Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Monday, August 24, 2009
Drake, ubiquitous on the radio and the focus of this summer's biggest tour despite his absence from large portions of it, has taken over the world. Yes this has been commented on and derided extensively due to shallow un-Hip-Hop signifiers like tween acting chops and being an auto tune prodigy in the past but let's revisit his Napoleonic ambitions now that the damn humidity is finally dropping and music is coming home to grown folk. If you haven't been at a house party with college age students home for the summer, So Far Gone has become this generation's Ready to Die. (NO HYPERBOLE)It has achieved universal appeal for both genders of all ages ending around 23. They can effortlessly recite lyrics from the non radio cuts, of which there are almost none left in the tri state area (and the B-More/D.C. area as of this weekend), and can request songs by track number, AND said requests can be universally understood and processed. (i.e. "Yo, throw on track 5" "Nah, n*** November 18th is played I'm fuckin with Wayne's verse on Ignant Shit right now.") Gucci is proving equally seductive with the quickly spreading "Break Up" and I'm sure it fits a lot of critical aesthetics and narratives for G. Mane to be people's choice of the moment but Drake has the youth of the nation dancing in step with his every move.
Fabolous- Throw it in the Bag Remix (ft. Drake)
Case and point is his collaboration with Fabolous on the "Throw it in the Bag" Remix, a song that reverses the string of awful Fab songs polluting the radio right now but upholding his tradition of making good music as long as it comes nowhere near his proper studio albums. The original "Throw it in the bag" is a Dream product and rare misstep from Nash, an inferior parody of the R. Kelly emulating formula Nash and Tricky Stewart are executing at high percentages at the moment. The remix on the other hand is a welcome change of pace, a disembodied Dream snippet from his love drunk "Fancy" off Love Vs. Hate sped up and injected with much needed energy by Fab and Drizzy.
The breathless beat worms it's way into your head instantly. Fab's latest attempt to court the radio with a sing-songy, precious flow (I see you Jay) has tinged most of his mainstream oriented work off Loso's Way with an awkward, old-man-in-the-club-trying-too-hard vibe but actually works here. He reigns it in ever so slightly and the large, effervescent beat carries his flow in its impressive current. (He's still pretty bad on the final verse) Drake needs far less than this to knock it out of the park so it's no surprise he does with his humorous, brief and lightly detailed in all the right ways ode to a May-December relationship.
A few months ago I wrote a post forecasting the future success of the Freshman class and I'm ashamed to say Asher Roth was on it but Drake wasn't. At the moment there are no chinks in the armor. He's capable of gold hooks and concepts, he's a great writer with an eye for detail, his punchlines are mixtape worthy but are written into cohesive and structured narratives contained comfortably in his 16s. They come off every time in that distinctly weird, internal, Wayne influenced way but are humanized and contain the author's singnature through Drake's ability to tell his story in the personal with universal appeal. (See: Successful) He courts contradiction comfortably with a defiant swagger attached to an open vulnerability expressed with poetic flourish that at times achieves gorgeous heights without dripping into uncomfortable Cudi/Kanye emo territory. His punchlines and descrips are all written around and within a multi syllabic format that flows like words spilling out of his mouth as opposed to be spit and his trademark cadence has yet to find a beat it doesn't sound at home on.
What's scary is this song feels fun and tossed off, something this kid can do all day with little effort. Something tells me we should all get used to this. If I haven't communicated this well enough yet, in my opinion Drake is really good.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
I was contacted several months ago by Jeff Weiss to compile a list of my 50 favorite albums released in the last decade. I did it, and today a short passage on my #1 album showed up at #34 behind an English guy they used to play on the Alt Rock radio station in my hometown. Lists are a funny thing, my whole life I ignored comp lit essays on politics of the cannon, yet when it came time for me to conjure one of my own I found myself weighing abstract concepts like impact vs. my opinion of a "solid" rap album. So far this does not seem to be a question that haunted the dreams and bar arguments of my contemporaries. Plenty of choices in terms of position on this list were arbitrary, for the most part I covered every base I set out to. Here's the list and the logic behind it that I emailed to Jeff.
You can look back at the 80s and 90s and see a kind of structure, a cohesion in the branching and forming of the Hip Hop subgenres be it political, spiritual, gangster, etc. In other words I’d argue there’s something resembling a linear narrative that composes the first twenty odd years of Rap music. Thanks to the internet, the true realization of Hip Hop as a forum with no home base, freed from the coasts and now being churned out of every nook and cranny in the country, and the fall of the major label system, Hip Hop has evolved in strange ways with no historical precedent. This should’ve been a moment which most popular genres have seen, having gained commercial dominance and been co-opted by the mainstream. It’s normally a death knell, the beginning of the end in which the appropriated music grows stale and repugnant, a shadow of its former self. Instead it seems to have signaled the end of the beginning. In this decade a kind of mutant (r)evolution, a fresh experimentalism, a pioneering courage in a genre that at its commercial height had become far too comfortable, not only caught critical acclaim but injected itself into the mainline.
The two interchangeable albums heading this list embody this unpredictability and randomness that to me epitomized the twenty first century aughts. They were released at the conclusion of the decade, the culmination of two careers that would define the generation. They differ in countless ways, New Orleans and Chicago, cities of despair and new hope respectively. One is an image obsessed megalomaniac, a perfectionist who leaves no aspect of his career uninspected, an emotional wreck who wears his intense passions on his sleeve and uses them to propel his superstardom. The other is a rock star in the traditional mold. A drug gobbling caricature motivated by pills, drank and whim who’s willfully made himself a beast, slurring and warbling over thousands of late night throwaways, each more erratically brilliant than the next. One album is tapping into the tradition of the “album” at a time when it’s never been less relevant. It’s a thesis, a center, short and concise following its self aware epic narrative while expanding definitions and challenging preconceived notions. The other eschews narrative altogether, it’s a style hammered out, fought for, realized at last after years of workmanlike mixtape drills, equal parts spontaneous and timeless. A postmodern masterpiece with no rhyme or reason, brilliant every step of the way. But it’s what these albums share that earned their place on my list. Both were courageous triumphs, unafraid to blaze trails, both are perfect, both were validated with critical as well as commercial success in a market where the very best shots brick. Both albums sound like the future, will shape the future, and will live on far longer than the decade in which they were conceived.
1. Lil Wayne- The Carter 3
2. Kanye West- 808s & Heartbreaks
3. Scarface- The Fix
4. Eminem- The Marshall Mathers LP
5. Ghostface Killah- Supreme Clientele
6. J Dilla- Donuts
7. 50 Cent- Get Rich or Die Trying
8. Reflection Eternal- Train of Thought
9. The Clipse- Lord Willin
10. The Roots- Game Theory
11. Slum Village- The Fantastic Vol. 2
12. Kanye West- Graduation
13. Jay-Z- The Blueprint
14. Common- Like Water for Chocolate
15. Outkast- Stankonia
16. Madvillain- Madvillainy
17. Cannibal Ox- The Cold Vein
18. Project Pat- Mista Don’t Play
19. Young Jeezy- Thug Motivation 101
20. Styles P- A Gangsta and a Gentleman
21. Devin The Dude- 2 tha Xtreme
22. Joe Budden- Mood Muzik 2: Can it get any worse?
23. Nas- Stillmatic
24. Lil Wayne- Dedication 2
25. Wale- The Mixtape About Nothing
26. Kanye West- College Dropout
27. Jay-Z- The Black Album
28. Dead Prez- Let’s Get Free
29. UGK- Dirty Money
30. The Game- The Documentary
31. Nas- Hip Hop Is Dead
32. Cam’ron- Purple Haze
33. T.I.- Trap Muzik
34. Joell Ortiz- The Brick: Bodega Chronicles
35. Busta Rhymes- Anarchy
36. The Roots - Rising Down
37. El-P- I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead
38. 3-6 Mafia- When the Smoke Clears: Sixty 6 Sixty 1
39. Beanie Sigel- The Reason
40. Jay Electronica- What the fuck is a Jay Electronica?
41. Lil Wayne- The Carter
42. Cam’ron- Come Home With Me
44. Big L- The Big Picture
45. Ludacris- Back for the 1st time
46. Big Punisher- Yeeeah Baby
47. Juelz Santana- From Me to U
48. Ghostface Killah- The Pretty Toney Album
49. Lupe Fiasco- The Cool
50. Young Buck- Straight Outta Cashville