From Sky: A Response to Week One’s Response

First off, I’m glad you downloaded the entire tape, as it is easily one of the best of the year. This was kinda the summer of Chance. There are so many tracks off this album I love, Cocoa Butter Kisses, Juice, Everybody’s Someone, Na Na. He also has some really great features. If you want more, check out his first mixtape, ’10 Day’. Superb shit there.

I fully agree with you on ‘Favorite Song’ being a parody of a popular hip hop track. First off, before you read any further, I want you to listen to this track:

an unreleased Eminem track called ‘Syllables’. I’ll be here when you get back.

Now, as Em informs us, ‘It is not about lyrics anymore / It’s about a hot beat and a catchy hook’. Of course Em, along with fuck, Fiddy, Dre, Hov, Stat Quo and Cashis, are providing a commentary on what hip hop has become. It’s like when someone tells you they love pop music, especially Lil Wayne and Kanye West–you just want to stab them in the trachea. There are so many great lines in Syllables such as: Eminem, ‘If we gotta dumb down our style and ABC it, / then so be it Cause nowadays these kids just don’t give a shit ’bout lyrics’ and, ‘”Oh, this my jam, this my shit” / We don’t know a word to a verse, all we know is the chorus / Cause the chorus repeats the same four words for us’ and, ‘I don’t care if you gotta rhyme schmo, mo, joe, toe and glow’; 50, ‘you don’t hear what I’m sayin’ /Me fin-nini-na, Fee-fi-dididee-yay / Just give me my check and I’ll be on my way’. On to Chance…

On a first close listen, the lines that stuck out to me were, ‘Shake that Laffy Taffy’ and ‘skeet, skeet, skeet’. As I am sure you’re well aware, these are both catchy hooks from chart-topping track: Lil Jon’s ‘Get Low’ which peaked at number two on the Billboard Hot 100, and D4L’s ‘Laffy Taffy’ which actually was number one on the Billboard charts for a week in January of 2006. I know right? Chance follows up the ‘skeet, skeet, skeet’ line with ‘She do that thing for three retweets’, which is pretty piddly. It’s like in high school, when someone would offer a dollar to another kid if he ate a worm. There was always a kid that’d do it, and the kid was always pretty dumb. Chance is making a commentary, like in ‘Syllables’ about how hip hop has to be dumbed down for the dumb. I said it, the dumb. I believe this is also illustrated with the line, ‘Now take that bong ‘fore he three-peat.’ In smoking pot there is of course an etiquette. If you invite someone over to smoke it means you have weed to be smoked, not the person coming over. Greens for the guest. But the most well known of these unspoken rules is that of puff, puff, pass. Not puff, puff, PUFF, pass. This is the three-peat Chance is trying to avoid. If you’re smoking week and do this, you’re not only an asshole, but you’re dumb. Everyone knows not to do that! Don’t bogart the blunt, yo.

Back to Lil Jon and D4L for a moment. Tell me, honestly, without looking, do you know any other lyrics in ‘Get Low’ other than ‘From the window to the wall / til the sweat drop down my balls/ all these bitches crawl / ahhh skeet skeet skeet mothafucka / ahh skeet skeet goddamn’? Do you know any other lyrics to ‘Laffy Taffy’ other than ‘gurrll / shake dat laffy taffy / dat laffy taffy’? You may, but I doubt it. Remember, ‘This shit my favorite song, you just don’t know the words.’ I also find it ironic, that the hook has how many words? Just like Em says in ‘Syllables’.

Now Bino. ‘Niggas please be focused – that ‘Bino, you know this’ is the first line of his feature. He’s trying, pleading, for the dumb to listen to his lyrics. The first half of his verse is very reference heavy and clever: ‘He rep the home of Sosas, you know I’m from that Zone 6 / You know I rep that Stone shit, you know your ‘hood is so clit’ and ‘I’mma be that – CG busy gettin’, where the weed at?’ referring to himself as CG, which only someone who knew he rapped under the pseudonym of Childish Gambino would get. The Sosas reference is to Chicago where Sammy Sosa played for the Chicago Cubs and also home of rapper Cheef Keef, who has taken to refer to himself as Sosa. He even drops references I didn’t even get like, ‘You’re fuckin’ with the Fifi bag’, which I’ll let you Urban Dictionary. Then, however, Bino’s verse turns very… commercial, ‘now she on the floor, droppin’ like it’s hot / You blast this shit in Abercrombie when your work is finished / Your mom won’t play it in the car cause it’s got cursing in it’. These are all signs of a Popular song–something to dance to in the club, something that plays in A&F stores, and something that isn’t filled with vulgar lyrics. ‘Favorite Song’ are neither of these three.

Chance & Bino

Tis’ a great parody. There’s a lot Chance is really great at, and you’re right masterful lyricist and satirist. I’m glad you liked it. I finda figured you would.

-S

From ‘Cole: Week One Responce

Do I have to talk about this song? ^^

I kinda want to talk about the whole album.
There’s seriously so much about Chance that is appealing. His blend of Hip Hop beats and ska influence (is it reggae? I’m not too familiar with the distinction) is just…infectious. He has this quality of being both being positive and negative at once (does that make sense?)

Also, I’ve never heard so many TV references from a rapper.
Track 7: (“That’s Love”) “What’s better than Letterman, Leno, Fallon, and all the above”
Track 6: (“Everybody’s Something”) “Buck Buck Bang Bang/ yelling “Fuck Fox News!”
Track 2/3: (“Paranoia”) “Where the fuck is Matt Lauer at?/ Somebody get Katie Couric in here”

I want to say it’s invoking a sense of shared experience in a global sense. Our mythos lies in TV shows–we all grew up with the same sitcoms, the same commercials, the same miniseries. With TV, we can make a reference that is universal, and Chance is just capitalizing on this part of our zeitgeist. Better than many others, I think.

Track 2/3 struck me the most on the album, although of course I’m a fan of “What’s Love” because of the composition of the beginning. Those lyrics, man. Perfect balanced parallelism. Pairing a hidden track called “Paranoia” with “Pusha Man” is a very calculated choice. (On a side note, the feature on that track Hannibal Buress…I’ve seen him! He’s a great comedian).

So now to the track you chose.
This actually is, my favorite song.
^^

I have to give props to Chance for being a masterful lyricist. But even more, a masterful satirist.

Chance The Rapper

Seriously, this track is the best parody of a popular hip hop track I’ve seen lately.
He makes fun of himself in the first verse for being such a caricature– he’s just a druggie who lives a repetitive life. The form of the song even mimics his lifestyle (“this my jam, this my jam, this my jam, this my jam”). Same shit, different day.
Even more than that, it’s a demonstration that he can make a track with all the trappings of a hip hop song without needing any deep meaningful lyrics– and it will still be your favorite song. Reminds me a little of Nicki Minaj’s “Stupid Ho”– he can make the most vapid shit ever and it will still be more relevant than you.

But it’s not actually that vapid– it reminds me a little of a story of how Bill Withers wrote “Ain’t No Sunshine.” He was in the studio and they were recording the first run of the track, but there was a section without any lyrics written. Instead of leaving blank space, he kept singing “and I know/ I know/ I know/ I know”– which is how it was recorded to this day. And it’s pretty iconic.

I think that’s what’s going on here. Chance is doing something very stream-of-consciousness…he has no reason to pre-write lyrics because “it’s his jam.” He just doesn’t know the words.

^^

From ‘Cole: A Response to Week One’s Response

So, the reason I asked you to look at narrative first is because essentially, all rap is narrative.
It all tells a story.
It’s finding different ways to tell that story, that makes it interesting.

Biggie was the first commercial rapper to voice three characters in one song. If you think about what kind of ground that broke for others (Eminem and Slim Shady, Nicki Minaj and Roman/Martha/Barbie, perspective shifts used by Hopsin, etc.) that makes Biggie a pioneer of the genre. (And that’s only in “Gimme the Loot.”)

Maybe the perspective shifts we see in this song aren’t that amazing to us now, because we see it everywhere. But I think they have a lot of longevity and nuance. He does a great job of camouflaging the characters (the female character, for example, only makes a couple of appearances). And he fleshes out the characters right at the beginning with only two lines.

“My man Inf left a Tec and a 9 at my crib/ turned his self in he had to do a bid”

The robberies they’re committing aren’t just robberies. They’re a sort of revenge for his man, Inf, who’s serving time in prison. But look at the tense they speak in.
“word is bond, imma smoke him, yo don’t fake no moves”
“then I’m dipping up the block, and I’m robbing bitches too”
“and when I rock her and drop her/ I’m taking her doorknockers”
The first few verses are all about what they’re going to do.

Then verse 3: “Man all this walking is hurting my feet”
They’ve been walking and talking about what kind of robberies they’re going to pull when suddenly
“Ooh money looks sweet”
they see a victim.
So, they’re planning to rob these folks in the car (the girl is laden with jewels, Biggie’s shorty is practically seething with envy and wants to “hit her with the Gat”) but something interrupts their plans.
The pigs.
“Oh shit/now he looking at my face”

So, at the end of the narrative, who do they end up shooting up?
The cops.

It seems too simple that the song would be about robbing people, I mean anyone could write a song about that, right? This song is really representative of one foundational aspect of hip-hop: it’s all machismo, mostly talk. It’s mostly about and exaggeration of how big your actions are. When it finally comes down to it, are they really bad, bad “mothafuckas going out for the loot”?
No. They’re about to get stuck by the cops.
Again, this was about revenge. And the revenge they’re getting is for Inf’s sake, who’s doing 1-3 years in prison. So all that talk about how good they are at robberies seems silly considering they’re about to go back to the slammer and will most likely be seeing Inf soon. But maybe we can see it in a way that they’ve sought out the cops subconsciously, to get a fitting sort of revenge for Inf.

Biggie’s a master storyteller because he can move this along with three distinct characters, three voices, one plot, one message. And also, because he can make it a commentary on the rap game itself: poking fun at its own machismo. After all, if you pull back and look at the scene, it all looks pretty ridiculous. Big bad wolf doesn’t look so bad.

Biggie

There are so many other things to notice about this track, like the persistent references to mothers (he even wants to shoot a pregnant lady, he cray) that I haven’t hashed out yet. But I chose this specific reading because I think it’s important to understand why narrative is important (why, for example, we ❤ Kendrick so much). Part of why Hip Hop has merit, to me, is that it tells someone's story and creates a history (but that's something I'll get into more later).

From Sky: Week One Response

Gimmie The Loot. How many narrative voices you ask? Well The easy answer is two.

The jest of the track is that two people, one Biggie and one called Shorty (at least that is what Biggie refers to him as, so we’ll call him Shorty) are going to rob some store. I believe their going to rob a jewelry store. This can be gleaned from the line “Rolex watches and colorful Swatches / I’m digging in pockets, motherfuckas can’t stop it / Man niggas come through I’m taking high school rings too”, in the second verse. The ides their taking high school rings too, implies that they are taking watches as well as rings, and if anyone tries to come in they’ll take whatever they have on, even their high school rings.

The track however can’t take place in the present. The line, “My man Inf left a Tec and a 9 at my crib / Turned his self in, he had to do a bid / A 1-to-3, he be home the end of ’93,” gives us a time placement. Since Ready to Die came out in ’94, the track takes place sometime before that. This will come in to play at the end of the track.

Following that “home the end of ’93” line, Biggie asks “I’m ready to get this paper G, you with me?” and is answered by Shorty who says, “Motherfucking right, my pockets looking kinda tight”. Biggie tells Shorty though, “yo don’t fake no moves / Treat it like boxing, stick and move, stick and move.” Biggie is telling him to not do anything crazy, and simply stick to the plan. In my stoned mind I pictured Shorty as a kind of Kevin Hart of early 1990s gangstas. Shorty follows there orders up with, “Nigga, you ain’t got to explain shit / I’ve been robbing motherfuckas since the slave ships”, meaning that Shorty has been robbing people/stores/etc for a long time and doesn’t need to be told how to act. I would say that Shorty is very unpredictable and kind of a loose cannon.

BIG

The second verse is the robbery. The two of them hold up that jewelry store I mentioned earlier. The clerk, or merchant is a female and Biggie warns her, “So go get your man bitch, he can get robbed too.” They successfully rob the store and get away with it. This leads us into the third and final verse.

With the first line of the third verse, spoken by Shorty, which is spit as, “Man listen, all this walking is hurting my feet / Ooh money looks sweet / Where / In the Isuzu jeep”, we can gather they have succeeded in robbing the store and to continue their adrenaline high they decide to carjack the Isuzu. (I also want to point out that JEEP is a make of car, as well, Isuzu is also a make, so there couldn’t be an ‘Isuzu Jeep’. Just sayin’.) After jacking the car, they drive away “up the block” and this is when the cops start tailing them. “Oh shit the cops, / be cool, fool / They ain’t gonna roll up, all they want is fucking doughnuts,” is a line in which Biggie alternates narrators. “Oh shit, the cops” is said by Shorty, and the rest is Biggie telling him to just relax.

Relax, however is not what they do. Biggie instructs Shorty, “You better haul ass cause I ain’t with no fucking chase”, this is what happens. The narrative may be fragmented here, as Biggie does not articulate the chase and instead says, “lace up your boots, cause I’m about to shoot / A true motherfucka going out for the loot”. This is followed by the sounds of a car door opening and gunshots. This is a shootout between Shorty and the cops. I would argue that Shorty is involved in the shootout and not Biggie, as it is Shorty who says, “Take that motherfuckers”, before the gunfire ceases.

The end of the track is a little skit, ending with the smoking of a joint. This could be seen as Biggie having survived the shootout, and now, sometime later, is smoking a joint, possible reminiscing. The narrative doesn’t take place in the present, we know that, but the smoking the joint may. Since the guy smoking, Biggie, says, “hit this chief,” we know that someone else is with him while he’s smoking. Is it Shorty with him? No. Shorty dead.

So that’s the easy answer–two. However, there is something I noticed about three listens in. Immediately before the hook, a voice comes in and says, “When he’s sticking you, and taking all your money”. This is narrator three. This is some outside presence, possibly a conscience of Shorty. The definition of the word ‘loot’ is defined as ‘goods, esp. private property, taken from an enemy in war.’ The loot that Biggie says to give him is not what their in the process of stealing, but what they have already stolen. Biggie’s intentions were to take the loot, what was stolen from the store, from Shorty. “A true motherfucka going out for the loot,” Biggie says in the final line. He’s going out, in a blaze of glory, to protect what it is he has stolen and intents to steal from Shorty. Since Shorty is portrayed as a loose cannon, and quite erratic, it’s possible that he does not survive the shootout. Biggie convinces Shorty that the shootout in necessary, remember a true motherfucka goes out for the loot. Biggie, however, escapes, and it is him smoking the joint, telling the story in 1994, of the robbery.

The track starts off with “I’m a bad bad bad, lock your windows close your doors, Biggie Smalls”. This somewhat functions as a frame for the story Biggie tells. This is not another narrator, instead this is Biggie, still alive after the shootout, sometime later, talking shit and boasting.

So there’s your answer. There are three narrators in this track.

-S

From ‘Cole: Week One

I fully enjoyed your first pick. ^^ But I guess I have to say my goal in this is a little different than yours.

Initially I did want to introduce you to new artists you might not have been familiar with, but that would be impossible with the number of artists you know. So, I’ve chosen instead to make some familiar artists/songs unfamiliar.
I want you to look at the tracks I send you in a different way than your first listen. I guess the desire here is to look at how they inform the history of rap to see how they have value. Don’t get me wrong, they’ll all be good songs. But their place in the zeitgeist is what makes them unique.

I feel like today’s pick is cheating, because “Ready to Die” is one of the best albums ever, hands down. Ever.

But I picked it anyway.
This week, your assignment
is to count the number of narrative voices.
^^

From Sky: Week One – Your Favorite Week

Well, well, well.

First off I have to admit, it was much harder than I anticipated when it came to choosing a track for you. There was some serious internal mental debate between a few artists that really popped this year. I’m not too sure what you’re up on, and part of me is convinced you’ve got to be up on this one–but I’m not too sure. Either way, SPIN named him rapper of the year, and I think you’ll appreciate the feature. If by some chance you’re not up on him, you definitely have to download this tape. Easily one of the best collections of music to come out this year. With that being said, I hope you enjoy my first selection in our weekly installments.