Michael McDonald covers, irresistable, misogynist slow jams, and more!
The best rap song from this week is Nicki Minaj's "Beez in the Trap," but I scratched my chin over that one enough already. My other favorite rap song right now is more than a month old and it isn't technically a rap song at all. Discovered thanks to Philip's very first Control Voltage post, "Oro Y Sangre," is an Art of Noise-like electronic snap and clap instrumental with big, dumb Rick Rubin drums, off John Talabot's February album, Fin. It's pretty much dying for an Internet rap freestyle. Consider this is a formal request for every and any rapper out there on to rhyme over "Oro Y Sangre" and send it my way.
Joell Ortiz, "I Keep Forgettin"
Hanging out with Crooked I, Joe Budden, and Royce Da 5'9 makes sense for Joell Ortiz, but the gregarious Brooklyn MC has always shown a more fun-loving, humorous side than the rest of those hardheads. What immediately comes to mind is "Nissan, Honda, Chevy," his clever working-class rewrite of Lloyd Banks' "Beamer, Benz, or Bentley," which still hasn't lost any of its wit or bite. So, taking on yacht rock kingpin Michael McDonald's gruff falsetto makes some kind of sense. If one member of mean-mugging, straight-spitting crew Slaughterhouse is goofy enough to derail a rap show and belt out a cover of "I Keep Forgettin" complete with a pretty solid impression of McDonald, and maintain their froggy dignity through it all, it would be Ortiz. Really, though, I'm just happy this exists. Plus: Joe Budden! Dancing!
Le1f, "MiND BODY"
You may have read about Le1f in the Pitchfork piece "We Invented Swag," about some rappers that all happen to be gay and all live New York. I really liked Le1f's sly response to the article's thesis: "The whole 'room for one' mentality is homophobic… if we were straight, no one would be comparing us." That is true. What I hear in "MiND BODY," a track from Le1f's upcoming mixtape Dark York, is the same futurist impulse that totally informs hip-hop and house, rubbing up against a healthy pastiche of forward thinking '90s retro weirdness like rave and cyberpunk. And the song itself deconstructs the mind/body binary of the title, with the first half being owned by a manic cluster of of fly shit-talk that you'll need to listen to a whole bunch of times to grasp, and the second half giving way to producer Boody's visceral, of-the-moment dance fusion that suggests Teddy Riley and Terry Riley, at the same damn time.
Odd Future (Domo Genesis & Hodgy Beats), "Bitches" The OF Tape Vol. 2, Odd Future's latest release, is more of the same, but that shouldn't be a disappointment. It's a testament to the crew's hard-headed integrity that there are songs called "Bitches," "Real Bitches," and "We Got Bitches" on this group album. OFWGKTA seemingly wore down the critics, and it's allowed them to dig further into their wheelhouse and mine the same provocations. The first proper track on The OF Tape Vol. 2, "Bitches," finds Hodgy Beats and a vastly improved Domo Genesis piling well-crafted rhymes — to the detriment of their personalities even — on top of a stoned, twinkling beat from Left Brain. It isn't the mission statement that Tyler pens at the end of posse cut "Oldie," but it's the best example of what Odd Future, when separate from the thinkpiece frenzy, do really well: They make funny, annoying, excellent underground rap songs set to Neptunes-tinged, electro-dirges.
Oddisee, "Slow It Down" The brightest boom-bap producer/rapper around right now provides a homely twist on the grind, grind, grind anthems usually clogging up rap records. Discussing the very corny topic of the give and take that comes with pursuing a hip-hop career, Oddisee leaves the underground martyr complex behind, and exclaims, "I'm getting paid for my music, ain't that a blessing?" It's this pleasant reminder of the tangible reward, along with Oddisee's personable, singular rapping voice — a Mid-Atlantic accent that's both east coast angry and gentlemanly Southern twang — and that beat — a smokey loop of guitars and plucked strings, over distant vocal cries of “help me” — that makes "Slow It Down" a worthy successor to something like Little Brother's in-over-my-head plea, "Speed." From the DC-based label Mello Music Group's compilation, Self Sacrifice, on iTunes now and in stores next week.
Young Jeezy ft. Ne-Yo, "Leave You Alone"
I've finally taken to this almost two month old single. Hearing it on the radio a few times every hour will do that. While the message of "Leave You Alone" — if you fuck a woman "good" enough, she will ultimately, put up with your stupid-ass, playa playa, gangsta gangsta bullshit and just let you "do you" — is particularly reprehensible, Ne-Yo does at least sound really nice supporting Jeezy's casual misogyny. Ne-Yo underplays the hook a little bit, leaving his collabo-with-Pitbull R&B squawk behind, and adds something resembling real emotion to a cruel slow jam for all the shitheads out there. The hook really stands out on radio playlists crowded with undercooked hooks like, "Cake Cake CAke CAKe CAKE CAKE CAKE CAKE", "Dance Dance DAnce DANce DANCe DANCE DANCE DANCE," and "I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO, I DO, I REALLY DO." That producer Warren G. — yes, the Warren G. — turns Lonnie Liston Smith's "Garden Of Peace," into a baroque Black Album-esque beat also helps.