The unfair assault on rap’s mega-millionaires never ends. Sean “Diddy” Combs and his son, Justin Combs, are being criticized after it was revealed that Justin received a football scholarship to UCLA, which is valued at about $54,000. In high school, Justin played defensive back (very well, apparently) and maintained a 3.75 GPA, so the only thing that might spark criticism about this arrangement is the fact that Justin’ dad is the most wealthy rap personality alive. Which, hey, if you don’t think very hard about things, does seem somewhat ridiculous. But the argument that Diddy’s kid — a bright, hard-working, football-playing teen (and not a wastoid ballin’ his way through a reality-show or rap career) — should refuse UCLA’s offer is absurd. Scholarships, particularly athletic scholarships, are about the money and the education, but they are also symbolic, and a vote of confidence: “We think your skills are worth this much to the university.” I am not going to debate whether college athletics are a positive endeavor or a strange kind of indentured servitude; however, this is most certainly not an example of a rapper being a cheapskate. It’s a superstar letting his child actually play the game of life. That shouldn’t be applauded, but it certainly doesn’t deserve to be scrutinized, either.
Gucci Mane “Spread the Word”
On “Spread the Word,” Gucci Mane’s threats, boasts, and jokes are all delivered in the same stuffed-nose flow. Whether he’s cheekily describing his hustling evolution (“My momma gave birth to a trap boy / That trap boy done turned into a dope man”) or finding a quick, witty way to make sizzurp talk interesting again (“So much codeine in my Sprite it looks like Pepto-Bismol”), it exists on the same lethargic, world-weary emotional plane. And Gucci always selects the most atypical Lex Luger productions to soundtrack his vices and victories. Here, it’s something in the mode of trap-tinged electronica from the producer Kuedo. Is this what Alex Pappademas for the New York Times was talking about in his Lex Luger profile when he described the “B.M.F.” producer’s new beats as sounding like “a computer sobbing?” The familiar Lex Luger sound — ballsy bravado — would never work for the forever unimpressed Gucci Mane. So, despite being the spawn of Gucci’s signature producers like Drumma Boy and Zaytoven, Luger developed his sound with the ultimate clueless loudmouth, Rick Ross. Now, that is thankfully over. Hopefully, crying robots become what’s hot in the streets.
Lil Wayne “Goulish”
I can’t even get a little bit excited about the Lil Wayne/YMCMB vs. Pusha T./G.O.O.D. beef. Can it even be considered a beef, since the first single from Lil Wayne’s I Am Not a Human Being 2 was announced last night and it features a guest spot from Big Sean? Not that YMCMB or G.O.O.D. are rap crews, anyway; they’re more like conglomerates of loosely connected artists who aren’t really interesting enough to stand on their own (plus a few actual stars). Also, I secretly hope this entire thing started because Mannie Fresh, once the sonic architect of Cash Money, is now rolling with Kanye, who has a knack for turning worker-bee Dirty South producers into his mad sonic-genius conspirators (see also: Mike Dean). If there’s a reason to care about this beef, though, it’s that Lil Wayne is rapping like he gives a shit again. His opening line, “Fuck Pusha T and anybody who love em’,” delivered in Weezy’s weird sassy drag-queen drawl (which he affects when he considers something to be beneath him), hits harder than any of Pusha’s bible-quoting blah blah blah.
Nacho Picasso & Blue Sky Black Death “Bloody Murder”
This Seattle rapper has been grunting out jokey punchlines and nerdy threats in a glass-gargle voice over evil but gorgeous beats from Blue Sky Black Death ever since arrived last last year. On this song, BSBD go for a chintzy William Lustig movie-soundtrack vibe, then turn synth pulses and rinky-dinky percussive buzz into something kind of baroque, then let it slam right into a reggae sample on the hook. It’s like G.O.O.D. Music’s “Mercy” on a budget! A very small budget, mostly blown on beer and weed. This is Nacho’s third album in less than a year, so it’s pretty surprising that he can still think of bad-good-bad one-liners (“Since I am the shit, I’m a write this rap on Bounty”; “I’m a perfect stranger, my dealer look like Balki”) and shithead disses (“Period came late? Well, who it waiting on?”). There seems to be a little more dread sneaking into the songs on his new one, Exalted, though. This time around, you’re more unsure if he’s just fucking around when he ends the first verse with, “Hit you with the forty cal, wonder where your limbs went.” You’ll have to pay for the latest Nacho album, but getting a nice big .jpeg of the cover, is worth five bucks, alone.
PICNICTYME, feat. A.D.d+ “Horizons”
“Horizons” is a gorgeous exercise in production technique and how to integrate a lot of moving parts. Producer PICNICTYME (who has the most adorable beatmaker name since Friendzone.) is also an emotive, mumbly Mayfield-like singer who provides this space-blooz beat with a wounded, just-getting-by vocal. Guest rappers A.D.d+’s smart, sensitive sex raps (“Me and you never gets old, everything’s in slo-mo”) are sandwiched by an explosion of funk vocals from Mz. Fortune and PICNICTYME’s sleepy croon, which takes its luxurious time. A.D.d+ are, like Cities Aviv, Allen Thomas, and plenty of others, rappers whose hipster-not-hipster existence finally made sense once Odd Future blew up, even though they have little to do with those guys. Dubbing interesting young rappers “post-Odd Future” is some bullshit, but it is convenient, and all I really mean is streetwear-rockin’ punk-rap pricks who can actually rap and have a good ear for beats. That’s certainly better than streetwear-rockin’ skate-punk pricks who can’t rap and whose idea of a hot beat is whatever will get them on the radio, right? Remember when “hipster rap” was, like, a real thing?
Travis Porter “Pop a Rubberband”
Well, that new Travis Porter album From Day 1 kind of sucks. Their biggest hits “Bring It Back” and “Make It Rain” (inexplicably thrown towards the end of the album, right before a Mac Miller collaboration) were pure unadultered booty rap, so there’s no reason why goofy white boys like Mike Posner and Miller needed to screw this party up and make it more palatable. Most of the songs on From Day 1 that you haven’t heard already are totally whatever. The exception is “Pop a Rubberband,” whose understated Lil Lody beat whirs, moans, and claps like a trip through the past decade of strip-club crunk music. And Travis Porter know how to get out of the way and maintain their presence at the same time. The one who sounds like Birdman if Birdman had human emotions totally kills it! So does the guy who raps like Soulja Boy if Souljer’s testicles had descended. Even the guy who sounds a lot like Drake handles himself pretty well. An observation from Tumblr-er theremixbaby: “Travis Porter is basically a rap boy band.” Totally.