If you’re a rap fan who has ever had a hardrive crash, a laptop stolen, or just wasn’t thinking straight and deleted a bunch of mid-to-late-2000s mixtapes because you thought they’d be available to download forever, then the Tumblr Diskography is a godsend. Whoever runs the Tumblr has been uploading entire mixtape discographies of rappers from Gucci Mane to the Cool Kids, with all the wonky tagging removed. “Mixtapes that have been re-tagged to work correctly on your iPod/Windows Media Player/Last.Fm etc. –> LEGAL & FREE MUSIC!” reads the blog’s summary. This is important work. The story of rap music must include mixtape culture and by the late 2000s, physical copies of these things were quite hard to come by, if they existed at all. Like, imagine a Doomsday Preppers wetdream in which the Internet just ends and all its data disappears. The story of hip-hop would lean far too heavily on the junk that actually gets pressed into CDs and stuffed into Best Buy and Target. Scary.
Soundcloud tags on this new song from San Jose’s most heavy-hearted: “Nature boy meditation soundtrack”; “Pain in my hart”; “Can’t shed no tears.” So yeah, Antwon locks-in on a Friendzone-produced, theme-from-The Natural-on-muscle-relaxers keyboard progression with some bass-boom skitter and comes off like a grumbling Pimp C jumping between dude-bro appeals to the ladies and soul-crushingly sad confessions until they’re all one in the same. A hook that’s more like a chant reminds you that girls want to get with him, while it’s all undercut by declarations like “There’s pain in my heart.” The first line of the song, “I used to the think the world is shit, until I got active,” should be a rallying cry for those who spend their days on the Internet. That is to say, fans of Antwon. But that is to say, everyone at this point, right? When Rihanna is provocatively posing for Complex, in one photo far more interested in her Macbook Pro than the Am Appy gaze of a photographer, we’re through the looking glass, people.
A$AP Rocky, feat. Skrillex & Birdy Nam Nam “Wild For the Night”
Yeah, this just sounds like “Mercy” without any of G.O.O.D.’s hulking rap-fascist restraint, but there’s probably a case to be made that “Mercy” wouldn’t exist without Live.Love.A$AP and, well, we are in the midst of some sort of gummy dust-up between dubstep/EDM, Soundcloud refix culture, and regional dance clusterfuckery that’s as exciting as it is icky. It’s time capsules might could be “Wild For the Night” and Harmony Korine’s upcoming Spring Breakers, which will either make no money or 300 million dollars and will either be a Robert Downey Sr.-like lark or an LDC disaster (let’s hope it’s more Mister Lonely than Trash Humpers). SMH-ing at A$AP Rocky isn’t hard and there is an Internet-nerd ethical issue to be brought up if you’re the kind of hand-wringing wet blanket who thinks an online community should be nominally respected, and not just stripped for parts and paid back in scraps (like, say, a major-label pay day for producers like Friendzone). But quite simply, “Wild For the Night,” a Houston slur facsimile and Electric Daisy Carnival bait is a song only A$AP could make.
Chief Keef “Kay Kay”
One thing that would benefit us white critics in this ever-twisting Chief Keef discussion is to just admit that he is not exactly the latest in a long line of interchangeable “culture-killers” that older generations of rap fans have despised. Rather, he is a special case. It has nothing with his music, which is figuring itself out quickly and operates as both mindless and maudlin; it’s his context. Namely, that he is a 17-year-old from a city in the midst of a seemingly hopeless wave of street violence that, thanks to the contingencies of the Internet (which pounces on everything and then sucks it dry), and the music industry (which no longer promises even a nice pay day but still tempts you with fame and a little dough), places him in a position that comes with no instructions. His story is different. No one loses by conceding that he is a rarefied case. As Jon Caramanica of The New York Times observed, “Kay Kay” is named after Keef’s daughter. He won’t see his daughter for at least 60 days because he’s going to jail. Just saying.
DJ AngelBaby, Get Pumped Vol. 1
Baltimore club had its sort of national mini-moment in the mid-2000s and then it disappeared. It happens. And though the spastic hammer dance never directly penetrated the mainstream, everything from LMFAO to “trap rave” (and some actually good music sitting somewhere between those two poles of poor taste) exists because of it. For example, the new Destiny’s Child single has the “Think” break in it. But “Bmore club” never stopped or even slowed down all that much, and over the past few years, a new wave of kids in Baltimore have been bending the formula backwards and forwards. DJ AngelBaby’s Get Pumped Vol. 1 crams Bmore club new-wave tracks into minute-long, super-chaotic snippets and piles them on top of one another, sprinkling in producers from similar scenes in Philly and Newark. Thirty-nine song in less than 54 minutes. And while the kitchen-sink chaos of club once made the music stand out, it’s now just part of a larger, world-spanning scene of aggressive dance. Let’s hope this puts Baltimore club back in the national conversation. Two highlights: Benny Stixx’s apocalyptic Tupac twerk “Gangstas and Punks,” and DJ K-Spin’s “Waka’s Revenge,” nothing more than a loop of Flocka ad-libs and broken “Think” shards. Download DJ AngelBaby’s Get Pumped Vol. 1.
Frank Ocean, feat. Andre 3000 & Big Boi “Pink Matter (Remix)”
In which the Parliament-Funkadelic-ness of channel ORANGE‘s “Pink Matter” is made even more explicit thanks to the inclusion of both members of OutKast. Sure, the alien shout-outs and lyrical dives into orifices were straight George Clinton #TrippyMane already, but the inclusion of Big Boi, besides being kind of a big deal, is another dot-connector between Ocean’s singer-songwriter production pragmatism and the end of the song’s Trombipulation stoner electro-funk and Maggot Brain Marvel Morlocks moans of pain. You know what’s awesome? Big Boi having fun minus a roving gallery of cool-coding Urban Outfitters overhead bands: “She was the perfect hoe/ Stess, when I come over/ We would do the grossest.” Still, it’s all about Andre 3000’s old-soul sensitivity as he twirls a break-up around inside his head and cogently explains the importance of body-image variance: “She had the kind of body / That would probably intimidate / Any of them that were un-southern / Not me, cousin / If models are made for modeling / Thick girls are made for cuddling.”