That video of Lil Wayne’s deposition getting lots of LOLs isn’t evidence that he’s lost his marbles. It’s proof of the American legal system’s absurdity, and that Wayne is painfully aware of this fact. Growing up in the New Orleans projects, then becoming a superstar and getting arrested and jailed in New York for what was an obvious case of rap profiling could make someone like Wayne consider law and order and “justice” a big joke. This video is Frankie “I don’t know nothing about that!” Pentangeli from Godfather II on steroids. It’s a performance, with Wayne delivering the same overdose of personality found on his best records. He even puts on that sassy drag queen drawl he does when he’s really disgusted. As the video continues, Wayne dismantles the whole charade, moving from non-answers to answering before the question’s even asked, because really, what’s the difference? The best part is when he picks apart the question, “Isn’t it something you would remember if your album Tha Carter III was the biggest selling album of the year in 2008?,” by pointing out that basically what he’s being asked is, “Isn’t it something?” It doesn’t help that the dude asking the “stupid ass” questions sounds like some smarmy Robert Smigel character from an early Adam Sandler movie. This is a tour de force performance/protest from Weezy.
Bentley ft. Grilly & S.L.A.S.H., “So Tired”
In which S.L.A.S.H. with the help of Bentley uses a slept-on Hi-Tek and Devin the Dude instrumental to address the perfunctory, condescending response someone pursuing the arts gets from his or her family. If you’ve ever endured a dumb uncle or a clueless cousin pleasantly pretending to care about your hobby-turned-career that they don’t get and think is pretty stupid, this verse should stand out. Notice the way that S.L.A.S.H. does a back-and-forth, twisted syntax André 3000 thing here that seems to invoke OutKast’s reality-checking rap career classic “Elevators (Me & You)”: “My family ask me how the music going, casually / Not because they care, they’re just asking out of formality / I give them vague answers knowing that they don’t support it / They think my vision’s distorted but they know I won’t abort it / So I record it as a verse and lay it on a song / Hoping that this will maybe be the one that puts me on / Or proves them wrong.”
DaVinci, “Just Don’t Care”
The ever-improving DaVinci, who straddles the worlds of Bay street rap and West Coast, Tumblr-friendly “cloud rap,” announced the delay of The MOEna Lisa, his follow-up to last year’s Feast or Famine, by releasing another album altogether called XLIX. It’s an excellent collection of songs from a more recent session than the one that birthed his upcoming album, now scheduled for November 6. “Just Don’t Care” is the best track because it’s the most devastating. Lots of transcribing in this week’s Friday Five it seems, but the first bunch of lines from “Just Don’t Care” don’t really need explanation: “It’s like the world don’t want to see me win / I’m 16 I’m coming home fresh out the baby pen / My momma tweaking plus my poppa dead and gone nigga / Nowhere to go, I’m in this fuckin group home, nigga / So fuck the world / When i was nine I seen my cousin murked / I never shed a tear but that don’t mean it didn’t hurt / My heart so cold I’m on my own I’m about to hit a lick / And it’s the only way out, so you can’t tell me shit / Get off my dick, bitch / I’m a product of budget cuts and city schools, little dudes gripping tools.”
El-P, “Stay Down” (Live on WBEZ’s Sound Opinions)
Like any self-respecting/self-hating liberal post-hipster worth a damn, I spend a lot of my time in the car absorbing the safe, boring sounds of National Public Radio: Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross and her stammering twee interviewing style; Diane Rehm, who, let’s be honest, has sort of lost her marbles, which makes the show terrible in a totally compelling way; PRI’s Marketplace which is actually pretty engaging (plus, sometimes they use rap instrumentals as interstitial music!). So what a perfectly unpleasant surprise when I got in my car the other night and heard El-P and a live band performing “Stay Down” on Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot’s show, Sound Opinions. Here, “Stay Down” doesn’t begin with a gutpunch of grinding guitar like it does on Cancer for Cure; it leaks in, like the opening moments of “Maggot Brain.” And the live band, limited to just a guitarist, keytarist (!!!), hypeman, and a laptop blasting out beats and samples, lightens the the Orwellian sound overdose that characterizes El-P’s solo work, turning his snarky spoken-word into something a bit more restrained, though just as inspired.
Freddie Gibbs ft. Dana Williams, “Hard”
The most interesting moments on Freddie Gibbs’ mixtape, Baby Face Killa, arrive when the rapper is almost entirely out of his comfort zone and really stretching out to acknowledge the radio sounds of right now. That’s a skill he can do more easily than most, because his voice and delivery power through and possess every beat, no matter how cloying. On “Hard,” it sounds like Gangsta Gibbs has hijacked some Skylar Grey sad-pop and made it well, actually sad. Jazzy-wazzy goth-sounding vocalist Dana Williams says some dark stuff about life being short that becomes laughable once Gibbs’ unsentimental, platitude-free worldview wearily walks through. And the beat, dragged along by ghostly wails and windows-creaking saxophone squonks, turns Gibbs’ lonely hustler pleas to just make it to the morning — like the d-boy take on Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night” — into something genuinely disturbing. Perhaps it’s just because we’re about to enter the month of October, but the atmospheric horror of “Hard” sounds like it has arrived just in time for Halloween.
Homeboy Sandman, “Not Really”
“When people asked me if my life changed, here’s what I might say: not really.” That’s Homeboy Sandman modestly explaining away all the differences in his life now that he’s rapping and people really care that he’s rapping. Though “Not Really” is a bit of a playful humble brag, it’s mostly a sincere declaration of remaining aggressively down-to-Earth and zen-like, despite stirrings of success: “As far as money, I was always out / Now, it’s always money coming in / I never worry about money now, I never worried about money then.”; “It occurred to me one show, I’m onstage where I used to be in the front row / That’s like a ten-foot distance, it’s not a real big difference.” Having just released his album First of a Living Breed, his third excellent release of the year — following the EPs Subject: Matter. and Chimera — Homeboy Sandman is having a great year, though not enough people seem to care. But, as “Not Really” declares, that doesn’t bug him too much. Still, make sure to run through his Stones Throw releases from this year if they didn’t make it onto your iPod already.