WOULDN’T COP THE WHITE ONE IF IT CAME IN BLACK

Clockwork Indigo – Butterfly Effect (feat. Espa)

When I first head this song I was sure the sample was from the closing credits of some forgotten 70s TV drama, it has a kind of somber-version-of-the-original-Star-Trek-theme thing going on.  I was surprised to discover that it actually comes from a British indie rock song from the mid-2000s.

Doves – Snowden

No, not that Snowden.  In my defense, Jez Williams of Doves does admit to striving for “a Marvin Gaye opera kind of sound” on “Snowden“, which isn’t too far off from my original suspicion.  Still pretty surprising though.  I just hope that the bands’ attitude toward sampling laid out in that same interview goes both directions:

Jez: The thing about samples is we just see it as another instrument these days. It’s pretty backwards, now that I start thinking about it. We built a song around the sample, but it’s the same as using chords, you just don’t have to pick it up. You just hit the keyboard and it plays it. It’s still a set of chords, they’re someone else’s, but we got a completely different song out of that.

Pitchfork: It’s totally different. You’ve recontextualized it.

Jez: Right. A lot of people have a problem with that, but I don’t see it.

Here’s a little bonus for those of you listening closely.

Carl Sagan Talks Marijuana

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LET THE BEAT BUILD #10 – MR. MUTHAFUCKIN’ EXQUIRE

I haven’t added to this series since before I liked Kendrick Lamar, but I was revisiting this song today and realized I neglected to mention its place in this series when it first came out.

Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – Cari Zalloni

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HIGHER THAN JACK AND THE BEAN

This track gets into some seriously weird “Bazaar Model” territory before Tyga buzzkills the whole vibe with his conventionality.  Cool song though.

Chief Keef – Now & Later (feat. Tyga)

Lil’ B – Bazaar Model

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JUST DON’T GET NO BETTER

This is a really great song for making you feel dumb about all the stuff you complain about.

Chance the Rapper and the Social Experiment – No Better Blues

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THE MASTER HAS BECOME THE STUDENT, PT. 2

I guess Wayne and Thug didn’t think I illustrated my point clearly enough the first time around.

Rich Gang – Take Kare (feat. Young Thug & Lil’ Wayne)

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MORE STAMINA THAN ANIMALS

Sometimes when I get desperate for something different to listen to I’ll dig into old Tumblin’ Erb posts for stuff I overlooked or under-appreciated at the time.  Today while clicking my way through this post from 2012 I discovered the origin of the hook from my favorite Sasha Go Hard track which coincidentally came out that same year.

Sasha Go Hard – Tatted

Gucci Mane – Photoshoot

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TERROR TAKES THE SOUND BEFORE YOU MAKE IT

I remember the first time I listened closely to “Thriller” and noticed all the incredible nonverbal utterances Michael Jackson makes between the regular lyrical passages, and how much those utterances affect the mood and potency of the whole experience.  The variety and quality of these strange vocalizations is really interesting if you really tune in on them, although I don’t think you’re really supposed to.  They operate on a more subconscious level and have just as much affect if you’re paying close attention to them or not consciously noticing them at all.  But they really are quite amazing when you focus your attention on them.

Michael Jackson – Thriller

Pop music is full of examples of little nonverbal interjections punctuating traditional lyrics: the “whoas” and “ohs” of countless blues songs, the powerful screeches of James Brown, the early Beatles “Wooooo”.  If we observe our own perception of these songs, we find that often these nonverbal noises devoid of all textual meaning are often the most emotionally powerful moments of those songs.  Just watch one of those early Beatles concerts and look for when all the girls go the most crazy.  Hearing Michael Jackson say “You try to scream/but terror takes the sound before you make it” doesn’t have near as much power as a single high-pitched guttural “GUH” that follows a few lines later.

There is certainly evidence that experiencing language activates more than just the language centers in our brains, that certain sense-oriented brain regions activate when reading or hearing the words of sensually charged ideas in the same way they would activate when in the presence of those actual objects the words refer to.  This explains much of the power of poetry, literature, and song lyrics, but not these other vocal sounds that are not as strictly tied in with language.  It turns out there is also evidence that this kind of mental activity takes place in response to all sorts of nonverbal stimuli as well, that performing a certain action and watching someone else perform that same action are nearly identical brain processes.  It seems that in the case of music, this second phenomenon might actually be just as effective (if not more) than the first.  Hearing the sharp, restrained stabs of sound from Michael Jackson’s throat makes us feel almost as restrained, trapped, and powerless as if we were in a situation ourselves where those kinds of sounds were being forced from our own throats.  The power transcends language and any kind of textual meaning, yet the impact incredibly effective.  Not to say that the textual component should be done away with, I think if Thriller was stripped of its traditional lyrics, it would not be nearly as successful as it is now.  But I think it is also true that muting all the “DAs” and “UHs” would possibly just as negatively impact the immersiveness and power of the song.  I think the same is also true of the other examples I listed above, imagine “Please, Please, Please” without the heart wrenching screams and shouts that almost outnumber the lyrics of the song, or “She Loves You” without the “Woooo”.

In rap these kind of effects fall under the slightly broader category of “ad-libs” that also include verbal statements but are often newer, more developed versions of these same kinds of effects we’ve heard for decades.  Waka Flocka can be credited with the prominence of the ad-lib in rap now, but I think the most effective examples come from another Atlanta rapper.

Rich Gang – Tell ‘Em

I had the same reaction to this song that I did that first time I tuned into the secret power of “Thriller“.  Young Thug’s “GAHH” makes me feel more things than most entire rap verses, even his own.  I don’t think people talk about these kinds of effects as much as they do lyrics because they’re harder to pin down and rely so heavily on how and when they are delivered that it’s difficult to discuss them without totally losing the power.  A lyric can be easily transcribed into text and retain much of its power, but you can see from my attempts at transliteration here that the same process is extremely ineffective for these kinds of expressions.  They should be as valued and respected as lyrics are though, because in many cases they have the ability to surpass verbal expressions in weight and emotion, and the skill it takes to dream up and perform these sounds is extremely rare.

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WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I NEEDED HELP?

I remember the first time I heard “Type of Way” I was like “man Future sounds kinda weird on this song… oh.”  I don’t mean that disparagingly, I like “Type of Way” a lot, and I think Quan has developed in his own direction more and more ever since, but every now and then you can still hear that influence.  This also ties into the post I did inspired by Future’s “Honest where I realized one of his most effective formulas.  Quan is definitely taking a page from that book on this new track.  Once again, not meant in a disparaging way at all, I like this song even more than “Type of Way” (and a lot of other songs for that matter).

Rich Gang – I Know It

Do yourself a favor and get Tha Tour, Pt. 1.

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YOU’RE DEAD!

Flying Lotus – Never Catch Me (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

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THE MASTER HAS BECOME THE STUDENT

Today might be the official beginning of Wayne sounding like an old rapper.  Just like when Jay-Z released his first post-retirement single sounding more than a little rusty, or his grumpy old man-sounding “D.O.A.” from Blueprint 3, or maybe most appropriately when he tried to sound like every young, new pop rapper in “Tom Ford“, there are those moments where it’s hard not to feel like a rapper has lost touch with him/herself but is still trying to stay relevant in the industry by putting out “new-sounding” material.  Wayne’s is even more interesting than Jay’s though, because the rapper he’s emulating on his newest single got his start imitating Wayne (by his own admission even).  Just watch this progression:

2009:

Lil’ Wayne – Wasted

2011:

Young Thug – We Are

2013:

Young Thug – Danny Glover

Today:

Lil’ Wayne – Grindin’ (feat. Drake)

I’ll always love Wayne – I’ll always love Jay too – but let’s be real.  If you really listen to what’s coming out of their mouths recently, there’s really no other way to describe it but old.

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