2006 belongs to Papa Reu

OK maybe not but this album is great!

Global warming is my shit; its like 50+ degrees in Chicago in January, which is a serious what-the-fuck but it means semi-spring, which is perfect for Papa Reu’s warm weather thump. Dropping next week, the not-quite-smooth carribeanized vox behind “Tight Whips” awesome hook is not yr sister’s Akon. His rapping is serviceable and workmanlike but usually personal and sounds honest; the key though is his pop ear, his croon, the ragga-inflected twinge that I love about all American pseudo-carribean pop, but it’s definitely a rap release – “we’re gonna keep it a little gangsta… a little ragga ragga…” The best of the best:

Street’s Calling feat. Curren$y
Sub-Timbaland bongo double-time thump over dark-textured synths, Barrington Levy-daubed hook, asserting stick-up kid attitude, murrrrderrah bloody murrrrderah. ooh WHOA-Oh-oh. Streets’ anthem.

Mr. Goodbye
Oh and HERE is where the clouds part and the sun cuts through the cold. Bright, faintly warm sparkling cool-breeze production and Reu is Mr. Goodbye, loving and leaving, vocal hook cutting in and out a la “Oh Boy,” breezy February pop a la “No Better Love,” and Reu refuses to settle down – “I’m in and I’m out the door.” Because sometimes you just know that you don’t have anything else in mind, there is no future in that room, tugging the blankets away from her to keep warm until finally throwing them off, taking a swig of listerine spit in the sink, and he’s gone, a fresh start.

Hold On feat. YZ
Yes, that YZ!

Classic sub-Poor Righteous Teachers shows up for the CONSCIOUS REGGAE TRACK except its totally hip-hop with smooth strings and horns, real talk about AIDS and drugs and poverty and telling people to hold on – to maintain, because “they don’t care how we live up in the ghetto” – key chorus lyric.

Ridin’ Old School
I rewound this like 15 times on my way from work the other day, bouncing a little two step waiting for the EL, puffy jacket unzipped to let the cool breeze in, free from the climate-controlled recycled air and cardboard dust, fixing my hat brim to keep it straight ahead, saucony’s (Papa Reu is wearing wing tips but then he’s not taking public transportation) tapping the worn wooden platform. “You ever spend $5,000 on some shit…and when you get thru with it, its worth 80, 90, 100,000 fucking dollars?!” Smooth keyboard bounce with that smooth croon: what H-town album would be complete without a tribute to cars, and one that sounds like love rather than a laundry list of puns about how the trunk pops!

He’s All That I Want
Big bright horns, weird wacka wacka noise, and then hook girl Zoe singing about how her man is all that she wants, but he’s running the streets. If you like Akon hooks but not Akon songs this might be the album for you – existential hustler turmoil about love, the thematic flip to “Mr. Goodbye.”

Highway feat. Boo
Oh shit story time – uh so this sounds like Ak’s “Outta State” with, like, that weird sound from Daft Punk’s “Around the World”?! “There’s only one way and it’s gonna be the highway…no plane no train, I prefer it in the rain…” ever since 9/11 fucked up the airport smuggle.

Life & Music feat. Cazual
“Seventy-five alive is when I came out.” Personal where-I’m-from cut: shy kid at parties with cute small funk stabs in the chorus, talks about building from singing hooks to songs, and this is of course the key: dude isn’t just a solid rapper, but a good songwriter. I donno who does the beats on this but the hooks are all Reu, the concepts, the songs, and the production could easily have been misused and abused. Reu’s “Thug Hall” is obv a gimmick-‘genre’ (really the only song that sounds like that is the uptempo regga-ish “Twist Your Cap” which is cool but not really a highlight) but his real ‘genre’ is rap, and what that means is that he can cannibalize other shit at will – R&B crooning, pop atmosphere/hooks, dancehall inflections and language, Houston culture; he’s even successful stretching out into introspective shit – “My Dog” about his best friend is so heartfelt-sounding, croaking sub-Scarface about strong bonds and loyalty. First great rap album of ’06.

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