The Rap Up For The Week of 11/20/2015

New joints from Alchemist, iLoveMakonnen, Slim Thug, and more.
By    November 20, 2015


 Torii MacAdams run spent like 9 or 10 on his last throwback jersey purchase.

Alchemist ft. Migos & Mac Miller – “Jabronis”

Jeff asked me if there’s a rap producer with greater longevity than Alchemist. I could only think of one, Pharrell Williams, who’s four years older, and got a narrow head start when he began working with Teddy Riley in 1992. Alchemist’s career is, in some regards, more impressive than Williams’. While Williams has become a deliberately safe pop icon with a decidedly towering chapeau, Alchemist has chomped down on his blunt and receded further into a cave of dusty vinyl culled from former Soviet satellite states and African countries facetiously named “democratic republics.” Williams caters, Alchemist does not.

Rich Homie Quan – “Numbers”

At the 45 second mark on “Numbers,” Rich Homie Quan has a line about having sex with his cousin, to whom he didn’t know he was related. It’s the same scenario which Kevin Gates confessed to in January. The difference is that Gates spoke candidly about his erstwhile sexual relationship, and Quan, who has yet to comment on the line, may have included it purely for its artistic value.

This isn’t the first time that Quan’s lyrics have (probably) been taken out of context. In May, a number of purposefully unreleased recordings were leaked. Included were lyrics about committing rape, for which Quan has apologized profusely. There’s something strange and Orwellian about Quan being publicly browbeaten for songs he never intended for consumption. Had Quan chosen to release the songs, a reaction may have been warranted, but faulting an artist for the involuntary leak of unfinished work is a fundamental misunderstanding of art, and it sets a very dangerous precedent.

iLoveMakonnen – “Second Chance “

“Second Chance” is produced by DJ Mustard, who apparently got too high and purchased Pulse: Platinum Edition at 4 a.m. There’s a stratospheric, helium-huffing quality to Mustard’s instrumental. It never quite reaches the melodramatic heights of a dance standard like Robin S.’s “Show Me Love,” but there’s clearly some inclination in that direction.

For Makonnen, “Second Chance” offers another avenue for his unusual, warbling style: house vocalist. I’m not sure if Makonnen has either the inclination or a big enough voice for dance music, though the latter hasn’t proved to be an impediment to his career thus far.

Slim Thug ft. Z-Ro & Paul Wall – “Drank”

Hearing Slim Thug, Z-Ro, and Paul Wall rap about drank has probably grown tiresome for some listeners, which is understandable—that’s what they’ve been doing for over a decade now. But, I’d much rather that trio stick to their preferred topics than the cringeworthy alternative of trying to keep up with the Sauce Twinz. Few musicians remain progressive into their mid-late 30’s. Rappers fair particularly poorly due to the breakneck speed with which the genre can change directions–Paul Wall is 34 years old, Slim Thug is 35, and Z-Ro is 38. That aging Houston rappers depend on drank as subject matter (and narcotic) is no more ridiculous than Bob Dylan relying on Judeo-Christian imagery or Michael Chabon writing about maladroit teenage boys. It’s what they know.

Your Old Droog – “Basketball & Seinfeld”

Your Old Droog’s “Basketball & Seinfeld” combines things I love (rap music, basketball) with things I don’t have any particular affinity for (Your Old Droog, Seinfeld). I’ve never really understood the love people have for either Jerry Seinfeld, his stand-up, or his TV show. Similarly, I don’t really understand the appeal of My Old Droog. He’s a technically sound rapper mostly devoid of charisma. Despite the light-hearted conceit of “Basketball & Seinfeld,” it never sounds like Their Old Droog is having much fun.

“Basketball & Seinfeld” samples “SeinWave” by Abelard, a nearly four-minute chillwave exploration of Seinfeld sounds. Both are inferior to Rustie’s “Hover Traps,” which samples the Seinfeld theme’s infamous chunky bass, and sounds like the theme for a 90’s sitcom about intergalactic ketamine abusers.

Lil Herb ft. Lil Bibby – “Get 2 Bussin”

Lil Bibby is a 21 year-old with the voice of a pack-a-day smoker twice his age. When James Earl Jones retires, Lil Bibby’s going to voice Darth Vader. Lil Bibby isn’t the voice of reason, he just has the voice of reason. No one has ever told Lil Bibby to put some bass in his voice.

Roc & Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt – “Freestyle”

I attended a small liberal arts college of moderate repute. It’s a reasonably diverse school full of reasonably intelligent people who, during my stay, almost uniformly had unreasonably bad taste in rap music. The most kindred spirit I found was Pat, a bespectacled Migos fan and line cook from Monrovia*, who’d drink pints of cheap whiskey in the library while poring over Nancy, Deleuze, or Agamben. On exceedingly rare and usually inebriated occasions, Pat would freestyle.

Technically, Pat’s freestyles were terrible—he’s not remotely a rapper. Comedically, they were quasi-brilliant; Pat’s freestyling, if you could call it that, mined material from the most absurd corners of a deeply absurd brain. My most distinct memory of his freestyling is him making a series of half-rhymes about rabid foxes eating baby faces over the instrumental for Rick Ross’ “MC Hammer.” In their own twisted way, Pat’s freestyles were soul-baring, or at the very least, unashamed and courageous.

There’s some of that juvenile ridiculousness in watching the stars of The Night Before “freestyle.” Even though it’s part of a publicity tour for a movie that’s almost certainly bad, Seth Rogen, Anthony Mackie, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt trying to rap is legitimately funny. I assume that freestyling isn’t usually part of an actor’s media training, so being coerced into freestyling makes them genuinely uncomfortable, as it would most people. Mackie, in what feels like a bad joke, can actually kind of rap, Gordon-Levitt mostly shouts, and Rogen manages a few bars about how gross he is. In a battle of Mackie versus Rogen, Mackie is the more technically sound rapper, but Rogen wins for being self-effacing.

*in the San Gabriel Valley, not Liberia.

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