Written by David Turner (@dalatudalatu)
The obvious term is “Ratchet & B.” That’s what Jeff Weiss coined talking about TeeFlii early last year, when his mix of YG raunch and The-Dream’s slyness sounded a bit more unique if not wholly original. A year later: TeeFlii is on a major label, Ty$ got his own Top 40 hit and the minimalist Cali sound that seemed so limited before has found its way across the country. History is usually not too kind to forced genre names—reveals “Witch House” tattoo—but “Ratchet & B” feel right for these strip club, sex obsessed tunes that beg for summer sun after this polar-vortexed winter.
“2 AM (Young California Remix)” – Adrian Marcel (feat. Problem & Sage the Gemini): Problem and Sage the Gemini are two guys whose careers could easily subsist on R&B singles and being those “California Ratchet Guys.” Not that they haven’t created excellent music on their own, but their respective personas only need 16 bars to shine. This “2 AM” remix from the young singer Adrian Marcel proves this fact, because while I’ve been told that Marcel is one to lookout for, the late-night minimalism here fits effortless rapping far too well. And, I’ll admit this might just be myself, but there is a very “Chill Out” vibe to “2 AM” that almost hints at Owl City, which a place I never thought I’d desire R&B to approach.
“2 On” – Tinashe (feat. Schoolboy Q): To keep chucking up 2s, here is Tinashe’s “2 On” with a sadly leaned out Schoolboy Q. But no amount of mediocre rapping can hold back this immaculate single. DJ Mustard’s production and Tinashe’s suave recall less Cassie’s “Me & U,” but one of Diddy’s late 2000s singles which had a sonic tinge of one too many shots of Ciroc. But, Tinashe isn’t dealing with love lost, she’s faded with her clique on a mission and DJ Mustard and Schoolboy Q are just buzzed along for the ride.
“24 Hours” – TeeFlii (feat. 2 Chainz): The good and bad column for TeeFlii is pretty even. On the Pro-side is that hooks practically form from him just saying any phrase; on the Negative-side is that he leans on repeating certain words (“Annie”) to a point of obnoxious meaninglessness. “24 Hours” leans on his strength, where nearly every line could be its own hook and it doesn’t hurt DJ Mustard’s beat is only a side-step away from his biggest 2014 hit “Show Me.” And just in case future radio listeners want to be even more confused by this potential hit, 2 Chainz verse regurgitates a number of lines from previous songs. Ratchets don’t need originality.
“Do It To Ya” – YG (feat. TeeFlii): The way that 2010s rap has started to cannibalize its own history could be a cause for concern for the genre that traditionally treats history as an unwanted used napkin but that isn’t the case here. DJ Mustard swiping The Dogg Pound’s “Let’s Play House,” reduces down the song to just a few piano chord and snaps to distinguish it from the suave of the original. And while TeeFlii might have the unfortunate task of repeating “do it to ya,” YG even on his major label debut remains a going down first kind of nigga. *praying hands emoji*
“Drop It” – Trevor Jackson (feat. B.o.B.): This is probably the least “R&B” song on this list and honestly fits closer to the more party oriented Ratchet songs I discussed a couple months ago. “Drop It” doesn’t have the personality of “Paranoid,” the fucking perfect sample of “Show Me,” or even the star-studdedness—Chris Brown and Lil Wayne—of “Loyal,” B.o.B. doesn’t count. But, Trevor Jackson, again could there be a less star-ready name, has an effective song though not thrilling song that unfortunately cannot keep up with its sonic brethren on the radio right now.
“Na Na” – Trey Songz: There are a number of sonic tics that give away a DJ Mustard song. The “Ha” chants, the drums, the way that the subject matter seems to be invoking a strip club no matter the artist. Not that Trey Songz hasn’t relished a kind of Post-R. Kelly kind of sleaze (see: every time attempts to rap), it’s just that with a Mustard beat everything gets an intentional, or maybe not, layer of grime. The song isn’t a great Mustard or Songz single, but it’s an interesting show of form in just how malleable a singer and a producer can be for a specific sonic moment.
“Or Nah” – Ty$ (feat. Wiz Khalifa & DJ Mustard): Ty$ already has a one Top 40 single with the insta-classic “Paranoid.” “Or Nah” doesn’t have the immediate narrative conceit that makes “Paranoid” so repeatable even after one knows “that having two bitches in the club” cannot be a good idea. Instead the song leans on the other strength of Ty$ as a songwriter is that he understands how is voice can linger to string out a song’s hook. The song takes on a smoked-out conversation where our narrator is either talking to a woman, or maybe just himself, once he asks a question like “you gonna make these eggs cheesy or nah?”
“Slide Through” – Rayven Justice: First off shout to site owner and untouchable random regional hit finder, David Drake with mentioning this over at Complex last week. Somewhere between an YG mixtape deep cut and John Hart’s “Who Booty,” this song again shows the kind of amped up bro-ness of these “Ratchet & B” songs. A hook that interpolates C-Murder’s “My Niggas,” which has become an almost foundational text for this current rap generation, and a silk smooth beat makes this worth every listen after the first two dozen.
“$nitches” – Lupe Fiasco (feat. Ty$): Lupe Fiasco at one point rapped on a major label rap album from the perspective of a hamburger. Though Fiasco has been a strong rapper for over a decade and his sneaky ear for pop hooks, which he and others would likely deny, has been lose recently with him too caught up in his own #twitterdeep thoughts. “$nitches” isn’t a Rashomon like tale of black love instead it’s a 5pm three drinks deep convo amongst the bros talking shit and scheming about the opposite sex. Uplifting or conscious-minded this isn’t. Enjoy the Cali weed, a cold Lime-a-rita while relaxing with those closest to ya.