There’s something to be said here about the nature of hip-hop & how its essence is the contrast of rhythmic vocals over music, that this has a visceral appeal. Attempts by rappers to avert that, that stop trying to sound cool & get other ideas (sometimes but not always singing, sometimes but not always rapping “in a technically proficient way,” sometimes but not always imitating another rapper, etc.) defuses the key tension that made hip-hop so immediate to me as a kid, that sense of contrast, but anyway this kid gets it better than I do so I’ll let him explain.

New York is Back, no ASAP

Fred The Godson ft Diddy, Meek Mill and Cory Gunz – Gettin Money Part 2

I don’t know if Fred the Godson made Spin’s list of the 50 best rap mixtapes of 2011, but I’ve been told that Meek Mill inexplicably did not. So I’m going to assume that, as the anti-ASAP Rocky and a non-Alabama resident, Fred was similarly denied the honor. Not that I think Fred is a great artist yet, per se, although his latest tape has some nice moments. Sometimes when he speaks really intensely about serious subjects it feels a little silly and unconvincing, which is only appealing when the rapper is Yelawolf and even then only when he’s being really intense and serious about partying. But Fred is a skilled rapper, certainly, and if he didn’t take himself seriously he wouldn’t be nearly as charming; therin lies a paradox. Plus I just like the guy, and he’s brought back the ’80s film soundtrack production style in a way the rap world hasn’t seen since the golden age of the Nighthawks Cage & Camu.

But Fred isn’t why New York is back, he’s just the inspiration for my failed attempt to kickstart his career amongst media types / parody the tumblr trend-hunting media circle jerk.

Credit Rick Ross, maybe, for shoving the sound over the East Coast bias-hump, but the real surprise of NY2011 was New York rappers’ sudden interest in nationally-relevant, radio-ready production, thanks to the expanding influence of the McLex Luger beat. “Gettin Money pt. 2” stands with the best Brick Squad tracks of the year, titanic drums and spinning buzzsaw synthesizers and some hot verses from Fred & Meek. Even the most monotone NYer vocal style sounded atypically perfect over, for example, “2050”:

A-Mafia – 2050

That said, while it’s been entertaining to watch NY emerge from its ignore-the-charts slumber, I’d like to see some more circa-’00 mixtape beats like “Shine On” return to hip-hop’s bag of tricks:

Duke da God feat. A-Mafia – Shine On

PS: King Louie and YP are performing at Subterranean in Wicker Park on Tuesday November 22nd. That’s tomorrow, or if you’re just reading this on the 22nd, tonight. This is gonna be a chance to catch dude in a smaller venue on the North Side before he blows up. Take advantage.

Joe Blow – You Should Be Paying Me

Far be it from me to malign non-Mac Miller misogyny on a rap blog, but there’s something stunning about how pristine and epic the production is on this track vs. the lyrics’ complete & total lack of empathy, their denial of women’s humanity. Not like we were expecting any less from Dru Down — who crafted an amazing hook, incidently — but I think a Jacka guest verse could have at least added some inner turmoil or conflicted-ness to the proceedings, transforming this from one of the best beats/hooks of the year to one of the year’s best songs. As it is, I have to treat it like the rap music version of The-Dream’s “Fancy,” a record-setting distillation of the kind of dissociation required from music fans. cf also that “Pumped Up Kicks” rock song that got critics all uncomfortable earlier this year, when they began to suspect thoughtful twee rock might be as susceptible to questionable perspectives as rap music.

I think the main problem is that the beat generates such enthusiastic awe; at least with other pimp tracks they’re more concerned with sounding fresh, or badass, rather than being driven by emotive power. The key moment is the line “I don’t feel her at all,” while the track is all about overwhelming feeling. How can you feel overwhelmed by the emotional power of being completely calloused towards feelings? This should be a track about how Jacka regrets blasting someone, or a Miss Mary type track personifying weed as a woman, but it just doesn’t work when it’s about how many hoes Young Lox has, at least w/out being grounded by some psychological realism or consequences. The music undercuts their words by trying to give nonchalance a giddy, celebratory undercurrent.

If I had a b**** like me then I would try to trap her too

Since The Martorialist recently showed some love to somanyshrimp fav King Louie, I thought I’d mention that one of my favorite things about his posts — something I’ve only noticed J-Zone really talk about — has been his emphasis on one of the important & often-forgotten aspects of rap music’s appeal to me as a young one: frank talk about sex & other forbidden / confusing aspects of adulthood.

As a kid/teen, you’re always grasping at context, because the world often seems like a confusing place, so I think one of hip-hop’s most visceral and attractive features is its blatant honesty and disdain for decorum. In that spirit, I present to the world a song better than any released this past Monday — and yes, that includes ASAP Rocky, for fucks sake — with Bo Deal’s “Safe Sex.”

Produced by Don Lee Exlusivez, the beat makes 50 Cent’s “P.I.M.P.” seem soft as baby powder but retains its tropical flavor. This gives Bo Deal’s Chicago Code 2 tape a sense of needed diversity — always an issue on Brick Squad releases. The track is a next-level gender reversal of the cliche “I Luh Her“-type joints that find dudes ducking fatherhood.

DaVinci – Paying for My Past feat. Tenille video

The easy highlight from DaVinci’s record from earlier this year, “Paying for My Past” was the best example of the improvement in DaVinci’s production team. I wrote about his album for Pitchfork here, and interviewed him for this site here. He’s not the world’s most exciting rapper but I think there’s something to be said for consistency — and the sound of this record is pretty singular.