Tag Archives: west coast hip hop

The case for Schoolboy Q as a top 3 lyricist in 2018

The case for Schoolboy Q as a top 3 lyricist in 2018

by Dan-O

I’m not doing the “he’s no Kool Moe Dee” all time argument with you Fuzzy Kangol Truthers. Save his place in history for later down the line right now we are talking about right now. The other thing to get out of the way is influence is not a factor. I don’t care that Trump did Hotline Bling on Saturday Night Live it doesn’t have anything to do with the power of the pen. Additionally, numbers don’t lie (they absolutely do) but they don’t have any bearing on this argument. That means this is subjective, right? Yes, not impossible.

Qualifying Criteria:

Consistency-People drive me nuts about this. Some MC’s are chasing the big moment and they always end up releasing terrible material eventually. Last year hip hop radio(looking at you Charlemagne) tried pushing the notion that Big Sean is one of the best MC’s in the game. Big Sean has two fabulous albums and two horrible ones. He is all over the place and I listen to everything he does. I like him but consistency matters, forethought matters. How many times you do you get to serve me a full bowl of wack and still be in the conversation?

Schoolboy Q is the opposite. Of his four albums he doesn’t have a disappointing one. All of them have different production identities, themes, and important lead singles that reflect Q at that stage of his career. As nasty and ready to turn on artists as Pitchfork is the last 3 albums scores Q has: 8.3, 7.8, and 8.4. If you are an album guy he consistently has got your back. If you don’t care about albums and just want the hits he feeds you Man of The Year, Studio, That Part, etc.

The four albums that are the core of TDE as an identity are probably: Kendrick- GKMC, Jay Rock-Follow Me Home, Schoolboy-Setbacks, Ab-Soul-Control System. Of those four artists Schoolboy is the only one who has kept pace with Kendrick in terms of albums you need to hear. Consistency isn’t about always working it’s about relentless careful smart work.

Content-John Muir(from Blank Face) has the most sumptuous neo-soul hook packed in against drug dealing at 14, close friends dying, danger closing in from all sides. The song is named after his high school and lasers in on that period. Meaningful content does not have to mean the smartest references or layered wordplay. The reason rappers always refer to their new album or song as a movie is because they want you , as the audience, to follow them through arc of the songs meaning. To the next one. Even  though Schoolboy knows people won’t pay that much attention the juxtaposition of the relaxing chorus and the ever present danger of verses is exactly the dichotomy of palm trees at 77 degrees and shocking violence that West Coast Gangsta Rap was built on. All of this to talk about and that is just one song. Schoolboy has a catalog that as you listen more each song gets deeper and gains meaningf. Q has struggled with addiction and let us hear it and now that he is beyond it (fingers crossed) we get even sharper bars. He builds every song on such a strong foundation he can add levels to it.

Durability-If you are a Schoolboy Q fan play this game with me. What is your favorite song? Pull it up on the tracklist of the album it is on. Is it the full throttle anthemic hip hop takeover Man Of The Year? If you are listening to the deluxe edition what is the next song? It’s the slow jangly mutilated but smooth (thanks to a brilliant hook performance by SZA) His & Her Fiend.  Schoolboy creates Juxtaposition everywhere. He places the crushingly personal John Muir before the bouncy West Coast celebration Big Body. His smoothest song Grooveline (with Dom Kennedy & Curren$y vibing out) comes right before his fire breathing dragon roar of a vocal performance on Gangsta in Designer (No Concept).  The juxtaposition creates tension yes but also dimension and he’s able to create that because he has tapped into the different facets of himself. Not to get too nerdy about this but if you go back to his 2009 mixtape Gangsta & Soul (You know my need to research forced my hand) his flow is totally different it is like listening to pre-Dre Eminem. He built this style and I appreciate his motor in refining it. His best album is his last album Blank Face.  Let’s talk more about this flow though…

Above & Beyond Attributes:

Tyson Flow-A knockout puncher has to make every connect count. Jabs just move the opponent to the right spot, Tyson was not even thinking about points on the scorecard. He was planting his victim in the right place for the right shot.That is how Schoolboy spits and always has. If you listen to the way his voice flings distasteful threats on the first verse of Dope Dealer from his 2016 album Blank Face  it is the same force he exerts on every line of Figg Get Da Money from 2011’s Setbacks.  Schoolboy says every word like a punk rock lead singer hitting their most jagged chorus.

Throw down mentality-The features on a Schoolboy Q album can get pretty interesting. Oxymoron Deluxe Edition(the only edition you should own) has Kendrick, 2 Chainz, Raekwon, Kurupt,SZA, Suga Free, Jay Rock, BJ The Chicago Kid, Tyler The Creator all along for the ride. Name another album that has 2 Chainz, Raekwon, and Suga Free spitting? The fearlessness in his flow has paid off to the point that Schoolboy fears none. This is where we say things like “being part of the best crew has given him the opportunity to be better as a lyricist,” I reject this. Ask Jae Millz how great his career growth has been behind Wayne, Dreezel Stillskin and the rest. It is HARD standing next to the dude who is considered the gold standard for bars. Q’s been doing it for ten years and gunning to a draw at the very least (I think he took Kendrick on Collard Greens) but he will throw bars with anyone and has. On Groovy Tony Jadakiss scorched the track so hard that Q added a whole other song behind the verse. He cares about the standard he has employed which is way more important than winning the song.

My conclusion is simple. I am not writing this because he has a new album coming and that could vault him into the “best in the game conversation” I hoped that this rant will prove he’s already there and this album will just be another leg of that journey.

 

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Mixtape review-41-P by Payroll Giovanni

Mixtape review-41-P by Payroll Giovanni

by Dan-O

Payroll Giovanni is my kind of MC. Mentally he is tougher than shark skin with a flow that can speedbag the beat to impressive levels. The other thing to love about the thirty year old rapper from Detroit is that he’s always working and its good smart work.  His new mixtape (41-P) is the second release of the year following Big Bossin Vol. 2 with master producer Cardo. This might sound crazy but this self-produced mixtape….sounds better.

While Cardo is one of my favorite rap producers ever he sets up landscapes that are vibey enough to get lost in. To say Payroll has an urgent flow would be a vast understatement.  He spits out these words as if he’s mad at the microphone and he needs production that pushes that rather than counters it. The great part is he knows, these beats are boldly propulsive enough to tell that story.

All you have to do is wait twenty seconds into the first track (41-P the title track) as he shifts into highway speed while the bass pounds. Not many rappers can move at this speed anymore, fast enough to be impressive but focused enough to be able to hear every syllable.  The next track is Invisible  which is beyond frustrated it is angry, dressing down obstacles the way a boss with a lot of balls in the air does.  Another big reason why I identify with Payroll is that like a productive boss he keeps an emotional distance that is a combination of painful personal losses creating defense and a self-help guru-like focus on winning as a hustler.

The chorus on Excuses is “Bosses make money and workers make excuses.” He expands on it throughout the song “I had to figure out the quickest route, I had to jump in the game get in & out I wasn’t in the house. I’m in the field not to kill but to make a deal but I’m clutching steel to protect what I’m tryin’ to build.” He’s all game face moving packs and reinvesting in his circle but he is not unaffected by the wear and tear. When he makes clear on Nothing Nothing that the women clutching at him on his way up are nothing….they aren’t nothing or the song wouldn’t have to be made.

Hypnotized is my favorite song because it is the closest to watching the boss crack. You can read Payroll as a sexist if you want for the wildly hostile manner in which he speaks about women throughout 41-P. I think he provides a valuable window into a damaged social environment; one where the most attractive girl in the room spots you not because of your attractiveness but because she is staring at your rolex and “can smell money on you”. You can’t blame her, as Americans we all want to get as close to wealth as we can. The hustle isn’t just real for the narrator. Being the subject of that faux-affection must be the most validating & insulting experience and it has to warp the man behind the gameface. In his verse Payroll wrestles over what sounds like All Eyez On Me era 2pac production pulled through modern trap sensibilities. “What’s a golddigger gonna do with me when I’ve been rocking platinum since I was 13. Girl I’m too much for you you ain’t too much for me. ” She can’t possibly sympathize with who he is or come at him as an equal in the relationship (not in his eyes).  In Interview he opens the door further by addressing direct questions in his song Interview. He talks Jeezy, indictments, beef, label changes & lays everything out quite frankly.   The ingredients are present in 41-P for a long career with better beats and music that can be even more meaningful. Boss life presents challenges I can’t wait to see him face.

P.S. I don’t want to leave the lingering impression that Payroll Giovanni is somehow Beast from Beauty and the Beast with all these romantic walls up waiting for the right one (see: Hypnotize explanation) . He seems to have proposed marriage this April to a woman the Detroit Metro Times describe as “Detroit hair mogul Kendra Parker.” I don’t know what being a hair mogul entails but it’s definitely her hustle and kudos to both of them for winning together.

Stream or download below:

http://www.datpiff.com/Payroll-Giovanni-4-1P-mixtape.898839.html

 

Song Review-Mi Encanta by Husalah

Song Review-Mi Encanta by Husalah

by Dan-O

I love the new Husalah album H the way I love watching Jason Statham carve through the world in Transporter 2. It is a lot of fun and more than a bit silly.  He says bitch four or five times more than is logistically manageable (to say nothing of the long ethical debate) . He brags in ways that are so outlandish they are outstanding. Mi Encanta is the absolute height of giddy post-hyphy insanity. I wish I could find production credits the beat is amazing, the chorus is chanted very seriously in Spanish. The first verse is the stuff of legend. Husalah’s first spoken line after the chorus is “my life consists of getting kicks off, I get my kicks off soon as your wife sees me she tries to pull my dick off.” This leads into the line I ran around imitating for days after this album came out. He says “Husalah been out selling cocaine since I was a baby! Ask your bitch about me bitch I’m beautiful and gorgeous guns enormous.” The way in which he joyously extends out the words baby, gorgeous, and enormous just adds to the comical fantastitude of this cartoonishly unbelievable brag. The production is top notch Nuevo slap that kicks the energy up at all the right times and never falls below a Cadillac groove (the most Cadillac groove on H is Million Miles ). I could talk about how fun Husalah is for a long time but Mi Encanta is exactly what I needed in 2018. The charts are a post-apocalyptic landscape littered with sad junkie rap and overly righteous college kids talking down to their audience. Mi Encanta is bay area bounce with a Roger Corman movie attitude and an undeniable breath of fresh air.

Song review-Goyard by Lil Debbie produced by Kid Class

Song review-Goyard by Lil Debbie produced by Kid Class

by Dan-O

I will be forgiven for not being all in on Lil Debbie when she popped. She came about during that big 2011 White Girl Mob mess that spawned V-Nasty & Kreayshawn.  She came in the game as a tiny white girl with a pronounced blacent (to be clear people grow up in different neighborhoods and if you are a tiny pretty white girl growing up in a culturally black environment I’m not mad if you pick up stuff, that outrage is not my perogative as I am a white dude from Maine).

The difference between Debbie and the rest is that she really picked up productivity. From 2013 till present day Lil Debbie has 6 ep’s and 2 studio albums. She teamed up with Atlanta based producer Kid Class for a new ep in salute of Fresh Prince/Jazzy Jeff entitled I’m The Rapper, He’s The Producer. For the first prolonged period of time (5 tracks) she is forced to adjust to different production. She’s spent her life eating off slapping bay area beats that did a lot of the work and this time things are different. The final product she’s able to craft is worthy of some real acknowledgement.

I did hear her get better over the course of years and her last album (2017’s OG In My System) has real bars (I distinctly remember hitting rewind on a verse attacking organized religion as a drug to pacify people).  I’m The Rapper, He’s Producer is a game of adjustments. On the first track Oxymoron she uses the Migos pinched breathing hook delivery to find the bounce, on Stunt she uses Southern rap style vocal doubling to good effect. She sways with these beats to stay in the flow of the production.

The high point is Goyard (which I just found out from the internet is a French tote bag that dates back to the 1800’s. She went to fashion school people.) This is like a great Wiz Khalifa song with hand claps and a hook held and pinched to make the autotune an essential part of the song.  Her flow has no more wrinkles left in it. You can say she’s not saying anything important and that argument has enough gray area to sink anyone BUT she spits. She is a monster on the chorus & bridge.  I could have easily done this review on the song after Goyard (Classic) which is warm and fun and cocky.  Her songs go.

Nothing makes me happier than when people I think suck prove I suck for doubting them. She gets it and has the right attitude when she says “You know I be super loaded off the OG blunts and Eddies, even let my haters hit it ain’t no time for being petty.” She played the long game after the hot takes cooled down.

 

 

 

 

Song of The Year-G.R.E.E.D. by Berner produced by Scott Storch

Song of The Year-G.R.E.E.D. by Berner produced by Scott Storch

by Dan-O

As a hip hop fan I feel like Berner is one of those good friends I check in with from time to time. He’s always doing well. Most of the time having a great time with a killer guest list.  No one has a network like Berner, on his new album (The Big Pescado) he gets guest features from  The Game, Conway, Devin The Dude, Too Short, Wiz Khalifa, E-40, Jeremih, Trey Songz, Ty Dolla Sign, and Snoop Dogg. Even for bay area rappers his last ten years have been pretty staggering from a productivity standpoint (go to his Wikipedia discography for confirmation).

All of Berners best traits come through on his first effort of the new year and my favorite song G.R.E.E.D. has them all firing. He’s a smoker which you will know from the first line “We smoke till were numb and we worship the sun,” a great smoker MC has the opposite personality of a struggle rapper. Berner is wild consistent, assured and relaxed. Thank you weed, that being said, he takes his bars seriously and G.R.E.E.D. being a spin off of Wu’s C.R.E.A.M. maintains the toughness.

The best thing I can say about Berner on this song is that he is so good he earns this beat. Scott Storch did not fall off. This beat takes me back to 2004 it is such a monster. The first thing I thought was “G-unit would have made 7 million dollars with this beat in 2004” but as his verses unfurl I found myself completely satisfied and remembered…oh yeah this is the same dude who put multiple collab albums in the books with B-Real and held up bar for bar. Everybody loves Berner not just because he seems like a great dude but because he’s serious with his opportunities and he took this one. I love this song.

#Bandcampgold-G-Worthy(G-Perico & Jay Worthy) produced by Cardo

#Bandcampgold-G-Worthy (G-Perico & Jay Worthy) produced by Cardo

by Dan-O

Can I tell you what separates Cardo from his peers at the very top of hip hop production? The Neptunes make anyone sound cool from Kelis to Timberlake to Pusha and Malice to Britney Spears. Not everyone sounds cool on a Cardo beat. Cardo beats are the pure distillation of hearing Snoop and Dre for the first time, liquid metal cool forming and reforming, with the right host on the mic it sounds invincible. This is why when people don’t know who Cardo is I simply say “He built Wiz Khalifa” without the luxuriously unflappable warm sonic world of Cardo to color his incredible personality Wiz would have been another weirdo in a hip hop world full of them. If you don’t have the right personality to sail on these beats you’ll be caught faking the funk but if you match up it takes you to another level.

If you look at the cover of G-Worthy it looks like it could have come out in 1992. Jay Worthy from Compton and G Perico from South Central reassure us that while Rap destroys what it loves to be and rebuilds to the opposite direction every five years…West Coast Gangsta Rap doesn’t.

The album consists of seven songs that feel effortlessly connected without any visible seams. What has changed is the ability for a Blood like Jay Worthy to rap about B hats and his Brazy life right before G Perico raps about violence from a Crip perspective (Getting High). The music is the glue. Jay Worthy is a solid dude who recently released a full length project with Alchemist so he is used to spitting over genius production. Jay Worthy is a game machine talking pimping or gang life or just generally flossing all over the listener. On the single Never Miss he authoritatively asserts “Take a look at yourself, we getting money On the route with these dames, a little lucky.”

Perico is a star his voice his cadence along with the personal specificity of imagery really draw him to the forefront at all time. The best example is his verse on Ain’t Trippin which starts “Middle finger to e’rybody that’s how I do it. Got the glock in the beamer case a n__ want to act stupid.” He talks about how the police are monitoring everyone and that’s not new, that he can’t tell the visual difference between his enemies and friends cops and homies. By the end of the verse you can feel the waves washing over, the uncertainty hostility and powerlessness of this criminalized system. It’s all done economically in a short verse. He loads up and does it again with the subject of women on the beginning of the next track (Scandalous). I heard all of Perico’s work before and liked it but it is Cardo’s production that made his lyrics vivid enough for me to figure out the allure. I think Perico is the best gangsta rapper since YG and G-Worthy could easily become a group without comparison. Not only do they represent a timeless standard few would dream of comparing against but their singles, while fabulous, are just as good as the rest of their output. They shine at a slow bops pace that they could keep up without a trickle of sweat for ten years. I hope they make more money than they ever hoped as G-Worthy.

Stream or buy G-Worthy below:

https://foolsgoldrecs.bandcamp.com/album/g-worthy

Song of The Year-College Girls by P-Lo featuring Skizzy Mars

Song of The Year-College Girls by P-Lo featuring Skizzy Mars

By Dan-O

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.