Too Many Rappers: Fall Roundup
The Minnehaha Creek is just one of the many places I do my thinking. I mean, as a human being with a fully functional brain, I do a lot of thinking in, at, or near a lot of places. It’s not like thinking is something we can control. It just sort of…no, not sort of…it is just something that happens. Anyway, the Minnehaha Creek is one of the places I do my thinking. Like my thinking thinking. Like, purposeful, deep, hard thinking. There are some regular things that I think about when I’m here—things like work, having kids, securing a future, getting healthier, my family, and other, you know, life things. And at this particular time, as I stand in the blackened, whispering wind of a crisp Minneapolis fall evening, overlooking the Minnehaha Creek, I drink a few secret beers, I as I often do here, and think about a variety of things that aren’t necessarily life things but aren’t any less meaningful.
I think about how fucked up it is that the older you get the less likely you are to hang out with your friends, and how not only is it fucked up, as I stated, but also incredibly depressing. The lyrics to LCD Soundsytem’s “All My Friends” keep running through my head, which is puzzling, because I am certain that there are other songs that mean more to me. Yet I keep repeating the lyrics, “Where are your friends tonight?” and “If I could see all of my friends tonight!” And then, for unexplained reasons, I am overwhelmed with the urge to scream, “I felt so fucking alive!” It’s a line that Daniel Roebuck’s character “John” says in in the 1986 teen-angst-murder-coming-of-age-y film Rivers’s Edge. This may seem a bit strange, as I have not (spoiler alert) choked my girlfriend to death. But I’ve seen the movie so many times that it’s sort of ingrained itself into my being at this point. And well, I am standing near a body of moving water too. So there’s that. Then something from my past pops into my head and I immediately send a handful of good friends the following text message:
Sitting here, having some beers Han Solo-style at the Minnehaha Creek and all I can think of is…SHIT YOUR GODDAMN PANTS!
The recipients of this text are the only people in the world that would ever understand it’s meaning, but that’s precisely the point. I laugh out loud, as I think about how great it is that a ridiculous inside joke can be the foundation that lifelong friendships are built upon.
One of them texts back, “Ain’t that the way it goes. Another says, “Just whisper it.” And all is right in the world.
Another beer sinks in, my mind wanders, and I end up spending an excessive amount of time thinking about how it’s been 20 years since the Wu-Tang Clan’s outstanding debut Enter the Wu-Tang Clan: 36 Chambers dropped. “20 years, dudes; 20 years,” I say out loud to nobody whatsoever. I will always feel like I missed out a little bit on the initial excitement because I was so wrapped-up in flannel shirts, Doc Martens, and anything Seattle at the time. My otherwise fierce proclivity for discovering new rap music had briefly taken a back seat to my re-found interest in weird, punk-tinged white people music. Honestly, I didn’t fully engulf myself in 36 Chambers until a year or so after seemingly everyone else had. I think about how I might go to the record store tomorrow—probably the Electric Fetus— and buy 36 Chambers, and how it will most definitely be on CD so I can play it in my car, which I’m not embarrassed to admit still has a bass cannon in the trunk. Oddly enough, the only copy of 36 Chambers that I have is a dubbed cassette that I’ve dragged around with me for roughly 19 years. I’ve never been one to let format be a deciding factor when it comes to personal importance of an album.
I think about how, for better or worse, (and most likely worse,) rap music has changed a lot since the Wu-Tang Clan first hit the scene. I think about how there was once a time when nine guys, or 10 guys if you count Cappadonna, (which I’m inclined not to,) didn’t seem like too many rappers. And then I think to myself, damn, there you have it – that's your Too Many Rappers segue right there…
In the New Mixtapes department…
Action Bronson & Party Supplies – Blue Chips 2
Action Bronson's greatness has never come as the result of focused lyricism, but rather the opposite—scatterbrained rhymes; seemingly written with little regard for things like story arc or cohesiveness, but delivered with superb breath control. Much in the same way the Beastie Boys were the Internet before there was an Internet, Bronson boasts a savant-like spank bank of '80s sports figures, pro-wrestling history and pop culture references. Blend it with a dose of druggy, misogynistic shithead-ness, a don't-give-a-fuck attitude, and an unhealthy food obsession and you have the most trivial and irreverent, yet amazingly fluid rap songs available for free on the Internet. If you’re not downloading Action Bronson mixtapes, you're literally losing money. Here's a sample lyric from "Midget Cough": “Don’t even step within’ six feet of my presence / Leave you open like the desert / Def Leppard / Fresh pepper / Did I mention, steer the whip with one arm like Jim Abbot / Chocolate sauce over thin rabbit / If these opportunities arose before we would’ve been had it / Shorty sniffing haddock in the attic / I been addicted in these streets / In my pants I’ve even shatted / Then sat in it, sadly.” As he’s done on numerous releases previous to this one—like Dr. Lecter with Tommy Mas, Well Done with Statik Selektah, Rare Chandeliers with Alchemist, and most recently the Saab Stories EP with Harry Fraud—Bronson teams with a sole producer in Party Supplies. This is the same man with whom he created the first installment of Blue Chips. Party Supplies beats on this tape are nothing special, that’s for sure—even half-assed at times—but it doesn’t distract much from what is yet another stellar Action Bronson outing.
Black Dave – Black Bart
NYC-based skater/rapper Black Dave returns with his second tape this year. Black Bart picks up right where Stay Black left off, leaving no inclination of Black Dave slowing down. In fact, when it comes to rapping, he’s gotten faster. At times he sounds like more attentive and decipherable Twista. His granular, vigorous flow is complimented well by beats from a variety of producers. The assortment of production lends the tape a bit of a multi-regional feel, but ultimately, much like fellow New Yorkers Flatbush ZOMBiES and A$AP Mob, Black Daves’s sound reflects the trap emergence of modern day rap music. Shy Guy takes on the majority of the production, providing super-clean trap-happy slaps and chimes to seven of the 15 tracks. This includes the standout summer jam “Take it Back.” Brady Becklo delivers the boom-bap leanings for “Recognize”, which is as close to old-school New York rap as you will get on this tape. Other notable tracks are “To Da Grave”, in which DJ Smokey goes the full SpaceGhostPurrp on the beat, and the electro-tinged “Fake ID”, where VeryRVRE provides a buzzed-out noise manipulation score.
Flatbush ZOMBiES – BetterOffDEAD
I won’t lie, despite D.R.U.G.S being one of my favorites from last year; it took me a little bit to get into Flatbush ZOMBiES latest tape. Perhaps it was the lofty 19 tracks that wear on a little long for one sitting. Or maybe it was it was because it was the last thing I listened to before being cuffed and thrown in the back of a squad car in an incident that may or may not have been related to illegal artistic expression. Either way it’s taken me awhile to come back around to this, but I’m glad I finally have. The majority of the production is handled in-house by Erick Arc Elliot. His dedication to his craft is apparent. The ample soundscapes on BetterOffDEAD are the result of what I can only imagine must be hours upon hours in the lab. I’m not sure if tossing around the word “opus” when talking about a mixtape is a thing that’s legal, but as I alluded to a few sentences ago, legalities aren’t always my strong suit. So I’m just going to go ahead and say it: BetterOffDead is a rap opus. Inasmuch as an opus can contain the following descriptors: psychotic, psychedelic, druggy, drugged-out, acid-soaked, obnoxious, eerie, ominous, rugged, raw, and bangin’. Emcees Meech and Juice stir a bubbling cocktail of nasally, drug-addled, murderous, and thought-provoking lyricism that recalls early Nonphixion, Necro, Cypress Hill and Gravediggaz.
Gucci Mane – Diary of a Trap God
In a move that surprises absolutely nobody, Gucci Mane put out a whole bunch of mixtapes this year - nine to be exact. Well, that might not be exact because there's always the very real chance that he dropped like, three more in the last 10 minutes. No, wait, he’s in jail, right? Who knows – I don’t have the energy to keep track. When Trap God 2 came out at the beginning of the year I jumped all over but now I can't remember much about it other than Gucci said his name a lot, the production was lame, and it was not as good a tape as Trap God 1 from last year…which isn't saying much really. August’s World War III: Lean was dope though. I’ve been bumping that one and Diary of a Trap God whenever I feel like punching down. Although Gucci does really irritating things like releasing nine tapes in one year—most of which are like, 20 songs long—I give him a pass because he was in the highly underappreciated film Spring Breakers, has an ice cream cone tattooed on his face, has Twitter beefs with rappers who are featured on his songs, and, well, is Gucci Mane.
King Chip – 44108
King Chip is the new-ish name of the Cleveland, OH-based emcee that used be Chip da Ripper. Before this tape, I was totally unfamiliar with King Chip; probably because I don’t really fuck with Kid Cudi, who he runs with. I downloaded it based purely on the song “Police in the Trunk”, which I somehow happened across and subsequently fell in love with. Layzie Bone guests on “Fuck You Lookin’ At”, in which he rhymes “Twitter” with “hit her,” while that “stop scheming and lookin’ hard” line from Audio 2’s “Top Billin’” is dropped in the cut. Another notable guest spot comes courtesy of the one and only Fat Trel on the Lex Luger-produced trap banger “It’s Real.” 44108 as a whole, is a pretty solid tape, but I’d be lying if I said I could pinpoint any other song that’s as good as the one that goes, “Mr. Officer, get your bitch-ass in the trunk.”
Meek Mill – DreamchasersI will take some of the blame for feeling like I’m over Meek Mill at this point. I could probably have prevented this if I hadn’t spent money on Dreams & Nightmares. I’m not saying the album wasn’t good—in fact I liked it quite a bit—but coming off the Dreamchasers 2 mixtape, which it was basically just a rehashing of, I can’t help but feel like I wasted a bit of money. But that’s what I get for paying for rap music in disposable era. The old-school in me still hangs on to the idea that an “official album” is better than a mixtape. But really, if we’ve learned anything from this column over that last 10 months, it’s that it’s a total crap shoot either way. That being said, Meek makes some really good tapes. And I’m sure this one is already considered a modern classic ‘round ye olden interwebs, but this particular hip-hop head just can’t get into it. I still like the urgency in his voice, and his angry raps are straight ill, but I don’t feel like he’s saying anything he hasn’t said a thousand times before. Then again, I suppose most rappers aren’t. But that doesn’t make it right either. Surprisingly my favorite parts of the tape are the Nikki Minaj verses on “I Be On Dat”, which kind of concerns me, so I try not to think about it too much. I like the boom-bap beat courtesy of Tone Beats on “Hip-Hop.” It makes me curios as to what a whole album of Meek rhyming over boom-bap would be like. Other than those, my favorite song is actually the “Lil Snupe Skit”, which is just a cell phone-quality recording of the now deceased Lil Snupe freestyling in the studio to what sounds like a Rick Ross instrumental or something. I’ll be surprised if this stays on my iPod much longer. I’m very close to placing Meek alongside drips like Dreezy, Weezy, Yeezy, Hova, Wale, French, and Rozay in the two categories I call Only Tolerable During Timeouts at High School Basketball Games and When I listen to KMOJ (which is usually on the way to high school basketball games.)
Project Pat – Cheez N Dope 2
At the beginning of “Mask Up” DJ Scream proclaims, “You asked for it, so here it is – Cheez N Dope 2, nigga!” I think there is very real chance that that statement is an outright lie, or at the very least, highly debatable. I mean who is the “you” in this scenario? I would assume it’s the listener in which case, that would be me. And I can tell you with 100% certainty that I did not ask for this. No, no, no, I was just fine with Cheez N Dope 1. I have enough rap music on my plate already. The last thing I…we…anyone needs is another 25-plus song mixtape; especially from a guy that already put one out this year. Well, regardless, here we have Cheez N Dope 2 and here I am listening to it. And you know what, it’s all right. When it boils down to it, there’s too many rappers out there trying to clone this sound, that it’s actually refreshing to hear a veteran of the Memphis scene put out some new songs, even if only half of them are necessary. The standout tracks here are the Drumma Boy produced ones “Flippin N Stackin”, “No Mirage”, and “Gettin Cash”, which features longtime collaborator Juicy J. As far as production goes, Ricky Racks turns in some trap bangers on the aforementioned “Mask Up” and the Nasty Mane feature, “Dick Eatin Dog”, which is lyrically just as ridiculously misogynistic as the title would imply. I’d reprint a sample lyric here but then I’d have to register as a sex offender.
Torae – Admission of Guilt
I’m disappointed that I’m disappointed by Torae’s Admission of Guilt. I wanted to like this so bad but I just can’t. This is especially troubling, as I thought For the Record was brilliant—one of the best rap records of 2011 actually—but this latest mixtape is just not doing it for me. A large part of the problem lies in Eric G’s production. Sonically it’s very similar in nature to Torae’s running mate Skyzoo’s album, A Dream Deferred, in that it’s too vibrant, luxuriant, and for lack of a better term, soft, for my tastes. But if you like your rhymes on the introspective side of things, there’s plenty of that. It’s in the struggle that Torae’s lyricism thrives. “Limitless” is the perfect example of this, as Torae details the ups and downs of independent artists and the misconceptions about those that have broke through to the mainstream. The tape’s hardest-hitting track is the Bun B feature “Ask Me Why.” With its catchy hook, hard drums, slaps, and horn flips, it would be a nice cut to drop in a trap or party mix.
The Underachievers – The Lords of Flatbush
Beast Coast emcees Issa Dash and Ka, collectively known as The Underachievers, already own one the year’s best mixtapes in Indigoism. And with The Lords of Flatbush they may have just outdone themselves. There are numerous things to like here—it’s only eight songs long, it’s named after the ’74 Sly Stallone/Henry Winkler teenagers-in-leather jackets gang movie, and there are no guest emcees—but perhaps the tape’s strongest suit lies in the production. The tape was produced in majority by Lex Luger, the man behind the boards for many of recent rap history’s hottest artists – Watch The Throne, Waka Flocka Flame, Rick Ross, and Snoop Dogg to name a few. Issa Dash and Ka’s breathless flows—which touch upon a myriad of typical rap subject matter—sour diesel, running in the streets, being good rappers, etc.—is perfectly interwoven all the way through Luger’s machinegun trap beats. I have a hard time picking out a favorite track because they are all so good. There is a certain air of, I don’t know, demo-ness to this that I just love. It’s like the overall volume was turned up just a click into the red, which gives it a loud, full resonance that works really well. If there’s a weak link here, and it’s only nitpicky at best, it’s that Dash and Ka sound indistinguishable from each other. That and if you didn’t know better you might mistake them for their Beast Coast compadres Flatbush ZOMBiES. But actually, they are better. I can’t recommend this one enough. Get to downloading!
In the Personal Propaghanda department…
My partners in crime and I have somehow managed to get our shit together just enough to put out new issues of our zines HotDogDayz and The Soda Killers. Both are issue #5, and are available for free, trade (preferred) or donation. HotDogDayz is full of found items, hijacked emails, mail art, reader submissions, fan letters, crusty art, raw photography, rail monikers, graffiti, and jokes. The Soda Killers is a punk, rap, and graffiti ménage a trois, loaded with record & show reviews, graff flicks, sticker art, and a lengthy essay by Dale Danger of Bacon in the Beans fanzine. If you’re into any of it, get a hold of me via the contact links below.