“Weak bitch probably get seasick
On the yacht eat shrimp, see my name on a blimp
It read T-Raw’s a pimp
Nigga I ain’t dancin but my hand on my hip
Full clip, movie shit, Bruce Wayne, Alfred
Niggaz want a verse, can’t even get an ad-lib”
There are more than a few people asking. Tyga has been floating around the hip-hop scene since at least 2008, but he blew up in a major way with 2012’s “Careless World” album, particularly the crossover success of his “Rack City” single. An infectious DJ Mustard instrumental was arguably more important to the song’s success than Tyga’s vocal performance, particularly given “Rack City” peaked at #7 on the Billboard Top 100 and none of the album’s other singles charted higher than #33. On the whole though “Careless World” established Tyga as a bonafide rap star, and his close association with the Young Money imprint has certainly been beneficial for both him and founder Lil Wayne. This raised the profile of his 2013 follow-up album “Hotel California” to highly anticipated status, and the first single “Dope” certainly got people talking.
There’s very little in hip-hop music that is truly sacrosanct, given that one of the tenants of its rise to popularity was rapping over breakbeats and samples of the previous generation, but even in an anything goes genre “Dope” treads on sacred ground. Dr. Dre’s “Deep Cover” is a landmark hip-hop single, far more important than the movie of the same name it was recorded for, given that it singlehandedly launched the career of a young Calvin Broadus Jr. b/k/a Snoop Dogg. Now Tyga is not the first to revisit this now 20+ year old song, but the most notable example is Big Pun, and his duet with Fat Joe took great pains to recapture the spirit of the original – the same sound effects, the same piano stabs, structuring the chorus the same way, and the camraderie between the two artists being equivalent to that found between Dre and Snoop. “Dope” fails on almost all accounts other than the famous “I CAN FEEL IT.” Producer FKi only cares about the bassline, stripping the piano from the verses, adding some awful farting synthesizer sounds, and the song barely even acknowledges its a remake other than a throwaway line from Tyga that “it’s 187 how I’m killing these hoes.”
Now thankfully “Hit’em Up” with Jadakiss is not a remake of the Tupac Shakur classic, but that’s not for lack of trying. The original plan was for the song to be a duet of sorts between ‘Pac and Tyga, and leaked versions of the song reflect that in the third verse, but sample clearance issues turned out to be cost-prohibitive. The only time Pac’s voice can be heard is mixed with Tyga’s saying the word “Westside” in the first verse, and Tyga still pays tribute to the rap legend by saying the 2Pac’s signature line in the chorus of his song. Of course what gets lost in the mix to all but the rap historians among us is that Pac’s song was actually a parody of Junior M.A.F.I.A.’s hit single “Get Money,” as part of the escalating rivalry between Pac and Biggie and their respective coasts. DJ Mustard’s instrumental certainly captures the menacing tension of that feud, but doesn’t recreate the funky fun of the first one or hilarious if mean-spirited Shakur rebuttal of the second song. Perhaps that’s for the best.
“Hotel California” is at its best when it avoids paying tribute to other Cali artists, remake or otherwise, though “best” is a limited term. While the bloated excess of “Careless World” is done away with, coming in under an hour instead of well over that length, it doesn’t seem any extra effort went into raising the quality of lyricism in that hour. On his last project Tyga at least had aspirations of setting a standard, but on his new project he seems content to follow the trends of dangerous partying, conspicuous consumption and self-medication heard in a majority of mainstream hip-hop these days. Even though the Siri style voice adds a humorous element to “Molly” and the Dez Dynamic beat thumps, it’s hard to give a ringing endorsement to the raps of Tyga or guest star Wiz Khalifa. Being braggadocious or flashy aren’t in themselves sins – they can even at times be virtues if lyrically memorable, but Wiz’s “pull up in some shit you’ve never ever seen” doesn’t qualify. Tyga make think it’s cute to say “I’m swervin, I’m drivin/ain’t got time to be tired/I’m superturnt […] I’m on a bad trip” but for the love of God, pull his ass over before he commits vehicular manslaughter.
“Careless World” found Tyga wanting to be a “King,” and even having sample clearance issues with Martin Luther King Jr.’s estate as a result, but the only “King” to be found on “Hijack” with 2 Chainz is “King Koopa.” There’s nothing lofty or noble about “Hotel California,” an album deliberately striving to achieve the lowest common denominator as quickly as possible. The sentiments are as base as you could want from today’s self-professed YOLO generation. You can “Get Rich,” you can “Drive Fast, Live Young,” you can “Get Loose” and take as much “Molly” as you want, and when it all becomes too much find some “Palm Trees” to lay under and chill.
“Niggaz wanna stop me like the Nazi
Getting money like Illuminati
Look up and see the palm trees, fuck everybody
Palm trees, fuck everybody
All I see is the money, buried over the struggle
I know religion got me, too cheap to sell my soul though
So fuck every commie, palm trees
Fuck everybody, palm trees”
Are we REALLY talking about “nazis” and “commies” in 2013? That almost makes me think somebody from Nat Geo’s “The 80’s” is ghostwriting for him, but they would have come up with a much more original line than “niggaz can’t see me like black and white TV/so pretend that you hear me like Stevie.” I +Wonder+ when those punchlines will get played out – oh wait they just did in this very sentence. No truthfully they were overused 15 years ago, but since Tyga is living in the past maybe he just hasn’t caught up. There’s a decided disconnect to the environment Tyga dwells in which makes me think his “Careless World” might actually have been a “Carefree” one – there are no considerations for cost or consequences in his world. Some rappers can pull off the lavish lifestyles of excess lyrically – most notably Jay-Z and to a leser extent Kanye West – but Tyga’s flat delivery and stale lyrics don’t put him in their realm or anywhere close.
Speaking of Jay-Z, “M.O.E.” is another Tyga attempt to rewrite a better song from a previous generation, this time Jigga’s “Feelin’ It,” and although it’s truer in spirit than “Dope” was to “Deep Cover” it was still probably best left alone. Tyga just can’t help himself though, and while the Cool & Dre produced “It Neva Rains” featuring Game is a plus, it’s at least partially inspired by another Tupac Shakur song – “To Live and Die in L.A.” In general it speaks to a lack of artistic vision and creativity that Tyga has to fall back on so many classics instead of trying to create his own. Tyga, leave that Molly alone and get serious about your rap. “Hotel California” fails to deliver on any of the hype it had leading up to its release. Everybody involved is capable of doing better.