Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

The Singles Jukebox End-of-Year Best-Off 2009, Round 2: “Hey Playa! (Moroccan Blues)” vs. “Da Style Deh”

Our third match sees two of the least commercially successful songs still in the competition face off – then again, both wound up in the regular season top 10. DJ Quik & Kurupt’s ode to camels named after Chris Brown & Rihanna, ”Hey Playa! (Moroccan Blues)” butts heads with the biggest beneficiary of TUNES RECOVERY PROJECT, Busy Signal’s “Da Style Deh”, for a place in the quarters. Both songs chalked up average scores of over 8 when we reviewed them first time around – this is gonna get bloody…

Chuck Eddy Have you ever heard of a wish sandwhich? Bow bow bow.

John Seroff: Props to Chuck for nominating “Da Style Deh” and spotlighting Busy Signal; every new song by this guy that Google unearths for me is at least some small level of amazing. “Style” is minimalism honed to papercut precision, as perfect as you could ask pop to be and it tears me up to vote it out, but I’m going to be riding with Quik and Kurupt’s “Hey Playa!” to the bitter end.

Jordan Sargent: What I love about “Hey Playa” is that early on Quik proclaims that “hip-hop is the music of the devil” and then he proceeds to throw one of the most enjoyably satanic dance parties of the year. And if cratedigging is actually going to die one day, then sampling music playing in the background of a restaurant on a Travel Channel show could be a worse place to start. Apologies to “Da Style Deh,” which I helped push this far, but if I had the choice I would definitely party with the Cali guys.

Alex Macpherson: Both terrific, of course, but Busy put out several better tracks in 2009 and there isn’t a moment on “Hey Playa!” which doesn’t thrill me.

John M. Cunningham: An inspired pairing, with each song reaching toward Africa to lend it some vibrancy, but I prefer the splashes of color and breezy trade-off of voices on “Hey Playa!” to the strict call-and-response of “Da Style Deh.”

Jessica Popper: I strongly disliked both of these songs, but the DJ Quik track just beat Busy Signal to be the worst of the two.

Andrew Casillas: DJ Quik & Kurupt wins this matchup because I seem the be the only person on the Jukebox who can’t stand “Da Style Deh.”

David Moore: Autotuned bongo-fueled dancehall versus kitchen-sink psuedo-Middle-Eastern sluggish two-stomp hip-hop, eh? A tough one, but I’m giving the edge to Busy Signal for the choir and for the subtle stylistic, non-training-wheeled impact of the Autotune in creating a slight distance that keeps me hanging onto the vocals in a way I might not otherwise. Also for this tournament format as an absolute last-ditch way for me to find things I’ve for whatever reason ignored this year, even as they catapulted into the top ten.

Tal Rosenberg: Here’s the thing, “Hey Playa!” has a spacious, quavering, aggressive-yet-airy beat that lets Kurupt glide and puff all over it. But in the end, I know when the chorus comes, I know what the verses do; I’m satisfied, but not thrilled. On “Da Style Deh,” I don’t exactly know what’s coming. Everything’s coming at me from all angles, and I’m thrilled. With Busy Signal, I’m left holding my breath.

Erika Villani: “Da Style Deh” feels like it’s building to something more, but then the something more never comes. “Hey Playa!”, on the other hand, delivers all the way through: that curio sample setting up dry ’90s West Coast bounce, half thesis on hip-hop survival, half slinky come-ons. Why not, not why.

Jonathan Bradley: The near-universal acclaim for the Quik & Kurupt record has puzzled me slightly; the production is consistently, often thrillingly creative, and the execution is unerringly professional, but the stakes seem so low that I more often than not find myself admiring rather than enjoying. “Hey Playa” succeeds on a great sample and an amiable enough bounce. Busy Signal’s autotune sounds like Ron Browz stumbling on an absolutely ridiculous percussion line. That burping table is almost enough to erase the memories of “Arab Money” the chorus stirs up. Two middling songs, each concealing an unexpectedly inspired component makes for fairly middling competition, but I’m going with Quik’s proficiency over Busy Signal’s scrappiness.

Rodney J. Greene: I wish I could combine the two and call it a day. Hey PLAYAYAYAyayayayAYAYAY! Can I HOLLALOLLALAlalalaLALOLLA! Unfortunately Will, bastard that he is, forces us to be choosy lovers. Africa by way of India and Jamaica sounds like a fun tour, but it’s no match for Morocco by way of California and Hell. Okay, L.A. might not be so exotic, but once you cross the River Styx, there’s just no turning back. Besides, as tour guides go, Quik manages to outfunk even Charon.

Frank Kogan: Quik & Kurupt pile the world into this track: a twisting sample that’s almost drowned by dance lounging and soulful singing, as Q and K contradict each other about the virtues and dangers of selling oneself to the party of hip-hop. A fascinating track that has the misfortune of running up against a vocal by Busy Signal that’s simultaneously gorgeous and pushy.

Dan MacRae: It took reading Alex Ostroff’s take on “Da Style Deh” to figure out that this song is about intercourse. Which in turn makes my initial reaction of “my Ma would love this” fairly unsettling.

Martin Skidmore: A close one again, but I kept waiting for something more from Busy Signal, and Q&K made maybe my favourite hip hop album of the year.

Martin Kavka: Over the months since I first heard “Hey Playa!” I’ve been wondering whether getting a sample as a result of flipping through television channels might be a sign of, if not laziness, then at least weariness. I’m sure that Shane Brown’s technical skills make him just as much of a nerd as DJ Quik. Yet there’s a love of life in “Da Style Deh” (the chorus, the call-and-response structure, the line “hot gyal she no seize up like jalopy”) that I find inspiring, especially as the days get shorter in the winter.

Cecily Nowell-Smith: What these two tracks have in common is an absolute glee in sound. “Da Style Deh”‘s tabla and call-and-response, “Hey Playa”‘s Moroccan sample and steady stomp; they’re songs that sound like every second making them was a delight. So maybe it’s just the dozens of times I’ve listened to “Hey Playa!”, how the patterns of its lyrics fall on my ear with the inevitability of the familiar, the way that every time the hook rolls around I’m buoyed again to utter joy.

Mallory O\’Donnell: Both of these tracks are somewhat difficult to listen to, the Quik & Kurupt because the overloud vocal sample forces you to strain to catch the rap, the Busy Signal because the nice African cadences get snared up in the ragga clap-trap. The former is the only one that actually rewards your effort, however.

Anthony Easton: Any music that features camels wins. It’s one of my rules of pop music. I mean, I love the Arabic vocal modulations, but mostly it’s the camels.

Renato Pagnani: “Hey Playa” could win this on its ingenious sample alone, but it’s also a fully-formed, joyous banger that genuinely bangs. Plus, how Quik’s verse has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of the track makes me laugh every single time. Kurupt effortlessly reels the girls in, and Quik is too busy to notice. But it’s a testament to the track that they decide to stick around anyways.

Alex Ostroff: Amazing sample, its slightly out-of-sync looping somehow only increasing its effectiveness. MCs who genuinely seem to HAVE FUN rapping (a rarity in 2009 among those whose names aren’t Gucci Mane). Throwback chorus. Perfectly calibrated for summer bliss.

Tom Ewing: The Q&K album has fallen from grace with me rather and it’s mostly because of Kurupt’s sneery, jabby voice on tracks like this, which still almost got my vote for having the most gorgeous loop of the year. Busy Signal is still in the enjoyably new box for me – “Hey Playa!” in the “jaded by repeat listen”.

Pete Baran: Another tough one, but while Quik & Kurupt are slinky with their Moroccan samples, Busy Signal just gets in yer face with his African tinged danciness. It just sounds great.

Ian Mathers: I feel for “Da Style Deh,” probably the song we’ve covered this year that comes the closest to a totally pure expression of joy. But then that sample starts up (if it is a bit off, as some of the blurbs at the time suggested, it works fabulously), that crashingly reverbed beat comes in and even before the chorus hits, you know you are in the company of one of the greatest songs 2009 has to offer.

Al Shipley: I still don’t know why Quik is the voice of great antiquity or hip hop is the music of the devil or really anything that’s going on in “Hey Playa!” but I still love every second of it.


“Hey Playa! (Moroccan Blues)” – 18 (Martin Skidmore, Alex Macpherson, Cecily Nowell-Smith, Mallory O’Donnell, Anthony Easton, Andrew Casillas, Michaelangelo Matos, Ian Mathers, Al Shipley, John Seroff, John M Cunningham, Jordan Sargent, Renato Pagnani, Alex Ostroff, Erika Villani, Jonathan Bradley, Rodney J Greene, Briony Edwards)

“Da Style Deh” – 12 (Iain Mew, Chuck Eddy, Dan MacRae, Frank Kogan, Martin Kavka, Tom Ewing, Jessica Popper, Pete Baran, David Moore, Anthony Miccio, Matt Cibula, Tal Rosenberg)

Almost disappointingly one-sided in the end, really – but if there’s one thing Busy Signal’s success has taught us, it’s that we really paid nowhere near enough attention to the Caribbean last year. Look out for our review of Sean Paul’s guest spot on that Jay Sean single once we’re back in our regular business next week.

Coming up next – a conflict that has come to define the Jukebox throughout its existence, as we try to determine which is best out of ageing rap dudes and Swedish girls who seem slightly too pleased by their command of the English language. Raekwon and chums vs. Royksopp and Robyn for a place in the quarters, later today on this very site…

5 Responses to “The Singles Jukebox End-of-Year Best-Off 2009, Round 2: “Hey Playa! (Moroccan Blues)” vs. “Da Style Deh””

  1. Disappointingly one-sided? This is the closest one yet! I’m pleasently surprised at how many votes “Da Style Deh” got, actually; Quik & Kurupt were beginning to feel like Taylor Swift-style juggernauts.

  2. And two weeks on, I’d probably give Da Style Deh the edge. It’s a thing of majesty is what it is.

  3. [i]Q and K contradict each other about the virtues and dangers of selling oneself to the party of hip-hop.[/i]

    Love this, Frank.

  4. BTW, does anyone know who the hook girl is on “Hey Playa!”?

  5. Tai Phillips.