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

Sunday, December 20, 2009

No Words... Jersey Shore Edition

When Snoop's the most well-adjusted person in the photo (and Tyson's the second!), you easily have a formula for awesomeness.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Eating Zombie Bizkits With Lil Wayne: Dame Dash, Blakroc and the Rebirth Of Dwayne Carter

"Like I was going to buy this album, anyway..."

When rap rock was found brutally murdered in a dilapidated mobile home on the outskirts of 8 Mile Road circa May 2004, there were very few people who shed a tear for this most maligned of musical genres. Fred Durst and his red backwards Yankees cap had long worn out their welcome on pop cultural landscape and thus the world watched in indifference as the icons of nu metal faded into inglorious obscurity. Although it was never the most critically respected of musical oeuvres, the middle class, faux-angst ridden teenage fans had grown up on these artists; and upon taking stock at their old CD booklets, learned that if one wanted to get laid by those cute, art chicks into Ani DiFranco and Ryan Adams records, they had to summarily dispose of those suspect Linkin Park records lowering their social queue. Thus, one of the most commercially successful genres disappeared into the ether; never to clumsily rhyme over distorted rock guitars, again.

Due to the hilarious serendipity of an Amazon shipping error, rap rock has returned from its grave in the last month of the last year of our indie rock overlords, MMIX, to haunt this craven world like a tracksuit be-suited zombie hellbent on fucking teen pop stars and screeching about rollin’, rollin’, rollin’ again. Two high-profile (well one is high profile, one is the the vanity project of Jay-Z’s former model moistener but let’s just say high profile for the sake of succinctness...) releases, Lil Wayne’s “The Rebirth” and BlakRoc’s self-titled debut, this last month have attempted to breathe life in to this necrotic genre with varying degrees of success.

I don’t know exactly how much cough syrup was consumed to make Lil Wayne think that he could make a rock album but it should have been immediately clear to all those concerned with selling him as an artistic genius that they needed to immediately convince Weezy that he simply had hallucinated the whole rap rock incident in one of his fevered drank-induced comas. Granted, Weezy is not the first nor the greatest rapper to fall to the siren call of the genre-bending crossover album (or as I’ve dubbed Love Below Syndrome) nor will he be the last. (Assuming, the rap industry is allowed to exist after this year.) Often when rappers reach the pinnacle of the rap genre, they feel like they need to validate their existence as “real” musicians to non-rap critics and fans. This leads to a lot of overwrought musical “fusion” and sublimation of the artists actual talent in service of hackneyed song-writing and poor (but glitterly produced) musicianship.

I’ve always found this approach vaguely disgusting as it buys into the rockist modes of thinking that rap is an inherently inferior genre. You can’t take your chair in the musical canon if your primary instrument is your speaking voice and when even the biggest names in rap buy into this mentality it only serves to reinforce this vaguely racist ideal. Granted, not all albums infected with Love Below Syndrome are worthless (Q-Tip’s eternally pushed-back jazz rap record, “Kamaal The Abstract”, is actually very solid and seems that it only languished in label hell because Jive had no idea how to promote it.) but they all seem to be working on this basic conceit. You gotta rock if you want to be taken serious as a musician.

Lil Wayne’s “Rebirth” is, of course, decidedly terrible and should serve as primary example on what not to do when attempting to make one of these records. If there is a saving grace to the few genre-fusing records that do work, its that the artist has a genuine appreciation and more importantly a deep understanding of why rock music works. (Take the Knux’s criminally overlooked hipster rap masterpiece “Remind Me In 3 Days...” as example. The Knux are incredibly skilled musicians at a variety of instruments and their music reflects that. The guitar riffs on “Cappuccino” seamlessly blend in with their electronica-influenced break beats and synthesizers to form perfectly synthesized rock-influenced rap music. The Knux understand rock music and their music reflects that.) Lil Wayne’s frame of reference seems to be lazily cribbed from watching about a half dozen old episodes of “Headbanger’s Ball” and calling it a night so he can go smoke himself retarded. Its as if he asked his producers to emulate Slash’s butt rock riffs so he can scream and warble his Weezyisms over the instrumentation in auto-tune. In a way, its kind of noble that nothing on the record resembles anything that would land itself on a Pitchfork year-end list (i.e. indie and lame) but it shows that Wayne has very little understanding of rock music in anything but a superficial way.

You would think that Lil Wayne would be a somewhat natural fit for hair metal-inspired rap music considering he seems primarily obsessed with the same lifestyle that hair metal promoted. Wayne likes to get head from slutty women, get high and do inexplicably stupid things, a sentiment that Bret Michaels assuredly sympathizes with. The problem is that Lil Wayne’s approach to writing rock music is resoundingly cliché. While Lil Wayne has grown more and more great a rap technician over the years to the point that’s impossible to deny that Lil Wayne is a great rapper (There I said it, people.), his approach to song-writing remains resoundingly insipid. When he tries to get serious like on “Misunderstood,” it ends up being rambling nonsense. So when he attempts to ply his trade to rock, a song like “Prom Queen” trades on the lowest common denominator of rock music, drawing well-worn tropes about love-gone-bad, revenge fantasies. And that’s one of the better songs on the album. In a way, Lil Wayne’s approach to rock music is the mirror approach that rock artists have towards hip hop. When Rivers Cuomo attempts to marry hip hop to his “guitar music” on the exceedingly awful “Can’t Stop Partying,” he just ends up repeating the most stereotypical elements of rap culture as if all that rap encompasses is blinged-out excess. All superficiality.

Of course, Dame Dash knows hip hop. This should be an exceedingly obvious statement considering the man was the mastermind behind Roc-A-Fella Records dominance as rap label this decade. He understands the modes of the genre and is able to discern between a good idea and a bad idea. What’s surprising is that the Black Keys know hip hop because nothing in their brand of hazy, indie blues rock suggests that they listen to anything other than Led Zeppelin II all day long. (Granted, there is nothing to suggest that they don’t listen to hip hop, either. I happen to love Ace Of Base’s “The Sign” although no one would know it, either.) Blakroc’s self-titled debut, Dame Dash’s vanity rap rock experiment with the Black Keys, might be the greatest rap rock album of all-time (depending on if you feel Rage Against The Machine qualifies) as it manages to synthesize both genres better than can reasonably be expected. The record works because it primarily defies some of the traditional aesthetics of the genre to create a newer more blues-based sound contrasting with the traditional heavy metal template that nu metal provides. Why rap rock records often fail is that being based on the aesthetics of heavy metal, the overly loud and grandiose musicianship that is a tradition in metal can overpower the spoken-word vocals of rap. The opposite is true in rap music where a great rap performance can make the production seem almost secondary. When you combine this with the clumsy rapping of nu metal singers like Fred Durst, it becomes formula for embarrassment.

The Black Keys’ brand of rock being primarily blues-based works infinitely better with the traditionally sample heavy formula of rap music production. The woozy guitar strings blend seamlessly into the background and let the rapping dominate and when you have an all-star cast of rappers like Blakroc does (Mos Def, Raekwon, RZA, Ludacris, Pharaohe Monche and the disembodied voice of Ol’ Dirty Bastard all make an appearance on the record) you want to sublimate the production into the background and let your rappers shine. “Stay Of The Fucking Flowers” and “Why Can’t I Forget About Him” sound amazing because the rappers and singers are given equal billing to the Keys production.

Dame Dash should be commended for the vision and his A&R work on this album because you can’t imagine this record would work nearly as successful without his keen ear for knowing how to put talented musicians in contact with each other. If more successful music moguls were willing to take chances like this perhaps hip hop wouldn’t be in such dire straits. This record has even done relatively well for an independent release selling 30,000 copies since its release mostly on strong word of mouth between music fans. If Lil Wayne wants to save “The Rebirth” from being a commercial and artistic disaster in the two months before it’s official release in February. He might consider calling Dash a call and see if he can’t have the Black Keys re-work the entire album for him. You never know…

Friday, December 11, 2009

Eating Leftovers With Elzhi

"Ugh, Nice watch..."

I always get hostilely indignant when "rap" fans claim that Jason Powers is "boring" as if simply being preternaturally gifted at the art of rapping is somehow akin to having the scarlet letter of unforgivable wackness affixed to one's lapel . If you can't appreciate the subtle yet thrilling intricacies of Elzhi's raps that's more an indictment of your own personal attention span (or perhaps need for instant gratification with easily digestible swagger) than any flaw in Elzhi as an artist. Elzhi is a rapper meticulously obsessed with the craft of rapping and his taste in the neo-boom-bap beats in the Black Milk variety is just as impeccable. Not only that but he's a rapper that is able to translate that ability into crafting perfect, little concept songs that have fully constructed narratives, themes and morals. His lyrical flash is backed up by true substance. If that's boring to you than I'm not sure why you are even interested in listening to rap music in the first place.

Elzhi's latest offering,"The Leftovers Unmixtape," is another fine edition into the Detroit rappers growing catalog. It's mostly compromised of b-sides, rarities, and remixes from Elzhi's excellent and underrated tandem ("Euro Pass" and "The Preface") of street albums last year and for fans of Elzhi's razor sharp lyrical ass lyricism, this won't disappoint. The tape features beats from long-time Elzhi collaborators, Black Milk and DJ Dez, as well neo-Dilla beatsmith luminaries like Jake One, Oh No and Moss. While this doesn't quite match the highs of its predecessors, it does feature some particularly stirring remixes of some Elzhi's classics. "Dream", Jake One's remix of personal classic "Talkin' In My Sleep", is particularly evocative.

Download: Elzhi - The Leftovers Unmixtape

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Video: 5 O'Clock Shadowboxers - High Noon

For a guy I've never actually met in person, I converse with Zilla Rocca on the daily more often than I do with some of my closest friends (Shout out to the What?) so I'm going to be proud when Zilla breaks through the rap blog ghetto and turns himself into a genuine indie rap star. "High Noon" was my favorite song off of Zilla's and fellow "fruity little indie rap circle jerk" friend, Douglas Martin's 5 O'Clock Shadowboxers project from earlier this year. This is the video.

Prepare for full-on film noir awesomeness. I think more underground rappers need to have to the same level of conceptual ambition as Zilla does. If I have to listen to another goddamn "D.O.A." freestyle...

Adult Swim: Better Than Diplo

"B.T.W. A.T.H.F. F.T.W."

One of my personal tests, to determine whether or not a human being is worthy of spending my precious time with, is determining if one finds the material dispensed by Cartoon Network's Adult Swim funny. If one doesn't find the comedic stylings of Master Shake (or god forbid, Frisky Dingo...) hilarious, I inherently distrust your world view and thus you must be exterminated (or at least, summarily removed from my presence) off the face of this earth. (You probably would vote for Sarah Palin, anyway, so clearly you have nothing to offer the human species.) I find Adult Swim to be great not only because their humor gels with my inherent schadenfreudic enjoyment of the cruel absurdities of the world but their celebration of all things bizarre leads them to spearhead moments of weirdo musical genius like this amazing little southern rap remix project, "ATL RMX."

The idea of a record that dares to combine the trunk rattle of Atlanta-based street rap with the sounds of the luminaries of modern avant garde, electronic beat making is going to win it's share of ironically appreciative fans and knee-jerk reactionary haters alike but it's an album (or is it more of a mixtape? At this point, the lines have been blurred so much that my screed against mixtapes, two years ago, is largely anachronistic) that deserves a more thoughtful approach than both. I've always contended that a lot of southern rap icons like Young Jeezy and Three 6 Mafia whose music is often lazily described as "gothic" or "monolithic" would sound amazing if paired with producers like El-P who specialize in ambient swaths of dystopic buzz. El-P's beat-making approach is often all dark ambient mood anyway so it seemed like a natural pairing to combine it with rappers who specialize in dysfunctional amorality. The idea being that you could amplify the strengths of the artists involved and hide their weaknesses. For example, El-P's remix of Young Jeezy's "I Got This" fills in the awkward pauses and holes in Jeezy's flow with punctuating buzzing flourishes while Jeezy's natural charm makes El-P far more palatable to casual rap fans.

Not everything works, the two Lil Jon remixes are particularly heinous, but there is a lot to love on this. Ann Arbor-based, glitch hop producer, Dabrye's remix of Goodie Mob's "Is That You God?" is pretty much perfect. While Starkey somehow manages to turn Guerrilla Zoe's "Lost" into something approaching the auto-tuned hipster hop of Kid CuDi. The best cut on the record is the previously mentioned, "I Got This (El-P Remix)," which miraculously manages to be the best Young Jeezy record released since "3 A.M."

Download: Adult Swim & Beaterator Present... ATL RMX (Left-Click) [Via Adult Swim]

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Kickspit Underground Rock Festival '09

Every couple of summers, I inexplicably decide to spend a few hundred dollars of my parent's hard-earned money and attend one of these outdoor music festivals and immediately regret it within the first hour of the show. For one, it serves as an instant reminder how much I hate the human race and to be herded amongst the worst of the human species, inches me ever so closer to my inevitable descent into multiple homicide, Joker-style supervillainy. Armed with this knowledge, you will realize why Saturday Night Live's pitch perfect send-up of these events resonated so spectacularly hilarious with me.

Of course, this was nothing compared to the genius of the potato chip sketch.

Blake Lively, I didn't think it was possible you could ratchet up your status within my heart but you have defied the odds and pulled it off. Serena van der Woodsen Forever! XOXO!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

22 Minutes With Lupe Fiasco

"Lupe Fiasco's "Tiny Toons" game is on point."

Brevity is a virtue amongst rap artists that is often far too overlooked. Somewhere along the great existential time line of human existence, rappers began assuming that the more product they could shove onto the 80 minute flux capacity of the compact disc, the more likely their record would be plucked off the crowded shelves of a record store and inserted into the warm plastic confines of a stereo disc changer. Perhaps, this was wise thought when albums were selling like they were lightly sprinkled with heroin flakes but it makes little sense in an environment when the world's biggest beef enthusiast can only sell 160,000 copies of his new record. When nobody is buying your record anyway, it makes little sense to water down the content of your record with filler tracks especially considering when most music is consumed in the solitary schizophrenia of an iPod, an artist can ill afford to waste their fan's potential time listening to a slew of ill-conceived crossover tracks. It only takes a quick flick of the wrist to switch to something better.

Lupe Fiasco must have taken that lesson because his excellent new mixtape, "Enemy Of The State: A Love Story", is an exercise in the power of limited quantity correlating with infinite quality. "Enemy Of The State" clocks in at a brisk 22:09 minutes and there is not a second wasted where Lupe is not furiously bringing glorious swaths of funeral pyre. It's been almost two years since "The Cool" established his bonafides as the premier rapper of his generation and if you had forgotten how great a rapper Lupe is, it's not going to take you very long to remember.

Lupe's primary strength is the complex density in the metaphors of his rhymes. He's the type of rapper whose lyrics are just as enjoyable being read in the liners notes as they are to listen to. You discover more depths the more you listen to him so it's extremely rewarding that "Enemy Of The State" is so brief. It allows for easily more digestible, multiple listens that allows you to explore the subtleties of his craft. His work on "The National Anthem" is a lyrical junkie's wet dream. Initially, the mixtape was released "cassette-style" (one continuously long mp3) before bootleg junkies spliced it up but I find the "cassette-style" of the tape to be incredibly fitting. Much like an old Maxell magnetic, one quickly finds oneself furiously spinning the iPod wheel in reverse in order to listen to the same lyric over and over again. Only in the digital age, you don't have to worry about popping the magnetic tape in your mp3 player. Who says technology ruins everything?

Download: Lupe Fiasco - Enemy Of The State: A Love Story [Mixtape] (Via Nah Right)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Kidz In The Hall: That One Song That Samples That One Song From That One Band That Has That One Song That I Like

"Don't sit back there and act like Double-O's hair ain't luxurious when you know that it is, bitch!"

A few years back in college, I was browsing the music stacks at a Best Buy, looking for the latest Masta Ace record, when the in-store loud speakers began to the play the familiar drum patterns of a record I had become all too familiar with, Eric B. and Rakim's "My Melody." I paused for a moment to compliment the in-store D.J. for having decidedly exceptional taste for a sixteen year-old when it soon became apparent to my dawning horror that I would not be graced with the melodious baritone of Rakim's rich voice but rather the insipid strains of the pop vapidness of Teairra Marie's "Make Her Feel Good." I had been hoodwinked into the thinking I was listening to a superior song. Needless to say, I was not amused. I would go and buy the Masta Ace album at Circuit City, instead. (I was as shocked as you are that they had it. The rap selection at Syracuse area conglomerate retail chain stores is surprisingly boss.)

Later that day after I tore into Ace's masterpiece, A Long Hot Summer, for the first time (a surprisingly seminal moment of my music life since it was my belated introduction to my third favorite rapper), I began to reflect not on the universal atrociousness of Marie's blood screaming abortion but rather the curious nature of an R&B song sampling a classic hip hop jam. It seemed to me in my pre-blogger days (and before the crushing weight of disappointment morphed me into the cold-hearted hater that you know and tolerate) that if R&B was now sampling hip hop (instead of vice versa) that a critical equilibrium in the nature of the genre would soon broken and spiral rap music into the prophecies of the Pharaoh NaS and later dissected by the Prophet Sasha Frere-Jones. If R&B music was no longer producing original music breaks and instead were wantonly sampling from old school hip hop records than the delicate ecosystem of hip hop music sampling would soon eat itself and collapse into Casio keyboard fuckery or worse, start sampling from lame indie rock bands! I prayed to the Gods of the Mic this would not come to pass. Foolish, foolish mortal...

Noted hipster rap scions, Kidz In The Hall, made "history" this week when they sampled indie rock flavor of the month, Grizzly Bear's, "breakout" hit "Two Weeks" for their adventurously titled song, "Grizzly Man." A song that I've come to enjoy despite the obvious pretentious gimmickry involved with it's creation. Double-O and Naledge continue with a curious trend in hip hop as the sampling sources of the material continues to come from more and more obvious and gimmick-laden. Despite my admittedly ridiculous, curmudgeonly biases towards indie rock music in general, "Two Weeks" is actually a pretty fantastic song. Grizzly Bear's ethereal harmonies on the song remind me of Pet Sounds-era Beach Boys and they build around a hypnotic piano loop that help make the song an instant standout record. However, Kidz In The Hall specious choice to sample the song ends up sounding as pandering and pretentious as T.I. and company did when ripping off M.I.A. for "Swagger Like Us." It plays to the built-in tastes of their hipster rap audience and combined with the relative unimaginative way the song uses the source material makes the record seem like a cheap play for crossover potential. The song chipmunks Grizzly Bear's harmonies and simply speeds the piano break to hip hop level bbms. When referring to the song, noted street-oriented rap novice, Jeff Weiss said "I liked this beat better the first time, when it was called Still D.R.E."

What's more troubling is the way that Naledge seems to be mining the Clipse's flow on a Guerilla Blackian level (Word to the Passion, again). His voice and speech patterns seem to mirror the Brothers Thornton's signature growly and delivery right down to Pusha's "hyuck" adlib. It's disconcerting that Naledge would do this considering he's an artist that is fairly established in his own right. I wonder if he even noticed what he was doing.

With all that said, I still miraculously manage to enjoy the song beyond all of my critical caveats. Perhaps, I just like gimmicky source samples more than I'd care to admit.

Download: Kidz In The Hall - Grizzly Man [Via 2 Dopeboyz]

Thursday, November 5, 2009

50 Cent - Before I Self Destruct: Review

"A lesser man would make a joke about 50 wearing a shirt on the cover.
Luckily, I am that lesser man."

I suppose if Curtis Jackson wasn’t Keith Olbermann-certified as the “Worst Person In The World,” one could begin to feel a tiny morsel of human sympathy for the man better known to the world as 50 “Fitty” Cent. After ruling the pop music world with an iron fist for the better part of the decade, 50 has fallen hard from the throne; Kanye infamously emasculated him two y ago in their sales showdown two years ago; his latest singles have been met with scathing indifference from both radio and the critical market; he’s been reduced almost to a court jester, showing up once every few to start a ridiculous beef with another rapper; raging against a world that does not care for his antics, anymore. It’s not far fetched to suggest had not for his Pimpin’ Curly videos on ThisIs50.com, he would relegated to Papoose status on his own record label. Be that as it may, after all the drama he’s caused helping shatter the New York rap scene in his quest to conquer it; it’s hard not feel a tinge (okay, a shit load) of schadenfreudirific joy at watching 50 Cent flail helplessly at making a hit record. The man wore out his welcome long ago and watching his feeble attempts at radio play be is karmic revenge for the endless amount of careers and lives the man tried to ruin. He’s earned this treatment. The man needs to hit the restart button on the last four years of his career.

50’s latest album, “Before I Self Destruct”, is billed as an almost mea culpa for the pop corniness of his previous two forays into blatant commercial pandering. In a way, it’s his “50 Cent Begins,” a revamp of his early mixtape persona before the allure of “Candy Shop” money turned him into a living symbol of gangster homo eroticism and beef mongering. “Before I Self Destruct” is an attempt to produce a record that bangs harder and more consistently than anything he’s done since quite possibly his mixtape days. For the most part, it’s a gambit that pays off as this is a record that is some of 50’s most inspired work since quite possibly “Guess Who’s Back?” and is easily his second best album.

From the opening moments of “The Invitation” (which according to the world’s most accurate encyclopedia is produced by DJ Premier. Really?! It sounds nothing like him, boys.), this record seems to have a clear statement of purpose when 50 Cent re-counting those infamous nine shots stares himself teary-eyed in the mirror and declares to himself “you ain’t dead!” It’s a powerful moment not so much because it evokes the most famous incident in his myth but because it serves as something of a metaphor for the state of his career. 50’s career as it’s nadir but he’s not going down without a fight even if it kills him. From this moment on “Before I Self Destuct,” 50 goes into an impressive stretch run of some of his most inspired, most hardcorest, most gangsterlicious (Word to Riley Freeman.) rap songs of his career. It’s song number ten before we reach anything that can remotely considered anything approaching that would be suitable for play in the club or the radio. 50 is not playing around. For once, 50 drops the quease-inducing sex food metaphor raps and actually provides the "aggressive" sounding music he's been alleging exists in between "21 Questions" knock-offs.

For those ten or so songs, Curtis Jackson gets his swagger back and returns to the viciously sarcastic wit that made him a star in the first place. Aside from the asinine radio-friendly pandering of "The Massacre" and "Curtis," I always felt the main problem with these record were that he couldn't channel the nihilistic joy of his mixtape work into any of his hardcore material. It always appeared that he didn't care and was more content to kick half-assed gangsterisms on auto-pilot than writing anything that remotely approached his early promise as a pure gangster rapper. The only time the fun of being the evil dictator of hip hop was channeled into his music was the shit-talking spoken word interludes, he would record over at the end of his seemingly endless diss tracks . (Think the last minute of "I Run New York.") 50 regains a little bit of that ol' demonic steez back on his new album. On "Then Days Go By", he giddily brags of being sexually taken advantage of as a pre-teen by his older babysitter when he screams "Take me baby, take me!" and on "Stretch," he taunts a young heroin addict that he doesn't give a fuck he' s ruining his live because "it's a cold world we're in". These are situations aren't novel to hip hop music but you can sense the joy 50 feels in playing the villain. We're missing that.

However, after those ten songs, the record begins to slowly fall apart as the second half of the record marks 50 Cent's quixotic quest to produce something gravitating towards a hit record. His insipid single, "Baby By Me," is as flaccid and desperate as the day it was conceived in a board room at the Interscope Records building. "Ok, You're Right" marks Dr. Dre's continued descent into pop, keyboard-plinking senility while "Get It Hot" sounds like budget Timbo lame-assery. This half of the record seems so schizophrenic and out-of-character with the mission statement of the first half that it begins to compromise the whole project. There is nothing on this record that is half as essential as "I Get Money," the brilliantly misanthropic single from "Curtis," and this in itself keeps the record from truly shining.

Still if this isn’t quite his “Stillmatic”, it comes close as possible as we will ever get out of 50 Cent (and no, we will not be debating the merits of “Stillmatic” in my comment section. It’s a great album regardless if your wack-ass Jay-Z revisionism will allow you to admit it or not. Sometimes, your just going to have to agree that the consensus is right, people. This is one of those times.). “Before I Self Destruct” isn’t quite perfect but it offers a glimpse at 50 Cent at this most clear and focused as an artist as he's been since his mixtape days. Welcome back, Curtis Jackson. I will now grudgingly give you your props. Don’t fuck it up.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Wale's "Mirrors".... The Calm Before The Shit Storm?

"The rest of State Property must be maaaaad..."

I have not been shy these last couple of months at expressing my trepidation regarding the prospects of quality regarding "Attention: Deficit", Wale's upcoming debut album. It seems that after Wale received near universal acclaim ("universal" meaning praise from people who don't find Gucci's jewelry/produce couplets the highest form of American poetry...) for "The Mixtape About Nothing," he's been far more concerned with hobnobbing with celebrities and updating his followers on the regularities of his bowel movement on Twitter (Seriously, have you seen how often this guy twitters? I know less about the every day's comings and goings of my closest friends than I do about this guy. Keep some mystery about yourself, dude!) than being in the studio crafting quality songs that people want to listen to. It makes one wonder if he's received too much hype too fast before he had the chance to build a solid audience or identity as an artist and instead, left him craving the fast money and limelight that a huge radio hit provides.

I have been less than ecstatic about his output that's been leaked for his album and this seemed directly tied to his obvious desires for a crossover smash (and thus far, his inability to write one). Enough blood has been spilled over the transcendent offense to the aural canals that is "Chillin", so there is no need to re-hash but the other material that has been released for the album have failed to capture my imagination as well. "Pretty Girls" was cool but it didn't help that it couldn't catch on despite that it featured the presence of every ig'nant rap fan's favorite manslaughter defendant, Gucci Mane. "World Tour" was slyly catchy but it was too derivative of a far greater Tribe Called Quest song for it to be considered a success. Meanwhile, "Let It Go (Inhibitions)" and "Contemplate", two high profile collaborations with famous artists (in this case, the Corpse Of Pharrell Williams and Rihanna) were the basic definition of album filler. It seemed the farther he strayed from his D.C. go-go influences into crossover territory the more flaccid the material became.

Today's leak du jour, "Mirrors," takes the opposite approach to the pop market pandering of "Attention: Deficit's" earlier leaks and not surprisingly, it's one of the more successful songs released from the album thus far. However, it still isn't quite the show-stopping monsters that "Back In The Go-Go" and "Nike Boots" were last year. "Mirrors" draws heavily from Mark Ronson's shockingly gutter production (who knew the Trust Fund King Of Hip Hop had these types of beats in him?) and Wale manages to acquit himself very nicely with a showy, stuterring cadence that proves he can ride a beat as well as anybody. Problem is that he's getting his shine seriously blocked by Bun B's killer sixteen (he tends to do that to even the best of rappers) and ultimately, Bun seems to make Wale seem like an afterthought on his own song. Wale has a lot of strengths as a writer (witty pop culture driven punchlines, an ability to write an issue driven song that doesn't come across as condescending, etc.) but going head-to-head against rappers of Bun's caliber is a recipe for looking foolish. He's much better at letting himself give space to muse on the song at hand than attempting to compete with other rappers for song dominance. He's just not that type of rapper. He's way better at working at a concept song and digging into the intricacies than anything else. It's definitively why "The Mixtape About Nothing" and "100 Miles & Running"(two mostly featureless records) are better than "Back To The Feature."

I'm not in FULL-ON PANIC MODE about "Attention: Deficit" because other than "Chillin", the songs have been simply unspectacular rather out right awful but I'm certainly worried that the record could be an assured disappointment. After all, I have spent quite the amount of time talking Wale up as if he's the future of hip hop. I wouldn't want to be wrong, now wouldn't I? I have a reputation to protect.

Random Notes:

- Wale and Ronson have had great chemistry ever since the initial "100 Miles & Running" mixtape two years ago. Wale should really considering working exclusively with Ronson and Best Kept Secret on all future products. They bring the best out of each other.

- This record is certainly not approaching a hit record (and I'm sure Tray is going to come wandering around to discuss some nonsense) but this is the type of stuff that Wale should be rhyming over for here on out.

- I only link to other blog's to provide zshare links because Interscope has a nasty habit of shutting your whole blog down if you deign to link to their material. Obviously, I'm interested in maintaining an accurate archive of my material. Mostly so commenters can bring up some hyperbolic comment about Saigon two years after the fact to flaunt that I once had something slightly positive to say about a rapper that he doesn't like. Consider this the trade-off, folks.

Download: Wale [Feat. Bun-B] - Mirrors
[Via Nah Right]

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dear God, Why Are You Fucking With Us?

"[Archived Photo]: Man Screaming Expletives In A Cemetery ( 2010). Source: The Good Doctor Zeus' Worst Nightmares, copyright B.J. Steiner, July 2010."

Dear God,

Are you fucking kidding me?! After the unmitigated disaster of the 2008 Browns and 2008/2009 Cleveland Indians, you are crushing our hopes for a championship with a wildly disappointing wannabe contender, yet again. You really are doing this to the city of Cleveland, yet again? Why? What the hell did we ever do to piss you off so much?

It's bad enough that we had to watch our last two CY Young winners be traded away and proceed to start Game 1 of the World Series for our bitter enemies but you are now fucking with LeBron James, too. The Cavaliers are only two games into the season and they look like a total, irredeemable clusterfuck. I can understand getting beat by the Celtics on Opening Night. The Celtics are a great team after all (
I just got nauseous a little admitting that...) but having us getting nearly blown out by the Toronto fuckin' Raptors is beyond the pale even for your vindictiveness.

Why do you continue to build us up only to anally violate our souls with spike medieval weaponry? Was trading away Rocky Colavito that much more of an affront to you than the Red Sox trading away Babe Ruth or that damned Cubs goat? Those teams got to enjoy Larry Bird, Michael Jordan, Tom Brady and the 1985 Chicago Bears. Why fuck with us in all three major sports? It's bad enough we have to tolerate the gross, spectacular incompetence of the Fake Browns. Why mess with the only thing that's remotely source of civic pride in our fair city? Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

This is bullshit so get your act together, fix up Delonte West and get the Cavaliers back in shape or we will have more than words when I see you, God. This is not acceptable.


The City Of Cleveland

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Return Of The King!

"Seriously, SI? What do you have against Cleveland? Wasn't this enough for you?"

Our lord and savior, LeBron Raymone James, returns to the court tonight in the first step to ending Cleveland's quixotic journey towards a professional championship. This is the best team the Cavaliers have ever assembled. Win a ring for the King.

I Heart Jay Electronica

"Thankfully, this man remains immune to the insidious effects of Baduizm. Quick! Somebody develop a vaccine!"

In a world where every aspiring rapper’s hustle primarily consists of flooding the market with more disposable mixtapes and “Run This Town” freestyles than my desktop’s trash bin can conceivably handle, Jay Electronica’s approach to career promotion is shockingly spartan. It seems like ages since the man has released a full length CDQ instead choosing to release tantalizingly, short snippets of restrained brilliance in MP3 form and live performance videos to satiate the unending, rabid hunger of the internet, true school hip hop fan. In my mind, the one minute, forty-five seconds of the video preview of the Just Blaze produced “Dear Moleskine” is the most thrilling two minutes of music produced all year and it’s not even a finished song. Jay doesn't just believe in the power of quality over quantity. He believes in nothing less than flawless perfection. It's an admirable quality but it leaves the devoted fan of his with a maddening case of blue balls.

So you can imagine the school boy enthusiasm that I felt when Jay released two new, unreleased tracks within twenty-four hours of each other today. “Suckas” and “2 Step” are easily some of the best music released this all year and continues Jay’s burgeoning candidacy for the greatest rapper of his generation. Jay’s perfectionism is obvious and palpable on both of these tracks as his sheer mastery of the lyrical arts continue to astound. The man is simply not playing around. The man needs to release his debut album yesterday.

Download: Jay Electronica - Suckas [Produced By J Dilla] - via Nah Right

Download: Jay Electronica - 2 Step [Produced By Sol Messiah]
- via Dot Got It

Bonus Video: Jay Electronica - Dear Moleskine [Produced By Just Blaze]

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Clipse, Cam & Chicken

“Welcome To 2006...”

Way before Radric Davis became the chic rapper du jour of the sneering intelligentsia, Cameron Giles and the Brothers Thronton were perennially sweeping Pitchfork’s annual overly enthusiastic ironic rapper appreciation awards. Thus, it’s “kind of big deal” that Clipse and Cam’ron would decide to collaborate on Clipse’s new single, “Popular Demand (Popeyes)” for the Clipse’s upcoming album, “’Til The Casket Drops.”

In a lot of ways, Clipse’s and Cam’s approach to crafting hipster appreciated coke rap is diametrically opposed. The Clipse are all snarling, dystopic fury and perfectly crafted, menacing punchlines while Cam assualts the boundaries of cogency with his aloof non-sequiturs and assumed superiority. On “Popeyes,” they manage to synthesize these ideas to create the best track these three rappers have been apart of since Pitchfork stopped paying attention.

Pharell provides a dusty piano break in the vein of Lupe Fiasco’s “I Gotcha” for them to snap over and they all do a strong job attacking the beat. Highlights include a particularly memorable Pusha-T verse where he curiously taunts our Lord and Savior, LeBron Raymone James, for sleeping his with sloppy seconds that Pusha takes note looks like Madonna. Why Pusha wants to be smited by God is beside the point. It sounds awesome to hear the Brothers Thornton (...and Cam) over proper Neptunes production and kicking furious brag rhymes again after hearing a series of ill-advised overt plays for the club that marked the hideous “Re-Up Gang” album.

I’m cautiously expecting good things from “Til The Casket Drops” especially since “Kind Of Like A Big Deal" has grown on me significantly.

Download: Clipse [Feat. Cam'ron] - "Popular Demand (Popeyes)" - (Via Nah Right)

No Words... Weezer F. Baby Edition

"How can we take my rock guitar approach and marry it to hip hop?" - Rivers Cuomo
"Don't." - the American record-buying public

In Chuck "The Best Music Writer Alive" Klosterman's new book, Eating The Dinosaur, there is an extended essay on Rivers Cuomo (and how he kind of, sort of, vaguely relates to Ralph Nader) in which he questions the common sense assumption that anything Weezer creates is remotely ironic. Klosterman asserts that Cuomo is the most literal rock artist of all-time and this goes to explaining the universal shittiness of hist post-Pinkerton (or far more accurately post-Blue Album) career. For Weezer's sake, Klosterman had better be wrong because "Can't Stop Partying", Weezer's paradigm-shiftingly terrible collaboration with Lil Wayne, is quite possibly the worst decision in a career that includes "Beverly Hills" if the record was meant as anything other than ironic mockery of their collaborator. Actually, that's not necessarily true.

Let's examine the two possible scenarios for the creation of this record:

1. If Rivers Cuomo is completely literal and serious about this record (and he really does enjoy popping bottles of Patron in the club) than the implication is that Rivers is either legally retarded or has one of the most legendarily shitty taste in music of all-time. This song plays like what I imagine the inside of T-Pain's head sounds like. It's nothing but synth gurgles (provided inexplicably by Jermaine Dupri and Polow Da Don) and tertiary weirdo, nonsensical vocals. It's like a Fergie song fucked Conor Oberst and out spewed from her vagina a neon-glittering still born.

2. If this song is meant to be ironic than it's complete and total douchebaggery at it's finest. It trades in nothing but the rotest of hip hop tropes and stereotypes, mining these signifiers for the same type of cheap humor whenever white people engage with hip hop. It makes the song ugly. The fact that Lil Wayne, the king of ironic rap appreciation, shows up makes it completely worse. He's actively involving himself with people who would openly condescend to his music. (Wait...Actually, come to think of it. I think the second one is infinitely preferable. I actively encourage Weezy mockery on an epic scale. Fire away, Rivers! )

Ultimately, who is this song aiming to please? Consider how Weezer fans openly revolted at the disposable pop punk of "Beverly Hills," I can't imagine the horrified reaction a song that sounds like "Beverly Hills" as if it were remixed by... I guess, Jermaine Dupri and Polow Da Don, would create. Lil Wayne fans might react to this considerably better (considering they made the war crime against humanity called "Lollipop" a number-one hit) but considering the violent, bleeding anti-buzz that Weezy's rock album "The Rebirth" has generated, it would suggest that the only emotion that a song like this would create is revulsion.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Dear Diary: Not A Blogger Vs. VH1's Hip Hop Honors 2009

"Where's X and Jigga?"

I’m always been a bit baffled with the VH1 Hip Honors. On one hand, it’s kind of cool to see a whole bunch of forgotten rap icons get one last moment in the sun before the cruel mistress of popular culture takes them back behind the proverbial woodshed and plants two bullets in the back of their last shreds of relevancy. We get to see acts like the Furious Five share the stage with their cultural descendants in a moment of gooey, mushy glory that reminds us why we like rap music in the first place. It’s affirming of everything we kind of love about this insane little art form.

On the other hand, it’s VH1 running the show which makes the entire enterprise seem odd and out of place. Growing up in the ‘90s, I couldn’t have imagined a platform less hip hop than VH1. The network was always the prim and prissy older sister figure to MTV’s sluttier, younger sibling. While MTV had “Yo! MTV Raps” and “Headbanger’s Ball,” VH1 was content to let Celine Dion warble over their airwaves on a 24-hour cycle. If there was anything that would make lite-FM deejays swoon in their mom jeans, VH1! would play it on an almost constant, droning loop. They didn’t even play hip hop. I can remember vividly being pissed off as a budding rap fan when they cut Left Eye’s rap out of the “Waterfalls” video for reasons that I can’t even begin to contemplate. Knowing their history, I’ve always found it to be the highest of incongruity that VH1 and not MTV (or god forbid, BET...) would host this event.

This year , VH1 has decided to abandon it’s traditional format of honoring the fifteen or so artists that a bunch of random talking heads on television retrospectives have deemed “important” and honor Def Jam Records, instead. (I guess because honoring Russell Simmons, LL Cool J, Slick Rick, Public Enemy and the Beasties Boys weren’t enough recognition for Def Jam the first time.. Yet again, they did honor Isaac Hayes for reasons that haven’t been fully explained last year so that might be more of a function that they are running out of artists that people might remember. I mean, nobody really wants to see a forty year old Skee-Lo get up on stage and do “I Wish”... well except me.) Anyway, since I wasn’t invited to go to the show, I decided to do a running diary to review the show. Hate on!

9:00 - The show opens up with the sweet, melodious sounds of a gospel choir as the show’s host, Tracy “The Dong Slayer” Morgan, dressed like a preacher in a James Brown wig proselytizes the gospel according to Brother Russell. Somewhere along the line, this turns into a rousing rendition of “Jesus Walks” which is ironic because Kanye West is way too busy upsetting white America to be bothered with these shenanigans. At one point, Tracy claims that DMX became the voice of hip hop. Apparently, hip hop is synonymous with crack.

9:03 - In the night’s first video package, LL Cool J (who couldn’t be bothered to show up tonight because he loathes the modern incarnation of Def Jam with the fire I only reserve for the Yankees and assorted professional sport teams from Boston) narrates a pretty hilarious story of how he met Rick Rubin. LL is a pretty funny dude, it turns out. Do you think though when he signed with Def Jam that he would find himself co-starring in a NCIS spin-off on CBS with Robin? Probably not.

9:05 - I lick my lips and adjust my fitted.

9:06 - The Roots come out to do “Rock The Bells” for what’s gotta be the 5,000th time on this show when all of sudden the corpse of Eminem shows up out of nowhere to join in. I gotta say watching Eminem and Black Thought go toe-to-toe as performers is some really impressive shit. They have got to be the two best pure technicians in the game and they really bring the heat with this performance.

9:10 - In what we will be the indelible image of this whole ordeal, Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons are interviewed about Public Enemy while they sitting shoeless and Indian-style in some idyllic garden at one of their mansions. It's all new-agey and stupid. I’m pretty sure if their younger counterparts could have seen how ridiculous and lame they looked twenty-five years later, they would have hung themselves in the closet in that NYU dorm room. How the mighty have fallen...

9:11 - What the fuck? Jimmy Fallon is introducing Public Enemy?! This has officially replaced “Flavor Of Love 3” as the most embarrassing moment in Chuck D’s life.

9:12 - Public Enemy does “Rebel Without A Pause” backed by virtually every vaguely “revolutionary” political musician ever. This has to be the first and only time that Boots Riley will EVER be on national television so that’s kind of notable right there. I didn’t listen to “Street Sweeper Social Club” (because I have better things to do with my life) but I heard it was pretty terrible. On the other hand, Pitchfork gave it a “3.9” which probably means it’s the rap album of the year. I will say this, though. Tom Morello continues to make weird noises out of his guitar.

9:17 - I just want you to know I think it’s incredibly disturbing to see Russell and Rick talk about wanting to make loud, angry music when they aren’t wearing any shoes. This image alone is enough to make me want to burn my copy of “Radio.”

9:19 - Scarface and Ludacris come out to a Def Jam South tribute. Scarface performs “Guess Whos’ Back” to polite indifference from the crowd. I’m blaming the crowd on that one. That song is boss. Shame on you. That would’ve killed in my apartment. Ludacris does “Southern Hospitality” to a far greater response. I find it hilarious when they do cutaways to the Def Jam dignitaries in the crowd and Kevin Liles is geeking out over the artists while Lyor Cohen looks like he’s pissed that VH1 is completely wasting his time with this foolishness.

9:25 - I got to admit these Tracy Morgan skits are hilarious. Scoopy Giles is the new, new hotness.

9:32 - Thanks, Rick! I will never get the image of Russell Simmons sweating naked in your dorm room out of my head for the rest of my life.

9:33 - Oh, man. KRS-One, Wale, and the dude from the Gym Class Heroes perform “No Sleep Til’ Brooklyn.” Whhhhhhhhhy? I’m officially in the twilight zone. And in typical KRS fashion, he promptly decides to not do the Beasties' actual lyrics and kick a random freestyle about the importance of respecting the four elements or some shit. That shit was like clockwork. Actually, that was one of the best performances of the entire show but I just want to point out that Wale is wearing a Mickey Mouse sweater. That’s a bad omen for “Attention: Deficit.”

9:40 - Apparently, Lyor Cohen signed Warren G because he was a Pete Seger and Carol Kane fan. That would not have happened if I was running Def Jam and saw those two records on his turntables.

9:41 - Warren G and Trey Songz come out to perform “Regulate.” I know Nate Dogg just had a stroke last year but couldn’t they have gotten R. Kelly to do this? I’m convinced they went with Trey Songz because Trey Songz vaguely rhymes with Nate Dogg. I just want to point out when they did a cutout to the stands, Brett Ratner was so bored that he was checking his cell phone. How dare you disrespect the power of the "Regulators," Mr. Ratner!

9:50 - Another Tracy Morgan/Scoopy Giles skit. Not as funny as first.

9:57 - So apparently, Redman called Brett Ratner’s mom a hoe to his face and thus, Ratner put his mom into the video for “Tonight’s Da Night” or something . Ratner introduces Red and Meth who do “Da Rockwilder.” I love that song but I gotta say whoever is doing the sound mix on this broadcast seriously fucked up because you can barely hear the production on any of these tracks. It’s getting really annoying. Redman is rocking a faux-hawk which makes me question my decision to write that piece championing “hipster rap” so many months ago. Had I known this would be in my future, I would’ve been listening to Gucci Mane records... Wait, no I wouldn’t!

10:00 - After a quick costume change, Method Man comes out to do “You’re All I Need To Get By” with Mary J. Blige and I thank the heavens, they are doing the vastly superior “Razor Sharp Remix” and not the uber-lame (and thus more popular) Puffy version. Note To All DJ’s: I don’t know why the Puffy version became the standardized version of that song to be played on the radio but that needs to stop. Puffy's version pales in comparison with the remix RZA did for the video. RZA’s version maintains the gritty, rawness of the album version while still being insanely catchy while Puffy’s version just lacks balls. If I wanted to listen to the equally-as-lame “One More Chance (Remix),” I would listen to the “One More Chance (Remix).” Remember, RZA > Puffy’s ghost producers. That is all.

10:05 - Apparently other than being the world’s biggest asshole, Lyor Cohen is batshit insane. Absolutely nothing in that last video package remotely approached anything resembling cogency.

10:10 - Am I reading too much into this or did Kevin Liles and some random white chick just admit to committing corporate fraud on national television? I’m sure the Internal Revenue Service would be glad to hear that Kevin Liles was writing off making it rain at a strip club as a business expense. That was awesome.

10:11 - Tracy’s outfit overdosed on the bedazzler. 50 Cent would be jealous.

10:12 - Onyx show up and do some bastardized nu-metal version of “Slam” with the Gym Class Heroes. And was I crazy or did I just hear a Rhodes synthesizer at the end of the song? I think my soul just died a little bit inside. Lyor seems annoyed with himself that he signed these clowns.

10:20 - Bill Adler speaks about how Russell and Rick’s original plan was to make the hardest, most uncompromising music possible and force the mainstream to crossover to them. I want you to remember this statement the next time you listen to the quiet storm of a Ne-Yo record.

10:21 - The hideousness of Eve’s multi-colored mullet weave is only surpassed by the monstrosity that sits atop Ashanti’s head. Ashanti’s wig looks like a cross between something Tina Turner would’ve worn to Thunderdome and a dead rat. She and the Corpse Of Ja Rule come out to do a lifeless, medley of various Murder Inc. abortions to scathing indifference from the crowd. If I had been in the audience, I would have considered chucking some cheese on stage to see if her wig was intelligent enough to run through a maze and find it.

10:27 - L.A. Reid shows up to talk about how he personally ruined hip hop. Or at least that’s what I inferred from his interview.

10:30 - When we return from commercials, Lyor Cohen offers further proof that he is totally insane. He rants something about Def Jam being blue collar (Ha!) and being able to fix cars while Death Row/Bad Boy couldn’t because they are soft and don't want to get oil dripped on them. I hate to break it to you, Lyor, but your company released “I Need Love” and as far as I can tell your company bombarded me with all the Ja Rule love songs that I could stomach a few moments ago.

10:31 - Tracy Morgan brings Oran “Juice” Jones(!!!) out for some reason. This seems like something his 30 Rock alter-ego would pull. I’m inspired. The next time I’m speaking in public, I’m going to pull an obscure 80s novelty R&B singer out of the woodwork to sing their hit song acapella, too. I wonder if Rockwell is available...

10:32 - Rick Ross gets his own tribute? What?! Why?! How?! Why?! You couldn’t have gotten Young Jeezy, at least? I’m baffled by the implications of what’s going on here. I would like to point out that Rick Ross’ DJ has managed to capture the annoyance of DJ Khaled's mixtape drops and insert them directly into the live performance medium. That’s fantastic... I’m always looking for ways artists to make their live rap performances shittier than they already are. Rick Rubin looks pained as he is forced to watch Rawse waddle about in that Fila tracksit. I know the feeling, Rubes.

10:40 - Holy shit! It’s DMX! How the hell did they get him to show up?! They must have told him he was going to be attending Tyrone Biggum’s $450,000 Crack Party, instead. Why is Gym Class Heroes re-creating “Party Up” for him? As much as I like live bands, I don’t want to hear Swizz Beatz production being recreated by the Gym Class fuckin’ Heroes or any other collection of half-rate musicians. Re-created live rap music never sounds right and ends up killing the whole vibe. I really wish artists would get off the kick that they need a band to have a hot live show. It rarely works out that way. I’d much rather listen to your DAT recorder.

10:45 - Scoopy Giles “I gotta 99 donuts but the bitch ate one.” Heh. I'm a fan of puns. Maybe, I really should get into Gucci Mane.

10:50 - The show’s finale consists of a medley of “hits” from the Def Jam artists that the show deemed not important enough to get their own segment. Kid Rock performs LL’s “I’m Bad.” (I guess white rappers from Detroit really dig LL...) EPMD performs “Crossover.” A fat, bloated Foxy Brown and Fabolous perform “I’ll Be” to hilarious schadenfreude. Ghostface and Chrisette Michelle do “Back Like That” (Ugh, really? Why not, “Run?”) to my immense disappointment. And finally, Wale comes out to do Kanye’s “Touch The Sky.” That could have been sooooooo better executed. Jay-Z or Kanye should have come out to close the show. You can't end your signature show with a performance from Wale.

10:59 - Russell Simmons comes out to do the standard Def Jam farewell as the credits roll.

Final Verdict: Would it have killed Jay-Z to show up and do “Hard Knock Life?” Doesn’t he have an album to promote? You too good to pay homage, Shawn? Fail.

As with usual with these shows, it always way more disappointing to watch than it would seem on paper. It seems like it would be awesome to watch Eminem perform “Rock The Bells” and have the greats themselves come back and perform one last time for a national audience but it always comes across as simultaneously half-assed and depressing. The newer artists always seem like they’re doing rap karaoke versions of the classics and the legends are always shells of their former selves and can’t live up to the hype of their storied past. It just doesn’t work the way you think it should.

I suppose this year was as good as any, though. I didn’t learn as much as I normally do on these shows due to the fact that the Def Jam story has been told a thousand times in a thousand places but I did discover that Lyor Cohen is apparently Gary Busey in disguise so that was fun. But before I go, I have a message from Russell Simmons...

“Thanks for coming out, God bless you and good night.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Inaugural Not A Blogger Cash-For-Hate FTC Advert-viewment Payola Program Spectacular

"I'm the Bernie Madoff of this blog shit..."

Dear Prospective Internet Viral Blog Money-Giving Payola People Who Send Me Press Releases For Bands I Don’t Care About:

In light of recent Federal Trade Commission regulations that require bloggers to disclose any monetary or valuable goods they receive to review products, you might feel hesitant to continue to spend (or rather, waste) money on bloggers reviewing your products. Let me assure you that I, the Good Doctor Zeus, proprietor of Not A Blogger, have no ethical qualms whatsoever with the practice of blog payola and would gladly welcome any form of monetary pay that you might be willing to needlessly waste on me. I will gladly hate on the shit you send me over the internet if you pay. I look forward to…neigh…deeply crave you giving me exorbitant amounts of money to hate on artists, bands and products that I don’t remotely care for. My endless need to compromise my bloggistic integrity for greed and that’s why I’m officially announcing “The Not A Blogger Cash-For-Hate FTC Advert-viewment Payola Program.”

What is “The Not A Blogger Cash-For-Hate FTC Advert-viewment Payola Progam,” you ask? Great rhetorical question, future real estate license applicant! “The Not Blogger Cash-For-Hate FTC Advert-viewment Payola Program” is a dynamic, paradigm-shifting opportunity in which you pay me large amounts of cash or comparable assorted goods and/or trades and I will hate on my blog about an artist I don’t remotely care about so you can generate that ever elusive blog buzz that Time Magazine and other assorted publications that old white people read keep prattling on about it. It’s that easy! You pay and I hate. What an extraordinary opportunity for you to give me money that you clearly aren’t spending wisely promoting your artist!

You may skeptical about the effect that some random dude hating on his blog about your artist can have for their career so let me tell you a little bit about the program. Not A Blogger is a semi-famous hip hop blog popular amongst other hip hop bloggers that is viewed by literally dozens of people who stumble upon during their google-search for old Wu-Tang mp3s everyday. On my blog, I regularly take large steaming piles of hate on some of my least-favorite artists and without fail they are almost always, already huge hip hop stars in their own right already. Internet blog buzz is the wave of the future. It’s the cutting edge way for you to give me money and for me to use that money on my growing hooker addiction. The logical fallacies are endless!

Here’s a list of services I will provide if you sign up with the program:

1. Angry, Poorly Written Reviews

2. Snarky comments on Twitter

3, Dismissive, Condescending Essays

4. Pictures Of Your Artists’ Album Cover With The Words “Fail” Written On It

5. Pictures Of Your Artist With Jizz Drawn On Their Face in Microsoft Paint

6. Pictures Of Your Artist Photoshopped Into Gay Porn

7. Message Board Trolling

8. Noz Baiting

9. Tom Breihan Baiting

10. Lolcatz

11. Drunkenly Calling My Friend A Racist For Liking Your Album

12. Hostile Emails

13. And More…

“The Not A Blogger Cash-For-Hate FTC Advert-viewment Payola Program” is an equal-opportunity hater and will gladly hate on all forms of music regardless if I know the slightest about your artist. Actually the less I know, the more offensive and condescending my hating will be which has an added bonus of being both incredibly amusing to myself but also ensuring that I will secure a location in one of the deeper circles in Hades. Bonus! How often does a program like this where you get to actually pay somebody (but specifically me) for hating on something that you only are half-assedly trying to promote in the first place. I mean why would you be sending a complete stranger a promotional email for some shitty viral video that your band did at 3 a.m. if you aren’t fucking the dog on your band’s promotion. So why not PAY for me to hate on it? It’s clearly the delusional money making scam of the century.

I gladly will accept any or all of these forms of payment:

1. Cash

2. Check

3. Credit Card

4. Stolen Credit Cards

5. Concert Tickets

6. Beer

7. Booze

8. Porn

9. Eastern European Prostitutes

10. 1992-93 Game-Worn Mark Price Jerseys

11. X-Box Live Accounts

12. The Keys To Blake Lively’s Apartment

13. A Job I Don’t Hate

14. Or Anything Of Comparable Value….

My lack of ethical qualms knows no standard of journalistic decency that I can’t bend to fit my elastic moral relativism. There is nothing that I won’t do to make you look like a fool for spending money on a fucking blogger. Sign up today and you too can by swept on the majesty of my hatred.

“The Not A Blogger Cash-For-Hate FTC Advert-viewment Payola Program… because if you can’t buy my love, you can certainly buy my scorn." - The Good Doctor Zeus

Friday, September 18, 2009

No Words... Teddy Roosevelt Edition

- The '99 version of myself would be bugging out over this line-up. The '09 Model? Not so much.

-Everybody remotely involved in this should be embarrassed they are getting eaten up by fuckin' Drag-On! Yes, Drag-On! Whom I'm quite positive has been banished from recording music since I haven't heard him rap since the Exit Wounds soundtrack. Ironically, the Exit Wounds Soundtrack was the last time, DMX, mattered in anything but drug-related arrest hilarity. I will give the Ruff Ryders this. Had Jay-Z decided to do an old school Roc-a-fella reunion, he would not have invited Amil to the proceedings. Kudos on finding, Drag-On, at whatever car wash he's working at these days.

-Eve might be the only human female that has gotten hotter as she ages. I thought she was hideous when she was rocking the Eminem-cut back when she first appeared on the scene but she's definitively smokin', now. Let that be a lesson to you, Amber Rose!

- I can't decide which member of the L.O.X. is more comatose these days. Sheek Louch wins by default since he always sort-of sucked.

- I don't understand the point of putting together a video like this for a song that's meant to be the re-introduction to Ruff Ryders and making it so fucking budget looking. So you are going to spend thousands of dollars renting ATV's and sports car but you can't spring for a camera that's slightly above your garden-variety camcorder? You can't make "Big Pimpin'" if you don't have a director who understands the concept of "white balancing," people! It kills me that cheap-ass videos like this are the reason that I had trouble finding work so much when I was working as a freelance videographer a few years back.

- Swizz Beatz should be shot... We all know why.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Well... That Was Fast!

Thanks, Mr. West! Thanks to your insane selfishness, Joe Wilson is off the hook for being only the second most ridiculous person to interrupt a speech this week. Tell me I'm lying.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II: Review

"His price is 26, son."

I am 26 years old and that places me at an age in which I’m old enough to start thinking seriously about my future but still have a yearning for the childhood obsessions that occupied my youth. I spend hours researching old Saturday morning cartoons on Wikipedia, watch old WWF (Fuck-a-World-Wildlife-Fund…it will always be the WWF to me!) matches on Youtube and cop X-Files DVDs at Best Buy. My world is rapidly changing around me as my friends start to slowly pair off and get engaged, advance in their careers and become fully function members of the vile cult known as adulthood. Meanwhile, I’m beginning to think if my reverence for the glorious, permanent juvenilia that has become my modus operandi is something that I should abandon for something approximately approaching societal norms. (I can’t keep delaying law school forever. Ugh.) All this means is that nostalgia has particular death grip on my psyche at this moment in my life. I don’t want to grow up but am self-aware enough to know that this is not a particular healthy notion to be harboring.

For me, Raekwon’s “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II” is soaked in a particularly palpable nostalgia that evokes a particular slice of my adolescence that I have nothing but fond memories of. As a teenager, hip hop was the music I used to escape from the world and 10 years later, it is the music that I choose to examine and frame my worldview about. (write these long, winding narratives as a way to reconcile my thoughts and feelings about the world around me at large.) In regards to my long-standing love affair with hip hop, Wu-Tang has been the love of my life. The group that makes all other rap groups look second-rate.

On the surface, Cuban Linx II is an ostensibly perfect record. For an album that took nearly 14 years to make and is the sequel to one of the most highly acclaimed records in the history of the art form, it works way better than I can possibly have hoped for. It works as the type of perfect ‘90s crime epic that used to be the norm until it was abandoned for the cartoonish, uber-violent, half-baked crack rap fantasy of the Young Jeezy’s and the 50 Cent’s of the world. It is meticulous and grounded in details. It is loaded with pathos and drama and it makes the delusion of “Deeper Than Rap” seem like the highest of high comedy. And boy does it ever bang. Raekwon has not only brought out the heaviest of heavy production artillery (Dilla, Dre, RZA, Rock, Marley fuckin’ Marl) but the Wu-Tang cavalry out as well. There isn’t a wasted beat, half-assed verse or a solitary half-baked idea on the entire record. It is the type of hard-as-nails, gritty rap album that they don’t make anymore. It’s the best rap album of the year by a wide margin and that is where the problem lies.

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II” relies too much on nostalgia. It is so rooted in ‘90s rap minutiae that it sounds alien in this modern rap environment and from a philosophical standpoint the record sounds almost regressive to the needs of the future of hip hop. It appeals to me because it sounds like a throwback Wu-Tang record, “No Said Date” with a more talented lead, and had this record been realized in ’99, it would be on par with the best of the Wu-Tang solos. Unfortunately, it’s 2009 and thus all this nostalgia (the kung-fu samples, the RZA and RZA-esque beats, the “Killer” dialogue) makes it inherently a limited record. It’s sort of the equivalent of a late-period Scorsese crime film. It’s highly enjoyable and well-made but it lacks the raw grit and originality of his earlier works. Its appeal is entirely based on the familiar and thus it cheapens its greatness. What does it say when the best record of 2009 sounds dated? That its success is because it’s consciously re-creating the past? You begin to wonder as a fan what that speaks about you when the big artists of the day leave you unsatisfied and what you crave most deeply is the nostalgia of your youth. Is this healthy? Or does this signal an unhealthy obsession for pangs of youth? (And why am I ending all my sentences as a rhetorical question like a Carrie Bradshaw column? And why am I making Sex in the City references in a Raekwon review? Should I cut my balls off? Is this healthy?)

I feel strange writing a seemingly negative review for a record that I happen to love. It is a record that I have been banging for a week straight and it reminds of me all the things that I miss about hip hop. I just don’t know if this is the record that I should love after all these years. Hip Hop needs more than older artists mining the exploits of their older, better records. It needs innovation. It needs somebody trying to push its boundaries. It needs to find the future. (It needs Jay Electronica to release an album.) Perhaps, this was always coming. For a genre built on the mining the works of other artists to create new, it may have been inevitable that it would run out of ideas and that eventually come to eat itself. I hope not but I’ll being “Cuban Linx II” as I stare wistfully into the past.

Random Notes:

-Who did U-God piss off to get left off the album? Even Masta Killa got two features!

-It doesn’t remotely bother me that some of these beats/samples have been used elsewhere. Nobody cared about O.C.’s second record in 1997. Nobody cares now.

- At this point, anybody who is in doubt that Ghostface is the best human being alive working in the profession of rapper is seriously kidding themselves. Everybody brings their A-game on this record and Ghost still dominates like LeBron James at a pick-up with Mark Madsen and Yi Jianlian’s practice chair.

- J Dilla should have been producing all Wu-Tang efforts from ’99 on. “House Of Flying Daggers”, “Ason Jones”, and “10 Bricks” are the three best beats on the entire album. RZA should be ashamed of himself for Dilla’s beat-making corpse sonning him on his own shit.

- How big of a fool is Dr. Dre for refusing to release this album on Aftermath? It’s not like he’s doing anything but Dr. Pepper commercials, anyway.

- Nas lost.

- If mobster bosses’ don’t pop off with lobster-sauced angel hair then they seriously need to reconsider what they are doing with their lives. I’m glad to see Deck is still bombing atomically 10 years after he mysteriously had his voice stolen by the Gentleman.

- “They found a two year old, strangled to death/with a love daddy t-shirt/ in a bag/ at the top of the steps.” Need I say more… Verse of the decade material.