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FARAI CHIDEYA, host:

Now from wordsmiths in New Orleans, we turn to New York's hottest hip-hop beats. And speaking of hot, the radio hit "This is Why I'm Hot" by Manhattan rapper MIMS is our staff's song pick of the week.

(Soundbite of song "This is Why I'm Hot")

MIMS (Rapper): (Rapping) This is why I'm hot, hot. This is why I'm hot, hot. This is why, this is why, this is why I'm hot, hot.

CHIDEYA: "This is Why I'm Hot" tops Billboard's Hot 100 chart in March. It's been bumping in clubs and on iPods and car stereos for more than a month now. Our executive producer Nicole Childers says she can't leave her driveway without playing it. Why can't she get enough of this song? She says the beats and the catchy lyrics are filled with playful bravado that has her hooked.

(Soundbite of song "This is Why I'm Hot")

MIMS: (Rapping) I can sell a mill saying nothing on the track. I represent New York. I got it on ma back. (unintelligible) say that we lost it, so I'm going to bring it back.

CHIDEYA: We'll play more in a few minutes. But, first, commentator Rob Harvilla breaks MIMS' hit down line by line.

Mr. ROB HARVILLA (Music Editor, Village Voice): "This is Why I'm Hot" is hot simply because it's hot. And the most amazing line of any song in recent memory, MIMS puts it like this.

(Soundbite of song "This is Why I'm Hot")

MIMS: (Rapping) I'm hot 'cause I'm fly. You ain't cause you not. This is why, this is why, this is why I'm hot, hot.

Mr. HARVILLA: This is brutal and unassailable in its simplicity. He's hot because he's fly. At first, it seems possible to not be fly, but still be hot by other means. But you ain't because you're not makes it clear - fly and hot are interchangeable. If you're one, you're both. If you aren't at least one, you're neither. The other remarkable line in "This Is Why I'm Hot" concerns how many records MIMS is capable of selling.

(Soundbite of song "This is Why I'm Hot")

MIMS: (Rapping) This is why I'm hot. How I gotta rap? I can sell a mill saying nothing on the track.

Mr. HARVILLA: Critics jive that "This is Why I'm Hot" proves precisely that, that MIMS can rap lyrics so thin and yet moves so many units. Others muse on what MIMS would sell if he actually did say something on a track. Would he sell less than a mill? Exactly a mill, as when he said nothing? Or a great deal more than a mill? His lyrics did not elaborate.

As for the music, the most entertaining part of "This is Why I'm Hot" is the first verse. MIMS underscores his hotness by touting a scale of adapting to regional styles as the slow minimal beat morphs beneath him. Sampling previous rap hits like "Nothing But A G-Thang" and "Jesus Walks."

(Soundbite of song "This is Why I'm Hot")

MIMS: (Rapping) I love the dirty, dirty cause (unintelligible) show me love. The ladies start to bounce as soon as I hit the club.

Mr. HARVILLA: So in the dirty South, he makes the ladies bounce. He slows it down in the Midwest for their preference. And then Chicago, in addition to adeptly moving the crowds from side to side, everyone loves his fashion sense. By the way, if you enjoy nothing else about "This is Why I'm Hot," at least, acknowledge that the rakish immensely appealing way MIMS says the word attire.

(Soundbite of song "This is Why I'm Hot")

MIMS: (Rapping) And When I hit the Chi, people say that I'm fly. They love the way I dress. They like my attire.

Mr. HARVILLA: The fact of MIMS's globe trotting, my main quarrel lies with the line, if you needed hifey(ph) I take it to the bay.

MIMS: (Rapping) And if you needed hifey, I take it to the Bay. Frisco to Sac-town. They do it any day.

Mr. HARVILLA: An homage to the Oakland, San Francisco Bay areas relentlessly knuckleheaded and sort of wonderful hifey movement with its intense beats and lyrical requests that you go dumb and ghost ride the whip. Here's a small sample by Bay area rap star E-40, If you're driving and inclined to go dumb yourself, please pull over.

(Soundbite of song, "Tell Me When To Go")

E-40 (Rapper): (Rapping) Ooh. Jesus Christ had dreads, so shake 'em. I ain't got none, but I'm planning on growing some. Imagine all the Hebrews going dumb, dancing on top of chariots and turning tight ones.

Mr. HARVILLA: Anyway, MIMS doesn't really adapt to this style. He just takes it to the Bay. This is wholly insufficient for hotness, several entities that do take you to the Bay - like Bay bridge traffic, track bikes, the Golden State Warriors, the slang word hella - none of those qualifies hot. "This is Why I'm Hot," of course, does qualify. But it so distinctive and goofy that MIMS may ultimately end up like rappers Tone-Loc or Skee-Lo or Sir Mix-A-Lot, unable to escape the shadow of his biggest hit.

Still, he's given us an invaluable gift. He's reclaimed and reenergized the word hot after years of abuse. Even reputable musicians have overused the I'm-hot-like-blank construction. The Wu-Tang Clan was hot like sauce. Brandy was hot like a toddy. Tupac was hot like fish grease. And several rappers on MySpace I'd never heard of are evidently hot like soup. But with "This is Why I'm Hot," MIMS solves all of this by being hot like MIMS, and it doesn't get any hotter than that.

(Soundbite of song "This is Why I'm Hot")

MIMS: (Rapping) This is why, this is why, this is why I'm hot, hot.

CHIDEYA: Rob Harvilla is music editor for the Village Voice in New York. You can find a link to his commentary, complete with a detailed, graphical analysis of "This is Why I'm Hot" on the NEWS & NOTES page on npr.org. And now, here's more of our staff pick of the week: MIMS's "This is Why I'm Hot."

(Soundbite of song "This is Why I'm Hot")

MIMS: (Rapping) This is why I'm hot. Catch me on the block. Every other day another (unintelligible) another drop. Sixteen bars, 24 pop, 44 songs, gimme what you got. I'm in there driving cars. Push 'em off the lot. I'm out shutting stores down so I could shop. If you need a bird, I could get it chopped. Tell me what you need, you know, I get 'em by the flock. I call ma homie black, meet on the ave(ph).

If I hit Wash Heights with the money in the bag. We into big spinners, see my pimping never dragged. Find me with different women that you (censored) never had. For those who say they know me know I'm focused on my cream. Player, you come between you'd better focus on the beam. I keep it so mean the way you see me lean. And when say I'm hot my (censored), this is what I mean.

This is why I'm hot, hot. This is why I'm hot, hot. This is why, this is why, this is why I'm hot, hot. This is why I'm hot, hot. This is why I'm hot, hot. This is why, this is why, this is why I'm hot, hot. I'm hot cause I'm fly. You ain't cause you're not. This is why, this is why, this is why I'm hot, hot. I'm hot cause I'm fly. You ain't cause you're not. This is why, this is why, this is why I'm hot, hot.

This is why I'm hot. Shorty, see the drop. Ask me what I paid and I say, yeah, I paid a quap. And then I hit the switch that take away the top. So chicks around the way, they call me cream of the crop. They hop in the car. I tell 'em, all aboard. We hit the studio, they say they like how I record. I gave you black train, and I did you wrong.

CHIDEYA: That was "This is Why I'm Hot" by New York rapper MIMS. Next week, NPR's Tony Cox samples a classic tune from a smooth jazz icon. That's our show for today, and thanks for sharing your time with us.

As always, if you'd like to comment on any of the topics you've heard on the show, you can call us at 202-408-3330 - that's 202-408-3330. Or send us an e-mail - just log on to npr.org and click on Contact Us. Be sure to tell us where you're writing from and how to pronounce your name.

NEWS & NOTES was created by NPR News and the African-American Public Radio Consortium. And tomorrow, college kids are using credit to live it, up but how will they live that down?

(Soundbite of music)

CHIDEYA: I'm Farai Chideya. This is NEWS & NOTES.

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