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Laid Off? Get Yourself Some Crunk Beats


Our music critic Robert Christgau recently got fired from a job that he'd held for 32 years. But when he went looking for some musical catharsis, he found that his punk standbys didn't work anymore. He stumbled upon a CD called "Crunk Hits Volume 2," a collection of dance tunes full of angst-ridden pleasure. Exactly what he needed.

ROBERT CHRISTGAU: No kidding, I'm normally a cheerful fellow and I wasn't snapping at my wife or anything, but I really needed a vicarious scream at a moment when time had long since eroded the cleansing shock value of a brace of old favorites like the New York Dolls and the Clash.


CHRISTGAU: Instead, what made me feel better was this.


LIL JON: (Rapping) What's happenin'? What's happenin'? Hey! Hey! Dis ya boy Lil Jon! Lil Jon! BME Clik, BME Clik. What's up 40?

E-40 (Rapper): What's happening?

CHRISTGAU: The song is "Snap Ya Fingers." The artist, Atlanta's Lil' John, the unchallenged king of crunk, even though his main talent is the ability to say things like yeah-yah, much better than I can.


JON: (Rapping) Snap your fingers! Do your step! You can do it all by yourself. Let me see you do it! Ay! Let me see you do it! Ay!

CHRISTGAU: "Snap Ya Fingers" leads off a multi-artist compilation on TVT Records called Crunk Hits Volume 2 that's even better, beginning to end, than Volume 1. Crunk, a term that probably began its life as a contraction of crazy drunk, is a roughly delineated Southern hip-hop style designed for dirty dancing, all blunt beats with grunting male choruses, rockish synthesizer sounds and objectionable sexual politics.

I wouldn't recommend a single album by any artist on either of these two collections for normal use, but I can't get enough of Crunk Hits Volume 2.


JON: (Rapping) What's happenin', what's up, got Patrone in my cup. I pop, I drank, I'm on Patrone you burp, I can't think.

CHRISTGAU: Open your mind and consider the sonics of this screwed and chopped Mike Jones intro.


MIKE JONES: (Rapping) Back then they didn't want me, now I'm hot they all on me. Back then they didn't want me, now I'm hot they all on me. Back then they didn't want me -

CHRISTGAU: Or ponder the distorted bass of a Paul Wall hook


PAUL WALL: (Rapping) Boyz in the daze. Sittin' sidewayz, boyz in the daze. Sittin' sidewayz, boyz in the daze on a Sunday night I might bring me some haze.

CHRISTGAU: Or listen to how Lil' Jon interjects himself into Daddy Yankee's reggaeton breakthrough "Gasolina."


DADDY YANKEE: (Rapping) Todos los weekend'es ella sale a vacilar. Duro! Mi gata no para de janguear, porque.

JON: (Rapping) Yeah.

YANKEE: (Rapping) A ella le gusta la gasolina.

JON: What ya sayin'?

Unidentified Woman: (Singing) Dame mas gasolina!

JON: (Rapping) Hey! Hey!

YANKEE: (Rapping) Como le encanta la gasolina

JON: (Rapping) What ya sayin'?

Woman: (Singing) Dame mas gasolina!

JON: (Rapping) Hey!

YANKEE: (Rapping) A ella le gusta la gasolina.

JON: (Rapping) Yeah.

Woman: (Singing) Dame mas gasolina!

JON: (Rapping) Yeah.

CHRISTGAU: For clarity's sake, let me say that though I'm definitely a hip-hop fan, I'm also 64 years old. And in case you hadn't guessed, white. I never use the N-word or call women girls, much less the B-word or the H-word. I believe the casual lewdness of so-called gangsta rap has helped brutalized sexual relations among the young, although not as much as prigs claim. But despite all this, I find the sheer audacious joy of this music undeniable and irresistible. Almost any one of these guys becomes oppressively repetitive on his own.

But the dance floor hits fans loved them for are as sonically original as any old or prog rock, and a lot more immediate and accessible. This is music that's intent on pleasure with no regard for what anyone else thinks is decent or respectable. And in case you didn't know, that's the best recipe for pleasure there is. As the faux gangsta turned B-movie clown Ice Cube puts it eloquently and obscenely, if you a scared bleepahbleepah, go to church.

Or here's the minor New Orleans rapper BG shortly after he announces unequivocally that, and I quote, "New Orleans' gone."


BG: (Rapping) I'm from the ghetto, homey. I was raised on bread and bologna. You can't come around here 'cause ya phony. Now keep it movin', move around, get off me. Dudes gotta leave, but you can stay shawty.

MANNIE FRESH: (Rapping) Waaaaahhhhhhh.

BG: (Rapping) Yeah!

CHRISTGAU: That groan is the best single moment on a record that's full of them. It sums up BG's angst and it summed mine up, too. It said it all.

SIEGEL: The compilation CD is called Crunk Hits Volume 2. Our reviewer Robert Christgau is now a contributing editor to Rolling Stone magazine. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.