Wednesday, April 29, 2020

"Rapp Snitch Knishes" by MF Doom ft. Mr. Fantastik (2004)

Recently the homey sent me some track by MF Doom alongside Mr. Fantastik called Anti-Matter (2003) to listen to.  I wasn't really feelin' it, but at the same time I was intending to write something about MF Doom for the longest.  So instead I decided to focus on another song he dropped with Mr. Fantastik, called Rapp Snitch Knishes, which I think all fans of MF Doom would agree is one of his classics.

MF Doom in late 2017.  His schtick, outside of numerous
references to cartoons, science fiction and such is that he
wears a metal mask like his gutu, Marvel Comics' Doctor Doom.

Out of every underground rapper that I know of, MF Doom is the one whereas I am most-baffled as to how he never made it mainstream.  Not only is he a proficient rapper, but his production skills are off the hook.  In fact I consider his Special Herbs, Vols. 5 & 6 (2004) to be my favorite instrumental album of all-time.

MF Doom produced four tracks on
Ghostface Killah's Fishscale (2006) album. 
But that being said, as aforementioned his mainstream activities have been sparse.  Most notably he produced a few tracks for Ghostface Killah in 2006.  But he has also done production for Wu-Tangers Masta Killa (2006) and Hell Razah (2007).

Perhaps MF Doom never really wanted to go mainstream.  Or maybe, considering that many of the tracks he produces depend on what are likely unapproved samples, doing so wouldn't have been wise.  But here's some interesting sh*t - I just now found out that dude is actually British, not American.

Meanwhile Mr. Fantastik is one of his collaborators.  According to Genius he has only dropped two tracks throughout his career, both in collaboration with MF Doom.  It has been speculated that "Mr. Fantastik" may actually be an alias of Bronx-based rapper Count Bass D, who participated on another track on Mm... Food entitled Potholderz.  But either way, the moniker "Mr. Fantastik" is a satirical misspelling of the Marvel Comics' character Mr. Fantastic, with MF Doom also being the namesake of another Fantastic Four mainstay, Dr. Doom.


First off this song is indeed about snitching, more specifically when such is done by rappers.  The "knishes" mentioned in the title is actually a reference to a type of food which, to my remembrance, was like a beef patty though filled with potatoes instead of meat.  In other words the "knishes" don't have anything to do with the song itself but is rather in keeping with the ovearll motif of Mm... Food, the album it is featured on.

As for the actual subject of the song, it is about rappers who turn snitches, i.e. government informants.  So the lyrics jump in between the rappers dissing such individuals and braggadocious subject matter, as in biggin-up themselves.

For instance Mr. Fantastik presents himself as someone who is always ready to "ride", as in engage in some good ol' fashioned street violence in support of his homeys.  It also seems that his moniker is actually a metaphor pointing to his money being "long... like elastic", which is a roundabout shoutout to the aforementioned Mr. Fantastic cartoon character, who has stretching super powers.  But then he goes on to diss an unnamed "fake gangsta" rapper who, in the midst of getting in some type of legal trouble, rats on his homeys and cohorts.

Meanwhile MF Doom's verse is more centered on the actual snitch at hand.  In fact at times it reads as if the rappers are talking about a specific person(s), but the lyrics are too vague to pin down who exactly.  Anyway, he goes about insinuating that the informant should be dealt with the street way and is even in hiding due to the prospect of such.  And it is also implied throughout that this person has a tendency to talk too much for his own good, even on his songs as opposed to only when he's in court.

Tekashi 6ix9ine, whom many people feel is a real-life
'rapp snitch knish'
Rapp Snitch Knish recently gained newfound attention due to trial of Tekashi 6ix9ine.  Indeed some even feel the song foretold of the event itself, a courtroom drama with Tekashi, a hardcore street rapper by profession, instead starring as the State's witness and subsequently a couple of homeys being knocked, a whole lot of names being dropped, and 6ix9ine himself receiving a relatively-light sentence and even coming home earlier than scheduled due to the threat of the coronavirus (while the judge told one of his co-defendants no).  So in a lot of ways the character portrayed in the song - especially in the chorus as noted in the abovelinked article - does indeed read like Tekashi, though he hasn't necessarily been laying low since his release.


This song was of course produced by MF Doom himself - one of the greatest producers in the history of rap music as far as I'm concerned.  The instrumental samples a song Dave Matthews dropped back in 1977 called Space Oddity.

The lyrics were written by MF Doom and Mr. Fantastik.  Entire songwriting teams and ghostwriters weren't as common in rap music back then as they are today, not that underground rappers utilize those types of resources anyway.

Rapp Snitch Knishes was released as part of Mm... Food on 16 November 2004.  The label that put it out, which is based in Minneapolis, is called Rhymesayers Entertainment.  And if you look at their roster list, the most-notable names on it are actually non-comformist rappers.

The cover art to MF Doom's Mm... Food (2004),
which I think is safe to say is his greatest work to date.

It seems as if MF Doom isn't even really active in the music game these days.  He had a personal tragedy a couple of years ago which may contribute to this reality.  But either way, he still appreciated for the music he put out during his heyday, especially Mm... Food.  And if anyone out there who hasn't heard it yet is interested in a hip-hop concept album so to speak, I suggest that they give it a try.

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

"Deep Space" by Lord Jamar ft. Rza (2006)

For the record, I won't go as far as to say I'm necessarily a fan of Lord Jamar or the Rza.  In fact the reason I decided to research this obscure rap song is because a homey sent it to me.  But that being said I was intending to make my next post about a 1990s Wu-Tang song called Bells of War, which the Rza is featured on, anyway, so I guess this is the next best thing until I get around to working on that one.

The cover art to Lord Jamar's The 5% Album (2006).
It made it onto Billboard's Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums list.

First of all this track is from the only solo album Lord Jamar ever dropped, which is entitled The 5% Album.  Now anyone who is familiar with late 20th century rap, i.e. the Wu-Tang Clan and Brand Nubians which the Rza and Lord Jamar respectively belonged to, would instantly recognize that the title of the project is a reference to a religious movement which once upon a time was really popular in rap music called the Five-Percent Nation.  And with both Lord Jamar and the Rza being known adherents of this movement, then it is logical that the lyrics will flow along a related vein.

For instance during his first verse Lord Jamar mentions the likes of "the seventh dimension", the "Nation of Gods & Earths", 'universal mathematics', 'building' and 'destroying' and other lyrics which once again fans of 1990s hip-hop would recognize as references to Five-Percenters.  He also gives a shoutout to "Christ", as does the Rza, in his own way.  Likewise he mentions the phrase "standing on my square", which I thought may be Five-Percent but upon googling it actually discovered is masonic in origin yet has apparently been adopted by some African-American new age movements.

Meanwhile the Rza's verse is a lot more autobiographical in nature.  He raps about how he grew up from a timid, misinformed child to the man he went on to become - or more specifically his gradual transition into a Five-Percenter.

And as with any good Five-Percent doctrine there are racial innuendos scattered throughout, or perhaps another way of looking at is allusions to the racially-based power struggles which have defined African-American history.  Or yet another way of phrasing it is that the Five-Percent Nation is a movement which more or less preaches Black superiority, to say the least.


Honestly I wasn't overly impressed with Deep Space.  I was expecting something more sonically-pleasing but perhaps should have known better.  I mean I already know that both of these dudes, especially the Rza, can rap.  But the instrumental to the song, despite starting off on a high note, ultimately didn't do the vocalists much justice.


And speaking of the instrumental, the track was produced by three artists, Yoof, J Da Flex and DJ Preservation.  Before today I never heard of neither of them, though it appears that Preservation is a regular collaborator of Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def) and is perhaps more known in conscious-rap circles.

Lord Jamar circa 2020
As for Lord Jamar, he is best known to modern audiences via a recent beef he had with Eminem.  In fact Slim Shady even namedropped him, in a less-than-flattering way, on a track he dropped in 2018 called Fall and another he released in January of 2020 entitled I Will.  So the way the whole situation has played out is that Lord Jamar, being a respected, Afrocentric vet or what have you, called out Eminem as being, more or less, a culture vulture.  And conclusively a humbled (by Nick Cannon) Eminem did agree that he was "a guest" in the house of hip-hop.

The cover art to the Wu-Tang's last album, The Saga Continues (2017).
I believe that would be a caricature of the Rza on the front row far-left.
As for the Rza, it's been a minute since I seen his name in any kind of trending news.  In fact the last time I remember reading about him, strangely enough, was as somehow being mixed up in that Russell Crowe / Azealia Banks beef which popped off a few years ago.  Since then the Wu-Tang actually dropped another album, The Saga Continues, which he executively produced.  But as with pretty much every album the group has collectively released in the 21st century, it wasn't well received by fans.

Meanwhile the labels that put Deep Space out, which are both NYC-based, are Babygrande Records and Koch Records, with the latter now being known as Entertainment One Music.


Deep Space isn't a bad song, but it could have definitely benefited from some better production, perhaps from the Rza himself.  By 2006 the days of 20th century conscious rap music were well dead, so if this were released say 10 years prior it probably would have been a lot better received.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

"Believe It" by PartyNextDoor & Rihanna

As the internet reports, Believe It is the first track Rihanna has dropped in well over two years.  This of course has some fans excited, especially considering that Ri-Ri, who was like the top vocalist in the world a decade ago, decided to do so at such a depressing point in world history.


First off it should be known that even though Rihanna is listed as a co-star rather than a feature, she does not have an actual verse.  Thus the verses are being relayed almost entirely from PartyNextDoor's perspective.  And apparenlty Rihanna would be playing the role of his romantic interest.

He's coming off as if she is the one, trying to convince her, as he himself feels, that he is ultra-serious about their relationship.  Indeed he exclaims he cannot live without her.  And her implied disposition is that she is not going to fully give her heart to him unless she is convinced that he is indeed sincere.  Or as Ri-Ri states it, she wants him to make her "believe it".

From a personal-acoustic perspective, this song is aight.  Rihanna's voice, as nature has dictated, has regressed throughout the years.  Like if this were 10 years ago, she could have even taken this somewhat-simplistic exercise in songwriting and probably have made it gone triple-platinum.


I'm sure you have noticed that there's something like an eye smack-dab in the middle of the cover art.  Some would even say it resembles the Eye of Providence, i.e. the 'all-seeing eye' which is depicted on the dollar bill.  And whereas I didn't even want to go there, the reason I bring it up is because late in the first verse PartyNextDoor even uses the phrase "skull and bones" in describing himself.  Of course he is doing so within the specific context of the relationship featured therein.  But it's also interesting to note, as many readers already know, that there is actually an influential secret society called the Skull & Bones, which like the Eye of Providence is said to be occultic in nature.

I also noticed that PartyNextDoor decided to use some choice language on this track.  For instance he utters the word "p*ssy" in relation to lover's vagina (and overall sexual prowess), and also utilizes terminology such as "f*ck" and "motherf*cker".  So needless to say this probably isn't a song you would want a small child listening to.  And it's especially interesting the songwriters took that route considering that, outside of those words, there really isn't anything else about the lyrics that can be classified NSFW.  In other words they could have easily made this piece more family-friendly simply by omitting those phrases.  So I guess they decided to include them is in the name of being modern or edgy or whatever.


Speaking of songwriters, the credit for writing this one goes to PartyNextDoor and the track's three producers - Bizness Boi (L.A.), Cardiak (New Jersey) and NinetyFour (Wisconsin).  PartyNextDoor himself is from Canada.  And he's worked with Rihanna - who of course hails from Barbados - a couple of times in the past, though primarily in the songwriting capacity.  For instance he co-wrote and even provided background vocals to that entertaining yet strangely-annoying track Wild Thoughts that Ri-Ri dropped with DJ Khaled back in 2017.

There are three labels behind this track.  First would be Warner Records, who are actually one of the 'big three' companies in the music industry.  Second is Drake's label, Ovo Sound.  And last would be one Rihanna herself founded back in 2005 called Westbury Road.


Believe It charted internationally.  Some of the more interesting countries where it managed to do so are Estonia, Lithuania and Slovakia.  It also broke the top 20 on the UK Singles Chart and the top 30 on the Billboard Hot 100.  The song itself - once again in my humble opinion - isn't anything exceptional.  So the general assumption, as noted from the beginning, would be that it greatly benefited from being the first song Rihanna has released in a minute.  Indeed such is the reason why it made headlines and even caught my attention in the first place.


I would say this song sounds very teenagerish, like I can imagine looping it if I were like really young.  And perhaps such is the intended audience.  But if that is actually the case, then once the question is why PartyNextDoor in particular opted to use such strong language.