There’s a moment early on in We Got It 4 Cheap, Vol. 3 when Pusha T talks about how real lyrics are back and how no one’s interested in hearing the kind of bullshit that Lil’ Wayne spits, but you get the idea that he doesn’t really believe that. It comes off like one of those daily affirmations, like when an ugly person stares into a mirror and tells himself that he’s good-looking, so that he’ll have the courage to go into work each morning.
I’d try it myself, but I’m fortunate enough to be able to work right here from my mother’s basement. Also, I think we all know that guys referring to themselves as ugly and/or pretty (especially pretty) is one of those bizarre pathologies specific to the black community, that I must have missed out on spending so much time around cracka-ass crackas. (Thanks, white people!)
But I digress. Of course real lyrics, or an emphasis on being able to rap well for the sake of being able to rap well, i.e. what hip-hop used to be about (except when it wasn’t), is gonna be desirable to bullshit, to people who can tell the difference. But who can even tell the difference anymore? Probably not very many people, right?
Doesn’t the fact that Hell Hath No Fury did Little Brother numbers, while Lil’ Wayne is like the new Jay-Z kinda prove that no one gives a shit about the “rap” part of rap music anymore? But I suppose it’s important to tell yourself that more than a few people will ever really appreciate what it is that you do, even if it isn’t necessarily true.
Of course part of the problem with Hell Hath No Fury is that the production fucking sucked balls. From what I understand, Pharrell and the chinaman from the Neptunes may have had some sort of falling out and this may have lead to Pharrell handling the lion’s share of the production on HHNF by himself.
Now, I’m not privy enough to the Neptunes’ process to know which roles each individual handled. But based on my propensity to buy into racial stereotypes as if they were true more often than not, which they are, I’m gonna guess that Pharrell handled the rhythmic aspect of the Neptunes’ production, while the other fellow worked the computer.
(Given the fact that it’s been a minute since the Neptunes have had a hit, Pharrell might want to see about finding himself a replacement chinaman. Maybe hit up Craigslist.)
In the past, The Clipse have been criticized for cherry-picking the beats they use on these mixtapes, not so much in the sense that a rapper shouldn’t pick the best beats possible, but in the sense that any ol’ d-bag could sound good over some of the beats on We Got It 4 Cheap, Vols. 1 and 2. That doesn’t necessarily mean they can make a great album.
Just like someone else we know, eh?
There may have been some attempts at that sort of thing on Vol. 3, but it’s hard to say. They rap over beats from Graduation and American Gangster, but they’re such lame-ass beats. To the extent that people even liked them in the first place, it’s probably because they belonged to Kanye West and Jay-Z, and the two of them have reached that point of celebrity where they don’t even have to be good anymore.
Elsewhere, I’d say there’s some inspired beat selection that went into We Got 4 Cheap, Vol 3. Some of this shit I’ve never even heard before – maybe because it’s hard to even hear rap music these days, or maybe because this is new shit they commissioned specifically for the mixtape. Whatever it is, it’s the kind of shit you wish was on Hell Hath No Fury.
However, I wouldn’t want to necessarily throw all of the blame for Hell Hath No Fury’s abject failure on the production. Because that would just be racist. If you notice, there’s far fewer bling-bling raps on We Got It 4 Cheap, Vol. 3 than there was on Hell Hath No Fury, and my guess is that this might be due to there being no profit motive with the mixtape.
Not that HHNF ended up turning a profit anyway, but I can imagine the two of them sitting around like, “These coke raps are good and all, but how are gonna get girls to go out and buy this album? Ooh, I know, a buncha songs about how we use the money we make from selling drugs to buy material bullshit, which we then use to attract women!”
Or who knows, it could’ve just been the TIs at Jive breathing down their necks for something they could use as a single. I wouldn’t want to speculate too much with regard to whatever, if any, commercial consideration went into crafting the album, because that just wouldn’t be fair to the artist.