29th July 2007
"The world is about to feel something that they've never felt before"
It was with those words that Pharrell Williams kicked off Clipse's 2002 hit Grindin'. And, somehow, it never felt like boasting to me - from the first hydraulic thud of the song's unmistakable percussion, it was clear that this really was something the world had never felt before. My world at least.
I'm not sure exactly when I first heard it. Probably heavily-edited on local pop radio station 95.3 FM (aka "Z95.3"), or maybe slightly less edited on MuchMusic, but wherever it was it stood out like a sore thumb - nothing else on the radio or video playlists was anywhere near as unapologetically grimy. I mean, here you had straight-up hip-hop with two guys just rapping about how cool they are over a beat primarily made up of pounding metal going up against shit like Mario's warmed-over remake of "Just A Friend". And the video, Christ, it didn't even have any scantily-clad girls dancing seductively for no reason - it was the least likely summer anthem of the year. But it was. Yes, there was also Hot In Herre (the Neptunes-produced Nelly track that works like the yin to Grindin's yang, the overproduced and thoroughly fake club banger counterpart to Clipse's gritty authenticity) eating up the charts like there was no tomorrow, but the people who really knew what was going on knew that no other song had a chance in the long run. And the Neptunes themselves were amongst those in the know, dropping the beat into a number of remixes as well as making sure the song itself got its fair share of alternate takes, most notably the claustrophobic Baby, N.O.R.E and Li'l Wayne cut which (at least on MuchMusic) seemed to get just as much airtime as the original.
And hearing it again even today - the Pharrell intro, the Clipse's effortless braggadocio, it's aged more than gracefully. It's like it hasn't aged at all. 5 years old now and still sounding like it could've been recorded yesterday, miles ahead of anything The Neptunes (and certainly Clipse) have done since - and, for that matter, the entirety of mainstream hip-hop. It was, and still is, the perfect hip-hop single - not to mention the best song of 2002. And the world hasn't felt anything like it since.
Tisk Tisk Swagger Jackers. At least it wasn't word for word.