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Archive for the ‘Hip Hop/Rap’ Category

The Early Favorite for “Mixtape of the Year” Has Arrived

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If the album art at left seems vaguely familiar to you, that’s because you’ve seen it before. 

The newest mixtape from D.C. native Wale (probably the best rapper the general public somehow still doesn’t yet know about) is indeed an homage to his favorite TV show, Seinfeld — the original show about nothing.

The only thing wrong with Wale’s logic is that his mixtape is actually about something. A lot of somethings, even. He tackles one tough topic after the next on The Mixtape About Nothing, (racism, the music industry, love, growing up, artistic integrity to name a few) which should come as no surprise considering that before turning his attention to music full-time Wale played football at Virginia State. So just don’t call him a backpack rapper — cuz he ain’t one. But don’t call him a thug either, cuz Wale is about as far from a brainless thug as you’ll ever find in the rap game.

And that’s part of what’s great about Wale. You can’t pin him down as a “type,” paint him into a single-genre corner, or put him in a record company box. He’s too smart for that shit, and far too versatile (both lyrically and stylistically) to ever be defined as just one type of MC. Yeah he wears tight jeans and neon Nikes, but he’s still a street struggler who fought his way to record deals with Mark Ronson and Interscope. And sure he may call a girl “bitch” and his boys “nigga,” but that doesn’t mean he thinks “Obama” is some country in Africa either.

In a musical era where marketing and branding seem to come before beats and rhymes, most rappers are turned into virtual caricatures of themselves by providing (and encouraging) a specific self-image for their audience to hold on to…..

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This is the Remix!: When the Remix is Better than the Original

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Okay so P. Diddy didn’t actually invent the remix.

No shit.

He was probably not even born yet when Tom Moulton began doing dance remixes in the late 1960s, and wasn’t even ten years old by the time pioneering DJs and producers like Walter Gibbons, Tee Scott, Larry Levan, Shep Pettibone, and François Kevorkian were already deeply ensconced in remixing disco records. So, sorry, Diddy.

But it’s true that over the next fifteen to twenty years, particularly in the 1990s, Diddy and his Bad Boy Records production crew (aka The Hitmen) would have a hand in some truly great remixes, many of which were major improvements upon already popular songs from artists like 112, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Total, Usher, and Jennifer Lopez.

And it’s not just Diddy either — far from it. The remix has been prevalent in hip hop music since the genre’s inception, as DJs would essentially “re-mix” tracks (sometimes without even knowing what they were doing) by extending the breaks or most danceable portions of the records in order to satisfy the breakdancers and b-boys of the day. And the tradition of remixes in hip hop has stayed strong to this day — only growing stronger and more common with the advent of the mixtape (thanks DJ Clue, Green Lantern, Whoo Kid et al.) — as almost every track released seems to be followed by an “official” remix, along with a few other “unofficial” remixes (often just the same beat with a different rapper spittin’ on it) from various mixtapes and websites.

But what I’m most interested in is when the remix clearly becomes better and more popular than the original track itself, and not solely in the world of hip hop. Sometimes this means a complete overhaul of the track, as with Usher’s “Love In This Club (Part 2 Remix)” or “Everyone Nose” by CRS & Pusha T., and sometimes it just means adding some guest verses, as in Day26’s “Got Me Going” remix, which simply adds verses from Fat Joe and Rick Ross. (Note: the song is still lame, but not as lame).

So even though we’re not gonna hit them all — and they definitely won’t all come from the Bad Boy camp — I’d like to throw out some of the best examples of what I’m referring to, some classic, some current. Hopefully y’all can add some more to this list. Now this is not to say that the originals were bad in any way, most were already hot, just that they were eventually eclipsed by their respective remixes.

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Quick Hits: SO. HOT. RIGHT. NOW.

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After yesterday’s depressingly negative “Quick Hits” piece about Day26 (sorry, but someone had to say something about that foolishness), I bring you a truly quick “Quick Hit:”

It doesn’t happen very often. But every now and then a song comes along that single-handedly makes me wish I was still still DJing regularly. It’s not always the “best” song of the year, or even one I think most people will like. It’s not based on iTunes sales, chart peformance, or TRL countdowns.

It’s based solely on the fact that I’m dying to play this track at sickeningly high volume on a bumpin’ sound system for of a ton of drunk and/or high people that are dancing furiously together in a packed room. You’d think I would be able to remember the last time this happened, but I can’t. Anyway, enough of that already. This song is making me crazy. I can’t even wait until Friday’s Picks to post it.

So what’s the fucking song??

The song that’s absolutely slaying me right now is a remix of N.E.R.D.’s newest single, the cocaine anthem “Everyone Nose.” This is funny considering my utter disdain for the original version of this song, which I find to be relatively boring, ripped off too directly from reggaeton’s “At Chu,” and blatantly pandering to the “drugs are cool and so am I” Hollywood set. I mean, Lindsay Lohan makes a cameo in the freakin’ video!

Ugh.

But the remix…..probably a Pharrell/Kanye job, is drastically different. First of all it’s hardly even an N.E.R.D. song anymore. It has really become a CRS track, with an unbelievable beat that switches effortlessly between hip hop and techno. Haven’t heard of CRS yet? It usually stands for Child Rebel Soldier, but in this case, CRS is the self proclaimed “super-group” made up of Pharrell Williams, Kanye West, and Lupe Fiasco — appearing on the T-shirt you see above swathed in BAPE gear and Kalashnikovs. And on top of that, the remix features one of hip hop’s top lyricists — not to mention top cocaine experts — Pusha T from the Clipse. And everyone kills it on their respective turns. (Yes, even Pharrell).

Okay I’ve already said too much. This track is such heat! People are gonna go crazy for it in the clubs. It’s just absolute fire, pure gas, a ridiculous banger — off the hook, off the chain, off the meat rack, as we used to say. Just to give credit where credit is due, special thanks to DJ M.O.S., one of New York’s most highly-regarded and universally admired DJs, for making this track available. I’m about to blackout now.

Without further blabbering…..GET IT:

Everyone Nose (Remix)

Just play it loud.

– Jonathan

Album Review: Snoop Dogg’s Ego Trippin’

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At age 36, is Snoop Dogg going though a mid-life crisis?

Perhaps.

Ego Trippin’ (Geffen, 2008), his recently released 9th studio album, seems to indicate as much. But aging in “rap years” is a little like aging in “dog years,” and therefore puts Snoop Dogg far beyond mid-life — he’s a legitimate O.G., with hits dating back to 1993’s “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?” Unfortunately, Ego Trippin’ proves that for some reason the Doggfather himself is the only one unable to see his status and security in the hip hop game clearly. It’s almost as if he feels he needs to apologize to us for his TRL hits and million-dollar record sales. But he doesn’t. Not to me at least.

Sure, LL made Deep Blue Sea and Rollerball, but that doesn’t negate the importance and weight of “Mama Said Knock You Out” or “Around The Way Girl.” Yes, Ice Cube may have starred in every cheesy black comedy released in the past ten years (not counting Friday, ’cause that shit was dope), but he’s still a founding member of N.W.A. — the inventors of West Coast hip hop. (Sorry, ‘Pac). And while Snoop may be “guilty” of making more of his millions off “hip-pop” records and commercial appearances than his true to the blue Crip songs, he’s given us some great music — both poignant and serious, as well as fun and party-rockin’ — and been a great character in the hip-hop community. But somewhere in the making of the perhaps misnamed Ego Trippin’, Snoop appears to have lost his way, turning out a product more reminiscent of other artists than of himself, and haphazardly filling the voids between alter-egos disappointingly, with surprisingly unremarkable tracks. Perhaps this is why Ego Trippin’ had the lowest first-week sales numbers (137,00 units) of any Snoop Dogg solo album in history.

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Introducing…Adam Tensta (and his genre-bending sound) to America

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See there’s this album I’ve been listening to for a while now. I seriously enjoy it. It’s got a new and unique sound. The album’s called It’s A Tensta Thing (2007). The only problem is that when I tell people about it, they get turned off before they even turn it on. Why? Probably because the artist, an up-and-cummer (to use porn vernacular), called Adam Tensta, is a Swedish rapper. And evidently, those two words just don’t play well together.

But before you get all freaked out, don’t fret, he spits only in proper (big-A) American (little-g) gangster English. And frankly, he spits very well — somehow seeming to have been born without a Swedish accent. Tensta, whose real name is Adam Momodou Eriksson Taal, (Gambian father, Swedish mother) takes his surname from his ‘hood, a largely immigrant-filled suburb near Stockholm, rather than from his absentee father who he refers to as “Mr. Invisible” on the now-requisite “ode to mama” track, “Incredible,” which features a chorus from Isay, whoever the hell that is.

In interviews, Tensta, 24, has claimed mid-90s Nas and Mobb Deep as early influences (Ed. note: Well done, young Adam!), along with another famed grassroots struggler, Bob Marley. These influences are evident in Tensta’s lyrics, which, while running the marathon from heartfelt and vulnerable to brash and boastful, never let him stray too far from his two main topics: his tough, but clearly cherished, 80s/90s upbringing, and the current racial and political climate of Sweden.

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Written by Jonathan

March 29, 2008 at 12:32 am