In Rotation: Flash Bang Grenada’s “10 Haters”
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A series in Sunday Calendar about what Times writers & contributors are listening to right now...
There are dozens of determinants that comprise a great rap album. You can boil it down to beats and rhymes, charisma and hooks, voice and ideas, concepts or relatability. Or you can couch it in terms of expectations: Great records should inevitably be sonically progressive, fun or smart — ideally some combination of the three.
It’s rare when an album boasts all of those qualities in equal measure, so credit Flash Bang Grenada, the ad-hoc union of local rappers Busdriver and Nocando, for “10 Haters” — a smart, subversive swag-rap record.
You can’t throw a Supreme hat down Fairfax without striking a teenager engrossed in “swag” echolalia. Kids mumble the word like a mantra, and cool-sharking adults attempt to hop on the bandwagon with the expired awkwardness of a CBS sitcom actor. But before weird rap was the new black, Nocando and Busdriver built the bridge between the avant-garde rap anarchy of 1990s Project Blowed club night in Leimert Park and the mutant bass bursting from the Low End Theory each week in Lincoln Heights.
Accordingly, there is no trope they can’t topple. You want a dance song? There is “Bernie,” riffing on the “Bernie” dance craze, a bizarre Southern dance based on the Andrew McCarthy “Weekend at …” films. Nocando crows that he’s “cool as a corpse” and implores people to dance like “an old dead white man.”
While Busdriver archly laments dressing like “Diamond D in 1993” and boasts that doing the Bernie cured his hepatitis B and allowed him to power lunch with Jewish attorneys by the Coffee Bean while eating pâté and playing golf. More important, you can dance to it — or at least zombie stagger from side to side. The result is a singular fusion of celestial 3,000-skewing beats with battle-winning punch lines and high-concept songwriting that stays low enough to cut down everything in its path.