Drifting, cloud-rap duo of Squadda B and Mondre M.A.N. show a sharper focus on their best full-length yet
Kendrick Lamar's good k.i.d. m.A.A.d. city is the best rap thing to come out this week. Hell, it's the best rap thing to out this year. You already know this. One unfortunate by-product of Kendrick-mania, though, is that Main Attrakionz's Bossalinis & Fooliyones, which certainly deserves some attention, has been overshadowed. So, it's my pick of the week. I'm sure I'll circle back around to good k.i.d. soon enough. There's a lot to unpack with that one.
Like every made-up, mostly meaningless subgenre tag (chillwave, #seapunk, witch house), "cloud rap" is pretty goofy. But it also fits the drifting raps and muscle-relaxer beats of Main Attrakionz quite well. And if you think of “cloud rap” as also referring to the Internet cloud that houses our files these days, then the term aptly describes Squadda B and Mondre M.A.N.'s DGAF model for rap distribution. They release album-like mixtapes and mixtape-like messes whenever they feel like it, for free, indulging the "cloud" mentality where nothing's stable, and everything is ready to be rearranged as users see fit.
But now there's Bossalinis & Fooliyones, a full-length that's being billed as the group's official debut album, because physical copies will come out and you'll have to pay to hear it. It is slightly higher profile — Gucci Mane guests on the Zaytoven-produced "Superstitious" and Harry Fraud (producer of French Montana's "Shot Caller") contributes two beats — but it's mostly a big-deal, capital-A album in the minds of Squadda and Mondre because they decided to work on this one a bit more than usual.
The duo's rapping is stronger — opening track "Green On Sight" features some back-and-forth Run-DMC-style rhyming — and the production isn't so aggressively atmospheric. The nine-song run from "On Tour" to "Bury Me a Millionaire" is as impressive as anything on a rap record this year. "24 Hours," thanks to a cyborg chipmunk yelp, toys with an immediacy the group hasn't approached before; "Sex In The City" throws some house-piano keys into the mix. It's a close-to-excellent 40-minute album, padded out into a very good 70-minute album. There's an iPod generation integrity to making this thing so long and fans of the group won't mind.
Main Attrakionz tendency to hide inside the nooks and crannies of their busy, blissed-out beats is used for effect here — it's not the only way they attack a track anymore. "On Tour" begins with Squadda and Mondre messily murmuring over one another as on plenty of their past tracks, taking the scenic route to getting the song started. But by the time they've arrived at the hook, “On Tour” has come together into a proper rap song, complete with a catchy, humble-brag sing-along: "I'm fuckin' up a lot of money that I made on tour…But I ain't tripping, when I come back, I hustle for more."
Pointed lyrical references to Tupac and UGK (not to mention the actual collaboration with Gucci Mane), are reminders that Main Attrakionz are essentially street rappers. Odd, often rambling ones with weird ears and an Internet addiction, but street rappers nonetheless. Even moments of introspection can't help but reference their rap heroes. From “Love Is Life,” which nods to Jay-Z: "Love is life, life is living / Sometimes I ask myself 'Can I live?' and I'm not in prison / Drugs, murder, money, and wisdom / Walk before your crawl, talk after you listen." Bossalinis & Fooliyones' concerns — community, girls, hustling, and all the joy and pain derived from those things — are also street-rap concerns.
There's a knowingness about so-called "cloud rap" that helps this one go down easier than the duo's insular mixtapes, as well. "LFK," which stands for "Lo-Fi Kings," casts the group as the Internet's UGK; the tough-guy term "hard body" is flipped when these modest, heart-on-sleeve MCs describe themselves as "cloud body" on the track of the same name. These slight adjustments to the hip-hop tradition don't come from an attempt to fit in; the album's most, um, cloudy track here turns out to be that 3 A.M.-on-lean rap featuring Gucci. Bossalinis & Fooliyones is where Main Attrakionz do their best to pull the rest of the rap world into their woozy universe.