Crank up my alpine, and my bass crazy kickin' it
Photo by Ryan Andrew Mihalyi
I don't know how to drive. I couldn't give proper directions down a one-way street. I failed my exam in near-record-time when I almost slammed into an oncoming car. And as my friend Sarah will happily tell you, her favorite nickname for me is 'Ol Two Legs. Yet when I hear the Pusha T-Cool Kids-Bun B remix for Kidz in the Hall's "Drivin' Down the Block," all I want to do is run out and buy a car. Any car as long as it's got a punishing soundsytem and fridge-sized subwoofers to pump this anthem at full blast. And if it happens to come tricked out with some 22-inch rims and vintage tailfins, hey, all the better.
No wonder the song sounds so good: "Drivin' Down the Block" was already a sturdy leadoff single from Kidz in the Hall's mainstream-tilting The In Crowd. With its Tribe Called Quest shoutout, ATLiens callback, and indie-crib of Nelly's nursery-rhymes singalongs, it's an eager, earnest, if slightly too calculating, attempt at a hit. Its chorus, sampled from Masta Ace's "Born to Roll," is just about perfect too, a simple, bass-heavy beat designed for windows-down blaring. Still, as likable as the song is, the remix manages to improve on it dramatically. By keeping its essential features and upgrading with a few choice extras, the remix is the souped-up premium series to the original flavor's economy-class model.
Most striking are the guest turns, who bring a jolt of confidence and personality to the track. It's weird/brave that Kidz in the Hall would bring in the Cool Kids, considering they're so often compared and so similarly named. Kidz' MC, Nawledge, has also been getting some Clipse-without-the-coke callouts, so the appearance of Pusha T is another odd/interesting choice. All of them together either sound very consistent or kinda homogenous, depending on your perspective. I happen to think they fit together really well, especially since everybody seems intent on dropping strong, smart, to-the-point verses. And of course, it helps that there's also the palate-cleansing interruption of America's favorite trump card, Bun B.
It's refreshing/disconcerting that regional differences in hip-hop have been erased to the point of obliteration like this. Whereas rappers used to beef about turf, they're now content to invite guests on tracks almost irregardless of reasoning. The most egregious example was last year's "Hello Brooklyn," which had Lil Wayne inexplicably paying homage to Jay-Z's native borough. Another bizarre (and better) recent pairing found Dizzee Rascal and UGK comparing notes on what it means to be a transatlantic gangsta. Because Bun B's appearance on "Drivin' Down The Block" is nowhere near as strange, his gruff Southern slang and hard-edged presentation provide a sharp, welcome contrast to the other rappers. It's novel without being a novelty, a well-placed rumble strip to keep heads awake.
Since car culture seems to transcend hip-hop divides, it's fun to see how different artists respond to the same basic cue. For Pusha T, his ride becomes a status symbol housing all his other labels; for Bun B, it's a vehicle to obtaining endo, chickenheads and candy paint. On a separate remix, El-P presents his car as cage, yet another tracking device and institutional deathtrap trapped in the grid. (It would've been more effective if he hadn't already done it even better last year on "Drive.") It'd be cool to see how other iconic rappers imprinted their own versions, getting, say, an freewheeling auto-erotic fantasia from Ghostface or a nostalgic, R&B-hooked cruise down Marcy Ave. from Jigga. Whatever else may follow it though, this current remix is already guaranteed a spot on my 2008 summer rotation. I'm sure it'd sound fantastic thumping out of a speeding convertible, but for now, it even kills on two legs and a bus pass.
* MP3: "Drivin' Down the Block" (Remix ft. Pusha T, Bun B and the Cool Kids) - Kidz in the Hall from The In Crowd [Buy it]