Chris Brown, y’all.
To be totally honest, I never felt anything towards Chris Brown. His first hit, “Run It!” was one of those songs that always bugged me, even though I knew nothing about it, including who sang it. Part 2 of Brown’s success came in 2007, a time when I was paying absolutely no attention to pop music, so there’s that. The only blip he’s registered with me was last year’s “Deuces”, a song so terribly mean-spirited that it could soundtrack puppies being kicked.
Well, now we’re looking at his current top ten hit, “Look at Me Now”. The song kicks off with minimalist production with too much reverb before Brown announces, “I don’t see how you can hate from outside of the club…you can’t even get in!” and giggles like a ten year old girl suffering an asthma attack.
I had never thought about it, but Chris Brown’s post-Rihanna image is sort of fascinating. While Rihanna’s past few hits have been either playful or emphasizing how in-command she is, Brown’s have featured pouts, stares, and arrogance. Obviously, he can’t really hold onto the Nice Guy image he built up, so he’s kind of gone for this cocky asshole tough guy persona. It might be part of his personality, or it might be a punch clock villain type of deal, but either way, it’s interesting.
I only mention that because Brown’s in full cocky cock mode for “Look At Me Now”. The hook is uncreative chest thumping: “I got money, I’m fresh”., you know, things that are kind of redundant when you’re in year 5 or 6 of stardom. The verses don’t fair much better; Brown’s first verse is bad imitation of Soulja Boy (let that sink in), and let me pull some lyrics from the second verse. “And she accidentally slip and fall on my dick/Ooops I said on my dick/I ain’t really mean to say on my dick/But since we talking about my dick/All of you haters say hi to it”
…just for you, Chris.
However, someone involved seemed to realize that a horrible main performer and surprisingly good production values don’t make for a hit song, and we’re treated to guest verses by Busta Rhymes and still Tha Cater IV-less Lil Wayne.
There’s no way to get around it, Busta makes this track hot. The lines themselves are satisfactory, but his minute long rapid fire unrelenting delivery more than make up for it. His verse doesn’t feel like a guest spot; as soon as he starts, “Look At Me Now” fits him like a glove, and he essentially owns this song. In fact, when Chris Brown comes back for the chorus with “Look at me now, look at me now”, it’s not hard to imagine him saying it in desperation after having just been curbstomped on his own song.
And as soon as he shuts his trap, part 2 of “Chris Brown Gets His Ass Beat By His Own Guest Rappers” begins. Lil Wayne comes in with a solid verse; a little faster than his usual, but he keeps his flow up and still gets a few clever lines in. It’s a good verse.
But am I the only one who thinks that Lil Wayne’s sounded kind of…odd lately? His stop-start build and release flow on “Look At Me Now” sounds almost more Nicki Minaj than Lil Wayne. His post-Ryker/enforced sober material doesn’t feel as characteristically “Wheezy” as his older stuff does. Yeah, he’s still wacky and weird (and even technically better), but only because he’s trying to be. I’m not saying Lil Wayne should go back to the drugs, but right now he seems to still be refining how to work without them.
But identity crisis or not, his verse still blows Brown out of the water. People say that Dr. Dre sounded like a guest on his song “I Need a Doctor” (something with which I’ve never agreed), but I’d say that holds more true for Brown on “Look At Me Now”. Not a rapper himself, his verses get absolutely buried by two veterans turning in top notch performances, but Brown’s presence on the track is still enough to bring it down a few notches for me. Can we look at someone else?