I disagree with those who feel that hip-hop is in stasis. (I should be in such stasis.) Maybe there’s no particular direction for the music, but that’s just because it has so much matter-of-fact variation and innovation that it’s always moving in a lot of directions. For instance, the airwaves have been swarming with Asian motifs, from Ja Rule, Missy Elliott, Petey Pablo, and Nelly, among others.
I wouldn’t call this Asianness a trend; it’s just episode number 94,045 in the genre’s fearless game of “I can use anything; can you top this?”: like, “Hah! Watch me! I’m rapping to the ‘Blank Generation’ guitar line.” “So what! I’ve got Chinese flutes, and time is on my side, nyaaah nyaaah nyaaah.”
Nonetheless, “Addictive” by Truth Hurts (real name Shari Watson; she’s 30, and like Tweet, a sudden star after having been in the business, bruised and unsuccessful, for years) is jaw-droppingly unexpected. It’s built around a high and piercing female vocal sampled from a Bombay movie musical. What excites me, beyond the fact that this is an interestingly complex track (Truth Hurts sings much of it in two-note phrases that start on the offbeat, thereby shifting the rhythm so that the Indian vocals seem to pulse around her), is that the Indian voice just won’t recede into the background. So in essence we’re not listening to hip-hop or r&b so much as to a Bollywood film song that has hip-hop and r&b disarranging it. I haven’t figured out how producer DJ Quik achieves this—I’ll listen 10 or 20 times and keep asking myself, “Damn, what’s he doing?” Foreground and background just won’t settle in with each other. There’s this pleasing unease: Since the song won’t keep a steady footing, it has to keep moving—like hip-hop itself.