The Rap Up for the Week of July 1

The Rap Up featuring Schoolboy Q, Mick Jenkins, The Outfit Tx, Kanye & Fiend
By    July 1, 2016

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Torii MacAdams taught Mozgov the money dance. 


ScHoolboy Q ft. Traffic & TF – Tookie Knows II: Part (2)


“THat Part” was the lead single for ScHoolboy Q’s Blank Face for semi-obvious reasons: it’s an opiated summer single that features a yelping Kanye West, rap’s foremost shit-stirrer and headline-maker. It was overly medicated, though; it’s more narcotic stupor than psycho-stimulant romp. “Tookie Knows II: Part (2)” is a reminder of both Q’s immense abilities and his sometimes frustrating disinterest in channeling them.

At his best–as he is here–Q’s rapping has purpose and vigor; his flow is slippery and pointed, like liquid mercury on broken glass. One of the eminent modes of rap is the semi-aware gang member, and on “Tookie Knows II…” Q and his Figg St. cohorts Traffic and TF play their roles to perfection. They’re imprisoned, but cognizant of the effects and expectations of incarceration. The goonish duo of Traffic and TF are the Platonic ideal of guests on a gangster(-ish) project: mostly unknown, capable rappers, who don’t detract from the overall quality. This is the single I wanted from Q.


Fiend “Malibu Beaches”


Speaking of summer singles, Fiend’s “Malibu Beaches” is quintessential yacht rap, to borrow a term from Steady Bloggin’ impresario Alex Piyevsky. For those of a less taupé complexion, “yacht rock” was pejorative for the soft, un-controversial sounds of early ‘80’s rock music thought to be best suited for creamsicle sunsets on the sea. “Yacht rap” appropriates the smoothness and connotations of luxury (and yearning saxophone licks!), without the implication that its practitioners are irrepressible honkeys.

The treacly, elongated brass, swelling strings, and restrained drums of “Malibu Beaches” are ideal for Fiend’s soul singer baritone. Fiend, at 40 years old, is the right age and right personality for this kind of niche rap–(almost) no one wants to hear middle-aged adults overextending in their attempts to sound youthful. “Malibu Beaches” is conservative without sounding stale.

The Outfit, TX ft. G.U.N., Loudiene, Saint Clair & Trap Mama– I’m With That Too


I’ve been speaking to a few Dallas rappers lately, and regardless of their own standing, the universal sentiment is that the city is ready for its moment in the spotlight. If it happens (and it should, if the universe is remotely just) it’ll be the result of careful planning. Mel of The Outfit, TX has repeatedly diagnosed one of his hometown’s problems as being a lack of cooperation; while Houston rappers were cliquen’ and mobbin’, many Dallasites (with the notable exception of Dirty South Rydaz) chose to go it alone. Screwed Up Click and Swishahouse turned their in-state fans into huge, persistent international followings. The same can’t be said for artists like Mr.’s Lucci and Pookie, Big Tuck, or Tum Tum.

With projects like Deep Ellum and the forthcoming, Green Lights: Everythang Goin’, The Outfit, TX are helping to rectify the fatal flaws of their predecessors. “I’m With That Too” features four of Dallas’ seemingly endless array of promising artists. I’ve written favorably about the hairpin-triggered, aggressive-aggressive Loudiene in the past, but Saint Clair, G.U.N., and Trap Mama are worthy of plaudits, too. It’s like less an issue of whether a rapper from Dallas (Post Malone doesn’t count.) will break through than when or who. Those present on “I’m With That Too” would be good bets were I a gambling man, er, blogger.


Mick Jenkins ft. theMIND – “Sunkissed”


Mick Jenkins’ “Sunkissed” is presented to you and I by 1800 Tequila. They aren’t the first alcoholic beverage company to solicit material from rappers. St. Ides malt liquor commissioned a series of now-notorious commercials with Ice Cube, the Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious B.I.G., the Geto Boys, Snoop Doggy Dogg, and other rap luminaries, but these were (somehow) less veiled ploys than Jenkins’ “Sunkissed.” Each St. Ides spot was about a minute long, ran on radio or television, and was explicitly in praise of a malt liquor fit for only the most desperate and destitute.

The twist with “Sunkissed” is that beyond the opening lines–a series of metaphors comparing confronting hard racial truths to taking 1800 shots of tequila–the song is otherwise straightforward. There’s plenty of cynicism in each method. St. Ides, a company with no connection to music, blatantly courted underaged black consumers by enlisting popular rappers. (In 1992, their parent company actually paid New York State $50,000 for their targeting of children.)

1800 Tequila’s tactics are, depending on your point of view, either more clever or more insidious. There’s no explicit praise of their product, only the discreet mention of the brand name; had the company not branded the song on SoundCloud as “1800 Tequila presents Mick Jenkins,” their influence would probably escape notice. And, rather than goofy tales of a thirst quenched by malt liquor, Jenkins raps (rather ironically) about the exploitation and importance of black culture. Liquor companies, as they were in 1992 and will be in 2022, are desirous of urban consumers. How they’re targeting them has evolved.

Kanye West – “Famous”


 

Just kidding. I refuse to pay for Tidal, and so should you.