Rap Songs of the Week: Mario & Nicki Minaj’s Mature Rap & B Ballad
Plus, Clams Casino samples Thursday, Rome Fortune samples Les Sins, Droop-E, and Shy Glizzy
Clams Casino, “Drowning”
So yesterday on Twitter, Geoff Rickly, he of epic New Brunswick screamo group Thursday, contrasted the ongoing Weeknd/Portishead sampling debacle (the former sampled the latter without permission, then denied it) with a much more heartening case of appropriation: It turns out that the tumbling-inside-itself vocal from one of Clams Casino’s most claustrophobic tracks is a freaking Thursday sample (from “This Song Brought to You by a Falling Bomb,” to get specific), and it only took two years for anybody to realize this, including the original vocalist himself. “I was already a fan and someone pointed it out to me,” Rickly wrote. “Was happily surprised.” Us too.
Droop-E ft. Kendrick Lamar, “Rossi Wine”
Droop-E released the Hungry & Humble EP this week. It is, like most of Droop’s work, the product of someone best understood as hip-hop aristocracy: a kid raised by a legend (his dad is E-40) and, therefore, free to do whatever he wants whenever he wants. But this isn’t prick kid privilege; this is someone who has studied and internalized just how weird his pops got on record, and wants to continue that tradition while also carving his own path. So here, we’ve got a beat that sounds like an ’80s soap opera song, or maybe a Wyndham Hill Records #deepcut, amid stumbling, fumbling (in a good way) raps about half-classy cheapo wine. Kendrick Lamar guests, and he kills it because he kills everything these days, but it also feels negligible because, well, this is not a song about killing it. It’s a song about drinking wine that comes in a jug or box.
Mario ft. Nicki Minaj, “Somebody Else”
Well, here’s something novel: a rap-and-bullshit song about a break-up that’s neither “screw you” lunkhead vindictiveness or crawling on one’s hands and knees, crying and dying for boo to come back to you, no matter what. No surprise it was written (and recorded) by Frank Ocean, though it has a special kind of thrill when it’s delivered by Mario here, who is far more average-ass dude than R&B deep-thinker. Producer Polow Da Don resurrects his Rich Boy “Throw Some Ds” formula here, mixing future synths with a super-solid soul sample. So, 21st Century’s “Remember the Rain” provides the cold, hard facts of the song (“You left me / For somebody else now”), and Mario can just kind of riff on being lost and lonely in an affecting, stiff-upper-lip way: “I don’t really like it, but I gotta take it / Damn, damn, damn, girl / When you coming back?” He delivers those lines with enough of a nervous quiver that he knows that you know he knows she ain’t coming back. Then, Nicki walks in and drops some real talk: “How would you have learned if I ain’t leave?”
Rome Fortune, “Grind”
Atlanta production duo FKi — best known for the Travis Porter tracks “Ayy Ladies” and “Bring It Back,” Jeremih’s loopy “Fuck U All the Time,” and the R&B-by-way-of-dubstep mixtape Transformers in the Hood — continue their unpredictable run by making a few adjustments to Toro Y Moi side project Les Sins’ “Grind” and handing it over to streetwise drift rapper Rome Fortune. This track, like the majority of the latter’s Beautiful Pimp, one of the year’s most captivating and slept-on mixtapes, initially grabs your ears thanks to its Down South stoner-ratchet production (FKi add glitches, squeaks, and filter-house effects to Les Sins’ already glitching, squeaking, filter-house production). But Rome has a breezy, beyond-blown confidence that keeps the thing interesting by letting the whole song wander: lots of open space, rapping that borders on just plain talking, and little to no interest in anything resembling immediacy. “Cloud rap” kind of killed that nowhere-fast style dead, but it still feels revelatory when a young Atlanta rapper does it right.
Shy Glizzy, “I Am DC”
Washington D.C.’s next big tough-guy hope Fat Trel recently signed to Rick Ross’ Maybach Music Group, and who can blame him. Though perhaps he should speak to say, Pill or Stalley before he linked up with Rozay’s all-over-the-place label. Trel certainly had good homegrown street buzz (no really, like actual humans on real streets are talking about this guy) and had a strange thing going with Master P, but that doesn’t always pay the bills. It is also possible that the members of D.C.’s prolific and always inspired conscious label Mello Music Group are a little frustrated when a local rapper signs to the bigger-deal MMG, for surely it will cause confusion betwee the MMGs. In the midst of all of this nation’s capitol rap half-drama though, there’s Shy Glizzy’s “I Am DC,” an almost regal trap track that is actually far more catchy than anything Trel has put together in years, thanks to Glizzy’s sing-song rapping (at times, he almost sounds British, or at least, loosely “fancy”) and a firm grasp of anthemic, repetitive hook-writing.