May 22, 2014

Max Bell wishes Santa Monica had bodegas. 

Bodega Bamz has always had potential. His alignment with A$AP Mob garnered deserved exposure, but I’ve always hoped for a different sonic direction. A$AP already does A$AP what does. And while the fellow Harlemite is competent over A$AP’s blend of grim Three 6 Mafia trap and ethereal Clams-Casino-esque atmospherics (i.e. “Say Amen” or “P.A.P.I.”), he’s never seemed entirely at home.

Instead, songs with a ‘90s-era bent have been Bamz’s strongest efforts from the jump. He’s best when he sounds as if suited in the camo of his predecessors, aural ammunition sprayed with irreverence while Big L posters remain reverently tacked to his psyche. For evidence, see “Glorious” or “At Close Range” off his debut mixtape Strictly 4 My P.A.P.I.Z.

Of late, Bamz appears cognizant of the fact that his reverence has yielded his most promising work. His most recent offering is “Fuck Dat Shit,” produced by The Martinez Brothers and featuring Raekwon. Honestly, it’s the most excited I’ve been for a Bamz song since I learned there was finally a rapper with ‘bodega’ in his name.

The beat from the Martinez Brothers adheres to the tried and true tenets of East Coast minimalism: simple boom-bap drums, the warm crackle of a needle on wax, and one sample flipped/chopped. Though relatively laid-back, the song’s sample gives it an energized menace, the sound of blunts laced with fish scale.

Here Bamz begins angry and ends angry. Aggression aimed his baby mama turns to barbs for competitor and bilingual braggadocio – above par bars for bars sake. References to Craig Mack are tempered with not-so-veiled shots at lint-rolling Toronto Raptors super stans. Both are appreciated.

Whether or not Raekwon and RZA have actually buried the spiked bat has no bearing on Rae’s commitment to pushing new product. Fortunately, linking up with Bamz has proven to be a fortuitous union. Rae has rarely fallen off, but he appears reenergized alongside Bamz. Balancing the murderous and felonious with luxuries afforded to founding Wu members, Rae reminds you why he’ll be  cracking heads and sipping the finest Manischewitz well into middle age.

As for the future, should Bamz link up with A$AP Mob, ideally it will be something in the vein of the latest tracks from Twelvy (“Xscape”) or Nast (“Trillmatic”). Both inject ‘90s nostalgia with a modern day dynamism I’ve yet to feel from Joey Bada$$ and Pro Era. Whether Raekwon’s literal cosign of Bamz means anything in 2014 remains to be seen. Given Bamz’s Puerto Rican ancestry and N.Y. locale, associations to Big Pun and Fat Joe may eventually abound. Or, given that he’s partially Dominican, he could be JuJu from The Beatnuts.

Bamz collaborative EP with the Martinez Bros, Sunday Service, is due out soon. For now, he and Rae’s previous and equally rotation-worthy collaboration, “Gamble,” is below.


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