Sunday, August 27, 2000
Outkast - Bombs Over Baghdad

So you probably already know that this is the best hip hop single of the year so far. And why (summary: it combines the fractured rhythms of Timbaland and the infectious energy of bounce with the sonic bombast and righteous fervour of Public Enemy circa. "Welcome To The Terrordome"). Which is pretty much all you need to know to convince you to go out and nab this song right now. Or at least napster it.

Which places a limit on the usefulness of this review, except that I can't stop from falling all over myself in praise of the beats being used here, which find that rare middle ground between production virtuoso and visceral effect. At once frisky and rigid, complex and pummeling, all by themselves they warrant the Bomb Squad comparisons going round (though I suspect that such comparisons are actually inspired by the cluttered arrangement and mid-song shifts).

I suppose that won't make sense if you don't believe like I do that often a hip hop beat alone will set the attitude of the music/song/narrative it's framed within, from the lazy, hypnotic flow of Dr. Dre's menacingly laidback g-funk sound to Swizz Beats' stiffly mechanical ironman aggression. The feeling that the hotwired, wiry drum programming serve up here by producers Organized Noize is one of affirmative aggression. By which I mean that instead of the destablising brutality of Swizz Beats' productions, or the death by pins and needles snare attack of Mannie Fresh's work for Cash Money, these beats are hard not crippling. In their rolling complexity, they don't seem to encage the music or the rap so much as propel them onward and upward.

On a purely technical level the rhythms are interesting. Despite obviously being constructed one painstaking beat at a time, there's a sort of natural funkiness that reminds me of jungle's chopped up breakbeats rather than the robotic sound of Timbaland or bounce. The closest example I can think of would be The Neptunes in their hip hop guise (especially the boneshaking drums they fashioned on Noreaga's "Superthug" from '98, which is well worth nabbing also), only unlike The Neptunes and their fondness for rigorous one bar loops, "Bombs Over Baghdad" is as rhythmically diverse (and perverse) as any Fresh production. Which puts it at the very forefront of the programming revolution currently sweeping hip hop. Hooray.

All this is completely ignoring the other factors that make "Bombs Over Baghdad" a stellar single, but should give you some indication of the song's overall excellence.


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