What I wouldn’t give to have my ’92 DeVille back for a day…
Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica
What I wouldn’t give to have my ’92 DeVille back for a day…
Big K.R.I.T. – Cadillactica
Wow I guess this is pretty old but it’s only just now crossing my path, probably because it’s doesn’t appear on any of his mixtapes.
Big K.R.I.T. – Somedayz
I think this might be the first time I’ve seen a rap video that takes place in the back of a moving pickup truck. This also might be the first time I’ve heard K.R.I.T. rap over a beat he didn’t produce. How do I know he didn’t produce it? A couple reasons, first of all because it’s also on this mixtape that was at least a couple years before K.R.I.T.’s first big one.
Freddi Gibbs – How We Do
And in case that’s not enough evidence to convince you that this isn’t K.R.I.T.’s beat, here’s where the beat originated: in a song from when he was 7 years old.
Souls of Mischief – 93 ‘Til Infinity
If you’re like me though and need to know the deepest origins, they actually start coincidentally the same year that 3 of the 4 members of Souls of Mischief were born, 1974.
Billy Cobham – Heather
I know that one’s kinda subtle, but listen close a little after the 2:00 mark and you’ll hear it. The sax part is from a little later, after the 3:15 mark or so.
I like ones like this that touch every part of the map. You’ve got the original, which was recorded at Electric Lady in New York City, then sampled 20 years later by some kids all the way across the country in Oakland, and then picked up almost 20 more years after that by young rappers from Gary, Indiana and Meridian, Mississippi. The dopeness lives on.
Here’s a fun compare and contrast game.
Big K.R.I.T. – What You Mean (feat. Ludacris)
Rick Ross – Hold Me Back
The similarities are pretty obvious and, to be honest, inconsequential: they both came out on the same day, are shot in black and white, and feature guys rapping. But the differences are actually very interesting if you take a moment to sift through them.
I’d venture to guess that these dudes are trying to use these newest videos to project where they’d like to be more than where they actually are right now. Big K.R.I.T. has only had an official album out for about two months, and while he’s got quite a few dedicated followers, it’s still a bit of a stretch to call him an “established” artist at this point. That’s the battle he’s fighting: to be seen as a legitimate contender in the Coliseum that is hip-hop. So in his video, he has to really project stability, success, and longevity to push people’s perceptions of him in the direction of seeing him as a dude they should get used to seeing as relevant. The imagery and cinematography portray this perfectly: the camera spends much more time standing still in his video than in Rick Ross’s, and when it does move, it moves with sureness and intention. You also see a lot more images of lavishness in K.R.I.T.’s video than in Ross’s, most likely because it’ll take a little convincing for someone to believe Big K.R.I.T. is ballin’ anywhere near the level that Rick Ross is. The video’s emphasis on visual symmetry adds an additional stabilizing factor; the images in K.R.I.T.’s video feel very timeless and abstract, impervious to decay.
Rick Ross, on the other hand, can safely be called an established rapper at this point. I’ve probably heard more Rick Ross blaring out of SUVs in in the past week than any other artist, and I’m in Brooklyn, nowhere near Ross’s hometown of Miami, Florida. He’s got numerous top 10 albums and singles, he’s collaborated with a huge number of very diverse artists, he’s had a few beefs and controversies, he’s founded a very prominent record label with several successful artists, he’s deep. But if you were to go in cold and just watch the “Hold Me Back” video with no context, you’d think he was 17 years old and trying to prove his hardness to the older cats on the block. The imagery is harsh and gritty, he actually has several shots where he’s not wearing sunglasses (a Rick Ross rarity), the camera work, while definitely ultra crisp quality, is obviously handheld and very unstable, and you see almost no evidence that Rick Ross has anywhere near as much money as he seems to in his other videos. Sure he’s got a couple chains on, but so does everybody else around him. Even the cell phone that chick hands to him at 2:17 isn’t a fancy bejeweled iPhone, it looks more like the phone you get for free when you first sign up with Cricket. And the people in the video are totally average, normal people; a stark contrast with the toned and touched up models in “What U Mean“. He is trying to portray almost the complete opposite image K.R.I.T. is in his video; Ross wants you to see him as wild, uncontrollable, unpredictable. The images in Rick Ross’s video look way more like Juvenile’s iconic “Ha” video than, say, Jay-Z’s most recent crisp black and white video.
I love this juxtaposition for so many reasons, the least of which is just how it demonstrates the endless diversity in rap. It’s cool to see Big K.R.I.T. dressing for success in his video, trying to really talk you into taking him seriously, while Rick Ross works from the other direction trying to ward off any criticisms that becoming an established mainstream rapper has softened his character or resolve.
Or maybe it’s just a coincidence.
Raise your hand if any of these mean anything to you: N.W.A., U.G.K., KRS-One, D.I.T.C., TLC, Y.M.C.M.B., MondreM.A.N., E.P.M.D., O.F.W.G.K.T.A., Big K.R.I.T., M.J.G., RZA, GZA, M.O.P.? If not, you better pay more attention when you read this blog.
When it comes to abbreviations for shit, rap’s got everybody beat. I’ve always taken this phenomenon in hip-hop for granted, it never crossed my mind to examine it closely until I somehow stumbled across this explanation of where the word “O.K.” comes from. If you think you know, you might be surprised, because apparently there are a lot of incorrect stories out there involving everything from ex-presidents to French seaport prostitutes, but the real explanation, though less colorful, actually makes a lot more sense.
The etymology of OK was masterfully explained by the distinguished Columbia University professor Allen Walker Read in a series of articles in the journal American Speech in 1963 and 1964. The letters, not to keep you guessing, stand for “oll korrect.” They’re the result of a fad for comical abbreviations that flourished in the late 1830s and 1840s. Read buttressed his arguments with hundreds of citations from newspapers and other documents of the period. As far as I know his work has never been successfully challenged.
The abbreviation fad began in Boston in the summer of 1838 and spread to New York and New Orleans in 1839. The Boston newspapers began referring satirically to the local swells as OFM, “our first men,” and used expressions like NG, “no go,” GT, “gone to Texas,” and SP, “small potatoes.”
Many of the abbreviated expressions were exaggerated misspellings, a stock in trade of the humorists of the day. One predecessor of OK was OW, “oll wright,” and there was also KY, “know yuse,” KG, “know go,” and NS, “nuff said.”
This explanation brings up another interesting point too: intentional misspellings. Just like in rap, sometimes words are misspelled in a way that reflects how they’re actually pronounced in that given time period and region; “nuff” instead of “enough”, “yuse” instead of “use”, “oll” instead of “all”. Other times, a certain misspelling is chosen that actually confuses the meaning of the expression instead of clarifying its pronunciation such as “know” instead of “no”, “wright” instead of “right”, or “korrect” instead of “correct”. This is also a very common device used in rap music. Have you ever listened to Z-Ro before? How about Suga Free or OutKast or Salt-n-Pepa? Or Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire? The list could go on indefinitely. It’s interesting that in the 1830s version, they combined the two devices into one, first misspelling the words and then abbreviating them, while in rap it tends to be more one or the other, but both devices are still at work in both arenas, and rap has another interesting practice of taking existing words and acronym-izing them after the fact. 2Pac famously put the word “nigga” in a positive light in “Never Ignorant, Gettin’ Goals Accomplished“, while K.R.I.T. took on the negative form of that word to draw attention to the traps that he feels too many of his race fall into: becoming “another Naive Individual Glorifying Greed and Encouraging Racism“. Cee-Lo told us in ’94 about how “the GoodDie Mostly Over Bullshit“. Killah Priest puts forth a pretty surprising evaluation of the Good Book given his chosen moniker in “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth“. Once again, the list goes on.
But why would anybody want to do this? Superficially speaking, it seems to create a barrier between writer and reader. It takes words that everyone is familiar with and obscures them with confusing mangling and mutilation. But where language purists see verbal disfigurement, rappers and writers see verbal hot-rodding. Why does a car need to go 160 miles per hour, or have doors that open in every possible way except the normal way, or have 26” rims and a wood grain steering wheel? Because it’s cool. And I don’t mean “cool” in a diminutive way at all, in this case “cool” plays a very important social and cultural role that should not be scoffed at or underestimated.
In the case of the custom car world, any or all the modifications mentioned above could easily get in the way of the normal functioning of a car in the same way that all the transformations words go through in the hands of rappers might get in the way of someone immediately understanding what is being said. The same thing can be said for rappers’ extensive use of slang. But for people who use these linguistic devices, part of the message being conveyed goes way beyond the literal meanings of the words being used. Part of their reason for rapping is to convey a certain access to a set of knowledge only available to a select group of people. If you can’t decipher the message that’s being put out there, then it probably wasn’t for you in the first place. To understand what is being said, you have to either be born (or at least raised) in the culture that gives rise to these word modifications, or study really hard and learn it as a second language of sorts. Some might argue that this is an unfair and exclusionary practice that makes people feel left out, and under certain circumstances I might be inclined to object to these practices, but in this case I don’t, because I feel it’s aimed in the right direction. This is not a case of powerful people of the world imposing an obscure coded language onto a lower class to marginalize those who can’t gain access to the cipher, it’s a tool used by people in positions of societal weakness to have something of their own that they can relate to each other about and gain some shred of power back from those who have more of a say over how their lives go than they’d like. They might get lower wages, get put in jail more often, have more difficulty voting, and not get proper justice for crimes committed against them, but they can at least make you feel really “uncool” when you hear “bickin’ back, bein’ bool” or “MOB Piru Damu” for the first time and have no idea what they’re talking about.
Wu-Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M.