Saturday, December 20, 2008

128 Oz. of Haterade: Plies' 'Da Realist'

What happened to this picture? I do not know... kinda like the new color scheme, though...

Look, let me clear something up real quick. I don't have a problem with mainstream rap, or songs that really don't have the most intelligent lyrics and/or aren't about much. I've been bumping Kutt Calhoun's "Speed" in the ride for like three months, and it is truly an inane song, with clunkers like "I serve 'em on Tuesday like Ruby's, Huey" and "They tryin' to roll a n**** like Smokey (Smokey and the BANDIT, n****?) Yeah n****, just like Smokey."

And I know, that's my problem. My other problem is that I'm a production guy. I grew up with a family that was into music... my mom's a choir director, my sister is an opera major, and I've been playing drums, trumpet, guitar (and now making beats) for as long as I can remember. I was drawn to hip-hop production mainly by way of DJ Premier, then even more so with the Beatminerz, Nashiem Myrick, MF Doom and Madlib. Having made something in the neighborhood of 150 or so beats (plenty of them bad), I can appreciate the work that goes into crafting a seamless, intricate beat.

Which brings us to the skittery hi-hats and TR-909 blasts of southern bounce production, which I also don't hate. Ludacris, in particular, has shown a penchant for picking a wide palette of variations on it that work very well (although let's be honest, "Do the Right Thang" is clunkier than a '73 Gremlin on three wheels; Luda should've just copped MF Doom's take on that sample).

A sizable number of southern rappers, however, opt for the opposite approach. I can also appreciate how easy it is to put together a generic-sounding trap-rap beat with the same Legion-of-Doom synths a gazillion people have already used.

Vibe magazine says Plies is the future of hip-hop. I kinda hope not.

A few quick notes on Da Realist:

• "Me and My Goons" - The vocal echoes on this song are mystifyingly annoying. They're repeating the line he just said, which doesn't rhyme with the line he's saying... the minimalist, stark beat is nice, though.
• "Gotta Be" - Plies rhymes over what kind of sounds like an old XScape track. Or Mary J. Blige. Or any Mid-'90s R&B Singer.
• "Want It, Need It" - Continuing with the theme established by "Gotta Be," I dare you to listen to this song and NOT envision any number of collaborations between a Mid-'90s Rapper of the Moment and His Sexy Counterpart R&B Chick, in a video where they spend the whole thing about an inch and a half from making out. From the cornball shaker fills to the Mariah-Carey clone job that Ashanti does on the chorus, this song had me all misty-eyed and shit reminiscing about the high-school homecoming dance.
• "2nd Chance" - This is what I'm talking about with Ludacris. This is a cool spin on the classic southern-bounce beat; some deep-space underwater shit.
• "All Black" - Probably my favorite track. Ultraminimalist, nothing but 909 percussion and low-end.
• "Pants Hang Low" - Another favorite, with a nice lockstep bounce on the hook.

But while there are a solid half-dozen tracks that I wouldn't immediately discard and never listen to again, it's also difficult to get over all of the mushmouth rhyming. Vibe's future of rap music kinda sounds like Master P and Soulja Boy somehow conceived a child. 

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