Swizz Beatz Kills Rap
It's him! Snitches!
Questions regarding the Swizz Beatz single "It's Me, Snitches": how does frequent Swizz client and sample-source Jay-Z feel about Swizz constantly repeating that he's sitting in his car and listening to a song that brutally eviscerates Jay? I mean, I know Jay and Nas are best friends now and everything, but I still get the idea that Jay would like to pretend that "Ether" never existed. He probably doesn't like being reminded every time he hears "It's Me, Snitches." Also: why does Swizz keep trying to make "Ether" rhyme with "Beamer"? It doesn't. It doesn't even come close. And did Swizz exhaust himself so completely coming up with his two quick little nonsense verses that he just couldn't manage to write any more? Is that why he just repeats those two verses twice? Or is it an aesthetic decision? Is it the old Ramones "third verse, same as the first" thing? If it is an aesthetic decision, why does it work so well? I haven't heard "It's Me, Snitches" in a club yet; when I do, is my face going to explode? Why does he want us to call him the Sandman? Doesn't the Sandman put people to sleep? This song definitely does not put me to sleep. And perhaps the most important question about the new Swizz Beatz single "It's Me, Snitches": What the fuck?
Maybe everyone doesn't quite agree with this, but I'd say that most of us have long accepted that a great rap single doesn't necessarily have to include great rapping, not if the beat and hooks and moment all converge in the right ways. But I can't remember another time when a great rap single actively resisted great rapping, or even average rapping, the way "It's Me, Snitches" does. The track's real title is "It's Me, Bitches," but this is one of those songs where the radio edit trumps the original, in this case because it adds an even more absurdist bend to an already absurd song, and that's why I'm going to keep calling it "Snitches" instead of "Bitches." Why would Swizz be talking to snitches and identifying himself? There's no reason. There's no reason for any of it. Swizz doesn't quite rap on the song; instead, he plays hypeman for his own ridiculously frantic track. When two of his lines rhyme, it almost seems like an accident, and he's definitely not talking about a damn thing. And the track doesn't really leave any room for him to say anything even if he wanted to say something. The churning strings and enormous drums and weird fast-forward noises and siren-howls are so insane and overwhelming that anyone who tried to do any actual rapping would just get trapped in the mix. If the song is about anything, it's about its own massive physical force and the adrenaline-surge it triggers. The track's best moment comes at the end, when Swizz stops talking altogether and lets his own quick little amped-up scratch-solo take over, adding one more neck-snapping ingredient to the mix. If "It's Me, Snitches" has any real precedent, it's probably a rap-by-association party track like DJ Kool's "Let Me Clear My Throat," which of course was just a quick little succession of samples, all selected and sequenced for maximum impact, with DJ Kool yelling over the whole mess. "It's Me, Snitches" is, if anything, even more euphorically nuts.
In its insanity, "It's Me, Snitches" is also a profoundly rational move in a climate where the tracks with the most brain-meltingly simple lyrics are the ones that stand out the most; think "Chicken Noodle Soup" or "This Is Why I'm Hot." By repeating their simplistic hooks over and over and over, those songs manage to worm their way into our collective head and stay there for at least a couple of weeks. "It's Me, Snitches" does the same thing. I laughed the first time I heard the song; it just seemed like a dumb little throwaway club-track, and it took me a few weeks to figure out how completely it's managed to infiltrate my brain. I'll be listening to Panda Bear or something and realize that I don't hear the music at all, that my brain just keeps repeating "Chillin' in my Beamer / Listening to 'Ether'" at me so loudly that it pushes all other music out. At this exact moment, I think a DJ could probably just play "It's Me, Snitches" over and over again for hours and nobody at the party would complain, at least not if they were drunk enough.
With a track like "This is Why I'm Hot," there's always a vague impression that a real rapper could always come in and steal the song away from Mims with minimal effort; that's why every mixtape rapper in America spent the entire first half of 2005 rapping over nothing but the instrumentals from The Documentary. It's also the reason why the all-star remix sequels to middling club-tracks like "We Fly High" and "Make It Rain" can be so exciting. The idea is that a great instrumental can always be improved with better rapping. That idea doesn't work with "It's Me, Snitches." A remix of the song leaked out to the internet a couple of days ago, and it's even more of a dizzy mess than the original, except this time not in a good way. The remix features Lil Wayne and R. Kelly and Jadakiss, but the only one who really comes out of it with the top of his head intact is Kelly, the one guy who isn't actually a rapper, and he mostly just survives by doing his wordless epic fantasy-movie wail on the calm-before-the-storm quiet bit. Wayne has been on a dazzling tear for a year and a half now, but the song just utterly rips him out of his comfort zone even as he tries to disappear further into it. Wayne starts it out using his new fake-Jamaican voice, and he falls off the beat repeatedly. Later, he tries out rapping in French and gets a couple of nice little lines in, but Swizz still steals his own verse away from him just by ad-libbing hypeman bullshit over everything. Jadakiss doesn't even try to keep up with the song, only showing his face when it inexplicably turns into "C.R.E.A.M.," a much slower song and one that doesn't comfortably mix with "It's Me" at all. Every version I've heard of the remix fades in just a couple of lines into Jada's verse, so I don't know if it keeps going or not. "It's Me" is a big song, and rappers are probably going to keep try rapping over it, but I'll be amazed if any of them succeeds in making an impression. "It's Me" makes the rapping part of rap pretty much irrelevant, and I think that might even be a good thing.