Monday, June 11, 2007

Where They Are Now

This Is It, Y'all. Mp3s have been floating around the 'net for a while, but the actual record finally just came out: "Where Are They Now," the remixes. In fact, it's a Japan-only limited edition 12" on Ill Will Records (Nas's sub-label imprint), so snatch it while you can.

So, what's the big deal about a remix 12" of a mediocre (at best) Nas song? After all, Hip-Hop Is Dead is just one more in an increasingly long series of dull and disappointing follow-ups to Illmatic, and "Where Are They Now" was one of the worst songs on there. The beat was dope, but very familiar: James Brown's "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved," which has been used in about a bajillion previous hip-hop records, from Kool G Rap's "Poison," to the most similar that I can think of, Professor Griff's "Pawns In the Game" (let's face it: essentially, this is the instrumental to "Pawns In the Game"). It's still damn good, though; and this beat would be fine - one of Nas's best even, though that's saying very little - if it wasn't for the rhymes. Yes, "Where Are They Now" is another one of those boring, lifeless name-dropping songs; where an MC does nothing but list the names of other MCs in the hopes that some of their "street cred" rubs off on them. 2Pac did it, Big Daddy Kane did it, Bahamadia did it, Edan did it; everybody's done it. It's not original, engaging, entertaining or thoughtful; it's just... a list. It's like when hip-hop albums had those boring shout-out tracks at the end, only here they're right smack in the middle and the artists think it makes them cool or something. Who the heck wants a remix of that?

Of course, most of you reading this already know the punch-line... As I say, this has been on the internet for months. But now the actual record has been released. Why is this such a must-have? Because of the line-up!

"Where Are They Now (90's Remix)" features Redhead Kingpin, Rob Base, Spinderella, Father MC, Monie Love, Mike G of the Jungle Brothers, EST of Three Times Dope, Positive K, Krazy from Das EFX, Mr. DoItAll from Lords of the Underground, Chip-Fu from the Fu-Shcnickens and Dres from Blacksheep! Nas doesn't even rap on this; he just "hosts" it, saying a few words between every couple of verses. Instead he's just found all (well, not all... but a lot) of the MCs he name-dropped on the album cut and gave them eight bars each to shine on this new, massive posse cut. The instrumental keeps the James Brown track, but blends in the instrumentals form each MC's greatest hit - sometimes more than one, even - during their verse (most of the time it works really well, though a few times they don't gel together as well as the rest... for example, "Monie In the Middle" mixes in hot, but trying to get "I Got a Man" in there feels a little awkward).

So, you've got the 90's remix, plus the instrumental, then you flip the record over and damn! "Where Are They Now (80's Remix)," which is formatted the same way and features MC Shan, Raheem of the Furious Five, Doctor Ice and Kangol of UTFO, Kool Moe Dee, Sha Rock of US Girls and The Funky Four + One, Tito of the Fearless Four, Grandmaster Caz, LinQue, Dana Dane, Pebblee Poo (remember? She did "Fly Guy," the answer record to the Boogie Boys' "Fly Girl") of the Masterdon Committee and Just-Ice!

Then there's "Where Are They Now (West Coast Remix)," which gives up on the decidedly east-coast sounding James Brown foundation in favor of a more mellow track for the West Coast MCs: Breeze, Kam, King Tee, Candyman, Threat, Ice-T, Sir Mix-A-Lot and the Conscious Daughters. It's a definite head-nodder, but they've also forgone the technique of blending in each MC's previous hit(s) to the instrumental, which is a little disappointing. Guess they got a little lazy by remix #3, but it's still cool; you won't really miss it.

Now, I say how can you not need this record just looking at those line-ups? And most of the MCs come off well, too (even the ones that don't instill much faith based on their past output). Stand outs for me would be: Redhead Kingpin, Shan, Doc Ice, Kool Moe Dee and Breeze; but I'm sure everybody will have their own favorites. I made two previous posts (here and here), naming what I feel are the two essential, full-length albums of 2007 to date. Well, this would be one of the two essential 12" singles of 2007 (the other being Master Ace & Marco Polo's "Nostalgia;" except, lamely, it only features the clean/edited version), definitely a necessity.

No comments:

Post a Comment