Friday, April 28, 2006

... but biting lyrics ain't one

With Pimp C finally out of prison and Bun B continuing to pop up on any and everybody's songs, UGK (Underground Kings -- the Texas-based hip hop duo the two are better known as) is back and trying to reestablish their place in the world of rap music that has been without them for about half a decade. Thus far, the two have appeared together on E-40's "White Gurl", T.I.'s "Front Back" (which is actually a remake of a UGK original), and the remix to Bun B's "Get Throwed", with the videos for the latter 2 getting respectable MTV airplay.

It's safe to say that UGK's name hasn't been this hot since they appeared on "Big Pimpin'" back in '99, and before then, it hadn't been hot at all, at least not on a national level. Their highly-touted '96 release Ridin' Dirty went gold with no promotion or radio/video singles, but solely off of their local fanbase and cult following -- Jay-Z is quoted as saying that he himself copped it some 10-11 times, and it was this album that inspired him to reach out to them to do a track together. I recently obtained a copy of Ridin' Dirty myself, and can agree with the 500,000+ folks that bought it that it is indeed an above-average hip hop album. I can also agree that Jay-Z must definitely be a big fan of the album, mainly after I got to track 7, "Touched". Check out the 1st 4 bars of Bun's verse and I think you'll see why...

"Now once upon a time not too long ago/
A n---a like myself had to strong arm a ho/
Now this is not a ho in the sense of havin' a pussy/
But a pussy havin' no goddamned sense, tryin' to push me"

Sound familiar? Like that one song about how many problems Jay's got? There was a 6-minute MP3 floating around the internet a while ago called "I'm A Biter, Not A Writer", which played various rhymes by Jay, followed by similar (sometimes the exact same) lyrics being rapped by other, older rappers (i.e. Biggie, Slick Rick, Snoop). Obviously an attempt to discredit Jay's rapping ability, it didn't convince me -- for one thing, you could probably cut and paste 6 minutes of anybody's musical career and make them appear to be lesser than they truly are, and furthermore, 10 years of quality albums goes a lot farther than 6 minutes of jacked rhymes.

Even more so, a lot of the times that Jay has used other people's lyrics, he hasn't really tried to fool anyone. For example, on The Blueprint, where he put "He is I and I am him, slim with the tilited brim" into one of his choruses, I'm sure the majority of listeners recalled Snoop Dogg's "What's My Name". Clearly, Jay wasn't trying to fool anyone into thinking he came up with it -- it was a classic line in hip hop music, in a sense it was more a way of Jay paying homage than jacking lyrics.

But in the situation at hand, it's quite different than that. Jay took 4 bars (which is kind of a lot) from a non-commercially-released song, off of a little-known album that has rarely been heard outside of the South, and tried to sell it off as his own on one of his hit singles, possibly his best-known song to date. Now, I'm not about to take away anything positive I've said about Jay in the past, as he still makes better songs than the majority of rappers out today, even if along the way he may steal a line or 2... or 4. But I do feel a bit slighted by this, not that Jay owes me something or anything (ahem**stake in the Nets**ahem). I'm just saying that if he could take 4 bars off of an album that isn't really recognized outside of the greater-Houston, Texas area and go largely unnoticed, who's to say that he hasn't done the same for albums in other cities? All I know is, once me and my crew from Studio City get our demo out, I know who I'm not passing one off to.