On Theophilus London, A$AP Rocky, Puff Daddy and the underwhelming nature of “Big Spender.”
Theophilus London and A$AP Rocky’s recently released trans-borough and inter-continental pleasure rap song “Big Spender” may easily be the most ersatz and underwhelming moment of hip-hop 2012. It’s a sheep in wolf’s clothing that highlights everything wrong with New York rap at the present moment. Furthermore, the song itself – an excellent DJ Carnage production that London has been arrogantly tweeting about as his piece de resistance as a rap artist, now becomes the bittersweet balance to this year’s joyous NYC tale of Nas’ ascension to space once held by Jay-Z as the dominant elder statesman of rap in the cradle of its creation. If a track is so absolutely boring that it ultimately becomes a forgettable rap moment, then why should it be immortalized for it’s relentlessly average nature on this site? Keep reading…
This could’ve been executed so much better. Much of what makes this underwhelming is tied in the rise of both London and Rocky, the shining stars of the latest crop of non-incubated and hyper promoted rappers. As a point of comparison, there may likely have been no greater vapid pleasure rapper than Puff Daddy. 1997 album No Way Out by “Puff Daddy and the Family” is the moment “Big Spender” aspires to be. Old school sample – check. Rhymes about luxury brands you couldn’t pronounce or afford five years prior – check. Tales of sex with exotic women – check. It’s all there, but in being awarded to neophyte emperors who just earned their new clothes, “Big Spender” doesn’t feel like a hot track, it feels like an exposition of a cold, naked truth. Theophilus London and A$AP Rocky appear to be, much like Puffy was prior to No Way Out‘s release, earnest and hard-working. However, rap is a genre constantly defined by rags to riches success stories. Between rags and riches, there can be moments of ballin’. Soon after Puffy left Arista Records and created Bad Boy, he’s on Super Cat’s “Dolly My Baby” remix stealing your girl and looking fresh while doing it, but definitely not bragging about luxury items he has yet to save to safely afford.
Maybe I’m showing my age with this idea, but there’s something powerful about the notion of an emcee being smarter than not publicly living in the moment until that moment has arrived. When Puffy’s No Way Out hit, it smashed open the game with hurricane force, and Puffy? A lightweight emcee buoyed by heavyweight productions, became a pop superstar. “Big Spender” is such a tremendous production that it deserves to exist. However, consider if “Big Spender” instead was two-and-a-half minutes where the two emcees celebrated the money they were presently acquiring and how annoyed they were with the women who wanted them to spend it all. It’s smarter, potentially funnier and definitely sets an ideal that doesn’t make two performers with a wealth of potential sound like the newest and most shallow kids on hip-hop’s block in quite some time.
Ultimately, I can’t blame either Theophilus or A$AP for this disaster of a single. If record labels depended upon old school marketing and A & R principles instead of acquiescing to unskilled fans to be the stewards of music’s future in its strangest time, this aberration would have never seen the light of day. I’m certain the first time Puffy sampled Beluga caviar he wanted to include the brand in a rhyme. However, that moment didn’t get released as a single until it was time. In a time where music is defined by speed and sound, we’ve forgotten to add the dimension of memory. If you’re going to be a “baller” or “shot caller” who’s “been around the world,” it’s best discussed as a privilege that’s been earned.