Rihanna – Umbrella

I’d like to use this instalment of Video Watch to pay homage to the ‘Spurious Rap Intro’. It’s been a pop institution for years now, so much so that I’d contend it deserves its own Grammy category: “and the best spurious, most throwaway, completely superfluous rap intro goes to…” Well I guess the winner would inevitably be Snoop Dogg. Look, I know I’ve been using this column to hound the Dogg but he’s brought it on himself. The bloke’s knocking on 80 and that rhinestone encrusted cane he’s so fond of is looking less like bling and more like a pimped-up geriatric accessory. As much as I can tell, Snoop does little more than sniff around LA recording studios guesting on lightweight girlie R&B tracks. The bloke must spend the vast bulk of his time getting limo-ed from session to session to video clip sets to launch party to spring break wet t-shirt competition… no rest for the octogenarian super-Snoop.

Snoop might have turned the Spurious Rap Intro into a viable superannuation plan but there are a whole nursery of wannabe rap stars all hoping to get their big break spraying a 15-second barrage of Spurious verbiage. If you know ‘some people’ then you might get a ‘featuring’ song title sub-credit, or if you’re like Shawn ‘Jay-Z’ Carter and it states ‘semi retired’ on your business card, I suppose you’re trying to slip under the radar (as much as you can with a cut that enjoys the full backing of a Borg army of international marketeers). Alternatively, if the forums are to be believed, the eye of Jay-Z (aka Mr Bouncy Knowles), is roving in the direction of his nubile protégé… Rihanna. My, my, my, if it all weren’t quite so tedious and grubby it’d be fascinating. And, it takes us back to the very root of the Spurious Rap Intro, and the simple question:


If we strap ourselves into the Way Back Machine for a second, we can alight at a time when lightweight R&B had about as much urban cred as a Celine Dion slumber party. But this is the ’90s we’re talking about — not the ’60s — and, of course, R&B pap resided on the same labels as cop-killing hip hop. So, record execs figured they could add girth to their young teenybopper chargers’ ditties with some snarling rap intro from the likes of… erm, say, Snoop Doggie Dogg. Bingo! All Saints, Destiny’s Child, Mariah Carey, were sprinkling ‘uh-huh, uh-huh’ introductory gravitas to their Aero bar lyrics like it was going out of fashion… which of course it never has.


You’ve got to wonder when you listen to Umbrella. I could only sit and listen slack-jawed with bewilderment at Jay-Z’s walk through the ‘wet stuff’ category in the thesaurus… apparently he’s like a hydroplaning plane coming down like the Dow Jones, anticipating some precipitation… yadda yadda yadda. Look, it’s an unremitting bunch of unrelated hooey and surely must be a shoo-in for this year’s Spurious Rap Intro gong… and will Nike stop making this bloke gold moonboots please?!


Because they offend me. With so much poverty — I know of some unsigned rap artists who would kill for even a shabby pair of 10-year-old Air Jordans — gold trainers the size of Moomba floats strike me as positively obscene.

Umbrella — if you start the track after the unnecessary hip hop cul de sac — is surprisingly strong. The extra chorus of ‘Umbrella – Ella – Ella – Eh – Eh’, seems like a peculiar stream of unconsciousness, but in all other respects the track’s a winner. — CH.

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