February 17, 2012

Jonah Bromwich only proposed once to a girl at the mall. She said “probably.”

Watch the Throne has come and gone and viewpoints have vacillated wildly. But from my original, hyperbolic, disgusted reaction to the more moderate viewpoint I hold now, one opinion has not changed a bit. These beats are pretty goddamn good. Yes, uniformly garish and over the top and occasionally filled with half-baked ideas, but damn good.
One of the things that allows a rap veteran to stay in the game for a long time is a great ear for beats. So it’s no surprise that older heads have been jumping on these tracks and running rampant, rappers as disparate as Redman and Joe Budden.

Take Joey. The ubiquity of his self-promoting videos a couple of years ago distracted people from a pretty simple truth: Joe Budden is an interesting guy. When he’s not filming every second of his life, when we only hear from him occasionally, he’s one of a handful of guys who’s consistently telling the truth, packaging it in a form where it can pass right by if you don’t listen closely.

Budden wasn’t a big fan of Watch the Throne as he pointed out in the precursor to that epic Slaughterhouse freestyle last year, but instead of starting fake beef with Jay and ‘Ye, as he might have been prone to do a couple of years ago, Joey just shows that he can do better with the same basic elements. He stays sober, tuned in to pop culture, channeling astute observations through the banal: What Joe Paterno’s death says about loss, why no one should be taking sides on Drake vs. Common, how Heidi Klum’s break-up with Seal proves that beauty and beast never work together for too long.Referring to a conversation he had with his ex, he rhymes, “she said all I ever made her feel was hurt and disgust, which in turn hurt, cuz that was my version of love.” It’s just a couple of bars in a flurry, but it’s something real, an undisguised confession that’s not souped up by anything soppy.

As you might assume, Redman takes a different route with the same beat. The chorus becomes (what else?) funny and smoker-centric, but, in his own manner, Red goes just as hard as Budden. It’s not about content here—it’s the intensity of the proclamations, all of which are weed boasts that are delivered with a seriousness that openly mocks the super-stylized nonsense about kings and gods that we heard from The Throne.

Much can be made to sound epic over an epic beat and these two loosies from our veterans remind us how important personality is in giving context to instrumentals. One of the best things about rap is its outsized characters, whether its Joe’s  honest introspection or Reggie Noble’s weed love. Beats can always be re-contextualized, they’ll serve the purpose of any rapper who shows the ability to own them, and these two are too smart to rent.

MP3: Joe Budden-“No Church in the Wild”
MP3: Redman-“Sourdeezal (Church in the Wild Freestyle)”