So there I was, sitting in my slate gray cubicle, listening to my laptop MP3 player, a shuffled selection spanning half a dozen genres and half a dozen centuries. By happenstance, two hip hop songs ran back-to-back: Biggie Smalls “Juicy” (featuring, naturally, Sean Combs, who shouldn’t be allowed to dictate his own nickname) and Mr. Lif "I Phantom" (featuring Akrobatik, El-P, and Jean Grae, who was recently lauded in Spin magazine).
I’m absolutely stunned that every single performer on the latter buried (metaphorically) the performer on the former, and that I’ve heard Biggie Smalls five times on the radio this week, and never once heard Mr. Lif.
Why one and not the other? Certainly not language -- the chorus of Juicy is introduced by the late Mr. Smalls’ slowly echoing “if ya don’t know, now ya know, nigga” (the last bit summarily deleted in the “radio edit,” possibly the worst thing to happen to music since, well, Sean Combs). With the possible exception of Jean Grae’s quick, twisting “wish I did more sinning/grab a strap on/run up in some women,” the song is unarguably clean.
Nothing in Juicy comes remotely close to the introspective “would I trade it all/cruising down the highway on a bright sunny day/gazing out a plane to see the earth from miles away/watching the Patriots win the Super Bowl/grabbing that fumble from Ricky Proehl/while my stereo provided me with rhythm and soul/i don’t know/all I know is I feel guilt for every single thing I ever bought and sold”.
But, I heard Biggie Smalls this morning on the radio, and no Mr. Lif, and I’m left to stew in my cubicle and wonder why.