Rap’s changed, they wanna know how I feel about it…
Dr. Dre’s line off “Still D.R.E” has impacted me more recently as I look at rap nowadays. It may be selective memory, but it seems that true “gangsta rap” has been lost in the modern rapper. In the 80’s and 90’s we had had true rhymes about the ‘hood and the terrors that come along with poverty, drug culture and general mistrust of authority (many times with very good reason), but lately with the mainstream explosion of hip-hop and, by association, rap, the really “gangsta” feel to rap has been lost. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, all genres of music evolve with the times. Rock music needed the power ballad era so that everyone could realize how awful power ballads are. Evolution shows that the genre isn’t stagnating, and as much as I love to bump Illmatic and Ready to Die, I’m glad there are rappers out there like Kid Cudi, Drake, and the much more unknown Childish Gambino.
Kid Cudi’s first non-mixtape album Man on the Moon was incredible. When I first heard it, I was amazed with what he was doing with his beats, rapping style and heartfelt lyrics. If you haven’t heard at least 3 songs from this album, you must not have listened to the radio or anything popular in the past year. His next full release will be (hopefully) September this year and I will without a doubt be picking that up.
Drake’s been a surprisingly positive artist for me ever since So Far Gone, which is sort of odd since I usually tend to stay away from mainstream artists like him. He recently released Thank Me Later to generally positive reviews. This album is an interesting mix of slow, bass driven jams like “Up All Night” and hype, quick-beat driven songs like “Over”. Despite this contrast, most of the beats are fairly sparse, bringing Drake’s lyrical prowess to the front of the album. Drake retains his recognizable voice and soft-spoken delivery for which I’m grateful. His rhymes can be a bit stale if you’ve listened to enough self-praising rappers like Wayne or many of the other rappers you can hear on the radio, but if you listen to enough variety, his style is entertaining. On Thank Me Later it’s abundantly clear that Drake’s fame has been noticed by others in the industry as the collaborations are heavy hitting. Jay-Z, Alicia Keys, Nicki Minaj (who I thought killed it on “Up All Night”), T.I, Swizz Beatz, and, of course Wayne (seriously, what wont this guy put his name on?). Overall I think Drake takes his successes from So Far Gone and continues the trend in an even more public fashion with his debut album. I admit some of the songs are in typical Drake fashion (in that they’re very slow sound like he’s kinda just talking at you), but that’s his style and he does it well with his sexy-ass voice. I would like to see a little more variety from his normal topics for songs (women, love and his own greatness) but if he keeps them true I won’t mind these semi-played out themes. Overall, I liked the album for what it was: a good Drake album. I sincerely hope he doesn’t completely sellout as I see him as the true crossover between hip-hop and rap.
Now for my up-and-coming favorite. Have you seen the youtube viral video “Bro Rape”? I’m assuming you have. Have you seen NBC’s “Community”? I reckon you’ve at least heard of it. I’m also pretty sure you’ve seen NBC’s “30 Rock”. But have you heard of Childish Gambino? Likely not. What do these all have in common? Donald Glover. The guy’s a genius. He wrote for “30 Rock”, starred in “Community”, starred in all of Derrick Comedy’s sketches and even in their feature-length film “Mystery Team” and through it all, just wanted to rap. Donald aka Childish Gambino (thanks to a Wu-tang Clan name generator) kills it with his debut album Culdesac. Of the 2010 releases, it’s my favorite. Donald is a far cry from rappers such as Biggie, Pac and Snoop, but his rhymes are intelligent, smooth, funny and, overall, heartfelt. From the first track on the album, “Difference”, you can tell that his heart’s in this project the whole way and it shows. The whole album is a perfect blend of quick-paced songs and slow raps with baller beats and samples throughout. Most of the tracks have tongue-in-cheek humor amplified by Glover’s amazing lyrical ability. He raps about his issues being an outcast through his life, his desire to be successful, and his inherent hipster attitude. It’s really hard to pick out specific tracks, but if I had to choose my favorites, I would have to say “Difference”, “I Got This Money”, “I’m Alright” and “The Last”. These are just the best of the best though. I can’t stress how much I like this album. Best thing: all his stuff is free, and all his mixtapes are pretty dope. I recommend downloading all his stuff and listening to it ASAP.