Tag Archives: hip-hop

Review: Drake – Take Care

On the cover of Drake’s sophomore album Take Care, the musician sits forlorn amid the trappings of his success: solid gold ornaments, plush cloths and works of art. The heavy-handed metaphor isn’t lost, and it remains the dominant theme for the singer-slash-rapper. Take Care is nothing new for Drake. So while “jealousy is just love and hate at the same time,” as Drake raps on opener “Over My Dead Body,”  boredom is just monotony and tedium at the same time.

For fans of So Far Gone and Thank Me Later, Take Care does not disappoint. It’s another powerhouse hour of millennial hip hop and R&B: meditations on fame and happiness, the two rarely meeting. Production is top-notch; Noah “40” Shebib’s mellow bass and wistful orchestration provide a strong counterbalance to the punchy radio rap of tracks from Lex Luger, Just Blaze, and Boi-1da. Drake picks his spots to shine, dropping witty lines like “shout out to Asian girls / let the lights dim sum” and sounding fierce on “Under Ground Kings,” an epic 9th Wonder-produced tribute to UGK.

Most of the features are thoughtful and well placed. Verses from Rick Ross (“only fat nigga in the sauna with Jews” a totally Ross pronouncement on “Lord Knows”) and Nicki Minaj (her weird-out punchline rap the highlight of grimey Top 40 hit “Make Me Proud”) are scene-stealers, as always. “Crew Love,” his collaboration with protege The Weeknd, may fit better in the latter’s oeuvre with its blasts of dissonance and atmospherics, but it’s a high point for the OVOXO crew.

The highlight of the record, the title track, combines all of these elements. The beat is a reworked version of the Jamie XX and Gil Scott-Heron collaboration “I’ll Take Care of U.” Rihanna takes the place of the Godfather of Hip-Hop and slinks through the chorus, which lets Drake sound more urgent that someone for once. The ghost of Scott-Heron looms large throughout, especially during the breakdown.

Unfortunately, the last third of Take Care is mostly comprised of slow jams and wasted guest appearances. Don’t get too excited about Stevie Wonder’s credit on the mournful “Doing It Wrong:” the soul legend only shows up as a harmonica player. Similarly, “The Real Her” is another syrupy slow jam of which Andre 3000’s verse is highlight by default, if only because fans are forced to grasp at the table scraps he deigns to share these days.

Take Care‘s Cash Money connection comes from an unexpected source, since Lil’ Wayne’s verses, both on “The Real Her” and “HYFR (Hell Ya Fuckin’ Right),” are mostly forgettable and feel tacked-on. Instead, Drake saves it for last, in his brilliant flip of what is arguably Cash Money’s most important song, Juvenile’s 1999 breakthrough Back That Azz Up. On “Practice,” Mr. Graham takes that unmistakable synth melody and chorus for a smooth ass ride through the 504.

On the spaced-out street single “Marvin’s Room,” Drake raps (or rather drunk dials) that “I’ve had sex 4 times this week / I’ll explain / Having a hard time adjusting to fame.” It’s a smart line, but it’s also something we’ve heard before, seemingly ever since he burst on the scene two years ago with So Far Gone. Drake doesn’t need to find happiness in his fame – he just needs something new to talk about.

Mixtape Monday: Wale / Big K.R.I.T. / Danny Brown

Within one week, hip hop fans were inundated with brand new mixtapes from three underground talents. Each tape represents a challenge to the prevailing wisdom about their careers, past, present and future. Wale, despite signing with Maybach Music Group, is still rehabbing his career after his major label misstep Attention: Deficit. Big K.R.I.T. is coming off one of the year’s strongest mixtapes, Return of 4Eva, and expectations couldn’t be higher. And Detroit’s underground sensation Danny Brown released his latest effort on Fool’s Gold for free, blurring the already hazy album vs. mixtape distinction. So, how do the releases match up with expectations?

WaleThe Eleven One Eleven Theory

Despite a definite identity crisis, Wale’s latest presents at least three of his personalities in their best lights. Wale has always been at his best over beats drawn from soul and go-go, and while “Fuck You” might not have Cee-lo on the hook, it finds Wale as excited as ever; the same is true for soul-clapper “Lace Frontin.'” Always somewhat of a head scratcher, his Maybach affiliation appears in orchestral MPC romps like “ChainMusic” and “Bait.”

There are a few too many R&B/rap hybrids for my taste, but bonus track “That Way” is a summer slow jam for the ages. Wale’s sports fanaticism fuels “Pick Six,” “Varsity Blues,” and his take on “BMF,” “Barry Sanders,” while his Jay-Z fixation (“I be feelin’ like H.O.V.A. / when y’all was sleeping on him”) closes the tape. A bit of an outlier, “Ocean Drive” takes Wale from the go go to the dance hall and capitalizes on DC’s tropical trends. Overall, The Eleven One Eleven Theory suggests that Wale is re-energized and ready for this fall’s Ambition; now we just need to see which Wale will show up in November.

Big K.R.I.T.Last King 2 (God’s Machine)

Return of 4Eva was a love song to the golden age of Southern hip hop; those expecting a sequel will be sorely disappointed. Last King 2 is just another mixtape, plagued by the hallmarks of the genre. The lyrical territory is a little too familiar (pimps and hos, grippin’ wood grain, on the corner, etc.) and the beats are a little too paint-by-number. For the most part, neither is handled with the finesse shown on Return of 4Eva.

Guest stars (too many to list here) dominate the tape, so while you get verses from southern legends Bun B, Pimp C, and Slim Thug, K.R.I.T. seems like an afterthought throughout the unfocused proceedings. Still, you could do worse for BBQ / driving music, and this feels like an odds-and-ends appetizer for the main course, next month’s Live from the Underground.

Danny BrownXXX

This is outsider hip hop at its finest. Danny Brown has a polarizing flow that is urgent, manic and a bit off-putting. But with his hipster affectations, tales of drug dealing/abuse, and laugh out loud punchline raps, his talent in undeniable. The production is just as weird as Brown himself, somewhere between Lil B’s based beats and Odd Future’s spooky stalkers.

While it’s occasionally pornographic (“make Sarah Palin deep throat ’til she hiccup”) the title of XXX is a reference to 30, Brown’s age. He’s been hustling (rap and otherwise) for some time now, reportedly getting passed over by 50 Cent because of his skinny jeans. Whatever the reason, this iconoclastic rapper’s moment is now: a grown-up version of Lil B, Odd Future, and Kreayshawn for the WTF generation.

Download: Wale – The Eleven One Eleven Theory
Download: Big K.R.I.T. – Last King 2
Download: Danny Brown – XXX

DC Duos: Starks and Nacey

For a few years, the best place to catch a DJ set in DC wasn’t a warehouse club like Fur, or a posh K Street joint, or one of the dozen Adams Morgan joints promising cheap drinks and cheaper women. It was at the far end of U Street, on the upstairs dance floor of DC9, on a stage graced by underground rock bands during the week, behind a well-worn loveseat of unknown origin.

While the club still hosts its open bar, indie-dance party Liberation, its highpoint as a dance club was when first Saturdays belonged to KIDS and last Saturdays belonged to Nouveau Riche. Whether it was throwback jams at KIDS or the anything-goes atmosphere of Nouveau Riche, there was a constant: Starks and Nacey.

Steve Starks (né Bock) and Nacey (aka Andrew Wallace) grew up in the nearby bedroom community of Columbia, MD. Friends since high school, they returned to DC area after college. At that point, Starks had DJed at the University of Maryland, College Park and Nacey had massaged a handful of hip-hop tracks under the moniker Enaisee, but things didn’t come together until they joined up with party starter Gavin Holland for Nouveau Riche in 2006.

And while Starks and Nacey are some of the most skilled DJs in a city with more selectors than partiers, their true talent – and what portends best for continued success – is behind the boards. Their shared palette draws heavily from classic funk breaks, Baltimore club, and Southern hip-hop, all with plenty of bass. But as a painter uses the same colors to paint both a sunrise and a sunset, Starks and Nacey have each carved out their own signature sounds.

2009 saw the release of their self-released, self-titled EP. A true crate digger, Nacey’s samples ranged from the Emotions on the funky “Lose Your Love” to “International Player’s Anthem” on the gun-cocking “Money on the Dressa.” For his part, Starks ranged from grooving electro (“Don’t Let Me Go”) to pure Bmore (“You Don’t Want None”). The duo’s first official EP, last year’s TRO/Lydia (T&A Records), featured Starks experimenting with new sounds: big room electro on “TRO” and Latin house on “Lydia.”

Since then, Starks’ productions have continued further down the club tech rabbit hole. “Git Em” (also on T&A) has more bass than most dubstep tracks and a Baltimore beat like a blast from Omar’s shotgun; its EP mate “Witness” is the perfect track for when those late Saturday nights turn into Sunday mornings.

The finest moment in Nacey’s young career came with his remix of La Roux’s “Bulletproof.” With the mournful violin of Matt Hemerlein, Nacey’s remix is stark and dramatic, lovelorn in a way the original fails to be. One of DC’s secret weapons was unveiled to the world, as the track led off the Major Lazor / La Roux collaboration Lazerproof.

Nacey’s remixes, whether a subtle refix or a complete makeover, are organic extensions of the original, never du jour stylings. As with “Bulletproof,” he’s given new life to M.I.A.’s “Steppin’ Up,” re-purposing Maya’s vocal for a smooth bass jam that ignores the original’s industrial noise machine. He even did the unthinkable – remixing an Outkast track! – and infused “SpottieOttieDopaliscious” into warm, funky house. Yet the remix that I always return to is his Miami bass take on Paper Route Gangsterz’ “Hood Celebrity.”

[wpaudio url=”https://postcultural.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/Paper_Route_Gangsterz-Hood_Celebrity_Nacey_in_Miami_Remix.mp3″ text=”Paper Route Gangsterz – Hood Celebrity (Nacey in Miami Remix)” dl=1]

Despite all their collaboration, Starks and Nacey are rarely credited together. While they’ve remixed tunes by Rampage & Nader and Old Money, their best official team-up combines their deep house leanings with their love of the Dirty South. The rhythm on “The Flip” and its “I’m known for the flip of that cocaína” lyric make this one addictive.


Starks and Nacey would have lost their DC DJ memberships if they didn’t touch the city’s finest export, moombahton. In keeping with their own styles, Nacey flipped A Tribe Called Quest into 108 G-funk on “Doin’ It.” Meanwhile, Starks’ “Get Fr33ky in tha Club” is a drum-heavy moombahton anthem, and headlines his upcoming moombahton EP.

Starks is also busy preparing his next EP for T&A, which promises to pick up where “Git Em” left off, if “Problem” is any indication. Only Steve Starks can take a Cardigans sample and craft something so fierce.


Nacey’s next musical endeavor is a bit of a departure for someone who has built his name spinning hip-hop, club, and electro for eager club kids. He’s currently putting the final touches on an EP with DC vocalist Misun. The singer has the soulful, smokey voice of Adele (without the histrionics), and as he’s done with those remixes of La Roux and M.I.A., Nacey’s instrumentals key in on a song’s essence and never let it go. The recently released “July” is a bouncy summer jam, updating funky disco hallmarks without falling into pastiche.


Drinking at DC9 is still a lot of fun, but dancing there isn’t quite the same. After two years, KIDS ended this summer. Last April, Nouveau Riche took the next logical step and moved down the street, where the crew turns U Street Music Hall into a rave every second Saturday. The location may change, but Starks and Nacey are sure to be there, rocking the party.

Starks and Nacey headline a Moombahton Massive pregame at the Looking Glass on Wednesday. Next up at U Hall: Nacey joins Craze on August 20, Steve Starks plays a very special set on September 8 and the Nouveau Riche gang does it all again on September 10.

BONUS: Nacey’s remix of Kingdom’s latest “Take Me” just dropped, and it’s a killer. With a beat somewhere between club and house, Naomi Allen’s vocals slink over a “Show Me Love”-esque bassline. And watch out for those strings!

S-X drops Swagged Out Grime on the "5000 Followers EP"

Love him or hate him, Lex Luger is running the hip-hop beat game right now. Sure, his Fruity Loops tend towards the repetitive, but you can’t argue with facts: “Hard in da Paint,” “B.M.F.” “H.A.M.” and “Grove St. Party” have dominated hip-hop playlists for a reason – and the dude’s only 20!

Looking for the next Lex Luger? Cast your eyes to the UK, where rising grime producer S-X has been the man behind some of the most hyped tracks in recent memory. His “Woooo Riddim,” “Bricks,” and “100 Bags” instrumentals have backed grime freestyles from heavyweights Blacks, P-Money, and Dot Rotten, among others. And while he might not have Luger’s chart positions, the young Sam Gumbley literally just turned 19.

To commemorate his 5,000 Twitter follower (as he did at the 3,000 mark), S-X dropped the 5000 Followers EP for free. Over nine tracks, S-X presents trunk rattlers that owe as much to Girl Unit as they do to Luger. While the tracks are formulaic – S-X combines orchestral strings, rat-a-tat hi-hats and a deep low-end every time – they’re never boring. His synth lines go from trancey and melodic on “Mask” to towering and brutal on “G Shock.”

Along with revised versions of “Bricks” and “100 Bags,” S-X also includes mellow grooves with “Ambience,” “Expensive Talk” and “Guidance.” The best bet for grime freestyles, however, is the very vogue “Swag Bitch Swag.” With beats like these, S-X better ready a 50,000 Followers EP.

Mixtape Monday: Kreayshawn / James Drake / Dev79


Kreayshawn X The Bay

This 20-minute tape by El Paso’s Nato Vato Taco mashes the Based Goddess‘ tracks with classic Bay Area beats and verses by the likes of E-40, C-Bo, Luniz, Mac Dre, Dru Down, C.I.N, IMP, and Potna Deuce. The result is equal parts hazy and hyphy, a reprieve from constant replays of “Bumpin’ Bumpin'” and “Gucci Gucci” (the latter of which has been pulled off YouTube for a mysterious Terms of Service violation). At the very least, it will help you with your Kreayshawn fix until Mishka/Clan Destine release Murdered in Memphis (teaser below).



Bombé & Mr. Caribbean – James Drake Mixtape

Another mash-up mixtape, this time blending the music of James Blake and Drake. While not relevant since at least The Grey Album, creations like this capture the zeitgeist like a firefly in a bottle: fleeting, but fun while it lasts. Exploitative? Sure, but the common ground between the two artists puts a new spin on old favorites. Blake’s R&B influence lends itself to Drake’s lazy boy rapping, and DJs Bombé and Mr. Caribbean dig deep into Blake’s catalog for some understated combinations.



Dev79 presents Street Bass Bootlegs

Here’s another angle on rhythm and bass: grimey, street bass remixes of radio rap songs. Everyone from Wacka Flocka to Gucci Mane to Daddy Yankee gets the hood-step treatment. Highlights include BD1982’s remix of Aaliyah’s “If Your Girl Only Knew” and the 6blocc edit of the Rye Rye / Starkey collab “VHS Go.” I’m increasingly weary of anything resembly dubstep remixes, but Philadelphia’s Dev79 has the low end under control; check out his take on the Travis Porter hit “Make It Rain.”


Download: Kreayshawn X The Bay
Download: Bombé & Mr. Caribbean – James Drake Mixtape
Download: Dev79 presents Street Bass Bootlegs

The Verge: Kreayshawn and the White Girl Mob

This will teach me to plant the flag early on an intriguing artist. Here’s someone I’ve been trying to write about for a while, but couldn’t fully wrap my head around. Now she’s starting to catch some Internet buzz, so I might as well give my (belated) two cents.

I first heard of Kreayshawn late last year, when I came across her video for “Bumpin Bumpin.” Who was this ghetto fabulous white girl from Oakland?

Kreayshawn is a multimedia artist, very much in the style of 2011: she raps, DJs, directs and edits music videos, and even makes NSFW pixel art. In LA by way of East Oakland, Kreayshawn is part of the swagged out, post-hyphy based movement spearheaded by Lil B and the Pack. She has even directed and edited some of Lil B’s most viral video hits, including “Like a Martian.”

On Kittys X Choppas, Kreayshawn won’t blow anyone away with her lyricisim or flow. But in the based world (or that of Odd Future, for that matter), that’s not the point. This is about stripping it down to the irreverent essence of hip hop. This is grimy party rap about drug-induced insanity (“High,” a freestyle over Salem’s “Whenusleep”) and unapologetic violence (“They Wanna Kill Me,” “Killin Hoes”).

In comparison, associate V-Nasty makes Kreayshawn look tame. While “Free Earl” has become an esoteric battle cry, “Free V-Nasty” is far more concrete: V-Nasty was recently released from Alameda County Santa Rita Jail. As expected, she’s raw, violent and lives up to her name on her Don’t Bite Just Taste mixtape. She’s also a freestyler in the vein of Lil B, dropping ad-libs and punchlines with reckless abandon.

Rounding out the White Girl Mob with Kreayshawn and V-Nasty is DJ Lil Debbie, another based artist with a diversified portfolio. Check out the crew’s latest release, the video for Kreayshawn’s “Gucci Gucci” (and watch for a cameo by Odd Future’s Left Brain). On “Gucci Gucci,” she’s actually made strides as a rapper; I can’t get over the hilarious simplicity of “Bitch you ain’t no Barbie / I see you work at Arby’s / Number two, supersized / Hurry up I’m starving.”

Odd Future and Lil B are re-writing the book on hip hop. Kreayshawn and the White Girl Mob might get their own chapter.

Download: Kreayshawn – Kittys x Choppas
Download: V-Nasty – Don’t Bite Just Taste

Album Review: Tyler, the Creator – Goblin

If Odd Future has taken over the world, Tyler, the Creator is the evil mastermind. Hip-hop needs provocateurs – NWA, Kool Keith, Eminem – polarizing artists that both shock and entertain. Tyler and Odd Future are the next in this line, set apart from their peers by their barely legal ages, Internet-age productivity and Wu Tang-like devotion to their brand.

Goblin is the collective’s first proper album, released on trendspotters XL. Continuing his conversation with his fictional/internal psychiatrist, as on Bastard, Tyler opens with a nearly seven-minute title track, a spoken-word diatribe about the downside of his meteoric rise (“I don’t even skate anymore, I’m too fucking busy.”). This isn’t new territory – see Kanye, Drake, Childish Gambino, etc. – but like those artists, Tyler has a well-developed image and style.

The Odd Future movement revolves around self-gratification, not breaking new ground. Tyler’s closest comparison is Eminem, with his odes to sexual violence, suicidal fantasies, and parental disappointment. Like Eminem, he reiterates the obvious to his critics: his lyrics are fictional, going as far to call out “white America” (the target of the first song on The Eminem Show). Tyler even adopts his cadence at times.

Tyler is all about contrasts and juxtapositions, reveling in dualities. Admonishing the listener one moment for taking him too seriously, and then grabbing them by the throat and forcing them to recognize him the next. First self-confident at his accomplishments in the last six months, and then suicidal over his existential, self-esteem issues. “Tron Cat” includes jazzy, la-la-la breaks: momentary respites from grimy negativity like “rape a pregnant bitch and tell my friends I had a threesome.”

Posse cuts present contrasts, as well. The swagged-out “Bitch Suck Dick” has the bombastic production of a Soulja Boy track, while “Window” is clouded and syrupy – a barely-there beat that lets the storytelling do the heavy lifting. Advance single “Sandwitches” gets a spit-shine and a proper release; the Odd Future anthem pairs Tyler with Hodgy Beats. The duo returns on “Analog,” one of Tyler’s smoothest songs yet. Companion pieces “She” and “Her” are Tyler’s unique attempts at ballads: nakedly confessional tales of high school love and loss. “She” features crooner and break-out candidate Frank Ocean, who shines, as usual.

Tyler is the first to admit that he isn’t the best rapper. His flow is lazy and repetitive at times, and he’s obsessed with the same topics. These are largely products of his age. Behind the boards, he already has developed a trademark sound: queasy, horror movie boom bap. His greatest pressure to improve will probably come from within Odd Future: standout track “Transylvania” is the only produced by someone else: Left Brain.

Goblin is a fine sequel to Bastard. Musically, they go hand-in-hand. Lyrically, Tyler’s work is informed by the last year and a half, as he joins his fame-challenged peers. No doubt, the album is uneven. But Goblin is another testament to Odd Future as the most exciting and vital artists of their generation. Bastard announced Tyler to the world. Goblin ensures that this is just the beginning.