Rap has always had a dividing line between the rapper and the guy that yells out things on stage because it’s America, damn it. That man used to be the DJ, who’d spin records for the rapper and rap along to his verses to get the crowd hype. As the years went by and quality DJing became more rare, the sidekick became some guy the rapper grew up with who had comparatively marginal talent, but who made for a great hypeman.
Eventually, though, the sidekick would eventually make one major mistake: He’d try to make his own way as a rapper, to less than stellar results. Memphis Bleek hasn’t come out of Jay-Z’s shadow after 15 years. Spliff Star has seemingly disappeared after trying his hand at something more than being Busta Rhymes’ energetic rapping Smeagol. The less said about the non-Eminem members of D12, the better.
But every once in a while, they put together music that’s not an embarrassing reminder that most of their success comes from being a friend of a superior rapper. This week, we focus on a few of those people: Method Man’s marijuana-holder Streetlife; A$AP Mob; and Fat Joe (who, while not a weed carrier, was Big Pun’s less talented homie).
1. A$AP Mob, “Full Metal Jacket”
Who else was surprised that this barely pubescent New York crew can call up an ’80s war flick? The Mob continued its Internet domination by dropping a new project, complete with a No Limit-inspired flaming cover). The results are a mixed bag, as it’s hard to differentiate any crew members from one another. But they sure know how to pick beats, and “Full Metal Jacket” sounds like a battlefield set to 808s for the Mob to spit double-time bars over. Are they all lyrical savants? Not remotely. But they can ride beats like they’re H-town Cadillacs.
2. JR&PH7 feat. Sean Price and Skyzoo, “Until It’s All Said And Done”
There should be a national monument to Sean Price, the best no-nonsense rapper the genre’s ever had. Skyzoo compliments P’s flow with his more dexterous bars. These two should really put together more music as a tandem. As for JR&PH7? They’re producers from Germany who know how to whip up soul that’s more Detroit than Deutschland, and their full project, The Good Life, will contain the best rhymesayers tackling handspun instrumentals.
3. Method Man feat. Streetlife and Freddie Gibbs, “Built For This”
Let’s first acknowledge the intense nerdgasm the words Man With The Iron Fist evoke. The RZA’s new kung-fu flick will be great, and it naturally will come with a fantastic soundtrack. Its first musical offering comes courtesy of Method Man, weed carrier Streetlife and Gary, Indiana, MC extraordinaire Freddie Gibbs. Streetlife didn’t stand a chance of eclipsing his two partners, but he gives it the old college try. Here’s hoping there’s more Meth and Freddie material in the stash.
3.28. Fat Joe Feat. Kanye West, Miguel, Jadakiss, Roscoe Dash, Busta Rhymes and DJ Khaled, “Pride N Joy”
Let’s start with the dumb. Busta Rhymes, DJ Khaled and Jadakiss don’t do anything except unite for a bridge that could (and should have) been done by some out-of-work Terror Squad alums. Also, if you have Miguel on a song, why would you let Roscoe Dash sing its hook? That’s like eating seven Whoppers on your way to Ruth’s Chris. Yet this is Fat Joe’s best single in a long time (with Kanye offering a slight assist); this track is high quality if you never expect the list of “featured” artists to do anything matching their collected starpower.