We did the albums yesterday, so now it’s time for this.
1. Young Jeezy: “My Hood.” This was not easy. “What You Know” is the obvious choice, the staggeringly huge monolith-banger, the thing I hear from every car driving under my window, the song I’ll probably remember as my soundtrack to the first three months of the year (plus it actually came out this year). “My Hood” could’ve maybe had that cultural impact, but it didn’t; it’s the third or fourth single off the Jeezy album, the one everyone forgot about. And Hype Williams absolutely mangled the video, filming a deliriously joyous technicolor kiddie-pop song in black and white, using nothing but shots of Jeezy and friends unenthusiastically rapping at the camera when they should be running over purple grass from a screaming mob of third-graders like Andre 3000 in the “B.O.B.” video, and plus he used one of those stupid split-screen letterbox things he throws in every goddam video lately. And so the song didn’t even dent the national consciousness, which is a shame, since it’s a fucking beautiful thing. Amidst all the grim chest-pounding of Let’s Get It, it sounds like a blast of unadulterated ecstasy, leavening all the fatalistic coke-talk with some excitedly happy coke-talk, plus one of those choruses that still gets its hooks into my brain when I just look at the title of the song. The sugar-rush organ-stabs are such a direct bite from T.I.’s “Rubber Band Man” that David Banner had to get a songwriting credit, and that’s just fine, because it’s done with even more widescreen abandon than “Rubber Band Man,” if that’s even possible. And Jeezy sounds so goddam adorable when he sings, like there’s nothing he’d rather be doing than running from cops, that it sounds like a great excuse to get outside for an afternoon. Just perfect.
2. T.I.: “What You Know.” This is exactly the sort of interview T.I. should be giving after the week he’s just had; he’s not even amped to finally have an album sell a half-million in a week and end up an easy #1 because he thinks he always should’ve been #1. He’s the king of the South for the same reason that Jay-Z was the king of New York for all those years; he says he is, he believes he is, and you can hear the confidence in his voice. He doesn’t drop any memorable lines on the verses of “What You Know” because the sound of his voice is enough, and the ay!s and oh!s and OK?s say more than words could. And “I’m fast as lightning, bruh / You better use ya Nikes, bruh” may read unbelievably lame on paper, but I love the way he says it, stretching out all his vowels into gravelly moans until he’s making sounds, not saying words. And then there’s the beat, maybe not the best thing DJ Toomp has ever done but the best thing I’ve ever heard him do, epic streaking synths and gut-churning Dario Argento synths weaving in and out of each other until they build each other up into this titanically huge thing. Rolling over the credits at the end of ATL, it’s kind of breathtaking. If I could get my phone to buy ringtones, I’d buy this ringtone.
3. Juvenile: “Get Ya Hustle On.” I’ve written a ton about this already, but I’m still not entirely sure what it means: the best-known rapper from New Orleans doing his Hurricane Katrina song, calling out Nagin as well as Bush, lashing out in all directions and saying he lost everything without even sounding particularly broken up about it, and then putting forth crack sales as the only way to economic recovery. The point has been made that he continually shouts out N.O.’s dealers without noting that every poor person in the city got hit hard by the storm, not just the criminals. But then, why should we expect Juvenile to have all the answers? Or any of them? I sure as hell don’t, and a confused, anguished, pissed-off, knuckleheaded rant about Katrina feels a lot truer to me than a didactic, finger-wagging one. More to the point, “Get Ya Hustle On” is a great rap song, deep and hard and tense and catchy (the “take the pyrex and then we rock with it, roll with it” part is a total non sequitur, but it just kills me). And the video is chilling, Juve in grainy, bleached-out blues and grays, rapping at a camera while the neighborhood behind him looks like Godzilla just walked through it.
4. Prince: “Black Sweat.” I actually liked “Musicology” (the single, not the album) better: fuller, more directly aimed at pleasure-centers, sincere and virtuosic in its nostalgia-funk. But “Black Sweat” remains simultaneously the most radical and accessible thing Prince has done in years, a razor-wire club-jam with all the kinky vocal theatrics and hidden hooks and coy ferocity that Price had back when he was still dependably great. It’s a Neptunes jack, sure, but the Neptunes copped their swagger from Prince in the first place, and it’s been a minute since we’ve heard an effective Neptunes track from the damn Neptunes, so Prince might as well do it. Prince’s sexed-up jabs connect (especially the “screaming like a white lady”) bit, and the stark, off-kilter drum-machine pulse is nasty. It’s good to have him back.
5. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: “Gold Lion.” The general consensus on Show Your Bones seems to be that the YYYs are moving pop in a sad and blatant attempt to ride “Maps” to something resembling actual stardom. But “Maps” was fragile and needy and hesitant where “Gold Lion” is strong and fierce and brash and enormous, a soaring classic-rock monster with a “Stairway to Heaven” build and and a “Whole Lotta Love” stomp. It doesn’t tremble; it roars. It’s also about absolutely nothing, as far as I can tell, which is not a problem at all; they wear opacity beautifully. Bonus: the Diplo remix sounds like “Black Sweat”!
Voice review: Nick Catucci on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Show Your Bones
6-10. Rihanna: “S.O.S.”; Kelis feat. Too $hort: “Bossy”; Lil Wayne: “Hustler Muzik”; Sean Paul: “Temperature”; Da Backwudz: “I Don’t Like the Look of It.”