Released late Friday, Jay-Z’s new single, “D.O.A (Death of Auto-Tune),” from the now thoroughly-announced The Blueprint 3, is less a Martin Luther-like cry for hip-hop reformation than an awkward slab of concept rap. The concept: That a new Jay-Z song about rap’s current “lack of aggression” and tight jeans, over a jagged No I.D. beat of choked clarinet and wailing guitar, simply by existing, represents the death of auto-tune.
That’s the idea anyway. Really, the song is just a new way to say “this is that real street shit”–e.g., this is that death of auto-tune shit. It’s a gimmicky song that sets out to destroy Rap & B’s latest gimmick. The stunt is reminiscent of Hip-Hop Is Dead, the rap-killing album by Jay-Z’s good buddy Nas, and Jay’s own American Gangster, which found businessman Jay-Z painted into a corner in which the only way to return to reliable gun-talk was to wrap it around a movie tie-in conceit.
In the two days or so since the song was released, “D.O.A.” hasn’t yet killed the vocal manipulation trend–and it probably won’t, ever. As VIBE‘s Sean Fennessey pointed out, HOT97–where the track debuted to the ritual flurry of Funkmaster Flex sound effects–was playing auto-tuned Ron Browz productions within a half hour of letting “D.O.A” out into the world. Can you kill something that parodied itself from its inception? When T-Pain’s collaborating with joke-rappers Lonely Island and um, Death Cab For Cutie have half-jokingly spoken out, you’re late to the game. At this point, the only thing more obnoxious than auto-tune is being categorically opposed to the trend.
Not to mention that “D.O.A.” comes at a moment when this auto-tune shit’s getting really interesting. Just in time to one-up Jay’s big comeback is “Jupiter’s Critic and the Mind of Mars” (streaming over at Cocaine Blunts) from DJ Quik and Kurupt’s BlaQKout (out on Tuesday). More fun than “D.O.A” and just as angry at recent rap trends, “Jupiter” kills auto-tune with craziness. Through a ridiculous layer of vocoder, DJ Quik rapid-fires insults at rap’s retreat to the internet: “Type that shit like you’re a vet/You ain’t nothing but a derelict/Flirting with little boys under fourteen years/Why you out there with a Gerald Levert beard?” The song, on which content happily murders form, beats the trend at its own game–it’s simultaneously a virtuoso use of the technology and reminder of how cynically others employ an inherently goofy production trick.
“Jupiter’s Critic and the Mind of Mars” is the most recent example of many to employ the program’s effects for something beyond robotically-wheezed hooks. Here are a few others that show auto-tune–hyped Jay-Z single or no hyped Jay-Z single–isn’t dying. but developing:
–Kanye West: “Paranoid,” off 808s & Heartbreak
–Ryan Leslie: “Gibberish,” off Ryan Leslie
–Egyptian Lover: “Freaky DJ.” off Electro Pharaoh
–DJ Class: “I’m the Ish,” off the upcoming Coldspring & Alameda