PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Music

Run the Jewels - "Ooh LA LA" (Singles Going Steady)

Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" may hit with old-school hip-hop swagger, but it also frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture.

Elisabeth Woronzoff: Run the Jewels' "Ooh LA LA" is situated in the past: both musically and ideologically. The single's chorus samples Greg Nice's verse in Gang Starr's "DWYCK", produced by DJ Premier. Later in the track, Killer Mike refers to Old Dirty Bastard's "Shimmy Shimmy Ya", then the uses of the terminology "Pugilistic linguistics" directly connect to Jeru the Damaja's "Mental Stamina". Whereas "Ooh LA LA" demonstrates a direct lineage to old-school hip-hop, the track's ideology is also archaic. Killer Mike and El-P have never shied away from dropping provocative, if not downright pervy and goading lyrics. Why, though, do they insist on reiterating problematic lyrics directed toward women?

Specifically consider "Steak tartare, oysters on the half-shell, sushi bar / Life a bitch, and the pussy fish, still fucked her raw / I'm a dog, I'm a dirty dog, ha-ha-ha-ha-ha." Aligning women and their bodies with consumable food, while reestablishing the narrative that vaginas smell like fish, is so outmoded, it's corny. The concept that Killer Mike also participates in unprotected sex fits within the image he constructed for himself as a debased maverick while also echoing ODB's quip, "Oh baby, I like it raw." But ODB's line was recorded 26 years ago, and yet, Run the Jewels are rehashing the same old sexism and objectification of women. Killer Mike has gone on record claiming Run the Jewels are not a political rap group -- but their music has been used to create political and social awareness. For a duo that established a reputation for exciting and radical lyrics, "Ooh LA LA" frustratingly affirms misogynistic bro-culture. [4/10]

Steve Horowitz: The incessant repetition of clanking noises, the occasional sirens in the background, the overlap of voices that come in and out of focus—if one didn't know better, one would assume Run the Jewels were recording from prison. There's a claustrophobic aura to it all, made more powerful by present circumstances that keep us all locked up in our houses. That was certainly not the original intent of RTJ unless one presumes they had the gift of foresight. But perhaps that's where the power of "Ooh La La" comes from. We already existed in a world of confinement, where one couldn't even take a piss without seeming to make a statement. So we might as well announce our defiance in the safety of our cells. [7/10]

Jessica Brant: A song indebted to the roots of jazz-rap and looped with '90s boom-bap, "Ooh LA LA" is already a crowd-pleaser among fans of all ages, from Gang Starr's old heads to listeners of the new wave. RTJ's rap fortitude has survived nearly a decade without sampling. By introducing it under a literal and physical viral plague, indiscriminate of racial or political affiliation, the track almost carries with it a delayed sense of belonging. As artists continue to reinvent the familiar, our experiences become less distanced by the cohort effect at-work.

We're all grabbing at straws, searching for the answers in artistic productivity. Hip-hop's framework isn't being laid out by a panel of news pundits, whose intelligence rests on their ability to help solve the world's problems. It's being laid out by guys like El-P and Killer Mike, who live unapologetic lives and speak unapologetic truths, flipping the script read by those same newscasters. That's the new frontier. [9/10]

Mark Montgomery French: Like the Joker and Harley Quinn driving away from their crime in a sensible pre-owned Honda Accord, the tag team audacity of Run the Jewels' lyrics is stuck in neutral by "Ooh LA LA's" sedate sonics. Its woozy piano shard features a Greg Nice sample from Gang Starr's superior "DWYCK", which is not only an unfortunate comparison but also makes me wish they had Greg Nice perform on their track. [6/10]

Jonathan Frahm: With tunes like this, RTJ4 is looking to be another modern classic straight out of the gate. "Ooh LA LA" hits with old-school swagger with a sample assist from Greg Nice's verse on Gang Starr's "DWYCK" and record scratches by DJ Premier. From there, it's kept aflame with fiery verses from El-P and Killer Mike. Some of them, like Killer Mike's lines on "kings and queens", feel searingly present given current events. [9/10]

SCORE: 7.00

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

Jefferson Starship Soar Again with 'Mother of the Sun'

Rock goddess Cathy Richardson speaks out about honoring the legacy of Paul Kantner, songwriting with Grace Slick for the Jefferson Starship's new album, and rocking the vote to dump Trump.

Books

Black Diamond Queens: African American Women and Rock and Roll (excerpt)

Ikette Claudia Lennear, rumored to be the inspiration for Mick Jagger's "Brown Sugar", often felt disconnect between her identity as an African American woman and her engagement with rock. Enjoy this excerpt of cultural anthropologist Maureen Mahon's Black Diamond Queens, courtesy of Duke University Press.

Maureen Mahon
Music

Ane Brun's 'After the Great Storm' Features Some of Her Best Songs

The irresolution and unease that pervade Ane Brun's After the Great Storm perfectly mirror the anxiety and social isolation that have engulfed this post-pandemic era.

Music

'Long Hot Summers' Is a Lavish, Long-Overdue Boxed Set from the Style Council

Paul Weller's misunderstood, underappreciated '80s soul-pop outfit the Style Council are the subject of a multi-disc collection that's perfect for the uninitiated and a great nostalgia trip for those who heard it all the first time.

Music

ABBA's 'Super Trouper' at 40

ABBA's winning – if slightly uneven – seventh album Super Trouper is reissued on 45rpm vinyl for its birthday.

Music

The Mountain Goats Find New Sonic Inspiration on 'Getting Into Knives'

John Darnielle explores new sounds on his 19th studio album as the Mountain Goats—and creates his best record in years with Getting Into Knives.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 60-41

PopMatters' coverage of the 2000s' best recordings continues with selections spanning Swedish progressive metal to minimalist electrosoul.

Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.