There are two types of people in this world: Those who will not dork out upon seeing the phrase “‘Like A Pimp 2015′ [ft. Lil Flip]” and those who will. There is a very good chance you haven’t thought about Lil Flip in years, if you ever even thought about him at all. Every since he spectacularly lost a feud with a younger T.I., the once-ascendent Houston rapper has disappeared completely from the national stage. But “Like A Pimp,” the 2003 David Banner/Lil Flip track, was an absolute anthem for a little while there, and some of us will always remember it, and Flip, with great fondness. And so when its seesawing music-box keyboard line and its thundering orchestra hits burst their way onto the new Gangsta Boo/Beatking mixtape Underground Cassette Tape Music, some of us will get that involuntary dweeb-rush feeling, the same one we get when we pull up the Flip/Fam’Lay “Rock & Roll” video on YouTube once every few months. (Watch it again, it’s great.) And that feeling will only deepen when the real Flip shows up on the track, rapping in that sleepy cartoon drawl that suggests you’re only hearing a few bars from an all-day freestyle session. “I still get paid off hits,” says Flip. Maybe he does! But the experience of hearing his voice in 2015 involves feeling a very specific type of nostalgia. And that feeling is all over Underground Cassette Tape Music, from its title on down.
An introduction to these two: Gangsta Boo is an original member of the pioneering Memphis horror-crunk and, by any reasonable measure, one of the five greatest female rappers of all time. Her unapologetic raunch levels and the sassy snap of her delivery have made her one of the most quietly influential rappers of the last two decades; there’s basically no Southern female rapper who didn’t pick up at least a couple of tricks from her. There’s nostalgia in hearing her rap, too, even though she’s stayed active in recent years. Beatking, meanwhile, is a Houston rapper and a regional star, since Texas is the sort of place where you can still have underground stars. He calls himself Club Godzilla, which is an amazing nickname. His main gimmick is that he builds songs out of of-the-moment internet memes; his “Ebola” freestyle is his latest contribution. He’s an enormous guy, and he raps like one, delivering his shit-talk, often about strip clubs and money, in a heavy huff. But he’s also a deceptively slick punchline rapper and a crafty producer. On the tape’s outro, Gangsta Boo says that she and Beatking have actually never met each other; they put the whole tape together via email. That’s a surprise, though, since they have a serious on-record chemistry, and since Boo’s female energy balances out Beatking’s dick-talk nicely.
Underground Cassette Tape Music works as a tribute to various eras of underground regional rap — music that isn’t forgotten exactly, but which is rarely afforded the respect it deserves. The beats from Goodie Mob’s “Cell Therapy” and Mike Jones’ “Still Tippin'” appear, in slightly altered form. Guys like Paul Wall and Daz Dillinger make appearances. OJ Da Juiceman is on there, too, and even though his moment was only a few years ago, he still fits in just fine. Beatking talks, whenever he gets a chance, about the rap legacies of both Houston and Memphis. On opening track “Come Off Dat,” he adapts the flow of the late and oft-imitated Three 6 Mafia member Lord Infamous, giving credit where it’s due. The tape isn’t a pure throwback move, and a song like “Rambunctious” is perfectly of-the-moment, roping in Danny Brown and Riff Raff to go in over a blown-to-pieces AraabMuzik-style EDM track. But this is hardhead rider music, specifically constructed to give the same feeling as, say, a random YoungBloodz album might’ve once given you.
It works. The beats, mostly from lesser-known producers, offer up a ton of bass and empty space, and they know how to stay out of the rappers’ way. Listening to the tape while driving this morning, the bass was enormous enough to literally shake my minivan, and it’s not like I have some amazing woofer setup. But even with all that bass, I could still make up every line. And the punchlines are good. Beatking on “Dollar Signs”: “Fuck you, loser / I been getting money since the PT Cruiser.” Gangsta Boo has an irresistible bounce in her voice that has not faded at all over the years. The sound is way cleaner than what you’d find on the murky old Three 6 records, but that tingly minor-key horror-movie feeling remains intact. (I’m pretty sure Beatking samples Goblin’s score to Argento’s Suspiria on his beat for “Paper Chase.”) The hooks move. It’s pretty clear that everyone involved in the tape had fun making it, and that fun extends when you’re hearing it. The tapes have the same energy as the Rubba Band Business tapes that Juicy J made with Lex Luger a few years ago. Those were enough to completely revive Juicy’s career, and I’d like to think that Underground Cassette Tape Music could do the same for his old Three 6 comrade Gangsta Boo. And even if that doesn’t happen, it’s still a fun ride.
Download Underground Cassette Tape Music at Livemixtapes.