Over the last decade, Kanye popularized pairing rap verses with old school soul samples; T.I. favors rapping over chugging fierce synths and horns; Lil Wayne’s most memorable verses have been sputtered over monstrously huge beats produced by Bangladesh.
But it has come to my attention recently that several hip hop artists have chosen some of the certifiably worst, most played-out and most mocked songs in history to rap over. The first is Nicki Minaj’s “Your Love,” which samples Annie Lennox’s “Love You No More.” Do you know this song? It’s the one that goes “dooby dooby do-do-do, waaah.”
Second offenders are Wayne and Eminem on the track “No Love.” This song features the 90s club hit “What is Love? (Baby, Don’t Hurt Me)” by a man apparently called Haddaway. The song is mostly about haters hatin’ and bitches hatin’ on Wayne and Eminem. The hook interweaves the rappers’ verses with the sample’s lyrics, creating gems like these: “Bitch you get (no love)…./I don’t need you (don’t hurt me)/You (don’t hurt me no more).”
I would like to think that in both of these instances, the rappers have decided to employ these soft 90s hits in order to radically retool our conceptions of the original songs; maybe it’s post-modern pastiche; or maybe it’s a clever homage to a much-maligned genre, like the yacht-rock stylings of Gayngs, or something.
But sadly, it is almost certainly bad taste that has guided these choices. Minaj’s first studio album is an incredible disappointment; artistically atrocious and lacking any of the fire or schizophrenia of her guest verses, the album comes off as her label’s attempts to downscale her freak image and remold her into a traditional top 40 r&b/hip hop star. The most frightening thing about “Your Love,” which was also her album’s first single, is it’s bleeding sincerity. It’s a love song, and Nicki’s eccentricity has been harnessed and tamed: she raps sentimental over the new age beat, noting “Shorty, imma only tell you this once, you da illest/and for that imma die hard like Bruce Willis.” Ordinarily, I would welcome a Bruce Willis reference from Minaj, but here, it just comes off as so tired and so one-dimensional. Whatever happened to the lady with the pink wig, thick ass who would give us whiplash?!?!? Whatever happened to the MOTHERFUCKIN MONSTER?!!??!
As for Wayne, dude is not known for his good taste. Which is fine and charming in its own right, but makes it frustrating to be a fan. His Drought mixtapes showcase an ear for hot tracks, even if said are sometimes obvious (BK & Jigga’s “Upgrade You,” for instance, and NaS’ “Black Republican” are two stand-out tracks remixed by Wayne on Drought 3). But then he had his electric guitar era. But now this??!? I exhaled in true resignation the first time I heard “No Love,” thinking I’d have no more love for Wayne. But then fortunately Bangladesh re-emerged from the ashes of “A Milli” and made the song “Six Foot, Seven Foot.”
There’s always hope for Wayne, as one of rap’s most notable personages. He’s been allowed to reinvent himself with mixed results, and we forgive him, because he’s eccentric, he’s an oddball, and that’s what we love about him. But I’m afraid the record industry has already derailed Nicki Minaj by robbing her of her many identities and replacing her with this startling new image. She’s plastic. She’s girly. She’s a doll whose arms are twisted and bound by the whims of (ironically) Wayne’s Young Money imprint on the Motown label. Women in big money biznesses aren’t allowed agency to be weird or subversive. And Minaj will die hard just like Bruce Willis before she’s allowed to reinvent herself again.