Lupe Fiasco: I Gotcha
Forthcoming on Food & Liquor?[1] (Atlantic, 2006)

Fam-Lay: Skrunt Owt
From Dat Missile[2] (Interscope/Star Trak, 2006)

Pharrell Williams: Raspy Sh–
Forthcoming on In My Mind (Interscope/Star Trak, 2006)

The Neptunes are hardly infallible – they make weak sh– on occasion (second N.E.R.D. album anyone?) – but cotdamn, when they’re good, they are very good. Lose your mind good. After what felt like a relatively quiet year in 2005, things are shaping up well in ’06 (it’d be even better if the Clipse can get their album locked down but eh, we’ll see what Jive/Zomba does).

I’m still trying to wrap my head around what the hype for Lupe Fiasco is about besides the fact that he’s like a younger Kanye – with better rhymes and less internal conflict – mixed with Pharrell’s skateboard and hipster appeal – with more LES boutique toys but less Black Card spending power. (Somewhere, Rhymefest is wondering if he should have traded in the blue collar for a Nigo t-shirt). Then again, what the hell do I know? I thought “Kick Push” was a drug song. Anyways, “I Gotcha”…

There’s (at least) two types of Neptunes songs: super-minimalist, deliberately plodding tracks that sound like they should score drive-bys show in slo-mo (see “Gridin'” or “Mr. Me Too”). Then there’s the super-bright, glistening pop songs like “Frontin” and “Beautiful.” “I Gotcha” clearly falls into the latter but it’s also, by far, one of the most infectiously happyy Neptunes beats I’ve ever heard. I love the interplay of different elements here: the dancing piano of course, the hammer hard kick and snare, and what sounds like an accordion being retasked into a drum line anchor. It’s the kind of beat that inspires one (such as moi) into hyperbole – seriously, I think Kanye should be at home, furiously figuring out how to out do this and Beyonce can only sit and shake her head at how anemic “Deja Vu” was in contrast. It’ s a pity this song is more of an internet leak than an actual single since it’s already catapulted high onto my list (albeit a very short one) of great summer songs for ’06. I’ve heard some try to compare this with “Allure” and “Mamacita” but while all three might share some similarities, it’s a far brighter song than the melancholy “Allure” and unlike the reggaeton-flavored “Mamacita” this doesn’t seem as calculated to crossover. Dare I say, it simply sounds joyful.

Fam-Lay is another Star Trak artist in a holding pattern (that’s one cursed label) but “Skrunt Owt” has been making its way online since May. I can’t cosign on the whole “I got your bi— skrunt owt” hook but jesus, this beat. Remember that whole “slo-mo drive by” analogy? Here it is exemplified. Mobb Deep should have traded in all their G-Unit gear to try to buy this beat for themselves…it just sounds like something they would have killed in their prime. The synths have a Vincent Price-like quality – it’s so obviously meant to sound sinister that it’s almost like camp yet it’s still genuinely creepy. As slow as this is, I can imagine it bumping in a club and encouraging everybody to simultaneously get their grind on.

Last, we have a track off the new Pharrell album which is…well…not that impressive. Maybe I need to sit with it more but it’s just Charmin soft and not in that sexy/soft Prince kind of way. That’s why “Raspy Sh–” jumps off the screen at you: there’s nothing on the album that sounds remotely similar and this is the most “hip-hop” of the different songs on In My Mind. The track reminds me of Foxy Brown’s “Stylin,” another fast tempo dance cut that’s hard enough to get the heads nodding along but slick enough to polish the parquet with.

[1] I assume this song will be on Lupe’s album but I haven’t seen a final tracklisting yet. Seems a pity to waste such a good (and no doubt $$$) Neptunes beat.

[2] Who knows if/when this will actually come out. Star Trak got issues even without Jive interference.