CHRSTINA AGUILERA, BUSTA RHYMES: CAN THEY HOLD A TORCH?


Christina Aguilera: Ain’t No Other Man
From Back to Basics (RCA, August 2006)

Busta Rhymes feat. Q-Tip and Chauncey Black: Can’t Hold a Torch
From A Big Bang (Aftermath, June 2006)

When people heard Xtina was working with Primo, I know many a hip-hop head was like, “huh, what?” It doesn’t really matter to me – the whole concept of the hip-hop sellout is so ’90s at this point, who really gives a f—? The more important question is: will they sound good together? Here’s the deal: I think Xtina has a technically good voice. She’s still not about to take down Mariah, nor is she as good as Whitney in her prime and while she might wish she was Etta James reborn…she’s not and never will be. This said, she does have a great voice but she – like practically 99% of today’s aspiring pop/R&B singers – manages to ruin it by using far, far too much melisma. It’s a goddamn shame every American Idol aspirant feels like they have to copy that same style…seriously, it’s ruining modern pop singing as we know it. Just hit the damn note – you don’t need to be the vocal Charlie Parker to impress people, you know?

With Preem…look, he’s one of my favorite producers of all time but seriously, dude’s been in a rut the last few years, ever since The Ownerz dropped (and I’m sure many Gang Starr fans will say that album was already in rut-mode). So it’s good to see him getting some high-profile work and the beat he does here is…well…it’s fine. It’s not FIIYYYAAAAHHHHH to me but it’s serviceable. Personally, I think this song sounds less like an original track and more like something the Quantic Soul Orchestra would have remixed for a Rebtuz EP. (Note: this is not a bad thing. But it doesn’t sound very Primo-ish…which may or may not be a bad thing). Or something Rich Harrison might have played around with…four years ago. Again, not bad things. Just not mind-blowing.

As for the Busta track…he and Q-Tip have teamed up many a time so for this new album, it’s not a surprise to see them together again (twice no less). This is an interesting song – clearly a throwback of sorts, especially since the track is a reworking of “Lyrics to Go” off of Midnight Marauders. Old dude as I am (aka 33), I’m digging this, especially as it finds two rappers in their 30s speaking from a grown man’s vantage point about “the game.” I don’t know how younger folks are going to react but whatever – the generation gap(s) in hip-hop are nothing new. I like the chorus: “Ayo, what happened?/They ain’t got it in ’em to make a classic/Ayo, what happened?/These n—–s can’t hold a torch so why pass it?” By the way, this is a far better album than I would have predicted (even if Dr. Dre does cosign on it). It’s not an end-to-end burner but Busta is much more mature in his outlook than I might have otherwise given him credit for and he does a good job of reaching older listeners who want to hear something else besides “Touch It” and “I Love My Bitch” (though the latter is rather hot to def).

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