Rap Quickies: In and Out in Two Hot Minutes
by Raymond Cummings | April 28, 2014
A great rapper can accomplish a lot in two minutes or less. Not a freestyle, necessarily, but letting loose with an extremely concentrated burst of storytelling, scene-setting, toasting or reminiscing before ducking out the back. Hip-hop past and present are littered with these rough, 120-second-long songlets; often, they're the most memorable aspects of the albums, EPs, compilations or mixtapes on which they appear.
Recent TDE recruit Isaiah Rashad makes the most of limited space on "Soliloquy," stepping lively through autobiography, fantasy, schlock comedy and tough talk. DMX, meanwhile, triumphantly reps his set on "My N*gg*z"; Fam-Lay cold-bloodedly warns lames against crossing Virginia state lines over a bloop-y Oompa-Loompa Neptunes beat on "Fam-Lay Freestyle." With "Name of the Game," DJ Hi-Tek's soul-soaked piano-loop palpitations elicit career-apogee hot sixteens from Talib Kweli; and Rakim elevates the genre for an entire generation on the funky fly "Don't Sweat the Technique."
By contrast, Earl Sweatshirt spends "Uncle Al" vividly and heatedly free-associating over the sonic equivalent of tumbling backward into a K-hole, while an insulated, insomniac Raekwon makes his stove work for him on "Pyrex Vision." But the crown for best use of two minutes must go to Run-D.M.C., who deftly and incisively employ personification to illustrate the horrors of drug addiction on "Crack," almost two decades before 50 Cent recorded "A Baltimore Love Thing."