A Reverse Crossover Hit: Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse”

Written by David Turner (@dalatudalatu)

A few months ago visiting a friend at school, and we went out to a bar where Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” was played over and over and over again. I’ve already written about the song before, but each time I hear it fills it with a fresh context. Since coming back home for spring break I’ve heard “Dark Horse” multiple times on the radio, the first time on a late night mix, where I assumed it would just be the Juicy J verse, but nope the entire song played. Then on an afternoon countdown segment where it appearing right after Rich Homie Quan’s “Walk Through” and K. Camp’s “Cut Her Off,” which made my mind melt just a bit.

Despite the Clear Channelification of terrestrial radio, there is still a unique character that can shine through certain stations. Charlotte’s Power 98 (WPEG) has a strong lean towards R&B, which I’ve heard more Marcus Houston than probably any one person would like to have heard, but it also means that in 2014 there is a number of Ratchet&B singles on the station’s playlist. But, where does Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” fit into that station? It doesn’t.

The song with Juicy J and produced by Max Martin, Dr. Luke and Cirkut was an attempt at “Trap (electronic genre),” which somehow claims roots in “Trap (rap genre).” But that variation of Rap at best right now is floundering as California is stealing the shine away from Atlanta; so while people were quick to yell “Versace Versace Verse,” DJ Mustard and Ty$ are the ones with the Billboard  Pop hits to back up their urban radio spins. Yet “Dark Horse” has found a way onto at least this rap station’s playlist. This could be the post-“Royals” effect starting to show, as that young New Zealand singer got a hit that read as “rap” even though sonically it sounded like nothing else on rap radio, see also how “Team” has receive no rap/R&B station airplay. “Royals” wasn’t the only hit, as “23” by Mike Will Made and Miley Cyrus was another white girl rap track that rap stations fully embraced.

A song produced by one of the biggest white American pop stars, produced by some of the biggest pop producers in the world and featuring a rapper who’s had at least three career revivals is suddenly “rap.” And Kanye didn’t put out any singles for Yeezus on the radio for what reason.

Yo Gotti (Feat. Rick Ross) – Harder (Produced by Lil’ Lody)

With Jeezy’s continued presence in rap’s upper tier, Duct Tape Ent. challenging his status from below and a label that didn’t even bother to alert him about his album release, Yo Gotti’s status as the go-to, gruff trap rapper may be in danger. Fortunately, Gotti has the unique ability to push ‘being good’ to its upper limit.

“Harder,” the second single from Live From Da Kitchen, is the type of song that Gotti excels at creating. It’s completely dependent on the brute force of everyone involved. Lil’ Lody makes the smaller contribution here, with a Scott Storch-y remix of the Hard in the Paint melody to some mild success. This beat isn’t on the same level as the great tracks he gave Starlito, Jeezy and Gunplay last year, but it’s enough of a backdrop for Gotti and Ross to make it better.

Gotti is a great momentum rapper; as the beat chugs along, his intensity grows, and his simple lyrics seem to expand in purpose and meaning. He isn’t interested in using big words, but he’s an underrated writer who has more dimension than white bricks and shooting them choppers. In the middle of his first verse, he says,

“Fuck if I die today, I went to church, I paid my tithes

I left my son a couple million dollars, so I did alright.”

Gotti’s delivery turns an affecting statement into an effective taunt. As if he’s saying “Despite my criminal behavior, I’ve remained focused on my goals and stayed in touch with a higher power. FUCK YALL NIGGAS BEEN DOING?!” And “I can die a dope dealer, but I’m smarter” is a brilliant way to acknowledge the ridiculousness at the center of trap rap. Gotti controls the song with such a commanding energy that by the time you get to Ross’ verse, it feels unnecessary. Luckily, Ross turns in one of his better guest appearances: “I know I won’t live forever, but I’m stacking up like I will.” Much like Ross, Gotti makes anthems, the type of songs that get remixes with 7+ rappers. Gruff and simple will take you places.

Prophet Posse

Prophet Posse – Cop It, Cook It Ft Yo Gotti, Kelo and 7:30

The album goes hard as hell, they got hella motherfuckers on the cut too. Fucking record features Playa Fly, Pastor Troy, Lil’ Flip, Yo Gotti, Gangsta Boo, Gangsta Blac, Kingpin Skinny Pimp, Blackout, Nick Scarfo, Kelo, Indo-G, Koopsta Knicca, K-Rock, T-Rock, Hottsauce, Raw Dawg, and 7:30. The whole record is basically a posse cut. Cop It, Cook It is hands down the best cut on the record. That beat is fucking retarded, it fucking smashes its way through the whole track and never lets up. The other two tracks I’m really feeling are “Crush Domes” and “Pump Yo Brakes.” One of which features the call and response “When I Say SuckaAss You Say Bitch!” You can’t lose with this record.

If you’re looking for some anti softhands rap then get wise and peep game for reals.

epic R&B symphony rap

8ball and MJG feat 112 and Three-6 Mafia – Cruisin

1. If only all ‘for the ladies’ cuts could be so epic and committed to the concept and caught up in their own grandeur.
2. 8ball and MJG can pull off widescreen Bad Boy Diddy-pop better than most and I hope these dudes get the focus they really deserve this year – single with Project Pat from last year was a classic and “Riding High” was hot in a exuberant mid-period Outkast way. Their first Bad Boy album was underrated, diverse in approach and startlingly ambitious in a way established acts really don’t have to be. And after years of classic releases in the suave house style, one timid step into pop with Quik and Swizz tracks on Space Age, this ambition was charming (their last 112 song even brought back that old Ma$e standby with some euphoric disco-pop-rap!) Judging from the new singles this album continues w/ an even bigger step into Big Important Music Statement, the rap equivalent of Oscar bait or some shit.
3. MJG and 8ball really sound charming over this. Committed and serious, no tossed off verse for the ladies, its all for real.
4. 3-6 are basically an afterthought and sound out of place. They don’t have that TLC that Ball and G pull off with almost accidental ease; if this was on a 3-6 album it would be filler.