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No Trivia’s Rap Songs of the Week: Vampire Weekend Prove Their Rap-Nerd Bonafides

Eve, feat. Pusha T & Juicy J “She Bad Bad Remix”
The only two songs that remind you her lunkheaded label stuck its grubby paws in Eve’s otherwise excellent Lip Lock are “Make It Out of This Town,” a beyond forgettable party-pop track featuring Gabe Saporta of Cobra Starship (in her SPIN review, Julianne Escobedo Shepherd quipped that “featuring Gabe Saporta” was “one of the most tragic phrases in pop culture”), and this end-of-the-album remix of “She Bad Bad,” featuring Pusha T and Juicy J. These are the two places left in the mainstream for rapping right now, it seems: As just another moving part inside of some hopelessly corny EDM non-starter, or indulging pop-enough street-rap’s dirty old men. It’s bleak out there, people. But hey, if it takes aging-out creeps Pusha T and Juicy J remixing a rubbery dance-rap track to get Eve the attention she deserves, that’s cool. So, here’s what happens: Pusha T continues his coke-rap madlibs to diminishing returns; Eve raps her ass off, of course; and Juicy J keeps on keeping on with his twice-zooted, savant-like rhymes (“Gettin’ high as a light fixture”).

Fergie, feat. Q-Tip & Goonrock “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)”
The Great Gatbsy-soundtrackin’, fistpumpin’, way too melismatic, flapper-pop track produced by Goonrock, the guy responsible for LMFAO’s “Waters of Nazareth”-for-tweens-and cougars party throb, featuring Fergie doing some kind of weird Billie Holiday thing because that’s ol’-timey (right, guys?), and Q-Tip, yes Q-Tip, the one from A Tribe Called Quest, not some n00b with the same name or something, in the Flo-Rida party-rockin’ cheeseball role shouting, “All we got! All we got! All we got!” in the same smooth-as-fuck voice that delivered the honeyed rhymes of “Bonita Applebaum” and “Electric Relaxation.” AND THEN GOONROCK SPEEDS THAT ALL-TIME CLASSIC RAP VOICE INTO AN ON-MOLLY, HELIUM-VOICED YAMMER?! I love it, though. This one’s a spectacle, man, every bit as big and goofy and doesn’t-make-any-sense-whatsoever as Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. Is OST curator Jay-Z to blame for this one? What part of doin’ it for tha’ culture is this hot mess, Hova? Who even knows anymore. We deserve “A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got).”

Locksmith, feat. Olamide Faison “Livin’ Loaded”
Hold up, everybody, important news right here: We have located an even more basic-sounding, more in-the-pocket, struggle-invoking, contemporary underground working-class hero than Stalley. His name’s Locksmith, he’s from Richmond, California (same town as Iamsu!), and he’s been kicking around for awhile actually, but The Green Box, his new mixtape, almost despite itself, expertly bridges the gap between elastic, idiosyncratic Bay Area bump and stalwart modern-day indie-rap. Production from boom-bap student-turned-legend 9th Wonder and Chicago beatmaker Brandun DeShay, who has worked with Danny Brown, Hodgy Beats, Casey Veggies, Curren$y, and others, is the M.O. here. And Locksmith’s pretty much a mix of all those artists, or maybe a kind of flattening out of all those guys? Faint praise, maybe, but look where that got J. Cole. And there’s an undeniable passion to Locksmith’s rapping and well, the biggest hip-hop personality in the world right now is Drake, who’s a total cornball, so all bets are off. Sit with this one, pretend that too-hip-and-tailor-made-for-your-quirky-tastes Tumblr rap never existed, and the new undie sincerity of The Green Box will win you over.

Mayalino “I’m The Proof”
Mayalino is a Houston, Texas coke-rapper who sounds a little bit like Mizzle, the goofy white-boy narrator/announcer/herb from Cam’ron’s Purple Haze, which is fitting because we’re in the midst of pure Dipset half-crazy coke-rap ridiculousness (“If I die tonight / Send my kilograms to heaven”) tempered by enough dead-eyed honesty to make it work (“I don’t eat with niggas I don’t starve with”) territory. Even more Dipset vibes arrive thanks to producer Woodlyn Beats’ production: an effects-covered hiccuping vocal sample that seems on the verge of rave-rap but keeps getting interrupted by Christmas bells, hi-hat hits, and finger snaps, and ends up as region-twisted boom-bap. Perhaps you remember Woodlyn Beats’ “It’s Too Late” by the Stylistics-sampling production for Slaughterhouse’s “Sound Off,” the opening song from their 2009 self-titled debut. You should! Not much else was memorable about that album. It’s just great to hear the avant-garde sounds, which have been owned by Internet rap over the past few years, return to street rap thanks to guys like Woodlyn Beats, and bigger names like Harry Fraud and Childish Major.

Vampire Weekend “Step”
For “Step,” off Vampire Weekend’s latest, Modern Vampires of the City, the group interpolates Souls of Mischief’s demo “Step To My Girl.” That speaks to their rap-nerd pedigree for sure, and locates the group, and in particular, former blogger-for-fun Ezra Koenig in the generation where rap rarities were just a Megaupload link away. If only they had used Souls’ “Theme from Taxi“-sampling 93′ til’ Infinity fan-favorite demo, “Cab Fare.” Surely, Ezra and friends could’ve conjured up some McInerney-ian tale of a jerk dude and bored chick cabbin’ it from some Wall Street mixer to 285 Kent or something, right? Anyways, Vampy Weeks have a habit of flipping hip-hop; don’t forget their “Juicy” riff on Contra bonus track “Giant” (“It was all a dream/ I used to read Thrasher magazine”). And, in general, there is an insider-outsider approach to the kind of lyricism Koenig engages in that feels more hip-hop-informed than typically sensitive indie-bro spleen-venting. Lastly, just consider the loop of music history here: A Souls of Mischief demo with a saxophone sample of Grover Washington’s “Aubrey,” which is originally a song by the band Bread, now turned into a Vampire Weekend track!