Torii MacAdams is back in L.A. but his mind is in Lockhart
The Game ft. Kendrick Lamar – “On Me”
Why can’t Kendrick Lamar stop making semi-religious references? Why is he so focused on his own purity? Why does he keep rapping like he’s Pharoahe Monch? Is he the least fun great rapper? What happened? In the past year, Lamar has made overwrought and narratively sloppy music unbecoming of his immense talent, and worse, it seems he’s permanently adopted this messy, obfuscated style. Even worse than that, the indulgence and pretensions of Lamar’s recent work have affected the music of other rappers.
The opening 45 seconds of “On Me” are great: The Game talks some shit over a sample of Erykah Badu’s “On & On.” It’s uncomplicated, and The Game injects into the jazzy bassline a bit of bile. Then Lamar arrives, off-beat and wielding his bespoke personal liturgy, and thwarts the entire enterprise with a minute-long verse. The mid-song instrumental change has become a Kendrick Lamar staple, so The Game returns after Lamar’s spiel, rapping over a parsed, snapping beat. The Game’s been a star of varying viability for more than a decade, and shouldn’t contort himself to sonic signatures of other artists. “On Me” could have been great. Instead, it’s merely passable.
Nocando – “Alaska”
Alaska is the icy appendix to American history. It’s a state inhabited by snowmobiles, oil-caked men of questionable moral fiber, and grizzly bears who “just, like, couldn’t deal with society anymore, man.” Mario Chalmers and Carlos Boozer are both Alaskans–an ignominy that reflects poorly on every centimeter of the state’s 663,300 square miles–and the third day of each week is no longer “Tuesday,” having been replaced by “Trajan Langday.” The state’s governor is a particularly jingoistic seal pup who recently declared Baked Alaska the official state entree. On “Alaska,” Nocando compares himself to our country’s 49th state, so he must really feel like shit.
Migos ft. Skippa Da Flippa – “Dab”
Of the three Migos songs with “dab” in the title, “Dab” is second best, behind the fantastic “Look At My Dab” from Back To The Bando, and ahead of “Dab Daddy” from Yung Rich Nation. “Dab” features Skippa Da Flippa, an unremarkable rapper most notable for having some influence in the creation of dabbin’, one of the many widely mimicked dances in Future’s “Where Ya At?” video. The providence of dabbin’ is of some debate–PeeWee Longway, Migos, and Skippa all can claim influence–but what Migos may or may not lack in choreographic originality, they compensate for with unremitting rappin’ ass rappin’. While you spent your summer firing off hackneyed tweets about Russell Wilson and Future, Migos quietly solidified their status as the South’s best active rap group.
KD – “Details (She Blinded)”
When we had DJ Burn One as guest on POW Radio, I asked him what former collaborator KD was up to. His response was noncommittal, the gist being that the Alabama rapper was trying to figure out the next step in his career. “Details (She Blinded),” which samples Toro Y Moi’s “So Many Details,” isn’t a complete departure from the country rap tunes KD earned his early buzz from–it’s more of a pivot. There’s still that tic tic followed by that bump, it’s just in packaging updated for 2015, where everyone pretends to be woke and country rap is passé. The drawl remains. Hopefully the ‘Bama pride does, too.
Lil Nardy ft. Spank Lee – “I Know”
Information on Lil Nardy is sparse. He’s from Mobile, Alabama, and his last mixtape, 2013’s Up In Smoke, was presented by Burn One. Unlike his fellow statesman KD, Nardy appears to be fully entrenched in Southern rap tropes. “I Know” takes a page from the Three 6 Mafia grimoire: gangsta rap over cowbells, hi-hats, and a chopped and screwed vocal sample. “I Know” is, very quietly, the best rap song of the week.
Kevin Gates – “Tattoo Session”
Gates’ asides and monologues are consistently wonderful kernels of narrative detail and comedy. On “Tattoo Session,” Gates stops rapping entirely to clarify that “Yeah, I was fuckin’ with Maurice daughter. That nigga used to keep it real with me, used to drop us off at the movies ‘n’ shit.”
At the end of the song, Gates takes shots at an unnamed rapper. “I don’t know what the fuck the world coming to. Gates got every nigga in the game talkin’ about they eat booty…What that nigga do? Sag his pants, and cell phones, and gettin’ money…That nigga a bitch mane. I wouldn’t tell him that to his face, but he is a bitch. I’mma say it behind his back, when he come, I ain’t gon’ say nothing, but when he leave it’s ‘Fuck him’ again. You know how that go.” There’s comfort in knowing Gates is a passive-aggressive asshole, too.
Mic Terror – “Tried By 20/3”
After Mick Jenkins’ “HeadAss,” I assumed the beef between he and Vic Spencer, the architect of his own depantsing, would peter out. I was wrong. Mic Terror, who’s worked with Spencer in the past, has entered the fray with “Tried By 20/3.” Over East Flatbush Project’s “Tried By 12” instrumental, Mic Terror slings muck and casts aspersions. Mic Terror calls Jenkins a shih tzu, says that when his son is 21 “he can get it, too,” and after a litany of jokes about water, raps “You rappers are booty/You are what you eat, nigga/I’m pescaterian, I don’t beef, nigga/You be swimmin’ with the fishes tryna war with me, nigga.”
I look forward to a tie-dye-clad Chance the Rapper inserting himself into this situation by preaching peace over a trumpet solo.