It’s easy to pinpoint what Tyga’s good at, after a pair of summers propped by “Rack City”, “Deuces”, “Bitches Ain’t Shit” and “Bitch Betta Have My Money”. Tyga is good at talking mean, mad game to women of indistinguishable design other than their designer apparel. In the case of the latter two songs listed above, he may have leaned heavily on early-90s west coast classics to do so (the guessing game’s not hard, given the titles), so throw in “Faded” and that remix of “The Motto”, but he was certainly a part of making those songs work. Tyga’s not an especially creative person, but he’s certainly well-versed in what makes a great jackass. When he goes this route, things can work out just fine for him even when the festivities get as simple as being “loose off the goose”.
In an earlier era, many rappers would embrace the idea of being hated by the public in preference of the love of their audience. Tyga seems to have little interest in being disliked, though. Hotel California is neither as overlong or overwrought as the still-mysterious Careless World: Rise of the Last King, but it remains just as confused about what makes Tyga work. “Diss Song” is a very well-performed song in every phase, but nobody’s listening to Tyga for J. Cole songs. Likewise, “For the Road” (formerly “Fuck for the Road”) is such an utter clash of lowbrow concept and pre-teen shine that Chris Brown ought to have been paired with a more ludicrous rapper in the Lil’ Boosie or Busta Rhymes mold. The song might not have been any better, but it wouldn’t have begged us so badly to take it seriously.
The urge to take old, epoch-defining tracks is retained from his most successful mixtape/Youtube runs. I find that an odd choice for an album ... it’s hard to give credit to “Dope” for being a clubbed-up “Deep Cover” with Tyga and Rick Ross. Not a not fun song, let’s not take it that far, but “Hit ‘Em Up” follows shortly after and even without the 2Pac samples, it’s got the “Down for My Niggaz” hook and – look, that’s the highlight. Jadakiss rips it, and as I was saying before, copying and being a goofball tends to be Tyga’s best move. The balladry of “M.O.E.” is the exact sort of thing Tyga needs to sprint from before the proposal sentence is even finished, and especially feels like a mistake considering it ends as abruptly as a grindcore track despite a four minute runtime. “Enemies” ... I mean, Tyga is the “Rack City” guy. The song’s full of tropes regardless, but given Tyga’s most well known image (strip club rapper), it’s wholly uninteresting to listen to him settling into basic, 2003 gangsta rap songs of sympathy.
It’s when “It Never Rains” comes up that Hotel California decides it’s time for Tyga to make a juke to his weak side, and that’s not a move he’s capable of coping with. Cool & Dre do a little to the track (mainly a smart voicebox treatment), but essentially it’s Tyga rapping over the instrumental with a strangely filtered rip of the original song’s hook remaining. That’s a weird, very ‘90s song about a guy who’s all laid back about his California girl except for the fact he can’t sleep without a full-sized paper printout of her face bedside and has already bought a ring for her should she be down to meet up. Tyga is creative enough to recast this woman as a stripper from New York who’s looking for a rapper to put a stop to her suffering, but she’s also a fiendish “squirter” (female ejaculation) so the hook can serve as a punchline. You can imagine how useless the results are.
He can’t avoid sounding like some of his peers when it counts, either. Hotel California isn’t nearly as indebted to the October’s Very Own formula as Careless World, but it’s somehow less unique for that lack of brazen labelmate lust. Some of these tracks owe themselves entirely to guest presences, like that “Hit ‘Em Up” song you’ll be trimming down to just Jadakiss’ verse in short order. “Molly” is, according to my pill-poppin’ constituents, a fairly fist-throwing anthem to MDMA-hunting at the club. But in actuality it’s a fairly lifeless song, other than the beat, hook bridge and way that Wiz Khalifa interplays with that. “Show You” is a would-be classic Future ballad that for whatever reason was allowed to be billed as a Tyga track. If any song on this album has a real chance at love, it’ll be that one even if Tyga has little to do with it.
When it comes to Hotel California as an album, then, we arrive at the classic dilemma of a hip-hop reviewer in the 2010s. On the one hand, the album does very little of what Tyga’s best at and even when it does, Hotel California makes the strange move of bowing to Tyga’s biting prowess rather than original, ratchet works. On the other, everything here is done perfectly well and enjoyably; unless you’re focused on Tyga’s bars, taking him purely as a presence on some nice beats is not excruciating. But it’s important to know the best you can hope for coming into Hotel California is that Tyga will drift out of your focus, becoming just a noise among noises. His approach to music is certainly not that – he’d clearly love to be a star – so it’s not a cynic’s way to look at Hotel California. I have to admit I’ve had a fine time with this one, assuming I’m not paying too much attention to the bland words. I’d never tell you to buy this album, but a Spotify perusal may bear a fruit or two. At least for an afternoon.
Considering who you ask, perhaps that doesn’t make this album so different from the Eagles album I know at least a third of you have been thinking of this entire page.