Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hastily Posted Thoughts on Crazy Like A Foxxx

Do I even need to say it?

Remember two years ago when Army of Shadows, Jean Pierre-Melville's masterpiece about the French Resistance against the Nazis was released on American screens 37 years after the fact, and it so thoroughly shitted on every movie that came out in '06 that many critics ranked it the best film of the year, even though it actually was made in 1969? Uh, probably not.* Similarly though, Freddie Foxxx's unreleased 1994 album Crazy Like a Foxxx finally dropped this summer, and after finally getting around to give it half a listen I've already come to the conclusion that it's the best album of the year. Not that it's that special compared to what was coming out at the time, but just as the worst song off The Infamous (that would be "Party Over" - Noyd kinda fucked that one up) is better than the best moments of most present-day artists' careers (especially Black Milk's), many of the merely solid albums of the mid-90s hold up way better over multiple listens than today's best releases. Like let's be real - Carter III is probably the one album people will even still remember from 2008 a few years from now, and how many times can you listen to Wayne compare himself to a Martian? Enjoyable shit, no doubt, but the novelty fades over time. Like any lyricist who pursues lyricism for the sake of lyricism, instead of tying his lyrical abilities to some kind of narrative (GZA, Ghost, Rae) or agenda (Prodigy, Nas), or both, all he's really got going for him is his "oh shit, what did he just say" value, and that dramatically fades after the initial surprise of "what did he just say". (Similar in a way to movies with trick endings.)

So it's Freddie Foxxx with the album of the year. Actually, it's a double album - when you "buy" Crazy Like a Foxxx, you're not just getting the original unreleased album, you're also getting the demo version with all D.I.T.C. production that he had to scrap for some obscure reason and replace with beats from himself and one Sid, AKA S.I.D., whom I'd never heard of until reading up on this project. Oddly, Sid's beats are actually better than Showbiz, Finesse and Buckwild's. A lot better.

For example, while D.I.T.C. laced Freddie with some boilerplate jazziness for "Can't Break Away" (a pretty depressing song about how he can't break away from the ghetto), this Sid dude samples a pan flute, some moody strings,** and most importantly a pretty and kinda sad guitar lick from Curtis Mayfield's 'Right On For the Darkness' three years before Mase and Total filched the same lick for 'What You Want.' Way more appropriate! On 'Project Mice,' one of those didactic tales
with a way-too-obvious metaphor that every mid-90s album had, D.I.T.C. serves up a super-spare, super-dull beat, just drums and a bleak bassline and an occasional piano stab thrown in for the slightest bit of color, that renders Freddie's tale a little too didactic, all too formulaic, and very boring. Seriously, in D.I.T.C.'s hands shit starts to sound like a gangsta rap spin on the sheep-counting sleep technique ("the first black mouse was named Ike .... the second black mouse was named Leroy... the third black mouse was named Tayshaun... the big white rat was named Bob***...). But Sid loops up Hank Crawford's 'Wildflower' of Kanye's 'Drive Slow' and Pac's 'Shorty Wanna Be a Thug' fame and throws in some cheap west-coast synths on the hook, turning that same dull story into something of a suspenseful boom-bap morality play. Go Sid! And would it be blasphemous if I said I always felt D.I.T.C. was overrated? Buckwild definitely had great moments, as did Showbiz and Finesse -- but they made Big L's album boring. (In fact, before they gave the beat for 'Da Graveyard' to Big L, Freddie rapped on it on the demo version of this album.) I don't even see how that's possible, but it happened. They're definitely no Beatminerz.

As for the raps, as the quotation above would tend to suggest, they're not too subtle. But you don't listen to Freddie for subtlety, you listen for passion, and he has that in spades. There's a common misperception that all dude ever rapped about was beating people up, shooting people, the size of his guns, the size of his other guns, etc. There's some of that here, but mostly you're getting a very reflective, thoughtful Freddie who raps about topics from crooked reverends to dissing the Ultramagnetics to racism - a guy who hangs with G Rap in his prime and outshines Pac on 'Killa' to the point where I just might have to lift my "No Pac On The iPod Rule" and put the song on (I really, really can't stand Pac). It's a hell of a record.

Freddie Foxxx - Can't Break Away (1994 Version).
Freddie Foxxx - Can't Break Away (Crappy D.I.T.C. Version).
Freddie Foxxx f. 2Pac - Killa.
Freddie Foxxx - Project Mice (Snoozy D.I.T.C. Version).
Freddie Foxxx - Project Mice (1994 Version).
Freddie Foxxx - So Tough (probably the best song on the record).

* Definitely see that though. A little slow but easily the best movie ever made about the Nazis. Regardless of what professional moron Armond White has to say about it.
** I could be totally wrong about this - I can't tell an accordion apart from a human voice. Kinda limits my bloggerability.
*** Oh yes, this song features a big white rat.


Badmon3333 said...

See man... how are you gonna shit all over boom-bap rap re: the Termanology and P. Bros. albums and then call some unreleased record from 1994 the album of the year?

Your logic is slippin, son...

Badmon3333 said...

'Crazy' is alright, but I'd give the '08 nod to Mighty Underdogs before Freddie.

tray said...

Because Termanology's garbage. I do like the P.Bros album though.

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

because i live in the area, i feel like i should enjoy termanology's music. but i just can't, he bores me to tears.

Badmon3333 said...

Fair enough, Term wasn't the greatest example. Freddie's '98 solo album, 'Industry Shakedown,' didn't really get a ton of love, but it's solid as well. I've always like Foxxx; his verse on O.C.'s 'M.U.G.' is one of the best I've heard.

Badmon3333 said...

Re: your Pac hatred... I think he's a bit overrated as a lyricist, but try as I might, I STILL can't hate on "Thug Luv," off the Bone Thugs 'Art of War' disc, that's got the shotgun blast as a "drum fill."

Guilty-pleasure classic.