15. Sweatpants – Childish Gambino, Problem

Progress Report: Glover, Donald a.k.a. “Childish Gambino,” no relation to Danny Glover. Age: 30. Ethnicity: of the Earth. Occupation: jack of all trades, master of none, rap game Deion Sanders.

Struggled finding an identity in the entertainment industry, wallowed as a talented role player from job to job. Came up with pseudonym from online name generator instead of his own creation. Walked from best show on television to focus on less-stellar solo projects.

Has shown marked improvement; no longer compares himself to other artists, e.g. “don’t be mad/because I’m doing me better than you doing you.” Continues with cartoonish production, though cartoon now more sinister (Courage the Cowardly Dog?). Still moments of superfluous nerd-dropping, e.g. “Fiskers don’t make noise when they start up, just so you know.” Talent was never the issue, focus was. Mr. Glover now has some answers.

14. Just for the Weeks – Alan Instead

So the story goes like this: the first act at my hippie school’s music festival had just finished his set as I planted myself on the grass. He packed up his stuff and took out a few copies of his featured album, selling for $7 on a card table to the right of the stage, and meandered throughout the crowd before finally reaching me. “You want a copy of my album?” he asked. “Sorry, I don’t have any cash on me,” I responded, not particularly interested in purchasing it even if I did have the money. “It’s okay, you can just have it,” he told me, smiling while handing me a thin jewel case with a pixilated cover and what looked like a blank CD inside. I smiled politely and put the disc in the bottom of my backpack.

And that’s where these stories usually end, except for some reason a few months later, I found the CD in a stack in my room and decided it wouldn’t hurt to listen to the first few songs, at least. And you know what? It wasn’t terrible. It’s not as if I discovered the next Bob Dylan, but I sincerely enjoyed this lonely strummer from Santa Cruz, and over the next few months I found myself absent-mindedly clicking this album while doing menial tasks like I would have done with a Fleet Foxes or Avett Brothers album over the last few years. Alan Instead’s music is exactly like my impression of him during our seven seconds of contact: warm, inviting, and apt to surprise you, even if it takes a few months to hit play.

13. Sanctified – Rick Ross (3), Kanye West (5), Big Sean

“Sanctified” made its debut on the criminally underrated and short-lived reboot of the Arsenio Hall show. Big Sean started it off and the crowd was like “meh,” then Kanye came on unannounced and the crowd was all like “WOOOOO,” and then Rozay came on and the crowd was like “meh” again. It’s an understandable development, because let’s be real: Rick Ross’s name may be first in line, but this is really a Kanye song. Even D.J. Mustard, the credited producer, admits that he had very little to do with the song’s final product, deflecting all the credit to Mr. West himself. And with lines like “niggas be loving that old ye/they say that new ye/that nigga be spazzin’/but when Ali turn up and be Ali/you can’t ever change that nigga back to Cassius,” you can see why he’s the proper man for the reigns. Also, he pronounces handkerchief “hankerCHIVE,” which might as well be how we should all pronounce that word from now on.

12. Gold – M.I.A. (3), The Partysquad

The Empress Maya is back with power, power, and she’s still angry with privilege. Give her a mic and a few minutes and she’ll give you a dozen reasons to fight, whether you’re young, old, rich, poor, black, brown, it doesn’t matter; oppression comes in all forms and it’s all connected. M.I.A. understands this, and that she was recruited for The Partysquad’s multi-cultural effort makes perfect sense considering M.I.A. is multi-culture and simultaneously a singular artist. “Gold” bumps with materialist rage in the same way that last year’s “Y.A.L.A.” (another Partysquad collab) did so well with sirens and aggression. She’s not on the same level she was with Kala in 2007, but man, was anyone ever on that level?

11. Hot Nigga – Bobby Shmurda

“Unsigned Musician Finds Inspiration for his Groundbreaking Single in his Struggle”

“Brooklyn Hoodlum Mumbles About Guns and Fellatio Over Stolen Lloyd Banks Beat”

The truth to “Hot Nigga’s” origin probably lies somewhere in the shmiddle, but detractors and defenders aren’t having any of that rational nonsense. Yes, the Bobby Shmurda success story is built around a Vine trend and the pathogen-like spread of Chicago drill. Yes, that ridiculous shm– prefix may have been stolen like the beat that made it famous. And yes, “Hot Nigga” is an indefensibly stupid song. But even if he sucked and stole his way to fame, Shmurda, an unsigned, no-talent thug found his way from his impoverished Brooklyn neighborhood to Hot 97, which is no easy task. He started the dance craze of the summer and proudly proclaimed that it was okay for gangstas to move their hips (no one was saying otherwise, but it sounded like progress anyway). And that stupid song he made? It’s fire emojis. That’s a fact.




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