Sunday, February 15, 2009

The Rapper

In Hip Hop, hope springs eternal. Anyone who still finds the New York mixtape scene relevant understands this, that a punchline rapper is like a streaky two guard. For talented punchline rappers the circle of life works something like this: There's the revelatory moment of introduction in which the kid is at his best, spitting nothing but patented swagger, twisting the moment's prevalent pop culture references in new and interesting ways. Think Banks over "Victory", Jae Hood over "1-900 Hustler", Fabolous and Joe Budden on "Comin 4 You". Just as quickly as he burst on the scene the well from which the prodigy draws inspiration inevitably runs dry. In a saturated mixtape market, (slowly correcting itself by changing into an artist rather than DJ driven medium) references are recycled ad-nauseum till the very thought of comparing the size of your gun to Lil Bow Wow is gag inducing. Style gets stale, the MC is somewhat diminished in the listener's mind and we're forced to wait for the next Corey Gunz to catch our ears. Then, occasionally, without warning you hear a random verse or track that announces a return to form. For Budden it was "Mood Muzik 2", Fabolous had last year's DJ Drama assisted "There Is No Competition" and for me, Lloyd Banks had "The Cold Corner". All this brings us to East Flatbush's own Red Cafe, a boring MC who occasionally popped up on the circuit with a verse here and there but never warranted his prevalence on DJ tapes early this dedcade. He was auto-skip material lost amongst what was a wealth of talented MCs doing similar things. He played his part on the back of Kay Slay and Envy mixtapes and personally, I never expected to hear from him again.

Jermaine Denny lived his whole life down at the end of the 2,3,4 line by Brooklyn College. I worked with a kid who went to High School with him and apparently he's earned his longevity on behalf of wealthy parents and connections to the right people in New York's insular Hip Hop scene. For years DJs like Lenny S would feature him on mixtape showcases like the 5 O'clock free ride and you could feel particular DJs rooting for him, either by way of personal taste or some other shadowy form of coercion. In this first quarter their attention has been rewarded with a pair of excellent singles earning popular acclaim and heavy rotation. I love both of these for an intangible seasonally appropriate quality that both have, perfect for a cold, cloudless winter day in New York.

Red Cafe So Easy (remix) drop1.mp3 -

At first, "So Easy (Remix)" works thanks to a phenomenal beat, digging up the opening seconds of Anita Baker's "Caught Up In the Rapture" and letting the sample speak for itself with a straightforward, peppy kick-snare. Ras Kass tackled the same sample a few years ago for "Van Gogh" but couldn't get it cleared. In comparison, Ras' beat is melodramatic and overwrought, you can see how producer Big Dev wins for allowing his lush backround the space it needs and Red keeps the song's format hard and uncompromising, a successful contrast. Beyond this, Red Cafe sounds rejuvenated, practiced. He has acquired a self assurance that is tangible in his delivery. He rides the beat in a series of cadences that all work, his punchlines are straightforward but memorable. His catchy couplets evoke a New York Ludacris or perhaps more accurately, a Brooklyn 50 Cent. (In his prime)

Hottest In Da Hood - Red Cafe

This strong showing is only reinforced on "Hottest in the Hood", another minimal but hypnotic loop that leaves the listener feeling as if they're in good hands. If you're not buying this try going 50 seconds in, listen through the hook and try to imagine hearing that at crushing decibels in a club while the entire room chants along in unison. Red's ear for beats and newfound swagger have me interested for the time being. More then anything else they give the listener hope, you can never turn your back on an artist for good.


T.R.O.Y. said...

Good call, Abe. Red Cafe sounds perfectly at home over the Anita Baker sample on "So Easy". He shows tons of style and confidence. This is exactly the kind of rap I like.

"Hottest In The Hood" is cool but sort of forgettable. I can't put my finger on it but the elements of the song don't quite come together for me.

Abe Beame said...

Yeah, I actually think they're both growers. "So Easy" is probably the better song thanks to that beat which never stops being great to me, but on "Hottest in the Hood" Red's presence is a little stronger, from the standpoint of tangible "style". It took me a while to acknowledge that they're not just guilty pleasures but good songs. "Hottest in the Hood" is still newish so give it time.

Thun said...

Yeah Red is good on both, he just sounds more at home on the first beat. Maybe I'm just more convinced that he makes it look easy than that he's the hottest in the hood, nullus.

In any event, he's clearly being coached by someone in terms of delivery because he just sounds like he's using more of his voice, if that makes any sense.

ghengis blond said...

i'm not mad at these, but i think you could put any number of rappers over "so easy" and make a hot song

Abe Beame said...

Thun- total agreement and I think an astute observation concerning the voice, and an interesting theory in regards to the coaching, though I think to be fair we can at least consider the possibility that over the course of five plus years the kid's improved and developed something resembling a style. No real way to know as far as I can see.

Ghengis- I won't refute that, do we penalize Jermaine for actually doing it?

ghengis blond said...

no, sir. good music is that.

i prefer "cook it up and serve 'em" but i really can't stand the guy for the most part. i wouldn't say i ever considered him a factor in the lukewarm ny mixtape circuit.

a huge cosign stamp goes on the "cold corner" mixtape. "i do it for this block" bests the vast majority of lloyd's material since the early g-unit underground flurries.

Abe Beame said...

Yeah, I mean the whole point of the post was pretty much that up until this point the guy has been a waste of life. Glad someone else was feeling "Cold Corner" I should probably write on it since no one else seems to want to.