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Staff Pick Sunday: November Rain vs. International Player’s Anthem

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MTV’s video era was culminated in the early ‘90s. Dr. Dre and his 1964 Impala drove straight up the charts with a canon of early Death Row videos, arguably the best in rap history. But as 2007’s Hip-Hop parallels and borrows from Rock in many ways, it’s important to remember another heavily rotated video of the same period – Guns N’ Roses’ “November Rain.”Set as a wedding-turned-funeral, one of the greatest Rock ballads of all time was very prophetic of the group. 1991’s Use Your Illusion I was GNR’s swan song, anchored by the nine-minute ballad about loneliness, simplicity, and enlightenment. Undoubtedly, I’m probably reading too deeply into Axl Rose’s cocaine and liquor-induced hit, but through the help of this glorious video, exaggeration was welcomed.Sixteen years later, my friend “KSG” made the parallel that UGK & Outkast’s “International Player’s Anthem” is just the same. It shows the evolution of two groups, their maturity as four men, and the long, strange trip it’s been.UGK arguably never got their due. Artists like T.I., Slim Thug and Young Buck continue to remind us of Bun B and Pimp C’s importance in Hip-Hop, but even still, critics and sales-minded fans are already predicting the pushed-back Underground Kingz album to be a dismal commercial outing.I hope not. Whereas so many Southern rap troops are criticized for rushed concepts and gimmicky hooks, neither UGK nor Outkast has lived up to that stereotype. Even in their youth, UGK’s “I Feel Like I’m the One Who’s Doin’ Dope” plays like a Paul’s Boutique interpretation of The Geto Boys’ “My Mind’s Playin’ Tricks on Me.” Complete with raunchy sex acts (blimpkin is the word, no?), suicide, and cold sweats, the song spoke to the paranoid streets in a way that few can. Meanwhile, Outkast has tackled greater issues in their “Babylon” or “Southern Belle” cuts from the ‘90s.“International Player’s Anthem” as a song and video appears simple on the surface. But in an age of celebrated infidelity and presumed mid-life crises, this song preaches a pimp-friendly commitment, amidst the ongoing support of ones peers.The video relies heavily on cameo – whether Goodie Mob or David Banner, faces from the past return to pay tribute to the groups, or perhaps the defying act of maturity. Moreover, the smooth Willie Hutch sample soothes the times with the same milkcrate aesthetic used in both group’s genesis. The percussion changes, screwed elements, and distinct timing of each MC feels like a Southern equivalent of Gang Starr’s “Speak Ya Clout,” only with greater optimism transmitted on the mic.Both Outkast and UGK are at the threshold of retirement it would seem. Music continues to release, but both are stuck in a climate that bends to understand them – perhaps in the same light that Axl and Slash tried to stand out in an era of flannel, Seattle, and melancholic simplicity. Slab stars have hearts, and they’re risking it all by telling us.The last five years of video are forgettable at best. Aside from standouts such as Scarface’s “My Block,” Jay-Z’s “99 Problems” or Talib Kweli’s “Get By,” most of what we watch has been reduced to softcore, beachfront partying, or musical car shows. UGK, Outkast, and director Brian Barber deserve an award for keeping it real.    As protestors fight to find Hip-Hop worth fighting for and clean messages, I stake my bid here. No, Pimp C is rarely warmhearted in his descriptions of love on top of the sheet, but this is the kind of rap music that brings people together; this is the type of video that could bring in new fans for all the right reasons. Every time Willie Hutch’s sped-up vocal makes its choice, I’m reminded of Slash’s crying guitar, or Axl’s beautiful bridge, and of the video that presupposed a great group’s goodbye. In order for real Hip-Hop to triumph, it has to be epic. The Underground Kingz have given us an option, and I’d hate to see a few of my favorite things come together only to be broken apart by industry apathy. I’d much rather see them smile while Hurricane Chris, Baby Boy Da Prince, and The Shop Boyz frown.   Jake Paine is the Features Editor of AllHipHop.com and can be reached at Paine@AllHipHop.com. The views expressed inside this Staff Pick aren’t necessarily the views of AllHipHop.com or its employees.

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