In the hip-hop game, venturing out of your genre 'hood can be a dangerous business. If you're snappin' where you're supposed to be crunkin,' you're inviting a drive-by. Dem Franchise Boyz have taken a fusillade of bullets in print for their attempts to replace fast-paced crunk with more laid-back snap.
Though both forms are considered club or dance music, Memphis-spawned crunk, as epitomized by Lil Jon, is generally rougher, both in lyrical content and sound. Atlanta-based snap music, named for its finger snaps replacing the snare drum, has been criticized for its fluffy content, with Dem Franchise Boyz held up to ridicule for their biggest hit "In My White Tee."
To compensate, Dem Boyz have snapped into serious mode for their latest, On Top Of Our Game. To hear them tell it, they're now big pimpin' dealers who walk around strapped even when snappin'. "Gangstas don't dance/ they lean wit it rock wit it," they declare on "Lean Wit' It, Rock Wit' It." Even when acting as snap dance instructors -- "U can roll ur arms n jist put them in rotation / Go side to side n snap yo' fingers like the Temptations" -- the Boyz caution that this move is only for dangerous dudes: "this dance for the killas, the dealas, the cutthroats." Even a simple explanation of snap on "My Music" includes a boast that the Boyz are "sellin' mo' yayo [cocaine] than u could stuff in a bread box."
What's snappin' these days from Dem Franchise Boyz is soft-core gangsta rap you can shake your ass to -- or, move your ass away from when the bullets start flyin' from disgruntled crunk fans who aren't into laid-back finger snaps for club entertainment. Enjoy it while you can; just keep looking over your shoulder so you don't get run over by the next big thing coming up fast behind.
Dem Franchise Boyz play Verizon Wireless Amphitheater; bill includes: Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, Lil' Wayne & Juelz Santana; Sept. 10; 7pm; $25.50-$55.50. www.livenation.com.