Old-School Charm

With Lil Wayne and Big Tymers.

Call it the bleep that was heard around the world. When a bunch of

long-haired German hippies collectively named Kraftwerk cut their hair

and began fiddling with synths and other electronics back in the 1970s,

they could never have imagined where people would take the sound they

pioneered.

Take "Lil Boyz" (RealAudio

excerpt), a song from Juvenile's new album, Tha G-Code,

which has a complex sonic lineage like a Biblical family tree. Aside from

the raps provided by Juvenile, Big Tymers and Lil Wayne, "Lil Boyz" is

constructed of nothing but a Morse Code beep, a boingy mid-range bloop,

a scratch that provides the bassline, and a drum machine hi-hat. In this

song, you can hear a complete archeological arc back to Kraftwerk's

Autobahn (which, believe it or not, provided the soundtrack for

many South Bronx hip-hop parties in the late 1970s). In between, the ball

was bounced from Kraftwerk to Afrika Bambaataa, then to the L.A.-based

Egyptian Lover in the mid-1980s, and on through to the Miami Bass sounds

of Tag Team, 69 Boyz and 95-South in the 1990s.

"Da Magnolia" (RealAudio

excerpt) begins with a low-rent computer voice counting down from

10 to one and ends with a simple wicki-wicki-wicki turntable scratch that

(I swear) sounds as "skilled" as when I commandeered my mom's record player

in 1984 in an attempt to mimic Herbie Hancock's "Rockit." Compared to the

elaborate sampled symphonies of the Bomb Squad, Organized Noize or the

Dust Brothers, this is the hip-hop equivalent of garage rock, in that both

genres are simple and compelling. And just as garage rock featured

some of the stupidest lyrics ever set to wax, so does Tha G-Code,

which contains such songs as "Something Got 2 Shake" (RealAudio

excerpt), with a chorus that goes, "Something got to shake, nigga/

I don't bake a cake, nigga/ run with all the real niggas/ jack all the

fake niggas."

Once again, this album was produced, engineered and mixed by Mannie Fresh,

who — in addition to having the illest old-school name in contemporary

hip-hop — has produced, engineered and mixed every single Cash

Money release thus far, making Master P's Beats by the Pound production

collective seem lackadaisical in comparison. Mannie Fresh's tracks, which

don't use samples (just drum machines and synths), have more charm than

those of any other hip-hop producer working today.

In late 1999, the rubbery, bubbly Southern synthetic production aesthetic

dominates the hip-hop music scene, which, depending on your area code, is

either a godsend or a sign of the coming apocalypse. And with this past

year's hits "Ha" and "Back that Azz Up," as well as his new album, Juvenile

is the king of the hill.


VMAs 2017