August 13, 2004

Indian Summer Jams

Its mid August and summer's barely touched New York. The humidity showed its face today and it felt more like a warm familar embrace then the embalming body hold that tends to grip these concrete streets. VJ cue 'Do the Right Thing', ice cube scene.

Like the heat, the musical summer's been creeping up slow, threatening never to show. Threatening not to give us that summer jam. Early on it looked all Nina Sky. But it never felt quite right. While Nina Sky came complete with sickly sweet pop perfection, latin freestyle meets a dancehall riddim, flawless. But somehow it felt all throwback, the producers it seems never learned the lesson perfected by the Britney's and Aguilera's. Perfect pop is not just sugar hooks, it needs a shadow, a hint of a darkside, just subversive enough to peak an eyebrow, not enough to snarl a lip.

Its practically an indian summer now, and behind the Sky girls have crept up 3 more contenders. To honor the humidity I put all four on loop in iTunes and braved an hour.

'Move Your Body' as might be expected fell the quickest, a perfect surface, no deeper hooks. The other 3? Kevin Lyttle's 'Turn Me On', Franz Ferdinand's 'Take Me Out' and Fat Joe and the Terror Squad's 'Lean Back'.

'Lean Back' strangly enough starts out with nearly the same cord as 'Take Me Out', DJ's take note. Otherwise they couldn't be different. And while 'Take Me Out' fills a dancefloor iller then any indie rock in nearly a decade, I still can't take the aging rock genre seriously enough. Subversion again, rock once owned it, but the thone is hip hop's now.

Fat Joe rise to pop royalty has been a long slow and remarkable journey. Unlike so many fake gangsta rappers, it always felt like Fat Joe wasn't joking when he called himself Joey Crack. Factor in the fat and the puerto rican and you've got a pretty remarkable pop star. But it seems like Joe's been sitting in the South Bronx steadily learning, steadily tweaking his formula, steadily building toward the monster hit.

The breaking point I suspect came not in the metoric rise and fall of close friend Big Pun, but the form of Ja Rule, the man who truly defined the pop hip hop form before 50 Cent ruthlessly took him down. It was Ja Rule and producer Irv Gotti that seemed to learn that almost no one actually listens to hip hop lyrics, at least in a mass market context. As long as you have that hook in the chorus you can say just about anything else in the verses. Instant pop subversion. You don't even need to make it subtle the way the singers do. Just say some foul pimp/gangsta shit in the verses and slice in a sweet popism for the radio. Fat Joe got in quick with an early Ashanti duet, pulling in Ja Rule to litterally do nothing but growl. A few more moderate hits later and finally 'Lean Back'.

I can't remember the last time New York hip hop came out with a song with dance attached ala the Lean Back, aka the Rockaway. The Pee Wee Herman is the most recent that comes to mind, but there must be something between then and now. I guess it takes a fat Puerto Rican to drop a dance so ice cold that New York's head noddering thugs actually move. If only to lean back, stare at the ceiling and move their sholders to the beat. Yep its the summertime, do the Rockaway.

But while 'Lean Back' is the dancefloor's undisputed champ, its the sleeper song that has me hooked. Kevin Lyttle is perhaps even more unlikely to be riding the top of the US pop charts then Joe. Hailing from St. Vincent, Lyttle isn't even from Soca's homeland. Yet some how he's brought Soca into the US charts, albeit in a form that could easily be confused with either dancehall or R&B. That can't exactly have been an easy formula to perfect... But maybe its the perfect musical heroin, I've been hooked since it first poured out of some dancehall mix springtime. Now it seems the whole nation is about to cop a fix.

Posted by Abe at August 13, 2004 12:37 AM


Interesting to read about what sounds raise your brow these days... especially coming from the East Coast. On a personal level, I sense music is vitally integrated with politics for yourself. Not sure why, but music most often appeals to me on a more "romantic" level... not necessarily in terms of feelings for another, but more solitary somewhere within myself. Does this explain why I can get into madness like Jaheim and Ashanti? I'm a sheep in wolf's clothing.

la musica es chevere d' la puta mare ,puta pero mejor es DADDY YANKEE

la musica es chevere d' la puta mare ,puta pero mejor es DADDY YANKEE

la musica es chevere d' la puta mare ,puta pero mejor es DADDY YANKEE

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