So, Jay-Z is scoring Baz Lurhmann’s The Great Gatsby, along with the Bullitts. Spare me the “Jay-Z and Gatsby are the same” blog posts because they aren’t the same (Kanye has a little bit of James Gatz’s phoney-baloney, self-made, self-loathing spirit, though). However, I would say that Jay-Z’s “Song Cry,” with its end-of-a-relationship crumble is Fitzgerald-like; Particularly the lines, “You helped me get the keys to that V dot 6/ We was so happy poor, but when we got rich/ That’s when our signals crossed”,” in its diagnosis of the connection between ennui and upward mobility. Nevertheless, I’m excited by the prospect of Jay-Z providing soundtrack input. He’s got two decades worth of well-sequenced, thoughtfully conceptualized rap albums that prove he knows how to organize other people’s music, and one can imagine his role as curator working out well, like Wes Anderson’s fairly visible music supervisor Randall Poster. Plus, Luhrmann reaching out a rapper for a Jazz Age story shows a keen understanding of hip-hop’s contributions to American popular music.
Chief Keef “Citgo”
Imagine an alternate rap reality where Chief Keef didn’t break through with “Bang,” “I Don’t Like,” a shit-ton of homegrown YouTube views, and a Southside, Chicago cred-filled backstory, but as another avant-rap dude chilling out on the Internet with “Citgo,” a very #BASED, trap-meets-ambient-Eno, Soulja Boy-esque slow grower that you cannot shake from your head and won’t want to anyway. Keef is very good at these kinds of songs. As Jordan Sargent said in SPIN’s Finally Rich review: “[Chief Keef] take the shortest — and, crucially, the catchiest — route to connecting with his audience.” Relegated to a bonus track on Finally Rich for some reason, “Citgo” oughta replace French Montana warbler “Diamonds,” creating a mid-album post-Pluto trilogy along with “Laughin’ to the Bank” and “Ballin’.” There’s also the fascinating story behind this song: Produced by a Polish teenager named Young Ravisu and discovered by Keef when the 17 year-old rapper searched “finally rich type beats” on YouTube. RIYL: Fripp & Eno’s Evening Star, old Nintendo music, the Blade Runner-y parts of Jeezy’s The Inspiration.
Cisum, feat. Willis & Sunny Da Showoff “Perfect Sundae”
The end of G-Side (for now, at least) sent the Alabama Internet rap scene back to 2008 or so, when it was an area with a seemingly endless amount of talent (Jackie Chain, Kristmas, PRG’z) and no center to hold it all together. Despite flirtations with mainstream success (Jackie Chain’s “Rollin’,” 6 Tre G’s “Fresh,” Yelawolf, before he totally lost the plot), it was the aggressively on-their-own G-Side who best exemplified what was going on in Alabama. Now, G-Side are gone (their final song, “Listen to My Demo,” was released on New Year’s Eve). But we’ve got Cassettes, something like a rejoinder from G-Side manager and Huntsville rap consigliere Codie G to Diplo’s important but a little bit icky 2008 compilation Fear & Loathing in Hunts Vegas. A few names are somewhat familiar (K.L.U.B. Monsta, Mata, DJ Burn One), but the thrill of Cassettes is diving into a pool of truly undiscovered, not-yet-figured-out talent. “Perfect Sundae” is the stand-out, thanks to its beachy beat, friends-kickin’-rhymes vibe, and weird vocal tics, like how one of the rappers pronounces “khakis” like “car keys.”
The-Dream “Wake Me When It’s Over”
As a sensitive bro/gigantic asshole who recently ended a relationship (and who has more than a few friends asking, “So, what’d you do?”), this track from the-Dream’s 1977 (slightly refashioned from its August 2011 release when it was credited to Terius Nash and given away for free) speaks to me, man. Not really, though it is an interesting and very Internet-era twist on the falling-out-of-love sad-sack slow jam wail. It’s TMI pop that wouldn’t exist without hip-hop’s decades of over-sharing. Here, My Dear 2.0? And what would R&B in the 2010s be if it weren’t a way for feckless males to feel better about themselves? Recall that 1977 originally came out about year after it was revealed that The-Dream cheated on wife Christina Milian, who had recently given birth to their child. This song seems like an attempt to tell magazines and gossip blogs, which have constructed a narrative based on his indiscretions, that they don’t know all the details, which, of course, just makes The-Dream look like more of a last-word dick. There is some sense of propriety here, though. The-Dream must know he comes off like an 808s-Kanye-style maniac, reeling from the end of something (“Now I’m feeling crazy and foolish”), here, right?
Grip Plyaz “Child Support”
Oh boy, wasn’t trying to turn this week’s list of songs into some sort of stupid-ass “Men’s Rights” thing where, like, dudes have feelings too, but then again, isn’t that part of the story of hip-hop? Once the genre established the male superhero MC who was impervious to everything around him, from police to crumb-bum rappers to ladies on his jock, it began dismantling that image with confessional raps about broken hearts and dead friends. So, yes, Atlanta MC Grip Plyaz, who’s responsible for too-weird-to-go-viral blog-rap anthems like “Fuck Dat Hipster Shit,” Tarantino Death Proof-tribute “Stuntman Mike,” and the Richard Pryor-flipping “Died (In Yo Pussy),” finally opens up on “Child Support,” a blues rap sing-song about falling in love, out of love, and then things get worse from there. “I was a real live player but she tried to take me off the court,” Grip croons, like a hybrid of Dungeon Family member Witchdoctor and Anthony Hamilton, “Fell in love, had a kid with her, now I’m on child support.” If it’s all a little too real for you, don’t worry, because the next track on Purp, Wind, & Fire is called “Jackie Joyner.” It features Trinidad Jame$ and samples Vangelis’ Chariots of Fire theme.
Starlito “Money Cacti”
Nashville, Tennessee weirdo Starlito over Kendrick Lamar’s “Money Trees.” The title turned into “Money Cacti” just because. Other freestyles from his newest mixtape Funerals & Court Dates include “Golden Girls & Grahams” (Trinidad Jame$’ “All Gold Everything”) and “Love Hate Lito” (Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa”). Starlito’s distracted wheeze jumps up and down inside of this Beach House-sampling beat, as he takes on both the buggy, corner hugging flow of Kendrick Lamar, and Jay Rock’s Parker-novel-pure bluntness. As is often the case, Lito’s diary-like raps (“My homeboy just domed a nigga, I just hope the lord forgive him”; “As a kid, all I wanted was some ‘draulics and some bitches/ Ain’t too proud to say I probably got some issues”) keep you coming back to what could be just another beat-jack. And in the final moments, he tosses out a manifesto on why he isn’t, say, where Kendrick Lamar is right now: “And I ain’t signed because I refuse to be exploited.” Starlito had an inspired 2012 and not enough people noticed. I made this “Best of Starlito 2012” mix to help you catch up.