Frontier Psychiatrist

Posts Tagged ‘Rap

Kendrick Lamar & Schoolboy Q

10. Rick Ross – Rich Forever

This summer, Rick Ross released his blockbuster LP God Forgives, I Don’t.  And, like most blockbuster LPs from superstar rappers, it kinda sucked.  Boring, bombastic, and bloated, God Forgive, I Don’t plays like the slow deflation of an enormous hype-balloon.  But Rich Forever was the reason that balloon got so big in the first place, and ten months after its release it stands as the finest work Ross has ever produced.  This 19-track mixtape is so suffocatingly intense that it manages to make Diddy and Drake scary.  Indeed, the stars are all over this release: John Legend reminds us that money is cool on the title track, Kelly Rowland manages to sound just cheesy enough on “Mine Games,” and Nas does what Nas always does on “Triple Beam Dreams.”  Rich Forever is easily the best mainstream hip-hop release of 2012, and that’s before even considering its greatest quality: it’s free.

Rick Ross feat. Drake and French Montana – “Stay Schemin”

9. Meyhem Lauren – Respect the Fly Shit

I’m not going to succeed in hiding my biases on this list: I have a penchant for mid-90s New York City hip-hop.  Biggie, Nas, and especially Wu-Tang wrote my personal high school soundtrack, and any release that reminds me of those times is going to appeal to me.  Meyhem Lauren’s debut LP Respect the Fly Shit appeals to me more than most: with the Raekwon/Ghostface-style interplay of Lauren and Action Bronson, and with the RZA-circa-Supreme-Clientele-style production, this tape is like 1997 all over again.  Yes, Lauren is a bit conventional at times.  Yes, he gets shown up by his co-signs on occasion (e.g. Despot on “Pan-Seared Tilapia”).  And yes, I could do without the blow-by-blow account of a fellatious evening that is “Top of the World.”  But minor flaws aside, Respect the Fly Shit is one of the most enjoyable slices of hip-hop you’re likely to hear this year.  And while you’re listening, think about this: these guys recorded this LP at this year’s SXSW…in two days.


8. Roc Marciano – Reloaded

Did someone say Wu-Tang? The beats on Roc Marciano’s outstanding Reloaded are straight crimonology rap, but the real star of this record is Marciano’s relentless, rhyme-riddled wordplay.  This record is full of the kind of evocative, abstract, mind-bending wordplay on which New York City was built.  It should be no surprise that Q-Tip, The Abstract himself, stops by to drop a beat on this record.  This record is a gift for those who believe in the true art that is emceeing.


7. Joey Bada$$ – 1999

If Joey Bada$$ were nothing more than a 17-year-old kid from Flatbush with a phat rap name, I’d still love him.  Fortunately, he’s so much more than that.  This preternaturally skilled rapper whose confidence and insight belie his age.  Unlike his peers in Odd Future, who make no effort to hide their age-appropriate sophomoric attitudes, Joey Bada$$ clearly views himself as the inheritor of a tradition, the next in a long line of New York rappers whom he has the responsibility to respect, to honor, and to make proud.  And, with 1999, make them proud he does.

6. BBU – bell hooks

Politically conscious hip-hop has been on life support for the last 20 years, but 2012 saw a few concerted efforts to resuscitate it.  No effort was more concerted than that of BBU, whose mixtape bell hooks fearlessly attacked corporate America and guilt-driven liberalism with equal furor.  But if militant music scares you off, fear not: the tape is filled with the kind of infectious party beats that will raise your spirits and move your ass.  In a year of outstanding hip-hop releases, this one has been criminially underappreciated.

5. El-P – Cancer 4 Cure

For a relatively small group of us who were music nerds graduating from college in the early 2000s, El-P is something of a legend.  He was the man behind Funcrusher PlusThe Cold Vein, and a slew of other records that re-defined hip-hop in the minds of many an impressionable youth.  The “indefinite hiatus” embarked on by his Definitive Jux label in 2010 appeared to mark the sad end of a remarkable era.  Thankfully, El-P was resurrected this year, nowhere more prominently than on his third and best solo record Cancer 4 Cure.  Our hero does an admirable job of rapping on the album, and many of raps new underground idols (Danny Brown, Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire) stop by to lend their talents, but as always it is El-P’s unique, psychosis-inducing production that is the star.  Take a deep breath and spin Cancer 4 Cure; you may not breathe again until it’s over.

4. Schoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions

Peter Lillis said everything that needs to be said about this remarkable record upon its release in January; its “stories of depravity, sacrilege, honesty, violence and pills” remain as compelling, engrossing, and terrifying as they did ten months ago.  Habits & Contradictions set the bar high for hip-hop in 2012, and although a handful of releases cleared the bar, there’s no question that Schoolboy’s statement provided the starting point for a spectacular year.

3. Action Bronson & Party Supplies – Blue Chips

Listen: just don’t play this one for your mom.

2. Killer Mike – R.A.P. Music

The stylistic depth of Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music cannot be overstated.  El-P’s compositions have always been the stomping grounds of hyperkinetic “underground” emcees, but R.A.P. (produced by El-P in its entirety)  shows what can happen when southern rap legends, political militants, and straight-up gangsters get ahold of them.  To wit: something spectacular.  From the star-studded blitzkrieg of “Big Beast,” through the bellicose disenchantment of “Reagan,” to the celebratory strains of the concluding title track, Killer Mike’s latest bathes in the glory of hip-hop.  It’s hard to believe that there was a rap record better than this in 2012.

1. Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.A.A.d. city

But there was.  You’ll be hearing a lot more about this one in the days and weeks to come.  For now, suffice it to say:  it’s a masterpiece.

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THEESatisfaction - awE naturalE

There are two ways to review THEESatisfaction’s debut LP: the easy way, and the hard way.  The easy way involves using terms like “avant-rap” and “jazz-soul fusion,” making some references to outer space, and calling it a day.  The  hard way involves acknowledging that this is a record penned by a pair of romantically involved black lesbians and discussing this fact openly as it relates to the music.   I have seen precisely none of the second type, a stunning fact considering that the record includes lines like “My melanin is relevant/it’s something to be had” and “The black Jesus/which means of course he’s white.”

I attempted to write that second type of review, spending hours attempting to decipher the political content of some seriously opaque lyrics.  Whether because of inadequate intellect or lack of authorial courage, I failed in my efforts.  But, if nothing else, I leave convinced that racial identity itself is the core of this record.  One can hear this in the lyrics, but it’s reflected even more deeply in the musical content.  Indeed, this album is one of the more perfect encapuslations of the history of black music in America I can recall hearing.  Gladys Knight, Pharoah Sanders, Mos Def: they’re all on display here, blended into such a seamless mix that it’s hard to know what to call it.  Is it R&B? Soul? Hip-hop?

One might argue that the record defies labels, but in my view this is a profound error.  For this record labels itself openly: it is proudly, audaciously black, and it does not hesitate to make this clear.  Indeed, what’s important here is not why the “melanin is relevant” but that it is relevant, that it is not to be diluted with euphamism, but rather to be embraced.

And it’s pretty damn funky, too.


It is no secret that the distribution of music on the Internet has led to a radical re-appraisal of its free-market value.  With essentially every piece of music ever recorded obtainable at no cost through a well-planned Google search, the notion of paying $18 for 35 minutes of music has been rendered preposterous.  This shift has come at significant financial harm to many artists (frequently lamentable) and record labels (infrequently lamentable), but it has also come with a number of pleasant surprises.

The most pleasant of these, of course, is the ever-expanding universe of free and legal music.  What was once a friendly gesture has become a strategy for career growth and transformation, with established artists using it as a way to explore their creative margins (see: Radiohead), and unknowns using it as a low-risk path to stardom (see: Drake).  Each month we are flooded with free new releases, most of which we will never even know exist.  This year, Frontier Psychiatrist will attempt to remedy this gap with our new column Free And Easy.  Each month we will discuss some of the best free and legal releases from the  month gone by, with the hope of making this endless sea of new music more navigable for you, the reader.  Given that this is our first column, we may venture back a little further than one month; as always, we hope you’ll find something that piques your interest.  Now, on to the music.

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The notion of compiling a “50 Best Songs of the Year” list is preposterous.  In addition to the absurd presumption that songs across genres can be objectively compared in some meaningful way, such a list ignores the fact that one’s experience of a song is entirely situational, as dependent on one’s mood and temperament as on any musical detail.  Indeed, a list of this type is bound to almost destined to disappoint, confuse, or perhaps even enrage the reader.

And yet we worked our asses off on this one.  Staffer Peter Lillis, co-editor Keith Meatto and I each put in a lot of listening hours this year, and, although our tastes differ significantly at the margins, we were able to reach a broad consensus for the purposes of this column.  While the claim that the 50 tracks below represent the year’s “best” is clear hyperbole, they are the ones that we have turned to continuously throughout the year, the ones that have entranced and excited us the most.  Each day this week, we’ll be unveiling a new group of entrants on the list; we hope that you’ll keep checking back to hear the music and to share your thoughts.  We begin today with songs 50 through 31.  Read the rest of this entry »

Das Racist - Relax

Post-modernism was slow to come to rock music.  Indeed, it wasn’t until the late 80s-early 90s that rock finally became comfortable mixing the high and the low, finally allowed itself to become humorous and self-deprecating[1].  Hip-hop, by contrast, is fundamentally post-modern.  Cutting up old songs to construct new songs, using the record itself as an instrument: these methods are emblematic of the post-modern project.  All of which is a very pretentious way of saying that hip-hop is by nature fascinating, thought-provoking, and fun.  Early records like Paul’s Boutique and 3 Feet High and Rising are full of the kind of hyper-referential, base-to-brilliant language endemic in “post-modern works.”  These records took themselves seriously as art without taking themselves seriously.  Of course, about 10 years ago hip-hop began to take itself very seriously (for better and for worse), but in the last few years, winking irony has found its way back into the music through the likes of MF Doom, Odd Future, and, perhaps more than anyone, Das Racist. Read the rest of this entry »

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Sons of Dionysus

A Transmedia Novel of Myth, Mirth, and the Magical Excess of Youth.