Did you watch Life Is But a Dream, the Beyoncé documentary? Of course you did. Well, there's an interesting sequence of events in which Beyoncé, who is so famous that she's supposed to start pushing that whole self-made myth, instead addresses the still-ridiculous reality that women make less money than men. Obviously, that affords men way more resources and ways to control how women are presented. Around the same time in the documentary, you get to hear Bey stridently but politely tell her crew that they are fucking up big time. Not long after that, you get footage of choreographer Frank Gaston Jr. freaking out at the dancers for not gluing their hats to their heads to hold them in place. It's a moment of contrast, a subtle one really, that presents someone being cool, calm, and collected, and contrasts it with a moment of candid frustration. Like a lot of things in Life Is But a Dream, it makes a case for Beyonce's greatness (she doesn't act like Gaston Jr. and that's a good thing), but it also shows that this piece of propaganda is artfully considered. There are lots of moments in the movie like this — jumping from Beyonce as a child playing with bees in front of her house to her on the stage shouting out “the Beyhive,” is another — but I haven't read much about how this movie works. And it works! Watch it again with a little less cynicism.
Daniel "Daniel's Bar Mitzvah - Save the Date"
So, this is a thing, kind of? The best outsider rap since A. Samuels' “Livin' De Life” from last year, only young David, about to get Bar Mitzvah-ed, can kind of rhyme. The part where he just says “oy” over and over again is pretty weird until you realize that “oy” is “yo” backwards and then your mind will be blown. Consider these lines which conflate low-stakes struggle with the real struggle and then sink into a Paul Barman-like mundane aside: “Been workin' Hebrew since I was five / Didn't even know if I'd survive / Now I get top billin' and I'm just chillin' / Just wish I weren't allergic to penicillin.” And if there's a place for child-actor Drake to tell you how he “started from the bottom,” then, well, this rich kid's dad pulling favors from all over (the video features Shaquille O'Neal, Charles Barkley, Ne-Yo, and others) for a vanity rap jam should get a pass too. Either way, it's definitely better than Macklemore.
G Mane, feat. Bentley "Sometimez"
“Sometimez” finds Florence, Alabama veteran G Mane doing a Nate Dogg-meets-Pimp C croon over a beat from producer DJ Rich Green that sounds like a boxer working out his left jab on an old soul sample (all oohs, ahhs, and grunts): “I'm raising my childb/ In these last days and times / Man you gotta keep your mind / Most time's the blind's leading the blind / Keep my head to the sky / And let them haters hate / Watch out for them fakes / The water's filled with sharks and the grass with snakes.” All of the rapping is left up to G-Side affiliate Bentley, who comes in late to the song and expounds on G Mane's smoothed-out Doomsday Prepper noble pimp-rap meanderings with low-to-the-ground real-talk reportage: “From the rocks and the gravel / To courts and the gavel / All I ever remember doing was keeping it a thousand / But this shit can take a toll on you / Especially if they told on you / Trying to see the light yet the devil keep a hold on you / Hard time, that's the preface of these hard times / Looking up to my uncle now I'm selling him some hard now / Just a day's work.” From G Mane's EP, Above the Law.
Louie V Mob "Dope Case"
What kind of fantasy-football rap world do we live in where Louie V Mob, a "supergroup" of sorts (by whose standards, exactly, is unclear), consisting of New Orleans crack -ap party legend Master P, knotty DC hardhead Fat Trel (who hasn't lived up to his potential), and last real ATL rapper alive Alley Boy is allowed to happen? This is both a very, very big deal and totally just a work-a-day collabo. It's also a millionaire putting on a ski mask and playing thug, but that's okay. Be happy it exists. On "Dope Case," we have 2013's version of Ice Burgandy's "PMBB," an undeniable, slow-rolling street anthem hindered by the fact that it's 2013 and, well, street anthems reside only on DatPiff. Speaking of which, when will the increasingly dubious Billboard charts start considering Datpiff streams and downloads if YouTube counts, um, count? I give up. Regal horns squeak and scream like a Dirty South “Shot Caller.” Three dudes talk a whole bunch of mess. The reserved, serious hook about beating the system soars ("Fuck the judge and the D.A. nigga / Don't touch nothing how we play, nigga"), and if it's a system that's going to constantly try to execute mentally retarded black men, then it deserves to be beat.
Mummz "Opening Knell"
If Mobb Deep as teens holding scythes on the cover of Juvenile Hell became as popular as them mean-mugging in front of trash cans on fire a few years later in those The Infamous... videos, then a lot more rap would sound like Harlem rapper Mummz. More Mr. MFN eXquire Five-Percenter-tinged bug-out than the kind of tasteful tough-guy rap that has dummies saying New York City hip-hop is “back.” And the production by Microndiamond has a smoothed-out Sade quality to it that assists these paranoid, verging-on-horrorcore raps. About halfway through, Mummz discovers those “No Ordinary Love”-like kicks and runs into a frustrated wail about his own foibles, “Money, money mo money, get wasted and fucks all these hoes / Burning all my paper on cars, jewelry, and tacky clothes.” The video, NFSW, mysterious, and “gritty,” works because, well, who the hell is this guy anyway? Via Purple Tape Pedigree.
Rocko, feat. Future & Rick Ross "U.O.E.N.O"
Save for a horrifying, rape-y line from Rick Ross ("Put molly in her champagne, she ain't even know it / I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain't even know it"), what a delightfully lost and searching rap song by Rocko and Future. The beat, produced by Childish Major, is a series of synth sobs and trap glitches, and it's pretty much the rap-music version of this gorgeous instrumental by Popol Vuh from Werner Herzog's Aguirre the Wrath of God and The Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner. So much pathos! Rumor has it that Werner Herzog has signed on to direct the video for this song, and it will feature Rocko, Rick Ross, and Future attempting world-record ski jumps in slow-motion. Not really, but that would make sense, wouldn't it? Herzog sure has cashed-out 600-times-over recently: Appearing on The Boondocks, acting in “Jack Wrangler” or whatever that dumb Tom Cruise action flick was called. Does no one care about this? If you thought Scorsese's dive into softness was absurd, consider Herzog turning himself into a meme at 70 years of age. From Rocko's wide-eyed Gift of Gab 2.