Torii MacAdams takes the 134 to the 101 to the 405 to the 10.
E-40 ft. Kamaiyah – Petty
The United States’ greatest renewable resource is not bountiful timber, fulsome fresh water, or profoundly arable land. It’s E-40, a Vallejo-based oenologist and master brewer, who, when not slaking Americans’ thirst for wine and malt liquors, has spent his free time rapping for pleasure and profit. The Click released Let’s Side twenty-six years ago, which means that E-40’s been releasing records for two years longer than Kamaiyah, his co-star on “Petty,” has been alive. More impressively–since essentially anyone can release a record–there have been few signs of decline in the two decades-plus; he invented a style as timeless as it is inimitable and unique.
While YG’s “Why You Always Hatin?” featured Kamaiyah in a narrow role meant to familiarize casual listeners with her name, “Petty” actually gives her something to do while astride one of the genre’s stars. Namely, rapping. Compared to the buoyant and bright A Good Night In The Ghetto, “Petty” finds the Oakland rapper rebuffing the incursions of eager-to-slander, petty bitches. Surely, with her recent successes, there are more petty bitches than ever.
DJ Khaled ft. Nas – Nas Album Done
My mind tends to wander on the 134. Last night, muddling through the dregs of evening rush hour in my dirty subcompact, with the gentle, green decline of Forest Lawn Cemetery to my left and the angular beige ‘n’ blue Walt Disney Studios to my right, I felt acute nostalgia (yearning?) for ’90s rap music. Maybe I’m getting old, or maybe I’ve spent too much time listening to stuttering hi-hats and avant-garde euphemisms for guns and drugs. And, much to my own disgust, I’ve begun to understand why Ebro Darden feels the need to deride Rae Sremmurd or Lil Yachty or whatever straw man he’s picked this month: he’s just as stupid and scared of teenagers as every other adult is, myself included.
“Nas Album Done” splits the difference between my nostalgia and the realities of my chosen profession. Unlike Jay Z’s recent forays into rappin’ like the youngins, Nas, as he’s always done, just raps. No yelps, yips, or ad-libs. (If you’re reading this, you’re probably familiar with what Nas’ full-throated, metronomic rapping sounds like.) Still, there are hi-hats and the presence of a certain hirsute DJ. Times change.
Dec. 99th (Yasiin Bey & Ferrari Sheppard) – Seaside Panic Room
Dec. 99th is the rap equivalent of Brian Wilson being under the “care” of Eugene Landy. Just as Landy, a quack psychologist, had a hand and financial stake in Wilson’s creative decisions, so too does Ferrari Sheppard in Yasiin Bey’s. Sheppard’s website, A Country Called Earth, functions as Bey’s publicity mechanism, and it’s Sheppard, an inexperienced musician (and trite polemicist), who appears to be the sole producer of Bey’s instrumentals.
Sheppard’s beats suck. They’re arrhythmic dreck that function better as questions–What if Yasiin Bey started rapping again? What if he got a real producer and a real passport?–than individual pieces of music. The raggedy-ass quality of Dec. 99th’s music reflects Bey’s fraught reality; philosophically, he’s a man without a country, teetering on self-imposed irrelevance, and artistically, he’s a man being produced by a Kia in a Ferrari’s clothing.
Loudiene – Paper Pussy Preme
Loudiene is trap rap’s collective id. He’s a lisping lout in a headband (or a bandana, or a belt worn as a headband) and an inveterate gun-toter who announces his presence with a shouted “Your local shooter on the track, bitch!” Like noted admirer Waka Flocka, he’s a goon’s goon, a misdemeanor maximalist who’s pushed the already absurd maxims of juuging even further. He shuttled between Southern metroplexes after Hurricane Katrina hit his 7th Ward home; was kicked out of school in 6th grade for hitting a classmate with a baseball bat; and lost a football scholarship for possessing drugs–and his music sounds like it.
Earl Sweatshirt – Pelicula
“Pelicula” is the return of randomblackdude, Earl Sweatshirt’s producer alter-ego, done in typically understated fashion. With no fanfare–not even a single, tossed-off tweet–the prodigious recluse uploaded the minute-long instrumental to his Apple Music Connect page which, in turn, forced me to learn what Apple Music Connect is. He then deleted it. I’m not sure what to make of “Pelicula,” honestly, other than to consider it just another small cairn on Earl’s private path. So much of his artistic and personal maturation has occurred beyond the lurid glare of social media that fans and critics tend to overanalyze his minor works. It could be an interlude from his next album! It could’ve been a mistake! It could be nothing at all.