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How Big Is Your World? New Rap.

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-Soulja Boy “Love & Hate”

All over Soulja Boy’s Gangsta Grillz tape is a kind of spastic, truly off-the-dome (so it sometimes doesn’t make any sense) style of rapping that’s not that different from the much too talked about Lil B. “Love & Hate” is basically a more down-to-earth and less obnoxiously weird variation on Lil B, all the way down to the strains of melancholy behind the nonsense. “Turn My Swag On” had a hot beat, but there was something sort of depressed and “Here we go again…” about Soulja Boy’s delivery, and it’s here too, due to the hyper-repetitive hook/chant, the constant reminder of his hard-work (“all the blood, sweat, and tears I done wiped from my eye”) and an anti-brag like “Everyday I’m hustlin/Not time for depression”, which implies if he were less busy he’d be depressed.

-Grand Puba featuring Khadija Mohammad “Cold Cold World”

This song’s like catching up with the wacky kid from high-school, now all grown up and a little less funny because that wackiness royally fucked him in “the real world”. At the same time, there’s an awesome refusal by Puba to give into the sadness of the beat or hook entirely and it stems from hard-headed pride and right-minded confidence in his skills. My guess is Puba’s got a ton of horror stories and mistakes he could sit down in front of the mic and “confess”, but the song’s a great deal more affecting by not giving into the depresso-rap signifiers of the production and instead, outlining some of the things he learned about human nature (“one mistake is all it takes/To see who’s real and who’s really fake”) and perserverance (“It ain’t how you fall, it’s how you get back up”). Sad thing: That reference to Lil Jon, Usher, and Ludacris, did Puba record this song in 2004? Probably.

-Dead Prez featuring Avery Storm “Refuse To Lose”

This song is awful because it’s some of the most vanilla political raps I’ve heard in a while, features a Chuck D sampled hook credited as “featuring Chuck D” (a recent trend way worse than auto-tune), and has a tinny hedged-bets between “raw” and “radio” beat…but it does have No Trivia favorite, Avery Storm. Avery’s the right kind of shameless for being okay with soul-whimpering over Chuck D and he gives it his all, as he does on every guest spot handed his way. His bridge, where he sorta sucks his voice inside and sadly hiccups it back out, embraces the high-pitch lack of soul and relative monotone he’s got–he sounds like Travis Morrison from The Dismemberment Plan–and sends out an imperfect emotive yelp that’s sort of the point of R & B anyway.

-Diamond “Tore Up”

This is a good example of a female rapper using expectations for and against her. Diamond (formerly of Crime Mob) can flat-out rap and she’s especially skilled as an aggressive, actually swagger-filled female MC that can rap double-time and all that, and with Crime Mob, that schtick never got old because she was working with killer beats and three other rappers, but on P.ardon M.y .S.wagg, there’s some guests but she’s still gotta anchor the whole thing, so she slows it down, or mixes it up, and even sorta sings. The interaction between Diamond’s shout-rap chant, the slowed and slurred “I need another drink”, and her casual, sinking verses, makes another drinking rap classic. Songs like this or Unladylike’s “Bartender” work as perfect response records to T-Pain, Jamie Foxx, and others’ date-rape R & B drink songs because “Tore Up” or “Bartender” remind you what alcohol does: makes you confused, stumble, etc.

-Egyptian Lover & James Pants “Cosmic Rapp” (Remix)

Another No Trivia favorite, Egyptian Lover. When it comes to dance music, I’m one of those “these kids today” types because postmodern producers like James Pants don’t know anything about a club and the clubs they play to are filled with their buddies that don’t know anything either, so everyone’s dancing to dickless fifth-generation Electro or Club and whatever else made on one another’s Macbooks. This remix is pretty much just an original Egyptian Lover track because industrious Electro’s a constant remix of itself and the same bunch of sounds stretched, flipped, and turned inside-out over and over again. Those post-”Planet Rock”/”Trans Europe Express” thick-rumbles of synthesized strings, garbled vocoder, and 808s stutters of death. The secret to good dance music is that it’s not really all that fun, it’s sort of horrifying and oppressive and filled with dread and menace that circles around you and forces you dance to it, like you had no choice.

-DJ Booman “Pick Em Up” (Unreleased Mix)

From Top Billin Vol. 3 like Emynd’s “What About Tomorrow”, highlighted in the last How Big Is Your World?. There’s just no new non-rap or rap-derived music to highlight, so let’s talk about this alternate mix of The Doo-Dew Kidz classic “Pick Em’ Up”. I talked to Booman about this the other day and was surprised when he told me it was made a day or so after the version that’s now one of the Baltimore Club classics and that it’d been sitting on a DAT since then. My assumption had been that this was a remix he’d done at some point in the past couple of years but only employed when DJ-ing or something. It’s a little less raw than the original, with a few punches of House in there to lighten the mood, but those drill-stutter drums on top of the already devastating and classically hard-as-fuck drums Booman puts on everything make this an interesting footnote to the original.

Written by Brandon

June 25th, 2009 at 10:30 pm

808s & Jupiter-8s: Egyptian Lover’s Electro Pharaoh


Back in Wax Poetics #32, the Egyptian Lover mentioned his plan to release twelve 12-inches in 2009–one for every month of the year. While that hasn’t exactly happened, it didn’t feel like total un-real talk in the interview because the beauty of electro and derivations of that music is its carpenter-ish core, which allows, kinda even demands, and actually rewards, quick, worker-bee style production.

This big 12-inch release plan also made a lot of sense because Egyptian Lover’s entire bit is he’s a kinda out-there, cocky motherfucker and some vague, grand idea to drop a ton of 12-inch vinyl in 09′ had the same, uh swagger (?) as being a jheri-curled chubby dude that sang about how all the ladies wanted him one moment and opened-up all sad and lonely a la “I Cry (Night after Night)” the next.

With Electro Pharaoh though, which came out digitally at the end of last year and moved to sites beyond iTunes at the beginning of this year and somehow–or not somehow, but inexcusably–passed through everybody’s radar, Egyptian Lover’s at least beginning to make good on his promise which is more than enough in a way.

Hardheadedly throwback, Pharaoh is all 808s and Jupiter-8 keyboards and except for being recorded way cleaner than the old stuff–my only critique of the record is, he should’ve recorded it analog, because it’s too clean like the same way the new Candlemass record is too clean–the differences between this late 08, early 09 digital release and On the Nile are negligible. Tracks sway and fold into themselves, perfect for breaking or at this point the idea of breaking, and the trebly snaps of his equipment’s complemented by warm washes of synth or a sample (the especially grand synth-strings on “Electro Pharaoh”, the low budget Bernie Worrell keybord work on “Freaky DJ”). In a way, it’s closer to Uncle Jamm’s Army stuff than it is his debut record.

The only current concession is some auto-tune or some vocoder that sounds more auto-tuned but even the auto-tune’s more DJ Class than DJ Khaled hook and you know, Egyptian Lover’s allowed to briefly cash-in on a trend he had a lot to do with developing say, twenty-five years ago. But that’s the only hint of “contemporary standards” here, as there’s not even those little bits of rapping or rap-singing of his 80s work…just stuttering, pummeling shards of tinny electronics, a shit-ton of rhythm, and lots of chanting.

In a way, the release of a new (and actually good) Egyptian Lover release has a lot to do with where rap is and in another way, it’s on some very different–or divergent–shit. Really, the most analogous record to Electro Pharaoh would be some of the newer wave of ATL producers or the Jesu side of that Jesu/Envy split from the fall ((and it’s not like Justin Broadrick isn’t hip to this rap shit) and at times, The Field. Or maybe The Field just comes to mind because the best song on Pharaoh is called “Scandinavian Summer” for some reason. A corresponding track to the classic “Egypt, Egypt”, “Scandanavian Summer” uses lots of the same sounds (extra breathy vocals, those same 808 slaps of death) and the same goofball foreign imagery only now applied to “Finnish freaks” and “Danish freaks”–a “we’re all pink inside” statement of universality bouncing to a freak-beat that yeah, is also probably a crossover grab for a part of the world that’s inexplicably latched onto electro.

Even issues of legacy and influence–something every old-school pioneer will remind you about–is handled pretty well. Most of the tracks occupy this weird place of shameless myth-making and logical extension of the shit-talking of the past. “Freaky DJ” has Egyptian Lover telling you “I survived all the changes in the industry” and it’s slightly pathetic, but then, on the title track, he does a a cool thing of inserting himelf into his own Egypt iconography to represent how say, like the Pyramids or all the Egyptian and Afro-Asiatic contributions to culture, Egyptian Lover’s music is just as big and looming and influential in its own way: “Crowds fill the arena/On the east bank of the Nile/the throne becomes a DJ booth as they play this ancient style…”.

Written by Brandon

April 19th, 2009 at 6:17 am

Posted in Egyptian Lover, Jesu, e

Biographical Dictionary of Rap: Egyptian Lover


“Every DJ’s schtick is that they’re the greatest or the best at what they do, but Egypytian Lover’s self-obsession act went a step further. Side Two of his debut ‘On the Nile’ begins with a shortened version of his hit “Egypt, Egypt” and then, instead of keeping the party going, it’s followed by “I Cry (Night after Night)”. “I Cry” is a confessional, electro jam that’s less “slow-song for the ladies” album concession and more like, a song that makes explicit the implicit, depressive feeling that underscores most, if not all dance music.

If you listened hard enough, those 808s-of-death breakdowns on “Egypt Egypt”—especially the 12-inch version—stopped sounding fun and got a little creepy and it just kind of made sense that the party would stop or take a break for a song, so that the Lover can announce, over top snapping drums and watery synths, how he goes to bed every night in tears. “

Written by Brandon

September 2nd, 2008 at 7:27 am