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How Big Is Your World? New Rap.

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-Cam’ron “Never Ever”

Crime Pays is as good as Public Enemy No. 1 and Killa Season or the last 12 or so tracks of Purple Haze, so it isn’t fair to get mad when Cam’ron, a rapper worshipped for his dogged devotion to the streets and his own oddball interiority, doles out most of his comeback to producers with names like Skitzo (who produced three of Haze’s highlights by the way) and Araabmuzik.

Those operatic Dipset bangers were fun because Cam and company didn’t actually sell them all that well; they were always a little too epic and loud, and the Dips’ raps a little too bizarre, trying a little too hard to run this shit so they had a shabby disinterest in being couth. Like James Caan in a white jeans in Thief, Warren Oates telling a group of Nixonian thugs “Nobody loses all the time”, Jimmy in Fingers bopping around to “Summertime, Summertime”, you know? This older, coarser Cam doesn’t care about audience the same way anymore and it shows in the delirious, tinny beat of “Never Ever”. Free of the Dips, Cam’s laughing into the void for real now.

-Rhymefest “Pulls Me Back”

Twisting actually emotional 80s shit that’s ironic to most back into actually emotional shit is a special talent of hip-hop and “Pulls Me Back”, reaches into the longing of Toto’s “Africa” expertly. The way those twinkling synths fade-in, a vaguely reverbed (maybe auto-tuned) kinda Jamaican hook, this really harsh coat of Blade Runner electronics that’s stretching and contracting behind that hook, and oh yeah, Rhymefest employing his formidable rap talents and making use of his strange, lipsy voice to really sell his sincere frustration: “At Ford, 80,000 jobs was all cut/And last week some shorty shot the mall up”. There’s a ton of lines like that in here.

Almost as invigorating and depressing is Rhymefest’s half lament, half boast that “I can’t vote, I already got a felony!”, followed by the equally knowing “Fuck sobriety/The Hennessy can cry with me…”, or the stuff about his girlfriend’s interest in future planning and Fest’s uh, disinterest. Sounds (and feels) like the work of another “conscious”, confused Chi-town rapper, less Kanye and more Resurrection era Common. This Gucci Mane loving retard hates to admit it as much as ‘Fest fans love to remind me of it: Dude’s made the best rap release of the year so far. Also, in like 2003 or 2004, this could’ve been a minor radio hit. Oh well. Up the auto-tune by like, seven and try again? Or don’t and just have a really affecting slice of hard-ass complainer rap.

-Willie Isz “In the Red”

“In the Red” is almost a year old, but Georgiavania finally has a release date (06/16/09), so it’s worth a revisit and ten years ago–which is what this songs feels like–a track from a sampler for an upcoming album wouldn’t be this thing everybody and their Twitter pals heard a whole bunch. Over dubbed-out guitars and drums and some beautifully do whatever they want backing vocals, Khujo Goodie growls utopian impossibilities while Jneiro Jarel twists and turns his words (“Donforgetthat/Pass me mapurplefitt-at”), in contrast to Khujo’s one-note (but what a note it is) bark.

Songs like this work when there’s a sorta implicit sadness in the “if everything was free” stuff, like it’s rapped with conviction but depressive knowledge that it’ll never happen–keyword there’s “If”–but a confidence in the fact that just expressing it, while it won’t will the ideas to life, will get a whole bunch of people listening through another day or week or month or year. That’s what “In The Red” really shares with the classic Dungeon Fam shit it’s shooting for, less because the beat’s trippy and hard at the same time, or that Khujo sounds like himself and Jarel’s the weirdo Cee-Lo/Andre3k/Witchdoctor contrast, but because it contains Dungeon Family’s plurality…the restorative qualities of Soul Food or Lil Will’s Better Days or Aquemini.

-Kneel Knaris “Dear Lord”

Let’s begin by noting that this is the track that precedes “1000 MGs”, a rapped interlude wherein Kneel speeds to nowhere in particular in the rain holding his pistol and thinking about offing himself. Knaris’ Going Sane in a Crazy World (available now digitally, physical copies in June) is the inverse of most other depresso-rap albums: The gun-talk floats in the background and all the mad, ugly psychology right upfront; A whole album of “Suicidal Thoughts” or “Feel It In the Air”. For a lot of people, this might be too much or “too much”, but if you’ve spent a lot of time wishing We Can’t Be Stopped was thirteen more “My Mind’s Playing Tricks On Me” and less “Gota Let Your Nuts Hang”, this one’s for you. When I spoke to Kneel a few weeks ago, he told me “Suicidal Thoughts” was his favorite Ready to Die track. Me too Kneel, me too.

There’s an especially determined and direct style of rapping on this track, Kneel drawling out every word at just the moment before it would sound all drawn-out and sliding into a chorus that just sort of sums-up the verses, neither bringing it to some transcendent level or offering counterpoint–which makes sense because the whole song’s about how there’s no escape (“I’ve seen the hellfire, but I wanna dive in”). The beat too, is like a strangled version of a soul-beat, with stirring strings somewhere in there, but mainly a wailing guitar, drums that never get off the ground, and an uncomfortable hook.

-Tortoise “Prepare Your Coffin”

In college, some friends had a roommate they hated and she (the hated roommate) had a real dopey boyfriend who’d drive down from like Connecticut or some shit a bunch and they’d always do it in the shower and it was pretty weird. One weekend he came down, right when the last “real” Tortoise album, It’s All Around You, came out and was playing it real loud and was sort of waxing poetic about it to his doting girlfriend when we came in from some party at like 3am and it was pretty awful, to hear, think about, witness, watch, everything.

Tortoise seems like a band made for this guy, some Connecticut creeper who bangs some Dance Major bitch in the shower for her roommates to hear…like kinda “artsy” and “sophisticated” and “open” but not really? Sometimes though, Tortoise come up with some shit (“Djed”, “Monica”) and this new track “Prepare Your Coffin” is one of those. It sounds like Goblin and it sounds like bad smart-guy metal and it sounds a shit of a lot like Camel–especially those leaning on the keys with your elbows mega synth lines–and you know, that’s good enough.

Written by Brandon

May 25th, 2009 at 6:15 pm

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