Crunk and Disorderly
il Jon’s question, throughout the opening song in the excellent Crunk and Disorderly compilation is “what you gonna do?” It’s met by a chorus of voices, led by the East Side Boyz screaming, gasping and most importantly reveling in the answer: shit. And, for most of the United States, the last six months has been the exact same situation. Various members of the rapidly codifying Crunk movement have asked questions and issued commands, with audiences more than willing to offer up answers and acquiesce to anything that Lil Jon, David Banner and the Ying Yang Twins have to say.
The movement, in the past six months, has enjoyed the most national success of any regional hip-hop genre in a year in which hip-hop has, undoubtedly, been the most popular form of music. Top 40 radio has increasingly become hip-hop radio. And hip-hop radio has, more often than not, been crunk radio. Which is odd- because crunk is primarily made for the clubs. Defiantly beholden in many cases to the partying without inhibition lifestyle, to hear “Get Low” on the radio at 10:00 AM in the Midwest is, to say the least, is a contradiction in terms. Not that anyone’s complaining, however. The loosely affiliated artists that are leading the genre on this compilation: Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz, Lil Flip, Pastor Troy, Youngbloodz, T.I., David Banner and the Ying Yang Twins all seem to be alternately enjoying and keenly aware of the possibly fleeting nature of the widespread celebrity of this music.
That’s why many of them are already branching out. T.I.’s recent Trap Muzik mines the despair of the Trap and never escaping its clutches no matter where you ascend to, David Banner’s stunning Mississippi: The Album is probably the closest thing to the blues that’ll be seen filed under hip-hop this year and Lil Flip remains firmly more affiliated with the Screwed and Chopped camp than with crunk- using his lugubrious cough-syrup laden flow to interesting effect on “Throw Up Yo’ Hood” here.
It’s not just the lyrical content that’s undergoing slight tweaks and changes, however. Lil Jon- the most famous of the crunk producers- is working in the Miami bass/New Orleans bounce/Cash Money roll lineage and adding his own particular branch onto this amazingly fertile sonic tree. The same sort of martial drum machine running on auto-pilot is plucked from Mannie Fresh’s golden summer of 1999, but this time the melodies are given as much primacy- cribbing nursery rhymes, popular folk songs and crispy synth works into a disorienting stew of eminently catchy and epic productions.
It all starts on Crunk and Disorderly with Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz feat. Lil Scrappy and “What You Gonna Do”, a song that could easily be as massive as any hit this summer with its metallic 808, pan flute melodies and too many call and response chants to count accurately.
Slowing things down even further from the veritable crunk crawl of “What You Gonna Do” is Lil Flip’s “Thow Up Yo’ Hood”. The song succeeds in its obvious debt to the screwed and chopped production style- submerging a quick brass melodic figure underneath the enormous bass. Lil Flip’s lyrical flow is a slight bit slower than many of the MCs you’ll find on this compilation, but considering the chorus: “If you y’all smoke weed/like we smoke weed” and his association with the Dallas based Screwed Up Click, it becomes apparent why he’s taking it a bit slower than those from other Southern locales.
Pastor Troy’s contribution, “I’m Outside”, features a mournful guitar lick over a laboring 808 and what sounds like a recording studio full of Pastor Troy and every single one of his friends, even though it’s only DSGB. It starts a trend of alternately terrifying and prescient tracks that are as disorienting as they are transfixing: Three 6 Mafia’s glorious synthetics and Chyna White’s Lil’ Kim-esque sex rhymes being two of the highlights.
What could be the main draw of the entire compilation, however, is the fascinating way in which the four crunk Christmas carols work to an odd-sense of perfection. Think about it, though. What other holiday has songs as simple, catchy and instantly memorable? The Ying Yang Twins keep it crunk by asking for some weed and a twelve-pack of beer, but also seem to be truly thankful, remembering that the holiday is more about “giving than getting”. David Banner turns in the other Christmas highlight with “It’s Christmas Time (Jingle Bells)” showcasing his particular bluesy brand of crunk- raging against the fact that he’s broke again at Christmas time, unable to get presents for his kids.
The disc ends not with a Christmas carol, however. Instead, it’s Lil Jon again with the Eastside Boyz, Young Buck of G Unit and Pastor Troy in a celebratory mood on “Throw It Up”. Celebratory because, with the inclusion of Young Buck and numerous other East coast and West coast rappers pushing their way onto the remixes of the crunk’s biggest hits, it’s easy to see that crunk is once again aiming the South for the third coast status towards which it is continually pushing. They’ll know they’ve truly made it when crunk rappers are pushing their way onto remixes of the latest Wu-Tang and Dre tracks. But, for now, this is revolution enough. And this compilation is the best place to start figuring out which part of the revolution is best suited for your listening pleasure.
STYLUSMAGAZINE.COM'S ALBUM OF THE WEEK: DECEMBER 15-DECEMBER 21, 2003