Plus, Smoke DZA & Harry Fraud, Dilla & Allan Barnes
Three of this week's five songs aren't rap songs. And of the two rap songs included, only one of them is actually any good. The other is like, mind-bogglingly stupid. I don't know, man, this is just what I'm into this week. It's certainly representative of where my head is at. I'm consumed with the idea that rap fusion is finally like, a thing that musicians have figured out how to do, you know? I don't mean party pop with a Flo Rida verse wedged in there, or this "post-regional" B.S. that people who know nothing about hip-hop keep blathering on about. And not the hipster redundancy that is the "trap remix" trend, either. I'm talking like, delicately mixing influences. That's what this week's Friday Five demonstrates, I think. Proper post-regionalism from Harry Fraud, a tasteful dance remix by Sammy Bananas, and NPR-friendly but still very good genre-hopping from Neneh Cherry and Allan Barnes. Not sure what to do with Rick Ross, here, though.
J. Dilla ft. Allan Barnes "Requiem"
Because the picking of J. Dilla's bones has no end. Just a few months after some icky record store sold off Dilla's record collection to eBay vultures and creepy obsessive fans who should know better, we've got Rebirth of Detroit, another collection of Dilla instrumentals that anyone who cares about Dilla already has on their hard drive, now with rappers no one cares about spitting that real shit over top of them! Please, just release those heavily pirated beat tapes in fancy pants special editions with liner notes and all that. That's what us Dilla dorks want. For now though, hearing Detroit saxophonist Allan Barnes, best known for his work with the Blackbyrds, really get inside this instrumental and let out a sad, classy horn holler over lonely piano and typically tough Dilla drums is preferable to D-town dummies mucking the beats all up. This thing is gorgeous and a relatively proper way to pay tribute to Dilla, avant, sensitive composer and hyper influential Arthur Russell type who died before enough people cared. Set more Dilla beats to living jazz legends' improvisations, please.
Meek Mill ft. Rick Ross "Black Magic"
Has Bawse been listening to Das Racist? Because the hook here is pretty much Relax's "Michael Jackson," only the beat's not half as good and the rapping's a little bit better. Let's get a remix with Dapwell in the Ricky Rozay hookman role and Big Baby Ghandhi doing his best whiny, fast-rap. Also, it sounds like Ross is saying "David cop-a-feel," doesn't it? And, does the "Poof, there goes the..." connote the sudden appearance of a car, crib, and a hundred million dollars, or the sudden disappearance? Would be more interesting if it was the latter. What a fucking mess this one is. Might as well get used to it because the annoying guy in your apartment complex will be banging this all summer, or, at least until, that G.O.O.D. Music album drops. Perhaps, I'm being too harsh. For the first two songs, at least, Maybach Music Group's Self Made Vol. 2 is way weirder than it needs to be: "Power Circle" is an eight minute posse cut that begins with Gunplay and features Kendrick Lamar; and this song's really just an excuse to smuggle in some Meek Mill in manic mode: "I pulled my camera out and she posed/ And I was like, got that, drop that, pop that/ Got the top back on the dropback, I'm back/ And the glock at where my crotch at, I'm strapped."
Neneh Cherry & The Thing "Accordion"
Singing rap songs is some phoney baloney nonsense, right? I am still trying to shake Duran Duran's "White Lines" and "911 Is a Joke" from my mind. But Neneh Cherry can actually rap. She gets it. If there were anyone ambitious and self-aware enough to croon a cover Madvillain's "Accordion," and make it work, it'd be her. As Tom Breihan suggested over at Stereogum, the rapping, singing Cherry was proto-Lauryn Hill, and without her, it is unclear whether M.I.A. would be around. But Cherry doesn't rap "Accordion." She bleats and scats MF Doom's lyrics, and free jazzers the Thing (who tastefully do not include a live accordion), expand and contract their chaotic whirl of horns and bass plucks to reflect the druggy shuffle of one of Madlib's best beats. Doom's rambling, long-ass verse is restructured it into a proper song, turning "Keep your glory, gold, and glitter" into the chorus, weaving the rest of the lyrics around that Sun Ra-like aphorism. Even stuff that just shouldn't work when sung, like Doom quotable "Hey you, don't touch the mic, like it's AIDS on it," sounds great, here.
Sammy Bananas "Feel House"
Thanks to the power of suggestion, and a killer Mr. Fingers impression, producer Sammy Bananas' low-key house track turns the hook from Danny Brown's "Fields" ("Where I live, it was house, field, field/ Field, field, house…"), into one of those slow-burning, house music songs about house music (think: Rhythm Controll's "My House"). Set to a melting taffy synth line, Danny Brown now declares "Where I live, it was house, feel, feel/ Feel house!" But unlike say, Kenny Dope turning Chicago's "Street Player" ("Streets sounds swirling through my mind") into "These sounds fall into my mind" for the Bucketheads' "The Bomb" — or Kanye tweaking Chaka Khan's "Through the Fire" into "Through the Wire" — most of the people listening to this one know what Brown's really saying and so, it becomes a really fun game of pretend. "Feel House" is a nice in-joke for Soundcloud scourers who also listen to XXX, but it also speaks to dance music's transformative healing power: A desperate lament about urban blight can easily become a cathartic celebration of party music.
Smoke DZA ft. Domo Genesis & ScHoolBoy Q "Ashtray"
At this point, it's hard not to groan when you hear 2 Chainz's dip-in-the-jaw voice. It seems like it is a music industry order that he must make some kind, any kind, of appearance on everything released this year, even if it's by way of a sample. Producer Harry Fraud buries a creaky, chopped-and-screwed sliver of "Spend It" behind evil-sounding synths, mixing and matching production styles: Third wave DJ Screw worship, warped retrofuturistic The Terminator score tributes, and the tinny throb of trap music. And as is often the case when you hear that "la musica de Harry Fraud" drop, it means the MCs are all but incidental. Here's a gathering of rap crew second-in-command types that stay out of the way and sound good enough. But ScHoolBoy Q does compare himself to both Willie Nelson and legendary Crips goon Monster Kody. That's got to be a first, right?