Tuesday, August 08, 2006
"it's like hot chip. but gangsta."

Fellow funkyfunky 7-er "heightsy" and I were having an interesting discussion the other night about what he calls the "synth rap revolution".

Without reiterating too much of the conversation here, "heightsy" feels that the style of synths used in songs like T.I.'s "What You Know" and Rick Ross's "Hustlin'" is really great (so great that he hails those 2 songs as "tracks of the year. bar none."), and I'm just really not feeling it *at all*.

Now this is probably mostly a style preference thing-- while our tastes cross paths a lot of the time, when it comes down to specifics he prefers much heavier, brooding-type rap to my girly, cute, poppy rap preferences. He loves Can-Ox, I love Blackalicious. His love of Dipset vs. my love of Dizzee. He prefers Bazooka Tooth to my preference for Labor Days. Etcetera.

So it would be simple to say, "oh I don't like that T.I. song because it's too heavy". Which, yes, it is a lot heavier (and duller!) than what I'd prefer to listen to for the most part. But what irks me about the song (aside from T.I.'s over-emphasis and needless sustaining of his thick sloppy southern accent) is how over-used the synths are in it. Mister Heightsy points out, "it's a producer saying, 'man, lemme fucking play this keyboard'. the synth rolls in that TI song are total hip-hop producing regime change."-- which YES it is a lot of synth, and a lot of very active synth at that (in that it's moving constantly as opposed to calculated sparse blips here and there), which *is* a bit unusual for rap production as of late. But I think it's *too* synthesized, if that's even possible. I mean, when the piano chords enter in during the chorus- even the PIANO sounds bright, electric, and completely fake. And this all boils down to personal preference again, probably as a result of my background in classical music resulting in a semi-purist nature when it comes to sampling, but fake sounding strings, piano, chorales, etc, especially if they're intended to sound real but just don't quite, grate on my nerves.

Another thing-- the production quality gives each of these songs a false sense of being epic. It's almost like the producers felt they HAD to go all out and make the music as dense and awe inspiring on purpose to make up for the fact that the rappers' flows in each song are hardly impressive (and at times, even embarrassing). But when people hear the massive production, the sweeping fake strings, the catchy as hell and carefully-composed-to-intoxicate-you synth melodies... before you know it, everyone's brainwashed to think that T.I. and Rick Ross are dieties of sorts. I mean, Rick Ross's Hustlin' ringtone is the most downloaded single prior to the release of the debut album EVAR! Over a million people in this world have their cell phones ringing to Hustlin' right now, which even further adds to the force-fed repetition the record company hopes for in order to sell more albums. And that kind of carefully planned brain manipultion through music is nothing new, dating back thousands and thousands of years. In fact, we even have computer programs now to help our lovely record executives make more money off of tricking our brains into liking shit we're force-fed on the radio. Shit, even I was starting to doubt my original disgust for the T.I. track after the 200th time I heard it on the radio, but fear not, the disgust still remains.

So yeah. To sum up, it's not synth rap I dislike. Hell, my favorite album of 2006 thus far is the Spank Rock joint, so I've got some pretty severe personal/mental issues going on if I were to declare hate on the "synth rap revolution". It's more the way the synths are used excessively in some cases to disguise extreme mediocrity in the rap artists, and the overbearing forceful nature and false ego these songs also embody that I'm not to keen on. And, well, I have a slight negative bias of T.I. because Scarface doesn't think he's gangsta. And what scarface says is always right. So there.


Posted by Lady K! : on Tuesday, August 08, 2006 at 6:13 AM |

oh i have a rebuttal a comin!

there's a tacit assumption being made here that Hot Chip aren't gangsta. that being said, I like both songs and think they're both mediocre rappers. but the synth-rap think has been going on for a while - i mean, the cash money Platinum Instrumentals, half that shit sounds like straight Aphex Twin. and, yeah, the string sounds in that t.i. track are way overbearing. i remain a fence straddler.

"but fake sounding strings, piano, chorales, etc, especially if they're intended to sound real but just don't quite, grate on my nerves"

See, as a rule I love that kind of shit. And I love "What You Know", although it and "ASAP" (so brutalist, except for that cheery drum machine roll!) mark so far the limits of my reaction to TI that isn't complete indifference.

to mal: well yeah, I wasn't trying to imply that synth rap was new or anything. synths have been being used in rap forEVAR. There's just been a resurgence of sorts recently of moving away from over powering beats and nothing else to balancing beats back out with synthy things in the radio rap shit category. and yeah. strings. ick!

to ian: what rule is this you speak of? and why on earth would you make or adhere to a rule like that?! sheesh.

sure sure. I think heightsy is the one that termed it a revolution - which I agree with - I just think it's been going on for a while, no doubt - mostly kuz it costs lotsa money to sample and you can whip out a beat on your korg in like, 5 minutes.

and that is the problem with the world! people sacrifice quality for money! the sad thing is that T.I. has plenty of money to put forth towards quality and didn't! Therefore, my new argument against T.I. is that he's a cheap bastard!

Plz tell me you're being deliberately obtuse; the phrase "as a rule" is an easier, quicker way to say "this is usually true, but I admit there are exceptions to it."

So for example, generally I love "fake sounding strings, piano, chorales, etc, especially if they're intended to sound real but just don't quite" but there are some cases (or rather, some types of fake string sounds etc) where I don't. "What You Know" is not one of them.

of course, ian. sheesh. :oP

I can stand/laugh off fake strings and shit when I know it's supposed to be fake/funny. But when a song comes out that cops such an arrogant attitude of its own self, and sounds like What You Know, it just irritates the shit out of me.

scarface knows all

'tis true.

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