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How Big Is Your World? New Rap!

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-Kid Cudi ft. Ratatat “Alive (Nightmares)”

The lowlight of this song is Cudi’s rapping, but it’s brief and almost at the three minute mark. The rest of “Alive” is Cudi melodically yammering on about becoming a werewolf or something. An easy but effective metaphor for how chasing girls turns dudes–every dude–into something of a creepy jerk. But there’s some hope–self-involved, destructive male “save me” hope, but it’s there–with, “I hope she can find the man within the beast”. The hook here’s a subtle monster (no pun intended) which isn’t a surprise as Cudi kills on hooks (“Already Home”, “Welcome to Heartbreak”, and well “Day N Nite” is all hook)…it’s the rest of the song he’s got a problem with. Here though, he’s got Ratatat, who are one of the few indie groups that really understand hip-hop production and if they step their drum game up, could easily compete with dudes like the Runners. Cudi and Ratatat should just hole-up in a studio and make a weird, wandering, next-level R & B album.

-Trick Daddy “That’s How We Do It”

Trick Daddy going off over a synth-rap marching band stomp with a hook that exists solely to give Trick a brief break before he runs through and destroys again. There’s a sense of how aware of his own fate and place in rap–and the world–Trick Daddy is, and it’s easy to contrast with Raekwon and Jay’s attempts to transcend and recontexualize their respective pasts all at the same time. Listen to how Trick says “iPhone” like the simple existence of such a device is loathsome. A close rap lyric cousin to Biggie’s joke about a chick’s “#1 Mom Pendant”. The obvious line but one still worth breaking down is: “I wouldn’t have made it in Wall Street/They woulda given me fifty years for what Martha Stewart did.”. See, it’s a genius refutation of the kind of crap people who watched The Wire or right-wing talk show hosts say, where it’s like “If only these clearly intelligent drug dealers would apply themselves to legal, productive activities” because Trick’s highlighting all the dirt going on there too and he’s basically being like, the fucking system wouldn’t allow a black dude like me to do the same shit and get away with it, so just fucking forget about it. I sorta wish this song would just go on forever. Yes, there is a new Trick Daddy album out today.

-Lil Boosie ft. Lil Phat “Clips and Choppers”

There’s a lurching, comfortable quality to “Clips and Choopers”–the sound of pained acceptance, which is very different from plain old pain. By the way, Superbad has a song simply titled “Pain”. “Clips and Choppers” is neither Boosie digging deep and getting real sad or turning those very same topics into some unexpected jam, he’s getting novelistic with it here, nothing more, nothing less. There’s not really even a killer line or insight to go on about, just a series of raw observations. This though, is actually an evolution for Boosie who often feels the need to constantly dig deep and confess, almost breakdown. The tempo, the way the beat kicks-in but doesn’t, is like being dropped in the middle of the song, surrounded by detail with no bigger picture. Appropriate because the song, especially that “it’s 2009 and these niggas ain’t playin” part of the hook, is all about being overwhelmed, wrapped in details with no way to climb out and gain proper perspective.

-Nicolay “Satellite”

A lot of rappers and producers are jocking smoothed-out, sensitive guy stuff like Coldplay and [INSERT INDIE ROCK BAND HERE] but Nicolay, producer for Foreign Exchange is really the only dude to grasp some of mainstream art-rock’s open-spaciness and translate it to hip-hop…and then remove the hip-hop again. “House of Cards” from last year’s Leave It All Behind shares more than just a title with a Radiohead song. If Heroes-era Brian Eno produced a Pete Rock album it sounds like. Anyways, “Satellite” is propulsive, fusion-oriented, jazzy-wazzy Wyndam Hill-esque, Space Disco shit. Still though, it’s loop-oriented, like 90s rap and there’s some fairly wild, almost live-sounding drumming here all moving towards a falling synth melody. That right there is the tension of “Satellite” and of most of Nicolay’s music. Dunno, this is just real good. Dance music is very hard to write about. And make no mistake, Nicolay made a dance album with City Lights 2: Shibuya Nights.

-Girls “Lust for Life”

An Elvis Costello vocal sneer (or maybe it’s more Courtney Love)f rom Girls’ Christopher Owens runs down a list of absurd and touching “wishes”–a boyfriend, a father, a sun tan, a pizza and a bottle of wine, a beachhouse. The “joke” is of course, that there’s no tiering here, all these things are desired with the same aplomb. “Lust For Life” is a vicious, slanted pop gem, mocking the wants and desires and self-absorption of presumably, much of the band’s intended audience and the band itself. This is indie rock growing up. That it’s all comes together in a genuinely sad chorus/lament of being “fucked in the head” flips the page a bit. Girls are post-irony, post-sincerity, post-everything, which just means they’re brutally realistic. Part of that realism though, is being really damned sad and the bottom-line of this song is a learned hopelessness matching up with a starry-eyed want to do better, partially mocked, partially celebrated. Girls are laughing into the void–no, they’re on mushrooms, chomping on (vegan) potato chips, and cackling into the void. Production-wise, this song kills too. The shift in volume when he mentions “sun tan”, the waves of melodica that rise up towards the end makes the radically down-to-earth song other-wordly.

further reading/viewing:
-Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson by George Jackson
-Phonte Tells You Why NOT to buy City Lights 2 on iTunes
-Rafael Grampa’s Furry Water Wordpress
-Girls video for “Lust for Life” directed by Aaron Brown

Written by Brandon

September 15th, 2009 at 7:27 am

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