No Trivia’s Friday Five: Waka Flocka Flame Declares Dubstep the New Trap Music
Plus, Pharrell serenades Spitta's wallet, an old-school NES tribute, Oddisee's song cycle, and your old friend Phife
“Worst Beef Ever” probably needs to become a recurring feature, doesn’t it? Devon Maloney already gave you a comprehensive look into the Drake’s entourage versus Chris Brown’s entourage bougie nightclub battle of early Thursday morning (“Dreezygate”), but, man is this thing depressing. The brawl sent a few to the hospital and caused a significant gash on Chris Brown’s chin, which he of course, tweeted a photo of, and of course, deleted soon after. He also released a statement that said, he and his girlfriend “were victims of a brutal attack.” We shouldn’t expect any sense of propriety from Chris Brown, but there is something especially perverse about posting an image of his ultimately quite minor injuries and releasing a statement that he was the “victim of a brutal attack” when just three years ago, his then-girlfriend Rihanna had photos of her horrifying injuries leaked to the press because Brown brutally attacked her.
For most of yesterday, this brawl was said to be “over Rihanna,” who Brown dated (and abused) and who Drake allegedly dated, as well. This brawl was not “over Rihanna,” even if that is the pretense under which these idiots acted like idiots. This brawl was the result of a two petulant singing, sometimes-rapping musicians (classified as “rappers” by the media because that is always the case when a black musician acts up), who’ve played an ongoing game of slut-shaming and creepy possession over the R&B star, be it on Twitter or in song, finally bumping egos in public. It’s pretty gross. Though I must say, I welcome anything that further highlights just how awful Chris Brown is.
Curren$y ft. Pharrell “Chasin’ Papers”
Curren$y’s raps convey his current comfort with a twinge of seen-it-all intensity and it never seems to get old. “Chasin’ that paper like it stole something of mine,” is a hot line, but Spitta goes further with it, adding, “It did though, friends killed over small bills.” That’s a sneaks-up-on-you “damn…” moment that belies the creepily consistent rapper’s affable stoner persona. Plus, “Making Lamborghini sounds, pedaling my bike / Lusted at luxury since I was a tyke,” conjures up the image of Spitta as little tiny aesthete — this month’s second cutest image of an MC as a child, topped only Danny Brown’s “Grown Up” video. And God love Pharrell, who just does not give a shit anymore, it seems. He croons like a yelping puppy, interpolating the Five Stairsteps’ “O-o-h Child,” and slathering it with totally unnecessary Auto-Tune. It kind of works? The Neptunes teaming up with Curren$y probably should’ve happened a year or two ago. Once Chad Hugo and Pharrell Williams shifted out of banger mode in the mid-2000s and began making these pulsing, new age-sounding slappers (Snoop’s “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Diddy’s “Partners for Life”), they cleared a path for most of the weeded-out hip-hop happening right now.
Fat Tony & Tom Cruz “Double Dragon”
The collaborative mixtape Double Dragon consists of beats based on samples of the classic Nintendo beat-‘em-up video game of the same name. This is a potentially disastrous, rather shticky idea idea that ends up working out really, really well. It’s the opposite of Oh No’s Ohnomite, which slices up Rudy Ray Moore samples so expertly that any of their initial charm and resonance is gone. Producer (and nimble, witty rapper) Tony Cruz locates the cutesy, actually quite sophisticated melodies of anonymously composed video game music while sprucing up their low-end and chintzy twinkle so that these beats don’t devolve into something a nerd-baiting hack like MC Chris might rap over. Maybe this all just hits a sweet spot for me, though? Two funny, nerdy, ignorant-ass MCs bounce lyrics off 8-bit beats, giving even their neither cool nor interesting “fuck lots of girls in one night” boasting a dork-with-a-boner intensity, which is offset just a little by an absurd Cameo-meets-LMFAO hook about “machismo.” Maybe this is just my nerdcore? Yikes.
Oddisee “Ready to Rock”
Rarely does a producer, even a ballin’ baroque visionary like Kanye West, manage to pick their very fancy beats up and drop them off into another high-falutin’ genre and get away with it. Too often, the seams show and all that effort pokes through just a little too much. Refreshingly insular, Oddisee seems disinterested in proving his chops to the outside world even though this first track from People Hear What They See conjures up connections to a pocket pop composers like Van Dyke Parks before say, Kanye or Dr. Dre (still waiting on the Dre’s ghetto Gustav Holst project The Planets, by the way). A soul sample coughs, caught up in a whirl of glitches, while another slab of orchestrated R&B rumbles underneath, almost like two songs running right along side one another. There are some country-esque strings in there, and straight electronic music rumbles, as well. Then it all slows down for the second verse, where Oddisee launches into an explosive double-time rap, announced by some laser synths and all of the song’s disparate elements diving underwater. Just an amazing way to open an amazing album.
Oh No ft. Jose James and Phife “Dues N’ Dont’s”
I just talked some mess about this record two paragraphs ago, but man oh man, producer Oh No’s Ohnomite. Who would’ve thought such a joyless rap album could be cobbled together using frenzied samples of party record maniac and blaxploitation hero Rudy Ray Moore? Shards of jazzy horns and a ghostly vocal humming along are nice and all, but you’d expect something a little more fun given the sample source here, right? At least “Dues N’ Dont’s” gives us a wise old man verse from Tribe Called Quest’s Phife Dawg, who, if you’ve seen Michael Rappaport’s Tribe documentary or heard “Flawless,” the Q-Tip diss track on Ventilation: Da LP, you know is one of the least wise old men in hip-hop. This one works because it’s just Phife’s jittery, high-pitched yammer imparting wisdom via regrets refashioned as advice. Whether they’re oldhead-on-the-stoop aphorisms (“Don’t front like Quincy Jones, every move you make ain’t thorough”) or simple stuff like, “Don’t do drugs, say no to crack,” there’s a stiff upper lip refusal to lose that’ll probably make you tear up a little bit.
Waka Flocka Flame ft. B.o.B “Fist Pump”
If you are on the Internet all the time, perhaps you’ve been caught up in the latest dance music scene controversy. Seemingly spurred on by this Flosstradamus mix for Live for the Funk, “trap music” has become, like moombahton or #SEAPUNK before it, a snappy Soundcloud remix tag for DJs and producers far from crack-dealing corners. Everyone (on Tumblr, at least) has been asking, “Is ‘trap music’ the new dubstep?” Both are aggressive, and aggressively utilitarian styles of rage-out music satisfying to the underground and the mainstream, so it would make sense for the two styles to start a sonic conversation. For the most part though, this has been a one-sided convo. That changes a little bit with Waka Flocka’s “Fist Pump,” which imagines dubstep becoming the new trap music, instead of the other way around. This works on the same subversive level as the Shop Boyz’s “Party Like a Rock Star,” in which the appropriated turn their appropriators into buffoons. Flocka yells over a Jersey Shore-ready beat that’s all build-up and no drop, and B.o.B yammers in your ear about how drunk he is like a heartbroken bro who left behind by his hook-up happy buddies. Lowest-common denominator pandering rarely sounds this good. It’s even got a guitar solo!