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What They Gown Do? NOTHING.

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Rod Lee “What They Gown Do”

When I talked to DJ Sega and DJ Tameil in Rod Lee’s record store Club Kingz, Rod Lee hung out upstairs eating chinese food and blasting Gospel music that was like, the most soulful shit I maybe ever heard. To a lot of people, it might’ve seemed weird for one of the biggest names in Baltimore Club music to be listening to Gospel but that’s incorrect. As I just told y’all, the truly avant-garde, the actually balls-out creative takes some sideways, inside-out approach to its influences.

When vet Club producers discuss the difference between their shit and the kids all over the world trying their hand at their city’s weird music, the word “soul” comes up a lot: How much soul they’re music has, how much soul they put into it, how little soul there is in any music right now, how little soul there is in breaking-down the music of poor-ass Baltimore kids into a bunch of signifiers (horns, “Think” drums, stuttered-samples) and slapping a tag of “Bmore” on it. You get the point.

On “What They Gown Do”, all those signifiers are there for sure, but there’s more going on too. It’s a big evil anthem for not giving a fuck, an indirect way of calling pretty much everybody out there a big fucking pussy and an edifying piece of dance music about really giving a fuck. Rod gets cartoon gutteral and tells you, “Don’t let nobody take your pride, stand tall, right!?” Simple but direct…and universally smart advice all the same.

This song, from 2006’s Volume 5: The Official, maybe the only Club release that if you looked hard enough, you just might find in the cut-out bin of your local record store is pretty much the only thing I’ve been listening to this week. On the way to work on a loop and on the way back, each and ev’ry day–as Rod says it here.

Written by Brandon

August 11th, 2009 at 4:07 am

Mullyman ‘Got It’/'Oh Baltimore’ (Major League Unlimited, 2004)

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A-Side: ‘Got It’ featuring Clipse & Famlay
B-Side: ‘Oh Baltimore’

No Baltimore Club today but here’s some Baltimore rap. Mullyman is one of Baltimore’s best and most well-known rappers. I had heard his name tossed around here or there for awhile, but I first saw him open for Vast Aire and the GZA in the summer of 2004 and was surprised when he put on a better show than either of those rap legends. It felt good to see the guy’s name pop-up more and more, not only because a local rapper with some success is always great, but because it sorta validated my ear…no one was telling me to like or not like this guy, I experienced his music on a pretty pure level; if anything, he had a lot going against him because I just wanted to see the fucking Genius but Mullyman captivated me: A kinda short dude who came out like he wanted- no, needed- to be there and spit for 45 minutes, walking into the crowd and everything…

The tracks above are from his release ‘Mullymania’ and are ripped from a single that preceded the album’s release. ‘Got It’ was (I think) produced by Rod Lee and is a fairly eccentric rap-club single track but it’s hard to ignore the Neptunes derivations, especially due to the appearance of Star Trak’s Clipse and Famlay but still a good song and as interesting as anything the Neptunes have released in the past few years. ‘Oh Baltimore’ on the other hand, is a perfect rap song. ‘Got It’ was obviously intended as the introductory, club-friendly single, further buttressed by some big-name guests, but ‘Oh Baltimore’ stands on its own as just a great song and definitive Baltimore hip-hop. It should get extra points for being a song from 2004 that didn’t chipmunk-ize the soul sample even as it comes from the Roc-A-Fella production style of lots of horns, baroque-but-sorta-subtle-too strings, and ill soul samples. The Nina Simone hook for the chorus is really interesting for the way that it actually brings the song down a few notches instead of exploding triumphant, like say, Just Blaze’s ‘What We Do’ (Mully’s cadence in the first verse pays homage to Beanie Sigel’s verse from that song).

Most soul-rap beats tease the listener with a shorter version of the sample somewhere in the verses but here, it comes in understated and low, replacing the thick drums and regal horns with Mullyman’s ad-libs nearly taking it over. This is more appropriate for a song about Baltimore because well, for better and worse, Baltimore isn’t New York or any other super-famous rap town, so an out-and-out anthem of triumph wouldn’t make a lot of sense, especially because the song is a realistic portrayal of Baltimore tempered by the minor victory: “But somehow, a chicken box makes it all good”. There’s plenty of other lines worth quoting and discussing, I really like the stuff about the former hustler now being homeless and it’s all delivered in a style that sort of sounds like the T.I heard on ‘King’ and the better parts of ‘T.I vs. T.I.P’ but of course, ‘Oh Baltimore’ predates both of those albums.

Mullyman’s feature for ‘Show & Prove’ from May 2005’s XXL; click to read it:

Written by Brandon

November 27th, 2007 at 8:53 am

Posted in Clipse, Mullyman, Rod Lee

Technics vs. Rod Lee (Knucklehead/Phat KIdz Records)

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‘War Niggaz’
‘Poke Ya Ass’
Breakitdown 99′

‘Luv My Niggaz’
‘Don’t Waste My Time’ featuring Lucky
‘Where Ya At?’ featuring Mz. Thang

I like the A-Side/B-Side concept of this, with a song called ‘War Niggaz’ on one side and then an answer to that with, ‘Luv My Niggaz’ on the B-Side. The tracks also feature samples of the two of the most overly-sampled artists of Baltimore club: Mystikal and DMX. ‘War Niggaz’, I think is sampling ‘It Ain’t My Fault’ by Silkk the Shocker which featured Mystikal and ‘Luv My Niggaz’ grabs DMX’s guest verse on Jay-Z’s ‘Money, Cash, Hoes’; there’s some Jay-Z thrown in there too.

The progress of most Baltimore Club songs and well, all post-Disco dance music is that you start out with a sound or two and just keep fuckin’ adding shit on top of shit until it’s just this like, glorious danceable chaos. These songs follow that structure but feel even more chaotic and stumbling, especially ‘War Niggaz’ because it begins with the chopped-up vocal sample of Mystikal, sampled right from the song, no ‘Acappela’ version or clever stereo mixing to highlight the vocal, so under it you get this awkwardly chopped part of the music as well. When the song finally breaks out, the sample’s cut even shorter and more sounds are added- I especially like that high-pitched beep- and finally, the club break you expect drops. On ‘Luv My Niggaz’, it’s really cool that Rod Lee or Technics heard the Swizz Beat production and grabbed those weird descending keyboard sounds which not only sound cool but would fit right-in on any song made by either of these guys. That’s one of the more interesting aspects of Baltimore Club in relation to sampling, the way they pretty much sample stuff that totally fits their aesthetic, hence yell-rappers like Mystikal and DMX or dinky-sound keyboards from Swizz Beatz.

Written by Brandon

November 23rd, 2007 at 9:58 pm