This week’s theme is fleeting pleasures, those ephemeral moments — whether it’s minutes or seconds (or nanoseconds) — when a glimpse of sunlight glints through the dirt being shoveled onto our graves, or a sliver of truth escapes the concertina wire of lies. Too much? OK, I basically mean entertaining blips in the shitstream, and for me, hip-hop’s got the most entertaining blippage. Of course, I’m not saying that the genre hasn’t produced abiding artistry in 2016 — see all things Boosie, Chance the Rapper’s Coloring Book, Kevin Gates’s Islah, J-Zone’s Fish-N-Grits, et al. But when you need a quick hit, try these.
Dreezy feat. Jeremih, “Body” (Interscope)
Don’t cheat yourself and wait to enjoy this rapper-singer until she has a breakout hit — check her wavy Call It What You Want EP or her fiery feature on Lil Sly’s recent underground single “Promise” or her paper-chasin’ throwdown “Serena” with Def Loaf or this giddy, double-entendre-filled duet with fellow Chicagoan Jeremih, produced by BloodPop (known for Justin Bieber’s “Sorry”). Though Dreezy and Jeremih explore the song’s firearm-as-sexual-metaphor scenario to outrageous extremes – for instance, he croons: “Got an Uzi on your booty know you poppin’ / Clip after clip ain’t got no problem with me watchin’” — their easy chemistry and ability to infuse even the silliest lyrics with charisma and wit is captivating. Nobody sings smut with subtler savoir faire than Jeremih, but here Dreezy’s versatile voice leaves the stronger impression. When she says she’s “about to catch a body” or “I’m just tryna fuck up your bed,” it sounds like a playful elbow to the ribs.
De La Soul feat. Snoop Dogg, “Pain” (AOI/Rough Trade)
Over the years, few groups have given me more pleasure — both fleeting and everlasting — than De La Soul, but I’m not gonna run around begging impressionable youths to check out their ninth, Kickstarter-funded album, due out in August (though don’t miss ’em live!). Which is to say that my expectations were middling for this low-key, summery soul-jazz bump, on which they welcome weed magnate and same-sex-marriage supporter Snoop Dogg. Known to freestyle and/or phone in his features, the Doggfather does not squander the opportunity here. In fact, he practically performs a human horn solo, melodically dipping and diving for about 30 seconds of effortless verbal fluidity that’s both breathtaking and deep-in-the-pocket whimsical. The peak: “Shades of epiphany / Can’t let it get to me / Move so differently / Do it so swiftily [sic].” Flat-out masterful.
Kent Jones, “Don’t Mind” (We the Best)
Here’s the original inspiration for this column’s theme, for the simple reason that bucket-hatted Florida rapper/producer Kent Jones carries on an internal conversation with a paramour while speaking five (!) languages — English, Spanish French, Japanese, Haitian — and sounds more geeked than if he were ordering the Five-Cheese Truffle Mac and Cheese at Prime 112 Miami for the first time! I mean, the guy is so goofily happy to be here that his ribald wordplay (“She gives me desktop till I overload”) and inevitable stereotypes (“She’s from Africa but she fucks me like she’s Haitian / Ass black, but the eyes lookin’ Asian”) are more eye-rollingly ridiculous than offensive (which is easy for me to say, but …). The rubbery synth-funk beat doesn’t hurt, and it should come as no surprise that DJ Khaled is overseeing Jones’s, um, cunning multilinguistics. I’ll show myself out.
Missy Elliott on A$AP Ferg’s “Strive” (Polo Grounds/RCA) and on Fifth Harmony’s “Not that Kinda Girl” (Syco/Epic)
Neither of these songs blew up the charts, and with good reason — the former is garbaggio piccante EDM-rap and the latter is a feeble Prince homage. But when Missy airlifts in, it’s like she’s moonwalking on water. On “Strive,” she hits ’em wit da downhome hee over an undulating house-music bass line: “Auntie Jean was kinda mean / But she had dreams / She used to sing like Tina Turner / She said, ‘Bring my wig and bring my dress, my high-heel shoes from a Sunday mornin’ service’ / ‘Ayeee,’ she said, ‘I’ll show y’all beginners / I’ll still whoop that ass with a switch and a splinter / Pray for these tramps runnin’ round like a sinner.’” On “Not That Kinda Girl,” she gets less space to roam, but still flays a ricocheting 808 with more feisty effervescence than all five harmonies combined.
Wiz Khalifa feat. Lil Uzi Vert, “Pull Up” (Taylor Gang/Atlantic)
Although his first mixtape, Luv Is Rage, had an agitated momentum, Lil Uzi Vert more often sounds like an Auto-Tuned head cold and, over the course of an entire tape, listeners may experience extreme drowsiness. Here, Vert’s droning monotone is an addictive counterpoint to Wiz’s stoned sk8ter-boisms, and in fact it’s almost hypnotic, enhanced by his penchant for repetitive, no-duh verses that tend to stagger in circles. For example, from “Pull Up”: “She wan’ smoke my dope, ay / Let her smoke my dope, ay.” Lyrics site Genius helpfully translates: “She wants to smoke his dope and he will let her smoke his dope.” Indeed, he will. FYI: Lil Uzi Vert is from Philly, not Chicago or Atlanta or New York, though his style is a 50-50 combo of Chief Keef and Young Thug, and he’s collaborated with Harlem’s A$AP Mob (sharing their multiregional phonetics). Now he lives in the ATL, perhaps explaining why his green plaits are such a lovely complement to Lil Yachty’s red ones.
Fetty Wap’s chorus and bridge on Kid Ink’s “Promise” (The Alumni Music Group/88 Classic/RCA)
Kid Ink is the dude from the radio song you once sorta liked but never quite placed until about six months or a year later, and then when you found out it was Kid Ink, you were vaguely bummed. That’s sorta what happened to me with this one, which was released at the end of 2015; but this time, after discovering that the audibly smirking rapper was Kid Ink, I got more pissed than bummed. A deeply corny dude who’s still failing to pull off a faux–Chris Brown blond fade, Ink not only wastes this blissfully bangin’ DJ Mustard beat, he comes off as laughably unconvincing when he tries to pledge fidelity to his fiancée (he ain’t “got time for no side bitch”; ah, chivalry!). Conversely, Fetty Wap’s exquisite quaver casts a tender spell, as Mustard’s vibraphone-like synths twinkle over rugged sub-bass. Fetty stands as an inspiration for any guy who wants to control his testosterone-pounding madness or at least sound somewhat truthful when talking to a significant other (trap queen or no). He makes it look easy when we know it’s not.