Open Mike Eagle & Paul White – Hella Personal Film Festival
Behind Chance the Rapper’s Colouring Book, this is the second friendliest hip-hop album of 2016, which basically means this is one of the friendliest hip-hop albums ever. Actually, this is the inverse of Danny Brown’s Atrocity Exhibition released later that year, which I’m bringing up in comparison because Paul White produced the majority of that one, and both make movement out of track times clocking under the 3-minute mark (the obvious influence is Madvillainy). With Atrocity Exhibition, the result was tumbling down hedonistic staircases and/or stumbling through dark hallways. This one’s sound isn’t so aggressive, mostly relying on samples that sound like they came from 70s’ soul records: the indelible choruses of “Admitting the Endorphin Addiction”; the bass in the choruses of “Insecurity”; the whistled hook of the one with the long title. (Which also means that the songs on Brown’s album are more distinct, maybe because Brown has a few other producers, maybe because Brown hires a few other voices and most likely because Brown is a more eclectic listener – he’s the sort to namedrop Radiohead and Love in interviews and name his album after a Joy Division song, which marks the second time in recent memory that a high-profile hip-hop artist has referenced that band, hmm.) And Open Mike Eagle isn’t aggressive either, especially in comparison to Danny Brown: the reason why the opener works so well is because he blends perfectly into the Quincy Jones sample. Put it this way: he might not have Danny Brown’s bark or bite, but he sure is relatable (Danny Brown isn’t, nor should he be): he satires the reliance on cell-phones (“Check to Check”), he rejects hypocrisy as a language (“Smiling (Quirky Race Doc)”) and would rather everyone speak a little more sincerely (“Insecurity”), but in the meantime will make do pretending he’s invincible (“Dang Is Invincible”). The best moment, on “I Went Outside Today”: “I checked what Lena Dunham said and I SHOULDN’T HAVE!!!” (Which I just looked up on Genius after guessing it was in reference to what Dunham said about her baby sister…nailed it…)
Travi$ Scott – Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight
Not nearly beautiful, dark, twisted or fantastical enough – I mean, just look at the fucking cover – but at least he tried; no one else has (basically). And in addition to the required persona, he has the connections to attempt it: verses from Andre 3000 (hiccuping uncontrollably in the empty spaces to haunting effect) and Kendrick Lamar (playing around with phonetically similar words at the start and then inflecting his voice appropriately to the throes of sexual fantasy) elevates both “the ends” (with James Blake!?) and “goosebumps” respectively. (The latter of which, has the hook of the year; witness the hyped live version.) Elsewhere, Quavo singing the title’s words the way he does over the purple molecule moving around in “pick up the phone” and dF’s absurdly catchy beat in “guidance” are both highlights; ditto the melodic surprises within “sdp interlude” and “wonderful” (regardless of stuff like “Work it like a stripper, yeah / But you not a stripper, yeah”). It’s a music critic’s cliche to say things like “it feels like a Nav track featuring Travis instead of the other way around” but that’s exactly how I feel about “beibs in the trap”; Travis Scott has a way of making nonsense sound great (“Strike me, indict me / Sniper, swiper”) whereas Nav just sounds like a more nasally Weeknd. Elsewhere, “first take” has only a few ideas in its 5-minute run-time, but all those ideas are worth hearing at least once (those ideas: the “Lady Godiva’s Operation”-like interjections in the choruses, Travis Scott’s entrance afterwards, and the segue to “pick up the phone”). My friend popped this and JEFFREY at a house party last Saturday and I realized how much I liked both: sometimes incrediblyvivid night-time music. Good for parties too. Or in my recent case, small gatherings of friends at someone’s house with booze involved.
Desiigner – New English
Clearly cobbled together judging from the lazy songwriting, so here’s a sentence: “by the numbers” beats and “sounds like Future” verses are both back-handed compliments that this mixtape doesn’t deserve; reminds me of Drake’s Views where the best thing about the package is the one that we’ve been friends with for a long time (a song that could have been shorter, though creating as many pseudo rhymes as he does by disguising his voice for the song’s hook was quite commendable).