April 1, 2013

Jordan Pedersen lives his life in the margins, and that metaphor is really heavy-handed.

I’m of two minds about the maneuver Kansas City rapper Gee Watts is pulling off with “Watts R.I.O.T.” On the one hand, on a humanity level, it’s really nice to see a rapper like Kendrick co-sign an underground rapper he’s been passionate about for a while.

But does Watts do enough to deserve a feature from MTV’s Hottest MC and also actually the Hottest MC? Good question. Watts has a voice I’d describe as “Swizz Beatz if he could rap,” and he certainly gets off some good lines (“Laying naked with Satan” is appealingly bare), but there’s nothing mind-blowing here. Then again, everybody needs a chance to develop. Hopefully we can all remember that a Kendrick Lamar feature means, “Kendrick Lamar is on this song” and not, “Kendrick Lamar is on this song so this guy is the next Kendrick Lamar.” We don’t need another Joey Bada$$ (though I’ll admit to being a bigger fan of dude than my fellow bloggers).

K Dot, on the other hand, manages to acquit himself nicely even though he doesn’t seem to be trying very hard. (“I’m Rick Rubin in ’85 with the beard THICK” might be my favorite line of the moment.)

Kendrick sounds great just about anywhere, but I find myself particularly drawn to tracks where he pairs with rappers who run closer to Deen’s constituency (your Gunplays, your Young Jeezys, your MC Eihts, and let’s not forget fellow Black Hippy Jay Rock). Watts fits that same gruff-voiced, sling-rap template, so he’s another great contrast to Kendrick’s headiness.

If “Watts R.I.O.T.” is another successful entry in the “Kendrick Goes Hood” series, then the Blood Diamonds remix of his still-great “Swimming Pools” shows that he’s agile in an electro context, too. I first heard about back in 2010 when Mr. Flock of Seagulls Hair was riding the mini Balearic revival — and either he’s taken a big step forward, or he’s just got omnivorous taste. Either way, the Diamonds edit, with its clattering synths and intricate handclap percussion, is neck and neck with HudMo version of “White Noise” for my favorite remixes of the years so far.

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