Song: "Lucas With The Lid Off"
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The practice of almost recklessly fusing together seemingly unrelated genres is a musical phenomena that seems to sweep through the industry every twenty years or so. At the end of the 1940's, it was jazz music splintering into countless directions, while as the 1960's came to a close, rock began to break off into many smaller genres. As the 1980's turned into the 1990's, it seemed that there was a complete musical "free for all," and one would be hard pressed to find any two genres that weren't combined at some point during the early years of the decade. From punk rock's rebirth as "grunge" to folk being relabeled as "singer-songwriter," musicians were finding new sounds, and few genres had more wide ranging experimentations than those in the hip-hop of the decade. From Public Enemy teaming up with Anthrax to the emergence of the "G Funk" sound of the West Coast, the first years of the 1990's represent the high-point of creativity within the hip-hop genre. Among these amazing sonic experiments, a handful of artists attempted to fuse the rap style together with jazz, and from the most funky sounds of "cool" to rapping over wild improvisations, nearly every corner of jazz was represented at some point. In one case, the earliest roots of jazz music, a sound that bordered on ragtime, found its way into a surprise hit single, and there are few songs that can compare to the brilliant track, "Lucas With The Lid Off" by producer and rapper, Lucas.
The fact that the song itself is so musically and artistically diverse is not as surprising when one learns that Lucas' mother was a painter, and his father was none other than Billboard editor and songwriter, Paul Sécon. Clearly, being brought up in what was surely an artistically eclectic environment played a massive role in the creation of "Lucas With The Lid Off," as it pays tribute to countless genres simultaneously. As soon as the song begins, it is clear that this will be a rap track like no other, as it instantly combines jazz along with scat-style singing. The mood is immediately set, as this is one of the finest "throwback" songs ever created, and every aspect of the song is truly perfect. With the core hook coming from a looped, muted trumpet, the more light-hearted, laid back mood persists throughout the entire song. Layered on top of this loop, the song has a second trumpet part, which combined with the light programmed drums, makes for one of the most intoxicating walls of sound in the history of the genre. The amazing backing vocal is an absolutely perfect generational bridge, as it is not sampled, yet the voice sounds as if it could have been recorded in the prime of the big band era. The entire song brilliantly smashes together the "old school" sounds and emotions of the jazz era with a modern, hip-hop style, and such a balance has rarely been heard since.
Along with the fantastic musical arrangement, Lucas himself winds and flips his words with the ease and precision of the finest "free jazz" players. The flow of his lyrical delivery is unlike any other emcee in history, as he finds his own rhythm within the song, often starting and ending on non-traditional beats within the music. This purposeful effort to navigate the rhythm of the song in his own way is yet another reflection of the jazz influence on the song, and it also makes for one of the most unique tracks in history, and one cannot deny the fact that this flow certainly had an impact on many artists who came later. Much like the music, Lucas' delivery style has a light and relaxed feel to it, and the overall upbeat mood is reinforced with his voice. Lyrically, the song has the feel of a freestyle, and the main hook of "whatever bubbles, bubbles up" seems to speak to this mood, in that it implies that Lucas will rhyme with whatever comes to mind in the moment. This fits in perfectly with the jazz-fueled music, and throughout the song, Lucas makes a number of references to the improvisational nature of jazz. However, the bulk of the songs' lyrics are a slightly subtle bragging about his lyrical prowess, and both through the subject matter, as well as his stunning delivery style, Lucas makes it quite clear that there is much to support his claim of amazing skills. There are few occasions in the history of hip-hop where the delivery and lyrical content so perfectly match the backing music as one finds on "Lucas With The Lid Off," and it is unquestionably one of the key reasons that the song remains fresh so many years later.
While in modern times, the hip-hop genre has sadly become one of the most predictable and dull genres on the planet, there was a time when it boasted some of the most unique and creative artistic endeavors one could find. With rap having solidified itself as a major part of the music world, as the 1990's developed, many artists took the base of the genre and began to find ways to mix it together with nearly every style of music imaginable. Without question, some of the most amazing fusions of this time came from the emcees who were able to blend hip-hop into genres that seemed distant, most notably, that of jazz music. In the case of Lucas, he went all the way to the beginnings of jazz, and well over a decade later, few artists have even gone near the ragtime sound or taken a similar approach with similar success. Building his hit single, "Lucas With The Lid Off" around fantastic horn loops and a truly timeless vocal hook, the song remains one of the most upbeat and truly fun hip-hop songs ever recorded. Combined with Lucas' rhyming style, which is wonderfully unique in terms of both meter as well as content, the song is truly like no other, and this perfectly captures the adventurous spirit that filled the music industry at the time. Though it is rather difficult to spotlight all of the original musical efforts that were pushed out during the early years of the 1990's, one cannot deny the unquestionably unique sound and lasting impact of Lucas' brilliant 1994 single, "Lucas With The Lid Off."