May 22, 2008
Yeah so what if I ain't posted in a month and a half? I got problems.

It's a good thing it's time for a rap entry, because I've been thinking entirely too much about electoral politics recently. There's nothing to say in that field that hasn't already been said, and I've promised myself to never talk about it in this blog (at least not as a primary topic). I might have some things to say about historical campaigns, that might be interesting. But governance is so fucking boring in the twilight hours of the Bush presidency - I mean, do you remember a single thing Clinton did in 2000? 2000 was Bush's year, and 2008 is almost assuredly Obama's year.

Point is, I might have something interesting to say about that. For now: rap!

I saw the Glow in the Dark tour about a week or so ago, and I have to say, it was fuck*ng fantastic. I've seen Lupe Fiasco four times now and his shit is starting to get old, N.E.R.D. and Rihanna are a lot of fun, but Kanye fucking stole the show, doing a one-man high-tech stage show unlike anything I've ever seen. But I've slathered all over Kanye enough for one blog (hey, Stereogum is self-conscious, so I can be self-conscious too). Directly surrounding the show, I listened to a lot of College Dropout, and I paid some attention to "Last Call." I wanted to ask this of my approximately four readers: what's the best non-track a rapper has ever released?

The two iconic examples from the last few years are the previously mentioned "Last Call," a thirteen minute track where Kanye tells a very long story about how he got signed, and Lupe Fiasco's extremely self-indulgent "Outro," where he feels the need to thank every person he's ever worked with. Both tracks aren't completely interminable. As someone who likes Kanye as much as he likes Grover Cleveland, I don't mind his story. Lupe's has some nice vocal work. Going further, Man in the Mirror has some hilarious skits courtesy of Rhymefest. But let's move beyond the patron saints of Chicago Rap, eh?

OK, I'll admit it - I'm cooling off on Chamillionaire. The novelty of "Industry Groupie" wore off as soon as I realized that the first line in Kanye's "Homecoming" was a knockoff of "I Used To Love H.E.R." and the more politically involved I get the less impressed I am with the mainstream nihilism of his political trio. I think he's heading in the right direction, but needs some more maturing. That said, he's got some really hilarious skits on Ultimate Victory that aren't as pointless as Broke Phi Broke. I think a successful skit has to have something more than a good joke - it has to have good actors, where their appeal lasts long after the "aha!" where you get the joke, however stupid and small. Cham pulls it off.

Digging further into my library, I put The Roots' "Waok (Ay) Rollcall" into the same category as "Industry Groupie." A bunch of beating off into the microphone. Look, I love the idea of hip hop as culture as much as the next guy, and as I've repeatedly insisted, hip hop is a great sociological phenomenon - posses, influences, shout outs, guests, rivalries and community. There's no medium in the world that does anything like that. Rappers are better role models than the media gives them credit for - I'm always impressed at the importance rappers tend to put on friendship, introducing new rappers, collaborating, always trying something new. Rap's unique - I mean, where would we be without "One, two, three and to the four, Snoop Doggy Dogg and Dr. Dre is at the door?"

Point is, you can track any number of artist relationships, beefs, and egos, but another track rattling off your influences is useless and uninformative just because the sense of community is so self-evident. The Roots, you were inspired by A Tribe Called Quest? Every white person's rapper, with the exception of Lupe Fiasco, also was. Leave it be.

On a totally different tack, Ohmega Watts' "Shorty Shouts" is a great piece of production backing some, well, shouting from his nephews. It's endearing and pleasant to listen to, without trying to be "funny." It's probably the best example of a track being pious without being sanctimonious, reminding the listeners that you can be a rapper and a family man.

I think my favorite non-track of all time is "I Got to Tell You" by Dr. Octagon. If you're not familiar, wikipedia says the following:

"Dr. Octagon is an extraterrestrial, time-traveling surgeon / obstetric gynecologist who has sex with his patients and nurses."

See, awesome already. The track is a 40 second "ad" for his "services" that directly precedes the iconic "Earth People." It runs over a recording of Pachelbel's Canon in D where he explains that he's available for "intestine surgery, rectal rebuilding, relocated saliva glands and chimpanzee acne, and of course moosebumps." Moosebumps, of course, receives about 5000 hits on Google and its only definition on Urbandictionary is "Something you DO NOT want on your nuts. Mom, i can't was the dishes i have moosebumps."

The phone number he offers is fantastic, if only for the crass disregard of the audience's intelligence, the gloriously immature use of euphemism. It's the most glorious middle finger the rap game has ever produced, and the beat behind Pachelbel and the scratches as the song fade out make it interminably catchy. I was kind of hoping it was a full track.

It seems pointless to overanalyze such a short skit, but for my money, it's well worth the price of the entire album. It's such a perfect nugget of dismissive irreverence that sets the tone for the whole album - which is a tone that rappers could pick up. You ever notice that rappers are so fucking serious? They're either macho posturing, being socially conscious, partying hard, or, in the case of Kanye West, having a little mini therapy session. But rap is a genre where you can be funny without being a novelty artist. How come it's only the Beasties that even bother ch-checking out that scene? There are plenty of punchlines, but there's always a purpose behind it. No one does irreverence like doc oc.

Pick up Dr. Octagonecologyst, if you haven't already. I think I'm gonna have that skit on repeat a few more times. Next entry's probably on the MTV hottest MCs list. Maybe.

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