Friday, January 24, 2014

Songs #480 and 481 - It's Friday but it feels like TWOsday!

Song #480 of 9999                                           Song #481 of 9999

Title: My Name Is                                            Title: I Got The...
Artist: Eminem                                                 Artist: Labi Siffre
Year: 1999                                                        Year: 1975
Album: The Slim Shady LP                             Album: Remember My Song


Hip hop can be a real education if you let it. I've learned about so much music doing research for the hip hop songs featured in this blog. (Thank you again Wikipedia!) For example, who the hell is Labi Siffre? This I did not know—but Dr. Dre did! While working on Eminem's sophomore effort, Dre sought permission from Siffre to sample his 1975 song "I Got The..." for Eminem's lead single "My Name Is." Siffre refused on the basis of the song's anti-gay and misogynist lyrical content. Ultimately, Eminem tweaked the lyric and Siffre relented. The sampled portion of the song begins at the 2:10 mark.

The sample is so perfectly paired with Eminem's chorus, I never would have guessed it came from a song written 25 years earlier. Notice how the ascending Rhodes keyboard lick alternates in rhythmic sympathy with "My name is" while the descending fourth lick perfectly aligns with "Slim Shady." Right out of the gate, there is some pretty deft musical thought being employed. Once we're into the song, the slapstick special effects combined with the classroom setting plays like a demented episode of Pee-Wee Herman's Playhouse where the show has been hijacked by the vile Slim Shady and Pee-Wee is duct-taped to Chairy.

Setting aside the violent imagery and profanity (I know that's a tall order for many of you and there are plenty of alternate versions out there—all of them inferior), the striking thing about this song is the unique flow of Eminem's rap. I don't think I've ever heard rap sound so natural and free. It's like he's telling a story—there's no affectation or posturing. He plays this bratty kid in a free and easy way, dispensing with ornate wordplay that would be out of character. It just sounds like talking that happens to rhyme and that's what makes it brilliant.

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