Friday, June 13, 2008

A Little Intro

This is a post that I did last year. Figure I should put it up again.

"The world...is about to feel...something...that they've never...felt before..."
-Pharrell, "Grindin"

Take a sound you can make with your own mouth. Combine that with verses about distributing cocaine and an attacking drum track and you have the recipe for one of the biggest songs of 2002, "Grindin".

To say that the Neptunes produced beat came from left field would be an understatement. The Neptunes at the time were known for their signature guitar licks which formed many-a-hit melody. By 2002 the duo was considered by some hip hop fans as pop producers, and unoriginal in their choice of sounds when it came to composing tracks. A trucker hat dealers best friend, Pharrell Williams, became the poster boy for what was wrong with hip hop in the eyes of many of those detractors.

By 02' The Neptunes' fingerprints were all over the radio and television airwaves. Actually, they left the imprints of their palms on the game from their stranglehold on popular music. Remix after remix, hit after hit, The Neptunes just kept winning. The duo's consistency was one of the reasons why "Grindin" was such a surprise. The beat oozed of nostalgia, modern hip hop and the future of the genre all at the same time. It could have easily been described as Planet Rock's sonic stepchild or a legitimate guess of how music would sound in five years. Hard kicks and snares that made it feel like old school boom bap and a reverberating melody that sounded like someone tapping their cheek. Whatever the sound was, electronic, organic or a combination of both, it did make many "feel something that they've never felt before".

The lyrics of the Clipse however were very modern at the time. Tales of drug deals, loose women and firepower had become common place. Sprinkled in nearly every hip hop album, these ingredients were the remedy for many artists wanting to solidify their street cred for the record buying masses. The Clipse were different. Sure, they rehashed many of the same topics we heard over and over but they said it differently. Or maybe it sounded differently, a product of Virginian tongues and appealing musical backdrops by two producers named after a planet in The Milky Way galaxy. Whatever it was, "Patty Cake Patty Cake im the bakers man..." will forever be linked in my mind to drug dealing and that thumping bare beat, and not the rhyme you learned in Pre-School.

Much has changed and much has remained the same since "Grindin" dropped. The "Grindin" beat eventually moved on to the musical retirement home where all beats go when they have been used for freestyles too many times, joining "Banned From TV" and "In Da Club" among others. The Neptunes have since changed their sound several times and The Clipse dropped "Hell Hath No Fury" a follow up to their solid debut, "Lord Willin". The kind of follow up Nas wouldn't want you to put in your boom box that eats tapes, that is, if you still own a casette player.

The minimalistic approach to hip hop production is still strong five years later. Every season it seems as though another producer attempts to make his own "Grindin". Kia Shine's "Cripsy", the Ying Yang Twins' "Wait" and Ali & Gipp's "Go Head" all come to mind. No, The Neptunes didn't invent anything but they innovated. They made it cool for the first time since Run DMC ruled hip hop to make a beat with for the most part, just drums and percussion. In an era of synths and processed sounds, "Grindin" was perfect. In the words of French writer Antoine de Saint-Exupery, "You know you’ve achieved perfection in design, Not when you have nothing more to add, But when you have nothing more to take away.”

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