One Christmas, I received Def Jam’s 10th anniversary box set. Most of the songs were at least vaguely familiar, and many were indisputable classics, a testament to the label’s impeccable hit-making prowess at the time.
It was the sprinkling of obscure songs, though, that grabbed my attention. From the instantly forgettable (Mokenstef, anyone?) to the misplaced (The Boss’ cringe-inducing “Deeper,” a misguided attempt at filling a non-existent clamor for hardcore female rappers), how had these oddball, ill-fitting songs made it onto an otherwise gilded compilation?
One song stood out from the rest. Oran “Juice” Jones cultivated the veneer of a hustler, a street-wise cat who happened to possess a soft falsetto. “The Rain” is a mostly straightforward narrative. Juice suspects his girlfriend of cheating, follows her around, and catches her in the act. But what elevates the “The Rain” into a pop gem is the song’s final two minutes. This is where Jones, confronting his unfaithful lover, launches into one of the most memorably absurd monologues in recent memory.
The song was a hit, by far the biggest of Jones’ career, and even more unlikely, coming from a label at the the center of hip-hop’s nascent rise into the American cultural consciousness.