Tag Archives: Hip Hop

Bro Vibe

Artist: Rustie (Glasgow, Scotland)
Title: Attak (feat. Danny Brown) (2014)

Rustie started showing up a few years ago in mixes with artists like Clams Casino and Hudson Mohawke. His productions are so warm and polished. I like to think they’re what 80’s movie soundtracks would have been if the technology had been there at the time. When I saw that he had done a track with Danny Brown, I was confused. Danny Brown is kind of the opposite of Rustie. His appeal is in his slackness and lack of polish. I’m still not sure why, but this track just really works. There wasn’t a whole lot of good old-fashioned testosterone in my dj mix up to this point, so I figured I could get away with it.

Portland’s DJ Panaflex has been spinning the weirdest of mixes in his bedroom since late last year. We’re proud to bring you his freshmen effort, Summer is a State of Mind. At just over 50 minutes, this mix features 17 examples of why getting a midi controller and a copy of Traktor Pro was something he couldn’t put off a second longer.

Over the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sharing with you his notes on the tracks that make up Summer is a State of Mind.


Getting to Know Riddims

It takes skill to be real
Time to heal each other

—2Pac, Changes

If you had a pulse during the 90’s, chances are you heard 2Pac’s “Changes” and “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy. Something these two tracks have in common is that they are both based entirely on successful tracks by other artists. In the case of the former, you have Bruce Hornsby’s soft rock hit, The Way It Is and when it comes to the latter, there’s no mistaking the pensive, introspective guitar riff from Every Breath You Take by The Police.

Puff Daddy – I’ll Be Missing You

Neither of these tracks attempts to hide its origins and, in fact, both of them even go so far as to use the same chorus as the original, nearly verbatim. Those familiar with hiphop’s tropes understand that this form of mimicry, while something distinct from mere sampling, is as endemic to the genre as call and response.

To understand this phenomenon of borrowing wholesale, it helps to understand the parallel and influential phenomenon of the reggae riddim. Reggae backing tracks, known as “riddims” are circulated widely in the Jamaican music industry with multiple artists recording their own original vocals over the same track and releasing it as their own.

Bruce Hornsby – The Way It Is

While the circulation of riddims is mainly concerned with the reuse of an instrumental it is not unheard of for an artist to also make reference to other songs with his or her vocals or even go so far as to reuse a whole chorus. Take, for example, Junior Reid’s remake of “This Why I’m Hot” by United States rapper, Mims. In our next installment, we’ll be breaking down some examples of this pattern of appropriation, but Dutty Artz‘s DJ Ripley did a far better job than we could in this talk she gave at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society:

Larisa Mann on Decolonizing Copyright: Jamaican Street Dances and Globally Networked Technology

Wine ah de Century

Not far down a rabbit hole that opens when discovering Moombahton, one is almost certain to find him- or herself in the world of Dutch House, or “Dirty Dutch” as it is known in certain corners of the internet. Brooklyn-based producer Dubbel Dutch is responsible for some of the finest examples of music inspired by the Dutch’s keen ear for the bashment club vibe.

Dubbel Dutch – Dip So

Something interesting about this example is that the vocal samples belong to a singer who has been referred to of late as fellow Barbadian, Rihanna’s heir apparent.

Rihanna feat. J-Status & Shontelle – Roll It

Contrary to the impression you may have gotten watching the video, the lyrics actually express the singer’s appreciation for what she considers an ample physique.

Waistline me have plenty
And prepare fi de wine ah de century
Me look good and me fresh and me clean
Ah you nah ready fi de Bajan Queen

If you just close you’re eyes it’s easy to imagine she’s offering encouragement to women so often mistreated by show biz’s impossible body standards. If you’re going “who the hell is Shontelle”, here’s the one you’ve probably heard before:

Shontelle – Impossible

You may remember we mentioned Rihanna a couple of days ago in the same breath as Lil Kim, whose own successor, Tiffany Foxx, has been making waves for more than a year now:

Tiffany Foxx – Jellybean

In perhaps the most overt example of women’s adoption of the male rap persona to date, Foxx’s latest release which dropped last month is entitled King Foxx. Let’s hope the irony isn’t lost on her that her debut album was called “HERstory”.

Girl Power

You may remember from a week ago our treatment of what seems a new requirement of women in hip hop and R&B to have the kind of braggadocio traditionally belonging to men.

Azealia Banks

Until recently female swagger followed a trajectory better-suited to the traditional genders roles found in the lyrics of female rappers like Lil Kim in this gem from a track by our old friend, 50 Cent:

Lil’ Kim not a whore
But I sex a nigga so good, he gotta tell his boys

Since that track dropped, around the time some of the oldest of the millennials were in college, a lot has gone on. The aforementioned Rihanna rocketed to super-stardom just two years later with the unforgettable Pon de Replay.

Rihanna – Pon De Replay (Re-Verbz Moombah Bootleg)

The track prominently features the slack patois of the singer’s native Barbados.

For no reason at all, here is one of the dopest things ever to come out of Moombahton:

MRRSN – Alegria

Ah Ha Honey

There is no accurate understanding of Kanye West, at the current stage of his career, that does not take into account the utter boringness of his self-aggrandizing lyrics. In case you’ve been living under a rock, here’s something ridiculous to help you re-acquaint yourself with him:

Kanye West – Bound 2 (Explicit)

Granted, he’s an easy target, but even USA Today has been getting in its digs with the The Kanye West Self-Confidence Generator

Is it any surprise that three years after the release of Watch The Throne, the object of his focus is still his self-depiction as “king” of hip hop? Is anyone less deserving of this honor?

Come and meet me in the bathroom stall
And show me why you deserve to have it all

The reader can be forgiven if every time she hears that lyric she throws up a little in her mouth. Clearly not content you would hear from a just and righteous king.

Album art of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s 2011 release, Watch the Throne

This is the same upsetting video, but instead it stars James Franco & Seth Rogan:


Also, here is a comedy sketch that features a grade-schooler delivering excerpts from an actual interview his supposed majesty gave:


Needless to say, Kanye was not amused.

Faking It Til You Make It

A further twist to the plot of 50 Cent’s career is that, despite his much-lauded authenticity, most of the material he released before his first hit single was recorded over beats that already had a notoriety of their own. Perhaps nowhere does this irony shine more brightly than in examples where the original track came from a conscious rapper whose original intent was to entertain while sharing forward-thinking views. Take, for example, the track “Baby Phat” by De La Soul:

De La Soul – Baby Phat

In the hands of 50 Cent, this recording, with its praiseworthy encouragement of women to appreciate their average bodies, is perverted into a disgusting celebration of the meanness perpetrated by men that causes women to have such insecurities in the first place.

Raphael Saadiq feat. D’Angelo’s – Be Here

Likewise, the kind-hearted innocent love expressed in Raphael Saadiq and D’Angelo’s “Be Here” is transformed into an all-too-intimate portrayal of the upsetting nature of a pimp’s relationship to his “bottom bitch”.

Realer Than Thou

Many people who have a distaste for what they call “rap” are unaware that there are examples which do not take for granted that the person the rapper is addressing with his/her lyrics is an opponent. To these peoples’ credit, I think it’s safe to say the complaint that “rap is so angry” often has merit.

“Why are there so many angry young rappers?”

There indeed exists within the world of battle-rapping (where rappers compete to demonstrate their appeal and ability over one another) a tradition of violent language directed at another rapper.

Rapper Mac Lethal battle raps at Scribble Jam

Perhaps more to the complainers’ point, though, the violence and aggression is often directed someplace more in keeping with the personality the rapper portrays (at a “bitch”, at a rival dealer, etc.). They hasten to point out that the examples of this we admire often reflect a very sick and upsetting reality.

Perhaps no rapper better embodies this celebration of the sewer better than 50 Cent. Readers familiar with his track, “You Ain’t No Gangsta” will remember the verse that proclaims,

…you spit it cause you seen it
I spit it cause I did it and I mean it

While this kind of attack on another’s authenticity is found in countless examples throughout rap’s history, you may find it amusing to know that 50 cent himself is one of the few rappers ever to draw attention with his lyrics to the fact that rap of the type he creates is ultimately a form of theater:

These cats always escape reality when they rhyme
That’s why they write about bricks and only dealt wit dimes

Keeping it Unreal

My previous post contains a track by a Panamanian artist who has named himself a word that has its origin in a deep-seated legacy of oppression and is understood very differently outside the artist’s cultural context. While this is unfortunate, depending on your viewpoint, it may also be hilarious.

Nigga holds up his Latin Grammy. He’s was 26 at the time of his hit single’s release.

While it’s all well and good to sample the imagery, language, and music of cultures you don’t understand and use it for source material in your own projects, an educated artist is wary of the potential to embarrass him- or herself. Consider the following example:

Timbaland – Indian Flute

Despite Timbaland‘s undeniable mastery of production, he never really took off as the star performing over his beats. In addition to subjecting us to the indignity of having his nonsense syllables passed off to us as something more than the most basic, uninspiring form of creativity, the above track contains another, more subtle insult to the listener’s intelligence.

What’s the insult, you ask? The flute isn’t Indian. It actually comes from a track by Colombian folk singer, Totó La Momposina.

Totó La Momposina – Curura

Beenie Man demonstrates the proper use of the n-word in his track, Girls Dem Sugar (prod. The Neptunes):

For those of you outside the United States who don’t understand how offensive the word is to some people, check out the radio edit (“nigga” has been edited out of it):

Just for fun, here’s a version with some pretty decent rhymes over the top of it by Young Dizzle and Ripset:

And since you can’t get enough Nigga, here’s a version of his hit with Thiaguinho singing on it with him in Portuguese:

Arab vs Nigga vs ???

Six years ago, while living next to the rainforests of Guatemala’s altiplano, I discovered a reggaetonero who calls himself Nigga and who makes what I can only describe as Latin club music’s answer to Natalie Imbruglia (minus the brooding introspection). Observe:

Nigga – Te Quiero

Natalie Imbruglia – Torn

For some unfathomable reason, this sort of borrowing of racial identity is nowhere near as uncommon in the sordid world of untalented singing and rapping as it is in other spheres. An amusing example of some of North America’s more misguided attempts at this kind of appropriation can be found in Busta Rhymes’ “Arab Money”:

Busta Rhymes – Arab Money

It is in this puzzling undercurrent within United States hip hop that we find Nigga’s closest potential analog in choice of name. I’m referring, of course, to the inimitable Arab, henchman to the rapper who brought you such unforgettable favorites as “Crank That” and “Kiss Me Thru The Phone“.

Arab – 31st Floor

To make the trifecta complete, we need a Chaabi artist to adopt a name that pays tribute to some ethnic group from Latin America.

Here’s the video to Te Quiero:

And and for your enjoyment, Arab’s latest release: