Brandon Soderberg



  • Rap Songs of the Week: Drake's Whitney Houston Whirl 'Tuscan Leather'

    Rap Songs of the Week: Drake's Whitney Houston Whirl 'Tuscan Leather'

    2$ Fabo "How The Fuck Did I Get Here"Spaced-out snap-rap legend Fabo (now going by 2$ Fabo, for some weird reason), who recently came back down to Earth to bless Trinidad James' 10 Pc. Mild mixtape and followed it up with anti-molly/pro-molly mitigator “Catch Me on That Molly,” sounds sober and Scarface somber as he looks back at the highs and lows of his cracked career so far. If you recall Mannie Fresh's “Like a Boss” from 2009's independently-released, no-resources record Return of the Ballin', well, this is very much in that vein. Southern legends never taken as seriously as they should be, simultaneously appreciative of all the success afforded to them, hounded by all the mistakes they've made, and staring the brutal rap-right-now reality that it's a different era and no one's cashing out no more.

  • The Rumors of Sampling's Demise Have Been Greatly Exploited

    The Rumors of Sampling's Demise Have Been Greatly Exploited

    Last week's The Atlantic article, “Did the Decline of Sampling Cause the Decline of Political Hip-Hop?” is just the latest in a never-ending barrage of thinkpieces that attempt to explain where rap went wrong or got ruined or lost its soul and blah blah blah. The piece by Erik Nielson, assistant professor at the University of Richmond with a focus on African-American literature and hip-hop culture, however, places rap's decline on the death of sampling and that's sort of a fresh perspective.Nielson's thesis is that following the 1991 ruling regarding Biz Markie sampling Gilbert O'Sullivan, which moved hip-hop away from sampling for pragmatic reasons (you could get your ass sued), also explains why rap has become less socially and politically engaged.

  • Separation of Powers: OutKast's 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,' 10 Years Later

    Separation of Powers: OutKast's 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below,' 10 Years Later

    Ten years ago this week, OutKast's Speakerboxxx/The Love Below arrived. The double album isn't the best OutKast record (that's ATLiens) or even their most influential (that's Aquemini), though it is the most successful (it has sold more than 11 million copies, won the Grammy for Album of the Year), and perhaps most importantly, the hardest one to unpack.

  • Drake Airs Out 'Courtney From Hooters' and Why He Shouldn't Have Done That

    Drake Airs Out 'Courtney From Hooters' and Why He Shouldn't Have Done That

    Drake's Nothing Was the Same is an album full of feels-too-real asides and coy references to his mother's illness, his father's drinking problems, Nicki Minaj not really talking to him these days, and plenty of last-word ire aimed at exes. But the most egregious lines are on "From Time":"The one that I needed was Courtney from Hooters on Peachtree / I've always been feeling like she was the piece to complete me / Now she's engaged to be married, what's the rush on commitment? / I know we were going through some shit, name a couple that isn’t/ Remember our talk in the parking lot at the Ritz?

  • Juicy J and 2 Chainz: Oft-Delayed Projects by Rap Vets Buck Major Label Expectations

    Juicy J and 2 Chainz: Oft-Delayed Projects by Rap Vets Buck Major Label Expectations

    In 2013, rap albums, you know, the kind that are still pressed onto CDs and shoved onto Best Buy racks, are embraced as either blow-the-roof-off-everything events that cannot be missed or "What took you so long?" anti-climaxes that should've arrive up six months ago. It reflects the bipolar mentality that pervades the music industry right now: They either throw everything and anything into the product and ensure it's a success, or they don't even try and let the thing die on the vine and, hey, maybe it'll stay afloat thanks to word-of-mouth and a fervid core fanbase that didn't need a major label to make them aware of the new record in the first place. It's pathological, really.Over the past few weeks, two rap LP anti-climaxes finally arrived: Juicy J's Stay Trippy and 2 Chainz's B.O.A.T.S. II: Me Time.

  • Rap Songs of the Week: Danny Brown Baits Nostalgics on 'Side A (Old)'

    Rap Songs of the Week: Danny Brown Baits Nostalgics on 'Side A (Old)'

    Abdu Ali, "Fuk Wit Dis"Pentecostal poet/rapper/vocalist Abdu Ali begins this song with a Pterodactyl wail, and then proceeds to screech out his lyrics in a helium-sucking Lil Wayne-like voice. And they're still nearly buried by a Baltimore club din from producer James Nasty (he of a very batty refix of Kendrick Lamar's "Poetic Justice"), who loops a Fade To Mind-friendly #seapunk synth ping around effects-caked gun shots, and a Waka Flocka Flame "Bow!" ad-lib, and then, on top of that, sends the whole frantic thing into a maelstrom of ghetto-tech yells. Is this rap music? Dance music? Is this even music? "Do you wanna see me die?," Abdu asks at one point.

  • Travi$ Scott

    Travi$ Scott: Houston-Bred Kanye West Advisor Turns Rap Inside Out

    Who: Ambitious Houston avant-producer and affable rapper Travi$ Scott, 21, is best known for assisting Yeezus himself, Kanye West, on the visionary producer's latest, as well as turning trap and dancehall into baroque triumph music on last year's G.O.O.D. Music group album, Cruel Summer. Although he produces for G.O.O.D., he's currently signed to T.I.'s label, Grand Hustle, as an MC. "My whole situation is weird, man," Scott explains, though he means "weird" in a good way; the two-label situation gives him to access to two vastly different hip-hop superstars. "Both G.O.O.D. and Grand Hustle together is real shit, man," he says. "Kanye and T.I. both engage with what I'm doing." Scott's most recent mixtape, Owl Pharoah, sounds like a combination of West and company's high-art hip-hop and T.I. and crew's crunked-out bangers.

  • Ariana Grande

    Ariana Grande's 'Yours Truly': A Sweet, Sweet Fantasy of '90s-Indebted Hip-Hop and R&B

    Pop singer Ariana Grande is Broadway-brewed and Nickelodeon-trained. She has her eyes set on Mariah's melismatic throne and possesses an ear that can reconcile 2013 radio rap tics with a retromaniacal streak, channeling it all into a tween-leaning, family-friendly pop sensibility. Her debut, Yours Truly — which sold more than 200,000 copies its first week out, and has yielded a Top Ten single with "The Way" — is one of the most assured albums of the year."Baby I," the second single, has this moment when its Michelle Branch-meets-disco strings swirl in the background, and then lunge forward in concert with Grande's vocals. She deepens her voice and buzzes, "But every time I try to say it / Words, they only complicate it." All that assonance!

  • Riff Raff

    Rap Songs of the Week: Riff Raff Riffs on Drake's 'Started From the Bottom' Child-Star Privilege

    2 Chainz ft. Sunni Patterson & Chrisette Michelle, "Black Unicorn"In which 2 Chainz — you know, that guy formerly known as Tity Boi, who once told Nicki Minaj he was going to "put it in [her] kidney" — attempts an ambitious, Kanye-esque sociopolitical epic that's secretly just about how awesome he is, which is what Kanye's ambitious sociopolitical epics are ultimately about, too. New Orleans spoken-word artist Sunni Patterson introduces the track, giving "Black Unicorn" its poetic-in-another-context-but-here-just-silly title; 2 Chainz then quotes Martin Luther King's "Free at last" (or maybe Kanye's "Your titties, let them out, free at last" from "I'm in It," or maybe both) to celebrate that time he wriggled out of Disturbing tha Peace's major-label stranglehold back in the 2000s.

  • J-Zone

    J-Zone's 'Peter Pan Syndrome': The Grumpy-Old-Man Rap You Need in Your Life

    In 2011, cult rapper J-Zone put out a nervy memoir called Root for the Villain: Rap, Bullshit, and a Celebration of Failure. The refreshing, rant-like book arrived four years after his last album, To Love a Hooker, and brought him back into the conversation after what was, for all intents and purposes, a rap retirement — not of the Jay Z hype-building kind, but the nail-in-the-coffin sort, because that shit just wasn't working for him anymore. Hip-hop had changed, and he isn't interested in changing.

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