Friday, December 19, 2008
On my movie grind yesterday. "The Wrestler" was predictably dope. Go see the first half of "Che". Who needs Jesus? Tonight I'm going to see Allah at what will be the last Hip Hop show ever at the Knitting Factory before they move to Brooklyn. Truth be told I'm amped for Black Thought's solo set. Keith Murray? Blunted, hyper articulate vocab rap, live? Not so much. Snowing like a bitch out here. After the awful, Coogi and khaki white collar crowd at the Slick Rick show two weeks ago I'm looking forward to a night of ACGs and North Face's. Put something in the air bitches. Happy Holidays.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Got tomorrow off to go watch the Jets piss away another promising season, so I'm moving this post up a day. Energy is high, life is good, why not vintage Alchemist and Prodigy? Listening to this song, I'm convinced "Threats" off the Black Album was a sublim making fun of P. Get home soon dunny.
Wednesday, December 10, 2008
This was the first time I really sat up and took Kanye seriously. Before that he'd been a B-list Roc producer who took a fairly straight forward approach to his soul beats and sounded like a fat tongued retard on the grainy random freestyles you'd come across at the back of mixtapes. Then Talib taught him how to rap on the Sprite Liquid Mix Tour. Here's Kanye in his essence, the brashness, the brilliance, the intense self awareness and unapologetic contradictions. I'm a fan of the new album but I have to say I miss the old Kanye. Back then he didn't take his issues quite so seriously, and had the ability to laugh at his own preposterous behavior, which made his continuous outbursts all the more interesting. Is it real? A performance? A joke? Maybe a little of all three? It seems he was happiest back when he walked around with a chip on his shoulder, and he was the only person who knew how big he'd become.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Winter in New York means Bootcamp. I've always thought "Bucktown" actually sounds like a ride over the Manhattan Bridge on the Q train. I initially sweated Dah Shinin and thought of Enta da stage as a lesser work. This Fall, the more time I spend with Black Moon and the appropriately christened Buckshot, the more I tend to lean towards Enta da Stage as Bootcamp's best album. For those that say Lyricism died this decade, they'd do well to get acquainted with the Crown Heights native who never found an awkward pause he couldn't fill with an exuberant simulation of a gunshot. He very rarely hits a solid punchline and never needs to, Buckshot doesn't ride beats so much as he bends them over the couch and takes them, all in a sing songy cadence that in retrospect sounds downright Southern. Another weird, awesome personal aesthetic brought to life with concrete self confidence. Hip Hop nerdery aside you should be knocking either of these if you live in New York and have to work today, below is a few songs performed at the Knitting Factory show I attended a few weeks back.
Friday, December 5, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Before we begin this is required reading. You have to have a subscription to the magazine to read it online but if the synopsis appeals to you I'd definitely recommend picking one up or reading it in a Bodega while getting grilled by an Ahrab.
Now then. “Weed Carrier” is a label most often given negative connotations. It suggests a talentless hanger-on, a faux celebrity we pay attention to for no reason, a bum. However, there have been moments in Hip Hop in which the Weed Carrier has exceeded his humble role on the sideline and grabbed the limelight for a moment, however brief. This post is paying homage to the most memorable of those moments for me. Some are truly great and some are so bad they’re good, enjoy.
Lord Have Mercy- Everybody in the line outside: No that’s not Chali 2na, it’s the shockingly awesome Lord Have Mercy, a guttural MC from Brooklyn who was part of Busta Rhymes’ meh Flipmode collective. LHM was the only member worth mentioning outside Rah Digga (whose Dirty Harriet remains one of the better albums released by a FemC) and he absolutely murders his verse here. Below is a bonus video from a far less interesting Flatbush friend of Busta's.
Phil Da Agony- Blunted: Backpackers have weed carriers too. Phil’s most notable contributions were a verse or two on the Dilated Peoples album when they officially fell off and a mixtape joint with Talib. This used to be one of my favorite songs to burn to during lunch break in HS. Nice little lively flute loop for the greatest nom de plume ever to rap vaguely about California and being nice.
Lil Cease- Playa’s Anthem: They say the
Street Life- Sweet Love: Tical 2000 had its moments, “Sweet Love” is near the top. (Alongside “Torture” and “Retro Godfather”) You gotta respect Street Life, he manages to worm his way onto Wu-Tang albums a decade after anyone's thought about him and can get ass while navigating traffic on the Verrazano. Below is some shit I randomly found when I Googled Street Life, not bad.
Hell Rell- Jail freestyle: When I think of Hell Rell my mind inevitably drifts to the picture below, the album cover “For the Hell of it”, and the promotional poster that hung at the corner of 5th and Baltic for way to long, never failing to provoke a laugh when I’d walk past. This dude fucking sucks but his freestyle from jail might’ve been the best thing about “Diplomatic Immunity”. It’s vintage Dipset aesthetic, a multi syllabic, smart ass exhibition ending with the crew on the other end of the line sending love and support, as Rell tags a “No homo” on the phrase “Holding my head”.
Horse- I want it: This song is off the late E-Money Bags sole effort, but I remembered it off some great old Clue tape I used to rock. Horse is the infamous body guard name checked by Jay who supposedly sonned the Street’s Disciple on Oochie Wally. (A lose lose if I ever saw one) Here they’re both at their best, with Horse managing to one up a great Nas verse by being nimble and introspective without falling prey to cliché on this mellow, shimmering beat. What made Nas think “Braveheart Party” was a good song?
Cadillac Tah- Pov City Anthem: Cadillac Tah was a backup dancer for the Inc who dropped this respectable bit of grime on the original Fast & Furious Soundtrack. The “original-Nokia-with-Snake-in-the-game-section-ring” beat carries the song, Tah is clearly a big fan of Venni Vitti Vicci, and who can blame him?
Memphis Bleek- Get Low, Respect it: It isn’t worth my time to revisit for this bullshit write-up but from what I can remember M.A.D.E. wasn’t that bad. Over a heart palpitating Just Blaze horn section, this song is pretty close to Bleek at his best, (two consecutive posts mentioning Memphis Bleek in a positive light, internet record?) besides the shitty Goodfellas intro which I couldn’t even escape on youtube and is a carbon copy of Jay’s Carlito’s Way intros. While I do like this song, his inability to get out of Jay’s shadow (via the intro) and complete lack of substance make this song the embodiment of why despite all the backing in the world he was never able to blow.
Armageddon- My Prerogative: This comes in towards the end of Fat Joe’s Don Cartagena, an album of all star production and guest appearances from the brief time in which Joe was re-energized by Pun’s emergence. Armageddon is a Terror Squad zero who demolishes his own symphonic beat with a real strong showing here.
John Forte- God is Love, God is War: The best thing to come out of the W. Bush administration, John Forte was a guttural side kick with a knack for getting on post The Score Fugees hits. (See: “We Tryin to Stay Alive”, “Rumble in the Jungle”, “Electric Avenue”) This beat kicks and apparently John was getting high on Wyclef’s supply.
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Cameron Giles’ career as an artist began casually in
Giles and Betha ended up bouncing from the group to pursue basketball careers before going solo. After contributing a song he called “Crush On You” to Lil Kim’s Hardcore,
The resulting album was one of the last of its kind. 50 Cent’s success would usher in a new standard format for big budget releases of this sort. He broke a corporate model for this decade that laid any notion of a cohesive long player to rest in favor of loosely held together collections of focus grouped singles, featuring something for each demographic. Come Home with Me is a gritty yet accessible work with an eye firmly planted on the street, the kind
Come Home With Me was a nearly flawless effort that remains
Come Home With Me can be looked at as a point of departure. It is steeped in a strongly emoted love for yesterday’s
Ne-yo- When you’re Mad
Ne-yo is not a great R&B singer in many of the classic senses. He’s not really a stylist, doesn’t have a great voice and I get very little presence from him. Still my favorite working R&B artist not named R. Kelly. This is a fairly old song, (off his debut In my own Words from 2006) but I include it because for me this is the standard for what R&B should aspire to. Ne-yo has plenty of better songs from an aesthetic standpoint but in terms of concept and content this is his best work. As a result of this song at one point or another I’ve been convinced he’s written every song posted below. In general, R&B takes a very wide lens approach to a standard set of relationship situations. Ne-yo breaks the mold here. On the surface it’s a song about a fight with your girl, but specifically it’s about a moment in the course of the fight when she looks extremely cute mid-rage. There are a number of ways in which this is remarkable to me, for one it’s a great way to diffuse a fight. More importantly, Ne-yo writes an entire song around a small moment in the course of his relationship that anyone can relate to. It’s Annie Hall vs. the schlock that calls itself romantic comedy 30 years later.
Rihanna- Take a Bow
Probably my favorite Rihanna song. (not a difficult title to attain) Ne-Yo actually wrote this one. It’s based on the concept of performance in a relationship. It works in terms of a metaphor for the song to work around as Rihanna tells this dude off, and as a scathing critique of how this apparently dishonest, adulterous partner approached the relationship. What sets it apart from the standard break-up track is how viciously this dude gets clowned by Rihanna. Not to be a dick but when I found out it was written by a guy it made sense.
Jazmine Sullivan- Bust Your Windows
Broke the windows out your car
I heard this song for the first time Friday. I know next to nothing about Jazmine Sullivan other then the fact that she has a hit on her hands. This song has that old school, Winehouse-Ronson, Sean Kingston “Suicidal” vibe. The whole song is about……busting the windows out a dude’s car. Once again, a break-up song but focusing on a specific action, which becomes the embodiment of her feelings and a means of empowerment.
T-Pain (ft. Ludacris)- Chopped & Screwed
This song will sicken some purists who would have you believe DJ Screw turns in his grave every time this shit is on the radio. A friend and I had that very discussion on our ride home and decided Screw would be amused/honored. The song is built around “Chopped & Screwed”, the technique the Houston DJ pioneered in terms of physically chopping and screwing throughout, and as a term meaning getting played by a chick. They easily could’ve taken the obvious route on this song because both chopped and screwed are stand-ins for getting fucked, but they didn’t and as a result this is one of the funniest songs I’ve heard in a long time. T-Pain sets up two hypotheticals in which he believes he’s got a chick ready to go until she pulls out at the last moment. The second verse in particular is hilarious. It’s such a light hearted affair but sung with utter conviction, it’s like great dead pan humor. Ludacris comes with a more general take on the concept and more than anything he says specifically it’s always great to hear him ride a beat. I’ve always thought of Luda as a Southern Busta Rhymes, now you can add longevity to the parallels, still haven’t heard his new album yet but it’s at the top of my list. What I really like about this song is it’s a step away from Superman lover narratives or being a whiny bitch, the R&B dichotomy for male protagonists as I see it. It’s a great human moment, perfect for a fruitless late night walk home from the bar when you just have to smile and laugh at yourself.
Friday, November 28, 2008
It's dark days for Knicks fans all over the country, so out of necessity I'm going the way of the people and looking for hope. This is yet another dope Nike commercial. Sure they're an inherently evil, slave driving, price inflating, global mega-corporation but is there any other company more dedicated to producing intelligent, beautiful advertisements? This one's a total icon-maker for King James, Wayne contributes a hilarious cameo and I never thought Conershop could come off so hard. (II) A few feel good spots below, as I try to remind myself what it is I love about basketball. Hope that 20% chance of bringing Lebron to MSG will be worth the ensuing misery.
When is Carmelo up for free agency?
Not basketball but who cares, it's David Fincher. Plus my time would probably be better spent focusing on the Jets. On my way to see Slick Rick at Highline, a full report is forthcoming. Someday, the Knicks will be good again.
Monday, November 17, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
So after Like Water for Chocolate I spent the rest of the day listening and re-listening to this. It makes for a great companion to Common's album. A fun and stoney masterpiece filled with key swells, active bass lines and D'Angelo humming. To me this is the perfect expression of what neo-soul should have been.
If you're a cook Sunday means something other then beer and football. Whether you'll be smoking pot on your couch this afternoon or halfheartedly dicing chorizo not many albums fit the mood here in New York today better than this one. It's a fun and hopeful affair with a coherent score that sounds like Terrence Blachard set to beat. I've fought it for a longtime but this is in fact better then One Day It'll All Make Sense. Below is a well worn Thelonius drop and a link for sample heads such as myself.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Personification is a technique that has given hip hop some of its most inventive, intelligent songs. (Wikipedia: “a figure of speech that gives an inanimate object or abstract idea human traits and qualities, such as emotions, desires, sensations, physical gestures and speech.”) You could damn near make an entire outstanding mixtape out of songs that took aspects of the urban experience and literally gave them a voice, so that is precisely what I have put together for you, the customer. Enjoy.
1. Common Sense- I Used to Love H.E.R.: From what I could find and recall, Personification Rap was introduced in 1994 through a trio of brilliant, classic songs. Common’s “I Used to love H.E.R.” (The strained acronym stands for Hip Hop in its Essence and Real) off Resurrection was the most famous, imagining Hip Hop as a woman gone astray. The song was a hit single that introduced Common into the collective national consciousness and started a beef with West Coast gangsta rapper Ice Cube. This song has inspired several shitty retreads of the conceit that aren’t worth posting here, not to mention the film Brown Sugar, the worst thing ever made in relation to Hip Hop.
2. Jeru The Damaja- Can’t Stop the Prophet:
3. Organized Konfusion- Stray Bullet: This song off Prince Po and Pharoah Monch’s 94 classic Stress: The Extinction Agenda is “I Used to Love H.E.R.”s gangster, less famous cousin. But as far as Personification Rap is concerned, “Stray Bullet” was more influential. The beat sounds familiar because it samples Donald Byrd’s “Wind Parade”, (with glimpses of “Nautilus”) which was also used by Black Moon to make “Buck ‘em Down”, a pretty good song you may have heard before. Told from the point of view of a bullet, the song would go on to inspire two better known hip hop gunplay classics.
4. Nas- I Gave You Power: Call me a tasteless 80s baby raised on Scorsese and