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50 Cent, R. Kelly, Claro Intelecto and more reviewed as the FACT Singles Club travels back to 2003

This week we decided to do something a little different with the FACT Singles Club.

Last week marked the 10th edition of our weekly new music round-up, so we thought it was the right time to go back 10 years to 2003 and see how a brace of singles from that year have held up. And if we’re honest, it’s hardly been the most exciting week 2013’s seen for new music anyway (‘Body Party’ remix – no one needed you).

We tried to keep it a diverse selection – so Kells and 50 are repped, but so are Claro Intelecto and Jaylib  – without relying on too many of the year’s obvious hits (no ‘Crazy in Love’ or ‘Hey Ya’, both of which you’re probably sick of reading about). Read on, and see what’s held up the best.

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50 Cent feat. Nate Dogg – ’21 Questions’


Laurent Fintoni: An important song for having given us the line ‘I love you like a fat kid love cake’. Also the morality of the video story. (7)

Chal Ravens: I was poised and ready to slam this and have a rant about 2003 being the dead-eyed nadir of commercial hip hop, but fuck me if this isn’t pretty listenable after all. Shallow and cynical, yes, with Fiddy trading off ghetto “realism” to sell a radio-friendly slow jam, but it’s not Ja Rule and Ashanti or anything, and it samples Barry White! The things you learn, eh. (5)

Steve Shaw: I seem to have an unusual, lingering respect for Fiddy on some level – partly because his beefs bring out his best material, partly because he is capable of giving interesting insights in a discussion, but mainly because of this amazing, ridiculous situation. He seems cleverer than he knows he needs to be for his role, and ’21 Questions’ is just one example; a useful money-spinner, it’s so disposable, and probably took 10 minutes total to record. Nate Dogg looks on throughout, bored out of his mind. And yet, in some way, it’s still alright, isn’t it? Because it’s got that weirdly timeless 2003 force field around it…bizarre… (5)

Tom Lea: I never bought into Get Rich or Die Trying as the great debut album that some people think it is, but I’m always a sucker for gangsters doing love songs, and when you chuck Nate Dogg on the hook I’m more than sold. (8)

Arron Merat: Get Rich or Die Trying was obviously overrated and 50 Cent was the first really sub-par artist Dre produced. That said, this track is a cracker and really shows how cuddly 50 Cent gets with his girl: “If I was with some other chick and someone happened to see? And when you asked me about it I said it wasn’t me (Would you still love me?)” Answer: for this track, and this track only: Yes. (8)

John Twells: Hearing ’21 Questions’ in 2013 is a fantastic reminder of entropy. Fiddy in his heyday was an unstoppable force, but predictably it wasn’t long before his star fizzled into a faded lump of rock. Now an aging rich dude with a latter-day catalogue of dull misfires and an embarrassing Twitter feed, his importance is measured more in business deals than in bars and while I’m sure that’s what he wants, it does make his early drops even more peculiar somehow. ’21 Questions’ harks back to a time when Fiddy was crucial and hungry for success, and back then showed the world that he was far more than a novelty one-hit-wonder after the ubiquitous ‘In Da Club’. I still have more of a soft spot for the latter, but ’21 Questions’ is the heads’ choice for sure, giving Fiddy the hint of gravitas that he needed to get the ball rolling in earnest. (7)


R. Kelly – ‘Ignition’ (Remix)


Arron Merat: In R Kelly’s autobiography he told us of how his 9-year old self dreamt that he was in a white room, sat at a white piano, when he heard a kick at the door. Someone giggled and ran off. R Kelly opened the door and gave chase to find a group of musical notes who told him that they were part of a masterpiece that he was yet to write. R Kelly retrospectively assigned this prophecy to ‘I Believe I Can Fly’ but I think he was mistaken: those musical notes were talking about ‘Ignition (Remix)’ (10)

Tom Lea: Fun game: play ‘Ignition’ at any club in the world worth its salt, and try dropping the volume – not just at the obvious singalong moments (which, let’s face it, make up 90% of the song), but at any random point. “In the back of my truck”, maybe. If there’s not at least one person audibly belting out the lyrics at the top of their lungs, then leave, because that place is all wrong. One of the very few r’n’b songs from this era that couldn’t be made better by a garage remix. (10)

Steve Shaw: Totally un-fuck-with-able. (10)

Chal Ravens: In the name of research, I finally got round to looking up the unremixed version of ‘Ignition’, which is about a man and a lady having a nice time in a car. There’s not a lot to write home about, but you do get twice as much of that filthy drip noise and the priceless line “have you ever driven a stick, babe?” This is of course a perfect party record, perhaps the perfect party record, and its bountiful genius has unfurled like a lotus flower over time. (9)

John Twells: It’s hard for me to think back to a time before ‘Ignition (Remix)’, it’s just become so ingrained in our culture (especially in the US) at this point. What was initially a sizzling slice of icy-cool R&B has become a frat-house anthem, and what’s more interesting is that ‘Ignition (Remix)’ can actually stand up the abuse. It’s still great ten years later, and while it’s lost the freshness it had back then, the crisp beats and R. Kelly’s self-assured and slightly creepy vocals are just unfuckwithable. It’s a rare track with near-universal appeal that you don’t actually have to apologize for liking, and anyone that doesn’t have a soft spot for it is should probably be examined with an anal probe in a secret NASA laboratory. (10)

Laurent Fintoni: Proof that there is a fine line between genius and madness. (8)


Claro Intelecto – ‘Peace of Mind’


John Twells: ‘Peace of Mind’ was the first track most people heard from Manchester techno don Claro Intelecto, and it’s still my favourite of his. He’s made better tracks no doubt, but few of them have the same visceral thump as ‘Piece of Mind’. I remember hearing it prior to release in the sadly defunct Pelicanneck shop in Manchester and feeling as if I’d just been smacked around the face, prompting me to plead for a hooky CD which I would proceed play on repeat for the entire train ride back to Birmingham. My tatty vinyl copy still gets plonked into the DJ bag from time to time, and I still get chills when I drop it. (10)

Steve Shaw: I used to really be into this kind of electro back in the early 2000s, but quickly left it behind when I realised I wasn’t into the delicacy that kept cropping up. ‘Peace of Mind’ has that in the Rhodes and filter sweeps, which, despite the Detroit strings, spiky acid line and flawless beat, turns me off. (6)

Arron Merat: Very serious track and admirable in a way but probably could have done with a few concessions to listener, bar the high synths near the end. (6)

Tom Lea: Claro Intelectro. How ‘Hyph Mngo’ are those opening chords, looking back? (8)

Chal Ravens: It’s hard to describe just how far off my radar this track would’ve been in 2003, a year in which I even bought Metal Hammer magazine on occasion. It’s a funny thing about techno, innit – often so hard to date and so slow to date. This still sounds great, especially the unlikely combination of peaceful hibby vibes and boisterous jackin’. (7)


Jaimeson feat. Angel Blu – ‘True’


Arron Merat: Gosh, I almost want to cry when I hear pre-2003 garage, before it got snubbed out and everyone started embarrassing themselves. The slightly naff lyrics by Angel Blu make this track even more fun. (8)

Tom Lea: I know someone who bought Jaimeson’s flat off him, which could mean that he made a million quid off this tune and moved somewhere hot, or it could mean that he never made a penny and eventually had to sell up. Or, more likely, he did neither and just moved house – either way, his verses in this are about as unnecessary as Jay-Z’s one on ‘Umbrella’, but the beat’s so good that he’s earnt it. Somewhere in South London, Angel Blu is sitting in a dentist chatting to the girl from Big Brovaz about how things were simpler back then. (9)

John Twells: The West Midlands gets a lot of shit hurled its way, and most of it’s probably well deserved, but one thing I will say is that Midlanders still appreciate garage. ‘True’ takes me right back to Birmingham’s Broad Street, at a time when you could still smoke indoors and beer was only a pound a pint. I liked the track then, but hearing it now I can almost taste the acrid smoke, rum and the next morning’s stale vomit. Ahhh, memories. (7)

Chal Ravens: I don’t want to sound all rheumy-eyed and decrepit but pop music really WAS better in the olden days, wasn’t it? I think I danced to this at a foam party in Newquay. Her verses are absolute rubbish but the chorus is bouncy, glittery, champagne-soaked perfection. (7)

Steve Shaw: Always needed more of Jaimeson’s bars. (9)


Junior Senior – ‘Move Your Feet’


Steve Shaw: Still rock solid work party material, right? (6)

Tom Lea: 10 years on, I still don’t know what I think about this. Is it an all-time belter disguised as a one-hit wonder, like ‘Synth & Strings’ or ‘Kung Fu Fighting’, or is it just shit? I’m writing these blurbs in a cafe and I’ve checked that my headphones aren’t on too loud at least three times since it started, which doesn’t say much for me or Junior Senior. (6)

Arron Merat: In 2003 I used to work as a kitchen porter in a really cheap and dirty pizza restaurant. This song seared itself onto my brain when the Italian waiters turned it up load as we hauled pasta-filled bins, cleared tables and cleaned up the detritus that hen nights had left behind. But even if it weren’t for this association, this song would still make me feel sad, empty and alone. (0)

Chal Ravens: If you hate on this you are a cold-hearted lizard of misery who deserves to have their ears nailed to a foghorn forever. JOY. And look at the video! Just look! ENDLESS JOY. (8)

John Twells: This can fuck right off, happy clappy shite. It was bollocks then and it’s still bollocks now. It’s music for people who don’t listen to music. And weddings. Literally the only good thing I can say about it is that Shynola’s video is great, which doesn’t count as I’m not reviewing the video. Someone told me once that he sold his sampler to Junior Senior, and if he hadn’t we might have never been abused by this horrible work of aural torture. Needless to say the beers were on him that night. (0)

Laurent Fintoni: This made me want to kill myself ten years ago. And it still does. (1)


Dizzee Rascal feat. Wiley & Sharkey Major – ‘I Luv U’ (Remix)


Laurent Fintoni: I miss Sino-grime. (8)

Tom Lea: Always neglected because the original’s such a classic, but this is the perfect yin to ‘I Luv U”s yang. Back and forth choruses never seem to happen that much in grime, but when they do they’re usually good – see, I dunno, Slix and Tinchy’s ‘Stuntin’, or that Wiley and Caramel Brownie tune – and the one here is great. Wiley starts his bit with “could you teach me to share?”, which says it all I guess. (8)

Arron Merat: Holds its own against the original and anyway, it’s Wiley and Dizzee on the same track, which didn’t last long. (8)

John Twells: I remember someone playing me ‘I Luv U’ back in the day just because they hated it so much. It wasn’t real rap music y’see, which mithered this feller to the point that he had to share his findings with me. Thankfully I didn’t share his opinion, and the bizarre sino-electro beat pressed up against Dizzee’s confounding vocals was an oddity that birthed one of the best albums of the decade. Sadly this remix reminds me of a time when Dizzee would collaborate with people I actually give a fuck about, these days he seems more intent on playing dress-up with Robbie Williams. (9)

Chal Ravens: Oddly enough, I’ve come across the half-forgotten term “sinogrime” three times in the past couple of days, and here’s a perfect example of that strange fusion of orientalist plinky-plonking and East London’s finest. I listened to the original over and over in 2003 and would’ve loved this one just as much if I’d known it. A fine reminder that the shock of the new was possible as little as 10 years ago… (8)

Steve Shaw: This has everything I like – clunky rhythm, variety in the MCs’ deliveries, weird, squirmy, one-finger melodies and harmonies, Wiley in his heyday – and even more so for being a total antithesis to the original. And yet, I just can’t get into it as a remix. I wish it had been its own song. (9)


Jaylib – ‘The Red’


Tom Lea: Like any rational human I’ve got years of time for Dilla and Madlib, but I was about 16 when Champion Sound came out and God knows all it reminds me of is those fucking hip-hop guys that I guess everyone knew at that age. The ones who spent all their time in West End DJs commenting on how smooth the crossfaders were on the mixers but never buying shit, dismissing anything further than three degrees of separation away from Pete Rock out of hand, and spending every Thursday night outside the Jazz Cafe talking about how their mate from West had sick pollen. It’s because of these people that I’ve seen Yungun live about six times. ‘The Red’ was their national anthem (7)

Chal Ravens: Once again a track that neither I, nor any of my mates, or probably even their older siblings would’ve been familiar with in a small village in the West Country in 2003. Weird to think Dilla and Madlib were pretty unknown at the time, and proof of what an obsessive crate-digger Dilla was – the sampled voice is that of Cris Williamson, an obscure feminist singer-songwriter from the ’70s. Still, it’s hardly my favourite Dilla beat. (5)

Arron Merat: Big sloshy beat under some incredible verses with really funny lyrical inflections. I always love just how esoteric Jaylib’s sample sources are and The Red’s female vocal sample off 1971’s ‘Shine on Straight Arrow’ by LGBT-rights champion Cris Williamson is particularly out there. Also enjoy the break-down at the end into what sounds like 8-bit Sega MegaDrive intro music. ‘Streets of Rage’? (10)

Laurent Fintoni: If you own the original 12″ for this with the Cris Williamson sample, you might want to keep it. It’s just not the same song without that beat. Two of the greatest who ever did it together. (9)

John Twells: I’m gonna come clean, I wasn’t into Jaylib in 2003. A huge devotee of both artists, I think the sheer hype, twinned with all the leaks and bootlegs just had me at the point of a shrug when the record actually emerged. Both artists are better producers than they are rappers, but on re-appraisal I definitely like ‘The Red’ far more than I did back then. It’s a great track with some choice on-form bars from Madlib, but compared to some of both artists releases at the time, I’m prepared to stand firm that it’s not the best from either of ‘em. (6)

Steve Shaw: There really isn’t any denying how vital this is. However, I think I’ve heard the beat about ten times too many now, as the bed to some radio programme or MTV cribs or something. The bassline has been aped by so many people now I’m having a bit of a hard time enjoying it. So, you know. (9)


Diplomats – ‘Built this City’


Steve Shaw: I don’t think my life would have been any worse for not having heard this. (1)

John Twells: This is far from my favourite cut on Diplomatic Immunity, but it does catch the Harlem crew at a time when they were pretty much unmatched. Each member of Dipset had sounded totally committed and had such an effortlessness to their flow at this point that even on their lesser tracks they still sounded better than most. ’03 was a strange point in US rap, and the underground had chewed itself and spat itself out with endless ‘I’m the realest’ bullshit. Dipset were a breath of fresh air, and Dipomatic Immunity still sounds just as crucial ten years later. (7)

Arron Merat: I feel deeply ambivalent about this track. I don’t know if the sample from ‘We Built This City’ is meant to be ironic but it doesn’t matter as it jars so much that it smothers out anything that may be good about this song. (3)

Chal Ravens: Again, this may as well have been recorded in a parallel dimension, so blissfully unaware was I of such music in 2003. It is absolutely fucking awful though, so I’m sure I’ve not missed out on any huge cultural event here. I know it’s trendy to be into Dipset now but nothing alters the fact the beat is based around Starship. STARSHIP, people. (2)


Ulrich Schnauss – ‘A Strangely Isolated Place’


John Twells: I’ll always remember hauling Ulrich over to Birmingham for a show at the Medicine Bar. We got on well so he stuck around to hang out for a while, and we ended up heading to a party at UB40s house. Ulrich had his keyboard with him and ended up doing an impromptu set in the front room at some ungodly time in the morning to a room full of pilled-up Brummies. In other words it was totally brilliant. Listening to ‘A Strangely Isolated Place’ I can see why our Brum crew had so much love for Ulrich’s sounds – it was like indie music that Atomic Jam heads were allowed to be into. Ulrich used shoegaze tropes, but without guitars he could sneak them in with the stealth and efficiency of a German ninja. (8)

Arron Merat: I wasn’t listening to Ulrich Schnauss in 2003 but, on hearing this, I wish I had been doing more of Schnauss and less of Sigur Ros’ () and Album Leaf’s In a Safe Place. They are great albums but basically poor men’s versions of this. It’s thoughtful melodic electronica and always shies away from sounding like advert music for mobile phone manufacturers, territory that Sigur Ros enter increasingly frequently. (8)

Chal Ravens: Although I spent most of 2003 listening to things like Fever To Tell and Boy In Da Corner and De-Loused In The Comatorium, had some wise soul forced an Ulrich Schnauss record into my ears and declared, “This is the best of all possible musics”, I would have been eternally grateful. In the end I didn’t discover Schnauss until 2008, which is deeply regrettable because, guess what? It’s pretty much the best of all possible musics. Abstract, beautiful, almost painfully emotional, but not in that manipulative Sigur Ros way. (9)

Steve Shaw: “At Ulrich Schnauss, we believe in a world where everyone is connected. Where you get more for your investment. Where you can sleep soundly, knowing that your business’ future is safe in our hands.

At Ulrich Schnauss, our advice influences markets…for the better. Our insight changes the world…on a visible scale. Our experience teaches others…confidence.

With more offices internationally than any other, Ulrich Schnauss is the true market leader. And you can always rely on us to be there when you need it.

Vision…courage…a global presence: Ulrich Schnauss.” (4)


Final scores:

R. Kelly – ‘Ignition’ (Remix) (9.5)
Dizzee Rascal feat. Wiley & Sharkey Major – ‘I Luv U’ (Remix) (8.3)
Jaimeson feat. Angel Blu – ‘True’ (8)
Jaylib – ‘The Red’ (7.7)
Claro Intelecto – ‘Peace of Mind’ (7.4)
Ulrich Schnauss – ‘A Strangely Isolated Place’ (7.3)
50 Cent feat. Nate Dogg – ’21 Questions’ (6.7)
Diplomats – ‘Built this City’ (3)
Junior Senior – ‘Move Your Feet’ (3)

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