"Dedicated To The Winners & The Losers..." - Raekwon

Friday, December 19, 2008

This Is How We Chill From 2008 Til'...

"I was beginning to assume that they were lying about that whole "Til Infinity" part of the song..."

Download: Souls Of Mischief - Tour Stories

Oh, man! Where have these dudes been?! I have to admit that for the most part outside of "3rd Eye Vision," I have been completely sleeping on the post-93 Til' Infinity career of Souls Of Mischief since their work with Hieroglyphics never really peaked my interest that much. I finally got around to listening to some of their Hiero this year and while it was certainly solid I can't say that I really was missing something in the ten years since "3rd Eye Vision" was released. It's still really great that Souls Of Mischief are back together making music and "Tour Stories" off their upcoming Prince Paul produced album, "Montezuma's Revenge", really sounds amazing. It sounds like it could literally be an outtake from early-90's that the crew inexplicably left on the cutting room floor. It really has this vintage, quiet jazz record quality to it that sounds like what absolutely attracted me to these guys in the first place. I am now really, really excited about this record.

Bonus Video: Souls Of Mischief - 93 Til' Infinity

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The 2008 Not A Blogger End Of Year Hate-Off Spectacular - Part One: 50 Songs That Did Not Suck

"A Class Photo Of My Break Dancing Class"

When you’re gifted with such flawless taste as I am, there is one special time of year where you can flex your perfectly formed muscles and show off immaculate ability to correctly judge things of merit. List season! It’s a holy time for me at the Shaolin Temple where I was trained in the art of hip hop on Mount Olympus: Brooklyn Edition as list season is like a spiritual journey in which I delve deep within my soul to discern what sucks and what does not. I disappear for a weeks as I refuse human contact and ruminate over all aspects to determine canon. It’s lonely, solitary process but the world demands perfection from a master of hip hop such as myself. It’s a burden.

First up...Great Songs!

Ah, hip hop, my confusing, cold hearted mistress. Even if this year was a bloody, botched, back seat of a car while fundamentalists set your vehicle on fire abortion in terms of hip hop albums, in terms of great hip hop songs, this year was loaded. I had trouble weeding down the field to just fifty songs. As per usual, this is the definitive list of great rap music this year and should be immediately transcribed into Wikipedia as canon. You will be banned from this site permanently if you disagree. There must be consequences for blasphemy.

50. Three Six Mafia - On Some Chrome [Feat. UGK]

It seems that anytime that Juicy J and DJ Paul connect up with Bun and the Pimp, great music seems to flow out of the speakers. This is the last song that Pimp C ever recorded before passing last year and “On Some Chrome” does not disappoint. Using a sample of “The Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairies” and borrowing from UGK’s classic “Pocket Full Of Stones," the last song that Chad Butler ever worked on is a fitting legacy to his life and music.

49. Elzhi – Audio Cinematic

Over the last few years, great storytelling raps have become virtually an extinct species in rap music but Elzhi resurrects the art-form with a perfectly constructed hip hop “Rashomon.” Rapping from the perspective of three different people, Elzhi tells a story of robbery of convenience store gone murderously wrong. Elzhi tells a story weaved artfully, full of suspense, black humor and social criticism. Rarely do storytelling raps get so detailed and poignant as “Audio Cinematic” does. This is an exhibit that highlights the boundaries that hip hop lyricism can reach.

48. A.B.N. - Who’s The Man?

Here’s a little insight into the soul of the Good Doctor Zeus - you can soothe the savage beast within by playing a nice little, slow southern crawler that creeps along smooth and lovely. Z-Ro and Trae’s “Who’s The Man” fits the bill perfectly. The slow, smooth G-Funk synthesizers dance over a simple, bass heavy track that thumps as Z-Ro and Trae go in over the beat.

47. Pacific Division - Taste

It seems these days every rap act in the underground wants to sound like Dilla. It’s understandable but it leads to a lot of half-assed hacks falling flat on their face as they try to rape James Yancey’s literal corpse. Pac Div’s “Taste” is not one of those songs. It has that woozy, airy impossible to copy feel of vintage Dilla and yet sounds distinctly west coast which easily makes it one of the year’s best.

46. Solange Knowles - Fuck The Industry (Remix) Feat. Wale

It’s hard to believe but Solange Knowles, the Johnny Drama of female R&B singers, made a song way better than her infinitely more famous big sister this year. Although, her voice is slight and nowhere as powerful as Beyonce’s, Solange is able to convey a powerful combination of disgruntled pain and defiant will in the face of an indifferent music industry who has written her off as the less talented, wig-brushing hanger-on of a superstar sister. It’s a song that anybody can relate who has ever felt overshadowed by a sibling. It’s inspiring, actually that she could write something like this. It doesn’t hurt that Wale is on this and Green Lantern produced the song.

45. GZA/Genius - Life Is A Movie [Feat. RZA & Khan-Acito of The Outlines]

I found Pro-Tools to be a real disappointment this year considering how much I loved “Grandmasters” but this epic song off the album is as as good as anything GZA and RZA have done in recent years. Borrowing heavily from ‘80s New Wave pop, “Life is A Movie” features GZA in grand storytelling mode and RZA sounds more focused and coherent than he has since he lost his damn mind smoking angel dust sometime after “Wu-Tang Forever.”

44. Lil Boosie - Don’t I Act A Donkey

Granted, I’m not the world’s biggest fan of the Lil' Boozer since I find his voice to be unimaginably grating but his forays into wanton ignorance have been glorious (and I can always support wanton ignorance). Boosie, actually, had a pretty solid year crafting a bunch of songs and guest appearances that I thoroughly enjoyed. “Don’t I Act A Donkey”, a song relatively subdued, reflective song for a southern banger, was my favorite. Plus, it’s really fun to go around asking people if I act a donkey in Boosie’s high pitched, slurred parlance.

43. Maino - Hi Hater

I don’t care what anybody says this is just a really fun, unimaginably catchy, goofy little club anthem. As one of the few songs that you couldn’t escape from living in New York summer , I really, really liked it. Occasionally, Hot 97 gets one song to arbitrarily beat to death right. Now Maino, please go away to a cave and disappear.

42. Crooked I - Swagga Like Crook

Crooked I’s mixtape, "The Block Obama", was one of my favorite mixtapes released this year and “Swagga Like Crook” was my favorite cut off the album. The song is sort of a West Coast re-imagining of “Swagger Like Us” but instead of four superstars half-assing their verses in an inexplicable contest to seem who wants to seem like they care less about rapping well, you get Crook murdering his verse with some of the year’s best rap punchlines. And seriously, an ass-whipping to any rapper who never heard of Harry Allen!

41. Mos Def - Life In Marvelous Times

I know, I know! A Mos Def track on a Best Of... list in 2008?! What is this ten years ago? And it doesn’t feature ill-advised rock guitars or guest shots from pussy ass R&B singers? What are you taking "pillules de fou"? I’m dead serious. “Life In Marvelous Times” is the type of track that you thought Mos Def forgot when he inexplicably decided he’d much rather help ruin film adaptions of classic science fiction books and make bloody awful rap-rock fusion. Welcome back, Mos!

40. Bun-B - Swang On ‘Em [Feat. Lupe Fiasco]

So, yeah... I guess Lupe Fiasco is a fan of UGK, after all! I stand utterly corrected. Who knew?! “II Trill” was sort of a hot mess but this song was the definition of a curb stomping, trunk rattling banger. This is the sort of oddball pairing that rappers need to take chances on more often.

39. Game - Game’s Pain (Remix) [Feat. Keyshia Cole, Jadakiss, Bun-B, Pusha-T, Fat Joe, Young Buck & Queen Latifah]

The original song wasn’t all that much to write about but Game’s all-star remix of the song is something truly special. Over a re-imagining of Biggie’s classic hip hop ode to youth that was “Juicy”, Game et al. reminisce over their favorite hip hop acts growing up. For once, Game’s endless name-dropping works completely within context. Kudos, good sir!

38. Ludacris - Everybody Hates Chris [Feat. Chris Rock]

Oh, Christopher! How we missed thy legendary sense of humor and endless, pop culture reference filled punchlines! It’s been awhile so please forgive us if we assumed you lost the program while you were making terrible, conscious songs with Mary J. Blige and getting your ass-whipped by Terrence Howard (twice!!) in Oscar-winning films. “Everybody Hates Chris” is in the grand tradition of great, poppy singles that Luda’s been dropping since “Southern Hospitality" and that is always most welcome.

37. Foul Mouth Jerk - Small Town U.S.A. [Feat. Masta Ace]

This song is just loaded with the dusty, soulful grooved goodness and poignant, quirky rapping that only Masta Ace can provide. Masta Ace and Foul Mouth Jerk craft a soulful little ode to life as rapper on the road and the small town’s that help support an artist's livilihood.

36. Prodigy - My World Is Empty Without You

It’s true that more often than not Prodigy is going to embarrass himself these days when he is on a track but it seems if you can get the man to focus and reflect on his life, Albert Johnson can still craft a monster of a song. “My World Is Empty Without You”, Prodigy’s ode to his God, is a powerful response to those who thought he was hating on God on his legendarily blasphemous verse on “Pearly Gates”. It is the type of a track that proves that the man can still really fucking rap when he wants to. Hold your head, dunn.

35. Charles Hamilton - Pure Imagination

Yeah, Charles Hamilton ain’t exactly the world’s most talented rapper but he has a knack for crafting catchy, little ditties that sample from the most unlikely sources. “Pure Imagination” builds on Gene Wilder’s rendition of “Pure Imagination” from the classic children’s film, “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” to craft a Dilla-esque ballad about romantic, teenage love.

34. Bishop Lamont - Grow Up

It seems being a Dr. Dre protégé in the year 2008 must be one of the most frustrating experiences an artist can go through. On one hand, you will never get your album released because Dre’s too busy doing steroids and making a run at Axl Rose’s record for most wasted studio sessions wasted making a surely disappointing album. On the other hand, Dre occasionally will lace you with something truly amazing as he does on Bishop Lamont’s breakthrough song, "Grow Up", in which Lamont crafts a powerful ode to taking adulthood, seriously. Songs that invoke responsibility are rarely this fun and catchy.

33. The P Brothers - Digital B-Boy [Feat. Milano]

Fact: If you listen to the P Brother’s “Digital B-Boy” while riding on a crowded subway train in New York, the world will start to melt away and you will be able to see the Matrix in it’s natural, digital form. This is the type of post-apocalyptic gutter music that makes the winter seem a little more colder and dystopic than it actually is.

32. Asher Roth - I Love College

Fuck the haters (and Rivers Cuomo's holier than thou ass, too for that matter...), this song is great! This is the type of wistful, fun frat rap that died out when the Beastie Boys discovered Tibet. If you don’t like this song, you either:
A. Never attended colllege.
B: Don’t like fun.
(or C. Don’t like Weezer which is slightly more acceptable reason to hate this song. Actually no, “The Blue Album” is classic. You still suck.)
I will not accept opinions to the contrary.

31. Busta Rhymes - Don’t Touch Me (Throw Da Water Em ‘On)

While Busta Rhymes was busy frolicking with Spliff Star, the Ghost of Yasser Arafat, and some stereotypical Arabian shahs on a golf course in Dubai, the world totally missed this infinitely superior single from Busta’s ultra delayed album, "Back On My B.S." (or whatever dumb ass name, Busta is calling this upcoming flop this week). Busta Rhymes rhymes with more passion and fierce intensity than he has since he inexplicably decided to front like he ever sold drugs (and no, selling a bag of weed to Q-Tip in 1992 does not count). Plus, this song is latently about Busta’s inexplicable (self-hatred?) homophobia which is just ironically hilarious! Self-delusion is always amusing.

30. Scarface - Emeritus

Emeritus” like last year’s “Made” was a slight disappointment but the title cut off the album was simply titanic. The beat sounds like vintage Geto Boys, and Scarface sounds authoritative and postively king-like on a song that is both self-reflective and gloriously defiant about Mr. Jordan’s towering achievements in the rap genre for over twenty years. This is a fitting tribute and moment of earned self-glorification for one of the titans of the genre. Brad Jordan is a man who never fell off.

29. C.R.A.C. Knuckles - Pop Dem Boyz

Blu and Ta’raach’s collaborative album was a real stinker but this song was the one cut from the album that unequivocally worked. The beat positively bounces with a sense of rodeo swagger and while both emcees murder their verses, Blu proves why he belonged to be crowned as one of XXL’s next great emcees.

28. Statik Selektah - On The Marquee [Feat. Little Brother, Joe Scudda & Chaundon]

Say what you will about the Justus League but over the years, they just keep churning out the type of music that I love without reservation. The beats are always so warm and breezy that you can’t help but just crack a smile as you listen to it on your iPod on a beautiful day. “On The Marquee” is my favorite cut of Statik Selektah’s underrated sophomore LP, "Stick 2 The Script", and this song is just a real spirit lifter.

27. Black Milk - Long Story Short

Black Milk is the best young producer working these days. Let’s just end the discussion now. He produced the vast majority of three of the year’s best LP's and he has the uncanny ability of not only building on Dilla’s signature sound but morphing into his own and making it decidedly his. “Long Story Short”, the opening cut from this year’s “Tronic”, was Black’s best lyrical performance on the album and when you combine it with a beat that just fuckin’ KNOCKS you get a song that's easily one of the year’s best.

26. Lil’ Wayne - A Milli

There is a reason this song spawned more freestyles and remixes than any song ever recorded. The beat is hypnotic and truly innovative. The song is unimaginably weird but in a way that you don’t instantly notice and thus it keeps offering surprises. And yeah, Weezy actually kind of kills this track thus for once living up to the Breihanic levels of hype he’s received. Besides a hookless freestyle epic becoming the song of the summer is always going to be welcome on my stereo regardless of who is making it.

25. El-P - Drunk On The Edge Of A Cliff

If you want further proof that El-P is the best producer alive right now. I give you “Drunk On The Edge Of A Cliff,” three minutes and forty-four seconds of buzzing video Game Boy instrumentation colliding with cold, menacing steel drums in a manner that makes you completely forget that it’s a crying shame nobody’s actually rapping over this monster of a beat. It’s like El-P decided to take the Clipse’s “I’m Not You” and make it even more dystopic and anti-social in the process. Just because he could. This is the perfect rainy day in New York when you’re pissed off at the world music.

24. Kurupt - Yessir

Kurupt has always been one of the forgotten, great emcees of his generation. In the Death Row glory days, Kurupt’s popularity was always eclipsed by Snoop's, Dre's and Tupac’s which is a shame because he was a better emcee than all three of them. “Yessir” produced by Pete Rock is a defiantly epic jam that serves to remind people that nobody on the West Coast was fucking with Kurupt back in his prime.

23. The Roots - Rising Down [Feat. Mos Def, Styles P & Dice Raw]

“Rising Down”, the title track, from the Root’s excellent recent album is full of dark, brooding synths, fierce lyricism, memorable guest verses and proves that the Roots still have their fast ball when called upon. Why are these guys playing themselves by whoring themselves to Jimmy Fallon when they still have songs like this in them? Is the NBC money that much sweeter?

22. Kid CuDi - Day N Nite

Confession: I went to high school with Kid CuDi and didn’t realize it until very, very recently. I have seen him in concert twice over the last year and had written about him before on my blog but it took a yearbook photo and a couple you remember Scott Mescudi's to realize why I recognized this dude. “Day N Nite”, Cudi’s infectious stoner anthem, would be one of my favorite songs of the year even if he didn’t hail from motherfucking Shaker Heights, Ohio like I do. It has this quiet, hypnotic quality that you can zone out and vibe to while you watch the city slowly fall asleep. It’s beautiful.

21. Young Buck - My Interview

Personally, Young Buck had a rough year what with his ass getting booted out of G-Unit for some imagined disloyalty towards 50 Cent (or some bullshit) and then he was caught on tape crying his eyes out, begging Curtis to take him back. However, musically, Buck has been killing everything he touches the last year and “My Interview”, Buck’s deeply affecting personal response towards the controversy is one of the year’s best. With every word, Buck seemingly bleeds onto the track letting the world feel his pain and it’s a beautiful moment from a guy whose been perpetually had to play the background to appease the ego of Curtis Jackson. Get ‘em, Buck! You deserve better.

20. Q-Tip - Gettin’ Up

If you asked me the chances of Q-Tip being able to make a great single in year 2008, almost ten years after his last solo record and almost twenty years since the first A Tribe Called Quest record, I would’ve said that the chances were highly, highly against him. Lo and behold, Q-Tip stormed back into relevance by dropping the feel-good dance anthem of the year. “Gettin’ Up” proves that the Abstract Poet has still got it.

19. eMC - Grudge

There really is a whole record full of great ones to choose from but “Grudge” off eMC’s stellar debut album, "The Show", was the most affecting for me. Over a pounding guitar lick-driven beat, Masta Ace’s supergroup wax poetic about those personal grudges you accumulate over the years that can only be satiated by the sweet serenity of requited vengeance. The joys of schadenfreude have never been articulated so presciently.

18. Jay-Z - Brooklyn Go Hard [Feat. Santogold]

Jockin’ Jay-Z” was an unmitigated mess and “Swagga Like Us” was too to an extent so it came as shock to me that “Brooklyn Go Hard” was such a good song. After all, it did feature Santogold the Fake M.I.A., the corpse of Jay-Z affecting a shitty Jamaican accent and Kanye West doing his best to make people forget that he once produced “The Truth." It’s inexplicable but I can't imagine Jay-Z capable of making a better song in the year 2008 than "Brooklyn Go Hard." I mean he gets eaten up the chorus but still...

17. B.o.B - Fuck You [Feat. Lil’ Boosie & D.G. Yola]

B.o.B’s “Fuck You," maybe technically classified as “hip hop,” but at it's core, the song is straight up blues music. B.o.B, the best young rapper in all of the South, has the heart of Robert Johnson in his body and “Fuck You” is a song that as moody and mournful as anything, Mr. Johnson cooked up at the Crossroads. B.o.B , Boosie and D.G. Yola craft a song about self-reliance in the face of adversity and the desire to say “fuck you” to those who stand in your way.

16. Wale - The Kramer

If there was anything this smart or as good as Wale's "The Kramer" on Nas' “Untitled” this year, then perhaps it would not be the giant garbage heap it was. Wale’s treatise on race and the N-word was one of the standout tracks on his excellent, medium re-defining mixtape, “The Mixtape About Nothing.” It is music like this that is going to make Wale a star very, very shortly.

15. Raekwon - Necro [Feat. Ghostface Killah]

Seriously, "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II" still hasn’t come out yet? It can’t be because of lack of quality because Raekwon continues to release monster tracks on the internet every year and yet, he still cannot get a label willing to release the album. “Necro”, a vintage Rae and Ghost collaboration, has the type of gutter street talk, immaculate chemistry, bass heavy, eerie RZA-esque production, and one of the most oddly hilarious, sexist raps, Ghost has done since “Wildflower.” Put the damn album out already, Rae!

14. Nas - Esco (Let’s Go) (Also known as “What It Is”)

One of the more inexplicable things that happened this year was that Nas miraculously managed to leave all of the good songs on his excellent “The Nigger Tape” off the thoroughly mediocre “Untitled.” “Esco (Let’s Go” was the most egregious of all as this song could and should have been the best Nas single since “Made You Look.” Building from a scorching, anthemic DJ Khalil banger, Nas does what he does best and kick potent, cinematic lyrics. Why, Nasir, Why?!

13. New Jack Hustle - 2 It

As one of the three people that actually listened to New Jack Hustle’s “Sound Check” this year, I was thoroughly disappointed that this gem was not actually on the album (because I still cannot find an MP3 of this song anywhere on the internet and I'm getting seriously annoyed I can't play this on my iPod) but “2 It” remains one of the best, decidedly old school sounding bangers that have come around lately. New Jack Hustle consisting of Shawn Jackson and Giant Panda’s Newman craft a funky, Tribe-esque party jam over a stuttering, funky-horns-from-‘88 infused beats that will guarantee make you want to dance like Adam Goldberg in “Dazed & Confused.” Plus, Shawn Jackson has flow for days...

12. Erykah Badu - Honey

9th Wonder absolutely laced Ms. Badu on this track with a blipping, gurgling banger that is just the perfect platform for Erykah to perform her usual, weird ass Baduizm. See 9th Wonder can totally make beats that don’t sound like he's jacking De La Soul circa 1993! He can also sound like he's jacking Mannie Fresh from 1999, too!

11. Raphael Saadiq - Sometimes

I love soul music. I guess it’s the influence of my mom consistently playing Majic 105.7, the oldies’ station in Cleveland, growing up while we drove around to soccer practice in her car. “Sometimes”, as was the rest of Rapahel Saadiq's brilliant “The Way It Is”, is a song so defiantly old school that it drips with ‘60s soul instrumentation and it’s almost a shock to find out that it wasn’t recorded with Berry Gordy in the ‘60s. This song is so lush and gorgeous that you can’t but help a shed a little tear. (Yeah, I know this isn’t technically hip hop but this is my favorite song released regardless of genre. If the MP3 on my ipod were a vinyl record, this would be completely unplayable via all the scratches accumulated from playing it so freakin' much.)

10. Jay Electronica -Exhibit A (Transformations)

How Ace Hood got on XXL’s Freshman 10 cover and Jay Electronica did not is one of the great travesties in the history of time, music and travesties. Jay Electronica makes what I like to call orchestral rap as his music just seems lusher and more fully formed than his peers. The synths and organs swirl around the plinking pianos to give a sense of grandeur to the proceedings on the song and it certainly does not hurt that Jay Electronica is one of the most prodigiously talented lyricists working today. This is what rap would sound like if Mozart was a hip hop head in 2008.

9. Re-Up Gang - 20 K Money Making Brothers On The Corner

The Clipse have to be the most frustrating artists in all of hip hop. For every unabashed, snarling antisocial anthem these guys make like “Keys Open Doors”, they make one equally flaccid facisimile like “Fast Life” from the insipid Re-Up Gang full-length this summer. Luckily, “20 K Money Making Brothers On The Corner”, a vicious, frothy, foaming at the mouth posse cut, is the former. The Brothers Thornton et al. deliver their trademark, coke-infused verses with the type of the fiery hunger and passion that keeps me coming back to them despite all of their well-regarded lack of subject diversity. When they make cuts as angry and furious at this, it doesn’t even matter what they rhyme about… and Jesus Christ, where the hell has Dame Grease been since “It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot?!” I forgot he even produced “Stop Being Greedy.”

8. Kanye West - Coldest Winter

A “Tears for Fears” song, mournful soul-searching, auto-tune and emotional devastation make this THE song off “808s and Heartbreak”. The song is just absolutely heartbreaking and if you don’t feel something you’ve never had a broken heart. I’ve personally co-opted the meaning of the song and it has become my personal anthem for the last couple of weeks of my life. This is the song that ties “808s and Heartbreak” together and without it wouldn’t be half as good. Just devastating.

7. Kidz In The Hall - Driving Down The Block (Remix/West Coast Remix/El-P Remix)

How do you improve on a song that’s an already pretty damn good on it’s own? Break out the rolodex and call literally everybody you have ever met in your life and ask them if they’d be willing to spit a hot sixteen over it? That’s what the Kidz in The Hall did when attempting to remix, their (quasi-) hit single, “Drivin’ Down The Block”, this year. It worked out absolutely masterfully as each new remix provided a new spin to the song. The West Coast Remix transformed “Drivin’ Down The Block” into vintage Death Row G-Funk. Pusha-T, Bun-B and the Cool Kids provided menace, growl and swagger to the proceedings. And as for El-P, he morphed the song into an apocalyptic trunk rattler perfect for when the inevitable zombie apocalypse transforms earth-realm into a demonic hellscape. Rarely, do remixes these days get so disparate and veer so widely from their original sources. In a world when 80,000 emcees lazily spit over “A Milli” and then call it a remix, the “Drivin’ Down The Block” Remixes remind us of a time when Pete Rock, Primo (and Puffy) used to regularly take a hot song and just make it hotter.

6. Elzhi - Motown 25 (Feat. Royce Da 5’9”)

While the Allen Iverson trade has been systematically murdering the Pistons chances of being a playoff contender this year, Detroit has been carving out it’s reputation as the place in the country for hardcore underground hip hop. “Motown 25”, a world-beating collaboration of three of the Detroit underground crown royalty in Elzhi, Royce Da 5’9”, and Black Milk, was the crown jewel of this year’s scene. This song is a stunning exercise in the power of raw, lyrical-ass lyricism and a testament to what happens when you put two great emcees together and have try to top one another. Watching El and Royce trying to top each other is a such a thing of beauty and passion that causes one to shed a lonely tear…

5. T.I. - No Matter What

“No Matter What” is the type of song that can only be born when staring face to face with great adversity and you feel that your entire life can be taken away from you in an instant. T.I. facing possible incarceration for the rest of his natural born life for assault weapon charges crafted this defiant, moving “Fuck The World” anthem designed for those times when you feel down and out and the entire world is against you. It’s an inspiring moment of naked emotion and proves that T.I. can hang with the lyrical titans.

4. Killer Mike - God In The Building

There is only word for this song: Epic. Killer Mike has always been one of those artists who seems like if had he been born in a different time and place would’ve been pastor or a civil rights leader inspiring thousands to march with them had not a twist of fate sent him to Earth in a drug scarred Atlanta in the 1970s. You can feel the preacher in him when you listen to “God In The Building” because it positively swells with righteous intensity. The song driven by a gospel choir sample swirls around the beat and makes it seem as if the song was seemingly sung from the bowels of hell. It’s titanic bass powers Killer Mike’s furious invocation of God’s wrath that you just feel like you’re in the eye of a torrential hurricane. Paint from the walls peel off when you play this song on full volume.

3. Big Boi - Royal Flush [Feat. Andre 3000 & Raekwon]

You have to wonder at this point what form of twisted, unholy alchemy keeps two souls as widely different as Antwan Patton and Andre Benjamin making such brilliant music together almost fourteen years after their debut album. It’s totally and completely inexplicable that the two men who made songs as different as “Kryptonite” and “Prototype” on their own could mind-meld and make songs as perfect “Royal Flush.” Everything on “Royal Flush” from Big Boi’s hungry and furious rhymes, to Raekwon’s detached, king-like authority to the way the drums seem to smash so hard that they sound like their causing the beat to decay and crumble sounds like the way great hip hop should sound. And that’s not even mentioning, Andre’s continued streak of unblemished, lyrical manslaughter that has been going on for almost two years now. This song is a worthy sequel to the threesome’s 1998 monster collaboration “Skew It On The Bar-B” in every way imaginable. Dre and Big Boi, please get the heads of your asses and make another album together. The world needs you.

2. Wale - Back In The Go-Go (Also Known As “The Feature Heavy Song”) – Feat. Bun-B & Pusha-T

What attracts me to Wale so much is that not only is he capable of writing songs that are as thought-provoking and meaningful as “The Kramer” but he is capable of crafting a song as undeniably fun and funky as D.C. go-go influenced “Back In The Go-Go.” The song borrowing heavily from go-go music is one of the more upbeat and danceable tracks on Wale’s uber-praised “The Mixtape About Nothing” and remains the mixtape’s show-stopping highlight. From the first, few seconds of this song, you can tell the song is dripping with creativity. The drum patterns provided by D.C. underground producer, Best Kept Secret, are as crazy and inventive as vintage Pharrell as congos pound next to rough snares and funky xylophones. Vocally, Wale does his thing kicking funny and memorable lines while Pusha-T and Bun-B, this year’s co-winner of the Busta Rhymes Memorial Award For Ubiquitous and Inexplicable Guest Appearances, tear up the track in their own right. You really can’t do much better than songs like these. This is the year’s most original track.

1. The Knux - Cappuccino/Cappuccino (Remix)

You have to seriously wonder who the hell is running the Interscope marketing department because the fact that the Knux’s sickeningly catchy “Cappuccino” was not plastered over top 40 radio this year was one of the great injustices of modern pop music. The Knux crafted two of this year’s best singles in “Cappuccino” and it’s equally brilliant remix and should have been huge, crossover smashes hadn’t some completely incompetent, unimaginative coked-out marketing intern assigned to the the project hadn’t been completely sleeping at the wheel. Seriously, this is how you sell the Knux - you market the guitar-driven original to top 40 pop radio as you package the vintage Outkast in ‘98 remix to hip hop radio. You do whatever it takes for the disc jockeys to play it and you have a huge hit because you have built two separate audiences for their debut. This is so exceedingly obvious I’m offended I have to suggest this. If the motherfucking Black Eyed Peas can crossover so can the Knux. You should be ashamed of yourselves, Interscope.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An Open Letter To Common Sense Circa 1994/Common – Universal Mind Control: Review

"Fail @ Music"

Dear Mr. Sense:

First of all, I would like to congratulate you on releasing your new album, “Resurrection.” I don’t want to spoil anything for you because I’m writing from the future in the year 2024 but we will still talking about that album thirty years from now. In fact, that album is so good, you will be eating off the reputation that album garnered for you for the rest of your life and plenty of people will excuse a lot of questionable material you will be releasing in the near future because of how great songs like “Communism” are. I mean people will be frontin’ on “I Used To Love H.E.R.” like that song wasn’t the fucking shit in 1994 but those people like Shawty Lo records so fuck ‘em. I’m sorry you don’t know who Shawty Lo is yet, do you? He was part of this ass awful group called D4L in the mid ‘00s and beefed with T.I. for a little while over whether or not they actually grew up in this backwater town called Bankhead like anybody gives a flying fornication. I know, it will be as retarded as it sounds. Oh, yeah, that’s right you haven’t met T.I., either. You’ll be playing his father in a film called “American Gangster” in about 12 years so don’t sweat it. I know, it’ll be creepy. Actually, just forget it. All in due time.

Anyway, the reason that I’m writing you today is because I’m compelled to warn you as a fan of yours about the upcoming disaster that will be your future album called “Universal Mind Control” in the year 2008. It’s imperative that you do not make this album. The entire fabric of existence depends on it. “Universal Mind Control” isn’t just bad. It’s legendarily bad. It’s “This is album is so bad it negates the existence of God bad. Like I mean there can’t possibly be a supreme being if he allowed a travesty like this to occur” bad. There’s absolutely nothing salvageable about this album. You need to stop this before it occurs. I’m begging you. Wars started in foreign countries over this album when it was released. You ever see the movie, Scanners? At least, sixty people had their heads spontaneously explode attempting to listen to this album. Please, I beg of you. Do not attempt.

Listen, in the future you will meet a man by the name of Pharrell. He’s this goofy ass skinny dude who wears all types of hideously gaudy clothes, he sings in this hyper annoying falsetto and he’ll have this Asian guy (which nobody can seem to figure out actually does for a living...) follow him around all the time . He’ll try to seduce you by jetting you around the globe in his private plane, have you cavorting with models, and introduce you to a short, motor mouthed actor with an immaculate hairpiece that will soon become you’re best friend. You need to kill him upon meeting him. Despite the fact the man has only about a dozen, truly great songs to his name, he will have garnered a ridiculous amount of unwarranted acclaim and will offer to produce your latest album for you. You must resist. The beats on “Universal Mind Control” are truly hideous and are bad even by his standards. It sounds like this weird amalgamation of Baltimore Club Music, Danger Mouse, and Just Blaze’s worst, most ostentatious impulses in a way that completely fails and causes one to question the creator’s influences. The first time I heard the title track, I was convinced I was listening to an ill-conceived Girl Talk (as if there was anything else) mash-up of some bad Bmore Club and a drunken freestyle that No I.D. dared you to record while drinking orange pineapple juice laced with vodka. And that’s only the opening record! It only gets worse from there. I’m talking records that inexplicably bite Biggie’s flow in a sub-Guerilla Black manner; records that reference Gladiator (and are actually called “Gladiator”) as if “What More Can I Say” didn’t happen; and there’s actually a record called “Sex 4 Sugar. Completely without irony.

And as a bad as Pharrell is on the album, the problem is primarily you. In approximately the year 2005, after doing one too many advertisements for the Gap, the soft feel of their 100% cotton sweaters will cause you to completely lose your ability to rap but instead of doing the sensible thing and completely retire from rap as if you were Mos Def, you will continue to force yourself on the listening public. You will embarrass yourself on this record. Badly. There are songs on this record where there will be no semblance of flow and rhythm on your part. This wouldn’t necessarily be bad if you weren’t rapping about some generic, cookie cutter version of universal love or some hippie bullshit but you are. This album is the audio equivalent of talking to some douchebag named Moonbeam for an hour while he trips on acid and forces you to go to a rave. It ain’t pretty.

“Universal Mind Control” must not happen, Common. You have the power to stop it. You must resist all impulses in the future to do anything that doesn’t sound like “Thisisme,” It will hurt because you will feel that you are better than hip hop but you are not. You are definitely not. Trust me. Lives were lost because of this. This album was directly responsible for the Supreme Court from negating the results from 2008 Presidential Election and ushering in a third Bush term which lead to the death of democracy in America. Lives depend it on, Lonnie. You can change it. Don’t make this album.


The Good Doctor Zeus

P.S. You should also probably drop the “Sense” part of your name. You’ll thank me later.

P.P.S. In the future, you will meet a woman by the name of Erkyah. This will be in your future.

Be warned.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Kanye West - 808s & Heartbreak: Review

"Kanye West: Better Than A Wilco Cover"

Let’s just say I was wrong about this one. I’ll admit it. When I first heard, “Love Lockdown” I assumed Mr. West had officially decided he was too good for hip hop (and thus forever was leaving us to hobnob with Bono and Coldplay and ignore his hip hop roots as if he were Terrence Howard. I mean could you imagine if Beanie Sigel rolled up on Kanye and said hello if he were talking to Marc Jacobs or Anna Wintour’s bitch ass. Homey, would probably look as horrified if you told him his Louis Vuitton purse was knock-off or something.) and was about to get his Prince on. If you were to ask me the chances that Kanye West was not going to make an album that was a total, giant used tampon of a period bleeder relying heavily on the use of auto-tune and being primarily about how your girlfriend doesn’t love you anymore, I would’ve told you the chances were approximately slim and something resembling (but not limited to) nothingness. We already had Slug sucking at that massively and we certainly did not need anybody attempting to out-Slug Slug. It ain’t going to happen. However, I’d happily like to report that I am an idiot and should officially never doubt Kanye Omari West and his quest to re-invent hip hop. I apologize. “808s & Heartbreak” is great.

Despite what the lil’ homey noz might say, great art often springs from great pain. Not necessarily, of course, (See: Atmosphere, discography) but it’s very rare that artists make great music stemming from being truly well-adjusted happy individuals. Those who endeavor to be creative often find themselves at odds with the world (or at least, those worth a bit of damn. I mean honestly, if you are happy what are you doing being an artist, anyway? Being a lawyer or a doctor or a high school janitor is usually more lucrative, anyway…) and when properly harnessed that type of struggle can turn into something worthwhile of time. “808s and Heartbreak” is ostensibly about the loss of the two most important women in Kanye’s loss (hence the name, dumbass) and the sense of pain and loss is palpable throughout the disc. For those who aren’t being force-fed celebrity gossip or have not read every single solitary review of the album that has been released, Kanye’s mother passed away late last year after a botched plastic surgery and shortly thereafter his long-time fiancé broke up with him.

The album has decidedly cold and minimalist feel which does away with the bombastic, musical hyperboles of “Late Registration” and the warmth of “The College Dropout” and instead takes the futuristic, El-P-ish feel of “Gradution” to the next logical step to total and complete, absolute zero. The two best songs on the album, “Say You Will” and “Coldest Winter” are total New Wave-esque ‘80s pop which palpable sadness permeates through the record. In lesser hands, the record might come across as total emo-rap pap that can be found on any given Rhymesayers record but Kanye’s talent for musical arrangements and melodies help transcend this and push it forward into great pop music.

Each song on this album is absolutely dripping with pathos that is even put further in the wringer by Kanye’s legendary use of auto-tune on this album. A lot has been said about Kanye’s curious choice to eschew rapping on this album and instead attempt to sing (when he absolutely cannot) but Kanye’s use of Pro-Toolian technology is less necessitated by his genuine lack of singing ability (although that’s certainly part of it) but rather a way of infusing a robotic, emotionless quality to his voice which only furthers the theme of the themes of the album. It’s the exact opposite of what lesser artists like Roger Troutman-raping T-Pain has been doing for the last couple of years. Kanye wants us to feel his pain and the use of the auto-tune makes him seem distant and cold which I can imagine is a purely aesthetic choice. Some writers have been wondering why Kanye felt the need to sing on this record instead of rapping his (“alleged”) forte as if Kanye was feeding into the much discredited notion that singing is the only proper way of registering pain or “real” emotion in the musical vocabulary. Truth is genuine emotion and rapping often do clash especially when it comes to sad or break-up records. I keep harping on Slug and Atmosphere for their musical whininess but there have been little true success in the emo-rap genre. The only record that truly succeeds in my opinion is Cage’s “Hellz Winter”, a searing tour-de-force of familial and personal strife set against El-P’s trademark buzz. It’s one of the few true successes of the emo-rap genre and Kanye isn’t quite adept a rapper as Cage is (as weird as that sounds and I’m being real hesistant saying that). In Kanye’s case, I think we should just accept that if forced to rely on lyrical talent of rapping, he would’ve fallen straight on his face and the new album would be a travesty. The record isn’t without flaws, of course. Lil’ Wayne miraculously ruins “See You In My Nightmares” with one horrid line of sheer, unadulterated awfulness (just like he does EVERY song he’s on), Young Jeezy’s cameo is superfluous and utterly pointless and “Pinocchio Story” either should have excised completely from the album or recorded in a studio instead of being a barely audible live “freestyle” recorded to an indifferent crowd somewhere allegedly in Singapore. The record is pretty strong, otherwise.

Most people have been comparing “808s & Heartbreak” to Radiohead’s “Kid A” which on the surface is an apt comparison but to me, this is Kanye’s “Rumors” if interpreted by the ugly lovechild of Phil Collins, T-Pain and El-P. It’s a record that explicitly and implicitly deals with the pitfalls of Kanye’s love and family life shattering in front of him and the rise of great art that comes from it. I have one caveat with this album. I’m not sure if it’s going to hold up. Often with these post-rap side projects that hip hop artists have been creating over the years, the shelf life before it becomes an unlistenable monument to the artist’s ego is six months so I’m wondering if I will find this album as thrilling as I do now in a few months but for now, I’m utterly satisfied. Here’s to hoping, the heartbreak will fade over time and not the legacy of this album.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

What I Imagine Lil’ Wayne’s (And DJ Drama’s) “Dedication 3” Sounds Like Without Giving Enough Of A Shit To Actually Sit Down And Listen To It

"Still, Probably Better Than 'Tha Carter 3'"

Possibly, the most egregious moment in the history of the utterly desolate abyss of the Pitchfork yearly best of... lists was when Lil’ Wayne bamboozled Thomas Breihan into thinking he was deep by releasing the gloriously average “Georgia...Bush” on his thoroughly mediocre mixtape “Dedication 2.” It set off a change reaction in which Lil’ Wayne upon being nothing more than a flash in the pan weed carrier on Cash Money Records for most of his career inexplicably became the biggest star in all of music. When “Dedication 2” clocked in at number 37 on that year’s list (ahead of J-Dilla’s "Donuts" no less!), I knew I had lost the war. Despite ranting for months on message boards across the nation to fifteen year old Weezy fanboys that Lil’ Wayne was not, in fact, better than Rakim, I knew at the moment, that it was inevitable. Lil’ Wayne was about to become critically respected. My soul died a little bit that day.

It’s been two years since that fateful day and my worst case scenario has come to fruition. Weezy is as ubiquitous as ever. “Tha Carter 3” was a bigger success than even I could imagine in my fevered, drunken nightmares, he’s showing off his neophyte guitar skills for Kid Rock at the Country Music Awards and he’s being given more and larger platforms to take his shirt off homoerotically in public. It’s a nightmare...

But that just means that it’s giving me more opportunity to practice my particular brand of hate. The (apparently, I had no idea it was even coming out so soon...) highly anticipated mixtape, “Dedication 3”, was released by Lil’ Wayne and (the thoroughly, useless) DJ Drama this week and I thought it would be perfect to do another installment in my What I Imagine... series.

As per usual, this should be considered the definitive review of this mixtape because well, you know the drill... flawless taste in all... Enjoy!

1. Welcome Back - I’m really hoping this samples that comeback Mase jawn where he samples the Welcome Back, Kotter theme. I love that song...without shame.

2. Dedication 3 [Feat. Mack Maine, Willie The Kid & La the Darkman] - Wait a second, La the Darkman is on this? The Wu-Tang J.V. member? Seriously?! Tell me, Weezy ain’t a fan of “Uncontrolled Substance” era Inspectah Deck! That might totally change my opinion of him as an artist!

3. What Else Is There To Do? - Um, you could go away. It worked wonders for Jay-Z’s career.

4. Thingy Pleaser [Feat. Jae Millz] - Weezy’s uber-misogynistic sex jams are almost always inherently, more quease inducing than your standard sex jam because not only are they usually more scatalogical (because he has to work harder to convince us that he has relations with the opposite sex) but they always sound so joyless. I mean let’s take UGK’s legendarily offensive “Pregnant Pussy” as an example. The song might be pound for pound the most offensive song ever recorded but the song is also undeniably fun because there seems to be a sense that despite the horrible things that Pimp C and Bun B are saying there is a knowing sense that they understand this undeniably ignorant but we’re gonna fuck around with you, anyway. There is joy in that. Unlike, Weezy’s material which always sounds like he’s completely uninterested in women and thus makes it all the more unpleasant to listen to. It’s the same exact problem I have with Cam’ron. It just sounds detached and forced which just amplifies the misogyny. Probably because they much rather be both sleeping with Juelz Santana, respectively..

5. Ain’t I [Feat. Jae Millz] - I’m guessing this song samples that completely uninspired, lost Jay-Z/Timbaland collaboration from earlier this year. Only except we aren’t getting Jay-Z’s corpse rapping about his Basqiats, we get Jae Millz rapping about coke. Lovely...

6. You Love Me, You Hate Me - Actually, I just hate you but I’ll forgive the misunderstanding.

7. Bang, Bang [Feat. Jae Millz & Gudda Gudda] - Hey! It’s time for the ubiquitous Weezy song where he tries to convince people that he didn’t get a recording contract at the age of ten and actually used to run around shooting people in the projects of New Orleans. These songs usually tend to work out for Weezy as evidenced by my love for the “Cannon (Remix)” that was on the last one of these monstrosities. I really do love that song. This song might have some hope.

8. “The Other Side” [Feat. La the Darkman, Jae Millz & Gudda Gudda] - What is going on here? La the Darkman, again? Seriously, why him? If you’re going to pick random Wu weed carriers, why not get like Killah Priest or Killa Sin or something? This is just too inexplicable for words.

9. My Weezy [Feat. Shannel, Lil Twist & Tyga] - Oh, great female weed carriers... their level of suck can only be compared to the suck of the legendary white weed carrier. This song can’t be any good.

10. A Dedication - This must be one of those times where Drama wastes a minute and fifty seconds of your life shouting out the various sycophants and untalenteds he has signed to the Aphilliaties. I know DJ Khaled is universally the most despised man in hip hop these days but for my money, Drama gives a serious run for his money in terms of total douchebaggery and general annoyance. I hate Drama...

11. She’s A Ryder [Feat. Kidd-Kidd] - What is with Weezy’s jewelry polisher’s names? Kidd-Kidd? Gudda Gudda? Is Juelz “Same Word With The Same Word” Santana naming these people? Somebody is definitely not trying hard enough.

12. Still I Rise [Feat. Nicki Manaj] - Two to one this samples T.I.’s “No Matter What” and Weezy turns it into a metaphor for getting an erection... And I never thought I’d see the day where somebody would manage to out class Lil’ Kim’s famous poster but Nicki Manaj is doing her finest to top it...

13. Magic [Feat. Gudda Gudda] - Dollars to doughnuts, this about drugs. Either this is about Weezy’s dedication to syrup or about that one time he heard about one of these guy’s his friend’s knows cousin sold some weed to his college roommate.

14. Do’s and Dont’s Of Young Money - Oh please for the love of god, let this be a cover of Nas’ legendarily bad idea train wreck that was “Dr. Knockboot”...

Sample couplet: “First, DON’T smoke yourself utterly retarded/or you’ll be making shitty songs with auto-tune and sounding garbage” (Ok, I’m not a very good rapper. You get the point...)

15. Whoever You Like [Feat. Jae Millz & Gudda Gudda] - Damn, Jae Millz is on everything on this mixtape.! His brain game must be strooooong! Also, Lil Wayne + the “Whatever You Like” beat = This.

16. “That Was Easy” - It was most assuredly not, DJ Drama.

17. Get Bizzy [Feat. Gudda Gudda] - I would soil myself if they rapped over that Roots songs from “Rising Down” this year. I would totally be down for Weezy rapping over some Roots. It’s probably not, though...

18. I Got That Gangsta - No, you don’t. Stop frontin’.

19. A Message To The DJ’s - Remember when Lil’ Wayne caught a bitch-fit earlier this year when he realized talentless leeches like Khaled were making money off his freestyles while he was getting dick and he told mixtape DJ’s to go fuck themselves. I’m guessing Drama forced him to cop a plea here which is shame because, honestly, fuck mixtapes DJ’s!

20. Stuntin’ [Feat. Drake] - Was there a “Hustlin’” rip-off called “Stuntin’” this year that blew up while I was listening to Elzhi records or something? There seems like there would be a song like that. Either way, there is no way this wasn’t produced by the Runners.

21. Dedicated - Drama wastes even more of your life on this one...

22. Put On [Feat. Tyga & Gudda Gudda] - I can’t imagine combining Gudda Gudda and auto-tune is the smartest idea. It didn’t work for Kanye on this song and it won’t work for you, Gudda Gudda.

23. Outro - Hopefully, this won’t be a repeat of the last track on “Tha Carter 3” where Weezy got confused and rambled on about Al Sharpton for six minutes before passing out in the booth after drinking way too much lean. That would be terrible. Actually, you know what? I take that back. I would love to hear the outtakes of that song where he not only goes in on Sharpton but he goes on an extended, profanity-filled, anti-semitic rant about the Jews and how there is a global conspiracy to control all media and government, Mel Gibson-style. I think I just would about die...

Overall: With every track seemingly overloaded with weed carriers (and not even his “allegedly” good, XXL-approved weed carriers like Cory Gunz and Curren$y), I can’t imagine this being any good. What do I recommend instead? The new Q-Tip album is surprisingly not as terrible as I imagined it would be. You could totally do worse than wasting an hour listening to Q-Tip do his damn hardest to recreate old school Tribey goodness. That album is pretty good. This mixtape probably sucks.

Adjusted Pitchfork Rating: 3.3

Saturday, November 15, 2008

No Words... Weezy F. Baby Has Jumped The Shark Edition

Lil' Wayne... Kid Rock... the Country Music Awards... What? Why?! What?!?!

I'm speechless...

Any did everybody else know that Lil' Wayne was dropping "Dedication 3?" I spit coffee on my computer when I saw that it was posted on Nah Right, yesterday. This seems like it would be a bigger deal than it was.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Who The Hell Are The P Brothers And How The Hell Is "The Gas" So Fuckin' Good?

You know, I really think that cover really speaks for itself...

Apparently, I was wrong. I didn't realize that this could still happen. I was under the deeply flawed impression that since the advent of the internet age that it was impossible for an artist to completely sneak under my radar and drop a record that's so good and so completely off the grid that one is forced to ponder how the fuck did these guys go so unnoticed. I mean I thought I was up on shit. I check Nah Right daily. I read all the blogs that are worth a damn (and some that aren't...). I have untold legions of shitty MySpace rappers (and shitty rappers with label deals. I'm looking at you, Max B...) send me their ill-conceived Soulja Boy rip-off songs at rate that my Gmail spam filter is begging me for respite. So it seemed to me that it was completely inconceivable that an artist could just appear on my radar and drop one of my favorite records this year. But lo and behold, The P Brothers just did.

The P Brothers are two blokes hailing from Nottingham, England by the way of (inexplicably) the Bronx and their new album, "The Gas", is the sort of hardcore New York-esque rap album you thought they stopped making the second 50 Cent single-handedly murdered the rest of the scene back in the earlier quotient of this decade. The P Brothers consisting of DJ Ivory and Paul S are producers whose signature sound sounds like a minimalist El-P colliding with Infamous-era Mobb Deep and the RZA. Their beats are dirty and rugged and you can feel the dusty grooves and worn vinyl of the records they tirelessly sifted through in smelly, decrepit Mom & Pop record stores in the United Kingdom. The P Brothers have been kicking around the U.K.’s underground hip hop scene for years having worked with the likes of Sadat X and Donald D over the years so this makes it all the more surprising that they never even came close to crossing my instinctive travels over the paths of rhythm and rap music over my life. It seems completely inexplicable that I’ve neither heard of them or heard their work before. I mean I’ll admit there is a lot of stuff that I willfully have ignored over the years (I’m not an encyclopedia of marginal rap acts like noz) like the lesser works of No Limit, the discography of Mac Dre, and the entirety of any music produced by the country of Canada but I know who these people are How this managed to happen? I haven’t the foggiest but if I have to blame anybody I’m blaming Tom Breihan. Why? Just because…

Make no mistake, “The Gas” is decidedly throwback but in ways that you forgot good east coast (or in this case, British hip hop or as I like to say “reverse west coast” rap) could be. The bass overpowers and stalks the track menacingly, the drums smash against the melody like their supposed to and the vocal attack the beat. Unlike many producer driven LPs, the record is not driven by a stream of famous and semi-famous rappers of the moment but rather a quintet of unknown rap acts out of the Bronx which gives the album a cohesive feeling. Boss Money (Apparently, the remnants of a group called Boss Money Players…a group, I apparently have on my iPod. Go figure?), Roc Marciano, Milano, Res Connected and $amhill provide gritty, street raps while at times workmanlike allow the star of the show, the brothers head knocking beats to take center stage. Honestly, if there is a flaw on this record, it would be the emceeing. None of these acts really catch my eye as great rappers. They all seem kind of blandly generic, New York street tough mixtape rappers (except without the Nah Right pedigree and co-sign) . The only rapper I might revise that decision is $amhill who provides the vocals for the album’s stunning closer, “Don’t Question Me”, in which he crafts a stunning ode to loyalty, romantic or otherwise.

The album’s best songs knock with intensity and ruggedness. “Digital B-Boy”, the album’s best song, an electronic wall of buzz and old school beat break drums, is the perfect music for riding the subways late at night when the only passengers on the train are you, the passed out homeless dude smelling like Boone’s Farm and societal neglect, and the creepy dude who either keeps eyeing you to snatch your wallet Deebo style or make sweet, sweet love to your unwilling buttocks in the abandoned subway station. “Outta Control” featuring Roc Marciano is a razor in your mouth street anthem with a minimalist ’88 vibe and a bass line so memorable and powerful that you’ll find yourself humming it yourself when your cold and alone. These are the standouts but the record is packed with songs like these. Their isn’t a weak cut on the entire album.

“The Gas” is a record that is going to appeal to people who prefer Pete Rock to Timbaland. If you’re the type of dude who gets bored by anything that remotely sounds like it come out of an era that didn’t suck and generally prefer mediocre, “post-lyrical” rappers than you’re going to want to stay far away from this record. You’ll probably hate it. Violently. “The Gas” is a record that warms the boom bap dinosaur that resides deep within my heart. But hey, fear not Young Jeezy lovers, they rap about selling coke on this album. Wonderful!

Monday, November 3, 2008

The KnuX - Remind Me In 3 Days...: Review

"Hey, it looks like my apartment!"

Perhaps it’s because hip hop culture often has trouble accepting those that do not fit in with the traditional paradigm of what’s considered “hip hop”, music critics, often forced to listen to hundreds of terrible faux-Jeezy retreads, are often handed long, loving critical handjobs to what’s considered new and avant-garde in hip hop music without discerning if the music being presented is actually any good. It leads to a whole lot of shit-tastic guitar playing, car accident-esque drum and bass experiments, and horrific, fetus-in-a-blender off-key singing to be hailed as the next evolution in hip hop’s musical direction and encourages perfectly serviceable rappers to eschew what they do best to get their will.i.am on. I know I’ve fallen victim to it. It took me, at least, six months to realize that “The Love Below” was not new age musical fusion but quite possibly, the proverbial worst shit that I’ve heard in my life (not called Purple Haze, natch...). As critics and fans of the genre, we need to take care that when we praise an avant-garde hip hop album that the music is actually good and not just awful weird for weirdness’ sake Grammy-baiting hackery. Well, I’m proud to say that the Knux’s new genre-bending album, “Remind Me In 3 Days...”, does not, in fact, suck. It’s actually pretty damn impressive.

The Knux are compromised of two brothers from New Orleans transplanted into the fiery, hell-rot known as Hollywood, California and their debut album is a record that belies future promise and current delivery. The Knux play their own instruments, produce their own beats, and rap abnormally well for dudes who wear mascara in their videos (Tell me, I’m wrong, Krispy!) and adorn the type of pants that make one’s testicles hate their owner for imprisoning them in such a cruel, restrictive prison. (Seriously, people. I don’t care if the tightness of your pants makes you gay or not but it’s just cruel to shackle your genitals like that in such unholy restriction. Let your boys breathe! It’s bad enough their so close to the taint...) The record plays fast and loose with the conventions of hip hop and for the most part truly suceeds in creating a new sound and vibe. Their sound is pure glam rock as interpreted by Organized Noize with a hint of electro and Devin the Dude tossed in.

Remind Me In The 3 Days...” takes a lot of musical chances and their are a few missteps but the songs that work, really work. The uber-catchy lead single, “Cappucinno”, remains pound for pound my favorite single released this year. The song features buzzy video game synths, charging guitars, and some of the freshest rapping released all year. The two brothers, Rah Almillio and Krispy Kream, are two of the best young rappers to come out in the scene this year. Rah Almillio has the sound and tounge-twisting cadence of a young Big Boi but (It’s!) Krispy is the group's stand-out vocalist. His verses are always entertaining and funny and he has a delivery that sounds fresh and original. Other standout tracks on the record are “Fire (Put It In The Air)”, the ATLiens-esque ode to weed, the whirlwind, word-a-second “The List”, the somber “Shine Again”, and the Beastie Boy-ish “Roxxanne.”

The record isn’t perfect. At times, it’s musical experimentation can fall strictly into the horror show quality of Black Eyed Peas record or the Gym Class Heroes. “Daddy’s Little Girl” is straight up heinous and sounds as if Fergie herself stormed into the Knux’s recording session and forced them to make an insipid ode to spoiled, little Paris Hilton’s wannabes everywhere. The records that work the best are the ones with the most traditional hip hop spin but what this record shows is the promise the group has. The Knux are going to make a monster classic record very, very soon. These guys are stars and it’s an absolute travesty that this record has been pushed into Interscope tax write-off hell. It’s just fucking egregious. I’m sorry but if I were Jimmy Iovine and some hack record executive told me they couldn’t market the Knux that would be instant career death in my opinion. These guys are the next evolutionary step from Outkast so that would beyond incompetent in my opinion.

Remind Me In 3 Days...” is exactly the type of record that I was talking about when I was writing about the promise of hipster rap a few months back. Only it’s exceeded my expectations in some respects and I feel that I’ve short-changed them comparing them to the modest talents of groups like Kidz In The Hall and the Cool Kids. They’re in another league when it comes to talent and execution. The Knux are the real deal and their debut record is one of the best of the year. It’s Krispy, motherfuckers!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Not A Blogger Vs. XXL’s 10 Freshman MC's

In the embryonic stages of my glorious monument to the halcyon genius that is my blog, I took serious umbrage with what Elliot Wilson and the crack team over at XXL Magazine had seemingly arbitrarily decided were the the ten most elite members of hip hop’s next generation. It was filled with such future “kings” of the genre as Gorilla Zoe, Plies and the immortal Papoose. Needless to say, one year later, their choices have only gotten more laughably awful as only
Lupe Fiasco has managed to do anything truly of note that wasn’t a shitty mixtape.

You would think after such an abortive performance that XXL perhaps would shy away from making such predictions but alas, you just don’t know
Harris Publishing. This year, XXL has decided to name their “10 Freshman MC’s” and release a trifecta of covers to commemorate and like last year, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to savagely hate on each of these rapper’s career prospects. I hope you shall enjoy.


Sounds Like... Kanye West, Andre 3000 and Lupe Fiasco gang raping Lil’ Wayne in the Backyard Band’s backyard and if that act produced an offspring

Best Case Scenario: I get to triumphantly say I told you so as he sells one million copies of his debut album

Worst Case Scenario: Do you have any clue who the Backyard Band is? Is your name noz? No? Exactly…

Doc’s Take: For those who are avid reader of my blog know how big a fan I am of Wale. I personally think sky’s the limit for this kid. “The Mixtape About Nothing” remains one of the few bright spots in an otherwise, holocaust barren year for hip hop albums and Wale’s slowly been making a name for himself off the notoriety of that album. Wale bridges the elements of D.C.’s famed Go-Go scene and brings a warm, hip hop spin to it. The kid’s a star in my opinion.


Sounds like... Cee-Lo Green before he got his "Soul Machine" on

Best Case Scenario: He becomes the next Devin The Dude

Worst Case Scenario: People continue to confuse him with that one Outkast song about blowing the living bejeezus of urban Iraq

Doc’s Take: B.o.B.’s a talented dude but I can’t imagine he’s going to have much of a successful career. He seems bound for permanent underground status and if he’s lucky, he’s going to be a perennial “You-Should-Be-Up-On-This-Dude’s-Shit” status. I’ve pretty much enjoyed every solitary thing this guy has released lately but it seems too esoteric and smart to catch on with the mainstream and not “avant-garde” enough to catch on with the hipster crowds. His sound just isn’t quite original enough to carry him. He seems like another Trae. That’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Asher Roth

Sounds Like… Eminem if you gave him Jay-Z’s post-retirement flow and forced him to only rap about being in college… so basically just Eminem with way less talent really…

Best Case Scenario: He gets to fuck an Olsen Twin.

Worst Case Scenario: Seriously, did you see that Dallas Penn video? Dude is doing the backstroke in pools of pussy… I don’t think there’s a worst case scenario.

Doc’s Take: It seems that there is irrational element of hip hop blogdom that loathes this guy with the fires of a thousand suns. It seems as if my fellow brethren feel that Mr. Roth is the second coming of the Anti-Christ and is single-handedly ruining hip hop in it’s entirety. Personally, I’m running a check on this particular branch of bullshit because while Asher Roth isn’t exactly my taste, he’s not that wack. I personally kind of enjoy his kinda great Weezer-sampling “I Love College” and the dude seems to display some energy and passion so as far as I’m concerned the wanton hate derives from the fact a bunch of white bloggers are pissed that they didn’t come up with the idea of being “The Upper Middle Class White Rapper Who Raps About Being White And Upper Middle Class” first and now he’s all up in the high heel set and you’re not. I’m onto you people and you gots to chill. Don’t hate.

Charles Hamilton

Sounds Like... what Urkel would sound like if he rapped and had a Sonic the Hedgehog fetish

Best Case Scenario: He becomes the black
Asher Roth

Worst Case Scenario: Well…he was once on an episode of “The Real”

Doc’s Take: I’ve written about Charles Hamilton in the past and basically everything I’ve written applies here as well. Charles’ flow is kind of awkward and forced but his skills as a producer and the esoteric nature of the samples that he uses makes his music interesting and diverse. He probably should stick to producing other acts because he’s not the world’s most talented emcee but he creates some material that is actually pretty dope. I’ve been enjoying his “Hamiltonization Process” series of mixtapes that he’s been dropping. I kind see him and Asher Roth as artistic cousins in both style and the audience they seem to be after. They both seem obsessed with girls and nerdy things so I can only really see one of them becoming a star. I’m betting on Charles’ paler brethren, though.


Sounds Like… the Okayplayer Message Boards

Best Case Scenario: Kanye West decides to produce his album and leaves the auto-tune firmly at home.

Worst Case Scenario: Electric Circus… That’s all I’ve got to say… And don’t think that isn’t coming? Did you hear that “C.R.A.C. Knuckles” album? Tell me, I’m wrong.

Doc’s Take: I don’t really know how I feel about Blu. He’s a truly talented emcee as his words flow easily from his lips and he projects the kind of soul soaked warmth the Okayplayer crowd is know for but I can’t say I really dig his music/ On one hand, I remember I thoroughly enjoyed “Below the Heavens” last year the one time I listened to it but I definitely felt like I did not need to hear that record again. The “C.R.A.C. Knuckles” he put out this year with Ta’Raach was extremely disappointing but I really love “Pop Dem Boyz.” Personally, I feel he destined for Little Brother status as one of those rappers that you either love or loathe on general principle for attempting to be “conscious.”

Mickey Factz

Sounds Like… what Lupe Fiasco looks like

Best Case Scenario: He inexplicably makes the cover of XXL Magazine… Oh wait…

Worst Case Scenario: He cons a couple of models into thinking he’s the dude who wrote that “Superstar” song.

Doc’s Take: I do not care for Mickey Factz at all. He’s a completely, generic and boring hipster rapper with a completely indistinctive voice or personality and he hasn’t even made anything as remotely good as “Drivin’ Down The Block”, “Black Mags” or “Cappuccino.” Plus, he friggin’ looks like Lupe Fiasco. Why is he on this list? Did XXL Magazine need to meet a quotient of black coffee shop dudes in horned rim glasses? This should be Krispy Kream’s spot from the KnuX.

Cory Gunz/Curren$y

Sounds Like… Aren’t these guys the same rapper?

Best Case Scenario: I mean seriously aren’t they both Lil’ Wayne’s former baggage handlers?

Worst Case Scenario: Seriously?! I’m not making this up aren’t these guys both “proteges” of the late, great Dwayne Carter. I could swear this is true.

Doc’s Take: I’m not wasting any more of my energy writing about Cory Gunz and Curren$y. I have better things to do with my life. Just, no… Please explain this to me, though. Why not just put Blood Raw on this list if we are choosing weed carriers now? Ugh… This offends me on so many levels.

Ace Hood

Sounds Like… DJ Khaled’s payola game is waaaay strong!

Best Case Scenario: DJ Khaled dies in either a fiery, multiple car accident, a long extended torture by one of the rich sadists in the movie Hostel, or gets drawn and quartered by four tractor trailers driven by the ghost of Biggie Smalls…thus we never have to hear this guy rap, anymore….

Worst Case Scenario: Ace Hood inexplicably falls ass backwards into a “This is Why I’m Hot?” and thus, I can’t escape his voice even when I’m on the J Train and some douches cell phone blows up. There really is no worst case scenario. There is no bottom to his limits.

Doc’s Take: Why? Just why, XXL?! Ace Fuckin’ Hood is going to be a future star?! You know what? I was being too hard on Curren$y and Cory Gunz because this is just too egregious for words. What exactly does DJ Khaled have on the industry that he continues to foist his music and his artists upon the world? What did we do to deserve such a grisly fate? I’m beginning to think that DJ Khaled is God’s revenge on the human race for the Holocaust? What the fuck?!?!

Kid CuDi

Sounds Like… somebody decided it was good idea to bring hip house back… I’m looking at you, Baby Bam…

Best Case Scenario: He becomes the second, most successful rapper out of Cleveland thus supplanting Ray Cash.

Worst Case Scenario: Actually, I’m not actually sure that above isn’t the worst case scenario. I kind of like Ray Cash. You should probably own “Cash On Delivery.” It’s actually pretty dope. Can we get Ray Cash on this list instead of Ace Hood? That would make me happy.

Doc’s Take: I saw Kid CuDi in concert at an overpriced club in the West Village a few weeks back with Jeff Weiss and a couple of other bloggers and his live show was pretty good. I was actually pretty shocked that so many people knew the words to a bunch of obscure ass Kid CuDi songs. I also happened to meet Naledge from Kidz In The Hall and to my absolute shock, homebody is Prodigy-sized,. No joke. As for Kid CuDi, I can’t say I’m the word’s biggest fan. His music is kind of the sonic cousin to old Hip House stuff of the early ‘90s and I can’t say I’m really behind that kind of movement. “Day-N-Nite’s” pretty catchy, though.

Final Thoughts: Overall, I’m definitely more pleased with this year’s version that last year’s version of this list. I approve of about half of these rappers on the list and those that I think outright suck aren’t quite as awful as those who I thought absolutely sucked last year. Personally, if I had my druthers I would replace Ace Hood, Mickey Factz, Curren$y and Cory Gunz with the Knux, The Cool Kids, Bishop Lamont and Elzhi but yet again, if I had my druthers than Jim Jones wouldn’t have a career. Here’s to hating, folks! L’Chaim!