Written By: Ethan Griggs
My Music: ethangriggsmusic.virb.com
Def Jam Recordings has remained a touchstone of the hip-hop and urban music scenes since its conception in 1983 by Rick Rubin and Russell Simons. Now more than ever, they are focused on catapulting new talent into the mainstream while simultaneously keeping mainstays like Kanye West and Nas relevant in whatever year it may be. The label’s new compilation, Direct Deposit Vol. 2 (following last December’s Vol. 1),plays like the digital equivalent of one of those dusty grab bags of 12’’ singles and old 45’s found at indie record stores. Featuring a gala of current artists including 2 Chainz, YG, and Vince Staples, the compilation attempts to expand on what made the first compilation great, but it falls short in some areas.
Like Vol. 1, Vol. 2 focuses primarily on trap beats and flows that are reminiscent of Drake and Future. Iggy Azalea opens the disc with “Can’t Lose”, but the strong rhyming of its feature artist Lil Uzi Vert diminishes her verses. The first true standout on the disc is 2 Chainz’s “Good Drank” featuring a revved up Gucci Mane and Quavo. The track is definitely more indicative of an R&B influence, but it still has that modern trap sound to it. The next track, Dave East’s “Paper Chaisin’”, is more like the sounds presented on Vol. 1 and features an insane triplet flow by A$AP Ferg: “Chasing, chasing, all this paper chasing/I’ma work for months, all this money making/Fucking on your lady while you’re masturbating/Me and Dave East finna rule a nation”. Def Jam has always promoted confidant artists and those featured on Vol. 2 are no exception.
Unfortunately, one of the compilation’s more disappointing moments comes from YG, who delivered two of the best tracks on Vol. 1. While his standout track “I Wanna Benz” from the first compilation was packed with both the rapper’s confidence and political awareness, YG leaves the listener hanging with a hook that consists mainly of “I be on bullshit, I be on bullshit, I be on bullshit/I be on bullshit, I be on bullshit, I be on bullshit.” Much of the overall lyrical substance and merit that made Vol. 1 enjoyable is absent on Vol. 2. This is also suggested by the low point “Maniac” by Jhené, who explained that her exclamation of “Who love this pussy, you love this pussy” was “just freestyle”.
The compilation does have some highs, though. To no one’s surprise, Chance the Rapper delivers one of the best verses on the disc on Big Sean’s “Living Single”, which also features Jeremih. The track compares the glamorous single life with the responsibility of sharing your time and life with someone and is one of the most insightful tracks on the record. Big Sean returns the favor on Jeremih’s “I Think of You”, which also features Chris Brown and is easily the compilation’s catchiest track, sounding like a Bruno Mars b-side.
The track that truly caught me off guard with its innate uniqueness was Earl St. Clair’s “Feeling Alive”. The track stars with palm-muted guitar and bass that would’ve felt right at home on Schoolboy Q’s Blank Face LP before quickly doing a one eighty to acoustic guitars and a horn section for ska-like, poppy chorus. If the lyrical quality on the first compilation was what made it attractive to listeners, then Direct Deposit, Vol. 2 will be memorable for its musical diversity as opposed to its lyrical prowess.