Personal Soundtrack

31 Jul


The Song

Sixteen by Rick Ross feat. Andre 3000

One of the reasons that Rick Ross has been able to build a devoted following among hip-hop fans is that he often pairs his bombastic, drug-game swagger with personal flair that can’t usually be described as weird, but is at least firmly in the ‘eccentric’ category.  The husky rapper can take on the persona of an imposing menace in many of his songs, to be sure, but there is definitely a creative and unique streak under all those diamond-studded chains that comes out in his music.  This sets Ross apart from many other rappers who are just concerned about communicating the violent drug lord lifestyle – his creative side leads him at times to be just as artistically ambitious as he is materially ambitious.  He’s not afraid to explore some musical themes just because they don’t fit the standard conventions of a hardcore hip-hop song.  A perfect example would be the track “Sixteen,” off his new album God Forgives I Don’t.

For “Sixteen,” Rick Ross indulges his creatively weird side by reaching out to a hip-hop artist who has made his legendary name from being truly unique and unlike any one else in the rap game – Andre 3000.  To Ross’ esteemed credit, he doesn’t just bring on Three Stacks for a small guest spot.  No, Rick pretty much turns the spotlight on the Southern Spaceman, blowing the song out to nearly eight minutes and keeping only a couple minutes of lyrics to himself.

In the chorus of “Sixteen,” Andre sings about sixteen bars being not enough to fully express oneself in a song.  And after Rick warms it up for him with a few bars, Three Stacks takes full advantage of the ample song space given him with a spoken-word interlude, a free-wheeling rhyming show-off session, and an improvisational little guitar solo.  The rhymes hop from crayon-scrawled LL Cool J tributes to religious questions to wine-tasting to Flipper, and it’s all done with the same dexterity and inventiveness that has long caused hip-hop fans everywhere to drop their voices an octave and layer on the reverent fondness when they say the words “Three Stacks.”  The song makes you hope yet again that another Outkast album is on its way, but at least for now, the proper amount of respect must be paid to Rick Ross for having the artistic desire to indulge Andre in a little outer-space hip-hop weirdness.

The Activity

You’re sitting in your usual spot in the back corner of the Boss’ room, your chair set back among the shadows so that you stay out of the way – but not out of the way enough that people forget you’re there.  The Boss’ large mahogany desk and high-crowned leather chair sit just to the right and front of you, so that you get a clear look at all the walks of life who come in, sit down, and have their time with the Big Guy.

If any of these aforementioned walks of life decide to indulge their death wishes and make a move at the Boss, it’s your job to put them down.  Not that the Boss seems like he needs your help.  You’ve never had to raise a hand against anyone to this point in the job, but you have a feeling that the Boss would get there first if such a situation did arise.

But anyways, you’re sitting.  It’s been a quiet night so far, and right now the Boss seems like he might be dozing slightly in his chair at this late-night hour.  You can’t tell if his eyes are open from behind the omnipresent shades.  As a muted sax solo sounds out from the jazz club that sits just behind the large oak office door, you allow yourself to relax a little bit.  It’s quiet.

Before the knock comes, you notice that the energy in the room changes just slightly.  There’s a hint of electricity that wasn’t there before – and then the light knocking comes.  It’s a faint knock, just three slight taps, followed by silence.  You glance at the Boss, who bellows out his customary Enter, and then the door swings slowly open.

The first thing to come out from behind the door is a faint cloud of smoke.  That moves and acts like some kind of smoke you’ve never seen before.  It’s not heavy, almost ethereal, and it fills the room before you even register where it’s coming from.  It’s like one second the room was clear, and the next you’re all enveloped in this weird kind of haze.  That smells faintly like incense and weed.

Following the smoke in and closing the door behind him is a man you’ve never seen before.  His hair is splayed out in a wavy Afro, under which sit a pair of cat-like eyes and a sly smile.  The man is clothed in a tight-fitting suit that looks like it’s made out of the softest material you’ve ever seen.  The first thing that comes to your mind is Plush Masterpiece.  Underneath all of this, the man is barefoot.  It takes you a second to even register this, and by that time he’s already padded his way to the Boss’ desk and perched himself on the corner.

Before you can move forward and get this newcomer off the precious desk, the Boss waves his hand once in your direction to keep you still.  You sit back, and instantly are overcome by the feeling that there is nothing to fear from this strange new figure.

The smoke continues to drift around the room as this man proceeds to pull out a large cigar from an inside pocket of his suit jacket.  The cigar is already clean-cut, and the man hands it wordlessly across the desk to the Boss.  The Boss takes it and leans forward slightly as the man produces a lighter from the same jacket pocket and deftly sparks the cigar.

As the Boss sits back in his chair taking his first puffs on this cigar, the man starts talking.  You forget the exact words he’s saying almost the instant they leave his mouth, but all you know is that the melodic, soothing voice is telling a story that is about nothing, and yet about everything at the same time.  It’s about life on this planet, and about life in the rest of the universe.  Both you and the Boss sit in rapt attention for an indistinguishable amount of time as this stranger makes his way through the story.

As the last word leaves the new man’s lips, the last bit of ash falls untouched from the Boss’ cigar and on to the floor.  The stranger stands up smoothly, nods once in your direction, and then turns and pads back out the room, closing the door quietly behind him.  The strains of a new saxophone solo reach back through the club walls as you both sit there in astonished silence.


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