Last year, the greatest ‘trillwave’ singles actually came from some dude in Africa. Please delete your pirated copy of LongliveA$AP, cradle your head in your hands, and realize that America isn’t even doing the ‘melting pot of internet-based universal influences’ thing well anymore.
Months later, and “YSL Cheetah” remains top form Future Hendrix. The gleeful toying with early Gucci (poetically laced with Zaytoven providing a cluttered beat full of sino-music-box melodies seeming more like a failed Ryuichi Sakamoto demo than the boring miasma of ‘trap production’) demonstrates that Future is more than his autotune and ballads, amazing as they can be. It’s been frustrating to see Pluto, a relative commercial struggle to take off as succesfully with critics as it has. Because while songs like “Turn On The Lights” and “You Deserve It” showcase a maverick in hip-hop, moments of technical brilliance like “Astronaut Chick” get lost for not being as bombastic. Future already has been struggling with a post-“Racks” stigma of being a ‘hook’ guy, and while more than enough attention is coming his way, it still doesn’t feel like he’s recognized for his abilities as one of the best young rappers in his generation.
But I’m actually not here to talk about that, I’m here to talk about the guest.
Juelz Santana has had one of the most painfully obvious public disintergrations in rap that rap doesn’t seem to care about. Once “What The Game’s Been Missing” showcased him for all his impressive strengths (and admitted limitations) and his dual rise with Wayne cemented his seeming rise… It all fell apart.
Maybe it was the drugs, as Cam’ron reportedly accused. Lord knows that Juelz appearing on reality TV as a near-comotose zombie was a shocking image for anyone who remembered the hyper-animated young man who helped turn Dipset into one of the biggest movements in the dawn of 21st century rap. The current Juelz, even with his restored focus, now simply makes half-hearted gestures, and mugs at the camera with the ham-fisted bravado of fellow fallen star Jim Jones. So much of his former glory depended on the tension of his delivery, whereas new Juelz is dishearteningly laconic.
However, the bigger crime is how whenever Future works with one of his favorite rappers, they truly never connect with him on that level of admiration. Gucci Mane publically snubbed him whilst announcing the defection of longtime Freebandz associate Young Scooter to Brick Squad, Wayne has only provided the fleeting bits of work that comes from both Drake’s co-sign and the obligation of staying relevant within the audiences he leaves behind for that big chain-wallet mall-rap kingdom in the sky, and Dipset traditionally treat him as a utility player (See: T-Pain) than as a rapper who should command respect.
With 2013 still anyone’s guess, hopefully Future avoids being typecast as an auto-tune dependent novelty artist and finally breaks through as a rapper.
P.S.: To all my friends who are religiously pontificating Future’s ballads, I respect and appreciate this. But you guys aren’t helping me out, because “Loveeee Song” is NOT GOOD, and if I have to see one of the best Atlanta Rappers continuously made into some cartoonish post-The-Dream romantic figure, I’m personally going to blame you lot.
Young Chop officially throws down in strip-club/R&B joints, with his little brother (and most underrated Chicago Artist Of 2012) Johnny May Cash to provide a properly ice-skateable rap record. May Cash’s autotuned slur is a predictable formula of one part Future one part Kirko, but there’s a teenage malleability that has been really leaving an impression on me. From the cheeky trancehall/trap anthem “Codeine" to the Mavado-esque marriages of melody and violent bombast on "Let Me In”, to this new record, I can’t wait for May Cash to finally get a solo tape out, and demonstrate his full capabilities. Also, it’s great to hear Chop continuing and succeeding to expand his pallet.
3 Things To Note About This Record;
1) Droop-E should truly produce a full EP with Kendrick Lamar, or some other rapper, because he remains one of the greatest producers on the West Coast, with only his father granting him any real recognition. Granted, those checks are STILL coming in, but I feel that Droop will ultimately remain a critic’s choice rapper (not unlike Young L, more beloved for his artistic visions and sonic innovations than his actual rapping). But with even his younger brother getting more internet focus than himself, the time has come for Droop-E to really devote himself to showcasing some other rapper’s talents (Preferably not in his family’s stables), and reinvent himself into a West Coast Mike Will. We know he’s capable of such.
2) How is it, that when everyone was SOOO fascinated with late 70s/80s boogie funk in ‘chillwave’, nobody brought up the fact that rappers had been using those same synth textures and beyond in some cases? So in that regard, the fact that one of those artists is finally paying it forward (Because sampling built the reinvestment in this back catalog of funk for it to be reissued and become ‘inspiration’ fodder, obviously) and working with rap artists is revealing of how that point of influence was always there. And thankfully enough, it’s not some overtly arty “Remix”, but a graceful meeting of mutual points of inspiration, with Nite Jewel turning in a very slow burning and tasteful hook.
3) We need to put an end to Livewire ‘pass’. These are a varied group of talented rap artists with a steady supply of great production, who should be commended in 2013 for still remaining unchanged by the constant haphazard sliding musical trends that plague the world of rap. But there’s nothing so unnecessary as this deluge of tiring, adult-oriented rap that they’re consistently pouring out with no remorse. I shouldn’t complain about very professional and consistent musical squads, but in a post-Mustard/Invasion world of synths, this trend for the Bay Area to produce “Steely Dan Rap” is exhausting to push through. Especially as the current Bay Area Climate remains thriving, but there remains no healthy CFOPA/HBK/Post-Hyphy response to the considered critical audience for the Livewire/DJ Fresh centered scene of ‘grown man rap’.
I did my End Of Year List over @ NoJumper.com; this gem failed to make it in because I’m an idiot, and nothing more.
It’s been a weird year, due to economic, educational, and mental strains, but I’m happy to have had a really productive year:
I did “One Week One Band: deftones”; an ultimately rushed and sloppy, but fairly intense whirlwind take on one of my favorite bands ever. I got knocked by Norman Brannon, made lyrical errors, and occasionally came off more like an emotionally hurried post-teen than a writer. But I like the general intent still. Plus I still did a better job than the trenchant murk that was Anthony Fantano’s review of their new album (which I still haven’t listened to!).
I did a bunch of reviews, interviews and articles for The Wavery, a newly formed web magazine which is… AWOL for now. I managed to do the following, and should they remain indisposed, I may republish them.
- Future - Pluto (Album Review)
- Waka Flocka Flame - Triple F Life (Album Review)
- Khalil Nova Feature (The Bulk Of The Interview Making It’s Way On Nojumper)
- Top 5 Most Awkward Kanye Interviews
I also had a lot of fun with a cast as diverse as The Martorialist, H.L., Dalatu, David Drake & more to contribute to Droptops & Lattisaw Tapes’ “50 Songs You Need To Hear Right Now”. In a bit of ego, I will say that my selection of Ike Eyes “Blue Roxies” appears to be a crowd favorite.
Compared to 2011 and 2010, No Jumper’s productivity remains a bit sluggish, but we still kept up as much as we can. I praised DC weirdo Yung Gleesh and Lil’ B’s illegitimate son Yung God, waxed poetic about The Weeknd, navigated the confusion of Travis Porter’s debut album, broke bread about the apocalypse and video games with Khalil Nova, struggled to comprehend Miami’s Metro Zu both through their music and their own Lofty 305’s words, chatted with recent Fool’s Gold signee GrandeMarshall, and got to dig into the mystery world of Snubnose Frankenstein. There were other things too, but that’s enough for ‘a start’.
I also was on twitter. A lot. (@CrowleyHead). Other things I’d been working on never quite made their ways out the womb (Features on Gorgeous Children & Ryan Hemsworth, review of the new L.W.H. album CIA TV, an in-depth analysis of the 3rd Wave of The Futuristic Movement), but we’ll see. I also made a mess of random opinions here, as noted.
For 2013? Expect more scattered, patchy work. More obnoxious opinions on twitter that prompt eye-rolls. And maybe even a few surprises, who knows?
Castro - All Hallows
Prod. By Skywlkr of Bruiser Brigade fame.
In 2012, the former Castro Saint’s comeback was one of the highlights of Grime Nostalgia that had nothing to do with Grime Nostalgia. Acts from Flirta D to Ears to Hitman Hyper all returned to some relative success, capitalizing on the near-decade long existence of their legendary bars and sets on pirate radios such as Rinse, Deja, etc. But aside from a few MP3s, a shitty video of a freestyle, and the briefest snippet of a live set, what legacy did the Tottenham-based MC leave behind to come back to be welcomed with open arms?
So instead, the comeback was mounted. He started wearing a serial killer like mask to play up his seeming anonymous identity. He’d already been one of the first grime MCs to explicitly rap about cocaine, but now had a synth/trap-leaning sound to compliment it.
Over time however, the goals shifted… CAS now appeared to be evolving into a more post-internet artist, as songs ranged from anti-drug tales, to Curren$y-esque weed odes, to this… a horrorcore themed regular rap record. More and more, it’s not easy to qualify CAS as a grime artist the same way his early material fit, no matter how many old JME instrumentals he freestyles to.
The output of CAS hasn’t let me down yet in any way, so I can’t complain; but I can remark on the lost opportunity .. For producer Skywlkr has made a name for himself with Danny Brown for the ability to emulate the slinkiness of Dizzee Rascal’s take on grime, and Brown himself has been able to bridge the gap with Grime Producer Darq E Freaker into newfound territory… Appropriate, given Danny’s oft-cited Grime influences.
So why then, does CAS seem to be getting less and less ‘grimy’ as time goes on? Will it really benefit us to lose one of the best talents in a ever fluctuating scene to the ratrace of tumblrwave and meme rappers?
Over the last year, all the various Spaceghostpurrp fans who were once impressed by the sonically captivating though braindead efforts of our young protagonist, have suffered the saga known as “Raider Klan”. What started as one young man’s carving of an identity in a new rap climate driven by personas, characters, crews and traditions devolved into a pretty lame parody of 90s rap cults, be they G-Funk, Memphis, or Wu-Tang performed by a bunch of teenagers aspiring for rap status with a rebellious attitude and a loathing of the current mainstream. The problem was, that for every person like a Robb Bank$ who could demonstrate hints of promise, you had lunkheaded bores like Amber London, Denzel Curry and so on getting nowhere in particular that their idol SGP didn’t already repeat again and again for several mixtapes.
Such is the case of Ethelwulf. Not only is he bearer of one of the least intimidating names in rap, but with a body type and voice that seems reminiscent of video game 90’s rap parody OG Loc (I can’t be the only one who’s noticed this), Ethelwulf’s actual Memphis-native status strikes me in the fact that he has never joined up with actual Memphis veterans like producer/rapper J-Green did, but went straight for internet success. What’s more remarkable is that while his other crew associates all have some backgrounds rapping with other former trends (London’s Hypebeast-era and Metro Zu’s initial forrays as a slightly less evolved Lil’ B/Odd Future/Outkast hybrid) to my knowledge, Ethelwulf was the only member of Raider Klan who ever attempted regular generic trap rap besides Purrp’s initial Muney Jordan forrays.
More interesting enough is Ethel. During the Memphis Nostalgiafest on the internet of the last few years, many people forgot that the ones who made it out of the foray of those murky tapes were usually the ones with their own identity, characteristics, SOME scraps of individuality. Were that not the case, Project Pat never would’ve made his way out of the miasmic sludge of boredom that was the Kaze LP (The whole Memphis thing is dead by now, right guys? We can stop pretending Tommy Wright III albums are good?).
Take Ethel’s hook on this song. His partner, Eddy Baker offers very little unique qualities from his dozens and dozens of Raider Klan peers. Double-timed chops a la Lord Infamous, anodyne pimping/gangster bars, lazy references to Three Six Mafia and Lil’ B, he could really be anyone. Especially with his muted and unenthusiastic performance… When out of the blue, comes the hysterical coyote yelps of young Ethelwulf. To be entirely honest, I am not even sure if it’s good, but to hear someone in Raider Klan not lifelessly obsessed with copying a lifeless copy of DJ Paul’s lost mumbles from 20 years ago is endearing! Plus, the fact that someone in the Klan managed to break out of the mold and utilize a dumbed-down Spice-1 flow, thereby completely abandoning the double-time chop muck making everyone around him turn into a blob of flashy raps…
It’s not my favorite song of the year, and I’m still ridiculously unsatisfied from the Raiders whenever they pop up in my world. But it’s a start for one of them, should he ever decide he WANTS to be more than a costume. It’s his call.
Most agonizing 4 hours of my life, probably. Might change a couple times over the next few days, never know.
As we proceed through 2012, it appears as if the Ca$h Out hysteria is one of those things that never was meant to be. Like it or not, his tape appears to have failed to provide another recognizable hit, his remix was not a serious event, but more of a capitalization opportunity for every bloodsucker in the industry. A shame too. Originally when he arrived, I considered him a derivative of Future, for people who didn’t like Future… But ‘lo and behold, I then remembered this gem.
"I Got It" is basically an excellent stunted ‘futuristic’ jam of Ca$h’s, also featuring the man with the worst name in rap, Young Thug. Thug and Ca$h are a very complimentary pair… trappers who specialize more in post-Futuristic swag-rap anthems, with both of them showing a penchant for hook writing. The big difference though is that Ca$h’s hooks are catchy in a sort of sing-a-long quality, has great adlibs, and zilch going on in his bars. Thugga, on the other hand, is ridiculously derivative of Lil’ Wayne in 2007-08, to the point you wonder if he still thinks Wayne is in jail. However, despite the constant modeling after Mr. Carter, he provides decent rapping, married to a penchant for startlingly weird autotuned crooning and yelping. A friend of mine once compared him to Future and Danny Brown and, well… IT ALMOST WORKS!
This gem, a 2010 banger, shows both Ca$h and Thug working to their best, sharing verses and hook duties with equal glee. Tragically, Ca$h appears to have “REMADE” this song by doing a new video where he lip-syncs to a half of the hook he does not sing (and involves him clearly calling out to Thug to finish it off), and replace Thug’s verse with another under-performing verse. More disappointingly, all collaborations the two may have done had one not done this appears to have ceased. A real shame, considering the chemistry these two ATL oddballs were demonstrating.