Point being there's an exchange, and not every exchange is even. That's the first thought. Then the next thought was while going through my itunes (i.e. the itune swatches that serve as a form of identification), I'm always thinking about here's a song caucasians jock, and it's hot, but negroes probably aren't up on it. And vice verse. Here's a hip hop song, that caucasians might be overlooking, because they don't quite understand the science behind it. Or how it might relate to their worldview. And perhaps, that's what TAN is all about. Translating worldviews.
So, I'm going to begin an official The Assimilated Exchange (Ass-Ex) feature, where I will post two songs, one representing for my caucasian peeps, one for the negro side. We'll do some sort of analysis compare/contrast. And I'll also try and include the mp3 link, so you can add these must-have songs to your collection.
We're going to start with perhaps the most official representatives for either side. The Rolling Stones for my c-peeps. And Jay-Z for my negroes. And I'm going to look at two songs that tackled the same subject/concept. Sympathy for the Devil, by the Stones. D'Evils, by Jigga.
I decided on these two cause I was just reading the XXL issue celebrating the 10th anniversary of Jay-Z's debut album Reasonable Doubt. And it was the third or fourth time I've seen Jay talking about how much the song D'Evils means to him. The songs themselves aren't on the same level. But it occurred to me that Jay might be the hip hop equivalent of The Rolling Stones. Not musically, of course, but in terms of status and importance to their respective genre of music. The Rolling Stones are touted as the greatest rock-and-roll band. Jay as the greatest hip hop artist.
Now, in a battle of the beats, Sympathy wins hands down. Granted it might be comparing apples and oranges, the Jay-Z song is a sample-based beat by Primo, basically a two-bar loop and vocal samples for the hook. The Stones song is a fully evolved musical composition with solos and all that. When you get people talking about hip hop music as lazy, repetitive, boring ... this compare and contrast really highlights that. Especially when you consider Premier is one of hip hop's classic producers.
Of course the caveat here is that Sympathy might be the Stones best song, and D'Evils is not likely to be on the top ten list for either Jay or Primo, aside from sentimental reasons. But if you look at them as song archetypes, you can see where there's just a lot more to build off of with the Stones song.
Moving on to the lyrics, I give the writing team of Mick Jagger/Keith Richards the nod over Hov on this as well. Again, it's a tough comparison, but I take it from the angle of what they tried to do with the devil concept. Jagger takes a first-person perspective, and sort of goes through history as the devil. Jigga goes third-person, and sort of translates the devil not as a person but as a connection to "The-Evils" in the world, particularly on the streets. Both are well executed lyrically. But since Jagger maintains a cohesive narrative flow, and Jay is three separate verses on the subject, it sort of feels like the difference between a good movie and a good documentary. The good movie, draws you in, and immerses you in a story. The documentary tells you about all these things more matter of factly. There's less magic. It's a classic case of the writer's mantra, "show, don't tell."
The comparison here also does a good job of showing how hip hop is still in its early years in terms of creatively expressing these universal themes. A song like D'Evils viewed solely in the context of hip hop's history is a lot more significant. There aren't a lot of songs that try and take on the subject of evil, or the devil, with this sort of twist. But in the context of all the genres of music, it's going to fall short. It's sort of basic. Certainly worth doing, but not a classic song that can resonate across the board. So it shows how hip hop's catalogue overall might still be a little shallow. D'Evils is a big fish in a small pond.
It's also a good demo of how emcees can lose a mainstream audience by being tricky with the wordplay, instead of just telling a good interesting story. Slick Rick was great because he just told the story, he didn't get stuck on maintaining an intricate rhyme scheme over eight bars, or tricky wordplay that has nothing to do with the theme of the song. If he would have dealt with heavier subjects, he might have written a Sympathy for the Devil. As is, Nas would probably be the best bet for a good narrative along those lines.
So to wrap this up. I think comparing these songs, and the stature of the artists shows a lot of what hip hop is lacking. Musicality and creative storytelling with universal themes. Sympathy is a classic song, while D'Evils is a classic hip hop song, limited by the boundaries of its genre at the time. If you're an A&R or producer or manager with a good hip hop artist, you might ask them to take a stab at doing something like Sympathy for the Devil. Get some hot production, and you might very well have a timeless hit on your hands.
Actually take Kanye on production. Add Nas. Tell them to do a hip hop take on Sympathy. That would be a classic.
Sympathy For The Devil - The Rolling Stones
D'Evils - Jay-Z