Release Date: April 17, 2014
Label: Fool’s Gold
Ghetto Cuisine is a collaboration between Sweet Valley, the beatmaking project from Wavves’ Nathan Williams and his brother Kynan, and DaVinci, a cultish Bay Area tough guy and hood/Internet bridge of an MC. Here, Sweet Valley move their video game boom bap, which previously existed in a blog-friendly vacuum, into the world of rap proper, while DaVinci, who’s generally scrapper-serious, gets a little goofier. Think of this as a lower stakes version of what happened when Freddie Gibbs and Madlib came together for Piñata: an open-eared street dude was tugged out of his comfort zone and went lyrically nuts, while a head-nodding beatfreak had to consider an audience outside of his core fanbase, and the result was a few decent bangers.
Opener “Dog Meat” is rap-as-gut-punch in the Death Grips mode (recall Zach Hill of the noise-rap duo is a former Wavves collaborator) and DaVinci fills the track with over-the-top humor one moment (“Fuck the hatin’ nigga, ballin’ out, wanna stunt/ Fuck my seventh grade teacher, she was a cunt!”) and personal-as-political real talk the next (“Fuck the cop that killed my little cousin dead”). The highlight here is “Saydatden,” with DaVinci delivering internal rhyme-packed lines in double time over slow-drip dubstep: “I need a proper proposition just to get me out the kitchen/ Fucking with my coalition, nigga might just come up missing.”
Even when Sweet Valley’s most tangible influences (mid-2000s dirty south crawl; early ’90s sample-slicing heroism) are fully indulged, they’re channeled through bratty disrespect-your-elders glee. “237” reimagines T.I.’s “What You Know” with chintzy MIDI bleep-bloop, making it easier to hear DaVinci smear evocative witticisms all over the bass buzz (“Dip my huevos in the sand/ Million pesos in my pants”). Two songs crudely commit R&B blasphemy via samples of ’60s rhythm and blues legend Barbara Lewis: “Hello Stranger” grabs from the Lewis song of the same name and turns it into an outta control pro-vaginal-flatulence anthem (Lewis’ coos are contorted to sound like, um, nevermind); “Work Hard,” dissects Lewis’ “Baby, I’m Yours” and pairs her voice with Sagat from Street Fighter II grunting, “Upper cut!” because, well, just because.
Fronted by an often hilarious but still grizzled rapper, Ghetto Cuisine is busted up “real hip-hop” laced with Nintendo and Sega Genesis sounds, invoking the no-stakes joy of playing video games with friends. You know: being very stoned, rap music beautifully bumping in the background, your loudmouth buddy blabbing over it the entire time. Sweet Valley, who even with Williams’ involvement haven’t really risen out of the Tumblr rap dregs, and DaVinci, a too-subtle-for-stardom rapper, have made something that’s both modest like their previous work and a strangely confident plateau jump.