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I get deep like fathoms in ocean water

A shoal of fish deep underwater

Image: zampa via Adobe Stock

  • Track: Bluffin’
  • Artist: Madlib (as Quasimoto)
  • Album: The Unseen
  • Year: 2000

We’ve got a short and sweet little number to look at today. Coming in at under three minutes, Madlib’s on simile fire here. The DJ, producer and only occasional MC manages to cram in a very respectable similes per minute score.

And he’s brought a friend. An imaginary, yellow friend. Lord Quas looks like 80s sitcom lead ALF fell in with the wrong crowd. For reasons best left to the imagination, he also carries a brick around.

Lord Quas has a rather interesting backstory. Madlib invented his squeaky-voiced chainsmoking alter ego because he needed a voice to put over beats. Copious amounts of magic mushrooms were apparently involved, and it shows. This track, from the excellent debut Quasimoto album (2000’s The Unseen) is a weird stroll around a tripped-out mind. It’s typical hip-hop fare: calling out fake MCs, done in a most atypical way.

This track sits on the halfway mark of an album full of jazz loops, bewildering psychedelic samples and down-tempo beats. Label Stones Throw call the album ‘something like a smoked-out comedy/crime Blaxploitation flick’. If anything that’s an understatement. You need to hear The Unseen to believe it. It’s as bonkers – and brilliant – as it sounds.

This is the first track we’ve looked at that features a rapper taking on two guises. This made me wonder if I should add them in the database as two separate rappers. But I soon realised that was a stupid idea, so they’re all logged under ‘Madlib’.

Given that Madlib considers himself ‘DJ first, producer second, and MC last’, he’s got a pretty clever way with words. He doesn’t flex his lyrical dexterity too hard on this track, but he does offer up a fistful of fresh similes. I’ve been feeling quite lazy recently, so I’m quietly pleased it comes in at just over 300 words and all the similes make sense. I’ve suffered too much for my art of late.

The third verse in particular should excite budding similes spotters. It’s as stuffed full as a spoilt child’s Christmas stocking. I’m still owed six Christmas stockings, my parents stopped doing them for me and my elder sisters in the same year. What kind of monsters do that to their youngest child? No wonder I ended up cataloguing obscure rap similes as a hobby.

Anyway have a nibble of your favourite psilocybin-laced fungus and let’s take a peek.

The lyrics

View full annotated lyrics on genius.com

[Verse 1 – Quas]

Quasimoto we keep it on that next shit
Lord Quas Mr. Budha-skeeta, Madlib control the head dip
We doin’ volume two taking over is a new breed
Takin’ out the wack niggas, speaking on hatred and greed
It’s universal (what’s yo name) Lord Quas yo my verse will
Have em leavin’ with a stash for some prize money yo a purse full

Starting us off is Lord Quas, laying it’s going to work. Calling out fakery in rivals is a very common hip-hop theme, probably second only to bragging about how how ‘real’ one is. It’s an interesting dichotomy, worthy of analysis that I’m not equipped to do. I’ll stick to similes.

[Verse 2 – Madlib and (Quas)]

Yo you gotta have comprehension for this wack MC convention
Another Madlib invention to get your attention
We comin’ from the dungeon lyrical surgeons
Beat heard, splurgin’ (We’ll open you up like a virgin)

A pity that our first simile is a little unsavoury. We’ve got Lord Quas to blame for that. I like the way Madlib gets into a dialogue with his imaginary friend. A bit like if Plato wanted to teach us about wack MCs.

Madlib’s not standing for that kind of language though…

Keep it clean like a public washing machine
Visine for your ears (loud raw be The Unseen)
Ay yo suckas (try to bring it but strictly be bluffin’)
(Quasimoto drop jewels on phoney niggas actin’ rough) ehh

See what I mean about nice, easy to interpret similes? Lovely. But the line after is more of a puzzler: Visine is a brand of eye drops.

[Hook]

Ay yo suckas try to bring it but strictly be bluffin’
Quasimoto drop jewels on phoney niggas actin’ rough ehh

This is the moment you’ll have been waiting for. This short verse has over half of the track’s similes. Savour this like a trainspotter watching the No. 925 Cheltenham chug into view.

[Verse 3 – Quas]

(Whatchu’ do?) I get deep like fathoms in ocean water
To drown your wack artificial sonata
And all the wack shit, I use y’all niggas like remotes
And remove you like coats of old paint, you irritatin’ like a sore throat
I ain’t like Yvette Michele
Tell ya’ll niggas to freeze ‘fore they bite my lyrical shells

A verse for the ages. Five similes here then, each a glistening pearl. But pretty straightforward pearls, so I won’t dwell on them. Savour the simileness though. If I could be bothered to go back and check, I may well discover this is the most simile-laden verse we’ve seen so far.

Yvette Michele is an RnB singer. That’s all I’ve got I’m afraid, her relevance to getting shot by words escapes me. Please don’t let my incompetence as a hip-hop simile analysis spoil this.

[Verse 4 – Madlib]

Word to Mr. Buddha, ya’ll niggas soundin’ like intruders
‘Yo I remember them niggas from way back
Y’all niggas ain’t gonna shoot us’
I love callin’ out you fake so sos on every coast
Some niggas always actin’ like hoes

The simple simile use continues here. These two did make me think for a second if I should be including ‘sounds like’ or ‘acts like’ as similes. But it’s far too late to do that now, and besides, I think they fit my definition.

That’s it for similes in the track. Like I said at the start: short and sweet, but not before Quas returns for one last dig at crap MCs. Let’s hope Madlib never makes a song about lacklustre simile analysts.

[Verse 5: Quas]

Talkin’ ’bout they wanna freestyle but can’t even rock a show
Or write a cool song, probably just an average joe blow
On deez nuts, ‘cuz I’m coming for ya
Out the lost gates of sunny southern Californiaaa

[Hook]

Ay yo suckas try to bring it but strictly be bluffin’
Quasimoto drop jewels on phoney niggas actin’ rough ehh

I wasn’t bluffin’ when I said this track was short. At only nine, this is the fewest number of similes we’ve seen in a single track. Madlib collaborator DOOM squeezed five more similes into a song exactly the same length. But it punches above its weight, with a competitive 3.23 similes per minute. We’re not going to hit the big 400 this time around, but maybe next time. Hope that’s enough to bring you back.

You might be interested to know (and since you’ve bothered reading this far I’m going to assume you are) this is the 25th hip-hop track to go in the database. Only a few million more and I’ll be there. I really should get out more, but 2020 decided that it should be quite the opposite. See you in 2021.

The stats

Similes:9
Words:308
Words per simile:34.22
Length:2m 47s
Similes per minute:3.23
Unlikely mentions of the No. 925 Cheltenham:1

Leave a comment. Bonus points for similes.