Friday, August 27, 2010

Laugh Tracks On Rap Songs

I was just listening to 7L & Esoteric's latest mp3 "leak" that flips "Drag Rap" (I forget what it's called already, sorry), and I was immediately annoyed by a stupid gimmick. Now, it's a contemporary trend in hip-hop, so it would really be wrong of me to single out 7L & Esoteric for doing what bajillions of battle rappers have been doing to their singles for years. I guess it just annoyed me a bit more because I was hearing an artist I like and respect doing it, as opposed to just hearing it on some generic Copywrite song. Anyway, the gimmick I'm talking about is adding a laugh track to your rap song.

Just like in awful sitcoms from the 70s and 80s, rappers are adding cheesy, canned laughter to their songs, presumably by their producer, DJ, hype man or weed carrier who's ostensibly, for some reason or other, standing in the vocal booth alongside the MC. Every time the MC drops a lazy, generic pop culture reference super-sick, killer punchline, the other guy emits a loud, "Ha ha!" "Wooo!" or "Damn!" I mean, really... if you need to tell the listener that your last lyric was supposed to be witty, your punchlines ain't killin' 'em, dun.

I have a theory about this. I think the trend came out of the late 90's proliferation of radio freestyles. With the release of the many volumes of Wake Up Show Freestyle LPs, combined with taped radio freestyles being dispersed and collected in mp3-form over the internet, these freestyles sometimes became more enjoyed and respected than the artists' actual songs ("Nas's verse on that record is alright, but he kicked it better in rare this Stretch & Bob session over the 'Tried By 12' beat, check it!"). And on almost all those recordings, you'd hear the shows' hosts laughing along and amiably applauding and encouraging the MC, clapping, cackling, and falling out of their chairs if the artist said something critical about a hacky celebrity.

But whatever natural, off-the-cuff charm those recordings had is completely lost when you're clearly deliberately editing it into your song in a sad, self-serving attempt to sell us on how funny you are. I mean, it's bad enough when mixtape DJs edit in their own corny voices over the songs they play, we don't need you doing it for them in advance.

Even the actual sitcoms have learned to stop prodding their audiences when to laugh: look at The Office, 3rd Rock, Sports Night, The Simpsons, etc. They've hung it up and respect their audiences at least to be competent to recognize what's funny. Songwriters, seriously, don't allow yourselves to be outclassed by My Name Is Earl. Leave the canned laughter on the dusty shelf where it belongs.


  1. I couldn't agree more. That shit is mad annoying.
    Preach on!

  2. Did Jay-Z start the chuckling at your own lines thing?

    The best adlib ever was Ghostface screaming "NEW GHOSTFACE!!!" on Supreme Clientele. I think more rappers should do that.