Slow it down like we're on the syrup: Screw Rock 'n' Roll Top 69 Singles of 2006, Nos. 26-30
Oh shit. Better get back to this, huh?
Have you ever heard one of those "Bring New York Back" type guys talk about Pimp C? (Honestly, I don't hate those dudes at all - I really quite admire more than a few of them - but they make such an easy target of themselves that I can't help myself.) Even if you can get them to admit that UGK is the motherfucking shit, they'll start fucking on about how Bun-B has got something going, but Pimp C is a brain dead retard. Now I can't vouch for any intelligence the man has, or lack thereof, but I can definitely support the man as being a hell of a good rapper. Most of the appeal is how plain hard he goes, milking the aural hell out of every syllable, every sound of every consonant and vowel he spits. He also rests heavily on his accent, too, and he's well aware of how to use it with his words to make them sound even meaner, even more ruthless and even more thrilling than they already are.
"Pourin' Up" is a collaboration with Bun-B, so that makes it a UGK track in all but name, and I wouldn't be a bit disappointed if it ended up finding a place on the new album that needs to come out a minute ago. In addition to Pimp C being the always welcome presence he is, Bun-B makes, as usual, a top-notch showing (how is it possible that his guest appearances are of such a consistently high quality, especially compared to other premium rappers, like, Jay-Z, Lil' Wayne, T.I., etc.?), and Mike Jones is, well, he's Mike Jones. He's never anything but, though here he does do a good job of exceeding expectations, which is something he does more often than you'd expect. Should you not know, that's Salih Williams ("Still Tippin'", "Sittin' Sideways", "My '64") producing this, and he once again proves that he's one of the most underrated beatmakers around. By the way, it's the chopped and screwed version I've linked to up there. Done by Michael Watts and really quite good.
One little thing I'd like to mention: I don't rate myself as any kind of producer (yet, I clarify for you future Saturday Club stans), but ever since I heard Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up", I wanted to sample that horn theme. And then Just Blaze did it for Kanye, and did it better than I could have. Oh well.
This is the first Kanye album track that had a non-Kanye producer, and it was natural enough that the ring-in should be, Just Blaze, a man who originally proved himself in the same arena that West did, Jay-Z's The Blueprint. Last I heard, Graduation is about half non-Kanyeezy productions, so the quality of this single is a welcome precedent, even if Kanye will always be better behind the boards than the mic.
The real story behind this song, though, is Lupe, who crashed on to the mainstream rap scene in a major way with his verse. That shit probably set him up for failure, cause to back up that verse he was going to need to release Illmatic as his debut, but still, I'm not going to pretend Food and Liquor wasn't a major disappointment. The problem with that album was that it didn't fulfil the promise Lupe's verse on "Touch the Sky" made, and his debut single "Kick Push" followed up on. Lupe should have been the perfect artist to continue 'Ye's "Benz and a backpack" aesthetic: nuanced and emotional and still gully, but hard and realistic without sacrificing his human idiosyncracies or devolving into preachiness. This verse references baseball and anime without losing its swagger, and you can't believe how mucn hope I hold out that Lupe can present a solid artistic vision on his next full length rather than the bullshit equivicating he offered last time round. Either way, this track (and I know he had underground shit before this) was a hell of an introduction. Kanye was good too, but, you know, you expect that.
Apparently this was played on the radio in the States? Y'all Americans don't realize how bizarre your pop culture can be. Something this bizarre, this sparse and booming, would never make it on to the radio down here.
In actuality, none of the verses are that interesting on this one, though whenever I listen to it, I'm always pleasantly reminded that once upon a time, Paul Wall didn't actually sound like ass (fuck his new album, for real). I think I like Fat Joe's verse best, not because he says anything interesting, but because he's better than all these guys at saying nothing, and is much more practiced at it. The beat is a big plus, too, of course. There are very few rap singles anymore that remind you that the music can be just a booming beat and a sample, and this track manages to follow that template without sounding like a throwback nostalgia-fest. I've got to give it up for Pitbull's verse, too, actually. I love the defiance of "That's all we talk about?/Well, welcome to the South." I'm into any rap, but it's refreshing to hear Pitbull stare down the criticisms made of his region, and instead of making excuses for it, saying, "Yeah, so the fuck what. That's what we do."
And a quick explanation for Tom Breihan, who has frequently mentioned his confusion over Paul Wall's line, "Immigration still harass": the following line is "because I'm riding something foreign." It's a clumsy metaphor, sure, but he means that his car is so obviously an expensive, imported model that immigration officials would be concerned, as if that car were a foreign person. He doesn't actually mean to imply that INS folks are actually harassing him, a white American-born male.
The weird thing about this track is that though it sounds completely like the new-era, extroverted, poppy Belle and Sebastian, when I think of it, it doesn't feel any different to that old, bashful, withdrawn Belle and Sebastian. Even the rhymes ("the funny little frog in my thro-awt") and the story of unrequited love are more straightforward, cutesy and just plain twee than long time B&S listeners are used to, but it still sounds entirely natural, which is probably why it's so instantly likeable. I have a feeling that this was the song all us old school fans were hearing when we listened to the hushed, oddball pop of If You're Feeling Sinister, anyway, so the band's transition ends up sounding entirely rational.
I still prefer Phoenix in its smoother, dancier incarnation ("Too Young," "If I Ever Feel Better,") but as an attempt at coming up with a dirtier sound goes, this still manages to be pretty head-nodding. The stiff beat out-drum machines all the Strokes' faux-drum machine beats, and even the faintly distorted guitars retain enough glide to keep the song's momentum up. My favorite part is the cry of "long time, no see!" which manages to mean so much more than the actual semantic definition of those words, and ushers in a crescendo that doesn't really get any more louder, faster or more intense than what came before it.
Labels: Top 69 Singles 2006