Torii MacAdams bought all the Arizona Iced Tea in Sweden out of spite.
Yung Lean – “Hoover”
It’s cool to enjoy rap music–lots of people do it! It’s cool if you’re from Scandinavia and you’ve channeled your seasonal depression, nurtured by months of near-complete darkness, into an obsession with gothic Southern rap music. It’s cool to want to be Future, because Future is very cool. But, if you’re an 19 year-old from Stockholm who’s listened to “Turn On The Lights” every day for the past three years, it’s fair to expect a modicum of self-investigation.
That Yung Lean’s two years of stardom don’t appear to have yielded artistic self-awareness would be disappointing, had I expectations to the contrary. He simply has no incentive for it. Yung Lean is the rare artist whose sadness is devoid of contrition–an essential piece of the calculus for Sad Boy fans is deliberately ignoring the deep, empty void beneath the bucket-hatted veneer. Yung Lean is a thickly-accented Swede who mumbles raunchy, half-rhymed lyrics, and pretending that his appeal is otherwise is blatantly dishonest.
Yung Lean is probably a reasonably friendly guy. Were we to talk about rap music, we’d likely have pretty similar tastes. But what’s entirely lacking from his work is a sense of historical perspective attached to his fandom (an embarrassment shared by Chet Haze and Ricky Hil). No matter the direction Yung Lean’s career takes, the building blocks of it will forever be the misunderstanding and fetishization of black culture. That it doesn’t appear to matter is as much an indictment of him as it is his fans.
Freddie Gibbs ft. ManMan Savage – “Packages”
Freddie Gibbs’ volcanic disposition is constant, his taste in beats variable. “Packages,” produced by Tarentino of 808 Mafia, is Gibbs at his stoniest. ManMan Savage has never been accused of restraint, but it’s Gibbs who’s truly unrelenting — his delivery a near-unrecognizable tongue-lashing. The delivery is approximately Atlantan– “approximate” being the key word. There’s a looseness to Future and Young Thug that Gibbs doesn’t have the proper substance abuse problems to inhabit.
Future – “Last Breath”
In 2015, Future has bequeathed to us many gifts: Beast Mode, 56 Nights, DS2, What A Time To Be Alive, and innumerable loosies. “Last Breath” falls into the latter category for a fairly obvious reason: it samples (or interpolates) Bill Conti’s “Gonna Fly Now,” the theme from Rocky. Future goes so far as to compare himself to Sylvester Stallone’s titular character. Too on-the-nose, Future.
Pusha T – “Untouchable”
G.O.O.D. Music debuted “Untouchable” by reformatting their website. Rather than the usual full-sized YouTube embed, visitors are forced to click on a .gif of doves for three minutes. How disruptive! I assume this clumsy approach to debuting a song serves many purposes: firstly, it delays inevitable bootlegging; secondly, it forces listeners to “interact with the music,” or some other high-fallutin’ explanation in service of the first purpose; thirdly, it drives traffic to the G.O.O.D. Music website; fourthly, people are more likely to talk/tweet/blog about the experience, even if it’s a negative one. That G.O.O.D. has apparently hired Snidely Whiplash to do their web design is a disservice to the music–if one releases their click from the .gif, the song starts over from the beginning. There are interesting ways to engage fans in the increasingly fickle process of listening. This, however, is not one of them.
Mercifully, the official Pusha T YouTube account uploaded “(Official Audio).” “Untouchable” continues Pusha T’s trend of rapping over only the sparsest, most paranoiac instrumentals–that Timbaland is credited with the beat suits beggars belief. If you enjoyed “Numbers On The Board” and “Lunch Money,” then “Untouchable” is suitable for soundtracking your greyscale fall/winter.
Saba – “Timezone/Whip (areyoudown?)”
Judged solely by the trailer, and the first single from the film (the execrable “WGDB”), Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq looks really, really, really bad. It would appear that Lee’s representation of Chicago rap is based solely on drill’s most frothy-mouthed moments in lieu of a more holistic (informed?) approach. Saba is no less a Chicagoan than Lil Durk, Chief Keef, or Lil Reese, yet it seems Lee has chosen to ignore his ilk in service of a deliberately sensationalist message. There’s no violence in the video for “Timezone/Whip (areyoudown?),” just youthful gaiety.
The Outfit TX. – “Working Title”
“Working Title” is suffocating, an appropriate quality for a song whose creation was influenced by Michael Brown’s murder, the subsequent unrest in Ferguson, and The Shining. The group’s active re-appropriation of Confederate and Klan imagery is unmistakably political. A black man shrouded in Klan robes is discordant, but not displeasing. It’s a neutering of backward values, a reimagining of a bigoted past. It’s the rap version of Crass’ logo, an amalgam of icons meant to remove each’s individual meaning.
Roc & Yella – “Road 2 Riches”
Roc & Yella are from Orangeburg, South Carolina, a city roughly halfway between Charleston and Columbia. The great irony of Orangeburg appears to be its nickname, “The Garden City.” Orangeburg isn’t a city full of gardens, rather, it has a single, large rose garden dedicated to the memories of 600 Confederate soldiers who temporarily waylaid the Union army. Orangeburg is 75% black, and home to two HBCU’s, Claflin College and South Carolina State University. In Orangeburg, they nurture students, and they nurture roses. They do not typically nurture rap stars. Roc & Yella’s road to riches surely leads elsewhere.