Last week, I received a package in the mail from a Chicago artist and DJ named Meaghan Garvey. It made my day. Included were Illuminati-themed prints of Nicki Minaj and Rick Ross, some hand-drawn Notorious B.I.G. stickers, and “The Illustrated Juicy,” a 31-page chapbook that moves through the lyrics of Notorious B.I.G.’s “Juicy,” with a drawing accompanying every few lines. The cover is, according to her Etsy page, “an authentic scanned Coogi formerly owned by [her] dad.” There are also some very nice-looking prayer candles of Aayliah, Ghostface Killah, Left Eye, Lil B, Nicki Minaj, R. Kelly, and Rick Ross. It gave me the same feeling as Lil B cover artist and underground comix dude Benjamin Marra’s work, and that’s a good feeling. Check out Garvey’s Etsy shop here and her Soundcloud here.
Ab-Soul “Pineal Gland”
Jesus Christ, rappers, slow down with the druggin’! Just a few weeks after DJ Paul dedicates a song to GHB, we have Ab-Soul biggin’ up DMT. Blame Enter the Void and that goofy Joe Rogan-hosted documentary DMT: The Spirit Molecule, both streaming on Netlix Instant Watch. Ab-Soul is to Black Hippy what Mike G is to Odd Future — severely underrated, fine with it, but probably the guy in the group who will first stumble upon a radio hit — and here he captures the full spectrum of tripping: Weezy-like weirdness (“Spirit molecules and geometric patterns / Shitted in a crater last time I sat on Saturn / Got a letter from Andromeda / They tryin’ to shrine my bladder”); sage, meaningless dude-bro advice from a psychedelics veteran (“Enjoy your mind trip but don’t trip on your mind”); paranoid tough-guy shit (“No man is safe from the war going on outside”); and inevitable self-loathing (“You ever been conscious in a coma? / Please don’t tell my momma, this ain’t marijuana”). New subgenre alert: Erowid Rap.
Fiend “Street Player”
Production crew Cookin’ Soul grab Chicago’s “Streetplayer” — the second weirdest rock track designed for the Paradise Garage (next to Steve Miller Band’s “Macho City,” of course), best known as the sample source for the Bucketheads’ 1995 hit “The Bomb” (or, if you’re just a little baby, Pitbull’s “I Know You Want Me”) — and focus on its haughty horns, adding some laser sounds. Then, Fiend struts through the semi-triumphant beat, announcing, “I prefer chips no salsa / Having no money is torture,” like that’s actually a cool thing to say, and later, boasts that he “lack doors with the ding” and his “wheel got wood and an emblem.” By hopping on this sample, Fiend fleshes out the sub-Springsteen neon-noir imagery that groups like Chicago and Journey thought they could mine for pathos in the early ’80s. Listen to this, pretend it’s 12 years ago and straight-to-video, rapper-focused action flicks are still like a thing, and imagine this as the theme to a Pootie Tang meets Cutter’s Way exploitation flick starring International Jones.
Future “Straight Up”
Yesterday, when I hesitantly praised Future’s debut, I didn’t talk about producers Nard & B, though I should have. The Atlanta production duo provide just two beats on Pluto (“Straight Up” and “You Deserve It”), but they’re two of the album’s most buoyant, pain/pleasure slow jams. Along with Future’s wanky Auto-Tune mastery, it’s Nard & B’s blobby take on trance-rap, along with an ear for unabashedly chintzy melodies, and an expert understanding of mid-2000s ATL trap-pop, that help hold this strange record together. They did the same for Big Kuntry King’s 100% Kane, a favorite of mine from last month. Plus, Future, thanks to his shameless sincerity, taps into the springy, goofy joy of the beat, and mumbles out a sweet song about spending lots of money on his girl — or his girls. His open-hearted attitude isn’t an anomaly on Pluto though, it’s the norm. Man, I’m thinking way too hard about this album…
Gunplay “MMG Ain’t Nothin’ To Fuck Wit”
In which Rick Ross’ longtime friend and fellow Triple Cs member makes it clear to anyone who doubts his rapping ability that he’s cut from the cloth of “lyrical” nutjobs like Method Man and Ol’ Dirty Bastard as much as any Dirty South shouter. What could’ve come close to rap sacrilege (defiling the Wu!) ends up as an artfully dashed-off riff, boiling over with brash honesty and dark humor (“I know my momma wish she never had a kid / The day I saw my dealer, made me glad again”). As unhinged as he may sound, Gunplay carefully weaves football references through the whole thing (Steelers, Jerome Bettis, huddle, scrimmage, Madden NFL), suggesting a pen-and-pad rapper’s focus on structure and form. Then he ends it by doing that ODB shout/yell “awwgghhhhh” thing for a really long time. Gotta love this guy. From the upcoming 106 & Snort: Volume 1, a collection of nutty, knotty freestyles just like this one.
Lushlife “The Romance Of Telescope”
Philadephia rapper/producer Lushlife, an unabashedly nostalgic, almost maddeningly ordinary lyrical type of rapper, with an autodidact’s embrace of every genre (he dutifully shouts out Joy Division, maxi-singles, and Maxi Priest), and an Internet scrounger’s understanding of right now, fogs up a sample of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark’s “Romance of the Telescope,” and gets Andrew Cedarmark to murmur the hook. A little too much of Lushlife’s Plateau Vision is recycled from last year’s free download/cassette-only No More Golden Days (including “The Romance of the Telescope”), but not enough people heard that one in the first place, and this is the kind just-traditional-enough, kinda-weird hip-hop that’ll grab anybody. With rappers either hiding in their niches or collaborating with everybody, it’s fascinating to hear someone sound comfortable whether he’s paired with Heems, Styles P., or the dude from Underwater Peoples. Check out Lushlife’s essay, “All Rap is Cloud Rap” for Impose, if you’re having trouble figuring out where this guy’s coming from, or what’s going on here.