In 2013, all the truly significant mainstream rap lurks at the bottom of the ‘Billboard’ Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, not the top. A tepid track like Jay Z’s “Holy Grail” (currently at #2) will always get more spins and Spotify streams than a regional about-to-buzz hit; meanwhile, Macklemore gets the middle-schoolers going (“Same Love” at #3, “Can’t Hold Us” at #4, and former chart-topper “Thrift Shop” at #6), while the the FiNATTiCZ’s inexplicable, couple-years-old booty-rap “Don’t Drop That Thun Thun” sneaks in at #11 thanks to Miley Cyrus’ twerk colonialism. (If that’s not weird enough, consider the bizarro #newrules of the charts that also consider YouTube streams.) But it’s the rap songs barely breaking that tell you what’s actually happening: The Miami Vice vibes of 2 Chainz’s “Feds Watching” (#22); the swirling, whirling lyricism of Kendrick Lamar’s “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” (#21); the transcendently monotonous thug groaning of French Montana’s “Ain’t Worried About Nothin” (#18).
And then there’s Rich Homie Quan’s “Type of Way,” an estabished warble-rap street hit finally getting some mainstream attention (it’s at #24). It probably has too many rough edges for the increasingly pleasant (and increasingly white) world of rap radio, so don’t expect it to penetrate any further into the pop world. But it’s still great to see a song that has been climbing out of cars, popping up in mix-show sets, and mumbling through club speakers for months now sneaking its way onto a few “legit” playlists, too. That’s a good thing. Drake, who helped deliver Migos to the world outside the Rap Internet, recently told MTV that “Type of Way” is “the song of the summer,” and expressed regret that he didn’t jump on the track when he had the chance. Let’s hope that never happens, though, for he’ll surely misread the song’s knotty emotions and eschew its relentless fun.
“Type of Way” is another “I got a lot of stuff, and you don’t, and that makes you a hater” song, though Rich Homie Quan never actually uses the word “hater” or any other hyper-derivative hip-hop cliché. In short, it continues the hip-hop tradition of finding a new way to talk the same ol’ shit: “That car I’m driving make you feel some type of way.” And there’s an old school, Slick Rick-era lording-over-the-crumbs assholism to it, because he’s telling you how you feel. He isn’t dismissing you or laughing you off; he’s psychoanalyzing your boring ass. He’s thought about your feelings a whole lot, but fuck your feelings, dude. And there’s just something cleverly ambiguous about the phrase “feel some type of way.” It resonates because it feels like a catch-all phrase designed to be tweeted or tossed up as a Facebook status update.
But sincere emotions creep around the corners of the basic I-got-money, I-stole-your-girl content of the hook. Quan talks of taking a woman (who has a boyfriend or husband) away from it all in melodramatic terms (“Go through hell because I care, move you far away”), and ends the verse by telling her, “I ain’t lying today when I tell you that I love you.” Little Future-esque appreciations for the little things pop up here and there (“I drop down to my knees thankful for life today”), and again, it’s just a smarter, less douchier way of saying what hip-hop is always saying. This takes the “I fucked your bitch” woman-as-chattel nonsense that’s dominating hip-hop boasting as of late and injects real feelings into it. Rich Homie Quan cares.
But don’t forget producer Yung Carter’s crafty beat, a woozy waltz that recalls Art of Noise’s “Moments In Love” and sneaks by during this era of in-the-pocket, Mike Will Made It-era radio rap, even though it’s something a bit more on-the-sly and strange: Synth bubbles straight out of Moby’s good-vibes rave productions rise and fall, while regal strings swing around in the background like those final gorgeous moments of Kendrick’s “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.” It’s the Lex Luger trap-music stomp reduced to even fewer elements, recalling the spare treble of more experimental fare like Arca’s recent mixtape, &&&&&. “Type of Way” is warm-hearted, minutiae-obsessed, feelings-first, shittin’-on-you hip-hop verging on electro-psychedelia. It’s the strangest song on rap radio right now, and one of the best.