(Editors' note: We've got a kid from New Zealand admonishing hip-hop culture, Rick Ross firing back, and Eminem firing at everyone. Please Jam...)
Lorde ft. Rick Ross - “Royals” (Remix)
JAMES: Rick Ross will never change. Not even one a song about exactly the kind of things Ross represents, that specifically mentions Maybachs, the name of his label, will he switch up his style. She wanna watch Scandal/I wanna count a handful. Ha!
Anyway, this song is awesome.
VINCE: I can’t get a good read on what this girl Lorde is saying. Part of me wants to immediately scoff, “Who the eff cares what you think about hip-hop culture and lyrics???? Just shut up and listen.” I mean, in what world are we from which hip-hop was born (who am I kidding, it’s clear that I mean black people) going to sit here and accept some hand-wringing from some kid from New Zealand? Kick rocks, toots.
But then, I can’t quite tell if she’s capitulating, if she’s saying that although it’s exhausting to listen to these faux-royal life lyrics as she and her peers live below those means, that she falls under the spell of aspirationalism and consumerism anyway.
I hope it’s the latter. Because, otherwise, how dare she? You hear that beat she’s singing over? You hear the cadence of her hook? That song went No. 1 on Billboard and it wasn’t because of her silly protest lyrics.
So, yeah, talk that ‘ish, Ricky.
Kelela - “Go All Night”
JAMES: This is the kind of thing I stumble upon when there’s not much brewing in hip-hop, and in this case I think we’re better off for it. This song will put you in a trance pretty quickly. Pop this on late at night and magic is bound to happen. Be sure to thank Solange Knowles in the process.
VINCE: I’m developing a little crush on Solange. I just think she’s such a cold chick. She’s one of the coolest people in music. True was a wonderful EP -- simply fantastic. Solange is just in a very dope space, right now. She is absolutely the “cool sister” to Beyonce’s “popular sister.” I didn’t even know that she signed a deal with Sony to run her own boutique label, but she did, back in May, with Saint Records. It’s where she’s going to release her own album and also distribute other non-traditional R&B acts (I just call it “black singing music”). I absolutely trust Solange as a curator.
This joint right here by Kelela and produced by Moris$ is a good indication of where the Saint crew is going to be coming from, in terms of approach. It’s part of the compilation, Saint Heron, the label is releasing next month. Moris$ is a bad boy, apparently, given this lush production. And, although it sounds like Solange wrote this song, Kelela did nothing to detrack from the sonic experience, here. I get the feeling like the compilation is going to be the kind of warm, ambient, insulated album that works well with winter.
Eminem - “Rap God”
JAMES: A few notes. 1. I bet Mac Miller was crushed by the gay lines (Oy Vey is a Mac Miller track) in there -- which are a whole, ‘nother trip in 2013, but that’s the entire point of MMLP 2 -- because he undoubtedly looked up to Eminem. Everyone’s pretty much showing love in hip-hop these days, and Mac gets targeted by raps biggest middle finger. Old school, I suppose. 2. Lupe said this: “To many best rappers...not enough best raps…” and, more importantly, “But I will be destroying that beat in a few days…Heads up.” So we’ve got that to look forward to.
The only real complaint I have is that “I’m beginning to feel like a rap god” is a bit tame. Other than that, Shady goes bonkers. The more I hear of this album, the more apt the last line of this NY Times piece becomes, “Compared with the lumpy third-wave independent hip-hop of Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the uninspiringly smooth pair who took home three Video Music Awards, the Eminem song hit with atomic force, as if he were angry about what had happened during his off years, and were intent on restoring disorder.”
Restoring disorder. Sounds about right.
VINCE: Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz. Em’s “street single” was a joint for suburban kids to mosh to (“Berzerk”). Now he comes with “Rap God,” which honors Em’s career-long tradition of using one his pre-album single to call out some easy target white artists on the pop landscape. Firing shots at little Mac Miller just seems mean. Macklemore is a clown. I don’t know if Em fired specific shots at him in this joint (I haven’t bothered really parsing the lyrics much [JC NOTE: It’s worth it ]), but if he did, then cheers to him. But, still, Zzzzzzzzzz. The lyrical pyrotechnics here entertain me about as much as those crazy halftime acts at NBA games do. Wake me when the album drops.
Blu - “Spring Summer Winter Fall” off of No York
VINCE: I think you included a Blu joint a few weeks ago and it sent me perusing his discography where I saw that he dropped a low-key joint earlier this year, York, that slipped by me. So, I downloaded it immediately. It’s an uneven album because, for him, it’s experimental. He hooked up with a lot of the L.A.electrosoul/hop folks, like Flying Lotus and, my mainest man, Shafiq Hussayn from Sa-Ra. This kind of music is not necessarily natural for Blu, so he doesn’t always stay on point. Other times he does so in a very cold way. York has high ceiling.
This song in particular is one of my favorites. The hook is just majestic. Downright gorgeous. It comes courtesy of Jimetta Rose, who’s down with Shafiq’s crew. Shafiq was on the boards for this one (has shades of “Major Heavy”). The hook is not built for the radio. It’s three times the length of a typical chorus, the vocal arrangement is in-n-out from varied angles and it’s poetic. First time I heard this was on leisurely walk through Cobble Hill, on a brisk day, with the sun shining and the leaves crunching beneath my feet. It was the perfect environment for an introduction to this track.
JAMES: We did discuss Blu a couple weeks back, but if you’ll remember, the real reason was that Nottz was producing. Blu wasn’t all that inspiring. Again, here, as you noted, the hook is the hook, and that’s all Jimetta Rose. Blu isn’t bad at all, but in terms of rapping talent doesn’t really blow anyone away. I’m a fan though, just more a fan of his ears. There’s a lot going on here, yet it all seems to work. It was the same way with the Nottz track. Blu knows what works, that’s for damn sure.
Black Milk - “Dismal” off of new album No Poison No Paradise
VINCE: Black just dropped an album, No Poison, No Paradies, last week. For about the past five to six years, he has been among my three or five favorite artists. Some of that is based on Dilla nostalgia, but, on his own merit, Black Milk a freaking monster. I’ve probably banged Tronic (which dropped in 2008) more than 98 percent of the other albums released since it dropped. It was a classic. Then he released Album of the Year a couple years after which took his Kraftwerk/Dilla progression from Tronic and detoured off into an almost-live Bomb Squad approach. Like I said, Black is monster.
There were a few joints from the album I wanted to drop here in Please Jam -- namely “Black Sabbath” or “Codes and Cab Fare” -- but they weren’t available on Souncloud or YouTube. “Dismal”, however, is worthy choice by virtue of its production. Black Milk is a student of hip-hop and his music features a lot of nods to the legends. His flow is a gumbo of Royce, Elzhi and Dilla. His production was once incredibly beholden to Dilla and Questlove, but over the past three or four years, he’s really developed his own voice. For the life of me, I can’t think of any beat that sounds one could point to as a prototype or proxy of “Dismal.” That eerie synth, the morbid left-hand key chords, the threatening bass line. It is a truly unique sound. The drums -- which would be the star on a lesser beat -- just accentuate here.
This is a “hoodies and timbs” joint.
JAMES: Is he intentionally trying to sound like Big Boi here? Perhaps that’s my bias kicking in; I don’t actually know who might be imitating who. However, this sounds a lot like what Big Boi was going for on his last album, Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors, only this goes much harder, with more edge.
Those two need to get together. Can we make this happen?