The Art of Killin Shit

Written by David Turner (@dalatudalatu)

A singular voice can carry a rapper a long way. Pimp C’s snarl, Lil Wayne’s alien crooks and right now attention should be on Casino’s rocket launcher vocal booms. Best known for being the brother of Future, Casino’s Frank Matthews tape shows style triumphing over the intellectual piddle known as substance. Where the dearth of compelling lyrical content that exists in trap rap can be mind-numbingly repetitive after a while, once a rapper figures out a way to unique to approaching the genre treadmill they can almost say anything in the mic and hold a listener’s attention.

Casino’s voice does more than simply project out; at his most amped (“Right Now”) one can hear the depth of his vocal chords vibration. Though he might be shouting, he isn’t barking into the mic like a DMX or even a Waka Flocka Flame, his aggroed approach out doesn’t sound quite so put on. On “Pocket Watching” where Future deliveries one of his most unhinged out performances since last year’s “Sh!t,” Casino breaks up syllables of words to get them fit in a particular staccato rhyming scheme that even makes a chant of “Turn Up” sound ready to break a pair of headphones’ internal wiring.

Though Waka Flocka Flame hasn’t stopped releasing mixtapes since his last lukewarmly received album, Triple F for Life, Frank Matthews is the best continuation of that Lex Luger and Waka Flocka sound since Flockaveli. But the more time spent with Frank Matthews makes it so apparent just how strong a pairing of Waka and Lex were back in 09/10. Casino gets fine beats from 808 Mafia and other post-Luger and Southside on the Track producers, yet Casino still hasn’t found a producer, who’d push that next step creatively.

The opening of the tape until “Killin Shit,” produced by Malik on the Beat, gives an impression of it being just bo-swinging anthems but then Young Thug’s squawks appear on “Communication” to interrupt that run. Thugger Thugger puts in a good hook and verse, and the rest of the tape has some other high energy moment (“Hell You Talking Bout”), but one cannot help but wonder if Casino only got to work with a beat maker that’d keep him at the tape’s opening intensity. Though that Neo-Crunk style has progressed since the top of the decade—Thanks Mike Will!—Casino sounds like he was put in the spotlight a year too late to continue the form Waka Flocka was perfecting.

Link: Frank Matthews


Written by Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy (@danielmondon)

Nothing should be fascinating about Future’s “Move That Dope”: it’s a gathering of the adored but overexposed (and Casino), produced by the adored but overexposed Mike Will Made It and given a boilerplate title. It slithered out with little certainty of its final destination and an abundance of questions in its trail: Will this even end up on Honest? How many incarnations has the album gone through? Does Casino’s throat not hurt from yelling like that all the time? Yet it’s a fascinating song and as a posse cut a bonafide moment of high class thievery on the part of Pharrell.

Future’s professional relationship with Mike Will must give him top dibs, as the Dungeon Fam representative was offered a stunner here: a distorted and desiccated Mob music elastic bass accompanied by that unearthly Mike Will low-end. As always, Future knows how to occupy the track, but it’s rarely evident on his unfiltered verse. He’s nimbly rapping in triplets, hopscotching over each bar, yet there’s no push to experiment with his voice as per usual. The resurgence of the triplet flow in Atlanta rap seems like a particularly post-Future move, so here is the anomaly of the week: Future doing a post-Future style. But on the hook, he’s black magic: Salt N Pepa routines floating from ear to ear, given malicious intent—a sexualized purr turned into a villainous mantra, like a snake possessed to deliver biblical wrath. Meanwhile, Pusha (on otherwise standard huff’n’puff duty) unsteadily cackles creating the audio equivalent of the eyeless My Name is My Name cover.

And still, Pharrell runs off with the entire track. Back in the mid-Noughties, people derided his appearances on Re-Up Gang mixtapes, dismissed the bougie-turnup of In My Mind and thus formed the consensus that Pharrell was a bad rapper. But Pharrell was never a bad rapper! Sure he jarred on the gulliest of Re-Up tracks, but that was more to do with his eccentric delivery and word selection. He was the odd one out amongst those hungry punch-line rappers by dropping impromptu Das EFX tributes and shaking his head ruefully at “carving” a man alive: “That’s fucked up, that shit gets to me.” Elsewhere, he evoked chinchillas in the heat of battle, ostrich trainers, treated life like blue magazines off the top shelf, “Willy Wonka décor” and out-weirded Wayne on a series of unreleased mixtape tracks while shape-shifting into a Native Tongues Juvenile. Like a lot of things Pharrell did in the middle of the previous decade, it was odd and a little ahead of its time. (I guarantee you, if In My Mind never existed and some New Jack rapped “baby born baby dies it’s clear as Peru” we would be losing our minds.)

He gets the third verse on “Move That Dope” and runs through the damn thing shifting gears from clearly enunciated to slurring and from clipped vocals to loosey-goosey elongations. It’s lyrical metamorphosis, the verse equivalent to Pusha and Future’s weirdo horror-house noises on the hook. And he drops a barrage of weirdo wordplay with great élan, amusingly arrogant in rejecting the song’s villainous thread as he damn well pleases: “all these drones!” “gee, nigga,” “Gandalf hat,” “all that war we need to let that go,” “twenty girls doin’ yoga naked” and most appropriately “ol’ Skateboard P / that’s the one you been missin’.”

Been Around Mike Will’s World


Written by David Turner (@dalatudalatu)

One day a band is gonna name their band “Miley’s Tongue,” for the way that single muscle caused a disproportionately high amount of mainstream scrutiny and ire. Ignoring the “PUSSY MONEY WEED” persona swiped from Rihanna, so much of Cyrus rebellion can be found in her tongue. A physical middle finger that cannot be censored no matter what it might provoke in the public. The sonic master that gave Miley this new musical foundation to craft this persona was Mike Will Made It. A person whose persona never sees a need to stick his tongue out, or really stick out in any way, except that he holds the Pop and Rap worlds in his palms.

His late 2013 mixtape, #MikeWillBeenTrill isn’t a victory lap of success or even a preview of his future, as much as an introduction to the Atlanta producer’s disparate musical sides. The tape features: Country-Mike Will (“My Darlin”), Post-Linkin-Park-Mike Will (“Where You Go”), Three-Six-Mike Will (“Be A G”) and even Windows-Down-Block-Beating-Mike Will with “Shit Megamix” and “Fork.” There is a kind of warble and stutter that permeates and would allow one to know the guy behind “No Lie” did “Be a G,” but the tape proudly enjoys its lack of uniformity.

About a third into the tape, he takes a trip back to his old days working with Gucci Mane on “East Atlanta 6.” Beyond Gucci’s brilliant sense of humor there is little show of talent that has vaulted Mike Will to the top of the rap world. The Atlanta producers working with Gucci at that time all had diverse styles whether it was the OG trap of Shawty Redd, the post-Mannie Fresh electronics of Zaytoven, the WTFness of DJ Speedy or even the lumber of a Drumma Boy. Mike Will back then wasn’t quite there.

Pharrell, who also shined in 2013, with “Blurred Lines,” “Happy” or “Feds Watching” were all tracks that held within the range of his lone solo album, In My Mind, or even late 90s/early 2000s work in the Neptunes. Despite the idea of coming back, Pharrell didn’t comeback, as much as the Pop world came back around to his singular sound. #MikeWillBeenTrill shows that as a producer Mike Will hasn’t congealed down into a Pharrell-like overall sound. That lack of precision increases the dynamism of the tape, as the sonic palette of songs leaps from one extreme to the next.  Future’s solemn “Wolf” transitions to the abrasive Trap shit of “Fork” showing Mike Will as a producer whose beats mold around particular artists rather exist singularly as factory line produced units.

At one point last summer, Mike Will tweeted about releasing a solo project called #FuckVerses, which thankfully has not yet materialized. His beats aren’t malleable or interesting enough to stand alone, like an Araabmuzik or Clams Casino. 2 Chainz’s booming voice builds up “Where You Been,” and the weary of “Against All Odds” cannot translate without Future’s sorrowed croon. And the same way “Wake Up No Make” by Ciara and “We Can’t Stop” by Miley, were originally Rihanna tracks following “Pour It Up,” Mike Will’s original tracks for the artists, Ciara’s “Body Party” and Miley’s “My Darlin,” play more to their musical strengths rather than forcing out their best Rihanna impressions.

That artist awareness is what makes “Shit Megamix” worth multiple listens despite its 12 minute length. The original “Sh!t” was a classic lurching Post-Luger beat with Future doing his best post-rap howling, but Mike Will morphed the track into a classic 90s Three-Six track for Drake and Juicy J, and retooled it again into an early 2000s Crunk track for the Atlanta All-Star remix that included Pastor Troy. It’s a really music nerd remix of a song with a hook that throws out variations of “Nigga you ain’t pop shit” ad infinitum. That might be why Mike Will doesn’t, yet, sit with a singular sound, a-la The Neptunes or Timbaland, he’s still a sound synthesizer and figuring out what to distill.

Drunker Den a Fool

Stuey Rock – Drunker Den a Fool / Shinin

The melodic ATL pop style is still one of the most critical slept-on strains of rap music, from your Roscoe Dash’s to your Yung LA‘s. But my favorite in this category 2011 was the Stuey Rock / Future split EP FDU & Free Bandz, which was my first introduction to “Tony Montana.”

For the past 1.5 years I was working an incredibly stressful job that required a commute to the outer burbs to make cold calls all day. Fridays became celebrations, where my roomate Micah and I would drink too much whiskey & soda and bounce around the kitchen while blasting rap music and practicing rapper hands. In the wake of Flockaveli, this tradition reached new levels of personal importance; I’m not sure if there is a more therapeutic end to a hectic work week than shouting “Live by the gun, die by the gun,” but I do know my neighbors loved us.

FDU & Free Bandz joined the tradition; Micah’s favorite track was “Tony Montana,” which he proceeded to listen to approx 400 times per week. Whether dressing up for a date, coding (Micah is a software engineer) at his laptop or hitting the shower in a bath towel, he was blasting “Tony Montana” from a set of earbuds turned so loud that it was audible throughout the apartment. That shit was a hit in our apartment even before the streets were feeling it.

I think a split EP is about all the Future I can put up with at a time, and I’ve never been convinced his particular gifts (gift?) has transcended FDU & Free Bandz. But the guy who really got slept on was Stuey Rock, whose “Drunker Den a Fool” was my favorite whiskey-and-soda-in-the-kitchen-Friday-after-work music since Flockaveli. It’s a pretty key accomplishment for a dude who, as far as I was concerned, otherwise had only “Nymphomaniac” to his name, even if it was one of the best of the post-“Drifter” jook anthems.