Friday, January 22, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, Jan 16-22

Welcome to the second Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. We got appearances from Kanye West and his massive single, along with Macklemore & Ryan Lewis' controversial single.

Am I allowed to say I'm not an overwhelming fan of this? Even to myself saying that feels offensive. Two of my favorite Hip-Hop artists together for the first time over a Madlib beat has to be incredible right? Yet, I'm left disappointed. As someone who appreciates Kanye West for being a visionary the last thing I want to hear is him go back to what made him initially popular. I'll never question someone's admiration over 'No More Parties In L.A.' or 'Real Friends' if they think more kindly of The College Dropout or Late Registration, but for me, while I love those releases myself, I primarily see Kanye as an advancer of the genre, not someone to retreat.

Also the biggest part of 'No More Parties In L.A.' are the verses, that's made abundantly evident with just how long they are, especially Kanye's last verse. Even the chorus acts like it just wants to end soon, it doesn't have any true purpose other than to reinstate the song's name. But speaking on the verses themselves, each artist comes swinging but never fully lands their punches. Anyone who reads my stuff knows how much I obsess over Kendrick Lamar, and while he does fine here, equip with a couple excellent lines ("come Erykah Badu me" is genius for one), the overall appeal is more wisecracking, less attentive. Also, for reasons that really only affect certain people at certain times, his voice is aggravatingly off-putting to me, otherwise known as the Danny Brown effect for many.

Kanye though absolutely comes swinging, beefing and stunting over dozens of bars. He kinda puts Kendrick's verse in a weird position, something the latter did to Jay Electronica on 'Control.' It's better, sure, but it's largely due to just how long and exhaustive it is. With the beat never changing you'd expect an oncoming posse cut, except Kanye stole all the airtime. There's enough here to investigate though, besides the overall fact that Kanye is 'back to rapping.' The problem, for me at least, is that Kanye's rapping isn't good here. It's cluttered, filled with stumbling, and often has me questioning whether this was a pre-written verse or a freestyle. The lyrics imply the former, the outcome implies the latter. Regardless, this is Kanye 2016, where he is in life now both physically and mentally. The result is less arduous, more fun-filled, something that has never captivated me with Kanye. Also everything here, from the beat to his verse, wouldn't have made it to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's B-sides given the artist's musical obsession around that time. That's what I expect from Kanye and now, it seems, I'm getting the opposite. 

And finally, the beat. I like it. It's Madlib after all, and definitely has his touch and aesthetic. I know the two have worked together before but, as far as I'm aware, it never manifested on an album. However, there's two things I don't like about it. One, the length of the track itself without the beat actually changing. That's a formulaic problem, sure, but it exists in one place for too long without actually giving me anything new or interesting after the 38 second where a sample of the famous Ghostface Killah chorus on 'Mighty Healthy' appears. Which leads me to my second problem. I'm likely nitpicking but using that sample, out of context, just reminds me of songs like Eminem's 'No Love' where a very popular song is used to make people fall in love with it more because it has no sonic depth or identity. The other two samples bookending the song though, Johnny "Guitar" Watson's 'Give Me My Love' and Larry Graham's 'Stand Up And Shout About Love' are expertly used and round the track out rather nicely. 

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - White Privilege II

Well now. Remember Macklemore & Ryan Lewis? The duo known for offending a ton of real Hip-Hop heads for virtually no reason despite being ones themselves. Here they are to stir the pot once again, calling out all those, including some in the industry, for not recognizing white privilege. It's a bold, bold topic to take on so bluntly with an eight minute song, but Macklemore somehow pulls it off. He spits with passion and angst, conflicted over his own involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement. Sometimes though, for those forcing perpetual ignorance over their own races institutionalized superiority, it's best to hear this from one of their own. While they'd make as fair and honest an argument, hearing this come from a black rapper would only cause deaf ears on white listeners. Hearing it from Macklemore, the safe Hip-Hop artist for the middling college crowd to enjoy, might make them rethink their position.

Sure, his message and the way he releases it is too forced, telling all without hiding it behind thought-provoking lyrics, but what Macklemore's saying here is (mostly) sound and just. "You speak about equality, but do you really mean it? Are you marching for freedom, or when it's convenient?" he rhymes, directing attacking those who use a serious movement for personal gain. He even antagonizes white artists who've made a living off the success of black culture, like Miley CyrusElvis Presley, and Iggy Azalea, all accused of bastardizing a genre once brought up around the concept of inequality and injustice. He even retells a story of him and a suburban mother who enjoys his music because "the only hip-hop that I let my kids listen to." The same mother who feels she has no leverage of black citizens. All of this comes off as unrestrained, candid, and sincere, through the scope of a cinematic lens.

Musically, it's more of an organized speech given background music than an actual structured song. Still, the orchestral approach actually bears resemblance to some of the more emotional moments on Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly, with strings, horns and space allowing Macklemore (and Jamila Woods from 'Sunday Candy' fame) to breath, exist, and preach a message that desperately needs to reach certain households. Excellent song that'll sure stir the pot within Macklemore's fanbase. 

Mick Jenkins & BBNG - On The Map

Damn if this ain't the shit. Mick Jenkins' last project, Waves was largely disappointing to me because it felt like nothing more than a B-sides compilation to The Water[s]. Few sounds were fresh and it began to show the wear of Mick's water-themed releases, which has me worried for his debut album The Healing Component. Not that I'm any less worried if he maintains the same ideas, but his team-up with BADBADNOTGOOD is a very promising lead to where he's capable of going. With little references to water, 'On The Map' bustles with Mick and BBNG's creativity, a work of art that uses an arsenal of strange tactics to get the Chicago rapper's point across.

Being that it is four minutes I suppose if you don't like the initial styles your ears are trying to get accustomed to you may not like the rest of the track. With a minimal beat that accentuates percussion in all flavors, carrying on like the world's smallest marching band procession, BBNG only further shows why they're one of the more original beatsmiths in Hip-Hop right now. It does nothing more than guide Mick's language, adding to the allure that's set by the emcee's immediately seductive poetics. The song does, expectedly, bulge at the crest of the chorus, with additional vocals (by Mick as well) joining him as the production as a whole swells.

As far as Mick goes, this might be his most unique output to date. Just as I went to look up and see this as nothing more than a loosie that won't be appearing on the album I found something invaluably more interesting. This, apparently, is a near-parallel reworking of The Sensei Blue's ' On The Map.' Apart from a few select word changes, and BBNG recreating the sounds to a near T, this is virtually the same song, thus throwing out my soon-to-be appreciation of Mick taking his sound in new, varied directions. Now there's a reason it sounds so anti-Mick. Still not a bad thing, this track rocks and so does the original. 

Denzel Curry - Flying Nimbus

Does this guy go hard or what? Apart from his appearance on Lil Ugly Mane's Mista Thug Isolation I've never actually heard a song from Denzel Curry. Believe me, I remember the days on Youtube being recommended Nostalgic 64 after listening to Earl Sweatshirt's Doris or Big K.R.I.T.'s King Remembered in Time, but never actually went and listened to it. And if this is any indicator, I don't know how Youtube can pass off their recommendations as being anything other than genre-wide. If anything, Denzel Curry in 'Flying Nimbus,' the first single from his upcoming album Imperial, sounds more like a hyper-active Flatbush ZOMBiES, with that Cloud Rap aesthetic taken through a Trap-influenced grinder.

Lyrically, it's nothing. But that's expected. Curry maintains interest through his ferocious demeanor and slick-tongued spitting. Best thing about 'Flying Nimbus' has to be Curry's flow though, making a misery out of the beat with ease. Most rappers attempting to go faster than a Trap beat itself falter immensely, stumbling over themselves with increasing efficiency. But Curry never trips, and if he does, it's on purpose in an act to speed him up even more, as found numerous times in his second verse. The chorus is fine, nothing special, and neither is Lofty305's appearance. In fact, it sticks out like a sore thumb. With a one-dimensional flow that simply rides the beat, something anyone can do given enough hi-hats to follow, it feels completely secondary to Curry's presence. Its strange placement is in many ways comparable to Big Sean when he appears out of thin air against more well-to-do emcees.

The beat itself isn't all that impressive, just your typical Trap with some elevated synths to bring in that hazy vibe, as per usual in the Internet era. Curry does have his toe in Memphis Rap as well, you can hear it laced throughout the production, giving it an edge that's needed to at least remotely standout. But other than that, this is a banger for banger purposes. It's suppose to be all show, no tell. Incredulous to the idea of even putting subtleties in its barriers.

Noname Gypsy - All I Need

Underrated. I've always had one eye on Noname Gypsy ever since I heard her on Chance the Rapper's Acid Rap where she graced our presence with her ethereally beautiful voice on 'Lost.' Never thought that pleasantry would ever be a thing, considering most female emcees then to go as hard and vicious as possible to contend with the males. Thanks to Noname and Rapsody this calming, yet lyrically-enabled perspective from the other, way less focused upon, side of the rap game may finally be on the rise. My one worry is her positioning in the game. Is she underground or aspiring for the mainstream (at least Chance's level of success)? Because as of now Noname, ironically, kinda has no name for herself. If she continues down a path, does some big things with albums and mixtapes that are bound to come, I can see her being a leader in a movement to curb the female-to-male necessity in Rap right now.

What I mean by that is, for every loud, outspoken braggadocios rapper there's Nicki MinajMissy ElliottAzealia Banks and Iggy Azalea trying to outdo them (at different skill levels, mind you). In other words, where's the female equivalent to Talib KweliMos Def, or other soft-spoken, consciously-focused underground acts? It may be a tough road to push but with 'All I Need' she's slowly making her way there, providing easy listening music that you can't really hate and, if caught up on the social awareness she presents, can really admire. Her poetic way of rambling through heart-warming love ballads is really, really a fresh air for female Hip-Hop artists. Even your Pop stars that awkwardly turn into insincere rappers do so by faking being hard. 

On 'All I Need' Noname uses a classic Boom Bap beat, with layered children vocals to add alluring measures. Her flow over this is absolutely glorious, bouncing between patterns and rhyme schemes like an old school Kanye West. I do think there's some awkward transitions from her verses into the SPZRKT-assisted choruses though, as one style kinda drops off for the other. Regardless, it's such an overall pleasant sound that fits nicely into her more famous features, especially with Chance and her appearance alongside J. Cole on The Social Experiment's 'Warm Enough.'

No comments:

Post a Comment