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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

The power of threeThe power of three

Rap's big names collaborate

Published: February 8, 2008
Section: Arts, Etc.

dc02070805.jpgThree of the most innovative and introspective artists of the rap game have united to form the rap group known as Child Rebel Soldier (CRS). CRS consist of super producers/rappers Pharrell Williams and Kanye West and the conscience-minded philosopher Lupe Fiasco.

Their first single “Us Placers” consists of a collaboration with Thom Yorke, lead singer of the rock band Radiohead. Thom Yorke’s “The Eraser”, the title track from his solo effort in 2006, is the basis for the song concept as well as the instrumental used for the song itself.

As Yorke’s melodious voice sings “The more you try to erase me, The more that I appear” we delve into the minds of those seeking recognition. Although erased from the public eye they are ever trying to get another 15 minutes of fame.

“Us Placers” shows just how creative Kanye, Pharell and Lupe can be lyrically. Each artist gives a different vision of the tragedies that come with the search for recognition.

Kanye West alludes to the fate of all aspiring actresses and rappers whom by some turn of fate, become instantly famous if for only a short time. He boldly asks the question, “How many people [are] almost famous, you almost remember what they name is?” His narrative ends with the realization that fame is a dangerous ego trip. It puts one on a profusely high pedestal but, after the 15 minutes are up, they may never be in the public eye again.

Lupe’s verse addresses the illustrious and over-indulgent lifestyles of celebrities. He catalogues everything from floral arrangements to pinky rings in a stoic voice that allows us to acknowledge just how frivolous useless material possessions can be. Lupe reminds us that “Ups and the downs, the sames and the changes, All the money in the world don’t make it painless”.

Pharrell turns to more dire issues of troubled youth. In his enigmatic way of getting around to things he eventually asks “Young, dumb, high strung, who could handle us, I wonder how God’s gon’ paint today’s canvasses?”. He brings to light the issue of adolescents searching for recognition and states the irony of the V. Tech shooter’s final success in getting the attention he so desired in life.

The collective ability of CRS members Kanye, Pharrell and Lupe, to convey messages that allow us to look inward at our own faults, is what differentiates this amalgamation of artistry from a mere collaboration of artists. Kanye’s rebellious nature allows him to speak for us as a cocky, well dressed inner voice, that states all the things we consider too rude to say ourselves. Lupe’s commentary on the luxuries that lead to man’s downfall touch you, not only because of what he’s saying but because of his apparent awareness that he is a product of the cultural stigmas he condemns.

Listening to Pharrell is like hearing Jimi Hendrix in the late 60’s. His many allusions to the absurdity of today’s social constructs, and his constant rejection of institutions is a common motif throughout his music. He talks us through the doubts and fears of today’s society about as comfortably as if he were teaching you how to do a skateboard trick. His comfort with facing the unknown definitely adds to his musical style and comes through in not only in the rhetoric but the feel of his verse in “Us Placers”.

What’s next for the group? In an interview of Lupe Fiasco on the site he hinted at a self titled CRS album being dropped later this year. I really look forward to seeing what three of the most “outside the box” thinkers in hip-hop can come up with. The only foreseeable problem for this dream team of artists will be in reconciling all of their separate talents. They all have very different, albeit somewhat related styles and while I’m sure the artists will find common ground, an interesting thing to pay attention to in their future work will be what aspects they can allow to stand out while still being a member of a group as opposed to a solo artists collaborating on a song. This is going to be an especially hard transition for Kanye West, an artists whose ego is even bigger than his wardrobe.