4
Aug 04

THE SQUARE TABLE 9 / Terror Squad Ft Fat Joe – “Lean Back”

FT + New York London Paris MunichPost a comment • 739 views

POP FACTOR: 596 CONTROVERSY SCORE:

I’m not proud of losing touch with hip-hop, even the most commercial big-production hip-hop, so much but facts are facts and that’s what’s happened. All it needs I’m sure is one or two great CD-Rs to make my ears twitch again, but meanwhile this relentless heaviness is making me feel heavy, sluggish, unwilling to dance no matter how much I like the noises. I am heavy, come to think, and frankly that short-of-breath chorus is an unpleasant reminder even if it’s a top pop gimmick. 5 (Tom)

The mix of the rhythm is all on the one-drop kick drum, which feels like an explosion has gone off down the road. A string sample ominously hovers like helicopters overheard. Rhythmically, it’s similar to Vietnam, and indeed it went down a storm when the DJ spun it at the recent Mobb Deep gig.

The vocals are basically hand me downs, standardised big ups and a tired old “gucci sweater” ripped from the Wu Tang; but hollered over this party tune it’s great.

A serious single. Any forthcoming album will be rubbish. 9 (Derek Walmsley)

Even Lil’ Bow-Wow be throwin’ it up! How hot is that beat? Hot enough that the OK Player boards had a lengthy argument about why Scott Storch (previously of “Things Fall Apart” and “Phrenology”) didn’t give this to the Roots. But why hate on Terror Squad? They surf the wax without making waves and choosing to let the beat carry them rather than versa vis is definitely the way to go. I appreciate Fat Joe and Remy Ma (she’s gonna blow up afore too long, without doubt), but the rest of his crew sounds like a slightly weaker Flipmode. The loopy Arabic strings and the spastic hooptie bass is what makes this car go. There’s not a reason in the world why this shouldn’t be one of the ten summer songs of ’04. Please sir, c’n I have summore? 8 (Forksclovetofu)

When indie kids finally conceded that they couldn’t dance they invented a genre which even they could get into with their bodies as well as their ears. They – or some unkind individual – called it ‘shoegaze’. ‘Lean Back’ claims to introduce an equivalent groove-free dance to hip hop, for all those bangers and ballers too fat to get down low. The backing is pretty cool, splenetic plastic prog-hop with a nice bassy thump to it. By the way, have you noticed that that crotch-grabbing dance Eminem does comes spontaneously to small children in need of a wee? 8 (alext)

Disappointingly not about bacon, but that bombastic cello (violin? I don’t know) riff makes up for it. There’s a hint of Eastern tonalities in it, a bit more Timbaland than Adam F perhaps. I didn’t realise this lot were still going – I thought the group had stopped after Big Pun died, and with Fat Joe’s solo success I assumed that was it. Anyway, I like this – very strong music and beats and delivery, even if the lyrics don’t amount to very much. I imagine it must be a big club hit. 8 (Martin Skidmore)

Most misleading song title of the year! I’ve heard this described as a Summer hit, but it seems far too focused on the traditional NYC Hardcore despair to provide unambigous good vibes, even if it comes with its own dance. Still, with DMX retired and MOP gone Rock, this serves a purpose – will Fat Joe ever graduate to the big league I wonder? 7 (Daniel Reifferscheid)

Ooooow yelling over boombastic contrabass strings and then Fat Joe comes in. “Lean Back” slides over the dance floor like a bull-dozer. There’s no avoiding it. You have to move. Never for a moment will you pay attention to the lyrics – that hook gets you dancing, smiling at the line “my niggas don’t dance, we just pull up our pants.” I mean how can you not smile at a line that contradicts your movements? So the strings thump at your stomach, Fat Joe is a bit too oily in his flow, Remy a Lil’Sassy. If you ask me tomorrow morning I’ll probably have forgotten the song, but then it was never about the future on the dancefloor. 7 (Stevie Nixed)

Ain’t nothin’ wrong with a little Hokey Pokey. Cinch that belt, G. 7 (David Raposa)

No fun. Despite the exotic and insistently funky rhythm, this is dirge-rap, and Terror Squad (or at least this particular track) are the hip-hop equivalent of Evanescence. With its menacing undertow, this will sound great as background music when ballplayers step to the plate, but I’m just not in the mood to be scared right now. 6 (Henry Scollard)

It’s OK. They go to a club and make a point of not dancing so you know they hate fun for real, which makes them hard, and makes them Goth, and beause they’re hard Goths they’ve got big fuckoff ork synths (percussion limited to cowbell and bass thuds that are practically unnoticeable on MP3). Why no real strings? I suppose real strings wouldn’t achieve that queerly ‘Arab’ quality quite so fluidly, orchestras also aren’t as user-friendly (you can’t fuck around with an umpteen-member string section the way you can with a computer/synth to achieve a queerly ‘Arab’ sound), and maybe cost-efficiency, too, though with the conspicuous consumption details in the lyrics I’m not sure that’d matter. What is the sound of money being spent nowadays, anyway? 5.5 (Michael Daddino)

He bangs on about committing “grand larceny” and “armed robbery” and then what does he start talking about? Pulling up his pants!!! What? He’s a big kid look what he can do, he can break the law AND wear big kids pants too?? And what does “my arms stay breezy” mean? This grows on me the more I hear it though, and I give it four Bernards Matthew Turkey Dinosaurs out of Ten Chicken Burgers. 4 (Sarah C)

Reminds me that my summer holidays are over. 3 (Diego Valladolid)

Sensible advice about pulling up ones trousers whilst dancing, that whole showing of your underwear thing is a massive dud, I agree. 3 (Jel)

I declare the war on Terror Squad begins now. This is a lumpy old dirge. Some nice secondhand Timbaland middle-eastern strings, whilst Joe belches over it. Not enticing a second listen, making me wish the first listen had not happened. 3 (Pete)

I find this abrasive and abusive, bullying and angry – the pounding gives me a headache, the lines about half the niggas having scars on their face, the loco kid, i can rhyme until i die, the bouncers don’t check us, thats what the fuck i call a chain reaction, fry that cracker, these faggot niggas, all of it is gutter, it’s all angry and it’s all looking to come after me.

The music backing the words isn’t much better, with the squealing of fireworks or bombs, the click clack of drum machines, the martial leanness, the command to lean back has a rapists smarmy charm, especially when coupled with brags about how he fills his pants.

Maybe this is my own essential racism, my geographical lack of understanding of the nature of this kind of track, my ethnic lack of understanding the language and my political fear about being a cultural tourist, but I have yet to hear anything so aggressive as this. (I feel an odd sort of shame that I have not grokked hip hop yet,
with how ubiquitous it has become.) No mark given (Anthony Easton)

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


Required

Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page