Paul Thompson remembers the California Golden Seals.
“Haunting” is played out, but how else are we supposed to talk about J. Stalin? Most of the West Oakland native’s work this year makes me want to sit in dark rooms and retrace years of my life. What can you say about the vocal sample on “No Way“? (The first time I watched that video, I audibly gasped when he left the store and un-tucked his chains.) “100 Boxes” hits you from a different angle, but it’s just as disquieting–and twice as weird, muddying up soft jazz with those familiar hyphy drums and baking soda, purchased in bulk.
“Get Me Some,” the new single from Stalin’s nascent On Behalf of the Streets 2, is what an alien might make if he tried to approximate a song of celebration. All the signifiers are there: crisp white wife beaters, a silky hook, animated dancing in and around vintage automobiles. But as with much of Stalin’s work (and there’s been a lot: the 33-year-old has been a ceaseless stream of mutated hyphy for the last decade), it moves a few steps away from center, and the result is a defiant, psychedelic blur.
For example: Nef the Pharaoh, whose mythos rests partly on how fluent he is in a variety of rap codes at such a young age, comes off here as a grizzled vet, grimacing from the porch steps. So Lil Blood’s gruff, guttural turn isn’t a counterpoint so much as it’s co-conspiratorial. This is what Stalin does: he takes things–sounds, human beings, grocery stores–and warps them into something extraterrestrial. It’s eerie, but you’re dancing anyway.