You can’t really tell, but that’s me and Juicy J
At around 1:30 this afternoon, I ran into Juicy J from Three 6 Mafia as he was walking into the pizza place across from the Voice offices, and I sort of dorked out. Even though it’s pretty hot outside today, he was wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt that said I love having sex on the front and But I’d rather get some head on the back. I got all nervous even though I’ve interviewed the guy twice. He didn’t really say anything, but he was patient enough to wait around while I fumbled around with my iPhone trying to get a picture. (That above picture is the best of the three I took, which should tell you how shitty a cell-phone photographer I am.) I figure that has to be a good omen for my departure, right? Juicy J?
I didn’t tell Juicy that “Lolli Lolli (Pop That Body)” did not come anywhere near my quarterly singles list. (I did, however, tell him that the new album bangs, which it basically does.) I didn’t realize until I started putting this list together, but the past three months have been just as rich for singles as they’ve been for albums, and there’s been a ton of great rap singles in particular. A lot of songs I loved didn’t make the final cut, so if anyone wants to know, make noise and I’ll list 11 through 20 in the comments section.
1. Young Jeezy: “Put On [feat. Kanye West]”
A monster of a song, with a moving undercurrent that goes beyond the adrenaline-rush. As a Jeezy banger, it’s the most epic thing we’ve heard since “Hypnotize.” Drumma Boy’s track is absurd furious world-swallowing gothic melodrama: drums titanic, synth-glimmers beautiful. Jeezy just attacks this thing with a blood-and-thunder ferocity I haven’t heard from him before. His lyrics here might not go beyond his usual bigger-than-life I-am-the-trap stuff, but he gets those sentiments across with more wit and style than he’s ever attempted before. I love that Super 8/super plate/super cake/super freight bit in the first verse and the extended food metaphors in the second. But while Jeezy is all chest-thumping triumph here, Kanye comes along all autotuned-out and sounding inconsolable, ranting paranoiac depressive shit about how he can’t trust anyone now that he’s famous and how the success he’s worked so hard to achieve isn’t bringing him anywhere closer to actual happiness. And somehow Jeezy’s big talk and Kanye’s pathos mesh both with the track and with each other perfectly. I can’t imagine it was conceived this way, but the track works as a shockingly multifaceted meditation on success, on both the exhilaration and the stress that come along with it. It’s dark as hell, but nothing sounds better in my car on a sunny day. That’s a near-impossible balance to pull off.
2. Trace Adkins: “You’re Gonna Miss This”
A heartrending character-sketch in three verses. With economical grace, each verse catches up with a woman at a different transitional stage in her life. Each time, she’s looking to the future, laying out her five-year plan. And each time, an older and (one assumes) wiser voice advises her to slow down, to enjoy every shitty squalid broke-ass moment of her life while she can because she’ll miss it when it’s over. And sure, it’s standard Nashville assembly-line sentimental drip, but it’s standard Nashville assembly-line sentimental drip that just turns me into a puddle every time I hear it. Adkins delivers it in a lived-in plainspoken grown-man drawl, one that radiates sympathy both for the girl and for the oldsters. The song builds from acoustic murmur on the verses to full-blooded Southern-rock wail on the kicker of a chorus, doing everything exactly the way it should. All this from the “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk” guy. Country music will always amaze me.
3. Hotstylz: “Lookin’ Boy [feat. Yung Joc]”
Last fall, a couple of people sent me this YouTube video: three dudes making fun of each other over a super-rudimentary snap beat, talking all fast and laughing at each other’s jokes and running out of breath and dropping truly absurd pop-culture references while their punchlines flash on the screen. A few months later, some label snaps these guys up, takes out all the cusswords and adds a super-rudimentary chorus and a Yung Joc verse and fake laughter to replace the real laughter from the original. And somehow, blessedly, the track never loses any of its uber-random novelty appeal in the process. It helps that nobody thought to change the ridiculously cheap beat, and it helps that Joc totally gets it; I didn’t know the verse with the “Oh it’s the first of the month, Bone Thug lookin’ boy” line was his until I saw the video. But the real reason “Lookin’ Boy” remains nearly as funny the millionth time as it was the first is that the insults basically make no sense at all: “Spongebob on your shirt lookin’ boy / Aaaah, play in dirt lookin’ boy.” I have no idea why that’s funny; it just is. Not even “Get Silly” is this gleefully silly; it’s the Pharcyde’s “Ya Mama,” updated for the goofy-dance era. The unofficial R. Kelly remix, where Kells makes fun of girls for looking like Shabba Ranks and Elmer Fudd, is also essential.
4. Lil Wayne: “A Milli”
There’s not too much left to say about this song now that its hammering insanity has conquered the universe and every rapper’s mother has already freestyled over it. So I might as well use this space to do something I promised to do a while ago: publicly make fun of my friend Alison’s ex-boyfriend Chris. One time, I had this party, and Chris got all drunk and puked in my sink. Then he spent the next 45 minutes sitting on my bathroom floor and crying. He never cleaned his puke out of the sink or even apologized for it. There were dishes in that sink! It was out of hand. Um, yeah. “A Milli” is a really good song.
5. T.I.: “No Matter What”
T.I.’s irredeemably dumb gun case has forced him, maybe too early, into the mature, reflective phase of his career, and it’s to the guy’s credit that even a mea culpa motivational-speaker track like this one works as a declaration of dominance. The beat is gorgeously airy: organ swells, cheesed-out blues-guitar, weird little zappy synth-noises. And T.I. sounds slow and elegiac, but his voice still carries the joy and happiness of someone who knows that he’s really, really good at what he does, especially in the great little Shawty Lo subliminal. The harsh, direct, emotional stuff hits its mark hard: “I lost my partner and my daughter in the same year / Somehow I rise above my problems and remain here.” But even when this guy is baring his soul, he’s still bragging.
6-10. State Property: “Oceans Seven”; Ebony Bones: “We Know All About You”; Lady Antebellum: “Love Don’t Live Here”; V.I.C.: “Get Silly”; Lil Wayne: “Lollipop Remix [feat. Kanye West]”