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Posts Tagged ‘Jay-Z

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: June 27th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Pick

1. Crystal Antlers – A Thousand Eye

Fun psych rock straight out of Long Beach, CA. Produced by Ikey Owens-keyboardist of the Mars Volta, this song is the 3rd song off their 3rd but self-titled EP- Crystal Antlers. Ikey seemed to be able to harness CA’s balance of rocking grooves and psych tangents in an edible song size, in such way The Mars Volta have rarely been able [surely consciously though] to do. I first started hearing these guys on the local hours on indie 103.1, but seems like the press has spread.The Crystal Antlers seemed to just have blown up all over the place in the past few months. Now Pitchfork can have a love affair with a new Crystal [Castles]. You can very well catch them in a city near you too, while they travel their butts off: http://www.myspace.com/crystalantlers

2. Monotonix – Body Language

I never really heard much of these Israeli rockers until I became re-obsessed with videothing.com and their daily documentation of the Fuck Yeah Fest Tour (including the Crystal Antlers) as they travel around the country in a vintage school bus fed on vegetable oil. These guys seem to rock harder then anybody live (you must go to videothing.com and see Monotonix destroy North Carolina), frequently pouring garbage on each other, throwing the nearest garbage can on the drummer, pouring beer all over band members while performing, and the lead singer’s propensity for spreading his ass cheeks to both the audience and his microphone. Performance aside though, these guys rock-blending 70’s Zeppelin-like fuzz with noise rock and a punk outlook. It’s pronounced HUMMUS.

3. The Mae Shi vs. Miley Cyrus – See U Again

I wrote about these guys recently-but this really deserves it. I dare you to listen to this song, and not listen to it again. I dare you. This song is thoroughly stuck in my head. That’s the contagious factor of a good pop song. These spazz-punk-pop rockers one-upped Miley Cyrus, perfecting her own pop ballad (she didn’t write it right, it was totally some 40 year old ghost writer?). The arpegiating keyboard loop in the background – the perfect amount of auto-tune. The digital unwinding in the middle is the perfect reminder that this actually the Mae Shi. Brilliant. Now if only I could keep a lid on me singing “I’m just being Miley” in public….

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Colby O’Donis – She Didn’t Go, She Did Leave

I promise you this song is not nearly as awkward as its title. In fact, it’s actually quite good thanks to a slightly syrupy, dark, synth-heavy beat contributed by Timbaland. While O’Donis’ debut single “What You Got” certainly grabbed the attention of many in the pop and R&B communities, it also managed to garner the attention of Billboard’s Hot 100 and U.S. Pop charts, peaking at numbers 14 and 15 respectively. “She Didn’t Go, She Did Leave” seems less likely to do so: though the Internets were filled with rumors that the awkwardly titled track would be O’Donis’ follow-up single off his forthcoming album, Colby O, this week the infinitely more pop-friendly “Don’t Turn Back” was released as O’Donis’ newest single, leaving “She Didn’t Go, She Did Leave” to remain merely an Internet and record pool release. Whether or not it will appear on the album is unknown. Now, I have to admit I don’t really like the idea of O’Donis — he looks like a fourth Gotti brother (he is from Queens, after all) and could easily have played a starring role in the YouTube sensation “My New Haircut” — but his non-threatening sound and baby-faced look have helped the 19-year-old land a deal with Akon’s Konvict Muzik imprint, and an impressive first single. Although it may not be released, “She Didn’t Go, She Did Leave” is actually a better song in that it relies less on pop appeal and more on its own unique sound. Oh, and it doesn’t have Akon on it. So that’s always a plus.

2. Fabolous – A Milli Freestyle

So I guess this pick is a little bit unorthodox since it’s really not an official track of any kind. Regardless it’s good, and that’s what matters. Fabolous jacks the beat from Lil Wayne’s second single, “A Milli,” off Weezy’s new album, Tha Carter III, and pretty much just goes to town on it. It’s worth mentioning that right now most people are probably hearin’ and feelin’ Jay-Z’s subtle, yet clearly big boss-like, spin on “A Milli” with his one-upping (actually, make that his one thousand-upping) “A Billi” freestyle. And I’m feelin’ that too in a big way. But getting much less attention is Fabolous’ take on the original track. I’m not really a big Fabolous fan when when it comes to actually rhymin’ — he’s often a little soft in terms of any real lyricism — but I gotta give him his due on this freestyle. So I don’t really know what happened with him, but for some reason he just kinda blacks out on this one. (Maybe he actually did black out?) In any case, it’s as if the “F-A-B-O…” character died and came back to life as a serious rapper with some serious verbal chops. So leave the preconceived notions at the door and give the improved Fabolous a chance. Cuz I’m impressed.

3. Fabolous Feat. Jay-Z and Uncle Murda – Brooklyn

I’ll be honest, I was gonna choose something else new for my third pick, but listening to, and then writing about, that Fabolous freestlye got me thinking about one of my favorite (and somehow largely unappreciated outside of perhaps a single borough of New York City) hip hop tracks from the last few years: Fab’s “Brooklyn” off his highly-anticipated, but follow-though lacking, 2007 album, From Nothin’ To Somethin’. With an intro by NYC’s legendary Funkmaster Flex (whose website is like a visual representation of his voice) and an absolutely FILTHY beat from producer Versatile (wait, who?) that brilliantly incorporates a sample from Biggie’s infamous MSG freestyle, the song just can do no wrong. I’m not saying any of the verses are flat-out slayers, but that’s about as good as you’re gonna get from Fab, and Jay-Z spittin’ about Brooklyn…..well, let’s just say you can’t go wrong with that either. I’d never heard of Uncle Murda until this track, and I’m not exactly overwhelmed by his wits or skillz, but it’s no shock he’d be the weakest of the three. Be sure to catch the outro on “Brooklyn,” where Fab breezily name-checks each Brooklyn neighborhood (Bed Stuy, Bushwick, Fort Green, Red Hook, etc) by rhyming each individually. This song deserves recognition, dammit.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

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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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The Friday Writers’ Bloc: June 13th, 2008

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Jonathan’s Picks

1. Wale – W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E

If you aren’t yet familiar with Wale, you will be soon — not least because I’ll be writing about him next week — because he’s been primed to blow up for two years now, inching closer and closer to stardom. Having revealed that I’ll be bringing you a piece on Wale next week, I won’t reveal too much about the Washington D.C.-born, ex-college football playing MC in today’s picks. But what I am revealing is the year-old gem, “W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E.,” which first appeared on Wale’s 2007 mixtape 100 Miles & Running, and says a lot about the artist by itself. For one, it shows Wale’s a lyricist, not just a rapper — his intelligent wordplay covers a wide array of subjects from music and sports to pop culture and fashion. But perhaps equally important is that this track displays Wale’s musically courageous and adventurous nature: he chose to rap over the French electro-pop group Justice‘s international dance hit, “D.A.N.C.E.,” rather than a typical Hip Hop beat. That takes some balls. S for now, enjoy the song, and look forward to hearing more next week.

2. Nas Feat. Keri Hilson – Hero

Look, there isn’t much to say about this song. It’s too damn good. “Hero” is the second single off Nas’ (highly-anticipated would be an understatement) upcoming, though still untitled, album set to drop a month from now. Produced by hitmaker of the moment, my man Polow da Don (aka King of the White Girls — sorry still love that nickname), “Hero” just bangs so hard despite it’s “softer” style R&B chorus sung by the up and coming Keri Hilson (see pick three). I expect this will actually be among the most radio-friendly of the cuts off the upcoming album, even though Nas spits his usual fire and Polow’s beat knocks harder than most (and I don’t care if he made it with GarageBand), it’s got mass appeal and is not as inflammatory as several other Nas tracks off the untitled album I’ve heard recently. But Nas’ flow is flawless and Polow came and “did his muhfuckin’ job,” as Jay-Z might say…..so just, damn.

3. Keri Hilson – Energy

Keri Hilson is someone in the music industry you can actually root for. She’s legitimately multi-talented (a real singer and real songwriter) and has spent years paying her dues by working “behind the scenes” in the industry. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s, um, rather attractive…..you know, physically. (She recently played Usher’s love interest in his “Love In This Club” music video). After seven years of writing songs for other artists such as Britney Spears, Mary J. Blige, Ciara, Chris Brown, Usher, and Timbaland, as well as singing background vocals on some of them, Hilson has started to get out in front more and more, as a featured guest on Timbaland’s smash singles, “The Way I Are” and “Scream.” Now it’s her time to shine, with a debut solo album, entitled, In a Perfect World, slated for release later this year. And it looks as if all that dues-paying will pay off, as the album is executive-produced by Timbaland himself, has cameos by Justin Timberlake, Snoop Dogg, and Ludacris, and will feature tracks produced by Polow da Don, Danja, and The Runawayz, who produced Hilson’s first single, “Energy” an honest R&B-Pop crossover track with plenty of substance to go with its style. It will be interesting to see if Hilson can carve out her own place on the music scene when In a Perfect World drops since she’s a product of hard work and patience rather than yet another manufactured record company mannequin. If her prior work and first solo single are any indication, I’d say she’s got a great chance.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Neil Young & Crazy Horse – Roll Another Number (2003)

Well, it’s that time of year again. As I write this, more than a hundred thousand music lovers are gathering on a farm in rural Tennessee for a long weekend of live music, drug use, and more live music. In honor of Bonnaroo 2008, the mother of all modern music festivals, this week’s picks are taken from live performances from festivals past. The first track is one of my favorite Neil Young songs and even though in 2003 he clearly was not in his prime, this song still roars with rust. Young headlined that year and played in front of about eighty-thousand strong. Many were underwhelmed by his set but I thought it kicked ass. If you ever wondered why they called him the godfather of grunge, this song should pretty much answer that question.

2. Yonder Mountain String Band – Holding (2004)

YMSB, the Colorado-based bluegrass jam band, is almost synonymous with Bonnaroo in my mind. The freedom and happy-go-lucky spirit in their music embodies what the festival is all about. This tune, closing the band’s 2004 set is a cover of the great John Hartford’s awesome tune “Holding.” The song also happens to about trying to find pot, a perfect topic to close a Bonnaroo set with since that’s what a lot of the fans would be doing afterwards. Just a fun song and you can get a good sense of the love that abounds.

3. James Brown – I Go Crazy (2003)

Yes, James Brown played Bonnaroo. He even brought along about a thirty piece ensemble with everything from four guitars, to two bass players, to four backup dancers, to the obligatory dude-who-covers-him-with-a-cape. And what a show it was. Brown, into is seventies, showed that he could still conduct the tightest of bands, dance like only he and Michael Jackson can, and sing with as much soul as ever. It’s tough to hear in the live recording but his horn section was tremendous, all wearing matching rhinestone suits. Needless to say the crowd of music lovers was ecstatic. And that’s what Bonnaroo’s all about: great, eclectic music in a great, eclectic environment.

Carman’s Picks

1. Bush Tetras – No More Creeps

This pick isn’t too far removed from my ESG pick from last time. Just more bare and simple post-funk from the late-70s New York art scene that doesn’t get a lot of attention given how influential and prevalent its style is now. If ESG is what LCD Soundsystem could be, just think of the Bush Tetras as what The Rapture aspire to be.

2. Carsick Cars – Zhong Nan Hai

I had this band described to me as “the Chinese Sonic Youth,” so I’m sure you could picture how skeptical I was at first when I downloaded the album. Amazingly, it was about as spot-on as you could be. Hailing from that great hub of culture that is Beijing, Carsick Cars deliver a brand of indie rock that is the Yoof at their Geffen-era peak. A little bit of Sister-era SY and a good heaping of what were the better parts of Rather Ripped, and you have catchy and noisy indie rock that is great in any language. Naturally, they’ve opened up for Sonic Youth both at home and abroad, and lead-singer Zhang Shouwang is already a veteran of Glenn Branca’s multi-guitar symphonies. Look them up on MySpace.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: June 6th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Jonathan’s Picks

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks talking about remixes — their origins, their value, their potential — and how sometimes the remix(es) of a song are just better than the originally recorded version. Today I’m giving you three different examples of this idea, but by picking three different remixes of the same song: Jay-Z’s “Change Clothes,” (listen to the original version here) which was the first single off of his epic “last album,” The Black Album. While I loved The Black Album on the whole, “Change Clothes” is among my least favorite songs on it, and I admit I was moderately horrified when it appeared as the debut single off icon Jay-Z’s supposed farewell to Hip Hop. He’s goin’ out like THIS?? Naw. Can’t be, I remember thinking. Well luckily, as it turns out, he wasn’t goin’ out at all.

1. Jay-Z – Change Clothes (The Pink Album Remix)

The Black Album is probably the most remixed album of all time due to the (intentional) release of an a capella version, which provided all of Jay’s vocals with none of the Black Album beats behind them. This allowed everyone from top-flight producers like Just Blaze, to wannabes and Garageband users the same remixing ability. Though the most well-known of these remix attempts is undoubtedly Danger Mouse‘s The Grey Album (a mash up of Jay’s Black Album and The Beatles’ White Album), I’ve never bought into the idea that it was the best of the remixes. In my opinion, one of the best attempts (if not the best), is The Pink Album. For a long time after it first came out, the Pink Album remained a mystery work by an unknown producer (or producers) — though the Internets were ablaze with speculation (even Kanye West’s name was mentioned) — but more recently the Pink Album has been clearly attributed to the team of Hasan Insane and DJ Mills (though which DJ Mills — there are multiple — is not as clear), as the former is now actually selling cuts off the Pink Album on his MySpace page. In any case, the album is great, and “Change Clothes” is definitely among the standout remixes, as the original version’s Neptunes-produced pop appeal is toned down slightly by a new, smoother, Jay-Z friendly beat.

2. Jay-Z – Change Clothes (The Purple Album Remix)

The Purple Album is another great take on Jay-Z’s Black Album, as it uses tracks and sounds taken exclusively from Prince’s Purple Rain and creates almost entirely new beats with them. I either don’t know or can’t remember who’s responsible for this one, there are just too many Black Album remixes to keep track, though DJ Quest and K12 both come up as possible candidates. Either way, mixing an already pop-oriented song with Prince certainly doesn’t make it any more hood, but it most definitely makes it much better, and a hell of a lot more fun to listen to. This is one of those tracks that when you throw it on a party, half the people in the room (Jay-Z fans or not) will look at you and go, “Where the hell did you get this?” It’s a completely different take on the Black Album, and one that I think works pretty gloriously. As long as you don’t try to take it to seriously. Oh, and if Reasonable Doubt is the only Jay-Z album you listen to, you’re not gonna like this one bit.

3. Jay-Z – Change Clothes (The Black Chronic Remix)

The Black Chronic is probably among the most understandable (in terms of knowing what it is you’re hearing) Black Album remixes. Done by the Bash Brothers, it’s actually more of direct mash up than a remix, taking the rhymes from the Black Album and laying them over all the sick beats from Dr. Dre’s Chronic 2001 masterpiece. In this particular song, “Change Clothes” is mashed with the hard and heavy beat from Dre’s “Fuck You,” and it works out quite well. Unlike mixing the Black Album with a Prince album, mixing it with something that carries the street-cred and street-sound of a Dr. Dre album definitely turns “Change Clothes” into an entirely different song, transforming it from chart-friendly “hip-pop” back into a legitimate hip hop song. Funny thing is, it really does work too. Problem solved.

JustJake’s Picks

This week’s picks have been a long time coming. They are all from my hands-down, desert-island-choose-one-and-only-one, favorite group, The Band. Eric Clapton said about the group’s seminal first album: “Back in 1968 I heard a record called Music from Big Pink and it changed my life and the course of American music.” Legend has it that it’s the reason he left Cream. But don’t take Clapton’s word for it, here are three picks (and it’s hard to pick only three) off that record.

1. The Band – Long Black Veil

This song is simply tremendous. Written in the 1950’s and originally recorded by country legend Lefty Frizzell, “Long Black Veil” is a haunting tale from beyond the grave that sounds as old as the hills. The organs, tubas, and harpsichord that The Band uses add to the song’s strangeness and emotion without taking it out of dirt and grit that give it its soul. This album has very few songs on it that sound like anything that came before, but “Long Black Veil” serves almost as a reminder from The Band that it knows where it comes from and cares about its roots.

2. The Band – Chest Fever

As the story goes, Garth Hudson, The Band’s organist, horn player, and musical guru originally had to tell his family that he was giving his fellow band members music lessons instead of playing in a rock n roll band. Hudson was raised as a serious classical musician and even jazz was blasphemous. His talents remain to this day and you can still find him making strange music on strange instruments, sounding part seafaring, part space exploring. Hudson was responsible for much of ornamental details and subtle touches in The Band’s music that ultimately help give it its depth. While on tour, this song became Hudson’s time to play around. For an idea of what that was like check out this grainy but amazing video from Wembley Stadium (1974).

3. The Band – I Shall Be Released

The last song on Big Pink, “I Shall Be Released” is one of three on the album either written or co-written by Bob Dylan, who The Band backed before striking out on their own. Richard Manuel was one of three amazingly talented singers in the group (Levon Helm and Rick Danko being the others) and his falsetto (and piano) on this track is both eerie and beautiful. The space stands out in this song almost as much as the music itself does; there’s a pervasive sense of loneliness, as if the song were recorded in a giant empty cell.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: May 16th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. Television – Elevation

Television is band that I’ve heard of for a long time, and never found the time to get into. Bu after hearing Henry Rollins’ feature Television’s debut album Marquee Moon(1977) in its entirety, on his weekly radio show on Indie 103- Harmony in My Head, I realized it was time. I can’t believe I hadn’t even heard these songs before. This album is terrific from top to bottom. A ,mix of a lot of sounds, this album proved to be super influential in all punk, no wave and post punk. I feel like Carman could talk a lot better about these guys than I can (cause I’m just learning), so lets hope he sheds some light on these guys eventually. When I hear this album, I just think oh, that’s what Clap Your Hands Say Yeah were thinking.

2. Joy Division – Disorder

Much like Television did with Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, my introduction to Joy Division through their first full length album -Unknown Pleasures (1979) dissolved any interest I had in Interpol. I thought Interpol’s sound was actually unique, thin reverb on the guitar, lead singer’s low pitch humming, i dont know- just about everything they do, had been done TWENTY YEARS AGO. This is probably not a surprise to anybody more than a few years older than me, but shit. Totally disappointing. If anything Interpol is a bit quicker at times, and a bit bassier. But what I thought was their best release, Turn on The Bright Lights is really just Unknown Pleasures [btw,amazing album cover] through the eyes of 2002. And they fooled an entire generation to think they’re doing something special. HA. Well give Unknown Pleasures a spin and see if you can listen to Interpol. I’m trying right now, and it’s not working. Of course, like too many great acts, Joy Divion’s story ended too soon- only a year after this release lead singer Ian Curtis hanged himself.

3. Metallica – Fade to Black

KROQ has been playing a lot of old Metallica to get ready for a show they’re doing for them. Last week, I made a friend sit in the car with me for 5 minutes while all the solo’s of Master of Puppets played out, so i could sing along note for note. Metallica was probably the first time I really went off the deep end in my music taste,that also involved getting into it beyond radio plays. Sure I was listening to NIN and Nirvana, but this seemed a lot darker. Their older albums were never even near the radio in NY. I collected their entire discography of cd’s, going backwards starting from their most recent release at the time (Load?). I became totally obsessed with them. The musicianship, the heavy riffs, and at times the speed. It felt so right! And the deeper I went into their older stuff, the more I fell in love. This is probably the 2nd complete discography I made, after Nirvana. But I was even more proud of this one for it’s lack of commonality with my schoolmates. This song, Fade to Black, was off Ride the Lightning (1984)-their 2nd full length release. This song is one of their greatest early songs. Like so many of my early favs, it starts with the acoustic guitar, and builds speed throughout the song, while just getting heavier and heavier. Truly epic song. Life it seems will fade away.
BTW, Lars Ulrich (drummer) is a fucking douchebag who got me kicked off of napster for downloading all the fucking metallica songs I ALREADY OWNED JACKASS. THANK YOU LARS, for setting up a sue fans first mentality in the record industry, instead of examining why this problem is happening. You’re a rich bitch, and I will never buy anything of yours again. I probably wont even try to listen to your new material either, even though KROQ will jam it down my throats after you pay them off. In fact, I will probably burn your entire discography in mass bulk at my place, and leave them for free at venues. Trace that on the internetz.

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Hypnotic Brass Ensemble Feat. Freeway, Jay-Z, and Beanie Sigel – War (Nick Catchdubs Remix)

Hypnotic Brass Ensemble is NOT your average brass band. First of all, they draw almost as much influence from hip hop and Latin music as they do jazz. But secondly, of the band’s nine members, eight are related. And not only are they related, but all eight (all on horns) are actually blood brothers — the sons of 1950s jazz trumpet player Phil Cohran, who played predominantly with the Sun Ra Arkestra. Only Hypnotic’s drummer, “360,” has a different father. And though the band has been recording for just a few years — they started as street performers in Chicago — the chemistry and energy are clearly there since they grew up with jazz in the blood, and a sense of performance in heart. This track is one of my favorites: Brooklyn-based DJ and remixer, Nick Catchdubs, combines one of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble’s best songs, “War,” a trumpet-heavy record with a sneaky-good bass line, with one of my favorite hip hop songs of the last ten years, hood anthem “What We do,” by Roc-A-Fella Records member Freeway, and featuring Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel. The horns seem to weep while trying their best to hold their heads up high, as if they’re listening to the Free, Jay, and Beans rhyme about drugs, guns, prison, squalor, and growin’ up in the hood. It’s a gritty yet beautiful conversion. (Watch an excellent short NY Times video profile of Hypnotic Brass Ensemble here).

2. Usher Feat. Beyonce & Lil Wayne – Love In This Club (Part 2 Remix)

So no doubt the original version of “Love In This Club” was a huge hit. And while I thought it was an above average R&B track, on the whole it was hardly special. But I admit I definitely dug the shimmering synthy beat from Polow da Don aka King of the White Girls (sorry, but I just have to write that nickname every chance I get), and the catchy chorus certainly didn’t hurt for Usher’s upcoming album’s first single. Small problem though: the Internets are ablaze with rumors that Polow da Don made the beat using basic, pre-loaded samples and loops from Apple’s DIY music program, GarageBand — not a good look for a supposedly top-flight music producer. In any case, the remix, or “Part 2” as it’s being called, has a whole new downtempo beat from producer Soundz, and all new lyrics from Usher to go with it. Usher engages in a spirited and earnest back-and-forth vocal debate with a surprisingly excellent sounding Beyonce, about whether or not they should indeed make love in the club. Kind of awkward since they both recently married other people, but still, it actually makes for quite a good song. Lil Wayne delivers, as always, with a hoarse-voiced, syrup-slurred rap, in which he once again (note the developing trend here) took to using Auto-Tune for the second half of his verse. “Love In This Club (Part 2 Remix)” is really like listening to a whole new track, and maybe even a better one, so give it a shot.

3. Colin Munroe – (I Want Those) Flashing Lights

Colin Munroe is a new artist out of Toronto who recently signed with Grammy-winning record producer, Dallas Austin, and is in the process of releasing his first album. Boom. (Got that out of the way). Frankly, I can’t and won’t even try to vouch for any of his other music, because there simply isn’t much out there yet, and what I’ve heard isn’t moving me much. But that really has nothing to do with why chose this track. One could say this is just a remix of Kanye West’s “Flashing Lights,” and to some extent that’s true. But this is a new breed, and different brand of remix than hip hop or pop music are used to. Much like the “Love In This Club” remix above, “(I Want Those) Flashing Lights” is really a complete reinvention of the song it’s supposedly just remixing, and giving it brand new lyrics (save for a bit of each chorus) and a reworked, if not entirely reinvented, beat. One major difference of course is that Usher’s remix was done by a professional producer, Colin Munroe is more like, well, just a Canadian guy. Nonetheless, I love Munroe’s honest lyrics and obviously rough rehashing of West’s beat. And while his voice isn’t nearly the same quality, Munroe already reminds me a little bit of a more raw, less developed Sam Sparro. One other thing: Munroe even upstages Usher’s remix in one sense — he actually made an accompanying video, which, while admittedly a little on the “Fisher-Price My First Music Video” side, is actually great looking a fun to watch.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Merle Travis & Joe Maphis – White House Blues

This song is an old tune that has survived in many incarnations over the last hundred years or so. Around the turn of the century many people, especially those in the rural areas where bluegrass and country music were born, had no way of receiving news other than by word of mouth and song. This particular tune about the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley is probably an instance of this early form of newscasting. Other than the words, which today seem almost comical, take note of Merle Travis’ signature strolling guitar style

2. John Hartford – In Tall Buildings

John Hartford penned some of bluegrass and country music’s greatest songs, but none is sadder or more troubling than this waltzing eulogy for the workingman. If you live in a city or have ever found yourself working in a office be warned, this song will hit home and might even cause you to re-evaluate your priorities.

3. Lyle Lovett – I’ve Been to Memphis

If you’re like me, you’ve spent a fair amount of time wondering how in the hell Lyle Lovett ever got near Julia Roberts, let alone near enough to marry her. Well after listening to this song it’s not so hard to understand. Lovett, is a great songwriter and this pick, from the NPR’s Live at the World Café, is one of his more soulful tunes. Just straight-up fun.

Carman’s Picks

1. ESG – Moody

Every time I listen to LCD Soundsystem I think to myself, “Man, James Murphy really, really wants his band to be the modern day ESG.” And I don’t mean that in a negative way; I’m a huge LCD Soundsystem fan. But hell, I don’t blame him for that anyways. In my eyes, ESG were the perfect band: catchy, danceable, grooves from a trio of sisters (and a friend on bass) from the South Bronx that was honest in its simplicity and no-holds-barred approach. Unsurprisingly, they would catch the attention of early pioneering hip-hop DJs for use in beats (a reunion in 1992 saw the release of the Sample Credits Don’t Pay Our Bills EP) before the post-punk revival of the new century instilled a generation of middle-class kids to appreciate not only an endearing D.I.Y. ethic, but a rhythm that made you move. Enjoy this classic cut off their first release.


2. Cecil Taylor – Tales (8 Whisps)

Cecil Taylor was unique among free jazz pioneers in that not only did he play the piano (an unusual instrument in the early days of free jazz), but he also embraced the theatrical aspect of the medium. Along with The Art Ensemble of Chicago, Cecil Taylor made jazz not only an art form to be listened to, but also to be watched. While the AEOC did it with a large ensemble of junk used for rhythm instruments and masks and makeup, Cecil Taylor was able to do it not only in a solo act, but while sitting behind a piano. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out Ron Mann’s superb 1981 documentary Imagine The Sound. Taylor is one of the subjects featured in the film, and you will be blown away by his performances (and his eccentric personality). The man is an acrobat behind the keys, and you can tell by just listening to his work.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

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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