MIXTAPE OF THE WEEK Anti-Lilly & EnVy Hunter, REdefinition Last year, Anti-Lilly awoke from a haze. He picked out his afro, put on his glasses, rolled up, smoked and then released Memoirs & the '90s, a template of how to create a jazz-rap album inspired by your upbringing watching The Secret World of Alex Mack and hearing A Tribe Called Quest records.
The sound and horn arrangements continued far enough for his scratchy, charcoal-like whisper to maintain its balance on Stories From the Brass Section with producer Phoniks. In other words, his talents are rather defined: he's a dreamer and lifestyle-rap connoisseur who turns every character in his raps (whether autobiographical or not) into a key figure for something else down the road.
EnVy Hunter, the bowling ball who stands large over his contemporaries due to his girth, released every bit of frustration inside of him earlier this year on his own debut tape, Patiently Waiting. A rapper who damn near lost his life thanks to a heart ailment and dashed football dreams should have plenty to say, and EnVy's definition revolves around being pensive, angry at times and keen on making sure people know him.
The two of them linking together for a project shouldn't feel new, yet it does. Anti knows how to play off others, as he proved on Brass Section. EnVy knows how to pull nerves so that every story has to eventually top his on wax. Thus, that's where we stand with REdefinition, an 11-step bob-and-weave creation whose breezy production wraps about Envy's sullen demeanor at times and fits right into Anti's hip pocket.
Rap albums created by two performers who mesh well together will easily draw comparisons to others. They're not even an official duo, despite what these 11 tracks may tell you, but they already know their identity: two rappers from Houston who tell stories over varying sounds -- lo-fi hi-hats and cymbals like faucet drops on "Worried Bout Me" or piano flips from Anthony Hamilton's "Since I Seen't You" and producer Andrew Lloyd's beat on "Not Ready."
Where it lacks is that the two could tell stories until they're both six feet deep. In their respective worlds, the characters here -- family members, friends, associates -- find themselves to be small parts of a larger story. They refuse to allow themselves outside of that world, letting the world know about their circular approach to life. To them, either you die of those ills or eventually succumb and add on to them. REdefinition equates to reality-raps from Houston where the only sense of outside freedom comes in challenging other rappers for supremacy.
Best Track: "Not Ready" feat. Plus: At two minutes in length, "Not Ready" finds EnVy eulogizing friends while drinking his pains away and detailing how sticking to those he grew up with will eventually bring him down as well. Without giving himself time to breathe, Anti raps about his grandmother and his own dance with "The Great Deception," peering upwards while wondering how long he has left. Fatalism, anyone? BUY HERE.
TRACKS OF THE WEEK
Mykie, "Ratchet" Something you have to understand about R&B singles these days is that they deal with two subjects rather frequently, which sometimes marry one another: love and the club. Mykie, formerly Miss Mykie of That Pink That Green fame and BET's 106 & Park, deals with the latter on "Ratchet."
Here, her voice is always digging between thin songbird tones and baritone, vibrato-like seduction as it slinks around the synth chords and drums. It's straightforward, "get people what they came to hear and see and get out" music. Mykie's evolution from R&B talent to TV star and back is clear: every move, even her songwriting structure on "Ratchet," is built upon business and keeping people living in certain moments of bliss.
D-Boss feat. J-Dawg, Slim Thug, Paul Wall & MUG, "Big Ballin 2014" Lord, what I wouldn't give for a copy of J-Dawg's Behind Tint, Vol. 3.
OK, that's being selfish, because you know you want a copy of Behind Tint, Vol. 3 too. And it's been forever since we all baptized ourselves in the gritty greatness that was Behind Tint Vol. 2 and "1st 48." Luckily, the first J-Dawg verse of serious consequence in the past few months is a somber one too, considering who else is on the track.
"Big Ballin 2014" takes that bassline-on-amphetamines sound of Swishahouse's original "Big Ballin" creation, tosses in three Northside alums, and tells them to work everything out. It's a return to form for those Thugga fans who chiefly remember his rhyme patterns for their wit. The solemn aspect of "Big Ballin 2014" comes in the form of the closing verse by MUG, the linebacker-built Houston rapper who tragically passed away earlier this summer. His voice is nimble and sleek, showing signs of a man still figuring out how to perfect his craft. He's missed terribly.
BeatKing feat. DJ Chose, "Stand Behind Her" The first time I rolled through "Stand Behind Her," I completely ignored the Ray Rice line about sexual conquest, the sort of thing that happens when the majority of his threats sound like jokes you'd crack with your boys on a daily basis. The "beat that pussy up" metaphor has been abused to death (thanks, Lil Wayne) so now it's a topical ad-lib: find the latest knockout with some cultural significance and fill it in.
This collab, though, snaps up the drum programming from Juvenile's "Ha" in spots, and producer June James throws enough snares and drums to keep your mind and body occupied while Chose and BeatKing apply the sort of shit-eating-grin charisma that makes a crude twerk track like this endearing.
More new rap on the next page.
OneHunnidt feat. E.S.G. & Bee Honey, "Screw Culture" Soul For Real, Prince, Yarborough & Peoples, Nate Dogg: four artists who have one common link in the fabric of Houston rap. Every single one of their singles from Soul For Real's "Candy Rain" to Nate Dogg's refrain from "It Ain't No Fun" have been interpolated into Houston-made rap tracks. The latest addition to this would be Tevin Campbell, who back in 1993 thought he had a shortcut for every teenage boy trying to get a girl. Now, 19 years later, a skinny Houston rapper and his favorite singer have flipped it to talk about the city itself.
OneHunnidt's "Screw Culture" is by far the strongest single he's released as a rapper. Doesn't matter how many poems he'll release or how many women said poems will eventually inspire, "Screw Culture" is his most sublime to date. He doesn't stretch too far mentally here, name-dropping key components of the city like answers inside a word bank. Factor in Trakksounds' beat, E.S.G. acting as a conduit for nearly two generations of the city's musical history and Bee Honey's saccharine voice, and everything feels right. Bet on it -- if you want to talk about best singles released from within city limits, this is one of them.
Mr. Wired Up, "Strip Club Junkie" There's no strippers anonymous for strip-club addicts. For some reason they pack those guys in with the sex addicts and call it a day, but Mr. Wired Up honestly doesn't care; he knows full and well the power of the subculture of Houston's strip-club scene. "Strip Club Junkie" takes us on a night of hedonism: $3,000 in ones, select strippers at certain clubs, and everything else you'd want in a rap record based around one man's penchant for half-naked women.
Bree Terry feat. Just Brittany & BeatKing, "Nah Mean" Let the ladies get some. If you're going to carve out an identity as a female who shops in the lifestyle section of rap's produce store, you're going to have to state that you're better than everyone else packing ovaries. BeatKing's jaw tagline may be absent from "Nah Mean," Terry's collab record with Just Brittany, but his sentiment is still felt.
Women deal with music mostly as multiple talented individuals all chasing the same thing, without daring to step into one another's realm. There are female singers on female rap records and vice versa. But two female rappers in the same vicinity of the same track? Scare and rare.
"Nah Mean" is club fodder, a ladies' shout record where the common goal is to claim victory just by looks and the ability to draw attention. At least let us give Just Brittany props by stating point blank, "I came into the game as a dancer," and how she won't flinch while reminding you she's moving more into a hip-pop sound.
DoubleBe, "Prolly Why" Energy is what DoubleBe is about. As often as I halfway think he lives on a completely different planet than the rest of us (where Treez will forever be the language), he can still come to our side of the planet and create spastic, Autotuned chest-thump rap like this. "Prolly Why" is declarative, an end-result record of being hype over the unfortunate decisions of others.
T.H.E.M., "Shaolin Blow" You want a two-for-one Houston Elite MC offering? "Shaolin Blow" finds multifaceted T.H.E.M. crew making their own version of RZA/Bobby Digital with ringing trills, spaghetti-western guitar plucks and every member, from Kidd the Great to Dustin-Prestige, getting a verse.
Here's what we already know about T.H.E.M.: John Dew still stands as their most polished MC, Dustin-Prestige its most accomplished. However, every single member plays his part. They should probably have a whole "Triumph"-like video rocking Craig Biggio jerseys, since they want to be Killer Bees so damn bad.
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