Stay In Your Lane

Pharrell: Liquid Swords (over "4th Chamber")
In My Mind: The Prequel

Many un-thanks to Curious for swiping my Pharrell skit transcription idea, albeit telepathically. The banality of lavishness--that's what this guy is all about anymore, no? I'm talking about Pharrell. Granted there's some rap-as-enterprise involved, music-as-elaborate BBC Ice Cream advertising too, and it's not like Jeezy didn't drop a wordless measure here or there on Can't Ban to prove quality rhymes (in the traditional a/k/a 'good for blogpost title' sense) aren't that important anymore. Make no mistake: There's something gloriously fucked up about that.

Aside. I've been thinking a lot about "Mr. Me Too," how Pharrell's verse fits into it, why Clipse fronted their comeback single with so puffy a verse. We've talked about this together once and I just hadn't heard the song enough to weigh in. "Me and Puff hoppin out the plane/ both us laughin" is the key for me. Remember, Bad Boy was relief for a good long minute, bright fun but certainly not willfully unconsequential stuff after years of agit and bustamoves and "underground art." Biggie was epochal because he came at this metamorphotic tip and rapped it realtime, which is maybe why I feel comfortable more or less saying he's the avatar of mid-90s rags-or-riches rap, i.e. when rap music itself mirrored perfectly the rapper come-up, both the person and the music gaining $$$ and *** (i.e. respect). It was all a dream...

This isn't Bad Boy 2 in size, not at all. But Pharrell's pretending it is. The extent to which he catalogues his wealth and ostensibly cares about it, meticulously describes his earthlies, dwells on his business exclusively--I'm not saying this is subversion but I don't think Pharrell's a total fucking dunce either.

Wealth as candy? "Rims red like swedish fishes"; "In my chain I got the pink laffy taffy, the white laffy taffy, the blue laffy taffy, the yellow is so flashy"; "Ice Creams [bear with me] make all the girls wanna fuck"--he's made bling a childlike fancy. Calling spade a spade? Dunno, except right now guys everywhere are bragging about how they're in the BILLIONAIRE BOYS CLUB and paying $500 for sneaks called ICE CREAMS. "That's why the nigga laugh." Six months, you'll hear this a lot: "Oh man, I love 50 but my favorite rapper is SKATEBOARD P."

"Tough guy--not I." If the bad boy was a huggable gangster, Pharrell's just huggable. He's upfront about backpacking, reads Deepak Chopra, never deals but Pusha's told him it's 16 for a ki, and in fact "musical cocaine brought me all these things." Which is why the old Wu-Tang beats seem more pointed choices. "4th Chamber" is audio terrorism; over it, now, "Liberace chains hold my neck like an ankle" and "puffing a Cuban cigar in Brazil with Hype Williams watching the playback." Gza's rap-as-violence metaphors sound self-sanctimonious in comparison. Yeah dude, "we're gonna take you back to the source, the knowledge." Hoop it up.

"Couldn't see the light like baby Jesus in the manger." With Pharrell's implicit "I care about everything but the rapping" bit comes the (brutal) criticism that "I only care about the rapping" is as much of a bit. This is different than saying backpacker rap isn't fun or interesting or relevant, which is the common chorus; Pharrell's saying something much nastier, turning their very criticism on them. I won't be surprised if he overstates this eventually, condemns his backpacker past as equally artiste bullshit (which I don't think he does here), but this guy's next move is potentially way more interesting than Pusha's latest (wrist) turn.