Petey Pablo – “Raise Up”

Released: 5.22.01

Peak: #25

When it comes to hometown pride, hip-hop’s always talked a good game, even if plenty of MCs’ local chauvinism seemed an excuse to slug it out over turf with some equally provincial rivals. Petey Pablo doesn’t drop a lot of local color into his rhymes, aside from a prodigious list of “all my little bitty overlooked hick towns” and shared memories of him and his buddies rapping along to radio hits. But Petey does grunt with palpable love for North Carolina, his Mystikalian grunt representing an everyman good nature rather than throbbing demonic phallus.

“Raise Up” is as crunk as Timbaland gets, which, since he loops another pilfered orchestral Arabesque into the groove, ain’t all that (though you barely notice the exoticism in context of Petey’s whoops). Tim’s endorsement of a major label Dirty Southerner may have been the trackmaster’s way of reminding us that he and Missy were representing VA long before the gold rush for rhyming rednecks was on. Regardless, I definitely prefer Tim’s taste in good ol’ boys to Lil Jon’s (or Nashville’s) (or the U.S. electorate’s).

“Raise Up” spawned two incredible remixes: The “All City” remix, an extended series of city/state shout-outs, and the “USA Flag Remix,” which was the warmest, most joyous of all 9/11 responses. Its hearty command for listeners to spin the U.S. flag like a helicopter came at a moment when I needed reminders that patriotism and xenophobia weren’t necessarily a package deal. Petey’s follow-ups, “I” and “I Told Y’all,” serve largely as reminders of what non-hit grooves Tim can crank out when product comes due. But their good-natured ego, heard in connection with “Raise Up,” reminds me that behind all today’s posturing remains the old hip-hop dream of hearing your existence acknowledged in the mass media.

Later that year, Timbaland would devise a similar, even trickier downhome worldbeat jam, “Ugly,” for Bubba Sparxxx. A great one, sure, but I prefer the straightahead bleat of what amounts to a macho dance craze–hollering at dudes, not women, to show their titties. So do as the man says: Take your shirt off, twist it ’round yo’ head, spin it like a helicopter.

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