November 17, 2014

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Abe Beame can follow or lead like Commander Picard

I’d imagine somewhere out there a young purist spends his evenings screaming into the void, waiting for his (yes, definitely a dude) generation to come its senses, turn down, and recognize the greatness of Joey Badass, or Big K.R.I.T. or whoever. And it’s understandable. You can’t turn on the radio without hearing a braying, inebriated warble standing in for Hip Hop.

My advice to the young purist is to take a deep breath and relax, because time does strange things to the pop landscape, let alone your values and perception. Case and point is “Movin Bass”, the first single off Rick Ross’ forthcoming Hood Billionaire featuring a Jay-Z hook and a Timbaland beat. The song is modest in its ambition, three professionals making studied, polished pop sound routine. It’s an Oceans Eleven-franchise type endeavor, reveling in the joys of the familiar, established characters promise to bring what we’ve come to expect and cherish from them and deliver in spades. But it’s the last thing you’d believe a Hip Hop fan would appreciate about a Ross song eight years ago.

The response to Jay-Z hopping on the “Hustlin” remix in 2006 was apocalyptic. Even though this is the same guy whose co-signs directly lead to the rise of Cash Money and UGK as national powers, those mourning the death of Def Jux couldn’t believe New York’s ambassador would lend his services to a guy who rhymed “Atlantic” with “Atlantic”. Ross was a late entrant into the post-millennial crack rap renaissance and became a popular straw man for those still trying to make The Minstrel Show happen. The “Officer Ricky” scandal only compounded matters: Not only is this guy a shitty rapper with no imagination, he’s also a fraud.

We know what happened next. Armed with a prophetic set of ears and a dedication to craft that paid dividends by the song, Ross had one of the great runs of this century, launching an empire under the Maybach banner with some inspired signings and consistently great music. If you were to say Ross was the best rapper in the game between Teflon Don and his Rich Forever mixtape, you wouldn’t receive much push back. He’s been coasting ever since with the occasional splashy feature and a few projects that came and went.

From the vocal snippets nodding to a generational shift, to the players involved, to the Funkmaster Flex drops all over this first leaked iteration, what surprises you about “Movin Bass” is its comfort in its own skin. This isn’t a major statement, breaking a big new idea or a sound. It’s a victory lap that plays like a street single. In New York, we’ll probably be living with it a while thanks to Jay’s participation, but it’s hard to imagine the song sharing national airspace with the demented weirdos currently occupying clear channel. It’s fun, but tame.

Surely, Hood Billionaire will have a few big swings on it, a Mustard beat, a Young Thug feature, several other pop attempts engaging a few current trends. But “Movin Bass” is reminiscent of “Flip Flop Rock” and about a dozen other songs channeling everyone from Daz to the Trackmasters (Of course, this is why you pay for the Timbaland beat. He’s made a career out of productions that are futurist and strange but reminiscent of moments nearly impossible to locate specifically). Rick is talking his shit, making Grammy boasts, handing off to Jay every sixteen bars. And that’s when it hits you: You’re in good hands, with old friends. A final note to the young purist, you may very well turn around and find yourself comforted by a Rich gang reunion in 2022. This is a dark future indeed.

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