Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Catching that feeling

Isn't it crazy when you pick up an old or favorite album and hear it again and every song totally kills? The megamix of generic Latin music was playing today at work, when all of a sudden, Fu-Gee-La comes on. My head all but exploded. That shit totally made my night. Can't even remember the last time I thought about the Fugees, much less played them. Gotta dig out that album and put it in the mix.

And then coming home, I got reacquainted with the second half of Ready To Die, which I've been letting take a break for a couple of months.

"Then I figured out licks went for twenty down south
Packed up my tools for my raw power move
Glock nineteen for casket and flower moves
For chumps tryin to stop my flow
And what they dont know will show on the autopsy"

Writing the lyrics is almost useless, because they're merely great on paper. You need that bananas flow and gorrilla voice to really make you go ape. If you'd wandered into a grocery store in Harlem tonight and saw a dude in a "Paid In Full" t-shirt shopping and rocking out like he was on speed, that was me.


The actor that plays Marlo got profiled in this month's Complex and half the badasses show up in an FHM fashion spread as well. Spread the word, get ready for it, the greatest show to ever grace a television screen is on it's way back; The Wire, fools, act like you know.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Outkast - Rightful Order

Fuck what you heard, this is the ranking

(Not a bad track on either of those albums. Funny to realize just how hard Volvo driving, vegeteranian space freak Mr. 3000 used to come those days - "Talk bad bout the A-Town, I bust you in your fucking mouth," "3-5-7 to your fo'head, there'll be mo' dead
cause I'ma pro, kid
But Lord forgive me, I gots to keep my Milli right Be-near me
My nine be doin fine until these niggaz wants to clear me off my street." Talk that shit Andre. These guys really need to do that new album.

Speakerboxx sits in here I think, or perhaps below Aquemini. It's a good album with lots of fun stuff, solid and interesting. Let's say it has four stand out tracks, "Ghetto musick," "Bowtie," "Last Call" and that Big Boi shit, "The Way You Move" and then the rest of the album is pretty good but not mind blowing.

And then there's Aquemini. I know everyone always goes on about how this is the best of Outkast, but honestly, it doesn't really do it for me. I've had periods of thinking it the best of Outkast, then I actually listen to it and realize how little I like it. There are tracks that really rock it for me like "Return of the G," "Skew It on the Bar-B" and "Da Art of Storytellin," but the rest is more okay than excellent. There are some really righteous verses on shit like "Liberation" and "Y'all Scared" (Andre is a monster on this), but musically they don't really rock my socks off.

Tied for last are Stankonia and The Love Below. Stankonia, an incoherent mess of an album that has some truly amazing tracks but really doesn't work as an album and has about 150 skits too many. The Love Below is an album that I totally loved and was my only CD purchase of that year. I also got a bunch of people to buy it because I was so totally excited about it. Truth of the matter is though, it's not a very good album. Despite containing that rare beast, the entirely perfect pop song, "Hey Ya," for the most part it's a weak and unconvincing album. There are some great songs, "Spread," "Protoype," "She Lives in My Lap" and the superb but unfinished "A Day in the Life of Benjamin Andre" but there is also way too much filler. Awesomish but gimmicky tracks like "Happy Valentine's Day" and "Behold a Lady" coexist with mediocre stuff like "Love Hater" and "Pink and Blue" and downright awful (if seemingly cool at first) shit like "My Favorite Things." In case you don't get it, what I'm saying is that I was wrong, this album is not the bees knees, it's pretty damn bad, at least as a stand alone album judged on it's own merits. I can't argue with Andre making it. A man's got the right to expand in whatever direction he wants to and can, but I don't think he acheived what it is he wanted to do with this.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Good rapper bad

Once upon a time, 50 Cent was a hell of a rapper. Want proof?

50 Cent - Slow Doe
50 Cent - Da Repercussions

50 Cent is not much of a rapper these days. Want proof?

50 Cent - Paper Chaser
50 Cent- Misdemenor

The first two tracks are from his unreleased Power of the Dollar album, the would be debut from Columbia that got pulled while he lay in hospital bleeding bullets. "Paper Chaser" and "Misdemenor" are two of the most recent tracks floating around the internet. Hunger is a greatly underrated MC attribute. I won't argue with his business acumen but this cat needs to get in the booth like he wants it again and put that lazy flow away.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Reasonable doubts about Reasonable Doubt

Let's be clear about this. Reasonable Doubt is my favorite hip hop album of all time. If you don't know what the link to this blog is all about, it's a lyric from 22 Two's:

Too many ladies give these niggaz too many chances
Too many brothers wannabe lovers don't know what romance is
Too many bitches stuck up from too many sexual advances
No question; Jay-Z got too many answers

It may not be my favorite track on the album but it comes pretty damn close and it may not be the most widely revered album in hip hop, but it's mine. Despite all of this, I did not and will not be dropping over $100 (United States dollars no less) to go watch him attempt to recreate it over a decade after it's release. So y'all better report and report well. Thank you.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Common Sense, deconstructed

This is a very long winded review of Common's performance at Mark Ecko's Save the Rhinos concert in Central Park, NYC. It is very late and I have yet to write about the rest of the show, which is a travesty considering the fact that the God, Rakim performed that day. I'll get to it sometime, maybe. In the meantime, Common...

I don't think you can really understand an artist's music until you see them live. Some music leaps off the CD, bouncing with laughter and suggesting integrity and then falls apart when you realize how managed everything about the artist is when you see them in person. Sometimes it's the reverse and a mundane piece of music is made meaningful by the performance. Seeing Common live was closer to the second, although I don't think it'll be enough to make declare Be a great or even good album.

I've seen footage of Common performing before and I probably ought to have expected him to bring the energy to stage, but I was still pretty surprised at how explosive he was onstage. Coming in performing the title track of off Be (this post is being written over a week after the concert, so some of this shit is bound to be totally wrong, sue me), that fool was jumping all over the stage like he was on drugs, but being Common, you know weed is the only thing you'd expect him to do and he was definitely too hyped up to have done any puffing before coming out. He pretty much kept that energy through the show, bouncing off the walls and getting really into all the jams, whether slow jams or the super classic "I used to love H.E.R." Actually, that fool got so amped at some point during the concert he picked up a stick and started playing the drums, and then moved to thrashing the stage, throwing shit down and all. That's right, heavy metal boho!

I got to be honest, I don't completely believe Common. On stage, he showed himself to be more man and less a strange cloth automaton programmed permanently to boho. He made crass jokes, ground his hips and looked like he was really having fun when he got a girl to volunteer to come onstage and play lover while he did slow jams. So the man is a man after all. If you throw in the casual but pronounced homophobia on his records, his decidely fucked up obsession with miscegenation (black nation, I got to talk to you about some of your preoccupations) and his admittedly spotted record in relationships, he seems like a pretty standard fella, flawed but trying to make his way in the world.

So what am I not believing? I'll try to explain. It's something I discovered while watching Def Jam Poetry and have come to be extremely suspicious of in general. All those ultra righteous dudes who spit poetry and are all conscious and shit, those guys? They're bastards too. In fact, I've come to suspect that they are bigger bastards than the rest of the straight thugging, play the field cats out there. In my imagination, the amount of emotional devastation these cats are able to wreck with that sensitive guy shit far outstrips the uninspired and pedestrian damage of your everyday homie. The previous statements refer to damage they cause women in relationships (which is what all those boho girls on Def Jam Poetry were going on about, but I basically think it applies to their whole philosophy and approach to life. What I'm saying is that I don't buy that badge of righteousness in which all of this material is cloaked. And before you go saying that Common has never said he is righteous or perfect, take off your rose tinted contacts. His entire appeal and marketing approach rest on that "trying to be righteous and finding it hard, but still really trying really hard cause ma raised me to be good" scthick.

I could be wrong about this, the man could be earnest. Shit, the man probably is earnest and I'm just a paranoiac asshole who won't give an artist and man a break. Sue me for holding on to my suspicions, suspicions that were not at all alleviated when I heard Be, the most impersonal Common album I've ever heard, one on which he goes away from himself and externalizes everything, positioning himself as spokesman for the people ("I stand for the blue collar, on the side on the side making a few dollars, Like Sam Jack they maneuver through drama like"). That approach worked and Be is Common's most commercially successful album to date. Great, so what's next? Well, how bout a song called "People." If it ain't broke, don't fix it right? Com performed the track and it being a week later, I don't remember the lyrics, but rest assured it was in the same populist strain that the "Corners" and "The Food" were in. It wasn't a bad track. I remember enjoying it. Can't tell you I believe it though. You can always tell when an artist starts to fake it and it is my personal suspicion that Like Water for Chocolate was the last time Common really had anything to say. I quite enjoyed Electric Circus (Electric Wire Hustle Flower!), unlike most people but I'll agree that he was pretty much a guest on that album, taking second seat to all the weird stuff the folks in the back room were experimenting with. Ask me the greatest track Common ever did and I'll hand you "The Sixth Sense," which would easily find itself on my list of greatest hip hop songs of all time. That perfect Premier sound backing the intensely personal yet socially aware musings of the man:

The perseverance of a rebel I drop heavier levels
Its unseen or heard, a king with words
Cant knock the hustle, but I've seen street dreams deferred
Dark spots in my mind where the scene occurred
Some say I'm too deep, I'm in too deep to sleep


In front of two-inch glass and Arabs I order fries
Inspiration when I write, I see my daughters eyes
I'm the truth

The man said he was the truth and I believed him, I totally fucking believed him. I once started a year at the Laundromat, trying to clean up the evidence of midnight's debauchery, think about my life and putting this song on autorepeat till it'd played some twenty or so times. I didn't come up with any epiphanies but I definitely came away convinced of the utter level of insanity Comm had unleashed. Thing is, on the album Like Water, this track is followed by the most misogynist little skit that ostensibly pokes fun at the idea of the conscious brother who is in fact a pimp. Let no one say the man ain't self conscious.

Anyway, all this just to say I don't trust boho dudes. Back to the concert. I hated Be. I thought every critic who said it was the greatest thing since hip hop escaped New York must have been totally smoked out both while listening to the album and writing the review, and as I don't smoke weed or sess (cause, like the good Dr. said before dropping two albums named for the most potent strain of the shit, that stuff causes brain damage), I respectfully disagreed. In concert though, Com made it work. His enthusiasm, untouchable skill and charisma were off the books. And he didn't no crappy hypeman either, none of that fake rap concert crap where you make up for your weak voice (what up Lupe) or crappy memory (too many of them to name) by having someone else rap your songs. Common had his lines down and performed them right. The band he had backing him played everything a lot harder and funkier than on the record, and so most of the tracks lost their Ambien like effect. Common also had the most bananas DJ on stage, some cat named DJ Dummy. Dummy got his spotlight halfway through the show, taking and scratching to death the superawesome Rob Bass and DJ EZ Rock vehicle, "It Takes Two" (this one's a contender for greatest songs of all time). Them Brooklyn boys don't play. This dude was totally off the hook. After seeing EZ-Trip and Kid Capri spinning earlier, I was reconfirmed in my opinion that people should not dabble in things such as being a DJ, that if they were going to do it, they ought to do it right. After I saw this kid, I was of the opinion that all the wannabe DJs should just give up and let the pros do their thing. Don't be mad, UPS is hiring.

Anyway, Common did the slow jams, got Bilal (this dude is hella weird, but his shit knocks hard) to do vocals on a couple of tracks (can't remember which) and closed the show on a real feel good tip. Overall I was totally feeling this concert and I would definitely encourage you to go see Common whenever you have a chance. He may be suspect as a boho, but he's nothing but class as a performer.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Guns and guitars

Turning guns into guitars seems a daffy and not particularly effective way of working for peace. Making ridiculously good, soothing and incredibly moving music is far more laudable. This Cesar Lopez fella does both. The song below, Sin Respuesta is easily the most beautiful song I've heard this year and if you're the kind of person who likes classical pop or just beautiful singing, you really have to hear it. Download more tracks off the link above, or buy his album and tell me if the rest of it is this astonishing.

Cesar Lopez - Sin Respuesta

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Burn a Stogie to this

I once worked at a cigar lounge in Montreal. Great place, lots of good people and one of my better experiences working in a bar. The music though, was absolute shit. They had a Dj who considered himself a funny guy but obviously hadn't bought a new CD since 1999 and they had the worst load of trashy electronica loaded for the times when there was no DJ in the house. Suffice to say, it made working twelve hour shifts a very trying experience. Right after I quit the job, I was sitting at an Egyptian airport with time to burn and I figured I'd try to make a mix of songs that I'd want to listen to if I was going to smoke a really cigar. This is that mix.

Burn a stogie to this

Howlin' Wolf - Evil
Ray Charles - What'd I Say Parts I & II
Minutemen - Hit Song
Johnny Cash - Solitary Man
Bob Marley - Concrete Jungle
Jay-Z - Ain't No Love (Heart of the City)
Dangerdoom - Mince Meat
Handsome Boy Modelling School ft. RZA, Mars Volta & AG
Basement Jaxx - Good Luck
New Age Sleepers - Fade Away
Nina Simone - Sugar In My Bowl

I'm pretty certain that ain't a stogie the Wolf is smoking...