In the past week, brothers Jeff and Eric Rosenthal of sketch comedy duo ItsTheReal have released a DJ Drama–hosted mixtape, Urbane Outfitters, with the likes of Hannibal Buress, Bun B, Maino, Lil Jon, and Freeway; been written up in a variety of outlets, from the New York Times to Billboard to Fast Company; and retweeted Macklemore nine times. To close out their week, they're doing our Songs of the Week, because it's the final step in "making it."
N.O.R.E. ft. 2 Chainz, French Montana, and Pusha T, "Tadow"
Jeff Rosenthal: These are the things that go “tadow” for French Montana: his chopper, her ass, his money, and his bling. I don’t know if it’s a sound or an adjective or a combonomatopoeia, but it’s certainly something I’m adding to my everyday-speak.
Rembert Browne: Why aren't you guys in the N.O.R.E./P.A.P.I. video for "Built Pyramids”?
One of the best songs of the year gets a video, and it's a "Sky's the Limit" kind of deal: Jessie and her producer go about recording hot music, rocking hot shows, and eating white-bread-and-mayonnaise sandwiches, but it's actually microscopic little tiny moppet stand-ins, doing their best to look like they know where the "on" switch for the Korg is. The music biz is a tough bitch, kids. Don't you go growing up too fast.
"I used to be a way better writer and a rapper when I used to want a black Carmengia.
Now a n---- speedin' in a Porsche, feeling like I'm going off of course."
— André 3000
Three notes here:
The one obvious criticism: I really don't like how André 3000 is TOTES ripping off Kendrick Lamar's style here.
Chill, bro. That's a joke. Stay out of my inbox about it.
By the time you get to the end of this song, chances are you'll forget that T.I. is even alive because André 3000 is GODDAMN TOUGH here, son. If you're a rapper and you're on a song with him and he starts doing that hyper-nasally sing-song thing that only he and God can do, then just fuck your life. You're taking that L, that's all there is to it.
Election night afternoon. Focusing on anything else is futile, but I try anyway. I play half of the first Tom Tom Club album in my office; when my nerves demand something stronger I start banging sense-annhilatingly well-constructed radio singles instead. For the last few weeks I've been looping "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" like a Consumer Reports lab tech trying to wear out a tire, so I do that again, and then I play fun.'s "Some Nights" (Freddie Mercury ghost-riding an REO Speedwagon over Bow Wow Wow Burundi-beats) and then I play Ke$ha's "Die Young," which is basically a weaponized "Teenage Dream" with bubblegum-L'Trimm rap verses as value-add, i.e., it's amazing, maybe the pinnacle of a really good year for the-club-is-a-battlefield Hunger Games pop songs.
Within the niche of hip-hop ad libs — those trademark phrases tossed out by your favorite rappers as delicious garnish to the surf and turf they're serving you — there is an even smaller categorization: the rap laugh. For reasons we can certainly guess at (their wealth, their power, their ability to rhyme words very well), rappers love breaking out in spontaneous, if often ominous, laughter. And while, like the mysteries of the Higgs boson, the question as to which MC laughs best might never be satisfactorily answered over the span of our lifetimes, that doesn't mean we can't talk it out. So now, as merely a humble, small addition to the fiery debate, we here at Grantland pay tribute to four rap-laugh titans: Young Jeezy, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, and Jadakiss. Ha. Ha. Ha. Ha.
With all due respect to cackle pioneer Jadakiss, I strongly believe he was knocked off his throne when Young Jeezy officially burst onto the scene in 2005 with Thug Motivation 101: Let's Get It. Jeezy's simple but triumphant "ha-ha" giggle is great because it's often an agent of happiness within lyrics that are anything but happy. This might just be me, but every time he does it, I imagine Jeezy throwing a pile of money in the air, à la LeBron and the pregame chalk, with the biggest smile on his round face.
Usher works his falsetto as he teams up with Diplo, who outfits this post-grown and sexy jam with sad electronic growls. Taking cues from minimal techno and The Weeknd's dark down-tempo R&B, "Climax" is a quiet storm that is less about climaxing, more about edgeplay on a late-night express train to nowhere. Grade: A Best YouTube Comment: "whenever I hear this song I look to the nearest person to me and look them in the eyes and whisper 'body roll,' then I body roll like nobody's business." — jmkeo44
At this weekend's annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, President Obama stepped up to the podium and delivered a pretty entertaining 17 minutes of stand-up. He kicked things off with the classic “Wait, my mic was on?” gag, which slagged off both the cast of Glee and Kim Kardashian; later, he made self-deprecating jokes about how the presidency was affecting his physical appearance by insinuating he was slowly but surely morphing into Morgan Freeman.
Betty White has forgotten more about doing awesome stuff than most of us will ever learn. You could probably be like, "Hey, Betty, remember that time you serenaded Eisenhower, or that time you accidentally stepped on Patrick Duffy's foot, or that time you took a photo with a giant python around your neck?” and she'd be like, “Huh? What? Who cares about that bullshit?” and then she'd go off to learn how to juggle knives or something. On that note: This week Betty White did two more rad things.
Landing a verse from André 3000, the Big Foot of hip-hop, is a great way to show your industry pull. The problem here for Jeezy, though, is that Drake’s album just had a brand new 3 Stacks feature, while this “I Do” verse has been floating around for over a year. Come on, ‘Dre: goddamn Ke$hagets a new one, but Jeezy has to settle for scraps?
Considering that this is an Auto-Tune-free ballad whose video features T-Pain gently stroking piano keys in the dark, there is plenty to make fun of. Let’s just focus on this one line, though: “When I’m diseased / I hope you’re dying next to me / In my watery grave.” Thanks for giving him "watery," Lonely Island!
Editor's note: Chris is hungover. Rembert got 8 hours of sleep and has been running on Dunkin' since 7 a.m. Looks like the perfect scenario to talk about what's left in the year of rap.
Chris: “Then we came to the end of another dull and lurid year.” Famous Bronx MC, and Grantland interview subject, Don DeLillo opened his book Americana with that line. That’s sort of how I’ve been feeling about hip-hop as we wind down 2011. But we did not come here to bury rap, but to praise it. Rem and I went back and forth on what albums and events (okay, event) we were looking forward to, shuffled them around in order and came up with this handy guide to the Fall/Winter ‘11 lineup. By the way, we'd include release dates, but anyone who follows rap can knows that release dates are merely suggestions and sometimes even jokes (we see you Detox! Except we don't! Sigh).
Rembert: First off, Chris, the best way to cure a hangover is to stand in a freezing cold shower while drinking a full glass of maple syrup. Secondly, I'm extremely impressed by your starting rotation. I never expect people not from Atlanta to like Young Jeezy as much as we do, so good for you. Also, since you've got the Watch The Throne tour on your list and are making money, whereas I'm taking out student loans, feel free to splurge on an extra ticket.
Game feat. Kendrick Lamar, “The City”
The Game returns! His oft-delayed R.E.D. Album has leaked a week ahead of its official release date, and it packs heaters. So far nothing sounds better than “The City,” a Cool & Dre-produced bit of melodrama in which Game is utterly and comprehensively upstaged by the young Kendrick Lamar — whose tricky, over-enunciated flow continues to be a delight wherever it pops up — and then, with his trademark lack of self-awareness, proceeds to declare himself one of the top five rappers of all time anyway.
1. Beyoncé and the Roots, "Best Thing I Never Had" (live on Jimmy Fallon)
Turns out the only person who can upstage Beyoncé in a ballad is the girl playing the piano behind her in this Fallon performance. She is feeling it so hard that not even Bey can keep up.
2. Young Jeezy, "Shake Life"
The real is back! With a Toto sample and his trademark positive attitude, rap's favorite motivational speaker returns to help you train for that triathlon.