So, after buying some rap cds, I suddenly got it into my head that maybe my problem is I’m trying to pay for my music. It’s a lot better to get it for free these days, anyway.

And look who’s giving away the most free shit to people these days: Freddie Gibbs and ASAP Rocky. Freddie has been hooking up those with bandwidth since 2009 saw his first major label deal fell through for unexplained reasons.

Most artists would take this as an opportunity to release music they’ve had to hold back. Terius Nash released an uncomfortably despairing breakup electro R&B album in a similar situation, and indeed, is still releasing, for free, online [ all while the label’s main website still advertises his “new” release Love King as gigantically “in stores”].

When Freddie Gibbs is left without any editorial guidance, what does he do? well, he makes a passionate single, National Anthem (Fuck the World), which is superb, really. It’s that kind of gangsta rap that makes you feel like the world wronged the lyricist sobeautifully that the only proper appreciation is solemn devotion.

One slab of blues gangsta shit.

And after he raps “keep thugging it” thirty times at the end of the song, he then turned in plenty of uncreative songs on that single’s ep, and started working on this mixtape, continuing to imitate the teem plate of that song, occasionally bragging instead of begging for sympathy, all to diminishing effect. He’s gotten more money, and more fame, so he spends tome telling you that he’s “keeping it gangsta”, and then, as an almost remembered mumble ending an ad-lib, “nigga”. Count how many times it happens on his latest mixture, Cold Day in Hell. You wont be bored.

Maybe the reason he has to talk about keeping it gangsta so much is he’s not sure if he really is.

I mean, okay, taken as a narrative from the villain’s point of view, “Rob Me a Nigga” works the best at menacing you and making you relate to a professional thief. But the way that his voices rises in a little glee during the chorus, that’s spooky, performed gangsta shit, and about the only moment on the album that doesn’t just prettily complete rhyme schemes. And, let’s be honest, does Freddie Gibbs really need to resort to petty crime to have enough money to pay for his drugs, as his song suggests?

The worst part is, even then, on his best lyrical moment, he can’t refrain from repeating the title many times until it loses meaning and fades into his poorly performed, obviously and lazily looped sample audio source for the chorus. Just like animations need lots of frames, sample based music needs lots of sounds. And, even better, some thematic variety. Somebody should tell Freddie Gibbs that profanity is not a renewable resource, and soon. Before people start singing along to this shit.

This is the point in a review where someone would mention the exceptions that somewhat redeem the album. There are none. It is a mixture of wannabe club bangers too late for the 90s and too early for the (inevitable) moment of gangsta rap nostalgia.

No one will be able to do gangsta rap nostalgia better than Outkast. Sorry, but they actively contributed to its downfall while perfecting it. No better nostalgist could exist. They love it not as a reality, but as an idea and a style.

Which seems to be the same place Freddie is coming from. He doesn’t actually need to rap about hating the police because no one will listen to him, he hasn’t actually had to comment on any beef yet. So, he’s just a reminder of gangsta rap’s style.

And I wish he was as creative about his death threats and boasts as Random Axe. All he does is better perform more fluffy syllables between the beats.

I wish that I could say more about it. He’s obsessed with keeping it gangsta and keeps his stories vague and stripped of detail. I mean, he definitely has an awareness of his own style, and can perfectly fit into the texture of a song pleasantly, something Random Axe can’t do on their best, most smoked-out day.  But this just feels so empty. Here’s an artists who finally had the freedom to say whatever he wanted to. And it’s about keeping it nonspecifically gangsta.

Whatever even happened to even keeping it real?

Anyway, onto the latest obsession of the rap internet: ASAP Rocky. I’m mostly convinced that this is all a scheme by the internet to just test how strong their influence is. Can they make or break an artist, one just versatile enough to appeal to many different styles of rap while developing nothing lyrically except another well performed line about swag. I mean, he can hit the Bone thugs double time rhythms well enough,

but so can Justin Vernon.

(turn the video to 4:20ish. Trust me. His vocals are a lot more intelligible on the studio recording)

Regardless, pitchfork gave that album a 6.5!!!

Not to specifically bash a site (although it is fun to bash the p4k), there really seems to be operating on a double standard here: when rappers can change into a new rap style well, it gets reward, and specific mention. When indie singers do the same, it gets ignored.

And, even worse, when they rap about making a perfect bed for their and lost but reunited lover’s bed together, instead of get-geting his dick-licked, it’s hard not to point out how new some of the emperor’s clothes are. Especially when the next exact song has the same line and get-getting it mid verse in an otherwise uncreative verse.

The best thing I can say about the album is that it has the highest quality of production I have ever heard on a free mixture. The synthetic sounds are so articulate that you can hear the complex algorithms processing the sounds in and out of your ears. The beats are almost always a breath of fresh air. A breath that unfortunately drags to almost four minutes every time with little variation.

I’m sorry, maybe I’d be less bitter about this, but the source of his fame comes from a quickly released free mixture and an announcement that he signed a record deal. In an interview soon after, Rocky discloses that he pocketed three million for the deal.

So this album is much more than just a free mixtape. It constantly asks the question: “And this guy got a record deal three mil?” And, try as I have (and I did try. I devour rap like I devour comic books. Slowly, deliberately, and thoroughly. Often in private), there is only one answer to the question that I can see, and another one that I can hear: he’s pretty and has good taste in producers. He’s not even the mixture king that has already had a hit self produced single (see Freddie Gibbs), he’s just some ridiculously guy that sounds like the best rapper you’d run into during a small, local hip hop fest. He doesn’t even have heart or a locality (which may be the one reason a major label wants him: he won’t only be popular in Houston like Bun B, because he never really reps for a home town. I’m not sure he really reps for anything except himself.

Honestly, the last thing rap music needs to be is pretty and well arranged, and those feel like the sole ambitions of ASAP Rocky’s beats.

Well, those may be the stylistic ambitions of the album. There are other lyrical ones (although he really wants you to call him “that pretty muthafucka”). As proved by Freddie Gibbs, and oppositely proved by Random Axe and Grieves, when artists make their music for free instead of make it for a record company, they tend to just brag. I never thought I’d say it, but serfdom seems to have its advantages: otherwise, people turn themselves into billboards instead of villages.

next: maybe I’ll talk about some rap I love, before I get in any beef pot pies (although, honestly, bring it, A$AP, bring it Freddie. I got verses for days). I’d have included more of Rocky’s music, but it’s available on the internet for free, easily. You don’t need me to find it, and, honestly, I’d rather you didn’t.

ps terries nash’ 1977 is the secret recommended album of this blog post.

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