The best song you don't remember

Apr 10, 2005 (Updated Apr 17, 2005)
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Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Classic West Coast single; catchy and hardcore at the same time


The Bottom Line: An often-forgotten rap classic that you shouldn't overlook

Chances are, you know the song "Pistol Grip Pump". In 2000, Rage Against The Machine covered this song on their popular "Renegades" album, and it's become a favorite of their fans today; I remember people in my high school would chant "pistol grip PUMP on my lap at all times!" after hearing it. The real question is, Do you know who originally wrote the song? Most people I know who love Rage's version don't seem to remember that the song was originally written by a West Coast rapper named Volume 10.

Indeed, Volume 10 was very much a one-hit wonder. For those who don't remember him, he was originally part of the L.A. group Heavyweights Crew, but went solo in 1994 with his album "Hip-Hopera". It was this album that produced his (only) hit single, "Pistol Grip Pump", which is quite possibly the hardest rap song ever to cross over to the radio (even during the heyday of West Coast gangsta rap). After that song's success, however, he pretty much dissappeared for many years, although he finally released his second album "Psycho" in 2000. He seems to be all but forgotten today, despite Rage's tribute to him.

The song is essentially an anthem for the militant, defensive spirit of the West Coast gangsta, examining the mentality that draws inner-city residents to arm themselves. For those who aren't familiar with guns, a pistol-gripped, pump-action 12-gauge shotgun (such as the Franchi SPAS-12) is arguably the best close-range weapon you can buy for self-defense. As Volume 10 explains in the first few lines of the song, "I was raised in the hood called, 'what the dif?'/What the...the brothers in the hood be chivalrous/So I rest defense on my ligaments." He also explains that, "In the 90s', you gotta look over your shoulder, strap". This paranoia, of course, leads him to keep his "pistol grip pump on my lap at all times" for protection, the line forming the basis for the song's extremely catchy hook. After all, "Fools be jackin' other fools, but they ain't be jackin mine!"

However, what's surprising about this song is that Volume 10 also takes subtle shots at the "gun culture" mentality that draws most people to buy guns for the false sense of power. He calls his shotgun his "steel dick", which is not something you'd expect a gangsta rapper to admit. Furthermore, the last verse of the song, which initially appears to be the usual rap braggadocio about getting laid by "your daughter", is actually sarcasm. After all, he also says that "she loves me, and not a single solitary witness to the party". In other words, he's mocking the romantic notion of power that men draw from firearms, proving that toting a big "gat" won't make women fall for you. As far as Volume 10 is concerned, having to rely on firearms for survival is grim, serious business, and no laughing matter.

Of course, a song like this doesn't cross over because of its message. It crosses over for being catchy and bouncy, and "Pistol Grip Pump" is quite possibly the last song you'd expect to meet these criteria. However, the aforementioned hook is surprisingly catchy, a line you'll find yourself repeating endlessly (as Rage later proved). The beat sounds like a cross between a Cypress Hill track and a typical G-Funk production, built upon a funky hand-clap rhythm like that of a George Clinton record, while the bassline consists of slow-echoing elastic strings of the sort that Ice Cube later used to open "We Be Clubbin". It's one of those beats that sounds deceptively simple when you first listen to it, but it quickly grows on you and gets stuck in your head with a few more listens. Furthermore, Volume 10 himself flows perfectly over the track. At first, he strikes you as having a vocal tone similar to that of Ice Cube or Mack-10, but he has a tendency to switch to a super-fast triple-cadence flow unexpectedly, which reminds me of Mystikal. It gives his raps a sense of energy that keeps the song from ever getting boring.

Personally, though, I have to admit that having listened to some of the "Hip-Hopera" album, I didn't really like it as much as "Pistol Grip Pump", so you might want to just avoid that and cop the single. Volume 10 may be a one-hit wonder, but if you've never heard the original version of "Pistol Grip Pump", you definitely owe it to yourself to check out this oft-forgotten gangsta rap treasure.

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