Have you checked out Gwyneth Paltrow’s “Summer Jams” playlist over at Jay-Z’s Life + Times website? It’s a slideshow with YouTube embeds of her choices and brief, naively moronic comments from the famous actress about each song. Or, maybe an intern added the comments, it’s hard to tell. Here’s the list if you don’t wanna indulge Hova’s pageview bait: Kendrick Lamar’s “The Recipe,” Pinback’s “Loro,” Grimes’ “Genesis,” Hot Chip’s “Motion Sickness,” Juicy J’s “Who Da Neighbors,” Frank Ocean’s “Thinking About You,” Chief Keef’s “I Don’t Like,” Usher’s “Climax,” Beach House’s “Other People,” Deerhunter’s “Helicopter,” French Montana’s “Pop That,” Neon Indian’s “Halogen (I Could Be a Shadow),” and Wugazi’s “Shame On You” (Wugazi is a Wu-Tang/Fugazi mash-up novelty). This is the most baffling celebrity list since Michael Mann’s Sight & Sound poll featured Avatar! And if you needed more evidence that the “real” hip-hop heads have lost the battle, then Gwyneth Paltrow repping Juicy J and Chief Keef kind of seals the deal, now doesn’t it? Just a few years ago, someone like Paltrow would’ve nodded toward more “conscious” rap, like the Roots or, maybe, Kanye. Countdown until Paltrow tweets something or other about “ratchetness” in 3…2…1…
Big Sant “2 Much”
Big Sant can do one thing his multi-talented producer/rapper/not-that-bad-of-a-singer buddy Big K.R.I.T. can’t: Burst through a country-rap banger like the Incredible Hulk rocking a grill and some curls, and up the energy about 1,000 percent. He did it on “Return of 4Eva” from K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, “Made Alot” off Return Of 4EVa, and “Pull Up” on Live From The Underground, even out-Bun B-ing Bun B, if I do say so myself. He’s the devil on Krizzle’s shoulder who doesn’t feel all twisted-up and worried about corrupting young minds and degrading women. But even though “2 Much” hits harder than just about anything on Live From The Underground, it also shows why K.R.I.T., endlessly conflicted and naggingly sincere, is a far more compelling personality. There’s layers to the guy, even if a few of those layers can be pretty off-putting. That said, sometimes all you want is a scrunched-up horn and wobbly G-funk synth beat, with loads of ignorance piled on top. That’s probably why K.R.I.T. handed this over to Sant for his mixtape OG X MF, which will be out eventually. Late pass on this song, which has been available for almost a month.
Gene the Southern Child “The Police Pulled Me Over”
With two stand-out beats on last year’s iSLAND from G-Side (the hypnotic horns of “Cast Away,” the fizzy grit of “Rabbits”) and producing an entire album, Attractive Sin, for Del the Funky Homosapien earlier this year, production duo Parallel Thought have pulled out of their rut of working for underground non-entities like Tame One. This week, they continue their sick run of completely zooted boom-bap with gangsta rapper Gene the Southern Child’s A Ride With The Southern Child. Gene, who hails from Muscle Shoals, Alabama, is almost Ice-T-like with his thudding, simple delivery, as each line hits like a topic sentence. “Police Pulled Me Over” even has a “Six N’ The Mornin”-like mantra (“Police pull me over and they lookin’ for drugs / I ain’t got nothin’, sir”), dubby horns, and surprisingly confident 808 kicks and claps. Geeked-up, mega-prolific boom-bapper Harry Fraud needs to watch his back because Parallel Thought are slowly merging into his lane.
Mike Finito “Boricuas, Punjabis”
“Boricuas, Punjabis,” an unreleased instrumental (I think) stuck on the end of last week’s release of producer Mike Finito’s instrumentals for Himanshu’s Nehru Jackets, sounds like a Timbaland beat on a boombox in a dungeon: Rigid, dance-friendly loops bleed into a catchy keyboard melody, all of it too big and loud for the room it’s broadcasting from. Imagine Atari Teenage Riot remixing Nelly Furtado’s “Say It Right.” All of Finito’s Nehru Jackets beats — artful, art-damaged, post-Def Jux dirges — move surprisingly well without the assistance of Heems and friends’ barrage of one-liners and cultural criticism. Caked with in-the-red static and hiss that keeps things cohesive, Finito’s instrumentals are a revelation — like Clams Casino’s evil twin, where discordant noise and aggression, rather than near-new-age warmth and contemplative rhythms, keep it interesting. Some were frustrated by the lo-fi nature of Nehru Jackets, but listening to these beats unadorned, it should be clear just how important all that racket was to the success of the year’s best rap album, so far. Nehru Jackets instrumentals via Prefix.
Nina Sky, “Never Kissed You”
Not really a rap song, but after last week’s praise of Salaam Remi’s absurdly maximal production on Nas’ “A Queens Story” (breakbeats meet Broadway strings and horns, which segue into some Chopin), here the retro-rap producer keeps it simple. Remi pulls ESG’s infamous “UFO” into pieces, beautifully isolating the bass line, adding a few effects here and there, and appending an Ennio Morricone-like coda to the thing. And as is often the case with recent Remi, his songs are swirls of context and clever dot-connecting, so he gets this sister duo to sing-rap over a spare classic from the Scroggins sisters, and when they dismiss some bro who’s claiming a hook-up, they even capture some of that New York noise-funk group’s soulful sass: “You dress like just the others / Is that just your disguise? / Your hat’s so low I cannot see your eyes / You’re swimmin’ in your bata / 4X is not your size / And why your earrings bigger than mine? / I know I didn’t kiss you, I hardly go out / So, step back with that L up in your mouth.”
V-Nasty & Lil Debbie “Gotta Ball”
The joke’s on me, the curmudgeon, if I continue to remind people all that is horrible and evil about the White Girl Mob for the rest of time. So yeah, White Girl Mob, you win. I give up. They piggybacked on the lightning-in-a-bottle-brilliance that was Kreayshawn’s novelty “Gucci Gucci,” and totally dropped the word “nigga” fecklessly, which did nothing but give them notoriety, and when that wasn’t working anymore, V-Nasty stopped saying it, even though she claimed that not uttering “nigga” would be an affront to her indefatigable realness. But “Gotta Ball” is a big stupid banger. The beat’s rubbery stutter could’ve come from one of the 12 or so albums that E-40’s put out over the past three years, but V-Nasty’s annoying shriek has an unhinged energy to it, while Lil Debbie, whose verse was clearly penned by the slightly-smarter-than-these-morons-but-not-by-much Riff Raff, kind of works. The video features Kreayshawn, Riff Raff, former MTV VJ and current DJ scumbag Simon Rex, plus Snoop Dogg. Makes sense to me? This song is great. I’m sorry, everybody.