French Montana, feat. Ne-Yo & Raekwon “We Go Where We Want”
This is the second time Ne-Yo has crooned on a pop-savvy Only Built 4 Cuban Linx homage from a New York rapper trying real hard to maintain their cred and still get on the radio. Remember Fabolous’ 2007 Timbaland-produced, “Rainy Dayz”-referencing “You Make Me Better”? Here, the sped-up and processed Earl Klugh guitars (that sound like pianos!) of Rae and RZA’s “Ice Cream” are woven through French Montana’s “We Go Wherever We Want.” At least, they allowed Raekwon to show up this time! He shouts out his “Larry King suspenders and…bow tie.” Who knows. Really, it’s indicative of where rap is that Rae’s allowed to show up on a major-label rap album (that isn’t by Playaz Circle). Thank Kanye West, who steady keeps finding a place for Wu-Tangers on his recent work, but also golden-era rap nostalgia hitting its boomer phase. Oh yeah: This is a French Montana song and his hook is typically, goofily, narcotic, but he’s a non-entity here. A shame about Excuse My French. Whatever you think of French, people love him, and trippy-tragic tracks like “Sanctuary” and dead-eyed anthems like “Devil Want My Soul” from Mac & Cheese 3 afforded the woozy warbler some humanity. None of that’s apparent on his debut.
Hustle Gang (T.I., Yung Booke, Doe B & Big Kuntry King) “G.D.O.D.”
Maybe this is some kind of G.O.O.D. Music diss given the title, but so what, right? This matters because it’s T.I. continuing to channel the early fury he had on Trap Muzik more than a decade ago with his Grand Hustle never-gonna-be-stars named Yung Booke and Big Kuntry King. Too bad nobody really cares that he’s doing this anymore. The whole Hustle Gang – G.D.O.D. mixtape works in this particular way and it’s worth your time. But let’s talk about Big Kuntry King, a secretly important ATL rapper who predicted a lot of the Mike Will Made It, Future, etc. trap-rap-in-space sound and attitude that’s so prevalent right now. Can’t recommend B.K.K.’s 100% Kane from last year enough. Future-friendly producers like Nard & B appear and he raps over the deadmau5 and Kaskade song “I Remember.” So, T.I..’s pretty much got a Future-esque charmer on his roster and has for a really long time, and isn’t using him properly. Big Kuntry’s terse grunt of a verse here also invokes Kevin Gates in its ability to navigate tough-guy trap signifiers and come off much more wounded and interesting. Rap’s rulebook is totally out the window. Maybe Big Kuntry King can become a thing?
Pharrell, my dude. The plan with that guest spot on that Daft Punk maybe-single-of-the-year “Get Lucky” was to remind everybody that your lounge-singer Michael Jackson charms were, in fact, predictive of “retromania” and all that. The thinkpieces were half-written, bro! About how, in fact, you were vastly underrated and your half-rap, half-singing, all completely nutso and cheeseball solo album In My Mind was an underrated classic; How your new-age rambles and N.E.R.D. rock-outs were a massive influence on indie types like Toro y Moi and Tyler, the Creator, which would mean you are some kind of slept-on father to chillwave and Tumblr-rap at the same damn time? Singing on the centerpiece to Daft Punk’s own ode to laid-back ’70s and ’80s vibes proved you were doing what one of the most loved and celebrated bands are now trying to do, before they were doing it! So, what’s the next move? A goofy little falsetto-filled ditty for the soundtrack to kids’ movie Despicable Me 2 that attempts to ride some sort of cyborg Motown Temptations’ “Get Ready” wave? There’s almost something admirable about the incredibly-big-balls bad timing here.
Congressman Trey Radel “Away From Here”
The latest hustle by the new wave of the Republican party, wrapped up in Tea Party insanity, is “Hey guys, we’re hip! We like hip-hop.” Right now, it’s just a series of blips on the conservative-crank radar: Marco Rubio proudly dropping the kind of rap “knowledge” you’d have to be a moron not to pick up on if you went to college in the early ’90s; Waco, Texas, Tea-Party rapper Polatik, who fashions himself a bootstrap-repping MC with good ol’ Amurrrican valyooos; or the occasional editorial from the right, or even left-leaning, “real hip-hop”-repping goofs, who will try to convince you that contemporary hip-hop’s attitude is more in line with the G.O.P.’s, anyway, you feel me? So, just grab some popcorn, sit back ,and prepare to LOLZ at the latest example of the Republican rap revolution: Florida Congressman and hip-hop beatmaker Trey Radel, who shared a bunch of his production work with Esquire. The best beat — because it’s the worst one — is “Away From Here,” which tries and fails laughably to be Ludacris’ “Move.” There’s also a generic, limp-dick, pseudo-M.O.P. cut, a lost Crystal Method big-beat mood-setter, and something from the soundtrack to a not-yet-made, direct-to-video Fast & the Furious sequel. All in all, it’s exactly what you’d imagine half-assed hip-hop beats from a bro named Trey would sound like. Listen to Congressman Radel’s beats here, because Esquire has removed the embed code from the Soundcloud for some dumb reason. Got to make sure you got the exclusive on these Tea-Party bangersa , right?
Tree “Fame” and “King”
The easy sell on the latest from Chicago “soul-trap” rapper/producer Tree, Sunday School II: When the Church Lets Out, is “King.” It’s the one where Tree chipmunks Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling in Love with You” into an only vaguely identifiable series of rising and falling wails — set to skittering, almost juke-chaotic drums. The harder-to-explain genius of Tree — emoved from “Woah he sampled that”-isms — is “Fame,” the track right before “King.” It’s over in less than two minutes and for almost its entire duration, it teases a longing-filled vocal sample, about to form words, but always falling short, floundering and trying to communicate. Also, when the sample is allowed to unfurl in the final moments, it’s revealed to be the old standard “Mean to Me”? Maybe Billie Holiday’s version? Maybe an older one? Still tough to tell. It sounds as desperate as Tree’s Chicago streets-stained lyrics, and shows the beat to be an exercise in producer patience and subtlety. Combined, “Fame” and “King” are a tour-de-force duo of tracks, and a trap-damaged example of how much can still be done with the simple, stalwart tricks of old-fashioned sampling.