(You're still rockin' with the best, but now it's on a Tuesday. Please Jam.)
Kelela -- “Bank Head” off CUT 4 ME mixtape
JAMES: Rihanna owns that drum, man. The first six second sound almost exactly like one of her tracks. That’s about where the similarities end. Kelela will put you in a trance, quickly, but within the same song makes you want to move. Whatever mood you’re in, I suppose.
VINCE: Yeah, the “clap” is what you’re hearing, specifically from “Pour It Up.” But these chords on “Bank Head” are the pretty antithesis to the purposeful sleeziness of synth on “Pour It Up.” You can thank Kingdom, a producer from the L.A. electro scene, for this.
You actually put me on to Kelela, JC. You included “Go All Night” in a Please Jam from two weeks ago. Solanage released it as a single off her boutique label’s compilation album. I immediately sought out more music from Kelela and came across CUT 4 ME, which she just released, and it’s heavy. I mean, it weighs a ton. I’ve seen reviews liken her to Rihanna, some to Solange, but I think her music reminds me most of Little Dragon with some of that ambi-trap vibe thrown in for good measure. “Bank Head”, however, is another one of the warm songs for winter insulation.
M.I.A. -- “Lights” off Matangi
JAMES: This album seemed to have a ton of hype. But it only sold 15,000 copies. Did everyone just steal it? Is that what MIA gets for her “F U” attitude? I don’t think anyone, including her, really go. M.I.A. is still gonna sell out tours and book shows. That observation was more about her fans. I’m a bit disappointed. I mean, Danny Brown sold 15,000 albums and he’s never been on the halftime show at the Super Bowl, let alone the most memorable part of a Super Bowl halftime show.
Anyway, this was interesting. Not exactly reflective of the way I just portrayed, but a lot of instruments and effects. Low-key entertaining. Definitely something to get lost in your own head listening to.
VINCE: Included this M.I.A. track strictly so I could hate on the new album, and this is the sole track that I enjoyed.
I want to say that this album was made strictly for white women in their late-teens and early-20s. But I know that’s not the case, because I know M.I.A. -- regardless of whether I dig Matangi or not -- to be a serious artist, and I also know a few black men that are fans of this recent effort. (Note: I have been an immense fan of every one of her previous albums.)
Me personally? I can’t stomach it. And it is almost surely due to how “Bad Girls” became a kind of theme song for sorority girls and coastal hipster chicks in a nauseating way.
Do you watch Girls? I do. In many ways I hate-watch, but I definitely watch it out of an obligation to attune to the zeitgeist (James Note: Well put.). And Lena Dunham is a talented woman, with a keen eye for satire. The wedding scene where all the white Brooklyn youngsters ironically dance to “Pussy Be Yankin” was so spot on perfect for the way ethnic music is appropriated in ways that don’t always seem genuine. Do you really dig Chief Keef? Do you really M.I.A.? Word? You do? So you got some Fela Kuti on your Pod, too, right?
And then there’s the more saddening product of this new phenomenon, which is an artist pandering to this audience. I am probably way outta bounds to accuse M.I.A. of going into the studio and saying, “Let’s make an album for sorority parties”...but, man, that’s the vibe I get. I abhor Matangi. (* Cues up Kala)
Action Bronson & Party Supplies (ft. Big Body Bes) -- “9.24.13” off Blue Chips 2 mixtape
JAMES: This really just made me upset about my current laptop situation. Mine is on its last legs. I can’t really be downloading mixtapes at my usual pace on my girl’s computer, man. So I don’t have this one. But...this was the joint that stood out to you on there? I’m a bit surprised. Maybe we’ve just explored Bronson’s charisma enough on here. You’ll have to tell me what I’m underappreciating though.
VINCE: Action Bronson is one of the more charismatic personalities in hip-hop. It took me a while to get over how much he cribs Ghostface Killah. Like, it took years. The tone of his voice, his non-sequitur lyrics, the sheer ridiculousness of his outsized italic-swag – it was just initially too close to biting for my own tastes. I don’t know if Bronson has gradually morphed into his own unique entity (rhyming about food is not enough) or if I’ve just relented, but I enjoy his music now.
This track right here is golden, with the groove in the cut and the old soul sample (Yes, of course, I could absolutely hear this on, say, Fishscale). But the crowning achievement of this song and, in a lot of ways, all of Blue Chips 2 is Bronson's alter ego, Big Body Bes. His outro is hysterical and full of gems. (For what it's worth, you can't tell me when he says "all types of sh*t" and "marble" that you don't automatically think about Ghost's seminal Wallabee skit before "Glaciers of Ice" on Cuban Linx).
Behold some of Big Body’s gems…
"I got the new marble floor, man. That sh*t is imported. We just flew that sh*t in from Connecticut."
"Pockets was always swoll'. Sometimes a little low, but I get em back up."
"Nuttin’ left to say, man. But a m*********n few more things. That's what's left to say."
It was tour de force in empty ish-talking.
Troy Ave ft. Pusha T - “Everything”
JAMES: Troy Ave was super impressive a few weeks back when he had a track with NORE, Prodigy and Raekwon, so expectations were a little high for this one. I tried to throw this on last week’s "Please Jam," but it missed the cut. I wasn’t overly impressed with it after a couple listens. I suppose it met expectations, which says a lot about what Push and Troy have put out recently. But I’ve borrowed some beats speakers. Makes a world of difference. Wooooo.
VINCE: This joint is hard as a rock. That dark synth is the type that makes you scowl. Troy’s flow is boppin’ it on it, too. Pusha swoops in for some quick work, but this is all about the beat. It’s trap music with an NYC groove. Cats in Brownsville will definitely be bumpin’ this at a stash house. I will definitely hear this joint this winter coming out of hoopties with the windows down in 20 degree weather. It’s gangster.
You know who could’ve really flipped this? 50.
Roc Marciano -- “Ice Cream Man” off Pimpire Strikes Back mixtape
JAMES: This is cold. Pretty much what I’ve come to expect from Roc. I really like the guitar sample. It gives the song an entirely different vibe. I’d be surprised if Curren$y didn’t hop on some version of this beat at some point.
VINCE: I got a thing about hearing too much music in advance of artist's albums. If I know Artist X is dropping in a few months, I don't want to hear five of the 13 tracks that will make the album, or a 15 track mixtape of cutting room floor material. I listen to too much music; I need to monitor my appetite, what I'm feeding on. I like listening to albums for the first time in one setting, being familiar with no more than a few advance singles. I have no interest in consuming 30 to 40 tracks from an artist in the span of a few months. I avoided Kanye's Good Friday glut in advance of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. And I have practically sworn off any Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Electronica, Andre 3000, etc until I get actual albums.
Along these lines, I'd been anticipating Roc Marciano's Marci Beaucoup for a few months. Recently, news broke that he'd be dropping a mixtape/concept album, Pimpire Strikes Back, in advance of the "proper LP" Marci Beaucoup. I told my crew I wanted no parts of Pimpire until I first consumed Marci, the entree. Pimpire could be the dessert.
Then, last week, I looked in the crew's music DropBox and, of course, there was Pimpire. I was resolute in ignoring it. That was until my man Trav was like, "You don't have to listen to the whole mixtape, but at least check this..." he had pasted a link to the audio YouTube for this song.
That drum track you hear is from “It’s Been A Long Time”, a slow-burn joint from New Birth Band. New Birth was an underappreciated funk out from the early-‘70s, so you know Marc was diggin’ in the crates for this one. He fattened up the bass something serious, though. I have no idea where he pulled that acoustic guitar lick he layed on top, but that’s really the icing. The crate-digging is what’s notable and makes cats like him, Tyler and Joey so impressive. These dudes aren’t willing to just bang out these toy beats on Casios and Mac programs.
And the man Marc’s steelo on the mic is getting frightening at this point. Did you hear that flow? I’m gonna stop talking now, because I’m sure I’ll have more to say when the proper album drops. With that said, please jam…