Tag Archives: Jay-Z


And I thought I was slick catching Bootsy’s raucous bass explosion at the beginning of “Royalty” – the homie and DRIVE SLOW contributor mattisonherenow just pointed out to me that hometown heroes The Flaming Lips once provided the source material for a small snippet of Jay-Z history!  I promise this is the only time I’ll ever ask you to listen to a Flaming Lips song here.

The Flaming Lips – She Don’t Use Jelly

Luckily you only need the first 0:05 of the video to catch it, it’s the opening intonation of this nearly insufferable song.  Upon reflection it makes some sense that Kanye would be aware of fellow egomaniac Wayne Coyne’s early musical efforts (rock and roll fans out there confirm my suspicion – Wayne Coyne is the Kanye West of his genre, no?), at least to the level where he could grab that goofy guitar swoosh from the track above to punctuate every 4th bar of the “Izzo” beat; a song which unfortunately has been not-so-mysteriously wiped from every corner of the Internet.  Hopefully your Blueprint CD isn’t too scratched so you can pop it in your Discman and hear this new perspective on Jay’s “Izzo“; I would feel terrible asking you to listen to 90s Oklahoma alt-rock and join Tizzidal in the same post.

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Plenty of rappers have made Tony Montana references in a songs, thrown in a Tony Montana skit before a track starts, sampled his theme, or named a whole song after him, and at least one owes his moniker to him, but it’s not every day you hear a rapper do a full-on Tony Montana impression for an entire song.

King Louie – Tony

Side note: look out for the Chance the Rapper cameo around 0:52.

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Fans of this post will appreciate this recent update:

J Dilla – Anthem (feat. Frank-N-Dank)

I originally knew this song as “We F’d Up” from the lost Dilla MCA album (thanks again to Tim for hookin’ me up with that) with a beat by Kanye that was alright, but to me always stuck out a little bit from the rest of the production on the album, and honestly sounded like a recycled version of “Takeover” in a lot of ways (also produced by Kanye around the same time).  This new beat, which is actually an old beat crafted by Dilla himself, makes the track even more enjoyable and lively to me, I think it’s a welcome addition to the now heaping catalog of posthumous Dilla releases.

As a bonus, here’s a link to the B-Side of this version of “Anthem” Rappcats is putting out, also from the lost MCA album (now being referred to as The Diary?), and definitely the funniest Dilla song of all time.  If you need some extra motivation to click that link, just imagine Dilla in this scene and that’s pretty much what “Trucks” is like.

Gary Numan – Cars

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We’re goin’ way back with this one.  There’s not as much back and forth here as the last two, but the concept is still very much alive and well executed, especially considering Foxy Brown was only 16 when this was recorded.

Jay-Z – Ain’t No Nigga (feat. Foxy Brown)

Keep those suggestions comin…

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You all should probably watch this real soon, it’ll probably get taken off YouTube at some point because of all the nudity, but it’s actually a really interesting portrait of the young Jay-Z before he became the household name he is today.  This is the Jay-Z I fell in love with.  Includes cameos from Biggie and DJ Clue, Jay-Z’s first music video ever, some really great non-album verses, a LOT of blurred out logos, and a weird postmodern moment where the story being depicted in the first half of the movie is suddenly and blatantly abandoned, replaced by a voice-over-narrated history of Jay-Z’s career as of 1998.  It’s Jay-Z’s Moonwalker, or Hard Day’s Night Or maybe, more accurately, Jay-Z’s For My Foes.  Anyway, it’s a trip.

Jay-Z – Streets is Watching



Since “His Pain“, I’ve been introducing more and more Kendrick Lamar into my rap diet lately, and I’ve been enjoying the effects.  I wouldn’t say it’s been a very balanced diet, however, I’ve mostly just been binging on this song of his over and over again at very high volumes.

Kendrick Lamar – Cartoons & Cereal (feat. Gunplay)

For me, it has the intensity of a Waka Flocka song, but concentrated through the laser beam focus of a Scarface song, and the very non-traditional song structure and length are extremely refreshing to me in the current state of quantity-over-quality mass-production rap.  I can get down with some by-the-book shit like anybody else can, but stuff like “Cartoons and Cereal” comes as an extremely welcome shift in style without abandoning the unpretentiousness of subject matter that makes street rap so appealing.

Since I’ve been putting this effort into Kendrick lately, I’ve also taken some time in giving some of his friends a more serious listen too, and since his friend and label-mate Ab-Soul just came out with his first solo album, and the video for his song “Empathy” is absolutely beautiful, I thought that might be a good one for me to delve into.  I have to admit that on first listen, the very beginning of the album wasn’t speaking to me, but then track 4 hit me with the perfect formula to make me start liking it.

Ab-Soul – Terrorist Threats (feat. Danny Brown & Jhené Aiko)

Did you hear the “BRRRRR!!” and “BLOW!  BLOW!” from “Cartoons and Cereal“?  If you didn’t, you probably at least noticed the very interesting production on the track, or maybe this really awesome opening line:

Babylon!  Babylon!

Out my window all I see is Babylon!

On the news all I see is Babylon!

And all niggas do is just babble on…

Or maybe the little Jhené Aiko “Kick yo game, spit yo flow…” intro caught your attention because of this classic.

Jay-Z – Nigga What, Nigga Who? (Originator 99) (feat. Amil & Big Jaz)

Or maybe there’s something altogether different you noticed about the song.  If so, you know how the internet works, post a damn comment!

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Andrew Noz just recently took back what he said about Nicki Minaj a few years ago, but I still feel like that line that I lifted from him for the title of this post is still a pretty apt description of her.  I don’t mean it in a negative way either, I just think it perfectly expresses how thick the layers of abstraction and artifice are around her whole style, how you can’t just listen to her music and get it right away, there’s a lot you have to be clued into in order to grasp what’s going on.  Not to say that she’s has some kind of elitist or esoteric slant, it’s all low-brow pop culture idioms that you have to have experience with and appreciation for in order to be on board with her style.  Say what you want about it, it is undeniably original and attention-grabbing.

Amber just recently sent me an article that a Huffington Post blogger named DJ Louie XIV wrote about Nicki and the phenomenon of the female rapper, and he brought up some interesting points, but I felt his assessment of the situation was fundamentally flawed in a few ways.  In the article, he points out that so far, no female rapper has been able to achieve the longevity that many male rappers have achieved, and wonders about how Nicki Minaj will fare in that regard.  He points out that her style and approach differ greatly from the prominent female MCs of the past in that she doesn’t focus on rapping alone to get her message out, even though her skills in that area are hard to question, and she is taking many cues from the largely-white pop scene to gain greater popularity.  From the subtext of his writing, it seems pretty clear that DJ Louie XIV is a big fan of hip-hop, and he feels disappointed that Nicki doesn’t stick to the stuff that he enjoys listening to, the rapping, which I can understand.  But it’s strange that he points out that all previous prominent female rappers didn’t do what Nicki Minaj is doing now, and is sad about their lack of longevity in the industry, but also criticizes Nicki for not blindly following in their footsteps and suffering their same fate.

I think the male/female thing is a little bit of a red herring here.  What’s really going on is a separation between pop and underground, and in those terms, the rules are the same for males and females alike.  If you’re going to be widely popular for a long period of time, you have to adjust your style to be appealing to a wide, diverse audience.  Popularity is a numbers game to the core, if you don’t have masses of people buying your albums, merchandise, and concert tickets, then you’re not going to have mainstream success, that’s what those terms mean by definition.  It’s interesting that he picks Jay-Z as his poster boy for a male rapper that’s enjoyed success for a very extended period of time because Jay-Z was criticized heavily for “going pop” after his first album, Reasonable Doubt.  If you listen to Reasonable Doubt and then listen to any other album he’s done since (except maybe The Black Album which he envisioned being his final album and wasn’t as concerned with continuing his career and being widely popular into the future), there is no doubt that he adapted his style and abilities to be more appealing to a wide audience.  That’s what mainstream success is.  Nicki is doing exactly the same thing.  If you listen to “Don’t Stop, Won’t Stop“, you can’t deny that she wasn’t putting as much energy into being appealing to a broad audience as she is now.  And now she is widely popular, after adapting her style.  If Jay-Z had kept to his pre-pop style, he probably would have skated by with a cult following in the rap community and could have had moderate success for a while, or maybe even a long time, but he couldn’t have had anywhere near the fame and attention he gets now if he hadn’t switched it up.  Just like how Nicki would be now if she’d kept to her “Don’t Stop, Won’t Stop” style.  They would both be where all the female MCs Louie XIV talks about are, obscure and only moderately appreciated.  You have longevity as a mainstream artist if you can consistently make things that a wide number of people will pay money for, period.

Where the male/female dynamic does come in is the pressure that is almost assuredly put on female rappers by an industry run predominantly by males and with predominantly male fans.  I can’t see how there couldn’t be a lot more skepticism for any female artist trying to make it as a rapper by the rap power structure, so the lengths she must got to just to get noticed and promoted are far greater than what an equally-skilled male rapper would have to go through to gain that same recognition.  It’s like any industry controlled by men: the women have to work harder and usually get less pay and recognition than their male counterparts, and I imagine that this extra strain put on the female MC is just too taxing to keep up for a Jay-Z-length career.  The industry and the fanbase is just too harsh and unforgiving for the female rapper, and I feel that it’s that factor that is responsible for the ill-fated career of all the once-famous lady MCs out there.  Just read the comments in that article, there are countless male rap fans that make blanket generalizations and dismissals of female rappers, it’s no wonder it’ hard for them to make it, especially for extended periods of time.

And maybe the record labels are right, maybe a woman does have to warp and alter herself to the extreme in order to be marketable, and it’s not just the label’s fault, it’s a failure in our society to recognize and value the true greatness of women for their natural born qualities.

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I never thought I’d say this, but I kinda wish Snoop wasn’t in this video at all and it was just these little kids rappin’ the whole time.

Snoop Dogg – I Wanna Rock (G-Mix) (feat. Jay-Z)

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I remember the first time I saw the cover art to Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire’s first big mixtape, Lost In Translation.  I immediately knew that this was a dude that’s making his own rules, and probably breaking those ones too sometimes.  He refuses to have his name listed without the expletive (“Don’t forget the ‘Muthafuckin’ / Without that, it’s nothin“), he shoots music videos in his real house with his real friends doing what they really do, and he writes whole songs where he’s the main character in some kind of weird postmodern comic book/sci-fi/cartoon world.  Basically, I knew I had to listen up, and give this dude some room to do what he does.

I’ve been very happy with what I’ve heard so far, and just the other day I was biking around listening to his latest mixtape (which came out on Christmas; hilarious) and noticed some stuff about one particular song that slipped by my usually razor-sharp attention the first couple listens.

Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – Two 22’s b/w Twenty Two 2’s

I definitely caught the main reference of the song, which is to Jay-Z’s “22 Two’s” from his first solo album, but it wasn’t until I listened more closely to what eX was actually saying (duh) that I thought of this possible reference, or maybe just coincidental similarity.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard – Shimmy Shimmy Ya

Did you catch it?  I’ll give you a hint: I totally gave it away already in the title of this post.

See, after that weird break in the middle of “Two 22’s“, he comes back in and raps the whole first verse backwards while the beat plays backwards underneath, and when ODB comes back for his second verse, it’s actually just the reverse of his first verse also (with the beat playing normal).  The difference is that with eXquire, he actually raps the words normally but in reverse order, while ODB’s approach is to play the whole first verse backwards, so the words themselves are backwards too.  So yeah, it’s not the exact same thing, but I feel like there’s no way Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire isn’t influenced by Ol’ Dirty Bastard pretty heavily.  And even if it is just a coincidence that these two pretty similar rappers did the same thing on their songs, it’s pretty cool to notice how experimental and far out these dudes are getting in their music; that’s some conceptual shit that I feel like doesn’t really happen much in other popular music.  Correct me if I’m wrong.

As a side note, I was checkin’ out E-40’s Tumblr page the other day and I saw a link to a “west coast remix” of “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” that featured E-40 and MC Eiht.  I thought it was some weird fan-made remix thing at first until I actually saw E-40 and MC Eiht come out in the video and start rapping.  That shit was actually official.  Wild.

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I know I tried to leave this series behind a few weeks ago, but I just spotted this video in this little article on TSS and I couldn’t pass it up.  Partially because it’s beautiful…

David Ruffin – Common Man

…and partially because of this song.

Jay-Z – Never Change

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