21 August 2019

"Thursday in the Danger Room" by Run the Jewels ft. Kamasi Washington (2016)

This is a track I became aware of via a close homey.  I already knew a little about Kamasi Washington but didn't know anything about Run the Jewels and decided to do some research concerning this particular tune.

Killer Mike and El-P, aka Run the Jewels.

Run the Jewels are a musical duo composed of middle-aged rappers El-P (the White dude, from Brooklyn) and Killer Mike (the Black dude, from Atlanta).  Of course there are a lot of rappers these days who are middle-aged.  But the reason it becomes especially notable in this case is that El and Mike didn't even form the group until they both were about 40-years old.  And at the time of the release of Thursday in the Danger Room, they both would have been over 40.

Wikipedia says that they derived their collective name from a LL Cool J song.  And whereas I'm not going to act like I'm familiar with Uncle L's entire catalog, I think it's more plausible that it actually came from an old Wu-Tang track, as they're the ones who really made the phrase 'run the jewels' popular.

Kamasi Washington

Kamasi Washington is a saxophonist, perhaps the most-famous one in America as we speak.  He became more popular recently after being featured on a couple of tracks from Kendrick Lamar's critically-acclaimed album To Pimp a Butterfly (2015).  Logically his first name would have been derived from Kumasi, the capitol city of the Ashanti Region in Ghana.


First off some fans will instantly recognize the titular phrase "Danger Room" as being the training facility of the fictional comic-book heroes, the X-Men.  However in this case the term is meant to serve as a metaphor.  Indeed there is no place in the entire song where the words "danger room" are even mentioned.

Instead the idea it seems to be pointing to is how dangerous life can be in general, as in how swiftly someone can die.  And the "Thursday" would allude to the notion of a person's life being at risk on any random day.  This concept is really brought home during Killer Mike's verse, which is centered on the theme of recurrent gun violence.

El-P's artist and homey Camu Tao, who passed away prematurely from lung cancer.
However as for El-P, his section is dedicated to his homey, the late Camu Tao (1977-2008), who was signed to El's label, Definitive Jux.  Camu Tao passed away in 2008 at the age of 30 after battling lung cancer.  And whereas El-P had given shoutouts to his deceased homey in the past, this one is especially meaningful as he frankly admits to the pain he himself experienced watching his friend slowly pass away.  Indeed El confesses that at certain points he wished Camu had died sooner to save him the grief of watching his buddy gradually waste away.

But Killer Mike's verse is about street violence.  More specifically, it features a heart-wrenching tale of a friend who was murdered over "a chain" (i.e. jewelry) and more to the point the loved ones he left behind.  Of course there are a million raps with a similar them.  But what make Mike's different is that he actually sympathizes with his friend's murderer.  That is to say that he basically wishes dude would repent before he too is killed, and his loved ones would have to endure the same pain as those of the person he murdered.

But all things considered this is actually a grievance song, with special emphasis on those who died prematurely.  The chorus is built around the idea of the aforementioned deceased friends still being in the hearts and minds of the rappers, as in their presences still being felt by El-P, Killer Mike and by extension others who also cared about them.


Thursday in the Danger Room was released by the duo's own label, Run the Jewels Inc., on 24 December 2016 as part of their third album, Run the Jewels 3.  The song was written by Killer Mike and El-P (no ghostwriters), with El-P also producing the track.  This marks songs the first time they ever worked with Kamasi Washington, who hails from L.A.


Even though this is the only Run the Jewels' track I ever studied, I think it's safe to say that they're one of the more conscious and introspective acts out there.  And they also seem to be pretty famous, considering that they performed this selfsame song on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on the date of 25 April 2018.  However given the themes which currently dominate popular rap music, I think it's safe to presume that they may never be one of the top acts in the industry.

18 August 2019

"Dana Dane with Fame" by Dana Dane (1987)

Dana Dane with Fame is the title song off of Dana Dane's debut album, which was released by Profile Records on 22 May 1987.  A friend of mine was recently enjoying the track, so I decided to do a bit of research on it.

A picture of Dana Dane taken in 2005.  At the time he would have been about 40-years old.


Dana Dane is an old-school rapper, whom I think it's safe to say that few of the new generation of hip-hop fans are familiar with.  In fact he is considered to be the first-solo rapper from Brooklyn to really blow up.

He used to run with his better-known partner, Slick Rick, as part of the Kangol Crew.  Indeed fans of these two artists have noticed that their styles are quite similar, with Dane even being recognized as a protege of Rick's.

The cover to Dana Dane's 2009 novel, Numbers.
Despite apparently falling out of the rap game a while back, Dana Dane has been busy in other endeavors, such as writing a deadass novel back in 2009 which, according to Amazon and Goodreads, isn't half bad.


Dana Dane with Fame is your standard braggadocio rap song - 1980's style.  For instance instead of Dane calling his opps punks or some even less-flattering appellation, he says "they're ultra-defeated".  Also he doesn't threaten them with gun violence but instead more along the lines of showing them up on the mic.  Moreover, just like his modern-day counterparts, Dane does get quite-risque, considering the era, when talking about women, making references to ideologies such as 'massaging female butts' and 'caressing their chests'.

At one point the track's producer, Hurby Luv Bug, has to interject to prevent him from saying the word 'ass' whilst dissing rival emcees.  But even at this juncture, Dane lets it be known that soon the day will come when lyrically he will unhinged.

The cover of Dana Dane's debut album, Dana Dane with Fame.

As alluded to earlier, a good portion of the song is about the rapper's interactions with women.  In the first verse Dane gives tips - though once again using Puritan verbiage compared to today's norms - on how to sexually satisfy a lady.  And the third verse features Dane detailing a sexual experience he had with a woman whom he apparently had just met, complete with a climax which I'm confident would be considered racist against Southeast Asians in this day and age.

The song in its entirety is basically the rapper presenting himself as famous, even internationally-known.  Again this song is off of his debut album, and back in those days mixtapes were not part of the mainstream industry.  That means for the most part that he wasn't actually famous (outside of the the then 'hood-based rap industry), and what this song actually represents is an exercise in positivity thinking.  What it is all meant to ultimately boil down to is Dana Dane considering himself one of the dopest MCs in the rap game.


I couldn't find writing credits for this song.  But since it is from a day when ghostwriters were more or less nonexistent, we can presume it was by and large penned by Dana Dane himself.

It is very possible that Hurby Luv Bug made some lyrical contributions to the song, considering that he also had a hand in writing other rap hits he helped create, such as Salt-N-Pepa's Push It which also came out in 1987, when the Luv Bug was at his peak.

Dana Dane and his homey, Slick Rick, in 2005.

Content wise this the same as any other similar-themed rap you'd hear on the radio these days, devoid of the overt references to gun violence, intoxication and wealth.  It basically feature Dana Dane bigging up himself and 'entertaining' the audience with sexually-graphic lyrics.

But for every rapper from the 1980's who has been able to go Hollywood, there are 100 others who have since disappeared into relative obscurity, like Dana Dane.  But throughout the years he has apparently remained active in the entertainment field in a number of different endeavors.