Posted tagged ‘juvenile’

Top Five Rap Songs For the End of Summer (C.A.T.T.L.E.)

September 3, 2010

This is everyday for me.

Welcome to yet another installment of Chaz’s Arbitrary Top Ten List Extravaganza. As you may have seen, we’re only doing five this go round because you only have about four days left of summer and you’ve probably got enough going on in terms of squeezing those last drops of the season in. Instead of focusing on time-tested seasonal classics like “Summertime” and “Hip-Hop Hooray,” these are jams specific to this final week. So grab that last bottle of summer ale and hop the train to Coney Island as we say goodbye to another great season.

DO IT! HONOR IT! DO IT NOW!

5 ) Scarface – “It’s Going Down” (1994)

While this tasteful booty call sounds great year round, it makes for the perfect end of the BBQ “let’s do this” theme music. Brad Jordan’s charming and disarming charisma over a “99 Luftballons” interpolation made for a great moment of release on his masterpiece The Diary as well as an accessible introductory piece to arguably the greatest rap catalog of all time.

4 ) Y’all So Stupid – “Van Full of Pakistans” (1993)

Unfairly but rightly remembered as everybody’s favorite Pharcyde-ripoff, Atlanta’s own Y’all So Stupid have at least one universally beloved favorite in their arsenal, and that’s the title track off their puzzlingly named album Van Full of Pakistans. A laid back tale of loss and, well, more loss, the song compliments those of us who don’t really have a whole lot to look forward to in the fall but are having a good time anyway.

3 ) Atmosphere – “Sunshine” (2007)

Off their 2007 EP Sad Clown Bad Summer, Atmosphere’s “Sunshine” touches on those unexpected great days of summer that come out of nowhere to remind you how great the season is. Historically the first glimpse at Ant’s more live instrument-based production, it’s a fitting closer whether you’re strolling through that park you haven’t had to roll through on a whim or exiting the Minnesota State Fair, it’s makes for some great walking-away person end credits music.

2 ) Jay-Z – “Dear Summer” (2004)

Probably the most literally fitting song on the list, a “retired” Jay-Z popped up on Memphis Bleek’s 2004 album 534 for the entirely Bleek-less song “Dear Summer.” While the face value reads as Jay actually saying goodbye to the season, the context of when it dropped made it seem like the final bow of a storied career. Half-victory lap, half-”I Still Got It,” Jay hasn’t sounded like this since his 2006 return and we’re all the worse for it.

1 ) Juvenile & Soulja Slim – “Slow Motion” (2004)

It’s unfortunate New Orleans rap legend Soulja Slim had to have his first Number One single nine-months after his death, but it’s the type of song that will live forever. Teaming up with Southern rap icon and Bounce pioneer Juvenile, “Slow Motion’s” become something of a requiem for both Slim and the summer itself. Pro J’s beat sets the sluggish summer scorch perfectly for Slim and Juvy to go back and forth one last time. The Life Garland directed video’s also among the most touching of the medium, featuring many then-feuding New Orleans rap artists all coming together to remember one of their own.

FUN FACT: Sometimes words have two meanings.

So there you have it. Have a great labor day weekend!

VH1 Hip Hop Honors 2010 – Reporting Live!

June 4, 2010

Best 2010 Hip-Hop Honors Ever!

It’s the early morning of Friday, June 4th and I’m writing this having just returned home from the 2010 VH1 Hip Hop Honors event. This year’s theme is The Dirty South, honoring such legends as Master P, J. Prince (founder of Rap-A-Lot), 2 Live Crew, Timbaland and Jermaine Dupri. Thanks to the homie Adam Bernard, I was invited to witness the festivities firsthand and let me tell you what a rare treat this was. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and would spend my weekends hopping from music store to music store. Due to the North Star state’s geographic location, rappers from every region eventually had their material matriculate back to us. I got a fever for several simultaneous flavors and really learned to love rap music for its various variants. Now was my first opportunity ever to see many of my heroes in the flesh, so of course I had to be there.

Seriously.

Before I begin, I want to point out that the entire show was shot “out-of-order” so if anything in this recap happens in a different sequence or doesn’t make it to air, you can chalk it up to the magic of television. I’m going to attempt to avoid spoilers, but knowing VH1′s track record you’re going to be bombarded with commercials of all the surprises so unless you have the will-power to not watch the numerous “What Chilli Wants” marathons over the next 72 hours I’d advise you to proceed with caution.

After hours of standing, the night began with a tribute to Rap-A-Lot Records’s founder J Prince. Rap-A-Lot’s string of releases from 1990-1994 is my favorite period of any record label’s output ever. The medley of the label’s biggest hits began with Geto Boys member Willie D and The Game performing “Mind Playin Tricks on Me.” Say what you will about The Game’s music and penchant for name-dropping, but his love for Hip-Hop really shines through in his live performance as he knocked Bushwick Bill’s verse out of the park. The medley also included Juvenile doing “Nolia Clap” and Drake dueting with UGK’s Bun-B. None of these acts were announced beforehand, so you can imagine how the place exploded when they just appeared on stage one-right-after-another.

We were then treated to the opening vignette and an incredible brief (We’re talking 2-3 jokes tops) monologue from Craig Robinson, best known as Daryll from “The Office.” His dry wit was quite a change from the playfully obnoxious partying of Tracy Morgan in years past, but with the flamboyance of the talent being honored and doing the honoring he made an effective straight man, making the presentation palatable for the not-so-country attendants at hand. Also on hand were comedians Eddie Griffin and “Community’s” Donald Glover, the latter of which’s introduction of 2 Live Crew got the biggest laugh of the night.

I thought it was a smart move to divide the tributes by region, allowing the night to work as something of a crash course in “Country Rap Tunes.” Odd as it may sound, Jermaine Dupri got the biggest reactions of the night. For whatever reason, whenever his name was mentioned, the crowd erupted. Odder still is that he got this warm reception yet his tribute video and performance was the only one audible heckled. The only thing I found jeer-worthy of his segment was Diddy giving the worst performance of the night with arguably the least convincing lip-syncing ever publicly performed. What made it so bad was that during his “Welcome to Atlanta” verse, Dupri was still backing him up with a live mic resulting in awkward audio for all.

As for the second worst performance, it fell in the middle of an otherwise great No Limit tribute. Romeo came out dressed like his father circa-’96 to do “I’m Bout It, Bout It” and his tremendous attention to detail in the attire made it work. Off to a great start, things come to a screeching halt when this transitioned with the smoothness of a parking break into Silkk the Shocker’s “That’s Kool.” Despite being the final “hit” of the original No Limit Records, Silkk gave-up midway through the verse repeating one bar four times and then half-finishing the rest, just in time for Trina to miss her cue, do the second half of the chorus, and exit. Gucci Mane then came out as he and Kid Capri attempted to reenergize the crowd getting them just barely ready for MYSTIKAL to do his “MAKE ‘EM SAY UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” verse, saving the night. It’s really great to see Mystikal back on the scene and as energetic as ever, but his appearance just made the choice of “That’s Kool” all the more baffling. Here you have a chance to reunite Silkk and Mystikal for arguably the label’s third most well known song (“It Ain’t My Fault”) and instead you opt for “That’s Kool,” a song nobody really liked or wanted to hear in the first place?

While Silkk Lupe-ing himself will most likely still make it to air, one thing you won’t see is the Serato breaking down during 2 Live Crew’s performance, resulting in them restarting three times over. Sadly, this means you’re going to miss the night’s most genuinely touching moment. After “Me So Horny” and “Hoochie Mama,” the opening notes of “Banned in the USA” suddenly went silent. With the show stopped and countless technicians rushing the stage to fix the problem, Luke walks out and says “No Music? F**k it then. Let’s do this.” He then goes into the Crew’s old “One and One” routine (their reinterpretation of The Kinks “All Day and All of the Night”) as each member joins in with a “just like old times” look in their eyes. Moments like this are what a show like Hip Hop Honors should be about and it would be a shame if you never got to see it.

With the bulk of this show set to be made in post-production, the lineup’s randomness really drained the crowd. The real star, however, was the tremendous set design and art direction. Every artist had a distinct motif that really captured who they were. It helped give each region a distinct look to match the sound and added a grandiose touch of theatrics. Both VH1 and the artists involved really went out of their way to make the night as comprehensive as possible, from Cool Breeze (the man who coined the phrase “Dirty South” on Goodie Mobb’s 1995 album Soul Food) performing the Organized Noize tribute to Mannie Fresh grabbing the mic in between 2 Live Crew technical difficulties to acknowledge Suave House and other southern icons that VH1 forgot.

While I really have no idea how this is going to look on air, I had a great time. The Rap-A-Lot medley was the best performance and believe me when I tell you it is not to be missed. If you check it out, be sure to look for me. I’m the one white guy who isn’t wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses indoors or has a flat-out embarrassing tattoo. Seriously caucazoids, step your game up!

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

A Guide to One-Take Rap Videos

May 7, 2010

Take me out to the blog post! One take, that is!

As this site has well established, rap music is awesome. What’s also awesome, is the art of the music video. Once thought to be merely a three minute promotional tool aired for 1-3 months and then never seen again, thanks to the YouTube era they’ve now entered immortality and help determine who is going to direct our Terminator sequels. Being primarily a commercial for a song, record labels and musicians alike have tried cutting costs as many ways possible. Since rock group The Replacements introduced the one-take video in 1986 with “Bastards of Young,” videos that have been one-take or made to seem like they were one-take have been successful as both an eye-catching and cost-cutting tactic.

Since I think we’ve all seen enough OKGO, I’ve decided to compile the definitive list of one-take rap videos.

Xzibit – “What U See is What U Get” (1998, Director: Gregory Dark)

The video that made me a regular BET watcher, a tribute to Hitchcock’s Rope, “What U See is What U Get” follows Xzibit to the store to get some milk, only to have any and everything get in his way. While it’s much more impressive to see on television as there’s A LOT more going on than can fit in a YouTube screen, its sheer ingenuity and replay value has allowed it to stand the test of time much more than its more expensive counterparts*.

MF Doom – “Dead Bent” (1999, Director: Piston Honda)

Once upon a time before he was a no-showing cartoon of himself, MF Doom was an indie oddity whose mask existed as a metaphor for one hiding their scars within rap music. A tragic figure, he was never more visually realized than the 1999 video for “Dead Bent.” A reinterpretation of Cibo Matto’s “Sugar Water,” Doom exists hauntingly as an everyday supervillain. Consider it – domestic Doom.

Scarface – “On My Block” (2002, Director: Mark Klasfeld)

My favorite rapper and my favorite video director team up to make my favorite from this list. One continuous trip around the block shows everything Scarface’s neighborhood has gone through over the course of his life. Beautifully bookended by a life/death dichotomy, this is one of only two videos I ever remember BET heavily promoting the debut of**. Keep your eyes peeled for Scarface’s only appearance in the video selling Uncut Dope out of the trunk.

Lil Jon f/ Mystikal & Krayzie Bone “I Don’t Give A” (2003, Director: Gil Green)

This one is the most obviously not one take, but the choppyness serves a purpose. A rap reinterpretation of Prodigy’s infamous “Smack My Bitch Up” video***, this video follows a night on the town with Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz as all H*ck breaks loose. With a cameo list only rivaled by UGK’s “International Players Anthem”, the rapid fire jump-cutting to concert footage come-to-life is meant to mimic the experience of live music while on syrup. Consider it visual chopping and screwing.

louis logic & JJ Brown – “The Great Divide” (2006, Director: Jed I. Rosenberg)

What’s cool about former Demigodz member louis logic’s “The Great Divide” video is how it is a direct interpretation of the song without being a literal one. The frozen frame of the camera showing logic walking in place while the entire rest of the world walks past him mirrors the song’s protagonist who can’t get out of his own way and live his life until the very end when he just releases himself and walks along with the world.

Hangar 18 – “Feet to Feet” (2008, Director: Paul Iannacchino)

After not appearing in their 2007 album Sweep the Leg’s first video “Baking Soda,” Definitive Jux MCs Alaska and Windnbreez made a video that rested on the strength of their charisma. Capturing the energy of their live performances, the one-take serves as both a channel of unfiltered Hangar as well as some pretty cool visuals.

Nyle – “Let the Beat Build” (2009, Director: Chadd Harbold)

Finally, the video that was number #1 on YouTube, Okayplayer, Gawker, Google, NASA and everywhere in-between, Nyle’s “Let the Beat Build.” His senior project, capturing the vibrant energy of the NYUterus, the sheer insanity here is that the entire clip is a live performance. A labor of love****, it wound up getting so popular that it bucked the entire corporate music industry label system and landed on MTV*****. Since you’ve probably read everything there is to read about this video, please enjoy this song that Nyle and I made last year as a free download.

YOU JUST NEED ONE TAKE!

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*I just rewatched the Busta Rhymes-Janet Jackson “What’s It Gonna Be” video for the first time in a decade, and it’s aged so bad it hurt my feelings.

**The other being Juvenile’s “Follow Me Now,” which has nothing to do with this list.

***Extra props for keeping the original twist ending.

****Love, of course, meaning hours upon hours of rehearsal.

*****That’s MTV ONE! Insert the same “MTV-never-plays-videos” joke you’ve made since 1996 here.

Who Flopped It Better? – “Go, Go Power Rangers!”

March 10, 2010

Rappers heard that guitar solo and said 'DADDY, BUY ME THAT!'

Oh man, do I love the internet. Among the many wonderful things the computer-telephone hybrid known as the information super-highway can give us are the exciting and always-engaging echo-chambers known as Blogs. One of my favorites for years has been Soul Sides, written and directed by Dr. Oliver Wang. In late 2007, he ran a ridiculously fascinating series called “Who Flipped It Better?” where he posted an original composition and two rap songs that sampled it, asking his readers “who flipped it better?”

Wang grew up on classic soul and has the same passion for it that I have for pop culture. Therefore, I thought I’d sample* his idea for my own entirely original series – ‘Who Flopped it Better?’ Today we’re looking at a song near and dear to my heart, the theme from the Emmy and Nobel Peace Prize winning television show Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.

The Mighty RAW (Ron Wasserman) – “Go Go Power Rangers” (1993)

Composed by Ron Wasserman and Shuki Levy (who handled the bulk of the music for Saban Entertainment’s programming), the catchy anthem was just infectious enough to spearhead Morphin-Mania to the moon and be heard ad-nauseum throughout the show and outside of it, so no matter where you went, the Power Rangers would be “Go-Going” with you. The song itself is the audio equivalent of what the next decade of children’s entertainment was going to become. The repetitive urgent bass subliminally gave the show’s start an importance. The wonderfully obnoxious guitar solo sounds almost like a caricature of dated early-90s rock, appealing to the young audience as an overabundant pseudo-gateway into their older peers’ world. Finally the call-and-response chorus of “GO GO POWER RANGERS!” giving kids all the fun of the sing-a-longs they’ve outgrown, allowing them to have a rallying cry and instant bonding point with the whole neighborhood. There’s a science to sampling, and with nostalgia being more powerful this decade than ever it was only a matter of time before this immortal piece of music was sampled.

Juvenile – “I Got That Fire” (2000, Produced by Mannie Fresh)

1993 AD, the year “Go Go Power Rangers” hit the airwaves, was also the same year New Orleans rapper Juvenile released his debut single “Powder Bag.” While it would still take another five years for him to break nationally with “Ha,” it was his 2000 single “I Got That Fire” that finally brought the two worlds together. Cash Money Records in-house producer Mannie Fresh interpolated several elements of the original orchestration throughout the beat, but Juvenile’s overabundant charisma made the channeling almost unnoticeable. The fact that Juvenile doesn’t acknowledge the beat’s source material at all aids how well the song has aged. It’s not kitschy or gimmicky, just a case of a producer using a melody to help create something new.

Young Dro – “House on Me” (2008, Produced by Young Sears)

Not unlike the child who doesn’t eat the crust of his pizza, Young Sears just took the part of “Go Go Power Rangers” we love the most (the opening guitars) and made an entire beat out of it. The oddly melodic Dro hook works and acts as a great balance for Grand Hustle’s best rapper** to kick meticulously complex and satisfyingly re-playable verses. Dro’s flow is fantastic, his writing is on point and by also not making a gimmick out of the beat allows the song to have an incredible shelf-life.

OK kids, WHO FLOPPED IT BETTA? Mannie Fresh or Young Sears? Juvenile or Young Dro? Kimberly or Trini? SO WAT’CHA WANT?!?!?!

So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

*and by “sample” I mean steal.

**You heard me.

This post is dedicated in loving memory of ‘Ag3nt M.O.E.’ Moses Malloy. 1986-2009 RIP homie.


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