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

Thursday, April 30, 2009

What RZA Put Together, Let No Man Tear Asunder


I can't describe how much joy seeing RZA show up in the Raekwon's gloriously grimy "Wu-Ohh!" video brings to my cynical eyes. I was heartbroken with the way Wu-Tang started feuding over the "8 Diagrams" disaster but to see them All N 2gether in the same video again brings visions of the summer of 1995 in my head, again. Please let this be the year that "Cuban Linx II" finally sees the light of day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Asher Roth Revisted Upon The Dawning Horror That Everybody Else Is Probably Right And The Dude Might In Fact Be A Bigoted Douchebag

"You guys are always going off about how much money you have. Do you realize what's going on in this world right now?' All these black rappers? African rappers? Talking about how much money they have. Do you realize what's going on in Africa right now? It's just like, you guys are disgusting. Talking about billions and billions of dollars you have. And spending it frivolously, when you know, the Motherland is suffering beyond belief right now." - Asher Roth, hypocritical black pot (Associated Press)

Dear Asher,

Duuuuuude. You can't excoriate other rappers (especially rappers who happen to be black and have grown up in miserable poverty) for wanton materialism and hedonism when you are willing to be photographed with dozens of scantily clad co-eds. Its against the rules. There is a profound difference between not patronizing Jacob the Jeweler and actually being a humanitarian aid worker in Africa. I can't tell you how on so many levels that statement is fucked up. Yes, it's true that making a song celebrating your love for your diamond necklace is incredibly shallow but so is a song celebrating beer pong. But more importantly what does that have to do with sick kids in Africa? (Well, besides the whole blood diamond thing to be fair but still...) Where are you making that brilliant intellectual leap?

And since when did it become the duty of rappers to try single handedly try and save Africa? The world has collectively decided to turn their back as Africa burn, black emcees can keep on ignoring the smell of smoke and charred ash like the rest of us if they damn well want.

I was willing to overlook the fact that you were dumb enough as a public figure to make a "nappy headed hoes" joke because nothing gets the gas face quicker than people pretending to be offended by things they aren't actually offended by because it was clear that you were making reference to the fact that you were at Rutgers University and more importantly, you weren't actively insulting anybody. This just makes me angry, though. Seriously, you need to shut the fuck up about any political statements unless you know what the fuck you are talking.
I'm retroactively removing a full mic from your album review on general principle.*

*If I were one to actively grade albums which I don't and never will. **
**Unless, of course, somebody (publications, internet, private investors, etc.) is willing to pay me to grade said albums. ***
*** I'd totally be willing to be hired by some person **** to go through your private music collection and grade your record collection, album by album, as well. This seems like an ideal job, actually.
****Preferably somebody who is rich and frivilous. *****
***** Poor and frivilous is preferable, too. ******
****** Actually, anybody willing to pay me. ********
******* I'm a whore for money. I have no shame. ********
******** It's a recession people. Don't judge.

Monday, April 27, 2009

You Can’t Kill Something That’s Already Dead (Unless It’s A Zombie): Not A Blogger’s Review Spectacular Of Asher Roth’s Asleep In The Bread Aisle

"Mostly Harmless"

Chuck Klosterman’s seminal essay on Billy Joel from his book “Sex, Drugs & Cocoa Puffs” attempts to describe Billy Joel’s lack of critical respect despite his penchant for writing airtight uber-popular love ballads. Klosterman declared Joel’s artistic credibility problem derives from the simple fact that “Billy Joel is not cool.” Now his lack of cool (much like fellow ‘70s balladeer, Barry Manilow) did not prevent him from selling records like “Freeway” Ricky Ross sold crack cocaine (not to be confused with either Freeway or Rick Ross who I most assure you never sold crack in their lives) but does prevent Billy Joel in any meaningful discussion of greatest musicians of all-time. His greatness will always be in question simply because fourteen year old boys would rather grow up to be Jimmy Page than Billy Joel. As Klosterman pointed out in the essay, this is a profoundly ridiculous way to judge the relative quality of an artist. For one, most people who are “cool” actively suck as people (at least in my estimation) and in the other, judging coolness over an artist’s talent is how we end up with Jim Jones being able to release three albums without having an actual, discernible talent.

Now, Asher Roth is not cool, either. This is a problem for him. Asher is pale and skinny, wears polo shirts and penny loafers, sounds remarkably like Eminem and is so blindingly white that his name is actually, Asher Roth. Nobody wants to be Asher Roth but unlike Joel who most critics treat as (“mostly”) harmless (if not ironically enjoyable), Roth has inexplicably garnered a level of vitriol and deep-seated hatred in bloggers and critics alike not seen since Vanilla Ice claimed he wasn’t jacking a Queen song. I’ve seen Roth declared everything from “the worst rapper in history of mankind, the universe, and the heavens above, now and forever” (roughly, I’m paraphrasing about ten billion blogger’s essays including a few writers I deeply respect ) to Roth being borderline if not out and out racist and prematurely declaring Asher’s debut record, “Asleep In The Bread Aisle” to be a lock for one of this year’s worst records. This is problematic because not only isn’t Asher Roth that terrible of a rapper but “Asleep In The Bread Aisle” is a solid if completely workmanlike record. The level of vitriol doesn’t match the content. It’s mostly harmless.

Asher Roth is certainly not a great rapper by any stretch of the imagination. As a lyricist, he is rather… let’s just say…limited. Outside of his much maligned “A Milli Freestyle” from last summer, Roth pretty much sticks to the well-worn treads of rapping about partying, girls, and weed. Nobody is going to accuse him of being Aquemini-era Andre 3000 (although, they will accuse him of being Eminem, often and frequently) anytime soon. However, contrary, what you may have heard, Asher Roth does not suck. He maybe an idiot but his flow is technically sound and he does have a penchant for dropping off-beat, pop culture referencing one-liners as highlighted by his freestyle epic opener “Lark On My Go-Kart.” Asher Roth may present himself as a living breathing frat boy cliché but he’s not a bad rapper, at least, not in a strictly technical sense. His flow isn’t off-beat and his words land where they should. If Asher Roth has one critical flaw, it would be his work is blandly enjoyable but completely unimaginative. It simply exists on a plane of commercially disposable pop music that serves as solid background music for cleaning your apartment but has very little other use. For an album as whimsically titled as “Asleep In The Bread Aisle,” the music sticks with a tried-and-trued formula and doggedly adheres to it.

However, this is actually a understated strength of the album. Roth knows his limitations as an artist and he doesn’t try to “Love Below” his album and create an ostensible piece of genius. If he were to try and do much as an artist, the album would undoubtedly be an unfocused mess and when you compound this with the fact that Roth isn’t exactly Rakim in his prime, it would assuredly make the album an abortion in the truest sense of the word. But it’s not. It’s simply a boom bap, frat rap album that exists in the vein of early Beasties and this allows Roth to craft catchy pop rap that will appeal to pop audiences. “I Love College” is a great song because it’s so dumb, affable and unassuming that it easily bridges the gap between a wide swaths of audience. Its sort of the musical equivalent of an 80s movie. It’s completely stupid and cheesy but there’s nothing I’d rather do than sit around on a Saturday afternoon in my underwear and watch Rodney Dangerfield’s stunt double try a triple lindy. The song features little goofy signifiers of college such as the “no shoes rule”, chants of “freshman”, and the unwritten rule that bouncing your ball during beer pong is profoundly pussy which is instantly identifiable to anybody who actually went to college and didn’t pretend that they were too good for a keg stand. (As a rule, the most uninteresting people I met in my four years at higher academia were those who were too holier than thou to attend frat parties as some sort of misguided and utterly asinine stand against the mainstream, sexist culture or as I liked to referred to them those that hated fun. I didn’t join a frat either but I’m not going to pretend getting smashed and puking in a trash can isn’t an awesome way to spend a Saturday Night. It totally is. Get a life, commie!)

For an artist that is so lightweight and fluffy, Asher Roth has managed to engender a particular brand of hate that I find patently unfair and hypocritical considering the decade’s long journey into the wilderness of wackness that hip hop has gotten lost in. It’s absolutely true that Asher Roth would have been laughed out of the building ten years ago but you know what, so would Soulja Boy and Jim Jones. Hip hop has long lost the remotest sense of quality control that not only an environment where it’s possible for artist like Asher Roth to achieve a degree of mainstream acceptance but ultimately, his rise was inevitable if not unavoidable. He’s the product of a decade of Soulja Boy apologists and crack rap fetishism. If you strip the gimmicky paradigm of Asher Roth being a suburban white kid rapping and deconstruct him into his simplest form than Roth becomes just another rapper with limited rapping ability who has been given far more of commercial attention than he probably deserves. This has been the narrative for almost a decade’s worth of rap music and Asher Roth is another figure that just fits right into the story. Traditional rap lyricism has watched itself slowly become increasingly irrelevant. It doesn’t matter if you can or cannot rap anymore. If you can write a hit song (and whether you like it or not, “I Love College” is a hit song), you are going to receive major label attention. Period. To harangue Asher Roth for being wack is to single out him for a widespread endemic problem with hip hop. Since when do we suddenly care about lyricism and the ability to rap well? Rick Ross is about to have his second number one album in the last two years. Wit ain’t exactly being valued at a premium these days. So why is Asher Roth suddenly the artistic anti-christ for rapping poorly?

I suppose it’s because Asher Roth is a rich white kid rapping about rich white kid things. There’s undeniable element of white privilege inherent in his music that makes people either very uncomfortable (myself included to an extent) or irrationally angry. Asher Roth may not be one of the first rappers to strip his music completely from the traditional context of the urban and the street but he’s one of the first to do it without going out of his way to acknowledge the contributions of the urban street rappers. Asher Roth has gone out of his way on numerous occasions to berate street rappers for their particular brand of conspicuous consumption of wearing diamonds and has done it in the holier-than-thou attitude of a pretentious white liberal. As Brandon Soderberg pointed out, this is problematic and probably a little bit racist as well. Roth should be the last person to critique black rappers for wearing ice not only because he celebrates his own form of conspicuous consumption in his songs (As “Blunt Cruisin’” and “I Love College” demonstrate) but also in the light of the recent Twitter/Nappy Headed Hoes fiasco that has arisen in the last couple of days. Hip hop is still a predominately black art form and a white rapper is always going to have a tentative and problematic relationship at best with the genre. Roth and his handlers should know better than to let him pop off at the mouth about a culture that he isn’t 100% accepted in.

However , I find it of interest that loudest voices of the Roth backlash are not coming from black rappers, critics or bloggers but rather Roth’s fellow brethren of the Caucasian persuasion. Asher Roth has been met with seething, scouring fury from my fellow white critics while black critics and bloggers like Toure’ and Eskay have met him with something either approaching tacit approval or at worst, resigned indifference. (Excuse me if I ignore Byron Crawford’s hate of the dude for a second. I’m talking serious critics…) I find this strange because, to me, Roth is utterly harmless. His music is too obvious to warrant serious artistic deconstruction and is generic enough that I can’t imagine that it would seriously offend people. The few songs that attempt to break the mold of frat rap like “As I Em” or “Sour Patch Kids” either reek of generic, let’s-start-a-revolution cliché prevalent in post-Rawkus indie rap (“Sour Patch Kids”) or deal with his own personal flaws and limitations (the Eminem comparison refuting “As I Em”, coincidently. the album’s best song) that one would actually have to be looking to be offended from the onset in order to actually be offended at all. It’s all too harmless. Perhaps, there is a certain funhouse reflection that white critics see in themselves when looking at Asher Roth that makes his persona too close for comfort. This is a sentiment that as a white rap fan that I can relate to. Often, I’ve found myself being reduced amongst people as “the white dude who loves rap music” and I always find myself tacitly apologizing for my taste in music. I personally don’t find it strange at all that my musical heroes are Nas and the Wu-Tang Clan but I dread having to explain why I like the music in the first place. There is a certain cultural stigma that being an unabashed white rap fan has carried that is constantly being reinforced in the media be either Jamie Kennedy-esque caricature or uber-naive MC Paul Barmanian nerdiness surrounding whiteness in hip hop. Asher Roth is perhaps the closest thing to a white blogger making a rap album there is so perhaps this brings nothing but discomfort in some. I understand the sentiment and I sort of wish that somebody rapping about the environment that I grew up in had more talent but the hate this dude is getting seems unwarranted. It just seems too personal to be simply about his music.

Perhaps, I’m wrong about all this. Perhaps, Roth just sucks and the people who rag on him are right and are right for the right reasons. I could be just jaded. Ten years of watching my favorite brand of music slowly die off into irrelevance and being replaced by an insidious, insipid bizarro version has numbed my senses to the point where I just can’t get offended by a no-talent ass clown raping the music I love anymore. I’ve seen too many Young Jeezy’s and Jim Jones’ and Soulja Boy’s get rich and famous making sub par music that the idea of another one just warrants a resigned shrug from me. Who cares? He’ll be replaced by somebody else sooner or later. Asher Roth isn’t killing hip hop because you can’t kill something that’s already dead. All I know is that I sat around listening to “Asleep In The Bread Aisle” while I was cleaning my apartment and thought it was mildly enjoyable if relentlessly stupid, turned it off and went on with the rest of my day. This seems like the approriate response. Maybe, hip hop has just passed me by. Or maybe, I’m just a sucker for Teddy Ruxtpin references… Man, that was a cool toy!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Carl Pavano... WHAT THE F...

Carl Pavano: 1.0 Innings Pitched, Six Hits, Nine Earned Runs, 3 BB, 1 K, 81.00 ERA...

Mark DeRosa: .000 BA, 0 Hits, O Runs, 1 BB, 5 K....

Kerry Wood: .....

Cleveland Indians Pitching Through 23 innings: 24 Runs, 9.56 ERA, .338 BAA, 1.75 WHIP

Cleveland Indians Hitting Through 23 Innings: .179 BA, .247 OBP, .255 SLG

Ladies & Gentleman, Your 2009 Cleveland Indians! Fuck this team! They are managing to ruin even the Cavaliers for me...

South Park - Kanye West Is A Gay Fish

Still after 13 seasons, South Park remains the funniest, most wicked, pop culture sacred cow skewering show on television... and it's about damn time, they cut down Kanye's massive ego in half especially considering Kanye's douchebaggery has been running uncontrollably rampant ever since he started sporting that hideous afro mullet and got addicted to the auto-tune. I'm laying even odds that Kanye West completely misses the joke of the episode and bitches about Parker and Stone in public within the next week. Count on it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

DJ Quik & Kurupt - "Hey Playa!"

Thank God, there is somebody in the extended Dr. Dre/N.W.A./Death Row/Aftermath family that is still making music that is worth a damn. I was beginning to wonder if G(-Unit)-Virus that infected Interscope in the year of our lord, 2003, had spread through the ranks and completely murdered everybody's ability to make quality music that came within contact of Curtis Jackson's bucktoothed and steroid-addled aura. Luckily, Kurupt along with fellow West Coast legend, DJ Quik, remain immune to the virus as their new single, "Hey Playa!" off their impending collaborative album, "Blaqkout", proves.

I suppose it's become the vogue for former Dr. Dre proteges (See: Eminem; Rhymes, Busta - Lesser Works) to employ Middle Eastern influenced beats (and for the most part, these songs have been utterly intolerable) but "Hey Playa!" stands above the pack because the sample sounds grittier and less refined from their overproduced brethren. The track is funky, upbeat and sounds warm and inviting. For sure, this is club oriented material but this sounds neither over-produced or embarrassingly dated which often plagues veteran rappers when they try to go the modern club right. This is just fun. Kurupt has always been one of my favorite West Coast-based rappers of all-time but DJ Quik really stands out on the track. He just sounds like he's having a blast on the track.

Can we get Spice-1 or MC Eiht on the remix and fully complete the '90s West Coast rapper nostalgia circle? I'd definitely be down.

Download: DJ Quik & Kurupt - Hey Playa!

How The Mighty Have Fallen Off.../Video: Eminem - We Made You

...And fallen into a bottomless pit of utter wackness. This is terrible. Everybody remotely involved with this video should be ashamed of themselves for simultaneously tarnishing their legacy and retroactively removing 1 extra mic from the "Slim Shady" and "Marshall Mathers" LPs. Just Awful. Jessica Simpson and Tony Romo? Bret Michaels? Lindsay Lohan? Star Trek?!?! It's 2009 and you are in your mid thirties! You should not still be making fun of Hollywood starlets and making fart jokes in your music videos. Can we just skip ahead to the second single where he bitches about either Kim, his mother or how the world is persecuting him? What the really sad part of this all is that Eminem still can really, really, really flow, he just has absolutely nothing left to say. Say what you want about Nas and his penchant for grandiose and incoherent statements but at least, he's trying to cover new ground with his new material, Eminem is trying to mine the same formula that went stale with his last album... which was five years ago and is a serious contender for the worst album of the decade.

This makes "Crack A Bottle" seem like "My Name Is..." and makes "My Name Is..." seem like "T.R.O.Y."...

Thursday, April 2, 2009

No Words... G-20 Edition

There are not enough words in the English language to describe the many...many emotions I feel from seeing this: joy, horror, confusion, transcendent delight...

If these are the people that are supposed get us out of this global clusterfuck than the human race is doomed.

100,00 years was a hell of run, ain't it?!