Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Who Needs a House out in Hackensack?

This will be my final post at this site, anyone who came here on the semi-regular basis that I posted will have seen the writing on the wall. I could go on about the regular laundry list of reasons people fold blogs: apathy, laziness, I don't write about music for a living so it's hard to keep up or care, and they're all valid in my case but my issue with this blog has always run deeper.

I never saw myself as a critic, sifting through the muck of information age Hip Hop and taking fleeting shots or rewarding praise. This was a self imposed pressure but I always felt the need with this blog to post regularly. I've written a lot of things here I'm proud of but in almost every case it was rushed or half baked because I wanted regular updates to satiate my scant readership.

I started writing about Hip Hop because I'm a fan. I felt I had something to say about particular albums or artists I loved whose work was somewhat misunderstood, because writing about the music you love is fun and I think somewhere along the line I lost that. I never enjoyed this pastime more than when I was part of a collective at Oh Word, free to take a month to work on a long form piece contributing it as part of a larger work of very smart people with things to say about Rap.

The good news is I've taken my talents to Passion Of the Weiss, where as of this morning you can read a new ROD on the Diplomats. Jeff and his crew were very kind to take me in and provide a platform and I look forward to working with them. To everyone who ever enjoyed, just read or supported this blog, thank you.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Wow. We have every indication that this Dipset reunion is going to be as great as their best material, it's like the last 3 odd years never happened. This beat is like a week old. Cam makes an extended X Clan reference, Jim Jones' shit talk is better than his verse (I love what a bad voice Jones has but how crazy would it be if Max had the freedom to get in on the act?), they randomly decide to get Dame's back and diss Kanye. The only part that gets you is there won't be a Kanye beat on the next album, because no one has more fun on Ye's shit than Cam, but he probably wouldn't have made a contribution anyways. No craft or actual criticism here just geeking out because I love the fucking Diplomats.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hip Hop Tweets: September 7

A semi regular roundup of the best Tweets in and around the Hip Hop Community.

Tom Breihan: Someone explain the spoken-word guys in that Pac/Tyson documentary. Can't imagine a cooler idea for a doc being paired with lamer execution.

Wiz Khalifa
: one of my family members told me not to wake up with chickens or mike tysons tiger in my penthouse. Hahahhahahahahhahaha

Freddie Gibbs: Just met Lisa Bonet, she still fine

Statik Selektah
: @Grafh no doubt... we gotta link

Swizz Beatz
: @aliciakeys you shocked me today when you knew all the words to ERIC B FOR PRESIDENT wowwww

Lil B: mannnn I tell u this all these rappers is scared of Lil B I tell u that. I tell u Lil B done something no1 has - Lil B

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hip Hop Tweets: August 31

A semi regular roundup of the best Tweets in and around the Hip Hop Community.

Talib Kweli: Ok cocaine. I get it, you're back.

Soulja Boy: @YellowBoneStar_ yu killed it baby real talk swag swag

Snoop Dogg: bacctage at the @justinbieber show in NYC with the beautiful Vita Chambers... its all gravity!

Soulja Boy
: @_LoModele swag

Joe Budden: Posta Boy- Jurassic harlem

Soulja Boy: @SouljaboysAngel swag

Maino: I irritate u huh?RT @CiaraImani: Umm everytime I see maino's corny ass on this MTV commercial for this show I get irritated.

Soulja Boy
: @BitchiamFAMOUS swag

Crooked I: Jus left court.. It's a shame to see people get time in chunks all because they can't afford a lawyer.. #EffTheSystem

Swagger Jacked

I feel like Pierre Delacroix after sitting through Blak Iz Blak: I don't want to have anything to do with anything 'Swag' for at least a week. After "Pretty Boy Swag" I thought the B and Soulja union was going to be a positive thing, Soulja could teach this kid how to edit and turn his style into a viable product. Instead Soulja Boy is suddenly a cokehead and all the great energy that had finally won me over has been replaced by this breathless near monotone play at weirdness. Is it me or is it fucked up when you need to bite someone else's weirdness? If you do, is it still technically weird? This song is a cry for a celebrity episode of Intervention.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Live From James Evans' Crib

Joell Ortiz- Funkmaster Flex Freestyle

Sorry, I physically can't care about the internet between June and August. Joell Ortiz pops into Hot 97 and does something I can't remember anyone doing in years: Tears it down with 5 minutes of crack. Joell, arguably the greatest rapper left in New York amongst a sad, slim field most notably challenged by one Juelz Santana, dropped his first and only album three years ago. As a fan of that album and its artist I feel like he should be in the midst of a promising mid-level career, the kind guys like Beanie Sigel and Jadakiss used to be able to enjoy comfortably, without having to resort to stunts like Slaughterhouse.

Have we really reached a place in Hip Hop where no flash lyricism, not to be confused with Detroit and Philly's seemingly intentionally boring old school technical proficiency, but real writing, wit, fire and lively punchlines have no place in our culture? Joell concludes his freestyle by begging all MCs listening to take it back to the pad and pen. A majority of the successful music produced over the last decade in this city seems to fall into two camps: stubborn underground old schoolism and popular parody, where guys like Mims or Maino or 50 or Jay-Z made Clear Channel Rap that could've come from everywhere. (Then there's the Diplomats, who I will address on this site any day now) Perhaps Joell has a point. That it's more than playing at grimy atmosphere, trying to recapture a sound with knock off Rza beats and weak attempts at a Buckshot sneer (See: Fat Joe). But the studied, detail rich, alternating funny and sad writing that powered New York's Golden Age could be the only way back to relevance. Start at the beginning.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Hip Hop Tweets: July 26

A semi regular roundup of the best Tweets in and around the Hip Hop Community.

Rick Ross: rollin up..grams of real estate..purple pastime's..

: I waketh...I baketh... Early drivin da el co bumpin eazy e ... Jet Life

Wiz Khalifa
: 4 of us gangsters caughin on tha porch finna go down red robin n fuck up these turkey burgers

Lil B

Juicy J: yesturday we started tapin our new reality show''COOKIN ANIT EASY'' wait 2 u see da chiks we got on da show u gone shit yoself lol!

Dru Ha- NY Times reports "Gulf Rig's alarm was habitually set 2 inhibited 2 avoid waking up the crew w/ late-night sirens" - Isn't that the point?

Big Boi: @BunBTrillOG that's the beauty of the block button, fuck dem hoe ass niggaz

Soulja Boy
: @DJDRAMA wowww drama thats so ironic dat u just tweeted me nigga im in da studio i just made a song called "DJ DRAMA' this shit go hard!

Just Blaze
: im gonna leave onyx "bacdafuc" up playing on 10 for the dogs while im gone. ill see how they act when i get back. #experimentinonanimals

R.A. the Rugged Man- @JustBlaze as a kid I wondered who the pic of the white guy was in the RAKIM album.. Then I found out who the Great Paul C was.


Thanks Miss Info...... Uh Oh, just in time for the reunion Cam is back on hard beats, making hits and sounding like he's having fun, styling all over everything he touches on some 2003 mixtape shit (And I'm even warming up to Vado). New York needed a Summer anthem that wasn't "B.M.F." or "Pretty Boy Swag". This sounds like it.

Cam'ron ft. Vado- We All Up In Here

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Download Cipha Sounds' 79 Greatest Tunnel Bangers

Download: The 79 Greatest Tunnel Bangers

Upon reflection, this deserves more than a drop quote and link. It's quite possibly the best thing I've read on the internet all year and to properly do it justice I've compiled all 79 (yes 79, several entries contain more than one song) tracks in one tagged and ordered album, nearly 6 hours of head knocking, boot stomping bliss. This isn't to say if you haven't checked the post out yet this is a shortcut, because the music alone robs you of all Ciph's great reminisces and little gems surrounding each entry. Think of this as a mobile companion. Complex's Countdowns had made up some of the year's best content before they dropped a compilation of the songs that powered New York Hip Hop's most vibrant and vital scene in the mid to late 90s, but this has a particularly special place in my heart.

Something reading Ciph's countdown helped me realize is just how important the Tunnel was, the de facto pulse of the New York for a short while. Funkmaster Flex, Hot 97s most prominent, influential DJ on the pre Clear Channel station that was the city's soundtrack, used the club as a testing ground for the records he would run back and drop bombs all over every Saturday night on air. Though I never made it to The Tunnel, it's no coincidence Ciph touched on some of my favorite deep album cuts here. It makes sense that albums as seemingly innocuous in retrospect as Ryde or Die Volume 1, We Are The Streets and Da Dirty 30 have such an exalted position in my heart and mind. It was practically force fed on those evenings riding home from the old Yankee Stadium or MSG.

This compilation could stand as the very last time New York was Hip Hop's focal point, the last time the important music produced here by its artists was regionally evocative and representative. Some will grimace at the shiny suit trappings, dismiss any list that Puff Daddy & the Family sit on top of and point to a Rawkus, Def Jux and late Wu-Tang featured round-up as the true sound of the late 90s. But if you want to know what New York was rocking to ten years ago, what was playing in the headphones of 16 year old kids, blasting out of car radios, and knocking in the clubs, this documents that time and place. My hope is you'll enjoy it as much as I do.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

War Stories

"This is when Capone first got out of jail and it was the album-release/Capone-home-from-jail party at the Tunnel. This is the song they came out onstage to, 'cause it had an extra-long intro. The crowd went crazy. Capone had on a mink hoodie with the hood on. The hook starts playing—'we're gonna thug this shit out'—and I don't know if somebody threw a drink on Capone or if there was so much excitement that a drink fell on him, but Capone jumped into the crowd and got into a huge fight. Then there was about a 45-minute riot with all the customers and Tunnel security. And then the Tunnel was shut down for like six months. They didn't even get to perform."

-Cipha Sounds reminisces over "Bang Bang" on his incredible and well loved "Tunnel Banger" countdown.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Hip Hop Tweets: The Music Video

An R&B rap hybrid with Degrassi references, white doo rags and horrific photo shop courtesy of Jimmy Kimmel and a kid taking himself way too seriously.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

ROD: Young Jeezy- Snow Man

Rapper(s) of the Decade is a mixtape series curated by myself that will span 2010. In theory, each month I'll be dedicating a mixtape to the 12 Rappers and Groups I felt proved most instrumental in shaping the last decade in Hip Hop in no particular order. June's installment belongs to Young Jeezy.

Download: Snow Man

So, here’s a question: Who does Jay Jenkins sound like? Who taught him how to rap? Who was he influenced by? Khujo? 8 Ball maybe? Perhaps the answer is more complex. As Jeezy himself has suggested several times, perhaps he’s Frankenstein monster, born fully formed in a Pyrex pot in a roach infested Bankhead kitchen where an enterprising teen stumbled upon the perfect ratio of soda to flake. Point being that while Jenkins spent the majority of the decade vilified by the contingent of backpackers I went to college with, as well as their kind around the world, as the Rap grim reaper incarnate, the omega man/harbinger of the apocalypse for those who demand positivity and content driven wordplay from their conscious artists, there are few voices that have come along in the last ten years more original than Young Jeezy’s.

Start with the obvious, that world weary rasp, something that doesn’t sound so much a product of a 28 year old’s worn vocal chords as it does a demon croak, something ominous and timeless and barely human. His punchlines are a series of seemingly childish but deceptively complex and punny plays on words that still manage menace. In his pioneering use of the ad-lib, Jeezy found a way to comment on his commentary, to punctuate an already adrenaline fueled punch with an exclamation point, to coin a phrase that is little more than a stretch of besieged larynx. Then there’s the question of content, and truly, has any rapper ever pursued any one subject with the dogged, stubborn, single minded intensity that Jeezy brings to his hustle?

One of the best ways into Jeezy, both his great and not so great qualities as an MC, can found in “24-23 (Kobe, Lebron)”, his headline grabbing shot at friend and foe Gucci Mane from last summer. Starting with the negative, Jeezy wastes a ton of our time here. All three verses meander, and most frustratingly, his chorus goes nowhere. Is this really the time to tell us that his watch is expensive and he’s trying to fuck some chick? The hook’s final bar in which he discusses coming down on price and gives the song its name is effective as both a clever (catchy), very Jeezy brag while he sons Gucci in the abstract, but the cumulative effect of the chorus throughout the song pulls something away from the devastation of the punch.

However, over a backdrop reminiscent of “Trap Or Die”, Jeezy nails an attitude of sustained arrogant menace, so often a key to his ability to execute. There is casualness to his bouncing delivery as he hurls this grenade, a shoulder brushing in his shit talk that earns authenticity, a value in his music that Jeezy prizes above all others. There is also a very simple, scaled down directness to his shit talk. It makes for a fascinating contrast with “Ether” because both played as effective salvos while existing as polar opposites. Consider this, the real meat of Jeezy’s attack on Gucci:

“I’m on my Louie shit today, fuck some Gucci Mane

These niggas still on my dick, they like some groupies mane

Can’t keep they lips closed, they worse than coochies mane

In that fruity lookin stupid like some coogie mane

Let you trick me off these streets? You must be stupid mane

Tell em this aint what he want, not the boy snow

But between me and you I think the boy slow!”

From a technical standpoint Jeezy gets in a sick rhythm with multi syllabic punchlines wrapped around Gucci’s name, and calling him out as a “Coogi” with arms and legs makes for a great snap, but he really wins the day with phrasing and delivery. The nasal vocal impersonation he does at “lookin fruity” is spot on and hilarious, but more than that, there’s a useful simplicity to the disses/warnings. When Nas tells Jay-Z he has dick sucking lips or Jay bags on Nas because the royalties went to Serch, there’s an a distinct air of performance and one-upsmanship that we revel in, but in many ways take refuge in. The dressing up is a very clear acknowledgment of the existence of the insult in the context of a song in the midst of a rap beef, a sort of playful sparring. Jeezy gives us no such refuge and it serves the weight of the song. He doesn’t need to adorn his withering insults with clever metaphor or flourish, he feels very comfortable simply calling Gucci “slow”, and in doing so lands a broadside hay maker. You feel genuine disdain in the song, and as has been the case throughout his career, that sense of authentic contact with the writer elevates the power of his words.

But this is a story not just about a man, but a sound. Jeezy and Shawty Redd pioneered the atmospheric, synth driven monoliths that have come to define a certain prominent style of Southern production that a new wave of young Southern beat smiths specialize in (See: Soulja Boy, Drumma Boy, Zaythoven). It’s DNA shows signs of the horror-core 3-6 Mafia practiced throughout the 90s, taken to steroidal, grandiose levels previously unseen in Hip Hop. Jeezy made the perfect front man for these mini macabre operas, replacing axe wielding sociopaths and mutated monsters with crippling poverty, black ambition and dead eyed desperation. He created a heavy stylized, cartoonishly grotesque world around the dark trade. A thought started by the glamorizing golden era crack rappers in New York during the mid 90s and brought to its terrible, logical conclusion by Jeezy and the Re-Up Gang over the past ten years.

In terms of progression, in the last two years particularly, he’s gone from a one note, albeit charismatic MC to one capable of showcasing surprising range. I’d always thought of Jeezy as a bizarre, uncomfortable choice for R&B cameos, though he’s kept up with them faithfully from the outset of his career in the realm of superstardom. A guy with Jeezy’s slant, with his voice and subject matter just shouldn’t work co-existing with Christina Milian or Usher on a soft club jam.

But, on Akon’s “I'm So Paid” last year, he was the only reason to tune in, finally adjusting to inhabit the world of the song without compromising his voice, beginning to show true nuance as a writer. On the get money anthem, he has energy, the type of quotables one can imagine a dancefloor singing along to in a club and most importantly, tone, giving his verse a proper female minded tint without sacrificing gangster, a crucial distinction that can make for some awfully off key performances when rappers dabble in R&B. (See: Jada and late Jay-Z) His showstopper on Drake’s “Unforgettable” only hammers his maturation home, going borderline emo in deference to his host and still retaining his Jeezyness, running away with the album’s best moment. On “Spaceships On Bankhead”, off his stellar I Am The Street Dream mixtape, Jeezy jumps on D4L’s “Scotty”, not matching Fabo’s intensely, dare I say, based performance because it isn’t humanly possible, but displays a playfulness and energy that comes close.

One area that hasn’t seen a lot of progression are Jeezy’s albums. They’re all quite good and consistent, but there isn’t much to differentiate one from the next, so far. See, Jeezy is one of the more savvy artists working, understanding a demographic before many knew it existed. He realized a unique approach and message to peddle, one that spit in the face of Hip Hop’s old guard, then had the courage to stand behind it without so much as an apology or middle ground concession as the backlash raged. When the dust cleared he was standing. Standing with the critics and the people behind him. And so it’s only natural that Jeezy has taken note of the progression Rap is currently undergoing, and I expect Thug Motivation 103 will reflect it, without fundamentally changing his sound.

For many of us, the rise of our 44th president will always have “My President”, Jeezy’s greatest moment on The Recession, as its soundtrack, and I find something fitting in that. The song was a perfect synthesis of Jeezy’s best qualities, the aspects of his message that stray closest to, yes, positivity. The soaring anthem demands we take stock of our environments and seize the moment, that you will survive, you can succeed and anything is possible. A dream of the street. It’s one hard working, triumphant underdog and self made man speaking to another.

1. Standing Ovation Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101 (2005)
2. Moving Weight (ft. Pusha T) Mick Boogie- Dirty Work 4: More Hustle, More Snow (2005)
3. Trap Niggaz Boyz N da Hood (2005)
4. Spaceships On Bankhead (ft. Fabo) I Am The Street Dream! (2006)
5. The Inspiration The Inspiration: Thug Motivation 102 (2006)
6. Dey Know (Remix) (ft. Ludacris, Plies & Lil Wayne) Units In The City (2007)
7. Entertained The Prime Minister (2008)
8. Icy (ft. Boo) Trap House (2005)
9. 24-23 (Kobe/Lebron) (2009)
10. Chuuch Trap Or Die (2005)
11. Hustlaz Ambition The Recession (2008)
12. Make It Work For Ya (ft. Lil Wayne) What The Game's Been Missing! (2005)
13. My First 48 Hrs Trappin Aint Dead (2009)
14. Real As It Gets The Blueprint 3 (2009)
15. Get Ya Mind Right Let's Get It: Thug Motivation 101 (2005)
16. My President (ft. Nas) The Recession (2008)
17. Streets On Lock The Inspiration: Thug Motivation 102 (2006)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

It's Patron Time!!!

Paul Wall used to be one of my favorite guilty pleasures back when guilty pleasures existed. He tackles The People's Champ and his old classic mixtapes with Chamillionaire with such enthusiasm. And that cadence. Then there was his very modest, down home sensibility. When bashing on the South was all the rage during the Houston Renaissance and all the New York legends were firing shots, Paul would be the first to come out and plead novice, even as he was doing so in deference to guys he could rap circles around. I'm not going to sit here and claim the song above is his best work, or even that good, but it's nice to see his name pop up on my Reader and I hope there is more to come. Plus, seeing how it's officially Summer, it gives me and excuse to post this.

Paul Wall- Some Cut Part 2 (ft. Archie Lee)

Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Dirpy Revolution

Good evening friends, Romans, etc. Life can change in the course of a blog post, and for the uninitiated that will happen now, with this brief introduction to what is quite possibly the most incredible web innovation I've ever stumbled upon.

I was chilling with a friend at a bar in Prospect Heights last night, when, as if struck by lightning, he was reminded of a site he immediately needed to bring to my attention. In a reverent tone he asked me, "Have you heard of Dirpy?" I laughed at the name, then he explained to me that this site, quite simply, converts Youtube videos to audio MP3s.

The very concept is sort of mind blowing. If you're like me, the inability to locate the occasional beat or snippet in portable, MP3 form can be maddening. Well no longer. All those catchy commercial jingles, obscure regional shit, Rap City freestyles and impossible to find old mixtape tracks only have to be uploaded once by one awesome and dedicated soul, and at least until the feds catch on it can instantly become a high quality MP3 ready for your ear buds. Need proof? A brief experiment.

Below is a Youtube video Noz uploaded tonight on his mostly great Tumblr site, part of a series of a few Based disciples he recommends. I enjoyed "Falling" in particular, a syrupy spurned lover lament by some kid named Young Clipz I mostly like for (what I assume) is an original, playful flip of an insane, moody sample (When it starts switching up 2 minutes in especially). The problem? Young Clipz is a nobody and the song has received 57 views at the time I'm writing this, no way to track down an MP3, right?

I simply head over to Dirpy, type in the artist name and song, the results come back as they would in an ordinary Youtube search, click download and 3 minutes later, Yahtzee. Young Clipz has made it onto his very first Brooklyn iPod.

Like I said, once the labels catch wind of this I have to believe the site creator is going to be sued for his or her vital organs. So while you can, make use of this beat digger's wet dream. Happy hunting.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hip Hop Tweets: When Just Blaze Met Lil B

On June 17th, one seminal producer tried to develop a personal relationship with his based lord and savior.

Just Blaze: Wow @ Freebased god. It's like that dude sucker punched him and woke up the part of your brain that regulates rap cells.
about 18 hours ago via Twitter for iPhone

Just Blaze
: @LILBTHEBASEDGOD just read your twitter. Confused. Y are you referring to yourself as a princess and pretty bitch? *confusedpuppyheadtilt*
about 15 hours ago via Twittelator in reply to LILBTHEBASEDGOD

Just Blaze
: I'm so confused
about 15 hours ago via Twittelator

Just Blaze: @LILBTHEBASEDGOD what is based?
about 15 hours ago via Twittelator in reply to LILBTHEBASEDGOD

Lil B: @JustBlaze #Based is being positive nd bein yourself nd not caring wt no1 says about you
about 15 hours ago via web in reply to JustBlaze

Just Blaze: @LILBTHEBASEDGOD so you are the god body of supreme positive confidence and swagger
about 15 hours ago via Twittelator in reply to LILBTHEBASEDGOD

about 15 hours ago via web in reply to JustBlaze

Just Blaze
: @LILBTHEBASEDGOD whaT's with the chains with all the seashells and stuff?
about 15 hours ago via Twittelator in reply to LILBTHEBASEDGOD

Just Blaze
: Well, I ain't mad at the kid. I can't rock with the princess pretty bitch thing,but being comfortable in ur own skin is the key to happiness
about 15 hours ago via Twittelator

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Greetings from Cuba

A very happy 39th Birthday to the O.G. who started this Emo Rap shit.

Sipping Champagne Elsewhere

This, this, this and this. We're all together now. Like Wayne before him, like Kanye, like Young Jeezy and the Clipse, like Jay-Z, like Biggie, like De La Soul, like N.W.A., like Rakim, like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, this is Drake's moment. Love this album or hate it, you feel one way or the other. There is no apathy in this conversation.

This is one of those questions that arise every five years or so we cannot leave alone, that you come out for or against but most importantly make you question and define what you are for or against, what rap is about right now and what that means.

Questions like these, questions that have continually made the medium feel like a culture on the precipice of the abyss, up for grabs and in danger of self-destruction at any given moment for thirty plus years running, it's what makes Hip Hop great. Feel free to hate the album, just appreciate the debate. I'm sure it's far from the last we'll have.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Drake's Search For Meaning

In both form and content, Thank Me Later is the most important record, that you can actually feel the importance of as you listen to it, I’ve heard to in a long, long time. For example, Drake interrupts “Fancy”, a smart but not incredibly adventurous sound-alike Swizz banger with a second half slow jam. In that song, and in many that have come before it, he has spoken to his female fan base not just with his singing voice but with his words. He is a writer more concerned with Hip Hop’s much maligned fairer sex than any I’ve ever encountered. More than a “Black Girl Lost” here and there, he is an intelligent a curious writer when delving into the subject of the women he occasionally objectifies, a regular theme in his work.

But Drake’s most fascinating when discussing himself, his fears and his desires. In many ways, what appeared as Drake’s Achilles heel on his way into the game serves as his saving grace, what separates him from the legions of emo rappers discussing the limelight that came before him and will come after. Due to his child stardom, as he so eloquently puts it, his 15 minutes were up an hour ago. Fame and recognition is nothing new and his world weariness doesn’t feel put on, it makes it possible for his first album to be a jaded examination of celebrity.

On “Cece’s Interlude”, a song that could easily fly under the radar given the huge set pieces that compose this extremely premeditated, tight album with no fat, Drake delivers his best piece of writing, a crystallization of what he accomplishes on many levels using many different approaches throughout TML. In it, he’s trying to woo a young woman. Much of the text is their dialogue. Drake appears to be at his sloppiest, coming outright and saying stupid shit like “I wish I wasn’t famous” and he wishes he was living the life of an average 23 year old, in college, capable of a normal relationship and the listener cringes. At last a painful, obvious misstep on an album showing such otherworldly polish and finesse.

But then the object of his discourse laughs at him, chides him for wanting what he can’t have, and in doing so reminds us that Drake is in fact only 23. He will come out his face and spew some open-nose dumb shit, and what’s more, he’s aware of his tendency to do this. Of course he wants to be famous, but this doesn’t mean he doesn’t struggle with his increasingly ubiquitous fame, that his life isn’t still filled with the ambitions and problems and desires we all contend with. He’s still restless, still unhappy, but for what? And why? This is an album that provides no answers, but is one of the most trenchant, and enjoyable explorations of the question that Hip Hop has ever seen. Thank you.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Now You Can Rest

Hate to sound like a crotchety old bastard but they really just don't make this kind of warm, situational, universal, lived in Hip Hop any more. Pac at his finest, not just in convincing his girl to let him have a day out with friends in verse but his finale, laying out an agenda of ribs, Thug Passion, blunts, Jay Leno and innuendo that had a young Abe thinking it must be fun to be grown up. Attention: Jay Electronica is in Red Hook Park for free tomorrow, weather permitting. It's good to live in New York. Hope everyone took advantage of their grills and livers today. The Summer is here friends.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Hip Hop Tweets: May 28

A semi regular roundup of the best Tweets in and around the Hip Hop Community.

Noz: @IvanRott cynicism!? i believe in lil b more than i have any rapper since i was 15 years old. point me to anything that suggests otherwise.

Jim Jones: yes there is a dipset reunion watch ur mout lil lady lol I'm watching we gonna give the people want they want

Grand Daddy I.U.
: got da 90 dollar bottle of remi and a couple of bottles of wine for tonight. u call my phone after a certain time..ned da wino might answer

Mistah F.A.B.: I hate parents that go get theyself the world but can't even buy they kids a city.. yall need yo ass whooped

JustBlaze: Wes craven should get on some high school sh** and punch michael bay in the face just for livin

9th Wonder: Lord jesus....somebody PLEASE get me in touch with KOOL G RAP

Lil B: hoes on my dick cuz i look like kettle corn

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Virginia's For Lovers But Trust There's Hate Here

This one slipped under the radar for me but I finally managed to catch it last night. ESPN's 30 for 30 might be the best idea a cable channel has had since HBO decided to extend its in house programming. Recent excellent efforts have covered The Death of Len Bias, The Knicks Rivalry with Reggie Miller in the late 90s and Ice Cube's take on N.W.A. and their effect on the aura around the L.A. Raiders. It's treating the world of professional sport with a seriousness and dignity that goes lacking from coverage too often but this might just be their crowning moment.

Steve James, the director of "Hoop Dreams" made this film about a young Allen Iverson, who grew up a town over from him in Newport News, Virginia. As Iverson was being showered with accolades and championships, he was involved in a bowling alley fight that threatened to end his career before it even began. I was vaguely familiar with the incident before seeing the film but James explores it with a balanced care and detail that goes above and beyond the call of duty. He uses the trial as a way into race relations in a small and historically fraught community, a meditation on institutional racism and the shaping of one of the most alternately troubled and inspiring athletes of our generation. This might surpass "Hoop Dreams", one of if not the most important Sports Documentary I've ever seen. Do yourself a favor and check it out.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Who Are We Today?

"full of uninteresting revelations and self-serious proclamations"

I just read this. An intelligent critic who acknowledges some very real problems with this album but I'm reading into something that I feel has been plaguing popular rap criticism for a while and I'd like to speak to it.

I don't think the concept of intentionality factors into Hip Hop (I don't have an interest or vocabulary to speak to the state of criticism outside my chosen genre) critique nearly enough. Fennessey hits the on the obvious, ironically chiding Nas and Damian for being obvious, but is missing the forest. It's not unlike the critical beating Nas took over Untitled. He and Marley are being chided for, what? Being on message tackling a subject so infinitely complex that reductionism and generalization are practical necessities? And a better question, are they trying to make a dense head scratcher or a sunny head knocker? If so, did they not effectively accomplish their goal?

The single "As We Enter" is being received as the obligatory respite in the critical pans I've come across, the atmosphere of harmless fun is regularly singled out as the reason why. This seems to be what critics are asking for from their Hip Hop in 2010: Chaotic irreverence. Weird regional dance trends spiked with off kilter production and strong hooks. I'm not saying this is the bain of Hip Hop by any means but what I am saying is there can be room for both. Nas and Marley didn't want to make an album of party jams, it would seem based on "As We Enter"s effortlessness that would've been easy to do. They had a different idea of what they wanted from this album and that should factor into its reception. It's almost as if rappers have been denied a lofty artistic vision, an idea slightly more grandiose then riding a beat and hitting punches.

Distant Relatives wasn't made for Comp Lit majors who are no strangers to Pan Africanism and Marcus Garvey. It's a summer jam, meant to enjoy with an L on your stoop or porch as you get motivated to the warm vibes, positivity and anti-ironicism of a different era, be it KRS' or The Gong himself, no stranger to "obvious" timeless messages. I've read a lot of exposition regarding the early 90s era of Reggae tinged Rap, but this album has little to do with those Gangsta/Dancehall collabos, this is Conscious Rap blended with Classical Reggae, more "So Much Things to Say" than "Dolly My Baby".

So the question remains, how do you review an album like Distant Relatives if robbed of your "objective" critical arsenal? I'll try to tackle the song I've been stuck on for the last few days, the grand finale "Africa Must Wake Up":

As a producer Marley likes his schmaltz rendered with onion and spiked with truffle oil and that's present here as it is throughout the album, as it is throughout his Jamrock. Still it works, the simple pounding keys and weeping strings underlying the song's epic theme and the question that punctuates his sweetly-sad sung hook. Nas is articulate if not completely original in his assertions but the interplay between these two are what matters as they split duties down the middle on this song and suggest a genre all it's own. Their collaboration finds it's great cinematic wheelhouse here in the album's final, doggedly hopeful minutes. K'Naan is more of a logical addition than aesthetic, he's grating but serves to underscore the song and album's universal message.

"Africa Must Wake Up" is an anthem. Like the anthems that came before it and the many that will follow it tugs at ancient heart strings, it mashes predictable, time tested buttons and makes no apologies for doing so. When the duo play the Williamsburg Waterfront July 31st, somehow I imagine their audience will manage to get over their jaded frustration with being treated with such condescension.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

ROD: Ghostface Killah- Original Stylin

Rapper(s) of the Decade is a mixtape series curated by myself that will span 2010. In theory, each month I'll be dedicating a mixtape to the 12 Rappers and Groups I felt proved most instrumental in shaping the last decade in Hip Hop in no particular order. May's installment belongs to The Ghost.

Download: Original Stylin

The History of Hip Hop is littered with iconic, game changing couplets. Sadly, I fear one in danger of slipping through the cracks is “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious/Docialiexpilisticfragicalisuper/ Cancun, catch me in the room eating Grouper.” That gem comes courtesy of Stapleton’s own Dennis Coles AKA The Ghostface Killah, AKA Ironman, AKA Tony Stark, AKA Pretty Toney AKA Ghostdini the Great. It comes out of nowhere at the conclusion of his coked up verse on “Buck 50”, a posse cut off his 2000 classic Supreme Clientele and it can be interpreted as many things: A middle finger, a mission statement, a Declaration of Independence, a fucking dope line. But first, let’s see how he got there.

The Wu-Tang Clan came out of nowhere. If you want to take all the fun out of it you can combine Kool G Rap’s street oriented tough talk with De La Soul’s walls of verbiage and you won’t be far off, but it doesn’t account for Rza’s soul massacres, the mystic universe of chess and Kung Fu that they seemed to inhabit from the beginning rather than create as they went along, the perfect jigsaw puzzle formation of nine completely unique, off the wall styles that formed like Voltron to make perfect bizarre sense. In a crew so wildly diverse it was easy to miss Ghostface, a masked, enigmatic MC who took his moniker from the bad guy in Mystery of Chessboxing. His contributions to 36 Chambers are sparse, and amidst Meth and ODB’s energy, the Gza’s deadly calm and the Rza’s speech impediment one can’t be blamed for taking it for granted.

But Ghost was unmistakably Wu and proud of his crew, their innovation and irreproducible original style. He looked around New York’s mid 90s landscape and didn’t find the same spirit of trailblazing everywhere. The angry young man on “Shark Niggas (Biters)” was pissed off at the Notorious B.I.G. for putting a baby on his album cover as Nas did on Illmatic. There were others who couldn’t help but be influenced by The 36 Chambers' raw cool and casually dropped Wu slang, what Stark perceived as treading on their aesthetic. Prince Raheem becomes the Rza, the Genius becomes Gza, so how the fuck did a rapper named Jay-Z, a young Brooklyn cat with Harlem swag whose Crack Rap was so brand heavy it read like a J. Peterman catalogue, get to Jigga? Of course these things can’t be helped. There is no stopping trend, the industry has always been and will always be filled with young, anxious artists and their A&Rs looking for a sound, a style, a song that could launch, make or redeem their careers. Perhaps faced with this dilemma, the man with no face chose to willfully fashion a style so insane, so unique that no one could possibly attempt to replicate it. Something that could only be the product of a single, deranged mind.

To this day Ironman stands as my favorite Wu-Tang solo. It’s at once more tight and cohesive than Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and more vibrant than the morose Liquid Swords. Throughout that album its author practices the same dense, impressionistic, slang heavy spit that the Wu excels at from Gza on down. Yet it was his one concession, a Jackson 5 flip with Mary J. Blige on the hook that introduced him to mainstream, and for good reason. “All That I Got Is You” stands as one of the most beautiful hard luck narratives ever written. Listening to it now gives you the same sensation one may be struck by looking at a straightforward yet stunning Jackson Pollock landscape, a reminder of the old adage that to break the rules you must know them intimately.

From 1996 on things only got worse. Biggie died and what followed in New York made one nostalgic for the days when the biggest issue to quibble over was album cover aesthetic. His hypeman Puff took over the city and with his reign came a rote insistence on hedonistic bottle popping. Rap traded in Shaolin’s hoodies and Clarks for gators and shiny suits. Ghost did an attempted robbery bid in 1999 and when he got out he released Supreme Clientele. And with that effort took us into the modern era.

The album was produced and overseen by Rza and a slow but fascinating symbiotic relationship revealed itself. Ironman was soul heavy for the Wu, and not in that same grimy subversion that was so effective and prevalent throughout 36 Chambers and the subsequent solo efforts. It’s as if, as Ghost went further left with his style, the Rza and his producers became more faithful to their source material (“One”, “Malcolm”, “Apollo Kids”, “Mighty Healthy”) and this works in grounding Ghost’s madcap slanguage in something round and catchy the listener can enjoy, opens up the material for multiple listens in which the small points, sneaky descriptors and hidden pleasures in Ghost’s prose can be unearthed. And Supreme Clientele is chock full of said moments. Ghost's verses are far wilder, filled with free association and wild emotive outbursts that follow their own perverse, ingenious logic all delivered in his dead pan sneer no matter how absurd.

But Supreme Clientele was only the first salvo in what would be a decade long, extraordinarily prolific campaign against conventionality. Ghost began to experiment with topicality. On (and on the cutting room floor) the even more soulful Bulletproof Wallets finds an increasingly playful and melodic Ghost making songs about the sun and a fairytale forest. Seemingly unsatisfied with simply toying with language, Tony goes conceptual, but taking the very notion of the concept song and getting as weird as humanly possible with his themes and stories. On The Pretty Toney Album (his first release through Def Jam) he’s experimenting heavily with skit, something Stark never took for granted but here turns into mini thematic songs that are some of the albums' best moments. On its very best, “Holla” he eschews sampling altogether and simply raps over the Delfonics’ “La La (Means I Love You)”.

The latter half of the decade saw Ghost return to the street, coming back to Earth from his universe of thai-sticks and Vietnam soul. The efforts include Fishscale, More Fish, 718, (his area code in Staten Island) a strong friends-and-family group project with the Theodore Unit, and Put It On The Line, a collaboration with Theodore Unit member and fellow Shaolin native Trife Da God.

On these projects Ghost comes up against the limits of off kilter flow, random reference and irreverence. Over time, formlessness becomes a kind of formula, randomness finds its own order. There's also burnout to consider when taking a look at the sheer breadth of his output. It’s an issue one can find plaguing the later work of both Cam’ron and Lil Wayne, the two other legs of the Post Modern Wordplay trinity that captivated Hip Hop throughout the decade. On songs like “Underwater” the air of fresh excitement, the feeling of immediacy, like you’re in the studio with Ghost as he pulls detail from a cloud of haze spontaneously, is gone. There’s a premeditation, a kind of ceiling hit and while his product, including The Big Doe Rehab is consistently solid, and without context, great on its own merits, something vitally important is missing.

Every time a young nutty/fun MC provokes a critical cock massage over a weird car color punchline or mentions tilapia, Ghost should get a check. One could argue in the interest of originality no rapper has successfully traveled further off the beaten path than The Ghostface Killah. The metamorphosis was complete on 8 Diagrams. The masked man playing a supporting role is gone, and in his all too brief, scene stealing appearances Stark sucks all the air out of the room, the album now plays as a waiting game for his next verse.

Dennis Coles appropriately closed out his ridiculous decade with Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City, switching it up yet again and making his idea of a grownup R&B album. It’s full of explicit Too Much Information regarding what he enjoys in bed, a ton of laugh out loud, gross out moments. It’s really bizarre, it’s really good, and it doesn’t sound like anything I’ve ever heard before or will ever hear again.

1. Shark Niggas (Biters) Only Built 4 Cuban Linx (1995)
2. Alex (Stolen Script) More Fish (2006)
3. My Guitar Pretty Toney (The Lost Tracks) (2004)
4. Shakey Dog Fishscale (2006)
5. Keisha's House (Skit) The Pretty Toney Album (2004)
6. Buck 50 (ft. Cappadonna, Method Man, Masta Killah & Redman) Supreme Clientele (2000)
7. The Forest Bulletproof Wallets (2001)
8. Stapleton Sex Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City (2009)
9. Pretty Toney Pretty Toney (The Lost Tracks) (2004)
10. Penitentiary Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 (2009)
11. Guerilla Hood 718 (2004)
12. Strawberries & Cream (ft. Inspectah Deck, Allah Real & Rza) The Problem (2005)
13. Josephine (ft. Trife Da God & The Willie Cottrell Band) More Fish (2006)
14. Evil Deeds (ft. Rza & Havoc) Wu-Tang: Chamber Music (2009)
15. Whip You With a Strap Fishscale (2006)
16. Take It Back 8 Diagrams (2007)
17. Guest House (ft. Fabolous) Ghostdini: Wizard of Poetry In Emerald City (2009)
18. Save Me Dear (Beatles Remix) Enter The Magical Mystery Chambers (2010)
19. Last Night (Skit) The Pretty Tony Album (2004)
20. Hollow Bones The W (2000)
21. Yolanda's House (ft. Raekwon & Method Man) The Big Doe Rehab (2007)
22. Malcolm Supreme Clientele (2000)
23. Holla The Pretty Toney Album (2004)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

ROD: Kanye West- The Power & The Glory

Rapper(s) of the Decade is a mixtape series curated by myself that will span 2010. In theory, each month I'll be dedicating a mixtape to the 12 Rappers and Groups I felt proved most instrumental in shaping the last decade in Hip Hop in no particular order. April's slightly delayed installment belongs to Kanye West.

Download: The Power & The Glory

You begin with a chip. All the great ones have it. It sits there on your shoulder and whispers in your ear at night. It taunts you, it insults you and most importantly it pushes you. You convince yourself, what you believe is that if I can just get out this album, if I can just gain my mentor’s approval, if I can just lease that ride or bag that chick.... There has to be an amount of money, or respect, or love that will make me happy, that will finally free me from this nagging unnameable restlessness.

These days it’s easy to forget just how far Kanye West has come as a popular artist in the six years since The College Dropout’s release. How outside the critical elite, he was known and reviled more for his ostentatious, obnoxious egoism and penitent for needless scene stealing than his talent. How it took forever to get the Purists on board with what was first quite obvious, straightforward (what Primo, Rza and Dilla fans considered hackneyed) soul-jacks and sophomoric wordplay. They would say, as if the entire world had gone crazy, “But this kid can’t spit!” And they were right, he raps awkwardly and lands nothing but goofy punchlines, all in all a terrible voice and he's even hinted at not writing his own shit. But it got crazier, on Graduation he ushered an introduction of European Electronic, unseen since Bambaataa, to the modern Hip Hop vernacular. And most improbably, at the peak of his fame released a heart-on-his sleeve, Robo-Emo album……That was chock full of hits and managed to once again be received with adoring praise and platinum sales. We take these things for granted now, our one name superstar and what in retrospect appears to be an obvious path to super-stardom, in reality his weird and rocky ride has been anything but.

It’s a good thing Yeezy got wildly famous, because without that fame as a catalyst there might have been nowhere for him to go. There’s great progression between all four Kanye albums, but the first two, from a thematic standpoint are more or less a collection of (albeit brilliant and addictive) biographical concept songs. (“Spaceship”, “Roses”, “Family Business”, “Never Let Me Down”, “Drive Slow”, “Heard Em Say”, I could go on) I suspect Late Registration is the popular pick for least favorite Kanye album for this reason. Because in many ways it’s a polished College Dropout. A some what highfalutin retread, it’s stagnant.

The narrative that fuels these first efforts, that would become infinitely more interesting when the fame and money did come as opposed to claimed and obsessed over by an outspoken young man with a transparent tendency to overcompensate, was the conflict of id and idealism, the desire to be righteous battling with plain old self serving desire, religious guilt and the allure of glitz. He was the stylistic heir of the Golden Era everyman rappers he grew up worshiping, Q-Tip, Posdnous, Dres and Sadat, with a modern bling infusion. (And without any of those rappers’ verbal dexterity, perhaps to his great popular advantage) From the beginning he differentiated himself from these legends, showed great strength as a writer (be it literal or conceptual) in his willingness to tackle his own contradictions and hypocrisies head on. At his best on songs like "I Wonder" Kanye plays like he's having an argument with himself, taking his own side while letting on he's pretty sure he's wrong but still sticking to his stubborn guns. Kanye has always been willing to play unreliable narrator, not positioning himself as a classic hero but a very troubled and confused young man, unhappy working his shitty part time retail job and sitting on top of the world for many of the same reasons: he can't escape himself.

But instead of hashing and rehashing themes of conflicted spirituality and his righteous sounding Civil Rights roots, Kanye West became the first RAP superstar for our grotesquely saturated, 24 hour news cycle, TMZ ridden times. His later work has taken on what is perhaps an even more universal message than the by-any-means dark shadow of the American Dream cast by Raekwon and Biggie. It’s gotten past Crack Rap’s desperation of poverty, its romantic immediacy of need and looks inward, asks to what end is it that we “make it” and what do we do, what do we want, once we’ve attained everything?

He’s gotten closer to reality rap then any rapper before him has tread. That is, the stuff of his everyday life, his fears, concerns and disappointments. He’s offered us a true window inside the life of a rich and famous rapper, rather than a rich and famous rapper trying to approximate what it used to be like selling crack. The early campaign promises of greatness have been fulfilled, but with them Kanye has introduced the Fitzgeraldian angst that comes coupled with success and in this he’s practically given birth to a burgeoning genre: Fame Rap.

In retrospect, Graduation and 808s and Heartbreak fit together, make a weird sort of sense: the party and the hangover. Even the brief sad notes on Graduation (“Flashing Lights”, “Drunk and Hot Girls”) have a touch of “it’s not all that bad” and are practically early Beatles songs in comparison to the weeping clown we find on 808s. We can look at his great, heart wrenched verse on Young Jeezy’s “Put On”, his first true event cameo, as a tipping point. Where Kanye dismissed any sort of humor or ambition beyond moving backward, the impossible desire to regain the things he finally has realized he lost. You could argue it was Kanye, not T-Pain that found autotune’s true worth at that very moment. The disaffected, mechanized alienation and sadness he manages to coax out of the tool adds another layer of complexity to that emotional whopper of a verse. He’s hardly cracked a smile since.

The story behind 808s comes off like an Onion spoof. A grief stricken Kanye holes himself up in his studio in Hawaii for three weeks and makes an album using nothing but auto tune and an outdated drum machine which worms its way into the album’s title. But it was his greatest triumph, the greatest showcase for his boundless talent and probably the greatest mid career risk a popular Rapper has ever taken. The next generation of emo driven, R&B friendly rappers heading the charge into this decade would not hesitate to site Kanye and this album as a mentor and great influence.

Of course, just to be clear, the reason he’s kept us intrigued has little to do with narrative thrust or dramatic tension, but an undeniable ear for beats and gift for melody. Kanye West doubtlessly has had the lion’s share of popular moments spread over the last ten years. He’s introduced a new ceiling, a new level of “event” and ceremony to the live Hip Hop show. He has restated and redefined, perhaps more forcefully than any artist before him, Chicago’s rightful and distinct place in American Hip Hop, and he gave a second life to his hero Common in the process. In the realms of both commercial and critical acclaim no artist, arguably in any genre, even approaches his prolificacy.

Without ever realizing it, I suspect Kanye’s happiest moments were those formative years at the old Rocafella, surrounded by legends he was blessing with instant classics, grateful yet tirelessly insisting he could be just as big a star as those benefiting from his tutelage in Chicago making five beats a day for three summers. The ostentatious braggadocio of this in-house, big mouth producer falls on understandably deaf ears. He had his fiancĂ©, he had his Mom, he had his whole career in front of him. He isn’t aware he’s happy. He’s up every night with that chip in his ear demanding “MORE”, but when he looks back he’ll see it for the time of blissful ignorance, of innocence, that it was.

I like to imagine him in Cincinnati or Denver, some middle of the country city, backstage smoking a blunt with Memph Bleek and Dame and a couple weed carriers. He’s ranting that he’s a genius, a great producer, a great rapper, one day he’ll be the man, bigger than even Jay. One day everyone in the world will know his name and love his music. They tell him to sit down, to shut up, to pass the L, but he can hardly be bothered. He can’t hear them at all. He is consumed, eyes filled with flickering visions of an orgastic future only he can see.

1. Def Poetry Jam Freshman Adjustment Vol. 2 (2006)
2. Ego (Remix) I Am...Sasha Fierce (Deluxe Edition) (2009)
3. Gettin' Out the Game Freestyle The Lost Tapes (2007)
4. I Can't Say No Thug Mentality (2008)
5. Drive Slow (ft. Paul Wall & GLC) Late Registration (2005)
6. In The Mood (ft. Roy Ayers) Ear Drum (2007)
7. The Food (Live on Chappelle Show) The Food (Single) (2004)
8. I Wonder Graduation (2007)
9. Mayback Music 2 (ft. T-Pain & Lil Wayne) Deeper Than Rap (2009)
10. Never Let Me Down (ft. Jay-Z) The College Dropout (2004)
11. Big Brother Graduation (2007)
12. Put On The Recession (2008)
13. Addiction Late Registration (2005)
14. Arguments (ft. Martin Lawrence) The Lost Tapes (2007)
15. Apologize Freshman Adjustment (2005)
16. Amazing (ft. Young Jeezy) 808s & Heartbreaks (2008)
17. Us Placers (ft. Lupe Fiasco & Pharrell Williams) Can't Tell Me Nothing (2007)
18. Heard 'Em Say Late Orchestration (2006)

Sunday, May 2, 2010

It's Official

Please leave Vado home. I expect nothing less then "Dipset Anthem" on the rooftop of the Apple building.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Hip Hop Tweets: April 28th

Time's up, sorry I kept you. A semi regular roundup of the best Tweets in and around the Hip Hop Community.

The Game
: RT @justinbieber: someone just sent me this. very cool - The Game -

The Game
: justin bieber got a lil "G" in him ha ha ha..... R.E.D. June 15th bieber, go cop dat !!!! & tell yo 9 million followers to go wit u ha ha ha

Freddie Gibbs: Happy Bday to my nigga Dominican H. My bday comin soon, if my friends really love me they would put blunts in my cake instead of candles

The following is a selection of shots fired by the one and only Joe Budden in the direction of mostly irrelevant Memphis backup Point Guard Marcus Williams, a player I assume Joe became familiar with during his forgettable and disappointing time with the New Jersey Nets who drafted him out of UConn. A debate ensued when Joe claimed to have beaten Marcus 1 on 1 a year ago. The content speaks for itself.

Joe Budden

u full of shit, we did finish & i won... & u was tight.... Brandon was there i think (jennings), ask him.. i won by more than 1 too

fuck u nigga ..... u be the only nigga in street clothes thats not injured ?

u buy ultra thin condoms & pretend ur boning raw ??

b4 the games u call shotgun to make sure no1 takes your spot on the bench ??

u still tryin to sell them laptops u stole from Uconn ??

u still got waves ?? u be havin Dax & murray's shipped to Memphis ??

u think getting the same haircut as Devin Harris is gonna help u professionally ??

u b in the park playin 1 on 1 against an invisible Mike Conley Jr. ?? like the nigga in above the rim ?? Mike Conley is Nutso ?? LMAO

u need me to come put the tree stump from "the Apollo" by your locker ??

u run to the locker at halftime so your jersey can have sweat on it ??

u just signed on 4 the next snickers "gotta wait" ad ?? where they just film u on the bench ??

Uncle Murda: Shout out to everybody that shot somebody before stabbed somebody before cut somebody before snuffed somebody

Styles P: I need the prime minister to give me the permission to get in canada! Who is close or connected to him or can help me get in 4real!!

Trey Songz
: I miss Lauren Hill

Monday, April 19, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

But It's Far From Over

Okay well maybe not far from over, but you ever spend over two weeks working on an artist's mixtape only to realize that night at a show, hours after posting it, you left one of your favorite obscure verses off?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

ROD: Jay-Z- Then We Came To The End

Rapper(s) of the Decade is a mixtape series curated by myself that will span 2010. In theory, each month I'll be dedicating a mixtape to the 12 Rappers and Groups I felt proved most instrumental in shaping the last decade in Hip Hop in no particular order. March's slightly delayed installment belongs to Jay-Z.

Download: Then We Came To The End

Like a President late in his second term, the coming of the 21st century led Shawn Carter to thoughts of legacy. His first release, The Dynasty: Roc La Familia is uneven by design. It’s sold as a compilation, but more so, from the title itself on down, an acknowledgment of the aspiration to become something more. He’s using his burgeoning fame to build up those around him, to strengthen the team in the interest of his own prominence. It's an album twining his destiny to that of Rocafella, everything considered in retrospect, setting his sites reasonably low. (Even Jay-Z didn't see this coming.) And it’s an album that lacks a real backbone or character. Like Volumes 3 and 2 before it in his In My Lifetime series it plays more as a collection of some good and some very good songs rather than a unified whole. It’s easy to imagine Jay-Z going forward from this moment, following a career arc of a rapper like, say, Nas. An established veteran with an entrenched fanbase spinning away his middle age making music for himself, staying in something akin to a comfort zone (even though in Nas’ particular case that comfort zone is a place of constant willful discomfort) and slowly fading into the irrelevance of being an old man in a young man’s game.

Of course something very different happened. Jay-Z, with the help of two young upstart producers with a taste for soul beats, made a pre meditated classic. The conclusion of a style, 90s East Coast crack rap, that was quickly turning anachronistic as a darker brand of Southern crime noir gained steam. The Blueprint is a compact, solid album with virtually no flaws that takes no chances and makes no mistakes, a master thesis of his tutelage in the game, starting with an apprenticeship under mentor Jaz-O and culminating with this album, its release date a seminal moment for rap music and America.

What changed is evident on The Blueprint’s most compelling song, “Renegade” his duet with then biggest rapper in the world Eminem, tellingly hand-plucked from the song’s original beneficiary, Royce Da 5’9. Jay’s work leading up to this moment existed in a cinematic, self contained universe. When he delved into personal issues, as he does on songs like “You Must Love Me” quite well, he’s fleshing out the character and mythology of Jay-Z, the hustler. The scope and ambition of this album, as well as this great, hand tipping song, fittingly alongside Eminem who himself had just released a masterpiece of self aware reactionary rap, The Marshall Mathers LP, is a response to critics who had always been somewhat let down by the single minded crack rap Jay excelled at. He's beginning to see his albums as statements, more than record sales and MTV Jams, he's playing chess. It’s the introduction of a broader context, a peek inside the persona and the true beginning of Jay-Z, the rapper.

The same career minded business savvy is present on his failed ambitious king maker, The Blueprint 2, and his successful one, The Black Album. Jay-Z’s faux retirement party is, from beginning to end, a tirade on the subject of expectations, restraints and frustrations working as a popular artist in a drug and money fueled medium, supported by the best writing of his and pretty much anyone else’s career. He pleads capitalism throughout, demanding there’s a soul down there somewhere. He just hasn’t had the opportunity to bare it, and doesn’t start to here.

That would come with his return following his short lived, miraculous, game changing stint as the CEO of Def Jam, rap’s biggest label. Kingdom Come is without a doubt, the worst album Jay ever put his name on. It was his conscious album, dealing with current issues in a ham fisted manner and his own success in an awkward, clumsy way that make his contemporary Kanye, and his fledgling Stan Drake look like fucking geniuses. However, it wasn’t all bad. With “Do U Wanna Ride” appropriately produced by Kanye, the listener is given a real sense of Jay’s genuine gratitude and what his success has meant to him. It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to the real Shawn Carter through a song.

American Gangster was a return to the street, but even in this case still conceptual and very much the work of a conscious artist. Jay paints the auto pilot tribute to Frank Lucas as a love letter to the hustle he grew up around, a hit or miss blaxploitation film. At the very least it was better than sitting through the film it was inspired by.

Finally, there’s The Blueprint 3, the logical conclusion of a decade spent discovering the artist within the hustler. BP3 is a weird, weird album. Its primary focus is fame and legacy in Jay’s same, cringy manner he seems unable to escape when discussing emotion. But it’s also incredibly ballsy, not without its successful moments to prop up the messy failures. He’s practicing experimental flow, rapping over off kilter production, teaming up with upstarts like Kid Cudi, Drake and J. Cole, and he still managed to go platinum. He claims his next effort will be even further out there.

The song I keep coming back to when I think about Jay-Z’s decade is his last, the cleverly titled “Young Forever”, a song I couldn’t bring myself to include on this tape because it’s been rightfully vilified as so fucking bad. From the very first time I listened to it, it struck me as an extremely sad song. At first I thought it was because it was so bad, because Jay sounds so lost and corny, but there’s something there, underneath it. Shawn Carter is now 40 plus. He’s had to endure aging in a very public spotlight, sitting on the throne in a kingdom that has historically had an expiration date around the age of 30. Perhaps Jay’s greatest contribution to Hip Hop over the last 10 years has been extending that date, showing that a rapper can be old and successful, and can even rap about that very taboo subject. Most of us will get old and fat and do stupid shit like get earrings and sports cars and only have our friends and family baring witness to our embarrassment. Jay has had the entire world watching and all he did was make an awkward song with Mr. Hudson. Not bad at all. Who knows, maybe in 15 years I won’t even hate it.

Jay-Z came into this century an, albeit eloquent, run of the mill crack rapper with a talent for churning out hits. Ten years later he’s a mogul, an aspiring billionaire, something no rapper has ever even attempted to be before. He battled and beefed, ended old friendships and started new ones. He’s matured and evolved and become one of the most interesting and important people in America, and did it all on record. He came to the end of one part of his career, his life, and began anew.


1. The Prelude Kingdom Come (2006)
2. Change The Game (ft. Beanie Sigel & Memphis Bleek)Roc La Familia (2000)
3. Venus Vs. Mars The Blueprint 3 (2009)
4. Renegade (ft. Eminem) The Blueprint (2001)
5. Nigga Please (ft. Young Chris) The Blueprint 2 (2002)
6. Public Service Announcement The Grey Album (2004)
7. Welcome To New York City (ft. Juelz Santana) Come Home With Me (2002)
8. Blue Magic (ft. Pharrell) American Gangster (2007)
9. 1-900-HUSTLER (ft. Freeway, Memphis Bleek & Beanie Sigel) Roc La Familia (2000)
10. Do U Wanna Ride (ft. John Legend) Kingdom Come (2006)
11. Flip Flop Rock (ft. Killer Mike) Speakerboxxx (2003)
12. It Ain't Personal The Best of Both Worlds (2002)
13. Back From France Hot 97 Freestyle DJ Clue- Show Me The Money 2002 (2002)
14. People Talking (Battle Results Mix) The Library of a Legend (2008)
15. Success (ft. Nas) American Gangster (2007)
16. Girls Girls Girls (ft. Q-Tip, Biz Markie & Slick Rick) The Blueprint (2001)
17. Encore The Black Album (2003)
18. Dear Summer 534 (2005)
19. Izzo (H.O.V.A.) Unplugged (2001)