10 Years, 100 Songs: #82. “I’m Gon’ Shine, Homey, Until My Heart Stops”
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on July 8, 2009
Over the final months of our fine decade, Intensities in Ten Suburbs will be sending the Naughty Oughties out in style with a series of essays devoted to the top 100 songs of the decade–the ones we will most remember as we look back fondly on this period of pop music years down the road. The archives can be found here. If you want to argue about the order, you can’t, because we’re not totally sure what the qualifications are either. Otherwise, sit back and enjoy.
A little bit of The Game really, really went a long way. He was talented, probably, but he always seemed somewhat insecure in his bravado, and appeared to compensate for it in a relatively strange way–namechecking his musical heroes and influences left and right, as if to gather strength from their more assured presences. His backstory was compelling, but not all that interesting, and in the light of his mentor’s already well-circulated trials and tribulations, somewhat underwhelming. Ultimately, once his career became embroiled in beef-related drama, it became hard to take him all that seriously, since (fair or not), he always felt relatively harmless compared to even his G-Unit peers–a perception not helped much by a well-circulated photo of Mr. Taylor appearing on the cheesy dating game show Change of Heart
But at the very least, there was “Hate It or Love It”. The second of two smash collaborations with his G-Unit patriarch 50 Cent, the first being the mildly lukewarm “How We Do,” “Hate it or Love It” was just about as much of The Game as anyone could need. Tempering his verses with those of 50–who, for reasons I still can’t quite figure out, actually seems to be trying on this song–was probably a good move, and together the two cultivated a kind of us against the world vibe that seemed based more in solidarity and mutual support than in outright confrintation, a feeling found all-too-rarely in hip-hop. Of course, it ended up lasting all of about two weeks before the two got into Some Shit and turned against each other in increasingly ugly fashions, but if anything, that just makes the song much more powerful to listen to today–the near-heartbreaking final moment of tranquil friendship before the carpet was swept out from under them.
The beat was the key. In the decade of the superstar producer–where guys like Pharrell, Timbaland and Kanye were often as visible and attention-hogging as any of the rappers they produced–knob-twiddlers Cool and Dre stayed out of the spotlight, and flew relatively under the radar as a couple of the more underrated producers of the decade. “Hate It or Love It” was undoubtedly their finest creation, a smooth, cruising beat based off of the hook to The Tramps’ “Rubber Band,” but chopped a little bit to fit a more rap-friendly meter. The soul contained in the music is simply phenomenal, from the stately horns to the yearning backing vocals, and the whole thing sounds like a relaxed, sun-soaked afternoon outside–almost like an old Sly & The Family Stone song. Fitting, then, that the video should be positively drenched in daylight, filtered and overexposed to almost cartoonish levels, but still giving the song the look it was calling out for.
For a man who became a success with an almost misanthropic disregard for any sort of passion or obvious human emotion, 50 Cent never sounded quite as vulnerable as he did on this song. “Growin’ up I was confused, my momma kissin’ a girl / Confusion occurs growin’ up in the cold world.” Curtis Jackson, insecure and lonely youngster? Son of a possible homosexual? In two lines, it’s more info about 50 than we learned through eight combined megahits off his first two albums, unless you consider discovering that a bitch can’t get a dollar out of him particularly revelatory. He gets off track in the next line, non sequiturally pointing out that his “favorite rapper used to say che-check out my melody”–but even the fact that 50 had a favorite rapper, let alone one as prestigious as Rakim, seemed like news to me. He goes on to rap about the surprisingly touching trials he had as a young pusher, before vowing that he’d “run away from this bitch and never come back if I could.” Solid storytelling, confessional self-exposure, emotional maturity–where the hell has this all been the rest of 50’s career?
The Game never quite touched 50’s verse for me–maybe just because I was so pleasantly surprised by it–but he got in some quality lines, let us know who he was and what he was about, and kept the namedropping to a relatively healthy rate (“I wanna know what’s goin’ on / Like I hear Marvin”–ehhhh….) Mostly, he just sounded so happy to be a successful rapper, renouncing his violent past and showering his mother with gifts (“got that red bow on that brand new Benz”) and thankfulness (“what if Marie Baker had gotten that abortion?”) Combined with the gentle comfort of the beat, and the New Morning look of the video (The Game’s portions, at least), it all came together with that great chorus: “Hate it or love it, the underdog’s on top / And I’m gon’ shine homie, until my heart stops.” Simple, affirmative, and about as inspiring as two ex-hoods from opposite coasts can be. If it doesn’t at least put a smile on your face, then you’re probably not invited to my 4th of July BBQ next year.
Apres ca, le deluge. 50 and Game fought even on the “Hate It or Love It” set, and soon the former was claiming that the latter wasn’t giving him proper songwriting credit on debut album The Documentary. 50 booted Game from G-Unit, countless dis songs were released on mixtapes and someone got shot outside Hot 97. Reconciliation attempts have since failed, despite the best efforts of Busta Rhymes. And The Game never was really able to carry a hit on his own–the closest he came to reaching the success of his collaborations with 50 later in his career being with Lil’ Wayne singing the hook on “My Life,” off third album LAX, supposedly The Game’s last. Fine with me, really–all better to look back now on “Hate It or Love It” and cry about what could have been if Jayceon and Curtis could have put their petty issues aside, even knowing full well that in all likelihood, it would never be as good as this again.
The List So Far:
100. Green Day – “Jesus of Suburbia”
99. The Ying Yang Twins – “Wait (The Whisper Song)”
98. Crazytown – “Butterfly”
97. Taylor Swift – “Teardrops on My Guitar”
96. The Fray – “Over My Head (Cable Car)”
95. Fergie – “Fergalicious”
94. Lidstrom – “I Feel Space”
93. Chevelle – “Send the Pain Below”
92. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)”
91. The Arctic Monkeys – “I Bet You Look Good on the Dancefloor”
90. Cassie – “Me & U”
89. Nelly Furtado – “Maneater”
88. Mike Jones f/ Slim Thug & Paul Wall – “Still Tippin’”
87. Bat for Lashes – “Daniel”
86. The Darkness – “I Believe in a Thing Called Love”
85. Dynamite Hack – “Boyz n the Hood”
84. DJ Khaled f/ T.I., Rick Ross, Fat Joe, Birdman, Lil’ Wayne & Akon – “We Takin’ Over”
83. Matchbox20 – “Bent”
82. The Game f/ 50 Cent – “Hate It or Love It”