One of my favorite stories as a kid was Arthur and The Knights of the Round Table. Or The Sword In the Stone, if you liked things animated. Had everything you really wanted in terms of inspiration -- kid always picked on, thought to be of no use to the world then gets courage from a few people, pushes on and does something extraordinary. He then winds up becoming boy king and rules England.
To have such a tale translate into modern terms, you'd be looking squarely at some of hip-hop's biggest and most boastful names in Jay-Z, Rick Ross and Dr. Dre trying to pull the proverbial sword that is "3 Kings."
Released Thursday on New York City radio, that "Kings" is the brainchild of Ross' already so-ludicrous yet somewhat believable hyperbole, producer Jake One's incredible knack for being a great underdog producer since 2008 (this marks his biggest placement ever), Dr. Dre feeling neat that he gets to pal around for Ross on a few records and the giant monolith in the room that is Jay-Z, newly proud father and best example of rap's version of Satchel Paige -- the ageless wonder who when we thought peaked just continues racking up great numbers.
The three of them (excluding Jake One), as all their might may have it can't quite pull off the feat. Instead, another trio, two of which being apart of Houston's mammoth 2005 had done the trick and let it resonate in the minds of people much better. Slim Thug, Bun B and T.I. had explicably joined forces for "3 Kingz" for Thugga's debut album Already Platinum.
Pretty solid already with Tip, regaining his feet after a small prison bid (which sounds ironic considering 2005 T.I. hadn't even begun to reach his peak), Slim getting rap's hottest rapper of the moment on wax proved to be the final piece.
I'd argue with anyone that in the year 2005, nobody could stop the proverbial mack truck of Trill that was Bernard Freeman. He was a man possessed, putting up sixteens and feature verses that bordered on down right criminal grand larceny. The moment you heard him mention "Free Pimp C" in any way, shape or form - you knew the ride was going to end up being rewound over and over again.
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The two "Kings" (only separated by a Z) hold no real comparisons to one another except for the fact that they're event records (songs built up as the biggest things to hit the genre until the next one comes, ala summer blockbusters). Slim's version is noisy, blaxpoitation brass and horns with a Lil Jon sampled sliced in for effect. The moment his baritone drops to the track, it's an automatic death blow for the competition.
By contrast, Dr. Dre leading off any record in 2012 is strategic for one or two reasons, tease us all into thinking his rap-version of Chinese Democracy project Detox is in fact happening or so that we can guess who actually wrote his verse. Andre Young sneering about telling women to jam his music in his Beats By Dre headphones? Has Rick Ross written all over it.
Advantage: Slim Thug's "3 Kings"
The odd curveball "3 Kingz" represents is that the album version has Bun B and T.I.'s verses switched out. The early mixtape portion held Tip's verse third, Southern drawl heavy, name drops of E.S.G., Paul Wall, DJ Screw and the Super Bowl where he was coming in with at least hoes six deep. (Average quality of those hoes: 4.5 out of 5).
He tucks himself in with the beat like it's a damn blanket, unequivocally mastering the whole street turned player aspect long before he started making a habit of it on his own radio singles. Rick Ross, having mastered the aura of being Rick Ross (rap about the struggle, name drop a brand, speak on sexual favor, remind you he's a boss) doesn't necessarily fall short but when packed next to Jay and the beat, you sort of forget he's there.
Which is not a great thing to say if you're the Boss. Or the Hottest Rapper In The Game or The Biggest Artist In Rap or One Wingstop Meal Away From ... you know what, let's move on.
Advantage: Slim Thug's "3 Kingz"
By the way, I didn't even mention the two owners of said songs either did or did not have some sort of beef with one another regarding that whole "Boss" label.
The finality of it arguably pits Houston's most unbreakable asset (Bun and his monstrous 2005) with Jay-Z, who has essentially coasted on every record he's been on since the birth of his daughter Blue Ivy (and large chunks of 2011's Watch the Throne). Here's Hov is in rare form, matching show money to his account for drape purchases (!), saying his foes don't even compare to what's in Blue Ivy's room at this point and more carpe diem turn literal rap truths that his stature as one of the figureheads of one-percent boast-rap (Diddy and Kanye the others) remains unchanged.
Bun on the other hand was Bun, a general of a movement where little to nothing seemed to stand in his way. As any leader, he always seemed to be gracious while also being maddening. Think of it like Game Of Thrones. If Bun was King and had somebody ready for beheading, he'd more than likely pass off the deed to his #2 so that he could celebrate having someone's head on a pike just as much he would if he were #1. That's Bun B, a master rapper and Houston's best assisting big man.
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Winner:By majority decision, Slim Thug's "3 Kingz". Please accept your Texas tea on DJ Screw's birthday as a gift. Also, there's no way the song works with all three participants. Ross' "3 Kings"? Already has a somewhat superior version that is only Jay-Z. Hold up.