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No Trivia’s Friday Five: French Montana Can Out-Weeknd the Weeknd, Who Knew?

French Montana / Photo by John Ricard

Oh, brother. Anniversaries on anniverseries on anniversaries. Get Rich or Die Tryin’ turns 10 and it still kind of stinks! Dilla’s Donuts dropped yesterday seven years ago and well, okay, woah, we’re all getting old and a genius is still dead and not enough people care. And a small amount of people care way too much. Maura Johnston’s piece in the Seattle Weekly“Why We Can’t Leave the ’90s,” put it this way: “Considered as a series of discrete posts and pieces, frothing about the ’90s seems innocent, but as a whole, something about it bugs me — as much for seeing the past regurgitated as for what seems to be a stubborn, market-driven resistance toward shepherding new culture.” However, I would take issue with her assertion that remember-the-’90s-itis is “more intense than the nostalgia of previous generations.” Yes, there may be more of it, thanks to Tumblr and the sheer amount of “garbage media” crawling around looking for content, but it is mostly innocuous. It does not have the same will-to-power dominance as the baby boomers’ nostalgia, which stays convincing teens that no music now is as great as Led Zeppelin (and then cram it in our brains thanks to car commmercials featuring the Zep!) and keeps the idea alive that guitars and pianos and “real instruments” make the most “authentic” music.

French Montana “Sanctuary”
A sample from the video game Kingdom Hearts II (also used by Lil B and XV) chipmunk-emotes while French Montana interpolates the Weeknd’s “Wicked Games” (“Bring the drugs, baby, I could bring the pain”), turning that edgy, druggy, depressive cool into a pain-on-my-shoulders muh’fuckin’ coke-boy cry with a little bit of Linkin Park ridiculousness in there too. An Irvine Welch-style reminiscence of testing product (“My first flip was when the needle hit my vein / Lost it all when the drugs fixed the pain”) and stiff-upper-lip memories of a crappy childhood (“Mama working three jobs, father leaning, he high”) sell the post-Clams Casino melodrama of producer Black Metaphor’s beat. Plus, having it all and maybe just losing it all hits harder because who knows where French Montana will be a year from now? At least for now, Montana is the king of this sort of disarming real talk: See also his verse on the Rico Love remix of Ne-Yo’s “Let Me Love You,” or his noble candor about divorcing his wife (“It’s just kinda like you’re moving and you’re not the same person, ’cause you’re so busy doing what you’re doing”). Because this Mac & Cheese 3 track recently received a video, it’s safe to assume it’s going to end up on French’s May debut, Excuse My French. That’s heartening.

Lee Bannon “YG&A”
A slowed-up “Tom Sawyer” synth growls like a Lovecraftian beast over the Memphis fight music by way of NYC boom-bap, cassette-nostalgia rumble, invoking the rudimentary looping, mixing, and flopping of Rammellzee’s Death Comet Crew or Afrika Bambaataa’s beyond-classic Death Mix which found a place for Geddy Lee and his goons as well as Syl Johnson. These John Carpenter-get-buck gurgles are what SpaceGhostPurrp and A$AP Rocky were trying to do when they batted around the term “trillwave” for awhile (not realizing that the Hood Internet, of all people, beat them to the term by a couple years). Along with Cities Aviv’s Black Pleasure, this is this sort of avant-noise crunk music that transcends its edgy signifiers and feels genuinely tortured and menacing. It’s “trap rave” for people who hate other people and hate raves and have no time for hipster strains of PLUR. And how about the end where it pretty much turns into a Deceit-era This Heat track? Lee Bannon, who put out an excellent glitch-hiss-hop album last year called Fantastic Plastic and has produced for everybody from Joey Bada$$ to the Jacka (and unofficially remixed Andy Stott last month), is carving out his own horror-movie, mean-mugging lane on Caligula Theme Music 2.7.5.

Le1f “Airbending”
“Airbending” finds Le1f sprinting up and down a Detroit techno-like beat from LOLGurlz, imagining that he’s hanging out with Professor X from The X-Men, and then a second later, having an off-the-rails, maybe-on-a-few-rails Kanye moment of realer-than-real talk: “I am whatever you say I am / Stop worrying about how gay I am, or how gay I’m not / Does my shit not knock? / Or my people getting tipsy till their pistol pop?” In short, my rap works the same way all rap works so, please, shut the fuck up. He’s acknowledging a rapid shift in this not-really-a-thing “queer rap” scene, in which he’s moved from accepting the press to rejecting it, or at least remaining kind of aloof about it, to owning that shit on his own terms. Le1f is a space-rap superstar from the future, like a futuristic Japo-Bowie type that teens and tweens in a Satoshi Kon anime flick would obsess over. No one else is doing that. On the cover of Fly Zone, there’s an image of Le1f in all-white, somberly staring off camera. Hard not to imagine this image as some kind of considered seachange. You know, like somber Marvin Gaye in the raincoat, not the dude in a suit smiling real big. Or perhaps things are just moving so fast that one has his or her mature moment less than a year after initially popping off.

Maejor Ali, feat. Justin Bieber & Juicy J “Lolly”
Bei Maejor has changed his name to Maejor Ali, which is a big mistake, though he’s already severely, tragically underrated anyway, so can it really hurt? What might hurt, though, is penning a lollipop-as-penis fuck-me song. Is this stuff hot to, like, anyone? Who knows. Fortunately, this one’s a big awesome headscratcher, featuring Juicy J continuing his “Bandz a Make Her Dance” victory lap, and Justin Bieber who, I shit you not, delivers one of the best verses of the year, so far: “Throwing up a G-note, like I’m at a casino / I’m all fancy, yeah, I’m popping Pellegrino / I’m in the El Camino when I pull up on the scene, though / You know I’m a real OG and baby I ain’t from the T.O. / I’m messing with the clique, though, meet me on the sixth floor/ I know you ain’t a model, you should let me take some pics, though / Windows down, speakers loud, look down at my sneakers now / Got so many features, tell the creatures just to beat it now / Fifty for the necklace, look down at my set list / Got your girlfriend at my crib watching Netflix / Let’s just admit I’m the bestest / Guess this: You ain’t never ever on the guest list.” Big Sean ain’t got shit on me, Biebz screams, pounding his tiny little chest.

Matic & Killa Kizzy “OMFG”
Is Baltimore club about to have a moment? Fueled by the mindblowing work from New Jersey clubbers like DJ Sliink, club music is quietly nearing a creative peak unheard since Blaqstarr in the mid-2000s. You know, before the Mad Decent signee went to Los Angeles to produce wandering bonus tracks for M.I.A. (please go back to “Tote It” or, at least, dropping Smashing Pumpkins’ “Zero” into a manic dance set, Blaq). KW Griff’s “Bring in the Katz” has been released by Night Slugs and I’ve witnessed it rain down on the brains of clubgoers in multiple cities; DJ Angelbaby’s Get Pumped Volume 1 is the most assured club mix in years; at some point recently, Vice was running around Baltimore with cameras; and Brenmar’s new V Magazine mix includes Baltimore club producer Murder Mark and vocalist TT the Artist’s “Pussy Ate.” So, you know, maybe Baltimore club can be properly balled up into Soundcloud culture, finally. And, well, here’s a regional rarity for you: beatmaker Matic and vocalist Killa Kizzy’s “OMFG,” which is almost a year old, but just recieved this kind of incredible professional-ish amateur video of Baltimore kids wilding the fuck out to the end-of-days alarm synths, shouts of “U SWAGGIN?” and “Oh my fucking god, bitch!” chants. Shout-out to the guy with the Livestrong bracelets!