MOS DEF - "Mr. Nigga" (from the album Black on Both Sides)

At least partly, an indictment of what seems to me (in the midst of the white-bread breadbasket of America) to be those - black specifically but hold that thought - who play up, overplay even, the popular stereotypes of blacks. Though Mos is also frustrated at the prejudices that won't let blacks succeed without social impunity, "Mr. Nigga" isn't helping things any.

A major component of these stereotypes - especially for young non-blacks - is the music, and not any hep new production tricks or chin-stroking lyrics, but the musical swagger, the naughty thrills gotten from rhymes about fat asses and violence and dope dope dope, the head-nodding beats, etc. etc. This isn't to say that the musical frills (production or lyrics) that afficionados (like good Freaky Trigger readers) love go unnoticed by the masses, or that they're unimportant.

But - if, as Tom suggests, the nifty production is really the point of all of the street rap, and that point goes unnoticed by the majority of listeners, it seems as if there's plenty of "encoding" and "decoding" going on in that camp as well. Perhaps more de- than en-, as well, in what I suspect is an over-response to underground rap's sometimes painfully-earnest righteousness, and overcompensation for street rap's stereotype-rich content.

Oh, and the single again, by the way? A highlight on an eminently satisfying album. Driven by a funky slap-bass loop, Q-Tip guesting, Mos adding congas and other percussion to his relaxed delivery, and not much decoding to be done, really, at all, Mr. Reynolds.

This originally appeared in NYLPM during its little hip-hop debate.