Torii MacAdams wears his heart on his Von Wafer jersey.
Mick Jenkins – Spread Love
Maybe I’m wary of Mick Jenkins’ “Spread Love” because I listened to too much angry, nihilistic music in my formative years. Or maybe it’s because I’m rebelling against the pan-affectionate ethos of my tie-dyed, psychoactive drug-proponent father. Or maybe it’s because I have slow dance chub for leftist realpolitik. It’s a good song–really good, even–albeit one whose earnestness almost hurts, which Mick Jenkins acknowledges by rapping “Some people got a literal fence around their heart/Mine’s on my sleeve and I’m out here sleeveless.” It’s courageous to be publicly vulnerable! It’s also kind of trite.
Jenkins’ upcoming 12-city mini tour is called the “A Quest For Love Tour.” The attendant press release quotes him as saying that he’s “just trying to see how much love is out there in the world in a time where we need it the most.” It’s such an achingly sweet, borderline callow statement that I want to roll my eyes at it–which is fucked up because I’m not necessarily pro-hate, but I’m also not necessarily anti-hate.
The pro-love rap crowd, with their hearts anchored only by ribcages and floral crowns, have so much cache and moral rectitude that, almost by nature of their “well, duh” righteousness, they eliminate counter-argument, or at least nuance. I need counter-balance to the doe-eyed positivity–I like my rap a little sour, a little (or a lot) angry, because living with a conscience is enraging and because global crises can’t be hugged away. Rap’s bleeding hearts need rap’s bloodied fists just as much as rap’s vacuous fools need rap’s heady intellectuals.
Migos – Where
Some day in the future, Migos will release their final mixtape. And, like beautiful idiot Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes, I’ll drop to my knees and shout “You Maniacs! You blew it up! Ah, damn you! God damn you all to hell!” We, the public with the boundless, insatiable hunger for next next next, do not deserve Quavo, Offset, and Takeoff. The strangeness of Migos’ career arc isn’t that they were compared to the Beatles and then abandoned by the music press–it’s that they’ve improved their rapping and increased their popularity without any great uptick in critical acclaim.
Danny Brown – Pneumonia
The Passion of the Weiss braintrust engaged in extended meditation about/bickering over a passage from a recent Rolling Stone article in which Danny Brown detailed his forthcoming album, Atrocity Exhibition. The project is supposedly “inspired by Raekwon, early Björk, Joy Division, Talking Heads and System of a Down’s Toxicity,” a list of names that’s either alarming or exciting, depending on one’s belief in Brown and producer Paul White’s ability to synthesize their influences.
While the possibility of Raekwon and System of a Down commingling is about appealing as toothpaste and orange juice, it’s important to parse produced sound with listened-to influences, particularly with Brown. While he’s made a point of touting his eclecticism–even going so far as to name this album after a Joy Division song–he also tends to explore the weirdest, hardest edges of rap rather than actively trying to fuse it onto other genres. If Jay Z, half-progenitor of war crime Collision Course, made an offhand mention of twenty one pilots, I’d advise an immediate quarantine of Manhattan–but Brown doesn’t operate that way. Based on available evidence from this album cycle, he’s no closer to making a rap-rock album than he was two years ago. If anything, “Pneumonia” is Raekwon meets Mumdance.
Curtis Mayz – Candy Coated Caddy/Usually
I want Dallas rappers to win. I want Dallas rappers to win because the city gets mocked ceaselessly for its seeming nowhereness; yellowing front lawns, ranch-style homes, and mini-malls extend far beyond the vanishing point in cotton fields-turned-suburbs, but these bulldozed, once-flaxen plains aren’t the entirety of Dallas. (Perhaps the great irony of the city is that, as white people fled north into the suburban cotton expanse, Blacks were forced into South Dallas, the city’s most ecologically beautiful area.)
Because, when my father told some fellow aged Dallasites about a long day driving the city in search of rap tapes, they, punctilious and sneering, couldn’t pretend to feign interest in the corner of Bruton and Prairie Creek. Because my family’s been in Dallas for almost 100 years; my grandmother had crosses burned in her childhood yard (The Klan didn’t take too kindly to Jews) and my grandfather arrived an uneducated, unsophisticated soldier, made money, and died in serious debt–yet my widowed grandmother thrived, and my aunts, uncles, and cousins remain soft-accented, warm-hearted Texans. Because poor, hard-working black people deserve something for generations of second-class citizenship, even if it’s a fleeting moment of artistic excellence.