The Rap Up: Week of September 16

The Rap Up returns with new ones from Lil Wayne, Ezale, Clams Casino, and more.
By    September 16, 2016

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Torii MacAdams is still waiting for the Spank Rock/2 Live Crew collab.


EzaleAll it Take


Finally, an Ezale album. And not just any Ezale album, but an edition of DJ Fresh’s The Tonite Show! This was to be a triumph of molar-grinding exuberance, a pupils-as-bowling-balls celebration of Oakland’s unusual melange of people and music. Ezale, a Cambodian-American with thin braids, a devilish grin, and a gift for picaresque, drug-fueled tales, was going to take us on an East Bay adventure. Maybe my expectations were outsized.

I like The Tonite Show with Ezale. It’s an enjoyable, fun record, albeit one which I hoped would challenge for my personal (and utterly meaningless to everyone else) “Rap Record of the Year.” In retrospect, that may have been unfair. This is his first full-length album, and it seems the Funktown ecstasy connoisseur is still (understandably) learning how to maintain a high standard of writing for 30-40 minutes. There’s no clear duds, but nothing rises to the scintillating heights of “We Want Some Pussy,” whose 2 Live Crew sample and overt horniness would surely make Fresh Kid Ice smile.

I’m not sure where on the critical spectrum my impressions of The Tonite Show…fall. Critics whose scraper bikes are astride Ezale’s probably enjoy it, though I’ve seen nothing in the way of reviews. (A few publications wrote brief, daily news items for its release, and The Fader premiered its stream.) It’s a deeply regional rap record that’s won fans in the Bay and amongst a small fringe of nose-picking freelancers, although without greater penetration into the upper echelons of editorial staffs or the average rap fan’s consciousness it’s likely to stay a curio.


Clams Casino ft. Lil BLive My Life


I’m of two minds about Lil B: he’s a Lisa Frank illustration-turned-rapper and a minor catalyst for positive change, and he’s a calculating attention whore whose curses on NBA players are as moronic (very) as they are free of magic. It’s unfair to expect rap’s Keebler Elf to permanently maintain a benevolent facade, but it’s also frustrating that the lapses are decidedly un-Based, retweet-courting shenanigans.

The central question of Lil B’s career–whether or not he’s a serious artist–is a query he’s unconcerned with answering. (Maybe that’s a good thing.) How seriously are we to take the Based God’s airy, ill-defined dogma if he, himself, doesn’t appear intent on abiding by it? Is he truly intent on connecting with his fans, or is he exploiting humans’ tendency for optimism and warmth for his own personal gain? When universities pay him to lecture students, is he aware of the ridiculousness of these events, or is he unwittingly being made a spectacle by sneering Ivory Tower panjandrums?


Nell & Denzel CurryRedemption


Speaking of positivity, Carol City rascals and former Raider Klan members Denzel Curry and Nell are reunited after the latter’s 19-month jail sentence for a series of nonviolent offenses. It seems Curry’s penchant for communitarian-leaning, hippy-dippy mantras has rubbed off on Nell. Songs of trust, unity, and strength–dominant themes in Curry’s work of late–are mainstays of granola singalongs and gangster rap alike. If the Woody Guthrie tunes are sonically and spiritually benign, and YG tunes are sonically and spiritually aggressive, then Nell and Curry are centered between these odd poles of communitarianism: sonically aggressive, spiritually (mostly) benign.

Like Minor Threat before him, Curry’s subsumed the sometimes slobbering violence of his chosen medium into a more positive message. Historically, rap that’s life-affirming and accepting sounds like shit–probably because happy people tend to make bad art, and telling someone to be happy is about as useful as an asshole transplanted onto your elbow. But I enjoy Curry’s occasional excursions into moralizing, even if the sexual politics of “Pure Enough” are slightly regressive and the tenets of his “ULT” (an abbreviation of “ultimate”) lifestyle are, like Lil B’s “Based,” unspecific. How could I tell guys who survived the waking nightmare of modern, nearly inexorable ghettoization not to strive for happiness?


Lil Wayne ft. Gudda Gudda Grateful


Lil Wayne’s had an interesting past week. On Friday the 9th, he released “Grateful,” about his strained relationship with Cash Money and Birdman; on Tuesday the 13th, he told Shannon Sharpe and Skip Bayless—a ballsack left too long on a tanning bed—that racism was “over”; and, on Wednesday the 14th, he went on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and changed a lyric from his guest verse on Chance the Rapper’s “No Problem” to refer to his current imbroglio with a certain half-bird half-man. The retirement which he promised hasn’t affected his ability to make news.

On “Grateful,” Wayne raps “You don’t see Stunna right next to me/And I won’t see Stunna write checks to me/They can’t put no more Weezy Baby out/That’s that Cash Money vasectomy.” Maybe all of Wayne’s bullets are spent, or maybe he’s saving them for further salvos (perhaps with rap’s eminence grise J. Prince at his side, who’s sworn to get to Wayne what he’s owed). But “Grateful,” on which he’s passive-aggressively grateful, is hardly the venomous volley one would expect from a rapper jilted by a lifelong mentor. At least the mistake of including Gudda Gudda will be overshadowed by profoundly mistaken political beliefs.