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How Big Is Your World? Good Recent Rap.


-The S.L.O ft. O’Third “Can’t Outwork Em”

To gain a perspective on Huntsville’s priorities: Kristmas disses other rappers’ inability to master their tracks properly. And he raps it over another tangly, kinda baroque production from the Block Beataz (pay special attention to the pulses of bass in there somewhere) and then, ST brays across the track with his from-experience words of encouragement: “Blood sweat and tears brought us here/The key is to not be afraid of your fears.” All these Huntsville guys aren’t just making really great rap, they’re actively reclaiming a lot of concepts and ideas rap’s bastardized as of late. For them, getting paid is as much about their W-2s as it is hustling (which they’ve made clear shouldn’t be a career) and “grinding” isn’t “flood the (nonexistent) market with bullshit” but this mini-manifesto about working hard and treat their raps like an investment.

-Starlito “January Wrist 2.0″

Starlito’s casual ramble raps and DJ Burn One’s Pimp C meets Aphex Twin production make Renaissance Gangster the first worth-your-time rap album of the year (along with Yelawolf’s Trunk Muzik which Burn One just happened to host). Thing is, Starlito only sounds casual, he’s neither sneering at the world or laughing into the void, he’s doing both and sometimes neither. He’s turned the rhyme words with the same words or the repeat the same word a bunch style of rapping into a kind of rap minimalism where repetition maximizes the effect of what he’s saying. Love the use of “gonna” here: “We gonna squeeze and you gonna leak and there’s gonna be a ceremony”. Only after the song ends do you realize Starlito never stopped rapping and that he twisted and turned his weed-scorched voice every which way. Rapping fast is overrated.

-Mania Music Group ft. Milly July “Stevie’s Wife (Goin’ In Pt. 2)”

The formula for a banger: Too many awesome and hilarious punchlines to count from all three of the Mania dudes–Kane, Ron G, and Midas–no hook, and a wandering Atari-sounding beat. Well, that’s part of it. Mania also all come at the track from different angles, finding their own place in the thumping drums and wheezing synths to talk some hilarious shit: “Make your seat hot like I’m rap’s Blagojevich/You try to roll in, you dishin’ out coin/Now who the fuck use political punchlines when he rap?/In fact I done did it for some time.” And they all sound like they mean it, none of that stoic, effortless MC bullshit that was interesting at some point but now’s just an excuse for rapping well but not having a personality. Mania’s got personality. Not much to say about this one, it’s just really good.

-Raheem DeVaughn “My Wife”

Sure, it isn’t Chicago’s “Street Player” turned “The Bomb” but Kenny Dope’s eight, yes eight, productions on the new Raheem DeVaughn are similarly ambitious and understated all at once–especially “My Wife” where DeVaughn’s pompous sincerity aligns perfectly with Dope’s lofty, durable production. This song sounds whatever at first, but keep listening. That guitar that rises and falls, twists and turns around the back of the track. How weird those drums sound and they way they smack and hit a few more times afterwards, quieter and quieter. The out-of-the-box production tweaks and awesome, weird things that Dope put into making too many dance classics are brought (back) into modern R & B. In the 90s you know, it wasn’t House music it was just music. We might be moving that way again. I’m glad that Kenny Dope can be a part of it.

-Dam-Funk “I Wanna Thank You (For Steppin’ Into My Life)” Piano Version

This beautiful performance of Toeachizown highlight, “I Wanna Thank You (For Steppin’ Into My Life)” is about half-as-long as the original and it’s all sad-sack melody and heart-on-the-sleeve crooning. There’s nothing in-quotes about this version, nothing that invokes stuff Dam takes very seriously but a lot of other people don’t. It isn’t talking to say, Jamie Starr-era Prince or old Junior singles and Kano 12-inches or whatever, it’s interacting with something broader and simpler: A dude at an instrument kinda pouring his heart out. For this version, Dam-Funk trimmed all the fat from a song (and album really) that gains power from not knowing when to stop. Why this works is because no one was looking for Dam-Funk to strip his sound down–there’s almost no “sound” if he does this–and reveal the plaintive emotions and like, indefatigable melodies that were there the whole time.

-Araab Muzik “Digital Glitch Pt. 2″

It’s important to hear these “Digital Glitch” things minus the visuals. Without the showy aspect of it, the sheer technical skill Araab Muzik’s got with an MPC on full display, “Digital Glitch Pt. 2″ just becomes killer improvised music. Araab Muzik’s beats are plenty interesting, but they don’t illustrate just how open this guy’s ears are right now. He’s thinking about rap traditionalism, but he’s got that grab-from-anywhere sense of sampling and a healthy (some would say unhealthy) dose of turntablism and Drum-n-Bass…and a very of-the-moment interest in making horrifying, scary dance music. Like I said before, if dude were from the UK, he’d be at the forefront of some kind of weird scene soon to be cleverly named.

further reading/viewing:
-SXSW 2010: G-Side, Live In Concert
-DJ Burn One’s MySpace (check out the influences list)
-A-Class vs. Midas Round 1
-Mania Music Group Welcome to the Soundcheck EP
-The Bucketheads “The Bomb” Video
-Kenny Dope on Twitter
-Dam-Funk “I Wanna Thank U 4 Steppin’ Into My Life (Piano Version)”
-Junior “Mama Used To Say”
-DJ Screw “Mama Used To Say”
-araabMUZIK Presents: Digital Glitch Pt 2 of 3
-Jacques Tardi

Written by Brandon

March 16th, 2010 at 4:38 am