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May 01

N.E.R.D. – “Lapdance”

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The government are strippers: OK, this may well not be the most incisive or heavyweight political analysis you’ve heard in your life. But the word ‘government’ has been out-of-bounds in commercial hip-hop for so long it’s no surprise the Neptunes don’t quite know how to use it. They try singing it like Curtis Mayfield would, high cool and impassioned, but they only sound like Damon in Gorillaz, their rat-a-tat motorbike nihilism just another pop cartoon. The “Lapdance” music is a kissing cousin of Jay-Z’s “I Just Wanna Love You”, buffed and polished to dazzle the ear, trick it away from the Neptunes’ technically weak vocals.

But stuff technicalities: “Lapdance” works. They may sing “politicians” like Damon would, but they rap “motherfucker” like Nick Cave in “Stagger Lee”, which makes up for it, and their ill-fitting tuffness is more endearingly – and nerdishly – appealing than the confident, competent strut of a Ludacris or Nelly. Meanwhile to make a song about political pimping into a hit, they’ve used every sonic come-on they know and turned “Lapdance” into a three-minute Neptunes’ Greatest Hits: beats rattling like marbles in a can, toy robot keyboards and paranoid stoner whispers. A very modern party broadcast.

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