Re: Verse: J. Cole, “Bad Girls Club”

14 Jul

Wale’s latest attempt at being relevant beyond his role as the most versatile (and least outstanding) member of Maybach Music, “Bad Girls Club,” dropped in full this afternoon, and I think it’s a) a hit and b) pretty good.

Produced by collaborator J. Cole — whose production discography now includes lead singles from Wale and Kendrick Lamar, a great mixtape track for XV, and some Fashawn tracks, in addition to a lot of his stuff — “Bad Girls Club” is a little different from the mainstream club banger. There’s a lot of twinkly stuff here, the main drum is hollowed out rather than thumping, and the bass is virtually nonexistent. It doesn’t sound synth-soaked, doesn’t overwhelm, and uses “bitches” in the “I hate callin’ the women bitches, but the bitches love it” sense rather than the “She’s a bitch” sense; as much as a man calling a woman a bitch can be empowering and not a mere articulation of the male gaze, that is, right?

In any case, while Mr. Folarin gets off (“They can’t fuck wit’ ya boy, like a BYU Cougar“), I wanted to talk about Cole’s verse. So I’m reviving Re: Verse.

Hey, Cole World, down for whatever
Boy got dollars, pounds, or whatever
Been broke and it’s a Diddy-ass world
Still found a way to get pretty-ass girls
Killin’ y’all niggas, any last words?
(Hmm) Guess you didn’t play the game right
(Uh) Hey, girl, before you throw it at me
(Uh) You gotta make sure you aim right
(Uh) Red dots cause I’m red hot (Seen?)
But damn, girl, you smokin’
(Uh) I get paper like a mailbox (Seen?)
But, girl, you got me open
Proceed, pocket fulla Gs
Kush baby mama-less: yeah, no seeds
(Huh) Blow trees like a hurricane
Damn, if looks kill, then ya murdering

This isn’t exactly the sexiest Cole can be, nor is it quite as ruthlessly lyrical as he can be. Cole — who has a long-time girlfriend — rarely sounds good on the sorts of tracks that require him to be universally seductive; his complete inability to compete with Drake on his own “In The Morning” should have been a clue that this might not be a lane he needs to be in, while his fine work on “All I Want Is You” and “Feel Love” should have established him as a go-to rapper for funkier, more monogamous tracks. It’s no fun to hear Jermaine stymied while attempting to play the field, but him admitting a need for a “badass queen” feels more natural; “Bad Girls Club,” of course, requires player mode.

Being in that wrong lane and keeping it in low gear on the track has him misfiring on “Club.” “Whatever” is filler to the extreme in 95% of verses; “hurricane” and “murdering” don’t rhyme, despite his best efforts; the aim/red dots bit just doesn’t work in this context, despite the very dope artwork for the track featuring a grenade; the “Uh” ad-lib he uses is so hushed and clipped it sounds more like constipation than a contribution to the song. But he has flashes, too: “Diddy-ass world” is a great turn of phrase without the multi “pretty-ass girls,” much less “any last words,” and “Kush baby-mama less: Yeah, no seeds” is a thing that will be stolen by more than a few Twitter users. And then there’s Cole’s smart choice to seep into a track that dwells in lower ranges in its verse, rather than rising above it like Wale does: It’s smart, savvy, the sort of thing a producer might know how to do instinctively and one a featured artist has to do to keep working.

If this is going to be a hit, it’ll be because of the instrumental and Wale’s renaissance, not Cole’s vocals. Should this sort of nuance be part of what we might yet get from Cole World, though…

Lyrics via Rap Genius, modified by ya boy.

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