The chronicles of one man and his long, strange journey through the underground.
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A Pot of Boiling Water
Racketeering is hard to define. Maybe the word’s history can help? The first use of “racket” happened sometime in the 1500s as a description; an attempt at imitating loud noises, because humans’ collective ancestors either lacked imagination or were hard of hearing. But “racket” could have other origins, too. The Canadian linguist, Ernest Klein, presented an alternative in his dictionary; suggesting that racket stems from the Gaelic word for noise, “racaid.”
The best answers, though, are usually the simplest (and, unfortunately, the least funny). Consider the syllable “rack-”: Returning to English after having lived rent-free in Middle Dutch — oddly enough, the term was originally taken from a related Old English word, “reccan,” — the meaning of “rack” is “framework, typically with bars;” or a house, as it’s commonly known. It makes sense, then, that people transformed the term for an abode into, “collecting rent.” By the late 1700s, the English speaking world seemed to be in agreement; a racket is basically some shady business practice (an argument my landlord refuses to accept instead of an e-check).
But what does this have to do with racketeering? Well, by the 20th century racket was a verb: add an “-eer” and, voila! Racketeer suddenly becomes, “one who commits a racket.” Granted, there is also “rack,” which references the game of snooker, as well as racquet, with its origins in another, entirely separate — not to mention confusing — language; that of French. What we’re interested in, though, is not the idea of hitting a ball with a racquet so much as ordering a hit as it relates to a racket.
The government’s answer is even simpler. Chapter 18, section 1961 of the United States legal code concerns the crime of racketeering; or its colloquial acronym, RICO. Popularly known as the “mafia law,” RICO defines racketeering as, “any act or threat involving murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter” not to mention drug dealing and, to the criminally minded, mail and wire fraud — among a list that totals 35 offenses. Over time, RICO has gained legendary status. Look at the individuals charged with RICO crimes: Gambino crime boss (or was it travelling salesman?) John Gotti, Carlos Marcello (of Kennedy-family fame)…and now Daniel “Tekashi69” Hernandez
On Sunday 18 November, the 22-year-old rapper was arrested in New York, along with Shotti and Crippy, as a result of ATF, NYPD, and DHS joining forces. The crimes laid-out are abundant; ranging from robbery to attempted murder. TMZ has even published a video of the “Gummo” rapper putting a bounty on Chief Keef’s cousin, Tadoe, worth $30,000. But the most intriguing allegation that’s been made (so far) involves Tekashi’s co-defendants; who, allegedly, planned to paint the rapper’s house (how’s that for bringing it all full-circle?).
There’s bound to be more news between the time of this column’s writing and 69’s next court appearance —
currently scheduled for Tuesday 27 November. But with Dummyboy stuck in the vault for the foreseeable future, let’s turn to music that’s been released, and can be freely heard.
The Soup Stone
- Goodfellas is not family friendly. The movie starts out with the main characters headed to the forest to dispose of a body. Repulsive as the scene may sound, Ray Liotta always wanted to be a gangster. Big Lax, on the contrary, is neither an aspiring mafioso nor a man with bad intentions, and “eternal forest” is but one example of this — though the 32-beat intro, with it’s extended flute in the melody, makes for one hell of a body.
- It doesn’t get more legendary that Chronicles of a Pimp. Few books in history, give out as much game per page as Iceberg Slim’s masterwork; and it’s hardly limited to the sex industry. The consumption of substances are addressed, too. Like the pimp-master, an early line in “iraq,” sung by either summrs or kel, declares that “I don’t drink liquor but I do sip.” Sure, the advice is hardly along the lines of creme de menthe before going to work, but it gets the point across. The real treasure, at any rate, is in the style — beyond the heavy, off-beat hi-hats and a stable of melodic elements — which is well handled by VINSO.
- What’s a gangster look like? James Cagney’s mug, in my mind, is one in the same with the cinematic thug; and few pictures do it better than White Heat. Far from an ambitious underworld figures, $teev and saucegawd nonetheless plot against the forces that be — which, in this case, happen to be change. But like Cagney, “You Changed” takes the high ground: appreciating the well-layered vocals melodies that seem to scream, “Made it ma, top of the world!”
- As great as Cagney was, Edward G. Robinson was a screen titan in his own right. An unorthodox leading man, Robinson had range. His most prominent assignments, such as his starring role in Little Caesar, revolved around seedy tales of crime and justice; resulting in one of the most quotable movie lines in movie history; “Mother of mercy, is this the end of Rico?” For his part, Labi doesn’t work in fantasy — even going so far as to label “Go” nonfiction. Yet the similarities with Robinson’s character — especially after hearing the lines, “I ain’t part of no scene, people seen that I work” — can’t be denied; a sentiment that Garystump further instills into the rhythm with an off-beat snare and aggressive half-beat hi-hat rolls.
- Bernie Mac wasn’t scared of the audience; and at his Dej Jam set, the comedian told the crowd as much. “I’ll be damned,” Mac said, “If I’m serving time for any of you mother fuckers.” Why? Well, the man determined that anyone in prison “for nothing” wasn’t a snitch — nope, they were “a damned fool.” Zalean, who manages to express as much control over “Late nights (Pray Up)” as Mac does his five-minute set — adjusting the hi-hats as needed, — takes a more lax approach, saying “I hope you don’t fold on me, cause we’re gonna make it out.”
- With the rarest freestyle of all-time, Santo Trafficante, Jr. made history. The notorious mob boss, behind the protective door of Congress, was called to testify — years after being recruited by the CIA; allegedly, in a series of plots to overthrow the Castro regime in Cuba. Despite believing that history books told the truth, Trafficante is said to have provided an alternate history: telling Senators what they wanted to hear; whether or not it was rooted in any reality. The testimony provided by Ason on “Energy”, though not quite as impactful, brings with it the same force — unless there’s a different way of reading into, “Came with nothing, got a lot to lose / Lord I never spilled it“. Keep an ear out, too, for the interplay between the 808s and an acoustic bass sample; followed by a half-note snare that carries some power on its own.
- The Vory e Zakone, or Thieves in Arms, are a terrifying bunch. Russian organized crime, while they’re hardly as well known in American lore as the Cossa Nostra, is notorious in its own right. Rather than carry any sort of traditional business cards, the old-school Vory displayed ample tattoos; including, but not limited, to facial inscriptions (and all of it long before “clout-chasing” was a term-of-art). Soorma, in his own subtle way, takes the more modern approach on “To the moon” — especially when rapping about how he should do “The route to the moon, ayy vroom / Foreign boom, European motor inside a coupe it go ‘vroom’”
Mixtape Round-up: The R1 universe continues to expand at an exponential rate, this time with a solo EP from RVPSO (featuring a production credit from mrcheezl) called “numb” and a cross-over project that sees Dretti Franks & Cowboy Killerr joins forces (including impressive assists from Tethra64 and Trip Dixon) called Frequencies (download link in the description) … If actual, physical pressings still mattered, Oxykodone’s “Junkie: EP” would be a single rather than an extended play, but with StoopidXool, D$cott, and AltoSGP on the boards it’s important to remember that a man must carefully pick his battles (“And this,” I keep telling myself, “This ain’t your fight to have, chief”) … Made of Loud sees Kemet Dank (a.k.a. Dank God) on the mic while WFIGAWD works the controls; need I say more?
Some leftover both
Trap continues to be good. The 808s are still heavier than a loaded Brinks truck. Snares still flutter-around like cuckoo birds, especially after a swift strike to the solar plexus from a kick-drum. And to my surprise, I still find trap enjoyable — even though some thirteen years have passed since the release of Thug Motivation 101 and Trap House, Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane’s respective debut albums. Remember, the style was very much a product of the times. During the middle to late 2000s, and especially after the housing market crashed, prospects for the American economy seemed dim. Enter the simple, albeit bleak, worldview presented by trap music: grinding for the money, even if comes at the cost of freedom, or lives; more economics than moralizing, so to speak.
Since then, the world has changed, and so has trap. Chicago drill, trap’s natural successor, took the stark lyrical content to a necessary extreme. The production stylings, too, have been borrowed — or, uh, appropriated — by anyone looking to be someone; from nascent produces creating the soundtrack for a viral EDM dance to major record-label signees in search of the Hot 100. So what’s a trapper to do? Find a gimmick, or angle; for lack of a better word. As if he were the Wizard of Oz himself, Kevin Gates breathes color into a black and white screen. Young Dolph, aside from seemingly being bulletproof, has a knack for quality. Even Lil Wop manages to “chase the money, chase the money,” while re-injecting a sense of fear to the overall situation (surely other varieties exist — Farruko, Ozuna, and Bad Bunny have taken the style globally while PeeWee goes…Longway, — so please, tell me how little I know in the comment section).
Where, then, does Key Glock fit? The Memphis based artist — a signee to Dolph’s Paper Route Empire — released a new mixtape over the holiday weekend. Titled Glockoma, the project’s name befits the creator’s style; clever without being particularly funny or inciseful (at least not in the same way as other wordsmiths — say, Dipset?). I’ve admittedly given the mixtape a single listen. At no point during Glockoma’s was I left feeling bored or unsatisfied. By same token, though, Key Glock didn’t persuade me into a second spin either. Aside from a few prime-cut samples — the credit for which belongs to the producers — and some eloquent wordplay, Glockoma proves to be good…just not great; a high floor, but a low-ceiling, so to speak. But rather than complain, I’ll propose an alternative. Deejay cosigns are old-school, but DJ Nick, — shout-out Marino Infantry — for example, rarely disappoints (the Fadedblackid x Lil Turbo tape comes to mind, not to mention the recent WIFIGAWD release). DJ Lil Keem, whose previous credits include Drugrixh Pe$o, Lil Dude, and Goonew, is another selector I consistently keep an eye out for; and the latest Hoodrich artist is no exception. On the surface, there isn’t much that distinguishes John Wic from his MONY POWR RSPT counterparts; effectively steeping the sounds of trap in potent peyote buttons to give the form an artful air; yet there’s still some goods to be scraped from the bottom of the psychedelic teapot. But rather than drone on, I’ll recommend “Spiritual” with “Scars” as a follow-up before singing-off.
Until next time,