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

Friday, August 29, 2008

Young Jeezy - The Recession: Review

Looks like somebody took some adult education classes...

Ultimately, here’s my biggest problem with Young Jeezy - anytime the words “white”, “birds”, “pies”, “weight” or any other half thought euphemism for benzoylmethyl ecgonine are uttered by his booming, croaking voice, my eyes uncontrollably roll so far into the back of my skull that I need pliers to pry them back and get them functioning properly again. Needless to say, the aforementioned euphemisms for cocaine are 95% of Jeezy’s vocabulary so it makes listening to his music a chore that I generally attempt to avoid at all costs. I surely understand why a certain subset of hip hop fans find him so hypnotic but for me, his music is so unbelievably asinine that I have hard time sitting through an actual album of it. I don’t really believe that Jeezy ever sold an ounce of crack in his life precisely because he’s so transfixed by it. He approaches his coke fetish with the same approach that a teenage fan boy has towards their favorite gangster rapper. He idolizes and worships drug dealing but it’s all cheap, superficial and just the tad bit homo-erotic. He lacks the meticulous devotion to minutiae of Raekwon and Ghostface, the stark dystopian gravitas of the Clipse or even the (“alleged”) surrealist absurdities of one Mr. Cameron Giles. He doesn’t even offer the obsessive sad sack stalker charm that the Game does. Lyrically, Jeezy is a hack, plain and simple. However, despite all of that “The Recession” is a really enjoyable album.

“The Recession”, Young Jeezy’s newest opus, promises Jeezy’s maturity as an artist. It was supposed to be where Young Jeezy inevitably stops childishly fetishizing cocaine and at least make a marginal stab at making a record of “substance.” It actually for the most part, suprisingly does. While Jeezy has only marginally improved as a rapper, he’s able to create a album that is his most mature and interesting album to date. It’s kind of a quiet revelation.

The big secret that Jeezy fans seem unwilling to acknowledge is that Jeezy’s first two records aside from the catchy, memorable singles are actually profoundly boring. The production and the song-writing are nearly identical and interchangeable which makes Jeezy’s coke motivational aphorisms incredibly hard to stomach over the course of an entire album. “The Inspiration” which highlights surpass the vastly overrated “Thug Motivation 101” groans on and on and on running about 10 tracks too long since each song seems nearly identical to the previous. For all of Jeezy’s supposed swagger and charm making up for his abundantly lacking lyrical abilities, his albums are as boring as a Common-Kweli love yarn.

“The Recession” for the most part does not eschew the “winning” formula of the first two albums. The production does it’s best to create a dark, horror film atmosphere, the adlibs are still menacingly floating in the air victoriously punctuating Jeezy’s penchant for coke puns and the album is still about five songs too long. “The Recession”, however, manages to diversify it’s song-writing which helps alleviate the monotony that plagued the first two albums. Jeezy noting the economic problems that plague this country right now has decided to get somewhat political on the album and the results are not nearly as terrible as one might think. “The Recession (Intro)” and “Crazy World” are two of Jeezy’s most mature song to date as he is able to articulate the frustrations that many Americans feel towards the injustices of both the economic and criminal justice systems. “My President Is Black”, Jeezy’s ballyhooed pro-Obama collaboration with Nas isn’t nearly as atrocious as one might imagine and actually manages to be more astute than anything on Nas’ critically molested “Untitled”. It’s nice change of pace to see Jeezy attempt to be more politically astute especially for a man who prior to this record I severely doubted could tell me what a recession actually is.

However, the record’s main thesis (Yeah, I was shocked too. This record has a thesis!) is typically flawed and actually shockingly Republican. Jeezy notes that the people are struggling from the economy’s recession as illustrated by the first half of the record but his solution is for him to make a shit load of money by selling boat loads of soul destroying drugs so he can distribute the money back to the hood as articulated on the song’s show-stopping centerpiece, “Circulate”. Jeezy is actually shockingly advocating the utterly idiotic (and historically disproved and failed and failed and FAILED...) Republican policy of “trickle-down” economics which according to it’s moronic and ignorant principles asserts that unchecked profits and corporate greed of the rich and powerful will magically “trickle down” to the poor and undeserving masses (who should be grateful they are eating the rich’s discarded and unwanted scraps). “Circulate” is a great song but if Jeezy’s solution to the economic problem is the generosity of the rich than we are going to find ourselves in a bigger whole than what we started.

Other than the idiotic politics, the album’s main flaw musically is that the highlights of the record fail to surpass the highlights of the previous records. “The Recession” lacks a record as infectious as a “Go Crazy” or as hypnotic as “3 A.M.” which saved the previous two records from being completely travesties of modern music. “The Recession” overall has much better records but it lacks that show-stopping panache that convinced people that “Thug Motivation 101” and “The Inspiration” were anything other than crimes against humanity. “The Recession” is a good record and it perhaps maybe the best mainstream record released this summer but it lacks that little extra cowbell from keeping it classic.

Now, excuse me. I have to go throw-up. I just praised a Young Jeezy record.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

No Words...

Now, it should be noted that I find the two primary people involved to be the most obnoxious figures in pop music but this video is too awesome for words. It's like a Pen & Pixel cover come magically to life. I'm speechless.

Of course, the song sucks and maybe the worst thing to happen to existence ever but the video is so utterly ill-conceived that it transcends the shitty, shitty CGI and becomes one of most hypnotic train wrecks ever put onto celluloid (or in this case, probably miniDV tape but still...).

Note To These Clowns Handlers: Do not let these men make an album under any circumstance! It may destroy the fabric of existence if it's actually released to the general public. Their collaborations only serve to highlight what everybody finds so irritating about these men in the first place! For the love of God, this cannot happen!

Further Proof That Record Executives Are Profoundly "Simple Jack"

via The Almighty Nah Right

Over at the Decaying Skeleton Formerly Known As XXL Blogs, Jackpot (or whoever is writing those bullshit blog posts these days) was reporting that Geffen Records were attempting to squash the promotion for Common's new video, "Annoucement", because it was deemed career suicide for Mr. Lynn. Apparently, it did not feature enough wanton ignorance (or in Common's case granola infused aphorisms) for them to promote it.

I posted the video above and it's actually pretty cool. It's much better than the steaming pile of bat guano that "Universal Mind Control" was when it was leaked early this year. For the record, I'm pretty much guaranteeing that "Invincible Summer" (What a stupid name, by the way. Did you know that there is k.d. effin' lang album called "Invincible Summer?" k.d. lang... Take with that what you will...) is going to suck because Pharell is heavily involved but this video is kind of dope.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Game: L.A.X. - Review

"Warning: I Kind Of Like This Record..."

After the third consecutive record from an Jayceon Taylor that I (inexplicably) liked, I am forced to ponder - Am I a fucking fan of the Game? I certainly should not be. The Game is an awkward, awkward rapper who won’t shut the fuck up about being from Compton, irritatingly drops endless names of famous rappers to such an obscene degree that at this point it’s gone way beyond self-parody and has a creepy stalker-level obsession with Dr. Dre, 50 Cent and Jay-Z (who I’m not entirely sure even knows Game exists) to the point where the album doesn’t go two songs without either one of their name’s mentioned. I should not like his music but here I am about to write another positive review for one of the most derivative, unoriginal rappers in hip hop history and I have no choice that after three records I’m a reluctant fan of this guy. It’s thoughts like this that keep me up at night.

No! You can’t do it! You won’t do it! You’re the Good Doctor Zeus! You shred the wretched of the rap game with a fury that is unsurpassed in the (not a) blog world. You’ll lose your street credibility. C’mon, you can do it! Just make a bunch of sarcastic comments about the Game’s serious delusions of grandeur, rip him for name dropping literally every artist from ‘91 and up and insinuate he’s secretly desperately wants to make love with 50 Cent! It’s easy! There’s even a fucking Lil’ Wayne song! You love hating on Lil’ Wayne
! It’s your calling card! Just one more time! Do it for me!

Yet, I cannot. The record’s good. What can I say? The Game has consistently proven that despite his numerous and many flaws as an emcee, he has the best ears in the business when it comes to picking out beats for the album. The production on “L.A.X.” is really great. It’s filled with these menacing, West Coast tinged bangers that manage to not only mask Game’s numerous lyrical deficiencies but help enhance his fierce, rough delivery on songs like (the Flesh Eaten Skeleton Of) Ice Cube-assisted “State Of Emergency”, “House Of Pain” and the surprisingly great single “Dope Boys.” Raekwon manages to show up and offer one of his best verses in years on “Bulletproof Diaries”, (a song that proves a Dre-assisted “Cuban Linx II” might not be the worst thing that ever happened to existence) where he defiantly and triumphantly refers himself as not only a “New York Dinosaur” but a “Staten Island Artifact” on the same record. It’s one of the year’s best left-field collaborations which grows even greater when you consider that the Game manages to not get himself completely blown out the water like he does on the equally great Ludacris collaboration “Ya Heard.”

Absolutely, not! I refuse to let you give Game another positive review. I can sort of tolerate the Game making two records that are inexplicably sort of great but I will not tolerate three in the row. He simply doesn’t have the talent for that. I can accept “The Documentary” being great because Dr. Dre dumped a shit ton of money into the production and 50 Cent inexplicably decided to give the Game the last few legitimately great records where he gave a shit. I can even accept “The Doctor’s Advocate” being great because there is a certain level of emotional resonance and meaning behind it considering the personal trials and tribulations that Game went through after being tossed out of G-Unit and having his career almost blackballed by 50 cent and Jimmy Iovine. “L.A.X.” can’t be any good! It would place him to the rare category of rappers who first three records that are all legitimately great. I mean that’s basically puts him on the same level as A Tribe Called Quest, Kanye West and De La Soul. He doesn’t belong in their company. He isn’t fit to tote their weed carrier’s weed through airport security.. He’s a boring, insufferable douche bag who probably should just blow his brains out if he’s going to continue to whine about Dr. Dre refusing to return any of his inappropriate late night drunken phone calls!

The thing is despite all of Game’s numerous personal deficiencies and lyrical atrocities, Jayceon Taylor manages to have one skill that manages to make his music oddly compelling. He’s able to channel all of his faux-suicidal histrionics into music that is palpable and real. It’s doesn’t make a lot of sense considering all that makes Game personally kind of despicable but you do not have to actually like an artist to like their music. For example on “Dope Boys”, The Game kind of mocks his Dr. Dre obsession when he comments that he is going climb through Dre’s window late at night and arouse Dre with raucous yell that “he’s home.” It shows that even Game has a sense of the utter ridiculousness of his own theatrics and proves that he has somewhat of a sense of humor about it all. The Game shows that he has a sense of savvy to it all.

Ultimately, “L.A.X.” is not a perfect record by any stretch of the imagination. It’s not as well-produced or as catchy as “The Documentary” nor as oddly emotionally poignant as “The Doctor’s Advocate” but it proves that Game is an artist with some staying power. He’s an extremely flawed and frustrating artist and is in desperate need of somebody to tell him to drop all of the name-dropping but he’s capable of making enjoyable West Coast albums that can be enjoyed on their own right. God help us if he decides to get “experimental” with us all. I don’t think I can take it.

You know you're going to get ripped for this? Yeah, I know.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Do We Really Need A Blueprint 3?: A Prayer For Kanye West

"If these two show up dressed like this to record, I'm gonna be pissed..."

It’s very rare feat indeed when the third installment in a series is not the proverbial “worst thing ever”. Plenty of very successful movie franchises have spectacularly and cataclysmically failed when it comes to making a third movie in a series. Lucas gave us Ewoks; Coppolla decided to scar us for life by giving his daughter a chance to “act”; “Terminator 3” decided to jettison Cameron (so he could inexplicably make “Aquaman”) and show the Governator’s naked 50 year old ass; and the less that is said about “Spider-man 3”, Tobey Maguire’s emo haircut and Topher fuckin’ Grace as Venom the better. The third part of a trilogy nearly ALWAYS sucks. All of this begs the question: Why the hell is Jay-Z giving us “the Blueprint 3”?

The last time we left the “Blueprint” series, Jay-Z made one of the worst double albums in the history of rap music. “The Blueprint 2: The Curse & The Abortion” is simply atrocious. Critics like to shit on “Kingdom Come” (and shit on all you want. That album’s even worse.) for Jay-Z attempting to make an easy-listening adult-contemporary rap album (when all we wanted was mindless odes to money and video models) but the “Blueprint 2” is just as egregious. "Blueprint 2" was filled with shitty half-assed guest features, beats in the same oeuvre as many boring Nas-esque snoozers (Yeah, haters. Jay-Z can be as guilty of that shit, too) and the album for the most part eschewed the chipmunk soul of the original for the mediocre pop hackery of the Neptunes and the corpse formerly known as Timbaland. The album is even more offensive considering it’s predecessor, “The Blueprint”, is one of the most beloved and influential albums of the decade (really only bowing possibly to “Supreme Clientele” and maybe “The College Dropout) and helped pave the way for the future mega-success of producers like Kanye West and Just Blaze. “The Blueprint 2” despite some obviously confused champions was mostly forgotten and outside of maybe 5 tracks is a completely worthless mess. Needless to say, it sold like hotcakes, surpassing the sales of it’s infinitely better superior and proving once again that the American public cannot be trusted to buy quality music. (I will now proceed to light myself on fire like I’m a Tibetan Monk or Bill Simmons.)

Last week, it was announced during the final legs of Kanye West’s "Glow In The Dark Tour" that Jay-Z was planning to release his final Def Jam album, titled “the Blueprint 3”, and he was enlisting the help of Mr. West to produce the vast majority of the album. This caused a near riot on the part of the hip hop media who are utterly obsessed with the transcendent glories of Shawn Corey’s testicles (XXL, I’m looking at you! And don’t think I’m not watching you, Eskay!). This seems to happen every time that Jay-Z deigns to come off his mountain after hanging out with Chris and Gwyneth to bless us commoners with a couple of his half-assed freestyles. Jay-Z has become a cultural icon the likes black music has not seen since Michael Jackson rocked a fedora and a white glove so the media has become heavily infested in pretending Jay-Z’s better than say...the Beatles but I digress. I, of course, being a paragon of reason, flawless taste and humility was instantly skeptical. Ever since Jay-Z stopped giving a shit about music in the summer of 2005, I have approached each Jay-Z project with a growing sense of apprehension. After Jay-Z gave the world the bloody partial birth abortion known as “Kingdom Come” (and the mainstream media still proceeded to lightly fellate his left ball as if the man had just released “Give It 2 Me”), I became downright hostile and an open hater of any mention that Jay-Z was the greatest rapper alive. Last year’s surprisingly good album, “American Gangster”, helped temporarily alleviate my distaste for the notion of Jay-Z’s alleged superiority but after almost a year of half-assed guest appearances and generally Coldplayian fuckery, I’m back to my traditional status of unabashed and glorious hater. I’m definitely expecting the worse especially after hearing the first single off the album, “Jockin’ Jay-Z,” today.

“Jockin’ Jay-Z” is a song that suspiciously sounds as if wants to be on this year’s three-quel album du jour, “Tha Carter 3”. The production built around a Run-DMC sample sounds as if it’s a more Dwayne Cartered-up version of Ghostface’s equally mediocre single for “The Big Doe Rehab”, “We Celebrate”, what with it’s wailing faux-wah wah guitars grinding over the beat and it’s old school “I Ain’t No Joke” drums snapping meekly in the background. It sounds nothing like what made the original “Blueprint” such a seminal piece of music. It doesn’t really sound like Kanye West, either. It sounds as if Kanye is either doing a mediocre MF Doom impression or was purposely trying to re-create the faux-weirdo production that has everybody up in a tizzy about “Tha Carter 3”. Either way, I want some chipmunk soul and I want it now. Jay-Z’s rhymes sounds as if he’s aping Weezy. He employs a flow that at times suspiciously sounds as if he’s biting the Idiot Savant Wonder going as far as “bigging up his brother” by cribbing some of Lil’ Wayne’s lines from the terrible “Mrs. Officer” from “Tha Carter 3.” Lyrically, it’s pretty innocuous “I’m super fucking rich” stuff that he’s been kicking his entire career although he does get a pretty nice diss towards Noel Gallagher for having the balls to say that only artists who play music with the racial purity of guitars should be allowed to play at the hallowed Glastonbury Festival in England and insinuate that rap music is a low disgusting form of music that only the heathens and various unwashed desirables of the world would enjoy. I did enjoy those lines because fuck that John Lennon-wannabe anyway. (“Wonderwall” is my shit, though. You should hear the version that I do at karaoke. “Earth-shattering” is the phrase I believe that my friends used.)

For all the flack and accusations of shameless promotion whoring that Nas catches when he names his album something like “Hip Hop Is Dead” or “Nigger”, Jay-Z seems to escape these criticisms when he does something remarkably similar. Ever since the release of “The Blueprint”, Jay-Z has been manufacturing pre-packaged hype for each of his new albums despite the relative lack of follow-through on each of the promise of the album. “The Black Album” was infamously billed to be Jay-Z’s swan song and accordingly, it drew lots of press attention and sales in response. It may, in fact, be on public level Jay-Z’s most popular album. (I know a lot of non-rap fans who own that album.) “Kingdom Come” traded on the prestige of Jay-Z returning to rap and it featured one of the most shamelessly bald commercial marketing campaigns ever in order to sell the album. (I don’t mean to keep harping on it but as we all know it turned out to suck worse than death but I digress…) Shockingly, “American Gangster” may, in fact, be the most egregious of Jay-Z’s schilling. The album traded on the success and notoriety of the Ridley Scott's film of the same name as it claimed to be a tribute album to the movie despite, the fact, it literally had nothing to do with Frank Lucas aside from using a couple of out-of-context lines from the film used as introductions to the track and naming one of the tracks “Blue Magic”. Jay-Z has done a great job as a shameless promotion whore, himself.

Now Jay-Z is trading on the notoriety and acclaim of one of his own classic album as well as this year’s other similarly named mega-album, Tha Carter 3, in hopes of piquing the interest of the fickle public and the sycophantic mainstream music media. This strikes me as particularly lame. I’m guessing the name of the album was decided upon after there was a corporate board meeting held between Jay-Z, L.A. Reid, the Illuminati, and various members of the Global Hipster Conspiracy in Def Jam’s offices. It's pretty safe to say, they had a long conversation about what’s the best way to market another thoroughly mediocre legacy ruining album by Mr. Carter. My sources say it was down to "the Blueprint 3", a tribute album to Pixar’s Wall-E and a Best of Both World’s duet album with Beyonce entitled “Bonnie & Clyde ’08 (I’m Secretly On The DL With That Dude From The Chiefs).” Ultimately, it was Tom Breihan who cast the winning vote for "Blueprint 3".

Personally, I’ve got to wonder why they’ve got to go back to the well one more time with the Blueprint name in the hopes of getting us rap dorks excited on the prospects that Jay-Z maybe will start rapping like he gives a damn, anymore. They could've have just called it Vol.4 and everybody would have gone home happy. I’d personally be down for another late 90’s-esque album filled with monster pop-rap odes to money, cash and hoes. I’d even be down for that supposed idea of trotting out Timbaland and allowing him to produce the whole thing. That’s the Jay-Z I fell in love with. As long as they forget to return to Pharell’s calls for scheduling studio time, I’m all good. Seriously, Jay-Z, you make terrible music with Pharell. He sucks. Let it go.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Not A Blogger's One Year Anniversary Spectacular

"It's A Celebration, Bitches..."

It's hard to believe that it was only one year ago today that my campaign to end the tyranny of the Global Hipster Conspiracy to destroy hip hop began. In celebration, I'd like to offer my top 15 favorite posts of the last year for your obvious re-enjoyment.

Without further ado.... Here are some of my favorite columns I wrote over the last year. Let the gloriously shameless self-congratulation begin:

15. A Not So Quiet Desperation - This was one of my earliest columns I wrote for the site and I feel that it still holds up fairly well. It's also kind of amusing that 50 Cent basically ignored all of my advice and lo and behold, "Terminate On Sight" was a flop. Let that be a lesson to all.

14. The Death Of The M.C.: From Lyrics And Flow To Ad-Libs And Swagger - Honestly, this was the article was the reason that I wanted to start this site and I feel this one was sort of underrated. I initially wrote a rough draft of this idea's thesis over at Status Ain't Hood in the comment section but I wanted to write a fully expanded idea and when I created this blog, I got my chance.

13. NEWS FLASH! XXL Magazine Chooses The Next Generation of Great Rappers; Annoyed Blogger Catches Feelings, Hates - This is the first one to get me really noticed by people. I always enjoy the chance to shamelessly mock major music institutions and to express righteous indignation at their fuckery. I mean, Gorilla Zoe is one of the next great emcees? Gorilla Zoe?! I'm also very proud of the fact that about half of my predictions turned out to be dead-on.

12. Mixtapes Are Not Albums - My Manifesto. This post was probably the most blogged about post that I've ever written for this site. Of everything that I wrote, this is the post that I'm most proud of. Although recently, I find that some of the mixtapes that have been coming out (Wale's The Mixtape About Nothing, Nas' The N.I.G.G.E.R. Tape, Rich Boy's "Bigger Than Tha Mayor") are making me question my basic thesis. Still this needed to be said.

11. The 2007 Not A Blogger End Of Year Hate-Off Spectacular: Part 1 - Hip Hop That Sucked - I love writing excessively negative pieces. It warms my bitter, cold heart.

10. The Artistic Amorality Of The Clipse (I Just Think They Could Do Better) - One of my better reviews I think because it delves a bit deeper into some of the issues with the music rather than a straight review of the artist's work. This is probably my most negative "positive" review I've ever given.

9. Hipster Rap: The Savior Of Hip Hop? - I loved writing this one. However, hipster rap hasn't saved rap yet but I still have my hopes.

8. Pen & Pixel: A Retrospective - This is probably the most popular thing that I've written for this site. I still get people linking to this post to this day. Like literally, somebody linked to it today.

7. Rappers Write Your Shit Down!: A Prayer For Shawn Carter -This one generated some pretty good debate on the nature of emceeing but I'll admit in retrospective, my premise is a bit flawed.

6. What I Imagine Vampire Weekend Sounds Like Without Ever Having Heard A Single Note From Them- Pound for pound, I think this is the funniest piece that I've written for this site. A personal favorite. This post came about after having a drunken discussion about these guys with my friend, Christine, and discovering they were not a heavy metal band. I was very annoyed and decided that it was time to take a stand against their wretched hipsterdom.

5. The Midwest Reigns Supreme: A Eulogy For The South - Oh man, did I piss some people off with this one! I stand by everything and anything that was said in this article.

4. Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter 3: Review - I stand by everything said in this article as well.

3. Not A Blogger Kills Status Ain't Hood - This was weirdly the most "controversial" thing I've ever written. It set off a flame war in the comment sections over at two separate blogs and probably permanently killed any hope I have for writing in the business. You either get the joke or you don't.... Jayson, sure as hell didn't get the joke!

2. Nas - The Album That Shall Not Be Named: Review - This is the best review that I've written for this site. It also generated an insane amount of comments.

1. BatBush, Harvey Obama & Osama Bin Joker: The Politics Of Christopher Nolan's The Dark Knight - Even though, this is my most recent post, I think this is one of the best things I've ever written in my life. No hyperbole.

Although I've always said that if I ever win a major award that I would get up on stage, only thank myself for my own (obvious) genius, tell the crowd to go fuck themselves and be forced off the stage by large bouncers as I wave the middle finger at the television audience all the while singing the National Anthem and trying to do the cabbage patch (I feel this would be the greatest award speech ever), however I do have some shout outs that I'd like to give. I want to thank Brandon Soderberg, Rafi Kam, Joey from Straight Bangin' (I knew I missed somebody) and Jeff Weiss for being one of the first few bloggers to put me on. Big shout outs to my loyal readers and fellow bloggers: Trey Stone, Dallas Penn, Dart Adams, Christopher of "Fuck I Look Like?", Zilla Rocca, Tom Breihan, Jordan, Madman, Ass Hat, Ben Westhoff, Jay Smooth, African Origins, Floodwatch Music, Camilo Smith, Jesus Shuttlesworth, Padraig, Renato Pagnani, the Incomparable Noz, Shawn Brauch, Jay Kay A.K.A. Anonymous, Christine Werthman, Mom, Dad and a special shoutout to Everybody's Favorite Rabble Rouser, the Immortal Tray. I'd like to give a special thanks to Byron Crawford for throwing me under a bus over at XXL.com that may have been the highlight of my career thus far. If I forgot anybody, it's nothing personal (or is it...).

Here's to another year of being awesome!