Torii MacAdams only goes to Disneyland for the churros.
Kanye West ft. Frank Ocean, Vic Mensa & Sia – Wolves (CD-Quality Original)
On Sunday, Kanye tweeted that he’s going to “fix wolves [sic].” It’s an odd statement. The exclusion of Sia and Vic Mensa, and the substitution of Frank Ocean, was one of the shrewder artistic decisions made on The Life of Pablo. The original version of “Wolves” was unwieldy and exhaustingly dense: Three beat changes! Kanye’s autotuned warbling! Flat, metallic percussion, seemingly at random! Vic Mensa skylarking! Sia’s throaty singing!
Kanye’s approach to “Wolves,” and its subsequent revisions, epitomizes the befuddling nature of TLOP–it’s simultaneously under- and over-thought. The album version of “Wolves” is sleeker–a minute and forty seconds was shorn from the run time–and retains the minimalism integral to the original. It’s clear that, in the year between the debut of “Wolves” at the Yeezy Season 1 event and the album’s release, every facet of the song (and the album) was obsessed over. Except one. How can a project so calculated, so repeatedly revised, contain rapping so abysmal?
It’s extremely difficult to pretend “Wolves” has great emotional gravity when it contains unrelenting struggle bars. “You tried to play nice, everybody just took advantage/you left your fridge open, somebody just took a sandwich” is barely the worst couplet in the song. Had an artist without a notoriously virulent cult of personality rapped that, they’d have been spit-roasted; Gang Starr’s “DWYCK” was released in 1994 and nerds still crack wise about Guru prospecting lemonade futures. Kanye’s led a legitimately intriguing life, yet, seven albums into his discography, he still can’t verbalize much beyond personal vendettas, fashion critiques, and puns about ejaculate.
Curren$y & Alchemist ft. Action Bronson – Inspiration
Speaking of which:
I’ll surely be defeaned either by booing or by a projectile thrown at head height for writing this (Tip: I’m short, so aim low), but…I enjoyed Currensy and Alchemist’s Carrollton Heist more than The Life of Pablo, which was released almost simultaneously. The Covert Coup sequel was unfairly buried beneath an appalling tonnage of thinkpieces and encomiums dedicated to Twitter’s Alpha and Omega, Yeezus Christ. I get it: There were clicks to be had. Consider this a mild corrective.
To be clear, TLOP and Carrollton Heist are very different projects made by rappers and producers whose methodologies ostensibly have little in common. Unsurprisingly, the results are as diametrically opposed as their creators. The former is a remarkably ambitious–and misshapen and sloppy–in its attempts to reconfigure the genre to its auteur’s will. It succeeds and fails in turns, shattering and correcting like a drunken reveler careening through a living room. The latter is urbane, a self-contained whole that’s less exercise-in-genre than exercise-in-oeuvre; Curren$y is heavy-lidded, tipping blunts into the ashtrays of Alc’s instrumentals.
“Inspiration” features another of Alchemist’s frequent collaborators, the rotund and fecund Action Bronson. Over a polyester lounge suit beat, Spitta Andretti and Action Costanza brag about how icey (and stoned) they are. It’s elemental, essential, right. Less challenging than The Life of Pablo, more complete.
J Dilla – The Introduction
“The Introduction” is, appropriately, the introduction to the final album of unreleased J Dilla material, his vocal album The Diary. Beginning in 2013, Pay Jay Productions has released a single per year of the album’s 16 tracks (including iTunes bonuses!); “Anthem/Trucks” (2013), “Give Them What They Want” (2014), “Fuck The Police” (2015), and, finally, “The Introduction.” At this rate, you can expect The Diary in 2028. Or, more likely, April 15th, when it’s slated to be released by a partnership between Pay Jay and the resurrected Mass Appeal.
Of the singles to date, “The Introduction” most resembles “Give Them What They Want,” and, less directly, a lot of the aforementioned Alchemist’s work at the time. I’d attribute the similarity to their mutual admiration for early synthesized music rather than intentional cribbing. These sounds were futuristic in their original forms, du jour when they were sampled (or recreated), and are very clearly period pieces fourteen years after the fact.
Lil Boosie ft. Lil Durk & Young Thug – Choppers N Gunz
Between 1916 and 1970, approximately 500,000 of the 7 million black Southerners who took part in the Great Migration moved to Chicago, and most settled on the city’s South Side. I’ve long thought this to be an underlying influence in Drill’s evolution in Chicago, alongside the more obvious fact that Southern rappers were particularly prominent when Lil Durk, Chief Keef et. al were adolescents.
It then makes logical sense that a creative partnership would emerge between Lil Durk–Drill’s most viable star–and Young Thug, the spiritual and stylistic successor to Lil Wayne and Gucci Mane. The theoretical barriers between the Chicagoan and the Atlantan are more issues of perception and geography than they are artistic. Aside from the cringe-inducing “Party” (released two years ago), Durk and Thugger’s shared output has been encouraging; “My Boys” was a solid contribution to the latter’s recent I’m Up, “Ridin” was a highlight of the same mixtape, and “Choppers N Gunz” is an excellent addition to their canon.
5 Chuckles (Ras G & Koreatown Oddity) ft. Open Mike Eagle – Diz Nee Land
Grad Nite is a tradition for Southern California’s high school seniors: An amusement park is left woefully understaffed while thousands of drunk or hallucinating 18 year-olds puke and hump in the shadows of an ersatz Matterhorn. “Diz Nee Land” is a tribute to the mind-altering effects of Disneyland, a mecca of dilated pupil consumerism. Koreatown Oddity lusts over Disney princesses (and Minnie Mouse) and Open Mike Eagle hallucinates a barefoot trip in the park (He’s in his own apartment the entire time.). Maybe the hyper-capitalism of Disneyland is best personified by absentminded droolings and precummings.