Monday, July 28, 2008

"A Milli," "A Milli," "A Milli," etc.

Right-click, set as wallpaper, change background color to Easter pink, set as wallpaper. I'll wait.

In some circles Lil' Wayne has been maligned for rapping better over other people's beats than his own, and his ascendance to the top of hip-hop has gotten a lot of help from producers who have never met him. (I like to imagine Myke Diesel realizing that he could have sold "Mr. Jones" to Wayne all along. Dude probably tore down his cardboard box when he first heard Da Drought 3.) As if to prove that the rap game is not exempt from karma, Lil' Wayne then contributed the song that every other rapper has jumped on to get famous.*

A wide range of artists has spit over "A Milli," from Chris Brown to Curren$y, and I created a muxtape with my twelve favorites. Here's the link to listen to them:

The last time I made a muxtape, no one listened to it because they didn't know what it was. It's a device by which one can create a playlist that end users can stream on their personal computers. It's pretty 21st century. You should give it a try. I hear computers are the wave of the future.

Anyway, I grouped my twelve favorite takes of "A Milli." These aren't all of the versions--by all means, dig up Will Smith's "A Willie" if you're in the mood to shoot yourself--but they are twelve that I really liked.

1. Asher Roth- "Chillionaire"- Because any White rapper worth his salt kind of sounds like Eminem, and because Asher Roth is a White rapper, Asher Roth kind of sounds like Eminem. So anyone who wants to can criticize him for ripping off Marshall. That's a shame though, since he's pretty good. Still, there's something suspicious about how quickly he's shot to the locomotive of the Internet buzz train. He never even performed live until this week, but he already has a DJ Drama mixtape, a link every day on Nah Right, and a full-fledged album with an Akon song coming out in September. The Machine's working a bit too fast for him to not be suspicious. That being said, this is some great work, a much more conscious, altruistic spin on the song with some perfect punchlines. Bonus points for screwing the word "hamper."

2. Cory Gunz- "A Milli"- Originally, Wayne was going to release the album with a bunch of different versions of "A Milli," each one with him and a next-gen rapper he wanted to expose. This is just the forty-second clip of Gunz's double-time verse, but it's still the absolute best verse out there. He doesn't slip once. And Shaquille O'Neal is his godfather. Pace.

3. Jay-Z- "A Billi"- A lot of hip-hop heads overestimated Jay's "A Billi" when it first came out, which is understandable. Listening to it about a month later, it's lazy and off at parts, but there's still the sequence "Shawn Carter, Sean Bell/What's the difference, do tell/Fifty shots or fifty mill/Ain't no difference? Go to hell," and that's enough to get it onto my list.

How can whatever they're cringing at hold a candle to the dude behind them? The funny thing? Even though Reasonable Doubt is that guy's favorite album, he still didn't offer the lovebirds any of his popcorn.

4. Cassidy- "A Milli"- I would say that Cassidy's freestyle is the most cohesive thematically, so that separates it nicely from the rest of the pack. I like him because he always sounds as if he's drunkenly giving directions to someone. Plus, he throws out a Teddy Ruxpin reference. In other news, it's easy to get me to like you if you're a rapper.

5. Fabolous- "A Milli"- Fab has been on quite a tear lately, and he continues his streak here by rhyming "illy motherfuckers" about twenty times. ("Prob'ly pull your Achille, motherfuckers" is the best.) He does spend time explaining one of his punchlines though, which is a pet peeve of mine.

6. Drake- "A Millie Freestyle"- I know very little about Drake--the only time I had heard him before was on the superb song he did with Mickey Factz and Travis McCoy. He sounds so relaxed here, and, unlike many of the less inspired "A Milli" cuts, he's just being himself. He's got a warm, breezy presence.

7. Killer Mike- "A Millie Freestyle"- Killer Mike definitely has the most homophobic version, so that's worth mentioning. (For the record, I think W.F. Baby's "in the pen sharing showers" line is respectful. You just get less clean that way. Lots of germs.) I love Killer Mike, but it really doesn't matter what he has to say; it's all about his authoritative delivery. He could bark at me to draft Jim Sorgi first in my fantasy league, and I'd probably be like, "He must know something I don't."

8. Ne-Yo- "A Millie Freestyle"- Ne-Yo actually comes really hard on this. (Kind of homo, since we're talking about Ne-Yo.) His voice is kind of over-stressed, as if he practiced this a hundred times before recording it. He also keeps talking to someone in the background named Tango? Also, I don't think he's ever aimed a red beam at anyone. All jokes aside, I really liked this. He's obviously pleased with himself. Enough to make a video for the song, which seems like a waste of money.

9. Lil Mama- "A Millie Freestyle"- Anytime you have a mixtape track that runs over five minutes, there's something that could have been cut. Though this is way too long, Lil Mama sounds fantastic over this beat. She certainly impressed me. Around 2:20, she kicks some pig Latin, which is really inventive and well-suited for the song.

10. Hardness- "Amelie"- Hardness is obviously limited by his voice, which is a weird and ineffective mixture of over-educated elocution and inescapable southern drawl. But considering that he can't do much about that, there's still a lot to like here--most people point to he section in French, for instance. Twisting the "a milli" hook into "Amelie" and rapping about French cinema is kind of the definition of too-clever-for-its-own-good, but you have to admit that there are some original lines on this, and it's incredibly focused for a throwaway mixtape track.

11. Cyssero- "A Millie Freestyle"- This cat was affiliated with Black Wall Street for a while, but he fell out of Game's favor because The Game is a third grader with a list of people who are and are not coming to his birthday. He has a comically froggy voice, and he's relentless and triumphant over the beat. He made quite a name for himself here.

12. Lil' Wayne- "A Milli (The Free-Mix)"- This is a tossed-off rendition that Wayne released after the staggering first week sales of the album. Anything he does with the beat is gravy by now, but this still has gleefully non sequitur lines like: "I'm Notorious, I'm like Tupac in Juice/I'm the dude from off "Reading Rainbow" but in Roots." It's also the first time I can remember that anyone has freestyled over their own freestyle, which is as post-modern as Jacques Baudrillard watching a videotaped version of his own birth. Makes a nice book-end to the playlist at least.

*- The countless freestyles over "A Milli" have as much to do with its legacy as Weezy's original version. I kind of wonder how history will treat that. Like, "Throw Some D's" and "Roc Boys" are good songs and everything, but the mixtape tracks using those beats are an inextricable part of my memory. It's not enough to hand just those tracks to my grandson and have him undertand their full impact on the culture. (Yes, I know that instead of handing anything tangible to my grandson I'll just tell him to cross-reference the chip in my brain with the chip in his brain. Chili dog.)

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