I am reviewing this album, but really, similar to why I usually don’t do reviews of hip-hop since I’m white, it’s not really an entity that’s ably exposed to any type of analysis on my part.
But, I THOUGHT it was, momentarily, when on the opener “Lemon” Pharrell goes something like “She wants me to beat it like a T.I. case”. See, this is why he loads up on the guest rappers, and for the most part stays behind the machines for cutting edge, vanguard hat rolls, debased snares, but most importantly, the ermine bath of texture and melody that is “Deep Down Body Thurst.” I could analyze this stuff theoretically: mention the vaguely vaudeville, Beatles-esque melody-romp of this music (think “Martha My Dear”; “Don’t Pass Me by” Beatles), the almost “metal” descending breakdowns crowding the Kenrick-featuring energetic centerpiece “Don’t Don’t Do it,” the curious slowed-down outro portion of “Voila” which… I’ll be honest… I don’t even know WHAT to call (admittedly I’m a little hungover right now).
And sure, that’s a piece of the sandwich. But at its core, NO ONE EVER REALLY DIES is still an inherently BLACK album, which is a lot of what makes it great. It’s undeniably rhythmic music. Almost nobody in it sucks, except for the rapping of Pharrell (granted I haven’t listened to the Andre song yet). I just got this email from Pitchfork (why I’m getting emails from them by the way is beyond me) asking “Is live streaming making music worse”? Um, no. And next time come back with some slang or I’ll smack the sh** out of you… in email reply form, of course.
But getting back to the beauty of NO ONE EVER REALLY DIES, anyway, Kendrick is the best rapper on it no doubt, spewing like some sort of human volcano on “Don’t Don’t Do it,” a track which despite its fearsome testosterone you’re certainly more than likely to encounter in bars, clubs, barbecues and all that good stuff in this year to come. See, they gave us four months to even plan how to use this thing properly. They knew we’d need it. Now it’s time to hibernate and meditate.
But other songs equally find all these different famous rappers somehow focused, malleable within this particular project which to me proves that hip-hop is still a producer’s art form, every bit the extent to which it is a rapper’s. Gucci Mane comes in on “Voila” sort of venting about his situation as a famous celebrity rapper (“They think I’m a magician / They think I know magic / They I go abracadabra leave and come back / And (I’m) something different”), but really, it could just as well be Pharrell saying this: it’s the stance of the overall organism here that is pumping through. Even Kendrick Lamar on “Don’t Don’t Do it,” while showing singular rapping chops, still tells of the overall, universal black situation (“You better duck real fast”… “Pac Man gonna prosecute ya / Raise your hand up and they’ll shoot ya”), and in my opinion DAMN was a DAMNABLE (perhaps temporary) foray into egoism for the Compton rapper, something which his solo albums might always preside as… he** there’s probably only so much wisdom one person can bestow on everybody. But it’s not out of the question that “Don’t Don’t Do it,” a guest spot on a N.E.R.D. album, will go down as his career’s defining statement.