Mystikal – Bouncin’ Back (Bumpin’ Me Against the Wall) (2001, Jive)
Why It’s Perfect: It’s a gangsta rap New Orleans jazz funeral. Do you need further explanation?
Back in the late ‘90s I always mixed Mystikal up with similarly loony, gruff-voiced spitters like Redman, Petey Pablo and Busta Rhymes (who had Mystikal featured on his Iz They Wildin’ Wit Us & Gettin’ Rowdy Wit Us?, surely one of the wildest cuts of its time), but Mystikal definitely had his own “James Brown-on-more-dust in a strip club” vibe, and for a little while he managed to carve out a nice radio niche with his mad dog New Awlins drawl. Bouncin’ Back (Bumpin’ Me Against the Wall) is Mystikal’s greatest moment because it combines the man’s remarkable arsenal of grunts, pants and barks with a production that is tailor-fitted to his style and persona. The Neptunes were the best production team of the early 2000s, in part because their signature funk shook girl’s asses easier than I shake off at the urinal, but also because that funk seemed infinitely mutable, as easily adapted to Clipse’s scary electro aesthetic as the Louisiana brass band jazz that dresses Bouncin’ Back. This might be the most traditionally melodic track Hugo & Pharrell ever manned, twisting a swaggering brass figure into something reminiscent of their customarily “circular” rhythms, yet allowing the instruments to maintain a natural, live sound. It’s easily the classiest thing Mystikal ever rapped over, but the Neptunes wisely pile on a big, bumping percussion that suits the rapper’s loping, outsized flow.
Much like fellow NO native and rival ‘Lil Wayne, Mystikal’s got a rich regional accent and relaxed rhythm; he’s definitely rapping, but he does it in such a way, and with such regard for the melody of the piece, that he ends up hollering almost like an old bluesman (see also Wayne’s feature on Jay-Z’s Hello Brooklyn 2.0). Any good blues singer sells you on his toughness and cocksmanship, but blues is really about what you’re bouncin’ back from, and Mystikal drops some nice rhymes about American paranoia in the era of the anthrax mailbag and tumbling towers:
“Done started some trouble and you ain’t been out since
‘Cause you stuck inside scared watching CNN
Just take the precaution so yo’ life will be better
Tell my friends to call me, I ain’t accepting no letters”
No one would slander the man’s good name with allegations of sophistication, but it somehow makes it more satisfying to hear Mystikal go nuts when it’s posed as a response to the suffocating frustration of life during wartime. On Bouncin’ Back everything came together for him, from production to subject to inspired performance, and as a result it’s one of the most durable club cuts of its era.
Defining Moment: Probably near the end where Pharrell, doing a bizarre impression of an old black church lady, yells “take the drums out!” and you get to hear that slinky brass melody without the percussion for a moment before they swap the horns out and the drums return unaccompanied. It’s a cute little tip of the hand to how the song’s two primary musical motifs blend together.
Other Great Songs by Mystikal: Mystikal is a survivor of both the sinking of Master P’s dreadful No Limit empire and a feud with ‘Lil Wayne’s Cash Money label, so you know he’s got his shit together. For around five years at the turn of the millennium he dependably churned out drop-dead fun tracks, most notably strip club anthem Shake Ya Ass (censored as Shake it Fast for radio) and That’s the Nigga. Even the B-side to Bouncin’ Back, the awesomely titled Pussy Crook is stellar. Of his albums, the best is Tarantula, a rock solid banger well worth checking out.