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The Oddball Show Featuring Jus Enuf

 

 

This week the Oddballs welcome emcee, producer, and general artistic soul, Jus Enuf, to talk about his music, his cctv show ‘What Do You Think?’, and the recent passing of Hip Hop legend Phife Dawg.
It’s all in this week’s edition, so tune in and join the conversation.
#WeAreAllOddballs

 

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A Twist of JP Lime: Lyric Analysis – “Hip Hop” by Mos Def, Verse 2

 

This week JP Lime’s Prof delivers a Lyric Analysis of a Hip Hop classic, Yasiin Bey’s (formerly Mos Def) song “Hip Hop”, off his 1999 solo debut ‘Black on Both Sides’. Find more at JPLimeProductions.com – we are your Old School Hip Hop fix. Enjoy and Lime On.

JPLimeProductions.com

A while back I did a Lyric Analysis of the first verse of Yasiin Bey’s (formerly Mos Def) “Hip Hop”, one of my favorite tracks on my favorite album from one of my favorite artists. Today we’ll return to the second song from Black on Both Sides for an analysis of his second verse, digging further into Hip Hop’s complicated nature as Yasiin sees it.

Hip Hop is prosecution evidence
An out of court settlement
Ad space for liquor
Sick without benefits (hungh!)
Luxury tenements choking the skyline
It’s low life getting tree-top high
It is a back water remedy
Bitter and tender memory
A class E felony
Facing the death penalty (hungh!)
Stimulant and sedative, original repetitive
Violently competitive, a school unaccredited (there it is)
The break beats you get broken with
On time and inappropriate
Hip Hop went from selling crack to smoking it
Medicine for loneliness
Remind me of Thelonius and Dizzy
Props to B-Boys getting busy
The war-time snap shot
The working man’s jack-pot
A two dollar snack box
Sold beneath the crack spot
Olympic sponsor of the black Glock
Gold medalist in the back shot
From the sovereign state of the have-nots
Where farmers have trouble with cash crops (hungh)
It’s all-city like Phase 2
Hip Hop will simply amaze you
Praise you, pay you
Do whatever you say do
But black, it can’t save you

 

Throughout this verse and the first as well, Yasiin follows a thin line between praising Hip Hop and pointing out its faults. It’s a song of dichotomy, of explicating the complicated species of a genre grown from minority and poverty finding economic and social success. That polarity, between praise and indictment, creates a fantastic tone to the track, not quite ironic or tongue-in-cheek because the sentiments are completely genuine, but uncommonly self-aware with a subtle note of despair. It’s not just that Hip Hop has positive and negative traits but that in the combination of the two the more complete picture of the art-form is painted. Remember, this is Yasiin near the beginning of his career, the first solo release after Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star, a 25-year-old artist spilled out over 17 all classic tracks. It might seem appropriate for an older version of the artist, one marginalized by Glam Rap over the last fifteen years, to deliver a scathing condemnation of Hip Hop (which he doesn’t do, by the way). But that’s not who he is at this point and that’s not what he’s doing. He is passionate about his art-form, with a unique ability to remain in it but not of it. “Hip Hop” is not a song of doom but it is a note directed equally to those inside and outside the industry that this thing we’ve built is complicated and flawed and beautiful and very much incomplete.
With no hook, only samples taken from A Tribe Called Quest, Eric B. & Rakim and O.C., the second verse of “Hip Hop” is a continuation of the first especially in its referential tone, which ended with nods to Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and Afrika Bambaataa. The first verse gives significant detail to the position and identity of the author, a man “on the ave where it lives and dies” with his “eyes on tomorrow”. In the second verse all first-person narrative is left behind and attention turned to describing the state of the art-form through a further series of contrasts.

Hip Hop is prosecution evidence
An out of court settlement
Ad space for liquor
Sick without benefits (hungh!)
Luxury tenements choking the skyline
It’s low life getting treetop high

Yasiin wastes no time, jumping right into the tactic of description through piecemeal details. Many have attempted to use Hip Hop music and lyrics in criminal trials, from the famous 2 Live Crew obscenity case, to Vonte Skinner in 2008, to the recent case of Tiny Doo in San Diego. The mistaken concept of using art as evidence of criminal activity is what Bey references in the first line. He then plays on the judicial language with a powerful and nearly glossed over metaphor of Hip Hop as a sort of out of court settlement. What have we traded in return for lesser prosecution that Hip Hop is the settled middle ground? Equal voice? Real social representation and advancement, instead settling for money and fame? That superficiality and emptiness comprises the next four lines beginning with Rap’s proclivity for tracks about their favorite (or sponsored) liquors – “Brass Monkey,” “Pass the Courvoisier,” “8 Ball,” “Thug Passion” and “Gin ‘n Juice” are name-specific, along with hoards of others glorifying drinking as a whole. At the end of the “sick without benefits” line Bey brings back the poetic devise of “hungh” punctuations from the first verse, a reference to Sterling Brown’s “Southern Road”. The “luxury tenements choking the skyline” is another metaphor that packs more punch than meets the eye. Though the real-life image of skyscrapers built amidst (and ignoring) New York’s lower income environments is the product of outside forces and money, in the metaphoric sense Hip Hop’s stars, actors, and agents are equally to blame, themselves becoming the skyscrapers, the “low life getting treetop high” and allowing their own environments to be choked of their identity and culture.

bey 2015It is a back water remedy
Bitter and tender memory
A class E (or C) felony facing the death penalty (hungh!)

He answers the “sick without benefits”, “choking” theme with the contrasting notion that Hip Hop is also a “backwater remedy”, a term that carries nostalgia and dismissal in equal parts. A bitter and tender memory, like an exposed nerve, Hip Hop reminds us that the difficult road that black folks in America have traveled is intrinsically and tenderly tied to their identity. There is strength in that struggle, beauty in that destruction and Bey’s carefully chosen words speak to this finer point.
The last line returns to the judicial talk comparing Hip Hop to a crime with an inequitable punishment. Though I always thought he said “Class C,” the classification including robbery, assault, larceny, and drug distribution, most think he says “Class E,” which probably makes more sense given that it is the lowest rung on the five-letter system (not included in all states, though it is in NY).

Stimulant and sedative, original repetitive
Violently competitive, a school unaccredited (there it is)

Yasiin then rolls out four phrases, stylishly staccato with compound rhymes. The first two are some of the most succinct dichotomies in the song, posing our beloved art-form as both upper and downer and then hitting on a contrast central to the genre, “original repetitive”. Founded on the reproduction of past works as a means to create something new, is there a more appropriate turn of phrase to describe Hip Hop?
In their own way the second two phrases contrast each other and the line concludes with the “there it is” adlib used in the first verse and referencing several performers before him. In writing about the first verse I learned that the phrase was an interpolation of a Run-DMC lyric from “Peter Piper,” then sampled on the Beastie Boys’ “The New Style.” I also recently learned that it seems to be a reference to Rakim’s “When I Be on tha Mic,” though that album was released a month after Black on Both Sides, so that would instead seem to be a matter of common source.

The Sovereign State of the Have-Nots, READ ON…

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3TV Presents: JP Lime

 

 

Loud

Intro

Lets go!
Bounce, bounce, bounce, bounce, b-b-bounce

Hook

Cali smokin’ like Bally’s we work it out out
People moving and grooving we put it down down
Making music and mula all in your town town
Take a listen and turn it, just turn it loud loud
Turn it up!

Professa

We kick it like eviction, right down the block
I’m fixing like addiction but I’m itching to pop
‘Cause it’s a sickness, so I’m picking the lock
Stealing my place, baby, taking my spot
Above these other fuckers claiming, saying I’m something I’m not
I’m just a wiseass cracker with a jack-in-the-box
Crackerjack attack and what you’re lacking I’m not
Cause when I’m rocking I’m knocking ‘em up and out of they socks
I act like Rick, make moves like Russell
Captivate the game with a gang of trouble
Bass and treble, a full range of levels
Unsane, deranged planes I’m on several
Like an unchained, derailed train I’m unsettled
Bounce with me, bitch, or play some heavy metal
I’m about to bubble over like a screaming kettle
Even the mezzanine ain’t on my level
Come on, bounce!

Hook

Scholar

I’m Rap Demon…
I am a monster…
I’m that being that can’t be conquered…
The Mayan Calendar ends, I reset it…
True indeed it’s Armageddon my friends, where we’re headed…
Snatch the crown from the king, take a seat on the throne…
Kinda foul how the queen welcomes me in her home…
There’s a new day and age so the old regime is beheaded…
That means that it’s off with their heads…
‘Cuz a Scholar sees red and a lot has been said of my lot…
My Fate to be great so I’m not…
Second guessing, never stressing I’m just getting the job done…
I’m awesome…
My Holy Grail’s in Boston…
It’s not some gimmick how the spirit you depict from my lyrics…
At the top of a pyramid points a crucifix to the sky…
Cross me, dog I’m a crush ya’…
‘Cuz I live that Lime Life, heartless hustler…

Bridge — Spaceman
Just bounce w/ me baby get down with me…
Just take it downtown and burn it down with me…
Turn it up baby baby c’mon, we on that loud…
Just bounce baby baby c’mon, we get it loud…
(2x)

Hook

Spaceman

Blame it on the name this quasi notion of fame infatuation with games and this pussy on my brain
insane how I’m playing the fucking shit I be saying the money that I be making man dog I’m just
saying things on my mind they be weighing around and damn its kinda crazy how they link up
with sounds and I be linking up with people who be tearing it down
Swear I’m known for saving lives and fucking acting the clown I’m a force of fucking nature better
know I wreck towns and I’m known for always wanting it now now now who’s the man(me) who
be spitting them nouns so fucking unnerving with verbage go fuck your pronoun slow I’m on a
roll as the world spins around so no giving in now it’s all for the go now no need to fight it
straight flight to the clouds man yo and minutes later yo I’m so lights out

Bridge – Scholar
Just bounce w/ me baby get down with me…
Just take it downtown and burn it down with me…
Turn it up baby baby c’mon, we get it loud…
Just bounce baby baby c’mon, we put it down…
Just bounce w/ me baby get down with me…
Just take it downtown and burn it down with me…
Turn it up baby baby c’mon, we on that loud…
Just bounce baby baby c’mon, we put it down…

Hook to outro

 

JP Lime Productions (Ivan De Jesus Christopher Everson and Colgan Johnson), a Boston-based company whose primary focus is the production, performance and sale of Hip Hop music. “Our music endeavors to break out of the boundaries usually imposed on Hip Hop. Strongly representative of Boston and powerfully lyrical, JP Lime combines the force of Run-DMC with the group dynamic of A Tribe Called Quest and the lyrical prowess of Slaughterhouse. We are poised to supply a potent and much-needed voice to the culture of Hip-Hop and music as a whole.”