On his personal blog today New Yorker pop critic Sasha Frere-Jones discusses a not-too-rare phenomenon in mainstream hip-hop where vocal substitutions for radio-unfriendly lyrics–rather than dropouts or backward masks or bleeps–actually improve the song. Using Jay-Z’s “Can I Get A . . . ” as an example, Frere-Jones points out that often “the fig leaf (‘what what’) is better than the skin (‘fuck you’).”
One recent case in point is Snoop Dogg’s “Sensual Seduction” (or, as it’s known in its unedited form, “Sexual Eruption”). Writes SFJ: “‘Sensual Seduction’ is funny because it is redundant and stupid. ‘Sexual Eruption’ is a euphemism for something I don’t need to know about Mr. Dogg and his day.” The other reason it’s a bad move to release the track as “Sexual Eruption”: since the bowdlerized version leaked first, clubgoers know the song as “Sensual Seduction,” and when you’re dancing to a jam you love you don’t want to be distracted by changed-up lyrics.
I think the first time I noticed something similar was during that brief period, right after “Country Grammar” dropped, when it seemed like Nelly might be somebody worth paying attention to rather than an unrepentant cheesedick. In edited form the song’s wickedly catchy chorus–“I’m goin’ down down baby / Your street in a Range Rover / Boom boom baby / Cocked ready to let it go”–has an excellent little rhythmic nugget in the “boom boom” bit. When I finally heard the unedited version I was totally bummed that it substitutes “street sweeper”–a type of shotgun–for the infinitely more pleasing “boom boom.” The insertion of just one extra syllable–plus the gratuitous addition of gangsta posturing to a nearly flawless good-time party song–ruined the track for me.
I’m all for swears and guns and everything, but why would you fuck up a perfectly good “boom boom” like that? Putting “boom boom” in your song is a foolproof way to make it better.