Monday, March 21st, 2011

Snoop Dogg ft. Nate Dogg, Kurupt & Warren G – Ain’t No Fun

We begin with a track from the debut album by one of Nate’s most frequent collaborators…


Zach Lyon: When I listened to NPR’s audio obituary thing for Nate Dogg, I was originally just pissed to hear that so much of this less-than-three-minute tribute is dedicated to discussing how Nate’s singing made “hypersexual, misogynistic lyrics” sound listenable to a liberal audience, and making that his main hook — like, of course NPR would pull that shit in a tiny overview of a man’s entire life, making sure he’s whitewashed enough to properly mourn. It’s sad, because they’re close to getting to an actual, important point: Nate Dogg was not a soul or R&B singer, he was a hip-hop singer, and he sang lyrics you would only expect to hear rapped, and it does create this weird dissonance you won’t hear in an R. Kelly song. It sort of sounds like a joke sometimes, especially here, where the man soulfully croons about getting his balls licked. The obit could’ve spent a bit more time discussing his incredible voice, but on a lyric level, there really hasn’t been anything else like him.

Ian Mathers: I was going to try and ignore the misogyny, but it’s just too thick in here, great production notwithstanding. Dude, she licked your balls. Show a little class.

Alfred Soto: Neither the theremin-anchored beat nor Nate’s wobbly vocal compensate for the track’s general grossness. I may be the only human alive who prefers the kinder, gentler Snoop of the last few years to the phlegmatic gang rapist of his early Dre tutelage.

Martin Skidmore: Like many people, I do have problems with misogyny in music, and this is one of the more explicitly stated examples of that. On the other hand, I rarely listen to lyrics terribly carefully, so they usually don’t wreck my enjoyment. The g-funk backing here is terrific, relaxed but propulsive, Nate is smooth, Kurupt and Snoop particularly are on top, bouncy form. Misogyny has rarely sounded so cheery and fun.

Asher Steinberg: For a time-tested classic, this song sure has a lot of flaws. There’s Nate’s aimless intro that goes on for several too many bars (presaging his disappointing solo career), Kurupt’s needlessly mean-spirited and not very fun or funny verse, the part where Warren G sounds like one of the “rappers” on Dangerous, the way none of the individual parts link up to each other at all, and even Snoop’s verse, which begins on an unfortunately aggressive note and doesn’t hit the appropriately breezy stride until midway through. But all that’s (mostly) made up for by Nate’s classic hook and the way Dre plays those terrific synth horns under Nate’s “fun” and “none.” All of a sudden there’s this lovely burst of harmony, in a way that recalls mid-60s Beach Boys just as much as it does the Isaac Hayes and Lyn Collins records the song actually samples.

Tal Rosenberg: Casual and ruthless misogyny, which is gross and not worth endorsing. But Dr. Dre’s beat is one of his best, a sunny and perky speed-up of Isaac Hayes’ “A Few More Kisses to Go” that is probably the second-best beat on the best Dre-produced full-length in his entire oeuvre. And the song is totally weird and perplexing: Nate Dogg loses respect for the girl because she gives it up too quickly, but then gets it so good that he’ll acquiesce if she gives it up so easily again, and then falls for her, only to have his boys show up to treat women as disposable accessories. The rapping has attitude, the chorus has a hook that fastens like a seatbelt, and Nate’s melody is sublime, all the more appealing because the lyrics are so gratuitous, producing laughter that’s either uncomfortable or contagious, depending on your purview.

Jonathan Bradley: “Ain’t No Fun” is unforgivably, irredeemably horrible. I doubt any sentiment as obnoxious as Nate Dogg’s puerile insult to the woman he’s serenading has ever been sung so sweetly. The only question is, who following him has the better (that is, nastier) opening line: “Well if Kurupt ever gave a fuck about a bitch, he’d be broke” or Snoop’s “Guess who’s back in the motherfucking house with a fat dick for your motherfucking mouth”? Worse, the ambiance lacks even the decency to be as threatening as Dr. Dre’s production in this era could be; in fact it’s utterly celebratory. If you can conjure a purr as amicable as that of these gentlemen, then even your foulest come-ons might be mistaken for charm, but being this much of an asshole anywhere but on record is really ill-advised.

16 Responses to “Snoop Dogg ft. Nate Dogg, Kurupt & Warren G – Ain’t No Fun”

  1. Let me warn y’all now: we’re not going to be in sync on a few of these.

  2. Zach, you nailed it.

  3. I think Martin has a really good point here – I’m a lyrics guy (most of the time), so I might have a harder time with some of these than most. SORRY FOR THE WHITE PEOPLE PROBLEMS, GUYS.

  4. “Phlegmatic gang rapist” is a good one. Someone should create a Tumblr of memorable Singles Jukebox neologisms/phrases.

  5. Should mention that there was a lot more I could’ve written on the subject, but I didn’t want to turn in a wall of text when we’re spending the whole week on the guy, and this blurb could’ve been used on any number of tracks. His voice really does bring the misogyny to the front… like Martin, a lot of rap listeners (often casual, often white dudes) don’t pay much attention to the words, so the crappier parts are easier to ignore. Nate forces you to hear every word. I think it has the opposite effect NPR was talking about.

    I had no idea how to rate this — never went through a g-funk phase, none of it has ever appealed to me — but it’s interesting enough to me.

  6. We’re entering one of my blind spots. I’ve wanted to write about these songs because for years The Chronic-era hip-hop repulsed me. Relistening to this stuff after many years was revelatory. I do hate the glibness of my blurb — hated it from the moment I posted it — so I’ve tried to finesse later ones.

  7. I don’t dislike this song for its content — I find the form uncompelling. All the guys listed in the credits did much better stuff later.

  8. “it does create this weird dissonance you won’t hear in an R. Kelly song.”

    Oh, I think there are plenty of places in Kells’s discography where that same weird dissonance can be found. Although I see what you’re saying; “shawty if you’re thirsty, I got some good good lemonade” may be a lot grosser than anything Nate Dogg ever sang, but it still sounds like the lyric of a singer, not a rapper. I guess that’s what I don’t like about Nate Dogg though, for the most part. He wasn’t a great rap-hook singer in the traditional sense of someone who shows up to help soften the rapper’s rough edges on the one song per album every rapper had from 1996-2006 where they’d pretend to be sweet romantics; he’s another rapper, who sings. (And on the other hand, he’s way too good a singer to have the cheesy appeal or hilarity of, say, Mo B. Dick, Master P’s knock-off Nate Dogg.) Indeed, when we get to ’21 Questions,’ I think we’ll find that 50’s a lot more winning and sensitive than Nate, who mostly comes off as in love with the sound of his voice.

  9. Will the female Jukeboxeteers be sitting this week out, then?

  10. I couldn’t bear to listen to more than a minute of this – prob one of my least favourite songs on Doggystyle (which I last listened to, er, about 10 years ago).

  11. “in love with the sound of his voice” is arguably what *i* love about his voice — and i also think ND hits a kind of avant-garde of self-loathing lyrical nastiness (all sense) early in the cut here, that the others disperse, as they try for the same level

  12. It’s not Nate, it’s illness and jet lag. Maybe later.

  13. however, several caveats/spoilers:

    – I’m not very familiar with Nate Dogg’s discography. Looking over the list, I’m more familiar than I thought I was (probably I just forgot about half of what he’s done), but there it is.
    – A few of the blurbs here are erghing me a bit. Which probably means I should weigh in! But…
    – malaise, congestion, general illness, etc.

  14. (clarification: it’s not the authors / their writing or thoughts that are erghing me, it’s the implied subject matter of the song! just to get that clear.)

  15. I just wanted to thank Zach for putting into words the exact way I feel about Nate Dogg and why I think he’s special.

  16. Yeah, I think being in love with himself is the problem I have with Nate Dogg. On ‘Where I Wanna Be,’ for instance, his subject doesn’t really seem to be being happy about being where he wants to be; his subject, as always, is his inhumanly bell-like baritone. He’s remarkably inexpressive.