Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Snowed In With Lyte Week, Day 2: Paper Thin

Cold, snowy nights like this are perfect for revisiting one of my flat-out favorite hip-hop songs of all time. MC Lyte's "Paper Thin" is the song I go back to whenever I'm feeling down on hip-hop... When I've heard one too many untalented assclowns kicking stupid freestyles or cutting terrible dance records, and I start to question the merits of the entire artform, I revisit this. The simple but hard-hitting beat with the single, perfect sample... Lyte's voice and flow when she rides the beat: rough but playful. The lyrics and subject matter: simple yet perfect songwriting.

And fittingly, this great rap song has been issued on a great 12" single. First up is the version we all know, the album version. As you probably remember, on the LP, as "Paper Thin" reaches what should be the end it loops the entire instrumental, including the back-up ad-lib vocals, and replays all the way through sans lyrics. All I have to say about that is: the 12" version does this, too. Also included is a proper, separated instrumental, and also an acapella version.

Then there's the remixes. What's good about them is that they both wisely keep many elements of the original track that really make it kick, but also change things up just enough to keep it fresh. The first mix by The Audio Two adds a chunky, old school piano break and another sample (from Big Daddy Kane's "Pimpin' Ain't Easy") played behind the hook. The drum track is also constantly being chopped on the turntables, giving it a faster, high energy feel while still keeping the same tempo as the original, so Lyte's vocals still ride it perfectly. Then, The Alliance's remix goes back to the original but adds some deeper percussion and some scratching (not sure if it's by King of Chill or DJ K Rock).

Finally, there's a non-album B-side called "Spare the Rod." This is a fun cut with a reggae-style beat that feels like it could've been lifted right off of Alliance's album. It's a posse cut, featuring everyone who contributed to the 12": The Alliance, Milk Dee and even the King of Chill busts a rhyme. The beat might not be impressive enough, the hook may be too silly and the rhymes too casually freestyled to catch mainstream attention, but I could just picture this being played on a classic Red Alert show back in '88.

Great single for a great song; 'nuff said.

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