Trama's "Da Bridge Iz Ova," about the collapse of 35W into the Mississippi last summer, is the kind of protest song you only hear now online. Its boisterous beat-jacking recalls the old-school joys of plundering copyrighted material, a practice now relegated to mixtapes, which exist to lift backing tracks from hits (with the tacit approval of a music industry happy for any promotion it can get). "Da Bridge" also revives the old-school real-time response to local events, never mind that it's already dated—Minnesota settled with the victims of the disaster two weeks before the track appeared on Barack OTrama: The Mixtape last month.
Whatever your political bent, the fallen bridge remains a potent metaphor of neglect under Republican rule as the party plans its national infomercial from St. Paul in September. And while Trama's retelling of events is nothing most residents didn't experience first-hand (the recognition that it could have been us or our loved ones on the bridge, the flurry of phone calls to confirm that it wasn't), the song does refocus the mind. Ingeniously borrowing Boogie Down Productions' 1987 classic "The Bridge Is Over" for its music and perfect title chorus, "Da Bridge" offers Tram, a Queens native of Trinidadian heritage, the opportunity to show off his Caribbean roots by singjaying. Remember that the BDP original had been an answer to MC Shan's "The Bridge," about the Queensbridge housing projects' central place in early rap; KRS-One played the bass line from Super Cat's "Boops" on piano while singing his disses to the tune of Billy Joel's "It's Still Rock and Roll to Me." Now Trama sings: "Everybody talkin' 'bout Mn/DOT fronting but you're still telling lies to me."
Meanwhile, the gem of local Trama collaborator Muja Messiah's similarly politically minded mixtape MPLS Massacre is another wholesale sample and rewrite, in this case of M.I.A.'s guerilla-thug anthem "Paper Planes," itself a from-scratch retooling of the Clash's Vietnam bossa nova "Straight to Hell," and recent rap-over fodder for everyone from Bun B to Baltimore's Rye Rye. Muja's version shows no trace of the Clash's or M.I.A.'s politics, unless you count Ghanaian-born Minneapolis rapper M.anifest equating double-barrel armed robbery with "reparations" on his guest vocal. Mostly, this and the Trama track are collectible signs of activity from voices we need to hear more from—funny and, above all, shameless.
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