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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Album Review- LL Cool J- Authentic

It appears that LL Cool J's recent verse on the Brad Paisley "Accidental Racist" song was not a one off, it was the precursor to another album from Ladies Love. This I'm not sure I agree with, I understand the itch never goes away but if it is going to be more struggle like on Accidental Racist I could definitely do without. So with some trepidation, here is my review of LL Cool J's new album, Authentic.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Hip-Hop needs a live band other than The Roots

I have long been a fan of The Roots. Illadelph Halflife is a classic album from beginning to end and the Roots have been very innovative in what they do musically and their ability to achieve a balance with the live music and rapping. The last concert I attended in fact was to see The Roots and The Pharcyde, so I say this not to diss or knock hip-hop's official tour band straight from Philly, but to ensure we have some consisten live music for future generations.

It's true the Roots have done every single important event in rap music for the past 15 years and they have toured incessantly to solidify both their reputation and their income, but even they have had to acknowledge the need to slow down and take it a little easy by signing on to have a steady gig with the Jimmy Fallon show. I mean at some point the crew needs to be able to sit back and enjoy the fruits of their incredible labor. With that said, live music with hip-hop acts is becoming more popular again in many circles. In fact it probably is the future of live music with the exception of the DC area where Go-Go is a staple. There just aren't many Mint Conditions anymore and there damn sure aren't any Earth, Wind, and Fires.

The Roots are important because they just aren't the guys who Jay-z calls when he is trying to show off. They are a group of people who make solid songs in their own right and thus have their own market outside of backing others. It also makes the shows they do with other big names even more of an event. They don't have to do shows with someone like Jay or Common, but when they do it is made more of an event. They aren't a part of the scenery but a set of people who bring their own skills, talents, and name recognition to the event, making it even more special.

Honestly, it's just something so special when Quest's fro comes from behind stage and you know it's about to go down. The concert feels more like an intimate jam session and that's why the next 'Roots' needs to establish themselves in their own right. These shows become a more bonding experience between the performers and the audience. The Roots have done something great in hip-hop by making the notion of live music more than just an oddity or special act. I can only hope they have and can inspire people to follow in their footsteps.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Open Letter - My take

So everyone is weighing in on Jay-z's new release, "Open Letter" which came about as a response to right-wing criticism to he and Beyonce spending their fifth wedding anniversary (seriously, five years already?) in Cuba. The outcry came fast and furious, and loudly by Stacy Dash who seems to be still reeling from the revelation that she is a republican and supported Mitt Romney. It got so much that during a white house press conference, the President's staff was questioned about the lyrics.

In a vacuum, with nothing else in mind, the song is ill and the first verse is serious. The beat knocks and is still free enough where you know Jay is going to come with lyrics that are ill enough to listen to. My only issue is that damn Swizz Beats who annoys me to no end but he doesn't ruin the song at all.

Now let's address the overall issue, should Jay be doing this? That is a more difficult question to try and answer. When it comes to where hip-hop has gone and the ultimate growth you can have, you have Jay-z and you have Will Smith. Those are our two elder statesmen who have reached the pinnacles of influence on whatever they touch. Thus they are always walking on new ground because they represent us, and Jay even more just because of his image as a hustler and street kid. So when you drop a song like this, in this position, you have to question the wisdom because you give a group of people fuel to question and attack you and attach someone else to this who has nothing to do with a particular situation, this time the President, Barack Obama.

So while I get the double entendre of "I'm in Cuba /I love Cubans" and how you refer to the threat of jail time and fines (empty as they may be) and allude to if thats going to happen you might as well really do something that is detrimental like provide Chief Keef with more fuel to destroy the youth or get war popping off in our streets even more, you have an entire class of people who take the chance to presume you are speaking literally. We all know you know better, you put out 'Decoded' to explain your lyrics to such people and they are digging up the exact songs you broke down in the book as if you haven't explained it because they don't want to accept the truth of different rules for different societies in your case. I just covered this talking about the difference in complaining about Rick Ross dropping bodies on record and Rick Ross committing rape on record and the nuance we must take when breaking down rap lyrics, especially when looking at an artists stature and relevance.

As a fan of hip-hop I love to see our artists transitioning to higher levels and eschewing stereotypes until a moment like this arises and when it needs to be dealt with delicately, it is met with abrasiveness. I know most of our generation will say it's about time they recognized and we're not going to cower and back down in their faces. In reality though, the way the message is conveyed confirms whatever negative opinions they want to have and they totally give themselves a reason to ignore the message itself which is in short, "Don't single me out I had permission to go and there are worse things I could be doing".

When it is all said and done, any artist in rap needs to be aware of their words, what they mean by them and how they can be interpreted. Everyone isn't always going to get it and everyone doesn't have the same freedom to say and do anything with no expectations, the same way anyone doesn't get a million bucks from a tennis shoe company to be an endorser or get to call the treasury office and go to Cuba. You don't have to like it, but it is the reality, with great money, power and influence comes great responsibility.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Album Review- Tyga- Hotel California

So Tyga is often maligned by people of my generation. He isn't the best rapper and he looks like a miniature giraffe with all of the tattoos. In fact he is like a less cool version of Wiz Khalifa. One of the earliest signees to young money, he has had a steady if unspectacular career and almost directly on the heels of Lil Wayne's latest, He is out with "Hotel California"

The album goes right in with a decent beat designed for Tyga and Lil Wayne to just rap to their hearts content on "500 Degrees" which also happens to be the name of one of weezy's early albums. Unfortunately, the hook is lame and Wayne's verse is full of pause moments and lazy bars. "Dope" features Rick Ross and is more random rap from Tyga and Ross seems to have better things to do as well.

Now "Diss Song" is interesting as Tyga spits to a homie he is no longer in touch with asking what happened and speaking on their situation with the chorus serving as notice the bars are just a question and not subliminal shots. Chris Brown handles the hook on "For The Road" which is a straight forward song for the ladies as they suggest before the break up they get one more in. "Get Loose" is a club track for the Hyphy Bay area crowd. Meanwhile "Hit em Up" featuring Jadakiss is more throwaway fodder for mix tapes.

"Show You" with this year's T-Pain, Future sounds like it's entirely in this off-key auto tune but Tyga's voice just sucks and the song is nothing particularly special. Now "Molly" is a club banger with a good beat, a subject that isn't taboo and a feature from Wiz Khalifa and Cedric Gervais. I'd be remiss if I said I didn't bob my head to this though i don't like the idea of promoting Molly any more than I liked Ja Rule's promotion of Exstacy years ago. Wiz is also on "M.O.E." or music over everything where they try to personify music. "Hijack takes it bag to normal bragging raps about how Tyga will take your chick and lives his life. Tyga also remakes the Toni, Toni, Toni classic 'It Never Rains in Southern California" with "It Neva Rains" along with The Game. This song isn't as bad as I felt it was when it first comes on though the auto tune was not needed.

"Get Rich" is more balling while "Enemies" is about when starting a new relationship and hoping it stays cordial. "Drive Fast, Live Young" is a mid-tempo joint about having fun and doing just what he says. Once again, Tyga for some reason auto tunes himself although his voice is already whiny. The album ends on "Palm Trees" which has a really solid beat that has that throwback soul feel to it but the bars aren't anything special, he spits alright but doesn't black out.

Look I was expecting a worse album but the problem is way too often Tyga doesn't have anything to say. The songs are disposable. Now when he does have a subject, he can give you some decent bars such as on "Diss Song". Even Palm Trees and 500 degrees aren't bad per se, but they aren't anything more than average songs of dudes rapping and the punchlines and high points are out of this world. Most of this album you won't be listening to more than once unless your ipod is on shuffle and then you still might skip it. Try as hard as he might want to be more than just a superficial artist the lack of depth to Tyga is his downfall.

Edit: I almost forgot I wanted to comment on Tyga's raping of classic hip-hop. This is why we need a council, because there is no reason Tyga should be trying to recreate 'Hit Em Up' and swiping the hook in part from No limit. This kind of watering down of the culture cannot be allowed cause this dude isn't good enough to do it justice. Now this wasn't on the album but there is a youtube video with Pac vocals being desecrated by this awful-voiced rapper. I mean this is like the Biggie duets level of nonsense. Please stick to your lane Tyga.

Rating: 2/5

Accidental Racist

So LL Cool J is making music headlines for a song he featured on by country artist Brad Paisley called "Accidental Racist" and the reaction has not been good at all. I finally got around to listening to it and I am no country music fan so it felt like nails on my ears for the most part. But I soldiered through to get to LL's verse.

Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood
What the world is really like when you're livin' in the hood
Just because my pants are saggin' doesn't mean I'm up to no good
You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would
Now my chains are gold but I'm still misunderstood
I wasn't there when Sherman's March turned the south into firewood
I want you to get paid but be a slave I never could
Feel like a new fangled Django, dodgin' invisible white hoods
So when I see that white cowboy hat, I'm thinkin' it's not all good
I guess we're both guilty of judgin' the cover not the book
I'd love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air
But I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn't here 

Now, these lyrics aren't that bad, they damn sure aren't great but in regards to the reaction that has been throughout message boards and social media, these don't deserve that kind of hatred or criticism to me, with the exception of that awkward 'Dear Mr. White Man' beginning, and the use of the word conversate which doesn't actually exist. The best line is probably the new fangled Django part that is alluding to the new 'racism' that isn't as obvious as klan rallies. The big problem LL ended up having a set of ad-libs that were a bit ridiculous and what happens when you try to just rhyme something and don't consider what you're saying (hello Rick Ross you seeing this?)

 "If you don't judge my gold chains.... I'll forget the iron chains... The past is the past, you feel me... Let bygones be bygones... RIP Robert E. Lee but I've gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me."

That last little extra part is what everyone has been blowing up about because honestly, it's just stupid. I could try to spin that, but nah, it's clunky, simplified and not well done at all. Just like I don't think Ross was literally advocating rape , I don't think James Todd Smith thinks gold chains and slave chains are equal but it seemed to fit and was a very poor attempt to juxtapose two things that are similar in the sense of word (chains) but different. It just is more than awkward, it's bad rapping at a time and on a song when every thing coming out of your mouth will count.

At the end of the day, it's bad, but it isn't as bad as Rozay's 'rapish' lyrics. The subject does deserve more discussion because in a country that is more polarized and more secluded every day by technology and the ability to stay in your comfort area and live without ever being introduced to people who aren't like you, we do need to think about ways to start this discussion. The only way to move past this is to talk through it.

Now the aim of the song is a noble one to try and move race relations beyond where they have been and quit the blame game because at some point we all need to be responsible. With that said, it's still too soon for some and thus why you will have such a vitriolic reaction to this song. We are still struggling with overcoming racism and the effects of Jim Crow, and yes it will take time...maybe a lot of time, I hope not.

LL should have just jacked Louis C.K. for this clip from the Leno show for the ad-libs. (skip to 9:15 for it)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Album Review- Papoose- Nacirema Dream

Papoose is one of the more perplexing figures in hip-hop because he has been around for the better part of a decade as one of the "up and coming" rappers from New York. Before Juelz Santana and Lloyd Banks there was Papoose and the only guy who has had a more difficult time bringing an album out was Saigon. That tells you a lot about Pap but not the entire story, between the label troubles and marriage to jailed female rapper Remy Ma, he has tried to maintain an existence, dropping prison influenced rhymes and yes, finally his album, the Nacirema Dream is here for a review.

The album starts with some explanation, if you haven't gotten it, Nacirema is American backwards (amazingly since this was supposed to be out for years that he stuck with this idea). The album starts with "Motion Picture" which is an excuse to spit some general NY crime rap that is loosely held together with a story. This is generally what you can expect from Papoose as he tries to mix that professional Jay-z style with an extreme realness and street savvy. "Mother Ghetto" is a good title about being raised in the hood and a description of events that is sort of interspersed with vignettes or flashbacks to describe it. Lloyd Banks' vocals are sampled for "Aim Shoot" which features Mobb Deep but some of Papoose's bars in his verse are very weak and it's unfortunate. Mobb Deep is aight though.

Papoose tries to show he isn't just a dumb average rapper with songs like "Pimpin' Won't Die" where he tries to tie in the ghetto struggles to the characters in songs by 2pac (Brenda's Got a Baby) and Slick Rick (A Children's Story). It works better with the first verse but the hook is old and it could have been better without the crutch of tying it in to old memories from those songs. "6am" features Jadakiss and Jim Jones for some reason and it's cool but nothing spectacular. "Cure" which Erykah Badu is featured on and tweeted upset messages about the old vocals (come on E, the album is old) is another attempt to drop knowledge as Pap implores people to go to the doctor and get tested to check for Cancer and HIV. He also continues his Law Library series with "Law Library 8" which seems to be pointless if he is just reciting whats in the law books because he isn't adding anything or making it more easily accessible. "What's My Name" with his wife Remy Ma has to be old and pretty much should have been left in the past along with this old ass"For the Love of Money" O'jay's sample.

"On Top of My Game" features Mavado and it's alright as is "Faith" which is a general rap song but he has some better lyrics than the song with Mobb Deep on it. "Die Like a G" is a kind of 'keeping it real' song, espousing guys who claim to be thugs to be that. Ron Browz sucks as usual on "Get at Me". "Where i come From" is the classic Posse track featuring a bunch of dudes who should just be relegated to weed carrying duties. He concludes the album with "R.I.P." and reprises his underground concept "Alphabetical Slaughter" this time going in reverse from Z to A.

Papoose is an emcee whose time has probably passed. At one point he could have been a mid-level rapper but now he won't rise above the underground. He has a slightly dated style and while he has lyrical ability, he is very unfocused, spending too much time on giving us the description of his borough, Brooklyn, which we have had many times. Times when he can really dig in, he fails to really give the sharpest of bars and he isn't quite descriptive enough when he attempts to be visual. But then again, there is potential to dig deeper with songs like "Cure" and "Alphabetical Slaughter" showing the best of what he can do when using a concept and not just randomly spitting out bars.

Rating: 2.5/5

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Some new Music

So I am told to listen to this Yelawolf, of course I'm skeptical because the album was underwhelming to sya the least. But I took the word and went into it with an open mind and I must say this joint cranks. If you have a sub in your car, your whip will love you. This isn't just bass beats though cause Yela comes with some fire on here and he has some decent features, "Rhyme Room" with Raekwon and Killer Mike is of course up to par with a simple beat with a constant high hat and enough openness where it becomes about the words.

I should have probably started with "Firestarter" which is another simple joint but it does a lot to lay the groundwork for what the next 9 songs will include. "Box Chevy Part 4" doesn't seem like it would be what Yela does but it is smoothed out without being corny or out of place. I also like "Tennessee Love" but the best track is "Gangster" which features Asap Rocky.

So I also decided to take a chance on video/model/ word star big booty Wankaego. She seems cool and though I have nightmares of that twerk team mixtape sometimes I felt like I might as well give her a shot. I mean she was aight on the work hard play hard freestyle she had. This joing isn't 16 tracks, more like 15 and overall it's only average. I mean she doesn't really have too much content but she does have some decent production. "Sweet 16" for example will rock the trunk and the lyrics are alright at the beginning, but the overall concept is just ok to me. I mean the idea of saying you spit sweet 16's and you have some serious cop out bars kind of defeats itself even if you ride the track well. "Flexin" is the same thing with a catchier hook. But that's the problem, there isn't much depth but the same general raps about how I'm fly and getting money with surface level punchlines standing in for lyricism.

"Down To Ride" has her trying her best to have some depth about holding a dude down but she doesn't put her words to the bets use here either. "Blowing Money" might get some strip club play meanwhile "Swerve" has her getting her Future on as she talks about moving on. That song has a chance just based on how it's put together though I don't like it. "Moon and Stars" she struggles with her flow as she tries to depict her struggle. Since it wasn't all that good she can touch on the subject again without being redundant. It's actually unfortunate that every time she tries to do something with a subject matter, she struggles.

Now I also had high hopes for This Harry Fraud tape called "Adrift". Harry has produced some pretty good records from out of NY for French Montana, Red Cafe and others. In fact he is one of the few guys keeping the area somewhat relevant. The collection starts off with Action Bronson and "Morey Boogie Boards" which is such a Wu-Tang/Ghostface type song you would think this was 2000 and not 2013.

Rick Ross is featured on "Cassette Deck" alongside Slim Thug and Bun B which isn't bad but the album loses steam. French does alright on some of his appearances but one of my favorites is the Mac Miller and Chiddy (of Chiddy Bang) song "Open Your Eyes". Though neither really raps about anything they get in with the track and make you nod your head with melodic rhymes. Mac also does a decent job on "On My Shit". Danny Brown's feature is decent but overall while, Harry directs his production to each artists current style it defeats part of the purpose if they aren't also on a song that forces them to do something different. As an attempt to showcase his production it works but it's too long and starts to drag on and on.

I was pretty let down by all that I listened to from these mixtapes with the exception of a track here or there. Hopefully the next set of tapes I get to offers me a little bit more in terms of content.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Hypocrisy and changing your stance

So thankfully Rick Ross has given me a lot to talk and type about recently so i appreciate that but one of the things that bothers me is people who do not know the what hypocrisy is.

 [ hi pókrəssee ]   
  1. feigned high principles: the false claim to or pretense of having admirable principles, beliefs, or feelings

Now why it seems on the surface this is what people are doing it isn't, at least not apparently at the moment. While people may be mad at Ross' "rape lyrics" there are others who say t them, wait, he was just talking about killing someone in another song, or selling crack moments ago. You know what, you're right, but accepting one illegal act while condemning another is not what makes you a hypocrite. There are levels of acceptable criminal activity unfortunately and to pretend that every act is the same is pandering and ignoring the truth. When we are talking about criminal activity, it isn't a blanket black or white, right or wrong.

We have all heard of rules of the streets and while the majority of murders committed on wax are bullshit, the fact is many of these street rap artists are framing them in the context of those rules. We can argue whether or not those are right or wrong but first we have to acknowledge that there is a separate set of morals and codes for those engaged in that lifestyle. You want to know what isn't one of them however, rape. So no matter how you cut it you're going to get a certain reaction. Hell, let's talk about one of the most disturbing lines from the Legend Biggie when he raps on his song "Niggas Bleed" 'Don't they know my nigga gutter kidnap kids/fuck in the ass throw em over the bridge' . That is one of the worst lines ever and I ahven't really heard anyone who goes that is acceptable, however it was never controversial like this one for Ross is. Why is that?

One of the things that goes into perception is the situations surrounding what you're hearing or seeing. Number one, unlike many of the more cringe-worthy lyrics, some of which I highlighted when I talked about this earlier, Ross' is on the radio in rotation. That is huge in that it seems to be legitimized by being in rotation. The second is that the new generation and generation I belong in are at a crossroads of understanding. They downplay everything, we realize some of the things we ignored before we should have paid attention to. We see Wayne and Ross and see them solely worried about money and not in any way desiring to move the art forward and in our recollection, the most popular artists were always doing that.

The other thing is understanding depth of language, speaking, and what is beyond the surface. Hypocrisy would be condemning Ross for rapping about rape the going out and committing one or enabling a friend to commit one. That is hypocrisy. People hearing a lyric and saying this has gone too far, is just changing their mind based upon new data. In this day and age, apparently, you can never adjust your thinking when aided by a new thought or perception.

Now another thing that created such noise was the fact that people who were never known to have a criticism about music suddenly caught a conscience. This gives the folks like me a bad name in a way because they are outraged, for whatever reason, but aren't necessarily qualified to express those views. But guess what, it's still not hypocritical. We have to be very careful with our words these days because we throw a lot of things around and create perceptions about certain words and make them acceptable, or not. Calling someone a hypocrite for changing, or drawing a line makes people feel they have to hide their opinions and not grow.


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