Wrap Up Vol. 2

Here’s some bits and pieces I’ve been feeling lately which there’s no point me posting on Facebook cos 99% of my friends think rap music died in 1988 with the release of Jurassic 5’s last album.

Fabolous – Been Around The World RMX Freestyle (2015)

This is my favourite rap thing of the year so far, and it’s a New York veteran doing a sorta-impersonation of Ma$e and Puff Daddy over a beat from the late 90s. I remember Martorialist saying that Pusha T had lost the nonchalance he used to have, and when you hear how much nonchalance Fab has here it makes you realise that Pusha probably owed some of that nonchalance to his love of Bad Boy rappers (hence his Biggie impersonation on that one Clipse track, and his more recent Ma$e impersonation). Maybe it’s New York rap’s number one problem, this inability to sound calm and composed? It has lost its arrogance, its imperial swagger.

Young Thug – Pass Me The Lighter (2015)

Just as I have failed to listen to the Kendrick album, I have also failed to listen to the recent Leakening of Young Thug tracks, the most momentous event of its kind since Wikileaks exposed the military-industrial complex. Of those leaked bits that I’ve heard, this is probably my favourite (although “Flaws” is also up there). This music is uniquely suited to listening to while travelling around London on a sunny day, waved off that second pint of Kronenberg. It might be even better suited to smoking blunts and cavorting with strippers, who knows?

I could write at length (and have) about Young Thug’s avant-garde appeal, his mixture of infantile-sounding inflection with (ostensibly) grown-man gangsta lyrics, even his Liam G-esque androgynous sex appeal, but let’s leave it at praising his endless store of catchy melodies and flows, his superior technique. Some people would laugh at claims that Young Thug is a technical rapper, because he sounds a bit like a retard rapper, but don’t be fooled by his foolery – listen closely and you can hear how crafted his raps are. He knows what he’s doing, even if the rest of us (joyfully) can’t.

The absolute best thing about these leaks from my point of view has been that they’ve sent me back like the prodigal son to last years Rich Gang: The Tour mixtape, which on certain sunny, Kronenberg-waved days, strikes me as being the crowning achievement of rap from 2010-2015.

Rich Gang – See You (2014)

Kevin Gates – Chico (2015)

I prefer Gates singing to Gates rapping (it’s a matter of taste, really, since he’s certainly got more to say than the average rapper), and in the current melody-friendly street rap climate, Gates is uniquely well equipped to drop the sort of drug-dealing and murder anthems that all the family can sing along to.

Lil Herb – XXL (2015)

Lil Bibby – You Ain’t Poppin’ (Remix) (2015)

“XXL” is a freestyle from one of those generically named Chi town rappers about not getting on the XXL Freshman list, which is apparently quite an important list to get on, presumably from the perspective of online news coverage, since nobody is buying magazines in 2015 other than 102 year old motherfuckers who’ve got to pick up that Angler’s Time every first Thursday of the month cos their alzheimers precludes them from remembering a Kindle account password. No longer do rappers “load magazines like Chantelle Fiddy”; instead they just ignore magazines like action-movie shootout conventions.

Usually, that would be a crude segue-way into talking about Chi town rappers, cos they usually talk about guns a lot, but this tune actually sounds more like a Tree than King Louie, with it’s chopped up soul sample and gravelly voiced rapping courtesy of Herbo. “All this time I grew up lookin at the gangsta rappers, ain’t met a gangsta rapper yet since I became a rapper”. Lil Bibby’s ”You Ain’t Poppin RMX” is closer to the generic drill sound but is a perfectly worthy example of that form.

King Louie – Where I Come From (2015)

There are a number of perfectly worthy examples of the drill form on Louie’s Drilluminati 3 mixtape and then there’s the customary 5 star classic example of the form in “Where I Come From” which is, predictably enough, produced by C-Sick, who really should be the Zaytoven to Louie’s Gucci. Louie is pretty experimental as drill rappers go (although maybe that’s not that big a deal, considering stuff like Chicago’s Bop scene and Chief Keef’s avant-garde post ”Finally Rich” material), and on D3 he screeches, sings and slurs his way through the Dresden-bombing soundscapes, rolling out the full panoply of vocal tricks that a street rapper practically needs nowadays in order not to sound like they’re trying to emulate the Cold Crush Brothers.

This is all well and good, and produces some bizarre bangers, but perhaps this tendency to take liberties helps explain why most of Louie’s mixtapes are about 90% disposable, and 10% ESSENTIAL. When he gets down to brass tacks, as on this track, there’s nobody quite as skilful, or quite as scary. This has the haunted, and haunting, quality of a mid 90’s Mobb Deep track, only now the ghost in the machine is really in a machine, coursing through the dehumanised synthetic apparatus of midwest trap production.

Waka Flocka Flame & Future – Get High With Me (2015)

This track opens with renowned fan-crippling EDM goon and dance music culture-rapist Steve Aoki doing a sort of radio jingle, but fast forward that and you’re treated to some top-class auto-tuned mumbling from Future Hendrix and some furious double-time hammers from Waka over a minimalist, dancehall-style riddim from 808 Mafia. It’s not THAT great, but it’s a lot better than the dubstep/trance track I was dreading. A lot of people don’t like Waka’s new rappity-rap direction, seeing it as a sort of betrayal of the admirably technique-snubbing rapping of Flockaveli, but I actually think it works as a good foil for Future’s studiously inarticulate stye, and I wouldn’t mind an entire mixtape from these two (/three if you’re counting 808 Mafia, as you should).

Slave To The Wave

French Montana – Playing In The Wind (2014)

Say what you like about French Montana (and I have): he’s not lyrical, he’s not French, his head is a glorified towel-stand, etcetera, but he’s currently acting as a bridging point between dusty old New York rap and the auto-tune blues-hop produced by Atlanta artists in recent years; or should that be a life-line? Auto-tune can make a rapper sound like a melancholy robot (C3POhdear/Robo-sob/Suicyborg) and it can make them sound like a robot with learning difficulties, and French Montana (and his mate/duplicate Chinx Drugz) definitely falls into the latter category. But that seems to be part of his whole steez – the loveable mook, obviously not as stupid as he makes out to be and thoroughly enjoying pretending to be a complete Wall-y.

Fabolous feat. French Montana – Ball Drop (2015)

Vado feat. Chinx Drugz – Told Ya (2015)

French likes being ridiculous and larger than life, which is exactly what New York rappers have been failing to do for a hot minute (post Dipset?). Witness the video for ‘Ball Drop’, which isn’t about when Hitler’s voice first broke, in which French parades around jocularly in an oversized mink coat, while Fabolous tries to approach Montana’s swag-levels by occasionally borrowing the coat and otherwise wearing a New Era cap with a stupid pointless bobble on top. This sort of reminds me of when you see a politician pretending to enjoy a performance by N-Dubz at the Royal Galas in order to look less cold and reptilian. When young (now banged up) New Yorker Bobby Schmurda embraced southern/midwest styles last year, it felt less contrived, less awkward, less dusty. (Actually, ‘Wipe The Case Away’ was more Max-B/French Montana-ish than anything like Future or Rich Homie Quan.)

Bobby Schmurda – Wipe The Case Away (2014)

Re: Montana x Autotune, here’s Johnny Cinco sounding not unlike Montana when rapping on a weiiiiiird auto-goon-tune which I’m not even sure is good or not but is certainly haunting.

Johnny Cinco – Crew X 2 (2015)