Weekly Faves: Saint Heron + Death Grips + Da Mafia 6ix + Vinyl Vagabonds

Overall, the week was tight. Got a new project from Three 6 Mafia (I hate calling them Mafia 6ix), Death Grips dropped an album, I'm still stuck on B L A C K I E's record and Solange came through with an R&B compilation. Shoutout to Smash Records in D.C.! They'll be selling copies of True Laurels Vol. 1 (the first issue of my zine!) and I came out with an ill Jimi Hendrix record (Band of Gypsys) and an album by a group called The Drifters. Also while in there, I came across this tight zine called Vinyl Vagabonds out of D.C. So here are my favorite music-related things from the week:


1. Death Grips- Government Plates  

Wednesday evening every major music outlet tweeted that Death Grips had just released an album without any prior promotion—Government Plates. I'm actually more into how the record was released than I am the music. The idea was a good contrast to the usual hashtag overload simultaneous countdown we get for most people's music and videos but with Death Grips is seems to be a calculated "We don't care" thing when it's obvious that their stunts are not by chance. On the whole, with a few listens in, this record is Death Grips moving into a more abstract, instrumental phase; A good deal of the album is repeated lines over crazy production or a lot of the time, there are no vocals. The intro, "You might think he loves you for your money but I know what he really loves you for it's your brand new leopard skin pillbox hat" is killer. The project's production is great and, intentions aside, the method of release was unexpected and added to the experience of listening.


2. Mafia 6ix- 6ix Commandments 

As you can see in the review in my previous post, I didn't have much hope in a Three 6 Mafia record that wouldn't have regular contributions from Juicy J or Project Pat. On top of that, all the members who were contributing (DJ Paul, La Chat, Gangsta Boo, Crunchy Black, Lord Infamous, Koopsta Knicca and Lil Wyte) haven't all worked together at once in over ten years. I was wrong, though. This is HCP's best project since Da Unbreakables. No one seemed out of touch, or, or reaching for something that wasn't there. Felt good to hear everybody back together on "Body Parts".




3. Various Artists- Saint Heron 

If you didn't catch it back in January, Solange had a moment on twitter as she checked hipster writers who have no idea about what hip-hop culture is really about. A bad write-up on Brandy's 211 album is what got her going. She said "So you can stop acting like it just popped off last year for R&B. Like it just got interesting and experimental." She didn't sit around and just complain either. In May she announced that, through Sony, she had launched her own record label, Saint Records. We got Saint's first project this week—a compilation titled, Saint Heron. Rightfully, the album is very right now—something Solange seemed determined to express, that current R&B has a wide array of gifted artists. While not all original, it includes songs from Jhene Aiko, Kelela, BC Kingdom, Jade J, Iman Omari, Sampha, Cassie, Petite Noir, Starchild, India Shawn and a closer by Solange. Current R&B's love with the '90's that they group up in is evident but the joining of that era with our Hip-Hop/EDM production gives most of the artists featured a leg up in the "R&B is stuck" argument.


4. Vinyl Vagabonds

This isn't a project or song title (although it would be sick). Last night while in the Adams Morgan district in D.C., I dropped some zines off to Smash Records and started to get into other zines in the shop. I came across one called Vinyl Vagabonds. It's an extension of this blog , of the same name. I couldn't put it down! The writers exclusively review vinyl albums—ones that they find, buy or are given. That's what I love most about it; they give anything a chance and review it from an outside angle, while still referencing other artists that they absorb on the regular. Props to them.

Mafia 6ix Is Still Three 6 Mafia

To go through Three 6 Mafia’s catalogue would be unnecessary but it doesn’t take a lot of attention to notice that their aesthetic permeates through the rap & tumblr pic game right now. Wearing all black, being liberal about drug usage, gold teeth, atmospheric and spooky rap production accompanied by a choppy flow is all here again and Three 6 was one of the first to deliver that as a package. But whenever OG’s chill out for a minute and come back (like they just did) to a game that basically rehashes everything they made hot, it’s hard for them to standout and it doesn’t help that they’re not young and hot anymore. Look at Young Dro: He set shit off in the mid-2000’s with comparing every car or piece of jewelry he had to exotic animals and whatever food he could think of. When he tried to make his first comeback (before “FDB”) in 2008, Gucci Mane & OJ Da Juiceman had taken stupid-fruity-swag to new levels and he never made it through that. Three 6 Mafia could have fallen into that trap easily with all their aforementioned influences holding tight on the rap world. And it doesn’t help that they’ve been talking about getting back together for years. On top of that, the group’s co-frontman, Juicy J, is somewhere with Wiz Khalifa giving out scholarships to the best twerkers. Weirdly, none of that mattered at all when DJ Paul, Gangsta Boo, Lord Infamous, Crunchy Black and Koopsta Knicca made a mixtape featuring old affiliates and current artists that probably could have been a part of the group in Mafia 6ix’s (not Three 6 Mafia) 6ix Commandments.

I was honestly scared to listen to this. The bulk of my pre-to-mid teens were spent completely fanning out  over Three 6 Mafia and Project Pat. I can probably recite all of Pat’s verses on command and I’m probably the only person who acknowledges Lil Wyte as their favorite white rapper (LOL). I just didn’t think that same aggression that insighted riots within seconds of being turned on could be duplicated but I was wrong. From the intro , DJ Paul reclaims his title of master shit-talker as he screams “The street shit is back! The gangsta shit is back!” before jumping into the tape’s first and hardest-hitting track, “Got Hard”.After his usual scene-building about why he’s about to kill someone, DJ Paul fades into a parking-garage echoey dark chant that gets backed by their signature “Mafia-Mafia-Mafi-Ya-Ya-Ya” chant and it’s all perfect support for a thunderous beat to drop. No one sounds tired or unmotivated; Paul is snapping about people he’s plotting on, Gangsta Boo is still in her phased-by-nothing flow, Koopsta is still scary as fuck as he’s whispering some Satanic sorcery then pauses for an a capella “Blood on my hands, blood on my clothes.”. Lord Infamous’ flow was still brain-twisting and Crunchy Black still sounds like a hollering ghost. The only non-member, Yelawolf’s, riding of the beat was on point but the sheer lack of impact that his voice has on this kind of beat made him the song’s filler. Just from that one song, you gradually settle into the realization that this isn’t Mafia 6ix. This is still Three 6 Mafia—Juicy J just so happens to not be around. Nothing’s changed. There’s still a gap for this music; it’s fighting anthem music to the core.

“Murder On My Mind” is the standout track and the most decorated. It gets a drugged-out mumbling hook from SpaceGhostPurrp, an accelerated gun-toting verse from Bizzy Bone, choppy verses from Paul and Gangsta Boo and a creepy bridge from Koopsta Knicca that transitioned into a Krazy Bone verse. “Stash Spot” is a redo of a song from their independent Smoked Out Loced Out album that came out in 1994 and other than the absence of rawness in the production, they haven’t lost any steps. 8Ball and MJG, the other Memphis OG’s, join Mafia 6ix in stoner track “Yean High” in line with their classics “Bin Laden”, “Rainbow Colors” and “Where’s Da Bud”.  Their new versions of “Break Da Law” and “Body Parts” go hard. The latter gets surprise verses from La Chat (she ripped it!) Project Pat and Juicy J.

This is Three 6 Mafia all the way through and if we’re assessing all elements of the music, this might be their best project since 2003’s Da Unbreakables: It’s the first time since 2000’s When The Smoke Clears where these many members are together (that’s a good thing) and Most Known Unknown was just too poppy for what made Three 6 so effective. And no one even remembers Da Last 2 Walk. Here you have the original members in the group with regular contributions from Lil Wyte and it’s not an album so we get to skip by the wannabe-hardcore radio stuff. And to put a cherry on top, we get a classic DJ Paul outro where he goes through a list of empty promises to come for the group (remember all the individual group member solo albums he promised that either never came out or dropped after no one cared? Lol) and he urges you to go buy his line of BBQ sauce to feed to women and children (hahaha). Juicy J would’ve been great on this but 6ix Commandments makes the argument that Three 6’s impact is more system > individuals.