Tyga and Chris Brown’s latest, Fan of a Fan The Album, may be the end of the creative one-way that has been Pop – Rap/ R&B’s direction these past few years, or literally the only album you need to play to accompany a night of debauchery at a strip club. Both artists sharing less-than-positive headlines (Tyga for his relationship with nearly-legal reality TV star/model Kylie Jenner, Chris Brown for any myriad of assaults over the past decade) and underwhelming album sales figures for their last releases (Tyga’s Hotel California sold around 90,000, Chris Brown’s X reaching 333,000 copies sold) the two have a clear reason to bring up their Fan of a Fan mixtape release. But that’s not the biggest story here: The more intriguing tale is told in how this album’s songwriting allows for it as a project to fall short.
“D.G.I.F.U. (Don’t Get It Fucked Up)” is the albums best cut and a sleeper addition to the list of “Best Rap Songs of 2015 So Far.” Featuring Newport News, Virginia-born cocaine-rap kingpin Pusha T plus a bluesy guitar riff and soulful kick-drum hi-hat production by David “D.A.” Doman, it is the album’s best cohesive moment.
Just as Big Sean has done in 2015, Tyga now steps up to the plate with Bragadocious double-time flows that recall Eminem and Dr. Dre’s 1999 Grammy-winning single “Forgot About Dre” blend with Pusha T recalling that track, as well as King Push recalling not just that song, but also Jay Z’s final couplets on the remix of his 1999 hit “Big Pimpin’,” too. Thus, it excels.
Guest emcees are plentiful on this album. T.I.’s performance on “Bunkin’” has the most top-40 appeal of the lot. David “D.A.” Doman’s syrupy blend of violins, hi-hats and harpsichords mix with Chris Brown’s soulful and swagged out crooning and the purely turnt up trap raps of both T.I. (“Fourteen years and I remain on fire”) and newcomer Jay 305. Washington, DC’s other MMG-signee Fat Trel makes his presence felt with a terrific performance on “Lights Out.” The “Fat Fool” though may be the least likely of emcees you’d expect magic from here, but in his hood weary and sex-fiendish raps he provides a different feel to the production that makes it stand out from the rest of the album’s material.
Intriguingly enough, club and ratchet rap’s best representation occurs as David “D.A.” Doman goes three-for-three on album productions with “Real One,” featuring Boosie Badazz on the same production. Smartly dropping an off-tempo synthesizer into the DJ Mustard 90 BPM radio-to-party-to globally dominating rap formula, and when Boosie says that [a] woman’s man is “going to go to jail” trying to keep her from leaving the club with him, the oft-incarcerated modern trap-rap legend says, “she’s gonna leave you (when he ends up in jail), like them girls did [the artist formerly known as Lil Boosie] (when he was sent to prison).” If looking for a moment where keeping it real actually happens on Fan of a Fan, it’s here, and it’s great.
Tyga, Chris Brown and an ensemble cast of turnt up and fiendish rap wildmen perform club anthems, top-40 staples and err away from bar-for-bar lyrical mayhem on this album. In an era where music doesn’t sell, these types of songs turn profits and meet the requirement of the job at hand. Here’s the thing, though, great Pop music is not reliant on fun, but longing. This is what artists like Drake and Kanye West understand intuitively. Fun is the offshoot of that formula, the starry night sky you see after wishing and longing kick started its own blazing star thousands of years ago. And so Fan of a Fan reads like a mimicking of that, missing a key ingredient in the Pop-Rap alchemy it takes to create something truly ingenius and infectious.