Thursday, May 1, 2014

gotta be bumpin City of Bompton

this piece about the new wave of South Central L.A. rap  (Y.G., Ty Dolla $ign, Schoolboy Q, DJ Mustard  - ratchet)  asks "Why does West Coast hip hop sound so similar two decades later?"

lyrically it is the same old shit, more or less, this is true - indeed Y.G. actually says "Gangsta rap ain’t as bad as ratchet", suggesting that it's the same old shit, only worse. And this would seem to reinforce the argument made by writer Courtney E. Smith of social stasis underlying the music.

musically, though, it's not the same sound at all, I don't think  - ratchet / the DJ Mustard sound doesn't really resemble G-funk much

indeed of all the stuff currently being made, this sound -- pumped out locally by Power FM, roughly equivalent to Hot in NYC, i.e. that commercial / street zone in rap 'n' R&B -- is what I'm most excited by these days

there’s definitely something new or different or taken-bit-further about this sound, but it is quite hard to put a finger on it what it is exactly.  

i sent some for the trusted ears of Matt Ingram the Mighty Woebot to evaluate and he pinpointed a certain drugginess, a suspended quality to it

there is also a hyper-real, 3D contoured gloss to the production -- digi-maximalist, except the music itself is minimal in construction, so you get this killer combination of spare and sumptuous --  the music suffuses the interior of your car and (if you're driving at night) makes you feel like you're inside this futuristically glowing capsule. (Certain Chris Brown tracks have the same effect, odious creep that he is).

“Gas Pedal”  (actually from the Bay Area, described as post-hyphy by some, but played to death in LA) is the supreme example of this, so potent it creates a nocturnal effect even on the brightest of days. 

Kendrick Lamarr is the high-end, refined end of this sound spectrum, and I guess Y.G.'s My Crazy Life is getting critical appreciation, but overall I've been struck by how little this sound seems to figure in the hip hop cognoscenti's annual lists.  I guess with most of it there's not much element of MC lyricism. The rappers come up with good lines but it’s all about the hooks. 


Vaguely related:  NYT's Jon Caramanica writes about the context in which "narcotized dreamer" Future has risen to become "the Platonic ideal of the modern rising hip-hop star, providing his own melodies, and using software to sandpaper off any rough edges". He argues that  "The rise of Future coincides neatly with the almost complete removal of vocal aggression from mainstream hip-hop. The radio teems with tension-free voices, with almost no rasp or bite to them — the slurry mumbles of French Montana, the inward-looking semi-spoken-word of Kendrick Lamar, the catatonic boredom of Wiz Khalifa, the utter neutrality of Kid Ink. Lil Wayne is more given to croaks than barks, Jay Z is the sound of interest-accruing bank accounts and Kanye West sounds petulant but never harsh. And there’s Drake, of course — the genre’s reigning king, and its chief defanger" -- 

True. Yet sexual malevolence still seems to survive, albeit sedate(d)ly.

So where did that feral, up-from-below energy go?  Languid decadence and enervated empty-inside ennui as the aspirational post-Drake template, the reigning stylisation of success?  Or is it just down to drugs?


Tim space debris said...

Sonically Mustard be more along the lines of Memphis rap circa 93-95 only not as lo-fi, I reckon. Having said that there are new feelings and atmospheres as well. Schoolboy Q's Studio is the sonic equivalent of mixing alcohol and painkillers whilst taking a warm bath.

CliftonSantiagoTeleVasquez said...

All the 'primalness' actually comes from post-Weeknd school. A lot of R&B takes his more mean-spirited takes on Drake's egomania and now uses this as a sort of ego-boost while thrashing through the drug murk. So TY$ and his subsequent song for Chris Brown "Loyal" reflect a sort of uncoupling from R&B heroism into full-blown misogyny.