A messy "The Message" tribute, rap Minimalism, Meek Mill, and too many remixes
I've been thinking a lot about André 3000 starring in this Jimi Hendrix biopic. The biopic is one of the worst movie subgenres because conflating someone's life into two hours and hitting all the "necessary" dramatic beats just never works out. By the time the studio's bad ideas and test-screened audience comments and all that are considered, a life story's been cleaned up and compacted beyond recognition. But the limits imposed on this Hendrix biopic, from both the outside (none of Hendrix's music will be used, by order of his estate) and due to its narrative (Hendrix during 1966-1967, in England, while recording Are You Experienced?), seems encouraging. Free of cramming the all hits onto the soundtrack, and with the excuse to focus on a smaller time period, there's some hope for this movie to be well, watchable, at least. If this gets made though, perhaps it will increase the chances of some of my long-gestating rapper-fronted biopics ideas to happen: Beanie Sigel as Charlie Parker, during the the sax player's last few trouble years; Lil B as Arthur Lee; Gucci Mane as Robert Johnson using Alan Greenberg's legendary Love In Vain screenplay; Danny Brown as Eddie Hazel; and Rhymefest as gangsta rap originator Schoolly D. Aspiring filmmakers, have at it!
Cam'ron ft. T.I. "Jungle"
From Cam'ron's #UNLostFiles, which is pretty much a data dump for previously unreleased, especially terrible or ill-conceived Killa Cam songs, masquerading as some kind of free song giveaway and Twitter event. On this quirky-enough-to-work throwaway, producer Butter Beats samples the annoying part everybody knows from "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," and then Cam, because he's Cam, unfazed by the terrible-ness, raps a mythical thug autobiography ("At 7 years old, I had Lee's that were pinstriped / At 12, I had a knife for your windpipe"), and connects to a tradition of "The Message"-referencing ("It's like a jungle sometimes,") that one-ups GZA's "Animal Planet" for sheer ridiculousness, and defeats the Throne's "Welcome to the Jungle" on sheer audacity. There's a T.I. verse on this song too. It's okay, but the song's so poorly mastered that it's kind of hard to hear what he's saying. Plus, Tip's desperate, Azealia Banks-beefing, and even more idiotic Iggy Azalea-supporting makes him easy to guiltlessly ignore these days.
Iamsu! ft. HBK Gang "Different"
If you listen to Sirius/XM rap radio, E-40's "Function" is hard to escape and the more you listen, the more it becomes clear that Iamsu! straight up steals that Block Brochure highlight: "Young G, hotter than tabasco, I smash hoes and pass go." He's also the guy with the opening verse on Loverance's "Up!," at least until it got a big fancy 50 Cent-assisted remix and became a hit. And if you're a blog scourer, he's swaggers through Young L's "Hit the Face" from Praktica. On "Different," off his Bay Area-rap-meets-chilled-out-R&B mixtape KILT, this self-produced slinking, snake charmer clap-shout-smack loop soundtracks a simple message, delivered with enough flair and confidence that it doesn't require elaboration: "I ain't like you niggas, we different." Minimal West Coast party music has been on the brink for awhile now, but MCs like Tyga and YG, with their boring boasts and tourette's-like use of "bitch" as a nervous placefiller, tend to sink too far into the background. It's nice to hear someone like Iamsu! handle this spare style with personality.
Kilo Kish "Navy"
Kilo Kish is a conversational Brooklyn rapper with connections to the futuristic neo-soul arm of the Odd Future collective, held down by Syd tha Kyd and Matt Martians. "Navy," produced by Syd and Martians' group, the Internet, is from Kilo's Home School EP, which dropped all the way back in April, but I'm just discovering it, thanks to the profile in this week's Village Voice. Though this week's discussion of excessively cutesy white females rattling off idiotic raps in both the mainstream (Karmin) and on Tumblr (Kitty Pryde), has somehow absorbed Kilo and raised her profile, which is a bummer. Even on some twisted up "for sake of argument” type shit, lumping Kilo in with those fools is a mistake. Yes, she's young-ish, and her voice fully embraces that inexperience, and whether this is rapping or spoken word or the logical extension of "Tom's Diner," I do not really know, or care. But Kilo's raps are wise, and she's youthfully confident, not naïve. "Navy" is a touching love rap tempered by self-awareness and the understanding that the world doesn't revolve around her, or anybody else's heart: "The stars, they don't just shine for you, they don't just shine for me."
Meek Mill "On My Way"
Not enough of Dreamchasers 2 just goes for broke like, "On My Way." Instead it gets too comfortable with street bangers Meek's done three times over, and rests on the implied excitement of interchangeable "big name" guest spots that both ruin mixtapes and announce to everyone that an artist has truly arrived. A song like "On My Way" should just render B.o.B useless, right? Here's a striving to make it, hustle hustle, grind grind, inspirational platitude-filled rap that feels lived-in and truthful, and still has the prerequisite, anonymous, rock-meets-R&B singer on the hook. Really though, this is like a hybrid of the parts of Strange Clouds that still scan as "rap music" and Freeway's "What We Do." And it somehow ends up sounding pretty good! It helps that Meek is an excellent rapper, threading an "A,B,C,D" verbal exercise through the start of his verse, and playing head-spinning games with repetition ("I didn't believe they believed in me," and "Whether rappin' and trappin' / Whether trappin' and rappin'/ I was making it happen/ With dreams of making it rappin'"). Notice it isn't "rappin' or trappin," which is the guilt-tripping M.O. of a lot of street MCs. You gotta multi-task, guys!
Catch-All Instrumental Beatfreak and Rap Remix Reservoir:
Diplo's Dutch bubblin', Baltimore clubbing, Detroit ghettotech diarrhea of a beat featuring two of hip-hop's least compelling personalities, Big Sean and Wale's "Slight Work" gets the guest star remix treatment. Ignore the Eeyore-like French Montana, tolerate an actually excited Diddy, and pay attention to a commanding Ma$e, whose verse makes the case for Mr. Betha's marble-mouth style as a major influence on modern radio rap. Let's hope Ma$e capitalizes on the enthusiasm's he displays here. Oddisee's "Ain't That Pecuiliar" remix sucks all of the swing out of a Marvin Gaye classic and replaces it with a threatening sense of moody, Miami Vice longing, and works much better than it has any right to. From Odd Renditions, a remix EP the DC beatmaker's putting out for free on May 15th. Quelle Chris' "Perpetual Flight" from his beat tape Jock Sin Six, finds the Detroit Dilla disciple doing diffuse proggy soundscape fuckery, then deflating his own that-next-level-shit difficulty with goofy cartoon clips and audio of some weirdo singing the Spider-Man theme. Get your Dilla fix by way of influence, and ignore that bottom of the barrel beat featuring Danny Brown, "Jay-Dee's Revenge." Speaking of Danny Brown, Skinny Friedman's "I Will,", a slowed-up edit of XXX's cunnilingus anthem, smooths Squadda B's already smooth beat into a Moombahton shuffle. Is Moombahton still cool? Is it still okay to reference? Who cares! This relaxed remix is a lot of fun.