Yes, “Hot Cheetos & Takis” is a real song by children about two different spicy snacks that aren’t available in all markets. And yes, it is a real song about spicy snacks that is rapped by children as part of an after-school project and not a real band or rap group or some avatar for coolness. But still, it is a real song that is actually enjoyable to listen to outside of the first time you ever heard it.
Basically, what I am trying to say is that this isn’t “Gangnam Style,” which I’m pretty sure was created in a viral marketing lab by the same people who invented Lays potato chips and Betty White.
“HCAT,” as the kids call it, has 4.5 million YouTube views and has been heard in a non-computer setting once. “Gangnam Style” has 962 million views and will be torturing me during NBA game breaks for the next 15 years, has led to a full-on controversy for the artist and is honestly still catchy no matter how many times you hear it but come on. One of these songs is a great piece of music by some children having fun, the other is by an American-trained Korean guy who was sick of the excess and commercialism of a certain area of his homeland — and the wrong one became the world’s biggest viral sensation.
But you know, who’s to say being overshadowed by Psy is a bad thing for the YN Rich Kids? Maybe this is an Eric Bledsoe kind of thing where a talented youngster is allowed to develop out of the limelight until he/they is a fully-formed beast, or maybe I just forgot what website I’m writing for and made a reference to a basketball player who is still kind of off the radar. Whatever the case, we shouldn’t forget about “Hot Cheetos and Takis” just because it dropped in the summer of Psy. It’s still great and it’s still fun and it’s still worth showing someone who’s never seen it. Plus, 10 years from now, you can say you remember the world’s biggest rapper back when he was still Dame Jones of the YN Rich Kids and not the next Method Man.
Also, I am still hungry where them Cheetos at? — Trey Kerby
The weed song is a well-loved rap trope, and “Full of Dat Weed” might be this year’s best addition to the canon. Producer Kuya Beats scatters soft, cool synths over deep bass swells and busy drums, leaving the track wide open for Bay Area MCs Kool John, DB tha General, and Plane Jane to talk shit. The trio fills it admirably, playing nicely off each another in markedly different styles. Kool John sets the table with his blunted, low-key drawl, DB tha General darts around the beat in a nasally staccato, and Plane Jane attacks with bouncy, forceful bars. Kuya’s production brings out the best in DB, in particular — he reigns in his typically unhinged delivery to great effect.
The get-fucked-up anthem lives and dies by its hook, and this one is sticky as hell. Kuya snatches one of the many quotables from Young Bleed’s “How Ya Do Dat” and flips it into a dumb-out gem, infectious and purpose-built for repeated hollering. Burn one, or two, or six, and listen loud. — Adam Wray
“Twitch” comes nestled in Winter In Prague, Vince Staples’ tape with producer Michael Uzowuru, standing as yet another stellar example of two dudes dudes vibing together, making rap magic. Uzowuru’s beat admittedly does most of the legwork here (kilters on off, whirs on unlimited), but as Vince kicks his one-and-done verse you start to notice a sneaky lyricism to his near Poison “Fallen Angel”-level tale of a girl gone wild and then deeply sad.
“Become a ho” becomes “bungalow” bleeds into “bunch of dough,” and suddenly his poor subject has a kid and is shacked up with some dude who can’t stand her. Tyler, The Creator has gone on record saying he actively dislikes Staples, and through the lens of “Twitch” the difference between the pair of young rappers becomes glaring. At his best, Tyler uses his words like wrecking balls, every syllable having the potential to destroy. “Twitch,” meanwhile, is a slow burn. And shit. It’s my sister. —Drew Millard
The best explanation of Baton Rouge club culture might appear on Trill Fam’s “Watch My Shoes.” The song is basically one long warning not to smudge someone’s Nike’s lest you get shot (word to Chris Rock). One phrase from Lil Phat essentially sums it up: inside fist fight, outside gun play. Of course, Phat is dead now. Homicide via pistol. Baton Rouge club rap is fight music that you can dance to. Cops post up outside the clubs because the murder rate is higher than Chicago. There is an uneasy combination of fun and fury that is ready to explode at any spilled drink or stepped on shoe.
During my two months there this spring, the song that best captured that feeling was the “Gmix” of “Going Down.” Taken from Cain Muzik 2.0, it featured three of the hottest cold-hearted rappers in BR — Mista, Level and Young Ready. Guys who might not ring bells to you, but have soundtracked hundreds of bell ringings in the Bayou. When the DJ would spin this at Vibes or Dreams, the room would rumble, hands would wave in the air, fingers pulling on imaginary triggers, and you understood why “ratchet” came from the region. It was impossible not to get rowdy. But you never knew whether you should dance or duck. — Jeff Weiss
SpaceGhostPurrp’s Raider Klan could have been the coolest of the new wave of rap cliques. Their “hieroglyphics” and shadowy time-transcending releases had a mystique that was sorely lacking from other crews who opted to say “swag” a lot. The music was there too. It’s safe to say that SpaceGhostPurrp’s sound was part of the initial spark behind ASAP Rocky and I’d argue that SGP produced the best Juicy J song of the year as well.
With audiences intrigued, SGP released God of Black EP Vol. 1 to the World Wide Web featuring a cut that should have immortalized his crew in the hip-hop fossil record. “Tha Black God” is the culmination of SGP’s metaphysical trillness, wrapping his aesthetic of occult and South Florida rap into one. He declares to free his followers from perpetual violence and 9 to 5 jobs over low-key drums and eerie chanting. It was just as effective of a mission statement as “Protect Ya Neck”. Then, a couple of things happened. Raider Klan and ASAP Mob severed ties and Purrp got a record deal that saw “Tha Black God” polished up and scrubbed of its alluring grit. We wax nostalgic about vinyl and cassettes, but SGP, vanguard that he is, made me reminisce over YouTube streams. I got you though. From my personal library, find above an mp3 from the original DatPiff upload of God of Black EP Vol. 1, circa 2012. — Evan Nabavian
Once upon a rhyme, rappers rarely made comebacks. Of course, there were exceptions. LL Cool J. Rakim’s brief return with the 18th Letter (but not “Once Upon a Rhyme)”. MF Doom. But once you hit the wrong side of 30, your career prospects looked weaker than a pay phone repairman circa 1997. But this year saw the rap world finally repudiate itself from Fitzgerald’s adage about there being no second acts in American life. Tity Boi became 2 Chainz and suddenly had entire amphiteatre’s chanting “Bad bitch contest, you in first place.” Roc Marciano became the game’s favorite brolic scholar. Juicy J taught an entire generation of ADD-riddled youth how to focus long enough to get stripper’s phone numbers.
The most surprising return might have been Clyde Carson, who seemed destined for relegation as a 2006 curio of the Hyphy boom. One fourth of The Team- whose World Premiere might have been the most underrated album of the era — Carson and The Team’s “Slow Down” drew a straight line from hyphy through jerkin’ to ratchet. A decade ago, this might never have made it past K-MEL, but instead, The Team found themselves rebuilt. Full of minor chords, clapping drums, and space as wide open as the Bay Bridge at 3:00 a.m., Carson and company recorded a song that smoothly cruised alongside DJ Mustard’s lane, but with the thizzed and pimped out pulse of Oakland. That’s how they do it in Northern California. —Jeff Weiss
E-40 has never sold you wolf tickets. Well, maybe once. But even then it was only to tell you that he didn’t. He’s among the most productive rappers in the game (The Block Brochure: Welcome to the Soil 1, 2, & 3 dropped on the same day), which is just another way of saying that he’s about his green like wasabi, or something. When it’s time for a hit to remind the people he’s out here trying to do something or other, the king of “word candy” drops a hit. At the apex of the “hyphy” movement, you couldn’t escape “Tell Me When to Go,” or its countless remixes. “Bitch” was in our Top 50 for 2010. And, now in the year of all things ratchet, 40 Water delivers again.
For “Function” E-40 connected with the two most esteemed ratchet scholars from the poles of Cali, Iamsu! (Richmond) and YG (Compton). He also tapped Problem (Welcome to Mollywood 1 & 2) for the hook (read about the origin of said hook here). Now, if you haven’t heard the portentous distillation of ratchetdom that is “Function,” the menacing bass and off the chart levels of slang and misogyny, then you haven’t been to a single function in 2012. You’ve undoubtedly missed the opportunity to score the lucrative insurance policy on 40’s mouthpiece, and you’re definitely not going to turn a square into a bi anytime soon. Don’t worry though, even when Seinfeld managed to swing it he couldn’t do the deed. — Max Bell
Promethazine outlasted the mid ’00s Texas rap boom, but at least A$AP Rocky remembered the Houston old heads when he got his purple swag on. Kirko Bangz is a Houston new head, but, like Rocky, his Screw memories have become warped and caricatured over time. Where syrup sippin’ tunes used to be varied in tone and languor, when the current crop of rappers revived the form, they formalized it into a new type of woozy, weightless chillwave, the focus being on accentuating the disorienting otherworldliness of the slowed sounds. Big Moe used to sing too, but Bangz’s croon on the original “Drank in My Cup,” had as much to do with Drake and The Weeknd’s twilight R&B or the ATL swag rap of Future and Cash Out.
The remix takes a more uncomplicated hip-hop approach, with its extended verse from Juelz Santana that mostly revolves around him trying to remember what year it is (“Lollipop” references? Interjecting “swag”? Whatever, it works.) It expands on the hook’s theme of mutually agreeable low maintenance hook-ups mostly by explaining why Juelz is better than you in every conceivable way: “You in the party; I am the party” is logical, if geometrically dubious. “Face it: you basic and I’m so appealing/Your shit ordinary; my shit extraordinary” is the standout couplet simply for its classic Juelz construction. (One word to describe him is, still, spectacular, yes.) 2 Chainz is briefer, but he still fits in a great piece of morning-after imagery: “Every day, I wake up/Pillow full of her make-up.” — Jonathan Bradley
How about some hardcore? King Foe’s mission statement is somewhere between the Mash Out Posse, Z-Ro and Trae, and the junkie trash scavenging at the early morning edges of raves. The ones who are not there for the good times. The ones who are there because they like drugs. One third of Denver’s BLK HRTS, Foe makes raw rapacious rap. Savage soundtracks for zombie stick up kids. The instantiation of making a beast of yourself to erase the burden of being a man. This is rap that sounds like it actually emerged from underground, covered in dirt,worms, and needles. The vocals are scorched larynx, cannibalistic, starving. This is the introduction to foe — a rapper who isn’t interested in being your friend. — Jeff Weiss
“I’m wearing gold, not bronze,” Has-Lo raps on “Full Spectrum 2”, and it’s perfect shorthand for the continued rise of Philadelphia’s Wrecking Crew. Zilla Rocca, Has and Curly Castro have slowly been tightening their craft over the last two years, their collective technique changing ever so slightly from something insular and angular towards the sounds of parties and summer.
It’s led to cuts like this. The follow-up to last year’s “Full Spectrum”, Zilla Rocca has once again called upon the production of Dr. Quandary but traded in that song’s autumnal vibe for cleaner breaks, bigger beats and hotter raps. As if to drive home his intentions, he’s drafted in Cali’s Open Mike Eagle to see out the change in seasons. It’s arguably the best Zilla Rocca song to date, and you come away from this three and a half minute pounder sensing he has the confidence to know it. This is rap music how many people want it to be: summer block parties enticing the neighbors and getting them to move out into the street. But don’t mistake it for the past. — Matt Shea
The Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All Funtimes Happy Train Mainstream Shakeup took on 2012 at a slower speed than it did in 2011 — expanding their scorched-earth youth empire to where several members reached something of an actualization point. Frank Ocean fully insinuated himself into the R&B mainstream. Hodgy Beats finally rapped over Flying Lotus. Domo got to do a tape with Alchemist and everybody in the studio got really high. But it’s this moment, tucked at the end of the second Odd Future Tape, that might prove to be the Los Angeles’ crew’s most important of the year — a rare posse cut that serves as a genuinely cohesive mission statement, managing to justify its ten-and-a-half minute run time.
It succeeds because everybody’s firing on all cylinders. Tyler, The Creator turns on the charm and gets to rap first and last because he’s still the de facto boss. Though he’s not really a rapper, Frank Ocean manages to impart the same casual brilliance that propelled Channel Orange to something resembling greatness. Both Left Brain and Jasper Dolphin deliver a surprisingly deft verses back-to-back, and Mike gets to charmingly say, “We out here!”. Then Earl Sweatshirt, fresh from Ferrisin’ in Samoa, steps to the mic and blows everything in existence out of the water with a verse so good it would have established him as a serious problem in hip-hop even if we’d never heard a word from him before. — Drew Millard
There are a few ways to do genre. One is to parody, with a tongue-in-cheek adoption of a style’s conventions and calling cards. Another springs from genuine affection for that style. This is how you avoid pastiche, and it’s how Amber London and SpaceGhostPurrp wrote “LXX MF KXXY,” the standout track from London’s 1994 EP.
The tune is no-fuss g-funk, built on a simple piano loop and whining synth from an obscure Ohio gangsta rap record, cloaked in the crackly, lo-fi ambience typical of Raider Klan productions. The beat does just enough: it sets the scene, then mostly stays out of London’s way as she steamrolls two brassy verses and an indelible hook. “LXX MF KXXY” is her theme song, and her statement of intent: you don’t know her, so please don’t fuck with her. Maybe the Klan’s ablest MC, London sounds very much at home here.
London, Purrp, and their Raider Klan affiliates take heat for fetishizing old aesthetics. It’s accurate criticism, but not exactly damning when they’re executing this well. London and Purrp wear these styles like second skins, and, at 18 and 21, may yet expand their sounds and create something truly fresh. —Adam Wray
Joe Moses doesn’t rap for the sake of motherfucking rapping. That’s what all the rappers who take themselves too seriously do, or at least what they say. It’s trite. It’s cliché. It’s pseudo-intellectual. And really, it’s passé. Thus, Moses raps with the most admirable of intentions—he does it for the ratchets.
So there you have it, the impetus and the hook for another ratchet confection backed by hood chef extraordinaire DJ Mustard (see every YG tape and/or this article). If, like Joe Moses, you have a sweet tooth for bisexual women with their hair and nails tight, salacious women who rock “J’s for the fair price” instead of red bottoms, then “Do it for the Ratchets” is for you. Shit, even if that doesn’t sound like your ideal Match.com mate, “I Do it For the Ratchets” should still be on your New Year’s Eve playlist. It is to the underground what “Rack City” is to the mainstream.
While the latter has moved innumerable units, the former (which name drops “Rack City”) has been steadily showing up at functions everywhere. Though “I Do it for the Ratchets” is clearly surfing the ratchet wave hard, it does so in style (like Rob Machado), with a minimalist beat somewhere in between John Carpenter’s Halloween theme and all things trap, foolish and non-sensical metaphors of misogyny, and the official ratchet stamp: “Mustard on Tha Beat Hoe” or “Musssardondabeathoe” or “Mutter on tha Beat Doe” or “Muff on da Beef Hoe”—you get it. It doesn’t have to make sense. It’s for the ratchets. — Max Bell
There’s a lot you could dislike about Angel Haze. Her rap moniker sounds like something Brazzers rejected and someone in her extended family probably owns a casino. There are also a lot of things that you can like about Angel Haze, and all of them are on full display with her breakout hit “New York.” Her lyrics are dexterous and punchy, chock full of pop culture references and clever punchlines, and her ear for beats is evident as she chooses to rap on a snap-clap Gil-Scott Heron sample. It’s no wonder that she was so quickly picked up by a major label.
Angel Haze is a female rap artist fighting for attention at a time when the public often praises a female emcee’s marketability over her skill. There’s also something to be said for the fact that Haze was able to form a bond with her near-doppleganger Azealia Banks, a woman known for hating everyone to ever mention her name. If Angel Haze is able to get another single like New York out the door in 2013, we can expect her to hit the Rah Digga ceiling that we know she’s capable of. — Slava Pastuk
Tha Alkaholiks hail from a simpler time in rap, where weed and booze were the most popular substances to abuse. We’re caught at an impasse with party music where every song is exhorting us to down more overpriced brown liquors, improbably flavored vodkas and more molly than a thizz party in the Bay. “Louis XIII” is a welcome corrective from the mostly dormant Likwit Crew (Xzibit, founder King Tee, Defari, and Tha Alkaholiks.)
This is a comeback for the crew’s gravel-voiced prodigal son Xzibit and the only member to make a dent on the charts, thanks to Dr. Dre’s cosign. The good doctor even steps behind the boards for this modest reunion. Dre mixes woozy bass with marching piano and drums, offering the ideal backdrop for slick dozens. Tee, Tha Liks and X all sound thrilled to be back together; the whole song is delivered as 3 bar verses back and forth, like old drinking buddies so familiar they talk over each other.
King Tee promises to drink everything on the wine list. J-Ro is full of 40s like the refrigerator in the “G-Thang” video. Tash is drinking Jack next to Nicholson at the Lakers game. Xzibit’s the rowdy cousin of this family, promising to hunt you down like Saddam Hussein if you upset him. This is beer, bitches, and bullshit done right. Cheers. — Aaron Matthews
There was no way that I was not going to become a fan of the Flatbush Zombies from the jump. Two hyperactive acid freak rappers with Method Man vampire fronts, leopard-print Rodman hair and bushy James Harden beards? With an appreciation of Portishead, low budget horror movies and breakfast foods to boot? Where can I sign up for the newsletter? You do not have to convince me of the intrinsic value of rappers who make music like this. I am a man who considers Birdemic Shock & Terror to be is deserving of it’s own Criterion Collection. I get this.
If you do not get the appeal, let me make the case for the Flatbush Zombies. “Thug Waffle” is simply grimy New York underground hip hop covered in a thick layer of Brooklyn street sludge. Rappers Meechy Darko and Zombie Juice are both devilishly charismatic punctuating macabre verses about coffin purchases, eating acid tablets and Martin references. Meanwhile, producer Eric Arc Elliot lays down a soundtrack of grimy lo-fi synth production equally influenced by Portishead and 70s horror movie soundtracks. The powers that be might consider the Flatbush Zombies not ready for the radio but these guys are one of the most original entries into the resurgent N.Y. underground scene that has been slowly breaking through this year. With or without, the help from the “major leagues.” No Hot 97. — Doc Zeus
Before he even utters a bar, Waka mentions Xanax three times. When he finally starts in, he says, “I don’t like your kind. You’re a bougie ho.” Along with the rest of the album, the song’s a bit more melodic than anything on Flockavelli, but it’s just as aggressive and whacked out. You should easily add Waka Flocka to the fast growing group of younger, pharmacological-minded rappers – like Danny “The Adderal Admiral” Brown and every southern rapper with a fixation on promethezine.
There’s always a sense of psychological misfire that underpin’s Waka’s music. That’s not to say he’s mentally disturbed. It’s just that he’s seen some shit, and the party atmosphere his music cultivates grows heavy – it’s either a distraction or a temporary distraction. “Desperately I need some Xans, where my dada at?” No matter the reason, “Rooster In My Rari” is one of the most fun songs of the year and its sullenness only adds to its impact. — B Michael Payne
The hardest thing to write is an anthem. With “Satellite,” KVN Gates created the Baton Rouge bizarro version of Future’s “Turn on the Lights.” This is weary sad-robot soul rap at its finest — perhaps the biggest hit that no one heard outside of Louisiana. With no video, the YouTube rip has 1.8 million hits. Last year, Gates was finishing up a four year bid. This year, he was the biggest young rapper in Louisiana.
While labels threw money at Chief Keef and Trinidad James, Gates was the best bet to have a career that will last through the next election. He is the Rookie of the Year for people whose concept of “Rookie of the Year” exists in a world without blogs. He’s already crossed over. I saw him perform “Satellites” in an all-black club in a country town called Thibodeaux and everyone knew every word. Same went for the LSU Brianna’s and Becky’s going berserk when it came on in Tigerland.
“Satellites” is the best distillation of Gates appeal. It’s both a love song and a story about coming up out of poverty. Gates sings the absurdly catchy hook and snaps double-time for the last 16 bars. He creates the myth of himself as the self-made enforcer, Luca Brasi, everybody’s sworn favorite. Right now, he’s only speaking for his state but that’s about to change. When you already have the people behind you, the pundits are irrelevant. — Jeff Weiss
“Beez In The Trap” is the proof of the power of personality. Nicki Minaj can certainly rap her ass off when she wants to; “Beez” needs no technical acrobatics. It’s all curled upper lip, fuck your whole life. Each syllable pushed through an audible sneer. The chorus pulls the neat trick of paraphrasing Schoolly D’s “P.S.K.” and “Bitches Ain’t Shit” in the same breath. The first verse contains what may be the greatest Hulk Hogan reference in rap to date. The production is all empty space, a welcome evocation of the Neptunes’ glory days while still sounding wholly alien. Producer Kenoe’s hollow drums percolate like radar blips in a wind tunnel, sounding like nothing else on the radio. The second verse is just shout outs to U.S. States and cities known for crack distribution and it works. In a year where everyone had a 2 Chainz verse, Nicki got the best one. He refers to jeans as “trousers” and calls his LS450 a “doohickey”. These are the perks of letting 40 year olds run the rap game. Shouts to Delaware and Hoboken. — Aaron Matthews
Cash4Gold is a scam, a waste of valuable time and money (I’m fairly certain). “Gold Soul Theory” is not. Neither are recent Brainfeeder signees Issa Dash and AK, the “beast coast” MCs collectively known as The Underachievers. As far as I know, there’s no tape out yet (INDIGOI.S.M. has been rumored to drop for a minute now). But the duo has released a string of solid loosies in preparation for said drop, with trippy video to back them (check “Herb Shuttles” or “So Devilish”).
“Gold Soul Theory” is their best track to date, with a beat that bumps along like a dark flip of your favorite 90s Nintendo game soundtrack. It is the synthesis of the “elevated mafia” philosophy, of their aesthetic. It is duo’s “theory” for living. That theory: Combine a deluge of mind-expanding drugs (like LSD and stuff) with hours upon hours of psyched-out introspection while sipping on O.E. and penning smooth conscious raps.
Really, “Gold Soul Theory” is the audio document of Issa Dash and AK’s trip to the “solar,” to a higher level of consciousness. Fear and Loathing rewritten and re-imagined by the tripped out reincarnations of Sonny Cheeba and Geechi Suede. It is an affirmation of the self, as well as an affirmation of all things trippy. — Max Bell
In the last year, Krit, Kendrick, and Curren$y have all taken bits from ATliens and Aquemini. Every fusion group is still trying to tap into the jungle psych of Stankonia or the tie-died soul of Love Below. But ADD+ remind me of the days when ‘Kast rocked Braves throwbacks and braids. That Southernplayalisticcadillacmuzik merged with the psychedelic periphery of neo-soul and a little bit of D-Town Boogie.
The beat reminds me of Edan’s “I See Colours.” There are lyrical references to “Git Up, Get Out,” “Juicy,” and “Roc Boys,” and artwork of what I imagine is either the black King Lear or the guy from the artwork for “Mr. Wendel.” The rapping on “Suitcases” is very good. The chemistry is better. There is the hunger that comes when money is the only option because there are no only other options. The bags are packed. The blunts are rolled. The beeper is beeping. The sun is beaming. No time to waste. —Jeff Weiss
Mystikal wants to be James Brown at the Apollo: hot foot raps and sage SAY IT LOUD advice. Pick your pants up. Put your crown on. Break it down and bust it open. Make up for lost time. The maestro, the bandleader, brazen and barking loud enough get Judy grooving. He screams “hit me” and the drums go Stubblefield. He banshees about congos and bongos and guitars and they start to growl and go…..
He plays call and response with his own voodoo spirit. He is possessed, crowing to no one in particular, “what the fuck was that?” “What man?” What the fuck did you miss? He grabs the microphone and hollering out orders to the band. On the one. Hit me. Kill them with the drumstick. Spinning on the record like an acrobat. Iguanas. Piranas. Vaginas. Abbot and Costello. Muhammed Ali shadow boxing and bragging “I AM THE GREATEST” The berserk snake dancer of the Tank still vital at 42. This isn’t soul revival. This is a soul revived, electrocuted, one thousand demons dancing on the head of a pimp. Listen to the man enact the plan that he had while going mad in solitude. Wow. Ordering around a phantom funk orchestra, dancing to an impossibly rapid rhythm that only he hears. Well, him and Helen. —Jeff Weiss
“I make witch house/up at your bitch house,” raps Busdriver on the spastic “Wernor Herzog,” a Hellfyre Club gang-bang showcasing Busdriver’s best chops accompanied by stellar verses from LA brethren Open Mike Eagle and Nocando. “Herzog” finds each rapper tackling the film industry they’re surrounded by. In Busdriver’s case, Werner Herzog is the counterpart: “I go Wernor Herzog/I go Herzog/Which means I get large bread/art cred/smart head/Czar feds.” Bus aligns himself with film’s weirdest mainstay, and like Herzog, Bus takes our reality, accentuates its oddities and perversities, and shoves it in our faces.
While Bus’ verse is typically excellent, Open Mike Eagle takes the cake and once again shows himself to be among the most criminally underrated rappers breathing. Calling himself “The Marc Maron of dark-skinned art barons” is as good as it gets, and the dude may not be too far off when he begins his verse with, “He’s Herzog/I’m P.T. Anderson.” Busdriver’s the vet, he’s done this once or twice before; Eagle’s time is now, he’s been cruising Magnolia Boulevard in preparation and is any given moment away from dropping a Master-piece. His verse is so good that by the time Nocando comes around, Eagle’s words are still making heads spin. Nocan, always the the cultural critic, manages to name drop John Singleton, Quentin Tarantino, Nick Cassavetes, Stanley Kubrick, and Tim Burton within the first fifteen seconds of his verse. While “Herzog” is a Busdriver track by name—the standout on his most recent release, Arguments with Dreams— the song is the product of three dudes who work off one another better than any other folks currently doing it. They simply know what the fuck they’re doing. —Willie Schube
One of the effects of social media is that that reminds us that celebrities—once inaccessible as real breathing people with their own sets of likes and dislikes—are just as much fans as we are. When the video for Chief Keef’s “Love Sosa” dropped just over a month ago, Drake tweeted that he had played the track at least 130 times in three days, a statement that could have come from any random Twitter account.
Earlier this year, when Atlanta rapper Cash Out’s kinda-epoynmous “Cashin’ Out” began generating buzz, Rihanna didn’t even need to mention the artist or song she was referring to when she tweeted the following: “Ridin’ with a ho named Keisha, smoking on Keisha.” Easily the most ubiquitous line from the “Cashin’ Out,” the track itself was just as ubiquitous this summer. Part of its charm was that hook: an infectious candy-coated thing delivered in this slightly delirious sing-song cadence that made it sound like Cash Out was having without question the Best! Day! Ever! The other draw was the DJ Spinz beat, a funhouse trap banger with a carnival-esque swing. These days, the number of rappers who record their own tracks over a beat is a good barometer of a track’s impact, and you couldn’t go a week this summer without someone else taking a shot at “Cashin’ Out.” But no matter who did, it was Cash Out’s original that could be heard blaring out of vehicles on streets across the country. —Renato Pagnani
Serengeti’s “Shazam!” is the cosmic collision of a hip hop dis track and the deadpan insanity of a Tim & Eric sketch brought to it’s inevitable, alienating conclusion. A faux mustachioed rapper in cut off jorts and a thick Bill Swerski’s Superfans accent recording a dis song against a retired basketball player stemming from a nearly twenty year old beef with a Fu-Schnickens Era Shaq? That’s the type of mildly developmentally disabled comic genius that alienates 95% of your target audience while leaving the remaining 5% in gasping-for-breath agony of laughter.
“Shazam!,” the lead single off the absurdly hilarious Kenny Dennis EP, finds Serengeti performing in his erstwhile alter ego, Kenny Dennis, a mustachioed Chicago sports fanatic. Kenny threatens “the Jolly Green Giant” with decapitation, insults his ball handling skills and claims that his crew, the Grimm Teachaz, would defeat Shaq’s team, the Orlando Magic, in a pickup basketball game. (NOTE: HE EXPLICITLY STATES THE ORLANDO MAGIC!!!) This song is pure pokerfaced absurdism delivered with scalding comic ferocity. Shaq definitely don’t want none and if Dwight Howard is thinking about dissing the ‘stache too, he might as well prepare to bow down to the master as well. —Doc Zeus
Almost any track off of Baby Face Killa would’ve done for this slot. “Walk in Wit the M.O.” is smooth as hell. “Boxframe Cadillac” finds Gibbs and Z-Ro both deeper in the pocket than two fat stacks, or racks (I guess it depends on how much you’re balling). “Krazy” is the hustler fantasy anthem, and the track where Gibbs forever puts his picture next to the word ‘detrimental’ in the dictionary. “Bout It Bout It,” which is best suited for riding out to when you want to test out your new system, has Kirko Bangz providing the perfect sad-robot counterpart to Gibbs straight (baby) faced delivery. And why “Middle of the Night” isn’t on Power 106 is beyond me.
Basically, what I’m saying is that this tape has something for everyone. It’s Gibbs at his most versatile, proving to stans and detractors alike that the king of G.I. can do it all. And thus, the best demonstration of that versatility, or at least the best concentration of it, is “Kush Clouds.” With the assistance of Krayzie Bone and Spaceghostpurrp, Gibbs—the best “rapper/drug dealer” in the game right now—drops one his best verses over the tapes trippiest (shout out to Juicy) and spaced out beats. Think Bay Area slaps rolled up with some O.G. and drowned in lean, or something.
The opening line, “Mo murder, mo murder/In the Tahoe with my burner,” could have been the only words on the track if Gibbs wanted them to be (I think it might be what Krayzie is crooning in the background). Instead, he drops D-boy rhymes with the finesse and style only afforded to the perpetually floating (stoned). As far as the features, both are smooth and solid weed raps, two extra hits that only add to the high you get from listening to this cut. Really, “Kush Clouds” might be the best sticky icky mp3 of 2012. The advice is obvious: toke up. — Max Bell