Friday, April 15, 2016

Loosies Of The Week, April 8-15

Welcome to yet another Loosies Of The Week, a wrap-up of this weeks singles, throwaways, leaks, and any other loose tracks I find. Strong week for A$AP Ferg as he prepares Always Strive & Prosper, as well as advanced single drops from DJ Shadow, BadBadNotGood and more.

A$AP Ferg - Hungry Ham

Damn man. I'm not saying I love or hate this song but it's just showing me exactly why I love semi-popular rappers in today's age; they are not afraid to experiment. Now yes, this is virtually A$AP Rocky's 'Wild For The Night' part two, and for no other reason than Skrillex did the beat. Props to him though for being able to convince artists that being a producer allows you to simultaneously be a featured guest. And while you might've initially thought 'Wild For The Night' was, well, wild, 'Hungry Ham' takes it up a notch. Everything is ferocious. A$AP Ferg's rapping, Crystal Caines' constant shit-talking and ad-libbing, Skrillex's monstrous banger. It's all meant to be over the top and it certainly is.

If you've ever questioned whether you should check an artist, an album, a song out or not, the first place you should look is listener's reaction. 'Hungry Ham's' reaction is entirely split between love it and hate it, and if you ever see a work of art like that you should absolutely check it out. There's a reason for the division, and it all comes down to personal taste. For me personally, this only heightened my anticipation of Always Strive and Prosper. It brings back that unique edge Ferg has always hinted at. Better yet, it showcases his fearlessness and risk-taking, not afraid to create something that may be looked down upon for being too weird or ugly or distasteful. At the end of the day, 'Hungry Ham' is one of the strangest bangers you'll ever hear, drawing comparisons to Danny Brown. So if you like him, check this out.

A$AP Ferg - Strive

Alright so this album is going to be one of the more divisive of the year. And I'm not just talking for fans or critics, but people's tastes themselves. Apparently this comes right before 'Hungry Ham,' another track that's drawing listeners down a line. Whew. Get ready for a rollercoaster. If I had been told that in 2016 A$AP Ferg would sound more like Kid Cudi, an artist he's never resembled before, than Kid Cudi himself I'd say you're crazy. Tell me Missy Elliott is featured on the back half, it features an upbeat, radio-friendly sound with hi-hats building to a bass drop, and that Ferg uses autotune and I'd have no idea what you'd even be talking about. Throw in that both drops are anti-drops and the first lines of Ferg's verse are "working in Ben & Jerry's it was scary" I wouldn't even be able to comprehend what happened to music. Yet here we are.

You know, both 'Strive' and 'Hungry Ham' I'd never complain if someone disliked them but I'm enjoying both. They're unique, even within the scope of Pop Rap. No, the chorus isn't, it's cheesy and rightfully un-Ferg-like, but the verses are downright bizarre, with slight tribal elements that sneak into the mostly low-end production. There's even those 90's R&B keyboards a la 'Night At The Roxbury.' I just keep thinking to myself, "I can't believe this is a song." For that reason alone you go Ferg. Let's see what the hell happens to Always Strive and Prosper when it drops in the coming week.

BadBadNotGood - Speaking Gently

In preparation of their upcoming album, IV, Jazz Fusion / Hip-Hop trio BADBADNOTGOOD have dropped a single entitled 'Speaking Gently.' It's hard to make such an impact with one song when the entire project works better, but 'Speaking Gently' does an admirable job. The aesthetic brought in continues the recent trend in Hardcore Street Rap to make 70's era Blacksploitation beats through the lens of a campy Slasher flick. Think their albums with Ghostface Killah, Sour Soul, but more importantly GFK's albums with Adrian Younge, the Twelve Reasons to Die series. 'Speaking Gently' takes the excess of these styles and cranks it up a notch, dazzling with some janky keyboards.

Interestingly enough the song borrows strongly from Mac DeMarco's 'Chamber Of Reflection,' that is excluding the drums of course. The melody, the instrumentation, the patterns, all the same. The large drum set kicking in and the quieter saxophone loop help to dissuade it from being a carbon copy, and when all these pieces come together for the chorus the result is quite appealing. I do feel the song goes on a bit too long, but that's what needed to happen to include a wonderfully chaotic saxophone solo. Could I go without it? I'm not sure, but the song itself, I feel, doesn't have too much staying power to warrant four full minutes. As background music in your latest tongue-in-cheek Indie horror flick though it's excellent.

Kaytranada - Glowed Up

It's rare for me to make a stank face twice in a song but Kaytranada's second single for 99.9%, 'Glowed Up,' did that to me. While lead single 'Bus Ride' showcased his more rudimentary style, with an instrumental that gives off enough but still leaves you wanting more, 'Glowed Up' is that more. Five minutes long and essentially two songs in one, 'Glowed Up' sees Kaytranada's production outshine its star, Anderson .Paak. There's no denying .Paak works with the track beautifully, bringing together his typical singing and rarely heard rapping over two woozy, bass-drenched, but it's that sonic palate that really steals the show.

Sporting enough variety to keep one intrigued, Kaytranada evolves the first half until it reaches an expected climax, adding in stuttering synths to offset the drowned bass, before switching things up entirely, keeping the same aesthetic but providing it in a tighter, more refrained context. There's more than just instrumentation too, slight vocal quips accompany .Paak, which is obviously .Paak himself providing ad-libs, but the finale is a track that feels unquestionably complete. This isn't haphazard, this is the true lead single that fans of Kaytranada, and others unsure of who he exactly is, have wanted to see.

D.J. Shadow - Nobody Speak

We all know the strange career trajectory of DJ Shadow, 'Nobody Speak' is here to make that even more confusing. The first single off his recently announced LP The Mountain Will Fall, 'Nobody Speak' features Hip-Hop's favorite crossover artists, Killer Mike and El-P, otherwise known as Run the Jewels. It's a great way to get the promotional train moving, getting exposure to the crowd he needs, but 'Nobody Speak' does little to expose me to the sounds of DJ Shadow's latest album, essentially flipping the script to make this a Run The Jewels-centric track, DJ Shadow's an afterthought. I mean hell the opening lines, "picture this, I'm a bag of dicks, put me to your lips" do everything they can to draw away from the fact that this is a Shadow song.

Part of that, or most of it I should say, is thanks to both rappers' ferocity on the mic; it could easily be seen as a RTJ outtake if it weren't for the slight Shadow influence with the rolling guitar licks. The drums are reminiscent of something Run The Jewels would do, the rhyme schemes are too, which leaves me wondering what does Shadow actually have to show. If he changes up his style and makes this a producer-based album where artists come and go over his sounds, like the second half of Baauer's Aa, then it could work well, otherwise than that having a straight up Run The Jewels track in the middle of an otherwise instrumental album would be quite strange. But hey, it's a good track and that's what we're discussing.

J Dilla - The Introduction

As many have known J Dilla's posthumous music has been spotty at best, largely because the music itself was unused, unfinished, and unmastered. Sure, some were finished upon his death but the bulk were meant for his vault, never to be seen again. However The Diary, another just released compilation, was supposedly a near-finished album, set to be his official debut. I hope that's the truth cause if so The Diary could well open up a lot of interesting new sides of Dilla, seeing him during his prime. The first single however, 'The Introduction,' isn't a great start. For fans of Jazz Rap he does follow Q-Tip's legendary verse on A Tribe Called Quest's 'Excursions,' doing an admirable job.

The biggest naysayer for me is the beat. It's splotchy, uncharacteristic electrics. The beat sports numerous synths bouncing back and forth at a feverish pace, something that gets tiring after a minute or so. Honestly, if one had not known this was Dilla going in you wouldn't be criticized for thinking it was amateurish. It's just not a good beat at all. Even the drums that come in and make things slightly better don't do by much, mudding the field even more so by nature. With all the convolution already ongoing any time Dilla fumbles his words, which is a relatively high amount, it sounds even sloppier. If you take the context out it really doesn't feel like the verses and the beat match, like one was forcibly layered over the other. Hoping for more when I sit down with the album though.

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