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How Big Is Your World? Good, Recent Rap Songs

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-8 Ball & Devius ‘Jus’ Ridin’
Click here to download ‘Jus Ridin’.
Nielsen of A Little DMX Under a Full Moon wrote about this song already, but letting me go crazy over it for a bit…this song’s off of the recently-released ‘The Vet & The Rookie’ album by 8 Ball and some new guy who isn’t great but gets the job done, named Devius. ‘The Vet & the Rookie’ is a pretty solid album and a lot of that has to do with the really great beats, many provided by Tennessee’s Montana Trax. ‘Jus’ Ridin’ is probably one of the greatest songs ever made, the sort of song that makes sense the first time you hear it. These super-clean kinda hard-ass guitars that play under the chorus, complemented by some typical Southern rap drums and an even cleaner sounding acoustic sound, with 8 Ball and Devius trading a few verses back and forth, it’s really simple and straightforward and great. The drums slightly change during each verse or an instrument is dropped-out, especially during Devius’ last verse, when its just drums and a slightly different acoustic part, it all makes the return of that riff even more exciting.

Plenty of straight rapping on this too. 8 Ball’s voice just gets deeper as he grows older and fatter, sounding like Baron Harkonnen should sound like or something, this angry, smart, decadent fat guy dropping classic lines. Devius is a good counterpoint as he raps with a youthful but still self-aware voice but he has more enthusiasm (“You know today look good”) and sounds like he’s having fun. I like Devius’ line about laughing at the chick he and his friends “ran a train on”. Also, Devius refers to himself as “Ted Deviase” or something like that, in reference to Ted “Million Dollar Man” Dibiase.

-Cam’ron ‘Glitter’
Click here to hear ‘Glitter’.
I already talked about this song on Wednesday but it fits with the general sound of the other songs here and I didn’t really discuss the beat on any level other than it being kind of downbeat and depressive (which is good). Every once in a while, a song will get this really great, warm, organic, ambient kind of sound that is like the sound equivalent of painkillers. ‘Glitter’s drums are sort of stiff and dull, they certainly don’t knock but they have a near-Primo tightness to them that anchors the song and allows for all those crazy synth stabs and chimey sounds to sort of fumble around in the background.

I really like how both of the new Cam leaked tracks are not statements on any level. They ignore all of those manic, banger-type beats we’ve come to expect from the Dips which, if you go along with the bullshit I said on Wednesday, makes sense because Cam is sort of mining this dark, depressed, over-the-hill territory. Instead of trying to remake ‘Dipset Anthem’ and ‘Get Em’ Girls’ he’s going for the sound on ‘Harlem Streets’ or ‘I.B.S’, this will disappoint a lot of fans but I like it a lot.

-Young Buck featuring Outlawz ‘Driving Down the Freeway’
Click here to download ‘Driving Down The Freeway’.
This song gets a lot of play on Sirius rap stations and Morgan State’s rap show ‘Strictly Hip-Hop’ but it’s too legitimately soulful and laid-back to become a real hit. See, people like fake chilled-out music they don’t want stuff that is like this song. What it celebrates is too minimal (just driving) and it’s energy-level too complacent to really make it in this current, utterly moronic rap radio climate. The song is produced by Hi-Tek and has the same weary but uplifting sound last heard on ‘So Tired’ from ‘Hi-Teknology 2′.

Young Buck seems to often fall-back or downplay aspects of his persona- no doubt in deference to his G-Unit goons- but here, his voice seems even more Southern than usual, as if he stopped trying to vaguely hide his accent. It also seems even more strained and booming, listen to that part where he says “Holla back baby”; he’s tapping into like, Willie D territory here, if not in content, at least in vocal performance. Of course, the real star here is that great chorus which sounds like D’Angelo if his influences were Willie Hutch and Al Green instead of Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder. That chorus conjures up images of magic hour drives down the interstate; it’s careless but not empty as it is palpably soulful, even beautiful.

-Lil Wayne ‘Too Comfortable’
Click here to download ‘Too Comfortable’.
Lil Wayne does Yoga or some shit to this song. Kanye’s must’ve dug into his archives for those kinda shitty and flat ‘College Dropout’ era drums that everyone pisses on but I totally love. Putting these like “Pure Moods” new-agey strings and this fuzzy Babyface sample under it, makes it probably terrible in everybody’s mind but mine. If ‘Jus Ridin’ is the sound of painkillers, this song is what heroin sounds like or at least, painkillers with too many shots of liquor…blissed-out, hazy, and about to fall apart at any moment.

Wayne’s weirdo raps are what most people get excited about, because it’s easy to get excited about weirdo raps, but I like when he sort of gets dorky and sensitive and addresses the issues that a like, thinking twentysomething worries about. Taking his cue from that sampled chorus, he raps about the thing that I think any guy concerned about commitment with a girl worries about: That awful point where it turns from fun and perpetually new to predictable, the point where the chick gets well, too comfortable. His signature croak, works for the track, as he’s yelping out his lines of urgency, but instead of them being about eating rappers, he’s yelping about near-emo fears of a chick getting emotionally lazy. I love the part of the first verse where all the lines are questions that begin with “Don’t?”, like his reputation as a decent guy is on the line. At the same time, it’s not this pussy “baby don’t go” thing but this like real warning that if shit goes wrong, she can get the fuck out and he’ll find some other girl pretty easily. The chorus and verses become as much a threat as a declaration.

-Oren Ambarchi ‘Inamorata’
Click here to download ‘Inamorata’.
My obligatory non-rap song that I plan to toss-in for these “good rap songs” lists. From Electronic musician and guitarist Oren Ambarchi’s recent album, the pretentiously-titled ‘In the Pendulum’s Embrace’. If ‘Jus’ Ridin’ was painkillers and ‘Too Comfortable’ heroin, well this is your dead, drugged-up body in that moment where you can’t move but your heart is still beating and you’ll probably die. It starts out with some light, electronic pops and resonating buzzes that sort of slowly come together, held for longer amounts of time, and subtly increase in volume. The best thing about electronic music like this is that it’s all production, so you can sort of bliss-out on it and really focus on the details. About four minutes in, some longer drone-ish tones enter as do some metallic rumbles that move the song half out of intellectual abstract artiness because it sounds genuinely creepy. A minute or so later, strings come in, sort of swelling (as strings are wont to do) and underscored by what sounds like an organ and it becomes a pretty overwhelming listen. It’s pretty stupid when those go away and there’s still two minutes of the song left, but what are you gonna do? Hardly perfect and as I said, it’s instrumental, avant-garde-ish music that never totally breaks free of its intellectual restraints but still a moving piece.

Written by Brandon

November 2nd, 2007 at 5:20 am