In my quest to prove that 2011-2016 was one of the best eras in music, I’ve found myself listening to Blu, MED & Madlib’s 2015 collaborative album “Bad Neighbor” a lot. Back when it first came out I knew it existed because Hodgy (of Odd Future) is featured on Serving. Then, as I continued to listen throughout the years I realized that this is a star-studded affair. DaM-FunK, Oh No, Anderson .Paak, Phonte and the illest villain DOOM all make appearances. Pretty much every song has a feature on it, but they execute it in such a way where you know who everyone is and it isn’t jumbled up either. Every time I go back to this album I find something new that I enjoy or I find another song to loop over and over again.
The wildest thing about this album is that there isn’t really a “low-point,” which is wild because there’s (technically) 15 songs on here. I say technically because there’s a couple interludes present. Just to get it out the way, Birds might be the only song I don’t really like. It’s the beat that takes me out because it’s based around a loop of what sounds like a turkey gobbling, then sometimes there’s a chorus of them and they get louder and louder and you wonder what is going on. I’ve listened to this album so many times all the way through and every time I get to this one I have the same confused reaction.
Okay, negative stuff out the way, let’s dig in. First off, the beat for Streets is one of those beats where you didn’t know you needed it in your life, but once you hear it you’re forever thankful. It sounds like you’re in a police chase and you have kilos of coke in the trunk and a gun on your lap. The kick heavy drums mimic a nervous heartbeat and there’s police sirens throughout the beat that create this frantic energy. This is the soundtrack to sleeping with one eye open, and always having to look over your shoulder. Right after that is The Stroll and my jaw drops every single time I hear it. I actually cannot handle how good this song is sometimes, AMG, MED & Blu all rap about how cool they are and the loose women they attract (hence the title.) It’s worth noting that they made a song about sex-workers and they are celebrating their hustle and not degrading them, love that. They do all of this over this hypnotic beat. It sounds like a violin tripping on acid. Madlib’s drums are always wild because they’re never too much that they take away from the sample or the main part of the beat, but you realize that the beat wouldn’t sound the same if they weren’t there. Knock Knock features a hilarious plot line where MF DOOM breaks into his cousin’s house and acts like a villain would. Taking beers, orange juice, and butter just because he can. Then, MED gets back to his house with a girl and has to deal with all the stuff he has missing; DOOM took a DVD he was going to watch, and the beer he was going to drink. The pair do this over this entrancing bassline and this 70’s Isley Brothers-esque guitar loop. Then, at the end this piano comes in and wow even though it’s only for 40 seconds it leaves you wanting so much more.
Okay, so the passage from The Strip to Belly Full deserves its own section because that might be in the running for best sequencing ever. I do not know how they made five songs that were that good for one album. Starting with The Strip, the groove on this one is like an amalgamation of all the classic tropes for riding with the top down. As the title suggests, this song is about the Sunset Strip. MED, Blu & Anderson .Paak have brought out their finest cars and clothes to flex in front of everyone while driving down the street. Madlib is like a painter with his production because this song sounds like cruising down the street in the summertime right before the sun goes down so it’s like a good 70 degrees. Your car is better than everyone else’s and you want them to know. Finer Things has Phonte on it so you already know it’s gonna be insane, then the song comes on it exceeds expectations. Even though their deliveries and the beat are up-tempo, the verses are kind of sad. All of their verses talk about the pitfalls of relationships in their own special way. Listen to Burgundy Whip one time and you’ll find yourself singing the chorus to yourself randomly throughout the day. Jimetta Rose’s voice blends so perfectly with the beat that it sounds like it came with the sample until you get to the verses. MED & Blu detail where they are in life and how they got to this point. Nice little laidback track. Drive In features some of the best storytelling on the entire album. MED & Blu tell a story about women that they are dealing with. Blu’s story sees him trying to get this one girl but he gets distracted by another girl and the first one is obviously jealous about it. She reminds him that she isn’t easy and he has to actually work for her. Other women around him don’t want him to settle down, but Blu might be smitten by this woman. MED on the other hand, is not confused at all. He knows he wants this girl bad, he wants to spend the foreseeable future with her and lets her know why. Both of their verses end on a somewhat optimistic note. Audio cliffhangers. Following the same premise as Burgundy Whip, Belly Full is another “day in the life” type track. Blu, MED & Black Spade are driving in the whip with different things on their mind. Apparently Blu is driving pretty fast, and he’s aware of it, MED calls a woman with a friend that wants both of them, and Spade is in the backseat smoking and trying to pray at the right time. Great track. The beat for this one mimics how fast Blu is driving. It’s one of those beats where you damn near throw your neck out because you’re bobbing your head so hard. It features these commanding horns and these incomprehensible vocal chops, too. For MED’s verse the beat changes and then comes back in full effect for the hook and Spade’s verse, it’s insane.
Please listen to this album if you haven’t it is one of the best album ever made to me. I’ve been listening to it non-stop for a while and not just because I wanted to listen to it. If this isn’t enough to convince you, the trio just put out a remastered version and some of the songs sound different and the sequencing is different, too. Check it out!
Follow Deshaun: @deshaunstar
Follow BUMMER: @thebummermag