LL Cool J has become a victim of identity theft, and the authorities at Hip Hop Media Training have found the culprits.
Basically, every rap artist who has released a song this year has borrowed LL Cool J's "I Need Love" hip-hop ballad formula to find their way on the charts. The hip-hop ballad has been the hip-hop artist's no-brainer way to secure radio play for several years, but things have recently intensified.
Rap artists have continued to produce more easygoing, melodic songs with R&B choruses. However, the likes of Kanye West, Snoop Dogg and Nelly have gone as far as to not only sing the hooks themselves, but to sing entire songs.
Additionally, almost across the board, rappers from T.I. to Plies to Soulja Boy Tell'em have released songs with the female fans in mind, boasting about their ability to satisfy their women physically, emotionally and/or materialistically.
Have rappers gone soft?
Here is my assessment on a few recent examples.
Kanye has never been portrayed as hardcore. His lyrics have covered everything from materialism ("All Falls Down"), religion ("Jesus Walks") and perseverance ("Stronger"). Each of his albums has been different from its predecessor, illustrating the evolution of his sound. When his mother Dr. Donda West passed away last year following cosmetic surgery, the world watched him mourn. I don't think anyone was completely surprised to see how such a great loss impacted his music. His song "Love Lockdown," a story of his inner struggle to let go of a love gone wrong, captured its sentiment in lyric, music, and vocal style. While "Love Lockdown" was clearly the most melancholy song his fans had heard from him, it was befitting. Still, critics, including this one, struggled through Kanye's bad attempt at singing and decision to release an album's worth of it.
"I'm gonna take my time
She gone get hers before I
I'm gonna take it slow
I'm not gonna rush the ..."
Snoop didn't get the props he deserved for this one. It's my favorite R&B song from a rap artist. It surprised me on numerous levels. Unlike Kanye and Nelly's songs in this blog, Snoop clearly understands his vocal range and stays within it. The sound revisits the soulful electronic disco feel of the 1980s. And the rapper who coined the catchphrase "I don't love them h---s" spent the entire song pledging to satisfy his woman. Snoop did such a good job that the gangsta rap community, in good conscious, can't even be mad at him.
"Whatever You Like"
It's no surprise that T.I.'s "Whatever You Like" reached #1. Contrary to popular belief "I love you" are not a woman's three favorite words. Try "Whatever you like" instead. In this song made specifically for the ladies, T.I. promises to shower a special girl with champagne, trips via private jet, jewelry and designer clothes. What's even better is that Weird Al has a bailout crisis parody of the song that offers a not as quite as lucky young woman low budget alternatives like all expense paid trips to Costco, Burger King, and Wal-Mart.
Plies f/Chris J
"Put It On Ya"
Plies is the craziest hip-hop phenomenon I've ever seen. Despite being laced with tattoos, gold teeth, fat gold chains and a raspy grunt for a rap drawl, Plies is hardly your typical thugged-out rapper. Unlike like his predecessors Tupac, DMX, and 50 Cent, Plies has not dominated the charts with songs about partying, getting into trouble or any past days of selling drugs. His chart toppers are about thug loving, and apparently chicks dig it. He even managed to get Janet Jackson, of all people, on a remix for his song "Bust It Baby," a feat that left me shaking my head, wondering what Janet was thinking. Wait until you watch his latest video for "Put It On Ya" where he cooks asparagus for his newest shawty.
Soulja Boy Tell'em f/Sammie
"Kiss Me Through The Phone"
Soulja Boy Tell'em is the funniest rapper to pick on since MC Hammer simultaneously released "Pumps In A Bump" and "It's All Good" following his mega success with "You Can't Touch This." "Kiss Me Through The Phone" is not Soulja Boy's first wannabe LL Cool J ballad, but it is the "Crank Dat" artist's most memorable thus far. The concept of telling a girl to kiss him "through the phone" knocked the wind out of me on first listen. It's the sappy kind of gesture I extend to my 6-year-old daughter and my out-of-state mom. That's it. "Kiss Me Through The Phone" is an over the top attempt to connect with this adoring, female teenage fans. Let's see if the girlies go for it. I hope he has another new dance craze in his back pocket.
The Game f/ Ne-Yo
This is just another example of why I love hip-hop. Rap artists give it to you straight and if you listen closely you can learn valuable lessons. The Game's message of the day is: Guys, don't let your girlfriends act like rap groupies. And definitely, don't let them take a camera phone picture with their favorite hip-hop artists. According to the Game and Ne-Yo, who sings the chorus, asking a rapper if you can take a camera phone picture with him is the same as asking for a little groupie love. While The Game did a good job of conveying a man's perspective of an otherwise woman's magazine storyline, the video still falls into the rappers gone soft category. I was okay with Ne-Yo's super laidback R&B chorus. But a gangsta rap video should never feature "Dancing With The Stars" like ballroom dancing. Never. (Dr. Dre's "Been There, Done That" is the only exception.) The video needs to be re-cut minus Ne-Yo's fancy footwork.
"One & Only"
Man, I really wish Nelly had not released this song as his current single. Nelly has employed his catchy sing song style on all of his hits, beginning with the first one, "Country Grammar." It is his trademark and a huge part of his appeal. Still, "One & Only" is his most contrived record yet. Considering that his latest album has struggled to find relevancy in today's marketplace, "One & Only" feels much like a last ditch effort to salvage the album. Maybe the success of Kanye's hit R&B song made one from Nelly seem plausible. But it was a bad move. Though neither Nelly or Kanye are true singers, Nelly sounds better, however, he still is not good enough to deliver a full fledged R&B song.