20060422

I Cut 'Em Fat

Rick Ross: Hustlin' Video (Samurai Champloo Remix)

No more hand claps, Krav. I can't catch all what's wrong with your riding for Rick Ross based on his "Hustlin" vid. But I can make an example out of some of it.

You're right. Melle Mel didn't wear that jumpsuit and bullet-belt just for comfort. But divorced from the content of "Broken glass everywhere, people pissing on the stairs, you know they just don't care," Mel's -- pardon this blasphemer -- just another sweaty, muscled cokehead clad in ammo and synthetic fabrics. And that's not even saying his sartorial signifiers are empty. Said duds are Uptwn-meets-Dwntn, Ziggy-Stardust-on-East-Tremont-Ave-type shit, the glam-punk type shit few on the block (who'd never done coke) were on/up on -- a sort of peacocking before it was passe. But I don't see the same, or any significance in bald pates, bald verse, and Big Momma's mumus. Yeah, his name rhymes with 'boss' but I'm gonna need more than that. And it ain't that his facial hair convinces more than the "beard" that is his drug-dealing persona, beard in the way that Katie's Tom's best accoutrement.

(Besides, a la H-cliff, connect these dots if you dare. Career Criminal > Career Pirate > Criminal Port. What are we talking about here? Blackbeard's Revenge.)

Anymore's got to come from them raps. Read down & you'll know I gave Rhymefest a pass for being blunt in re: lyrical content and, like it or not, that's a part of his person/persona/positioning as 'blue collar' blah. But Ross is in the direst need of metaphor -- even the rumors of it. So Jeezy don't rap no more; all he do is "Jeeeah." But where we're willing to forgive Jeezy forgoing rhyme for a bit -- having the charisma to make that even novel for a mixtape or odd feature -- what's earned Ross the right to "rhyme" 22 seven times over without winking? Again, you're right. "Look at Rick Ross." As there's no conflict or ambiguity or ambivalence to Ross's beard, there is none such to his words, empty of what might make them interesting.

But the visuals, the visuals: Every day I'm hustling. Chop. Screw. Repeat. All stressed by 57 shots of hands exchanging cash. We get the picture/s, and over and over and over again. " With banal voiceover: "See most of my ni***as really still deal cocaine." "Mo 'blow." And don't tell me..."Yayo." Say it, see it, say it again. Speech, but never the figure of it. Do tell me though, how doesn't he look a damn fool all alone, your titan's turn atop a building looking less imperial coronation than on-set outtake from Jet Li's Hero; a post-Christo Ross as fat gaffer having a laugh during some downtime.

"'His' Miami looks cool in the video." I hesitate to get too specific with this because it's unclear what you mean. Just cinematographically? Or are you actually saying that the projects/tenements/rampant joblessness looks cool? Because I'll agree with you. It does look cool, especially when one has a job and doesn't live in or near said projects. Rap-as-commodity would have failed a long time ago if this were untrue. We know this. Still, saying ghettoes look cool, well, ain't always a good look.

Also, here is a picture of a Kodiak Bear grippin' fishscale, a.k.a. eating fish. The resemblance is unconvincing.

20060419

Whip it Whip it Real Hard

Rick Ross: "Hustlin'" video

Been a million years, and I still haven't listened to all of M.I.Yayo (lazy like that), but it's time to respond to Heathcliff's portrait of Rick Ross as sub-Jeezy talentless charmless charisma-less hack. It's not the sort of thing you can do on sound alone, but since when has rap been based on sound alone? Melle Mel didn't wear a red vinyl jumpsuit and bullet-belt because the shit was comfortable. To understand Ross, you need to look at him: bald head gleaming, enormous red shirt draped over him like a cape, wraparound aviators, rings and watches standing out hard against dark skin. He's huge. He takes up space. Jack Swagger says he stole Freeway's beard, but no, Freeway's beard is smaller. Also, Freeway's beard does that weird Abraham Lincoln thing where the mustache doesn't grow but the rest of it does. Rick Ross has a mustache.

And those two beards mean different things. Freeway, or his character at least, is a Muslim who does dirt, and his voice is all yelpy strain, like he's always trying to find a way to justify the huge chasm between his beliefs and his actions and realizing that he's always going to fail at that, never quite going full-on Islamic because he knows he can't hack it yet, hoping he's born again (or whatever Muslims call it) before he dies. Look at Rick Ross: there's no conflict or ambiguity or ambivalence in that beard. I've grown beards, and you don't get a beard like that because you're feeling conflicted. It's a Fidel Castro beard, a hibernating Kodiak bear beard, something that demands respect. Ross takes up the whole damn frame of the video, waddling hard, moving in slow motion even when the video is going regular speed. Fuck a Michael Clark Duncan, he's the real black Kingpin.

Heathcliff says he doesn't say anything distinctive about the city he reps, and that's true. But do you remember him being a Miami bass guy? A Slip-N-Slide guy? Because I do. He looked like a damn fool jumping around at the end of Trina's "Told Y'all" video. He's not a supporting player. He is like Jeezy; he needs to be a titan or he's nothing. "His" Miami looks cool in the video, especially when the Cuban music fades away and the film stock turns all dirty and bleached-out as he's crossing the bridge, passing all the everyghetto signifiers (kids selling candy, middle-aged man gambling). But the best part of the video is the end, where he's on the roof of some building for no reason other than the visual: standing tall with red flags billowing behind him, wearing sunglasses even though it's quite plainly dark out. He's an emperor.

He also knows how to ride a beat, which is helpful since Jeezy has apparently given up on rapping altogether.

Scaring White People Half to Death and Taking They Bitch

Mobb Deep [ft. 50 Cent]: Pearly Gates
50 Cent: Devil Son [skit]
Prodigy: Las Vegas P
G-Unit Radio Vol. 20: Best in the Bizness 2

Newsflash: It's not true what the Good Book say. It's also not true what Heath Bar Cliffy say. I listen to some other shit. And some other other shit, too. The news isn't that "It's 50," nor has it ever been, really. This is about P's salvation as it has been since Hell on Earth, when he started to believe the functionalities he forced himself into on Juvenile Hell (glaring on that cover whilst Hav held that fucking sickel, thinking he was hard) and later "Shook Ones pt. 2," when, in the end, Jay showed us he was a tiny dancer. It's always been about Prodigy. His rundown of joints in that XXL feature about "Queensbridge Classics" is laughable (apparently the beats are "hot."). Anything P has to say he says it in verse -- trust, he's a bad interview. One of the worst. No knock on what 50's trying to rile up here, referencing Kris Parker (who likely HATES Curtis Jackson) and his sling. The sing-song is bulletproof, too. "Uncle Tom niggas wanna see me locked up, too" is something deeper and less-considered, requiring a scalpel for surgery, but not as much as "I bought a fresh box of bullets," esp. considering 50 hasn't had a fresh batch of anything since "Ghetto Qu'ran," or 50 Cent is the Future or "How to Rob..." actually. 50 Cent can't believe someone would call him "Devil's Son"...in King Magazine! Believe it, Harris Pub has no shame, anything for a cheeky dekhead (like Mix Hut honorees, too. We fuck wit puns, not guns.)

But P has nothing left if he can't say "Tell that nigga God we got beef." Take "Las Vegas P." Ugh. This is as bad as it gets. Whoo Kid forcing him into spitting on that Pharrell beat that never took off the way that Iovine thought it would just cuz Stefani was doing slithers on it. C'mon, "fuck a actress and fuck a rap bitch"? "The Paris Hilton for the weekend"? "Remember the Time like Michael Jackson"? Christ Prodigy, put the bank card down for a sec and realize what you're doing.

Lambasting this kind of thing is just as gauche as the actual music. So let's stop. At least he's still repping E&J. It's the stark, bleak, honest dismissal of religion, sight unseen in the Christianity-laced imagery of your crucified Makavelis and your God's Sons. P says something we all want to say: WE DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT THAT RELIGIOUS BULLSHIT. Somebody needed to play this on Easter morning when my Moms was trying to get me to go to church. Which is not to say we're Godless. Hardly. We just can't DEAL with the implications of an ever-crushing garage door of morality round the clock. P takes this idea due South. If he's not shooting and fucking, he's talking about how much he doesn't give a damn about the ramifications of shooting and fucking. Nihilism qua nihilism. Simple repudiation. Now this, we understand.

NOTE: Prodigy was not born in Queensbridge, NY. This means nothing.

I'm Bleminem

Rhymefest: Gone [ft. Kanye West]
Rhymefest: My Beat
Rhymefest: Tender Thug
Rhymefest: Chicagorillaz [ft. Mikkey & Bump J]
Plugg City: City On My Back

"Subtext" implies subtlety, something Rhymefest proudly professes to lack -- blue collar baller he's angling to be -- but for lack of a better term let's jooks with it for a minute. A line of rapperly discontent runs straight through a pre-mixed, pre-Brion/soaring strings/ebullience, etc. version of "Gone" (with the verse Fest recorded for Kanye appearing where Cam's and Consequence's eventually did) to "My Beat," where (get your analogy game up) RF is to Super Producers as GZA is/was to Record Labels. W/R/T "Gone," say sour grapes and maybe you're right, but that in turn implies that Fest's rationalized his non-inclusion, that he's already come to terms with it and said f-that. Yeah, yeah, "Jesus Walks." Obviously it's not the first time dude's been jerked, or at least tweaked, so you might expect he'd expect it. But it doesn't sound that way, which is much more interesting.
"When it was all said and done, I wasn't on the song...I just think you need to hear and judge for yourself whether or not you think this is a joint that I shoulda been cut off on or not. Call me & let me know what you think. Hit me on Myspace or something."
And funny. And wrong. Rhymefest's verse, while enjoyable for lines like, "I'm tall in the game, you ni***s small like Willow," is un-special (though intriguing's how both Ye & Fest kick that "What you rappers could get is a job from me," line which sounds more and more Fest-ian than West-ian on repeat listens...hmm). Who the fuck wants blue collar when you can rock chinchilla 'round your neck? What's missing? Not you. Honestly bruh, there's barely a valid comparison. Cam might never rap over a beat more suited to his style than that; maybe same goes for Quence. And that I like Fest is the killer. But I digress and the drama continues...
"During the making of this album, a lot of people tried to gouge me on beats & tracks & features...You know who you are...I'm a tell you exactly who it is."
Maybe the goofy inverse of T.I.'s "I'm Talkin To You," Fest names names on "My Beat," which is, um, his beat, yet with a different strain of the venom Tip bares for not-this-guy-and-no-sorry-not-that-one-either. Pharrell & Chad? "Overrated-ass ni***s." Kanye and Cool & Dre? "I love that track, but I can't pay." Consider: "All you did was chop and loop that/ I wrote the rap, how you produced that?" Despite all that half-arsed-aggro, doesn't ever seem that dude could mean mug around too long; in fact he plays distemper for jokes most times, which charms (See: "Tender Thug," whose titular softie might just be Slim as well, or at least sounds like. Plus, the ad libs are beyond compare). The hardest shit on here is the Training Day sample (Denzel: "King Kong ain't got shit on me.") at the top of NO ID's "Chicagorillaz" -- deservedly holding down the, erm, hot-fiyah #6 position on the tape -- and that should be no offense to Fest. Denzel Washington is, obviously, a bad motherfucker. But where Tip don't need a metaphor, apparently Fest doesn't either. And that's OK.