No Trivia

How Big Is Your World? Good Rap Songs (No Links Version)

leave a comment

Yeah, Blogger took the post down, which I half expected, although quite a few of these songs are being given out for free by the artists themselves. You can find them in one place or another, I’m sure…

-Freeway “Rocket Ship Rap”
The quasi-minimalist beat is a good weird look as it’s neither an ill-fitting glossy pop-rap approximation that somehow still works, nor is it a Roc-a-Fella style record fuzz banger. It sounds like the bare-bones that another producer would fill-out with horns and clipped soul-singer wailing that may or may not get chipmunked, which is what we expect on a Freeway track, so it’s cool that “Rocket Ship Rap” gives us enough of that but not exactly that either; it’s 2008 after all.

Freeway attacks the beat as usual but then, starts his second and third verse with a slight variation in his voice and it almost sounds like a guest and then it slowly moves back into Free’s urgent “I’m taking a shit while I rap” gritted teeth flow. “Rocket Ship Rap” was produced by Sap Da Beat Man who’s apparently from Newark, DE–which is a place I’ve spent a lot of time in, which is always sort of interesting–and he’s apparently working on a mixtape with Freeway.

-Bobby Creekwater “Not Yet”
The heart of this song are those really affecting strings. They anchor the beat and match-up with the equally affecting hook about not forgetting about “the hood” and contrast with the expected Southern rap production sounds–stuttering drums, lots of claps, some Jeezy synths buried in there somewhere.

There’s a million songs about not forgetting where you came from and blah blah blah, but Creekwater is at this weird point where he’s signed to a label (Shady Records) but won’t ever get big and the odds of getting dropped are about the same as his album coming out and so, he’s pretty much the kind of guy that would get a pre-emptive too-big head and forget his friends. Additionally, Bobby Creek seems pretty aware of his precarious situation but also humble enough to see how being on a label that may end up dropping you still puts you ahead of most people. Just a really affecting song where the sound and sentiments match-up perfectly. Download the whole B.C Era 2 EP from Bobby Creekwater’s MySpace.

-88 Keys “There’s Pleasure In It”
From the very good but still frustrating Death of Adam; the only song on the album to actually represent sex, as every song before and after’s about the shitty game you play to get there or the fucked-up fall-out after you fuck a girl (and “There’s Pleasure In It” sounds just like that). A weird mix of fun, beautiful sounds and ominous noises and a probably-cribbed-from-some-New-Wave-hit chant of “Pleasure!” that gets more disturbing as the song goes along. Dig those brick stuck on an organ Krautrock drones that pop-up every once in a while, or those heavily flanged guitars, or the coda-like piano chords that segue into the next track. Think of it as the flipside, the aftermath, of Dilla’s “Nothing Like This”.

-Avery Storm featuring Jadakiss “Terrified”
You might remember Avery Storm as the guy who sings on Rick Ross’ really good “Here I Am”. Storm’s a goofy, Jersey-looking white dude who can really fucking sing and I guess, is mining the same territory as Robin Thicke, but has less of the loverman schtick and more of this, too-sincere-for-his-own-good bit that’s preferable because it’s way less pervasive in rap and bullshit right now. It’s also more in-line with the classic 70s soul that all these guys sonically abandoned like 20 years ago but still cite as an influence…Al Green sang about how tired he was of being alone, not how tired some bitch’d be if she left him…the Chi-Lites called their album A Lonely Man…you smell me?

The whole concept of this song’s great and honest because girls you actually like are scary for that reason (you like them), and therefore, you’re trying to do more than just get in their pants; shit’s at-stake. Jadakiss adds a level of hard-edged honesty to the song that conflicts with “Terrified”s over-arching homo-sound and at the same time, gives Jada an excuse to get as real as I’ve heard him get in a while, “Where’s my self-confidence when I need it?” he asks himself, after sort of striking-out with a chick.

-Jay Electronica “Exhibit A (Transformations)”
The not-final version of this song was preferable because of its immediacy and rough, sloppiness, but there’s actually something even more apocalyptic about this version. Those opening synthesizers are like crack rap production sturm and drang used for good, and the drums are on some real Terminator shit, but there’s something light and hopeful in the pianos and Jay Electronica’s humane defiance. In that really brilliant article,, David Ramsey already mocked Cornel West’s “Lil Wayne’s body is a testament to damage” nonsense and others have commented on Wayne’s croaking voice symbolizing this or that about this or that, but Jay Electronica’s voice is a testament to damage. Wayne’s the fucked-up weirdo that’s seen it all and kinda makes sense some of the time but is permanently confused, Jay’s the wizened guy on the porch who saw it all but came out relatively unscathed but cynical but also, kinda hopeful, or else he wouldn’t give us songs like this. He’s weary but confident because he’s beyond giving a shit or not giving a shit.

Every song by Jay embodies all of the awesome contradictions and complications that make me want to rant about rap. Weaving rap history, present politics, the echoes of slavery, typical rap shit-talk, and everything else into a jarring collage that isn’t supposed to perfectly fit together the first, second, or thirtieth time you hear it. There’s a reason Just Blaze gives you almost a minute of contemplative pianos and synths once Jay stops spitting: He’s giving you time to think before your iPOD shuffles to its next stupid song.

-Midas “Plastic”
Baltimore’s Midas moves all around inside of a beat that bumps but’s also on some Dawn of the Dead sicko mall music shit, with content that’s both morally serious and fun in delivery. And because Midas’ insight and approach are wide and mature, the message of “Plastic” isn’t as simple as another song that’s sick to the stomach with where rap’s going: “Who’s who and who’s really hatin/That’s the voice of my generation”. The demented drumline breakdown, pre-bridge where Midas speaks in the voice of every attention-craving rapper, star, starlet and whoever else about fatherly rejection is psychologically smart enough to be sympathetic and cruel with an added edge of empathy when you hear these lines from the song, “Blue Lights”, a couple tracks later: “My daddy think I’m a joke, but he’s a loser so I’m second-guessing his approach”. He’s rapping about himself there too…

Midas is part of Mania Music Group–the ubiquitous Al Shipley covered them here–who seem to be some of the only rappers in Baltimore not too locked in tradition but not on some obnoxious “next-level save the whales” bullshit either. From Midas’ EP Live From the Arcade which you can download here. If enough of the right people cared about Midas, he’d be stuck with the “hipster rap” title and it would fit only in the loosest sense that the main positive of “hipster rap” seems to be a return to infectious joy of early 90s rap without courting meaninglessness, which Mania Music does.

-Tim Hecker & Aidan Baker “Skeleton Dane”
Tim Hecker makes noise pretty much like no other and here, accompanied by drone, almost doom metal dude Aidan Baker, he makes particularly joyous noise. A grinding guitar riff and patches of fuzz and crackle that whirl around, slowly moving forward, “Skeleton Dane” is like those first few seconds of “Exhibit A (Transformations)” turned into a whole song. One of the most fascination and frustrating aspects of Hecker and Baker’s album Fantasma-Parastasie–from which “Skeleton Dane” comes–is how each song is arbitrarily chopped into little pieces (I gave it to you as one track, but on the CD this song is 10 tracks). It seems to be some way of enveloping the listener further, where you totally forget how long or even what exactly you’re listening to; each track or “track” begins one place and ends another and you’re not sure if it’s been one track or ten tracks, three minutes or forty minutes.

Written by Brandon

November 13th, 2008 at 4:16 am

Leave a Reply