3 Hip-Hop Singles Represent A Diversity Of Sounds
TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. Rock critic Ken Tucker has chosen three singles, three new songs he's currently enjoying. They're by the hip-hop artists Lizzo, Lil Peep and 21 Savage, who's now facing deportation hearings. 21 Savage was taken into custody by ICE on Sunday for being a British national who has allegedly overstayed his visa. Here's 21 Savage's single, "A Lot."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A LOT")
21 SAVAGE: (Rapping) Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Ah. Yeah. Wha. Yeah. How much money you got? How much money you got? Straight up. How much money you got? Straight up. How much money you got? A lot. How much money you got? A lot. How many problems you got? A lot. How many people done doubted you? A lot. Left you out to rot? A lot. How many pray that you flop? A lot. How many lawyers you got? A lot.
KEN TUCKER, BYLINE: On his new song, "A Lot," the rapper 21 Savage asks questions such as, how many problems do you have? How much money do you have? How many people in your life hope you fail? And how many times have others forgiven you? And his answer is always the same - a lot. The chorus, voiced over a cool, smooth, jazzy riff, is at once catchy and poignant, clever and heartbreaking.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "A LOT")
21 SAVAGE: (Rapping) Penitentiary chances just to make a couple bucks. My heart's so cold, I could put it in my cup. Gang versus the world. Me and my dawg, it was us. Then you went and wrote a statement, and that really [expletive] me up. My brother lost his life, and it turned me to a beast. My brother got life and it turned me to the streets. I been through the storm and it turned me to a G. But the other side was sunny. I get paid to rap on beats. How much money you got? A lot. How many problems you got? A lot. How many people done doubted you? A lot. Left you out to rot? A lot. How many pray that you flop? A lot. How many lawyers you got? A lot. How many times you got shot? A lot. How many [expletive] you shot? A lot. How many times did you ride? A lot. How many [expletive] done died? A lot. How many times did you cheat? A lot. How many times did you lie? A lot. How many times did she leave? A lot. How many times did she cry? A lot. How many chances she done gave you? [Expletive] around with these thots, a lot.
TUCKER: As a contrast to 21 Savage's agonized experiences, I offer Lizzo, whose new song "Juice" is a good, old-fashioned novelty hit. It's set to a glossy, bouncy disco beat with Lizzo happily proclaiming her healthy self-esteem. Lizzo raps the verses, sings the chorus and vice versa. She's got a strong voice and an even stronger personality.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "JUICE")
LIZZO: (Singing) Mirror, mirror on the wall, don't say it 'cause I know I'm cute, oh, baby. Louis down to my drawers. LV all on my shoes, oh, baby. I be dripping so much sauce got to been looking like Ragu, oh, baby. Lit up like a crystal ball, that's cool, baby, so is you. That's how I roll. If I'm shiny, everybody going to shine. Yeah, I'm goals. I was born like this, don't even got to try. Now you know. I like chardonnay, get better over time, so you know. Heard you say I'm not the baddest [expletive] you lie. Ain't my fault that I’m out here getting loose, got to blame it on the Goose, got to blame it on my juice, baby. Ain't my fault that I’m out here making news. I'm the pudding in the proof, got to blame it on my juice, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee, ya-ya-ee.
TUCKER: My third pick is a collaboration between Lil Peep, the rapper known as iLoveMakonnen and the rock band Fall Out Boy on a song called "I've Been Waiting." Lil Peep was a rapper, MC and songwriter who died in November 2017 at the age of 21. He left behind a considerable amount of finished and unfinished music. One of those tracks has been taken up by his friend iLoveMakonnen and a band Lil Peep was very vocal in admiring - Fall Out Boy. "I've Been Waiting" is an example of what Peep called making sad sound happy.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "I'VE BEEN WAITING")
ILOVEMAKONNEN: (Singing) I've been waiting, I've been waiting up 'cause I can't get enough, oh. I feel I'm fading. When I fall apart, your needle sews my heart, oh. [Expletive] me up and make me just go crazy, addicted to the pain that you just made me love. I'm fiending for your touching on the daily. You're the only one that I want.
LIL PEEP: (Singing) Break my heart but don't tell me I'm not doing fine 'cause I'm doing fine. Let me go. I'm spending time not doing fine but I'm doing fine.
ILOVEMAKONNEN: (Singing) Why you acting vain for my love, vain for my love when you got everything that I want? Why you acting vain for my blood, vain for my blood when you got everything that I want? Why you acting...
TUCKER: This song has met with some extreme reactions. Some think it's bland or even a desecration of Lil Peep's so-called emo rap style. But I'm with those who enjoy it. I admire Peep's portrayals of melancholy here and think "I've Been Waiting" is a lovely coda to his career. Always, songs are open to multiple interpretations, whether we're talking about 21 Savage's fatalism, Lizzo's cheerfulness or Lil Peep's sadness wrapped in happy.
GROSS: Ken Tucker reviewed singles by Lizzo, Lil Peep and 21 Savage. If you'd like to catch up on FRESH AIR interviews you missed, like our interview with Random House chief copy editor Benjamin Dreyer, who is described in The Washington Post as the unofficial language guru on Twitter and has written a new book about clarity and style called "Dreyer's English", or our interview with James Balog about photographing places and people affected by the rising waters and wildfires associated with climate change, check out our podcast. You'll find lots of FRESH AIR interviews.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE'S "WHO'S MAKING LOVE")
GROSS: FRESH AIR's executive producer is Danny Miller. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salit, Phyllis Myers, Sam Briger, Lauren Krenzel, Heidi Saman, Therese Madden, Mooj Zadie, Thea Chaloner and Seth Kelley. I'm Terry Gross.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHRISTIAN MCBRIDE'S "WHO'S MAKING LOVE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.