This hip-hop train just keeps on rolling. And although I would like to think I’m fully on board, it feels more like I’m running beside it, trying to keep up, wondering what will happen if I take the proverbial leap of faith. Will I catch this locomotive and ride it all way, or will I be left on my hands and knees, huffing and puffing as it roars on into the future without me? Even if I caught on, it’s likely I’d lose my grip and end up crushed beneath its steamrolling speed and weight. I am aware that hurling oneself towards a train, whether metaphorical or otherwise, is a bad idea, but here’s the thing: good decisions and I don’t exactly have a great relationship. For example, if there’s a box of Girl Scout cookies sitting on the break room counter, instead of taking just one, I’ll grab five. It’s this same tactic that fuels my consumption of rap music. While the side effects may differ, I would surmise they are equally unhealthy when ingested in large quantities. One will make you fat; the other will make you an asshole. Seeing as how this column isn’t called Too Many Cookies, I’ll focus on the latter.
In the New Mixtapes department…
Casey Veggies – Life Changes
At just 19 years old, Inglewood, CA’s Casey Veggies has already been rapping for five years—originally a founding member of Odd Future, he dipped out to pursue a solo career, citing a difference in creative direction. While he still maintains a casual acquaintance with his old crew, Life Changes is definitely unlike any material coming out of the OFWGKTA camp. Although, it’s a tape, it’s structured more like a concept album. The basic premise being, that when you’re 19, poised to (possibly) become really famous, your life, ah, changes—so the title is on point. Unfortunately there’s nothing really outstanding about it. I mean, it’s certainly paced well, and Casey is a worthy emcee, but it falls a little flat. I wouldn’t necessarily call it soft, but it does lack the gut punch of more traditional rap music—perhaps the fault of the beat selection. It’s more on the lush, vibrant side of things than the bangin’. But to be fair, like Brother Ali, Skyzoo and to some extent, Kendrick Lamer, Veggies lands just outside my sphere of rap preference.
Gunplay – Cops & Robbers
“Bet That,” the first song on Gunplay’s new tape Cops & Robbers starts off with the MMG loudmouth boasting, “I just beat a life sentence. Fuck ya!” This is a guy that is fresh off of house arrest, mind you. It’s clear Gunplay doesn’t give a fuck. I mean, come on, dude has a swastika tattoo. Like with past releases, his approach to tapes falls in line with the traditional template set forth in the days when they actually came on cassette or CD-Rs that you had to buy at the corner store or from the dude in the parking lot of A&J Fish & Chicken—he raps over second hand trap beats, the audio quality is poor, and it’s a collection of songs largely void of a thematic cohesiveness or album continuity. The guy’s name is Gunplay and this is called Cops & Robbers, so there’s that type of thing going on in every song, but there was likely no real thought to how they are assembled. It’s raw, ignorant, and completely unapologetic. And, well, it’s pretty great actually.
Pusha T – Wrath of Caine
Pusha T is undoubtedly commanding and imposing in his delivery—whether as half of the late great brotherly duo Clipse, or as a solo artist, he makes totally listenable rap songs—but goddamn if he doesn’t talk about the same thing all the time. When you’re not banging your head to this, you’ll be screaming at your iPod, “We get it dude, you sold cocaine!” Even when Pusha attempts to go the emo route, as he does several times on Wrath of Caine, he seemingly can only take it as far as the sentiments of a drug dealer. It’s nice to know he has a conscious though. This tape doesn’t really drum up much excitement for the upcoming album, which, if I’m not mistaken, is one the primary reasons pre-album mixtapes exist. That’s not to say it isn’t fairly enjoyable. I’m just saying that since this tape comes without a price point, it’s unlikely that people will pay for an album that’s probably going to just be more of the same.
SpaceGhostPurrp – B.M.W. EP
The first thing that must be addressed here is the blatantly misleading label, “EP.” B.M.W.—which stands for Black Man’s Wealth—is 13 songs long. Now that’s not terrible, considering some tapes can be twice as lengthy, but an EP is seven songs at most. It’s a little concerning that there’s no one in Black Raider Klan that will pull Purrp aside, and be like, “Hey man, you know what an EP is right?” SpaceGhostPurrp puts out some stupid-ridiculous gangsta-ass rap music—misogynistic, repetitive and largely meaningless. That is not to say I am unthankful off what he does. In fact, that’s exactly what I like about his stuff (call it escapism, if you will) but I have to admit, this tape is fairly puerile. Take this lyric from “Cum & Git Yuh Some” for example: “Finna get your pussy wet, and I know you gonna like it. / I like the way you pop that pussy.” Uh-huh, okay then. While his lyricism is laughable, his drugged-out, hypnotic beats are as seductive as ever. I’ve never popped Molly, smoked an sherm-laced blunt, sipped on syrup, and then fell asleep in a pile of strippers and money (at least not in that order anyway) but I imagine this is what it would sound like.
Underachievers – Indigoism
The Underachievers are the latest duo to spring from New York City’s rap collective, Beast Coast; a crew that also includes Flatbush Zombies, Pro Era, A$AP Mob, and Smoke DZA. Against a backdrop of beats that range from conventional boom-bap to the trap’d gradations of modern-day tape rap, emcees AK and Issa Dash exasperate wordy lyricism at a rate that is both impressive and slightly overwhelming. The only drawback being that at times it sounds like they are trying to cram every single rhyme they have into too small of a space. Audibly, Underachievers are analogous with Flatbush Zombies. Similarly they go heavy on the sour diesel and psychedelics but they disguise it via well-written, clever similes rather than easily decipherable one-liners. Whereas Pro Era are reviving classic NYC rap, Underachievers are strangely enough, reinventing classic NYC rap. Admittedly, Indigoism arrived without prior notice, but it has since held a place at the top of my most-played list of the month. If you download one tape from this list, make it this one. Snatch ‘em while they’re free—I can’t imagine their next outing will come without a price tag.
February has seen the release of some great hip-hop visual entertainment as well. In the Rap Videos You Should Watch department...
Timeless Truth - Leave It Alone
This is a track from Timeless Truth's EP Brugal & Presidentes, which holds a special place in my heart because it came out on cassettte. (Cop it here.) That's Roc Marciano on the beat, lending it a very RZA-ish / Ghostdog: Way of the Samurai nuance.
Kid Tsunami - Bang Exclusive (feat. Sean Price)
This Sean Price feature will appear on beatsmith Kid Tsunami's upcoming album, The Chase. Old heads like myself will love the Yo! MTV Raps tribute. And look at Sean P with that outfit. How old is that dude now, 40 somethin'? Yet he's dressed like a backpack rapper at Scribble Jam in 1999. But that's one of the best things about hip-hop. Like punk rockers, rappers don't ever have to grow up.
Flatbush Zombies - MRAZ
You don't have to drop liquid LSD in your orange juice to feel the same effects that Flatbush Zombies do. With it's vibrant colors (especially in emcee Zombie Juice's absurd sweater) and pulsating edits, watching this video will catch you a contact high strong enough that one minute you'll be solving all of the World's problems with your best friends, and the next, you'll be begging them for a ride to the emergency room.
Black Dave - Banned From B.E.T.: Quartersnacks Re-edit
Black Dave is both an emerging emcee and an amateur skater from New York. He's released two mixtapes, and has another on the way. NYC skateboarding blog Quatersnacks recently remixed a bunch of his skate footage, including stuff that was shot for Zoo York. I gave my brother the Zoo York Mixtape, Vol. 1 skate VHS for his birthday in like, '97 or '98. With its all rap soundtrack, it still remains one of the best skate vids of all time. This totally reminds me of that.
In the Personal Propaganda department...
Along with my partners in crime, I put out a couple of different print zines. One of which is a rap, punk and graffiti love affair called The Soda Killers. It's jam-packed with reviews, columns, photos and all sorts of sub-culture-y stuff. There are still copies of the first two issues available for free, donation, and/or trade. Hit me up if you're interested.
Well, that's all for now. In the time it took to read this, approximately one million mixtapes were released. My work is never done. Too many rappers!
With the recent site relaunch, we've made the commenting system much easier to use, so please feel free join the discusssion. Otherwise I can be reached via email at Nathan@ScenePointBlank.com or on Twitter at @OMG_NOB.