Album of the week: DrewsThatDude – We Had Our Time
Have you ever just taken a stroll through your city or town without the presence of any technological component? Or how about slowly driving your car or taking a run without any burden of a destination? If you haven’t, you should at some point. These are liberating activities that appear menial on the surface, especially when considering how obvious they are. But as a 21-year-old northerner living in a brisk world, even I find myself participating in these expeditions less and less by the day. Work has me tired much like most during this disease-ridden time period.
DrewsThatDude’s new instrumental album We Had Our Time reminds us why slowing life down is so important. By improving our natural senses without the distraction of an iPhone or laptop, we as a human race are more likely to observe the present world at its most naked and unbalanced. We notice things we wouldn’t normally notice on a day-to-day basis. As a writer, I try to get better at this endeavor every single day. With college now over, I find myself learning more and more about concepts I probably wouldn’t otherwise have time for with a structured schedule. It’s ironic that it has to be this way, and Covid has definitely contributed to this inner growth.
For Drew (aka Andrew Lloyd), the simple decision to move back to his hometown purposely became the starting point for his provisional grandeur. The drums on “2Door” and “Speak” are as pristine as Crest toothpaste. The synths on a majority of these tracks flutter without harbor. There’s reason to believe Drew found inspiration outside of New York, especially when considering “Palace’s” G-funk trappings or “Lost’s” neon-drenched coating. Drew portrays a splash of soulfulness in every aesthetic choice.
It took three years of mixing, mastering and recording before Drew finally realized how to slow time down. In doing so, the multi-faceted composer (who’s worked with Mac Miller, Lil Wayne, and Earthgang, just to name a few) hones in on his keyboard playing. The keys have an elasticity to them reminiscent of a pink sunset in the middle of a Sci-Fi film. The production is lush and layered; never pressured to move forward, even as daylight gradually drifts to a moonlit atmosphere (maybe with the exception of the ultra-groovy “Chanel”). The guitar licks bask in the glossiness of nighttime air on “Time,” and bathe in sunlight on “2Door.” Drew appears at his most comfortable behind the boards, creating rhythms that immediately transport you into his own psyche. This is a musician free from structure. This is someone who’s never been more observant.
Mavi/Micah Open Mic Night (2017)
Rap battles have been a cornerstone in hip hop since the dawn of its existence. The conventional goal (as theatrically displayed in 8 Mile) of freestyle battling is belittling your opponent as much as possible; to the point of utter embarrassment. The technical aspects of these events are frequently entertaining, but hip hop’s boundary-less approach to music making over the past decade has legitimately masked the importance of lyrical technicality. And yet, here we have a whole new approach to the sub-artform.
North Carolina rapper Mavi dealt with existential curiosity on his debut album Let the Sun Talk, an attribute that is normally omnipresent with college students who are coming to terms with who they are within the context of society (Mavi is a 20-year-old Howard student). Mavi’s wide-eyed wisdom is beyond many of his peers, especially when he’s dealing with his own esoteric cultivation. When him and his friend Micah spit in front of a large crowd of people, their goal is to educate, not criticize.
It’s impressive when any rapper confidently spits over a random beat; it’s even more mind-boggling when someone is able to freestyle poetry without any instrumental whatsoever. In this video from 2017, both Mavi and Micah encourage each other, hoping to preach their youthful rhetoric to a group who will listen on a whim. The wordplay is on point, but never feels overtly garish or bombastic. The raps are more about subtle meditation if anything.
Halfway through Mavi says, “there can be beauty in this brokenness, but maybe my candle loses flame in the openness.” He has a twinkle in his eye that’s equal parts inspiring and enlightened. It kind of reminds me of Guru’s sophisticated mysticism. He’s reflective like a preacher, but never takes himself too seriously. You can tell by his mere presence; Mavi knows what the hell he’s talking about. It’s hard to not feel a tad optimistic about our future when watching this.
ATL Smook – “Fast Lane”
This track isn’t as ambitious as past ATL Smook endeavors, mainly because the beat isn’t as cryptic as some of Pierre or Plugs’ compositions (people he’s worked with in the past). If anything, I’m just happy he’s extended his vocal fluidity beyond the Chief Keef karaoke found on Rude Religion (an obvious ode to the brand Keef would constantly rep in his early music). Much like a YungManny or UnotheActivist though, Smook always brings a captivating performance. On “Fast Lane,” the narrative (and even approach) is stylistically familiar, but catchy in a charming sort of way. Sooner or later, the underground personality will break from that middle class of rappers and find a mainstream hit. Every artist from Atlanta (ATL is formerly from North Carolina) seemingly does at some point.
Lil Yachty & Sada Baby – “Not Regular”
I don’t know why but I love it when rappers subtly reference lyrics from prior projects. it’s one of my favorite aspects of the genre. On his candy-coated renaissance (and oftentimes great) Lil Boat 3, Yachty mentions how he quit drinking lean-“Bitch, I am a wizard/Used to sip the sizzurp/Had to let it go, but I miss it dearly” in a warped baritone inflection. On their new collaborative effort “Not Regular,” Sada Baby acts as the ultimate Pete Davidson in Big Time Adolescence, asking Yachty if he’s actually done with the purple drink-“my n***a Yachty quit the wocky, I’m like, ‘is you sure.'” Sada’s perverse debauchery makes him the devil on your shoulder when making decisions. This duo has been an unlikely subplot in 2020. A great one at that.
Duwap Kaine: “Gasoline”
Sammyboy is great at making beats drenched in magical ambience (“Da Feeling”); something he accomplishes once again on “Gasoline” from Duwap Kaine’s new Underdog 2 project. I want to talk more about the album in next week’s roundup, as it will undoubtedly end up in my Best Of list from the month of June. In the meantime, let this one settle in the depths of your brain matter.
Some Great Music Videos: Synopses provided
Dababy (feat. Roddy Ricch) – “Rockstar”
Dababy and Roddy Ricch fight off the zombie apocalypse as SethInTheKitchen plays the piano in the background. Inspired by Trippie Redd’s “Dark Knight Dummo.”
Guapdad 4000 (feat. Denzel Curry) – “Lil Scammer That Could”
Guapdad begins the video as a human hose and ends it as a train running over a crooked cop who’s tied up in the middle of the road. He’s also a flower somewhere in between. No matter what inanimate object or natural wildlife he plays, Guap is always motivating himself to be the best scammer he can be. Such an inspiration.