17 April 2006


Riff Market 'Print This Out and Read it at the Gym' Post-Holiday Edition

Download: Clipse [ft. Pharrell]: "Mr. Me Too"
Download: Pharrell: "I'm A G" (Freestyle)"

Friday I was driving down 309 to see Riffmarket affiliates Jake the Snake and Assman, then go to one of those indie dance parties we inevitably end up at. The ride takes about 40 minutes front to back; if you time the lights right on Lincoln Drive (the road that killed Teddy Pendergrass, ostensibly for not timing said lights right), you can get away with saying you live "30 minutes from the city," which in high school meant you could also say you drank 66% more beer over the weekend than you actually did. Eventually the 65minute kids from Quakertown stole that bit and ruined it for everybody, but we'll get to that later.

Ant tied up the family car, so I ended up with Pop John's red Ford Explorer, Eddie Bauer edition. This one doesn't have a working CD or cassette deck--crucial detail, since Philly radio is rough unless you love Led Zeppelin exclusively, and yes that means Puffy's "Come With Me" too. Me, I gave up on Philly radio in the spring of 2000, when every fucking DJ in the city was giving rewinds to DMX's "Party Up," to the point that you could switch from Power 99 to Philly 103.9 mid-song and DMX would still be doing the strip club verse. When the traffic reporters started using the horn samples to open up their reports, and when a commercial for a local theater production of Othello changed the song's chorus to "Iago make me lose my mind," I finally bought one of those CD adapters and listened to Primus's Antipop nonstop like I probably should have been doing anyway.

I put on Power 99. There's a Beanie Sigel freestyle I've never heard, and the DJ Q Deezy keeps bringing it back, no explanations. He does this like eight or nine times, enjoying lazy dead air between rewinds, saying things like "something's not right" or "we're gonna do the top 15" or "OK I'm really tired of this Beanie Sigel freestyle I keep playing" but inevitably playing the record again, and the stop-start-repeat is totally infuriating, especially on this particular highway. 309, my parents tell me, was intentionally designed like a race car track--quick turns, no visibility, low shoulders--and since everybody's parents have told them this, everybody's going 75mph and tailgating for no strategic reason and laughing with their carmates at all the people going 60--they just don't know.

It's more infuriating though because when you get down towards the PA turnpike entrance, the road physically deteriorates. It becomes something of an obstacle course. Barricades come up on both sides, the lane space shrinks significantly, three and sometimes four separate lane lines compete for your obedience, pot holes surface, and three entrance ramps pump more traffic into the mix. I'm thinking American Gladiator--the Eliminator--Jazz, Nitro, and Siren are chasing your car with joust sticks, except now Siren can actually hear you. Where is Blaze? She is in the police helicopter directly above you, and she's very angry you're speeding.

Here on this stretch Deezy drops Clipse's "Mr. Me Too." I haven't had much to say about this song beyond the obvious, but there's something about simultaneously fearing for my life and wondering how Gemini was so fucking unstoppable at powerball that really gets me thinking. "Clear the streets out, come on with it." Well okay, Skateboard.

I tend to hear rap off tapes and blogs, on headphones and nanos and my hi-fi if it's before midnight. Never on the radio though Hot 97 is right there and I did meet Jae Millz at Shade 45 once, and never on a car radio. So obviously I miss stuff. I overprivilege lyrics and discount sonics, don't care that much about your subwoofers, don't understand the appeal of records chopped and/or screwed. I'm the east coast rap upper you love to hate; I even like Papoose.

What I missed the first 100 times through "Mr. Me Too" on headphones, the beat is some really scary shit. That static always lay low but I didn't know it oozed back and forth like that, like a dinosaur's shaking your car or like Jeff Goldblum's going batshit in your trunk because you've just kidnapped him and plan to harvest his organs. The main synth riff rings dead for the sound a cardoor makes when it's left open--never resolves, aims for sevenths but the whole thing shifts pitch last second no dice--and the snares don't snap but splatter, clipped and dragged and tired. First time through I said "oh it's Unsolved Mysteries ghosts of rap edition," but now I actually want to see that episode.

The idea has been tossed around since the track first hit, but Pharrell's verse really is the best one here, and in the car I figured out why. In the midst of a track that's so unsettling and so paranoid itself--ghost dinosaur paranoid--Pharrell remains completely calm. He's the only calm thing here actually, never a consonant clipped or chomped or spat:
Just last week I was out in Aspen
Me and Puff hoppin off the plane, both us laughing
A week before that, I was out in Italy
Italian heart throbs could not get rid of me
Up in Donatella's crib, me and like ten hoes
Call from the cell phone, give me that enzo

He catalogues his wealth, reps BBC, flexes his connects, probably pipes half this shit but what I like is his precision. Especially on In My Mind: The Prequel, Pharrell does bling post-Bad Boy but these aren't just status symbols--Pharrell really loves his earthlies, loves talking about them, knows every detail of every thing he owns, like a kid who can rattle off the stats, price, and acquisition date of every baseball card in his collection.

A bit one-track (as if Clipse aren't), but it's charming, childlike, and my guess is there's a bit of F. Scott banality of lavishness here too, which gives the Diddy shoutout some teeth. It's the apocalypse out there and this guy's talking about his fucking sneakers, and for whatever reason that's exactly what I needed to hear then. I'm not saying Pusha and Mal dropped the ball, but at song's end Q Deezy got back on, let out a huge sigh, then ran the track back, and I'm afraid it wasn't for "Pyrex stirrers turned into Cavalli furs."

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