Note: I created this blog as a way to open up a dialogue with others (you the reader). If you don't leave your fucking comments, then it's not a dialogue. I say all this to say, leave your comments in the comment box to the right or under the posts. It is much appreciated readers. -Management-
Sunday, August 5, 2007
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Saturday, July 28, 2007
Truthfully speaking, New York City hasn’t had much to be proud as far as emcees go as of late. Of course, there are a few bright spots but most of the headlines from the NYC rap scene have been about who’s being arrested or how so and so is beefing with whomever. Mid-90s, it was hard to get on the map in Hip Hop if you were from anywhere else but now, it’s the complete opposite. Skyzoo happens to be one of those bright spots for NYC I alluded to above. The Brooklyn emcee impressed fans and critics alike with his 12-track EP Cloud 9: The Three Day High. On his new mixtape, The Cornerstore Classic he aims to take it back to 95; a time when Hip Hop was thriving in NYC.
Most mixtapes will have the featured artist rhyming over an assortment of tracks that are buzzing on the radio and in the streets. Cornerstone Classic has Skyzoo electing to rhyme over vintage NYC records as well as some brand new tracks. The “intro” has Skyzoo spitting over Ghostface Killah’s “Nutmeg” from Supreme Clientele. Skyzoo’s does the track justice with crisp rhymes that are not too punchline-focused but laced with a few lines that may make you rewind like “I’m in the pocket of the beat, like I’m taxin’ it” and “still about my bread/been bakin’ for a year straight.” His flow is smooth and infused with utter cockiness but not the manufactured swagger that is seen so often in rappers nowadays. It comes off as natural. “Straighten Out” throws Sky over some 92’ Pete Rock (track of the same title) and starts with “haters is mad, I get more butt than stutterers/but, but you get the picture” and has him continue to rhyme on how far ahead of other rappers he is skating from bar to bar fluidly. He pays homage to old school NY by picking the beat of fellow New Yorker and legend, Pete Rock, and lays down 3 on par verses. Speaking of old school legends from NY, DJ Premier makes an appearance on “Get It Done” to really submerge you in that East Coast sound that Hip Hop heads love. “Get It Done” has Torae and Skyzoo feeding off of each other’s energy making both emcees drop some pretty solid verses. Skyzoo’s verse is the highlight of the track with him rhyming “I’m in a New York state of mind when I kick in the door/with a million and one questions when I’m bringing it on/whether friend or foe, this doe I need/now recognize or you gon’ get to know my steez/I’m so ghetto, I represent the back of the field/but I’m overflowin’ with mass appeal, I’m like royalty/just to get a rep, I’m on my own dick/it’s like 95 all over again.” Skyzoo’s wordplay and creativity on this particular track is insane. This is the type of track that’s exciting to listen to because both emcees are bringing their A-game. Sky drops some heat, then Torae ups the ante and throw in the aggressive head nod factor that Premo presents and you got a dope track. “Play Your Position” meshes Skyzoo and Detroit underground upstart, Guilty Simpson. Again, lyrically Skyzoo takes it up a notch on this collab digging into the funky guitar plucks with myriad punchlines. By this point in the mixtape, it’s evident Skyzoo is gifted with better than average lyricism.
The only missteps on Cornerstone Classic come in “Close Reach” and “the Paper.” “Close Reach” is one of those stock club tracks where the rapper raps as if he’s spittin’ game at a chick by the bar attempting to get her to come home with him. Sky spends most of his verse talking about garish jewels and chains and throwing around lewd remarks at the hypothetical chick. “The Paper” is one of those tracks where the rapper talks about how much they lust money; how much of a hustler he is, so on and so forth; definitely could have left this one off the tape.
Besides the two tracks above, I enjoyed listening to this mixtape a lot. It’s the kind of Hip Hop music that’s missing now. There’s a big gap between the progressive emcees and the gangsta rappers. It polarizes the fans making them have to choose whether they’ll pledge allegiance to one side or the other. Skyzoo’s brand of music falls between that gap. His lyrics will appeal to lyricism first Hip Hop heads but his music is not so complex that it would alienate the average rap fan. Skyzoo on Cornerstone Classic represents the complete package emcee—good lyrics, nice flow and mad swagger—that’s almost grown extinct. If this mixtape is symbolic of things to come, he’s definitely someone to expect big things from in the future.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
A while back I did this post pondering the simple question of would I or wouldn't I pertaining to the skin slapping of Laila Ali. Now, this...Deelishis of Flavor of Love fame has tried to Debo her way into at least two more seconds of fame with a singing career. Her single is called "Rumpshaker" which leaves little to the imagination but I must say, "wow." Now given she does don the face of Jack Black but her hindparts are akin to those of a reindeer/donkey hybrid. We can front all we want to but, on any given day, if we see a chick w/these proportions on the street there's no question what we're thinking--COITUS!!! It's difficult to imaginge making this move without the paper bag fitted prior to this but man...View the video below and let me know what yall would do. Given my status as a scumbag, it's apparent what my course of action would be.
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
Chamillionaire’s path to success embodies the strength of his hustle and the meaning of triumph. He went from being shafted for mixtape money by his old label, Swishahouse, to publicly beefing with longtime friend and business partner, Paul Wall, to platinum plus album sales, numerous awards and becoming the first artist to ever achieve triple platinum status ringtone sales for his collaboration with Krayzie Bone on “Ridin’ Dirty”; quite a come up, indeed. With the commercially successful, Sound of Revenge, on the backburner Chamillionaire continues his aggressive and unremitting hustle dropping his third installment of the Mixtape Messiah pt. III.
In probably the umpteenth remake of 50 Cent’s “I Get Money,” Chamillionaire’s “Money Already Made” displays his penchant for snappy one-liners and colorful wordplay. The song is dense with myriad witticisms like: “a suit and tie, I can’t lie I’m in a pair of Nikes/with the rumors, don’t talk cuz I’m not the parrot type” or “nobody sold a ringtone as big as you/they Shock G/our underground is digital/if you a groupie and you ain’t bring a friend with you/then Imma make you turn around like a pivot do” and others of the sort. Most of the first couple of tracks on this mixtape are used to boast about how much paper he has amassed and describing his numerous material possessions—typical rapper bravado—but it’s not until “It’s Just Pain” where Cham ventures beyond the superficial and discusses some of his personal issues, we really see the depth of the artist. Over Jay’s “Renegade,” he discusses the defunct relationship between him and his father, the emotional effects of witnessing altercations between his mother and father and a situation where a white groupie, he never met, claimed he was the father of her child. The song explores the personal strife he experienced and how he used his spirituality to cope with his pain. Following the track, he places a physical phone call to God enumerating his problems. God, subsequently, hangs up on him like a friend you call on too much; a creative addition to the track to an already insightful track. On “Don’t Hurt Em Hammer” Cham shares that he doesn’t contain the candor he once had for rap saying, “I’ll keep it all the way honest with you. I just be spitting a lot of those punchlines because a lot of people tell me that’s what they want to here. Like me, honestly, I grew out of it. I honestly don’t even like rap like I used to.” So, don’t be surprised if his stay in the rap game comes to an early conclusion. Over Kanye’s beat for “the People” Cham rhymes about his distaste for rap because of the fickle nature of critics, the evident dishonesty of other rappers and how rap, something he once extolled has become childish and embarrassing. Contrary to that, “Got a Lot of Options” serves as weak filler where Cham discusses, in detail, seducing women with gaudy and pricey cars. The tape concludes with Cham rhyming over another Kanye beat; this time “Stronger.” He leaves the listener with a memorable quote stating, “I say whatever I want to say like Kanye/and kindly tell you have a nice day/if Hip Hop is dead then I say/that I escaped Death Row like I’m Dre” and, of course, a plug to his album The Ultimate Victory which will drop September 18th.
Chamillionaire moniker is truly apt as on Mixtape Messiah III he shows once again how versatile of an artist he is. He rhymes effortlessly and skillfully varying the inflection of his voice, changing up his tempo mid-flow or going in and out of a croon. He gives it to you on the hood side rhyming about whips, pistols and money stacks but he’s mature enough to see how silly the rap game has become. Not many artists have this balance. I wish he would have spent more time on this mixtape discussing relevant issues but, on a mixtape that doesn’t come as much of surprise as most mixtapes are about giving listeners momentary gratification until the album drops. He also relies too heavily on punchlines on this tape but that goes hand in hand with the prior line. Mixtape Messiah III is a definite buzz builder and temporary pleaser until The Ultimate Victory drops.
For Joe Budden, the only way to keep his name buzzing in the streets is by keeping a presence on the mixtape circuit. Budden has only had one studio album, his self-titled debut, which came out about four years ago. It’s now 2007 and you’re still liable to hear Budden’s name mentioned in a conversation about rappers who could possibly inherit the rap game. Why, you ask; he’s just that good. He’s one of the few emcees who have no limits as far as subject content, lyricism that’s matched by few and flow that can change at the drop of a hat. His potential knows no bounds but while his follow-up to his debut, the Growth, remains in limbo over there at Def Jam all we can do is settle for the mixtapes. With The Album Before The Album, let’s hope its Budden’s final prelude to his upcoming sophomore effort.
Budden is one of the few cats that can give you that soul; the creativity on a concept track; take you to the streets; then, back to the club all in one swoop. On the The Album Before The Album he does just that. “Cold World” featuring Muziq Soulchild is that heartfelt soul (no pun intended) I’m alluding to. In verse one, he makes allusions to other rapper’s album titles to describe the despair he felt growing up in the slum. Joe rhymes:
See I was always looking for an out/knew what I didn’t want to be about/didn’t want to fall victim to the crowds/(Street Dream)ed like Fab/but not dreams like that/cause his are better than the dreams I’ve had/you are where you from, maybe to some/but I won’t let a nigga label me slum and make me succumb/if I’m a grown ass man with no job and no money that would make me a bum/that’s not okay with me none/that’s what they called me, I hated that y’all/wasn’t a College Dropout at least Kanye made it that far.
He uses the rest of the track to explore how quickly black youth—especially black women—are growing up, the rapid increase of gun violence and shady politics. And towards the end he does something most rappers are afraid to do because they fear losing their street cred; he dispels endorsing being hood saying it prevents the production of leaders and claims it’s a defeatist mentality.
On “Three Sides to a Story” Joe Budden narrates a multi-perspective tale of tragedy. The tale begins with an ex-convict older brother who’s just released from prison attempting to get back on his feet but ends up back in jail because society fails to give him another chance. Then it transitions to his sister who is coping with a step-father that is constantly molesting her. Later we find out that she’s pregnant with the step-father’s seed. In the final verse, we find out the step-father is a nemesis of the older brother and the story concludes with the two having a shoot-out where the sister ends up getting hit with a stray shot. Although there are some lapses in the story’s plot, it’s stunning how vivid this tale is. Budden’s details allow the listener to feel as if they’re witnessing the story first-hand or being navigated through the story by a street corner narrator.
“I’m Back” is a bit less somber and more light-hearted. The track plays off of the Jay-Z snippet where he “claims there’s someone sitting at a table eating a bowl of Applejacks, desiring his spot and between eating the cereal he’s writing some shit,” an apt snippet given Joe’s circumstances. Joe uses this bouncy track to proclaim his return to the game. There’s also some tough guy gun-talk, a few punchlines about getting neck but nothing too substantial on this effort. If anything Budden is attempting to show his versatility keeping up with the increased speed of the track and finding a decent pocket to flow in between the congo drums and synths. On “Pop Off” fellow NJ native, Just Blaze, and Budden collaborate again to make another high tempo club-oriented track; sounds real similar to “Pump It Up.” The track is a bunch of recycled Just Blaze tracks combined into one but such is expected for a mixtape. Budden dumbs down the content on this one to make it easily consumable for the club crowds and spends a lot of time using his lines to flirt with the opposite sex. I, personally, tend not to like these types of efforts but without these types of tracks it’s difficult to reach the radio airwaves.
On The Album Before The Album manages to do what most artists neglect to do on their real albums; show that they have more then one dimension. He explores his self on tracks like “Stained,” “Outcast” and “Is This My Life.” He explores his surrounding environ, the rap climate and the silliness of the ongoing beef. He does his share of story-telling and he even has some tracks you can dance to, although these seem to be the weakest of the aforementioned tracks. As with most mixtapes there are some tracks that are simply clutter on this tape but the quality tracks skew heavily over the poor ones. On this mixtape, Budden shows he’s as gifted as his core audience fables him to be and he manages to give cats another reason to anticipate his next studio album, the Growth.
Tuesday, July 24, 2007
Few have a discography that rivals Lonnie Lynn’s (Common). Given his incessant consistency, sheer ingenuity, unfathomable depth and sharp lyricism, you have to mention Common’s name when you’re having the discussion of who’s the greatest emcee of all time. His status was further solidified by his sixth album, Be, that was hailed by many as a classic. Coming off of critical and commercial success Common intends to etch his name in history books eternally with his seventh lp, Finding Forever
It’s hard to not get excited about the possibility of a classic based upon Common’s lead singles, “The People” and “The Game” but the true tale of the album is botched attempts like upcoming single “Drivin’ Me Wild” featuring UK pop sensation, Lily Allen. Kanye West adeptly handles the production with a Rotary Connection sample, repetitive key strokes, and a familiar drum pattern but, lyrically, Common slips up with lackadaisical lines like:
she was the type to watch Oprah and the Today Show/be on the treadmill [uh] like okay, go/had a body, had a body that you can’t pay for/that means she has D’s on her but they wasn’t fake though” and “[he] wanted to be Mike but he was never live in sports/since golf was in, he was on the driving course/to live the rap life, is was what he was striving for/spending cash at the bar to get credit/drinking Chandon just because Big said it/they say Ye is, but dude is big-headed/rock a fur in the summer…so somebody would pet it.”
The track is seemingly about trying too hard to be something you’re not but comes off as vague, unfocused and unclear as Com concludes with the sweeping statement of “love is not a mystery/it’s everything.” In substitute of compellingly threading the three verses together, he instead settles on capping it off with a broad all encompassing statement—a weakness Common has displayed before. “Break My Heart” is another lyrically unfulfilling track that overly simplifies and comes off as complacent effort by a usually lyric-driven, Common. He lead his first verse off with “it was a dream day/met her on Spring Break/look like the type that be like no habla ingles/she said you look like you rap, where’s your bling-ay/and your clothes are tight but you don’t seem gay/I said naw that’s dude from N-Sync-ay/she wasn’t married, kept a ring on her pink-ay/she said you know I don’t be dating rappers/I said I got my Sag card, baby I’m an actor” (hook commences). On “I Want You,” one of the few tracks that is not produced by Ye, (prod. by Will.I.am) we find Common ruminating on lost love but never really going beyond the surface tying together strings of trite clichés and nuances and an uncommon (no pun intended) pop reference to Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughn’s break-up.
Finding Forever does illustrate the insightful, introspective Common that garnered his core audience on tracks like “Black Maybe” featuring soul singer, Bilal. On said track, Common dually throws a nod to legend, Stevie Wonder, and explores the difficult topic of people of color coping with obstacles because of their color; not just from other nationalities but also from their own people. He does so accessing a narrative of a gifted athlete who briefly transcended the perils of the street using his athleticism on the basketball court, but is tragically shot down by the same peers who used to have his back to illustrate this paradox. On “Misunderstood,” Com brings the poignant pen game rhyming passionately with unabridged and unabashed truth about people doing what they have to do to survive in the ghetto. The album concludes on an emotive note with this final verse:
ashes and snow falls/I wonder when the role call/…for Heaven gon’ come/ forever gon’ come/it’s a cold world/I can never go numb/look fear in the eyes/say I’m never gon’ run/sooner then later, I know the cheddar gon’ come/for now I write the world letters to better the young/on tree by jewelry, together we hung/now we let our chains hang and gangbang to maintain/Afghanistan going through the same thang/it’s trickles down at each other we aim…/I shoot for the stars, peace and exclusive cars/through the ride I’ve learned to earn hard/watch gangstas turn God in the midst of war/no matter how much I elevate I kiss the floor/it was in the wind when she said Dilla was gone/it was then when I knew we live forever through song.
Finding Forever falls far from being presented with classic status because of its lyrical shortcomings and because the album never really finds a comfortable groove—half producer, half emcee. Between out of place pop references, lazy and uncharacteristic punchlines and for lack of better words uninspired verses it’s hard to imagine that this is the follow-up to arguable classic, Be. For every touching song that reminds me of why I love listening to Common (“Black Maybe,” “Misunderstood” and “Forever Begins), there’s a track that leaves me dumbfounded asking what happened to the hungry, thoughtful lyricist I used to know (“Break My Heart,” “I Want You” and “Drivin’ Me Wild”). Common’s album towers over most albums that have come out this year which is no surprise to anyone who’s familiar with his work and his ability. But as far as ranking amongst his own work and albums of his progressive peers, Finding Forever, is easily forgettable.
Monday, July 23, 2007
I've always found beat-making to be an intriguing process accept when you don't know how to do that shit. Then it's terrible.
(Originally wrote for HipHop DX)
Disclaimer: Yea, I know what kind of response I'm going to get for this post--especially from loyalists of the artist. I really don't care. I only call it how I see it and what I proffer through my blog is the truth to me; hence my prior alias, "The Only Opinion that Matters."
With that said, as many of you know (or at least those of us who know how to use bit torrents and the such for the purpose of, shall we say, advance album review), the Common Finding Forever leaked between Thursday night and Friday morning. I actually found out about the leak reading a blog here. I was geeked to say the least as I've been an avid Com fan since his days of only dealing with NoI.D and since before he got sued by that rock band to drop the Sense. The expectation from myself, and many others, was that with Finding Forever, Common was going to surpass his prior effort, Be and cement his status as one of the greatest to ever do it. I think we were all ready to see Com get his props, financially and critically, especially after he was teabagged at the Grammys. Many were set to deem his 7th lp a classic based on the singles "The People" and "The Game." Well...it's certainly not that...I hate to be the one to drop the bomb on those who haven't heard it yet, but fuck it; it's actually kind of wack.
What prevented Be from being a classic, to me, was that the songs dealt with broad topics like love and faith but in a very loose way that didn't really address anything in particular. They were just as I put it before "romanticized musings with no true point." And Com has dealt with those topics before but in the past he's done it in a more focused manner. I respect the fact that Com delves into issues that most emcees don't touch, but that doesn't mean he gets a pass to mediocrity and truth be told, that's what Finding Forever is. Laden with lame pop culture references (Lance Bass/Vince Vaughan etc.) and beats that attempt to emulate Dilla's unique sound but fail, miserably (sorry Kanye you're not Dilla bruh). The weaknesses of Be are amplified on Finding Forever. The lyricism on the lp is Com at his weakest and if you compare it to his progressive peers' releases i.e. Pharoahe and Talib...it really doesn't compare, creatively or lyrically, to either's latest releases. I understand what he's doing--getting his mainstream paper, do your thing bruh--with Lily Allen features, dumbed down lyrics and alot more syrupy ballads to woo the women but it hurts that much when it's someone you like. Consider Finding Forever Common riding off (to Hollywood) in a Bentley waving bye-bye to his core fanbase for the greener pastures of that thick MTV guap. I'm sure I'll have to debate some Com fans here but trust me, it doesn't give me any pleasure ripping one of my favorite emcees--especially someone from the same place as you. In memorial of the Com I used to know I'll list a few tracks for nostalgia purposes.
"Like They Used to Say"
"Soul by the Pound"
"Real Nigga Quotes"
"Every Stolen Moments"
P.S. Spare me the retorts about how this is a "grown man" album or how I should let the music just be what it is because accepting mediocrity is why shit's fucked up in the first place. Also, one flop doesn't eliminate the man's legacy. He's still a legend and probably one of the best to ever do it but this album sucks. It is what it is.