Thursday, January 11, 2007

'Sooo 2006' Joints: Meet me in a club…

14. Ghetto Story – Baby Cham: That flutter intro is followed by well-paced storytelling for those of us less familiar with the Jamdown lingo and the light as air vocals disguise the street tales as a lullaby. The slow ramp up at each verse earns a rah rrrah rrrrah rrrah!

13.Ridin’ – Chamillionaire, Krayzie Bone: Anyone complaining about the lack of political content in bangin’ joints that reach a popular audience by a great MC (even by ‘true school’ standards) should have their backpack smacked off with this surprise hit from Cham in their earbuds. A ‘comeback’ of sorts only because he was counted out of the previous Houston wave. Far from his best and yet huge!

12.Tell Me When To Go – E-40, Keak Da Sneak: Setting off the sprinkler of hyphy hype properly with the video handling definitive eye-wash duties, this 40-watershed joint fertilized ‘the soil’ sound. He caught some backlash… but still did it better than them. He’s a movement unto himself.

11. Cannon (AMG remix) - DJ Drama, Lil' Wayne, Freeway, Wille The Kid, Detroit Red, Juice: A straight-up mixtape structure loading up this shotta with 5 MCs and one ubiquitous hypeman and firing center mass at the titular sample. The firepower of an interstate cipher makes me celebrate with a 21 gun salute to this hookless banger. Lock, stock (“We can trade like the Dow Jones”) and barrel, the sure shot from the mixtape of the year.

10. Me & U – Cassie: Fans of proper singing get lost but fans of perfect pop found the simplest ‘notes’ delivered by a fembot and the minimal musical elements to be a lot sexier than a robot telling me the moving sidewalk is ending. And it’s the perfect backseat, high-school high-jinks, ‘promise-don’t-tell-anyone’ soundtrack. How can so little emotion get a listener all worked up? The video didn’t hurt. Not at all.

9. Mac 10 Handle - Prodigy: Ranking high on surprise tactics, P digs Deep and goes guerrilla dolo… forgets the Unit… and entrenches the song/video with cold-sweat imagery in a post-traumatic realm of hallucination and paranoia. If 50 calls in some pre-mixtape marching orders, the Prodigal thun should answer that call to duty, “Hollywood who?” The most exciting fourth quarter lead single by a ‘90’s artist on the comeback. No typo.

8. Grew Up a Screw Up– Ludacris, Jeezy:
Luda was applauded for his more intricate rhymes but I always prefer his punches sharp and direct. His phrasing and delivery here sets it apart and reminds me of the joys of straight-up old-school bragging. Supplying unrelenting smacks of hubris, he sounds almost exhausted from delivering his own swagger. The other guy sits in as royalty but Cris holds court promising an impressively healthy, lengthy ATL reign. Hip-hop is dead. Long live hip-hop.

7. Chunk Up The Deuce / Break ‘Em Off – Lil Keke, Paul Wall: One popped a minute ago and one hasn’t had the time to bubble properly but the combo of Paul’s crafty flow with Keke’s pulse and drag over slow and spooky beats is just perfect in both cases. Keke should be a star by ’08 and Paul’s new vocal effect on ‘Break ‘Em Off’ should have you anticipating surprises on his next album instead of critiquing his content.

6. Bossy – Kelis, Too $hort: Swagger rap turned sing-song that Kelis “rides like a bicycle” (and “icy cold”) “while the 808 is jumpin.” It’s a successful pastiche of crossover Houston culture (that includes deep roots leading to the guest MC). The odd video swings from dog to Dog to that dance without getting in the way of the fact that “she’s fine AND she’s pretty.”

5. Do it Do It – Cherish / Chicken Noodle Soup – Webstar, Young B / Goin Down – Young Joc: Not obviously snap but “mixing Youngbloodz with the whisper song” and various other ATL signifiers, ‘Do It’ lets the sisters walk confidently down the A-pop path paved by Ciara. They include the lean, the rock, the poole palace, the shoulder lean… and just when you thought NY had carte blanche to break on the ‘lightweight’ Bankhead they add hot water to oodles and oodles of noodles we knows. The Chicken Noodle reign that was ready to clear it out provided (via Youtube) the thunderbolt that was Light Feet demos. And it had me cheesing just as much as the kids goofing off with it. Like any great dance it had people saying ‘That shit looks ridiculous!’ But the key is that both the participants and the haters are saying the same thing… but meaning something totally different by appropriating a notorious shuffle. The joy of it is of course a middle finger to those that don't get it. Fans of the cathartic and intense Krumping / Clowning documentary ‘Rize’ could not have been prepared for so many more lighthearted dances in 2006… hyphy, snap, chicken-noodle, footwork, buckwilin’… ‘It’s Goin Down’ could not be heard this year without the little bit of Young Joc’s ‘motorcycle rev’ creeping into a listeners wrists…Tom Cruise’s attempt at Jocin’ reinforced clichés about the way certain cultures dance and highlighted the tricky rhythm that all new street dances require (It’s interesting to note that Ving Rhames’ attempts in the background were slightly better but still off.) Many critics of the ‘silly dances’ often expose themselves as not being in on the joke as the wide smiles of most of the dancers reveal a joy, quite simply, in acting a bit foolish… but on beat… and better than you! The more aggressive A-Town Stomp perfected by Sean Paul of the Youngbloodz in the video ‘Damn’ led to the more casual ‘bounce-bounce-pause’ favored by many Atlanta youth which joined with the explosion of the ‘snap music’ sound to form the dance style. And the popularity of Cherish’s ‘Do It’ made the movement safe for suburbia. The cold reaction by many of New York’s hip-hop artists towards the ‘snap’ moment did not prepare them for the more exuberant and youth driven stylings around the new wave of Harlem club culture. Parallel to the snap movement, Harlem youth embraced the simple lyrics and dance oriented song structure and dismissed any alleged ‘rules’ about ‘authentic hip-hop.’ It can’t be a coincidence that the best cure for a cold New York was a healthy dose of ‘Chicken Noodle Soup.’ As a counterpoint to the success of trap/crack rap of 2005, the lighthearted (and it should be noted, non-sexualized) dances of 2006 reminded hip-hop fans of what else the culture can be… at least for a little while: pure, silly, innocent, fun. But “Don’t get it twisted, pimpin: This a HOOD dance!”

4. Grillz – Nelly, Paul Wall, Gipp, Ali: This seems to have been out forever but it still banged the airwaves this year and I enjoyed it every single time. From Destiny Child’s ‘Soldier’ to LL ‘s ‘Kanday,’ to Gipp claiming ‘First!,’ almost every line is a hook. The chorus is as infectious as any other Nelly records (“Let you see my what?”) but we should demand it from all great pop-hop. My smile ain’t on the rocks but long after their diamond dentures are pawned this joint will have folks leaning, rocking and rubbing their hands together with joy.

3. My Love – Justin Timberlake, T.I., Timbaland: Mini-trend for 2006? Roller disco epiphanies. Even with the internet buzz it took a sound-system in a roller rink to finally show me what the fuss was about on this reinvention of disco. ‘Sexyback’ had the rollers bouncing but the ‘My Love’ synthesizer smoothed out the rink. The boom-boom-tap of the beat box (‘Lake or ‘Land?) and the choice of tempo let the sophisticated dancers escape from the regimented four-on-the-floorish ‘Sexyback.’ Some took the half time beat to glide to and others took the double time to bounce their shoulders. The transformed synth stutter, odd vocal squeaks and techno machine sounds signified sci-fi like the best Timbo funk. One could ridicule the sap (“I wrote you a symphony” and “this ring represents my heart”), clumsy slang (“date me on the regular”) and incongruous TI lyrics (“cuz I handle my BI, call me candle guy (why?) simply cause I am on fi’ ha ha”) but sometimes pop music doesn’t have to make sense to be genius. Yes, we all sang the phrase “Toes in the sand” this year… at least those of us who can dance. The video showed a chilled out JT lead that bounce-bounce-slide variation of my middle-school dances but let him do his popping thing in a Charlie Chaplin outfit and walkaway. Was it just that camera trick that thrilled? Nah, the animated rubberbands, too.

2. Hustlin’ – Rick Ross: Coked up thump over a screwed down hook and over-the-top keyboard vamps, made this Jeezy-jack epic. This joint was driven by economics. Ross recounted his source of revenue and invested in stock simple stylings; a powermove not unlike Reasonable-Doubt-era Jay-Z (Oh, you forgot how much Jigga was dissed when he ‘simplified’ his ‘Can I Get Open’ flow???) But Ross makes you appreciate the word ‘economy’ as it relates to ‘movement’ as well… even if Jeezy showed us, and him, the way. Clichés, maybe now, but classic phrases are in abundance… “whip it whip it real hard” “22s!”… and look how he flips them plurals… bitches and biznizz and Benzizz and chickinzz. Every syllable was calculated and the investment paid off significantly. And I’m just talking artistically. Maybe short on clever metaphors but memorable lines still count towards a classic.

1. What You Know – T.I.: Is it the throwaway braggadocio (“sitting pretty with Latin broads and a china doll”) or the uplifting anthem? Is it the hypnotic drone of keyboards and vocals or the multilayered rhythms and complex rap phrasing? Is it a celebration or a threat? Is it the drawn-out synth-line pulse or the punchy catchphrase? Is it the exploitation of an ad-lib (“What?!?” “Okay?!?!”) or the sly slang poetry? Fired-up and cool as fuck, T.I. provides a kiss off to those that think like he does. When he says “all that attitude, unnecessary dude” he couldn’t be more wrong. Is it absolutely contemporary or a classic? You know.