Monday, November 7, 2011

Line vs. Line: Mo Thugs "Ghetto Cowboy" vs. Crucial Conflict "Hay"

When it comes to hip hop about the wild west or farming you can pretty much bet that it’s all bad. You’re not going to hear a good rap song talking about cowboys or crops or the town sheriff or horses or whatever else (unless you’re spinning Sadat X or that one Fugees song). It’s a worn out topic and pretty stupid to begin with, which is why it demands to be explored here on the Tortoise General Hip Hop Blog Incoporated™! Well, we’re not going to explore all the western themed hip hop today, we’ll just do something easy and dumb instead: We’ll put two themed songs head to head in a face off. The last man standing wins, just like an old western duel! Draw boys, it's high noon...

Our first competitor comes from 1996! The song is Hay by Chicago natives Crucial Conflict:

--Official Stats--
Artist: Crucial Conflict
Song: “Hay”
Producer: Wildstyle
Album: The Final Tic
Release Date: July 2, 1996
Achievements: Gold Status, #18 on the Billboard Hot 100, #2 Rap Single

Hay is up against stiff competition: rap super heavyweights, hailing from Cleveland, Ohio: Bone Thugs-n-Harmony! Well, saying it’s by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony isn’t exactly right, because it’s actually by the Mo Thugs Family, which I will refer to as “Bone” from here on out because who cares. Anyway we're looking at their 1998 hit song “Ghetto Cowboy”:

--Official Stats--
Artist: Mo Thugs
Performers: Krayzie Bone, Layzie Bone, Thug Queen, Powder Pete, and Felecia (Layzie Bone’s wife)
Song: “Ghetto Cowboy”
Album: Chapter II: Family Reunion
Release Date: November 3, 1998
Achievements: Gold Status, #15 on the Billboard Hot 200, #1 Rap Single, #87 on Billboard Hot 100 singles of 1999

Well these are some heavy hitting albums that have a lot to boast about! Everybody made money out here! But how do they compare to each other? Let’s start out with Crucial Conflict.


In case you didn’t know “Hay” is a metaphor for mary jane, or more accurately a very stupid metaphor. How in the hell did this song sell any copies? First of all, that chorus is really annoying and way off key.

 “haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay in the middle of the baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnn”

It’s just irritating. How many times do you have to say the word "hay" in one song? We get it. As a matter of fact it seems like a lot of terms are repeated over and over and over in this song, let’s do a word count:

"Smoke" / "Smoking": 27 times
"Hay": 38 times
"Barn": 18 times

Good grief. Overkill much? This song should lose just for that. It’s annoying to begin with but to repeat it that many times in four minutes or whatever is not acceptable. Add to that a lot of mouth harp and someone saying “tore up from the floor up” and you got yourself a losing song. In addition, the beat is muddy and not very interesting and Crucial Conflict sounds like a knockoff of Bone and this one is in the bag, Bone should have no problem killing this song dead…except that we’re not dealing with Bone, we're dealing with Mo Thugs…on a money making side project.

BUT WAIT! Before we move on we should at least take a look at the vocal content from the boys right? I mean Coldhard, Wildstyle, Kilo, and Never put a lot of work into this track and we should at least mention who spits the best, right? Nope. All of the verses are basically the same thing and they're not very good. Hay, barn, hay, barn, done. The delivery and the flow is bad (terrible for the last verse), we've got forced accents again and the topic is extremely redundant. All four of these guys deliver a wack verse, it was true in 1996 and it's true today. End. Now onto Bone...

“Ghetto Cowboy”

I guess a good place to start is to say that long ago the comparison of Crucial Conflict to Bone got so heated that it eventually turned into a real life feud! With real anger and everything! Let's fuel that fire here and say that Bone is much better! Let’s just look at the numbers. By the time Hay came out Bone had won tons of major music industry awards and had sold around twenty million albums (seriously), riding the wave, the Mo Thugs had also sold over a million albums. But sales aren’t everything; in fact, the Mo Thugs might have a challenge ahead of them here because this song looks like it SUCKS.

Okay so what about Ghetto Cowboy? Well, it has a western cowboy theme that kind of punches you in the face (much like Hay with the whole 'barn' thing)). I mean holy shit, it’s like they wanted to erase all doubt that this was a wild west theme song (even if you heard it without seeing the horrible video you’d know). Harmonica, check. Mosey along beat, check. Laid back sound, check. LOTS OF WILD WEST REFERENCES, CHECK! I mean, is this what kids were listening to back in 1998? Really? Or was Bone big enough that they could just push out any trash and people would buy it up? At least this song isn’t so annoying that I want to jump out of the window (Thug Queen is annoying, but not as bad as Crucial Conflict. Same league, different team...or something like that, same voice.).

Okay so let’s round up the verses, partner, and I think I’ll keep a tally of the cowboy lines (never mind, every line is a cowboy line).

Alright, so this is a story rap punctuated with the okay singing of Felecia. I’m not going to say that any of it is good, but even with all the cliché it's better than Hay (which is completely unbearable). So the first to spit is a full-fledged Thug in Harmony, Krayzie Bone (with a crazy name spelling to boot (cowboy boot? Lol?)) and his voice and flow match the beat pretty well. His verse is something about being wanted for thievery, so he heads west to rob some banks. Of course, it’s just him and his sawed-off and he’s got to watch out for “the mayor”, “the law”, and “them damn injuns“. Yep, that’s in a 1998 song. Insensitive. Also, are you kidding me Krayzie Bone? I guess it fits the context of the song, but Krayzie is clearly an idiot.

After setting up the story, our racist hero encounters a woman hiding in the bushes, and it’s none other than Thug Queen, and she’s got a sawed-off shotgun too! Since both of them are outlaws they decide to team up and head to Tucson for some bank robbin’. The verse is fine, I guess. Thug Queen has a really, really irritating voice but she never has more than a couple of lines, so she’s tolerable since she mostly back-and-forths with Krayzie. It is weird to have someone rapping about stealing horses though. Weird and dumb.

After the chorus we switch over to Layzie Bone who is waiting for his friend in a saloon (duh). He has noticed Krayzie’s wanted poster and is preparing for trouble. Right away it’s clear that Layzie is going to win best verse, just because of his delivery (and he doesn’t blunder saying “Tucson, Arizona”). So he meets a guy named Powder Pete (lol) and THEY team up. Sheesh. This guy plays the same role as Thug Queen in the previous verse in that he just gets introduced and spits a few lines. Nothing great. The song transitions to a back-and-forth between Krayzie and Layzie (which sound like names of the Seven Dwarfs) and it just sort of rides out from there. They all make their introductions and nothing else happens. This is just a song where established rappers introduce their fan base to new rappers….literally. Lots of introducin'.

Just to be clear, this is the content of the Wild West song in it's entireity: Krayzie is wanted and meets a woman while he heads west. Okay. Boring. Next, Layzie is in a saloon and warns someone about making trouble, teams up with them, then he meets up with Krayzie and they head out. Okay. Boring. This is a song about meeting up before a heist. Just meeting people. That’s it. Why not rap about the heist? MEETING PEOPLE and CRIMINAL BACKGROUNDS! THAT’S IT. Now that I’m thinking about it, isn’t that pretty much what all rap is? I mean, add in listing the things you have and all rap is basically this. Meet a guy, share your criminal background, describe your stuff, sell a million records. RAP!


In the end, I wanted this to be a classic Tortoise General post where I hate both songs and I just dump all over both of them and get all this negative energy out of my system, but that didn’t happen because the Bone song is okay. Like if it came on the radio I would be annoyed but I would listen to it and appreciate some of the lyrics and make fun of all the western gimmicks. On the flip side, if Crucial Conflict’s Hay came on the radio I would intentionally crash my car into a river. I would escape of course, but at least the song would die with the car. It’s a really bad hit song. So Bone won with a landslide, in fact, this wasn’t even really fair.

Hay Score 0/10
Ghetto Cowboy Score 3/10

Now that's a landslide: 3-0.

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