Wednesday, November 30
Better than: Ja Rule’s acting in The Fast and the Furious.
It seems cruel that as the recession continues to hit the “snooze” button, Swizz Beatz has picked up yet another job, another paycheck. He is the luxe James Franco, collecting 1099s like passport stamps: an NYU professorship here, a Reebok partnership there; Aston-Martin and the cartoon Voltron demand his services. Last night, in the lobby of Frank Gehry’s IAC building, the higher-than-high-end British car company Lotus revealed its first product with Swizz’s participation: the first chrome-painted coupe, which is not chrome metal, but… I don’t know, the distinction was lost on me. Swizz felt it was a big deal, though, so he kept mentioning it.
As drinks were served in votive-candle glasses, Swizz’s music played overhead, a mélange of nasal chants and stagger-beats. Alicia Keys stopped on the red carpet, leather jacket and soft hair. There was Carmelo Anthony, leaning so far down to have a girl put a wristband on him; nearby, Russell Simmons was making his way out, pretty early in the night. DMX’s brother stood onstage throughout the night—Swizz shouted him out. Someone noticed Steven Baldwin “and his brother who looks like him.” You know, Alec.
T.I. walked onstage, a pimpish limp in his step. His military jacket outfitted him for the battle ahead: getting a room full of Basquiat buyers to party. Tip bobbed and weaved, jostling like a key in pocket while Swizz played the straight man, hyping him up with “Work! Work! Work!” on the off-beats. (Watching the two of them interact, the thought crossed my mind that it’d be so awesome if T.I. and Swizz went on the road as a vaudeville duo, criss-crossing the country to hit Elks Clubs and saloons with their rapid-fire routines.) It’s not hard to screw up four songs when you’re of T.I.’s stature (just spin the globe and pick a finger) but it’s worth noting that his setlist was tight, and chock-full of his classic street hits. The Big KRIT-produced “Flexin,” released to the blogs last month, is a Super Mario Bros. green mushroom, an extra life for Tip. It’s so refreshing to hear T.I. with a fire lit beneath him—for so long he has pandered to crossover crowds with lukewarm records. This seems like a better direction, post-jail as it may be.
And if that was the end of the night, it might’ve been a pretty damn good night. Instead, as if to prove that the crowd was more receptive to hip-hop than previously thought, Swizz brought out two of his newest projects: Colin, an Irishman who looked very pirate-like in mascara and ‘kerchief, sang Bob Marley’s “Redemption Song” and D’Angelo; and Universal’s new signee CJ, a smiling white kid who I probably went to high school with, covered Michael Jackson. (Swizz, while nudging the crowd to pay attention to his blue-eyed soul singers, talked about how color doesn’t matter; while true in job applications, it was a minor faux pas on a night that he was celebrating chrome-painted Lotuses.)
Critical bias: Once, about six months ago, Swizz Beatz pumped my Reebok Pumps. Also, I could argue that he’s the most influential producer in hip-hop, and that argument wouldn’t be based on the fact that he once pumped my Pumps.
Overheard: “Who here misses Michael Jackson? Who here loved Michael Jackson? I’m talking ’bout Michael Jackson because I’m a fan. I wish I could give that car to Michael Jackson, because he always wanted futuristic fly shit. (adopting Michael’s voice) ‘Swizz, I want a rocket ship car that has the color chrome painted on’.” – Swizz Beatz, whose idea of a present-day Michael Jackson seems very specific.
Random notebook dump: The IAC Building is so far from everything. I’m glad I don’t have to commute there.
Bring Em Out
Swing Ya Rag
What You Know
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 1, 2011