Part of the “cost” for having grown up as a hip-hop fiend of the ’80s and ’90s is that the line between hip-hop and pop was always clearly drawn in the sand. It didn’t mean you couldn’t enjoy both but they were just two different beasts.
Of course, by the end of the ’90s, rap artists threw that memo out, mostly because hip-hop had all but taken over pop music anyway and, for a good while, many a pop artist trying to stay relevant, would have to kiss the ring and try their hand at integrating hip-hop into their style. And thus, you could have hip-hop producers crossing into the pop realm to lend some “cred” to someone like, say, Christina Aguilera but at the end of the day, you still knew that DJ Premier was “on our side” and Xtina was on the other. That’s just how it went.1
But by the end of the aughts, the lines had blurred sufficiently where hip-hop seemed to borrow as much from pop production as the other way around. Kanye certainly comes to mind, as does Jay Z and I know these are all probably obvious points to make but what I’m trying to say is that, for me, it’s a marked departure. Don’t worry though, I’m not about to get on some “back in the day” soapbox here. I just marvel at how far things have changed.
Case in point: this new fun. album, Some Nights.
This isn’t a hip-hop album in any formal sense and they’re certainly not a hip-hop group yet the album’s half produced by a guy who got his start making tracks for Obie Trice and MOP and the other half is handled by a guy who began producing by working with Goapele and has since become the go-to keyboardist for Ye and Jay.
LIke I said – not a new thing.2 It just catches my eye and maybe, at some point, it won’t and will seem perfectly normal. Which it probably already is.
So anyway…I like this new fun. album a lot. It’s probably not obvious, but I do have a soft spot for baroquely-produced pop songs.3 When my friend Hua mentioned how “hook-y” the chorus was for “We Are Young,” I had to admit: yes, indeed, this is quite catchy. I feel just a tad too old for the it – I mean, no 39 year old is really going to pen a line like “we are young/so let’s set the world on fire” – but I can still enjoy the general verve of it all. However, my favorite song off the album is probably this:
I do have to ignore the cheap shot line about “my life’s become as vapid as/a night out in Los Angeles” but as a closet ELO fan, I’m all about the harmonized hooks on here. Then there’s this:
Don’t front: this Emile track totally could have been some Swizz Beatz-produced banger for Jay-Z circa 2000. And that sh– would have been hot.