Nicki Minaj's new track isn't quite a surprise but it sure is a relief. Scrap the flack she caught for not being "inventive" on her remix of Young Thug's "Danny Glover" (she was) because she's been shaping into form as of late (see "Boss Ass Bitch" too). "Looking Ass Nigga" is more like the latter, in that, her rap-for-sport flexing and parading of effortless lyrical superiority over most rappers (both male and female) frame her flip-the-script on misogynistic rap not as the bitter chick but as the empowering one. "Looking Ass Nigga" has enough fem power and fire to hold over Nicki fans who had one finger left on the towel before throwing it in. By the way, Nabil is king.
Butch Dawson- Yada Yada
A murky, weed-induced joint from Baltimore's Butch Dawson, per usual, but that's no slight. "Yada Yada" is a slow paced, key-heavy track quickly reminiscent of Earl Sweatshirt's "Chum" where Butch tightly jumbles words into bars. And like "Chum", the song fades into an alternate instrumental ending, but here Butch is singing a surprisingly beautiful, melodic harmony over his own production.
Bodega BAMZ- Recap
Bodega BAMZ is one of the few young NYC rappers that has been able to join old guard New York rap conventions with contemporary aesthetics in the least gimmicky way possible. He just raps well, no matter the beat or the not-so-original subject matter. The recent "Recap" is an introspective rundown of his 2013, good and bad: "Took a label meeting with a legend/ Told the O.G. I couldn't sign. The digits ain't add up to seven".
Buddy- Kids On The Block (Featuring Freddie Gibbs)
Compton's Buddy kinda tiptoes his way through this one. His energy combined with this beat make for a good vibe but the attention-grabbing verse comes from Gangsta Gibbs, who, when not tearing down Madlib beats, fairs best on sun-kissed, chill West Coast-styled production like this one. Here, he adds onto his consistent list of socially-charged, intelligent street rap. "We survive and get gentrified. They build condos in our projects./ Instead of books and shit they give us dope to flip. You want the powder pack then we got that."
More cruise rap from Philly's GrandeMarshall. Tailored for weed clouded car rides, there's a girl in pursuit (like a lot of his tracks) as he rolls up the green and hits on her. "Open" has a rappity rap neon glow to it like an early 2000's Rap City "Tha Basement" freestyle session. Grande flows endlessly to a beat he crafted himself.
It took me a while to let this dude fully in—probably because I was fanning out too hard on Death Grips for a while. But nonetheless, Houston's B L A C K I E has a contagious agro-approach to his brand of noise rap. When the tape's intro —"Girl In The Front"—hits, the intensity of his industrial production, the "listen up" assertion of speech and the "no bullshit" kind of empowerment doesn't dip throughout the entire project. He's especially on fire on two tracks, " B L A C K I E...is a wasteland" and "Revolutionary Party Vol.2 (Sex, Drugs & Illegal Activity)". The latter is a constant chant of "No time for fear" woven through by more-conventional spitting than B L A C K I E usually delivers over harsh synths. "B L A C K I E...is a wasteland" is the tape's hardest-hitting track; it's a big confessional "Fuck the world" coming at everything fraudulent. As the beat halts for an a cappella, he says, "I get pissed and piss on critics that get rich pitching bullshit with false lyrics/ Leave a lipstick on the tip of dicks of fraudulent major label dipshits with no spirits". It ends with a "LOVE MYSELF, I WANNA HATE THE WORLD." chant. Yeah, it's giving crazy energy. Really, ONLY 4 THE REAL is a firm, "This is how punk-rap is done". Go listen.
2. Cities Aviv- URL IRL
In the last quarter of 2012, Cities Aviv released one of the better projects of the year, on the low, with Black Pleasure. I still have yet to put that record on the back-burner but at the end of September (of this year) he dropped the first single from his Come To Life LP, "URL IRL"—a track that he produced which takes familiar sampling of soul/disco but instead of flipping that into rappity rap, he loops the sample, speeds shit up and makes rap that is actually danceable. To put it plainly, the song is fucking nuts. In what he describes as being a meeting between the digital world and physical being, "URL IRL" is a persuasion to wake up and realize what's really going on.
3. Kelela- CUT 4 ME
I'm just really happy that R&B is back. And no I don't mean back like "the good ole days". There are enough good artists in the genre now putting out quality material to have substantial discourse on the topic, which wasn't the case less than five years ago. We're really on a different wave in the 2010's—even if the better chunk of R&B artists are channeling 90's sexy, chill swag of Aaliyah, Total and R. Kelly. Truth is, they can't duplicate that era, even if that's what may be the motivation for some. Kelela did a great job with her debut album, CUT 4 ME, at exposing her influences all while fitting into a gap that wasn't occupied. Mostly all of her labelmates on Fade To Mind are DJ's and producers that specialize in meshing sounds from all genres and there's no difference in CUT 4 ME, except that Kelela is soulfully crooning over those sounds. "Enemy" sounds like it belongs in a video game or should be played at a rave, sans vocals, but somehow she made a way for it all to fit with fluidity. Here's to more weird R&B! This shit is so good.
4. Danny Brown- Old
What made XXX so good was the insinuation of carelessness throughout the album. At one second, DB was facing blunts and right after that he was giving a guide to how fucked up Detroit is and not far after, he was telling you he wouldn't conform to making radio songs. He did all of this while snorting Adderall. The seesaw effect was incredible; you didn't know what was gonna happen next, which made perfect sense for how his music sounded and how he looked. Old was an uncomfortable shift in pace. This time around (to both show people he could still rap the way he did before Fools Gold and to say "Fuck you, I did it" to those same people) he split his character in two. Neither side is bad; Danny Brown can rap his ass off and his delivery is entertaining enough to keep you engaged, but that becomes more difficult when he's forcing you to absorb only half of what makes him great at a time. The introspective, thoughtful Side A is a good insight into the root of his drug problems but it gets boring when you have to hear ten straight tracks of only that. Same with the wilder, "new" DB on Side B. We all like to drop Mollie and get high but bashing your head on a wall for nine tracks in a row after telling us how doing this shit is ruining your life and killing you, makes me uncomfortble as a listener and quite bored. Maybe that's the point? Maybe Danny is saying fuck everybody. But where will he go from here? My faves are "Torture", "Dubstep", "Clean Up" and "Smokin' and Drinkin'".
5. PARTYNEXTDOOR- Muse
I'm not fully proud of liking this song (LOL). Maybe because this dude's name is really PARTYNEXTDOOR and that he's basically Drake's attempt to have his own version of The Weekend signed to OVO, even if that version is a super poor-man's version. Going back to 90's-inspired R&B, this guy is all about reaching for that aesthetic, while still being heavily reliant on autotuning his voice (very now). He's your average Canadian singer that raps/rapper that sings (my assessment of "average" is solely based on The Weekend and Drake) about strippers, dudes who aren't cool as him and all that other passive-agressive jerk talk. But it sounds so good! I don't get it. My iTunes says I've played this song 128 times already and it just came out last week...WTF! Am I bugging?