Torii MacAdams knows the true meaning behind “petals on a wet, black bough.”
Jeff Chery – Sick of Myself
You’re not a real rapper until you film a high definition, limited-budget music video in Los Angeles. I’m far less interested in these videos’ cinematographic qualities than I am their location scouting; I’m rarely impressed by directors’ choices, but the perspectives of carpetbaggers can still be instructional or intriguing. A few recent examples: the Sauce Twinz’ “SauceTacular” was filmed along Beverly Boulevard and in the broad, gently curving, palm-tree lined blocks of Beverly Hills–not a particularly inspired choice, albeit one with clear connotations: a front yard mottled by frond shadows is aspirational. The precise locations of Jay Dot Rain’s “Eternity” have me stumped; I’m nearly positive the street scenes are along 5th Street in Downtown and fully positive the beach is, as the YouTube description reads, Malibu. Probably whichever stretch of PCH they could find parking on. Larry June’s “Master Manipulator” is filmed on the Venice Beach Boardwalk, a tourist trap where the desperate jump into piles of glass, front flip over nervous volunteers, and ram mixtapes into your sternum. These scenes, like the city itself, are full of half-truths.
Outsiders seem to view Los Angeles as a place defined by its startling dichotomy of breezy, ostentatious wealth and the city’s sun-crisped homeless legions. That’s not an entirely inaccurate interpretation–and it’s one that dovetails nicely with rap’s rags-to-riches motif–but the diptych of disheveled cardboard-dwellers and the infinite marine of the coasts has become borderline trite.
The video for Jeff Chery’s “Sick of Myself” does well to avoid cliché. Chery wanders the ornate marble halls of the Cecil Hotel and mulls about in front of the Paradise Motel in Echo Park. The Cecil’s sickening monochromatism is a stark contrast to the vivid green and pink neon of the Paradise, its sleaze enhanced by the background nullity that is the motel’s hideous concrete hillside.
Action Bronson ft. Jah Tiger & Meyhem Lauren / Meyhem Lauren – Mr 2 Face / Badmon Ting
Ezra Pound wrote in ABC of Reading that “More writers fail from lack of character than from lack of intelligence.” (Pound’s own character was utterly confounding and contradictory.) To call Meyhem Lauren a failure would be cruel–not to mention incorrect–but he is, artistically, very much second fiddle to Action Bronson despite being a more technically skilled rapper. He simply doesn’t have the same indefatigable charisma as his childhood best friend, who’s essentially a happy-go-lucky Cronut with a beard.
Lauren raps hard, forehead vein-bulging hard, which can make for an exhausting full-length listen. In doses–and particularly when combined with Bronson–Lauren’s humor overcomes his sometimes stifling, overzealous bar spitting. When they’re together, Bronson and Lauren make rapping seem like fun.
DJ Shadow ft. Run The Jewels – Nobody Speak
Every party involved in “Nobody Speak” is in their 40’s, which will be a deterrent for some. Aging rappers can be grumpy assholes–that’s what happens when your art is deemed irrelevant by a gaggle of shitkids with Xanax in their butts and full-grown adult writers who make Kodak Black memes. RTJ haven’t gone Full Jamar, though: El-P and Killer Mike claim to punch bear cubs and kick lions, interpolate Audio Two, and use the word “fuck” with scintillant abandon. They’re going into middle-age kicking and screaming obscenities. Kind of heroically, in other words.
HoodRich Pablo Juan – Walk Like Money
I listen to five or six songs for every one that makes The Rap Up, and I’m beginning to feel like I’ve heard all the possible permutations of trap rap instrumentals. (I probably haven’t.) Thus, Brodinski’s increasing caché among rappers is a welcome change–he’s an inventive beatmaker, whose work is, if not always appealing, consistently inventive and challenging. “Walk Like Money” is really fine work from the Frenchman, whose use of pan flute sounds brings to mind early Zaytoven.
Jose Guapo ft. Shy Glizzy & Lil Boosie – Run It Up
“Run It Up” is the fourth (!) time Shy Glizzy and Boosie have shared a song–the others, for those keeping score at home, are Boosie’s “Young Niggas” and “Got It On Me” and Glizzy’s “Going Thru It.” I don’t know if Boosie and Glizzy have an especial relationship, but the former’s post-prison prolificacy and the latter’s immense improvement as a rapper are a potent combination. It’s to Jose Guapo’s credit that his sing-songy verse functions as more than a de facto interlude between those of his guests.