First of the Month: All the Rap You Need to Hear From April

On May 2nd 2016

by Paul Thompson

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No matter how much you liked Tony M in 1991, Prince’s catalog doesn’t fall under the purview of this column. But if the world were a better place, we would be eulogizing him for the next ten months anyway, so here:

And in the spirit of Prince, allow me to hate on something without qualifiers or hesitation:

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Drake, Views(Young Money / Cash Money):

Drake’s music isn’t bad because it’s shallow, or self-obsessed, or pandering; it’s bad because it’s all those things while masquerading as something deeper. Viewsis the Apple spokesman’s second collection of focus group-tested Instagram captions in as many years. You’ve heard the singles: “One Dance”; “Controlla,” sans Popcaan’s excellent guest turn from the single version; and “Pop Style,” where Drake lifts his flow wholesale from Kodak Black’s repertoire. Kanye West’s guest verse on that song is also excised, either because it included two lines from Tidal owner Jay Z or because Drake is worried Ye and Rihanna share screenshots of his text messages.

But there’s more: He waters down Ha-Sizzle’s “Rode That Dick Like a Soldier” and turns it into a song about women who have the audacity to buy tampons. (He hides his Bugatti key from her, then feels awkward when she finds it; the next line is, “Mama was a saint, yeah she raised me real good.”) “U With Me” samples two DMX songs, then opens, “On some DMX shit, I group DM my exes,” which is absolutely not “DMX shit” in any way, shape or form. Ray J’s “One Wish” deserves better than “This year for Christmas, I just want apologies” or “Since Take CareI’ve been care taking” or “Master bedroom’s where we get it popping/ Just ignore all the skeletons in my closet.”

Maybe Drake got insecure about the ghostwriting revelations and tackled most of this thing himself. Maybe he just has poor taste in whatever PartyNextDoor cooks up while Majid Jordan try to start a fire with a piece of wood and their “Hold On, We’re Going Home” plaque. However this 82 minutes (no, really, 82 minutes) of Aubrey made it to the world, it’s packed with more groaners than any of his work to this point. And not just in the vein of “Chaining Tatum” or the Chrysler 300 metaphor from the opening track, where we’re supposed to think Drake is a wild and crazy guy who loves memes and being viral; lots of this writing is hopelessly clunky in ways that can’t be salvaged.

None of this is to mention how gross it is when he says “You got something that belongs to me/ Your body language says it all/ Despite the things you said to me,” or when he lifts a Pimp C verse for “Faithful.” If Pimp thought Jay was too corny to collaborate with, imagine him consenting to be on a song that goes, “Get all your affairs in order/ I won’t have affairs, I’m yours, girl.”

40’s Mary J. Blige flip on “Weston Road Flows” is masterful for how it weaves the vocal sample through the verses; “Summers Over Interlude” is welcome respite; “Controlla” still works wonderfully with a Beenie Man riff. But Viewsnever gains momentum because its too-big-to-fail star keeps trying to make Taco Bell sauce-packet aphorisms sound profound. “Hotline Bling” is a bonus track in case you forgot what it sounds like.


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Elucid, Save Yourself(Backwoodz):

Elucid is what would happen if you dropped a Dungeon Family member in Queens in the mid-‘90s and told him he had to rap for food. The veteran—one half of Armand Hammer with billy woods—crafted Save Yourselfslowly and carefully, and the results are often staggering. Take the eighty-second “No Such Thing,” which flits frantically between a director’s eye for detail and a paranoid internal life. “Cold Again” highlights his singular voice. The record is also a master class in pacing, with languid stretches that snap to attention at exactly the right moment.


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Boosie Badazz & C-Murder, Penitentiary Chances(TRU / RBC):

Penitentiary Chancesis a political act. Not just the end result, but the process of recording itself: Boosie and C-Murder became close when they bunked adjacent to one another on death row at Angola, the most notorious federal prison in America. When I talked to Boosie earlier this year, he told me that C-Murder—whose own legal odyssey should continue with a new round of appeals—taught him to be positive. “When you smile, that hurts people more than you cursing them out,” the one-time No Limit star apparently said. There isn’t much smiling on the joint LP, but there’s plenty of menace.


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DJ Quik & Problem, Rosecrans(Diamond Lane / Blake):

DJ Quik attributes some of his success and longevity to the fact that unlike many of his peers, he made it a point to avoid cocaine, even during his early-‘90s heyday. That’s probably good advice for almost everybody, but Quik was being modest: it doesn’t hurt that he was the greatest producer Compton’s ever seen. This past month, he teamed up with Problem for the six-song RosecransEP. The younger artist nominally shares production duties, but the funk is unmistakable, and tailor-made for the dog days ahead. “Straight to the City With It” sounds like a cookout that morphs into a vampire movie and back again before midnight.


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J. Dilla, The Diary(Mass Appeal / PayJay):

Unlike most of the vulture-ish posthumous releases squeezed out of the vaults of departed artists—including Dilla, to be sure—The Diaryexisted as a finished thought in its creator’s mind. Re-assembled through years of meticulous work by his longtime friend Egon, among other collaborators,The Diarywas supposed to serve as Dilla’s MCA debut. In hindsight, it’s clear why most of the songs were shelved: most of Dilla’s trademark work behind the boards was abandoned in favor of outside help or glossier retreads, and the Detroit native still left something to be desired in the booth. Still, The Diaryis a fascinating window into the process of one of the greatest producers to ever live.

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