Welcome to Sound of the City’s scouring of the many hip-hop songs that drop every week in hopes of finding a couple of songs that stand out. This week we managed to get our hands on three and three-quarters of them—not bad at all.
1. Raekwon, “Keep It Politics”
When was the last time you heard anyone say something bad about a steak at Ruth’s? Scratch that. When was the last time you heard people say something bad about a steak at Ruth’s and they weren’t being pretentious snobs? Every time you go to the steakhouse, you know you’re going to get a high-quality meal that won’t disappoint and won’t shock you into a coma with its greatness.
Raekwon, who’s been dropping consistent greatness for two decades now and hasn’t relented, is the Ruth’s Chris of hip-hop. He had a slight lull in the 2000s, but ever since he dropped his sequel to Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… in 2009 Rae’s batted a thousand, rejuvenating his career and making a sixteen a hot commodity. That’s why the good folks at Ruby Hornet enlisted Rae to be a part of their new Closed Sessions series where they snag an MC to hop on random beats. For the latest installment, The Chef raps over a brooding backdrop courtesy of DJ Babu. If you want to see a rapper evolve, though, you’re barking up the wrong tree; these are vintage OBCL bars that show how Rae keeps his darts sharp for any occasion.
2. Lloyd Banks feat. Schoolboy Q, “Gettin’ By”
G-Unit has been in absolute shambles over the last five years. 50 Cent has failed to find a single or album that’s been able to move the needle, resorting to gimmicky cries for attention. Young Buck’s just had his belongings sold to the repossessed and sold to the government. Tony Yayo still can’t rap. And Lloyd Banks hasn’t been the same since leaving a copy of his as-yet-unreleased album in a groupie’s car.
In typical bully fashion, 50 called his crew out saying they need to stop riding his coattails to success. Lloyd responded by dropping his V6: The Gift, the best project anybody from G-Unit has dropped in… well, when was the last time G-Unit did anything great? Lloyd sounds hungry and ready to remind people why he was once considered one of the Big Apple’s best, and “Getting By” with TDE’s Schoolboy Q is the standout. Any song that starts with church organs is destined to be great and this is no exception. Banks attacks the beat, setting up the puzzle pieces for Schoolboy Q’s unorthodox flow to knock over. Their voices present such a contrast that these two actually wouldn’t sound bad on a full-length project together. (It’d definitely be more exciting than anything 50 has dropped in recent memory.)
3. J. Cole, “The Cure”
“Life Off” is the worst song on Watch The Throne, but J. Cole managed to give the track a facelift by dropping some of his best bars to date over the beat. The song is just the shot in the arm Cole needed. After a disappointing debut album and whispers that he’d go the route of Jay-Z’s failed apprentices like Tru Life, Cole finally reminds listeners why he was being crowned as the next big thing by dropping what may be the best-rapped song of the year so far. Cole shines at his defiant, clever, lyrically untouchable best. “My bed is like a deck of cards, two black queens.” He also “pleads insanity with a side of vanity.” When left to his own devices and asked to just rip a track to pieces, Cole delivers. Whether he can make a great full-length is still up to debate. But for now, “The Cure” is a gem.
3.75. Slaughterhouse, “Weight Scale”
Royce Da 5’9″, Crooked I, Joell Ortiz and Joe Budden are Internet darlings for the way they can rap endlessly and pile punchline on top of metaphor on top of ferocious delivery. Their latest track (for an upcoming Gangsta Grillz with DJ Drama) had them conjuring up the courage to attack Nas’s “Nasty” beat. Royce opens up by continuing his infatuation with Rihanna to comical results; Crooked I allows his bars to just tumble out of his mouth like a rock going downhill; Joell Ortiz carries the momentum with his own flair.
So why just .75 for this? Joe Budden.
There are plenty of reasons to hate Budden. He’s the clear weak link of the group, yet he’s the most famous thanks to his 2003 single “Pump It Up,” public spats with video girls-turned-ex-girlfriends, and an inability to determine when a cry for attention will make him look like a big baby. But even if Budden were remotely likable, his verse here is a misstep: “I went sleepy hollow shit and got a CAT scan/ go to Colorado right now and watch Batman.”
Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. Rappers go “there” all the time. But referencing the Aurora, Colorado shooting a week after it happened for a pointless, lazy punchline is just the worst. At least when Eminem was dropping Columbine references, he was making a larger social commentary; Budden is just making up for the fact that he gets washed on every track he shares with his three superior buddies by screaming for attention. And his reference wasn’t even good! At least he goes on last, so you can cut the song off before his nonsense comes in.