Let us now praise the electro-bounce diaspora. This one comes from London, where grime garage—the head-on collision of ragga and hip-hop exemplified by Dizzee Rascal, though there's a fistful of artists and records nearly as intriguing—has been ruling the dance underground for a year now. This is its prime pop moment, as irresistible as Althea & Donna's 1977 reggae classic "Uptown Top Ranking," which it's reminiscent of in more than one way—that song was a girly sassing of Dillinger's "Three Piece Suit and Ting," while the M.I.A. ladies infiltrate grime's boys' club as nonchalantly as the Dixie Cups singing "Iko Iko." "London calling, speak the slang now/Boys say wha', girls say wha'," they tempt us at the top, and for the Yanks in the audience, "wha?" is exactly what they'll say. But they'll say it and they'll like it, because the beat swallows it whole, a jump-rope skip abetted with a flat-four stomp at the end of the second bar, great groaning wowing synth-bass, post-Diwali (aka the Sean Paul "Get Busy" rhythm) hand claps, and what sound like tuned bottles clinking along every so often. The lift-up-and-over moment comes at 2:30, when the beat subsides and the ladies sing an a cappella "Ya-ya-hey! Whoa-yay-oh-yay-ohhh!" so simultaneously plainspoken and transported you can feel the concrete beneath their sneakers and see the clear skies beyond the council flats. Best girl-group record since "Say My Name"—if not "Uptown Top Ranking," if not "Iko Iko."
TODD EDWARDS AND FILTHY RICH FT. DAMON TRUEITT
"Stormy Day (Vocal Mix)"/"Stormy Day (Dubstrumental)"
Let us now praise one-trick ponies. For over a decade, house-music producer Todd Edwards has pieced together his mini-masterworks by taking dozens of cut-up fragments—a rolling organ note here, hypertense strings there, a bittersweet female ooh in front, a masculine aah in back—and layering them in dense, gorgeous formation over skittering hi-hats and shadowboxing bass lines; particularly in his remix work, he subsumes a track's vocal in a rich tapestry of constantly shifting tones over beats as thick as pudding. He's best known outside the ghetto of clubland for collaborating on Daft Punk's "Face to Face" (on 2001's Discovery); the parts of Canadian producer Akufen's excellent 2002 album My Way that aren't slow-moving and pastoral amount to one long Todd rip-off, I mean homage. Edwards' perpetual restlessness and/or severe case of ADD means he tinkers constantly with his tracks, and for that reason, the B-side of his new 12-inch trumps the A, on which the producer feels compelled to leave the vocal alone. Well, not completely—shiver effects on the chorus, mmm-mmm good. But the "Dubstrumental" is where the latticework of snippets spreads across the stereo spectrum to its most enticing effect, the sparkling, shivering keyboards abetted by the chorus and a few choice verse lines but not quite tethered to them, the vocals functioning as croutons in Edwards' sound salad.
Let us now praise Clipse's 2002 single "Grindin'," in which the Neptunes synthesize rhythm and noise to such a clipped, precise degree you'll never hear a car door slam the same way again. The Trackboyz certainly don't; they produced this cut, which not only reconfigures the "Grindin'" beat (buttressed by a cute, fizzy little keyboard bass line) but cops Pharrell's whispering from N.O.R.E.'s Neptunes-produced "Nothin'." As for 17-year-old J-Kwon himself, he slurs like the drunk he spends the song lamenting he's unable to yet (legally) become. "When I say, 'Teen drinking is very bad, but I got a fake ID though,' people think I'm actually promoting drinking to teens," he recently informed VH1.com. "Nah. When I say, 'Everybody in the club getting tipsy,' I mean we ain't drinking but everybody else is. That's what we see, not what we do. A lot of critics come at me about this. If I was promoting teen drinking, believe me, I would've sold the song for an ad." Disingenuous and shameless, all in one package—just like the song. How can you resist? Clipse, meanwhile, have a terrible new song on the Barbershop 2 soundtrack.
SLEEPY BROWN FT. OUTKAST
"I Can't Wait"
MYA FT. CHINGY
"Fallen (Zone 4 Remix)"
Speaking of which, that Barbershop 2 album falls to earth fairly quickly, but for the first quarter, oh, how it soars. Polow da Don's reworking of Mya's "Fallen" not only uses Chingy (who, unbelievably, is one of the reasons the remix is good!), it turns the rolling tom-tom boom-boom beat into the most effervescent rhythm track on the radio right now. OutKast, meantime, steal "I Can't Wait" away from protégé Sleepy Brown, which you were expecting. OK, it's actually Andre 3000 who does it, which you were also expecting: "You're lollygagging, you're slowpoking/You got me open/You're playing with me/Darling, I'm not a toy/And if Anita Baker brings the joy/You're kinda the Tyner, meaning the real McCoy."