(Dreamcollabo; 2011)

By Calum Marsh | 23 February 2012

After describing “Fancy” as “no shit one of the dopest things I’ve ever heard,” CMG’s resident cloud-rap expert Clayton Purdom offered MondreM.A.N., one half of Bay Area duo Main Attraktionz and one of the best young rappers going, some sage advice: “Dude can just retire after this.” Dude in this case, of course, has been producing unbelievably good music for a little over a year now and is himself just barely drinking age, but every time Mondre drops a single or an EP or one of the straight-up best albums of the year it feels distinctly final, the last great document of an aesthetic he basically invented. And yet he continues to churn out more of this stuff, its quality staggering. Even this, his third or maybe fifth or twelfth but in any case probably his dopest solo release to date, isn’t particularly new by the standards of Green Ova Underground, the collective of which he’s a central figure. Like Gucci Mane before them, it takes these guys less time to put out a new record than it does for you to listen to their last one, and if you intend to listen to any other music or maintain healthy relationships with friends and family, you have to pretty much abandon the idea of keeping up.

Thus: let’s talk about M A N, an exceptionally good EP that was released in the twilight of last year. You could complain that it lacks the scope and ambition that made Main Attraktionz’s 808s & Dark Grapes II such an essential listen, and it’s true that M A N isn’t what you’d call major—but then “slight” and “minor” are qualities that lend themselves well to cloud-rap, which is itself so ethereal. It feels just correctly lightweight, is what I mean, as happily fleeting as it is fucking smooth.

If you’re even passingly familiar with the genre, you’ll know precisely what’s on tap: shimmering keys, glossy synths, and oscillating, underwater beats, all of it swirling around raps intoned sonambulantly. The other half of the cloud-rap aesthetic—the darker, more pulsating stuff, usually delivered by Clams Casino—is noticeably absent here, which suits the length and levity of this thing just fine. Silky Johnson, who provides not only the aforementioned dope-as-fuck “Fancy” but also “Dope Boy Dreams,” emerges as the closest thing the record has to a production star, but unlike his most substantial solo record, last year’s Dope Since ‘91, Mondre spreads M A N‘s production duties across a number of (maybe negligibly) distinctive talents, adding a modicum of variety to an aesthetic that is, at its worst, more than a little samey.

KeyBoardKid, the much buzzed-about Lil B producer, here helms highlight “Cloud,” and in doing so offers what might be the best beat Mondre’s ever rapped over. Mondre, for his part, brings it hard here, and the result could be the definitive cloud-rap anthem: “It’s that cloud rap / With that bass in it” is the movement’s catchphrase as much as it is the track’s opening refrain. And “Come with me / got drinks, got swag, got blunts with me,” meanwhile, is an invitation that sounds, during the rush of that hook, totally irresistible. Maybe this is just more of the same, but what you’ll find with M A N and every single Green Ova release is that cloud-rap is a long way from wearing out its welcome; the aesthetic itself is so ingratiating and unobtrusive that I’m not sure it ever will.