Listening Post #4
by Alex Brammer
1. ScHoolboy Q – Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane (feat. Jadakiss)
Matthew 13:42 reads “And will cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” I suspect this was a prophecy predicting this song, because I have never heard Q sounding so hungry – you can practically hear his teeth cracking as they smack each other between syllables. And as for fire? Well, with Q and Jadakiss on the track you’re not going to be left wanting. Kiss in particular probably delivers the most memorable verse on the whole album here – it’s a real Jay Rock on Money Trees moment. The actual lyrical content is fairly standard grimy gangsta rap, but as ever it’s all in the delivery and finding new ways to say the same old stuff. Lucky for us, both ScHoolboy and Jadakiss are on absolutely top form here, riding the beautiful beat break from Groovy Tony into Eddie Kane effortlessly. They make it look easy.
2. BADBADNOTGOOD – Chompy’s Paradise
BADBADNOTGOOD always seem to be a bit of a guilty pleasure band, in that whenever I mention liking them around one of those self-confessed jazz fans who refuse to listen to anything recorded after 1970 they seem to physically back away a little. Just in case my awful taste is contagious. With that being said, I genuinely think that BADBADNOTGOOD are an incredibly exciting band doing all the right things to shake up the genre a bit, and Chompy’s Paradise from their new album IV is their best single track yet. You only really hear about BBNG when they’re working with Kaytranada, Rihanna or Ghostface Killah, but it’s tracks like this one that tell you why. They’re fantastically talented at getting across their intended emotions without vocals, as well as just being great straight-up instrumentalists. It’s a mournful, insistent and beautiful track which has a tendency to get you reminiscing about ‘the good old days’, only for you to realise that the good old days are now.
3. ScHoolboy Q – Ride Out (feat. Vince Staples)
Okay, okay, I know I already put one ScHoolboy Q track down on here, but this is really just what happens when the best rap album of the year so far drops a week before this column’s due. For a guy whose public Snapchat story basically just consists of him cheering on his daughter at her primary school football games, driving around listening to Death Grips and taking the mick out of his mates, ScHoolboy Q really comes with some cold lyrics. “Crips don’t fuck with crips oh now it’s jeans that look like the rival team”, is this really the same guy? The grimy bass and mysterious melodies in the back courtesy of TDE producer Sounwave fit perfectly with Q and Staples half-rapping, half-screaming into the mic. I’ve never heard a family man sound hungrier or closer to establishing dominance in the rap game. Blank Face did a fantastic job of reclaiming Q’s credibility after two years missing in action, and this is the banging peak of this future gangsta rap classic.
4. Desiigner – Caliber
I know what you’re going to say. Aphex Twin released an EP last Friday, but Desiigner (a.k.a. The Dab King) makes the cut instead? Don’t worry – Aphex’ll be here in the next edition, but I realised the other day that I’ve had at least one trap song in every edition of Listening Post that I’ve written thus far and I’m not quite ready to let go of the pattern. Desiigner is a bit of a strange beast – he essentially cloned Future’s entire sound with a generic Soundcloud beat in the background and somehow rode that to #1 and 300 million Spotify streams. His debut tape New English is hilarious; he’s Future with none of the self awareness and none of the depth but there’s such an all-enveloping sense of fun in what he’s doing. Caliber is basically just a hook repeated over with his now-legendary adlibs in the background, but there’s such a ballsy confidence and swagger to his delivery – as if Desiigner is some kind of seasoned rap professional instead of just a kid who lucked out – that it’s impossible to dislike.
5. The Avalanches – Saturday Night Inside Out (feat. David Berman and Father John Misty)
I don’t know how many synonyms of “mental” there are, but Wildflower is deserving of the lot. After all, which other band would spend thousands of dollars on a Father John Misty feature, only to relegate his vocals to a haunting background melody? Instead, we have poet and singer-songwriter David Berman delivering a bizarre but entertaining slam poem about – well… I’ve narrowed it down to either being about a first love or it being a sermon from the leader of a sex cult. Quite the choice to make, eh? It does feel like the perfect reflection of this slightly queasy, offputting but fantastic album, though. What a track to end on.