"Dial the seven digits. Call up Bridget/ Her man's a midget. Plus she got friends, yo, I can dig it..."
It was 19 years ago when Tajai, Opio, Phesto, and A-Plus first upped us on how they just chill, roaming the strip for bones to pick, attackin' with the smoothness.
"93 'til Infinity" still stands as one of the best hip-hop joints to ever come out of the Bay -- the West Coast's proudest contribution to the kicked-back, jazz-based, lyrically-complex rap style A Tribe Called Quest was making famous in the early '90s. For Souls of Mischief, that debut album, which bore the same name as its lead track, would be their most commercially successful. The record was released on Sept. 28, 1993 and, like the way the crew chilled, its legacy will persist 'til infinity.
Because as long as sounds waves rumble through civilization, "93"'s opening hum -- the murky sizzle twisting around that pimp-walking bass line -- will nonchalantly roll, drawing head bobs and knowing smirks, before crashing nose first into that wild and chopping and addictive synth.
No surprise, then, that in the years since, we've heard the beat pop up on mixtapes and radio freestyles, splashing waves of nostalgia with every sample. Many have laid verses over the track, but only one has produced a version that can hold its own against the classic. So, as "93 til Infinty" enters its second decade on earth, it's worth noting the rapper who's done it the most justice from '94 'til now. And for that, we'll have to go to Gary, Indiana.
"Still too cool to love these hoes... All I wanna do is fuck these hoes... "
Freddie Gibbs tees up "How We Do ('93 Til)"-- from his 2009 mixtape The Miseducation of Freddie Gibbs -- in a way that would vindicate the C. Delores Tucker-types proclaiming how hip-hop has maligned entire generations of misogynistic youths.
But it's a narrative trick. The opening line is not a prologue, not a lead-in that marks the tone for 32 bars of braggadocio. Rather, it's an epilogue, a conclusion that sets the foundation for a story about how Freddie Gibbs lost his faith in love until infinity. At its core, "How We Do" is about heartbreak and masculine insecurity and profound hopelessness, an R&B ballad presented through a Gangsta Gibbs lens.
"Once upon a time 'round '99 I took a chick to the prom with a big behind/ She had a cute face, a thin waist, a bright smile, titties mediocre but ass was like blaaooohh..."
One of the most ingenious aspects of the song is the juxtaposition Gibbs creates between his thugged-out swag and the flashes of romantic imagery. With his gear-shifting flow that rattles and slows, weaving tightly packed bars around an unpredictable rhyme scheme, he takes us through his love life, candid and funny as if we were chillin' on the couch at 4 a.m. sharing a blunt and swapping stories. Like there was this one girl... "Might have been two thou' when I met that ho. But on the low I used to sweat that ho...
Baby had me with a helluva crush/ Love letters on the locker, I ain't give no fuck what other n---- thought about me/ 'Cause I was all about We, me and her 'til I D-I-E/ Made me wanna do some shit like carve her name in a tree/ Like we was K-I-S-S-I-N-G..."
"But little did I know she had a dude/ With hella money, hella jewels, I was just another n---- in school..."
"A straight fool, for thinking I was special and different/ Lost my respect for the rest of the bitches..."
Gibbs is surprised and angry, like he hadn't considered the possibility of a girl flipping the script on him like that. Like he assumed he and his gender at large were entitled to steering the male-female dynamic. He was supposed to be the pimp! And he recognizes the irony in that.
"I play hoes and shake hoes for bank rolls/ Never thought they'd fill my heart with pain though/ Used to laugh when a broad made my n----- feel blue/ But the jokes ain't funny when the joke's on you..."
His transition, from "special and different" to "lost my respect for the rest," isn't smooth, though. Even as Gibbs begins to present himself as the player who spurns the value of serious relationship, he delves into the nuance of the Man-as-Dog archetype, and its underlying insecurity and desperation.
"You can be his girl, and that n---- can remain yo' man/ Freddie G'll be yo' back up plan..."
Pragmatically, it's no different an idea than Positive K asking "What's ya' man got to do with me?" or Biggie musing, "Ya' man's a wimp I'll give his ass a good thrashing... sexin' me while ya' man masturbates." Except, the way Gibbs frames it, he's not the sly Casanova with the mad game to lure an otherwise faithful woman away from her man. He's the failed competitor, who must settle for second place.
But, hell naw, he won't get played again. Hell naw, he won't put his heart out there, drop his guard, forfeit the emotional leverage. Can't get played when you're the one playing, right? So there was this other girl...
"She knew I had a girlfriend, but she loved my pole/ And when she saw me with my woman then she lost control/ and went crazy. 'Freddy I can't believe you played me/ People told me that n----- from the G were shady/ You forgot you didn't wear a rubber when you laid me, I'm pregnant and it's yo' baby'..."
Damn. Tried to split the difference between girlfriend and jump-off, tried to get the fruits of both trees, and got caught up in a mess.
"Hell of a bind/ These hoes put me through a hell of a time..."
Yet he still can't quite dedicate himself to a simple rap star life of unbridled and uncomplicated promiscuity. Still looking for the right one.
"Met a girl last year that I thought was mine/ Came all the way to N.Y. to see me rhyme/ Flew her ass out to L.A. for Christmas time/ And shit was fine, we on the same beat/ And she ain't got a problem with me being in the street..."
Sounds like a keeper. But even then, his expectations are lower than they were back in the day, perhaps to protect himself, to psychologically keep himself off the ropes. He learned from experience, and is still easing back into romance. You can smell the hope.
"I know I ain't no one and only, but I'm hoping I ain't one of many..."
And just when he was ready to commit...
"Baby pretty but she tryna play me silly/ 'Cause she really wasn't thinking 'bout religion when she tell me the dick bomb/ But then she up and left me 'cause I practice Islam..."
"I guess mom told her that the boy ain't right/ And she gon' pray to Jesus Christ to take me out of her life and out of her sight/ She keep it undercover..."
And that's the breaking point. Gibbs doesn't present the heartbreak as a sob story to excuse his transformation. Not a Tiger Woods-y weakness he uncontrollably succumbed to because of past experiences, but a conscious choice he made to avoid future turbulence.
"I really used to mean it when I told her that I love her/ But now I know that Love is a four letter word like Fuck and Shit/ So Love, you can suck my dick..."
So he pulls the Man Face back on for the final hook, the pain and disillusionment hidden behind the I-don't-give-a-fuck swag. His intellectual reflection ends where it began.
"Baby it ain't about you/ 'Cause why have one when a n---- can have two/ three or four hoes, I like the ass brand new/ Just fuck with me and I'll stay true."
"I love you," says a female voice.
"Yeah, yeah," Gibbs seethes, "I love you too."