Song 75: Fatlip, “What’s Up Fatlip?” (2000)Posted: March 16, 2013
Is there a hip-hop song that less resembles a hip-hop song than “What’s Up Fatlip?” Rap music is almost all bravado and machismo, but this song is anything but. It’s a complete lack of self-confidence, a bunch of anxiety crammed into a pop song before Kanye made that popular.
It really is something else. By the time the “What’s Up Fatlip” single came out, Fatlip’s group the Pharcyde had broken up (and before that, Fatlip was kicked out). Given those circumstances, it’s possible that Fatlip really was in a pretty dark place in 2000. Even if he wasn’t, the world that he created in this song is so vivid that you feel like you know the man. When the sitcom laugh track pops up, it’s funny at first, and then it’s sad. The world is laughing at Fatlip, and Fatlip understands all too well why it’s happening.
This is one of the rare songs that has an equally great video. The clip is typical Spike Jonze: high concept without being overbearing. Fatlip is in a series of ordinary settings (car dealership, city streets, pizza joints) in increasingly strange attire (clown outfit, trench coat without pants). There’s something not-quite-right in every scene, and something very-not-right in a few of them, such as the moment when a bunch of teens jump off bikes to accost him. Again: funny and sad. Kudos to Fatlip and Jones for knowing how well they’re related.