Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Rap! Styles!

I listened to some new rap for the first time since The State vs. Radric Davis dropped. Naturally the only rapper who could bring me back to rap is Styles P. Styles may never write a particularly clever line or come up with an interesting flow from now till the end of his career. But the guy just raps with a degree of integrity, sincerity, honesty, warmth, and heart that never fails to bring a smile to my face. No homo. I feel the same way about Styles some people feel about G-Side.* I can't think of any song from last decade that I enjoy more than 'Switch My Style,' 'Kill Dat Faggot,' 'Please Listen To My Mixtape,' this 'Where's My Homies' freestyle, or the infinitely quotable 'What Up.' Youtube commenters are the biggest idiots on the planet, but one surprisingly accurate index of a good song is when its youtube commenters just quote every amazing line of the song in their comments. Such is the case with 'What Up.' Nothing Styles says on 'What Up' is actually that special but he says it all with so much passion that it sounds like it is. I can't tell you how many cumulative hours of my life the last six or so years that 'Everybody wants Jesus to come/Well I can send you there, and all I need's my weed and my gun' or, 'And I might need a sedative/they said I'm cool and I, drop a lot of jewels but I'm too fucking negative' or 'And how foul could his karma be/Still smoke a lot, still in the hood, still move coke in large quantites', or 'Yeah, I'm respected and feared/Slice your neck and your ear/Then torture you the rest of the year/I'm from the school of hard knocks so the lessons is here' have run through my head. There's just a matter-of-factness to his presentation, like he's not bragging about his negativity and foul karma the way the rappers people compare him to would, like a Hell Rell or Uncle Murda or Sheek, but like he's just stating that he's an incredibly foul individual. There's also a kind of quasi-religiosity to Styles at his best; not only is he the hardest out, it's his mission, it's his credo. Sort of like Forest Whittaker in Ghost Dog.

Anyway, Styles and Green Lantern came out with a mixtape/album. It's called The Green Ghost Project and it's very good. Personally I prefer Styles over super-cheap beats and old 90s beats, he struggles with the album format - maybe even with the song format period, but since it's not really an album this is the closest thing we'll get to a great Styles album. (Maybe it's a tie with The Phantom Sessions. And Gangster and a Gentleman isn't bad.) No stupid Akon features, no Swizz Beats, no Ray J, no songs about the opposite sex. Some mistakes are made, such as the ridiculously lachrymose hook sung by one Dwayne Collins on 'Send A Kite' about how you should send Dwayne a kite when he's locked up, don't come to see him or send him money or expect collect calls to get placed by Dwayne, none of that. Just the kite. Styles being Styles triumphs over even Dwayne's crappy hook and turns the thing into a pretty successful song. (Prison raps, of course, are a Styles specialty.) There are a couple other mistakes, like failing to recognize that just because this is a hard no-compromises mixtape doesn't mean that we must hop in our time machine and try to bring crappy scratched hooks back. And I don't know if anything here is out and out classic, the way the cuts linked to above are. But there's plenty of fantastic stuff on the album. 'Pablo Doe,' a non-catatonic-Noreaga feature, sounds appropriately like a way more sinister version of 'Superthug.' 'Double Trouble' is the requisite neo-Bomb Squad banger, and it features Sheek, who does well with old-schoolish shit. More innovatively, 'Real Ghostly' is probably the closest we'll ever get to Styles rapping over Goblin (the famed late-70s Italian synthmeisters who did the soundtracks for Italian horror director Dario Argento's best movies). The rest doesn't quite lend itself to description, but Green Lantern, Alchemist, Scram Jones, Buckwild, and Dame Grease and co. do a solid job with the beats and Styles is Styles, consistently great.

Except Styles is actually a great rapper and the guys in G-Side need to go to rapping school/stop talking about the exciting time they were actually in a hotel in, like, a European country and rented a Hummer. And met a girl. Who was European. I understand coming from a certain background that stuff can be really exciting. Shit, I'm excited about being first in my class. Others here are excited about just being in the top half. But I/we are not writing songs about it. Maybe if they were actually great rappers, they could make that stuff sound exciting, the way Kool Keith could make a Saab with fog lights in the front sound really fucking special. Otherwise, however, it's just like listening to two dudes talk about their grocery list, and how hard they worked at their boring-ass job to afford the items on said grocery list. Actually, that would be way more interesting than actual G-Side. I grind hard for this butter! In all seriousness I liked their last album to an extent but they do have an excessively blue-collar problem.

1 comment:

MF said...

A Styles P acapellas over Goblin samples remix album would be amazing.

As a huge fan of cheap, generic southern gangsta rap it took me a while to warm to G-Side due to their rapping and their lack of any regional nuances which, say, Texas or Bay Area rappers have, but it was their average dudes gettin' excited at being introduced to exotic new shit for the first time steez which finally got me open to them : it's relatable so you can empathize with them to the point where you become part of their journey, and there's genuine delight in their voices when they rap about meeting white chix from Europe or getting a good review from Noz or flying to NYC or buying an L.V bag.

I think we're now at the point where the mystique has gone from the rap game, so I cringe at extreme ballin' talk from new rappers who clearly still live with their folks and have never been outside their own zipcode. G-Side work so far because they're average Joes findin' pleasure in the simplest of new experiences, who're building up to the future flagrant flamboyance, and because their 2 main flaws (their rapping and lack of regional vernacular) have been balanced out by stellar or really unique production and their ability to write some pretty great songs.