Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Great Grunts in Rap History

As part of my ongoing lecture series on Great Moments in Rap History, I thought I'd introduce one of our advanced courses: non-language in rap songs. Rappers, at least ostensibly, rely on colorful language (by which I mean n-bombs or, in the case of recent Mos Def, condescension) to make their living, which is apparently one often saturated with marijuana, cocaine, purple lean, and various large-assed women with a preternatural gravitational attraction to the floor. However, the English language cannot constrain the rap - aw hell naw. Often, a great rapper must fill in the blanks of the language with something less erudite and more guttural. With that in mind, I now present Five Great Grunts in Rap History.

5 - Juelz Santana, "There It Go (The Whistle Song)"
Juelz Santana blows the ass off the grunt (literally, kinda/sorta) at about the 1:04 mark, with the epic line "Sit it down, back up/ Bring it on back up/ Move it til you feel something hard in your back, HYUPP" . . . a true tour de force of using nonsense tones, as it even carries the "back up" rhyme into effect. Top down and back at it again, indeed - I run the whistle when I'm truly bombed at the bar. So far I'm 0-for-life, but that's not far from my batting average with every other method, so I'll blame sample size.

4 - Master P, "Make Em Say Uhhh"
A retard rap Odyssey so epic that there's absolutely no need to include times or anything, Master P's all-time dipshit marathon is more than notable for its use of two different nonsense intonations: the titular "UHHHH" and the follow-up "Nanana, nanana." The fact that cadence seems to actually go against the beat of the music, added to the knowledge that Mystikal actually earned money making music even though he sounds like a meth-head Vietnam vet who I'm trying to avoid at the liquor store, brings a somewhat depressing quality to pouring some out for our homeys. Thank God Cashmoney Records decided to produce . . .

3 - Lil Wayne, "A Milli"
. . . the self-proclaimed Best Rapper Alive, and truly the evolution of nonsense excess noise. Sure, we're stretching a little on this song, but the giggle after "Damn I hate a shy bitch/ Don't you hate a shy bitch?/ Yeah, I ate a shy bitch/ She ain't shy no more/ She changed her name to my bitch" (about the 2:07 mark) adds an ethereal quality to a spectacularly promethazine-fueled line that actually makes me giggle along with the manchild just about every time. The fact that he backs it up with giggles both before and after "and I'd rather be pushing flowers/ than be in the 'pen sharing showers" just adds to the surreal quality of the sizzurp-addled mind of a very rich pothead. We'll file it under great grunts because there's no WAY it was supposed to be in the mix until the producer (Bangladesh) heard it and laughed his ass off just like I did.

2 - Clipse, "Trill"
Another amazing 2-fer, this track starts with a very poignant "UH" before exploding into ray-gun synths that kind of remind you that, at one very bizarre point in time, Pharell Williams was an important human being. However, fuck that one - the better one is the absolutely astounding, off-beat "WHUT" thrown into the first line of the chorus (by Pharell, of course - he had to be in the track by contract), followed by "WHUT WHUT" after the next line of the chorus (starts at 0:34). Absolutely the most fun part of any rap song to sing in history - and even better, the song involves multi-tracked "uh" and "whuh" noises throughout, seemingly randomly. The Kings of VA's best song, and a worthy contender for the best grunts ever, save for likely the most important rap grunt in history:

1 - Notorious BIG, "Juicy"
On the shortlist for the most important rap song, period, two vital grunts have propelled "Juicy" onto the must-play list for virtually every DJ that plays to a crowd of predominantly white people (as, clearly, every white kid ages 32 and below are more than likely to know the majority of the words to this track - up to and including the shared wince at the "Blow up like the World Trade/ Bomb center" bit). First, the subtle beginning of the track, with "All good baby, baby, UH" gets the party started, and I don't think I've ever heard anyone not say that line as the track begins. Truly, a masterful beginning, topped only by the chorus-introducing "and it's still all good/ UH" - the song is broken into easily-digestible chunks differentiated by grunts. A grunt fires the listener into the track right out of the gate. BIG wields the grunt like a weapon, not unlike the one his posse used to kill Tupac years later, with similar posturing but markedly fewer awful airbrushed t-shirts or misguided celebrations of Tupac as a "poet" (not even considering "Poetic Justice" - I mean, holy fuck). With that, I don't think there is any doubt about the Greatest Grunt in Rap History.

1 comment:

thoughtsandlove said...

amazingly interesting post. I like this. I never really heard anybody talk about the "grunt" before. I think my all time favorite grunt is by Brotha Lynch Hung on his track "Rest in Piss." There's only one grunt and its a damn good one. The first verse is great, but then the second first he kicks it into another gear. The grunt comes at the end of the first sixteen bars. It cuts the verse in half and its totally grimey.