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Archive for October, 2009

How Big Is Your World? New Rap…


-Playaz Circle ft. Raekwon “Weight Droppin”

This is Raekwon doing Andre3K’s schtick of the past few years: Dropping some wizened off-topic knowledge in a radio-rap banger from some youngsters. Only this isn’t entirely a big bouncing party track, it’s already kinda depressive and so, it’s more like Raekwon adds a level of sophistication to the thing and does it in the same matter-of-fact, you can’t tell me no different tone he has when he describes violence and the knuckleheads perpetuating it on OB4CL2

A one-note, quasi-”conscious” grown-man rap rant from Raekwon isn’t really more rewarding than a whole album of in-a-vacuum tough talk, but when it bubbles up between two verses from Dolla Boy and Titi Boi of Playaz Circle it gets a little more interesting. Not that Playaz Circle aren’t good or interesting on their own–they’re continuing the mood and tone of say, Pastor Troy or Field Mob–but it’s an unexpected guest spot which Raekwon utilizes well. You can see it, especially buttressed by the emotive hook, as a proper wrap-up of OB4CL2, or if you wanna get a little hyperbolic, a more effective sequel in and of itself than that entire album. The seething, vicious nihilistic street rapper looking back on it all, with sadness and resignation.

-Ghostface ft. Jack Knight “Lonely”

Ghost severely shifted the sonics behind his style on his latest because there’s just no way to cram these kind of grown-ass man thoughts and feelings, without variation, onto tinny street bangers and dusty soul-wail beats. They need this kind of casual, even middling production to work. All over Ghostdini is some of Ghost’s best writing and the best rapping of that writing since Pretty Toney. “Lonely”s first verse is just Ghost obsessing over the fact that his girl left him and another dude’s living with her and his kids but he does it in a kind of hyper-obsessive way, moving through his home and imagining new dude using and touching everything that’s his.

The next verse begins the same but it derails as Ghost basically realizes that shit’s better without him there (no fighting, the kids are happier, etc.) and though he’s still angry–he hilariously refers to the Knicks game New Dude took Ghost’s girl to, as “some bullshit Knicks game”–he’s sorta slowly getting it. There’s also the very smart detail that Ghost’s own son explains the situation, touching on the way that often in bad marriages/relationships, it’s the kids who become the adults. This song is like “A Christmas Tale” or something, Ghost getting all the info and experiences second-hand and through that distance, feeling his own fuck-ups all the more clearly.

-Comp “Birth Defect”

Comp is a Baltimore rapper once signed to Def Jam, even showing up in Def Jam Vendetta: Fight For New York and then, like a lot of rappers, the major label debut never dropped and he slid back to the gritty streets and grimy stages of his hometown. Probably for the better though, as something clearly happened to Comp between signing that contract and waiting forever. Rap-wise, he stopped giving a fuck. His songs got more unhinged, he neither sounded like Baltimore’s interpretation of gritty New York/Philly rap nor did he embrace the Southern half of his Bmore accent and morph into some down Southern trapper, he just got really weird and damned honest. Wearing chainmail as he raps weird. And rhyming about his birth-defective hand for six minutes honest.

What’s so striking about this song is how multi-directional Comp’s hopelessness is. Clearly dude’s somewhat alright–he’s one of Baltimore’s best and most interesting rappers–but he’s really digging deep here and working out why, from every angle, his one-handed life is kinda fucked. Friends aren’t friends because there’s always that nagging suggestion they just feel sorry for him, the prosthesis hurts like a motherfucker, he feels like his parents feel bad that by birthing him they’ve caused him a lot of pain. This is just one of those rap songs where it stops being rap and is just a guy structuring his deep, dark thoughts in a rhyming pattern and laying it bare. The always on-it Al Shipley already highlighted this track, the last one on Comp’s Man With the Hand album, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t throw-in my two cents about the song too.

-Anti-Pop Consortium “New Jack Exterminator”

Beans rushes in on this one like he’s rapping over “Superthug” and in a way, he might as well be, with those lively drums and bing-bong electronics twirling all around, “New Jack Exterminator” possesses the immediacy rap needs to really work and still smuggles in enough mannered weirdness…which rap also needs to have to work. Yes, Anti-Pop are indulgent, yes they’re complainers and yeah, they’re not interacting with what rap sounds like in 2009 all that much, which is usually problematic, but these guys strike an awesome balance with all their purposefully discordant elements and it works.

Think about the structure of this song: Beans’ intro verse hits the ground running, a brief respite with High Priest’s barren monotone, back to grit-teeth but nimble straight spitting from Sayyid, and an truly earned, space-synth bliss-out coda full of Nintendo sounds, random noises, and samples of El-P that brings some formal structure to the chaos. Anti-Pop’s masterpiece is not the limp “experimental” Arrhythmia but the Marley Marl tight, Rammellzee weird Tragic Epilogue and the best moments of Fluorescent Black sound like the former, not the latter.

-Nicolay ft. Carlitta Durand “Saturday Night”

Nicolay pushes “Saturday Night” past the six minute mark like it’s some lost House 12-Inch and Carlitta Durand is on some low-key Joyce Sims shit here: Sophisticated but soulful, reserved but about to belt it out but maybe not? There’s a shyness in the song, a coy feeling that singers like Beyonce or Estelle often affect, but it’s palpable and touching here, especially in that lilting “I don’t think I’ve done this before…”. This is an under-used emotion in dance and R & B music, coyness. Prince played with a lot, New Order too (“tonight I should’ve stayed at home, playing with my pleasure zone”) and Nicolay and Carlitta carry on the forgotten dance music trope of nerds longingly wanting to bust-out.

The xx and Memory Tapes may be what the kids are listening to, but producer Nicolay’s City Lights 2 is the micro-pop, electronic dance album of this year. And though it comes relatively early in the album, “Saturday Night” is City Lights 2’s centerpiece, the one that funnels all the cool sounds (blog-house arpeggiation, the mix-like nature of the album, the slow-growing thump of it all) and not so cool ones (fusion jazz keys, Wyndham Hill atmospherics, on-beat punches of sound effects) into a perfect slab of music and voice and longing.

further reading/viewing:
-Anti Pop Consortium Live at Other Music
-”The Man With the Hand Comes Around” by Al Shipley for City Paper: NOISE
“That’s Ghostdini” by Zilla Rocca
-”Nicolay’s Shibuya: City Lights Vol. 2” by Eric Tullis for Independent Weekly
-Marley Zarcone on deviantART

Written by Brandon

October 1st, 2009 at 7:40 am