Please tell me how I feel about this.

The Roots and Q-Tip doing “Straight Outta Compton,” via RapRadar.

The god Ruscha said, “Good art should elicit a response of ‘Huh? Wow!’ as opposed to ‘Wow! Huh?’.” See, the problem is that I do not know which one is being elicited here, Ed. I simply do not know.

How do I feel about this? Is it shockingly good? Is it awkward and terrible? Feelings are colliding in my soft little rapfan heart. Please help me sort through the emotional wreckage.

I love it!:

– Classic song. It makes me want to do inappropriate things with Dre’s Akai. I mean, I’d really like to be hugged up with that thing in a dark corner. Then I’d like to stop for some coffee and have a cop ask me for my number, and say Sure!, and write it down but then slowly rip it up in front of him and his dumb cop face, then laugh haughtily as I stroll away like an ice queen. HA HA, officer. 5 points.

– It’s melodic and mad, and it owns its duality. It’s fun to sing along with, it’s catchy. But wait, how can that be when it’s so oddly industrial-sounding and impersonal? WOW. These gentlemen are really waving that around and throwing it in your face–here’s a murder rap to keep y’all dancin. Anyone but Biebs or the Free Credit Score guys could do it and it would still sound amazing and have that energy to hypnotize and convince you to pull, I don’t know, some kind of jack move. The D.O.C. co-wrote it; MC Ren co-co-wrote it. Both are tragically, painfully underrated. 4 points.

A villain with a hat, and it’s like that
I tied yo’ moms to a motherfuckin train track

Flat on her back, I give her some crack


3 points, just by association.

– A bunch of rap-celeb east coasters know all the words! Everyone probably knows all the words, but c’mon. I come from a time when stupid geographic allegiances really meant something, and masculine bravado based on ZIP code was the popular thing, so these guys being familiar with the lyrics of men from a whole other coast is impressive. (I must own up to my bias here and remind you all that Ice Cube getting his songs covered by other rappers or even referred to by other rappers is a great thing to me–just today, in fact, there was Curren$y saying I think I’m Doughboy on my front porch/’63 Impala in my driveway, Saints gold.) Wow! 5 points.

On the other hand:

– It’s so weird that it’s these 2 guys doing it. Stylistically, they’re just trying to keep up, and lyrically, the words coming out of their mouths coupled with their curated personae are comically mismatched. That’s no disrespect to them as performers, since Ice Cube trying to get loose on “Electric Relaxation” would be equally weird. Ha, can you imagine? Still: -2 points, based for the most part on the cringe-inducing moments when the Abstract does that corny pantomine during the mix ’em in a pot like gumbo part, and when he actually says the words Here’s a murder rap to keep you dancin/with a crime record like Charles Manson/AK-47 is the tool/Don’t make me act the motherfuckin fool. Aw Tip, that makes the kids on Linden Blvd cry. To be fair though, Cube was never that tough outside of his song lyrics either–he’s just a better actor. Also, Black Thought saying dirty ass ho. a) HUH? b) Nope. -6 points.

– Jerry Heller is probably making money with every YouTube play. Royalties n shit. -2 points.

– There’s a tuba on stage. -2 points.

– I didn’t hear either of the gentlemen on stage with microphones say You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge, a song intro that wrestles all other song intros to the ground and makes ’em say uncle. It could be that the filmer just didn’t catch that part; maybe Tip said it just before the cameras rolled. But I just don’t have time to entertain “what if” scenarios. I don’t have time. And what’s that thing that the idiots on the Internet say? “Pics or it didn’t happen”?
-4 points.

It’s a draw. I could do the math but this decision was based more on intuition than anything a boring old equation could tell me. Any attempt at substantial analysis never stood a chance, as it was buried under regional alliances, my fondness for Black Thought’s Yankees fitted, and my giant wish that the city were flooded with music like old NWA. So that’s it. After a series of melodic/lyrical highs and corny stage-antic lows, Huh and Wow are about even.


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