Saturday, April 23, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, April 16-22

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. Single drops from Hip-Hop come-ups and legends alike, along with dual singles from Canadian Indie Pop mainstays.

Post Malone - Go Flex

This is more complicated than just labelling it Hip-Hop, but labelling it Folk Trap would be considered foolish. That being said, this is another drop from Post Malone, you know, the 'White Iverson' guy, and guess what? I like it. People who know me know how descriptive I get for my reasons of liking or disliking an artist, but with this guy I can't say I have any specific code for enjoyment; his voice just clicks for me, and the style is unique enough to maintain interest. 'Go Flex' finds its way halfway between Malone's struggling come-up and his radio-friendly explosion, fostering an acoustic guitar layered under twisted hi-hats and autotuned singing.

If someone doesn't dig this I won't question them, it's not exactly brilliant. It's just fun, and for Malone, that's all I ever look for. Granted this is basing him off one song, and the other one I know, 'Too Young,' is essentially a 'White Iverson' rip-off, so it's nice to hear some diversity for a change. There's times on 'Go Flex' where you can hear his influences crystal clear, almost too much. The ending, as he strums the guitar whilst using it as a drum, sees his Future-inflect take tone over instrumentation similar to that of Raury's. This is yet another example of a track that works purely off its ambition to take two drastically different styles of Hip-Hop and merge them together.

Many know Saba for his feature work as his solo discography isn't nearly as boisterous as the mixtape's he's been featured on. Chance the Rapper's Acid Rap, The Social Experiment's Surf and Mick Jenkins's Waves, that's a pretty acclaimed list to be on right there. Along with the recent (and great) Chance single 'Angels,' Saba's been everywhere in the Chicago scene as a semi-famous feature artist, but his own original content gets thrown by the wayside. With 'World In My Hands' it's easy to see why; he's still rough around the edges, succeeding in some places, irritating in others.

As a singer Saba is more than competent, bringing essential vibrancy with his hooks that excel on the seminal 'Angels,' but falters here through nasally unnecessities. With that slurred speak he comes off as more a Post Malone than Saba, contorting to styles he needn't be exploring if the bustling Juke scene is anything to go by. There's enough to be captured in Chicago right now, so while Atlanta is all the buzz right now, it's of the upmost importance Chi-town still has a say, dipping his toes in the ambient Trap isn't something worthwhile. Thankfully each verse, one by Smino and the other by Legit, make 'World In My Hands' an above average track, bringing in that pitter patter rhyme style known to the Chicago streets.

I know Islands through their most famous single 'Rough Gem,' and what a rough gem it is. Lovely Indie Pop from the mid-2000's, it's a song I've had on my iPod for quite a substantial time without ever investing time to learn more of Islands. I feel since 'Rough Gem' is seemingly their peak I find no reason to peruse them further, yet here I am, slightly intrigued at their two, yes two, new albums set to drop in a few weeks. Continuing the symmetry, Islands has dropped two tracks, one off each record, 'No Milk, No Sugar' off Taste and 'Fear' off Should I Remain Here at Sea? I appreciate the new take on a double album, essentially splitting them up into two identifiable ideas, rather than conjoin the two causing a grotesquely long piece. A double disc Indie Pop album? Yeah, that would've have gone well.

As for the songs at hand, I leverage 'No Milk, No Sugar' slightly above 'Fear' off its sheer enjoyability. This is Pop after all, with a slight Rock edge, and with the conscious lyrics sometimes spitting out safe to piss poor lyrics (think YACHT), the main focus resides on the music. I find in this day and age guitar-centric Rock that encompasses 'Fear' is a little outplayed, a litany of artists can be listed under its influences in the past decade alone. And while the same might be said for 'No Milk, No Sugar,' taking a more Synth Pop approach, which we all know is the craze of the day right now, it's at least catchy and that'll always outlast any stagnation. I do feel the vocals by Nick Diamonds loses focus a bit, not fitting the music succinctly, but that's a small quip really, a minor distraction.

Snoop Dogg - Late Nights

Snoop Dogg's been around the Hip-Hop block two times and back, there's no denying that. And while he hasn't fallen off as far as a handful of 90's rappers, his focus on weed rap can make him seem like a one-trick pony who's got nothing left up his sleeve. While 'Late Nights' doesn't change that a whole lot, it does help, returning him back to that easy breezy West Coast sound with a strong hint of weed smoke filling in the background. I do feel Snoop, along with any other emcee known for their voice and flow, unfortunately pigeon held himself in a distinct sound that doesn't allow for too much variety. In other words, nothing he'll do on his own will be all that revolutionary. As a featured artist he's much better though.

Still 'Late Nights' is better than the handful of singles from Bush, his slight detour from Hip-Hop despite retaining one of its worst lyrical qualities (drug rap). Mike WiLL Made It handles the production here, proving that he can dip his toes in other sub-genres that don't immediately affiliate themselves with the word 'banger.' The tip toe keyboard that guides the track is a bit tired but every other element is fairly intoxicating, constantly switching the secondary instrument so both the listener and Snoop stay alert. There's some nice synths fluttering about, a mid-tempo piano, minimal strings, and some small percussion, all bearing comparisons to To Pimp A Butterfly, classic West Coast, and Cloud Rap with the overwhelming haze that pours in.

Mac Miller - Headaches + Migraines

While many in Hip-Hop communities were reminiscing on 4/20 with some classic laid back stoner rap, Mac Miller, along with a handful of other emcees, decided to drop fresh tracks to keep many's favorite unofficial holiday alive. On 'Headaches + Migraines,' Miller does exactly what you'd expect him to; empty lyrics complete with a smooth flow over hardened drums and a definite haze. As a one-off 'Headaches + Migraines' lies above the books, easily competing with any number of tracks off his latest album GO:OD AM. That being said, one could argue it's because Mac stays consistent at a quality mainly associated with average or mediocre.

Nonetheless, it's actually Dave East, who I can't say I've heard of before, who steals the spotlight. Not that his lyrics are any better than Mac's, they might be but only slightly, it's really his voice and flow over this specific beat that allow him to flourish. Think a bit watered down ScHoolboy Q and you get the idea. This form of two-tone stoner rap, where you have the more relaxed emcee filling space around the more aggressive one, has been around for a while but never formally introduced as a neat way to circumvent boring ideas and progression's. In other words, an entire track of just Mac lazily spitting or East rapping punchy will likely bore, switching things up midway through is a nice way to keep each half interesting.

The Underachievers - Play That Way

I've always had a slight problem with The Underachievers. I think Issa Gold and AK are fine emcee's, definitely capable, but their content showcases an issue I have with new age up-starters who feel the need to make bangers and socially-conscious tracks to stay afloat. Flatbush ZOMBiES, Mac Miller, Big Sean, they all do this. I see where they're coming from but to me it comes off as insincere and tacky, merely releasing what works best with crowds, regardless of which crowd it is. The Underachievers can showcase that awareness edge, albeit with some slight teenager Illuminati-esque theories, but their latest release, Evermore - The Art of Duality, took their idea and made Puddy out of it, splitting the album distinctly between banger and reflective sides.

Their latest, 'Play That Way,' a loosie, is a clear attempt at a Trap-banger. Going in knowing it's a throwaway it's what you kind've expect, they're not the kind of duo to waste conscious lyrics for a wasted song. And no matter how much aggression, or how loud a bass, the team turns into 'Play That Way' it's not a good track overall. The beat is messy, the bass so overwhelming that the result is a farty synth that shouldn't exist, while the solemn piano in the distant background really seems like a "well we needed that piano, all grimy, dark-oriented Trap songs have one." And when your banger has a problem in the production the lyrics sure as hell ain't going to save it, as they, expectedly, do not. Forgettable.

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