One of Chicago's biggest hip-hop releases this month comes from rapper-singer Seandrea Sledge, better known as Dreezy, a south-side native who now lives in LA—last Friday, Interscope released her full-length studio debut, No Hard Feelings. In an XXL interview in June, Dreezy said Interscope has helped her develop as an artist: "I think before I got signed I didn't realize how big my sound was or how far I can take it. I still don't. But when I got to the label they would just have me try different stuff." She credits Interscope with her recent slow-burning hit, "Body," featuring Jeremih (the lone Chicago guest on No Hard Feelings).
No Hard Feelings certainly feels like a big, glossy major-label release—its 19 tracks total nearly an hour. The album's run time gives Dreezy plenty of chances to show off her range: she drops nonchalantly menacing bars on "We Gon Ride" (which features Gucci Mane, recently released from prison) and sings sumptuously on "Wasted." But the album also feels its length, and it sometimes gets mired in major-label bloat—several of its guest turns from hip-hop stars (Wale, T-Pain) feel gratuitous and perfunctory, and its overarching string of skits about a romantic tryst barely adds anything. Dreezy's best material is concise, and that holds true on No Hard Feelings too—but the record's swollen bulk makes it hard to find its bright moments.
Dreezy proved her talents before she signed to Interscope in 2014, so I hope it doesn't sound like I'm coming down too hard on her—few rappers can overcome bloat. If anyone's up to the task, though, it's Sharkula. The prolific cult rapper seems to excel when his tracks run way too long, particularly when he's recording freestyles. Sometimes his train of thought leads him to places that seem to surprise even him—much of the pleasure of listening to him improvise is hearing him react to his own rhymes as they crystallize. (One of my favorite Sharkula freestyle moments is from an appearance on Chic-a-Go-Go: "Wave your hands if you ain't Afghanistan / Yeah this kid right here understands.")
Former Das Racist rapper Kool A.D., a prolific MC in his own right, recruited Sharkula to rap on his June mixtape, Gods of Tomorrow—specifically the song "Party Til Ur Pregnant (Seance in the Studio Remix)," which also features LA rapper Busdriver. Sharkula jumps in halfway through the clattering 15-minute track, and his contribution takes up most of the song. He uses the time well—or rather, the time affords him the chance to find his way to some bizarrely wonderful raps (though you also have to sit through a jumble of cartoonishly raunchy nonsense). My favorite: "Yo my ass lyrical theme / Tennis two-thousand and sixteen."