Roots, “Don’t Feel Right”
There’s a moment that passes at the beginning of the Roots’ new single, just as the bare drum intro gives way to a forceful cluster of snippeted samples, which should let fans of the band breathe easy. On the heels of their less than impactful The Tipping Point, the Roots have stepped up and once again done the Illadelph proud, this time as a teaser for their late summer Def Jam debut Game Theory. Even while the Roots are cast as perennial hip-hop underdogs, or worse, as the genre’s best backing band, “Don’t Feel Right” is a murky, contagious appeal for both due respect and mass acceptance. This is what it sounds like when stalwarts get sassy. With an interpolated “Jungle Boogie” beat and mesmeric hook sung by Maimouna Youseff, the band generates one of its most transmittable pop sounds to date. Most of all, Black Thought, a rapper who still remains largely underappreciated by critics, delivers his verses with assurance. “It’s crazy when you too real to be free,” he waxes lyrically. Neither convoluted nor diluted, this is what you should expect when you’re rocking with the best.
Mary J. Blige’s Rapping Alter Ego
Ms. Blige can do no wrong. From when I first heard “Real Love” on my Walkman to listening to my mom karaoke-croon the words to the My Life CD I got her as a Mother’s Day gift, my position on Blige’s tangible genius was cemented early and often. Hate it or love it, she’s one of this generation’s most influential and towering musical figures-she’s a Madonna who doesn’t need to vogue or krump to show she’s got soul. But when Blige debuted Brook Lynn, her gum-snapping, rapping alter ego in the videos for Busta Rhymes’ “Touch It (Remix)” and most recently her own “Enough Cryin,” this public coming out made me hiccup my Haterade. After more than a decade of R&B; excellence, why did she need to all of a sudden rap to show she’s got bravado? Didn’t she prove that back in, like, ’97? As Blige told MTV.com, “Brook is crazy and ignorant, and she don’t care.” So alas, I couldn’t agree more. Who else but the venerated queen of hip-hop soul could pull off a move turning herself into an undaunted MCing diva dilettante? With her gold visor and cheetah-print halter top, she may look like a Big Daddy Kane backup dancer, but there’s something both superbly mediocre and magnificent about Brook. She ain’t Mimi, but any way you slice this, she’s so gully, so lovely.
Straight guys do the darnedest things. In the name of showcasing their manliness, I’ve seen guys grab their friends in unfriendly places, join high school wrestling teams, even exfoliate and tan. And as a card-carrying homotastic urbanite, I never get tired of seeing how much effort straight men are willing to put into trying to show they don’t care. That’s why I’m captivated by a newly evolving breed of performed masculinity: the hobosexual. Perhaps to cure the botanical-fresh hangover of metrosexuality, the hobosexual is a man who participates in one of the backlash fashion and lifestyle movements, like The New York Times-reported return of bearded Paul Bunyanesque chic, which is aimed of course at reviving the burly nature of the gender. Though as my pal Beth suggests, men in this vein simply resemble metro-styled woodsmen, dudes who take to the streets with an air of rehabilitated albeit equally stylized masculinity. These guys boast Derelìct-caliber designer duds and willfully unkempt facial hair, along with their seasonal accessory of choice: a big dog. In fact, men are letting their Greyhounds and St. Bernards walk them all around the city this summer, clopping down city blocks in yet another attempt to assert manliness. And even though a metrowoodsman is just a metrosexual in pricey flannel drag, with Fido by his side, don’t get it twisted. I’m still lapping it up.
With Eagles training camp just about a month away, recently drafted Jeremy Bloom isn’t just a new jock in town-he’s a dreamy beefcake who may just be the booster the Birds need to get back atop the NFC East. But how, you ask? Well, besides his game-breaking receiving and kick-returning pedigree (and a visage so impressive they should make him in Braille), the former Olympian will surely provide just enough of a safe distraction for Donovan McNabb and co. to shine. That could bode quite well for a team itching to escape a repeat of the T.O.-fueled public scrutiny that waterlogged much of last season. But what really makes me want to get my Eagle on is that this city’s sports fans of all orientations are about to be swept up in a strong wave of sweet homoerotic Jeremy Bloom adoration. Admit it, Philly sports fans: He’s just too sexy to ignore. So brace yourselves now for the suggestive headlines and sweat-glazed training camp photos. Because if Bloom makes the squad and eventually ingratiates himself into the hearts of Iggle nation, don’t be surprised if conversations at the Linc next fall revolve around our new breakout star and just how special he really is.
Nelly Furtado, Loose (Geffen)
Pop music is best served on a sycophantic platter. At any age, your favorite artists in the genre don’t have to be guilty pleasures, but rather the mantelpiece on which you can rest your musical fancies. Nelly Furtado has been my rock of Gibraltar for years. I’m a converted devotee to her aesthetic-her latest SNL performance not withstanding-not just because I think she’s boldly mastered the mechanics of pop music, but because I’m a slave to her aura. Everything about the girl oozes flavor, and I really can never get enough. My obsession came to an uncomfortable pinnacle a few years back when a cashier at Wawa, overhearing that I might have a chance to interview Nelly, suggested I bring a condom. I’m not sure what was weirder-the editorial advice with the Shorty or that I seriously mulled over his idea. Regardless, Loose will hit stores next week and should be in the running for best album of the year. With hip-hop maestro Timbaland producing a majority of the disc (including bona fide song-of-the-summer candidate “Promiscuous”), the album is replete with sultry anthems and cogent-yet-candy-coated melodies. Gems like “Showtime” and “Glow” are scrumptious and developed, and will serve as the soundtrack for many a summertime romp. Nelly, I’m yours-unless Jeremy Bloom comes around first.