Rubba Band Business
(Kemosabe/Taylor Gang ***)
With Three 6 Mafia — the Oscar\-winning outfit behind “It’s Hard out Here for a Pimp” from Hustle & Flow — rapper/producer Juicy J proved there was a new sound to Memphis that went far beyond the history of Presley, Redding, and Cash, and into something crunk and horrorcore. As a solo artist on the trap tip (and with a yen for slurping like Ludacris) Juicy J’s voice is still gruff, but his material is nothing if not softer, funnier, and far more soulful than his turn in the Mafia.
Take the plucky piano-based pop hop of “Flood Watch” with Offset: It has a hypnotically repetitious plink whose contagious melody burrows into your cranium while cushioning the bark of its vocalists. The baroque, synth-driven “No English” with its exaggerated AutoTune chorus and rolling tinny rhythm, seems to poke fun at speaking the Queen’s language at a time when “my weed is Jamaican, and in Miami with Haitians, my shooters got no patience.” The Mike Will Made It-produced “Ain’t Nothing” featuring Wiz Khalifa and Ty Dolla Sign is like a salty dinner party with hot pot stickers, and I don’t mean dumplings. Not everything is fun and games here. The echo-effected “Hot as Hell,” the ominous “Only One Up,” and the icily orchestrated “Dodgin’ the Snakes” with its pragmatic rhymes (“The real gon’ outlast the fake / The money gon’ outlast the hate”) make for a hard sinister listen in league with his horrorcore days. Boo. — A.D. Amorosi
(Young Money **)
If your metrics lean toward freestyling and punchlines rather than grand artistic statements, Lil Wayne might have been the greatest rapper at his peak. But in the 2010s, his glorious five-year run slowed down and the mixtapes that followed 2013’s underrated I Am Not a Human Being II amid personal and legal turmoil have failed to yield many revelations, just lame remakes of contemporaneous hit songs and freestyles below his standard. Dedication 6 is unfortunately no exception, adding nothing new to such 2017 touchstones as Lil Uzi Vert’s “XO Tour Llif3” and Kendrick Lamar’s “DNA.” The sole worthy development here is that Wayne’s reliance on weak punch lines is giving way to a muscular, Kevin Gates-style flow that can still twist your mind into pretzels on occasion. — Dan Weiss