Tag Archives: Ludacris

OH, GREAT

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

2.  Lil’ Wayne (or anyone from Cash Money)

3.  TI

4.  Bone Thugs-N-Harmony

5.  Gang Starr

6.  Goodie Mob

7.  Slick Rick

8.  Ludacris

9.  Gucci Mane

10.  Three-6 Mafia

11.  DJ Quik

12.  E-40

13.  Nate Dogg

14.  Ice T

15.  2 Live Crew

But nobody really reads Rolling Stone anymore anyway right?

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IF YOU KNEW ME FROM THE RIBBIT THEN YOU KNEW THAT I WAS TIPPIN’

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.

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RAP JOURNEY #17 – FROM ASAP ROCKY & MAIN ATTRAKIONZ TO THE ART OF NOISE AND UGK

The other day Reeve got ahold of me to ask if I’d checked out this song yet.

Main Attrakionz – UGK (feat. A$AP Rocky)

Somehow I hadn’t, even though there are three rappers I really like on this song AND it’s named after two rappers that I absolutely LOVE, so how this one slipped by me I’ll never know, but I’m very grateful for getting the late-but-not-too-late introduction to it.  I feel a responsibility to Pimp and Bun to let y’all know what UGK song the hook is taken from, but what really caught my attention was that simple sampler/keyboard part that opens that track up.  It’s got such a recognizable melody and tone, and it didn’t take me long to figure out at least one place where I’d heard that tune before.  It was a song by another duo that, coincidentally, Reeve turned me onto several years ago in their Bake Sale days.

The Cool Kids – Art of Noise

This is actually one of my favorite Cool Kids songs, it’s a little less silly and kitschy than a lot of their more popular stuff is, but it doesn’t sound forced at all, especially Chuck Inglish’s flow on that first verse, that shit just feels right.

I felt like that couldn’t be the only place that sample had been used though, I had this feeling like I’d heard it some other places.  Turns out I was very right, that same sample turns up in a LOT of rap songs from all over the place.  It shows up in the Memphis underground, in a classic 90s New York rap format, and in the ATL trap-rap scene, to name just a few.  But my favorite is probably this one, if for no other reason than the fact that it has three very different artists, one of which had been dead for over 10 years when this song came out, the surviving two coming from the same general region of the U.S. but definitely not sharing much time in the spotlight simultaneously, but they somehow all rap in basically the same style without any of them sounding like they’re reaching at all, it’s pretty amazing.

Lil’ Wayne – Nymphos (feat. 2pac & Ludacris)

OK, I know you might be tired of hearing it by now, but there’s no way I can not finish this up with the original.  It really is a nice listen, so if you’re sick of it now, come back tomorrow and take the time to hear the whole thing.  I think you’ll be glad you did.

The Art of Noise – Moments in Love

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