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Sell-Out Songs that Hedge Their Bets

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Despite Three-Six Mafia’s growing fame for the wrong reasons–like an Oscar they shouldn’t have won and a really exploitative reality show– early signs of ‘Last 2 Walk’ were still promising. The new tracks were either good enough (‘Suga Daddy’, a collaboration with the Crime Mob girls) or just great (‘Doe Boy’s flange-crazy outro, ‘Like Money’s Godzilla-stomp). Even ‘I’d Rather’ featuring DJ Unk–the only one of these “singles” to actually make the album’s final cut– wasn’t on some ‘Walk It Out’ shit at all!

Then came ‘Lolli Lolli (Pop That Body)’ an unquestionable cash-in on the auto-tune Akon/T-Pain takeover. It’s the kind of song pumped-out under record label pressure for a big hit that, because it was pumped-out to be a big hit, will never be one. The whole thing’s doubly depressing. It shows how desperate Three-Six want to be really big and the cluelessness of their record label. Moved into a bigger pool of fame and expectations because of a song called ‘It’s Hard Out Here For a Pimp’, and best-known for songs about staying high and sipping syrup, knee-jerk label reaction was still to couch the group’s harder elements behind mega-clean vocodo-tune shine and ignore an almost-two decade career that precariously balanced mainstream popularity with street-level success (that’s the ideal model now that record sales are down, I thought…). ‘Lolli Lolli’ verified skepticism of ‘Last 2 Walk’. It seemed clear that the album’s early tracks had all been scrapped for an increased focus on OK Magazine collabos with Paris Hilton and Good Charlotte and maybe sorta quickly jump on the success of Wayne’s ‘Lollipop’.

‘Last 2 Walk’ finally saw release this past Tuesday and it’s neither the smash-it-up consistency of ‘Most Known Unknowns’ or 20 tracks of ‘Lolli Lolli’. It’s incredibly messy and all over-the-place, but it’s just a mediocre Three-Six album, not another hard-ass classic, and not the crunk, auto-tune, Hollywood/hood rap cash-in it could’ve been. If there’s a problem with ‘Last 2 Walk’, it’s that it tries so hard to not sound like Three Six haven’t gone Hollywood, that it comes off contrived integrity. Like, what two talking-head dopes for NPR would think an uncompromised Three-Six album sounds like. But whatever. ‘Last 2 Walk’ ultimately comes out way better than most of the fans I talk to expected it to (and it’s good to know that a Eightball and MJG, Al Kapone, and fucking DJ Spanish Fly songs exists).

Most interestingly, however, is the way ‘Lolli Lolli’s stuffed at the very end of the album, after a long-as-shit and hilarious ‘Outro’ and right before a remix of an unfortunate but not-awful, Good Charlotte collaboration, ‘My Own Way’. The song’s also weirdly contextualized by ‘Lolli Lolli (Pop That Body) Intro’, a sixteen-second skit between DJ Paul and Project Pat where they basically are like “Whew, time to go to the strip-club!”. Then, the song plays.

Stuck at the end of the album, and sort of subtly out-ed for being their big, dumb, sell-out song by the guys themselves, ‘Lolli’ doesn’t interrupt the flow or classic Three-Six sound on the album; it’s almost out of sight, out of mind. Still slapped on there for those few people who bought the album for this single, but not really a part of the album–it’s labelled as a “bonus track” on Amazon, for more “bonus” track fuckery see ‘Carter 3′ and ‘Late Registration’ but that’s a whole other post.–and therefore, not too offensive to die-hard fans.

It’s a bullshit compromise but it might be necessary for musicians to survive and it’s better than ‘Lolli Lolli’ fumbling between say, ‘Rollin’ and ‘Click Bang’ and being a total bonerkill. I’m reminded of the oft-discussed Roots/Fall-Out Boy song ‘Birthday Girl’. The Roots obviously have a more purist fan-base–although musically, the Roots and Three-Six’s devotion to mining their own sound album after album is really similar– and so, ‘Birthday Girl’ wasn’t so much ignored as it was totally shit-on by tough-minded fans (and pathetically defended by OkayPlayer dickriders). Within a week or so of all the fan derision, ?uestlove back-peddled and said ‘Birthday Girl’ wasn’t necessarily going to be on ‘Rising Down’ from the start and now, that possibility was official: It would be the “international single” and an iTunes exclusive. ‘Rising Down’ was better off without ‘Birthday Girl’, hopefully the Roots made some cash off of completist Fall-Out Boy fans that bought it on iTunes, and I’m left with the vague feeling that I got hustled by a group whose plans to sell-out blew-up in their face…

Written by Brandon

June 27th, 2008 at 6:03 pm

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