Thursday, January 26, 2006

Gung Hay Fat Choy (Part 2)

chops, motherfuckers

Although Jin held down Asian-American MCs’ ‘Eminem’-moment (dis-deflating, self deprecating battle raps) as well as anyone could, AAMCs haven’t yet reached their ‘Paul Wall’ moment (ethnicity is nearly a non-issue in their ‘persona’). Asian American hip-hop producers have much less of a problem making their ethnicity or culture transparent, at least when dealing with their art. The Automator and Chad Hugo are prime examples of lower key personas preferring to play the background. But super-producer CHOPS comes with a ever-so-slightly more audacious persona. It’s a swagger that is necessary for the mixtape game and it most likely stems from his experience as an MC with The Mountain Brothers. Check his intro on a remix of Jeezy’s ‘And Then What’ originally backed by a Mannie Fresh track…

What it do, motherfuckers? This is CHOPS. Usually when I do a remix I’ll take the producer name right out the song… This is Mannie Fresh… so I ain’t doin’ shit! This right here is the CHOPS version though.

CHOPS does his distinct drop in his typical blunt phrasing. I missed his ‘Mountain Brothers’ era which may have been more explicit in ‘ethnic signifiers’ and I have probably heard his production in commercials or soundtracks but his mixtape reworks for all the great southern MCs has allowed him to reinvent himself as one of the essential ‘Southern Mixtape’ producers of the moment. He has Texas roots but his Philly-based productions skills transcend any regional restrictions. His tracks, at least on the ‘What’s Going Down’ series of tapes, show no ‘Asian stereotype’ in sound or source. For his own work, he favors building tracks from his own instrumentation rather than sampling. (Sampling, by the way, has allowed African-American producers to immediately and, in the case of Timbaland, successfully produce ‘Asian sounding’ tracks.)
CHOPS worked with Bun B vocals last year and produced some of the most surprising and addictive remixes I’ve ever heard. On many tracks from “It’s Going Down 3: Special Dark Edition” he does what he does best (and what other producers should strive for when remixing): CHOPS makes the song sound different! Duh!
For example his ‘Kryptonite’ track makes the brilliantly frantic tune sound laid back, unhurried and rather chill. There are plenty of sonic elements but instead of layering they sit sparsely around a simple three note riff matching the beat. Only Big Boi’s verse maintains its hyper tone in rhythm and breath control. His rework of ‘Stay Fly’ also follows the halftime of the original. The finesse of his mix is the extra ‘transformer-click’ on the ‘fly-y-y-y’ hook which matches his semi-submerged keyboard-bell riff and shadowed synth-strings that run through the whole song.
Finally, it is worth noting that CHOPS tapes are successful in one very important way… He lets the songs play through without interrupting TOO much with drops or bombs or echoes or whatever. This alone should put CHOPS at the top of any mixtape producer list this year… 4703 in case you forgot.

Three 6 Mafia - Stay Fly (CHOPS mix)
Purple Ribbon All Stars - Kryptonite (CHOPS mix)