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Here are two songs that, for one reason or another, have been stuck in my head or have generally found themselves in my life recently. I’ll try to explain why. They aren’t necessarily my favorite songs of all time; that list would stretch for miles, but they are definitely worthy of that list.
Notorious B.I.G. & Bone Thugs-N-Harmony - Notorious Thugs
I don’t even know where to begin with this song. Through its infectious nature, it has claimed the summit of my “100 Most Played Songs” on my iTunes, clocking in with 260 plays. It’s just the kind of song I guess I like.
The true reason this song has rightfully claimed the spot of #1 on my most played has to be the intro. People either love or hate the opening minute of this song, during which – in my opinion, the greatest instrumental of Biggie’s career creeps into your conscience one layer at a time. The piano loop and drum machine lay the groundwork, the hand-clapping and bass beat begin to emerge. Bone Thugs members repetitively proclaim “It’s Bone and Biggie, Biggie” – hypnotizing you until the synth bassline steals the show. That bassline is the defining aspect of the beat and, in my opinion, what makes this song. Add all of these elements together and you have a beat that has pulled you completely into the song by the time Biggie steps up to the mic.
The verses on this song aren’t top-notch. They’re classic, but not uber-conscious or progressive. Then again, it’s Bone Thugs and Biggie Smalls – not the first people I think of when I think of rappers that pushed the boundaries of thought or perception. This is a song, however, that simply sounds amazing. Biggie delivers his trademark flow over this beat that tickles your brain, and each member of Bone Thugs takes their turn bouncing around the beat seamlessly. This is a song that captures the sound and essence of the lavish lifestyles of mid-90s rappers – smooth, elegant, tasteful, and overall, feel-good.
Blast this song in your car with your windows down and tell me you don’t feel like a million dollars.
Gary Clark, Jr. – Bright Lights
I first heard Gary Clark, Jr. last summer, right around the debut of his Bright Lights EP. He’s been touted as the up-and-coming savior of the Blues genre – a hugely flattering statement and an enormous burden to take on when you only have a 4-song EP under your belt.
But it’s the truth.
The opening riff of “Bright Lights” is eerily reminiscent of something you’d hear on The Black Keys’ album Thickfreakness. At least it is until Clark’s fuzz pedal kicks into 4th gear and erupts from behind the rhythm section. Clark brings forth the full package: a strong voice he isn’t afraid to use, an absolutely raw lead guitar laden with distortion and octave effects pedals, and a more traditional full band sound, as opposed to bluesy duos like The (aforementioned) Black Keys and The White Stripes. This song reminds me of one of those moments when a more conventional, veteran blues player decides to “unleash” and shock their audience with their ability to play the blues just as gritty as the newcomers.
Clark could save Blues from being completely ignored by this combination of influences and styles; only time will tell. But until that verdict is reached, I’ll be listening to this song.