I ♥ Tuesdays Vol. 4

November 2011 has been a good month for white people in the rap game: ghostly bangers from pasty producer Clams Casino provided some of the finer moments on ASAP Rocky’s LiveLoveA$AP tape, work behind the boards by 40 was one of the lone bright spots on Take Care, DJ 2Hands proudly accepted his (self)appointment as the driver of the Anti-Drake bandwagon, and just last week, Mac Miller’s Blue Slide Park became the first independent hip-hop record to grab the top spot on the Billboard 200 since Bone Thugs-N-Harmony in ‘97(!), moving 150K units in the process.  Now, in the fourth Tuesday of the month, we get a pair of releases from two of the finest pigment-deficient emcees in form of Yelawolf’s Radioactive and Action Bronson’s Well-Done, a collaboration LP with Caucasian beatmaker Statik Selektah.  Frankly, it’s an impressive stretch that almost makes up for letting Kreayshawn and her people get their collective foot in the door.

A lot has changed since a 25-year-old Micheal Atha first appeared on Missy Elliot’s reality talent show The Road to Stardom back in 2005.  Successfully navigating the course from reality TV castoff to legitimate market entity has proved extremely difficult within a genre where success has long been predicated on credibility. Remember John Brown?  If you answered no, you’re not alone.  But by putting out a series of highly-acclaimed mixtapes and unoffical albums over the past three years, Yelawolf has somehow weathered the storm, and after linking up with the Shady/Interscope team earlier this year has positioned himself to make everyone forget about early missteps with Radioactive, his debut studio record.  Even with Jimmy I and Slim in his corner, Catfish Billy continued to lean heavily on in-house production from WillPower and struggled to find a single that generated enough buzz to warrant an album release.  That led to a series of delays that pushed the album back by more than a month, but it appears that the team believes they have found the aforementioned buzz-worthy single in “Let’s Roll” with Kid Rock, and the record will finally hit shelves Tuesday.

Though various rumors have circulated regarding production and collaborations forRadioactive, the final tracklist is rather pedestrian.  The album contains a few sleeper bangers, namely the brilliantly sampled “Get Away” alongside Mystikal and Shawty Fat and the laidback “Good Girl” featuring Lupe Fiasco associate Poo Bear, but just as many tracks that border on unforgivably bad (see: “Write Your Name” with Mona Mona.)  While listening to the complete 15-track set, there are overwhelming indications that there was too much tampering with Yela’s original recipe, and what results is a bit bland.  Tracks such as the dubstep-infused “Animal” feel forced, and who the fuck had the idea to bring the black Avril LavigneFefe Dobson back from the dead on this one?  The shit is a far cry from the dark, pain-soaked Trunk Musik that garnered Yela a substantial fanbase during his come-up. Don’t let The Source’s 4.5 mic rating fool you, Radioactive falls victim to an all-too-common trend of underground-bred artists changing up their formula in order to put smiles on the faces (and ultimately dollars in the pockets) of major label executives.

Fortunately for us, Action Bronson has thus far been able to avoid the clutches of the major label iron first. After dropping a pair of unheralded projects in 2010, Bronsolinio has made quite a name for himself since releasing Dr. Lecter in March, arguably putting in enough work since then to be in the running for 2011’s Rookie of the Year title (and miles above competition in the Best Facial Hair category). He is one of the artists at the forefront of what has recently been labeled the revival of New York hip-hop, and inevitable comparisons to Big Apple legends pay complement to Bronson’s skill on the mic. Though his formal training as a chef (no Raekwon) and unabashed appreciation for fine cheeses and wine make Bronson a bit of an anomaly in today’s landscape, his emcee styling is a familiar yet refreshing concoction: mix equal parts Ghostface and Pun, add a pinch of DOOM-like references, and get a dish as definitively New York as big-slice pizza. Serve hot or cold; it’s always delicious.

Linking up with veteran Beantown beatmaker Statik Selektah proves to be a palatable move for Bronson on Well-Done. Coming off of the underwhelming Lord Giveth, Lord Taketh Away joint EP with Freddie Gibbs, Statik was clearly searching for an emcee that sounded more at home over his throwback production, and here on Well-Done, the combination works to near perfection. It’s an album so consistent that it’s difficult to point out highlight jams and even tougher to find a weak spot. Tracks like “Central Booking” and “The Rainmaker” easily evoke memories of New York’s min-nineties Golden Age, yet never come off stale. The record’s lone street single “Not Enough Words” finds Statik getting nifty with a humming sample chopped from a 1972 Addeisi Brothers joint. In the interest of transparency, the only issue I really have with the project – and it’s under extreme nitpicking – is “Terror Death Camp,” a collaboration with some of the less-than-impressive emcees from Action’s camp. It’s not a bad offering by any means, but I’d prefer to hear two more verses from Bronsolinio over what amounts to a generic posse track. Front to back, Well-Done provides provocative lyricism and rugged production from two of hip-hop’s undeniable throwbacks. Coming on the heels ofLiveLoveA$AP, I’m starting to get on-board with this so-called Big Apple revival after all.

Nice job, fellow white people. We’ve come a long way in this game.

On other fronts, Ludacris set free his latest mixtape, 1.21 Gigawatts: Back to the First Time, last week. With features from heavyweights like Flocka, Gucci, Ross, and Wiz plus production from K.R.I.T., Juicy J, and Drumma Boy, Luda reminds us to keep in discussion for the currently-vacant King of the South throne. Bonus points for the /history lesson/bitchslap of Big Sean and Drizzy on “Baddaboom;”“Counterfeit rappers say I’m stealing they flows, but I can’t steal what you never made up, bitch.” This mixtape is way rawer than most cats studio LPs. Well done, Mr. Bridges. On top of that, we get the Mad Gibbs EP, a collaborative effort from Stones Throw senator Madlib and The Windy City’s wickedest, Freddie Gibbs. This one was somehow a secret to me until early this morning, and to no surprise, it knocks. Gansta Gibbs sounds right at home over The Beat Konducta’s hazy strings, and the addition of some vaulted Loop Digga instrumentals is always welcome. Also filling space on shelves will be records from Kidz in the HallKrazie Bone, andDoomtree. Me? I’m saving the bandwidth for Friday. That’s when Mobb Deep reunite for the Black Cocaine EP, the group’s first effort since Sickle Cell P came up out the clink this past summer.

I’m hoping to see many of you out at Micasa this Saturday when Vicar, Charles, Leo, Ooh, Bear, and Serp shut shit down for Get ‘Em High. If you’re reading this, I’m positive there is nowhere you’d rather be. Peep game. Until then, Los Blastos, ya’ll.

Originally published Novermber 22 at theblast-blog.com.


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