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.
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.
What I learned from the Hirschberg v. M.I.A. media shitstorm was that Maya Arulpragasam performs her role as musician-provocateur with perfect canniness. She is an artist, not a politician or policy-maker, and artists are allowed to provoke us in ways mysterious, inconsistent, or even morally unsavory. If art was not ambiguous, well, then we wouldn’t call it ‘art.’ M.I.A always has a lot to say, even if it doesn’t cohere to a very orderly cultural analysis, and her new single, “XXXO,” clatters on in this same strain. The song contains a vague commentary on the identity-eroding properties of modern telecommunications; iPhones and twitter are name-dropped, while otherwise some whining ensues with the lines: “You want me be/ somebody who I’m really not.” Both the song title and the clutch of letters meant to represent a kiss are M.I.A.’s shorthand for the ways we are dehumanized by this technology; seduction and the possibility of love have been reduced to a mechanization, a screen touch, a tapping away on T9. Or so I’ve deduced. The song is a surprisingly conventional banger, and most of the lyrics are more suggestive than they are straight-up—but it keeps the listener guessing, and isn’t it better that way?