California Sounds: A panic-inducing new video from Poolside, a new album by Watts rapper Jay Rock and Busdriver’s hip-hop esoterica
Poolside, “Feel Alright Nashville” video. Strap on your helmet and kneepads, because even watching the official video for a new edit of this L.A. duo’s 2017 song could do some damage. Filmed in one long shot on an unnamed highway somewhere in the canyon country of the West, it shows skateboarder Braydon Szafranski pushing off to begin a four-minute descent that carries him through the length of “Feel Alright Nashville.”
The vista’s gorgeous as the boarder gets going, with massive rock formations beside him on a well-paved two-lane highway. Within moments, though, Szafranski has accelerated as the hill steepens and cars approach from the opposite direction. Dude, slow down!
As he moves, Poolside’s song carries him. Most skateboard videos are scored to punk rock or hip-hop, but “Feel Alright Nashville” exudes a calmer vibe, as though Szafranski is floating along with the track’s gentle, disco-electronic tones and rhythms.
He’s definitely not floating, though. He’s hitting the speed limit, and we know because of the sight-line that a hell of a lot of hill remains before gravity slows him. Cars whiz past as the skater moves, brakeless but for a board maneuver whereby he glides sideways and quickly corrects himself, using friction to occasionally reduce his speed. He nears the end of the slope as “Feel Alright Nashville” slows, the run and the song coming to their natural conclusions.
Jay Rock, “Redemption” (Top Dawg). A glimpse at the five versatile guest artists who appear on the Watts rapper’s new album should confirm the level of respect Rock has from his peers: Kendrick Lamar, SZA, Future, J. Cole and Jeremih. And though less known than label-mates Lamar and SZA, Rock has been working it for longer than any of them, and has the chops and scars to prove it.
He’s also got a distinctive, no nonsense style: lyrically direct without sacrificing a certain poeticism, willing to look directly at a topic and offer steely-eyed comment. (Warning: The video contains cussing and is not safe for work.)
He starkly describes the dueling temptations in his life, in his music and on the streets: “Struggle with who I am and who I wanna be/ Got the streets and these beats right in front of me,” he raps on “For What It’s Worth,” revealing harsh consequences of defending himself against a would-be assassin: death or a life of crime. “Should I kill this ... or should I let him slide?/ If I don’t, he’ll double back, we got family ties/ If I do, I can’t rap and that’s suicide.”
The new video for standout track “The Bloodiest” is a brutal sonic docudrama that further lays bare the artist’s life, one filled with “battle scars and tribulations, downfalls from the situations.”
Busdriver, “Electricity Is on Our Side” (Temporary Whatever). The rapper who performs as Busdriver has been navigating underground L.A. hip-hop and experimental electronic music for nearly two decades and remains as stubbornly esoteric as ever.
On his 10th studio album (excluding his fantastic Flash Bang Grenada project with Noncando and DJ Nobody), the rapper born Regan Farquhar raps over avant-jazz beats on “Right Before the Miracle,” clicks-and-cuts-style minimal techno on “Losing You Again,” and crawling, drunken J Dilla-inspired rhythms on “I Been There,” all of it entangled in Busdriver’s distinctive flow.
On the video for “Right Before the Miracle,” Busdriver rhymes of “Shaking the skies until there’s no thunder left,” an apt description for the outrage that he describes across his verses. He seldom wastes a word and is fearless in addressing big issues. Later in the track he proposes a whole new Earth to replace this messed-up one:
And if we make a plan, we can take/ All the lands and the dreams that they ever have stolen from us/ Then remake a new world in a self image that is true and robust/ I am calling out your name so just answer me/ I want your mind to be free.
Considering that these days Kanye West is tossing off thoughtless verses — “Poopy-di scoop/ Scoop-diddy-whoop/Whoop-di-scoop-di-poop/ Poop-di-scoopty/ Scoopty-whoop” — it’s good to know that tapped-in artists like Busdriver are serving as a counterbalance.
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