Game of Narratives is a monthly feature that pits items in pop-culture against each other.
LEVI ROGERS (CATS) vs SAM WILLIAMS (DOGS)
Cats vs. Dogs (kinda)
Mirror mirror, on, the wall, Whos is the top Dogg of them all?
Pretty sure that sums it up. A mythical mirror come to life in a rap song proclaiming Snoop Dogg the best rapper of them all. So, before we get carried away proclaiming that a band that no one has heard of accompanied by an album that happens to have the word “meow” in it is the best animal-rap album ever, let’s consider an OG, Snoop Dogg, and his album Doggystyle.
Bam, already off to a good start. While Meow the Jewels and Doggystyle are both animal related, Run the Jewels already loses points for an animal-less name. Plus, think of Snoop Dogg’s name recognition. Everyone knows who that is. Everyone can picture him, follows him on Instagram. He’s one of the biggest celebrities we know. And Doggystyle, that’s his best album.
While Snoop Dogg isn’t a band, he exemplifies Meow Meow Pow Pow more. He possesses the ultimate talents of an anti-establishment writer with incredible execution that us folks at MMPP should strive for. No one throws a middle finger to the world order like Snoop Dogg. No one can craft those silky-smooth, filthy lyrics quite like Snoop Dogg. We should work to have the staying power that Snoop D-O-Double-G has.
Doggystyle gave us “Gin and Juice,” arguably Snoop Dogg’s most recognizable tune. “Gin and Juice” got nominated for a Grammy in Best Rap Solo Performance, and wonderfully crafted lyrics:
Later on that Day
Gin and Juice is a timeless classic for the Rap scene. It’s not the social conscious brilliance of Run of the Jewels, but it’s the go-to basement party song for all the ages appropriate for having that type of party. Who hasn’t heard that song? Aren’t we all here at MMPP to have a wildly inappropriate literary basement party?
If you’re wondering if Snoop has the lyrical skills to paint a picture, look no further than the Doggystyle song, Serial Killa:
The cloud becomes black, and the sky becomes blue
Can we also talk about the instrumental backups? They’re old school, jazzy, full; the beats sit back, never too fast, fulfilling the Snoop Dogg aesthetic. Dr. Dre brings those LA backbeats to perfection for the album, informing the world that Rap comes from Jazz, as if he’s saying “Don’t get it twisted.” Take Gz and Hustlas, the most funkalicious backbeat of the whole album. Snoop brings in his classic rounded vowel sound over the top with one of my favorite lyrics:
So bow down to the bow wow, cause bow wow
What Snoop Dogg accomplishes is a narrative of the gangster rap. He encapsulates it. He defines 90s West Coast Gangster Rap, like Biggie defined the East Coast. Snoops career is the dirty, easy, smooth flow of being a real gangster. People have tried to capture this relaxed rap sound, but no one has touched it. Snoop Dogg is a walking brand and the narrative of this album—that Snoop Dogg is the most realist rapper—pushed that brand right into the forefront of pop culture. And he’s never looked back.
Does Meow the Jewels compete? Absolutely, it’s a fantastic album. But let’s be real, the best part of it is when SNOOP DOGG says “MEOW MEOW MEOW!” Plus, though it’s a cat album, they don’t even own the best cat song of this century. That belongs to Deadmau5 and his song 50 something cats. No really, go check it out.
In the end, the crown of best animal-related album belongs to the top Dogg, Snoop Doggy Dogg. Why? Cause it’s a Doggy Dogg World.
Oh, and did I mention that Snoop Dogg became Snoop Lion? That means he’s both top Dogg and top cat. King of ‘em all.
Meow Meow Pow Pow Meoviews Meow The Jewels
There is a lot of good music out right now, but I can currently think of no other band that I like better than Run the Jewels (and, I would argue, no better band that is also a contender for a band that exemplifies Meow Meow Pow Pow). Why is Run The Jewels like Meow Meow Pow Pow? Well, they both got mad flow, a combination of beats and bangers, and, yes, a strange affinity for cats. Which is also a way of saying that they don’t take themselves too seriously. It’s that combination of danger, anarchism, whimsy, and appeal to the masses that makes me feel as if their album Meow the Jewels might be the perfect soundtrack to Meow Meow Pow Pow and best contender for best Animal Rap Album ever made. While Snoop might have had it back in the day, this here is the new wave of rap come to conquer all in its path.
Run the Jewels (or RTJ) is made up of the combined talents of black Atlanta rapper Killer Mike (a former collaborator of Outkast’s back in the day, avid supporter of Bernie Sanders, occasional news commentator, and perhaps the best contemporary rapper alive) and El-P, (a white producer, D.J., and rapper from New York, who started the indie-hip hop label Def Jux). RTJ are a smart, sophisticated, and a politically and socially aggressive act. The duo has released three albums so far, each one better than the last.—their third one dropping at the end of 2016, Run the Jewels 3. A frequent collaborator of the band is Zack de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine, just to give you a feel. They put the social justice aspect back into rap. The anger. The rage. Whereas a lot of the old school acts (you know who I mean, “Dogg”) got a bit soft. No offense to them, they repped it back in the day. But now we need more groups like RTJ to step up the dialogue and the conversation in these troubled times of ours.
And after all, Killer Mike is arguably the best rapper alive (in some ways, the knife-edge to Snoop’s silky smooth) and perhaps Snoop and Kendrick the only other contemporaries who could vie for the title. His lyrics are full of a combination of anger at the system--“I don’t trust the church or the government, democrat, republicans/the pope or a bishop or them other men,” and hope for the future. He has the swagger of a young man mixed with the wisdom of a generational elder and a killer, articulate flow. One of my favorite lines by him is this:
“Say hello to the masters on behalf of the classless masses/We showed up ski masks, picks and axes to murder asses/Lift our glasses and watch your palaces burn to ashes/You fuckin fascist who the fuck are you to give fifty lashes?”
The lyrics reference and remix the vocabulary of Antebellum Slavery, Marxism, and Gangster rap. As King Kendrick declared to the critics on a song off To Pimp a Butterfly, “You all wanna talk about when hip hop was rappin? Motherfucker, if you did, than Killer Mike would be platinum.” El-P is there for back and forth zingers and lays the beats and musical foundation for each track, along with the occasional absurd, profane, and zero fucks lyrics like, “My dick got a Michelin star,” and “I do pushups nude on the edge of cliffs,” and “I don’t give a fuck about power, pluck the eye out the pyramid.” Or as he says in line “All you rappers are vaginas for the fame,” (yes the line uses a part of the female body derogatorily, I know, but El-P later redeems himself by praising it and flipping the reversal of male/female body parts in another song). RTJ once again asserting their role as true rappers, not just a band who wants the lifestyle and fame or a T.V. show.
In 2015, after the release of Run the Jewels 2, fans raised money through Kickstarter for the band to begin working on Meow the Jewels; basically it was a remix of Run the Jewels 2, but with cat sounds. A promotional idea El-P came up with while smoking weed. An entire album rehashed with cat sounds? You might think. Or if you’re like me, you might think, oh yaass. The album’s creation is entirely goofy, but also provides to be a fun collaboration process with other artists like Just Blaze, Zola Jesus, and Boots, and all the proceeds were donated to charity. Meow the Jewels sounds like a lo-fi version of the original, but the music videos themselves nearly make the entire project worth the effort, along with Snoop Dogg saying “Meow Meow Meow” over and over again on the first track. And if nothing else, Meow the Jewels shows that you can be critically respected, have a large fan following, spit venomous, socially conscious lyrics, and have fun, all at once.
I think it is this potent mixture of fun, anger, and activism, that has made Run the Jewels stand out in an arena where everyone spends their time trying to prove themselves. RTJ needs to prove nothing and they even make fun of other rapper and acts that have gotten caught up in fame or lifestyle and forgot about the essentials—sick beats and fiery lyrics that speak profane truth’s to power, i.e. “Fuck the law they can eat my dick, that’s word to B.I.G.” While on one track Mike may reference MLK, Malcolm X, and the ills of capitalism and greed, on the next track, or even in the same song, he’ll also rap things like “RT and J, we the new PB and J.” Or, my personal favorite, a quick line about kidnapping your mom from jazzercise and giving her Stockholm syndrome. “We're the crooks, we'll run the jux and kidnap mom from jazzercise. Get Stockholm syndrome when she get home, mom's like, "I like those fuckin' guys. "Thanks for the ransom handsome, let Mom know the guys loved her pumpkin pie.”
RTJ might not yet be a top 40 radio band, but they are far from their underground days, their songs popping up on movies and television from The Defenders to Silicon Valley. It may not be for everyone, especially if you’re not into aggressive rap, but I argue that Run the Jewels’s Meow the Jewels kills all competition, including Doggy Style, for best Animal Rap album ever. That there is the solid truth. Meow.