J-Kwon: Hood Hop
Arista/So So Def
Let me admit straight away that I learned most of what I know about pro-boozing rapper J-Kwon from an article in the April 5 issue of The New Yorker. What's more, it took a review in that same, historically un-hip-hop periodical to get me to buy the very fine new album by Madvillian. Go ahead, laugh and make fun. All I can say is that, as of late, The New Yorker has been better at covering hip hop than The Source has been at, I don't know, publishing new John Updike poems, by which I mean almost nothing. Anyway, Jake Halpern's exceedingly square but interesting New Yorker feature, through which I became a J-Kwon know-something, is mostly about St. Louis producers Mark Williams and Joe Kent, known professionally as the Trackboyz. Williams and Kent told Halpern that it took just 20 minutes to make the track for J-Kwon's "Tipsy."
No, I don't actually believe that 20-minute story. I take it for one of those harmless temporal fibs that hints at the truth, like Instant Oil Change or Donald "The 40-Second Lover" Rumsfeld. But "Tipsy"--which, as New Yorker readers now know, concerns the concupiscent ebullience that often accompanies the consumption of large quantities of liquor in a nightclub setting--certainly doesn't sound like anyone labored over it. It's scrappy, trashy, nearly ascetic in its lack of ornamentation, like a Timbaland record mixed at high volume on a really good-sounding four-track cassette. As on "When Doves Cry," "Fell In Love with a Girl," and the bootlegs from Parliament's famous "Where, for the Love of Pete, Is Bootsy?" show at the Fargodome, "Tipsy" has no proper bass track. Unless you count the Dom DeLuise-sized kick drum that anchors its "We Will Rock You" beat, or the chorus-only synth part that moves sorta like a bassline but sounds more like a baritone mosquito.
When Hood Hop was being recorded J-Kwon was just 17 years old, but he had the soul of a 17-and-a-half-year-old. Apparently, his interests include alcohol, marijuana, and fellatio--a dominant Hood Hop theme both in that J-Kwon is strongly, violently in favor of it, and in that much of the album sucks. The Trackboyz deftly negotiate auteur fanciness and in-da-club usefulness, but their star on this outing is a middleweight MC and a welterweight intellect. Still, he's a really fun drunk.
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