The Rap Up: Week of July 29

The Rap Up returns with a new megatrack from DJ Khaled, the trailer for a new Netflix show, and Cam & China guest appearances.
By    July 29, 2016

Torii MacAdams hated the ’04 Lakers.

DJ Khaled ft. Nicki Minaj, Chris Brown, August Alsina, Jeremih, Future & Rick Ross – Do You Mind

If you liked DJ Khaled’s “Hold You Down,” which featured Chris Brown, August Alsina, Future, and Jeremih, then you’ll probably like DJ Khaled’s “Do You Mind,” because it’s the same foursome (with Rick Ross and Nicki Minaj for added ballast), and because it’s the exact same song. With a cast of rappers and singers (and singin’-ass rappers, and rappin’-ass singers) this diverse, mushy pablum like “Hold You Down” and “Do You Mind” is probably inevitable. An assembly of big personalities never elevates an end product, and instead typically mires it in a baseline muck of empty platitudes.

Khaled’s career is so blatantly, blithely cynical it’s hard for me to muster any depth of feeling about “Do You Mind” and his artistic shortcomings, possibly because he appears to have no artistic aspirations beyond Snapchatting. It’d be a waste of energy trying to force indignation at what amounts to a nullity. I guess what I take umbrage with, more than platitudinous emptiness or a paucity of identifiable talent, is taking credit for others’ work. I understand that Khaled somehow assembles his super friends, likely using some sort of advanced technological device (a cell phone, perhaps) for contacting people, but that makes him a party planner, not a DJ.

The Get Down trailer

It’s a slow week for rap music, so, fuck it, let’s talk about the trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down. It’s hard to be optimistic about the show’s success, even if the trailer is, in typical Luhrmann fashion, a remarkably polished, expensive production. Maybe that’s the problem. The presence of Grandmaster Flash, Nas, and writer Nelson George in various roles doesn’t allay my fears of Luhrmann’s normally shallow treatment of serious subjects. An eye-watering budget, a star-studded cadre of writers and advisors, beautiful sets, pinpoint choreography, and a diverse cast of actors are no better than spare parts if The Get Down fails to capture the essential miracles of hip-hop.

I’m not sure who I would trust to shepherd this series, though. Writing a prose history of the South Bronx in the late 1970s is a complex enough task, and the introduction of dialog, dance numbers, and the necessity of character development might be too much for a single series. Additionally, the trailer seems to portray the female half of the central love interest as an aspiring disco singer; while disco’s peak and rap’s beginning are undoubtedly intertwined, a major plot line exploring disco’s own complexities (Lower East Side culture, Sanctuary, The Loft, Studio 54, Fire Island clubs, the homophobic, anti-disco backlash, etc. etc.) would likely shortchange both genres’ legacies and histories.

I guess I’m generally wary of attempts to truncate and compartmentalize entire cultures for widespread consumption. I only have slightly more faith in Donald Glover’s Atlanta than I do in Baz Luhrmann’s The Get Down–it just so happens Netflix released the latter’s trailer this week, and FX has been stingy with information on Glover’s series. Watch this space for the I-just-willed-it-into-existence inevitability of both series’ critical success, and the splatter of egg unto my face and crow into my mouth.

The Outfit, TX / Step Brothers – Precedent / Real Fam

Starlito’s Red Dot Free was released Monday, and The Outfit, TX’s Green Lights (Everythang Goin) was released yesterday. Starlito remains at heart a low-lidded loner, perpetually wary of everyone but Don Trip. The Outfit, though, enlisted producers Stunt N Dozier, and in the process temporarily inhabited the hard-as-fuck knucklehead mentality that was a Dallas trademark in the 90s and early 2000s. Starlito’s a bigger name, but Red Dot Free is a stopgap project meant to celebrate the release of a good friend from prison; Green Lights is all new material, and as a result, is the superior mixtape. Still, both are worthwhile, and at the low, low price of free-99, you can easily experience the dyspeptic Starlito and the jubilant Outfit.

Rushmore ft. Cam and China – Grindin All Day

There’s a narrow, sub-sub-genre of English producers working with underground American rappers. To wit: Brtsh Knights and Lofty305’s “South Of The River,” Jam City and Main Attrakionz’ “The Nite Life,” Rustie’s maximalist adventures with Danny Brown, Gorgeous Children, and Kevin Gates, and, if we’re stretching, rap remixes by Dark0, Mr. Mitch, and Celestial Trax. Just as the English seem evergreen in their ability to reinvent dance music, their askew views of experimental rap beats regularly introduce new dimensions to their vocalists (and vice versa).

Just as Jam City found new Cloud Rap textures for pneumatic daydreamers Main Attrakionz, Rushmore buries his own adaptation of the G-funk “Funky Worm” wail below cowbells and fuzzy, heavy bass. The rugged canvas suits Cam and China well–they’re take-no-shit rappers forever in search of the gnarliest, most anti-social rhyme imaginable.

Country Cousins – Up 2 Somethin

The Rap Up has covered artists from Houston, Dallas, San Antonio, McKinney, Bryan, and even sunbaked, desolate Brookshire. Noticeably absent, though, is Austin, which may never have recovered from being the only major Texas city ESG didn’t shout out on “Swangin’ And Bangin’.” (He managed to acknowledge Seattle, Denver, and Cleveland, though.) I didn’t mean to exclude Texas’ capital–I’ve just never knowingly listened to Austin rap. Until now.

Country Cousins, formerly V.I.P., have reportedly been active since 1999. But, according to an article in The Austin Chronicle, the wonderfully monikered K-Paul and Pimpin Pen didn’t release an official album until 2014 because the cousins (They’re real cousins!) alternated stints in prison. The years marinating in the hoosegow didn’t dull their zest for country rap tunes. “Up 2 Somethin” is uncomplicated, unpretentious, and like much great, Southern rap, includes a man calling himself a “mack.”

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