You might think that, because I work for a music outlet, I know every song on the Billboard Hot 100, but truthfully, I don't listen to the radio...ever.
Cue the Dead Prez.
I can't listen to the radio when I'm working because my work is listening to music, when I'm driving it's a combination of whatever new album is out and Kanye, and when I'm working out I have Oxymoron blaring. I could tell you which rappers will be big in 2016, but ask me who is hot right now and don't be shocked if I am utterly clueless. 3.5 million views later and I literally just discovered that "All About The Bass" song. Normally it's no sweat off my back, because I can exist solely in my flannel-twinged hipster bubble, but sometimes the two worlds combine and I have to do some extra work.
Yesterday, after a regular phone call where Nathan and I plot internet domination (a.k.a. I say "Lac Lac Lac!" repeatedly until he wants to strangle me), my roommate overheard me discuss The Neighbourhood and mentioned something about "Sweater Weather." I thought he was commenting about how cold our house was because I'm to cheap too turn on the heat until it's really cold. After a five minute "Who's on first?" situation, I realized he was talking about this:
Turns out this record was one of the most popular songs of last year. Who knew? "That's cool," I thought, but I still didn't quite connect the dots. It took a little bit of digging to finally put it together that this Neighbourhood was the same Neighbourhood that had a gangsta grillz mixtape with YG, G-Eazy, and Casey Veggies, by the name of #000000 & #FFFFFF. I thought my Neighbourhood came from out of nowhere, and I didn't want to consider the notion they were already famous. I mean "Sweater Weather" is about as hip-hop as a Bette Midler and Cher duet of "Heart and Soul," can you blame me for being skeptical? Well, once I finally connected the dots, I proceeded to music nerd the fuck out.
I had taste-tested the project, and was intrigued. There was something different about it, something unique, but I didn't know what it was. It wasn't until I realized who The Neighbourhood was that I found out what made this project so special. I'm always a a fan of genre-bending (so long as it's done right) and I could sense the special, unique vibe of the project before I even knew what it was.
Here we have a certified pop group teaming up with the likes YG to create a Don Cannon & DJ Drama-hosted mixtape. I have to say, I am really floored by their sound knowing it's so far out of everyone's comfort zone. From an instrumental standpoint, this album is top notch. It has the aura of an hazy, R&B-heavy album but the drums are absolutely excellent. Normally, those foggy-yet-glossy beats grow old, but they are so layered, deep and potent thanks to the drums that they power the album. I think it's the drums that provide the bridge to hip-hop. Neighbourhood frontman Jesse Rutherford's vocals have a pop vibe to them and jive with hazier aspects of the beats, but the likes of Raury and French Montana (who actually sounds good!) are introduced via heavy drum beats and it's the perfect meeting point; dead in the center of both artists. Even the rappers are stepping out of their comfort zone; have you ever heard YG rap like that? Oh and there is a little horn section at the 2:45 mark of "Jealousy" that literally made me scream. So fucking cool!
But more than any one song, beat, or verse, it's the attitude. The vibe.
In the spirit of a true mixtape, I love how the instrumentals flow into one another. If it weren't for all tags, I'd have no idea when the song changes and it makes it so easy to listen to from start to finish. I have had this on endless loop all day and haven't even thought about it. Leave it to a pop band to capture the true essence of what a mixtape is. The sound is dense but its such an easy, enjoyable listen. I had this on while driving home late on a rainy night and I felt like a fucking boss. As soon as I got home, I rolled a J, turned off the lights, lit some incense and vibed the fuck out. No review in mind, no nothing, just a stoned me listening to some great music that sounds absolutely incredible under headphones.
But more than the vibe, the attitude, it's what it means for the future.
Take a second to stop and think about what this is. A pop group, who you would never guess to see anywhere near anything hip-hop, making some real ass, rap nerd approved tunes. Has that ever been done before?
See Fall Out Boy.
Now I don't want to say The Neighborhood is just like Fall Out Boy - though they both boast great production, their sounds are very different - but I could see their careers following a very similar trajectory. On the surface, Fall Out Boy seems like a generic (lame) pop group that you are afraid to admit to your friends that you actually like; I don't know how they got that reputation, but it's their rep nonetheless. Still, while you can sit there and make fun of 'em, they have Roc-A-Fella Chains. Patrick Stump has produced for the likes of The Roots and Lupe and they have songs with Kanye fucking West. Make fun of them all you want, but they have more street cred and success that a large number of rappers.
"Sweater Weather" is The Neighbourhood's "Sugar We're Going Down." If you could have predicted the band that made that sound would have a hand on "Little Weapon" you'd be a sorcerer of some kind. Similarly, if you could have predicted a "Sweater Weather" to "Dangerous" transition, you need to be teaching at Hogwarts. Still, when you really look at the construction of their music, it's all there. Their sound is so easily transferrable. They have easily digestible vocals, some heavy instrumentation, and a knack for producing, using lots of different, subtle, brushstrokes to create a textured work of art. Like Fall Out Boy, I don't think The Neighbourhood's target demographic is a hip-hop head - I'm assuming they will stick to their more radio friendly sound as they are signed to Columbia - but I wouldn't be surprised if every once and awhile their name pops up on some unexpected projects. The best artists can make great music no matter what genre and, like Fall Out Boy, The Neighborhood has proven they can do it and do it right.
The Neighborhood: Your favorite rappers next favorite band.
[Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth.net. His favorite album is “College Dropout,” but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.]