July 20, 2012
What separates a good ODB track from a great one is tension: namely, the tension between the beat and ODB himself, as he does his best to send every single song careening off the rails. Look at “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” or “Brooklyn Zoo” – riff riff riff repeat, giving the most elemental structure to Dirty’s rants and vocal fart noises. That sort of cage is the only one expansive enough to hold him, and the Neptunes got this, for the three songs they produced on ODB’s second album.
Back then, the Neptunes were hip-hop’s groove merchants par excellence. They made hip-moving music—unlike some of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s other collaborations, you can always dance to a Neptunes track, even when he’s screaming like a maniac (on “Recognize”) or doing his signature impotent drunk-croon (on “Cold Blooded”). The tension between ODB’s frantic, addled persona and the Neptunes’ steadfast head-noddability doesn’t ever explode: it just produces tremendous electric energy, most especially on “Got Your Money.”
“And then you can call me Dirrrty—and then lift up your skirt,” ODB yowls at one point. Let’s be clear: this is a song about ODB being a pimp and demanding his money from his prostitutes. (The part of the prostitutes is played by Kelis on the hook.) He spends the entire song cajoling and menacing women to pay him his cut of their servitude. “I don’t want no problems ‘cause I’ll put you down in the ground where you will not be found,” he wheezes, and then in the next breath, notes that he’s “just Dirt Dog tryin’a make some money.” C’mon, who could fail to sympathize with that?
The unbelievable gulf between the song’s subject matter and its insistent bass-vamp beat—typified by how, at one point, Ol’ Dirty starts screaming at Kelis’s chorus, demanding she “SING IT RIGHT NOW”—only makes it even more appealing. How does a song like this exist? Looking back, Ol’ Dirty Bastard seems so of his time that it’s almost quaint. Nowadays he’d be a viral Tumblr sensation for a few minutes and flash out and go back to wherever, reduced to trying to get a reality show. (In the last year of his life, Ol’ Dirty Bastard did, in fact, have a reality show in production.) Instead, as the loose cannon of the Wu-Tang Clan, he got to do a guest spot on a Mariah Carey remix.
Sociology students with nothing better to do with their lives could go on and on for pages and pages about the troubling juxtaposition in “Got Your Money.” Most people—me included—will just tap our foot to it. It’s the funkiest mess of the decade, MCed by a psychotic who nonetheless pulls off the greatest coup in hip-hop lyric-writing history: “I don’t have no trouble with you fuckin’ me,” Ol’ Dirty Bastard informs his ho, a theoretical female listener, or both, “but I got a little problem with you not fuckin’ me.”
Alternatively, someone took the care to summarize the song on Wikipedia:
The song is initially dedicated exclusively to the world’s population of attractive females, until ODB seems to have pangs of guilt for not including ladies who might be considered ‘homely’ or ‘ugly,’ so he decides to include them, with the encouraging words, ‘to me, you pretty anyway, baby.’ The artist begins the song by expressing his harsh disdain for women whom he meets, who initially appear to be interested in him, yet later express a reversal of opinion. He then transitions into a discussion about how women sometimes imply they are carrying one’s child, although the DNA tests may not yet have come back conclusively.
ODB then expresses some confusion with respect to the morality of the situation, but he is able to remedy this by presenting his Cristal brand of champagne, and urging the patrons to disarm themselves, because ODB does not approve of such violence. Continuing, it appears at first that there is some mutual attraction between “Dirty” (ODB) and the female patrons in the establishment; however, it soon becomes apparent to Dirty that the females only wish to use him for a shot at music video stardom. Despite his knowledge of their ulterior motives, ODB’s primary interest remains focused on dancing, and he tries to perpetuate his image as one who should not be taken lightly. He acknowledges a lack of intellectualism, although he claims that this is superseded by his natural charisma.
The females in the establishment start admiring Dirty for his assets, which just causes Dirty to return to the situation at hand: his money. Thereafter, ODB proceeds to wax lyrical about his enjoyment of holding the female form and his impending resolution to engage in larceny. He asks for the females’ assistance in rectifying the situation, and subsequently asks them to expose their nether regions. Dirty finishes off the song with some nonsensical lyrics, that clearly imply his rising anger for the missing money.
April 6, 2012
“Best” means “my favorite.”
“My favorite” was determined through highly unscientific means.
I’m going to do one of these every Friday until we’re somewhere in the negative numbers.
What we’re here for
“So what’s up, man?”
“Yo, you know I had to call–you know why, right?”
“Becaaauuuse–yo, I never ever call and ask you to play somethin’, right?”
“You know what I wanna hear, right?”
If you don’t know where this is going, then really, god help you, because you’ve wasted your life–or at least, the portion of it that’s occurred since 1993.
Wu-Tang Clan’s “Protect Ya Neck”–the nine-deep rap collective’s first single, released in 1992 (and again in 1993)–represents a kind of opening shot at the whole of popular music. How could anyone have expected this record to succeed and forge the lasting reputation it carries? In 1992, white suburban kids were busy not washing their hair and buying corduroy hobo jackets. People tuned-in to what was going on in “urban” music were either people buying Whitney Houston for the shovelful, or music critics who thought that in 2012 people would still be talking about Arrested Development. (There was a music group with that name back then. No relation.) People who were digging rap music definitely weren’t looking at New York until some kid five-miced it in The Source. People wanted Cali music–slow-rolling, stoned gangsta music designed to make a car ride feel like some sort of slow-motion movie. “Nuthin’ But a ‘G’ Thang”–”It Was a Good Day”…
The East Coast, from top to bottom, could only counter with the likes of “Jump Around” and “Rump Shaker.” (The only thing from that wave of hook-conscious class-of-’92 pop-rap to have any kind of lasting vitality: Ooooooohhh… On the TLC Tip.) Enter the 36 etc.
“Protect Ya Neck” is very much an audio artifact of its time, not only in its opposition to dominant trends of beatmaking and song structure, but in the fact that it’s pretty obvious that this was, like, the peak of the Wu’s angel-dust consumption. You can all but hear dangerous chemicals huffing out in hot breaths–even the laid-back flows sound ferocious. Compare the RZA’s production to the likes of Dr. Dre, on Dre’s hits like “Deep Cover” and “Fuck Wit Dre Day”–out West, the hook is built into those throbbing, tumbling bass lines, with rappers riding over them like surfers, and the drums and synths just there to keep things lively. Not so with “Protect Ya Neck”: the bass is a muffled drone pulse, while the drums march nervously and samples flicker in and out, or hover and whine. The entire composition is busy, and the rappers are kicking against it.
Even the flavorful touches are worlds apart–Dre and co. lapsing into smirking taunts or fuck-tha-police skits, and Wu-Tang favoring kung-fu chops, Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s hopeless singing, and RZA and Method Man screaming like men possessed (RZA especially). Dre and Snoop want the listener to be complicit in whoever they’re after, whether it’s rivals, cops, or Eazy-E. Wu-Tang is talking to you, threatening you, and doesn’t give a fuck what you’re gonna do about it. The only respite is the GZA, turning his rage away from the listeners in the last verse, and toward music-industry execs who don’t understand the group’s singularly nihilistic vision.
“Protect Ya Neck” is also one of the few songs improved by censorship. The original 1992 release, AKA the “Bloody Version,” leaves everyone’s verses intact and uncensored, every fuck and shit preserved. For 1993′s Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) album and the accompanying re-release of “Protect Ya Neck,” a new mix was created that does little more than tweak the original–it’s the LP version, or the “Shao Lin Version” according to the ’93 single’s label. On the ’93 version, a bunch of grinding buzzes were added in to censor the various swear words, but extra shocks of noise were added to various points, making the whole thing sound even more out of control. ODB’s part, in particular, collapses into pure mayhem as the noise just sounds over and over, as if struggling to bum-rush Dirty out of his own verse. The only downside: losing part of RZA’s verse, where he tags in the GZA, and screams “take us the fuck outta here” so harshly the speakers practically ooze his stomach lining.