Friday, 11 January 2008

Anybody still here?


Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Fuck Kanye!

So, the biggest news to hip hop recently is the leak of Kanye West's forthcoming album, 'Graduation'. Already being hailed as a classic, it has been the talk of town, and the fact it is released at the same time as 50 Cent's 'Curtis' provides most hip hop fans with a 'Good Hip Hop' Vs. 'Bad Hip Hop' debate. However, from a personal point of view, I think this argument should be changed to a 'Bad Hip Hop' Vs. 'Bad Hip Hop'.

Anyone who posts on the Rap Basement forum (register dammit!) already knows how I feel about Kanye West. For the rest of y'all, here's an update...
At first, I was a big fan. I managed to get 'The College Dropout' before Ye blew up big time, and was really impressed. His content was good, lyrics better than average, and the beats were (of course) great. He knew where he was in the hip hop hierarchy, and made subtle jabs at mainstream artists (on 'Breathe In Breathe Out', for example). He was, at the time, a breath of fresh air. I had that CD on repeat for a while, and thought that even the club tracks like 'The New Workout Plan' wern't all that bad. The best track on the album was the one that he didn't even need to rap on; 'Last Call' was great, chronicling his rise to his current position in hip hop. Then, I don't know what the fuck happened to him. I think that a little bit of success went straight to his head, and he came out with the kind of publicity stunts that would make even 50 and Jay go, 'Woah!' (the 'Bush hates black people', crying about not winning awards, etc).
This made him a household name, and ever since then, people have been on his dick. He could have just carried on doing what he was doing, and getting his props for his music, but no. He had to act like (or worse than) every second rapper out there, like a little bitch. There was a period in the middle where every week he would be complaining about not winning an award, and this got old really fast. He began to believe his own hype. He is the master of self-promotion, and has meanwhile let his music (his main calling card) gradually decrease in quality. The 'Louis Vitton don'? For fuck's sake, if I hear that shit one more time...
So, to conclude, fuck Kanye and his manipulation of the masses. It really annoys me how by saying 'I'm the best' or some other ignorant ass shit gets you noticed, and more importantly increase record sales. Meanwhile, the MC's out there doing their thing get ignored cos they haven't got the ego of Mr. West. If Killah Priest took notes offa Ye, he would be a platinum selling artist right now. Thank god he hasn't. Instead, he has releases a quality LP that will nonetheless be ignored by most hip hop listeners.
Some people are already calling this album of the year (still got 4 months left dammit), and seem like they're cheerleading for the guy. They've become so blinded by Ye's previous two albums, that they cannot even give a non-bias view of Graduation. Just look at the 'Anticipating Graduation' thread. People were expecting a masterpiece from Ye, and went it turned out that it wasn't, they didn't feel it was right by going back on what they said would be a great album. They heard, but didn't listen.
I'm not even gonna bother to mention the release date that he and 50 Cent have chosen, because that seems like such an obvious move for both of these characters.
I gave the album a listen, cos even I am not that ignorant and know that despite my personal feelings, it may be really good, another 'TCD', maybe. But having gone through the albums a couple of times, I sincerely believe that everything written above still stands true. I wasn't impressed by the early leaked tracks, 'Stronger' or 'Can't Tell Me Nothing' (I actually thought both these tracks were some of his worst work to date...), and the rest of the album was pretty much the same for me. The highlight was 'Champion' where Ye does what he does best (the ONLY thing he still does well nowadays, IMO), using a nice looped sample. Don't even bother mentioning the guests on this album. Imagine Lil' Wayne on 'TCD'? Nah. Meanwhile, every rapper's new favourite white boy, Chris Martin appears on the reworking of 'Home'.
The folks at Rap Basement reading this must be pretty sick of it, but hey, it's the way I feel. Kanye has made music for the masses, and on hip hop standards it's just plain pop. Considering 'Finding Forever' and 'Eardrum' have also recently dropped, there's no need for me to say it, but I will anyway; save your money and invest in these two dope albums. Not to mention the constant release of great underground albums that have dropped recently or in the near future ('Dirty Acres', 'The Show', etc). Eric (from WTR) said that Kanye has us by the nuts, and if that means we all checked out his album, then it's true. I'm glad to say, however, that now I'm off, and thinking good riddance. Now let's get back to some proper hip hop. My advice to Kanye West: you're gonna be the new Michael Jackson if you keep acting this way...

Sunday, 2 September 2007

A Note From The Author...

I'm just adding links to the albums I've written about in the past, as I got lazy in the middle, and stopped doing it. All of them should be working pretty soon.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

A Quick Non-Hip Hop Related Post...

Just read this recently and it was the first time in ages I actually started to laugh out loud while reading something...

Take Brad Pitt's following dialogue from Fight Club and replace the word 'fight' with 'wank' (for all non-British readers, find out what this means yourself). And you have...

The first rule of Wank Club is - you do not talk about Wank Club. The second rule of Wank Club is - you DO NOT talk about Wank Club. Third rule of Wank Club, someone yells Stop!, goes limp, taps out, the wank is over. Fourth rule, only two guys to a wank. Fifth rule, one wank at a time, fellas. Sixth rule, no shirt, no shoes. Seventh rule, wanks will go on as long as they have to. And the eighth and final rule, if this is your first night at Wank Club, you have to wank.
Immature? Yes. Funny? Hell yeahhhhhhhhhh!
I'm out.

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Hip Hop & The World We Live In

This may sound stupid, but who knew working full time is so damn hard. I must sound like a 16 year old, but having my first proper job at 20 has made me realize how hard it is to earn an honest buck. No wonder your favourite rapper was probably a drug dealer or pimp before he made his name (or maybe not). Anyways, as Donnell Rawlings said...

"I'm rich, biyatch!"
Well, not quite, but you know what I mean. Anyway, there's nothing that I really need at the moment, I might just save up to get the Bose QC3's (and the added paranoia of getting them stolen off me that comes free with the 'phones) or just save up the cash for a later date. Or I might try and get a PS3 / Xbox 360 Elite in time for PES 2008. For all those who don't know, this is the equivalent of crack, or from what I've been reading on WYDU and WTR, the new Madden.
The title of todays post comes from the 2003 album by Aceyalone. Although he doesn't feature in the post, I decided to use this title because hip hop has truly become a global phenom, probably the fastest rising genre of music in the world. And the beautiful thing is that each region of the world is bringing its own flavour to the table, adding something unique to the original blueprints laid out by those pioneering few in New York during the 70's. So while the US's hip hop scene may not be at its strongest at the moment (with the current crop of mainstream artists being the worst I've heard in a long time. Once again, thank God for the underground), heads all over the world can keep their ears open to the music that's coming from beyond the shores. I've decided to highlight some of the best albums that have come out of certain areas of the world, mixing up the old with the new.
So, grab your popcorn, and come take a ride with me as we travel the world...
The UK
Ah, my homeland, the place I call home. First off, I must confess something. I hardly ever listen to UK hip hop, and always thought something didn't sound right when artists from the UK were rapping. This changed when I recently saw HHC's top 100 UK hip hop albums. I took a chance to check out a selection of the albums featured. Prior to reading the article, I had only heard the odd Roots Manuva track, and the commercial grime music that got some airplay on MTV when it was 'the' music to listen to. I didn't particularly like what I heard from the grime scene, and stayed away. My man Adam from Northern Authors (check his site out, it's on the links list) hooked me up with some more Roots Manuva, and now I've been hooked on the UK scene. There are so many albums I could have posted here, including London Posse's 'Gangster Chronicle', Roots Manuva's 'Run Come Save Me' or Blak Twang's 'Dettwork Southeast', but to name a few. However, the album I have chosen is...
Mark B & Blade - The Unheard

I first heard of Blade on the eve of the release of 'Guerrila Tactics', where HHC had a feature piece on the album. I didn't think anything of it, and just thought Blade looked like a right chav, with the cheesy poses for the camera. I speed-read through the article, and didn't even bother to listen to the free CD that came with the magazine. It must be said, normally, I don't judge artists with so much haste, but looking back, the assumptions I made about Blade were some of the worst ever. I had no idea that he, along with producer Mark B, were one of the most influential hip hop acts to grace the UK. Fast forward to this year, and I saw the album 'The Unknown', listed number 10 on the HHC list of best UK hip hop albums. I knew this album was good after the very first listen, no need for 'growing' here. I don't wanna compare Blade to any US MCs, because he brings his own style. The lyrics are hard and heavy, with a good mix of concepts, such as 'Hostile Takeover', which describes a dystopia in which hip hop is suppressed. Mark B's is a self-confessed crate digger, and uses extensive breaks in his production. My favourite track on the album has gotta be 'We Stay Rough', where Mark B uses a loop of a simple but effective beat. Rodney P also features on the track, and the two MCs simply kill it with some classic back-and-forth rhyming.
We continent hop over to Somalia to bring you one of the best rapper / poets...
K'naan - The Dusty Foot Philosopher

I've kinda cheated here. Although K'Naan was born in Somalia, he has spent most of his life in Canada, moving there when he was there 13. However because his skills began while he was still in his homeland, I thought I could get away with it. Plus the fact that while listening to his album, it is clear to see that Somalia has had a much bigger influence on it than Canada (if I'm wrong, and tracks like 'Hoobale' are ancient Canadian chants, please let me know). Released in 2005, the album received praise from all corners, but somehow seemed to evade my attentions. I recently had a chance to listen to it, and was plesantly surprised by K'Naan's mix of optimism and reality. He also has great story-telling skills, as shown in 'I Was Stabbed By Satan', which sounds much lighter than the title suggests. The album has some more upbeat tracks, such as the popular 'Soobax', which has a vibrant and carnival feel.
That's all for now, join me in my next post, where we'll be off to Australia, the land of convicts, and, as we find out, some decent hip hop music.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

We Got 1 DJ & 1 MC, And That's It...

As work begins to slowly take over my summer (waking up at 6.30am on a Saturday? That just ain't right), I'm realising that posting is gonna be more and more difficult nowadays. Add that to the fact that I'm experiencing a rare case of "What the fuck should I write about that hasn't already been done, and would still be worth reading?" (I'm sure some of me fellow bloggers out there can relate), bare with me if the next few posts seem weak. I always said that I can't make a blog like the late HHB & Bossplayer (RIP...or will they?), so writing some shit that keeps people entertained and informed is a hard thing to do. I'm trying my best here! Also, I've been keeping myself busy reading Eric's When They Reminisce, where many respected heads have been posting their favourite beats. I've always been shit at making lists, so it's nice to read other people's. On to today's post...
Chemistry has always been essential to hip hop. This chemistry can be seen in a variety of ways; it could be (1) the chemistry between the lyrics on a track with the beats, (2) between two MC's on the same track, or (3) between an MC & his DJ. In this post I'd like to take a closer look at the last of these three, and highlight what, in my opinion, are some of the best MC / DJ combinations throughout hip hop history.
I think that the 1 MC / 1 DJ combination is unbeatable. It must be incredibly difficult to create a great album, with all the beats handled by a single person, and nearly all the lyrics (barring features) by another. It must be so easy for things to become repetitive, with the DJ occasionally re-using the same looped sample, or the MC repeating a bar or two. In my opinion, it is the ultimate test of skill and versatility. The DJ must step outside his comfort zone, to produce a range of beats that will both suit the MC, and keep the listener interested, while the MC must continually use different rhyme patterns to match the beats provided, while simultaneously doing what so many rappers nowadays are forgetting...making sense.
So, with the criteria determined, here are some examples who have excelled at what they do...
Eric B. & Rakim
Might as well start with the best ever. Everybody knows how good Rakim is, but what if he didn't have Eric B's crazy-ass beats? And would Eric B.'s beats be forgotten if they wern't blessed with R's lyrical genius? Eric B. and Rakim were like two pieces of a jigsaw that fit perfectly together. It is still difficult to imagine any group surpassing the chemistry that these two had. Widely acclaimed as the innovators of jazzy hip hop, Eric B. brought sampling to wide fame, and Ra's complex rhyming patterns put most other MC's to shame. There could have been a million and one reasons that things could have stopped these from working each other (just look at their careers after they disbanded), but thank god they did. Hip hop wouldn't be where it is now if they didn't.
Gang Starr
They say that a Primo beat can make any rapper sound good. But when Guru gets on a Primo beat, things come together like clockwork. Those who say that Guru's monotonic voice bores them, slowly forget everything while they become too busy nodding their head to Gang Starr. Even more so than Ra on a Eric B. beat, Guru just sounds right on a Premo beat. And longevity? 7 albums deep, and they still sound as good as ever. It seems like fate that Eric B. & Rakim released their final album (Don't Sweat The Technique, 1992) just as Gang Starr were about to come into their own with the release of Daily Operation. The handing over of the torch? I think so.
Pete Rock & CL Smooth

Pete Rock has made some incredible beats. But has anyone ever sounded better on them than the one they call CL Smooth? Once you've gotten over how great 'T.R.O.Y.' is, it is easy to see CL's flow is incredible when Pete is backing him up on the boards. If you see the contrast of CL's preformance when with Pete Rock (on 'Mecca And The Soul Brother', 'The Main Ingredient') and with other producers ('American Me' and the recently released 'The Outsider') it is evident that these two were made to work together. If only they could get together once more and provide us with a final encore.
The Coup

Don't say that you're not interested in politics, that you don't even follow it. Cos if you do, then you're not gonna appreciate The Coup. Apart from having my favourite ever hip hop song (guess?), Boots Riley and DJ Pam The Funkstress are criminally underrated, even by the so-called hip hop heads. Originally starting out as a trio with E-Roc, The Coup became a duo after Roc left following the recording of 'Genocide & Juice'. Since then, The Coup have released 3 more albums, with praise from both fans and critics (and a little bit of controversy, as well). DJ Pam might have won the award for Most Unlikely To Be One Half Of A Great Political Hip Hop Duo in high school, but she continues to provide the music to Boots' lashing lyrics.

Ant & Slug are Atmosphere. It's weird how many people think that Atmosphere consists of just Slug (why change the name then? D'uh), and this confirms my thoughts of Ant being the most silent of partners in hip hop. I was a latecomer when it came to listening to Atmosphere, but once I did, I was hooked. The first song I heard of theirs was 'National Disgrace', a single which, with it's genius opening, shows Slug at his most pissed off. I went on to listen to their (many) albums I had missed out on, and found that the duo have progressed so much. It's weird, if you start from 'Overcast!' and move on to 'God Loves Ugly' to 'Seven's Travels' to 'You Can't Imagine...', it is easy to notice how Ant's producing has changed. This is evolution at its best. Slug, on the other hand, continues to bring it as hard as he can (no homo, yadda yadda). I haven't had a chance to hear 'Sad Clown Bad Summer 9', but I'm hearing good things.
Blue Scholars

Representing the new school, Sabzi and Geologic are hip hop's brightest new group, hailing from Seattle, WA. It's so interesting how BS (Blue Scholars, haha) have risen in popularity this year. Allow me to gloat for a bit. I remember downloading their self-titled album back in 2005 offa HHB (why? I have no idea, probably the nice artwork...), and casually putting it on while I was doing some maths homework. It was one of the few times that I can say that I heard something I instantly fell in love with. The album rarely had any reviews / praise then, apart from the few randoms, and largely fell into obscurity. That was until this year, when 'Bayani' was released. It was loved by all (I still don't know how this album became so huge, maybe the Rawkus factor, cos I still think their first album was better), and most people generally went backwards to find the self-titled album, and the EP. The internet at its greatest.
That's all for now folks, thanks for reading my largely useless opinions, and be sure to spread the word...hip hop lives!

Sunday, 12 August 2007

The Producer / DJ album...

So far in 2007, I have been pretty impressed with the quality of the albums being released from hip hop's finest. Both the underground and mainstream have provided me with valuable listening, and considering that we're just over half-way through the year, 2007 definately gets my seal of approval. I have heard people say that they have been disappointed so far, but then these are the same people that listen to 'Illmatic', all day every day, and still think that shell suits are gonna come back into fashion.

One of the significant things that 2007 has provided is the return of the producer / DJ album into the mainstream. We saw releases by Marco Polo, whose 'Nostalgia' tune with Masta Ace, received radio play here in the UK (very unusual) and also the return of the magnificant DJ Jazzy Jeff, to name but two. Although there have been some of these albums released in the past, this year's two noted contributions represented the breakthrough into the mainstream, and showed that producers / DJ's can hold their own when providing beats for more than just one artist. Versatility here is essential. Also, the MC's on the albums must be able to keep up with the beats in question, because we all know beats without rhymes = useless.
As a tribute, I have highlighted some of my favourite producer / DJ albums released. I haven't put them in any order in particular (cos I'm really shit at doing things like that), and so read this list as it is. I've try to mix it up with regards to the underground and mainstream representation, and have also tried to keep it strictly official, omitting any mixtapes / bootlegs. So, in the famous words of Slick Rick (the UK's finest!), herrrre we go...
Marley Marl - In Control, Vol. 1
I thought that this would be the best one to start of with because it was the first ever producer album I ever heard. Marley Marl gathers his Juice Crew homies to construct my favourite producer album. Just reading at the guest appearances on this album describes an entire period of hip hop; Masta Ace, BDK, The Biz, Tradegy, Craig G, Kool G Rap, MC Shan, Roxanne Shante...This was NY's finest here (bar that little known rapper who called himself KRS-Two, or whatever), and they bring their share to the table. The highlight of the album must be 'The Symphony', the definition of a classic. At the top of the song, you here the announcement...
I don't care who's first or who's last, but I know that y'all just better rock this at the drop of a dime baby
And they sure do deliver.
Mekalek - Live & Learn
A relative newcomer, Mekalek is quickly becoming one of my favourite DJ's. A member of Time Machine (whose 'Slow Your Roll' album has been posted somewhere on this blog), Live & Learn is his first solo effort. His scratch skills are top notch, and his ability to find a sample is second to none. However, it is his drum programming that sets him apart from every other DJ. They dominate most of the tracks on this album, but not to point where they are overused. Which features from everybody's favourite rapper who hasn't released an album, Percee P, his Time Machine fam and a plethora of underground talent, this album is definately worth picking up.
Pete Rock - Soul Survivor
I defy anybody to say that they don't like Pete Rock beats. Go on, I dare you. He's in everybody's top 5 producers, and for good reason. Pete Rock = consistancy. The beats on 'Soul Survivor' are amazing, with every MC tearing it apart. Rock specialises in my favourite genre of hip hop beats, which is the jazzy shit. The album sounds as if it has an almost hazy effect, with notable Pete-Rock style horn samples. Stand-out track has gotta be 'Verbal Murder 2' featuring Big Pun, Noreage and Common.
Dilla - The Shining
I hate it when people say that Dilla is overrated cos he passed away recently. Fuck that. Dilla was great when he was alive, and his music will stand to be his legacy to all those who don't believe. 'The Shining' has some already classis beats for an album that was released last year. What more can I say? The man himself showcases his rhyming skills on the track, 'Won't Do', which ain't half bad. Featuring artists old and new, Dilla left with a bang.
DJ Hi-Tek - Hi-Teknology
The man behind the boards for the 'Reflection Eternal' album released his solo joint in 2001. I think that Hi-Tek is so underrated, and this album has some great beats. The beats are so laid back, and the choice of MC's / singers is perfect. Talib features, of course, along with Mos Def, Slum Village, Buckshot and more. It was hard to choose between this and the newer Hi-Teknology 2, but this wins for me because the beats are more chill out, and I prefer the features on this against the more 'hip hop' representation on 2.
Handsome Boy Modelling School - White People
Prince Paul and Dan The Automator are Handsome Boy Modelling School. Apart from being one of the funniest albums I have ever heard (it's worth buying the album just for the skits), the album see's the pairing of two legends. Paul and Dan put together one of the best concept albums out, and the finished product is hip hop at it's finest. This is the second album they've collaborated on (see also 'So...How's Your Girl'), and my favourite, even though almost everybody else disagrees. Check out the track, Rock 'N Roll (Could Never Hip Hop Like This) Pt.II ft. Lord Finesse, Mike Shinoda, Chester Bennington, Rahzel, DJ Qbert, Grand Wizard Theodore, Jazzy Jay to see why.
That all for now folks. Honourable mentions must go out to...
Main Flow - 'Hip Hopulation
9th Wonder - 'Dream Merchant Vol. 1'
Dabrye - 'Two / Three'
Mr. J. Madeiro - 'Of Gods And Girls'
J.Rawl - 'The Essence Of Soul' (which is a must-listen to, and didn't feature on this list because I classify it more as soul (D'uh) than hip hop)
Domingo - 'The Most Underrated'
Nicolay - 'Here'
Thanks for bearing with me through this time of scarce posting, and I hope you enjoyed reading my faves.
Peace out.