RO James ft. Snoop Dogg - “84”
JAMES: RO James is a new kid on the block from NYC who released his debut in a series this summer called, Coke, Jack and Cadillacs. The Cadillac portion drops on Sept. 19th, and James got another Cadillac aficionado to rock with him on this one.
There isn’t a whole lot to this song, but the most obvious takeaway is that RO James can sing. This is a nice song, though. Nothing eye-widening. But he might be capable of making that type of song.
VINCE: I just downloaded his EP Coke. I have no idea who this man is and there isn’t much info out there on him. All I know is that I’m getting eery Brown Sugar-era D’Angelo vibes from this cat and if you know how I rock with D’Angelo then you know that’s high praise from me personally. The heft to his music isn’t there, but he’s doing something very D-centric with his voice and riffs. My inclination is to automatically share this song on the net and drop his EP in my crew’s music Dropbox. But I’m hesitant. If I listen to his EP and it’s full of retread R&B I will be disappointed something serious.
Troy Ave ft. Prodigy, NORE and Raekwon - “New York City”
JAMES: Be on the lookout for Troy Ave. He’s got some high-level co-signs and went at Kendrick Lamar over this haunting production. You know how some songs make you react physically? This one made me scrunch my nose. (Vince note: My crew calls that the Dookie Face.) It’s a slow kill, but it gets the job done.
There’s a lot of meaning that comes out of this track that sounds somehow more organic despite the fact that Troy isn’t really saying anything new. It might be his flow. Whatever he’s doing, he’s capturing a very New York attitude, like the flip side of Jay Z’s “Empire State of Mind.” Troy was wise to record the hook, though. It’s easy to forget who’s track it is as the lineup of heavy hitters steps up to the mic.
VINCE: You’re on fire right now, JC. First you hit me with a new cat that conjures D’Angelo and then you put me on to some new youngen droppin’ some gutter-NYC hop, with three icon co-signs (yes, I consider NORE an icon...I feel like he has two classics under his belt). Troy Ave is definitely not spittin’ neo-fire like Wiki or Joey Bada$$, but he’s got enough flow and charisma to make some noise if all his production is on this level. Even though he’s got three legends guesting on this joint though, the star might be producer John Scino. Of course I don’t a blessed thing about him either. But I perused his SoundCloud and he’s got some potential. All said, I’m checking for young Troy’s next material.
Miguel - “Can’t Sleep Together”
JAMES: Miguel’s bar is higher than this. “Can’t Sleep Together” doesn’t utilize really any of his singing ability, just his voice. There isn’t enough going on in the production to make this work without Miguel carrying it, which he doesn’t in this low key.
As for the refrain, I’m not sure why it’s being chanted at me. Not being able to sleep sucks, and it seems like the emotional responses would be desperation (which is probably more Miguel’s range) or frustration (probably more Skrillex’s range). I don’t know what this is, and I’m not going to play it again to find out.
VINCE: This is pretty anthemic. I can see this being a joint he performs as one of his encores at his shows over the fall. Mark my words. There will be crowds of 5,000 at venues across America chanting this with him past midnight. Will I listen to this a lot? Of course not. But it definitely has merit. I bet you he would shut ish down if he performed this live. I can’t really listen to any Miguel song these days without envisioning how he’d revise it live. Quietly, I am becoming one of his biggest fans. I think he’s a downright exceptional talent and songs like this -- although never to be found on one of my playlists -- is kinda heavy in it’s own way.
The Internet - “Dontcha”
JAMES: This song truly epitomizes the title for The Internet’s upcoming album, Feel Good. It sounds a bit like they spent 24 hours holed up in a studio listening to Pharrell Williams records before cranking this one out. He’s had a lot of influence on the Odd Future crew in general, but it might be most obvious here.
VINCE: These children slay me. They really do. I’ve already sort of stanned them and their debut EP Purple Naked Ladies in a previous Please Jam. “Dontcha” is most definitely owed to the Neptunes. In fact, Chad Hugo makes an cameo in the video.
This joint is definitely a feel good cut (I’m probably anticipating the release of Feel Good more than other album of the fall), but it is not fluffy. I can go on and on, but this joint is so effortlessly nuanced and sophisticated for some kids. The bass licks, the chord-drops, the breaks, the bridges, the ins-n-outs. It might seem like ice cream or lemonade, but from a musicianship standpoint, this joint is steak. And I know Syd is a lesbian and I’m almost old enough to be her father, but I have a slight crush on that girl. She’s cold as the winter.
Lupe Fiasco - “Peace of Paper Cup of JAYZUS"
JAMES: It’s tough to know where to start with Lupe’s latest. He put hip-hop on alert when he responded to Kendrick’s verse on “Control” almost immediately, then responded again, and then responded a third time. His first response was special, imitating half the top rappers in the game and picking apart their flow. It sounded like he put it together in five minutes.
Lupe also released the lyrics to this track a few weeks back on what looked like his iPod notebook, and probably required a similar amount of effort, but his double entendres are ridiculous. He is poet. He went off track for a few years, and came back to visit because...he was bored? Inspired? Challenged? Who knows. Hopefully it lasts.
VINCE: Welcome back, Lupe.