About five years ago, I flew down to Orlando to spend some time with the then-rising Baton Rouge rapper Lil Boosie, for a profile that King magazine never got around to publishing before it went out of business. It wasn’t fun. Boosie, at least that day, was kind of a dick. He was in town to play a show in a club parking lot, opening for Trick Daddy and Lil Wayne, and he spent the hours before the show in a darkened hotel room, smoking vast amounts of weed, chewing out his friends for fucking up McDonald’s orders, watching infomercials, and bitching about how much money he should be getting. (He didn’t offer me any of his weed, which annoyed me for purely etiquette-based reasons. When I finally asked him for a hit, that turned out to be an awful mistake. I don’t know what was in that weed, but it had me on my ass for the whole rest of the interview. Free advice for young writers: Never, ever smoke weed with musicians.) When the show’s promoters sent a Dodge Caravan around to pick him up, he sat sullenly in the front seat, ignoring the fans pounding on the windows, until the promoter produced some ungodly sum of cash, holding up the show while he counted every bill. But when he touched the stage, things changed. He moved like an electrical current was flowing through him, and the audience at that show rapped every word back at him with a verve that mirrored his own. Boosie’s big hits were, by and large, strip-club anthems, but I still felt like I was seeing DMX in 1997 or something. He was a star. That was a long time ago.
If you want an idea of how the rap world has changed in the years since, the fate of Boosie’s label Trill Ent. is a sad, fascinating case. Boosie recently beat a murder charge that could’ve landed him on death row, but he’s still going to be in prison for a long time on assorted drug convictions. Lil Phat, another of the label’s rappers, is dead, as are a lot of people in its orbit. Webbie and Foxx, two of the label’s other stars, are simply adrift. And even if they weren’t dealing with all that death and prison time, it’s impossible to imagine a major label gambling on a rangy, ferocious rap crew like Trill Ent. anytime soon. Even as rappers like Boosie remain regional cult heroes, the safer money is on scrubbed-up, emotive, fashion-forward Drake types. If you’re a rapper in 2012, you’re probably not making that corporate money unless you know who Jeremy Scott and Grimes are (or unless you’re Chief Keef, and your thuggery somehow comes across like soul-burnt outsider art), and that means plenty of excellent talents are being left behind. Case in point: Mouse.
Alone among his Trill Ent. crewmates, Mouse, the house producer behind most of the Boosie hits that set that Florida crowd off, is still making music at a high level. Mouse was always my favorite of Trill’s rap voices; he’s got a great elastic singsong snap-drawl descended directly from Juvenile, and everything he says sounds like a hook. Now that the rest of his crew is facing dire circumstances, Mouse has been stepping out on his own on tapes like last year’s great Swagga Fresh Freddie and this year’s Killy Kyleon collab Welcome To The Fish Fry. These tapes are amazing because they’re hour-long collections of Mouse beats — twerked-up synthetic Louisiana funk that aims directly for pleasure receptors — and because they let him air out that great drawl for extended periods. Those tapes have gone largely unheralded, and the same seems likely to happen with his brand-new Millionaire Dreamzzz. That’s a shame, since Millionaire Dreamzzz is the best party-rap full-length I’ve heard in ages.
Mouse, as ever, is a shameless entertainer on Millionaire Dreamzzz — belting out hooks with gusto, quoting Elmer Fudd and Chingy, calling his dick “lumber” and then building a whole song of puns out of it. There is basically no introspection here, and the tempos barely ever flag. Veteran No Limit firebreathers Mystikal and Fiend show up to great effect; Mystikal’s unhinged hornball rant on “Money Mayweather” is especially gratifying: “I’m talking REAL LIFE! I’m talking pussy murder! I’m talking WILDLIFE! Yeah, nigga, snapping turtle!” The length is excessive as fuck — 19 songs in 78 minutes — but there’s not a single uncatchy song here. The whole thing just moves. This is music for drunken partying, and there’s never enough of that in the world. When Drake’s voice shows up, in sampled form, on “Let Um Know,” it comes as something of a shock, since Mouse and Drake occupy aesthetic universes so completely removed from each other. Drake is sad even when he parties. Mouse parties even when he’s sad. There’s a world of difference there.
As joyous a listening experience as Millionaire Dreamzzz, it’s important to remember that there’s something at stake there. Mouse makes constant references to Boosie’s case, and to the family he’s supporting. As his whole crew’s constant state of chaos shows all too clearly, he comes from a place of desperation, and partying takes on a grand new importance when there’s so little hope in the rest of your case. Maybe that’s why Millionaire Dreamzzz radiates a sense of purpose rare in present-day rap mixtapes. It’s fun as fuck, but it never lets you forget the massive awfulness that makes that fun so necessary.
Download Millionaire Dreamzzz for free here.