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Gucci Mane ft. 2 Chainz – “Get It Back”

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Though 2 Chainz is the next exciting thing in trap-rap weirdo personalities–more knowing than Future, three times the personality of Meek Mill, and a total maniac–he’s still no Gucci Mane and “Get It Back” proves it. There’s probably more lines for you to quote to your GChat buddies when 2 Chainz pops-up (“Get your baby mama, take her then make her/You date her, then fuck her, I fuck her then date her/Everything is on the up, like an elevator”), but Gucci sounds alive and unconcerned, doing his head-down, straight rapping, stumbling upon a catchy phrase and not a big obvious hook From Zone 6 To Duval thing like it’s 2009 again. Producer Mike Will Made It takes the theme from Tetris and adds a boom of low-end every few bars, tosses in a few chintzy keyboard bloops and some Mannie Fresh synth-organs, making a potentially shticky production way more dynamic than it needs to be. Notice how this whole mixtape just kinda pretends the Lex Luger-ization of rap never happened. Even Lex’s “Blessing” isn’t by-the-numbers, stop-start glitching corner kid stomp. Drumma Boy remains the model here. And observe how closed-circuit and word-focused Gucci’s rapping is. He’s a lyricist, guys! A nerdy MC only worried about piling syllables on top of beats. I get the impression that the people around Gucci just hoard his good music, all made in his moments of clarity, so it’s hard to tell if “me and Slim Dunk in the clubs throwin’ racks” is simply there because this was written before Dunkin’s death, or if it’s a tight-lipped reminisce. I’d like to think it’s the latter, and either way, it’s very touching.

Written by Brandon

February 9th, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Salem, and Why It’s Never Been About Authenticity.

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Salem make a gothic, syrupy kind of electronic music and the touchstones of their sound are the slowed-down, choppy drums and vocals of Houston screw music. On some songs, such as “Trapdoor” (the title itself, a play on the horror movie elements of their music and their love of coke-slanging “trap-rap”), the rapped vocals of the all-white, Midwestern group creep along, slurred, heavy with bass–like a DJ Screw freestyle. These quasi-raps are punctuated by the word “bitch,” threats of rape, and some clear pronunciation nods to Southern rap. Streets is “skreets” for example. A lot of people, like Christopher Weingarten think this is pretty offensive. A lot of other people, like Larry Fitzmaurice are just like, “nope.” Others, including the group itself—defend the vocals as simple, vocal manipulation.

Well, it’s not. The slowed down vocals do not only have the effect of bringing the vocalist’s voice down to stoned crawl, they make the white performer sound black. This, coupled with lyrics that are content-wise, what my grandmother thinks rap’s about (murder, rape, misogyny, repeat) and the problematic, conscious “hip-hop” pronunciations underneath that vocal effect, makes Salem’s music pretty egregious. This is a group of white kids who’ve screwed their vocals down to “sound black,” and then use that screwing-down of vocals to say things they wouldn’t–and couldn’t–say otherwise. Employing the word “minstrelsy” is controversy-baiting, but it also isn’t that far off.

Songs like “Trapdoor” also do a disservice to screw music and southern rap by reducing it to aggro-violence and tough-guy sexuality. There’s a communal joy in those DJ Screw freestyles. There’s a sense of humor and word-obsessive fun on Gucci Mane songs. And the production isn’t relentlessly dark. You don’t screw Junior’s “Mama Used To Say” if you’re trying to be all tough and scary.

When the “this shit’s offensive” discussion really started to pick up, it turned into a debate about “authenticity” when that was ultimately besides the point. Ignoring the musical issue (that King Night is much less sonically sophisticated than the stuff it’s ripping off), which has nothing to do with “authenticity,” there isn’t really any degree of “authenticity” that could justify these dopey kids changing their voices to sound like Project Pat and then, saying “bitch” a whole lot.

Plus, Salem are plenty authentic. If the game here is “authenticity=struggle” etc. well a group of midwest fuck-ups who had or have drug problems should be awarded some major points. My guess is that they feel like they relate to the “fuck the world” feeling of DJ Screw freestyles and Waka Flocka’s fight rap just like they relate to black metal’s nihilism. And that’s interesting! And awesome. Good to see artists reaching into music beyond what they’re “supposed” to reach into and also, it’s the internet era, age of information, etc. so really, why wouldn’t these Salem kids who clearly like Gucci Mane or Chicago Footwork cram it into their music? Fusion! Yes! For extra “authenticity” points, Salem hail from Chicago and Detroit and so, they have something resembling a direct connection and understanding of this stuff.

Only they don’t. The group really show their asses in this XLR8R interview. Salem’s Jack Donoghue calls footwork wunderkind DJ Nate’s music “smart,” but adds, “but I don’t think he’s trying to be clever.” DJ Nate is most certainly trying to be clever. That’s what sample-based dance music like footwork is all about: consciously flipping the weirdest, funniest, most dope sample in the coolest, smartest way possible. Heather Marlatt, photographed for the magazine in cornrows, describes her interest in “Juggalos” but not the Insane Clown Posse’s music, which seems the inverse of Salem’s interest in black music: who cares about the people, it’s all about the sounds, man.

Later in the same interview, John Holland dismisses the whole “hey, it’s fucking weird that these kids are making themselves sound like black guys” argument with this: “It’s not like we’re Elvis Presley…what are we robbing the music from a different race? Give me a break!.” That’s of course, exactly what these guys are doing. But that isn’t what’s troubling people about the group. It’s that inexcusable and naïve employment of the screw vocals for something far beyond a sonic effect.

Notice, that despite Salem’s “authentic” pedigree (ex-junkies and troubled youths, from the birthplace of at least some of their sounds, etc.) the group’s defenders rarely take the “authenticity” approach to justify the group’s music. Instead, they play the “post-authenticity” game, which steps around “there’s some racially problematic stuff about these kids” altogether. It says: none of that stuff matters anymore. The floodgates are open bro, get with the program! “Post-authenticity” starts to sounds a lot like “post-racial” explain-aways.

When the argument doesn’t go with the “authenticity is dead” narrative, it reaches for “authenticity never existed.” There will be references to “fakers” like Elvis Presley or Bob Dylan, either to deflect (as Holland did with XLR8R) or as some weird, precedent: music was never authentic and the rock n’roll from decades ago (and a very different America) straight-jacked a lot of music, so it’s acceptable for people in 2010 to do whatever they hell they want as well.

Brandon Ivers, who wrote the XLR8R piece, articulates that “post-authenticity” angle well: “Salem embodies a generation that doesn’t care about race, sexual orientation, authenticity, and a lot of other stuff that used to be a big deal.” There’s some irony in Ivers’ statement but he’s completely on the nose when it comes to Salem: they don’t care. And the music fans and critics embracing these clowns don’t care either.

Written by Brandon

October 12th, 2010 at 8:56 am

Living With Yourself: Gucci Mane’s The Appeal

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The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted is better than Jewelry Selection, not as good as Mr. Zone 6, and far more concentrated and mixtape-like than The State Vs. Radric Davis. There aren’t a lot of guests (far fewer than The State) and the slightly outside of the Fatboi/Zaytoven wheelhouse production pushes Gucci in interesting, near new directions: Soulja-boy-like sad triumphalism on “Makin’ Love To The Money,” relationship raps meeting up with Four Tet-like backwards weirdness (and some ghetto-tech chants and Ray J?!) on “Remember When,” and the closest Gucci can get to chillaxed yacht rap on the “Haterade” and “It’s Alive.” Then there’s “Dollar Sign,” which is Gucci being very wacky (“I’m so fuckin’ paid I just bought the dollar sign”) and meter-obsessed (“so I keep her, feed her treat her like a diva”), which is exactly how we like him. The Appeal is easily the most head-down, straight rapping-est release from Gucci since From Zone 6 To Duval.

Back when The State Vs. Radric Davis was released, it was common to compare it to Tha Carter III in that it was an exciting, rap-nerd zeitgeist-grabbing, masterful major label mess from a mixtape rapper everybody thought couldn’t deliver. The Appeal though, is like Tha Carter II, which means Gucci’s traveling backwards, away from event music (or his best approximation of it) and back towards just quietly, confidently rapping really, really, well.

This rather modest approach fits well with the loose, concept of maturity and comfort with comfort that permeates The Appeal. A sober epiphany (“I fought the law and the fuckin’ law won.”) on album opener “Little Friend” redirects the song’s Scarface-isms and Gucci’s whole tone shifts to a laugh to keep from crying confession: “I could’ve been a doctor, I should’ve been a lawyer, I got to court so much I could’ve been my own employer.”. That’s a line just dying to be phrased differently and delivered as a boast, but Gucci holds back. “Remember When,” which really should just be a disaster, is a love-song (“I met a girl so real that there’s no need to run no game on.”) and that politely-honest approach continues into “Haterade,” where Gucci, in the middle of a particularly strange, fast-slow, mealy-mouthed verse confides “I ain’t hard to please baby. come choose me.” And there’s album-closer “Grown Man” which I talked about here already. All this quasi-mature talk works because Gucci hasn’t changed his approach to rapping one bit and hasn’t necessarily abandoned the stuff he made his name rapping about (putting “Brand New” and “Weirdo” right before “Grown Man” is sequencing genius) either–he’s just a little more willing to reflect. This is the anti-Blueprint 3.

Written by Brandon

October 1st, 2010 at 7:25 am

Posted in Blueprint 3, Gucci Mane

How Big Is Your World? Gucci Mane – “Grown Man”

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Talking about the final track on a brand-new, just-released album is a little out of line, so, MUSICAL SPOILER ALERT. “Grown Man” featuring Estelle and produced by Jim Jonsin though, is a good way to start unpacking The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted and it’s been on the internet for about a week now anyway.

“Grown Man” is a follow-up to The State Vs. Radric Davis‘ “My Own Worst Enemy,” wherein Gucci, who is usually, actively opposed to introspection, drops a very sincere, rolling evaluation of where he’s at in terms of not beating people with pool cues, not violating parole, etc. There’s something incredibly touching, yet still very Gucci-like about his proud, album-ending declaration, “I’m a grown-ass man.” In part because he sounds a uncertain when he says it, but also because it’s Gucci being mature on his own terms; gotta love that colloquial “grown-ass.” The whole song works like that, and it begins with the A.A-style mantra that unravels itself: “I was lost but now I’m found/I was blind but now I see/Super high, can’t touch the ground.”

Rap’s always been about these clever balancing acts, asserting one thing and not necessarily the other even if it makes sense to assert that thing too and Gucci’s working with that type of deconstruction here. Yes, he’s a fuck-up and a maniac but say, being “super high” is perfectly acceptable and totally separate from getting his life together. Not to mention his reasons for getting his shit together have to do with his losses (“I’m mad as hell because my best friend probably gonna die in jail”) and responsibilities (“I got a point to prove and a son to raise”), not some higher power moral thing. You know, real shit: my friend’s gonna be dead in a cell, I got my mom to take care of, I can make a shit-ton of money if I stop being a knucklehead.

The sound of therapy’s also running through Gucci’s lyrics and though that isn’t “cool,” it is a very good thing. You’re hearing a guy trying to figure out his life. Notice his ability to trace his behavior to his family and upbringing—keeping up the balancing act approach, he still gives his father and grandfather respect but frames them as part of a pattern he’s trying to break—and an understanding of his environment’s affects on him too. There’s a ton to quote here but it almost feels unnecessary because he’s not dropping one-liners that sound dope or funny, but a series of introspective confessions in a sober, somber tone and an entertaining, hypnotic double-time but kinda roving style. All this makes it a “mature” rap song that is still very much a Gucci Mane song! There’s nothing compromised about this track.

Basically, the same way he’s got all those songs where he riffs on a single word (“Heavy,” “Ridiculous,” “Normal,” “Weirdo”), is he now rapping about getting his shit together. The Appeal isn’t hyper-focused—despite ending with “Grown Man” this is not a concept album—but copping to one’s mistakes is a recurring theme throughout and Gucci, because he’s a craftsman, he primarily approaches it as a word-game first.

Written by Brandon

September 28th, 2010 at 10:10 am

What’s a Goon to a Goblin Sample?

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When the Swizz Beatz-produced “Gucci Time” showed up on Gucci Mane’s most recent mixtape Jewelry Selection, the big disappointment was that it had nothing to do with Schooly D. Thing is, “Gucci Time” is far more interesting than a reference to Schooly D’s “Gucci Time,” it’s a flickering, A.D.D beat wrapped around an incessant sample of Justice’s “Phantom Pt. 2.” And now, there’s a Chris Robinson-directed video and it’s more than just a mixtape track, it’s the first single from The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted. That means this is the second time in less than a year that Swizz Beatz dipped into Justice’s for a rap beat (previously: Jay-Z’s “On To The Next One” which sampled “D.A.N.C.E”). It’s also the third time Swizzy’s sampled something from a French house crew, having used parts of Daft Punk’s “Technologic” for Busta Rhymes’ “Touch It.”

As far as first singles go, “Gucci Time” is better than “Spotlight,” but it isn’t great either. Maybe this was some major label attempt to remake the skittering, brilliantly annoying “Lemonade”–a un-hedged Gucci song that also had pop appeal—but there’s not really anything for Gucci to lock-in on and really rap; it’s just annoying, there’s no brilliant part. Also, Swizz Beatz’s production here’s projecting a sense of menace that never been part of Gucci’s rap persona. That’s not to say Gucci isn’t threatening or doesn’t rap threatening things, but his worldview is one that’s full of laughing into the void sadness mixed with street-kid pragmatism, so even his violent lyrics just roll-out like inevitabilities. A simple loop, with no break or pause just doesn’t work for Gucci, he needs more to tiptoe his rhymes around. Notice how the first verse is classic Gucci because he’s just ignoring the sample and following the drums.

Really though, “Gucci Time” just pales in comparison to “On To The Next One.” Swizz Beatz’s take on “D.A.N.C.E” was brilliant: the kind of obsessive, sample-tweaking and slicing that results in a broken shards of a song bumping into one another and making some totally new. It was one of those samples that you may not even hear at first, and less because it’s a relatively “out there” sample source and more because Swizz did such a great job destroying it and rearranging all the pieces. For “Gucci Time,” Swizz is just flat-out looping a piece of a Justice song–a piece that’s already a looped sample (Goblin’s “Tenebre”).

Sonically, Goblin sit somewhere between the go-for-broke propulsive energy of Giorgio Moroder and the chintzy dread-filled atmosphere of John Carpenter, so their best work is bold and silly and strangely danceable and um, therefore tailor-made for dance music and hip-hop, right? But Justice pretty much slowed the original down and digital glitched it all out, and Swizzy unfortunately, continues in that safe direction. The only defense is that Swizz is about as creative with his Justice sample as Justice were with their Goblin sample, which is to say, not very and moving into into crappy DJ edit territory.

The only thing about this whole endeavor that matches Goblin’ skin-crawl, absurd level of awesome is the beginning of the “Gucci Time” video. This kinda makes sense as Goblin’s best work, like “Tenebre,” was made to accompany visuals. Above is a clip from Dario Argento’s Tenebre (1982) which uses the song sampled by Justice, who were then sampled by Swizz Beatz. The clip’s all tension and then, reckless release, but there’s a lurching choreography between Argento’s roving camera and Goblin’s stunted, disco-opera score–and director Chris Robinson grabs onto just a tiny bit of that “Gucci Time.”

The beginning of the “Gucci Time” video shows Gucci casually walking down the street and stopping to check his watch while two 90s rap video gigantic explosions whirl around him. As the explosions begins to dissipate and the “Gucci Time” title appears, Goblin’s identifiable, skronky, vocoded demon moans kick-in and for a moment there, it’s got the same visual/sound interplay of an Argento flick. That same sense of the mundane (a random street corner) and the outrageous (a giant fucking explosion) meeting, anchored by the slinking, scary sounds of Goblin.

*you can also read this post on Tumblr now, golly!

Written by Brandon

September 10th, 2010 at 8:24 am

Metal Lungies Beat Drop: Best of 2009

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I picked my five favorite beats of 2009 along with a ton of other people for Metal Lungies’ Beat Drop. My picks were “Rising Sun” by G-Side (produced by the Block Beataz),”Run This Town” by Jay-Z (produced by No I.D and Kanye West), Rhymefest’s “Pull Me Back” by Rhymefest (produced by The Matrax), “In the Ruff” by Diamond District (produced by Oddisee), and “First Day Out” by Gucci Mane (produced by Zaytoven). Here’s what I said about that Zaytoven beat. Click to check out the whole feature:
“Usually, a great beat brings together a bunch of disparate chunks of sound into a dope, cohesive whole. This beat by Zaytoven does the opposite: It stacks the same sound (a ping-ponging Zombie movie synth) on top of itself until it’s a crawling mess of bleeps, bloops, and whines, all up in your speakers. It’s deceptively simple and the power comes from the like, casual chaos of it all…the seemingly accidental rhythms and syncopations that stem from this sound-stacking.”

Written by Brandon

December 28th, 2009 at 9:09 pm

Hip-Hop’s Dying, Ya Heard?

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“One of the tasks of the film critic of tomorrow–perhaps he will even be called a “television critic”–will be to rid the world of the comic figure the average film critic and film theorist of today represents: he lives from the glory of his memories like the seventy-year-old ex-court actresses, rummages about as they do in yellowing photographs, speaks of names that are long gone. He discusses films no one has been able to see for ten years (and about which they can therefore say everything and nothing) with people of his own ilk; he argues about montage like medieval scholar discussed the existence of God, believing all these things could still exist today. In the evening, he sits with rapt attention in the cinema, a critical art lover, as though we still lived in the days of Griffith, Stroheim, Murnau, and Eisenstein. He thinks he is seeing bad films instead of understanding that what he sees is no longer film at all.”-Rudolf Arnheim, 1935.*

Regions have splintered further into town-specific styles, there’s just a couple of discernible stars, a whole bunch of rappers it’s hard to get one’s critical bearings on, and it all meets on the streets and the internet, not the Billboard Charts or MTV. Hip-hop isn’t dead. It just isn’t as easy to write about anymore. That’s what Sasha-Frere Jones’ intriguing though problematic “Wrapping Up”, and Simon Reynolds’ confusing “Notes on the Noughties” are actually saying.

But instead of acknowledging the weird, new species that hip-hop’s evolved into, it’s gotta be just plain dead or at least, “ag[ing] out”. Skipping over these dramatic shifts in “the industry” and the ever-growing influence and eventual reliance on the internet–best represented with mixtapes–is a huge oversight if you’re diagnosing hip-hop in 2009.

These guys think they are hearing bad albums instead of understanding that what they hear is no longer an album at all.

Industry changes hover in the background of SFJ’s piece and bubble up through the focus on Freddie Gibbs’ mixtapes, but its Reynolds who out-and-out dismisses the mixtape, with the pithy adjective of “obscure”. Now, it’s depressing when a critic–even a pop critic–tosses out “obscure” as a negative descriptor (sorta how indie critics used “lo-fi” to negatively describe Wavves) but it’s another thing when that same critic both performs ignorance (that unfortunate “Gummi Bares” joke) and proves his ignorance (lumping Soulja Boy, Yung Joc, Gucci Mane, and Boosie together like they have much of anything in common) and then tries to tell readers anything about hip-hop.

Many of the mixtapes one could cite to prove hip-hop’s still vital aren’t really obscure–if you’re a notable critic and you declare them obscure, they’ll remain obscure–but more importantly, these “obscure” mixtapes are maybe the only way vital hip-hop can even get out there anymore. You’d be hard-pressed to find a rapper that’s debuted since 2004–the year Reynolds says rap started withering away–whose best work isn’t on a mixtape or at least, has some mixtapes competing with their albums in terms of quality. This isn’t a coincidence. It also isn’t a coincidence that 2004 or so is about when hip-hop and the internet really started mingling. Just saying.

You know, on Tuesday, new albums from both Clipse and Gucci Mane drop. Most of you reading have already heard them. Neither of these albums are particularly good, both of them have their moments, but only Clipse will truly suffer from making a sub-par album. Clipse made their proper debut in 2001–though their first album dates back to 1999–while Gucci debuted in 2005.

The reason Clipse will suffer and Gucci will not is because Gucci’s established himself as a creative rapping force via mixtapes, while Clipse fell back on the mixtape when their official stuff got mucked-up in label drama. Clipse need–or think they need–the album. Gucci’s using it purely as a means to an end: More money, more ubiquity, maybe some respectability. Indeed, even if The State vs. Radric Davis were a masterpiece, it wouldn’t sell better (it’d maybe sell worse) and in a world of “Gummi Bares” jokes by notable critics, it doesn’t seem like “Gucci Mane” and “masterpiece” could even be conceived of in the same sentence. So why bother? Go get Gucciamerica or the official unofficial Murder Was the Case which is structured like a tight, worker-bee album…which means it’s structured like a Gucci mixtape.

Clipse though, in part because they clearly care about rap in the long-term sense–Gucci does not, proven by the fact that he’s going to jail again–and in part because they’re undoubtedly from a different era, tie rap artistry to the album format. They also want to be successful. Til the Casket Drops is torn apart by this tension, neither as good as their past work nor pop-oriented enough to yield any hits, in part because the brothers Thornton translate “pop” as “stick a broad on the hook”. Til the Casket Drops misses both of its intended targets and farts around in no-man’s land. And unlike Gucci or plenty of rappers who’ve come since (but didn’t indeed, have a few singles like “Icey” and “Freaky Gurl” to buttress their street buzz) Clipse don’t promise a deluge of new material and so, this all we get.

The State vs. Radric Davis is a product and that’s clear to all involved: a guest-heavy, bets-hedging group of songs that hopefully maybe will sell a lot of copies and make a lot of money. It begins like Gucci’s mixtapes, rolls into a sequence of R & B jams, and wraps-up with a group of songs with big-name guests and up-and-comers. Gucci’s artistry is on display on dozens of album-like mixtapes, not the actual album. In 2009, rap fans just know this. Critics apparently, do not.

*More accurately: J. Hoberman in 1998 quoting Rudolf Arnheim in 1935.

Written by Brandon

December 4th, 2009 at 5:41 am

Posted in Clipse, Gucci Mane, hmmmm

Protecting Rappers From Themselves (and Protecting Rappers from the Guys There to Protect Rappers from Themselves)

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The obvious but worth repeating part first: If you’re a big-time rapper and you make your reputation talking about your weed and your guns, even if you do it really creatively (Wayne or Gucci) or like, render the uglier details of it all particularly well (Wayne, Gucci, or Lil Boosie), you’re going to be a fucking target. Not saying it’s fair, not saying it isn’t just flat-out racist–it’s also rockist–but it’s true.

The less obvious part: These arrests are indeed, a mix of stupidity and misread privilege, but it’s also a kind of nihilism that doesn’t go away just because now a whole bunch of people know who you are and you got songs on the radio. If there’s any “positive” to say, Gucci going to jail or the ridiculous amount of hip-hop deaths every year, it’s that in some roundabout way, it’s but one more way that hip-hop calls attention to a lot of the dirt swept to the side or ignored in this country:

How fucked it still is to be black or poor or poor and black. How “the bootstraps” stuff sounds good and inspiring but ignores all those years it took to pull up those bootstraps and all the scheisty, shitty people it put you into contact with that don’t just go away, or your awful diet, or the doctors you never visited because you didn’t have any dough or health insurance, or the generations of family that didn’t even have the possibility for bootstraps-pulling and you’re literally inheriting their health problems…all that stuff doesn’t go away once your life is Bill O’Reilly approved.

J. Dilla’s death to lupus, Baatin’s battle with mental illness and his recent death, speak to the plight of the black lower-class–and if you got an imagination, the lower class as a whole–as much as say, [INSERT RAPPER HERE] getting shot.

And still, there’s some uncomfortable something else coursing through these arrests. Namely, it’s the very clear way that labels are scooping up these guys, promising them money–because they already have fame–and slightly, over time, shifting their style and approach to rap–in a sense marketing them–to make them more “pop”, while doing none of the stuff to stop them from getting arrested and then, slowly but surely dropping them.

Perhaps you saw, “Lil Wayne’s Sizzurp-Guzzler Blues”, from The Village Voice two weeks ago. It describes the weird way that the Lil Wayne documentary The Carter went from a doc playing at Sundance, to a doc “mysteriously pulled” from Sundance, to one that Wayne’s record label says Wayne himself no longer approves, to a quiet release on iTunes and DVD.

What’s implied in the article and what seems pretty obvious to anyone following the doc’s story since Sundance, is that a verite-style documentary that shows Wayne smoking a lot of weed and drinking a lot of purple, is no longer a good look for the rapper whose face is now slapped across T-shirts in Hot Topic.

That it’s all wrapped-up as if it’s Wayne himself who has an issue with the documentary is where it gets really problematic. It also recalls all that weird internet stuff Noz dealt with in regards to Gucci’s label, which claimed that it was Gucci himself opposed to these leaks. Now, it’s hardly inconceivable that a year or so after Wayne smoked tons of weed on camera he feels kinda strange about it and it’s very possible that Gucci himself doesn’t want his big album to leak, but there’s something more nefarious going on here too. It’s a label no longer speaking for the rapper but speaking as the rapper.

And it also seems to be a label, coming from a place of authority, and providing misinformation to a rapper–telling Wayne this looks bad for him, telling Gucci about the concerns about leaks–that the rapper will no doubt take very seriously. That then gets translated into “Wayne doesn’t approve of this documentary”/”Gucci doesn’t want any leaks”. It reminds me of the many Boosie interviews like this one back when Superbad came out, where Boosie mentioned the album’s “for the ladies” slant–because women buy albums apparently–and it’s solidified by this interview where he basically reveals all the bullshit smuggled onto Superbad.

There’s also the effect on the music itself. Boosie can attest to how Superbad was compromised, and something like Gucci’s “Spotlight” is now just to be expected–though the return of the Plies version of “Wasted” and the relegating the OJ version to an iTunes EP, sounds like a wholesale dumping of Gucci’s weirder, regional aspects–and even Wayne’s No Ceilings sounds like a once-wild rapper tied-down, those limits self-imposed or not, but most certainly rooted in a slightly kinder, less harsh, more palpable version of weirdness than the syrup-sipping “pussy monster” of a few years ago.

These are labels that signed these guys for the very things they’e now being advised to temper or toss out altogether. Now, this is all speculation, but as these rappers go to jail, this image of a label deeply concerned with the whims of their artist–preventing negative documentaries, staving-off leaks–just seems ridiculous.

And you know, it sure would help if these guys would figure their shit out, bizarre, made-to-doom-you, draconian probation violation laws or not.

further reading/viewing:

-”Lil Wayne’s Sizzurp-Guzzler Blues” by Jed Lipinski from Village Voice
-”Music Reviewer’s Blog Suspended for Promoting Music” from Techdirt
-TSS Presents Fifteen Minutes with Lil Boosie
-”Dirty World (Lil Boosie Interview) by Maurice Garland for Ozone Magazine

Written by Brandon

November 23rd, 2009 at 7:12 am

BRRRRrrrrrr

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It’s a Saturday night and way too many people sat at their computers as their digital clocks rolled over to 10:17 and three count em’ three new Gucci Mane mixtapes dropped: Guccimerica, Brrrussia, and Great Brrritain.

This year there’s been plenty of Gucci mixtapes already and if you slapped together the tracks from the official unofficial Murder Was the Case and the Wasted EP, Gucci’s made a close-to-classic album before his actual official album even dropped (still TBA), but here we go, a trilogy of true-school rap album tight mixtapes that are also trap-rap batshit crazy. These tapes are ridiculous. Russian military song intros. Gucci joke-aping MLK. What the fuck.

No longer wandering around in his own headspace, Gucci’s actually interacting with hip-hop as a whole here. There’s an interest in this stupid “rap game” and it’s beyond beefs with Jeezy or dudes that owe him money and get a pool cue to the temple. He’s explicitly concerned with craft and style and all that good stuff, as he always has been, but you know, three conceptually-linked tapes, all landing at once, tends to announce these things extra loud and clear.

Gucci let the rest of the world name him a “great rapper”, he didn’t declare it prematurely a la Wayne and he didn’t speak it into fruition like Jay Z, he just kept rapping and rapping and rapping until he got comfortable, even cocky, with his style…and still doesn’t utter blog-hype hyperbole about being “the best”. On these tapes, Gucci’s not a termite rapper anymore, trimming around the edges of the same sounds and ideas with slight variation, he’s a big, obnoxious, can do anything rapper now.

When Killer Mike merges his own rapid-fire post-Ice Cube style with Gucci’s meter-obsessed rapping (Good Gucci example: Great Brrritain’s “I Be Everywhere”), as he does on “Street Cred” (Guccimerica), well damn. “Timothy” (Great Brrrtain, also) is just classic, street-tale storytelling rap, wrapped in tragedy. Listen to that last verse, which begins with a character who “don’t give a fuck no more” and “can’t even love no more” and gets worse from there.

What are your favorite Gucci tape trilogy moments? That’s not rhetorical either. Tell me. That’s part of Gucci’s dopeness. We’re all in this together, sharing these tiny big musical events.

further reading/viewing:

-”White Elephant Art vs. Termite Art” by Manny Farber
-”Overboard” review by David Drake from Pitchfork
-Twitter Search: “#coldwar”

Written by Brandon

October 18th, 2009 at 3:04 am

Posted in Gucci Mane

Biologicals That DID Bother: Gucci Mane & Rich Boy

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About half of the children in the U.S will live in a single parent household at some point in their lives…somewhere around 25 million kids live apart from their biological fathers…that makes up about 1/3rd of the children in America.

These are the kinds of facts spit-up at you to mean this or that (and they do mean this or that) but it’s worth noting that the pervasive asides to absentee dads in hip-hop specifically are less a sign of something wrong with rap culture and more a sign of hip-hop’s ability to hone-in on the real-to-life details that most pop product glosses over. A list of Dad’s Day “appropriate” raps would be heartwarming but inaccurate.

Still, there are a few heartwarming homages to dads, most notably and really damned touching are the “Pop’s Raps” and then, simply album-ending spoken-words from Mr. Lynn at the end of Common’s albums. But the most affecting tributes to dads in my opinion, are rappers Gucci Mane and Rich Boy, who both took on their father’s name as their rap moniker.

Gucci Mane’s name stems from the nickname given to his hustler step-dad, often called “Gucci Man” for his presumably stunting ways. Rich Boy, born Maurice Richards, was referred to as a child as “Rich’s boy”–pronounced with Alabama dialect like “Rich boy”–because of his liquor-store owner father’s nickname of Rich, obviously “Richards” shortened.

What’s interesting about both of these names is how they stem from regional (personal, rarefied) pronunciation and essentially flip the expected wealth-grabbing origin of the names. And so, two rap nicknames that from the outside seem pretty standard and even downright stupid, bring with them layers of personal and regional history, tying community and growing up and true, fatherly influence together.

Hardly a strict “like father, like son” type influence, but certainly there’s a consistency in the low-level glory of Gucci’s rhymes and fashion sense, and his step-dad, the most stuntin’-est guy in the direct vicinity–Gucci’s a true character as I imagine “Gucci Man” was– and there’s a kind of wage-earning sincerity and passion to Rich Boy’s work, that goes right in line with being the child of the local liquor store owner.

Written by Brandon

June 22nd, 2009 at 2:13 am

Posted in Gucci Mane, Rich Boy