Saturday, July 30, 2005

Rap Oddity: The Rapsody

Black man, white woman, black baby

Xzibit: "E Lucean Le Stelle"
Puccini: "E Lucean Le Stelle (Reprise)"
Mobb Deep: "Nessun Dorma"
from The Rapsody Overture: Hip Hop Meets Classic 1997

Bonus Track
Bounty Killer: "Hip-Hopera ("Mr Punk")" feat. The Fugees
from My Xperience 1996

Rapsody: the sibling of Bushwick Bill's Rapera, or MTV's (or Volume 10's) Hip-Hopera. Will the mind-bogglingly clever wordplays on the melding of rap and classical (RAPsical, anyone?) music ever end? I could devote an entire post on analyzing the cover of this album, but instead lets focus on the music. This oddball import album that sported the Def Jam logo turned up in 1997 with an impressive tracklisting, featuring Xzibit, LL, Warren G, Redman, Onyx, Nikki D, Mobb Deep, and more. What really intrigued me, however, was the tagline "Hip-Hop Meets Classic," which implied the collision of hip-hop music with classic orchestral music. What the cover didn't mention was the wack European producer Klaus Voelkel stitching it all together with cheesy drum kits and synth sounds.

With that said, I present to you these rap oddities. Xzibit opens the album with a lyric reminiscent of "LA Times," and you have to wait til the chorus before the lilting oboe from Puccini's "E Lucean Le Stelle" solo appears. I wonder what Thayod, Havoc, or Warren G could've done with such a melancholic sample; in the hands of the German hip-hop hack, this album becomes a Frankenstein invention, neither hip-hop nor classical, but a grotesque and awkward union of the two.

"Nessun Dorma" (translated, "no one sleeps") is the gorgeous Puccini standard that Pavarotti is known to rip. On this album, it becomes an unwitting comic outro, as Havoc and Prodigy puff "spread it out," and "QBC!" over the orchestra warming up. When the actual beat drops, the production sounds straight out of an informercial, and the QB duo phone in their performances (can you blame them?). The operatic chorus appears briefly ("Vincero!!!!") following the first and only verse, and the listener can imagine what could have been: the combination of some of the most beautiful melodies that the world has ever known, mixed with the modern boom-bap. The concept still looks interesting on paper, but has yet to actually be executed by a producer who understands, respects, and has mastered both forms.


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