Sound + Vision: Girl You Know It’s “OOOUUU”
Counterpoint: Conflict is the soul of drama, and without the retribution cycle, without the determination to wipe those hot tears from our cheeks and return fire, to clap back, we wouldn’t have the rich nutrients necessary to nurture Grade A rap beef. Now, I’m going to let myself finish, but I feel like I need to say here that I only like beef served two ways: diss tracks and other diss tracks. I heartily endorse trigger fingers turning into twitter fingers–no actual violence, please.
I love diss tracks because so often they showcase the worst, most base impulses paired with the best lyricism. I love diss tracks because they give a weird entree into the kaleidoscopic demimonde of the rap industry, where everybody seems to know everybody, someone’s always honked off at someone else, and music is a competition. It’s this last point that means the most to me, because that competitive impulse is what drives the freestyle marketplace.
The freestyle economy is a mirror image of the workaday rap world: no money is on the table, radio play is generally not the goal, and it’s pretty much the closest rappers get to cover songs. It’s just a pure expression of talent and ambition. A rapper might just really love the beat on a song and want to jump on it to show what they can do. This can be fodder for a YouTube expedition. Put in the name of a song you like, and you’re liable to run across a freestyle by someone else. Click on it, and you’ll see 4 other freestyles over there in the recommended videos. It’s easy for an afternoon to peel away as you travel further and further down that rabbit hole. And deep down in those mines, occasionally you strike gold.
As you may or may not know, Los Angeles rapper Game has been recently beefing with Philadelphia native Meek Mill. Game released a diss track accusing Meek of snitching. Meek responded with a diss track of his own. This is nothing new. But here’s where it gets interesting–Game responded to the response with another diss, freestyling over the same beat. For what it’s worth, I think Game crushed Meek, but who cares. I’m way more excited about tracking down the original artist on the song, an up and coming MC by the name of Young M.A.
Game and Meek’s trading diss tracks over “OOOUUU” blew her up, but the attention is deserved: this Brooklyn rapper has the bars and the charisma to be an underground favorite for years to come. To be honest, the lyrics are pretty much bone stock brag-rap: I’m rich, I can get your chick, I am disrespectful towards women, don’t violate my crew, etc. And her rhyme scheme, while appealing, puts her in the middle of the punchliner pack. But as I said, charisma for days. And, it turns out, “OOOUUU” isn’t even her best song.
Part of the joy of discovering a new artist is piecing their body of work together, often in reverse chronology, and more often in descending popularity. That is, their biggest hit will come up first, but a deep dive will yield some other gems. I started at “OOOUUU”, and then moved to “Body Bag”. From there, I listened to pretty much everything by her that I could find, culminating in my favorite track, “Oh my Gawdd”, a freestyle over Jay Z’s “You, Me, Him, and Her”. This song is a time capsule; at the end M.A even teases about 30 seconds of then-forthcoming “OOOUUU”. There’s something satisfying about following the popcorn trail back into the woods, before the big hit, before everyone in the world was jumping on the track.