Saturday, November 18, 2006

Seven Deadly Singles #35: Everyday I'm Hustlin' (What It Do)

Phonies folly, masters rest on their lazy, but earned, laurels. Yep, sounds like a round of assholes this week. And not a one bigger than Rick Ross.

LCD Soundsystem - "45:33"

James Murphy is a phony the way Scott Storch is a phony. His pedigree is mastering the butt-simple and never-transcendent. His bread and butter is glomming onto realized talents to get his DFA name out and set the stage for his so-called anticipated records. He isn't half-bad, but he is painfully basic. One reason his teaming up with Nike to create a repetitive 45-minute exercise track was an excellent idea is because it's an excellent admission of his limits. No one wants to admit that the first LCD Soundsystem full-length was exactly like this: a long stretch of barely decorated bloop-and-squirt synth and midtempo 808 drums that sounded like lazy disco, dusted with some hipster touches like his Talking Heads-ish spoken delivery and vinyl-nerd name-dropping to separate it from, oh, your average FruityLoops user. The difference is that here he doesn't pretend 45 minutes of his music isn't exactly the same all the way through. Exercising is robotic, monotonous and moving but unchanging. Ergo, "45:33" sounds like an exercise machine, and Murphy gets points for not programming it to look smarter than whoever's using it. If I worked out on any kind of a regular basis, I could see myself playing all 45:33 of this twice. After all, the guy's easier to take as a musclehead than a hipster. B

Nas - "Hip-Hop Is Dead"
Ghostface - "Ghost Is Back"

One trend in hiphop that I'm starting to fucking hate is sampling beats that were already beats. Yeah, it's always nice to throw in an "Apache" or "Peter Piper" to show your history, as Nas did brilliantly with the former on 2002's still-badass "Made You Look"
and Missy Elliott proved herself a visionary by screwing around with the latter on 2003's masterful "Work It." But those songs did something different besides just cloning the original, they were more like Terminator clones that added some crazy cyborg muscle to the original human skeletons. In 2006, Jay-Z and The Game both ride Public Enemy beats from 1988 dusted off by Just Blaze, who apparently just discovered Nation of Millions and had his mind blown and style tainted.'s no better just because he's been claiming old school since Black Eyed Peas were a (ha!) backpacker outfit. Somehow he convinced Nas to rhyme over the same song he already sampled ("In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," baby), worse this time, about how hip-hop is dead. I don't know if he gets the joke, he certainly never got any of Jay-Z's, when he resorted to phrases like "Gay-Z" and "Cock-a-Fella Records" in that long-squashed beef. So if Nas' enthusiasm and raw talent far outshines his intelligence, like his hero KRS-One, he's barely exhibiting even those on a track that's supposed to point out how dead and relying on dilettantes like his peers are. Instead, he sinks to their level. It's kind of sad the eternal underdog can't even outclass Jay-Z at his most vulnerable these days.
Ghostface already made mincemeat of both of them months ago with Fishscale, a tougher, more consistent album than (sorry) anything Jay or Nas have ever in their lives released. So it's kind of mean for him to release another album this coming December just to kick sand in their old fart faces. But he manages anyway. "Ghost Is Back" is conceived as more of a re-up mixtape-type beat-jack rather than a Diddyesque resting-on-laurels-while-claiming-old-school one. He picks a classy beat, from Eric B. & Rakim's "Know The Ledge," and just runs with it, with a charmingly small-scale basement freestyle sounding run. End rhyme: "blubber/Ruben Studdard." Nas should be so lucky to be a slave to page in his rhyme book. "Dead": C; "Back": B+

The Shins - "Phantom Limb"

Grows on you, though late Garden State converts should be warned, it will not "change your life." Miraculously, this relaxed and unpretentious soft-rocker does kind of garner "New Slang"'s timeless quality, though it may just be James Mercer's songwriting is stuck is in the paisley-era again, backtracking from some Kinks-y mod flirtations ("Fighting In A Sack," "Turn A Square") on 2003's great Chutes Too Narrow, which sold a significant portion of its 400,000 copies to late Garden State converts, whom it had nothing to do with. A step back, yes, both qualitatively (the dreamy production's starting to veer towards dangerous U2-level reverberations) and artistically (bye bye, upfront songfulness, hello navelgazing), yet not boring. Actually, quite pleasant. If only I could say the same for all of Wincing The Night Away. A-

Clipse - "Wamp Wamp (What It Do)"

Good thing Pharrell went back to his roots here, since "Money Maker" was stale as ever, and for that matter so was Fly Or Die. So he keeps his annoying-ass, alien-faced, trucker-hatted falsett-no outta here and helps these mixtape kings develop a semi-catchphrase with fun trashcan-bangings and plinking steel drums. Actually evocative of Jamaican street corners, which means Pharrell's slowly getting his sense of texture back. Pusha T and Malice earn their "pyrex" and "dro"-centric dealer boasts with coolly detached charisma. If only Kingdom Come was this laid-back and laborless. A-

The Killers - "Bones"

I'll focus on the song rather than what a dick Brandon Flowers is. But just allow me this one bullshit quote: "Don't you wanna go with me/don't you wanna feel my bones." For all his industrial-theater synths and trash-compactor guitar crunches, this song sounds more like a cross between Springsteen's Tunnel of Love and "Jessie's Girl," both of which, sadly, are better. Flowers used to have hooks for his self-involved pseudo-anthems, now he just piles up chorus upon chorus hoping that Meat Loaf will notice and sue. I don't blame him; Sam's Town could use the publicity. Tim Burton, however, who directed the video for this, is better off without. D

Rick Ross - "Hustlin'"

Rick Ross is a pig, plain and simple. Like any other crack rapper with dreams, he wants his criminality validated but he doesn't work for it one bit. He rhymes words with themselves. He twists words until they barely fit, but doesn't have the charm to pull off the wordplay of say, Snoop. Instead the aural effect is like him sucking in his stomach to wear too-small pants just for a quick Source cover photo just before they pop off. His flow is sloppy and lazy; he leaves plenty of room in his stanzas for total emptiness, which means his beats are lower-budget than his hos, of whom "feeds steroids to strengthen [his] chickens." But, Christ, is he good at dumb. This is one of those theoretically awful songs like "My Humps" that you start out playing for all your friends over and over because you're in disbelief of what a joke he doesn't know he is. That is, until you start craving it. Say it with me now: "everyday I'm hustlin'/everyday I'm hustlin'. . . ." ad nauseum. Sounds like "you're getting verrrrry sleepy" after awhile. And then you're under his power. Hustlin', hustlin', hustle--hustlin', hustlin, hustle. . . . F--I mean, A-


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