Hip-hop is no stranger to having some of its most talented participants enter the penal system (sometimes for grievous trespasses) and coming out a lamer, duller version of past glory. I will be honest, that is exactly what I thought was in store for Mystikal. After having spent a total of six years in prison for a combination of tax charges and sexual assault, the N’awlins MC with an unforgettable voice and delivery was finally a (somewhat) free man in 2010. He soon signed with Cash Money and started appearing on songs with Lil Wayne and Birdman.
His signature live wire energy seemed a bit more tame, but I’m sure that’s what six years of living like less than a human can do to a person. I assumed his glory was behind him, but I was wrong. Pleasantly wrong.
A few days ago, “Hit Me” hit the Internet. I can recall when I was in high school, reading a music journalist connecting Mystikal’s voice and usage of it to James Brown’s energetic performances. I used to wonder what it would be like if hardcore rapper Mystikal let himself veer more towards the direction and energy of The Hardest Working Man In Showbiz.
That’s pretty much what “Hit Me” is. Over production as live as Mystikal himself, the N.O. rhymer interpolates JB from the jump, using ad-libs from “I’m Real” to begin the track. The song is a display of his seemingly rejuvenated energy in the form of a tribute to one of the greatest souls in modern music. After weaving some famous James Brown lines throughout, he shouts the Godfather of Soul out by name towards the end. Even the original lyrics are peppered with lines that almost sound like they could have been written in the 60′s (when’s the last time you heard an MC reference Abbot and Costello?). The coup de grâce though, is definitely when he imagines the reaction of two non-hip white folks witnessing his impressive demonstration with the short but impactful: “You hear that Helen?”