By Steve Weinstein
By Bryan Bierman
By Lindsey Rhoades
By Chaz Kangas
By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Jena Ardell
By Jesse Sendejas Jr.
By Katherine Turman
Snoop Dogg feat. Everlast
From Ego Trippin' (Geffen)
Snoop goes country. And save the OMGs, because chicken-coop Snoop is no weirder than his cover of the Time's "Cool" that's so synth-heavy it sounds like M83, or the song where he goads nervous boyfriends into proposing, or the lead single that's like 75 percent vocoder. Snoop just loves Johnny Cash (who doesn't?), and thousands of college theses agree that "Folsom Prison Blues" is gangsta rap (sort of). So let him get his Buck 65 on, OK? Producer Everlast tries to summon Cash's more raucous moments—think "Get Rhythm" or "Rock Island Line"—but drummer Trevor Lawrence Jr. has funkier things on his mind, turning rockabilly pit-a-pat brushwork into what is essentially one bass-drum kick away from Rihanna's "Pon De Replay." Sure, there's been better hick-hop in the last few years (Bubba Sparxxx's "She Tried"; Cowboy Troy's "I Play Chicken With the Train"; Devin the Dude's "Nothin' to Roll With"), but support the attention this song (track 16!) gets. If it bum-rushes radio, even as a novelty, its four-bar portraits of fiends and hookers—"Jack be nimble/Jack be quick/Jacked up the spoon on the candlestick"—serve Cash's memory better than that wack Jason Aldean shit.
"In the Ayer"
From Mail on Sunday (Poe Boy/Atlantic)
Flo Rida is, indeed, from Florida, so he's got electro in his veins. If he can't handle will.i.am's ginormous stab at a woofer-wrecking palm-tree-bender (on a track nine that sticks out like a robotic thumb), who can? Will pretty much jacks Pretty Tony's electro/freestyle classic "Jam the Box" (last heard in Ciara's "That's Right"), but who can resist its charms? Flo Rida certainly can't, plunging his mildly sing-songy flow into giddy ecstasy-and-orange-juice delirium.
Akrobatik feat. Mr. Lif
From Absolute Value (Fat Beats)
Ak and Lif couldn't change the tide with their 2005 LP (as the Perceptionists), Black Dialogue: an explicitly political, explicitly garrulous, explicitly indie release that froze in coke-rap blizzard season. So, on track 11 here, they drop the pretenses and just spit battle-bars to blow the domes off the indie-rap faithful. Though "Beast Mode" is built tough enough to reach further: The minimalist drip-drop could get a neon-hat-tip from blog-rap fans, and the trunk-slam snares should be on Hot 97, of a kin with "Grindin' " or "Tipsy." But, yeah, only real nerds care about someone who rhymes cenobites with gyromite.
From Savage Life 2 (Trill/Asylum/Atlantic)
Everything about this track 11 is rocket-science complex, from its jackhammering Photek snares to a chorus that has more words than most rappers have in their verses. Bold for a song that pulls the no-brainer move of ripping off "Back That Azz Up."