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
(Featuring a bunch of guys who aren't exactly burning up the charts yet)
Wiz Khalifa is a 23-year-old kid from Pittsburgh. He's got unkempt hair and a preference for raggedy skater clothes, and he likes weed a lot; in a recent interview, he bragged that he spends $10,000 a month on the stuff. He raps in a barely conscious giggly mumble that usually trails off into a sticky singsong. And in a roundabout sort of way, he might be the future of rap. Amazingly, that's probably a good thing.
In September, I watched Wiz—who, at that point, had no hits and no major-label albums to his name—absolutely pack Metro, a good-size Chicago club, with a multiracial coalition of kids who knew every word of his mixtape tracks. "Black and Yellow," his collab with the masterful Norwegian pop production team Stargate, was just starting to make the blog rounds at the time; it's a slow-building crossover smash now. The song manages the difficult task of translating Wiz's loopy stoner charm into pop alchemy, but he was doing just fine for himself before it landed. That Chicago show was no fluke—he has been doing the exact same thing for a couple years, packing kids into clubs and hitting the road hard, tossing free mixtapes into the world whenever he had another hour of new songs, growing an audience at an alarming rate.
Wiz connects, at some level, because he's doesn't sound like a star rapper. He's not calm, steely, in control. He's spun-around and dazed, lost in his own murmur. On the 2010 mixtape Kush and Orange Juice, he raps over samples of music he might've encountered on a weeded-out channel surf: the Garden State soundtrack, the Camp Rock soundtrack. On one song, he coos, "Everything's better when you're high" over and over, sounding like the burnout curled into a fetal ball beneath the high school bleachers.
He's not alone down there. Best bud Curren$y is stretched out on the grass, bragging to an arty girl about his car. On his third mushroom of the day, Lil B is attempting to explain quantum physics, though one sentence doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the next. Yelawolf is insisting that his straw hat and giant belt buckle are some next shit. Off in some corner, the sneering Odd Future kids are burning ants with magnifying glasses and cracking unsettling jokes about staging another Columbine. When football practice and National Honor Society meetings aren't keeping him too busy, sometimes Drake stops by.
All these guys—even Drake—are weirdos in one sense or another. And with Kanye West's itchy anxiety and Lil Wayne's slurring hyena gibber firmly entrenched at its highest levels, rap is a safer place for weirdos than it's ever been. But weirdness isn't what's new here. Instead, these new jacks are content to languish in their own self-created worlds rather than chasing crossover status. "Black and Yellow" notwithstanding, hits aren't the end goal here. Instead, we're getting album-length aesthetic statements: Curren$y letting production vet Ski Beatz slather his somnolent confidence in psych-rock lava-lamp juice on Pilot Talk and smooth-funk softness on Pilot Talk II, Odd Future's Earl Sweatshirt ripping violent fantasias over half-smothered 808s on EARL, or Lil B building a messily sprawling, all-encompassing body of work in which every one of his hundreds of rambling, nonsensical freestyles matters as much as any other.
Even though he's an over-earnest striver compared to most of these guys, Drake helped prime the world for this approach. On last year's breakout So Far Gone mixtape, he rapped over Swedish indie-pop and ambient synth washes, turning himself into a star. And on 2010's prophecy-fulfilling full-length Thank Me Later, he hews admirably close to that same aesthetic, subjecting his army of big-name guests to the airy keyboard smears he favors. But the new rap wave pushes Drake's love of, say, Lykke Li to new levels. Both Lil B and Odd Future mastermind Tyler, the Creator name-checked lo-fi art-pop freak Ariel Pink this year; if this keeps up, Pink could become rap's least likely white spirit animal since Phil Collins. The raps feel like casual conversations or jokey brag sessions, not imperious statements of world domination. And whizzing around the Internet in the form of free MP3s and zip files, this stuff is steadily finding its mark, landing with a small but growing (and religiously devoted) legion of like-minded kids.
Decentered and kid-targeted as it is, this stuff will never register on a poll like Pazz & Jop the way it should. Our album chart finds Curren$y at #93 and #159, Yelawolf at #144, and Earl Sweatshirt at #145. At #24, only Drake did well. But the cloudy-sonics crew aren't the only rap types committed to full-length projects that pursue a single basic idea with single-minded tenacity. Amid the top 100 albums, you'll find stuff as disparate as Das Racist's hyper-referential art-kid deadpan, Roc Marciano's psychedelic boom-bap, and Waka Flocka Flame's riot-starting post-crunk bellow—all limited-appeal stuff that will drip its way into your soul if you let it.
And then there's 2010's #1 album by a wide margin, a broken-down masterpiece from a guy who willfully retreated from a pop-radio spotlight that'd suddenly moved away from his crazy ass anyway. Like plenty of the younger guys he inarguably inspired, Kanye West is now fucking with woozy textures and art-pop samples and implacably depressive drugged-up lyricism, and he built up goodwill for My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by spending months throwing free MP3s at whoever would listen. Wonder where he got that idea.
There is nothing wise about promoting 3d class misdemeanors, and he should be ashamed that his name "Kalifah" concerns the promoting of intolerant,sexist,anti-democratic,,racist,and violent jihads against the west, civilization, and Kalifah Fimah was one on the Libyan Terrorists who murdered 270 innocent people on Pan Am Flight#103, Lockerbie, Scotland, 1988, A.D., because war Criminal Arab "colonel " Muammar Gaddaffi took power in Libya in 1969, but he and his entirely criminal and illegitimate family and regime, has not yet been imprisoned for their War Crimes and Suppressions of Freedoms of Speech, The Press, and The Right To Peaceful Assembly of Arab and neighboring African states. Respectfully Yours in Freedom, Peace and Responsibility, Dan Tobin whpc 90.3 FM singer songwriter-guitarist and Bd. Of Dir. of The Victims of Pan Am Flight#103
is it funny that arab war criminals murdered my brother and tensof thousands over the years-or funny that the drug wars take so many lives, are pretty racist, and incarcerate so many non violent people? Is it funny that foreign and some domestic economic royalists let arab criminals and sunshine patriots and sabre rattlers have their way? I am glad you enjoy my post, but I hope that you will boycott and divest from French Total SA, and BP, the first of which does business with all kinds of war criminals (and it was the French who did not play war games with the US, despite having a permanent seat on The UN Security Council, and being a part of NATO, and did not allow US AirForce over "their" space in Operation El Dorado Canyon, Bengasi,Libya, 1986, raid, which was not successful in forcibly removing "colonel" gaddaffi from power)and the second of which was awarded a $900 million contract to prospect and drill off the coast of the terrorist state/pariah state of Libya, and is likely guilty and culpable for influencing the Scottish Government in allowing convicted terrorist bombing agent of Pan Am Flight#103 Abdel Basset Ali Megrahi, home to Libya, and Prime Minister Cameron and President Obama did nothing to stop the heinous decision. I have not found any lawyers to sue former Presidents "Poppy" Bush,Sec. Defense and later veep, Dick Cheney,and former Nat.Sec. Adviser Condi Rice,who failed to decisively punish Arab War Criminal Gaddaffi, or the wretched raghead/towel head, bombing agents, and they ignored General Colin Powell's clearly stated advice not to lift sanctions enforce against Gaddaffi. I hope that you will request my all original federally copyrighted , cdsampler at WHPC 90.3 FM, and other stations since I gave them a copy back in 2003 or 04, and promote my future gigs in various venues, and donate blood for United States Marines serving honorably at home, and promote my elections and re-elections to US Congress 4th Federal district NY State, 2012, NY State Governor 2014, and I have served as Accountant To NY State Office of The Comptroller, Election Inspector, Law Clerk, Blood Drive Chairman, and served honorably as a duly elected member of The Bd. of Directors of The Victims of Pan Am Flight#103, and have defended and promoted human rights/civil rights as letter writer to Amnesty International since I was 14 years young. Respectfully Yours In Freedom and Responsibility, Dan Tobin