by R. Kelly feat. Snoop Dogg
Every few years, having coasted on his persona some more, Snoop Dogg jolts awake and sinks his teeth into a verse, as here. The topic is exactly what you think it is, and it's not as if Snoop says anything especially new, but it's easy to forget just how good he can be. Too bad he's the only part of the record worth noting: Kell's production, verses, and hook are all middling, not to mention his nonsensical dedication to "them nonbelievers who seem to think pimpin' is easy." Um, should it be?
by Ghostface Killah feat. Fabolous and Shareefa
If Snoop sounds alert, Ghost is completely lit up here. The narrative is as detail-rich as usual, but even this master storyteller has seldom been so lucid or compulsively listenable. The plot: criminal empire in jeopardy, capped by walking in on his wife fucking someone else—the guest stars have lines, not verses, just like the mini-movie this comes on as (seriously). The lushly orchestrated funk has as much hurtling forward momentum as Ghost himself, and it follows the action every step of the way, including the slow walk to the bedroom to discover "the black Adam and Eve, two sinful lovers," a scene scored by ominous strings, which the song makes work.
I heard this on DJ Rodney Noble's Chi-Space Vol. 4 MP3-mixtape of new Windy City rap, and it jumped out immediately. Scheme's grainy, staccato flow can be a little chompy, as the rest of his Manifesto EP proves, but his life lessons ("They say keep your feelings out of it/'Cause then they never will respect you/But if I don't respect myself/Then how am I going to let you?") roll on cannily enough. But the reason to hear the record is this track, produced by 21 Grams from the Sound Merchants. It's a find—a huffing-and-puffing, gliding, ridiculously addictive circa-1972 jazz-funk-soundtrack brass pattern, perfectly symmetrical and enormously soulful—and shouldn't be lost.
by Freddie Gibbs
Another Midwesterner, Freddie Gibbs is from Gary, Indiana, and rhymes about pimp life with a lot of detail, empathy, and skill; he doesn't have Snoop's charisma, but who does? Instead, Gibbs gets inside the life in an everyday way, and the track is a beaut—electronic gangsta funk that gleams while cracking and booming, with occasional, unshowy leaps into double time from the beats and from the rapper himself.
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