“I’m warning everybody, Kendrick will be B.o.B in two years,” SPIN rap blogger Brandon Soderberg wrote last week, referring to Kendrick Lamar’s soul-sampling new collaboration with Young Jeezy, “Westside, Right on Time” in a post featuring some of the Black Hippy crew’s other newly unveiled tracks. In the interest of friendly debate, two points: First, B.o.B was always B.o.B — the acoustic-pop tripe, the cheesy rhymes, and the lame posturing were all in place when we saw him perform before Little Brother and David Banner in New York City way back in 2008. Second, Lamar’s latest track is a modest but momentous end-of-summer pleasure.
The juxtaposition of the musty sample’s idealized romance and Lamar’s bluntly lewd opening line might be jarring, but it’s nothing new. Producer Canel Finch puts rumbling beats beneath the the vintage vocal harmonies, summoning up a mix of conjugal bliss and unbridled id that recalls the non-André-3000 verses on UGK’s “Int’l Players Anthem.” Sure, Lamar is at his best on perhaps more self-aware material, up through and including his internally conflicted video selection “Swimming Pools (Drank)”, but you don’t have to have spent 20 years listening to DJ Quik to appreciate the younger MC’s word-drunk declaration of West Coast rap’s resurgence. Though that, too, is not without its dark undercurrents: “They say he got smoked / Like where the weed at?” Lamar pronounces emphatically.
Atlanta thug motivator Young Jeezy’s grittily unexceptional verse might be heard as a passing of the rap torch from the South’s recent dominance back to the land of Lamar, Odd Future, Lil B, and other up-and-coming Californians. The ingredients are clearly in place.