Listening to most hip-hop, you'd think black music history began with James Brown's "Out of Sight," the tune the Godfather himself favors over "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag" and "I Feel Good" as a funk landmark. But as you might expect from his handle, Dallasite Money Waters is one of the few rappers, especially from the underground, to infuse his rap with the music of his more distant ancestors. And while Money Water's Porch is undeniably soaked in old-school funk, it is also, almost uniquely, steeped in the down-home blues.
It seems odd. After all, the subject matter of most Dirty South rap is identical to that of the blues: poverty, the effects of racism, the perils (and joys) of substance abuse, romantic travails and, above all else, the ability to see the humor in all of life's dirty deals. Of course, rap is much more explicit, but there's not a whole hell of a lot of difference in the vibe of some Lightnin' Hopkins songs and others by Scarface.
Well, sometimes the music isn't even that different. Way back in the Eisenhower era, rock and roller Bo Diddley, who was as boastful and character-driven as any of today's MCs, came close to what would more generally be recognized, later, as rap, with songs like "Bring It to Jerome," "Who Do You Love" and the dirty dozens-quoting "Say Man." And even before that, John Lee Hooker cut some raplike tunes, such as "Boogie Chillen" and "I'm Mad," in which the Hook growls, "I'm mad about it, like Al Capone," thus presaging rap's fascination with gangsters. Some of Albert Collins's finest tunes could even qualify -- classics like "Master Charge" and "Conversation with Collins," on which the Iceman would simply tell a story over a 12-bar blues backing and add a guitar solo here and there for emphasis.
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Money Waters's "Her 'A' Nigga" is virtually identical to these Collins cuts. While a live studio band wails the 12-bar blues in the background, Waters humorously expounds on what it means to be an "A," "B," "C" and "D" man in a woman's life. He's occasionally interrupted by his lady -- she walks onto the "porch" and brings him a beer at one point, and offers him some fried pork skins later -- and the overall effect is something like a bluesier, raunchier version of one of Bernie Mac's monologues to America.
Both hip-hop and blues have a lot more in common with old-school country than is commonly noted, and Money's single "Payless Blues" is as thematically bluesy and a hell of a lot funnier than Dolly Parton's lyrically similar bad-clothes-and-mean-classmates anthem "Coat of Many Colors." A school-shopping Money lusts after a pair of Chucks but ends up with the wackest-of-the-wack footwear $9.99 could buy -- a pair of Payless house-brand Pro Wings. "I couldn't even strut / I was paranoid all day / hearin' whisperin' and gigglin' as I walked the hallways / I don't care what y'all say / but they knew that I did / see my corduroys sag to keep my Pro Wings hid." Later at lunch, he's cheated out of victory in several verbal battles. "When I get the upper hand I still lose / when they bring up my shoes, man I got the Payless blues."
For most rappers, going to a strip club is like a trip to a sexual buffet. Not for Money, whose "So I..." explores the pathetic side of such jaunts. Money makes the fatal, all-too-easy mistake of believing that his favorite stripper at his regular jiggle joint is actually in love with him and not his money, and the chorus finds a painfully out-of-tune Money, who chances upon his beloved stuffing other men's money in "the panties [he] bought her," bellowing, "She don't wanna fuck me / so I pay her so that I can feel like she do." It ain't all like it plays in the Lil' Jon videos, kids.
"I already know what you thinkin' / soon as you pop this CD in your stereo / pitiful, typical / hell he ain't even lyrical / say he's from the South but he sho' don't flow like Mystikal," Money raps on "Excuse These Blues." No, he doesn't. But that's what's most comfortable about sitting on The Porch -- there's too many people trying to be Mystikal. Money Waters, on the other hand, is unique.