No Trivia

It’s All In the Details: Comments on Specific Parts of Some Rap Songs

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Man, it’s 2009 and between months and months of hype and then the imminent album leak, nothing’s interesting and it’s all boring before the first album cut even finishes. Who has time for entire songs? And who has time for entire songs reviews? Here’s reviews of parts of songs, mostly good parts. Maybe a recurring feature here, we’ll see…

-RZA’s “We soldiers…” coda on “Black Mozart”
off Only Built For Cuban Linx 2

RZA’s high-pitched but gutteral wail of a chant that ends “Black Mozart” brings a flood of palpable pain into the song and the album, something it kinda lacks overall. It’s like RZA found an old blunt of ODB’s behind a monitor or something, smoked it, and the saliva ghost of ‘Dirty–his exuberance, his pain and confusion, his deep pontificating on the er, “struggle”–possessed RZA and he ran into the booth and cried this out. Because rap’s so sissified now (and it just is, sorry, it is) it’s easy to repaint all those St. Ideas and Timbs, gritty-beat makers as ineffable hard-asses but in all that music is obviously a lot of pain, and sometimes they even let it seap into the music explicitly; RZA bring some of that back on “Black Mozart”.

-Beanie Sigel’s biblical syntax on “Run to the Roc”
off The Broad Street Bully

Beans adopting a sort of absurd but strangely affecting mess of Biblical talk (lots of “thy” and words like “wrath”) shows you how seriously Jay Z’s dropping of “The Roc” is for those involved. “Street code” is doctrine for better and worse, and when you violate that, it’s over for you. But it also hurts because there’s more at-stake than just a bunch of feelings (and now empty wallets) but like an entire belief system. For Beans and company, the dismissal is tragic and mythic and all that, an ultimate violation and sign of disrespect. Biblical. Shakespearan. All that smart-person stuff applied to things to legitimize them. Notice how this is still threat-rap and tough-talk, he doesn’t explain why because he doesn’t have to explain it. It just is. The shit’s doctrine.

-Jay-Z’s revelation that his teacher was a dick on “So Ambitious”
off Blueprint 3

“I felt so inspired by what my teacher said/Said I’d either be dead or be a reefer-head/Not sure if that’s how adults should speak to kids/’specially when all I did was speak in class…”. If there’s an actual theme or like, thesis to BP3, it’s Jay Z actually feeling grown-up, no longer chasing respectability or plain old comfort, just being a fully-functional adult with a wife and responsibilities and shit. With this comes, it seems a deeper realization of his environment, one he once took for granted, also bubbles to the surface. And so, Jay’s really thinking about how having some jerk-off teacher tell you that you’re doomed isn’t normal or really acceptable. Obvious to a lot of us, but maybe not so if it’s how every fucking idealist-turned-nihilist “educator” treated you your whole fucking school career. The line clearly stung, he’s rapping about it years later, only now he’s sort of got it–rap as psychoanalysis.

-The title of Robert Glasper’s “Yes I’m Country (And That’s OK)”
off Double Booked

A good jazz song with a particularly affecting or smart title can somehow make it even better: “Just Friends”, “Idle Moments”, “Mandrake”, “Fables of Faubus”. That said, this has led to a lot of musicians trying really hard to be clever or insightful (a ton of puns, pseudo-poetry, etc) but “Yes I’m Country (And That’s OK)” is like, haiku-perfect. There’s nothing explicitly “country” about the song, no twang or grafting of folk/country melodies here, but there is a certain ease and comfort, a rolling along feeling that indeed, invokes the cliches of a somewhat derisive adjective like “country” but turns them into the strengths big-city fucks are too cool for. A jazz tune for provincials. Cooly confident, but not stupidly prideful either. Robert Glasper’s from Texas.

further reading/viewing:
-Digging for Dirt: The Life and Death of OBD by Jamie Lowe
-Harvey Keitel’s wail in Bad Lieutenant
-”The Documentary” by a bunch of the XXL Staff
-Considering Genius: Writings on Jazz by Stanley Crouch

Written by Brandon

September 2nd, 2009 at 7:53 pm

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