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Matson on Music

Music news, concert reviews, analysis and opinion by music writer Andrew Matson.

June 8, 2009 at 9:36 AM

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Have you heard the new Jay-Z song, "D.O.A."?

Posted by Andrew Matson

Thumbnail image for jayz-doa-death-of-autotune[1].jpg

Auto-tune, that which Jay-Z is announcing the death of, is the robot whine dominating "urban" pop music. You know it if you know T-Pain, the already-nasal singer who uses the effect on his every chart-topping song and guest appearance (note that link's YouTube video has just shy of 23 million views). Rappers Kanye West and Lil Wayne have also used auto-tune, conflating singing and rapping in a hybrid style. Safe to say "rapping" is enjoying its loosest definition yet. But that's another discussion.

Rap fans are constantly complaining how hiphop is dead, nobody cares about the art anymore, and things were better how they were, instead of how they are. On "D.O.A.," Jay-Z -- still arguably the best, and certainly the most popular and powerful rapper alive -- plays "rap fan," and argues not only against auto-tune, but skinny jeans, brightly colored clothing, and lots else he feels is "soft" in the orbit of his chosen musical field.

I pronounce the erstwhile Shawn Carter "Lay-Z," and offically state for the record: Hiphop does not need to return to what it was, in music or fashion. It is evolving. Acceptance of many styles is the key to enjoying it.

Even though Obama's election clearly has not made America post-race, and Kanye West, with his European fashion sense and outspoken pro-gay rights sentiments, hasn't made hiphop post-sexuality, we Americans are, in ways, far enough along certain free expression roads that advocating turning back is complete pandering.

That said, the song's backdrop, by former Kanye West mentor No I.D., is, as I wrote in my other blog, a "martial, preening, tap dancing, soprano saxing, psych-rocking beat," a true thing of beauty. It might be a sampled clarinet, and not a sax. I don't know.

Check out this excellent breakdown of auto-tune in the Village Voice.

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