Kitty Pryde is a 19-year-old apple-cheeked Claire’s employee and giggly quasi-novelty rapper. Fred Da Godson is a classical New York hip-hop miserablist with a thousand-yard stare. Himanshu is a politicized Queens wiseacre and veteran zeitgeist-capturer. Lil B is a self-made rap Sun Ra whose continued existence in the rap universe is a puzzle that just won’t solve itself. None of these people have the slightest bit of anything to do with each other. And yet they all sound perfectly at home within the amniotic echo-bass universe that the San Antonio producer Beautiful Lou seems to conjure every time he opens his laptop. A lot of them even do their best work with him. With Sumone 2 B Young With, Beautiful Lou showcases his gloopy, smeary style by roping in some huge, outlandish personalities and showing just how they can fit into what he does. That’s a rare talent, and it’s a mark of a great producer.
I’m already on record favorably comparing Lou to Clams Casino, probably his closest peer. The two of them both lean heavily on samples muffled and slowed so heavily that they end up sounding like the moans of dying aliens, but Clams beats are more about feeling and less about rhythm. Lou can be just as evocative, and I’d probably like a mix of Lou instrumentals about as much as I like the instrumental tapes that Clams has put out. But Lou makes rap beats that primarily function as rap beats. The drums hit faster and harder, limping around and refusing to spiral off into infinity. They move. And on tracks like A$AP Rocky’s “Trilla” and Kitty Pryde’s “Okay Cupid,” they give somewhat limited rappers their best possible contexts, giving their voices a chance to just skip through dreamscapes.
Someone 2 Be Young With isn’t necessarily the best possible Lou showcase. Some of the tracks are new, and some aren’t. Some tracks are nicely mastered, and some sound like pure ass. When Lil B shows up to bray his way through “Tank Of Propane,” he gets dangerously close to ruining the whole thing. But Lou’s style shows through beautifully, emerging as something funkier and more playful than what we’ve come to expect from the cloud-rap zeitgeist. Lou is from San Antonio, and his tracks show a serious debt to DJ Screw. But while so many Texan rap producers seems stuck in the slow-roll production style of the mid-’90s, Lou has found a way to push that sound into the present context, keeping BPMs up and throwing in dizzy little melodic hooks.
And even at its heaviest, it stays fun. On Fred Da Godson’s “Fader Pg. 46,” the Bronx rapper does Jadakissed desensitization over a mournful foghorn drone, but itchy little Nintendo beeps keep coming in and stirring things around. On the excellent “Running Thru The Jungle,” Himanshu double-tracks his voice into an old-school double-dutch chorus that goes with the slow quaver of the beat like strawberries with champagne. And on the appealingly amateurish closing track “Alone In My Kitchen,” Lou himself and frequent collaborator Western Tink jump onto the track, tossing goofily sly punchlines back and forth (“addicted to the purple like the smart Ninja Turtle”) and treating Lou’s jittery, twinkling track like the most strictly functional possible rap beat rather than the fleshed-out piece of art that it could probably be if left alone. It’s pretty clear that Lou doesn’t see himself as an avant-gardist — not yet, anyway. But if he keeps up like this, we’ll all have to contend with the idea that Beautiful Lou is one of the smartest rap producers working.
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