20060415

I Talked My Way Up Out the Hood

Mobb Deep [ft. 50 Cent]: "Pearly Gates"
G-Unit Radio Vol. 20

Haze cautioned me not to make too big a deal out of this one. It's tops on Blood Money but nothing controversial or groundbreaking--the Infamous have spit buckets full of goddamning nihilism by now, and 50's out-washed NYC rapstar rehab program is nothing but still in effect. "So don't go pulling another Heathcliff on us," adds Haze. Haze, so we're clear, has listened to a lot of rap music; he's probably listening to it at this very moment.

Let's hurry slowly then and see what happens. At the 43second mark, right in the middle of 50's verse, Whoo Kid shouts out Amadou. Just his name, no location, which is smart; both Big Mike and Cutmaster C tend to include his corner, and I see an angry spot-blown Amadou eventually putting Junior on their ass until they cut the shit out. The drop fits like this:

    "It's been a long time coming I done paid my dues/
    Now every time I turn around it's like I'm back in the news [WK: Amadou!]"


Intentions irrelevent, the timing is perfect. Amadou, or at least the spirit of Amadou, helped the young 50 pay his dues on the mixtape circuit. 50 paid other dues too obviously--slinging rock, getting shot, living in the projects, getting his bike stolen a lot--and as character-/myth-building qualities they, ahem, get their due. They're all but necessary anymore really, since the gap between person and persona continues to collapse; I've seen prominent Mix Hut scribes waste away time arguing over how soft Jeezy's hands are and whether he's technically harder than, who was it, Witchdoctor? Sorry, I think I was by the beerstand sending text messages to myself.

But the dues 50's talking about on "Pearly Gates" directly pertain to his come-up, to learning how to write, developing a voice, getting his name out there. In the end (i.e. death), this is what's going to save him:

    "Homie if I go to hell and you make it to heaven/
    Just get me to the gate and I'll talk my way in/
    Got a gift, I'm special with the flow, I'm good/
    Shit, I talked my way up out the hood."


These last two lines confuse the fuck out me. I don't want to get hung on "Heathcliff, just because 50 says it doesn't mean 50 says it," as if person/persona isn't my bread/butter, but nothing suggests to me 50 has ever thought he talked himself out the hood before. The 50 myth, his own, is that he grinded, threw himself in hi-risk hi-return situations, got knocked down then decided hip-hop was a safer, easier money-making alternative. He learned to rap quick, worked his ass off self-marketing, got where he needed to be and maybe a lot further.

"This shit is so easy," too many of them say, but I don't think 50's ever come out and explained that said shit is easy because he's "got a gift." It's a bad look --antithetical to his hardworking image--and undermines his archetypal rags-to-riches American Dream promotion and inherent appeal: If you work hard like 50, you can get out too. "Around the same time KRS was writing 'Black Cop'/ I was busy trying to pump crack to the back lots," he floats out there on the verse, and the KRS/50 contrast says a lot. This game tends not to reward geniuses on arrival anymore; customers aren't inspired by what they can't do, but by what they can. The scheme is a cheap dirty trick, of course--50 does have a gift, you don't--but as it stands rags-to-riches sells better than mere riches, and the market perpetuates itself on the everyman ruse of 'you can do it too', audience artists ads and all. Just saying, there's a reason Sly's "You Can Make It If You Try" feels so sad and cruel.

Now I'm going to make a big deal. Despite Mobb's divine spite, this song is awe-inspiring. 50's triumph is he's literally in eternal shit (i.e. hell), but insists he can pull himself out because the rules don't apply to him. He's a genius, and I don't mean this in the 'spells all the challenge words right' sense--just that he is above the rules, operates on a level exclusive to himself. His is a position of privilege not afforded to, literally, the rest of afterlife-going humanity; whoever made 50 want to go public with this tidbit, I bet he scored at least a 4 or 5 on the AP Euro exam.

So what, except that 50 needs to go to hell precisely so he can show that he can talk his way into heaven. The underdog is on top, always; confer Game, then Hegel. It's not rags-to-riches, not even rags-or-riches, wherein the rags merely anchor the riches in cred and zero sum but are crucially in the past. Rather, it's rags and riches, concurrent and symbiotic, not to mention a billion times more compelling than the other two verses here, Havoc's pathetic "did so much dirt I'm trying to clean my slate" and P's reactionary fuck-god woe-is-me. It ain't where you at, but now it ain't where you from either.

Looking For That Paris Hilton Bitch Too

Fabolous: You Don't Know (Freestyle)
Loso's Way: Rise to Power

EXT. MYRTLE & WASHINGTON AVE., BROOKLYN - NIGHT.

CURIOUS STYLES and MINGUS DYNASTY stop at a red light outside KUM KAO CHINESE TAKE OUT.

MINGUS: Damn. Three in the morning and it look like a car show out here.

CURIOUS: Word. The rims on that Magnum are unprecedented.

MINGUS: Peep homey with the green Astros throwback.

CURIOUS: Where at?

MINGUS : Sitting on the hood. With the mint on his neck.

CURIOUS : Who's he think he is, Fabolous?

MINGUS: Ha.

CURIOUS: Ha.

MINGUS: Yo, here he comes.

CURIOUS: Yo, that is Fabolous.

MINGUS: Oh, what up Fab?

FABOLOUS: Doin' me, fam.

[The light turns green.]

**********

Fab's forever been on that slick shit, that talk with a lean shit, to the point that Swagger's comfortable with quoting a hot line over panang curry -- a great look. But to jack Swag's surmise, Loso's Way's far from jus being about beating about that dead-horse, "Bring Back ENN WHY" yang. (But shit it's that too.) At the very least its a pretty entertaining & presently/nearly isolated (in re: New York, erm, shit) attempt at mythmaking, albeit whose cinematic crutch is the sub-Pacino 'prequel' to Carlito's Way. (Still halfway clever idea though: Remember, "I'm reloaded.") LW proves it doesn't take rapping about alphabets, or how Manhattan maybe looks like his finger (which kind of looks like a dick and how a dick-sized thumb looks like a borough again and is maybe pointing at you) to be from Brooklyn and be able to rhyme words pretty. That's an opinion of mine.

Supposedly Brian "L.A. Reid" Cashman traded Musiq and a stack of DVD-R's to be named later to Atlantic for Fab, so here's hoping we get more collabos like "How We Do It," where Jeezy performs the mystical feat of making it possible to listen all-way-thru that "Have A Party" beat.

Bottom line's I'll ride for dude long as he's shrewd enough to rap "I'm tryna keep it subliminary/ but that's only temporary/ to all of them I buried inside of a cemetery," knowing I won't find a dictionary in time.

[B/T/W, there's a song titled "Computer Love" on here. "What's not to..." about this guy?]

20060413

At Last

Freeway: What You Know About Dat
Freeway: I Never Testified
G-Unit Radio #19 - Rep Yo Click

Let's keep this short: Free’s a fickle listen. Even though he’s on hella pneumatic breath patrol, he needs a very specific sound for his rhymes to work. “I Never Testified” and “What You Know About Dat” are two of the best milks on his new tape, but they’re still lacking something. The beats for Tip Harris’ hit and Kanye West’s smash are undeniable in grandeur and specificity. They’re designed for the artists that rap over them and immediately became a part of said artist’s identity. Free needs breathy soul vocals to match his exhale (“What We Do”). He need’s crunching snares and cymbal splashs (“Come Again”). He needs organs (“Line ‘em Up”). He needs a specifically East Coast sound (Philly, WHATEVER) -- that inexplicably inimitable Roc-A-Fella sound (“I Gotta Have It”) that has completely melted away in the wash of Dame Dash and Jay-Z’s annulment. In other words, where in the world is Chad "Wes on Track" Hamilton, when we really really really need him. Neither of these songs carry that fire. So they fail.

20060412

Floe Already

Edgar Allen Floe: Skyward
Floe Almighty: The Chronicles of Edgar Allen Floe

Far be it from Stack Grundles to dog undie labels, but Shaman Work sorta has it coming. Why and how they exist is answered in the wallowing mystique of Doom’s mask Essentially, we know why SW exists; it's all part of Metal Fingers’ hyper-productive largesse. Yes, they signed C.L. Smooth and Lacks is nice, but Wale Oyejide? Scienz of Life? Emanon? Just give in to Koch already.

So fitting that the hut trashes EAF this week after slaying Rick Ross and Sr. Santana, but I’m still scratching my head as to why independent artists aren’t churning out more unreleased material. So hats off for SW for pushing Edgar Allen Floe’s forthcoming Streetwise via Floe Almighty. But why isn’t this a permanent part of undie’s marketing strategy? Artists on these labels tend to have less high-powered label drama that drowns their releases in the abyss (again, less), so the option is still there in a big way. DJ Drama will cosign anything, so why not put together more fodder for mix hut residents?

To be fair, eNCees tend to do it better. The Justus League punched out like a dozen NC State of Mind, Halls of Justus, and Just Us bootlegs with perhaps the only intention of drilling names like Joe Scudda and L.E.G.A.C.Y. into the backpacker subconscious. Don't even get the our 19th President started on 9th Wonder...

So here's the thing that kills me. The Justus League has been riding this whole "minstrel show," step your game up language for a minute now, but there isn't a single emcee in that whole crew (save Phonte & Pooh's Listening verses) who's ever demonstrated I should pay attention.

Floe is a classic case. (It's amazing how narrow undie hip-hop can be. "Influenced by artists as diverse as Rakim to Common" his bio reads. Really? Maybe one kufi size difference between the two as far the total breadth of music goes.) Your whole steez is wordsmithing. That's why I'm supposed to look to you and keep the radio off. You're supposed to make me remember that underground emcees have the same talent as their popular peers. Instead, I get faux-inspirational slight-of-hands like: "To stand out, you must outstand" and "Time to bust out the cage" and "I used to hold back." These are all well and good for HS guidance counselors, but don't expect me to give up the next Clipse mixtape to pop another mediocre NC rapper into the deck.

One Thing's For Sure, Two Things For Certain

Cam'ron: Ya'll Can't Live His Life
Dipset: The Movement Moves On

Remember the first ping of that "Dreams" freestyle? Nevermind the hazy ways, this fresh-cut broccoli defied rap logic and soon became Bible for the Movement. "Drought over," Cam proclaimed, and lavish riches were seemingly inevitable. For a moment, the guiling one smashed his looney clientele into a pockmarked ulterior ozone; keeping it Kool like Keith running on G's. Since then, the piff--as they say--has run dry, forcing assholes to make excuses for "Suck It Or Not" and "Girls Cash Cars" while podunks running Wet Wipes Inc. are the only ones caking steak.

But wait. As the Killa Season album awaits another supposed drop down we get this 7-minute-plus statement of purpose. And if the four minutes of throat-scraping hollers don't do it, the three minutes of underwater fishscale just may. First, loose ends--let's get it. Kotch Records? "My son--label--holler. They under the armpit. Ya dig?" Popping shit? "I'm allowed to pop shit!" Not selling records? "I ain't got to sell records to get money." His man Sarge? "My man Sarge is making four million a month. That's what the Daily News said, not me" (Using the Daily News as second source = priceless). Dame & Co. (possibly)? "Niggas is clowns, B. I guess niggas is a group now. Y'all old ass niggas, y'all should be the Supremes, the Four Tops or something man" (Would explain his absence in the film after chewing out in the trailer). What about his other man Weso? "My man Weso got charged with kingpin charges in Buffalo. I don't know if he was a kingpin or not, I'm just telling you what the Buffalo Times say."

Based on cursory research, the Buffalo Times no longer exists. And I'm pretty sure "kingpin charges" only occur in Dick Tracy cartoons. This is perfect. Cam fails when harnessed by physical reality. I suppose Weso is a real person but he may as well be a heroic figment. Keeping it real is keeping it ridiculous and harebrained and foolish, like how he may have to "step on some bunions." I say keep stepping.

Rap-wise, "I'm the shit/ Shit, I should rock a diaper, yo" is no "Dear Mr. Toilet, I'm the shit" but we're still reconstructing here. The slings are solid, no easy sex jokes--just Pink for the price of Pink. Things are going with the grain, though Ron fans in Dayton, Ohio may beg to differ. You see, on "Down & Out," Cam repped his Ohio connects with cadent glee: "Columbus, holler at your boy. You know what else I do: Dayton, Youngstown, Cleveland, Cincinnati." He's still hitting the Midwest here but the order is switched--and there's a flagrant omission: "Cleveland, Youngstown, Cincinnati, Columbus," he says. Has Cam ever been to Dayton? Who the fuck knows.

20060411

Dress For Less

Rick Ross: "Down and Out"
M.I.Yayo

"You know my motto: Get rich in the game." -- Rick Ross, "Before Da Limelight"

People--rappers, bloggers--are actually getting behind this clown. Huh. He can make words rhyme and "times funny now/ guess it's about the money now" comes out like bubble letters, the Os blown out and Ts cut hard and that flow oh so indebted to Biggie but where's the charisma. Ross and Businessman-Z alike will push Ross as Miami talent, seems, the heat (ahem) on as always to find your next Houstons and Bay Areas and New Orleans. And maybe Miami is that that; 'Ross is the other side of Miami, the dirtier grimier side of the city nobody done heard about,' ya dig. But what I hear is: yayo, east coast slang, zero regional signposting save an area code and a T-Pain ref, and Pain's from fucking Tallahassee.

In other words, Ross is about the part of Miami that is exactly like every other fucking city in the world. Which is frustrating. He has access to so much crazy shit down there--why shy away from it? When are we going to get a rap about the M3 conference? The ongoing, unchecked genocide of our senior citizens? The weaponry store I found two years ago where theoretically I could have walked out with an enormous Japanese sword, the handle of which was covered with several mini-swords? You don't need me to connect the dots.

Heretofore Jay's curatorship has tended to half-formed artists in budding scenes but with incomplete identities, no? Remember Aztec? Is the guy's point defiantly reductionist, as if to say every new region sorta is the same as the last? Or is he just a clown himself? To wit, Ross has changed the name of his forthcoming LP (and it follows, the focus of his appeal) pretty much every time there's a new article about him, first Port of Miami, then Career Criminal, eventually (we hope) some combination of the two like Career Pirate or Criminal Port, a concept album about killer dessert wine.

Now I'm gonna wrap this up with a fantastic conclusion.

This is a "Down and Out" freestyle, but all is not lost. "Lunch with E-Class, Puffy on the cell, Timbaland sending emails from 'Ville/ See, I'm well connected." So that's what Timbaland's up to.

20060410

Put Your Number 2 Pencils Down

Juelz Santana: Losing My Love
Dipset: The Movement Moves On

"Losing My Love" is the only Juelz track on The Movement Moves On, and it comes about two thirds of the way through the tape, after it gets past the three or four good Cam songs and after the long-ass slog through Hell Rell solo tracks and boring-ass JR Writer joints, but before the neverending 40 Cal set and the fourteen-minute Funkmaster Flex session. Listening to an entire Dipset tape all the way through is a really depressing way to spend an afternoon; all those halfassed interview bits and blippy half-done beats and half-rapped-half-mumbled stab-you-up taunts can really drag out, especially when Cam recycles his "Dreams" freestyle lyrics for the kajillionth time and when Rell rhymes "anyway" with "anyway" and "anyway." So we really need a pick-me-up right around here, and that's exactly what we get. Juelz has good news for us: he's getting tired of rap.

That's good news because rap (meaning: me) has been done got tired of his lazy ass. So when the nice lady on the chorus sample sings "Could it be I'm losing my love?" and Bandana adds "for this rap shit," it's cause for celebration; maybe he won't be around to fuck up the next LL album with his clumsy-ass bark. He elaborates: "I sit in a daze, y'all / Twisting the haze y'all / I don't listen to rap, I listen to Dre, I listen to 'Hey Ya.'" Does anyone still listen to "Hey Ya"? I mean, when was the last time you were sitting around and thought to yourself "You know what I need to hear right this second? Motherfucking 'Hey Ya'"? Did you ever do that? If this means that the only bullshit verses on E-40 albums will come from E-40, that's fine. But wait, Juelz has more to say: "I've had it to here with all this fakin' rap / Shakin' this, you're fakin' that." You're faking shaking that? How do you do that? Whatever, fine, as long as the next Chris Brown club single has nobody blurting bullshit on the intro. "Seems like y'all amused with / Everything that got to do with party music." He doesn't like party music? Why? Doesn't Juelz like to party? Is he a square?

Oh wait, I guess he's not because he follows that up with "We could still party to this / Clap!" And then he claps for two bars. At Juelz Santana parties, everyone stands around and claps. That actually sounds kind of fun.

Also, the clapping is the best part of "Losing My Love" because the rest of it has Juelz Santana rapping on it. This is the kind of thing that happens when Juelz Santana raps: "Where I been, where I be, ha? In the street, ha / Now I'm back to ride this horsey like yee-ha." Also: "Yee-ha, yee-ha, giddy up now / To the sound of the touchdown." I'm confused: are people riding horses on a football field? Is that allowed? If it is, why hasn't anyone taken advantage? Horses can run faster than people. Also: how are these rap lyrics considered remotely acceptable?

It makes sense that Juelz is sick of rap music. I get sick of stuff when I'm not any good at it, too.

Also: this beat is terrible.

Know What I Mean?

Keak Da Sneak: Scarface Dust
Keak Da Sneak: Superhyphy
Keak Da Sneak [ft. Hollis & Eklips The Hustla]: Get That Doe
Kunta Kinte

As experiental movements continue to evolve, and regions (Atlanta, Houston, The Bay, soon Cleveland or Reno or Phoenix) stake claims on chart dominance, the shuffle lost in the big dance is obvious: metropolises are getting pawned. Obviously, the populace at large thinks that when something good happens to Bonecrusher or Z-Ro or Mistah F.A.B., that thing is good for the region they rep. Not necessarily the case. Short term, sure. Paper stacks rise quicker than average and fame grows. Minimal outsider fame, with a one-sheet in Vibe and an allhiphop.com interview. But I guess fame is for the famous. Long term, it distends a city's viability. Now, when folks think TX. rap, they think swangers, lean and diamond teeth. Forget humanity, we're codifying culture! Houston's pigeonholed, plain and simple and the Bay is next. Just because 15 or 35 rappers ride donuts and shake dreads doesn't mean an entire city does so. So MTV's "My Block" and the hordes of culture-micro-trend-think-thought-thank pieces in every mag across the land conflates a scene with a culture. Don't get it twisted: this is no call for mealy-mouthed "safe" voices. More a firing squad set up for the reportage. Hard to say what DJ Screw's influence will be in the long run. But, ya know, there was a time when Haight-Ashbury had it poppin'. Those dudes are fossilized remnants now. Queensbride, too, right? Heh. Sad if the same were to happen in these cities. Who's to blame? Surely the media and short-sighted ad-sales mind frame; and the artist that allows him or herself to be marginalized by these pieces; and the greedy, thoughtless publicists and managers that force the issue; and the listener, the "outsider," looking for a tidy package and a new slang term to throw at their parents. Still, that Keak Da Sneak really is something!

Rather than get reductive and lavish with the "His voice sounds like he gargles Beelzebub's balls every morning and washes it down with a side of molten feces" faux-descriptive hyperbole, let's just say Keak has an unorthodox sound. Thing is, he's also just like any other rapper; voice begets persona, persona begets stardom, stardom begets ridiculous adjectives. Proof's positive on this site. Keak knows exactly what I'm saying: "You can call it Bay shit, but I'm just speaking for the town, East Oakland." Oddly, Kunta Kinte is more interested in diversifying local investments, bragging about "going ghetto gold" (50,000 sold) and generally doing him, if that isn't too vague. There's no outlying sub-culture nonsense. Just the records. Though we've crafted a blurb or three in our day, we don't like it. Not when Keak doesn't care, obviously. "Get That Doe" samples "Brickhouse" for heaven's sake. And it actually works. Like Lionel Richie says, it's just music, my friend. But it's not just music. "Superhyphy," which was "Tell Me When To Go" when Lil Jon was still wearing short pants, is O.G. status even though it's like a year old. But there I go again attempting to correlate a song with some sort of movement. The reason "Superhyphy" is exponentially better than "Tell Me" is because there's no affectation. It's not a history lesson or some speak-n-spell shit. It knocks, sure, but it doesn't have to involve "wild, frenetic dancing" and "wonderful displays of regional pride by way of 'Ghostriding' one's own vehicle" for it to be important. EVERYBODY I WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL WITH DID DONUTS IN ABANDONED PARKING LOTS. How about some analytical reading that isn't extra-musical. Oh shit...pot meet kettle, what's hatnin'?