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Posts Tagged ‘Hip Hop

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: May 30th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Wyclef Jean Feat. Lupe Fiasco – Fast Car (Fugee Remix)

Unlike last week’s picks, I’m really not going with any particular theme here — these songs are about as unrelated as you can get (one new, one old, one classic). First up is somethin’ new, former Fugees bassist and Wyclef Jean cousin Jerry Wonder’s remix of Wyclef’s “Fast Car,” the second single off Clef’s much-anticipated album, Carnival Vol. II: Memoirs of an Immigrant. Personally, I had been looking forward to the album’s release for months, as I grew up bumpin’ great tracks like “Guantanamera,” “We Trying to Stay Alive,” and “Gone Till November” off Wyclef’s first album, The Carnival, which I thought was amazing. Unfortunately, the newest album failed miserably to meet my already high expectations, and that disappointment extended to the original version of “Fast Car” as well, which features Paul Simon. I remember thinking upon first listen that the song had potential but stopped short of being really good. Needed more bump. Thus, I’m glad to say that Jerry Wonder’s remix has done just that: elevated “Fast Car” to another, greater level. Not only is the remix a good one, but it stands strong as its own entity, with producer Wonder giving the track three different layers of beats and building the chorus into an infectious sing along. Even though the Carnival Vol. II album isn’t as good as I’d envisioned, the “Fast Car” remix is going a long way towards making me feel like Wyclef’s still got it.

2. Clipse Feat. Sean Paul, Elephant Man, Kardinal Offishall – Grindin’ (Reggae Remix)

So this is the old(er) pick, and admittedly the logic that brought me to choosing this track is somewhat convoluted, so bear with me here. I think it’s safe to say that Kardinal Offishall is among the top three Canadian rappers of all time (not that I can name the other two), and I was sad to see that he had somewhat fallen off the face of the musical earth over the last few years. But recently, he signed with Akon’s Konvict Muzik, reinvigorating his career, and just released a hot first single with Akon called “Dangerous,” instantly inserting himself back into the game. Hearing Kardinal spit on “Dangerous” (yes, I admit it’s almost a pop song, but who cares?) immediately brought me back to 2002, and the release of what was the hottest beat I had ever heard at that point in my life and DJ career: “Grindin’” by Clipse (beat by the then en fuego Neptunes). Frankly it might still be the hottest beat today, I don’t know. Regardless, the only thing better than “Grindin'” itself was the reggae remix, which featured Sean Paul, Elephant Man, and of couse, Kardinal Offishall, who absolutely SLAYS the track with his closing (third) verse, and steals the song altogether, despite tight verses from both Sean Paul and Elephant Man. See, “Dangerous” you can find anywhere now. But the “Grindin'” reggae remix?? I don’t know if it even left the decks of New York’s DJs! (Who loved it, by the way). Therefore, I give you what you might not ordinarily be able to find. Behold.

3. Cherrelle & Alexander O’Neal – Saturday Love

Now this one is definitely a classic: 1985, baby. Back in the day, old school R&B style. A duet between Cherrelle and Alexander O’Neal, “Saturday Love” hit number two on the U.S. R&B charts (and number 25 overall) in 1985-86 thanks to Cherrelle’s addictive chorus and O’Neal’s signature silky smooth 80s vocals. What could be better? It’s a classic example 1980s R&B pre-New Jack Swing era, which began to dominate R&B at the tail end of the 80s and into the early nineties. And though Cherrelle may draw top billing on this track (it’s from her album, High Priority) it’s O’Neal who has experienced a bit of an unintentional resurgence as of late. His verse from “Saturday Love” was (very obviously) sampled in 1999 by Italian DJ and house producer Junior Jack for his hit single, “My Feeling.” More recently, however, and perhaps more pertinently, Alexander O’Neal’s equally amazing R&B hit (I could easily have picked it instead of “Saturday Love” for today’s playlist), “If You Were Here Tonight,” — video HIGHLY recommended — was sampled by none other than up-and-coming Swedish rapper and old IDK favorite, Adam Tensta. His track “80s Baby,” which I chose for IDK’s very first edition of The Friday Writers’ Bloc, prominently features both the melody and the chorus from “If You Were Here Tonight” to great effect. So embrace the throwbacks, young people, embrace ’em. And right here’s a good place to start.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Corb Lund – The Horse I Rode in On

I don’t know a whole lot about this guy. He’s comes from a long line of Alberta cowboys and he likes to use civil war cavalry images on his albums and website. He writes beautifully simple songs that seem to emanate from a time out of mind and yet feel oddly familiar. If you don’t think you like country music, try coming to this song with an open mind because it exhibits an honesty and genuineness that has been lost in the glitz of modern country music.

2. Andru Bemis – Huck Finn

Another strange character from the West, Andru Bemis has spent time traveling the country on the rails with his instrument on his back, working odd jobs to support his odd music, which is quiet, solitary, strange, and out of place. This particular song has an irresistible childishness while expressing a very grown-up sense of sadness at feeling out of place in time.

3. Avett Brothers – Salina

Like Lund and Bemis, these guys came somewhere from the fringes of the American musical landscape and create strange and soulful tunes. While in the last couple of years, they’ve moved more towards the center of Americana music the brothers haven’t lost much of their weirdness. This tune, off their most recent album Emotionalism (2007), showcases the Avetts’ superb songwriting talents as well as the catchiness that has propelled them into a growing spotlight.

Carman’s Picks

1. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Y Control

Somebody once said to me, “I don’t get why people think Nick Zinner is such a great guitarist. All he does is just play the same two notes over and over again.” Obviously the person who said that simply didn’t get it. Not only was Zinner great because of the harsh and sonorous buzz of his guitar, but for his economy. He played those two notes over and over again, sure, but he did it with the driving force of a Wagnerian symphony. We all remember the surprise hit that was the beautiful “Maps,” but the highlight of their debut album was the incredible “Y Control” that immediately followed “Maps” in the track sequence. Following the dripping guitar lines that concluded “Maps,” this song immediately slams you down with Zinner in control. When we look back on this decade, I can only hope that the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are remembered with more fondness than they are now. At least before they wrote “Gold Lion.”

2. The Police – “King Of Pain”

OK, so I realize I’m not digging very far into the record collection with my picks today. Last night I saw The Police (with Elvis Costello & The Impostors as the opening act) at the Hollywood Bowl so I’ve been in a Sting mood. The Police are an interesting band because they’re far better than we ever really give them credit for. Yes they had all those hits and are beloved by classic rock fans everywhere so they get credit where credit is due, but they’re far better than just being another flavor-of-the-month borrowed nostalgia trip to the unremembered Eighties for the 20something crowd. They released 5 excellent albums in their brief career as a unit, and made quite an interesting progression from new wave popsters to essentially creating the world music soundscapes that Paul Simon’s Graceland helped to popularize amongst the yuppies. While the concert was good, it was sad to see The Police essentially Synchronicitize many of their early hits (“Next To You,” “So Lonely,” “Message In A Bottle” to name a few) into Sting solo material by sapping all of the energy that was present in those songs. The transformation was imminent as far back as the second Police album, but Sting fully metamorphosed from rock star into scented candle with the band’s 1983 swan song of Synchronicity. It sounds like I’m slagging the album, but I actually truly love it. It’s easily the greatest adult contemporary album ever recorded.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

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A Belated Look: Mary J. Blige – Growing Pains

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I’ve been keeping Mary J. Blige’s latest album, Growing Pains (Geffen 2007), at the bottom of my record pile for months — unopened, unheard. I must confess this was not a matter of simple oversight, nor a case of procrastination.

I just didn’t want to hear it.

See, it’s borderline sac religious for a hip hop and R&B fan not to like Mary J. But despite her being a near-constant presence in the New York music scene for the last fifteen years, I’ve just never been able to get into the so-called “Queen of Hip Hip Soul.” She doesn’t have Whitney’s pipes — I’m referring to vocal cords here, people, not crack paraphernalia — Mariah’s range, Jill Scott’s soul-food soul, or India Arie’s earthiness. And she damn sure doesn’t have Janet’s dance moves. In fact, Mary J. Blige is one of the most awkward, out of sync dancers I’ve ever seen. She makes Dame Dash look like Savion Glover.

Now, I’m not saying she doesn’t have talent (she does), or charisma (definitely), or marketability (8x platinum, anyone?), but it has been her human vulnerability and open honesty (concerning her bouts with drugs, alcohol, and abusive relationships, not to mention being molested at age five) that has driven her record sales for the last ten years. Her music is real and it is genuine. And this is a good thing — I like that in an artist. But I’ve always thought Mary was…well, in a word: overrated. Historically almost all of her best songs have been collabos/duets: “Real Love” (Remix) with Biggie, “I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need to Get By” with Method Man, “Love Is All We Need” with Nas, “Back 2 Life 2001” with Jadakiss, “Family Affair” (Remix) with Jadakiss and Fabolous, and “911” with Wyclef Jean. Not to mention everything with Jay-Z. The list goes on.

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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