When it comes to a genre as broad as hip-hop, cutting through the weak beats is a full-time job. In each installment of Mean Muggin’, Ethan Padgett spreads some shine to the cats who deserve it and hates on those who don’t, whether they’re underground or overground, superstar or indie darling. This time out he’s just trying to get by with Memphis underdog Mr. Sche.
There are things that rap does right. If you rap about being broke, smoking blunts, and eating shrimp, I’ll probably buy your music. And there are things rap does wrong. If you spit about your rap telekinesis, or something on an equally wack nerd tip, screw you. That’s about how I break it down.
Mr. Sche does things right. This Memphis rapper/producer has been in the game since the ’80s, crafting beats for everyone from underground star Indo G to Outlawz vet Fatal Hussein–not to mention any and every M-Town legend you can name–and holding it down over the course of about 50 underground joints. (A real man of the people, Sche keeps watch over his own message board, posting his own phone number on damn near every page.) 2005′s Showdown–a joint album with fellow Tennessee titan Al Kapone, best known for ghostwriting “Whoop That Trick” from Hustle and Flow–was when I finally noticed Sche’s hustle for real, instead of just hearing another gruff voice in the bleary, low-budget crew Immortal Lowlife. On 2007′s Supa Star, Sche moves beyond his cheap past, where he was content with talking greasy over slasher-movie synths, for a more reflective style.
While as a producer he’s experimented with damn near every genre, the feel of Supa Star–soul strings and organ swells over crisp, skittery 808s and drop bass–has an epic, traditionally Memphis quality. The fat, buzzy tone played against brittle hi-hats has a classic Beats By The Pound feel to it, with more bump in the trunk than DJ Paul and Juicy J (maybe the most low-end since Born To Mack) and more soul than just about anybody around the moment, flipping Isaac Hayes samples like he’s in Black Moon. Sche has taken Memphis rap out from under DJ Paul’s little arm and run with it.
Lyrically, Sche is on the underdog tip, having already paid his dues making the definition of raw, unsellable Murder Dog gangsta rap when he was out of money and hating everybody. On Supa Star his hustle is about feeding his kids, about dropping the gangsta pretenses, about being a man who raps about the first thing he feels. In a lot of ways, it can adhere to cliche as much as the radio joints he’s bucking against, but there’s something genuine and unexpected here. Mr. Sche might fit the “serious rap” template, but that template allows you to basically say whatever you want, from dirty jokes to confused, Pac-style social commentary. Supa Star isn’t flawless, but there’s a lot to explore in Sche’s world. In the year of the negligible producer LP (Timbaland, Swizz Beatz, etc.), it’s good to see someone who doesn’t put distance between himself and the audience, who doesn’t pass off spectacle as worth.
TAKE OFF THAT CROWN, YOU BEEN ROBBED
Terrible hip-hop can take many forms, from the pioneering wackness of P.M. Dawn to the new school garbage of Yung Joc. The one thing that unites these failures is not an inability to move the genre forward–I’m not KRS-One–but a simple inability to make decent rap music. I don’t hate on most of the usual suspects, and the list of artists I love often looks like a list of the most-hated-on already. But sometimes there’s a point where you gotta pick up the radio and say “screw this.”
5. Jay-Z feat. Skateboard P – “Blue Magic”
A Blueprint 2 reject getting hyped in the New York Times by clueless new jacks who wanna bring Brooklyn back.
4. Soulja Boy – “Soulja Girl”
Does anyone, up to and including Soulja Boy’s girl, honestly give a shit what Soulja Boy wants in a girl? “Crank Dat” was some kinda new classic, still impossible to erase from the brain even after six months of endless, plinky replay, forcing eight million bored kids to make crappy YouTube videos (including “Crank Dat Spiderman,” the original and still the best). But I nearly forgot what this trash sounded like before it had even finished playing for the first time.
3. Kanye West feat. T-Pain – Good Life
If skipping past this track every time just to get to “Can’t Tell Me Nothin” and tryna avoid its Bathing Ape nightmare of a video weren’t bad enough, now Hot 107 in Atlanta is spinning it approximately 57 times an hour. While I actually dig both of these cats on the solo tip, their Wonder Twins powers bring out the worst from each here–lazy vocoder moans and lazy, catchphrase-y raps. Straight garbage.
2. Khujo Goodie feat. Millionairz N’ Playaz – “25 Ambulances”
While not nearly as well-known as the rest of this list, I should mention of one of the biggest fall-offs in ATL history. I was feeling the last few Goodie Mob albums, but this is imitation crunk at best–something you expect from high school kids giving out CD-Rs at shows, not one of the most respected lyricists in the South. This summer Khujo quietly dropped a wack album with zero Dungeon Family involvement besides weak Big Gipp verse, and when not getting outshined by everyone from Trae to Sean P from the Youngbloodz, this peg-legged sell-out is slurring generic rhymes over a TV-commercial version of Lil’ Jon–complete with imitation Lil’ Jon hook–circa ’03. With Gipp getting St. Lunatics paper and Cee-Lo dressing up like Strawberry Shortcake to get trip-hop dollars, I guess the rest of Goodie didn’t have many options, but to be honest dude would be more relevant flipping Bollywood string samples and getting Afroman on the hook than wasting his time on this. All we can do now is wait on Slimm Calhoun’s hyphy opus and for Backbone to drop his “Pop, Lock, and Drop It”-inspired cash-in around 2009.
1. Young Buck Feat. Latoiya Williams – “U Ain’t Going Nowhere”
I’m mad as hell at this slow jam love jones bullshit. Hearing one of the coldest rappers in the South–and the only respectable lyricist in G-Unit–spit mealy-mouthed come-ons over a fake Mary J. track by some Fruity Loops-jocking wannabe is not a good look. Besides couple of back-in-’95 gangsta jams, Buck The World should have been a coaster, and while “all that cryin’ shit stop when I’m down below” is real talk, this song makes “Candy Shop” sound like “Ante Up.”
Mr. Sche [Official Site]