Monday, August 31, 2009

Nostalgia For The Days of 'Sunshine'

Somehow Lil Flip's 'Sunshine' wandered its way into my head, though I haven't heard it in 4 years, and I thought I'd write about it. 'Sunshine,' if you'll recall, was one of the most despised songs of the decade (despite, or rather in part because of, its somehow reaching #2 on the charts.*). 'Sunshine' was derided because Flip's rapping was incredibly lazy, it featured a lame r&b hook, it was really soft for a guy then regarded (and not entirely unjustly) as the South's Freestyle King, but most importantly because of that immortal line:

Spaghetti, shrimp, and steak, and I'll adore you
I'll treat you like milk, I'll do nothing but spoil you

An awful line, though maybe a goof like Kanye could pull it off. Anyway, Flip really half-asses it and so it sucks. Nevertheless, as a piece of songwriting and production, the tune is not without a certain candified craft of the sort found in Ja Rule/Ashanti collabos of that period; actually, the whole thing plays out a bit like a really stilted 'Always On Time.' (They both feature a cute little acoustic guitar line, a line, which, on similar songs of the era, will often waver into 'Maria Maria' pastiche.) Which, depending on what you think of 'Always On Time,' isn't the worst thing in the world. I guess what I want to say then is a couple things.

One, though 'Sunshine' isn't a great exemplar of the bubblegum rap aesthetic of its day, it is, for what it's worth, a song that could never have been made this year or the year before. Precisely because that particular aesthetic is so dead. I would admit to liking Ja in his commercial heyday, Kells's 'Snake,' 'Bump Bump Bump,' '03 Bonnie and Clyde,' as well as the great-grand-daddy of many of these tracks, Puff's 'Senorita.' 'Sunshine' a good song, no, that whole sound a fun one, yes, for me anyway.

Second, oh for the days when the worst thing in the world was rappers half-assing shit and making garbage for-da-ladeez tracks promising to treat their significant others like milk! For one thing, a lot of those songs have their stupid charms, particularly when the rapper is in on the joke of how much this sucks. (Think Neef on 'No Better Love.') That's not the case here, but the song's still funny. For another, there are so many worse things in the world than 'Sunshine' and its ilk. For instance, rappers who sing, or, rappers who decide to only sing, or, rappers who decide to only sing and only sing into shitty pitch correcting software. Then you've got rappers hanging on past their prime, which you're just seeing way more of now than 5 years back, when that was only an issue with LL and.... yeah, who else? Master P tried to do a comeback with Lil Jon but that shit was actually hilarious. Mase did a comeback, it yielded a couple of okay songs and hardly poisoned the landscape. Then you've got the inanity and dullness of someone like Drake. Of course, it's become totally okay to rap without actually knowing how, doing songs with Justin Timberlake and other people who really belong nowhere near a rap album's track list is de rigeur, lyrical types go pop with disastrous results (Common), fun ignorant types choose to attempt to please the bloggers who will never buy their albums anyway and work up their flows to the point where they're no fun anymore (Jeezy, Ross) - in short, the multitude of ways in which it's today possible to make a bad 'rap' record has expanded astronomically. Compared to most of them, 'Sunshine' seems positively purist.

* Amazingly, if it weren't for 'Slow Motion, 'Lean Back,' and 'Goodies,' two of which were great singles (and the third of which was utter garbage), 'Sunshine' would've been a #1 song. Speaking of 'Slow Motion,' it's notable that, in spite of Wayne's burgeoning stardom, Cash Money would not chart another #1 again until 'Lollipop.' In fact, unless I'm mistaken, Cash Money's first #1 single ever was 'Slow Motion' - from which it oddly follows that the two songs for which the label's known best weren't produced by Mannie Fresh, and don't even sound much like him, though 'Lollipop' bears a slight resemblance.

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