Sure, the iPod era has allowed us to soundtrack our lives more privately than ever, but our public spaces will always need music.
Coffee shops need genteel folk ballads. Sports arenas need foot-stompy jock jams. Yoga studios need mind-caressing ambient tunes. And strip clubs need anthems like “Make It Rain.”
That’s the name of Travis Porter’s lewd breakout single, which somehow made its way out of the gentlemen’s clubs and onto the national airwaves more than a year ago. Who was Travis Porter? It was trio of rappers, actually — Ali, Quez and Strap, now all 20 years old. Hailing from Decatur, Ga., they are following in the footsteps of rappers from neighboring Atlanta who popularized hip-hop’s “crunk” and “snap” subgenres in the early aughties.
As teenagers, the threesome took their latest songs on test-drives by performing in strip clubs. It was a tactic producers had been using in Atlanta since the glory days of crunk. If the music made bodies move a certain way, patrons would let their cash fly — and you might have a hit single on your hands.
“Make It Rain,” which closes out Travis Porter’s new album “From Day 1,” outlines the concept bluntly. “Keep them dollars coming,” a female voice commands during the refrain. “That gon’ make me dance.” When the trio performed “Make It Rain” in concert on the Howard University quad in 2010, they showed the audience how it worked, yanking wads of bills from their pockets and sending them airborne on the October wind.
The group has since made a significant splash on the radio, but parent groups haven’t been protesting Travis Porter as if they were 2 Live Crew 2. That’s because the strip club doesn’t feel so forbidden in 2012. Remember when pole-dancing workouts became a fitness craze among suburban moms? That was nearly a decade ago.
So what “From Day 1” lacks in shock value, it makes up for with exuberance, the trio rapping about grown-up stuff with kidlike abandon. All three rappers possess a sharp command of rhythm, skipping over minimal drum machine beats as if playing a game of staccato hopscotch.
And while the delivery is always playful, the lyric sheet reads like an endless series of X-rated promises. On standout single “Ayy Ladies,” Quez raps, “First time I met the girl, she was in the club/Booty like a dice game, just shake it up/Shake-shake-shake-shake like a tambourine . . .” And we can’t really print the rest.
It’s more lively than filthy, but here’s the rub. This is Travis Porter’s debut album, but since forming in 2008 the group has released more than a dozen mix tapes for free online. And they’re full of songs as good as “Ayy Ladies” or better.
Aside from “Ballin’ ” — an enchanting tune with a strange, sluggish-salsa feel — nothing on “From Day 1” feels much more exciting than what the group has already given away.
These guys clearly have no problem tossing their money into the air, but if they’ve already given us their best music for free, why should we?
“Ayy Ladies,” “Ballin’,” “Make It Rain”