Sharp Darts: Loss Leaders Free online-only tracks from Naledge, both Cool Kids, Flosstradamus, and Japanese Cartoon | Music Column | Chicago Reader

Sharp Darts: Loss Leaders Free online-only tracks from Naledge, both Cool Kids, Flosstradamus, and Japanese Cartoon 

NALEDGE

"I'm in Chicago Bitch" and Million Dollar Mano remix

The electro-rap single "I'm in Miami Bitch," from Los Angeles-based duo LMFAO, has all the building blocks of a good novelty club cut: a chantable chorus, an earworm for a melodic hook, and simple lyrics that plenty of people can identify with (especially in Miami). It's inspired shameless local reworkings in every major American city, and Chicago is well represented by MC Naledge of Kidz in the Hall, who's been on a tear for the past couple months, releasing a steady stream of Internet-only tracks.

His "I'm in Chicago Bitch," like all the music in this roundup, was an online giveaway—I found pretty much everything here via the blogs in my RSS reader, especially Fake Shore Drive and RCRD LBL, and most were posted by the artists themselves at file-hosting sites like zShare. Current home-recording technology makes it possible to create and distribute music for next to nothing, and as a result the Internet's awash in really good hip-hop no one expects you to pay for and that will most likely never end up pressed to any physical medium at all—many artists treat a fair chunk of their output as a promotional tool, not a product.

"I'm in Chicago Bitch" doesn't dig any deeper than the original, but it dials down the vapid glitz in favor of a gritty, low-budget sensibility—instead of rhymes about exclusive beaches and posh hotels, we get a description of a hot weekend that goes, "Drink all day/ Juke all night/ Go get some tacos/ And fuck till the morning light." Halfway through the Million Dollar Mano remix of the track, the original's beat and burbling 303 bass line both drop out—not coincidentally right in time for a loop of Naledge's shout-out to "Mano beats"—and then get replaced by an acid-tinged blast of hard, body-jacking house. The MC gamely plays along, dropping his usual lyrical subtlety to rip into a raunchy juke rap, and the song's transformation into something purely Chicagoan is complete.

MIKEY ROCKS FEATURING HOLLYWOOD HOLT AND DUDE ROYAL

"This Shit Is Easy"

DRAKE FEATURING CHUCK INGLISH

"November 18th (Chuck Inglish remix)"

The Cool Kids are still working on their make-or-break sophomore album, When Fish Ride Bicycles (due on Chocolate Industries later this year), but that hasn't stopped them from messing around on the side. For the quirky minimalist banger "This Shit Is Easy," Mikey Rocks teams up with LA producers the Skiii Team, Encino rapper Dude Royal, and local homie Hollywood Holt. The Skiii Team contribute a track that consists almost entirely of a kick-and-hand-claps 808 beat and a clipped, dirty jazz-funk organ riff. Dude Royal chips in a mellow rap reminiscent of something from ATLiens, and Hollywood is hilarious per usual ("I keep it Ritchie Valens/ That's fly till I die"), but it's Mikey who owns the track—he's leveled up his flow and his lyrics to the point that the Cool Kids' first record, The Bake Sale, now seems like a demo, and he's got the confidence to match.

The other Cool Kid, Chuck Inglish, has turned up on a remix of a tune from So Far Gone, a mix tape from Toronto MC Drake that gives equal billing to Lil Wayne and Lykke Li. Drake has a singing voice that can support an occasional detour into straight R&B, but "November 18th" is a tribute to DJ Screw's chopped-and-screwed classic "June 27th" that sinks deep into the same kind of druggy, slurred-out haze. Inglish's remix cuts through the fog with one of his usual crisp, sparse beats, slowed down for the occasion, and he adds a leaned-back, tripped-out rap of his own that references Super Smash Bros. and Google Maps—a total package that ought to satisfy even the most dedicated Houston hip-hop head.

FLOSSTRADAMUS FEATURING CAROLINE POLACHEK

"Big Bills" and remixes

(Green Label Sound)

Flosstradamus made their bones with stupid-brilliant moves like turning the Outfield's "Your Love" into a B-house track or combining Lil Jon and the ravey jock jam "Kernkraft 400," but the first finished song they've built completely from scratch is uncharacteristically restrained and mature. "Big Bills" crosses thumping dance music and delicate indie rock (Caroline Polachek from Chairlift contributes sultry vocals) to create a piece of unhurried, funky synth pop that sounds a little like the Human League retrofitted with new-rave keyboard patches—except for the accordion bumps in the chorus, which is so catchy it's taken up residency in my brain for days at a time. Baltimore producer Blaqstarr chills the track out even further with his recent remix, replacing the original music with a thudding, rattling B-house beat that's so radically spaced-out with reverb and delay it's almost ambient. On their own "Power House" remix, Flosstradamus pull back toward the dance floor with a four-on-the-floor beat, a sonic palette drawn from the glossy 90s personal-trainer crossover club music they love, and a well-deployed series of cash-register samples—it's like they're making up for putting out something you might call "mature."

JAPANESE CARTOON

"Crowd Participation"

When the first Japanese Cartoon tracks showed up online at the beginning of January, nobody really believed that JC mastermind Percival Fats and Lupe Fiasco weren't the same guy, despite protestations posted to MySpace under both names. The charade might've fared better if it weren't for, say, Kanye posting Lupe's picture on his blog next to a bunch of Japanese Cartoon tracks, since there are no obvious musical clues linking the two. Fats doesn't rap but straight-up sings, with a faux British accent that makes him sound half drunk—a bit like Damon Albarn in one of his more laddish moments—and he's backed not by anything remotely resembling hip-hop but rather by lo-fi, uptight postpunk juiced with synth. While Lil Wayne's recent rock foray is a confusing pileup of Fall Out Boy and Kid Rock, slathered in Auto-Tune, Lupe actually seems more comfortable as Fats than he does as himself these days. He outdoes the sarcastic shit-talking and punk surliness he showed on "Dumb It Down"—the best track on The Cool, his second album as Lupe Fiasco—and Japanese Cartoon's music shows a passable working knowledge of first-wave postpunk, though admittedly it'd never dropped earlier this month, tops its caustic grind and pogo-ready beat with a streak of sugary melody—it could be the badass evil twin of "Hey Ya."v

Care to comment? Find these reviews at chicagoreader.com. And for more on music, visit our blogs Crickets and Post No Bills.

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