Torii MacAdams taught the pindrop to pay for college.
Warm Brew – The Mission
A traditional (and very loose) marker of economic status in Los Angeles is the further north of the 10 Freeway you live, the more likely you are to be wealthy. The opposite is true for the south. Where the freeway reaches its terminus, and begins its slow, meandering path up California’s coast, is a little more complicated. Santa Monica, whose southern border is below the 10, and Venice have become twinned and almost indistinct as the wealthy have begun to fill pockets of the neighborhoods historically reserved for the working class and poor. Their bond, forged by Abbott-Kinney yoga mats and tech industry outposts, is a severely recent phenomenon.
For much of the 20th century, Venice was “the slum by the sea.” The combined forces of the Depression and the discovery of oil left the former resort town dotted by unsightly nodding donkeys and derricks. A near-apocalyptic coastline, wracked by industry, was perfect for lowlifes, laborers, and bohemians in search of cheap housing. Venice residents were at home with surfers and gangbangers, yards from the beach, and light years from the pastels of adjacent Westside communities. While Santa Monica has suffered its setbacks–the 1980’s were unkind to almost the entirety of Los Angeles–its status as an upmarket neighbor to Venice was unyielding until the mid-late 2000’s.
According to Passion of the Weiss’ Warm Brew historian Max Bell, the group’s members shuttled between Santa Monica and Venice (they attended Santa Monica High School), a common situation for Westsiders. Of all the phenomena that have taken hold in L.A.’s beachside communities (skating, surfing, punk rock, gang violence, punk-fueled gang violence) rap doesn’t seem to be one of them. Warm Brew are old enough to remember Santa Monica and Venice before their sprints toward gentrification, but young enough to be vital, enjoyable voices for neighborhoods that have historically existed outside the city’s rap culture.
Danny Brown – When It Rain
About two minutes into “When It Rain,” Danny Brown raps that “it’s time for the percolator,” a direct reference to Cajmere’s house classic “Percolator.” It’s in these songs’ fertile negative spaces that chaos and writhing take seed. Much of “Percolator” is three sounds–the bubbling, “percolating” sound, flat drum hits, and a simple bass line–but their collective effect is much greater: it’s body-moving, borderline instinctive. Paul White’s production for Brown’s single functions the same way. The death-is-imminent horns emptily threaten to drop into oblivion (as they would have on Old) and tambourines rattle without release; it’s tense and sparse and the type of unresolution that Mozart’s children supposedly pranked him with by playing on the family piano.
There’s a second, extra-musical similarity which I can’t assign to either coincidence or intent. The very first upload of “Cajmere” to YouTube (and the video which introduced me to the song) is a grainy, audibly whirring VHS rip of The New Dance Show, a Detroit-area public access show which broadcasted the city’s most fashionable and flexible throwing radical shapes. The warping of “When It Rain” is more intentionally artistic and severe, but its central attraction–men and women with elbows and knees akimbo–is the same.
YG – Gimmie Got Shot
I never thought YG would become a great rapper. Or even good, really. When I was in high school, jerk was the sound of Los Angeles. My classmates, in sagged skinny jeans bunched atop Chucks or Vans, would speak reverently about jerk functions. “You’re A Jerk” was on every Sidekick, a customized New Era atop every head. It didn’t last.
Jerkin’ came and went quickly, and I remember feeling like it was oddly disposable. It was, unintentionally–jerkin’ coincided with the early years of YouTube and increased music access on portable devices, but predated the internet’s ability to find fans for every scene no matter how local. Many of the principal figures–the New Boyz, the Rej3ctz, the Cold Flamez–are L.A.-exclusive trivia answers. YG was a boyish, charismatic star, albeit one whose rapping abilities were as painfully underdeveloped as those of his cohorts. There wasn’t a shortcut between jerk anthem “Pussy Killer” and “Gimmie Got Shot,” just years of personal evolution, mixtapes full of misfiring, fucked-your-bitch anthems, and a solo debut that improbably changed a city’s artistic direction. He isn’t the only one to succeed; to varying degrees, Ty Dolla $ign, DJ Mustard, and Cam and China all have their roots in jerk. Like the electro roller rink jams of the mid-80’s birthed G-funk, jerk functions birthed a rap renaissance.
Cardo – 4 The Summer Pull Ups Vol. 1
Despite his decidedly Westward gaze, Cardo’s a St. Paul native who moved to Ft. Worth, Texas the day after being released from jail. His releases this year with Nef the Pharaoh and Payroll Giovanni (of Doughboyz Cashout) were both excellent, due in no small part to the sparkling production. Cardo’s work is a contemporary midpoint between Mobb music and G-funk production and their source materials; rather than sampling Whodini or The Ohio Players, he recreates the funkiest, purplest elements and repurposes them for a modern audience. “4 The Summer Pull Ups Vol. 1”’s mix of rap (Mac Dre, Tha Dogg Pound) and slow jams (Juicy’s “Sugar Free,” Zapp’s “Computer Love”) is an introduction to Cardo’s smooth oeuvre.
Rick Ross – Same Hoes