Learning from Pusha T

The Clipse brothers Malice and Pusha T are important parts of hip hop.  Simply great rappers. Malice has focused on writing and his emerging career as a post-cocaine era ethicist.  Pusha T is rhyming and working with Kanye.  Pusha T’s April 2011 mixtape Fear of God provides evidence of the strength of Pusha T as a solo artist.  Great beat choice and compelling drug raps.  Again again and again.  “Feeling myself,” “alone in vegas,” “blow” . . . a lot of hits on this tape.

But honestly the beat from Souljah Boy’s “Speakers going hammer” stuck in my head.  It helps that the ending dialogue from the Pusha T version is so expressive of consumer identity and the stresses of entitled masculinity.

“She tells me: ‘oh I thought I saw you earlier.  This guy had a Range Rover just like you.'”

“I said Range Rover! Where?  This ain’t no  motherf**king range rover, this is a G-55, one hundred thirty thousand dollars of winter time throw away money.  You must be out your f**king mind.  See I can tell you ain’t gonna be around long.  You ain’t doing enough homework on your motherf**king n***er. Get it right.”

I was wondering who made the beat (Boi- 1da), so I went to check the Souljah boy original.

Souljah boy has been criticized for his pop sound and lack of depth.  I only knew the few hits, and the reputation.  But I know he is capable of quality rapping.   Gucci Mane, Waka Flocka and Souljah boy rock one of my favorite tracks on “State vs. Radric Davis” “Bingo.”  Souljah boy: “Souljah boy tell ’em/I’m icy as an icicle/so much money/I valet park my bicycle.”

But this video is something else.  The black and white caricature of a staid white neighborhood.  Souljah’s car culture with it’s requisite speakers going hammer and predictable rap video follow.  His car speakers blow  up lemonade pitchers and blow out windows.  Streets->cars->strippers->house party->hot tub.

Souljah boy — the young artist criticized by older rappers (Ice T remains a critic) –manages to continually position himself as a youngster.  He encourages and dances with two pre-teens who sneak into his hot tub party.  As the DJ on the balcony cuts a couple of records, the camera shifts to extended shots of two kids playing DJ Hero 2.

Pitching the reality TV primed audience Souljah Boy’s simplicity and pop sameness might be marketing genius.  To metastasize the now-antique symbols of hip hop authenticity (djing, microphones) into toys that can be purchased and actually used by the audience.

No salt thrown at Souljah boy or his handlers — the track and video are clever and enjoyable.  But it also makes visible something important about pop hip hop.  For a few frames in his video we can see the transition of old symbols.

Which is part of what makes Pusha T’s adoption of the beat and chorus all  the more interesting.

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