The Quarterly Report: Status Ain't Hood's Favorite New Singles
We can argue about this shit when I get back
After this one, no more Status Ain't Hood for a week and a half because I'm getting married on Saturday. I'll miss you assholes. Here are some songs I like.
1. 50 Cent: "I Get Money"
Everything is obvious as hell: the Audio Two sample, the cold and empty bank-account talk, the evil buzzing synth. But sometimes obvious is exactly what you need. 50's self-aggrandizing sneer hasn't been this over-the-top and furious since, what, "Wanksta"? There's no introspection here, no feeling, just an absurd confidence that overwhelms everything around it. The track is harsher and less compromising than pretty much anything else on the radio, and it maintains its energy-surge throughout, partly by totally discarding any traditional song-structure. I love the third verse where 50 basically quits rapping and lapses into a playground-taunt singsong. And then he quits that and busts out the "Hip-Hop Hooray" chant, like words can no longer express just how much money he has and he just has to wave his wrist under your nose because he's sick of talking about it. Curtis might've been an absolute mess, but absolutely nobody is better at this sort of supervillain fuck-you than 50. And that quarter-water line makes up for months of idiocy just by itself.
Voice review: Greg Tate on 50 Cent's Curtis
2. M.I.A.: "Paper Planes Remix [feat. Bun B & Rich Boy]"
The original is totally irresistible, M.I.A. gorgeously skipping her voice over that eerie, skeletal Clash sample, breezily kicking robbery-threats in a mocking singsong pretty much exactly like the one 50 uses on "I Get Money." (Same basic message, too. The intent might be different, but the effect is the same.) The remix makes everything a whole lot more serious, though, Bun B and Rich Boy adding whole new dimensions to the track. Bun's verse in particular is an absolute master-class, maybe the best thing he's done since "The Story." His scope is vast: "We worldwide warring with the hunger and the thirst / From the third-world countries to the second and the thirst." His wisdom is sage: "Now, one thing's for certain, and two things for sure / Being poor is a disease, gotta hustle up a cure / Start with your head, homie, then use your hands / If you try it in reverse, you don't even stand a chance." And his mere presence on the track lends it a sort of force and gravity it never had before. And if M.I.A. is playfully kicking around ideas about violent wealth-distribution and Bun is talking about it seriously from a position of lived-in authority, Rich Boy sounds like someone right in the thick of need and desperation, without the luxury of perspective, delivering a chilling and delirious singsong gun-as-woman verse in his gummy cement-thick drawl. Easily the best pro-robbery anthem since "Ante Up."
Voice feature: Tom Breihan on M.I.A.
3. Dude 'N Nem: "Watch My Feet"
2007 may go down as the year when rave sonics fully and organically merged (or re-merged, maybe) with rap and R&B. From where I'm sitting, that's unequivocally a good thing, and I'm not even particularly mad that most of the rave sonics come from the Euro-superclub end of the spectrum (see the next two entries on this list). Still, it's enormously heartening to hear a track like this one, one that pulls both sounds together on a totally homespun neighborhood level and makes it just as catchy as the gazillion-dollar trance&B tracks. Chicago, along with Baltimore, is one of the few places in the country where house music has always remained, at some level, black music. And so "Watch My Feet" works something like "Still Tippin'" or "Bia Bia" or "Tear Da Club Up"; it's the sort of track that's catchy and fun and distinctive and accessible enough to translate a weird-as-fuck regional scene to a national level. Songs don't get a whole lot more riotously goofy than "Watch My Feet," and the rapping is barely more than utilitarian cheerleading for those berserk mile-a-minute hi-hats. But the track also has the same sort of slow-rotating bassline, as, say, Twista's "Adrenaline Rush," and the fast-and-slow contrast is the sort of thing that kajillionaire superproducer types would never, ever come up with on their own, which only ever emerge from untapped regional scenes. If more juke-house sounds like this, I might be able to get past the fact that juke-house is the dumbest name for a musical genre ever.
4. Rihanna: "Don't Stop the Music"
This one has a better strategic deployment of a Thriller-era Michael Jackson sample than Kanye's "The Good Life." ("Wanna Be Startin' Something" is a better song than "P.Y.T." anyway.) And the way that sample quietly churns under the surface during the verses and then explodes on the chorus, it just kills me. Rihanna is one of those singers who can't really convey emotion at all but whose music can totally devastate when it's utterly divested of feeling, when it's allowed to be nothing more than a conduit for dancefloor catharsis. I like her a whole lot better on hard, robotic tracks like this one or "S.O.S." than on delicate emo ones like "Umbrella" or "Hate That I Love You" since her voice is essentially a harsh, character-free cipher. She can't quite convincingly portray an actual human being, but she's totally untouchable when she drifts through a gleaming banger like this one. And when that voice shares space with huge clomping drums and ghostly MJ whoops, great things happen.
Voice review: Rodney Dugue on Rihanna's Good Girl Gone Bad
5. Timbaland: "The Way I Are [feat. Keri Hilson & D.O.E.]"
There's always been an overt techno streak running through Tim's work, but it's usually been the weird, hard stuff: ancestral NY electro, Detroit house, Miami bass, Bjork. Sometime last year, though, he must've started mainlining Black Box records, since a lot of his best recent single have sounded like the circa-92 Billboard dance tracks run through the distorted filter of his weirdo rhythmic sense. "The Way I Are" sounded vaguely flat and unremarkable on Shock Value, but as a single, it's gradually taken on an intangible quality of its own. I'm tempted to call it the best piece of fake Euro-cheese since that Mentos commercial where the guy rolls around on the wet-paint bench so his suit can have pinstripes. The "I ain't got no money" line is the giveaway; we all know Tim has more money than the Pope, and so the track is nothing more than shamelessly fake formalism. D.O.E. is just almost as charmingly halfassed as Chill Rob G on Snap!'s "The Power," and Keri Hilson is as weightless as the keyboards on the Art of Noise's "Moments in Love." Last year, I wrote an entry about how I wish hip-house would come back. This wasn't quite what I had in mind, but I'll take it.
6-10. N.O.R.E.: "Set It Off [feat. Swizz Beatz]," Soulja Boy Tell 'Em: "Crank That," Jay-Z: "Blue Magic," Soho Dolls: "Crash the Rental (Crystal Castles Remix)," Saigon: "Don't You Baby"
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in New York, delivered to your inbox.