From Weeknd-sampling weirdness to scrappy sex jams
Philip had a great idea with the "Friday Five" over at his dance blog Control Voltage, so I'm just going to rip him off. I must admit, I didn't go to a totally awesome record store and curate my picks, as he's been known to do, though. I just sat at my computer like a lard and obsessively downloaded and streamed anything that seemed even remotely interesting.
But, before we get started: I will not be hoodwinked by Nas. Whiny genius comedian Todd Barry's old bit about how musicians are always going "baaaaack to their rooooooots," keeps rattling through my head when I put on that new Nas song, "The Don." Because, like "Nasty" and his guest verse on Common's "Ghetto Dreams," the energy's there, but it all feels a little bit off. He's going through the hard-ass emotions. Produced by A.D.D hitmakers Da Internz ("Dance (A$$)," "Birthday Cake"), the late Heavy D, and maker of backwards-glancing bangers Salaam Remi, this is the wrong kind of retroactive retromania.
2 Chainz, "Like Me"
There couldn't be a worse sample of the Weeknd to grab than Thursday's lo-fi, Prince by way of Sentridoh, "The Birds Pt. 1." But 2 Chainz is comfortable dropping his goofy punchlines over out of the box samples (Bon Jovi on "Cowboy," the Mortal Kombat theme on Yo Gotti's "Cases") and he's got the kind of maniacal charisma to make it work: "My girl got a big purse with a purse in it / And her pussy so clean, I could go to church in it!" And like Codeine Cowboy's "Call Teisha," which turned Erykah Badu's empowering "Tyrone" into an asshole's anthem, 2 Chainz uses the Weeknd's self-loathing come-ons as an opportunity to mock that brooding, bad boy crap, and just tell you he's way more awesome than your cheap ass: "I give my girl money to go out of town / You give your girl money to go to Nike Town."
iNDEED, "Br4Ss KNuCkL3S"
iNDEED is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalists and hilarious rappers Ricky Fontaine and Walt Live ("feeling problematic, I'm an addict"), with the other two members of the Five Points Music Group, DJ Burn One and the Professor, adding some extra sounds here and there (here's a mini-doc about Five Points). "Br4Ss KNuCkL3S," a forward-thinking retro-futuristic crunk-funk fight rap track about getting fucked up, houses a loud, brash hook that's pure Three 6 Mafia ("brass knuckles to your face, hoe"). But where a melody should be, there's a noisy, though strangely catchy, electronic squeal that sounds like a malfunctioning R2D2 or something. Picking up where the Dungeon Family literally left off in 2006, Burn One is building his own boutique label over on the website, Blvd. St, releasing absurd amounts of great, casually experimental Southern rap like this almost weekly.
Silky Johnson, "Shot Caller Remix"
A whole bunch of nostalgia's rushing through French Montana's Harry Fraud-produced "Shot Caller." You got Puff Daddy's "It's All About the Benjamins" on the hook, a shout-out to Tribe's "Scenario" in one of the verses, the Lords of the Underground's "Funky Child" in those horns, and through that, you've got the glistening, regality of the Thomas Bell Orchestra's "Theme for L.A.'s Team" from the '70s basketball classic The Fish That Saved Pittsburgh's original score. Stretched-out, slow motion soul beat producer Silky Johnson, best known for his work with Main Attrakionz, does away with all of that, though, and backs French Montana's lethargic raps with gooey, ghettotech-tinged noise-rap. It's a pretty perverse way to approach a radio hit whose success mostly hinges on its beat, but if you're going to remix the song, totally destroying it is probably the best way to go. RIYL: El-P's "The Full Retard" or "Untitled," that Killer Mike/El-P song that just dropped.
Spoek Mathambo, "We Can Work"
Here is a conflicted, pissed off track about not wanting to work a bullshit ass job ("Spitting in your curry goat / Pissing in your poppadoms") but being too damned responsible and self-aware to just say "screw it," and become a slacker. Think Common's mix of malt liquor swigging and social consciousness on 1994's Resurrection, or more recently, the fatty-food love and frustrated politicizing of Himanshu's Nehru Jackets. And when Mathambo both mocks and admires his uncle's laziness, cleverly calling it a "never-ending lunch break," the knotty, generational disdain CL Smooth had for his pops on "T.R.O.Y." comes to mind. Though Mathambo himself doesn't like to categorize his post-Apartheid fusion album Father Creeper, as hip-hop, it most certainly is. And shame on the rap blogs that cover garbage like WZRD but don't consider this mostly brilliant mix of post-punk, indie, rap, and Kwaito, suitable to clog up RSS feeds. Father Creeper is as wild, nutty, and noisy as Gunplay's Bogota Rich: The Prequel.
Stik Figa "Somewhere Slow"
This is what happens when you give a clever, but traditionalist underground rapper a creative, out of the box, beat. Okay, that's not exactly fair to Stik Figa, a Topeka, Kansas, oddball who reminds me of Freddie Foxx with Devin the Dude's demeanor, but too often this scruffy smooth talker does himself a disservice on the kind of limp, boom-bap that no one can make interesting again. Here, Stik does wonders weaving this ornately told freaky tale around a slowed-up, drum n' bass beat from the Awesome Sound, who has produced for XV and is the Wichita rapper's tour DJ, and whose name just makes me think of the Ween song. Anyway, if you ever wanted to know what Too $hort would sound like over a production by Jazzanova, then this one might do it for you. "Somewhere Slow" has been on the Internet for a while now, but it comes from Stik's new EP, Choosy Moms Choose Stik.