Rittz' Next to Nothing album just dropped, and now that it's hit the collective ear drums of the world, I'm sure there will be no shortage of words spilled about it: album reviews, think pieces about the state of white rappers, galleries placing Rittz on the "overlooked/under-rated" list, maybe even a guest column in Allure.
And I could have written all those too, but I've been listening to Rittz long enough to know that there really is one area in which he's consistently overlooked, his lyricism. In fact, we've spoken about it. Call it the curse of the fast rapper. When you're spitting out double time flow after double time flow, listeners can assume you're not actually saying anything, but Rittz' rhyme book isn't just filled with gibberish, he's committed to making all those words pouring out of his mouth matter.
So I thought that as I listened to "Next to Nothing", I'd take a moment to slow down (via the magic of the written words) some of Rittz' lyrical verbosity, and maybe even give folks, maybe even already die hard fans, a chance to really appreciate the man's lyricism. Plus, that "Google me bitch" line is hilarious. There's also that.
Ok, so Rittz isn't pesonally saying anything on the intro. The entire track is a woman speaking in.....German? Maybe Klingon? I just wanted to point out that he's kind of got a thing for kicking off his album with women speaking in foreign languages.
Writin bout the past tryin to live in the moment...
ain't been passed with happiness, what's the missing component?
This isn't the most intricately worded line of all time, but that's the exactly the point. As I laid out in the intro, it's easy to miss the more honest and sometimes emotional moments Rittz will throw into a song when you're getting carried away by his flow, but look a little closer and they're there. For an artist, it's got to be bizarre to write a song about an emotional moment or period, and then have people hear that song and have to perform it maybe months or even years later, when your life might have changed completely. In a way, the same vehicle that serves as therapy, the music, can also trap you.
Of course, if you're not into all that thinking about your feelings stuff and what not, he also made a "Blowjob Betty" reference, and said his necklace is shining like a bowl of goldfish. So you've got that going for you, which is nice.
I had White Jesus in my crockpot before Ross said walking on air
Bout to light the...
Also, on Ross' "Devil is a Lie", Jay Z says "White Jesus in my crockpot..." which is definitely Hova talking about crack, but might be Hova talking about Rittz. And if you think Hova maybe subtly referencing Rittz is impossible, Hova maybe subtly referenced Lil B on "Drunk in Love", so anything is possible. And as long as we're really going in-depth, shots fired at Lance Bass?
"Crown Royal" Drink Break
Looking at the globe from up high, shots fired
Like Kennedy was riding by the Grassy Knoll
Come on now, I don't want to send you into a YouTube vortex, but you already know about the grassy knoll and the Kennedy assassination? Right? Personally I think it was Oswald acting alone, but I still gotta give one million bonus points to Rittz for using the word "knoll" in a rap. Well played sir, well played.
With my homie Tony footwork
Up at Kalamazoo, balling out up in the mall
Lyrically that's not particularly complex, just had to point out that the man shouted out Kalamazoo. Rapping about cities that almost never get mentioned in rap songs is a common theme with Rittz; what up, Albuquerque?
“Living A Dream” / "Basket Case" / "In My Zone"
I think I might need, help getting out of bed
Cause I'm here and I keep, spinning on a thread
I'm my own worst critic and I gotta write an album but I keep
hating on myself
I'm including all three of these songs together because they all essentially tackle the same theme: Rittz' struggle to enjoy his success without guilt, without tipping too far in the other direction and losing his connection to the people and struggles that his fans relate to him through. It's a mental, emotional and artistic tightwire act that Rittz raps about frequently.
An album track about how hard it was for him to write new album tracks? Mind blown.
Fucking jesus Rittz, what the fuck is wrong with you? I'm writing this in the crib late at night and now I'm all worried that someone's going to break into my house and stab me in the abdomen. I mean, don't get me wrong, you're flexing some impressive storytelling skills throughout, I just wish you didn't flex those muscles in regards to home invasion.
How about next time you do a storytelling rap about this dude who's writing on the internet and oh shit, surprise, someone dropped off a big plate of delicious brownies? Or, you know, stick with the daughters killing their fathers thing. Either/or, your choice.
I am a real Slumerican
Told Yelawolf he can swear me in
I got a heavy double barrel in my box Chevy
Plus, he also says "turn up like a sombrero rim," which might be one of the funniest turn up related lines I've ever heard. You really can't appreciate it until you try to picture Rittz wearing a sombrero.
“Going Through Hell”
My lady just told me she pregnant and begging that we can keep The baby that she conceived
And wouldn't consider the total we gotta get rid of it
Why are you tripping and acting like you don't remember what we agreed
Was thinking about myself, selfish and overwhelmed
I just paid to kill my own one child
The guilt was setting in, I felt like filth
These people picked and they decide to spill and saying I'm going to Hell
I know I've been making the occasional joke, often right along with Rittz, and it's pretty hard to seque from a sombrero picture to a discussion of abortion, so I'll just let these lyrics speak for themselves. I'll only say that this is a level of honesty and that even some of the most honest rappers would never share; it might literally be the most I've ever respected Rittz.
We actually covered some of the more in-depth implications of this song in our interview with Rittz. So instead of rehashing some of the lines and themes around race and music, let's all make sure we know the music Rittz is referring to:
“Turning Up The Bottle”
They hooked up and then she moved in
With him and his parents, she was detoxing
He did meth, too, it helped him write songs
But he quit writing shit the minute she got clean
Another thoroughly depressing narrative with shades of Scarface's Southern lyricism. At this point there really shouldn't be any question that Rittz has impressive storytelling skills, and he's telling the stories of people who don't often otherwise get to hear their lives projected back at them through hip-hop. We always have to be careful about assuming that 100 percent of these lyrics are about Rittz' actual life - after all, he could be telling someone's else's story - but especially after we heard "Blow" just two tracks earlier, I've got to assume this is at least semi-autobiographical.
Now that I've spent the past 50,000 words (approximately) focusing on the minute details of Rittz' lyrics, I hope you have a deeper appreciation for the man's pen game beyond his flows. I wasn't exactly sleeping on him before, but this linguistic exercise has made me an even bigger fan. On Next to Nothing he seems to have really struck the balance between the darkness that's clearly still shadowing him and the more party-oriented material that I felt like "Life & Times" leaned too heavily on.
He may be Next to Nothing, but if this album is any indication, Rittz is getting closer to everything with every album.
[Nathan S. is the managing editor of The DJBooth and a hip-hop writer. He also occasionally talks in podcast form and appears on RevoltTV. His beard is awesome. This is his Twitter.]