Ostensibly this release is just a “maxi-single” from recently solo female rapper Shunda K, formerly one half of the rap group Yo! Majesty. There’s more to this story than appearances lead you to believe though. First there’s the fact the Yo! Majesty was almost as famous for being lesbians as for being a female rap sensation in the United Kingdom. That’s right – they got bigger overseas than in their native Tampa, Florida turf, working with UK electronic and dub producers who played up the group’s style and sound for the club. Oh wait – you thought them being lesbians was the biggest part of the story? Honestly to me it’s the fact they blew up overseas before they even got known at home, but the public has certainly taken to the fact they are more into women and press coverage of it has followed. It shouldn’t be that fascinating in 2010 that some women like women and some men like men, but I guess the ratings for shows like “The L Word” come from people who can’t help their curiosity as much as from those who actually relate to the content.

Speaking of relating to the content, there’s a naturally braggadocious vibe to Shunda K’s declaration of “I’m Da Best” that anybody in hip-hop would relate to regardless of gender or sexual orientation. Shunda’s delivery is like a thugged out version of Trina meets Khia, which brings up another curious element of what the Shunda K presser calles “the Yo! Majesty phenomenon” – their unabashed love of God. Hardcore Christian lesbian rappers with UK producers? You’d have to wonder if this is all gimmick overload at some point, but Shunda K seems entirely sincere about every single part of her rap so despite a natural tendency to be skeptical I’ll take her words at face value:

“Now if God is love and he paved the road
Do you really gotta hop on the dick to pay your rent?
Riskin yo health, or just what’chu wanna do
Cause, today, no mo’ excuse, I come to clean it up
Put it out there, and I don’t have to sit here
and talk you to death ’bout how I’m da best
You know that already
And as soon as you open yo’ eyes and stop denyin you’ll grow
And that go for the straight to the lesbian, Shunda K!”

“I’m Da Best” features her Yo! Majesty groupmate Shon B, their first reunion since she decided to branch out on her own and do a solo album. Shon B neither adds nor detracts from the song lyrically – she’s just there. None of the things mentioned so far is the most interesting thing about this release though – Shunda and her business partners decided “I’m Da Best” was so good it was worth doing TWELVE MORE TIMES. Now as singles go I’m somewhat indifferent to “I’m Da Best” after listening to it – I neither loved nor hated it but I could feel where Shunda K was coming from to a degree. It even occurred to me listening to her rap how her flow could translate well into UK house/trance/dub/techno style music. To me though a “maxi-single” is a couple of remixes, a clean version and an instrumental. This is a whole HOUR of different versions of “I’m Da Best.” My friends, this is not a maxi-single and it’s not even an EP – it’s a WHOLE ALBUM of ONE SONG. It’s as many versions of “I’m Da Best” as anyone could ever possibly want in their entire lifetime.

Here’s the kicker to this whole thing – none of the twelve versions of “I’m Da Best” that follow the “Album Version” on track one are BETTER than the original. Some are interesting to a degree. The “Koax The Droid” version sounds like background music for a frantic chase scene in an episode of Doctor Who. I dig the echoing drums of the “Benson Remix” version a bit. Then the whole thing just starts to bog down – “ConeyGurl” tries to synth it up and add a little bit of Three 6 Mafia “Halloween” in the background and it doesn’t work. I don’t know who “The Surecut Kids” are but they apparently think music stopped at Atari 2600 and never went any further. I don’t know what part of the “Durty South” that Pumpsta came from but this wouldn’t bang out of any trunk North or South. It has no bass bottom, no thump, no swang, and even if it did it would be in direct opposition to the speedy acapella mixed with it.

In the end the best take on “I’m Da Best” is the heavy hip-hop sound of the French “Les Gourmets Remix,” and it’s helped infinitely by the fact they add their own French swagger to it verbally. It’s like listening to a classic IAM track. Overall though I can’t recommend 13 versions of “I’m Da Best.” A whole album of one song is too much. If you pick up the album version or “Les Gourmets Remix” that’s fine, but if you spent the time I did listening to all these different (and almost all worse) takes on one song you’d question your sanity at some point. I question her label’s for thinking the world needed this many versions. Perhaps in the UK they do where Shunda K’s popularity continues to eclipse her name and fame stateside.