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.
Somalia
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.
Adios.

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.
Atmosphere

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.

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

It's Been A Long Time...

Gotta give a quick apology to all of my readers (I know there are at least 6 of y'all out there...) for not posting anything in a long-ass time.

As it is, you're gonna have to wait a little longer. I've recently found myself a job, and it's taking up nearly all of my free time. I really miss those days earlier on in the summer when I could dedicate my time the blog, and so it has come to this. Hopefully if all goes to plan, I'll have a proper post by the weekend, fingers crossed.
In the meantime, I suggest you check some of the blogs that have been linked (to the right), and not miss me too much. Trav at WYDU respectively always some some good reads, along with an interesting discussion going on in the cBox about Blue Scholars' true status in hip hop today. Also, shout outs go to my man Kazeiro (or Sebaz) at Rap Dungeon, who's taken the discog game to a whole notha level. This time, it's the Ace a Masta, and he needs some of your help.
I must say, it's been a while since they've been gone, but I really miss HHB and Bossplayer. I mean I could survive without one of them, but with both of them gone, I don't know where I'm gonna get my shit from. Those sites gave me so much good music, I will eternally be in their debt. I've checked out some of the newcomers, but it doesn't quite feel the same. If anybody has any news on the sites, lemme know!
Meanwhile, straight of left field, I've discovered that matching up ties to shirts is difficult enough to do for yourself, but nearly impossible to do for someone else. However the gay guys at my work place find it shockingly easy. Go figure... Some other thoughts that have crossed my mind these past few weeks include...
Some parents need to understand that they ain't 18 anymore
Some kids need to have their ass kicked to show they can't always get their way
Learning is the single most important thing in the world, no matter how useless the information is
When meeting mates after a long absence, fuck the club and just drive round randomly catching up on times
Reading is a beautiful thing
Invest in a good pair of shoes
The Premiership starts next week!
Style cannot be bought
Asking questions and learning to listen to someone can be one of the most fulfilling things
Some of the coolest people you may meet may be from the other side of the world
Aweh... (to the South African homies)

Monday, 23 July 2007

Whatever Happened To The (Female) MC's?

First things first. This is not another rant about where all the female MC's have gone.

I've never been a big fan of femcees. Apart from Lauryn Hill, the rest just seem to fit the perfect stereotype of a female hip hop MC, i.e. lyrics full of sexual innuendo, how great it is to be a pimpess, etc. Leaders in this particular field include Remy Ma, Lil' Kim, Foxy Brown & Trina.

In the mid-to-late 90's, this was the only type of solo female you were able to listen to. Lil' Kim got a 5 mic score in The Source (how???), and Foxy was making her name with Mr. Hip Hop. The likes of MC Lyte, Queen Latifah and Sha-Rock disappeared to be replaced by these much more alpha females. I don't know how this shift came about, and don't care, but it happened none-the-less. It happened to coincide with the rising popularity of hip hop in the mainstream, and as a result, the masses who didn't listen to hip hop came to see these females as the standard female MC.

What a bitch.

Coming into the 00's though, the more thoughtful females broke through. Jean Grae, formerly known as What? What? (worst MC name ever? Maybe...) and member of group Natural Resource, dropped her first solo LP in 2002 entitled, 'Attack of the Attacking Things'. She has since dropped three further albums/bootlegs, and has appeared on tracks with The Roots, Masta Ace, and Immortal Technique, but to name a few.

Others are taking notes, and the 00's also brought us Ms. Dynamite from the UK, Tiye Phoenix, the replacement for the respected Apani B of Polyrhythm Addicts, and Canadian MC Eternia. Considering what I've heard from these artists thus far, things are looking good (no pun intended), and the future of the femcee seems to be looking up. I just hope that the upcoming females admire these newer MC's, rather than their predecessors. These newer MC's have shown that a woman's role in hip hop goes beyong singing catchy hooks, and can express themselves in the verses.

I must say that I'm not trying to say that there is no room for the MC's like Lil' Kim, Remy Ma, etc, but when they're all saying the same thing, somebody needs to really do something a little more varied. I really think that there is a much wider scope to develop, and the future femcees will have no shortage of subject matter.

Today's album post...

Psalm One - The Death Of Frequent Flyer

By now, the more of informed of readers must have been thinking how I forgot about Psalm One. Good things come to those who wait!
Hailing from Chi-Town, Psalm One's 'The Death Of Frequent Flyer' represents her third solo LP. She is currently signed on the respected Rhymesayers roster, alongside well-established artists such as MF Doom and Atmosphere. Having majored in Chemistry at the University of Illinois, you know that this album is not going to be the pimpess-type album.
It was hard to choose which album to upload between this and Jean Grae's 'This Week'. Both are stellar examples of new-school femcee albums, but this album one through simply because I like Psalm One's sharper beats, rather than the 9th Wonder-laden 'This Week' album. It is hard to separate the two on quality of rhymes/sound of voice.
I could have actually saved writing the entire post above, and replaced with the lyrics to the song 'Rapper Girls'. Here, Psalm One expresses her discontent with the current crop of femcees. As Psalm One eloquently puts it...
"Never be more than that girl who raps 'good for a girl',
But really those titties is giving wood to the world,
They keep you around to prevent a sausage fest,
And you'll do just fine cos of the gloss and chest"
Ouch. Fellow Rhymesayer Brother Ali features on 'Standby'. By now, anyone who has heard Ali knows that he can spit, and any MC, male or female, would have trouble keeping up with him. However, Psalm ups the bar and manages it quite effortlessly. The two actually compliment each other very well on what sounds like an Ant beat. The rest of the production is handled by underground producers Overflo, Madd Crates & V-Traxx. I especially like the beat on 'Rap Girls', which samples a Bollywood singer on a loop.
Fellow femcee Ang13 features on 'Prelude To A Diss', in which the two discuss the current crop of female MC's ("I hate these muthafuckers"). My favourite cut on the album is 'Peanuts', in which Psalm vents about her rise in the industry. It features a simple beat, and lets Psalm One shine lyrically.

So, if you were like me, I thought female MC's had nothing to offer: Think again. This album will keep you listening long enough until Columbia decide to release Lauryn Hill's new joint.
Enjoy!

Tuesday, 17 July 2007

"I’m Not A Rapper, I’m A Hustler Who Raps"

The title of this post comes courtesy of Mr. Hip Hop itself, Jay-Z. Allow me to use this post to express my feelings on one of the most stupid things I constantly read about how today's rappers see themselves in our society.
Lemme get this clear first of all; a person growing up in the hood aspires to eventually move out of there, by getting some cash in the shortest time possible. Since the legal way of getting money takes quite a lot of time, and requires you to work your ass off, some people prefer to go the illegal route, and sell drugs, become pimps, etc. If you are lucky enough to be able to spit, this is your way out, and it's legal too!
So, I don't know about you, but if I had to choose between being a rapper or a pusher, I would really thank God for giving me the ability to string some sentences together in a way that sounds good. But why do so many rappers today go and call themselves gangsters, thugs, hustlers, etc? And why do they still carry on doing the stupid shit they would do as when they living in the hood, as opposed to Beverly Hills?

Case in point, Remy Ma. I'm sure you've heard what happened to her (if not, click here). Over $2000? I know every penny counts and all, but c'mon, I'm sure she could have done without. It definately wasn't worth all this trouble. Give your friend the 2 grand, release a half asses album, and recoup your money (and then some). Easy.

Honourable mention goes out to DMX. This guy lives the phrase, 'You can get the man outta the hood, but you can't get the hood outta the man'. Anything he does now doesn't surprise me, and I actually look forward to hearing what new adventure (read: dumb shit) he getting himself into now. Also, The Game must be commended for consistantly reminding us that, "I'm a hustler, not a rapper". Kudos to you, 'nuff respect.

On to today's album post...

Looptroop - Fort Europa

Some European hip hop for your ass.
Fort Europa is a hip hop group hailing from Sweden. The group consisted of four members; Promoe, Supreme, Cosmic & Embee (Cosmic has since left). Fort Europa is the groups 3rd major album release. Although this album received some very mixed reviews, and was not as welcomed as their previous two releases, I decided to post this one because it remains the easiest to listen to for newcomers to the group.
First off, I have to start with the intro. It has got to be one of my favourite intros ever. A simple ping pong ball bouncing develops into this crazy rhythm, gathering speed, until the ball sound stops with the sound of a piece of glass smashing. That sounds like such a shit description, but you really have to hear it for yourself to understand.
Although this is a good album, I think it relates much more to Europeans than Americans, and many of the political tracks talk more about the situation in Europe than America ('Hurricane Bush' being the exception). I like this idea, because it shows that Looptroop are not hell-bent on making America their major audience, and shows loyalty to their core fans. The album title itself describes how Europe closes itself off from the rest of the world.
Overall, this album is very hit and miss. There are some outstanding tracks ('Hurricane George', 'Night Train', 'Chana Masala', etc), but then there are an equal number of fillers ('Sparkplug', 'Heavy Rains', 'Unilateral Communication', etc). Coming to think of it, it's quite top-heavy in my opinion.
So overall, this is a B+ effort. Good but could do better.
Peace out.

Wednesday, 11 July 2007

The Classics

Five years ago, if you asked somebody, "What are the classic hip hop albums?", you probably expect the following list...

Illmatic
The Low End Theory
The Chronic
3 Feet High & Rising
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
...

Nowadays, if you asked somebody the same question, you'd probably expect this list...I
llmatic
The Low End Theory
The Chronic
3 Feet High & Rising
It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
...
Can you see any similarities?
It seems that hip hop is stuck in some kind of warped reality. Although the number of hip hop listeners in the world and the sheer amount of material being released must be rising all the time, it seems that when people are asked this question, there is a 'list' that must be learnt, and anything released in (at least) the last 5 years cannot be included.
Although I do believe that people try not to mention their personal favourites for fear of being ridiculed (the internet is a hostile environment for the budding hip hop fan), I think that there is a more underlying reason as to why there have been no 'modern' classic hip hop albums. Bear with me as I try to explain...
Most people see 1994 as the peak of hip hop, the Golden year in the Golden Era. It seems that nobody could do wrong when they released an album in this year. It is also the focus of the whole 'hip hop is dead' argument, whose advocates state that this was the pinnacle of hip hop music, and everything since has been going downhill. I don't argue that this year saw some of the best material heard since '88 (such as the aforementioned 'Illmatic', 'The Sun Rises In The East', 'Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)', I literally could go on and on), but stating that there hasn't been any classics since then is plain crazy.
As hip hop began to gain a larger worldwide audience due to artist such as Eminem, 50 Cent, etc, the range of music classified as hip hop has sky rocketed. There are so many sub-categories now, it's hard to keep track of all of them. Jazzy hip hop, Horrorcore, Grime, the list is endless. As people began to use the internet to download more and more music, it seems that it's not enough saying, "I like hip hop". Now you've gotta like a SPECIFIC kind of hip hop. As the huge pool of hip hop fans sub-categorise themselves into these specific areas, it is now impossible to find an album that EVERYONE will like. Back in the mid-nineties, there was just hip hop, and everybody generally liked the same thing. Therefore, albums like 'Illmatic' was considered great, and nobody argued. Nowadays, some new-school cats may not feel it at all (I've heard everything from, 'the beats are boring' to 'Nas is overrated'...to call ANY Premo beats boring is, in my opinion, blasphemy), and why would they? They wern't around when that album dropped, and cannot relate at all. They may prefer to listen to Necro, Ill Bill, etc, and that's their choice.

So now each sub-category has it's classic albums, and the classic hip hop album no longer exists...or does it?

On to today's album post...

One.Be.Lo - S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.

One.Be.Lo, formerly known as OneManArmy and one half of Binary Star, dropped this gem in 2005. It is, in my opinion, a classic. You may think that these two facts are mutually exclusive, but no. I said it, and I'll say it again. It's a fucking classic from 2005.
'S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.' (Sounds Of Nahshid Originate Good Rhymes And Music) is Lo's first full length LP. When I first heard One.Be.Lo on Binary Star, I wasn't immediately struck by his MC skills. In fact, I thought that Senim Silla was the better half of the group, and couldn't imagine either of them doing a solo project, as they worked very well together, and their name suggested that they would be sticking together as a duo. However, after being fucked around by their record label, and what I think only as being creative differences between the two, Lo decided to concentrate on a solo project that resulted in this album.
In between the release of 'Masters Of The Universe' and 'S.O.N.O.G.R.A.M.', Lo converted to Islam, and it is clear that this had a tremendous effect on him with the number of references to Islam on this LP. Although I don't normally like it when MC's get too religeous, Lo pulls it off without sounding too preachy. His greatest skill remains the clearness of his voice combined with his effortless rhyming skills. For example, on 'enecS eht no kcaB', Lo spits...
"Thinkin' I'm dissin' 'cause I ain't feelin' the shit they spittin'
Know the difference between dissin' and constructive criticism
They should try to pen-a-written that can fit-the-rhythm
Too busy tryin' to hit the ism, hit the women
Feminine get the Benjamin's, watch my SUB-Zero
Finish 'em, finish 'em, finish 'em, finish 'em..."
There's no need to hit rewind button (does it still exist?), everything can be heard the first time. No matter how complicated the rhyme pattern becomes, Lo never loses his skill of saying the WHOLE word with clarity. The album is full of political attacks ('Sleepwalking'), self-consciousness among the black community ('The Ghetto'), and attitudes towards racism in the US ('Axis'). One of my favourite tracks on the album from a lyrical perspective has got to be 'Evil Of Self' which features Abdus Salaam. Lo highlights his creativity by constructing a story using the thoughts/mentalities that all of us feel at one time or another. It has got to be one my favourite tracks of all time.
I am sure that regardless of what type of hip hop you listen to, you will at least appreciate how good this album is. So, the next time someone says to you, "Where has all the good hip hop gone?", reply by saying, "It's there, you just ain't looking hard enough brotherman".
Peace out.

Saturday, 7 July 2007

The Eternal Argument Continues...

After reading Rasul's thought-provoking article on When They Reminisce (check it out here), I felt compelled to continue the debate that must affect every single MC out there...

Go mainstream or stay underground?

Think about it. You're an aspiring young rapper, just breaking through, making small ripples in the hip hop ocean. You are young and idealistic, and believe hip hop is all about great lyrics, and bangin' beats. You've released a couple of independent EP's (you don't fuck with mixtapes, they belong to the average shitty rapper), and are ready to make your big break by releasing your debut full-length LP. At this moment in time, your EP's have gained critical acclaim by internet heads, and you are being touted as the next (insert your favourite rapper's name here). You've completed 90% of your album, and are now looking for a record label to sign with. Now, check it, you have two options...

Option 1: You sign with an indie. You go on to complete your album the way you envisioned it, and the album goes to press. When it's released, the reviews run out of superlatives to describe it, and it goes on to sell a couple thousand copies. Still not enough to allow you to quit your day job just yet. Spurred on by the relative success of your debut, you go on tour around the country with other underground artists of the day. You've made some money on tour, after a few more solo gigs, you manage to become a full-time MC. A few guest appearances are made on other underground albums, and you begin to start writing for your second album. Your label makes more of an effort to push this album after the success of the first. However, reviews for this sophomore release are not quite as good as for previous, and critics say that the album, although a solid release, does not quite have the creativity provided by the first album. Internet heads nod their head in agreement. The album goes on to sell slightly better than the first. Not down-hearted, you change your style up for a third release, determined to prove that you're not a one-trick pony. The album is supported by the indie label, and it is publicised as your rebirth. This time, critics take a lash at your effort, saying that the new style is, for a better word, wack, and argue that you will never quite make anything that will match your first release. The internet heads agree once again. The label dumps you, and feeling depressed with the world, you end up killing yourself. At the tender age of 28, life has passed you by.

Option 2: You sign with a major. The first thing you do is let your Mickey D's manager know that you're quitting your job, by letting him know that he suck some part of your anatomy. You go on to show the major your work so far on the LP, but they insist that some changes be made. A few of the political songs are cut, and some shake-ya-baaty tunes are included, for the women of course. You reluctantly agree, and the album goes to press. The major pushes the album strongly, describing it as 'the return of real hip hop'. The reviews come out, with critics saying that the album seems to be an above average release, with glimpses of skill shown on (incidentally) some of the original tracks recorded. The major decides to release the radio-friendly tunes, and soon your videos (with groupies, guns, and bling as standard) hit MTV, BET, and fill out the clubs. Internet heads wonder what the hell has happened to you, and you are instantly labelled as a sell-out. The album goes on to sell a couple million. The major is impresses, but thinks you could have done better. After reading some of the feedback from the beloved internet heads, you approach the major with the idea of making a more conscience second album, with more politics / less booty-shakin'. The major is enthuthiastic about the idea, and you go on to start the writing for the album. However, when you finish up the final details and play the album to the major, they seem uncertain about the tone of the music. The album is delayed, and eventually never gets to see the light of day. You leave the major, and hope to release the album on an indie. But with your credibility gone after your 'club rapper' image, they decline. Feeling depressed with the world, you end up killing yourself. At the tender age of 28, life has passed you by.

Of course, both of these situations are hypothetical (and have an exaggerated ending), but interesting none-the-less. It is indeed a fine line between credibility and selling out.


On to today's album post.


Masta Ace - A Long Hot Summer



With reference to my rant above, I think that Masta Ace holds the title, most mainstream underground. His career, in my opinion, is the perfect way to balance mainstream success with appreciation from the underground. In essence, he is Mr. Keepin' It Real.
And he knows it. On my favourite cut from the album, 'Beautiful', Ace spits...
"I rise up above
See, people still showin' me love
Get the respect without droppin' a check
This hip hop thing might stop in a sec
So this brand new hit, you can pop in the deck
It's beautiful"
It is indeed beautiful. I overlooked this album for the story post, but have no doubt, this is one of the best story-telling albums out. The album follows Ace's adventure with friend Fats Belvedere, and eventually ending up in a prison cell.
Some people may question whether Masta Ace can be considered to be underground, but whatever. In my opinion, an MC is underground if you don't hear their releases played on MTV or the radio 24/7. Anyway, anyone who wants to start listening to different kinds of hip hop, I would strongly recommend starting with this album right here. The reason why so many people like Masta Ace is that he is easy to listen to compared to some other underground artists, and he also sounds great. This is by no means disrespectful to the Ace, but a compliment in that he does not need to over-complicate things.
Besides 'Beautiful', other nice cuts on this album include 'Soda And Soap' featuring Jean Grae (where have all the female MCs gone?), where Ace drops various drink names in the first verse, and washing products in the second. So he's still using his creative sides, and further evidence is heard in 'Brooklyn Masala', a story where Ace describes falling for a Asian chick.
So, aspiring MCs take note: use Ace's career as a guide to help you make good music, and gain commercial success at the same time.

Monday, 2 July 2007

The World Is Yours

After writing this blog, I only now just realised how difficult it is to give an opinion of your own about something. As Oscar Wilde said...

"Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation"
After reading countless reviews and people posting their thoughts on a number of different albums, it's incredible the albums that the majority of people like, and dislike. It is increasingly difficult to interpret somebody's opinion as their own, or something that they've just read, and found it to sound so convincing, that they just simply repeat it when said topic is talked about amongst peers. It seems that if a small number of influential people agree on the quality of a particular album, the majority will simply become parrots and echo these thoughts.

Obviously, there are times when the majority of people are right. For example, Nas's 'Ilmatic' deservedly appears on more than 90% of listener's all-time Top Ten albums, as it is acclaimed by both hip hop journalists and first time listeners. But if you don't happen to like it, you don't have to feel as if you're missing something, and make excuses for liking it. It is critical that an album does something for YOU, and then base a review of that album on your personal feelings while listening to it. If you hate it, you hate it.

It is a very rare thing for someone to express something about an album that hasn't already been said, but also makes sense at the same time. This is what every reviewer aims to do, and hopefully I can add something to the albums that I post on this site, which you haven't already read elsewhere. I love reading other people's reviews of albums before I actually give it a listen. Why? Well just to see how others people's thoughts differ to mine when I actually give it a spin.

Lastly, don't trust my reviews anyway. The best way to review an album is to actually listen to it! So go download, and make your own opinions.

Edan - Beauty And The Beat

First off, that cover has got to be one of my favourite covers ever, the psychadelic feel is just awesome.
Edan hails from Boston, and is a rare thing in hip hop nowadays. He's an MC, DJ, and producer, the triple threat. 'Beauty And The Beat' represents his second full length LP, following the largely over-looked but equally good 'Primitive Plus'. On first listen of this album, you will immediately notice that it does not conform to the standards of today's hip hop album. Drum machines, sequencers, looping samples? In 2005? I don't think so.
If you have previously heard 'Primitive Plus', you probably already know that Edan knows his history, and respects his elders (on 'Ultra '88', he pays tribute to the Ultramagnetic MC's, and constantly pays tribute to Kool G Rap, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, etc throughout the record). This trend continues on 'Beauty And The Beat', with my favourite track, 'Fumbling Over Words That Rhyme', consisting over a roll-call on the who's who of hip hop, over a straight trippy sample.
The lead single from this album is 'I See Colours', in which Edan almost instantly states, "Prince Paul already used this loop...", again paying his dues. Edan uses the sample from the popular nursury rhyme of the same name, and slows down his flow, to make you feel like a kid all over again.
The general mood while listening to this album is one of nostalgia. Edan's voice takes you back to a time when hip hop was raw and relentless. He literally spits his lyrics, as heard in 'Promised Land', and uses the drum and sequencers precisely to create a eerie and delusional atmosphere. Features are at a minimum, with Percee P, Insight and Mr. Lif dropping by to contribute some verses.
But at the end of the day, this is Edan's album. A testament to the old school.

Friday, 29 June 2007

Here's A Little Story That Must Be Told...

Stories have been an essential part of hip hop. I mean even the first commercial hip hop song, 'Rapper's Delight' was 14 minutes and 36 seconds of story telling. It seems that everybody loves a good story and they have, for me, provided some of the best hip hop songs in existence.

I've always been a sucker for stories, as I always thought they required more skill in telling than just a normal song, and they also meant more. Delivery is all important, a great story would be lost if the listener loses interest before the song has finished. And finally, a twist at the end of it finishes everything off with a bang.
I've lost count the number of times when I couldn't pick out a more abstract story, and had to get myself on to OHHLA, reading the lyrics as I heard the track. Most of the time it's because the unknown references used, and plus I'm kinda slow when it comes to picking up these things. But it's these tracks that I find have the most creativity, and I always get excited when I pick up a not-so-easy-to-get metaphor used. Hopefully, in the near future, my ear will be trained well enough not to have to use a lyrics site.
Here is a small selection of some of my favourite hip hop stories...
Nas - 'I Gave You Power'
Nas tells a song in the point of view of a gun, and the 'thoughts' felt by it.
Slick Rick - 'Children's Story'
The Ruler tells a bedtime story (a bit of a fucked up bedtime story, but hey...) of the misadventures of a youth.
Immortal Technique - 'Dance With The Devil'
I could have easily gone with 'You Never Know', but this song is just fucked up! I'll always remember the first time I heard this song, and thinking, 'Oh my God!'. My friend and I always talked about how people would react if a DJ threw this song on at a club.
J-Live - 'Wax Paper'
I have already mentioned this as my favourite story song, J tells a story of two brothers who have a lot more in common than first meets the eye.
Louis Logic - 'Ugly Truth'
The last 5 seconds make this song...
2pac - 'Brenda's Got A Baby'
Pac tells the story, from beginning to end, of a girl who becomes pregnant at the young age of 12.
Common - 'I Used To Love H.E.R.'
No story list would be complete without this song.
Now on to today's album post...
Keeping on the theme of stories, Prince Paul creates an entire album that tells the life story of Tariq, as he tries to make it in the world. I was torn between posting this album, and 'A Long Hot Summer' or even 'Disposable Arts', both by Masta Ace. I chose this album because it is pure story telling at it's finest, whereas Ace's two albums rely on the skits to tell the majority of the story.
I'm stuck whether to tell you more about this album, or not. I don't want to spoil the storyline for you, so the less I say the better. All I'll say is that the 'cast' consists of Breezly Brewin, Big Sha, Everlast, Kool Keith, Big Daddy Kane, and a host of others. The story on the album is so good, that it seems as if it were written by a Hollywood screen-writer.
A word of warning; make sure you put aside a good 1 and a half hours before you sit down to listen to this album. That means no interruptions. Turn off the TV, switch off your mobile, and don't answer the doorbell (even if it IS your momma). Treat the listening of this album as if you you were watching a movie, like when you sat down to watch 'The Godfather' for the first time. And only then will you appreciate how good this album is.
Enjoy the weekend!

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Does That Make Sense Pt.II

Time to continue, and humiliate yet more artists out there. Once again, I must mention that this list is taken directly from Ego Trip's Book Of Rap Lists. This book is like a bible to me, and should be a part of every hip hop fan's collection. When are they gonna release another one???

8. 'Live!!!' - Onyx
Notable for Sticky's redundant observation, "We shoot niggas every day daily." We heard you the first time, when you said it first.

9. 'Make 'Em Pay' - Gang Starr featuring Krumb Snatcha
Boston's rhyme slasher, Krumb Snatcha, had his corporate pizza chains confused with the lyric, "Like Pizza Hut I gotta stay Noided." As pie-lovers worldwide already know, The Noid represents Domino's, rap dude.

10. 'Makin' A Name For Ourselves' - Common featuring Canibus
This C&C music factory couldn't keep its books straight when delivering the hook, "I'm your worst nightmare squared/ That's times two for those who aren't mathematically aware." Count them out.

11. '1, 2 Pass It' - D&D All-Stars
KRS-One comes with another messy reference sure to be banned from TV: "The aroma reaches up to my nostril, I get hostile/ Your lyrics are stiff like David Koppel." Maybe he meant Ted Letterman.

12. 'Punks Jump Up To Get Beat Down' - Brand Nubian
"Black prodigy since the age of 20," boasts Sadat X, evidently unaware that at the double decade mark, he was a little old for the gifted child title.

13. 'The Set Up' - Nas featuring Havoc
"QB since 1933," Nas Escobar announces at the outset of this song in dedication to his beloved home, the Queensbridge Housing Projects. Not only did Nas drop science, he also dropped History (class). Queensbridge was, in fact, opened to the public in 1939.

14. 'What's Next' - Warren G featuring Mr. Malik
The G-Child not only rhymes like one - frequently sprinkling his songs with nursery limericks - but he also apparently spells like one. On his first LP, Warren uttered the lyric, "What's next?/ What's N-X-E-T?" Warren, geez!

That concludes the dumbass lyrics section. My advice to any upcoming artist would be to get someone (preferably smarter than yourself) to go over your lyrics before you lay the track down. Props goes out to SK93 over @ illRoots for mentioning Ja's famous M-U-R-E-D-R line (which appeared on 'Loose Change'), which went like this...

"It's the M-U-R-E-D-R Inc. I'm the rapper who fags, and totes tampax in bags..."
Also, Redman (on '5 Boroughs') blessed us with the line...
"My paragraph alone is worth five mics (uh-huh)
A twelve song LP, that's thirty-six mics (uh-huh)"

Redman should stay off the weed when spittin' his vocals. Like Mos Def said, it's just basic mathematics...Last, but by now means least, my main man Lil' Wayne (on 'Fuck Wit' Me Now), who still hasn't come to terms with the purpose of an umbrella...

"Wet a nigga like umbrellas"

Ah well, if he can make money, there's hope for us all...If you have any more examples of MC's at their worst, leave a comment!

Talking about lyrics, let's get down to today's album post.

GZA - Liquid Swords

Considered by many to be 'the thinking man's hip hop album', 'Liquid Swords' is a lyrical masterpiece. The purists love the GZA, and they love this album, there are no mistakes here people.
The cover was designed by a DC comic artist, and perfectly personifies the GZA himself; ruthless, but thoughtful. Often seen as the most underrated of the Wu, GZA's second solo release, 'Liquid Swords', was released in 1995 and is seen along with 'Only Built...' and 'Supreme Clientele' as the best individual projects of the Clan.
Production is provided by the RZA (who else?), and heavily features cuts from the movie 'Shogun Assasin' (can anybody get me a link to this???). The Asian cinema theme continues throughout the album, with the intro being, in my opinion, one of the best out there. The kid's voice is straight creepy.
GZA invites his old Wu cronies to appear on the album, which each of them appearing on at least one song. The most creative song on the album is probably 'Labels', where GZA manages to go through a countless number of record labels with ease, delivered in just a single continuous verse.
As for my favourite, it's probably 'B.I.B.L.E.', the one track that isn't GZA's. It's no disrespect to him, but Killah Priest that made a track that is so insightful, and had so much that I could personally relate to, that it will be always be my favourite cut on this classic.
GZA is indeed The Genius.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Does That Make Sense?

Lyrics are central to hip hop music (are you reading this D4L?), and is, in my opinion, slightly more important than the beats. I mean I can listen to some Saul Williams, but put on some Ying Yang Twins, and I'ma get the hell outta there. I know that both of the artists I've mentioned are from the south (pure coincidence) but MC's from all over have been making mistakes in their lyrics.

Here's a nice little list I found in Ego Trip's Book Of Rap Lists (cop it over at Amazon, you can't download books, homie). It just shows that everybody makes mistakes. Be prepared to ridicule your favourite artist...
1. 'Bad To The Bone' - Kool G Rap & DJ Polo
Blinded by the colour green, a pimped-out G Rap kicked this ethnically confused lyric: "Sleeping in sheets that's made of satin with one of my money-makin' honeys/ She's mixed, Spanish and Latin." Hmmm...a good combination.
2. 'Blackman In Effect' - Boogie Down Productions
The Teacher sets off his fourth LP with the 18-wheeler-D.W.I.-grammatical pile-up, "Wake up! Take the pillow from your head and put a book in it!" See how he sounds? A little unrational...oops!
3. 'Full Cooperation' - Def Squad
All brothas do look alike. So when Keith Murray warned, "I'm gonna get you sucker like Damon Wayans", we know he really meant D's older sibling, fallen late-night chat host, Keenan Ivory. Or was it Shawn, Marlon or Tito? Who cares.
4. 'Funky For You' - Nice & Smooth
The honour for the most infamous rap faux pas of all time goes to Boogie Down revisionist jazz historian Greg Nice for his opening line - "Ay yo, Dizzy Gillespie plays the sax" - on Nice & Smooth's party starter. Although the late, great trumpet playing bebop pioneer John Birks Gillespie (a.k.a. "Da Original Mr. Cheeks") was, in fact, capable of playing the saxophone in his spare time, Greg didn't find out until later when he was twisting L's with New Kids On The Block.
5. 'Just Rhymin' With Biz' - Big Daddy Kane featuring Biz Markie
If Biz "watched Star Wars just to see Yoda," he must have sat in the theatre for three years. It wasn't until the film's sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, that the old sage alien fuck, Yoda, finally made his celluloid debut. Peace, Frank Oz.
6. King Of Rock' - Run-D.M.C.
The Kings from Queens may have bridged rap and rock, but they unintentionally bought a morbid angle to pop music mathematics when they rhymed, "There's three of us, but we're not the Beatles", in 1985 - a little more than four years after John Lennon's death. Later, Run confessed that he believed the Fab Four were a trio all along.
7. 'Knick Knack Patty Wack' - EMPD featuring K-Solo
Central Islip, Long Island spelling bee champ, K-Solo, stumbled in his first opportunity to shine on the mic by bungling the line, "F-L-Y like a B-R-I-D in the S-K-Y." But he's still B-A-D in our book - the one in your H-A-N-D-S.
That's all for now folks, I'll try and conclude this post later on in the week. Now on to today's album post...
Camp Lo - Uptown Saturday Night
I think there are still scientists in Cambridge & Harvard trying to figure what the hell Geechi Suede and Sonny Cheeba were saying in this album. I'm sure there's a vault with a fuckload of cash waiting for anyone to solve this album. This is the one time where I'll compromise the lyrics, and can listen to an album not knowing what the hell is being said.
'Uptown Saturday Night' was released in 1997, and hit a high of #5 on on the R&B/Hip Hop charts. The lead single, 'Luchini AKA This Is It', was memorable for the horns used in the beat, courtesy of Ski. He was the man behind the music for Jay-Z's 'Reasonable Doubt', and it's said that Jay actually wanted the 'Luchini' beat for his own album.
Throughout the album, you get a feeling that Geechi and Sonny are the kind of guys that would finish each other's sentences. Their voices are easily distinguishable, but also perfectly matched. My favourite track on the album is not 'Luchini' or 'Coolie High', but rather 'Sparkle'. An ode to drinking, the light piano in the background kills this track. The duo's flow is at their best, and I defy you not to have the hook stuck in your head after a couple of listens.
With appearances made by Trugoy of De La Soul and Butterfly of Digable Planets, this album sounds like it was made in 1970, let alone the late '90's. Which leaves me to ask one question. Why don't they make beats like this anymore?

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Gone A.W.O.L.

My apologies to my many fans out there (all 5 of y'all) for not posting on Friday or Saturday, but time's getting the better of me recently. Not to worry, this blog will continue...

I spent Friday evening watching a television recording. It was the first time I've ever been to see one, and I've gotta say, it was well worth. The tickets were free (that always works for me), and the show was called 'News Knight', a comedy along the lines of 'Have I Got News' minus the points. It's a topical news program, with Sir Trevor MacDonald hosting, and the guests were Marcus Bridgestock, Reginald D. Hunter & Clive Anderson.
I went with 4 of my cousins, and we all thought it was a great show. Was struck us though, was that we all noticed that we found Reginald Hunter's jokes more funny than the rest of the audience. I mean, the audience was mainly middle aged white folk, while me and my cousins are a bunch of 17-25 Indians.
We grew up watching Eddie Murphy and old clips of Richard Pryor, and to this day, we love Dave Chappelle's work (I must have seen every single televised stand-up of his twice over) to this day. I hadn't previously heard of Hunter (maybe some of the Americans can school me on him), but he instantly struck us as being the funniest of the three, especially with his Mr. T impressions (always funny not matter how many times I hear it).
I noticed that the people sitting directly ahead of us found hardly any of this material funny, while my cousins and I couldn't stop laughing. As we are second generation Indians in the UK, growing up we didn't have many Indian role-models, so we found the next best thing, and looked elsewhere. Most generally adopted Black culture as our own (remember Apache Indian?), and to this day, the average brown kid listens to either hip hop or R&B or both. I started listening to my brother's old tapes that he used to record offa the radio and instantly loved what I heard. And this was when my love for hip hop music became apparent.
Hip hop music has changed a lot over the years, but my favourite hip hop albums are those where you know the artists are having fun doing what they're doing.

Today's album post...
Time Machine - Slow Your Roll
Time Machine is a hip hop trio formed in Washington, D.C. They are DJ Mekalek (from Rhode Island) and MC's Comel (New York) and Jaysonic (Miami). 'Slow Your Roll' is the debut LP, and was originally released in 2004.
I saw this album (like countless others) receiving full marks on Rap Reviews, and thought it was worth listening to. You might well know that the illustrious score is not rare on Rap Reviews, but at least they have the balls to give it now and then. After a bit of searching, I found the album, and gave it a spin.
The album opens with a clock ticking, quite appropriate, before Jaysonic starts to spit. The beat seems psychadelic, and sets the tone for the rest of the album. Jaysonic sounds like your favourite MC, with a easy flow, while Comel sounds like a young B-Real. Together, it's makes great listening.
The album clocks in at around 70 minutes, and considering it has 18 tracks, the average song is pretty short. I must admit that recently I've preferred shorter albums simply because it takes less time to listen to, and is more likely to have fewer fillers. Lazy I know, but circumstances dictate. This album, however is the exception to the rule. Songs like 'Personal Ads' and 'Night Lights' feature some great production, and shortly after hearing the album, I managed to get a copy of Mekalek's solo joint, entitled 'Live & Learn'. Listen to this album on a long journey in the car, and watch the time fly by (no pun intended).
All this without mentioning my favourite cut on the album. 'The Way Things Are' is for me, the perfect hip hop track. Good subject, great lyrics, and the best use of a sample I've heard for an age. Just check my Last.fm to see how many times this track gets played.
Enjoy, and peace out!

Thursday, 21 June 2007

So What Kind Of Music Are You Into?

This, believe it or not, is the most difficult question to answer when someone asks me.

For example, a conversation can go like this...
A: So what type of music are into?
B: Hip hop.
A: Really? I like Eminem as well!
B: Hmm...
Or like this...
A: So what type of music are into?
B: Underground hip hop, people like Masta Ace, Little Brother, Binary Star, that kinda thing.
A: Oh really? I like Eminem, do you listen to his stuff?
B: No, he's a mainstream rapper who made his money and sold out. I hate people like that, treating hip hop like shit, with all his wigger fans.
A: Hmm...

I'm sure that every fan of hip hop will have had either Conversation A or B at least once in their life. At the end of the day, one of the people in the convo is gonna lose interest, and your relationship is going to end there and then. So the question is, how do you answer a simple question like without giving in or sounding like Chuck D?

I'd love to say I've got all the answers, but I haven't. At the moment, I'm going with Conversation A, but now everyone may think I'm a hardcore Em fan (don't get me wrong, the guy has probably done more for hip hop in the last 10 years than anyone else I can think of, but there are better MC's out there!). I mean I could go on for days and days talking about what I like and why I like it, but obviously the question is pretty vague and I suppose the person asking it doesn't wanna really know the history of hip hop a la 'Can't Stop, Won't Stop' (by Jeff Chang).

I yet to meet a person in the 'real' world that has heard of any of my favourite MC's, but that's a whole notha post, and I'll leave that for another day.

So post comments on how you handle the situation, and I may copy your style!

On to today's album post...

Talib Kweli - Quality

I'm sure 90% of you already have this in your collection, but nevertheless, I've decided to post this album because it has some added significance for me. This was the first album I downloaded, where I hadn't actually heard of the artist. As a result, it opened my eyes to a whole new world of music.
The first Kweli song I had heard was the 'Get By (Remix)', featuring Jay-Z, Mos Def, Kanye and Busta. I remember seeing the song, and recognising every name except for Kweli's (I didn't even know how to pronounce the name). Anyway, I thought Kweli's verse was pretty dope and went about trying to find his album. I was not disappointed.
To date, I still think this Kweli's album (although I haven't yet given 'Eardrum' a full listen as of yet). My favourite cut has to be 'The Proud', a fiercely political track, which features one of my favourite lines...
'The President is Bush, the Vice President's a Dick
So a whole lot of fuckin is what we gon' get'
Production is taken care of by Kanye, Dilla and Ayatollah among others. Although Talib has become a lot more mainstream as of late (everybody's gotta eat), this album was made when he was raw and hungry. After this, I checked out 'Black Star' (a masterpiece) and 'Reflection Eternal/Train Of Thought' (Hi-Tek at his best).
But this still remains as the album that introduced me to underground.

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

What Is Hip Hop To You?

So, what IS hip hop for you?
Is it about intricate lyrics?

Is it about bangin' beats?

Is it way you speak?

Or the way you dress?

For me, hip hop is two things:

Having fun + being yourself.

The beauty of hip hop is that anyone can listen to it, and appreciate it (and I'm not talkin' bout this kinda 'hip hop'). You don't have be wearing your baggy denims, your slammin' kicks and your white tee. You ain't gotta bling out, carry a backpack or talk like you're a veteran of urbandictionary.com. It's a party where everybody's invited (man, how gay does that sound?).

This diverse nature of hip hop is the reason that I love it. You can be serious and listen to some Public Enemy one day, smoke your shit listening to Devin The Dude the next, and relaxing while listening to some Tribe to top it off. You can be wearing jeans, tracks or khaks, it's all good.

It's great when you hear an album where the artists aren't trying to prove anything to anyone. They don't have to act like they're defending their credibility or reputation, they can even take the piss out of themselves and still love hip hop at the same time. Which brings me to my album post for today...

Ugly Duckling - Bang For The Buck



Ugly Duckling consists of MC's Andy Cooper & Dizzy Dustin, and the DJ Young Einstein, all hailing from Long Beach, California.

To make my first point clear, how 'hip hop' do these guys actually look?
Not very is probably the answer most of you will think. But one listen to their fifth studio album, 'Bang For The Buck', and most of you will conclude that these guys have more skill on the mic and turntables than 90% of the acts out there.
The self-deprecating style of Ugly Duckling is actually quite refereshing to hear, especially if you've just listened to the album after recently watching most of the videos on MTV. To hear lyrics like this on 'Breakdown'...
"When I try to fit with a clique or pick up a chick, I felt like I'd been hit with a brick,
Cos all I ever get was chills from a cold shoulder, thinkin' this'll all would all change when I get older"
However, 'Smack' shows the best example of the group just straight taking the piss outta those gangster rappers. This attack on the mainstream is everything that UD are all about. From just one listen to 'Bang For The Buck', you can tell that UD know what they're doing, and they're doing it well. The beats on the album are remeniscent of the old school, with heavy use of the turntables provided by the skilful Young Einstein. He even has an ode dedicated to him on the album, where his DJ skills are at their best.
This album would never work if UD didn't have the skills to match up on their criticism of the mainstream. Fortunately for us, they have that in abundance, and show it on this album. 'Bang For The Buck' has one message for it's listeners...
Have fun, and don't take yourself too seriously.
I hope you have as much fun as I do when I first listened to this album.