We come from garageland, and we use garageband
Well, now that you’ve had time to absorb the full impact of T. S. Eliot’s uneven Four Quartets, let’s turn our attention to hip-hop.
Goodbye, “age of the iPod,” hello, “age of GarageBand.” A week ago it occurred to me that my crappy Mac laptop from 2008 (I know, I know) nonetheless had a working copy of GarageBand. It’s absolutely mindblowing. I fiddled with it for half an hour, and that was already enough to be mixing “samples” from Louis CK’s Live at the Beacon Theater into tracks from the underrated Prodigy album The Fat of the Land. The result, entitled “There’s Plenty of Stuff to Eat (In The Mindfields),” sounded a little less good than Girl Talk, but only a little.
The effect of this absurdly accessible, user-friendly technology is to make artists who — only a few years ago — would have sounded like unsigned hopefuls with demo tapes, into artists who are virtually indistinguishable from the heavyhitters. Two examples: Kreayshawn’s new single “Breakfast (Syrup),” and a song called “Swag That Shit” by Sacramento local Knox.
Kreayshawn’s song is a total disaster. It’s so painfully lame that it makes me feel, retrospectively, sort of uncomfortable about liking “Gucci Gucci.” (I call this “The Andrew W.K. Effect.”) It’s one of those songs that fits right between a novelty song (which would hopefully be funny) and a real party song (which wouldn’t be this corny). The conceit is…puns about pancakes and money. She gets all the syrup, she wants dough — get it? Are you with me so far? She throws in “I’m a playboy bunny” out of sheer laziness, and (in the video) walks around in Mad Men housewife outfits, looking like nothing except a wannabe Amy Winehouse. Jesus. It’s enough to make me miss MacLethal from The Pitch.
The only things that makes the song even worth mentioning: first, it sounds pretty good for generic crunk. Weird Al’s worst original songs were better than this, but sounded infinitely lower-rent. Welcome to the age of GarageBand. Second, “Breakfast (Syrup)” features an insultingly bored cameo from 2 Chainz. Who the fuck is this buster? Who starts a rap with “OK, I’m awake”? Is he six years old? 2 Chainz is suddenly everywhere, despite having nothing to say (he was also on Nicki Minaj’s good track, “Beez in the Trap,” making it not as good). His well-connected managers, whoever they are, are doing a great job making hip-hop seem dead once again.
Full disclosure: Knox and I follow each other on Twitter, and he asked me to listen and comment on the track.
It’s pretty good. It’s significantly better than I was expecting. He’s talented; he’s got a snappy, angry voice. The vocal sound is Michigan/Canadian (P.O.D., Sage Francis), including the multitracked vocals only-on-the-rhyme that Francis and Eminem use so well. It sounds great here, too. The production is chopped-and-screwed Houston, and like all of the slowed-down vocal samples in this world, it’s awesome.
The only problem with the song is this…
Fuck corporations! I drink starbucks
Hitchhike on other peoples bikes cuz my car does
but errybody know dat
Hoodrats aksin’ me where the muthafuckin’ flows at
then we smoke crack after we shoot krok,
go to ground and build a mosque with barack
obama wackaflocka flame
…none of which works. The jab at “crunchy” people, or whatever “I drink starbucks” is, doesn’t scan, and isn’t redeemed by the fact he doesn’t have a car. The “Barack Obama is a Muslim” line also doesn’t come off; it’s meant facetiously, but there’s no joke there, and “wackaflocka flame” (he’s an MC) is just a throwaway setup for the next rhyme. In such surroundings, “we smoke crack” seems dubious too, although I guess if they do, they do. Bottom line, this strikes me as undigested filler that never got replaced by something better.
Anyway, it’s too bad, because the next lines are, in fact, funny and clever, and he delivers them quick and clean:
Speak n spell a talkin game
everydays a walk of shame
I fuck it like a soccer mom
I bust it like the condoms on
whatever tip the shamans on
like cosplay at the comicon
with sailor moon and rikku
and a million people
(Nerd pride, y’all.) The track is here; I think Knox is going to deliver more good stuff, so it’s worth hearing him launching with this. He’s still doing some preliminary fine-tuning, but hell, I’ll take his hunger over Kreayshawn’s “OMG this is so easy!” pancake-stuffed food coma any day of the week. As I lay it down on “There’s Plenty of Stuff to Eat”:
Knox is sittin’ here on deck
While “Pancake” is…batter up
This shit ain’t like you, Kreay…it’s dreck
better watch who’s comin’ up