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Friday, November 15, 2013

New York is Failing...

So I wanted to kind of stay away from this topic because I felt that it was stupid and I didn't know it was this serious but New Yorkers need to really start getting over themselves. Whenever someone makes a comment and says anything about New York City you have a group of guys who jump out to make comments and ignore the actual words and focus on this idea that you can't say anything involving the city without consent. Stop it. It's not like that.

Recently Trinidad James came out and said that the South runs New York. My first thoughts were- the nerve of this guy to say that. I mean Trinidad James is a horrible horrible artist and cannot rap. He has no standing to be critical about the state of hip-hop, but then again he does. He is the best example ever of how the south runs NY. Then there were his tweets afterward about the matter, which for me clarified a lot of what he was saying.

But of course, that isn't good enough for some people, like NY rapper Maino who I am a fan of. He went on nY radio to talk about how he felt and I'll say he went overboard with the idea that Trinidad was disrespecting NY by speaking out what turns out to be the truth about how New York treats it's up and coming artists. Maino is taking the Trick Trick approach of threatening and trying to intimidate as a means of getting 'respect' for himself and the city. How about instead of trying to put hands on people from out of town and create good music and give each other support.

This is the same annoying nonsense from New York rappers that happened after the Kendrick Lamar verse and there are some New Yorkers still salty and seething over him having the gall to use the phrase 'king of New York'. Honestly New Yorkers, you are not that special any longer the more quickly you can understand that, the more quickly you can once again prosper. It's always this thing where NY rappers thinks it's alright for them to complain about not getting support but then someone else comes and says the same thing and he's the villain? A west Coast guy comes and out raps them and now he's a "weirdo rapper"?

Point blank few New york rappers are charismatic and make good songs. Some like Maino are less than stellar lyricists though they have the passion that is believable. Then you have Papoose who is lyrical but who makes songs that suck and who are aggressive without having really good bars. Right now, NY needs to figure out how to get back to those Ja Rule/50 Cent days where you had a variety of sounds and subjects and were still able to make music good enough to be on the radio. I just can't believe that it's come to this, where everyone hears something and instead of fixing their own internal issues, they complain about everyone else instead of dealing with their actual issues.

Friday, November 8, 2013

What Eminem does that most black rappers don't

Listening to the Marshall Mathers LP 2 got me going back to listen to some old Eminem songs. The one thing about Em other than his incredible lyrical ability is the fact that in his music he gets to be vulnerable and talk about making it to where he is based on being in a place of insecurity. The hottest rappers who are black pretty much all avoid ever showing any weakness. It is interesting because of this cultural difference especially when you look at all of the rap fans who say they do not listen to Eminem because they can't get with his content.

One of the main themes and reasons people relate to Eminem is that he admits he wasn't cool and that he was bullied as a youth. There are more people that can fit that mold more closely than that of the baller whom everyone dreams of being. The entire idea that is always annoying even beyond listening to most street rappers talk about selling drugs is that so many pretend to have been at the top of the distribution chain. No one talks about the dangers of really being hand to hand once they get on. It's all about balling and throwing their money around in excess. So they definitely won't be caught dead talking about being awkward and insecure as a youth and using that as a motivation. How many of these guys started rapping so they could hang out with the thugs while not having to actually be involved in the most gangster of activities?

Though most won't admit it, there are a lot of dudes who have fears. Some are being broke, being alone, and not fitting in. Part of that conformity leads us to the situation where an artist like Childish Gambino or Tyler the Creator who take different ideas of some of what Em does great and (not that they are doing it because of him) use those in their music. What happens is that they get pigeon holed or called 'weird' for actually having the nerve to be black and show vulnerability or be more concerned with shock. They get pushed into being a 'niche' artist instead of being considered reflective of people as a whole.

One thing we need to look at is the aspect of bravado in the urban community. This all stems from the civil rights era and the fact that black people can't be as sensitive and to allow someone to see they are getting to you is a sign of weakness. Weakness is exploited, then, by the ruling whites, now by the wolves that run the hoods of America. Bullying is real, people who are the victims aren't allowed to become the ones who end up being celebrities. It's the type A personalities who 'have all the girls and popularity' already who are our overall representatives. Just listen to their verses, when they are talking it's about balling and how you the listener are a lame who isn't on their level. It's a constant put-down and air of superiority and that's part of why they are successful, because they are better than you.

This is why when you see a crowd around Childish, or Tyler, or Danny Brown, it's mostly white kids because they are allowed to let those kinds of lyrics reach them. Thats something that could probably help us mentally, to know that even our heroes have insecurities and that we don't have to try and keep up with their consumption in order to be someone or able to relate. According to these rappers, the only people in their class are the peers who can afford the latest Gucci belt. It is cool to be emotionally unavailable and have the appearance of not caring. Everyone cares. You want proof, just look at how salty and defensive these artists get when the criticism hit them negatively. Suddenly they are able to show anger- which is an emotion. The only other urban artist who expresses some emotion is Drake and we know how he is perceived.

Am I saying I want all rappers to be more like Eminem....yeah, yeah I am. I want them to care and to show some actual depth. The problem is that it's hard. I get it, songs about how they do it for their mama are one method, but honestly part of the issue is that's all everyone does because it's all that is readily accepted. It's a challenge and too many artists actually doing it would either make the songs themselves stand out less when i hear them, or make these rappers into full people instead of caricatures.  Not sure which will happen, I just know that it gets tiring to hear 93% of mainstream rappers pretend as if there is only one thing to ever consider and one way to relate. I want more artists to be people and show the sides of them that are just like all of us, not just present an image of them being above us people who support them. Is that too mush to ask? All of your fans aren't aggressive and it isn't always an escape for them to listen to you if they don't think you understand where they are coming from and some of their insecurities, I'm sure some of you mainstream rappers have as well.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Album Review- DJ Khaled- Suffering From Success

DJ Khaled has been a summer staple with his compilation releases for about 5 summers. This year was the first time his album did not drop early on to be the summer soundtrack. Instead it came out at the beginning of the Fall. Let's see if the extra time was worth the delay.

The first song is "Suffering From Success" with Ace Hood and Future. Ace does his thing on the track, still showing he isn't comfortable and can still bring a hungry verse. The Future hook pretty much sucks. Like where is T-Pain at these days? Khaled then comes with "I Feel Like Pac, I Feel Like Biggie" which is a disappointing misuse of two hip-hop legend's names. Rick Ross, Swizz Beats, Puffy, Meek Mill, and TI. TI tries to put a spin on his verse using the song titles of the two icons and it's alright but it feels kind of lazy for some reason. Big Sean drops his turds first on "You Don't Want These Problems" then followed by a lazy Ross verse and French who brings some life to the song before 2 Chainz and Meek Mill round out the track.

"BlackBall" has Future struggling again as he talks about the haters who hold him, feature artist Plies, and Ace Hood down. Plies kind of fell off the radar and this isn't a great comeback to the spotlight. Lil Wayne holds down his on song on "No Motive" more random raps and some of the bars are decent it's just like hearing a freestyle. The more cultured artist set has Chris Brown, Wiz Khalifa, Wale, and Ace Hood on "I'm Still" letting everyone know they going to keep doing their thing. Future and Rick Ross tell Nicki Minaj how it is nothing to spoil her on "I wanna be with You" which is a generic radio friendly song that passes for a 'love song' or 'chick track'. Unfortunately they have Nicki singing lazily on the track and it comes across she was not interested at all.

The single that dropped so many months ago is the Drake led "No New Friends" which also features Rozay and Weezy. Khaled reggae artist Mavado gets to shine with Nicki on "Give it all To Me" and I wonder what happened to the reggae/rap trend that was popular for a while. J.Cole and his artist Bas get to switch things up and bring some depth to the album with "Hell's Kitchen". Which stands out because it is different and better than pretty much everything else on the album. Scarface talks about holding it down with your team and not trusting new faces on "No Surrender" which also has Jadakiss, Meek Mill, Akon, John Legend, and Anthony Hamilton. Yes, three freaking singers on one track is such overkill. But it's still better than "Murcielago Doors Go up" with Meek Mill and Birdman. Khaled's newest signee is Vado who gets his own chance to shine as well on  "Black Ghost". He brings the Harlem flow to the album but it sounds very erratic at first and his lines are tired and trying too hard to be lyrical yet gangster.

Look Khaled albums aren't for new ground but they are getting more and more tired every year. The songs all sound the same, and Khaled's annoying over dubs and ad-libs have run their course. this year's choice to have future do most of the hooks was a bad choice, his voice is annoying in anything but small doses and overall the album is so formulaic it's sickening. J.Cole has the highlight and No New Friends was a smash but outside of that this album is pretty much a waste of time, even when Ace Hood is getting a chance to shine.

Rating: 2/5

Album Review- Eminem- The Marshall Mathers LP 2

Eminem is the lightening rod of controversy, a lot of black rap fans respect him but don't like what he spits about, a lot of white rap fans hold him up as the beacon of greatness But his last few efforts have been wildly inconsistent. Recovery was better than Relapse but neither one really harkened back to Eminem's initial debut. He still moved many units and managed to burn through radio before falling back and taking another hiatus. In yet another overall 'win' for this year's rap releases, The official release for the Marshall Mathers LP 2 is right around the corner.

The album starts with "Bad Guy" which kind of seems like some normal erratic Eminem raps yet it's seven minutes long, thus there is a twist reminiscent of Em's successful yet controversial songs, yet not as crazy as "Stan". It's cool but seems too much to be the attempt it is to recall earlier glories and remake them. He follows that with "Rhyme or Reason" which has him rapping over another one of the seemingly 'cartoon-like' tracks that he normally uses as the first single. He then segues into another anti-woman tirade on "So Much Better" where he sings on the chorus that he would do so much better without her.

"Survival" fuses rock with hip-hop as Marshall raps about making it through his life especially after dealing with the success he grew to be. He also covers his comeback and critics who have doubted his ability and hunger. On "Legacy" we get another view about Em growing up and the mental state and idea behind the guy who came out writing all of those crazy rhymes. While those were what came out, this song gets more in depth about the process behind creating them, sort of like a third person view over a young Marshall Mathers. The lead single is "Berzerk" a Beastie Boys style rap song that is all over TV and Radio. The second single features Rihana who was also on the mega-hit "the Way You Lie" and is called "Monster". This is about Em talking about how he climbed again. Basically it's a more polished take on 'Legacy'.

 Skylar Grey sings on "Assholee" while Em raps about the impact his critics had on him and his career by talking about his lyrics and attitude. "Brainless" is a sort of shot at his mother telling him if he had a brain he'd be dangerous and the irony from that is looking at his career and life success. For some odd reason, Em is singing on "Stronger than I was" and he has done it before but this was skippable. "So Far..." is a unique little silly song that goes back to him coming so far but not really leaving Detroit. This song has some of the best lyrics on the album. Kendrick Lamar gets to join in on the madness and have some fun on "Love Game" about a cheating woman and if you like lyrics and exotic descriptions most rappers aren't capable of then this is the song for you. You could listen to this 15-20 times and find some new nuggets each and every time.

"Headlights" with Nate Ruess is about Em's mother, but not killing her or anything, but a more introspective and remorseful song about their lack of a relationship. "Evil Twin" is more straight bars in the guise of speaking to another Eminem who brings out the evil part of Em. However, by far the standout song on the album is "Rap God" which is 6 minutes of fury and bars in all different flows just to show anyone who doubted Marshall's abilities taht at any point with desire and motivation he can destroy anything.

Overall, Em has settled in just like Jay-z has. At this point in their careers they struggle to create enough compelling content to get an entire worthwhile album. One of the popular ideas is to talk about fame and how it has affected them. It's cool but not something that gets the fans hearts pumping. Now Em does drop some sharp bars on songs other than Rap God but as usual the beat selection and somewhat silly hooks take away from the songs and give the critics fuel to downgrade Em's place in hip-hop. The album has some hate them or love them moments and it is decent, but it's no Marshall Mathers LP.

Rating : 3/5


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