Friday, 26 June 2009

Crunk Crystals Hanging Off My Broken Neck

This is kind of a hopeful, nostalgia post for a strain of crunkmuzik I loved and had high hopes for, but that wilted and died before the sun even had a chance to shine on it. Crunk&b, bubblecrunk or we could be really subversive and just call it CRUNK! Whatever. I'm not talking about crunk accompanied by something like Lil' Jon's primeval lion roars, or The Ying Yang Twins sexy-like-a-spider-crawling-up-your-leg whispers, but the stuff that applied the bonehead synth and toxic fizz of crunk to butterfly soft R&B stylings; the roughhousing of sensuality.

Of course there was the sound's pioneer, Ciara, whose debut album was littered with strange, minimal techno tracks like "Goodies" and "Hotline" that were built purely on the sounds of electronic whistles, minimal drumpads, laser stabs, and an army of buzzing robotic bees. Then there was Usher yelping between the silences in the sound and contending with a four alarm, rave siren burn-up that took the burgeoning sound to the masses and bestowed upon Usher the prize of one of the weirdest, most avant garde number ones ever in "Yeah!".

And then nothing. Well not entirely, but basically the mutant sound that seemed so promising and exciting failed to maintain people's interest and subsequently songs were cranked out with ever diminishing returns. I want to celebrate some of those songs that in my mind signaled something great, but that now seem to represent something sadly lost in the fire.

Perhaps lost is the wrong word to use considering the reason why I've been triggered into pining so much for the sound of late has been because of some recent redux moments that have come in the form of Ciara's operatic tech-crunk mindblower "High Price", Electrik Red's Vanity 6 on a poison drip anthem "Drank In My Cup", and Sophia Fresh's Hooker-Assault on Precinct 13 novelty tune "Superbad." Therefore I'm going to opt to use the word "unfulfilled" and leave it at that. Sigh, etc.

"Girlfight" by Brooke Valentine was obviously Lil' Jon's attempt to blur the confrontational, aggression of straight crunk, the kind that makes you feel like some behemoth madman is repeatedly spitting in your face, with the slinky, melodic sass of female R&B, and it worked perfectly. So perfectly no one ever tried to make another song like it. Basically Brooke hollers and twists her neck over tense, horror crunk synths and metallic Streets of Rage guitar lines about how she wants to knock the gold teeth out of another girls head. Simple as that. Add Lil' Jon's trademark drunkpunk outbursts and a silly, seedy verse from Big Boi and "Girlfight" is as intense and in your face as mainstream R&B gets.

To my knowledge "OopDeeWopDee" was the only song girl group NSS16 ever released and you only need to watch the video to realise this was a real backwaters effort which probably adds to it's strange charms, the kind of thing that was always destined to disappear into the ether and leave a small handful of people obsessed with it for years to come. "OopDeeWopDee" featured none other than down south ambassador David Banner, which means if it weren't for the beat this would probably have been labeled crunk by association, but there's no need for that as the song's sinuous middle eastern rhythm that's been seemingly processed through a fax machine over and over until it sounds barely existent goes to show. What I adore most about the song is in fact the brittle, almost non existence of it all; the asthmatic, weakling beat, the vocals that sound like they're being heard from the other side of the wall. Listening to it makes me feel like I'm plucking at a frozen cobweb. The remix which incorporated the diwali riddim (that MASSIVE Lumidee song to most) only makes this lost gem sparkle just a little more intensely.

Bella make me want to well up. They were simply put, brilliant, but they never got so far as to release their debut album, so I have to make do with a mixtape of their songs that Dan Cannon put out a few years ago. "Never Be Me" preempted the crushing, monolithic crunk crush of Ciara's "High Price", except it was slower, ALOT slower, like swimming though molasses, and possessed a sound I can only say was slightly oppressive. Whenever I play it I'm still initially always struck by how ugly and off-putting it is, in the same way I'm still surprised by parts of Britney's Blackout album, but without fail before long I'm inevitably seduced and dragged into it's sonic tar pool. It's another fine example as to how different and out there this meshing of sounds has been and could still be. Bella Forever.

Check out Bella's Myspace for a stream of the song.

F.Y.I There's more of this stuff to ramble about. I might make a mix soon.


It might be because I've been ill and delrious of late or it might have been because my XXJFG bruthas surprised me by admitting they're fans (and I'm easily led), but SO BONES is now on twitter. You know the drill. Add me and I'll bore the shit out of you by telling you what I just ate and what Christina Milian song I listened too whilst eating.

Tuna salad. "So Amazing."


We also now have a 20 Jazz Funk Great twitter too! HERE!


  1. a personal twitter? u make me sick.

  2. know you gonna get hooked!

  3. i'm still waiting to see some So Bones love directed at Ms. Janet Jackson's "Trust A Try", from the All For You album circa 2001.
    not that it bears much resemblance to any of the crunk&b of lat(t)er days, still it bears the sound of an inorganic monster being ridden by JJ as she coos & sasses her way through biting lyrics about a doubting lover. check it out & bear witness to a heavy metal grind mixed with orchestral flourishes & Rockwilder[!!?!] boom-bap as the lady does her thing like never before(and probably never again).

  4. ^ ^ ^ omfg "trust a try" - thank you for bringing that back into my mind.

  5. Trust A Try was indeed a gem! Janet's last few albums have been pretty lame on the whole, but there are always a few moments of brilliance on each one.

  6. Brooke Valentine is one of my favorite female singers.

    -Zane of ontario honey