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Rap Songs of the Week: Dirty Money Lives On!

Dawn Richard

Nice to see Kalenna, the other member of Diddy’s Dirty Money project showing up on a radio-ready song with Rich Boy (who also hasn’t really gotten the second chance he deserves). And Dawn Richard returns the major-label cast-off favor by spotlighting Eve! Meanwhile, Tyga panders, James Blake gets in over his head with the RZA, and a should-be-buzzing producer, Tony Gardner, puts himself in front of the mic.

Dawn Richard, feat. Eve “Northern Lights (Remix)”
“Northern Lights,” from Richard’s album Goldenheart, now featuring Eve, is like a gathering of the perpetually underrated. Richard, formerly of Danity Kane and Diddy Dirty-Money, is making some of the most fulgent R&B right now, though it neither codes as “alt” or “mainstream,” and as a result doesn’t grab that many ears. Then there’s Eve, a cooly confident rapper temporarily put out to pasture by hedge-betting labels, despite releasing a series of headspinning singles over the past oh, half a decade, that got hip to yammering minimalism (“Tambourine”) and dubstep (“Me N’ My”), well before everybody else got hip to such things. This remix is a case for Eve as scene-stealing rapper, holding off on her verse for almost three minutes. When she does appear, she provides a quick, cocky verse that locks in on the bounce nods of the beat and does away with all those Soothing Sounds for Baby-like bloops and, then, just confidently walks away. Lip Lock, Eve’s oft-delayed album, is supposedly out May 14.

James Blake, feat. RZA “Take a Fall For Me”
So, this James Blake character. I guess white people need their own Drake, even though rock history is already full of sensitive melodramatic bros. At least here we’ve got a collaboration with RZA, in which the Wu-Tang mastermind gets to drop some of his marble-mouthed, bat-shit crazy rhymes over a Blake production that isn’t that far from what RZA did on the inspired, completely loopy, all-but-forgotten Wu album, 8 Diagrams. A lot of rappers probably would’ve phoned in this thing and, like, confused the dude with James Blunt and stuff, you know? But RZA clearly considered the beat and even throws in a few entry-level British references (“a million quid,” “fish and chips”) to show he’s paying attention. Less fun, but way better than that other 2013 sore-thumb, rap-electronic collabo between Kavinsky and Havoc, in which the Mobb Deep member shouts out Twitter on a concept album set in the ’80s. And given that it’s the week of “Accidental Racist,” RZA declaraing that “the elixir of love turns this square dance into a passion hug” feels like it might bring us all together for a few moments!

Rich Boy, feat. Kalenna “Kiss the Moment”
Huntsville production crew the Block Beattaz have the right idea: Recycle your super-inspired work that the majority of the earth hasn’t heard and then sell it to the industry. The beat for Stalley’s new single “Swangin’,” for example, is just G-Side’s song of the same name from 2008’s Starshipz & Rocketz. For “Kiss the Moment” from Rich Boy’s album Break the Pot, the Block Beattaz haven’t recycled a beat, but they are returning to some past ideas, creating a slight variation on cell-phone nudez tribute “Pictures,” off The One…Cohesive. “Kiss the Moment” is a an atmospheric batch of rap & bullshit that can maintain the presence of a grunting rapper and a great singer and keep the emotions honest. Very few things on the radio are able to do this right now, it seems. Hook the Block Beattaz up with Ciara, please? Have them co-produce with Mike Will Made It, maybe? Because it’s 2013, though, Kalenna mentions how she “popped a molly” at the very end. Just had to get that in there. Then again, the song is called “Kiss the Moment” so maybe the whole thing is about ecstasy?

Tony Gardner “Ridin’ Slow”
Tony Gardner has the best producer-drop in rap music right now. It’s a young lady provocatively saying, “Mmmm, Tony Gardner,” Maybach Music-style, but much more down-to-earth and knowingly ridiculous. You may remember Gardner from his work on Brick Squad Compton repper Ice Burgandy’s Rhythm & Burgandy, an excellent and actually rather romantic rap album from late last year. Samples of Kool & the Gang, Blue Ivory, Luniz, and others, approached with fresh young ears, held the project together and made him a producer to check for in the future. Here, Gardner just raps, though the beat from Ro1up is very much in Gardner’s weedcloud wheelhouse, sampling Lisa Fischer’s 1991 post-quiet storm slow-drip “How Can I Ease the Pain,” and giving it some floaty Mike Will stomp. Plus, Gardner sounds great on the mic: Slick and breezy, finding catchy parts inside of catchy parts (that “pour up, dough up” hook before the hook), as he raps about riding his car around Atlanta to escape the stress of daily life.

Tyga, feat. Wiz Khalifa & Mally Mall “Molly”
Tyga, probably the most worthless rapper kicking around right now, has a new album out called Hotel California. Like that last Tyga album which wasn’t named after an Eagles record, and had a ponderous title instead (Careless World: Rise of the Last King), Hotel California also attempts to do some Drake-style, from-the-bottom pathos before abandoning even that cheap conceit to touch on every sound the young people are into these days. So, if we’re going to talk about Tyga, let’s talk about him at his most in-the-pocket and pandering. His “Molly” song sort of tries to be a shit-eating-Chris Brown, retro-house, EDM-of-the-future party track and a Chief Keef simmering rager at the same time. Maybe the best line is, “Can’t fall in love, I got options / I’m high school, that’s college,” because it’s Tyga pretty much admitting he is all about lowering his standards and not trying at all? There’s also just the bizarre reality that rap ostensibly aimed at teens can be about ecstasy and also shout out “overdosing?” No wonder my boy-band heroes of 2013, Mindless Behavior, can’t get on. They have to compete with kiddie-rap songs about rolling!