41. “Watch Out Now” by The Beatnuts (1999)

The JOAT 50 Song Countdown is a blog series where every weekday for 10 weeks I am posting a brand new long form essay where I have ranked and written about my 50 favorite songs of all-time. From Adele to Zac Brown Band, Patsy Cline to Plasma Canvas, Ludacris to Rise Against, this series offers a personal essay about the 50 songs that hit me the absolute hardest.

That fucking hook, man. Ever since the first time I heard this song, I can’t get that hook out of my head. It’s just too good. I almost never whistle, but if I’m whistling, I’m probably whistling that little flute melody that comprises this hook.

Look, I know there are rap songs ranked ahead of this one on this very list, but this list takes into account a lot of factors that often have very little to do with the song itself. But gun to my head and devoid of all other context, I think this is my all-time favorite rap song, and I’m not even totally sure why. But I think it’s that hook, man. It scratches some itch in my brain that I can’t get enough of. It’s like the musical equivalent of eating Lay’s Potato Chips or smoking cigarettes. One time listening to this song just isn’t nearly enough for me, I guess.

The Beatnuts obviously knew what they had too since they got incredibly pissy that Jennifer Lopez used the same sample they did for “Jenny From The Block.”  It’s from a disco song called “Hijack” by Enoch Light, and it sounds fucking weird as hell in its original form because the hook is faster than it is on The Beatnuts song. Admittedly, J-Lo’s version does sound more like The Beatnuts’ version than the Enoch Light version, but we’re talking samples here, so getting pissed about her version finding more success than theirs is a waste of energy.

I’ve always been irritated by Boomers who insist their era of rock ‘n roll is the only one of any merit and that everything that came after, I dunno, the assassination of John Lennon, is worthless crap. It’s obnoxious, self-serving posturing that belies an ugly generational narcissism. Even when we’re talking about a band like The Shelters, whose music feels like it would fit as comfortably in 1967 as it does in 2017, Boomers don’t give a shit because they’ve decided their narrow slice of life experience is all that matters and everything outside of that window has no value.

But goddammit if I can’t feel their point just a little bit in spirit when I compare hip hop from the 90s and 2000s against whatever the fuck this shit is today.

I mostly just keep my mouth shut about modern rap and hip hop because clearly this music isn’t for me. It wasn’t made with me or my demographic in mind (I don’t think), so my opinion doesn’t even fucking matter. I should just shut the hell up and walk away.

But I don’t want to! There is so much joy in discovering new music, even in your 40s! Great new songs continue to give me the chills and find their way into my regular rotation. I’ve found new rock, new punk, new metal, (a small amount) of new country, and new pop. It hasn’t happened in a long ass time with rap music. Why?

The shit is just so sleepy, bro. The mumbling, autotuned vocals. The fact that every fucking song feels like it uses the same beat with hi hats in WILD ABUNDANCE. And the biggest one is simply the lack of surprise. I’ve listened to Drake, Post Malone, and snitch ass loser 6ix9ine among others. They all seem to have one gear, and one gear only. It all feels weirdly earnest, and right down main street.

My favorite thing about rap music is its verbal dexterity, its wild narrative swings, its unpredictability and the sheer joy of well-constructed shit talking. You never knew what the fuck Ol’ Dirty Bastard was going to say, ever. I mean, this is a man who at two different points asked to be referred to as “Dirt McGirt” and “Ol’ Dirty Chinese Restaurant.” DMX was like a terrifying rabid dog. Ludacris was a raunchy partyman. Rap could nimbly take on issues of importance, but sometimes, shit was just funny, dude. I hate guns, but even I laugh when Dre raps “Y’all walkin around talkin about guns like I ain’t got none. Whatchu think I sold ‘em all?”

“Watch Out Now” is just one, long, glorious shit-talking soliloquy. Who the fuck are they even talking about? I have no idea! I also don’t care! But get a load of this:

Then I bag this chick, with a, “Hi, ” and the eye
She did the butterfly, rubbin her ass, against my buttonfly
I could ALREADY imagine my shit stuck inside
Everytime I strike, haters be like, “Dat fucking guy!”

I love these bars because I like to picture the singer scoring yet more poon, and all the losers in the club just frustratedly shaking their fists at the sky like Simpsons characters and exclaiming “Dat fucking guy!”

Here’s more:

Flip a beat fast, you leave the club with a heat rash
You got a weak stash, came in the club with a free pass
I ain’t even know they made a Roley for your cheap ass
Makin me laugh, you was in jail wearin kneepads

You recognize the cheap poseur they’re dunking on because we’ve all known cheap poseurs. And yes, so much of this is basic macho male posturing, which has its faults, but c’mon. It’s fun! I once heard someone describe diss tracks as men sitting in separate bedrooms writing poems about one another which makes the shit even more amusing.

A sick hook, inventive wordplay, epic shit talking. This song is a mainline of pure joy.

Up next: Violence.

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