A few weeks ago Matt hit me with an email simply containing his 5 favorite songs at that moment, and asked me and a few of our friends to reply with theirs. I’m not the kind of dude that picks favorites usually, but I enjoyed the challenge of selecting just a handful of songs out of the infinite music in the world as my favorites, at least for the time moment. I’ll spare you the full list, even though I gotta say it was pretty good, but I wanted to post this one because it’s really remarkable on a lot of levels.
B.G. – From Tha 13th To Tha 17th (feat. Baby D)
The first thing you need to know about this record is that the D in “Baby D” is short for “Dwayne”, and the second thing you need to know is that the rapper you and I know as Lil’ Wayne was born with the name “Dwayne Michael Carter”. The album this song was lifted from was from a time when the rapper you and I know as B.G. (known as “Lil’ Doogie” on this release) was in a group with the rapper you and I know as Lil’ Wayne, and the name of their group at the time was “The B.G.’z”, which stood for “Baby Gangstaz”. In this case, the “Baby” part of their name was not a reference to the co-owner of their soon-to-be iconic label, it was more likely a reference to the fact that B.G. and Wayne were only 14 and 12 years old, respectively, when they recorded this music. That’s young even by young rapper standards. But they don’t let their limited time on this Earth keep them from having a surprisingly masterful handle on the genre. Their styles are both remarkably similar to the styles that made them famous, and you can hear the characteristic elements of each of their flows starting to emerge out of their obviously Bounce-influenced rhymes on this album. Hearing this album really made me realize just how much of Lil’ Wayne’s style lies in his pronunciation of individual syllables. He’s possibly more conscious of that one parameter than any rapper I can think of. You can really hear, even in this super early example, how he’ll exaggerate, downplay, elongate, or shorten certain sounds and syllables throughout his verses and the dramatic effect it has is undeniable. The sheer musicality of his pronunciation is really a remarkable feat, especially from a not-quite-teenaged kid from Hollygrove.
The other thing about this song was something I didn’t notice quite as quickly: the piano part in the background of this track is actually not a repeating loop or sample, it’s really someone just soloing on the piano setting on some cheap keyboard for the entire song. Anyone that knows anything about hip-hop (or dance music in general) is that it’s built on repetition. Bass lines, chord progressions, melodies, rhythms, whatever the song is built from, it’s built from short patterns that loop. Not here. Usually, we only get hip-hop songs with prominent improvised solos in specifically branded “jazz rap” subgenre stuff, the fans of which would most likely turn their noses up at this less refined Southern version of the identical concept. I mean when it comes to raw elements and approach, what’s the real difference between “From Tha 13th To Tha 17th” and, let’s say “Black Ego“?
Digable Planets – Black Ego