when I heard about it I was really skeptical. stevie is my favorite. and for me, with stevie wonder, its about so much more than music. he is an artist whose songs hold a special place in my heart. and yes hip hop blog nerds, that sentiment is about as banal as it gets (dorky white guy finds stevie wonder really meaningful). but sometimes its about more than being cool or unique. stevie wonder just rules.
but a song with busta? if anything could defile the best, purest music in the whole world, it’s a jimmy iovine contrived track by an artist who has spent the last several years of his career trying to ingratiate himself with the least common denominator (see CNN’s “driver’s seat”—fantastic track, but featuring busta rhymes, the weird one from L.O.N.S.?!). not to mention, how could stevie be an an album that includes a joint called “i love my bitch?” (I eagerly await being called a pro-black, anti-thug backpacker by weird white people with bad haircuts who meaningfully discuss the dialectic of project pat. ironic when as I write im listening to some gangsta shit that you don’t even know about—but that’s neither here nor there).
the short of it is that when I saw the thread on the lawn about a busta track with stevie, I was skeptical. more importantly I was disappointed. does one of america’s national treasures really need 20gs that badly?
as usual I overreacted. this song is hands-down the best thing I’ve heard from this project yet (now the whole thing has hit the web—but I haven’t heard it yet). stevie’s first few bars work perfectly. when he sings on the hook that “my poppa is broke and my mama was young, trying to blend in with them city folk,” it feels like this is just a part of some non-existent serialized version of “living for the city.” its not even weird when stevie sings about “cadillacs and sun roofs.” in fact its sort of cool. he sounds really current.
while the subject matter has been covered before, songs about the struggle, when done right, never get old. and busta does it right. “as a youngen peep how much they loved each other’s face / hard hands rubbing against the pretty skin of my mother’s face,” he says about his parents. its one of those lines that makes you feel chills (banal again, I know). and then when busta talks about his inevitable demise over nothing but strings, it’s fantastic. then stevie wraps it up with a big finale. really nice.
busta did stevie justice. stevie brings something to the track that I wouldn’t have expetex. hell it sounds more like the stevie I love than some of his own new shit that I’ve heard. and busta lives up to the challenge of doing a song with stevie wonder. it’s a tough job, but he pulls it off.
I’m sure this song will get dismissed by cynical blogger types as a trite attempt at relevance by 2 washed up artists. I know its not as poignant as “tongue ring,” but give it a shot. its one of the few commercial/street-oriented records I have heard in a while that actually means anything…..