Doin’ it for the Culture

Since the inception of the rap genre it has been chock full of stereotypes, especially about the gritty streets.  While most other genres have veered far and wide with their lyric topics, hip-hop subject matter has stayed mostly the same.  Since Straight Outta Compton’s drug talk, murderous lyrics and casual misogyny, these things have been lyrical staples.  The world is changing though.  Gun violence is now a realer evil than ever, # MeToo has put an end to sexist behavior ever being publicly excused again, and the opioid epidemic is at an all time high.

It is with all this in mind that I still cannot believe the existence, not to mention the success of Migos, a group of actual criminals, unabashed sexists, and apparently unrepentant former drug dealers.  I fully understand that by using this as a criticism, I cannot ignore the decades of other rappers that used to be drug sellers.  But others, take Jay-Z for example, have shown moral growth in their careers, and a desire to give back and make recompense, for this trade that destroys the lives of so many.  The Migos are definitely not telling stories about how they used to sell drugs.  It is an inseperable part of their musical identity; their very name is slang for a drug house.

What’s more, Culture II isn’t even good.  Uninventive beats with even less inventive lyrics blend together into an aggressively mediocre bad-music soup.  After over an hour and a half of generic trap it kind of all blends together.  The album’s 20 track inventory is probably the most blatantly profitable money move we’ve seen in a while, and it also seems to be the most artistically bankrupt.

The album’s name suggests complex ideas discussed and maybe some discourse on state of american culture right now.  What we get is a bunch of triplet flows, frequently interspersed with the word “culture”.  But realistically, if you ignore the words an album that has songs about criminal activity can at least possess a sort of roguish thrill to it.  This album is neither roguish or thrilling.  Talking about drugs, women and money takes over the whole album, letting up once in a while to talk about cars.  Not even talking about them in any different way, the list of topics bores fast and takes over the album eliminating any hope of its enjoyment.  From the obviously subjected “Narcos” — “we be wrappin’ in kilos (yay), snub nose with potatoes” — to “BBO” — “Hit her for a minute then I pass her to the homie” (not sure theres any excusable way to interpret that) — to what should have been an interesting song: “Culture National Anthem” — “need a million dollar slab, bring it back and break it down”.

This is not to say that there is absolutely nothing good about this album.  Despite the Trio’s efforts, some decent music does glimmer through the fog of marijuana smoke; such as Cardi B’s fantastic bars on “Motorsport” and Pharell William’s excellent motown-esque “Stir Fry” beat  (If you like Stir Fry you should just listen to No One Ever Really Dies, a whole album by Pharell).  On a side note, Sing J. Lee, the director of the music video for Stir Fry is a genius.  I call it now, the man’s career is going to take off soon.

Wait…

This is supposed to be an optimistic publication, and I’ve kind of got a bad taste in my mouth from writing about Migos.  Here are some recommendations for music that doesn’t come from a 20 song “album” and doesn’t have lyrics that sound like they’ve been written by a foul mouthed toddler.

Track #1: U&I (feat. Dia) — By Flatbush Zombies

This track from the New York psychedelic rap trio features an absolutely beautiful hook from Dia before some cooly rapped lines set to relaxed guitar riffs.  Here is a song that manages to be laid back and pressingly urgent at the same time “This life is full of stress!”

Track #2: Only Love — By Deer Tick

This less of a new track released in 2017 by the Rhode Island Alt-Rock group.  Boasting subtle finger picking, steadily thumping percussion, and some grating but pleasant vocals, this song is some of the best that Deer Tick Vol.1 has to offer.

Track #3: 33rd Blakk Glass — By City Morgue, ZillaKami, and Sos Mulla

I’m not really sure what to make of this song.  It contains some brutal screamed hooks that I don’t understand.  I don’t have any clue who City Morgue are, and they aren’t on wikipedia.  It’s definitely a cloud rap sort of song, but there are some pretty overt metallic tinges that take its intensity up to an eleven.

Track #4: Humoresque — By Jack White

If you’d like to curb the ear assault of that last track then listen to this one from Jack White’s new album Boarding House Reach.  The album it self is a bit of an avante-garde artwork (a review is coming, believe me) and “Humoresque” represents its lowest dip into sanity as it descends from the highs of “Get in the Mind Shaft”.  I recommend this one because even if the sublime weirdness of the album isn’t your cup of tea, I think you’ll still be able to appreciate this nice piano tune.

Track #5: Need A Little Time — Courtney Barnett

I know very little of Courtney Barnett.  I saw her on SNL a few years back, thought she seemed like the next Kurt Cobain, and forgot her soon after.  Her latest song is a tad mellower than the grungy stuff i first saw her play, but it still packs some punch with the compressed electric strums and sweet sounding background vocals.

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