Okay everyone, settle down, I’m back with your favorite semi-regular hip-hop column. Featuring yours truly, talkin’ about hip-hop, from the bops to the flops. Meanwhile, groovy guest Raptor Jesus (who I have met in the flesh and is DEE-lightful) stops by to talk about a classic hip-hop album. It’s gonna be a good time, I swear. So drop that zero and get with the hero.
This week, we’re going in on rappers who have gone AWOL on us. Will we get an LP, or even a single, in 2018? Let’s find out!
Darkest Before Dawn: The Prelude was released in December 2015. It’s a solid album, but there was the pervading sense that it was merely an appetizer for King Push, the monster LP we were promised. But now it’s February 2018, and Pusha — the Virginia icon with the buttery flow and untouchable wordplay game — seems like he’s been distracted by a G.O.O.D. music presidency (whatever that entails) and a stupid controversy over the McDonalds “jingle.” Will the king retake the crown?
Odds of an Album in 2018: 2/1
The nomadic rapper is clearly annoyed with being asked about his elusive debut album, though how can he not expect frustration from hip-hop fans; His last solo single was the pretty-okay “Exhibit C” back in 2009. I mean, if Jay just disappeared or opened an Arby’s franchise or something, it would be easier to shrug. But he’s been around, popping up on Coloring Book and “Control” and showing us glimpses of what made him the talk of the down.
However, the guy is 41 years old and there doesn’t seem to be any urgency. Roc Nation probably forgot they even signed him.
Odds of an Album in 2018: As likely as the BlocFest 2018 going off without a hitch
Kanye is on this list because he had an eerily quiet 2017. He showed up on an underrated Mary J. Blige track, a Tyga song for some reason, and produced “BBO (Bad Bitches Only)” on Culture II (which has that distinctly Kanye swagger and is one of the album’s few essential tracks).
At the very least, Kanye will offer up a few singles in 2018, perhaps a la “Only One” or “All Day” (remember those lol). Maybe a sequel to Watch The Throne? Whatever we get, I highly doubt Mr. West stays quiet in 2018. But will he finish “Wolves”?
Odds of an Album in 2018: Same odds I move out of my parents’ basement
Andre was last heard making a brief appearance on Blonde, and sounded bummed by what’s happened to hip-hop since his OutKast days. Actually, the poor guy sounds bummed about a lot of things, as he explained in a recent GQ profile. It’s one reason why he moved to New York (Andre in New York … bizzaro world). It sounds like a solo album would be a lot to ask for right now. However, even though Andre is 42, I’ve no doubt he’s a got a classic solo LP swirling around in that big, beautiful brain of his.
Odds of an Album in 2018: Good god people, let’s give Andre some space. You’re all insatiable.
She’s raking it in as a feature artist, but goddamn, The Pinkprint was in 2014 (?!?!). There was that one-off single “No Frauds” in 2017, pretty damn good for a diss track in this day and age. Nicki’s still got plenty of game, and I have a strong suspicion we’re getting an album this year.
Odds of an Album in 2018: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
BOP OF THE WEEK:
YG – Suu Whoop
YG’s new single dispenses with that distinctly West Coast, DJ Mustard-core sound, and for YG, this counts as a risk. Thankfully, he pulls it off with total swagger and composure and comes up with a total banger. YG’s flow has less of of that raspy aggression, but he expands his range, speeds up his flow, completely owns this dark, trap-influenced beat from J Holt and … DJ Mustard?! I see someone else is expanding their sound.
THE CLASSIC CORNER: Raptor Jesus on Only Built 4 Cuban Lynx…
Thank you cooolin.
Originally I was going to use this space to praise Migos’ Culture as an instant classic. With the release of Culture II, it felt like an ideal time to overhype the success of last year’s instant classic. But I just seemingly did that pretty well in two sentences, which combined with the Migos sequel had me thinking about another sequel…
The main appeal of Migos to me is that they’re a package deal. You get three family members so in sync with each other that it takes a special type of chemistry for any other combination of rappers to challenge. But Migos aren’t without precedence. There have been many rap collectives that have identified themselves as a family (Diddy), dual rulers (The Throne, Run the Jewels) and most notably, a Clan.
So even though Migos have a very hyped sequel following up a very well-received album, I want to talk about a different instant classic that actually did get a classic sequel: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…
First off, this is not a Raekwon solo album. Even though he’s billed as a guest star, this is a Raekwon & Ghostface Killah album throughout. Hell, Ghostface even gets his own track on “Wisdom Body” that seemingly foreshadows his sweetheart style to women that he’d explore more thoroughly on his own proper solo albums.
But even that doesn’t really paint a vivid picture of the players involved on this authentic classic. Inspectah Deck & GZA (Genius) swing by to fire up Rae & Ghost by dropping verses on “Guillotine (Swordz)” right before the album ticks over to a remix of a song from The Wu-Tang Clan’s debut album. Later on Method Man brings his then-found fame to eternal album highlight “Ice Cream” combined with such an essential verse from Cappadonna he’s been an honorary Wu-Tang Clan member ever since. Add to the equation that RZA produced every last beat on this album and all of a sudden you have to wonder why this album wasn’t billed as The Wu-Tang Clan…
…until track number twelve hits. History was made when NaS became the first non-Wu-Tang Clan member to be on what I hope I just made crystal clear is basically a Wu-Tang Clan album. Why? You only have to listen to the first minute and twelve seconds of “Verbal Intercourse” to wonder how the fuck NaS ever fell off.
Still, even with all these elements at play, the beating heart of Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… is the chemistry between Raekwon & Ghostface Killah. Even though they aren’t actual DNA brothers, they are brothers in every other sense of the word (even by their own admission). The lion’s share of this album is Raekwon and Ghostface Killah knocking down killer beat after killer beat that RZA threw at them. Take “Criminology” that opens with a Scarface sound bite and a very pissed off Al Pacino. RZA matches the anger with an ominous beat that builds to a celebration that only feels deserved after Rae & Ghost come through sounding even more vicious than Al Pacino acting as cut throat as he could. It’s no wonder RZA had to let the beat ride as an instrumental for more than a minute just so those two could cool off.
Any other write-up you’ll read about Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… will include the word “mafioso rap” and of course the countless number of numerology references throughout all the lyrics (“I’ve seen it. Like a 27 inch Zenith, believe it.”). It’s important to note, as the consistent RZA production combined with Rae & Ghost’s dedication to sounding like king supreme mob bosses equals one hell of a world that still can make you look over your shoulder halfway through the second song. Even if they’re posturing at times, it’s so hard to tell because of the detail everybody involved in this project dedicated themselves to in order to make everything sound real.
I can’t be as pompous about the next topic as it needs to be detailed: cocaine. I wouldn’t be surprised if some people bought CD copies with cocaine in the wells of the jewel case. The sounds of Rae & Ghost sniffing before the album truly begins is heard and by the end of the second track Ghost proclaims, “Yo Rae, let’s celebrate and sniff an eighth.” They’re using it, they’re selling it, they’re killing over it and more than likely fueled this entire album creation.
So even though I love Migos and was very excited about Culture and Culture II, know I’m quite aware this is just me getting caught up in hype. These are fun albums of the moment and will likely be the best touchstones that will represent the entire trap genre in the future. But even I’ll admit that when you break them down, it’s only little pieces of greatness. When compared to something as titanic as Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… it becomes crystal clear that we’ve been underserved in the rap department when rap has never been more omnipotent. If anything, it’s taught me that we need to get rappers off of lean and back on cocaine.