Sunday, October 18, 2009

#77. 'I toss and turn I keep stress in my mind'

Kid Cudi
"Day 'n' Nite"

Stoner introspection is not the type of thing you expect to hear in hip hop. Weed itself may play a major role in the culture, but if it's part of a track it's generally only the action of smoking it or selling it that gets brought up or general thoughts about the wonders of the plant. You've heard it all before, it generally hits the same beats time and time again and it had gotten so old by the turn of the millennium that even Snoop Dogg - who is probably responsible for at least 50% of the white teenagers toking today - gave it up for a spell. So the last thing I expected to hear at the tail end of the 00s was a hip hop song that tackled the more abstract aspects of a good high. "Day 'n' Nite" may not be the ultimate stoner song, but it's certainly among the best stoner hip hop songs, and not just limited to this decade either.

I should clarify that I'm talking about the original version of the track as opposed to the Crookers remix that's likely responsible for a lot of its popularity for the purposes of this piece. The remix is good if a bit heavy on the eurodance, but it really pales next to the initial version. The remix robs the song of that perfect, minimal atmosphere, plays up the mildly annoying 'aw-aw' vocal sample and throws in that cheesy breakdown between the chorus and the verses. It's perfectly suited for clubs, which you definitely can't say about the original, but given the subject matter and Cudi's delivery the original just works better overall.

It's in that completely simple yet undeniably catchy synth riff that anchors the whole track, to be honest. Something about the tone of it reminds me of Aphex Twin's less abrasive non-ambient moments, and when it's combined with that simple drum beat it works as one of those great canvases on which any artist could work magic. Even when the fuzzy overtones come in during the chorus, and more memorably in the last verse, it's still one of the most underproduced - and that's meant in a good way if you couldn't tell - hip hop tracks I've heard, and Cudi uses that to his advantage. Essentially, the more rigid the beat is the less room he would have to move within it, and even though he isn't going all free verse on our collective asses his flow here isn't the kind of thing that would work over a more...shall we say involved beat. Other than that there's the sampled 'wha-wha' that serves as a sort of boundary, only ever surfacing at the end of a line as sort of a punctuation mark on whatever thought he's just laid out.

It also suits the subject matter of the song pretty well. As I said, it's an introspective drug song, not so much glorifying or vilifying the act of smoking up as much as looking at its usefulness. At first it seems to serve a greater purpose, relieving the 'lonely stoner''s stress, allowing him to free his mind on some level, but blinding him to the problems he may have caused by his habit. When it comes down to the repetition of 'To free his mind in search of...' at the end of the third verse, never finishing the thought, it seems to point towards the futility of using pot as an escape, but it leaves a lot to the listener's imagination. I like the level of neutrality it maintains even when it goes into the less savory aspects in the second verse, and the whole thing just sounds so damn good that whatever conclusions there are to draw from it the catchiness never fades.

Coming up tomorrow: The most insidiously creepy love song of the decade?

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