Jesse Jarnow

“slow jamz” – twista featuring kanye west and jamie foxx

#3 this week, #3 last week, 16 weeks on the chart

Hey, I’m a honky. I like this song. I think it’s really clever, and can see how and why it works. For starters, it takes the episodic structure of these pop tunes and not only defines the sections well, but keeps them somehow both varied and intrinsically connected. The basic structure: a slow female-sung slow jam, a pair of verses by producer Kenye West, and (finally) Twista’s own contribution. Once each element is introduced, it is free to appear underneath the other ones. The female voice comes back a few times for her own verses, but it also appears underneath Twista’s hyperactive rhymes as a counterpoint (a fugue sample?).

The song works, I think, in a very complex way, as far as being genuine social music. For starters, it’s sexy. That’s obviously important. But what’s equally important is that it’s playful. It’s an icebreaker song, the kind of thing that bridges that void in the conceptual gymnasium that will always exist between guys and girls. So, it’s sexy, with all the tension that implies, but it also breaks that tension down with sheer humor. Great lines like West’s priceless “Got a light-skinned friend looks just like Michael Jackson / Got a dark-skinned friend looks just like Michael Jackson” are the kinds of things that everybody can just shout along with when they hear it in a bar, and then – bam – back to the sexiness. The first line breaks the ice with humor, and the second keeps it hot.

For my money, an even better line – albeit swallowed in the mix – “Imma play this Vandross / You gonna take your pants off.” Hilarious. And it’s made even better ’cause it’s a relevant reference (just like, say, the Tom Tom Club shout-out to funk heroes in “Genius of Love”) and because West’s base for the song is a sped-up Luther Vandross sample (which, despite being chipmunked still retains its fundamental qualities). After the brief two-line interval from Jamie Foxx, in comes Twista — a full two minutes into the song. On one hand, that’s kinda cheesy, being that it’s his single and all. But, on the other hand, I can dig it. Every goddamn single these days is driven by guest appearances, to the point where the marquee name really begins to disappear. Twista’s entrance, in some sense, is dramatic.

And his vocal part is cool, too, I think. It’s frenzied as fuck, but it’s never obnoxious. While it’s obviously virtuoustic, it’s never at the expense of the song. The words just tumble out, and Twista’s voice never sounds strained (also a little ironic titling the song “Slow Jamz” when Twista’s main gimmick is being a motormouth). The rhythms, too, are cool, and the arrangement works around the machine-gun vocals well. There are some cool drum fills behind Twista. Likewise, the samples sound neat behind him too — the Vandross, the female voice. In places, Twista’s rhythms are so weird that they remind one (or, at least, me) of some of the crazy vibraphone breaks on Ruth Underwood-era Frank Zappa.

This is not fulfilling music to me, and – as always – it’s a bit odd taking it out of context and pointing out all the stupid/silly tricks that exist within it. But, on the other hand, it’s still fun to try to figure all that out. For what it is – music designed to be consumed by a lot of people, probably in a public place – it’s extremely satisfying music, and very well done