Friday, February 8, 2008

The Seven Songurai: Seven Call-and-Response Classics

I have just one thing to say before we proceed: You see this middle finger, music of the 1960s and 70s? That's the non-proverbial 'fuck you' to the songs from your era that we completely left out of this list, except for Steely Dan, who we only included to fulfill our Caucasian quota. I could've just as easily chosen Should I Stay or Should I Go from the 80s, too, but I'm only having mercy on your overrated past. Go watch the Big Chill and seriously think about what you've done by making us pay for your imminent retirement.

Now to the list, in no particular order:

Amy: Night Time is the Right Time - (as performed by the Huxtables)
Before she was starring in Chingy videos and topping 'Most Well-Adjusted Child Stars' lists, Keisha Knight Pulliam (aka Rudy Huxtable) put on an unforgettable performance in this piece of 80s sitcom call-and-response magic. If this video doesn't warm your heart, you're made of stone....or you're one of the women alleging that Bill Cosby sexually assaulted you in the past 40 years.

Ryan: D'Angelo - Chicken Grease

Ever been hanging out in the shitty Chinese store around the corner (you know Lee's, too?!) waiting for the safest meal you could possibly order, most likely chicken and broccoli or General Tso's or whatever, and some crazy guy orders Turkey Livers or some $#%^? D'Angelo wrote a song about that called Chicken Grease. I think he meant it to be about hard times growing up or something but to me and all the people who bought D'Angelo's record (instead of Sho'Nuff Killa or whoever was 'hot' that week), this song is about wondering why the hell anyone would ever be talking about chicken grease. If this blog were popular, we'd get tons of e-mails telling us all the great uses of chicken grease; good thing I don't want to talk to their broke ass anyway.

Scott: Naughty By Nature – Hip-Hop Hooray

Naughty by Nature were masters of the call-and-response hit. In addition to this song, they produced the classic O.P.P., as well as the lesser-known Uptown Anthem from the Juice soundtrack (a movie that featured a young Tupac and Omar Epps!). Hip-Hop Hooray wins solely based on the fact that its commercial release coincided with Treach's near MVP level performance in Rock 'n' Jock B-ball 4. This song also has the distinction of being the last hip-hop mainstream crossover hit before Nothing but a G Thing kicked off the Dre/Snoop era.; aka the moment Hip-Hop found its weed.

We’ve also embedded Uptown Anthem for you.

Ryan: ONYX - Slam

Maybe the main reason for call and response is that random syllables seem much more reasonable when a mob is yelling them than when sung alone. While 'SLAM!' could maybe be pulled off by a charismatic vocalist not named Fredro Starr or Sticky Fingaz, 'Dunh dunh nuh, dunh dunh nuh,' just doesn't sound right spoken alone by anyone. Still, this song was a lot of fun in grade school, and I bet their duet with Biohazard on the Judgment Night soundtrack is just great. Plus, even if their other album Shut 'Em Down wasn't a pinnacle of the mid-1990s bullshit-rap genre, they get a pass on whatever they do because Starr is on The Wire.

Scott: A Tribe Called Quest – Scenario

Another song from the early 90s! What’s next? Cameos from Horace Grant and Paul Reiser?

Long before Tribe were considered to be the predecessors to backpacker, coffee shop bohemian alternative hip-hop, they were known for this throw-down track. This song is what used to be called a “posse” cut, where one popular group tries to give attention to an up-and-coming group by featuring them on the track (ie the Homicide/NYPD Blue crossover episode). On this particular track, the Leaders of the New School play The Critic to Tribe’s Simpsons, and this song is heavy on the call-and-response verses between the emcees. There’s no rhyme or reason to where the call-and-response appears, which contributes to the random awesomeness (my personal favorite: “Layback on the payback, evolve rotate the gates...CONTACT!”). Bonus points for Scenario featuring one of the first appearances on wax for Busta Rhymes...You know, before his star really shined with his performance in Higher Learning.

Note: Before the Black Eyed Peas were embarrassing hit-makers, they were embarrassing Tribe imitators on their first album, “Behind the Front”. Nobody listened to it, yet somehow their career survived.

Amy: Ray Parker, Jr. - Ghostbusters
In college there was this pointless building called The Depot that I went to for a Halloween party one year. By the grace of god, it was a BYOB affair...which was necessary because the entertainment was a jam band. I drank three 40s and eventually blacked out. Regardless, I still knew what to say when those dirty hippies on stage asked me who I was going to call.

Scott: Steely Dan – Black Cow

Steely Dan loved cocaine and jazz, a combination you just don't see enough of these days.

Honorable mention: Gwen Stefani: Hollaback Girl. TLC: I Ain't Too Proud to Beg. Outkast: Hey Ya. The Clash: Should I Stay or Should I Go.

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