Standout Track: No. 3, the cleverly constructed “No Substance,” a critique of hip-hop’s economic realities in an era in which trap rappers are the flavor of the moment. Three MCs speak over a jazz-oriented midtempo beat; their deceptively low-key rhymes are bracketed by samples of a voice actress reading from a financial-advice book.
Musical Motivation: “The hook says it all,” says Damyon “Choppy Chop-e Sound” Richardson, referring to the song’s refrain: “Synthesized Southern beats/Gun talk/Money talk, no substance.” The 37-year-old, Gaithersburg-by-way-of-D.C. producer and rapper is joined on the track by his younger brother, Chris “Mercury Waters” Richardson, as well as Buck from Choppy Chop-e’s Champions Over Challengers crew. All three men rhyme in a grown-up, slightly bitter tone. “I just wanna quit my day job, really/When I look back at that plan, it all seems silly,” Mercury Waters says.
No Cheapo Sounds: Richardson says he’s had a tough time getting industry love for his layered, sample-heavy, ’90s-oriented aesthetic. He accuses radio stations of being too narrow-minded, and says the resulting homogeneity has left a lot of less-experienced artists “tryin’ to get the money, running the same treadmill over and over again, and expecting a result.” A sound engineer for an audio-book company by day, Richardson also questions some fans’ gadget-oriented listening habits. “Nowadays you see youngins…and they’re playin’ their music on their phone, loud as hell, right?” he says. “And you hear the same old bullshit song, and the next song come on, and you don’t even know if it’s a new song, or the same ol’ song they was playin’ before.”
Listen to “No Substance” below.