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Why Do You Think They Call It Dope? October 2003

Posted by October 6th, 2003 No Comments »

Hal in action at the wheelz of steal.Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?
October 2003
By Hal Tiffany

There really is a better excuse for my recent absence than mere sloth, procrastination, and the onset of the seemingly contagious anxiety attacks sweeping the Nada staff. Honestly, recent hip-hop releases worthy of my writing time have been scarce. Noted exceptions are new albums from J5 and the Roots, released last fall. Sadly, it appears the choking vines of pop music have strangled the rap world just like they did to rock, soul, and punk.

But don’t give up hope yet. Prince Paul’s new album may save us from the unending supply of R&B drivel masquerading as hip-hop. And don’t forget the recent release of the all-new Outkast Double album! By the way, anybody want to guess how soon American Idol’s Ruben Studdard starts doing guest spots for Jay-Z and Fabalous?

Hal in action at the wheelz of steal.Why Do You Think They Call It Dope?
October 2003
By Hal Tiffany

There really is a better excuse for my recent absence than mere sloth, procrastination, and the onset of the seemingly contagious anxiety attacks sweeping the Nada staff. Honestly, recent hip-hop releases worthy of my writing time have been scarce. Noted exceptions are new albums from J5 and the Roots, released last fall. Sadly, it appears the choking vines of pop music have strangled the rap world just like they did to rock, soul, and punk.

But don’t give up hope yet. Prince Paul’s new album may save us from the unending supply of R&B drivel masquerading as hip-hop. And don’t forget the recent release of the all-new Outkast Double album! By the way, anybody want to guess how soon American Idol’s Ruben Studdard starts doing guest spots for Jay-Z and Fabalous?

To get you back up to speed, here are a few songs I should have told you about in 2002:

Jurassic 5 – “A Day at the Races”
Most acts only utter the words “old school” because it rhymes with “crew”. J5, however, are about the only group out there representing the old school sound with authenticity. The first time I heard this song it reminded me of Eric B. and Rakim’s “Follow the Leader.” Fast lyrics spit in an annunciated staccato against a minimal drum track and a scale-running bass line. Besides, this song has my favorite line of 2002: “All I want is my limo all polluted with Remy.” Ladies and Gentlemen: The New Buddhism.

DJ Jazzy Jeff w/ J-Live – “Break it Down”
Jeff has clearly overcome the ego-crushing blow of being the most innovative DJ of his time only to have his spastic, cutesy-rapping and dancing sidekick become one of the highest paid movie stars in Hollywood. “Break it Down” sold me right away with a Brady Bunch sample that kicks off a…well, “jazzy” beat full of crackin’ rim-shots, velvet-smooth bass, and tinkling xylophone rolls. Jeff also proves he’s still got the lightning fast cuts on the tables – the ones that made him the turntable trailblazer who’s credited with inventing the “transform scratch,” still probably the largest advancement in turntable history. J-Live’s stock keeps rising with an onslaught of crisp, economical flows that get right to the point. In this case; “sucka emcees need to retire.” There may be no justice in the music biz, but Jazz has managed to eke out a decent career producing Big Willie’s soundtrack schlock. In addition to riding Will’s coattails, Jeff gets notable production credits for work with Jill Scott, Eminem and Slum Village.

Swizz Beats (feat. Bounty Killa) – “Guilty”
Don’t pass this song off as another mashed together dancehall sound-alike. You know the kind; they get released at the same time as a hundred imposters who unabashedly steal the exact same beat and put their own rhymes on it. Bronx’s Swizz Beats provides some quality stateside production with a heavy bouncing bass line that’s more pungent than a sack of wet lambsbreath. Bounty Killa is one of Jamaica’s tightest and most recognized toasters and probably flowed with the gangsta-ish deep raspy voice before Ja-Rule was even born. Together they rail up some dancehall hard enough to rock circles ‘round all y’all land-locked suckas, bloodclot!

Lifesavas – “Head Exercise”
Master producer and Blackalicious’ DJ, Chief X-Cel lends his production Midas touch to the fledging reps of Portland, OR. Lifesavas’ rhymes work in some memorable lines from B-Boy classic films like Beat Street and Wild Style, which definitely warms the heart of an old-schooler like me. Unfortunately, other self-produced tracks on their debut EP pale in comparison to “Head Exercise”, so without being kicked down with some more scraps from top guest producers, it’s doubtful anyone outside of the metropolitan Portland area will hear from Lifesavas in ‘03. We’ll see if their new (July 2003) release, Spirit in Stone, proves me wrong.

Trick Daddy (feat. Big Boi and Cee-Lo) – “Dro in da Wind”
Four words: Trick luv da kids! (Not in the R. Kelly way, you perverts!)

Nelly – “Air Force Ones”
Yeah, yeah, I know it’s all commercial, and pretty much a rehash of similar-sounding made-for-MTV jams and album filler, but it’s been way too long since anyone’s rapped about their tennis shoes. If you can’t relate to the love a man shares with his new sneakers, then please stick to the rock radio radio-rock, because hip-hop just ain’t yo thang. Strikes me innerestin’ that the average man takes about as many bed partners in his life as he does newly purchased sneakers. And we all know its every man’s fantasy to have two at once, right? Nelly just brought it all together with one simple chorus, “Give me 2 pairs, I need 2 pairs.”

And now for the good stuff, “fresh out the box”…The Newest Latest………

MC Chris – “Fett’s Vette”
Call him a novelty act. Discount the man for being a flag flyin’ geek. Say whatever you want about MC Chris, but let’s face it – the man is a FUCKIN’ GENIUS. Everytime I listen to an MC-C song, I find a new brilliant line. Today’s gem? “I bust my biscuits over Britney in a bubblebath”. “Fett’s Vette” is way beyond the level of the so-called Star Wars break-beats floating around the net. Chris’ rhymes are funny, clever, and sure to keep you rewinding repeatedly just to try and catch what he just said. You don’t even have to be a Star Wars geek. This, kids, is a rare shot of brilliance. DO NOT SLEEP on MC Chris just because his songs are funny, satirical, over-the-top and intractably bound to his cartoon (Aqua Teen Hunger Force) connections.

The Roots – “Rollin’ with Heat”
Droppin’ this song with the same drum breakdown intro from Run DMC’s “Sucker MCs” was a bold statement. Any lesser performance or crew would have made the move blasphemous. But the punchy marching band brass bass line is definitely worthy of the royal sample and keeps the Roots always-strong lyrics poppin’ off the track.

Killer Mike – “A.D.I.D.A.S.”
Outkast is easily the best rap group of the last 5 years. The strength of their various crewmember solo projects is further proof of how deep their skills run. Killer Mike is definitely no exception. A.D.I.D.A.S. is a master mix of melodic flow, and clever sex rhymes, all backed by a signature Outkast “yet another unique beat” beat. Did I mention the new double album? Is it out yet? Is it out yet? Yes it is. Where’s your copy?

MF Doom – “Change the Beat”
This song is great because it does just what it advertises, change the beat… about every thirty seconds or so. It’s like getting 4 songs in one. Also, Change the Beat gives an important lesson to the rest of the backpacker underground producers out there: don’t let your beats get so damn boring, for chrissake! Change it up; keep it moving; something better than 4 minutes of the same 8-bar loop. MF Doom is underrated and unfairly slept-on. He is likely the victim of being mis-categorized among the mealy-mouthed underground babblers with similar sounding names and lineage. MF D’s bold and clean style deserves a second listen.

Soul Position (feat. RJD2 and Blueprint) – “Unlimited”
RJD2 is much more than a clever name-play on the lovable Star Wars droid. He’s one of the freshest new producers to hit the scene since DJ Shadow. RJD2’s highly acclaimed first album, Dead Ringer, showcased his mix-tape roots with off the wall sampling and an ear for dropping unexpected sounds in all the right spots. Unlimited maintains the style with RJ scratching DOC’s “Is it Funky Enough” over a low-fi flute and some ultra-tight kick drums.

Prince Paul (feat. Horror City) – “Controversial Headlines”
Prince Paul’s longevity and innovative production credits are second to none. He’s the godfather of the concept rap album and still makes funky-fresh jams to this day. I’m probably in the minority here, but I found Paul’s collabs with Dan the Automator too slow and brooding for his style. This album’s healthy tempo, sharp sounds, and massive voice roster are a welcome change of scenery. “Controversial Headlines” takes aim at a particularly frustrating aspect of pop dominance: gossip and buzz sell more product than quality performances. The tune works a great argument for those of you on the “hater” side of the Eminem legitimacy question (Em was not a particular target in the track, but the shoe was fitting…) The patent Prince Paul sarcasm drives the point home even better with some great lyrics from a suspiciously Kool Keith sounding Horror City and Jean Grae (side-note: I command all of you to go find Jean’s “25 ways to break up with your girlfriend” right now!)

Fanny Pack – “Cameltoe”
Tigre and Bunny (from “The Cars That Go Boom” fame) are back! I’d swear it’s them. “Cameltoe” has the Same 808 sounding beats and snotty yet fly, high-pitched teenie-girl rhymes. But I’m mostly listing this one because the line, “Is your crotch hungry girl? ‘Cuz it’s eating your pants.” Funniest thing I’ve heard over a beat in nearly a year.

Old School Pick of the Month:

L…L… COOL…….J…IS………….HARD…………AS………………….HELL!!!

Few intros will ever grab your attention like that one from “Rock the Bells”. In 1986, LL was a teen sensation that absolutely shattered the cliché. Even during the reign of Run DMC, LL was the very definition of rap music and more specifically “fresh”. It was as if rap music’s earlier advances were mere pretext to LL’s mind-blowing debut. He showed the world the massive potential of the fledgling genre only black kids and a few anti-trendy suburban converts were yet hip to. LL’s Radio was the kind of album that had the power to make kids go crazy like Bill Haley’s Comets could do in the 50s and the Beatles in the 60s. Even the admittedly nerdy and authority conscious Hal Tiffany was known to skip 10th grade English class to listen to Radio pumping out of Terry Soos’ Volkswagen stereo hauler. “Rock the Bells” is the quintessential braggadocio battle rap. In fact, I hypothesize that not long after the masterpiece was released, frustrated rappers were forced to cop-out with the unimaginative and transparent gun blazing metaphors for rap battle victory we still hear today. LL’s second and better selling album, Bigger and Deffer, certainly had its moments but Radio will always be the seminal LL album. Radio is the one with the only two “love raps” that don’t suck, and of course, the historically hard “Rock the Bells”. This is a picture of Fisher's sister that I found on his computer and does not, in any way, relate to this particular article.


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