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How Big Is Your World? New Rapz.

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-Z-Ro “Move Your Body”

Tossing in some superficial reggae slang (“rudeboy”, “shotta”, mentioning “the dancehall”), affecting a Jamaican–or Jamaican enough–accent, and ending the song with a chopped-and-screwed dancehall toast?! All of that with a straight face. Z-Ro takes this reggae approximation the same way he takes everything: Dead serious. There’s also the clever, almost parody/inversion of the typical, dancefloor direction song, here “Move Your Body” not a dancehall chant, but a warning from ‘Ro: “Move your body or lose your body.”

The aside to “Mr. Preacher man”, is Z-Ro both declaring himself beyond good and evil and showing a deep understanding of religious doctrine: “Hey Mr. Preacher man, yeah I know the bible/I’m not in love with murder, I’m in love with my own survival.” The word-choice of “murder”, along with ‘Ro’s aggressive “yeah, I know the bible”, is some theological shit, as he’s referencing what a lot of scholars say the commandment actually says–not the more nebulous “thou shalt not kill”. Smart stuff.

This choiceless choice” street-talk is contrasted by a few points where indeed, it’s Z-Ro with the problem, where he’s looking for a fight. The moment where he can’t have a good time because some dude’s kinda maybe eyeing him up and of course, when he compares busting heads to “a PCP high”, which is disturbingly apt; a fun, but fucked-up disassociative high…not even joyful, just a rush. Only on something as aggressively jumbled and epic as Cocaine could this from-the-soundtrack-to-Captain Ron reggae-rap jam work so well.

-BG “My Hood”

You can go home again. BG ad-libs “I’m back…and I’m better than ever…” like he ever really left and didn’t just sort of make less-good music. Rap fans are actually, a fairly accepting, not very cynical bunch. This is why guys like Drake have actual street buzz and it’s why Raekwon can make a The W-level rap album and have the internet going nuts or why, B.G can suddenly affect the wizened veteran stance, as if he didn’t release an album with the Chopper City Boyz last year.

What’s changed? Something. Not sure how or why it happened, but it’s become fashionable in the past year for rap vets to acknowledge their vet-status and even their irrelevance and just make deeply moving tracks chock full of ignorance and old-head advice. Look, I’m not complaining, just pointing some shit out, it’s ultimately a good look. There’s some nostalgia going on here, but it’s wisely tempered by the present and it isn’t in denial that it ain’t 1999 (or 1993 or 1988…), it’s just kinda working-off that.

The tinny victory that skittered through every Mannie Fresh beat, back when he was knocking songs like this out on the daily, is in “My Hood”, but it’s bitter-sweet now, it’s minor, so the joy comes in the fact that BG’s still around, that he’s still rapping, and that he can let his whole hood on his tour bus and yes, even in helping an old lady with groceries. Also, all this stuff about aging is good advice, unless you’re fellow ex-Cash-Money buddy Juvenile, and you can still just jump in and eat a beat the same as always.

-Gucci Mane “Timothy”

Gucci doesn’t do a lot of storytelling and that’s totally okay. Much of his appeal was his seemingly infinite cache of flashy down-to-earth, words and turns-of-phrase for describing his jewelry. So, when “Timothy”, an awesomely-wrought chunk of hood tragedy storytelling rap drops at the end of Great Brrritain–after the “Outro” even–it’s a dramatic tonal shift to the mixtape and the goofball three-mixtapes, 10/17 event thingy, and Gucci’s hype as a whole. And because the current style(s) of rapping are deeply disconnected from the era of storytelling–that’s to say, “how you say it” means more and more and more–having a “how you say it” rapper like Gucci, tell a tale, is a kind of best of both worlds.

Every twist of Gucci’s tongue, every nasally grunt, all the bouncing between garbled groupings of words and obsessive enunciation, guides you through the story. You’re with car thief Timothy when he finds “a million bucks” in that truck, Gucci mimicking his surprise, with the peak of “What the fuck?!”. And following up the lines describing the money blown at the mall, Gucci moves to the character of Blackie Joe–the owner of the what the fuck million bucks–and his delivery shifts to something more solemn. Appropriate as the verse ends with Joe shooting Timothy’s mom in the head.

From there, it just kinda keeps going, the details and characters and the emotional weight of theft and revenge and revenge for revenge building and building until everyone’s just sort of in a pit of despair and worry and guilt and paranoia. As Gucci says, almost like he’s screwing his own voice live, “this shit is real”. There’s also absolutely no sense of “good guy” and “bad guy” here–something even hardened crime narratives rely on to some extent–it’s all just the two characters’ respective feelings and actions rendered with deep empathy…and tempered by a deeper sense of inevitability.

-E-Major ft. Kane Mayfield “Unheard”

Though ostensibly an E-Major song–a leftover from his upcoming mixtape–the song’s produced by Mania Music Group’s in-house producers Headphones and Bealack, and it’s Mania’s resident hard-ass, boom-bap revivalist, punchline machine, Kane Mayfield who absolutely destroys “Unheard”.

Roaring in with a 300 impression (“Spaaartans! War-cry”), moving onto a Gremlins reference, and then just sorta tossing-out disses (“I don’t respect y’all rappers, you dress like pirates/Chains and bandanas”), joke-disses (“You runnin’ off at that mouth/Daddy’s home, which one of y’all was jumpin’ on my couch?”), and weird vocal tics (“and I rhyme like ewww”), for the next bunch of bars, like he bottled the fuck-it-all energy and fun of something like EPMD’s “Headbanger” and transported it to 2009. His verse ends with, “pull your pants up, 28 waist, you can’t fit a handgun.” Damn.

E-Major’s verses sandwich Kane’s all-rap-sucks missive, and though they’re seething with contempt too, it’s quieter and more thought-out–the ideal contrast to Kane’s multi-directional rap tantrum. Specifically saying “this is the new blueprint” and just the gut-level anger at 2009 rap and the cicada-like horns on the beat, makes this a quiet response to Jay’s complainer rap single “D.O.A”. E though, is more concerned with sincerity than hard-assness. Especially funny is the first verse-ending line, “And everybody wanna act like they care but/They’re more concerned with Cassie’s new haircut”. In a way, it’s as vicious of an ending as Kane’s “28 waist” line, attacking the fact that everyone wants to “act like” they give a shit about rap, when they’re really wrapped-up in some feminine-ass gossip blog bullshit.

-Say Wut “Streets of Baltimore”

First heard this song two weeks ago on KW Griff’s friday night Club mix on 92Q, from 9pm-10pm–they stream online, all you dudes pretending to care about Club should probably fucking listen–and this 70s crime soundtrack Club flip from Say Wut made a lot of sense smooshed between the more synthetic, less rubbery Club tracks. Out of mix context, as just it’s own song it’s addictive, but it’s hard to imagine it fitting into a Club mix, even though it most certainly does fit. Club music is just weird like that.

The current sound of Club is no longer horn-heavy really, it’s post-Blaqstarr, droning, tinny, weirdness that just envelopes you. From DJ Class’ “Tear the Club Up” to Debonair Samir’s “Samir’s Theme” to Say Wut’s expertly-cut, bouncing horns, horn-based Club had a good run and it’ll never go away, but the relatively lowered interest in the style is exactly what allows Say Wut to make a track as organically, conventionally funky as this–or make “Go Off Wit It”, an auto-tune ode to the late K-Swift–and get away with it.

Part of Say Wut’s genius on this track is precisely how little he does with the sample source (the theme from The Streets of San Francisco). He just ups the energy of the theme, throws a classic breakbeat under it, and leaves it at that. He grabs the horns and only the horns. He doesn’t try to mess with any of the other, equally dope parts of the theme song, so there’s no fusion-based bridge or a smattering of samples from the rest of the theme, just those rising and rising horns, some gutteral, wordless vocals, and super-tight drum smacks.

further reading/viewing:

-Google Search: “hebrew” + “rasah”
-”Lunatic Fringe” by Al Shipley for City Paper
-Mania Music Group WQFS Freestyle
-Henry Mancini Orchestra “Streets of San Francisco Main Theme”
-Sagat “Fuk Dat!”
-Wikipedia Entry for Guy Colwell

Written by Brandon

October 21st, 2009 at 3:52 pm

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