Seconds later, Clipse perform skateboard tricks
Justifying Jeezy and Clipse’s Coke Rhymes, and Other Stuff
He’s the action-movie villain you end up rooting for, just because he’s so much smarter and more interesting and better-prepared than the hero–Dennis Hopper in Speed or Land of the Dead, but with the added weight and desperation of race and class. He doesn’t talk about selling drugs because he likes being evil; he does it because it was one of the only options available to him; there’s revelry and glee in his voice, but there’s also a sort of grim determinism.
Hold the villain talk, Jeezy might even think of his dealings as a favor to the streets–he’s a party-thrower, as anyone who knows that coke-as-chemical wants nothing more than to attach itself to the brain’s pleasure nodes and tickle tickle tickle. Who could ever hate the snowman? days off, no homework, sledding? All’s too say, Jeezy’s trap game is friendlier, less snooty–and because coke is cheap, is his demeanor indicative of the general? Rumors from Philly involve a friend actually able to bargain with his man, just to prove how nice the guy was. Beyond that, I have this feeling un-rich people remember the drug’s exclusive, high-class cost and appeal too, which means Jeezy (to echo Status) does represent some sort of race and class struggle: The Wall Street spoon-and-mirror disco drug has been democratized with no maddeningly dangerous loss in quality (crack) or Reaganomic conspiracy theories. Social progress indeed.
So if Jeezy sounds carefree or dude-lovely or maybe even a bit dopey (ahem), I’m happy to get on the “that’s part of the appeal” side of that debate. “The streets love Jeezy and I love ’em back,” we get on “My Hood”; I’m not big on unnecessary hugs, but I’d totally hug this guy–his an all-night party with no forebearing of the morning after.
In the end I learned to love Jeezy for his demeanor, not for his wit. In the same way, I liked a childhood friend of mine who for four years told us the only thing he wanted to do in life was knock down all the parking meters in Philadelphia. “I would do it two nights before my 18th birthday too, that way if I got caught I’d still be tried as a minor.”
More clearly, Sean Fennessey calls Jeezy a stat head, more interested in the numbers of the coke game than the end results. Sounds in line with Biggie’s Ten Crack Commandments, which read less morally, more like a video game player’s guide. And Let’s Get It sounds that way most the way through, taking trap in absolute, zero-sin terms–if Jeezy sold coke in Yahoo games, he’d exact the same pleasure. A fantasy world with its own concerns, when you put down the controller, game–which it clearly is at this crucial moment– is over.
Keep in mind I don’t fuck with the video games breed violence, ban Grand Theft Auto type stuff–I just don’t know enough about how people’s brains work to weigh in or out. But in preparing a contrast to the Clipse’s new mixtape We Got It 4 Cheap, Vol. 2, I felt a palpable difference between Jeezy’s coke-as-fantasy / neo-geo hits the streets and Clipse’s real malevolence–destroying people poor and rich, black and white by exploiting man’s predisposition to pleasure, ascending the ranks by keeping others down, knowing exactly what they’re doing, understanding exactly the destructive power of their product, and laying it out on people who think Pusha and Malice and Re-Up are their friends for keeping them laced. “We hit you from afar on silencer,” says Pusha on “Re-Up Intro”; this is scary scary shit, no pleasures of coke rhymes, no stadium stats, a crude but utterly real social Darwinism at work, indiscriminate, and because it’s so cheap, finally actually working. Walk down St. Marks at 9am–take a look around.
This is why I said above to hold the villain talk: Clipse, Pusha in particular, are smarter and more interesting and better-prepared than our heros. Over the “Kobra” instrumental that Alchemist did for Mobb Deep–a beat that could make the grandma over “Rapper’s Delight” sound pretty damn hard–Pusha starts:
quite frankly i don't understand these claims
you ain't know i was pusha a/k/a brick james
you can't touch this, on all the fans lists of names
i hibernated immediate when pusha hit fame
He’s my age I think, Pusha. I only dream of writing something a tenth as brilliant as that stanza, getting away with a Rick James ref three years past prime, jumping up and down from superfreak to Hammer to zoology in five sec flat. Same thing with a few lines over Cassidy’s “I’m A Hustla”:
Got more white in the hood than the KKK
the grandwizard of the almighty blizzard
The whole tape primarily uses for beats 2005’s more popular instrumentals–“Hate It or Love It,” “One Thing” (“it’s this one thing that got you trippin”), “The Corner,” another beat from Game’s album (“Put You On the Game”) which carries its own “we’re gonna do this track right” appeal to it–so by and large the emphasis strictly and undistractedly falls on what Clipse have to say, how they say it, etc. I’m in the minority of people who think Clipse’s rhymes could never get away with that shit on Lord Willin’, which I liked mostly for the Neptunes’ contributions/dominance, but couldn’t condone the coke rhymes. But three years later, their talent on the mic and all-around nimbleness–does it exonerate the sinister content, ill-will even?
Pusha on “Play Your Part”:
all the snow in the timepiece confusin them
all the snow on the concrete peruvian
i flew em in, it ruined men, i'm through with them
blame for misguiding their life
so go and sue me then
The anti-coke, anti-cokehead among us might say Clipse are new Counts of Monte Cristo, wronged by history (take this how you want), armed with important facts re: human weaknesses, now exacting revenge indiscriminately and at large. Pusha might have the biggest fucking chip on his shoulder ever. And whereas a lot of today’s pro forma thugs brag dealing as a pedigree–now, really guys, they’re rappers–Clipse insist they’re dealers before artistes, or at least partake equally in the professions:
Pusha on “Monopoly”:
four rap niggas with a dope dealer swagger
can you call it swagger if you still really bag up
So it’s not “won’t stop till my whole team in thug mansion,” it’s (ironically) “monopolize the corners we on em like board games.” Frightening–only one person wins that game.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 5, 2005