The importance of hardness—going hard, being hard, doing it hard, everything hard—has seen itself become an unexpected priority in pop music in recent years. So much so, in fact, that Black Eyed Peas frontman will.i.am was inspired to go all superlative with it in with his solo comeback single, boastingly entitled "T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)." (Though around the Popdust offices, we prefer to just call it "THE," as in "Dude, it's 5:00! Time to crank up the "THE"!")* But despite will's arrogant claim, he actually has many noteworthy challengers to the throne of Hardest Ever. Let's take a look at the candidates.
WILL.I.AM FEAT. JENNIFER LOPEZ & MICK JAGGER, "T.H.E. (THE HARDEST EVER)" (2011)
Number of Mentions of the Word "Hard" And Its Derivatives: 49
Specific Claims of Hardness: "Oh my goodness, this beat is so hard," "Hard like motherfuckin' liquid swords / Harder than worldwide stadium tours," "Hard like morning wood in the morning," "I go hard / Statues."
Analysis: Most of will.i.am's hardness comparisons are indeed to things that are hard, and most importantly, the one potentially specious claim of hardness he makes out of the song's 49 mentions of the word "hard"—that of the song's beat being "so hard"—turns out to be more accurate than not. The over-insistence on you can either go hard or going home comes off as largely irrelevent, but hardest ever or not, this is quite a hard song.
Mohs Scale of Hardness Score: 9.0 (Tungsten Carbide)
WACKA FLOCKA FLAME, "HARD IN DA PAINT" (2010)
Number of Mentions of the Word "Hard" And Its Derivatives: 5
Specific Claims of Hardness: "I go hard in the motherfuckin' paint nigga / Leave you stankin' nigga, what the fuck you thinkin' nigga?," "A couple of girlfriends, I'm so hood rich / Make my dick hard and keep me smoking."
Analysis: Though Flocka undoubtedly gets his money's worth with his five "hard" mentions—any fan of hip-hop and basketball has no doubt dropped the title phrase in casual conversation at least a couple times since 2009—as well as a sufficiently hard beat from Lex Luger, ultimately, the rapper is too distracted by other boasts of his sexual prowess and stature in the drug game (as well as the awesomeness of his own name) to truly drive the point home about his hardness.
Mohs Scale of Hardness Score: 4.0 (Nickel)
ANDREW W.K., "PARTY HARD" (2001)
Number of Mentions of the Word "Hard" And Its Derivatives: 57
Specific Claims to Hardness: "Now it's time to party and we'll party hard, party hard," "When it's time to party we will always party hard, party hard."
Analysis: While the 57 mentions of "hard" are impressive, it must be mentioned that not a single one of them comes without the word "party" introducing it. And when it comes to Andrew W.K. lyrics, no other word in a sentence can ever be the true point of emphasis over "party."
Mohs Scale of Hardness Score: 5.5 (Beryllium)
JAY-Z & KANYE WEST, "H.A.M." (2011)
Number of Mentions of the Word "Hard" and its Derivatives: 11 (yes, that counts mentions of "H.A.M.")
Specific Claims to Hardness: "I'm about to go H.A.M. / Hard as a motherfucker, let these niggas know who I am."
Analysis: Officially adding to the lexicon of vocabulary hardness is pretty hard indeed, and the beat (Lex Luger again, producer King of Hard) itself is about as H.A.M. as it gets. We could've used a little more hardness in the verses, though Kanye bragging about banging white chicks and Jay-Z talking about slain relatives isn't exactly soft, we suppose.
Mohs Scale of Hardness Score: 7.0 (Quartz)
DAFT PUNK, "HARDER, BETTER, FASTER, STRONGER" (2001)
Number of Mentions of the Word "Hard" And Its Derivatives: 14 (a couple are barely intelligible, though)
Specific Claims of Hardness: "Work it, make it, do it, makes us / Harder, better, faster stronger,"
Analysis: An early 21st-century champion of the importance of hardness, Daft Punk nonetheless keep things too vague and assembly line-like to really compete with the big boys when it comes to hardness. Not to mention that Kanye ended up totally picking the wrong one of the four adverbs to build his smash hit around.
Mohs Scale of Hardness Score: 3.5 (Arsenic)
RIHANNA FEAT. YOUNG JEEZY, "HARD" (2009)
Number of Mentions of the Word "Hard" And Its Derviatives: 60
Specific Claims of Hardness: "I, I, I I'm so hard (So hard!) / Ah, Yeah, yeah, yeah, I'm so hard (Too hard!)," "Go hard or go home," "Yeah, they say they hard / They ain't as hard as this," "Hard! / The one word that describes me."
Analysis: With Rihanna spending the entire song's chorus asserting it, and her backing Rihanette Young Jeezy chiming in for added emphasis, it's simply not possible to ignore the undeniable hardness of either song or artist. Whereas will.i.am insists on his being the hardest ever, Rihanna simply posits herself as the very definition of hardness. Which one do you have an easier time believing?
Mohs Scale of Hardness Score: 10 (Diamond)