MOVE THAT DOPE PHARRELL MOVE THAT DOPE

Written by Daniel Montesinos-Donaghy (@danielmondon)

Nothing should be fascinating about Future’s “Move That Dope”: it’s a gathering of the adored but overexposed (and Casino), produced by the adored but overexposed Mike Will Made It and given a boilerplate title. It slithered out with little certainty of its final destination and an abundance of questions in its trail: Will this even end up on Honest? How many incarnations has the album gone through? Does Casino’s throat not hurt from yelling like that all the time? Yet it’s a fascinating song and as a posse cut a bonafide moment of high class thievery on the part of Pharrell.

Future’s professional relationship with Mike Will must give him top dibs, as the Dungeon Fam representative was offered a stunner here: a distorted and desiccated Mob music elastic bass accompanied by that unearthly Mike Will low-end. As always, Future knows how to occupy the track, but it’s rarely evident on his unfiltered verse. He’s nimbly rapping in triplets, hopscotching over each bar, yet there’s no push to experiment with his voice as per usual. The resurgence of the triplet flow in Atlanta rap seems like a particularly post-Future move, so here is the anomaly of the week: Future doing a post-Future style. But on the hook, he’s black magic: Salt N Pepa routines floating from ear to ear, given malicious intent—a sexualized purr turned into a villainous mantra, like a snake possessed to deliver biblical wrath. Meanwhile, Pusha (on otherwise standard huff’n’puff duty) unsteadily cackles creating the audio equivalent of the eyeless My Name is My Name cover.

And still, Pharrell runs off with the entire track. Back in the mid-Noughties, people derided his appearances on Re-Up Gang mixtapes, dismissed the bougie-turnup of In My Mind and thus formed the consensus that Pharrell was a bad rapper. But Pharrell was never a bad rapper! Sure he jarred on the gulliest of Re-Up tracks, but that was more to do with his eccentric delivery and word selection. He was the odd one out amongst those hungry punch-line rappers by dropping impromptu Das EFX tributes and shaking his head ruefully at “carving” a man alive: “That’s fucked up, that shit gets to me.” Elsewhere, he evoked chinchillas in the heat of battle, ostrich trainers, treated life like blue magazines off the top shelf, “Willy Wonka décor” and out-weirded Wayne on a series of unreleased mixtape tracks while shape-shifting into a Native Tongues Juvenile. Like a lot of things Pharrell did in the middle of the previous decade, it was odd and a little ahead of its time. (I guarantee you, if In My Mind never existed and some New Jack rapped “baby born baby dies it’s clear as Peru” we would be losing our minds.)

He gets the third verse on “Move That Dope” and runs through the damn thing shifting gears from clearly enunciated to slurring and from clipped vocals to loosey-goosey elongations. It’s lyrical metamorphosis, the verse equivalent to Pusha and Future’s weirdo horror-house noises on the hook. And he drops a barrage of weirdo wordplay with great élan, amusingly arrogant in rejecting the song’s villainous thread as he damn well pleases: “all these drones!” “gee, nigga,” “Gandalf hat,” “all that war we need to let that go,” “twenty girls doin’ yoga naked” and most appropriately “ol’ Skateboard P / that’s the one you been missin’.”

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