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How Big Is Your World? New rap.


-DJ Paul “Buy My Old Shit”

The best song on DJ Paul’s Too Kill Again–but one more release in the of brutal avalanche of Three-Six mixtapes since their Grammy win, weird reality show, and not-so-good album Da Last 2 Walk–is “Buy My Old Shit”. Turning Jay-Z’s sneering response to old-head fans mad that his albums don’t sound like they did before into a hook–rap’s worst trend as of late–Paul pragmatically responds to cries of “sell-out” and the more general, more biting “this doesn’t sound like the old stuff” whines. Thing is, “Buy My Old Shit” does sound like their old shit. All of Too Kill Again sounds like their old shit. It’s rough and catchy and scary and depressing. Paul’s on his “old shit” when he stops the tape to basically do a Rudy Ray Moore routine (“Funny Shit Interlude”) or mentions that he’s “sitting in [his] Cutlass down by the river” smoking weed (“I’m High Right Now”). Too Kill Again doesn’t let-up and it’s got that weird, crunching, crushing sound that’s somehow damned catchy–and most importantly, you buy every angry, depressed threat Paul throws out there. If veteran Three-Six fans can’t get behind this release, they’re hopeless.

-Method Man & Ghostface “It’s That Wu Shit”

Rumor has it, when Raekwon heard this spacey, flanged-out beat, his NYC-hard ears started bleeding and his penis split in half and folded back into a vagina and that’s why he’s not on the final track of Wu-Massacre (Theodore Unit’s 718 > Wu-Massacre). Then he felt real silly when producer Scram Jones was all like, “Dude this is a sample of “It’s Your Rock” by Fantasy Three!” Jones is more than capable of producing what people buying Wu-Massacre perceive as “fire” (check out “Youngstown Heist”), so this modern-sounding beat, with drums that poke around instead of knock, with a bed of intergalactic-synths under it all, seems like a sick joke. Why’s this on this album? Ghostface has an energized moment and a half of The Warriors-style imagery in the first verse and Method Man just sounds awesome, but this is a cool, bat-shit corny beat that should’ve gone to I dunno, Rhymefest instead.

-Keys “Nicki Minaj Diss (Studio Version)”

The “studio” version of Baltimore rapper Keys’ Nicki Minaj video “diss”. This is pure Baltimore hip-hop, which means its angry, almost scary, more lyrical than it really needs to be, and has a beat that’s minimal and hard as fuck. Hooks are of no interest–it’s all bundled-up, ready-to-explode anger and pain. Often, it’s really, really funny too though. Also, battle-rapping’s still a big thing in Baltimore and so, as schticky as this “diss” is, there’s a context for it. It’s also just an artfully done diss. There’s a narrative in Keys’ rap, the whole thing about her nephew and YouTube is kept up throughout (Nicki’s so bad, Keys assumes her computer has some sort of virus) and all the lines about Minaj being kiddie stuff at best, and pure retarded nonsense at worst, funnel back to that line that references Blue’s Clues. Tight, clever, chaotic writing here: “Fuck five stars, Keys is a galaxy”, “leave they brains more gelatinous than banana pudding”, “that shit sound faker than that ass you got”.

-J Dilla “Safety Dance”

Is this “hypnagogic pop”? Dilla “covers” an 80s song and makes it more 80s–all rigid electronics and a drum-beat made for lame coke party boogieing. The more this goes on though, the fact that it secretly jams becomes clear–that as usual, it’s all about the drums. Each drum-smack or snare that drops out is palpable. You forget it’s a sorta ironic cover and it becomes a mid-tempo, floor-filling dance song. Some Dilla fans have said “Safety Dance” would’ve never been released if Dilla hadn’t died, but I disagree, it totally would’ve because Dilla wisely, stopped giving a fuck. In the narrative of Dilla’s brief, weird, tragic life, there’s a point after his MCA album was shelved, along with Frank and Dank’s 48 Hours, where it seems like Dilla didn’t care anymore. The angry bitter, classic Ruff Draft was made during this presumably frustrating time of waiting. It’s also around the same time that Dilla’s health problems first became apparent. Label bullshit, the reality that he was sick, probably made bets-hedging, diplomatic music-making way less appealing. And that’s why there’s stuff like a weird, stoned cover of a Men Without Hats song in the Dilla catalog.

-DJ Pierre “Watch How I Do It”

On DJ Pierre’s “Watch How I Do It”, from his latest release Volume 8: Spring Fling, you can hear Club music mutating right before your very ears. A tangle of Pierre crooning, chanting, and singing, underneath some elaborate drums patterns and about nineteen other effect-laden sounds–it feels like it was created on the spot. At the same time though, it’s perfectly, artfully structured, rising and falling, building up tension, breaking down at just the right moments, and grounded in a squeak of classic Club, referencing DJ Equalizer and Scottie B’s “Much Too Much” and Scottie’s “Niggaz Fightin”. The last minute is especially epic, clattering drums battling some really syrupy synth tones (appropriately, it’s the synths that win), leaving the still-vital patterns and structure of Baltimore Club in the dust.

-Future Islands “An Apology (Live at Night Light)”

Here’s the thing about the internet in 2010: Some of the best music is not only unavailable in physical form, but even digitally, it doesn’t exist. Many of the most lasting, thrilling sounds are live performances: “Exclusives” on fancy-pants music magazine blogs, uploads from ass-quality cell phones, weird WSH-bait freestyles, and even the occasional, nicely-shot amateur footage like this performance from Future Islands. The video’s great because you get up-close and personal with lead singer Sam Herring’s possessed, spazzy Otis Redding performance but “An Apology” deserves to be separated from the visuals and reduced back to just song. There’s a band behind Herring here and that fact kinda sneaks up on you, as each sliver of “An Apology” (quiet glowing keyboards, waves of feedback, drums and guitar sort of) perks up in the mix until Herring’s wounded, growling, knowing “so far away” hook repeats and repeats, eventually sending the song into a cathartic, defeated finale.

further reading/viewing:
-“Ice My Strofoam” from Nation of Thizzlam
-“It’s Your Rock” by Fantasy Three
-“Sulu Dance” by Kidd Chris
-Z-Share for “Watch How I Do It”
-“The Club Beat with DJ Equalizer” by Al Shipley for City Paper Noise
-“Listening With…Future Islands” by Spencer Griffith for The Independent Weekly
-Benjamin Marra

Written by Brandon

April 5th, 2010 at 4:50 am

7 Responses to 'How Big Is Your World? New rap.'

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  1. Having seen Future Islands, I feel like Herring’s performances are more affectation than actual singing, which has a distancing effect rather than bringing me closer to the emotion. So much of the songs are slurs and growls that the actual melodies get buried. He’s a hell of a performer and very charismatic, but if let his lyrics and melodies speak for themselves a bit, that emotional intimacy would feel less forced.


    5 Apr 10 at 1:21 pm

  2. I have to disagree. Of course it’s a performance, but it works, it feels intimate and weird, like it isn’t something you’re supposed to see or witness. Watch that video especially, I’m not sure how all his moving around and grimacing is distancing.


    5 Apr 10 at 1:39 pm

  3. It’s not distancing on its own. But he does it every song, no matter the tempo, no matter the subject. After a while it begins to feel less like intimacy and more like artifice.

    Also, it definitely works better in a small room like the one in the video. I’ve seen them in both, and they know how to work the small room.


    5 Apr 10 at 9:11 pm

  4. The Keys thing is racking up youtube views steadily just like the original “Itty Bitty Piggy” freestyle so part of me hopes she become impossible enough to ignore that something interesting actually comes out of this. Nicki’s gone on record saying she’s basically about entertainment first, but it’d be a good look for everyone if this turned into a back-and-forth.

    Chick’s thesis is on-point, too, since Nicki’s selling point is being better than signed rap chicks like Trina, and save for how surprisingly decent Diamond’s raps are lately, that’s not much of an accomplishment.

    The one thing the video version has over the studio version is the gradual evolution of the viewer’s opinion from “another bird myspace rapper being salty and throwing rocks” to “fuck, this chick’s great” by the time Keys does her lil’ swag dance at the end that alleviates what feels like legit anger for most of the video.


    6 Apr 10 at 3:08 am

  5. Evan-
    I was probably a bit too curt before, I was on my way to work. I guess what I mean, and I understand I’m in the minority here, is that because Sam is like this always, it feels more real and vital. It isn’t the song or group of songs where he goes off, but every song. It seems more real/natural to me. I also think that there’s slight variations in the performance, as on “An Apology”, that has him shifting his spazzy weirdness towards sincere emotion.

    It isn’t what you’re doing, but too many write-ups on the group suggest their stuff isn’t sincere or something, when it totally is. Especially in contrast to their Baltimore art-fuck counterparts.

    Unfortunately it won’t go back and forth because Nicki would never give Keys the time of day, in a real way. If she wouldn’t appear with the Freshmen 10, she won’t respond to some hard-ass chick from Baltimore.

    I’d agree the video is vastly superior. As a video, it works, the dudes standing behind her, the lighting, her AWESOME outfit, but it’s interesting to hear it as a song.

    When this first came out and it only had like, 100k views, I contacted Keys and she ignored me the first time, and the second time I bugged her, she basically super-nicely, even sweetly apologized, but basically suggested her real-life was much too hectic to meet up with me in the city.

    I found this really weird–borderline crazy?–because one would assume her goal in doing the video was to get some press (she’s now pushing some mixtape tracks) but perhaps she’s totally fine with making it to World Star Hip-Hop.

    That makes me sound bitter and/or full of myself like “how dare she not want me to interview her” but it’s interesting to encounter her real goals with this vs. the perceived goals of a Minaj diss. I get the sense she fucking means it. 100 percent.


    6 Apr 10 at 3:36 am

  6. 718 was a pretty great album, yep. Better than one or maybe even two of his solos. Rae is pretty curmudgeonly but… I mean, you can’t tell me what RZA was doing on 9 Diagrams was actually particularly good.


    6 Apr 10 at 5:11 am

  7. fail

    Nikole Prickett

    11 Aug 10 at 2:23 pm

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