as Told That Bih is on first listen the song before that is a melodic sex brag mutter so minimal (Outta Control) by contrast you can see the authorship in the ordering of songs. It took years and years of work to get things running this tight. Living in Maine I didn’t know of them until Killer Mike demanded people check them out in an interview. Ever since then I’ve been watching them sharpen their swords in hopes of getting to this level. When you hear the warning that ends the final track (Really Off) lambast the listener for sleeping on them (“I’m a give myself and my N’s our flowers on our own s__t and let you listen to it B#$%* @$$ N_ I ain’t waiting on you N’s applause no mo'” It sounds mad extra but he’s right. In the case of a group with the powerful melodic energy of The Outfix, TX ignoring them has grown them to unimaginable levels. As I listen to Look Crazy for the thousandth time I can’t help but think about the first time I heard their name and thought “that name is dumb” they’ve been making me pay ever since by making songs so inescapably catchy and lyrically throttling I can’t get away from them. In the outro the warning accuses us of making monsters and in a rap world full of junkies and exuberant social media warriors maybe a few monsters are what we need.
Stream or download Fuel City below:
Throwback Thursday-Lost Ya’ll Mind by Kilo Ali
Netflix has a great documentary on Dungeon Family production team Organized Noize(The Art of Organized Noize) and its full of great old school southern rap name drops. I’ve been fascinated because because it feels like southern rap history is left to be the least explored outside of the south. Lots of us know every inch of 80’s east coast rap or 90’s west coast rap but if you hit the right Witchdoctor album you’ll be flabbergasted. One of the names dropped in a serious way, referenced as the heart of the sound, was Kilo Ali. I knew that I knew that name.
I checked out Kilo Ali’s 1997 Organized Bass album and had the strangest flashbacks. I’ve never owned this but I’ve heard every song on it nine or ten times. I was in the Army stationed in Fort Hood Texas at a time when DJ Screw was dominant. Al was in charge of showing me the ropes of southern rap when I had no footing in it. He was from East Point Atlanta, always got the important music six months before anyone else. He swore by Organized Bass; played it constantly while I crossed my arms and told him it sucked.
Organized Bass does Miami bass and mixes it with gospel, playful sex, discussions of racism, and religion. Lost Ya’ll Mind is the perfect example. I know the reason I missed it then. The blend was not just too unique but far too effortless. Back then my favorite emcees were people I watched strain for greatness. Kilo Ali is always saying something but he never loses his love of the melody, his grasp of the beat. People will dance to this! Every style of rap has a weird slept on classic that defines the very characteristics of its existence and the same way D.O.C.’s album No One Can Do It Better is west coast lyricism in a nutshell Organized Bass is the south. When he says “Money and clothes, and beamers and vogues, I’d rather go to heaven than any of those” I can still hear Al singing along. Getting the last laugh.
Mixtape Review-Culture Junky by Translee
If I called Translee a weirdo I’m not sure that would be a good enough summation. You might think of Kool Keith-Black Elvis in Space or Cam’ron dressed up like the Pink Panther. Instead, it would be better to say Translee doesn’t believe in the conventional hip hop song. He packs hilarity, serious political and racial discussion, and sometimes word games into tracks and before his new Culture Junky mixtape it wasn’t typically done in an organized fashion.
The way people felt about Chance The Rapper’s Acid Rap last year is how I feel about Culture Junky. The same kind of super-lyrical word flipping is displayed here and in a dizzying fashion. Even the second track (The City) which is supposed to be a slowed down syrupy DJ Screw tribute is acrobatic to the point where you might break into applause “Conversate anonymous and contemplate hypothesis, a weed smoke sarcophagus, an Alabama narcissist shaking like its parkinsons…” if the tape was all word games it would go from amazing to annoying pretty quickly.
Out of sixteen total tracks Todd Marshall produces nine of them and proves to be a capable ringmaster for the circus unfolding over his sonic landscape. He provides the thick, full flavored, straightforward 1-2 that propels Translee into weirder and weirder subject matter. On Climax the story of picking up a young lady at the Waffle House and becoming sexual partners provides details that the sex itself lasts only ten minutes (I literally fist pumped at hearing this). I’m willing to bet Trans never even thought about adjusting it into an “all night long” situation. He doesn’t see his lyrics as an opportunity to build a fictional world to make himself a superhero in. Instead of creating the gangsta rapper version of Schwartzenegger in Commando he’s having fun rhyming basketball player Kerry Kittles with the candy Skittles.
Culture Junky is not juvenile but it does have a visible streak of immaturity that makes its seriousness easier to take. The seriousness of songs like Victim and Mind Prison are for some and not for others (although if you think Trans push to not vote for cowards is controversial your voting record sucks) but that’s not the big stumbling block here. Translee is not on the beat. As in control of each song as he is his flow isn’t even on this planet. You either learn to love it or never get past it and that’s your prerogative.
As someone who used to live on lyric websites and enjoy peeling back line after line from new releases Culture Junky is a hazy dream. It’s loaded with jokes, nonsense, real talk, love and one of the year’s best collaborations (Cold featuring Sy Ari Da Kid). Southern rap doesn’t just have great rappers it has layers of them. The famous ones are just the radio/pop exoskeleton; once you get past that you find projects like this and Sy Ari Da Kids Ultrasound 2: The Birth, each mixtape leaves you wondering why everyone doesn’t already love this guy.
Stream or Download Culture Junky below:
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Tagged Alabama hip hop, Culture Junky, mixtape review, oddball rap, Southern Rap, Sy Ari Da Kid, Todd Marshall, Translee, Ultrasound 2: The Birth, underground, word games