Skip to main content

6. Black Eyed Peas - Elephunk (2003)

People who don't like rap usually cite a lack of musicality and an overabundance of brutality. They ignore that rap is really an overarching term for three broad categories: party rap, socially conscious rap, and gangsta rap. Usually none of it gets played on VH1, yet in the last couple of months the Black Eyed Peas' Where Is The Love has jockeyed for the top spot on that channel's top 20 countdown. Of course having Justin Timberlake singing the hook doesn't hurt, but the song also subverts that aforementioned stereotype: it's a very singable ode to tolerance and peace.

What a welcome bit of turnabout! Not since the early '90s (when P.M.Dawn and Arrested Development managed to have hits) has any socially conscious rapper not named Outkast met with commercial success. They have watched their counterparts thug and party it up and meet with big dividends, and found little for themselves. Sure they got props from critics and the assurance that they were elevating the artform, but money was more elusive. So let's take a moment to pity the Tribe Called Quests and the De La Souls of the world.

With their first couple of records, Black Eyed Peas were certainly in the pitiable category too. On Elephunk they are seemingly tired of the noble fight. No, they haven't gone gansta, but rather, they made the ingenious conclusion that a marriage between party rap and socially conscious rap might be a fruitful one. So 9 of the 13 songs here are fun, and by turns encourage the listener to "celebrate," put their "hands high to the sky," and "get retarded." In The Boogie That Be they even sample the sound of Uncle Scrooge's pogo cane in the old Ducktales game for Nintendo (I don't know this for sure, but that's what it sounds like to me).

The marriage was a risky move, but it works, mostly because the group is dedicated to it, and because the socially conscious songs that are here are great. Anxiety addresses the usual youthful angst and The Apl Song is about holding on to your cultural roots, but the showstopper is Shut Up, a kickin' call and response about a relationship falling apart. The album also gets points because it is atypically succinct; 13 songs and no skits. I wish more rap artists would exercise this ability to self edit.

So kudos to the Black Eyed Peas. You may have given up a bit on the good fight, but hey, you gotta get yours.

Rating: B
Fave Song: Shut Up

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Why Weezer is the Definitive Gen X Band

I’ve been thinkin’ ‘bout my g-g-g-generation.   One of the more fascinating side effects of the ever-intensifying culture wars is the emergence of generational mud-slinging battle between Baby Boomers and Millennials. Social media has played the role of both venue and promoter, and news outlets have done their best to cheer it on. As a member of the cohort that's situated between the two factions - Generation X - and thus removed from the fray, I've regarded this as an amusing sideshow in the never-ending circus of nauseating Internet discourse. The most illuminating part to me is how the conflict, and various reports about it, consistently omits the existence the generation between these two, and how very appropriate that is.   Now I'll start with the disclaimer that I'm well aware that no group of people is homogeneous. Generation X encompasses many different personality types, cultural experiences, economic realities, and a possible 15-year age difference (Gen Xers

20 From 2020

Every year since 2003 (coincidentally, the year I started this blog), I've made a compilation of some of my favorite songs of the year. I love the act of compiling and ordering, finding songs that speak to one another lyrically and that flow together seamlessly.  In order for the mixes to have longevity, I've typically avoided choosing too many songs that lyrically reflect the events of the year. That's gotten harder every year since 2016, and I was initially worried 2020 was going to be the tipping point. This year's mix might have looked a lot different if the presidential election had gone the other way. It would have certainly been more angry and despairing, and would have included such topical songs as Ben Folds's "2020," Ben Gibbard's "Proxima B," and Sloan's "Silence Trumps Lies." All good tunes, but I'm not sure how much I'll want to revisit them. Thankfully, instead, we have a mix with a variety of moods and cov

12 More by Jimmy Eat World

Sometimes an artist just needs 12  more  songs to summarize their career. Case in point... Sometimes your favorite band sneaks up on you. I'd been a Jimmy Eat World fan since the late 1990s, and have never missed one of their albums. But they didn't become my favorite band until a 2013 concert at First Avenue, where I found myself singing along with every single song by heart. It was then that I realized that for every phase of my adult life, Jimmy Eat World has been there to soundtrack it. You'll definitely want to check out the  12 by Jimmy Eat World  list to relive the first part of their career. 1. "Big Casino" (from Chase This Light , 2007) A highly caffeinated tune that contains one of my top ten all-time Jimmy Eat World lyrics: "Well there's lots of smart ideas in books I've never read / When the girls come talk to me I wish to hell I had." 2. "Always Be" (from  Chase This Light , 2007) Chase This Light came out when I was 30 yea