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Pockets Dumb Fat

LAs per usual, Jadakiss knows what's up, and he knew that shit a couple of years before the rest of us.
Κείμενο Jon Caramanica

Photo by Jason Frank Rothenberg

LAs per usual, Jadakiss knows what's up, and he knew that shit a couple of years before the rest of us. "Let's hit the dancefloor," he blankly told a would-be overnight-celebrity on 2001's "Knock Yourself Out." "I'll show you how to do my dance." Except the trick was this: There was no dance. In the video, dude barely moves, on some Paul Taylor, just-stand-there-and-ooze-meaning tip. Fat Joe might be less theoretically minded than Jada-mwah, but his stillness is just as moving. Every couple of years, Joe comes with a street banger that he may or may not have written, but this summer takes the cake. First, he helped out on Remy Martin's "Yeah, Yeah, Yeah" (Karen O remix, anyone?) but "Lean Back" is his coup de grace. And what kind of paradox be this, Herr Crack? A club song about dudes who don't dance in the club. Zeno, stand the fuck up! And then move out the way, because I think Don Cartagena has bested you on this one. There he is in the crispy pink AF1s spitting thug talk—"Half the cats in the squad got a scar on they face" over a mercenary Scott Storch march. And then there's the hook: "My niggas don't dance/We just pull up our pants/And do the rock-away/Now lean back/Lean back/Lean back/Lean back." It's the anti-dance, the mono-movement hoods across the nation have been fiending for since the 80s. As take-your-show-money Remy Ma puts it: "My squad in the club, but you know they not dancing/We gangsters/And gangsters don't dance or boogie." At the end of the video, Lil Jon shows up with posse and is blocked from getting inside the club. Of course Joe and the Squad don't want him in there: They've seen the Usher video where the crunk spaz counts off dance moves one after the next, on into infinity. He's liable to make people sweat, and that would defeat the purpose of the whole enterprise.
Image over exertion is practically a rap truism. Ignore everything before 1984—hip-hop was too close to disco back then to have asserted its still-life identity. You could say Run-DMC weren't scared of dancing, but with their Adidas sans laces, all they could pull off was that preposterous side-to-side shuffle that Steve Tyler aped. In the late 80s, drug hustlers ran the game, and they damn-sure didn't shuffle. MC Hammer took on Jacko and James Brown, but the range of his influence was singular: Vanilla Ice. Even as hip-hop got preposterously club-friendly in the 90s, first as part of New Jack Swing, and later as a result of profligate R&B crossover, rappers still assiduously avoided the dancefloor. (The notable exception was Diddy, who used to dance in Stacy Lattisaw videos back in the day, then updated his herky-jerky style to pay tribute to Biggie, and eventually, to himself). If I called Kanye West the new Diddy, he'd probably glow. (Shit, if I called him the new Hammer, he'd find a way to make it work for him.) Given the scope of his hip-hop reclamation project, it's not shocking that he wants to make you dance. The "Jesus Walks," though, is something beyond peculiar. This is a dance that could only be invented by the type of cat that goes to the mall, cameras in tow, just to be recognized. (I go to the mall to be recognized, too, fam, but it only works with the Spanish mamis at the Chick-Fil-A stand). Let's face it: Jesus doesn't quite walk. He kinda staggers, actually. It's a tough gait, what with that big cross on his back and a pair of sandals that offer no arch support at all. To turn this into a dance isn't just pompous, it's preposterous. In the video for "Jesus Walks" (one of three the megalomaniac filmed), Kanye is dressed like a 50s storefront preacher and rapping from a church pulpit. Mid-song, just when it's getting blustery up in there, he busts out the dance, looking like an epileptic Cab Calloway. What would Jesus do? Not this shit. It's tasteless, rhythmless and good only for clearing the floor and putting heads back by the wall where they're happier, and where their kicks won't get scuffed. Send materials to: 217 East 86th Street #226, New York, NY 10028