Wednesday, June 25, 2014

The Push It To the Limit Rapp

Hip-hop, what took you so long? It wasn't until 2006 that Rick Ross sampled the epic "Push It To the Limit" song from Brian DePalma's Scarface. I mean, Scarface is like #1 iconic movie associated with gangsta rap. The Geto Boys made so many great songs with its crazy vocal samples and took so much inspiration, to the point where one of their lead members changed his name to Scarface. Clips of it have been heard on literally countless rap records - go ahead and try, you won't be able to count them all. And just about every inch of the soundtrack has been combed through for usable hip-hop loops.  Remember that killer Kool G Rap and CNN collabo "This Is My Life?" They flipped that peppy tropical music from when Scarface went to Havana to score and turned into a sick track.

And yet, midway through the movie, one song in Scarface is put front and center. It's a big, 80s pop rock monster. And they play it during a montage of Scarface's rise to power, so you're really listening to the full song play front and center, rather than behind dialogue and sound effects. It's not score, it's a massive song with lyrics and energetic background vocals and everything. But nobody looped it until 2006. I mean, technically, somebody may've used a little snippet and merged it into their track; but nobody made a real "Push It To the Limit" song before Ross.

And he really uses it. Like, I can remember an interview where DJ Ready Red talked about how he mixed multiple samples creatively in every track he made and didn't respect producers who would just loop the main thrust of a song and call it their own. Well, by that standard, he must hate "Push It," because this is doing nothing but rocking that song.

Not that I think there's anything inherently wrong with that (sorry, Red). I mean, hip-hop comes from a long tradition of making "rap versions" of existing songs... Spyder-D's "I Can't Wait (To Rock the Mic)" is one of my all-time favorite hip-hop songs; but I certainly can't praise its instrumental originality - it's just Nu Shooz's "I Can't Wait," turned into a rap song. After all, it all springs from the original hip-hop house parties where MCs were rapping over spun records, not newly created beats; and it's not like anybody was trying to claim they wrote those disco tracks. And just like Spyder-D called his version of "I Can't Wait" "I Can't Wait," Ross is totally up front about calling this what it is: "Push It."

Production credit is given to JR (although, interestingly... they don't credit anyone on this 12"; only in the album notes), and to be fair, it's not like Ross is just literally rapping over original instrumental. They loop just the main chorus portion and throw on some typical Miami bass studio sounds in there to flesh it out with more of a proper 2000s hip-hop feel. But they certainly use the signature, most identifiable moments, including the original "push it to the limit" line from the original hook. And, rather boldly, they actually keep that vocal part rocking throughout all of Rick's verses. Ross actually has to add his own "push! I'm pushin' it. Push! I'm pushin' it" hook on top of that just to separate it from the rest of the song. The only thing it's missing (and probably would've had if this version was made twenty years earlier) is a breakdown that uses even more lines from the original song as a bridge.

You can front if you want to, but this sounds dope, and the rest of the day after hearing it you'll eb walking around your office singing "push it to the limit" to yourself. How could it not work? It was a total freebie, a  a gimme for the first rapper to come along and scoop it up. Plus it's thematically perfect for Ross as he lays done his typical bars about, of course, pushing weight. That was the unintentional(?) pun of the song in its original context, so it's too obvious for Ross not to do it here. That's actually the song's weakest point, since a lot of his lyrics are too generic to really be compelling, and the only lines that stand out are kinda corny ones, like that "who ever thought that fat girl would grow into Oprah" line. A little more time spent on the writing could've made this song one of the greats; but as it is, it's more just a fun 12" to keep in your collection that you can always go back to for an easy, head-nodding amp session.

This was his second single after the platinum hit "Hustlin'," so it probably gets overlooked a little more than it deserves. And like that one, it's featured on his debut album, Port Of Miami. This Def Jam/ Slip 'N' Slide/ Poe Boy Records 12" comes in a sticker cover and just features Dirty, Clean and Instrumental versions on both sides. And even DJs who don't like Rick Ross may well have this one in their crates just for that instrumental. But come on, it's quintessential Rick Ross; this beat waited decades for this guy to come along. Even if you're a die-hard backpacker, you've gotta give the man this one.

No comments:

Post a Comment