I was a little slow in getting around to listening to Kanye’s new “Good Friday” series but I’ve been enjoy the hell out of “Devil In a BlueNew Dress” as well as the title song of the series, which features a pretty gonzo line-up including Common, Pusha T, Kid Cudi and more.

Kanye West feat. Common, Pusha T, Kid Cudi, Big Sean, Charlie Wilson: Good Friday
From the Good Friday series (Good, 2010)

My first thought upon listening to this was, “damn, this sounds good” (no pun intended)…”Ye is back! F— 808 and auto-tune-aches.”

Second thought (natch): “what is this piano loop?”

One google search later turned up what I should have realized from the first: “oh snap, it’s Freddie Scott!”

Freddie Scott: You Got What I Need
From 7″ (Shout, 1968)

I just DJed a rehearsal dinner out in Charleston (which will probably be a post in and of itself) and there were two songs that went over the biggest with a crowd of intergenerational White Southerners. The first was this. The second was going from Freddie Scott into Biz Markie. Biz deserves a lot of credit here for creating a timeless classic but let’s also concede: Freddie Scott’s single is incredible – a perfectly put together soul single that has everything you could ask for – superior production, songwriting, singing and a hook that obviously has inspired arguably THE greatest hook in hip-hop history.

And let’s also note: Kanye does an impressive job of flipping Scott here in a way that doesn’t nod automatically to Biz but it”s not just an issue of sampling; whoever wrote the song’s arrangement (Ye as well?) deserves huge credit for smartly using his singers to full effect on the hook and taking folks to church with an uplifting gospel feel. I don’t know if I really want to hear this eclectic line-up of MCs on it but I’m willing to overlook that.

Freddie Scott = the gift that just keeps on giving.

Additional thought: As good as this is, Kanye’sBink’s flip of Smokey on “Devil In a New Dress” is f—-ng incredible and I was genuinely sad that the song is less than 3 minutes long. (I need an instrumental that I keep bumping on endless loop).

Kanye West: Devil in a New Dress
From the Good Friday series (Good, 2010)

Kanye takes a lot of heat – much of it deserved. Like most pop figures trying to exploit the publicity machine to their own advantage, his over-presence is annoying, to say the least, but there’s a difference between someone who you’re tired of hearing about (Kanye, Katy Perry, Justin Bieber) vs. someone you’re tired of listening to. HUGE difference.

I don’t care much for Kanye as a pop icon (and in all fairness, I don’t really care for anyone as a pop icon). But I care very much for him as a musician who continually manages to surprise, impress and occasionally, inspire. And truly, there’s a significant distance he places between what he can do vs. what others are capable of coming with. I was listening to an advance by a different producer/rapper and it was pretty good. Really good, in fact. Yet, I don’t know if there was any track I heard on that entire album that gave me the same “cotdamn!” feeling I felt in listening to either “Devil in a New Dress” or “Good Friday”. That’s not meant to be a diss on this other guy; I think he’s talented and he’s put together a well-crafted, pleasing album. But Kanye is on some whole ‘nother level and it reminds me that long-term success is almost never a fluke, least of all in ‘Ye’s case. Like any great artist, he’s not always going to score on every attempt…but when he hits one out the park, it’s over the wall and smashing windshields. Believe that.

(9/28 update: In case anyone’s interested, I did a small edit job on “Good Friday” that killed two birds with one stone. First of all, I thought Big Sean’s verses on this were garbage. Every time I listened to the song, I got annoyed when they came on…so I cleared them out. But that creates a continuity problem of sorts because the end of his verse normally needs into a break on the song so I had to find a new home for that break and I moved it to the very beginning of the song, futzed around with Kanye’s opening acappella to put it on beat and voila. Theoretically, it’s more DJ friendly but since Kanye only put these songs on his site at 128, it’s not worth DJing with. It has, however, a more pleasurable listen now that I don’t have to listen to Big Sean bragging about how he and his boys ran the train on someone’s wife. Blech.