King or not, T.I. essentially gets bottom billing on his single “Swagger Like Us,” which also features Kanye West, Lil Wayne, and Jay-Z. Ridiculous, right? And yet Mr. Candle Guy still steals the scene.
Kanye sports a memorable line or two, with: “I know I got it first / I’m Christopher Columbus, y’all just the pilgrims.” But with the mixtape-style beat he jacked from M.I.A., the producer still comes off a bit lackluster. Meanwhile Jay-Z just raps about stacks of money (“Can’t wear skinny jeans ’cause my knots don’t fit”), and Lil Wayne is still using that effing autotune effect. Enter T.I.:
You go see Weezy for the wordplay
Jeezy for the birdplay
Kanyeezy for diversity
And me for controversy
Though more compliment than kiss-off, T.I.’s opening salvo establishes him as the ace in this star-studded deck. His three colleagues have their uses, he’s saying, but by distilling each to a couple words he cuts them down to size while aggrandizing himself. If nothing else, T.I. puts himself on the same level as Jay-Z, Kanye, and Wayne — an impressive feat in itself.
“Cannon,” the near-legendary cut from Lil Wayne’s Dedication 2 mixtape, is stunning through and through — possibly the best use of guest verses this decade. Every rapper — Wayne, Freeway, Detroit Red, Willie the Kid, and Juice — puts in a couple knockout punches. It’s like watching the Harlem Globetrotters as they toy with the “cannon” sample, shooting behind their backs, dribbling between their legs. But the most quietly impressive trick comes from Juice, tucked away until you think the last verse is over:
I’m hot, they fannin’
That’s it; four words. Can anyone beat that? “Fuck you, pay me” gets thrown around a lot, but that’s from Goodfellas. Surprisingly, the best that comes to mind is from Kanye West, who in the song “Two Words” spits:
I am limelight
Blueprint, five mics
In three words he points to his biggest success (at the time) and the pretty irrefutable cred that comes with The Blueprint getting The Source‘s perfect five-mic rating. The list of albums sharing that honor includes the saints of the hip-hop canon: Run-D.M.C., Straight Outta Compton, Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), The Chronic, Illmatic, and Aquemeni, just to name a few.
So: Who else has achieved such perfection in four words or less? Readers, I need your help on this one.
Wordsworth Media and Weezy F. Baby Productions present:
Weezy Wisdom: An Educational Adventure
Hip-Hop Wisdom is usually a pretty simple bit. Someone says something real funny or real smart, and you get to hear it. But today you’re gonna learn something. The line, from “Seat Down Low” on Da Drought 3, is:
I am so so New Orleans Like 1825 Tulane
“You gotta be from New Orleans to know what the fuck I’m talking about,” Weezy says as the synthified horns from the Mannie Fresh beat (originally from T.I.’s “Top Back”) fade out. Well now you don’t. Here’s the quick rundown, straight from NOLA-area comedy singer and online nostalgist Benny Grunch:
Rosenburg’s Furniture Store at 1825 Tulane Avenue absolutely won the radio and TV promo spot lifetime achievement award. The simple address, sung in a kindergarten child’s voice with no accompaniment, is totally indelible. You can’t forget it, ever. “Eighteen Twenty Five… Too- lane”
Hear the original jingle after the jump — 1,024 times more adorable than when Wayne sings it.
On first listen Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III was drop-dead stunning — even worth sitting through “Lollipop” to hear gems like “3 Peat” and “Phone Home.” I mean: “I’m rare, like Mr. Clean with hair”? Ace.
But too often this unabashed pop crossover opts for gooey R&B hooks with the likes of T-Pain and Babyface. There’s a time and a place for all that — like when the Wordsworth staff drops the top on the LeBaron and kicks some summer jams on the way to Myrtle Beach — but these rap/R&B hybrids can result in the most grotesque of lyrical abominations. Rap and R&B are like cousins: They act similar and get along really well, but they should NOT make babies with each other.
Slate‘s Jody Rosen nailed this dichotomy in her column about ringtone bestseller Akon:
It’s pointless to complain about hip-hop sexism at this late date—but it is dreary to find it seeping into R&B, once an oasis from rap’s brutish sexual politics. The larger problem with Akon’s “love songs” isn’t moral but aesthetic: the brain-numbing banality of another ode to a big-booty stripper whose “pussy get wet” when a playa flashes his cheddar. The poetic imagination at work here is summed up by the title of Akon’s biggest hit to date (in its unbowdlerized album version): “I Wanna Fuck You.”
And from thence comes “Mrs. Officer,” one of Lil Wayne’s more syrupy entrants into the library of sexual congress. The hook:
When I get up all in ya
We can hear the angels calling us
We can see the sunrise before us
And when I’m in that thang, I’ll make that body sang
I make it say wee ooh wee ooh wee…
That last bit’s kinda nice actually, a breezy police-siren melody just annoying enough to ring in your head all day. But there’s nothing romantic about the sticky way Bobby Valentino promises to “get up all in ya.” It’s like replacing a dozen roses with a six of Smirnoff Raw Tea and a box of Magnums. Maybe some E, if it’s Valentine’s Day.
It’s unclear who wrote those lyrics: Wayne, Bobby Valentino, or producer Deezle (who also did “Lollipop”). So in the name of justice, we’re putting them all in the Registry.
Throw in Akon, too. I wouldn’t trust him around my sister.