The value of excellent production is often overlooked by mainstream listeners. Many people could sing every word to a song, but tell you very little about the track supporting it. There are plenty of beats out there that take over a song, and thus elicit countless remixes with other rappers using the track (check out Lil Wayne’s garbage mixtape, Dedication 4 for some examples of recycled beats)
Artists don’t necessarily want the beat to take over the song, rather they want it to complement their vocals and enhance them just enough to make the whole thing a masterpiece. The best producers can be compared to composers, constructing multiple layers of a track in a way that catches the attention of the listener, but doesn’t steal it entirely. To do this, for years, many artists have turned to the always-loved piano track.
The most well-known and well-respected artists have often taken advantage of the piano tracks to create some of their best songs. From 2Pac’s Changes, to Jay-Z’s Empire State of Mind, to Kid Cudi’s Pursuit of Happiness, these tracks complement the song just enough to make it great, while still allowing the words to get stuck in your head. Probably the best known use of the piano was Nas’ sampling of Beethoven’s Fur Elise in I Can, which is arguably one of his greatest works.
More recently, we heard Kanye West’s less than subtle use of the piano in his hit single and short film, Runaway:
The piano track will always be around in hip hop, steadily contributing to some of our favorite songs. Here are a few recent songs from up-and-coming artists that take advantage of this useful supplement:
Cars are a common topic of discussion among rappers, and 2 Chainz is no exception. For reference, here are interviews he did with Vibe and Complex about his favorite cars. While he makes no mention of actually owning a convertible, he has a certain knack for describing them in his songs. Fully displaying his clever lyricism, here are 5 different ways 2 Chainz describes convertibles:
5.Pull up to the scene with my ceiling missing; Pull up to the scene, but my roof gone
Song: I’m Different
4.I’m the type that make a old school a Bentley coupe turn one to ten that’s what I tend to do; It’s an amber alert I gotta missing roof
Song: Stop Me Now
3. Fuck the roof, fuck the roof, fuck the roof, f-fuck the roof; Top back and I’m getting loot
Song: Fuck Da Roof
2.You know I kill the pussy, toe tag it; And I’m always on time, but my roof absent
Song: Oh Well (Remix)
1. Ok I’m stunting on you hoes, denim True Religion; 9-1-1 I’d like to report my ceiling missing
Pulsing below the seemingly inane message in Trick Daddy’s 2001 hit single “I’m a Thug” is the lifeblood of a profound and time honored philosophical assertion. It’s all in the hook:
I don’t know what this world’s gonna do
But I know one thing that this is the life for me
Baby cause I’m a thug
all day every day
Uh huh cause I’m a thug
That’s right you heard
Baby cause I’m a thug
Uh huh oh yeah
Trick Daddy is propounding his individual existence as integral for no other reason than it is his own, and because he says it is. Despite external pressures and the uncontrollable forces of the world, Trick Daddy is in the driver seat of his consciousness and has the power to decide what he is in the world. This statement harkens back to a white Frenchman, the Philosopher René Descartes, who famously declared “I think, therefore I am”, a revolutionary affirmation of the significance of the individual in its capacity to think and recognize itself as a thinking entity. Trick Daddy exercises this thought process in the verses of “I’m a Thug”, ruminating on the superficial qualities that may describe him as an individual:
Could it be my baggy jeans
Or my golden teeth
That make me different from ya’ll?
Ain’t trippin dog
But listen dog
I was raised a little different dog
Yet it’s none of these things that set him apart. In fact, no direct content from the song does—it’s the fact that he’s participating in the discussion, that he’s thinking about his identity and place in the world, that translates the lyrics into philosophical discourse. Descartes’ dualistic perspective, that the mind and body are intrinsically distinct, is also evident in Trick Daddy’s philosophy: That his Thug nature cannot be described by either his baggy jeans or his golden teeth pushes Thuggishness from the material to the nonmaterial realm, territory that Trick Daddy cannot navigate by any means other that to continually state that he is a thug.
There’s really no discernible explanation why Styles P, Rick Ross and Busta Rhymes should collaborate on a song. They have wildly contrasting styles and each is on a separate point of their career trajectories.
Styles P is an unsung hero in the hip hop industry, a rugged individualist who established a reputation as one of the most prolific rap ghost writers of the ’90′s while working for Bad Boy Records. Since, he’s been associated with Ruff Ryders (DMX, Jadakiss, Swizz Beatz), and has consistently released music under his own label, D-Block Records. But for all his successes, Styles P hasn’t received mainstream attention since the release of his single “Good Times (I Get High)” in 2002.
Rick Ross, on the other hand, is currently enjoying more attention than almost anyone in the industry. The Source’s reigning Man of the Year was nominated for Best Male Hip Hop Artist at the 2011 BET Awards and was proclaimed The Hottest MC in The Game by MTV earlier this year.
Busta Rhymes is a living legend and, at 40 years old, has recently experienced a resurgence in popularity and productivity. So from an industry standpoint, this song doesn’t compute. And white people want cleanly packaged expositions of, well, just about everything, something they will not achieve for this song. It’s simply a really good song. So sit back and stop trying to understand it.
From Lamborghinis to drug dealing to drive-by shootings, if it is a lifestyle that they will never live, white people love to hear about it via rap music. However, many white people are uncomfortable with this sort of vicarious living, and fear that they will be judged for supporting ‘criminals’ or even worse, that they will be osmotically influenced by their music.
William Leonard Roberts II, a former correctional officer in south Florida, has masterfully contrived a criminal persona, that allows white people to love him but alleviates their guilt. You may know him better as Rick ‘Rozay’ Ross, Founder of Maybach Music Group and MTV’s 2012 ‘Hottest MC in the Game’
This extra degree of separation provides white people just enough of a cushion that they can feel comfortable listening to his music, while still using him as a proxy to this alternate lifestyle.
Here are a few samples of his work:
Triple Beam Dreams ft. Nas
Hold Me Back, performed without a shirt, which we all would have preferred him to wear.
White people love to ruin cool things. Case in point: The Roots. As the house band for Late Night with Jimmy Fallon, The Roots are a sorry, diluted skeleton of what they used to be. Which is fine because white people also love to rediscover cool things. The Roots need to be resurrected as the innovative streetwise lyricists they were in this video:
The vast majority of white people simply cannot dance. It’s a fact. While many are daring enough to suppress their self-consciousness and venture out on to the dance floor, it often leaves others feeling uncomfortable as they watch their white friends struggle.
While white people are not naturally good dancers, they are capable of following explicit instructions. Hip hop artists figured this out decades ago, and began producing songs with white people friendly choreography. Dating back as early as The Electric Slide, and progressing to The Cha-Cha Slide, and more recently, The Cupid Shuffle, these songs are staples for DJs at weddings, bar mitzvahs and many other common white people events.
As recently as 2007, mainstream hip hop artists began incorporating these white people friendly dance moves(WPFDM) into their songs. One of the more prominent examples was Soulja Boy’s Crank That, tipping the YouTube scales with 127 million views:
In 2010, Cali Swag District helped white people everywhere show of their well-rehearsed dance moves every time ‘Teach Me How to Dougie’ came on at the club
We’re due for a new song with corresponding WPFDM anytime now, and white people are itching to practice a new move to show off out on the floor.
There is something about Flo Rida that people just can’t get enough of. Ever since he broke onto the scene with the hit song ‘Low’ Flo Rida has had the club scene’s number. He followed ‘Low’ with several other favorites, including ‘Good Feeling’ , ‘Wild Ones’ and most recently, ‘Whistle’
Whether they are ‘whitegirlwasted’ at the club or driving around in a Prius, people always get excited when a Flo Rida song comes on.
There’s a common misconception that the value of music is in how well it can be related to. However, some of the artists people enjoy most are people that have lifestyles and opinions completely contrary to their own. There’s a certain vicarious pleasure in listening rappers speak about driving around in expensive cars, dealing drugs and their errant habits with semi-automatic weapons. Why, no one is sure exactly, but it’s these sort of irate and self-interested lyrics that white people find most interesting. This is why they love A-Mafia. While A-Mafia has collaborated extensively with fellow Harlem natives Dipset and Purple City Byrd Gang, he has continually refused to sign with a major label and produces music under his own label, Deep In The Game Entertainment. He was released from prison a little over a year ago after serving distribution charges for following too closely behind a squad car while delivering a large quantity of cocaine. He owns guns and drives around in expensive cars. He also has a slight speech impediment. Check him out:
People love the smooth, multi-syllabic rhymes of Biggie Smalls, and the way he details the struggles and successes of drug dealing in an endearing sort of way. The lovable, rotund rapper once described his music as “a big pie, with each slice indicating a different point in my life.”