Listening to Mystikal's Tarantula
again today - what an amazing album! Maybe in the future albums like Tarantula
and Trina's Diamond Princess
will come to represent a lost moment between the two waves of southern rap attack, when the scene's big stars were no longer certain of what they should sound like and so tried to sound like anything and everything. But while Trina's album is a riot of costume-changes (bhangra! sped-up soul samples! etc.) Mystikal managed to concoct the perfect blend of grunting crunk and sparkling pop-rap; even the track produced by Juvenile is disarmingly fragile, all effervescent synth flutters and agile syncopated beats.
Perhaps it's his commanding presence as bandleader that makes the distance from Neptunes organo-funk to mechanical bounce seem so neglible. What's always heartening though is how the harder gangsta tracks ("Big Truck Driver", "Pussy Crook") are just as captivating and distinct as his Neptunes-assisted James Brown impersonations (although perhaps the better way of putting it is that Mystikal doesn't need
the Neptunes to do James Brown, and he brings that hilarious energy to even his most misanthropic, self-consciously baller moments).
As always though, I find myself returning to "Oooh Yeah", a gloriously slinky bluesy sexfest that, if it were ever so slightly faster and harder, would be the dancing song ever
. How can you possibly argue with a chorus of "Oo-oo-ooh yeah! Oo-oo-ooh yeah! Clap clappa that clappa that ass clap clappa that clappa that ass that ass! Wop-wobble that wobble that ass wop-wobble that wobble that ass that ass! Oh-oh-oh-ohh yeah, oh-oh-oh ohh yeah!"
If only Ludacris's Chicken & Beer
had the same sustained intensity! Or, alternatively: if only Ludacris could pull off his ill-advised soft-soul detours with the same untouchable confidence with which Mystikal tackles James Brown funk. The Ludacris/Mystikal comparison returns to me frequently because the two guys are the great showmen
of rap, whose every line drips personality and charisma without any requirement of Andre 3000-style pantomime.
Ludacris's peaks are higher and more thrilling than Mystikal's, I think, but he's yet to make an album as consistently engaging as Tarantula
. Chicken & Beer
comes as close as his previous albums, but it's frustrating to see that he hasn't managed to dislodge that bar: for every "Stand Up" or "Blow It Out Ya Ass" there's a "Diamond in the Back" (a rather bland Banner-ised country-hop number based around "Be Thankful For What You've Got). Mystikal does well precisely because he can't or won't play around with his gruff but lusty vocal formula; Ludacris by comparison is increasingly diverse but while this allows for variety (Chicken & Beer
is if nothing else a saisfyingly wide-ranging album) it also spells unevenness.
But I've run out of time for this post so maybe I'll talk about Ludacris later!