Strength Index: “1 Train” by A$AP Rocky

NOTE: When attempting to think of ideas for things to write about, I often find myself drawn to the allure of making lists or “Power Rankings” of different topics. Unfortunately, the Internet makes a lot of lists, and I’m pretty sure Grantland/ESPN/ABC/Disney could sue me if I published anything with the term “Power Ranking” in the title. Hence, I present my first “Strength Index”.

While I can not speak to what kind of relationship the rest of the world holds with hip-hop, I know that I tend to be something of a musical Don Juan; falling madly in love with an album for a certain, short amount of time and then leaving it behind to pursue what the future holds. Sometimes I develop feelings that last a lifetime (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, The Cool, ATLiens), but more often than not, only one or two tracks will stay with me and my iPhone for the long haul of life.

I can honestly say that I enjoy listening to Long.Live.A$AP in its entirety, but as my love affair with it fades and my new one with Big Boi (I’m late to the party) begins, A$AP Rocky and company’s “1 Train” will stay with me. The song features one beat, no hook, and seven different rappers* each getting 16 bars. Moments like this are close to the core of hip-hip; the only variable is the rapper, thus the track could be “killed” by anyone.  It’s an equal playing field, and gives the opportunity to break down “Who Rapped it Best?”  from worst to first with the help of Rap Genius in my debut Strength Index**.

hk-1-train-570x570

*In order of appearance: A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and Big K.R.I.T.

**Disclaimer: Going into this song, the only artists on the track whose music I knew extensively were Kendrick and A$AP. My judgements of the five other rappers come from my admittedly rudimentary  knowledge of rap, YouTubing “Cypher” videos, and again Rap Genius.

7) Action Bronson

It’s nothing against you personally, Action. This is a big song, you’re in good company, and someone had to come in at #7. And to be fair, through my first few listens, “Oustanding / I fixed a game between Georgia Southern and Grambling” was my favorite line in the whole song. “It’s amazing because HE TOTALLY FIXED THAT GAME” said I, hoping my friends would find me insightful and worthwhile. Unfortunately, my extensive Rap Genius research outed you for your lies: Georgia Southern and Grambling do not play basketball against each other. However, Southern University (located in Louisiana) is a conference rival with Grambling, meaning that Action Bronson did one of following things:

  • Fixed a game, but confused Georgia Southern with Southern University without realizing his mistake.
  • Never fixed a game, and simply chose two schools whose cadence/iambic meter worked to his rhythmic advantages.
  • Fixed a scrimmage that was not listed on ESPN.com.

You’ll get them next time Bronson. Until then, keep drinking your Henny like you Kenny Lofton.

6) A$AP Rocky

A$AP, you were great. You really were. But you have you’re own moments of ridiculousness on this album, and I’m happy you were gracious enough to let some others shine on your track. With that said, killer word/rhythm-play here:

“Cheffin’ like I’m Boyar / Dee, probably selling D in your local courtyard”

Someday I will be hip enough to get your O-Dog/Menace Society II homages, but today is just not that day and until then, I still have Rap Genius.

5) Big K.R.I.T.

I don’t want to say anything bad about this guy, I’m pretty sure he could beat me up. His verse is great, but it’s a long song to get the last word on, and on my walk to school  I’ve already made it to campus by the time he starts to spit.

Killer line though:

“B.B. King saw the king in me, so why can’t you? / In order to come up close, you’ll have to dig up Cash and Elvis, too”

4) Joey Bada$$

I knew nothing about Joey Bada$$ before this song besides his name and the fact that I found his name obnoxious. Do we really need three rappers using “$” in their names? Isn’t my iTunes catalog already confused enough by Ke$ha and A$AP? Thankfully, I’m a big fan of Joey’s flow, and I think I can appreciate him for that as long as I can refer to him as “Joey”.

Two key lines from him:

“Don’t drop bars, I drop prisons” (Just wow).

“Just got back to the block from a 6 o’clock with Jigga // And I’m thinkin’ ’bout signin’ to the Roc / But my n*ggas on the block still assigned to the rocks”

Bonus points for giving me a reason to have Jay-Z and The Wire cross my mind in one line. Kudos to you Joey.

3) Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick does fun things with his voice in an unannoying way, a move that I find extremely impressive in rap. For the most part, when a rapper drastically changes his voice (looking at you Hopsin) it comes off to me as a bit of a gimmick and unnecessary. Kendrick just takes his vocal personality through ascending levels of angst building up over his final four bars as he describes his growing insanity and the likelihood of his own self-destruction.

K-Dot got bars.

2) Yelawolf

More than any of the rappers listed thus far, Yelawolf makes this beat his own. He’s extremely aggressive, attacking his syllables while simultaneously making fun use of onomatopoeia (CHK! POW!) and giving a shout out to Duck Hunt on Super Nintendo.

He also gave me this:

“Ain’t never been no rapper this cold / since 2Pac was froze / and thawed out for a spot date at a Coachella show.”

Any claim that 2Pac is still alive is major points for me. I love a good conspiracy. And let’s be honest, thawed-out 2Pac KILLED Coachella…

1) Danny Brown

This is Danny Brown:

Danny-brown

This is what he said:

Weed a different color like a hoodrat bra and panties
And my flow be overhead like pots and pans in pantries
Antsy cause I’m high like Michael Jackson penny loafers
Moonwalkin’ on the sun, barefoot, with shades on
Bitch pussy smell like a penguin
Wouldn’t hit that shit with my worst enemy’s penis
Bitch when I say this I mean this: “Ho, I’m the meanest”
Dick so big, stretch from Earth to Venus
That molly got me nauseous, on shit, no off switch
Lawless, obnoxious, on that “suck my cock” shit
That is my synopsis, ostrich pot shit
Hoes on some God shit, stop it! You not this!
Novice, regardless, heartless and awkward
Cryin’ tears of vodka prima donna at the concert
Adonis smokin’ chronic ’bout to vomit gin and tonic
Just bein honest, tell me, isn’t that ironic?

Now just think for a second about the way he said it.

Case closed.

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