Cardboard King Push

Push doesn't mind his music sales being tracked.
Push doesn’t mind his music sales being tracked.

My mother is a battered and wise veteran substance-abuse counselor, with most of her career playing out during the crack boom on the south side of Chicago during the last three decades. Woman has seen a lot. But somehow, perhaps because she understands the deep seeds of human frailty, the codes written into some people’s genes, and the social or emotional circumstances leading to drug abuse, she is an empathetic, not a cynical or judgmental person. However, she leveled one judgment to me in her time; saying once, and only once, “I really hate drug dealers. Drug dealers are the scum of the earth.” I have the feeling she was not referring to your schlubby neighborhood dope dealer, but rather to those selling harder stuff to the poor and the wretched.

This moral judgment kept erupting in my mind as I disappointedly listened to “My Name is My Name,” the pretend debut of Pusha T’s solo career. Unlike Rick Ross and other phonies, Push really was a dealer (Re-Up Gang affiliates have been put away for decades for their involvement in a big wig drug ring), and consequently, his career in the game has featured one of the realest, grimmest takes on the economics of the drug trade, and its relative, evil. One friend once very eloquently summed it up by saying that Clipse had “a very intimate relationship with Satan.”

This complicated celebration of ill-gotten gains has been the defining thematic content of Clipse; the Neptunes’ minimal clickity clack beats on Clipse’s first two albums had a bleak, almost apocalyptic ghetto sound that was entirely their own; spliced into all of this were some of the best rhymes to come from any rappers ever, with the duo appreciating not just deep metaphor and word play, but the sounds of consonants stacked together, rhymes of such sonic and Biblical gravity that Dante, another poet of evil, would surely have died of envy.

But the Clipse disbanded. Malice took the road to righteousness; on “Freedom,” his conversion flows in celestial rays, illuminating the god/man divide he has encountered: “This is where the buck stop/ here where I draw the line/ I’ve touched the hem/ god’s work is so divine/ i’ve seen the error of my ways over time/ …/ Malicious has been refined.” Malice recently released a Christian rap album  under the name “No Malice.”

The only thing refined on MNIMN is, per usual, the quality of the brick, powder, snow, blow, arm & hammer, raw; the singular metaphor at the deepest level of Push: cocaine. Push’s godliness is in the guise of his earthly, material powers; he believes there’s a god above him, he’s just the god of everything else. He is a methodical thinker and dealer, “like Scarface, but it’s God’s face in that mirror/ we was made in his image, dialing and it’s much clearer/ scoring from the heights but I wanted mine purer,” But how pure, Push? “Aryan, blonde hair, blue-eyed like the Führer.” That line alone is so fucked. Diamonds and Aryans are what prop up on this album as objects of purity. I wish he’d go to church, and stop being so young, rich, and tasteless, yuck!

Anyway, Push’s fierceness remains one of the last genuine primordial forces in mainstream rap. At the same time, it’s an unchanging mask, projected to a larger commercial audience since people never got it the first 4-6 times he tried to tell you about him. This late in the day, long-time Pusha fans might feel tired. Tired of him holding on to his embittered, battle-hardened dealer identity. One wishes for a narrative turn, a denouement, or some sort of epiphany, anything, anything to mitigate the unrelenting trillest hustler business. His diamond, so pure when compared with everyone else’s, he claims, is at this point turning back into coal.

4 of MNIMN’s 12 songs were released before the album; of the singles, “Numbers on the Boards,” “Nosetalgia” and “Pain” all happen to be the best tracks; so when it finally was released, I felt robbed, with most of the remaining songs reminding me of paler versions of things I’d heard before. Much of the production on the album sounds is reminiscent of perhaps a lesser G.O.O.D. Music mixtape; “King Push,” produced by Kanye, is an odd intro to choose, as it could easily be a lost track from Yeezus; its spastic, trembling bass and the scarily chipmunked vocal sample are totally Satanic, but in a way that suits Kanye better. “Let Me Love You,” is a re-tread of “Dirty Money,” Clipse’s catchiest song to date, and features an enjoyable return of Pusha’s lazy, Spanglish-inflected drawl, a stoned and carefree flow he only busts out when he is reminding ladies of their complete irrelevance to him (Push has a special derision for women, even for hip-hop, calling HIS OWN MOTHER a “bitch” on 40 Acres). “Hold On,” at first sounded cheap to me, a phone-it-in Kanye-produced effort in which gospel chords accompany a catharic autotuned Ye melody. But the longer I listened, the more I felt the pathos, specifically thanks to the Kanye singing.

It’s unclear in any of this Kanye-world-making-detritus whether Push can ever musically truly be at home; the Kanye crew fits him a little like some Bottega Venetta sneakers, unfastened; they look good, they’re fancy, but there’s something unfinished about the whole fashion.

The only time on MNIMN that Push is heading towards any sort of development as a rapper or moral sentient being is in “Nosetalgia,” with Kendrick, a rapper much more concerned with interior worlds than with material success. The first two verses of Push’s are a bildungsroman of the young dealer: we see a young Push, with beepers and a two-tone Starter jacket hustling in his early days. Kendrick then chimes in about witnessing his aunt and father on crack, bringing the human element that is always lacking from Push’s stories to the center of the song in crystalline, nostalgic imagery; a synthesis unfolds between the dealer and the consequences of his selling; the facilitating dealer, the addict, and passive victim all orbiting around each other in the same tune, for once.

There is no argument that Pusha remains one of the best rappers alive, based solely on his poetic sensibilities, on his ways with words. But there remains a pit in the center of his cocaine myopia, preventing him from being one of the most fascinating rappers alive; without a breathing, changing persona, all we get is the mask, the tautology, the name that is his name. And it’s not enough.

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How to Properly Incorporate Your Love of the Cocteau Twins into Rap, and Other Ideas

Image
Next time you need a genuine fairy lady, just call Kate Bush. Please.

Back on my grind: rap music. There’s been a lot of emotions and electronic music and self-reflectiveness afoot in rap music for the past few years. Blame it on Kanye: most of what we hear now is directly or indirectly linked back to that dude. (On a sidenote: I used to defend everything he did. But due to recent events that are too low-brow for even me to mention, I can’t handle him at the moment.)

Something really odd is going on now, though, and I’ve noticed it in a spate of releases from the past couple months. Apparently, women-led 80s gauzy British art rock is making a play for major sleeper influence in rap music.

This didn’t start with Kanye, but just so we’re clear, it couldn’t have been born without him. This fad, rather, is fathered by one of Kanye’s spiritual spawn, the once-villified, now-totally-established Drake. Take Care, which I once called “thoughtful, dextrous, and mature,” Drake’s 2011 album, continues to be a force to be reckoned with in most rap releases. The chilled-out, ambient production favored on that album’s contemplative (errr…navel-gazing) tracks struck me as sounding really nostalgic. They were nostalgic to me and my musical past, though, not nostalgic in relationship to rap. It’s because Take Care’s first jam, “Over My Dead Body” sounds basically like a Cocteau Twins song. (And I love the Cocteau Twins!!!)

But what I’m more interested in is not the trends in electronic sounds, but the production and voice choices for back-up vocals in rap songs. Whereas lady R&B singers could rest assured that they’d be included on a tune or two if vocals were needed a few years back, now the intrusion of indie into rap all but guarantees that some unknown English lily (get what I’m sayin’???) is lilting somewhere in the mix.

FOR INSTANCE: That Florence lady is on the ASAP Rocky album. She’s no good, if you ask me–all flim flam and no real guts. Her idol, I’m sure, is THE KATE BUSH, but you can’t just sing like you’re on the brink of orgasm/emotional breakdown all the time and think you’re THE Kate Bush. Kate Bush isn’t afraid to sound like a man/sea monster, isn’t afraid to stretch the limits of what the voice can do in the mold of some avant-garde Meredith Monk shit.

Along the same lines: the new Big Boi album features neither lovely chanteuse who appeared on his last album (Janelle Monae and Mary J), but rather some lady from “Phantogram.” I have never heard this band, but their wiki page tells me they belong to the “electronic pop” genre. The songs on which Phantogram appears are pretty okay, but they are very much “electronic pop” songs that will sound extremely silly in two years. One friend, upon hearing the Big Boi feat. Phantogram song “CPU,” likened it to Robyn. SO YEAH.

So, now you’re waiting for me to make a racist argument that rap music should feature soul singers. That black music has to be black. I am not saying this. I am saying, however, that the recent heavy hitters–this ASAP fella, Big Boi, Drake–are indulging in Kate Bush and Cocteau Twins, to some mixed results. Is this genuine experimentation, or are these albums just pushing genre barriers because that’s what rap is supposed to do nowadays? I know Big Boi can do Kate Bush–I KNOW HE CAN! But this album, mired in the bleep-blops of 2011-sounding club-ready indie jams–is not it.

Gotta bring it back to Kanye. Kanye is a borg who, on MBDTF, assimilated genres (King Crimson? James Brown? Gil Scott Heron spoken word? Black Sabbath? All of the above!) and made one of the best albums ever (yeah, I just said it). It was celebrated by rap and rock critics alike, and probably made a lot of doctrinaire rap fans even crankier about his rap-dilettantism than ever before. But art dies the moment it becomes doctrinaire, if it adheres to the conventions of genre, and, in the case of rap music, stays within the confines of its regional sound.

But you can’t push it. It’s a delicate process. If your thing isn’t indiscriminately devouring all kinds of music which organically results in some genre-hopping expression, then… stay boring. Or, I mean, to bring up that old adage: Write/play/sing what you know. An EMCEE everyone respects is Freddie Gibbs, who has literally no ambitions to do anything new. He’s a gangsta rapper and he knows it. Pitchfork sent some dumbass to interview him in his trailer in a junkyard in LA and asked him to spin a yarn over a beat. The dumbass played Gibbs two different beat tracks–one a fairly standard beat clearly not produced by Skrillex, and the other beat a bunch of dubstep womp womps and flambouyant synths that was maybe produced by Skrillex–and Freddie was like, “Uh, I’ll take the first one.” And then he rapped about how he still sells drugs over the standard beat, and it was all good.

Some other dudes would do well to do like Freddie and stay true to their hearts. Or hire producers who aren’t second-rate chop shop jobbers jumping on a genre-bending band wagon. Being a good rapper, and staying relevant, does not mean you need to go into an enchanted English forest and pull out some fairy lady to back that track up.

2011: The Year Daftpop Stopped Writing But Learned to Love Drake

sometimes, i'm shallower than rap.

Another year has come and gone. I did very little writing. I did almost no listening to non-major label artists. Most people don’t even think that stuff is music, and sure, sometimes I think my mind is gradually atrophying from exposure to so much unchallenging trash; on the other hand, it is my belief that the respective talents of The-Dream, Kanye, Beyonce, and Jay-z are some of the best in any musical genre, and therefore worthy of my attentions. Maybe 2012 will offer itself as a new start for my musical collection and I will finally buy a record player and get into obscure soul and R&B from decades past (this is my musical dream). Or maybe I’ll just keep pumping up the volume when Big Sean’s “Dance (A$$)” (seriously, have you heard this song? Drop everything and listen if you have not) comes on the radio and rapping along to the embarrassment of whoever is sitting in my passenger seat. Without further ado, here is a collection of my timely “bests and worsts” of hip hop, pop, and r&b in 2011.

Grossest sex jam of 2011 and definitely the grossest sex jam ever:
Chris Brown & Ludacris: “Wet the Bed.”
To quote my sister, “When I heard the song “Wet the Bed,” I almost pooped my pants.” Indeed, the extended metaphor of this song is so distasteful that one becomes bewildered enough to lose it. As though the song’s title and hook were not enough to drill home this mind-numbingly literal bedroom play-by-play, the beat consists of a synthesized DRIPPING SOUND, instead of, oh i dunno, an actual rhythmic instrument. Fuck you, Ludacris, and fuck you, Chris Brown, for thinking that a woman’s aroused state should ever be compared to pissing the sheets.

Sexiest Sex Jam of 2011:
Beyonce: “Dance For You”
Beyonce is too classy to make a sex jam in the “hey girl hey girl come back to my condo let me play yo booty like a congo” tradition of most contemporary sex jams. She is an artist of profound feeling and substance when it comes to the topic of love, and her album 4 was love’s showcase this year. “Dance For You,” on the deluxe edition of 4, is an epic, six-minute ode to her unending love, dedication and desire to one lucky individual (whom she decides to dance for). It was written by my man The-Dream (real name: Terius Nash), and like many of Nash’s weirdest and best songs, it does not follow any kind of traditional pop song structure. There are seven or eight distinct parts, which at times coalesce into a hook and other times not. A wailing, Purple Rain-era guitar underpins the end of the song, and then the album ends in a wash of sultry catharsis. This is obviously the best way to make an exit under any circumstances.

Best soundtrack to the next OWS protest:
Killer Mike: Pl3dge
Hey, you know how everyone thinks positive rappers are lame? But then those same people listen to politically-objectionable materialistic coke hustling rap because they prefer something “hard”? Well, H-town’s Killer Mike is political and yet not lame, hard and yet not rapping about counting his hundos. Pl3dge sounds pretty damn classic and could have come out any time between now and the past 15 years, but its raging pessimism regarding America’s economic plight is unmistakably of the now. Mike shatters illusions of what was once called “the American Dream” by applying X-Ray Marxist vision to the growing class and racial inequalities of our current ‘broke-as-shit’ capitalism. This is a particularly Richard Wright-esque insight on the track “That’s Life II”: “Mr. O’Reilly, Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Hannity, how could you sell white America your insanity?/ You tell ’em that they’re different and manipulate their vanity/ when truthfully, financially their life is a calamity.” Like Wright, Killer Mike sees ruling class rhetoric dividing poor (white and black) people by creating racial resentment. He is not confident that “change” is going to happen any time soon. His solution?: “Burn this motherfucker down.” I don’t disagree.

Worst soundtrack for the next OWS protest:
Kanye & Jay-Z: Watch the Throne
Here Jay-Z is, again rapping about brands so expensive most of us have never heard of them. There Kanye is, lamenting, “What’s the last thing you expect to see at a black tie?/ A black guy.” Watch the Throne is undeniably a lot of fun, but it further entrenches both of these guys in what I have long seen as the inevitable existential inertia of famous rappers. Let me explain. The narrative of a rapper’s life is traditionally a rags-to-riches story. But when the struggle is over, and the rapper finds himself sitting pretty atop a pile of rap-gotten-gains like Audemars, Mongolian furs, and $150 million LiveNation contracts, what is there left to rap about? Besides watches that cost 300k, furs, and LiveNation contracts, I mean? Yeah, they don’t know either.

Worst Song Featuring a Talented Duo:
Rick Ross feat. Nicki Minaj: “You the Boss.”
Nicki Minaj was the great female hope of 2010, until her major label debut turned out to be a middling, money-grabbing…major label debut. But, the cynical downplay of Minaj’s freak image worked, and Pink Friday, the generally triflin’ collection of club hits and crossover R&B love songs, has officially gone platinum. “You the Boss,” from Ross’s forthcoming God Forgives, I Don’t album, is not only triflin, but also an undoing and betrayal of Minaj’s own bossness. Whereas back in the good old days, Minaj and Ross appeared on the Ye track “Monster” as equals, and Minaj’s verse obviously bested Ross and every other MC on it, this song features Minaj comely whispering, “I’ll do anything that you say/anything that you want/ cuz you da boss/ you you you da boss.” I know Rick Ross is the boss, and his name conveniently rhymes with boss, but this 2011 single absolutely offended me, and made me wonder where the fuck Minaj is taking her career. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, but whatever happened to the MOTHERFUCKING MONSTER? This woman was born to be a star, not a background singer cooing about obeying another rapper’s whims!!!

Best Song Featuring a Talented Duo:
Drake feat. Rick Ross: “Lord Knows”
Ross, all drug-dealing braggadocio, husky vocals and heavy gold chains, is a strange bedfellow for the pretty-boy, emo-rapping, navel-gazing of young Drake. But as far as I’m concerned, Drake fucking turned his musical fortune around with the release of the sprawling, dextrous, thoughtful Take Care, the album on which the epic “Lord Knows” appears. Rick Ross should always be backed by such larger-than-life Just Blaze production, and Drake should always have this much feeling when regaling us with tales of his fame-induced malaise.

There was more to talk about this year, and I tried to write long-form reviews of Take Care, DJ Quik’s Book of David, and my other favorite releases from this year, but the words were not forthcoming. Here’s to 2012 and a renewed loquaciousness about music and culture.

Watch the Throne: Some Next Level Shit

a modest symbol announcing the coming of our lords

Recently, monolithic golden Greek crosses on black posters began popping up around town, announcing the forthcoming release of WATCH THE THRONE. And I awaited, with messianic fervor, the coming of August 8th, so I could hear two kings defend their rightful place at the altar of rap.

I’ve prevented myself from reading reviews so that my mind is not sullied by other critic’s opinions, though I know the world has been abuzz with love for the album. And I gotta say, this is the best shit Jay-Z has put out since… The Black Album? At it’s heart, though, Watch the Throne is a straight-up Kanye effort; each song has his musical tendrils curled all over it. WTT continues the adventuring spirit of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The dirty, dry-as-bone snare and clattering cymbals from Twisted Fantasy are again the dominant percussive sound, and the sneer of Ye’s recent rhymes has persevered well into 2011. Most notably, this album also offers a dizzying variety of samples and sounds that would only come natural to a voraciously omnivorous music consumer like Ye (I’m still stunned by the use of the hipster dupstep FLUX PAVILION sample, as well as the electronic percussion on “Why I Love You” — may as well have been jacked from M83’s “Kim & Jessie”). Last night, my buddy Andrew aptly pointed out that Kanye’s recent output proves he’s like the Borg: he assimilates indiscriminately.

Speaking from my podium as a Kanye scholar, this album provides something no others have previously done: it closes a loop dude started on his first album, providing coherence to a heretofore scattered body of work. He’s cultivated his own variety of mini-genres (the soul sample jam; the 60’s civil rights jangle; the chest thumping ode-to-ego; the inspirational hymn, etc), and my perception of his interests and career up to this point was that he was just going to keep expanding and conquering new genres every time he released a new album. But here he revisits his previous genres: “Lift Off” has the earnest autotune of 808s, and it’s uplifting (lit’rally) mood is something Kanye did best back on College Dropout. “Otis” is obvi the soul jam, and is possibly one of his best; “Murder to Excellence,” an absolute highlight of the album, features the afore mentioned 60s jangle, the bassy piano keys he so favored on Twisted Fantasy, and the chipmunked vocal sample he’s successfully employed all along.

Now for our elderrapsman of the album: Jay-Z goes DEEP on Throne. While Jigga’s done an album inspired by his autobiography and has also written a book, he has rarely been as emotionally forthcoming as he is here. Up to this point, he’s been a great self-mythologizer, reflecting on his rags-to-riches story from the perspective of an omniscient narrator. Kanye, on the other hand, rarely escapes the circuitous perils of navel-gazing, and this seems to have rubbed off on our man in a good way. We have him staring at himself in a mirror, noting that he’s his only enemy in “Welcome to the Jungle.” He also sits in his car, alone, feeling numb in “Why I Love You.” Furthermore, Jay seems to relish his rhymes in a way he rarely does. “Murder to Excellence” features a somewhat indulgent but also very enjoyable slithering alliteration of “s” sounds; Jay even imitates the “chsshh chsshh” of a cologne spray nozzle. On a music level tho, Jay-Z finally is succeeding at sounding cool with synths, something he has not done well on previous sans-Kanye attempts, such as on Blueprint 3’s embarrassingly horrible “Forever Young.”

One of the most satisfying things about this album is, obviously, the interaction between the two rappers. Like poets anxious about their influence, they freely quote their own and the other’s past work. Kanye says: “I’m from the murder capital, where we murder for capital.” Jay sings along with Kanye: “puh-puh-puh-paranoia.” They finish each other’s rhymes. They don’t compete: they meet as equal ballers in the game. From “Niggas in Paris”: “ain’t that just like LeBron James?/ ain’t that just like D. Wade?” They once were enemies, but now they play for the same bloated/egomaniacal team!

Notably, there are no guest appearances on this album from any of rap’s minor princes or would-be heirs. Thank goodness they left Drake to his naked lady sexts and Weezy to his purple haze. It would have been distracting to include these proteges and wannabes. Appropriately, our kings are buffeted by the ghosts of music’s best: a James Brown motif/sample breezes jazzily in and out between a few songs; Brown has four or five additional samples on this album; Nina Simone’s profound “Feeling Good” (“it’s a new day/ it’s a new dawn!”) provides the sentimental backdrop for “New Day,” Otis Redding stomps and grunts in “Otis.” Why play H.O.R.S.E. with the little guys when you can get your picture in the Hall of Fame?

Dudes could have totally phoned some shit in, because that’s what absolute monarchs are allowed to do. But they didn’t. This album isn’t perfect, but if I explained why it ain’t, then we’d all be here till 2012. (It has something to do with Kanye’s newly appalling sexual politics… some other time, though.) Watch the Throne is a completely edifying listening experience for long-time fans, and this is largely because Kanye is an evil genius/Borg-like musical being to whom our resistance is futile!

Unforgiven: The Worst Samples by the Best Rappers

Haddaway: Inspiration to Rappers in the year 2011

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.

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout This Country Shit

k.r.i.t. has practically been on my blog

Now granted, I of all people am not an authority on country shit. Sometimes I get confused and think my time in Southern Indiana gave me some sort of cred, as after four years in the area my Great Lakes accent faded and I stopped talking out of my nose 100% of the time, downgrading to about 90%. I occasionally said “pin” when I meant “pen” and “flowrs” instead of “flow-ers.”

My real country friends are quick to remind me that even my Hoosier cred is sorta in doubt; the main stealer-of-my-IN-cred is a friend named after a Bible personage and has a big, red, Amish lookin-beard. He grew up in a town where it wasn’t unusual to see dungareed men out with horse and buggy, and where the kids hung out at the gas station on Friday night, as it was the happenin’ place to be. Indeed, I don’t know nuthin’ about one gas station towns.

Anyway, someone who can tell u bout country shit is Mississippi producer Big K.R.I.T. About a week ago, everyone in the hip hop blogosphere went bat shit for his new album. Since I am a little slower to these things, it is only since yesterday that I have been bat shit for it. K.R.I.T. WUZ HERE (<—download from that link!!!) is an album of sweaty cruisin, bass thumpin, dirrrrty southern-ass beats. It’s laid back and breezy, and maybe a lil’ dank. Which is to say, it sounds like a day in Mississippi probably feels.

Everyone keeps heralding K.R.I.T. as Pimp C (of UGK) reincarnate, and that’s fine and all, but to me he sorta sounds like T.I., sans the fury. The tune “Country Shit,” a stuttering, bouncy, and at times, str8-up heroic declaration of what they got down thurrr in the South. He begins by inviting the listener into his narrative and elucidating some properties of country shit: “Let me tell ya bout this supah fly/dirty dirty/third(???) cold/muddy waters…” (I apologize for the question marks–sometimes this shit is so country, I can’t understand what is being said.) This is followed by an imperative: “Shorty, pop that pussy! If you wanna.” I appreciate  the ladies have a choice in the matter. Seriously.

Big K.R.I.T. is one of many Southern rappers who has immortalized his geography & lifestyle in a deeptrackkk. Other wonderful songs within this genre that come to mind are Outkast’s “ATLiens,” from the 1996 album of the same name. Obvs, ATLiens was an appropriate title for the ATL resident weirdos. Many hallmarks of Southern life are noted within this song, including an archetypal Southern meal: “If you like fish n’ grits, n’ all dat pimp shit, everybody let me hear you say oh yeah-yer.” Oh yeah-yer.

Clipse, ever despairing, have a down-trodden song dedicated to their home state: “Virginia.” It begins:  “I’m from Virginia, where there ain’t shit to do but cook.” Later, it is noted that “there ain’t shit to do but look.” In addition to cooking and looking, drug dealing and murder also happen in this song.

Overall, I’d much rather learn about country shit from K.R.I.T. or OutKast than from Clipse, but I guess it just depends on how fucking morbid and misanthropic your worldview is.

Anyway, wanna hear these songs? Here is a jank-ass myspace playlist of them.

Several Songs Daftpop Enjoys Right Now: The Series, Part II

Young Jeezy: Only like Malcolm X if his motto was "buy any jeans necessary"

Well gee, it’s been a minute since I wrote on this blog. I’ve been sitting, thumbs a-twiddle, waiting for bloggerly inspiration to come for weeks now. Finally I realized that I of all people should know that blogs need not be the medium for deep thoughts (for instance, my last post was about Clash of the Titans).

In accordance with my lack of inspiration, and perhaps my recent lack of sophistication, I will discuss some notable songs of the moment… Ahem.

Welcome to Several Songs Daftpop Enjoys Right Now, The Series! (It needs a better title, but I’m working on it. Woman can only do so much in between work deadlines, smoke breaks and caring for needy dogs.)

1. Jeezy feat. Clipse: “Illin

Jeezy’s got a new mixtape out, for anyone who cares. I don’t, but I stumbled upon this track, and was taken aback by its sonic otherness. “Illin” features an insanely warbled, gnarly violin sample; it’s something from your nightmares, or maybe a zombie debutante ball in Baton Rouge, 1914. Jeezy’s husky, lumbering flow rarely conveys much of anything; the content of his rhymes is often self-aggrandizing bullshit, sometimes heart attacks, and one time about black presidents and blue Italian sports cars. But here, Jeezy is forced to hustle a little due to the presence of his guests, the every-day-they’re-hustlin’ rappers of Clipse. Jeezy + Clipse makes for a visceral clash of personalities; Jeezy’s verse is essentially about how effortless being him/being rich is, while Malice and Pusha sound anguished and paranoid, per usual. If only Clipse could learn a little something from the dumb self-assuredness of Jeezy, and Jeezy could maybe get a little writerly ambition from Clipse… then everyone would win.

2. Freddie Gibbs: “Crushin’ Feelins

To some, Freddie Gibbs is some 2009 hype; to others, he is the future of hip hop. To make a long story short: Gibbs is from Gary, but currently lives in LA. He is something of a classicist gangsta rapper. His beats aren’t all that dope, but he can double-time it like Twista and spins the most eloquent of street elegies. And oh yeah, he’s performing at P4k this summer. Weird!!! It can be hard to know where to start with 3.0 rappers like Gibbs–dude has no proper studio album or radio singles, just some mixtapes, all of which are epic in length–so where to begin? Start here, with “Crushin’ Feelins.” In less than four minutes of breathless, glorious raps over the fucking smoothest guitar ever, Gibbs tells you everywhere he’s lived, states his life goals, talks up his skills, and most importantly, explains everything you need to know about him: that he can “easily bring you defeat with [his] vernacular” and is “too deep in the streets to be beefin’ with other rappers.”

3. Drake: “Over

I never thought I’d cop to liking a Drake song, but here I am. While I don’t relish the concept of “Over,” (which is yet another navel-gazing extravaganza and features several of his fucking imbecilic non sequitur couplets) the scuttle-shuttle of the beat that drops at 30 seconds is as beautiful a thang I’ve heard on the radio in a while.

4. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti: “Beverly Kills

Pop bliss! “Beverly Kills” is a scatterbrained but marvelously melodic ditty recalling psychedelic Californian summers, like an acid trip at someone’s 60’s hippie party in L.A. Or something. Anyway, AP’sHG might be poster-children of lofi-ness, but a friend recently commented to me that there is something very deliberate in their aesthetic; lofi for them is not tossed off or motivated by a sort of punk recklessness: it’s a production choice , a wonderful mindfulness of what is being evoked by certain sounds. This song is yet another good example of this phenom; plus, it’s just good, silly fun.

5. M.I.A.: “XXXO

I love M.I.A. so much that I get sort of befuddled when I have to talk about her. Ever a monitor of the postmodern condition, M.I.A. here comments on the identity-eroding properties of modern telecommunications. I am glad I received this warning from M.I.A.,  because I almost wrote this entire post in internet lingo and emoticons. JK! She sings in a lifeless monotone against a backdrop of menacing (if somewhat conventional) electropop. “XXXO,” both the song title and the clutch of letters meant to represent a kiss, are M.I.A.’s shorthand for the ways in which we are dehumanized by technology. The lyrics aren’t very cohesive, but the whole is suggestive: “you want me be someone who I’m really not,” “cuz everytime we try to get close/there’s always something I’m  thinking about,” “if you like what you see/you can download and store.” Seduction and the possibility of love have been reduced to a mechanization, a screen touch, a tapping away on T9.

6. Robyn “Dancing On My Own

Apart from being Swedish, looking sorta gay, and having hot shit producers, there is yet one other element that separates Robyn from the baser spectrum of pop. This is the vulnerable and self-aware emotional center of her lyrics. I suppose this center does not always hold, especially when you consider the embarrassing lyrical content and rapping affectations of “Konichiwa Bitches,” which would have benefited from some self-awareness. But in her best songs–“With Every Heartbeat,” “The Girl and The Robot,” and now “Dancing on My Own”–Robyn acknowledges, in uncomfortable detail, the desperation and various humiliations involved in being a lover scorned. She dances on her own in this ditty, whose narrative concerns going to the club in order to see her recent ex get busy with his new woman: “yeah, i know it’s stupid/but i just got to see it for myself.” She then gets shit faced and, after stumbling over some broken bottles in stilettos, the world starts spinning off its axis. By song end, it ain’t hard to imagine our song’s heroine falling flat on her lovely YET STILL REJECTED face. My suggestion is that Robyn get with also-frequently-embarrassedly-in-love/fellow Swede Jens Lekman, and then they can make sweet music together until they die.