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)
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:
Lil’ Wayne – Wasted
Young Thug – We Are
Young Thug – Danny Glover
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.
Both of these videos came out in the past week and it’s interesting how the artist and titles are just a couple syllables away from each other but COMPLETELY different in every other way.
Lil’ Wayne – Krazy
Lil’ Boosie – Crazy
For those of you who, like me, have been wondering “What’s it going to take to get Wayne to stay on subject for more than 8 bars?”, turns out his name is Chance.
Lil’ Wayne – You Song (feat. Chance the Rapper)
Iamsu! – Don’t Stop
Su drops some real obvious “wobbledy wobbledy” New Orleans-style rhymes throughout here, but does anybody else remember his little outro number from anywhere else?
Lil’ Wayne – Got Money (feat. T-Pain & Mack Maine)
This wasn’t the first time Mack used that little hook though.
Lil’ Wayne – Ballin’ (feat. Mack Maine)
Part of me feels like he’s maybe referencing something even older on here too, I’m not sure why though. Y’all let me know if you’ve got the missing piece.
It’s really interesting how much the new West coast owes to the South, and how much the old South owes the even older West coast.
I don’t know why, but today I inflicted the Rolling Stone “50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time” list on myself, in its entirety. I know that “Greatest of All Time” lists are inherently dumb, and complaining about them is even dumber, but this particular one seems so especially dumb that I think it might not be excruciatingly dumb to criticize it, as long as I can keep it short and un-ranty. So I’ll put aside as many personal biases that I can and try to actually play by the guidelines of a list like this. These kinds of lists measure things like historical significance and cultural impact, and they worship “firsts”. “Great” in the sense it’s used here isn’t an extreme form of “good”, it’s an attempt at objectivity about something inherently subjective by looking at factors like a song’s sales, chart positions, and the population’s general familiarity with it. Framed in this way, it’s easy to see why lists like this are dumb, because those things aren’t what’s actually interesting about music. But this list doesn’t even follow through on that flimsy objective. It is unsurprisingly biased towards old guard “Golden Age” sensibilities, and yet still finds ways to overlook many obvious old school contenders as well. Hardly any of my personal favorite songs are on that list, which is to be expected, but there are so many truly relevant-to-our-culture artists, songs, and movements that aren’t even touched on that I think it would be worthwhile to create a new list in response:
DRIVE SLOW’s Top 15 Artists Somehow Completely Ignored by Rolling Stone’s “50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs of All Time” List
1. Too $hort
5. Gang Starr
6. Goodie Mob
7. Slick Rick
9. Gucci Mane
10. Three-6 Mafia
11. DJ Quik
13. Nate Dogg
14. Ice T
15. 2 Live Crew
But nobody really reads Rolling Stone anymore anyway right?
Reeve flattered me the other day in the comments to this post, claiming he’d “polled the readers” of DRIVE SLOW and the “consensus” was that they wanted my opinion on this track.
Iamsu! – 100 Grand (feat. Juvenile & Kool John)
I have my doubts that there is a large number of people out there that Reeve is in touch with that are anxiously awaiting my opinion on specific obscure rap mixtape tracks, but I’ll humor him on this one because it actually is a pretty cool and interesting track. I wrote a post back in April about Juvenile‘s push to regain some of his fading relevance and my mixed feelings about the results, and I unfortunately feel kinda the same way about the stuff I’ve heard him put out since then, too. Rejuvenation didn’t really do much for me, not that I felt betrayed or that it was a total waste of time or anything, it just felt like Juvenile forgot all the things that make him sound like himself. It’s like he became convinced that his own style isn’t enough so he adopted this obviously weaker, more watered down, and basic style just to distance himself from what he used to be doing. I’m not one of those dudes that thinks that artists need to stick to the styles they start out with forever, hell I even stuck up for Snoop Lion when that stuff came out, but I just like it when the changes feel genuine, and Juvenile’s stuff lately doesn’t feel that way to me. It feels like he’s trying to rap like somebody else, which, as I mentioned in my previous Juvie post, isn’t doing anybody any good.
That said, “100 Grand” is still an awesome song. I’m sure Iamsu! was stoked to share a track with such a legendary artist, I’m totally happy for him about that, he deserves it. And Iamsu! sounds great, the beat is great, and Juvenile’s verse is, well, fine. It gets of to a little bit of a rough start, and hearing him talking about buying stocks feels a little strange. But there’s still some lovable Juvenile in there peeking out the whole time; his voice is still captivating and his flow, while a shadow of its former self, is still pretty good compared to a lot of other rappers. I just can’t get as excited about it as I would be about tons of his previous material. Like here is a track I chose at random from his back catalog that I had in my collection. Tell me this doesn’t grab you 500% more than verse 2 of “100 Grand“.
Juvenile – A Million and One Things (feat. Lil’ Wayne, Young Turk, & B.G.)
I hope this satisfies my breathless readership, you all just let me know if I can offer my opinions on any other pressing topics.
If you haven’t picked up Gucci Mane‘s newest tape, “Trap God”, you probably should. You can get it free from basically anywhere on the internet legitimately for free, or you can pay $9.99 on iTunes, I guess it just depends on how generous you’re feeling? Or how important it is for you to own the one bonus track on the iTunes version? I’m not quite sure what the strategy is there. But putting all that aside, it really is a nice listen. I feel like I actually hear some moments where Gucci is taking a little influence from Waka Flocka on his hooks, and Flocka himself appears several times on the tape prominently sporting the flow I mentioned back in this post. The production is really interesting too, there’s considerably less ruckus and harshness in the tones used across the board than what I’ve grown accustomed to hearing from Gucci, and the tape as a whole comes off sounding more like a stream of fluid than a blast of hot sand, which some of his recent efforts have felt like to me (not necessarily in a bad way).
One song in particular caught my attention for purposes of this blog though since it’s got a pretty rich history that’s really worth tracing. I definitely learned a few things following it.
Gucci Mane – That’s That (feat. Kevin McCall)
The first time I ever heard Jay Rock, another rapper who, like Gucci, isn’t usually found rapping over upbeat major key soul samples, it was on this song that should sound strikingly familiar after hearing “That’s That“.
Jay Rock – All My Life (feat. Lil’ Wayne & Will.I.Am)
While tracing the source of both of these surprising pairings, I came across this much older track from 2Pac‘s one-album group Thug Life that actually uses the same song that “That’s That” and “All My Life” use, but a different section and to a much different effect.
Thug Life – Stay True
So where did it all start? I don’t think many sample-hunters will be shocked to find that this song springs from the same artist that so many other upbeat hip-hop samples have come from over the decades.
Curtis Mayfield – Just Want To Be With You
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
Check out these 5 pop rappers reviving some old Bone.
The Game – Celebration (feat. Chris Brown, Tyga, Lil’ Wayne, & Wiz Khalifa)
Just between you and me, I think those ladies were letting Tyga win that b-ball game. Don’t you think?
Here’s a little context for those of you that have never heard me DJ a New Years’ party.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – 1st of tha Month
It’s interesting how both Game and Tyga start out really trying to do their best Bone Thugs impressions, but both end up slipping into the same currently popular slow syncopated flow that everyone from Gunplay to Ab-Soul to 2 Chainz to Buddy to Jay Ant has sported in the past year. Bone impressions and references pop up in some of the most unexpected places. There are the high profile instances like Wayne’s sly nod at the end of “It’s Good” all the way back to Biggie’s famous “Notorious Thugs” verse, but sometimes you’ll hear a little Bone peeking out of some more unexpected corners. It’s cool to hear such an obvious backpack-rap instrumental track that revolves primarily around an Aaliyah sample and a Bone Thugs sample.
Count Bass D – August 25, 2001
And if you’re like me and need to know where DJ U-Neek got the inspiration for this anthem of new beginnings, check the chorus of this tune.
Chapter 8 – I Just Wanna Be Your Girl (feat. Anita Baker)