Them — “It’s Them” & Rap Maths
For the past couple years I’ve been involved in a decent number of long conversations about stagnation and conservatism in hip-hop. I’ve always identified more with that weird d.i.y. late-’90s/early ’00s sensibility exemplified by anticon, rhymesayers, def jux and probably a handful of others I can’t recall anymore. Frankly the affection grew mainly because it was way weirder than any other rap I’d ever heard.
One of the main issues I’ve had with even some of the most innovative rap is the tendency for emcees to hew too closely to the 16 bar lather rinse repeat formula. I guess it could be the “sonnet” of rap or something. It’s refreshing to hear emcees do something fresh with a classic form, but I also wanna hear beats in odd time signatures and irregular verses!
Slowly I’ve started to track down newer material that strays into bizarre territory (I recommend checking out Death Grips), but I’m also in the process of digging through older stuff to unearth any shards I’d missed or forgotten. Dose One could always be counted upon to bring your head to a new place (see also his work with Why? and Odd Nosdam in cLOUDDEAD) and with Jel on beats he had a producer equally willing to be that kind of tour guide.
“It’s Them” doesn’t get super crazy, but at the very least it varies between 4/4 and 6/8 with some slightly irregular transitions between parts. A few people have told me that a few groups have ventured into 5/4 and 5/8 territory, but they’ve yet to recall what tracks and I haven’t found them on my own yet. . .