Thursday, December 13, 2007
So I've been trying to write to this beat for like 3 months. For real. I'm on a mission to not write a bunch of depressing shit. It's been a problem for me, because I've always been more inclined to write when I'm troubled, upset or irritated about something. So, with this particular track, I've been trying my darndest to write some happy, upbeat, fa-la-la-la type Common shit. It ain't working.
I think, given the day, I will instead turn it into a reflective song about loss... you know, kinda like CL Smooth's "Reminisce" or something. It's a sad day in Hip Hop, but I get the feeling most people don't really realize just what has been lost. Therefore, I will break down the rappers/producers who just might not be around had it not been for the genius of Chad Butler.
• Tela- On Piece of Mind, Tela displayed his brilliance-- the ability to weave intricate stories, and deliver songs w/ depth, while still keeping the lyrics relatively simple and pimped out. Listen to early UGK albums (that's pre-Ridin Dirty). They were clearly Pimp's shows and he did exactly what Tela perfected on his first project.
• T.I.- I've often compared T.I. to Tela-- especially on Tip's first album. The laid-back flow, the pimp tales, the natural cool he emitted while still being aware of his mistakes and the world around him. If Tela influenced TIP and Pimp influenced Tela-- then again you see Chad's musical span.
• Jazzy Pha- Remember back when Jazzy was producing jamming ass works for Tela, Too Short, early TI, early Dave Hollister? The deep, candy/funk bass lines, heavy drums, pimped-out organs, soulful riffs-- that sound is part Memphis (Jazzy's daddy was a Bar-Kay) and part early-mid nineties TX...a sound Pimp helped to define. Plus, like Pimp, Jazzy sings w/ that old school styling and has a personality that sometimes is even larger than the music he makes.
• Sean Paul (from Youngbloodz). I don't think this needs any explanation. Just listen to "85 South."
The list could go on and on, but with the first three at least, you can see how much they've influenced music themselves-- making Pimp's genius even more undeniable. I hope ya'll will go back and listen to some of UGK's early records. They really are the essence of southern Hip Hop and really, new southern soul.
Thursday, December 6, 2007
Like most rap listeners, I'm still tripping off of the death of Pimp C... That's led me to think and reminisce on the other group that's always listed in the same breath as UGK as southern rap ambassadors, innovators and vets-- the Geto Boyz and namely, Eightball & MJG.
My favorite rapper of all time is Scarface-- who maybe unfairly, surpassed Pac around the time that The Last of a Dying Breed dropped and surpassed E-40 around the time that the Untouchable dropped. In my mind, Face has the kind of career that all rappers should strive to emulate-- on a number of levels. He's been able to remain true to the rawest elements of his lyricism and musicianship throughout his career, yet, he's evolved-- moving seamlessly between his own production and Mike Dean's to the Neptunes (on the Fix) without getting wack. That's spectacular in and of itself. He's never compromised his message, despite the changing times, yet, has managed to remain relevant and earn the nickname Uncle Face from the rappers who embrace and have helped perpetuate those changes. He can move from a solo artist to holding his own in a group-- which not many folks can do. Look at the Geto Boyz's last project-- the Foundation, or the Product where helped groom San Quinn's brother, Will Henn (who is sick) and Young Malice. He helped build a label, gets props from the "best" and can still go down to the neighborhood rib shack and not be bothered. Tell me that ain't a career these Young's (or Yung's) and Lil's should be trying to follow?
I ain't on his pole 'doe-- I'm jus' sayin'.
But enough about Face, the question that I really wanted to ask was, were in the hell are Ball & G? When Pimp died, and I hate to say it-- the story got more attention because UGK was back on the rise. They released a fairly well-received project this year, Pimp was doing hella interviews (where he was telling fools relevant shit) and sharing his Pimp Chronicles... they had managed to get themselves on the radar of kids who otherwise wouldn't have understood why they are so revered by longtime fans. But I started wondering, God forbid, what if that had been Ball, or JG?
In my mind, MJG is clearly one of the dopest lyricists of the past 15 years. Hands down. No More Glory was so intricate, so well executed-- it easily toppled the more popular effort by Ball, Lost. But if he had passed, I don't think the story would've gotten as much fanfare, even though he's arguably just as important to rap as Pimp was.
The reason is because Ball & G seem to have fallen victim to the times. And you know what the times call for-- artists who think it's okay to get murdered on their own songs, just so long as they have a big name to flaunt for the ringtones, ya know. Stuff like that.
It's sad as hell that Ball & G-- who still can spit, have finally succumbed to the madness. I can't remember the last time they dropped an album that where I couldn't at least enjoy one song (even Space Age 4Ever, which is one of their worst had "Things We Used to Do")-- but this last project, Ridin' High, was a damn lie. Dude, it was exhausting to listen to. And I tried...hard. For old time's sake, I gave it a chance. I have to wonder why they haven't been able to take the route that Face has, or even UGK, who's latest was obviously their worst project to date, but still was on track enough to at least satisfy old and new fans. To be honest, I miss these dudes. I miss the storytelling of Ball ("My Homeboy's Girlfriend") and the pure spittery of JG ("Friend or Foe"- which by the way, boasts one of the coldest verses of all time).
There is a way to enlist new fans and stay relevant without losing the qualities that made you instrumental to the game in the first place. I just hope Primro and Marlin will come back to me soon.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
I remember the first time I realized that I really had a thing for UGK. I was sitting at home in my basement, hanging with my uncle, who because of his age was really more like an older cousin. We were listening to resonating chorus, "one day you're here...and then you're gone...." I was way too young to truly understand the ever-present relevance of that song. I just knew it was bumping. Just like I knew "Feds" (Bun's crowning solo moment) and "F- My Car" were jamming. Anyway, my uncle and I listened to that song for like 2 hours on repeat that day.
Today, I'm tired of writing R.I.P. (insert blank) on my myspace page or under my gmail tag. Tired. I went to a few rap websites just hours after Pimp's death and noticed it was no longer the top story. In the past couple of years, have we really become that desensitized to young people dying? Or, are the sites representative of the terrible state of hip hop journalism? You know, writers/hip hop enthusiasts pretend to be concerned about the loss of this man's life, but as soon as the new next thing occurs, his life and legacy becomes nothing more than a convenient hip hop catch phrase that'll be splattered on tacky t-shirts and on graffiti walls in rap videos for about two months. Or...and I hate to say it-- maybe it's because these writers really don't understand Pimp's legacy. Maybe the first time they ever heard of UGK was on Jay's "Big Pimpin'." I felt much the same way when Mac Dre died...who has gotten more recognition and respect in death than he ever did alive.
These days, it seems like all we do is die and get sentenced.
I'd like to say "change is gon' come" 1960's negro-style, but the truth is-- I think that's more rhetoric than reality. More catch-phrase than truth. We live in a time where shit happens, then it's on to the next. There's never any real reflection. Never any real empathy--the kind that brings about understanding and reformation.
How much do you wanna bet that people will be concerned about Pimp's untimely death while it's the "hip hop" thing to do, but by the end of the month (or day) will be back to reporting on who Lil Wayne was kissing at a damn basketball game?
Anyways. I ramble sometimes. The point is,
Rest in peace, Chad.