This week, the Singles Mingle takes a look at some recent hip-hop singles that are a little different from most standard radio fare. Ranging from unexpected gospel to new emcees to straight-up anger on wax, the selections this week are sure to offer an alternative to your worn-out Vanilla Ice cassette single of “Ninja Rap.” Go, Ninja, go.
Lupe Fiasco, “I Gotcha”
There’s a good chance you’ve already been told that Lupe Fiasco is your new favorite rapper, and that his new album, “Food and Liquor,” is your new favorite rap album. There could be worse effects of brainwashing, as blogger superstar Fiasco has a smooth flow and rides this standard Neptunes beat rather well. It’s easy to see why Lupe is getting hype usually reserved for veterans of the game, but still, the kid has some dues to pay before the world says the Native Tongues movement is back and makes him the new member of A Tribe Called Quest.
“Infectious” is probably the only way to describe this song, which seems like it would have been the summer jam of the century. From the production team Cool & Dre, mostly known for producing one of the best beats of the decade in last year’s “Hate It or Love It,” the song rides bouncy synths to create a sound that sounds fresh. Stepping out from behind the boards to rap, Dre (not to be confused with Dr. Dre) sounds like a cross between Snoop Dogg and Pharrell, which on paper may make some cringe but actually is pretty sweet. Please, rap gods, let this song become a hit (and get Yung Joc off the radio).
Killer Mike, “That’s Life”
Basically, Killer Mike lives up to his surname and kills this song. Over five minutes, Mike touches on FEMA, Oprah, Bill O’Reilly, and our president, hitting so hard that “venomous” wouldn’t even come close to describing his words and flow. He may mention jail and cocaine, but there isn’t an ounce of dishonesty or boasting when he brings it up. He even begins the track with his son telling you that Killer Mike doesn’t care if you don’t like what he says. To top it off, Mike puts us, the listener, in his focus through spoken word format several times during the song, trying to make us understand that everything we think about the average rapper is wrong. Maybe most of the world isn’t ready to listen to and comprehend this song, but so what? That’s life.
DMX, “Lord Give Me A Sign”
It’s very likely that no one saw this coming from hardcore rapper DMX. DMX has been away from the mainstream rap scene for a while, but he’s back, and in his absence, he found Jesus. Honestly. It’s actually sort of affecting to hear a man who used to bark out “suck my dick” in his rap verses admit that he is nothing but a grown child. As a rapper, DMX used to get by with his charisma and power, and he surprisingly still has that, never coming off as soft. Though it definitely is a curveball, “Lord Give Me A Sign” is the sound of a man who is letting the world in on his pain and, hopefully, eventual triumph, and that’s a rarity in pop music.
The Roots, “Don’t Stop This”
Who knows if this will be a single from their new and admittedly pretty fine album “Game Theory,” but it’s hard to say if The Roots have ever put out something as affecting as this eight-minute-plus song. The last track on “Game Theory,” the song is a tribute to the late producer J Dilla, who passed away earlier this year. Dispersing recorded messages from friends reminiscing about their fallen compatriot, the first half of the song features a beautiful J Dilla production that Black Thought absolutely rips. As the song spirals into chopped up portions of the recorded remembrances, the music takes a backseat to the message, for better or worse. It definitely carries on too long, but maybe that’s the doing of The Roots, who hoped to make up for how short their friend’s life was.