Sunday, September 30, 2012

OutKast (feat. Killer Mike) -- "The Whole World" (2001)

My words are diamonds dug out of a mine
Spit 'em, polish, look how they shine
Glitter, glisten, gloss, floss
I catch a beat runnin' like Randy Moss

Summer vacation ha been over for weeks, boys and girls.  It's time to quit mooning around and start paying attention to your "Hip Hop 101" professor.

Duke Ellington said that jazz don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing.   The equivalent of swing in the rap world -- its sine qua non -- is flow, which is the interaction between a song's rhymes and rhythms (or "beats").

If the rhyme scheme or the beats are too regular and simple, the track will sound sing-songy and the listener's interest will quickly pall.  But if the rhymes or beats are too free or so irregular that the audience isn't able to lock on to the underlying rhythmic pulse, the effect is like that of a vinyl record that skips unpredictably.

OutKast is a two-MC operation, featuring Georgians André "André 3000" Benjamin and Antwan "Big Boi" Patton.  The two met in 1992, when they were both 16 and students at a suburban Atlanta high school, and were signed to a record deal later that same year.

André 3000 and Big Boi are very innovative, and the critics have always loved them.  At the same time, they've been commercial successes, selling over 25 million albums and winning six Grammy Awards.

Here's André 3000's Gillette shaver commercial:

André 3000 handles the first verse in "The Whole World," while Big Boi contributes the third and final verse.  Both men spit their rhymes so rapidly that they come very close to losing their flow.  The effect is like watching a great violinist play "Flight of the Bumblebee" as quickly as he or she can -- it's thrilling but nerve-wracking.  One slip-up and the whole thing falls apart.

Here's a very different performance of "Flight of the Bumblebee":

(Is YouTube the greatest invention is the history of the world or what?)

The lines quoted at the beginning of this post are from the second verse of "The Whole World," which was contributed by guest artist Killer Mike, who is another Atlanta rapper.  Killer Mike brags that his words are diamonds that he has polished until they shine.

Killer Mike
But flow requires both rhyme and rhythm, and Killer Mike can catch and ride a rap song's beats like a surfer catches and rides a big wave -- or like NFL great Randy Moss catches a long pass while running at full speed, never breaking stride until he crosses the goal line.

"The Whole World" was released in 2001.  (I remember hearing it during the warm-ups for my daughters' basketball games at the Academy of the Holy Cross a year or two later -- obviously the nuns weren't paying attention.)

In 2000, Randy Moss gained 1437 yards on pass receptions and scored an NFL-leading 15 touchdowns.  His best year was probably 2007, his first of four seasons with the New England Patriots, when he averaged 15.2 yards per reception and scored 23 touchdowns, which is the NFL record for receivers.  

In 2010, the 33-year-old Moss split the season among three teams, and didn't have much of an impact on any of them.  Last year he was out of football.  But the San Francisco 49'ers gave him another chance, and the results so far indicate that Moss -- he's now 35, and in his 14th NFL season -- isn't finished yet.

Here's "The Whole World" official music video:

Here's the explicit version of the song:

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