Pensado’s Place is a public access-like nerd-out about the inside baseball ins and outs of engineering and mixing records. It’s hosted by Dave Pensado, whose credits kind of speak for themselves, and who is probably best described as the Dude from The Big Lebowski meets Brian Wilson meets that nice older guy who bought you beer when you were underaged but also, like, gave you some Captain Beefheart records to check out, as well. The most recent episode of the show features a 50-minute interview with Derek Ali, or MixedbyAli as he’s better known, who recorded and mixed Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d city, a rap record that really does sound incredible. It’s a really fascinating episode and you should check it. Some advice: Give into the maybe-I’m-on-mushrooms Tim & Eric-esque anti-rhythms of Pensado’s interviewing style, or you’ll miss moments when he explains why good kid sounds like jazz or compares gangsta rappers to Hemingway. Essential viewing for any Kendrick Lamar fan.
Chinx Drugz, feat. French Montana, Rick Ross, & Diddy “I’m a Cokeboy” Remix
If this “Chief Keef’s killing the culture” back-patting (tempered by always necessary whiteboy takedowns) has proven anything, it’s that we all have our limits for what we’ll accept in rap. And that sometimes, what sticks in our craw is pretty arbitrary. For me, “I’m a Cokeboy” now penetrating the radio, playing on MTV Jams a great deal, and getting a fancy remix makes me bristle. Devoid of any kind of coded (or clever) language, it is a hyper-obvious celebration of selling cocaine. Perhaps, you can spiral your way into imagining it as sort of auto-critique of lost potential when French boasts/bemoans “Could’ve been a doctor” – talk to me five years ago and I probably would’ve farted that very opinion across the Internet – but well no. Just no. Here’s what was charming about the original: French Montana’s goofy-ass voice; Chinx Drugz’s doesn’t-realize-he’s-just-another-NYC-rapper-yet energy; Harry Fraud’s drunken string quartet beat. Here’s what is terrible about the remix: Rick Ross refusing to even pretend he’s a mutha’ faw’n coke boy; Chinx telling you he almost voted for Romney; Diddy acting like a Class A asshole.
Eve “She Bad Bad”
Poor Eve, stuck in label limbo going on year six now. Will we see Lip Lock in 2013? Cross them fingers, everybody. See, Eve was way ahead of the stars-grabbing-from-Soundcloud curve, going off over bug-eyed dance beats as early as 2007 with “Tambourine” (not to mention, 2009’s Salaam Remi & Benga-produced “Me N’ My,” 2011’s “Coolin'” off that Swizz Beatz album that never came out). Sure, a weak Sean Paul collaboration and an EDM collabo with Wolfgang Gartner also wandered around, but those seemed more like clueless demands of a major label convinced that a fast-rapping female MC with ears from the future has no place. Or worse, that only one is allowed to exist. Sigh. “She Bad Bad,” produced by Juicebox (Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair”), which has a video and everything, combines grandiose before-a-movie THX whir with bass blasts, a deceptive reggae sample, and towards the end, a victorious synthesizer march. Eve is well Eve, which means you get laconic zingers like this: “Your gimmick make me sicky, what you’re selling I ain’t buying/ Man, I live up at the top, so you keep climbing.” This one’s an adventure!
Just Blaze “Behold! (Exhibit J)”
The best recent Just Blaze rap productions (XV’s “Wichita,” Drake’s “Lord Knows,” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Compton”) hold together thanks to some house music-informed screwing around with filters – borrowing as much from say, the instrumental dance of the Basement Boys or Nervous Records’ underground house 12-inches, as post-Late Registration symphonic hip-hop. And have we all forgotten about Just Blaze’s “Exhibit GFP”? His deceptively snarky pre-EDM rage-out remix of his own beat for Jay Electronica’s then-hot “Exhibit C”? He included it on his now prescient, mostly house set for Fool’s Gold Records’ 2009 Holiday Party. “GFP” of course, stood for “Guido Fist Pump” though the song was only like, 25 percent Jersey Shore trash remix; the title and funny audio sample, a layer of irony to make people get down to progressive house, without irony. Three years later, Just Blaze returns “Exhibit C” to the dancefloor. This time, it’s those session dude keyboards from the outro, reconfigured into some imaginative piano-house.
Moneyworth Fuckboy Season Is Over Mix
Where do stripped-down versions of Jeremih songs fall on Solange Knowles’ “R U A REAL R&B CRITIC OR A PHONEY BALONEY” pyramid that for some reason has at the top of it, deep album cuts from Brandy? Not that there wasn’t some validity to Knowles’ Twitter rant, but well, you need the fakers and the dabblers, and if more people caring about R&B means more dumb opinions, it’s a trade-off worth incurring. But yeah, the best case for R&B’s importance, free from “Alt R&B” celebrations and all that junk, is serious fans nerding out about it for serious. That’s what Chicago DJ and rap illuminati arts & craftswoman Moneyworth does on her mix, Fuckboy Season is Over. Highlights include the aforementioned quasi-unplugged version of “Birthday Sex,” Cassie’s “When Your Body is Talking” (#DEEPCASSIECUTS), and the high-energy trio of Chief Keef’s “Kay Kay,” AraabMuzik’s “Feelin’ So Hood” and Gunplay’s “Definition of a Plug.” It’s like hip-hop wandered into a make-out party with Red Bull & St. Ides and started busting heads. Finally, Tink’s amazing “When I’m Lit” and the Casha-featured version of the-Dream’s “Used To Be” are important inclusions in cutting dumb overly sensitive dudes down to size.
Sean Falyon ft. DJ Wally Sparks “WIN”
Part of #NewAtlanta it seems, similar to Freddie Gibbs in that he has a rugged and raw lane but will rap over anything and everything deftly (and similar to Sean Price, if he a let a little more air into his sound), Atlanta by-way-of Philadelphia rapper Sean Falyon is a straight-forward MC who knows how to keep things interesting. The topic here is the grind, of course, but Falyon’s dedicated bars are self-effacing and honest (“A dream nigga, yeah, that’s all that I’m chasing / Trying to work it to the top and get the fuck out the basement”); plus, this damn nerdy reference to the Hughes Brothers’ Dead Presidents creatively conveys rap’s default “I don’t give a fuck” position: “For them dead presidents I heist an armored car / Go out blazin’ like N’Bushe and I die in vain/ Probably then these motherfuckers remember my name / Long and narrow that be the path / Thinking how I’m gonna come up in a barrel of crabs.” A coughing, orchestrated soul sample and a chopped-and-screwed hook made for taking over the world rather than staring into your styrofoam cup do it for me, too. From SPKSMEN Mixtape Vol. 1, mixed by DJ Wally Sparks.