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It’s gonna be weird when X.O. hits a video drought, because right now it seems like he’s got a new clip every few weeks, and they’re all worth watching (and they’re all generally D.C. as hell). Up now is “Rugged,” which is definitely on the Style Wars tip, with all its trains and spraycans and busted-up buildings. The song is one of the less instantly gratifying tracks from The Color Grey mixtape (which is the palate-cleanser for 2013’s Colour de Grey), but if you settle in with it, wordplay like this struts to the forefront: “See how I can break ’em down by the fuckin’ fraction/We mute they shit/But we read ’em/And watch the caption/Repute they shit/Communion, without the Catholics.” The features (Obii Say, Awthentik) match up nice, too. —-Joe Warminsky
Rapper Fleetwood DeVille tweets a lot, and mostly about random stuff, so it’s easy to miss his most insightful thoughts. But when Fleet tweeted Wednesday night, “There’s gonna be a new Fleetwood DeVille record on bandcamp in about….shit…twenty minutes,” that got my attention. Though the Oklahoma native can be a bit scatterbrained online, his rhyme cadences are not.
On “Searchlight,” produced by InnerLoop composer Grussle, Fleet accentuates the instrumental with confident fluidity, pondering everything from the Bohemian Caverns sound system to delays on the Red Line. And if the track wasn’t viral enough on its own merits, Fleet’s promotion of it might have done the trick: “The best part of waking up is MOTHERFUCKING NEW FLEETWOOD DEVILLE,” he tweeted Thursday morning. Seconds later: “You’re gonna click my goddamn link.” —-Marcus J. Moore
Kendrick vs. Frank: An Aside
Pitchfork, as many who follow the fortresslike hype incubator already know, doesn’t allow Web comments on anything it publishes. So its annual year-end lists represent a kind of high court of millennial music-nerd trolling. (At least Rolling Stone owns its baby-boomer love letters by opening itself up to public ridicule.) So in the absence of any comment section to post this in, here’s my quick note to Pitchfork’s staff: It’s supposed to be Frank, and then Kendrick.
The No. 1 and No. 2 albums of the year were both hip-hop masterpieces about youth culture in Southern California. Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City thrived with skin-tight production and arresting scenes about the struggle. It’s a vital, spiraling concept album about a kid trying to get across town—-and get laid—-that steals your heart with its humanizing vignettes about parents and gang members. The rapping is aggressively technical: lyrically lyrical for the post-Mos Def East Coast purists, and progress enough for the contrarian cultural thinkers that brought you Lil B.
Kendrick’s record is a badass bundle of hot fire, but it is second to the most transcendent hip-hop album since The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Like Miseducation, Frank Ocean’s Channel ORANGE is about self-actualization. Ocean spent his life unable to be himself, but here he finally unraveled and began putting it all together, and its vitality stems from his perfect 20-something palette (see: that Playstation 2 warm-up sound intro). The songwriting blindsides you—-and “Thinkin’ Bout You” hasn’t gotten old somehow—-but the lyrics remain underrated: the mango and limes imagery, the way the protagonist falls to his death at the end of “Super Rich Kids.” “Monks” is the only clunker, but I like that it’s about Frank touring with Odd Future and being amazed by the mosh pits. “Forrest Gump,” meanwhile, might be its boldest track because it’s the most blatantly “out,” but it’s also the sweetest, poppiest moment—-and I can’t get enough of it. Finally, that interlude at the very end lingers—-the way Ocean sings “Looks like all we have is each other” beneath the mix isn’t even fair.
The hipsterati got it wrong. —-Ramon Ramirez