MIXTAPE OF THE WEEK: DeLorean, Look Alive Is DeLorean underrated, overrated or properly rated?
We've been dancing around this thought for a little while now. You see, the rapper is responsible for two of the city's most noted projects of the past five years, Hood Politics 2: Acknowledgment and Hood Politics 3. One featured unfiltered anger and gulps of fire and brimstone, delivered with a sense of personality and even fear. The other was more polished, detonated with a massive "crowning" concert and affirmed what plenty had long considered about the Missouri City rapper: he was finally slipping past those pesky Jay Z comparisons and into his own skin.
Then last year's Grace happened, and while it felt bigger in terms of featured guests, it truly felt like DeLorean had reached the cusp of something. Whatever angle you want to pen in regards to someone being close to mainstream and radio-ready, that was Grace in a nutshell.
Two moments of outright perfection ("Breathe," "Done") coupled with 17 other tracks that teetered between good and great; that was sort of the point for DeLorean a year ago. He couldn't go back to being completely pissed off about not getting a shot. He was transforming into a father and literal rap harangue who could sneer at those who tried to say HP2 or HP3 were terrible and just DeLo trying to be himself.
Look Alive, his latest tape released in this current iteration of glorious Houston rap, doesn't carry the same amount of endless possibility that immediately came with the latter Hood Politics tapes. By now, we know that DeLo understands who he is, and that he won't look backwards when creating music. Heavy drums and bombast are now ground down into more spaced-out and tepid creations. His voice, still raspy and brusque, is now the primary instrument steering the vehicle.
It's why the bubbly and clean "Picture Me Swangin'," with DeLorean and Grand Hustle singer Mitchelle'l, cracks corners and dips out of various lanes. DeLo has had radio-friendly moments ("I Keep That" being strongest of them), but here it all crystallizes. A Houston radio single has to dig into three things into properly work: car culture, melody or a sense of identity. DeLo has combined all three.
The natural sway of "Lately," featuring Scotty ATL, contains all of the strengths we've known DeLorean has had for years. His voice can be sullen and distant, and even cry in some spaces. There's comical jargon tossed into "Lately," while "Parallel Park" thumps strictly thanks to the space Fat Pimp is asked to position himself in, and Doughbeezy can't help but gleam with every syllable. People want DeLorean to win. It's how a moment of finality with Paul Wall, Slim Thug and Lil Keke decides to close out Look Alive.
Even though there's plenty of great about DeLorean's current position, however, moments like "I'm So Amazing" aggravate listeners more than they inspire. "Gone Eat" is camaraderie seen through the eyes of Christopher Walken's Frank White in King of New York and "Ghetto Boy 2," an obvious callback to the DeLorean of previous tapes, should once and for all bury the notion that DeLorean knows only a few tricks.
So again, back to the original question. Is DeLorean underrated, overrated or properly rated? For now, he's properly rated. Four consecutive projects that glide from widely acclaimed to sufficient should suffice. The scary thing about it, DeLorean has been at it for years now. If it doesn't completely happen on Look Alive or any move after, you're left to think the next project will be it.
Best Song: "Lately"
Download Look Alive here.
TRACKS OF THE WEEK Roosh Williams feat. Emilio Rojas, "Extraordinary"
There's a move in basketball that is more of a setup than absolute world-destroyer; it's called the triple threat. Jab-step left, jab-step right, angle your foot back -- it's a move that not only guards the ball but also tells you what tendency the defender is going to reach for.
Roosh Williams has, on a 73 percent clip, decided to use the triple threat when it comes to rhyming. There are cadence switches, flow homages, comedy, braggart thoughts and slices of humility. There's also basketball references galore in "Extraordinary," his first record from Unorthodox that sees him dance around a ton of strings from Lacemode and gets Emilio Rojas in the paint, only to kick it out to Roo for the dagger three. He's creeping into that lane where you start nitpicking the great things about him -- a pretty good lane to be in.
Sauce Walka feat. Flame, "Legited" The last time I set foot at the Marquis, a posh condominium on the outskirts of the Medical Center, I found out that it's a pretty decent place to shoot plenty of music videos. The walls and massive lounge area near the penthouses make it upscale without really having to set foot inside of a traditionally rich part of town.
It's also where Sauce Walka taps into that absolutely goofy side of his personality, figuring that combining "2 Legit to Quit" into one word will make a ton of sense. "Legited" is Sauce acting like a blooded-out Derek Zoolander, partying with white girls and making sure his white cup never spills. It packs the usual amount of Sauce-Talk ("I was whupping niggas for the piece of a brownie!"), and while I want to appreciate Flame's efforts here, Sauce Walka's personality just overwhelms the entire thing.
Story continues on the next page.
Propain & Kirko Bangz, "Seen It All" I halfway believe Propain has two levels. There's the angry, raised rasp that he constantly displays whenever something is tugging at him and he has to get it off his chest, and the ladies-man side that takes that rasp down a couple notches to coax listeners into letting their guard down. Side 1 is what got Pro to where he is, but Side 2 may keep him there. A "Seen It All" freestyle wasn't really necessary, but he flat-out goes into warp speed before shouting out Killa Cal Wayne and M.U.G.
As far as Kirko's attempt at jumping on top of "Seen It All," it takes him a little second to find his groove before he's off, switching flows and hopping along with his usual sort of braggadocio. Pro's version decides to kick you in the chest and tries to go for the knockout early; Kirko gets technical and tries to win on style points. Bonus points for his slightly falling off near the end of the verse before picking back up. Both sort of have a point to really prove, and are just throwing out filler to keep their fan bases happy.
Express, "Woohah" EDF, "Keep My Name Out Yo Mouth 2014" Express, "Who Shot Ya"
This, was literally all people wanted to talk about in Houston rap a few weeks ago. Express and EDF, two rappers whom fit your Ren & Stimpy argument to a tee, for a brief moment had Houston's rap Twitter in a tizzy when Express dropped a freestyle over Busta Rhymes' "Woohah," where he got flat-out disrespectful and achieved a rarity in Houston rap: calling someone out by name and sticking to it.
It then resulted in a period where both he and EDF exchanged diss tracks towards one another, EDF sampling UGK and Pimp C for "Keep My Name Out Yo Mouth" and Express picking back up on old-school East Coast rap for "Who Shot Ya." Since then the tweets and disses towards one another have ceased, Express' Out For the Classics 2 tape has a little buzz attached to it (still, previous effort Higher Learning is his outright best piece of work yet), and people at least are aware that beef can exist in Houston rap.
"Woohah" has a certain sting that "Who Shot Ya" didn't, even if it did bring up more personal information. EDF's retort brought him back a few notches above strictly talking fashion, appreciation of Houston and more, but the initial salvo in their "beef" is the best track of the three.
At least we're now back in the cycle of rappers openly beefing with one another. And hopefully we won't be on Last Week Tonight status with this column. See you next week.
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