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Ric Wilson/Terrace Martin - They Call Me Disco EP Music Album Reviews

The Chicago rapper’s collaborative EP with the L.A. producer Terrace Martin is a jubilant six-song burst of summertime grooves and throwback funk.

Burgeoning Chicago rapper Ric Wilson is a throwback to a certain type of ’70s-era do-everything star: part MC, part bandleader, he’d be at home rapping with the Sugarhill Gang or shouting adlibs over fellow Chicagoan Frankie Knuckles’ thumping, soulful house. Wilson, who has a string of singles and EPs to his name, came up with the same Young Chicago Authors collective that birthed Noname, Saba, and Chance the Rapper, among others; like those artists, his verses often veer toward the poetic and cerebral, eschewing traditional rhyme patterns and subject matter for free-associative dives into the personal, political, and nonsensical.
They Call Me Disco, Wilson’s collaborative EP with the prolific Los Angeles producer and multi-instrumentalist Terrace Martin, is a jubilant six-song burst of summertime grooves and throwback funk. Martin, a longstanding collaborator of Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar, and a producer for several other West Coast mainstays, is in his comfort zone, assembling four-on-the-floor drums, thick slabs of bass, and simple but rich chords throughout to create a warm facsimile of old school funk—spanning Lakeside to The Gap Band—with a dose of neo-soul sprinkled in. Wilson and Martin’s chemistry is undeniable; while not nearly as nimble (technically or lyrically) as Kendrick, Kurupt, DJ Quik, or any other of Martin’s nasally L.A. collaborators, Wilson’s conversational verses nonetheless sound just as natural over Martin’s layered beats. They’re not reinventing the wheel by any means, but on They Call Me Disco, Martin and Wilson know how to make your feet move, and, more importantly, how to make you feel good.
Wilson’s greatest strength—his undeniable enthusiasm and charisma—is also at times his biggest downfall. His obvious musicality and inventiveness notwithstanding, Wilson’s eagerness can exacerbate the fact that he’s often stringing together irreverent non-sequiturs. When he tries too hard to espouse a worldview beyond peace, love, and confidence, he can come off as cringey (“Slappin’ hoes with my left/Fight for rights with my right,” he raps on “Breakin Rules”) or sophomoric (“Global warming is swarming/Beyond the matrix/While we out killing /For colorism and hatred,” he ponders on closer “Beyond Me”). They Call Me Disco, as a title, suggests the birth of a new persona, but in reality it’s more like Wilson figuring out what he wants to say in real time.

Despite these moments of little sibling-like eagerness, Wilson’s—and by extension, Martin’s—giddiness is mostly contagious. And when Wilson doesn’t try too hard, the EP is pure joy, a transportive, funkified missive from another, happier dimension. “Don’t Kill the Wave” is the best of the project’s collection of dancefloor-fillers (though “Move Like This” is a close second): a foot-stomping, synth-flooded smash, it takes a page from Kendrick’s pulsing, Martin-produced “King Kunta” and adds some Dâm-Funk flair, as Wilson gleefully anoints himself “the disco Kaepernick.” Wilson and Martin have more than one gear, too—standout “Before You Let Go,” which features a lush contribution from singer Malaya, has shades of frequent Martin collaborator Thundercat, complete with spaced-out chords and a slinking half-time groove as Wilson courts a potential lover.

Wilson ends the EP with a question. “Why do I see color when I’m livin’ in gray?” he asks, uncharacteristically somber. Instead of an answer, They Call Me Disco provides a perspective shift: in a moment when we’re all living gray, Wilson and Martin are here to remind us of the color that never left.

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