I like to claim that I don’t own a TV, but truth be told, there has been one unplugged on top of our dryer in the laundry room for the last year or so. A friend of ours left town in a hurry and told us to take whatever we wanted from what she had left at her apartment. Despite the fact that I don’t like watching videos or DVDs, and prefer to limit my movie viewing to the big screen experience, it still seemed like picking up the TV was a good idea in case we ever wanted to watch something at home. That has never happened, and it has sat on the dryer ever since. So if I have any exposure to TV at all, it comes only through youtube. (Full disclosure: I have rented both Dave Chappelle and Ali G DVDs and watched them on my computer.)
I have a friend who watches SNL every week. I gave it up for dead after Eddie Murphy left, and my few viewings since then have convinced me I did the right thing. (Except for the Public Enemy appearance in September of 1991 with the awesome “Gay Beer” ad.) Now this regular SNL watcher friend of mine also “hates music.” He spurns all those who base their identity and social circles around subjective musical preferences, especially when they often can’t play music or read music – or do anything other than listen to – what they claim is so important to them. So when he told me how impressed he was by the emotional content of a recent Kanye West freestyle on SNL, I had to look it up on youtube. I didn’t find the performance as arresting as he did, but perhaps that was because I was forewarned about the freestlye, and Kanye’s fuck-ups during said freestyle. From the televised evidence, I can only conclude that he is not a good freestyler ar all. (I have since foound much better freestyles by Kanye online, and I have to conclude that he was not performing up to par that night.)
At at the end of his performance something really did catch my attention: in the final moment, Kanye’s DJ A-Trak scratched in Milk Dee from Audio Two intoning “I don’t care.” This, my dear friends, is fucking genius. For those who don’t know, Audio Two had a monster hip-hop hit in 1987 with the song “Top Billin.” This song is referenced constantly in hip-hop, most recently, and importantly to this discussion, by 50 Cent on his current hit song “I Get Money.” In fact, the chorus of 50’s song consists of a sample of Milk Dee’s voice from “Top Billin” repeating “I Get Money.” Now I had debated about weighing in on the Kanye/50 Cent competition for highest album sales during their first sales weeks, but never bothered to write anything. I actually bought both their albums during their first sales week, simply because I knew that both CDs were going to have songs on them I would need for mainstream gigs over the coming years. Truth be told, despite supporting both artists, I was rooting for Kanye. I was monumentally underwhelmed by both albums, and haven’t bothered to go back to either of them since an initial listen. But after hearing A-Trak scratch in that brief phrase, “I don’t care.” I knew I had to write. Now, I don’t know if scratching that lyric in was Kanye or A-Trak’s idea, but whoever’s it was, is a frickin’ genius. While cars are pumping 50 Cent’s song all over America with Milk Dee’s voice declaring “I get money” over and over, Kanye responds, on live national television, with Milk Dee’s own words: “I don’t care.” Brilliant.
If only it were true. Kanye has been very upfront in interviews about how much he wants that 50 Cent money, but probably not quite as much as he wants Michael Jackson levels of worldwide fame and adoration. Watching the Kanye “Throw Some D’s” remix video, I note his praising of Alicia Keys. Oh boy. Is this going to play into his rivalry with 50 Cent as well? 50 Cent made a very public play for Alicia around the time of his initial surge to stardom. It failed. Will Kanye do any better, and add another ego blow to 50 Cent to the pile? Time will tell.