Plus, Big Sant's southern Slaughterhouse, Dizzy D, Squadda B & Koopsta Knicca, and Le1f out-warbles Future
No Trivia Friday Five Reading List: Victor LaValle's The Devil In Silver. It's like Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, if you sent it through a de-hippie-dippie-fying machine. LaValle's novel tells the story of Pepper, who is wrongly sent to a psychiatric hospital and seemingly can't get out no matter how hard he tries to prove he's sane. Possibly because he's so adamant about proving he's sane. Also, because there's a monster on the floor that's terrorizing everybody. No, really, there is. LaValle's witty, horror-not-horror novel is a moving illustration of how it's growing increasingly impossible to make shit work if your wallet isn't fat enough or you're not buddies with the right people. LaValle from an interview with The American Reader: "My book, of course, is an allegory of our age, for our time; which, I believe if you look in all the newspapers, you’ll see it is a battle between those people who the system works for and those who the system doesn’t work for. And, for those who the system doesn’t work, all of us are trapped in something like an asylum." Poignant stuff, but my favorite parts of the book are those moments when LaValle just can't help himself, and leaves in silly asides or good-bad-good jokes that an editor's "supposed to excise" — including some pointed, mood-lightening hip-hop slang.
Big Sant, feat. King Mez, Tito Lopez & Phonte "Rap Nigga"
If the South needs its own Slaughterhouse — and it most certainly does not, no one even needs the Slaughterhouse we're already stuck with, really — then Big K.R.I.T.'s buddy Big Sant ("I rap nigga / And I ain't talking about gift-giving / I'm talking about living, nigga, for spitting / Riddle my competition with ammunition," yeah yeah yeah, you get the point), has assembled the proper crew: An almost subliminally rhyming King Mez; Tito Lopez, who powers through expertly, but misses the point a little bit by explaining that people from the South also listen to Nas, Biggie, and Jadakiss; and Phonte, happy to troll his audience in the best way possible, telling everyone to "loosen up the straps on [their] Jansport," and casually closing the song, showing up all the effort that came before. These supposed yokels have studied the rappity-rap scriptures the way those hipster scientists in Prometheus studied those alien star maps (which the DatPiff Giger cover of MFxOG kind of resembles), and the result is one of those rare, lyrically lyrical head-nodders that doesn't make you nod off.
Dizzy D, feat. Jhi Ali "Take a Picture"
Dizzy D, who is different from Deezy D — if you're on Tumblr all the time, it would be easy to confuse the two — is from Huntsville, Alabama, and is, or was, part of Betta Half, one of those pre-blog-interest Hunts Vegas groups like PRG'z who have too many songs that could've and should've been regional hits. But he might as well be from Internets, USA. A low-budget Zapp-ish, computer-funk beat stutters in concert with a la-la-la-la-la-la sample of Stevie Wonder's "My Cherie Amour" giving this stunting, D4L-ian, rave-hopper some unnecessary elegance. And if Gucci Mane's Trap God was something of a disappointment for you, then Dizzy does some Gucci-esque loopy lyricism: "Corners I'm bending like a knee or an elbow / Smoking like a train when it's coming down the railroad / Strike a pose, put the photo in the frame / Hang it on the wall for the realest in the game." From Dizzy's mixtape, Moonshine & Kool Aid.
Ice Burgandy "Just Maybe"
Probably could've featured only Brick Squad songs this week, what with Gucci Mane's Trap God being inexplicably buttressed by a mixtape from Frenchie and two (count em' two!) tapes from Compton squad member Ice Burgandy. Both Burberry Burgandy and Rhythm & Burgandy are very good. I prefer the one without Iggy Azalea on it because it doesn't have Iggy Azalea on it. "Just Maybe" finds Ice rapping over Blue Magic's "Maybe Just Maybe" and it's about how he's in love with his money. He half-heartedly conceals the conceit that it's not really a girl song for most of its duration, and then spoils it in the end as bluntly as possible: "My bitch's name is money." This song continues hip-hop's strange tradition of penning its best and most affecting love songs when those songs aren't actually about being in love with a human being. And keep your ears open for the bizarre use of Howard Dean's campaign-killing shouts throughout, almost like Dean's trying out for a role as Brick Squad's Ad-Libber in Chief.
Kuhrye-oo "Give In (for the Fame)" (Boody & Le1f Remix)
When Le1f's Dark York tape arrived, there were these dum-dums who complained about how low the vocals were mixed, as if it weren't intentional. Dude's using his voice as a texture, which is weird in rap, but totally normal everywhere else. Get over it. Listen harder. Kuhrye-oo is a Canadian LULZ-'90s investigator and friend to Grimes. In the video for the original version of "Give In (for the Fame)," Ms. Boucher appears, acting like a total douche(r?) by interpretive dancing inside of a flood-ruined Six Flags in New Orleans, which just, like, Jesus fucking Christ!? So, separate all that when you listen to this Le1f and Boody (who produced Dark York's "Mind Body") remix of "Give In," which takes Dark York's vocals-as-instrument thing even further, piling on effects until all that's left of Le1f's voice is the woozy sound of his tongue hitting the inside of his mouth. It's rapping as pure sound, and it bridges the gap between Future's world of maudlin Auto-Tune, and the slurry sample fuckery of Tri-Angle Records.
Squadda B, feat. Koopsta Knicca "Van Halen (Remix)"
"Van Halen" first appeared on Squadda B's Back Sellin' Crack, and back then it didn't sound like it was recorded via Skype or something. However, that original version didn't have Koopsta Knicca on it. You win some, you lose some. Really, love these weird generation-crossing collabos, where it's clear that Main Attrakionz just reached out to the spooky fast-rap guy from Triple 6 Mafia because they could. Plus, there's some generational haze-rap connect-the-dots going on here, because the Memphis crew's classic "Da Summa" — a dusted loop of Rick James' "Hollywood" — seems like a touchstone towards this cloud-rap stuff, particularly Koopsta's verse ("Drunk off Red Dog in the mystic fog"). Still, it's all about the goofy-ass "Ain't Talkin' 'Bout Love"-sampling beat, which has a pretty tripped-out history: 2 Live Crew's "Fuck Shop," the Moog Cookbook's absurdly ornate cover of the Van Halen classic, and Tim Hecker's "Introducing Carl Cocks," which contorted Eddie's riff into jagged, glitching drone.