Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Best Albums Of 2009 According To Me

So now there is no confusion:

10. The Bronx - Marachi El Bronx
Not just a cute idea. It's actually good.

9. Blakroc - Blakroc
In college one time, I went to see a lecture all about this crazy new thing that was happening, white people, doing hip-hop, but with rock elements involved. The discussion went on and on and on and someone said, wait, doesn't it make sense, these white kids grew up listening to rap and rock, so why wouldn't the music they make sound like some type of combination between to the two. And everyone in the audience was like, "yeah, but WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE SO SHITTY?"
At that point, a professor said, "what we're getting now is the output created by kids who grew up listening to Metallica* and Slayer with N.W.A. being their only true hip-hop reference point, one day we will hopefully hear music from kids who listen to the Kinks, the Stones, and Gangstarr and Mos Def."
This is the start of that new regime, it's not rap rock, cause that means it sucks, it's kinda exactly what you would expect from a band like The Black Keys making a hip-hop and the sound is mainly gritty and focused. I read somewhere Dan Auerbach rapped a verse on one song and removed it cause he thought it made it sound too Fred Dursty. And that's not just cool, it's a defining point to the sound of this album, that every song they approached repeating their mantra, "let's not make a shitty rap/rock joint."

8. White Rabbits - It's Frightening
There's a lot of people in this band. Do you like percussion?

7. Cam'ron - Crime Pays
At first I was not feeling it, but classic case of how when you wait forever for something, it's never as good as you want it to be. Going back, this is a great album. Cam'ron's flow is still top notch. And he uses his top notch flow, doesn't let it sit on the bench. He spits the way he did when people first started to take notice. The beef with 50, the three year disappearing act, it's all in the past. Cookies-N-Apple Juice, Get it In Ohio are both bangers. Cooking Up has one of Cam'ron's greatest verses of all time. It's probably the best verse showcasing equally all three aspects of Cam'ron's swagger, his playfull threats(Sledgehammers, Smash his melon, and I'm the black Gallagher), insane boasts(Telescopes, Binoculars, the Feds hate my vernacular, From selling coke, I'm poppa doc, Yeah that means I'm spectacularr), and general weirdness (Red slippers, Red robe, Red kitchen, Red stove, Red pots, One in the head cocked, When the Feds probe, Red stools, Red emph, Red floors, Y'all fakers, Red couch, Red crystal, Red pepper and salt shakers, The red room, Red curtains, and some are switched, Show some respect, What you expect - that's a hundred inch,)

6. 50 Cent - War Angel
This summer, to promote a block party, 50 dropped this mixtape and called it his "greatest body of work" yet. it is. On it, 50 returns to his pre-Get Rich or Die Trying days, and gets back to his Ghetto Quran, How to Rob days. 50 sounds like he cares for the first time in a long time, he sounds like he's out to prove he still can be a damn good rapper if and when he wants to, and this mixtape is the first time he's wanted to in a log time. Pause. Also, it sports the best twitter reference heard so far in rap "aint nothing to it cock shoot it and get rid of that, leave you bleeding from your fitted cap It's nuttin to it, cock it, bang it and get rid of that Hit his fitted cap, he won't get a chance to Twitter that." Also, at the end, when he implores all those coming to his BBQ to get their "outfit money up," classic.
6b. Gucci Mane - Writing On Da Wall
Gucci released a shitton of mixtapes this year, including three on the same damn day. This one is by far the best and most filler-free. I've wrote about it on this site sometime around when it came out.

5. Raewkon - Only Built For Cuban Linx II
Oh man, to be young when the Wu was on top of it all. To be in high school and actually await the release of Wu Tang Forever. It makes you fell.......old. Old as hell. But it also meant in between 36 Chambers and Forever, if you were a fan, you copped ever single solo release the day it dropped. And it meant you had better be ready to defend your favorite emcee. Who was the dopest? What was the best solo release in the first round? These by the way are two very different questions. I remember a passionate argument outside of D-Wing in favor of Liquid Swords as the best but I was willing to concede Meth kinda kills it on Shadowboxing going head to toe with Gza. But the biggest, longest running debate of all time concerning the Wu-Tang Clan still is whether Only Built For Cuban Linx vs. Liquid Swords. What's better. I always went with Liquid Swords. For some reason, Cuban Linx, as great as it was, was a bit tough for me to get into and really absorb. Whatever. I still loved it. It still was the second best (or third if we wanna throw Tical in the mix) solo album making it very fucking great.
Since high school, Wu Tang kept keeping on for a while before imploding and slipping into a near nostalgia act. Method Man has made some very consistent and consistently under-promoted albums, Ghostface became the second favorite rapper of all those whose first favorite rap group is the Clipse, and Raewkon, in the words of Noz, "became the dude that released Only Built For Cuban Linx 15 years ago."
Which is a great assessment of Rae's solo work. You gotta hand it to dude, he could have called Immobilairty or Lex Diamond Only Built II and sold a shit load more copies, but he didn't, he didn't tarnish his own reputation, or the reputation of his classic first album. He stuck with his guns, made us wait for rap's Chinese Democracy and it turned out to be more than worthwhile. It holds up to it's own legend, and it's 15 year in the making status. It's a little long and bloated, but the fact remains, if I want to listen to Only Built, I'm just as likely to pull out I or II, and that is the mark of a quality sequel.

4. Mos Def - The Ecstatic
If this were a decade end list, there could be a discussion of the fall and rise of Mos Def. How he left the last millennium with a certifiable classic and then lost it through a combination of wack experimentation, coasting, and general not trying. I was psyched when The New Danger came out, and I'll bet it deserves a second change, but with the exception of his version of The Takeover, there's very little that remains memorable. And there's even less I'm going to listen to when I want to listen to Mos Def. His next album which he released with no linear notes, no cover arts, and minus a few songs, should have contained no music. Granted, it was a contractual obligation fulfillment record, but still, a little respect for the fans please?
He seemed more into acting and even if his performances were good, his role choices seemed lazy and uninspired. But his turn in Be Kind Rewind showed Mos Def returning to an older, younger version of himself unafraid to reach out and take artistic risks, but the kind on Black on Both Sides, not New Danger type risks. Risks that made sense. Risky choices, but ones he knew he could pull off. After all, no matter how good his Big Black Johnson rock band (or whatever they were called) was ever going to be, would it ever have been good enough to actually listen to? To actually enjoy?
This takes us to 2009. Mos releases his Ecstatic, and I'm sure a lot of people were skeptical. I read a few good things about it, and it wasn't that I didn't believe it, I just didn't care. Mos Def did something to me (pause) with his debut. I was young, impressionable, naive as to just how much impact hip-hop, and good hip-hop could sway over me (dare I say "change my life") and the failure of Mos Def's sophomore and junior efforts to captivate me in the way his debut had done actually steered me away from his brand of hip-hop, but this is a much deeper conversation, and a much longer post. So enough.
Point is, The Ecstatic isn't just great as a return to form, nor just a benchmark of an artistic turnaround, it's stands on it's own as a remarkable album with some truly great and timeless music. For any genre. Musically, the sound is all over the map, although there are a few beats with a more Middle-Eastern theme. But it's not a Mos-raps-over-world-mus album. The music is really, really good, I'd say everything is at least on par with Umi Says as far as the non-rap songs go. But, Mos combines it a lot, raps and sings later on the same songs. And his verses are spectacular. There's a few downsides, a joint he does in Spanish that I don't see any point of unless to say , "yo I bought a Rosetta stone at the mall and now I can sing in Spanish and it sounds kinda cool."
There's also an album stealing guest verse from Slick Rick may be the most entertaining thing I've heard all year, this fact should not get lost in the overall Mos Def conversation. Rick the Ruler kills it.

Order ends here, these all tie:

3. Built to Spill - There Is No Enemyjavascript:void(0)
Man, oh man. Way too fucking good. it's like it's 1999 and indie rock is cool, so you really need to go to your one friend's house who has a cd burner and copy this one asap. Liking this album is as simple as liking an album with great lyrics and quality musicianship. Also, did I mention there are some guitar solos that are neither indulgent nor meanderin

2. UGK - UGK 4 Life
Everything about this made me worried. I mean, just thinking about the final album from a legendary group released after their more infamous and outspoken member dies from syrup overdose, it's heavy shit. It had all the markings of too much hype, too little effort, and too much big label involvement/cash-in. But apparently, Bun-B saw the whole thing over from start to finish. He intended it to be a UGK album, not a Bun-B solo album with occasional verses from Pimp C. And he managed to pull it off. The beats throughout the whole album sound like vintage Pimp C productions, soulful churning organs, funk guitar riffs, a real down home, organic sound runs through the whole project.
Pimp C's verses never loose their nasal quality nor their outlandish sexual boasts. Bun's bass heavy booming, multi-syllable rapping is on point too, and it's a real united effort. In many ways, it's heartbreaking to hear how good these two were when they were together at their best. Neither Bun or Pimp's solo efforts ever matched up to anything they did as a group. Bun tends to get lost while Pimp gets way to angry, or sounds like he's trying too hard. But together, these guys were the greatest rap duo of all time. A perfect endnote to an amazing career discography.

1. Maxwell - BLACKsummers'night
I think I've said all I need to say about this in an earlier post. In short, it's more about emotions than physical desire (pause), the music is extremely tight, and the production doesn't stand in the way. What would normally plague an R&B album does not, and Maxwell has made one of those rare pieces of art which transcends his own genre.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Why The New R. Kelly Album Is A Failure

With his legal troubles finally behind him, R. Kelly's Untitled should be the sound a renewed man, a man ready to face the world again for the first time, a man with nothing holding him back, a man who broken free, a man emancipated. it's too bad Untitled contains no celebration, no sense of relief, not even an acknowledgement of awe at the amazing turn of justice of he received or the penalty he faced.. Instead, R. Kelly takes us on a trip........I'm not even going to do this. There's no point in a review in the classic sense, I've thought about this extensively, and I believe I've discovered the central reason why this album is terrible.

In the history of R. Kelly, his songs have explored sex though metaphors that can be charitably described outlandish, but highly entertaining. In many cases, the more absurd the metaphor (outer space and planetary travel) the more R. Kelly throws himself behind it as if to say, "oh you don't think space travel is an acceptable comparison to sexual intercourse, well please allow me to try and change your mind." In a sense, R. Kelly is only as good as his metaphors, or rather, R. Kelly is only as good as the strength of his own perception of his metaphors.

When Double Up came out, I was blown away. I thought R. Kelly had exhausted all metaphors, after comparing sex to his jeep, the ignition of his jeep, so on and so forth over the years, I thought he was done. But on Double Up, he took us into space, he took us to The Zoo, he told us about his Sweet Tooth, etc. I mean come on, the guy took us into space!

And that's when I should have been concerned, cause after you go up into space, put a flag in the moon and become the first couple to make love on planet Neptune, what can you do? It's a long way down from there.

So what does R. Kelly do? What does R. Kelly choose use as his fill in the blank, making love to you is gonna be like__________________? Oh, how about, I want to have sex with you so bad it's like I want to make you pregnant.

I mean, is that even a metaphor, does that even makes sense? Is it even something that he actually wants to do? And I always thought the goal of sex was not to get the girl pregnant, but then again, I've gone about plenty of things in life in entierly the wrong way.

This is not to say it fails because of its inherent simplicity, R. Kelly does simple very well. Some of his greatest songs involve taking a relatively simple concept and expoloring it, beating it to death all the way till the end of the song. Take "A Woman's Threat," when the song starts off, the listener empathizes with the man., but as the song progresses, and we hear more and more about what is going to happen, it gets sadder and sadder, and by the time someone's gonna wear your clothes, and someone's gonna fit your shoes, and someone's gonna get your kids, and someone's gonna open your door, empathy ends, and anger beings. We loose track of who is who in the song, and we feel the woman's threat being visited upon us, not some third party in the song. R. Kelly, through an excessive use of details, has successfully argued just how dangerous this woman's threat can be, and how we listeners need to change our ways so it does not happen.

Eighty percent of R. Kelly's great songs can be divided up into these categories, simple ideas beaten to death, and sexual double or single entdres. This album fails on both of those counts, the metaphors are pointless, tired, and humorless. And the concepts are decent, yet not explored to fruition. With "Sex in the Kitchen" R. Kelly used the kitchen as his metaphor but beat it to death by challenging himself to think of any and every method of food preparation that could remotely be compared to sex. On Untitled's "Banging on the Headboard" only invokes the title during the chorus and the adlibs on what seems like a twenty minute fade out. On a previous album we could have R. Kelly compare the noises of headboards against the walls to the noises his lover creates, the texture of the board to the texture of the woman's body, I really can't come up with too many more examples, as after all, I'm no R. Kelly.

There are some moments of misplaced passionate screaming, the pleading in "Go Low," the yodeling, yes yodeling in "Echo," but these prove to be the exceptions. The saddest thing about Untitled is the sense R. Kelly no longer believes in himself, let's hope he throw away the auto-tuner, goes on a vacation and writes down everything he sees from the security line at the airport to the towels by the pool to room service and turns them into sexual metaphors.

Gucci Mane


Yesterday, Gucci dropped his big label, big time, look at me grinding for the last two years in anticipation of releasing this album type of album. Let's hope it's good. In celebration of this magnificent event, I we should all look back at the final track on Gucci's 2007 Back to the Traphouse, Ballers.

At this point it should be pointed out this post is more or less a celebration of one of the greatest verses by a female emcee of all time.

So the basic premise of this song is the girl will only date ballers. Shawty got a fetish for boys that go and get it, and if you are lame or square, don't even think about calling her. With a premise like this, the natural worry is the female mc would prove how cool she is by bragging about her sexual prowess and powers and say rather disgusting things upsetting Sam in the process. I don't know when the art of female emceeing embraced sexual braggadocio and I don't really care, I'm sure there's some kid at Berkley writing his college thesis on, always with the goal in the back of his head Lil' Kim will actually care, or Remy Ma will change up her raps. Please. And then there's the whole post-feminist, girls gone wild argument about taking control of your sexuality by more or less acting like a for lack of better terms, a lady with low moral values.

But hey, we're talking about a song, not feminism. And thank everything holy for that. I believe I was saying, most female rappers would start to spit some crazy sex talk, proving how dope they are and the what not. Not Shawna. With only one reference to her own anatomy in two verses, she manages to more or describe herself as the coolest girl of all time, or at least since Jenny Lewis in The Wizard.

In Shawna's world, there's little she wants to do expect hang out, kick it with her girls, talk shit to some dudes, sell drugs, and get high. She hangs out with the boys, but she still is a lady, and you would be remiss to forget that. And in the meantime, she's just gonna chill and drink and smoke,
"I'm way fucked up, I'm way tore back,
but I don't' give a fuck, I got it like that."

And there's hope in the world, cause Shawna's not doing this alone. She actually hangs out with other women a lot like her, and she's proud of her crew, and proud of their life. Listen to her dedicate her verses:
"I wrote the first three for the bitches in the hood
My air-1 bitches smoking on the good
Sitting on the porch, sipping on the yak
Or posted in the parking lot sitting in the Lac"

Gucci's verse sandwiched between isn't bad either. it's a little all over the place, and everytime he comes and tries to holla at Shawna he gets a little confused. "Shawnna's so fine, Gucci Mane I'm good, She's so pretty, I'm so hood...I'm so Southern, You're so Northern, we so crack rock, they so corny, the way I kick a brick it's like I'm doing a performance." I'm mean, I'm no one to judge what to say to a lady, I think he should have complimented her a second longer before telling other people how cooking a brick is comparable to one of his live performances, which, are not too exciting and a rather dangerous place for a woman.

Alright, we all know Shawna is mad cool, did you know she's also Buddy Guy's daughter?



Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Pimp C passed away two years ago on Dec 4th. I missed it by a few days but I still wanted to briefly acknowledge this date. UGK has always been very very close to my heart. One of my favorite groups, hip-hop or otherwise, they are a rare group whose music does more than just sound good. I don't know how else to say it, but they have a feel, a vibe they convey through their music that just makes listening to them feel right. Music From Big Pink or John Wesley Harding style. Not the most mind-blowing music, but there's a feel to it, there's something about the sound that draws you in to the music. Is it the down home quality to it, the honesty involved, the intense level of artistic sincerity that makes you believe these guys are recording the exact type of music they want to be listening too? I don't know, but it worked, and it's timeless.

I've posted a lot of UGK and Pimp C related material up here, and I'm not going to turn this point into a well thought out argument in favor of UGK being outstanding. I will however leave the following clip (divided into two separate clips) of the infamous Pimp C Atlanta radio interview.
He did this shortly before he died, and if you aren't sold by the music, I hope you can enjoy the unfiltered spirit of the great Pimp C as he let's the people of Atlanta know he's not sorry for anything he said, but he'll explain what he said, and what he meant, if you gotta problem with him, he's gonna come see you Jack.

(topics include but are not limited to: Is Atlanta part of the south, does a different time zone from Texas make a place not part of the south, is Atlanta the gay capital of the world, under what circumstances is it ok to be gay, the finer points of fixing a tire with your family in the car, and why 17.5 is too low of a price for a kilo of cocaine.)

part two

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Three 6 MAFIA - Smoking on Da Dro feat Alice in Wonderland

I'm amazed this is so amazing.

And as far as Alice is concerned, did Walt Disney know "when she get high her favorite food is dick and Now-n-Laters?"
Somebody needs to thaw his ass out and let him know.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Because it has been over a year

Since I last posted this clip. I will post it again.

One of the greatest live performances on TV ever. A marker of things to come. A statement of purpose.

The day after this was on, was Rosh Hashanah and I saw Neil Klein at synagogue and we had a memorable three sentence conversation.
"Did you see Chris Rock show last night?"
"Dude, D'Angelo!"
"Who know he did it like these days."
'Yeah I just thought he sat behind the piano."
And then, out of nowhere, Andy Silverman's voice boomed "HE DOESN'T JUST SIT BEHIND THE PIANO ANYMORE BUDDY!"
Cause that's how he talks.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Back By Popular Demand (Popeye's) Video

The Clipse feat Cam'ron - Back By Popular Demand (Popeyes's)

Since Nirvana, all music has kinda sucked. I got back into listening to new bands when The Strokes came out with Last Night because it's such a cool song and they look super cool in the video. My favorite bands of all time are The Strokes, Radiohead, Animal Collective, and Journey. I'm also trying real hard to get into this band Panda Bear. Or Grizzly Bear, who can keep track anymore.

I'm not really too much into rap music. I like a lot of songs Nate Dogg sings on and I was excited to buy Get Rich or Die Trying. But hip-hop music is hard for me to get into because I like music where people play instruments and they really don't do that in rap. After a while, it all sounds the same. But, this group The Clipse, they are the exception.

I like The Clipse so much because they are really clever with the way they rhyme words. They don't just talk about selling drugs, but they come up with some new ways to brag about their former lives in the street. It's really interesting to me to hear stories about what goes on in that type of world. They are kinda like urban poets these guys. And they dress really well too. I'm really excited to go see them play live because I know that with my tight pants and neon fitted hat, there will be a lot of other white people that will be dressed just like me. I want to fit in and not be scared to be at a rap show. I hear sometimes things can get dangerous.

BUT SERIOUSLY FOLKS, this song is truly incredible. Cam's verse, which I was kinda iffy on at first is a classic and ranks somewhere low on his top ten. It has all of Cam'ron's skills put together, monosyllabic words rhymed with the same, returning to a previously dropped rhyme scheme, bookending rhymes with even more rhymes, and it's even catchy, which kinda blows my mind. I mean Ulysses is brilliant, but it's certainly not readable, even if it does involve a Jew walking around all day thinking, "Dublin? Ehhh."
And not to get lost is Pusha's verse, he starts with "you are now listening to the all-time phenomenal/Used to bag work in VA at Econo Lo," and continues his entire verse never changing his cadence or rhyme pattern. And it doesn't sound forced or gimmicky. Banger of the year folks.

And here's a treat. Cam KILLING it.