Saturday, March 21, 2009
20 degrees with no jacket.
It's really tiring to hear fellow bloggers complain about how bad rap is, how rap (beef) is boring, etc. To me, this sounds like empty talk. For one, there are people with excellent taste sharing that new new for you you. If you don't know where to look, that's one thing, but to complain that nothing good exists is tiresome. To be clear, I am not thinking of the (thankfully) dead argument about "real" rap or whatever, just good music regardless of its source. Secondly, there is so much music of all kinds out there, including rap, that it is nearly impossible to be up on everything as it happens. So, while I haven't been following the latest in Rick Ross leaks, though I have heard something about Weezy saying he's "in the all black Maybach, sittin' in the asshole," I do have plenty of time and energy to look for somewhat old or overlooked records that I didn't check for when they came out because I was busy or doubted the quality of the full album.
About three years ago, I remember being home for spring break and doing what I do normally when I was back at my parents' house: watching TV and eating food out of boredom. I didn't have a car, and being on the internet all day didn't appeal to me, so those were my last two options. It was abysmal. Anyway, I remembered seeing, in the fall I believe, the video for Da Backwudz single, "You're Gonna Luv Me," and during spring break, I saw the video for their second single, "I Don't Like the Look of It." I was pretty sold on them as a group.
Keep in mind, at this time, crunk was king and at this point in time I was decidedly against Southern rap in that manifestation. It was nice to hear a song like "You're Gonna Luv Me" that let the beat breathe as opposed to trying to start a riot, and if you watch the video, the duo felt very entrenched in the culture of Atlanta. They weren't trying to imitate anybody else from their city and still felt authentic, which I think is hard to do when such a strong movement exists. The simultaneously bizarre and brilliant choice of sampling the Oompa Loompa song for their second single was too creative to to hate on, and they really did the beat justice. Reading this, you may think I picked up Wood Work, their first (and at this point, only) album, excited to hear what else they had to offer the rap world. But, I figured that it would be like many other rap albums released since 2006: an uneven affair with the singles as the best songs, a lot of trend chasing, and one "reflective song." Sometime a couple weeks ago, I was reminded of their existence, though I forget how, and decided to finally give the album a listen three years later.
Now, if you were to listen to only the two singles mentioned above, you might think of Da Backwudz as extensions or updates of OutKast's stylings. Personally, I tend to think of Field Mob as more fitting of that description. A better example of a group of Southern rappers similar to Da Backwudz is more likely Trenton Takes favorite Jim Crow. Both work with similar A-Town heavyweights Organized Noize and Mr. DJ for a track, are more playful in tone than OutKast or other DF members, and Crow's Nest and Wood Work are both mainly backed by one producer. In the case of the former: Jazze Pha. The latter: Milwaukee Black. I think many of us agree that having a primary producer for at least a debut album is good for all rappers, and it is certainly the case here.
Something that is really striking to me about Wood Work is that it really plays like it was meant for vinyl or cassette. That is, it's tone switches halfway through the album as though there are two separate sides. The first half is where the heavy hitters can be found: both singles, a good intro (what?), a great Killer Mike feature. Side A sort of falls off when the snoozer "Fantastic" comes in (read SMS's take here). The second half is really the impressive part to me. These guys show a lot of depth in their subject matter, are introspective, and with help from Sleepy Brown, Gipp, and George Clinton, how can you really go wrong? With those names, I guess I can see the OutKast tribute thing, but none of those songs remind me of DF at all, except maybe the album closer "Smoke N Ride."
As rappers, Big Marc and Sho 'Nuff are competent enough. The second half of the album is really interesting to listen to, since they show great range that was sort of missing from their singles. This is certainly worth a listen, in my mind.
I Don't Like The Look Of It (Oompa) (Feat. Caz Clay)
Whatcha Know 'Bout My Life (Feat. Big Gipp)