Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

The Black Eyed Peas – Yesterday

Yesterday, all my troubles seemed three thousand and eight, now it looks like I’m two thousand and late…


Brad Shoup: The third verse of Diamond D’s “Stunts, Blunts & Hip-Hop” paid tribute to a host of old-school MC and DJs. The last two lines — and this is from ’92, remember — were “back then it wasn’t done for the cash/I hope the legacy continues to last”. As reminds us, 1992 was the year he made his on-wax debut, guesting on an Eazy-E track. As a godhead of gangsta, Eazy had a part in hastening the obsolescence of the Golden Age. But with the passage of time (and the bias that comes from rapping alongside Eric Wright and De La) comes the compression, and ODB gets the same nod from the Peas as Jungle Brothers. (That wailing you hear is the ghost of the Dirty South, roaming the track, seeking props in vain.) The absence of Luke, Big Boi and Scarface aside, “Yesterday” is pure entertainment, an animating look at a universe of black musical expression. On one level, it’s The History of Rap without white mugging, but that seems too inconsiderate. The beauty of hip hop wasn’t that it upturned the order of black music; it’s that this music was always there, a subdermal presence. I never understood why DJ Shadow would extol also-rans while keeping his finds face-down; hip hop is about making and imparting history. It can come off didactic if you’ve never imagined your history could be taken from you, could be rewritten into someone else’s or simply erased. Still, absolutes aren’t a great governor, and the Peas long ago decided to swap their backpacks for handbags. That’s fine. Will talks about the future forgetting Future’s already here. He’s never had a sonic breakthrough and the screwed-up outro is maybe his worst attempt yet. BEP are embedded in pop history, but that doesn’t mean they haven’t mastered another discipline.

Will Adams: The Black Eyed Peas want you to remember that before making some of the worst pop music of the past decade, they made middling old school hip hop. manages to squeeze in another awful hook (and the word “future,” gotta have that), but excepting that, “Yesterday” hopscotches across older, better hits like a college kid flipping through flashcards the night before an exam.

Alfred Soto: I recommend that Titus Andronicus or somebody in a rock band essay a similar Stars on 45 approach. Listening to “Yesterday” twice halved my hip hop listening!

David Sheffieck: Holy shit, this is a single that people decided to release in 2015 — multiple people who aren’t Weird Al or Girl Talk! The sheer audacity deserves at least a point; it’s a trainwreck, but it’s the kind you can’t look away from.

Thomas Inskeep: Because what we really want is to hear play-acting like he’s in N.W.A. 

Edward Okulicz: People with short attention spans evidently need their nostalgia fix too. The mix of KICKING IT OLD SCHOOL and bragging with their rusty shout-rapping during these makes them sound like The Beastie Boys, which is quite funny, because no way was that the intent. I also laughed when one of them went “BASS! HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?” proving, perhaps, that they’ve listened to one more Public Enemy song than the radio producers who programmed their songs to play once every five minutes last decade.

Katherine St Asaph: It figures that the Black Eyed Peas’ idea of the past is as gonzo and self-congratulatory as their idea of the future. Judging by the hook, their idea of the past is Alice Deejay; judging by Fergie’s absence, and the absence of any replacement hook singer, it’s also a lot of men. Before you say it, I know the Peas were in the rap history they invoke, but I still can’t tell whether this is a track or a thread on /r/hiphop.

Nina Lea Oishi: “Yesterday” is a refreshing departure from the autotuned electromess of recent albums. Rather, we’re given a disparate mix of ideas: jazzy doublebass lines and horns, old-school funk, slashes of electric guitars. For a while there, it seemed like we’d never hear these kinds of sounds from the Peas ever ever again. It’s a giddy, innovative romp through time periods that still fits in sonically with the Black Eyed Peas’s recent works, but it also feels like a welcome return to their roots.

Micha Cavaseno: Black Eyed Peas remind me of all the groups they used to compete with back when they were failing to progress further than getting featured on album tracks for Blood of Abraham. There’s a lot of good intent here, and I get that i’s cool that these crusty old B-boys remember listening to all the songs I listened to in my father’s Oldsmobile, but the problem is the world doesn’t allow you to really be those songs. So many of the samples are played over, albeit with one or two off notes: take great note of how the horns on “T.R.O.Y.” and “Night Of The Living Baseheads” or the piano from “Shimmy Shimmy Ya” get reworked. Will probaly did this to avoid the legal mess it is to clear samples from the dozens upon dozens of artists the group cite — but back in the day this wasn’t an issue. Back in the day a rap song could be a mess, no sung chorus or identifiable structure, and just three guys being dorks. I can’t fault BEP for wanting to go back to the past when the now seems ready to want to push them away, and I’m happy that music publishing ensures that the billions of acts who lose money on sampling get a little bit of just due. But it’s not as fun to watch.

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6 Responses to “The Black Eyed Peas – Yesterday”

  1. Let’s be clear tho, BEP were much worse as a granola rap group.

  2. my least favourite BEP single is definitely “Joints ‘n’ Jam”.

  3. BEP were to the Roots what The Fugees were to Tribe; absolute sellouts, gloriously so, and burn out super fucking fast.

  4. amazing subhead

  5. 2003-2005 BEP (thank god for fergie) were pretty damn solid, in my book. And then became a DJ and the world was a sadder place

  6. Will forever defend “My Humps”.