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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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This is the Remix!: When the Remix is Better than the Original (Part 2)

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A couple weeks ago we were successfully able to determine that Diddy did not in fact invent the remix.

Thus, the dastardly album cover at left — by the way, is Diddy wearing leather pants? — represents a complete fallacy.

Shame on you, Sean.

There is, however, admittedly significant evidence pointing to Diddy’s influence and accomplishments as a remixer — at least within the Hip Hop/R&B community. Many of the examples I gave of songs whose remixes turned out to eclipse their respective originals in terms of either quality, popularity, or both, are indeed the work of Diddy and his Hitmen production crew over at Bad Boy Records. So I’ll definitely give him his fair share of credit for bringing us remixes of “Only You” from 112, “Fantasy” from Mariah Carey, and Usher’s “I Need a Girl.”

All three of these remixes far surpassed their original versions in their measure of street cred and mass appeal, if not in actual chart performance. Yet given today’s differing musical climate, one hot with digital downloads, highly-targeted Satellite radio broadcasts, more music channels than ever, and the overall increased accessibility of music, I would wager that all three remixes would fair far better by Billboard’s measurements today than when they were originally released. Simply put, more people would know about them, more people would hear them, and more people would be able to obtain them, giving the remixes a much broader reach.

In the television industry, viewers are often known simply as “eyeballs” — the more eyeballs your advertisements have on them, the more they are worth. The same should hold true in the music industry: the more “eardrums” a certain song attracts, the more valuable it becomes and the higher it rises on the music charts. For example, as of this writing Lil Wayne’s “Lollipop” is the number nine song on iTunes’ top downloads. Song number ten? The remix of “Lollipop” featuring Kanye West. Similarly, the album version of Usher’s hit “Love In This Club” sits at number forty-eight. The remix, “Love In This Club Part II,” sits at number forty-nine. In both cases the original versions were officially released well ahead of their respective remixes, so given enough time, it’s entirely possible that the remixes will end up being downloaded as much, or more, than the original songs.

Okay that’s enough outta me.

I promised a second installment of songs whose remixes eventually became more popular than the originals, so let’s get to part two of this ever-expanding list:

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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

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: May 9th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. Minutemen – Corona

Sound familiar? Welcome to the Minutemen. My generation probably knows them better for this intro riff – the Jackass theme song. I still have trouble not hearing after the first few seconds, Hi I’m Johnny Knoxville and I’m about to….[do something stupid]. Associations with Jackass aside though, the Minutemen were really a magnificent band. Straight out of San Pedro they quickly caught the eyes of local LA hardcore punk acts like Black Flag. Even though their sound was totally different and unique, their politics really fell in line with the more politically aware people in hardcore. Greg Ginn of Black Flag signed them to their first album to his Label SST. This would be only the 2nd SST release, following Black Flag’s first release, the Nervous Breakdown EP. They toured rigorously with Black Flag and other punk bands, frequently being misunderstood by stubborn punks. Even though these guys weren’t thrash, they had just as much fire as any other punks out there. Their leftist politics, and sincere push for D.I.Y. left a fine mark on the punk scene. This song, Corona, off their 2nd to last LP, Double Nickels on the Dime- iswhere I think they really hit their groove. Singer and guitarist D. Boon died in a car crash a year after this seminal release, abruptly ending this truly amazing band. (Anyone remotely interested in this band should see the documentary “We Jam Econo”)

2. Fugazi – Shut the Door

Speaking of D.I.Y……Here’s Fugazi. Ian MacKaye’s [Lead man of DC Hardcore band Minor Threat] post-hardcore band. Formed in 1987, Hardcore had dwindled away for the past 3 or so years. Fugazi also were really known for their politics. Their ethics were punk to the core. They never sold Merch, and never played any shows for more than $10. They strived for $5 though. They were also strongly opposed to violent behavior at shows. Hardcore was dead, and slam-dancing had to be phased out. They were also known for their Straight Edge way of life (MacKeye inventing it with Minor Threat’s song Straight Edge). An interesting note about Fugazi is that they are looked at as one of the creators of Emo. But this was before Emo was what it is today. There was no eyeliner, and wrist cutting. Emo was simply a term for Emotional Hardcore. This is clearly that. How somehow Emo has become recontextualized into Cure fans with a love for pop melodrama and a crying fetish is beyond me. I don’t see how it happened. Shut the door on that!

3. Rage Against the Machine – Settle For Nothing

Always spending so much time looking for politically inspired music in the past, I sometimes forget that one of the most intensely political bands played during my time! These guys were amazing. It’s even more amazing to think how angry they were during a seemingly benign political time considering the times that surrounded their two most important releases in ’92 and ’96. To think of these guys playing new material now, a riot would surely break out. But a lot of their lyrics dealt with socio-economic problems that haven’t changed all that much. Though I can’t relate to these lyrics to my life directly, I understand the story and it is motivating enough to enrage anyone: “A jail cell is freedom from the pain in my home—Hatred passed on, passed on and passed on—A world of violent rage—But its one that I can recognize—Having never seen the color of my fathers eyes—……..To escape from the pain in an existence mundane—I gotta 9, a sign, a set and now I gotta name—Read my writing on the wall—No-ones here to catch me when I fall.”

Jonathan’s Picks

1. I Got My – Lil Wayne Feat. Static Major

This song is both totally straightforward and intensely complicated at the same time. It’s straightforward because, simply put, “I Got My” has been able to hold the top spot on my current list of favorite songs for a few months now. And that’s a seriously long time for me — I’m generally much more of a slut when it comes to finding and playing new favorite songs. I fall in love with a new one every day. But for some reason “I Got My” has just stuck with me and won’t let go. I think you’ll understand when you hear the way the beat fluidly hops around and how Lil Wayne deftly stays with it, and the way the song just escalates into the amazingly catchy and simple synth-driven chorus. Unfortunately, however, “I Got My” is complicated for two rather big reasons: after being one of the most highly anticipated albums of 2007 (it was set to release in December), the release date of Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III was pushed back to June of 2008 following a massive song leak last year that included many tracks that had been recorded as part of his new album. “I Got My” may have been one of those songs, and it is uncertain whether or not it will make the final cut on Tha Carter III. The second reason is far more grave. Static Major (né Stephen Garrett), a highly regarded singer, songwriter (with multiple number one hits), and producer, died in February under tragic and suspicious circumstances — of either a brain aneurysm or the loss of blood during a medical procedure gone wrong (depending on whom you talk to). Though the extent of Static’s role in “I Got My” remains unclear (writer, producer, vocalist?), it’s certainly one of the last tracks he worked on. I hope to see it on Lil Wayne’s album this June, though it’s far from confirmed. Enjoy this one.

2. Lollipop (Remix) – Lil Wayne Feat. Gabriel Antonio

Speaking of Static Major, he is also featured prominently on the original release of “Lollipop,” the first single of Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III. Sadly, Static died just weeks before the song’s official release. “Lollipop” would eventually top the Billboard Hot 100 chart, and Static Major can be still be seen in the song’s accompanying music video. This sentimentality, however, is not why I chose the remix of “Lollipop,” which basically substitutes Static Major for Gabriel Antonio, a rising R&B/Hip Hop artist out of Florida. Frankly, I don’t love the original version of the song, nor do I love the remix — as Lil Wayne said, “Dudes are gonna hate this one…..ugly dudes, that is.” Now, I love Lil Wayne, and it’s certainly not that I’m calling myself ugly — far too vain for that — but this just ain’t exactly a record for the fellas. This is the song that’s supposed to be radio and club-friendly, in order to drum up excitement and sales for Tha Carter III album as a whole. But what I find interesting about the “Lollipop” remix, and the reason I selected it for today’s picks, is that Lil Wayne utilizes Auto-Tune vocal processor (you its sound know first from Cher’s “Believe,” then from every T-Pain song ever, and most recently Snoop Dogg’s “Sexual Eruption”) throughout his vocals on entire song — not just in the chorus. So, in other words, he actually raps using Auto-Tune to distort and digitize his voice, something not yet done by rappers. And now, the trend is starting to catch on: just a few days ago I got a copy of Young Jeezy’s new single “Put On,” which features an extremely tight verse from Kanye West, with Kanye doing his entire verse using Auto-Tune. So now you know it’s officially happening, and we’ll have to keep an eye out to see if other rappers start following the trend set by industry leaders like Lil Wayne and Kanye.

3. Santogold – You’ll Find a Way (Switch vs. Sinden Remix)

It’s not hard to see why Santogold has been hailed as “the next M.I.A.” for the last…..well, I don’t even know how long it’s been. But a long-ass time. Santogold, aka Santi White, is different. Like M.I.A. she’s brown-skinned, sure, but also eschews making anything close to conventional hip hip or R&B music purposely, instead keeping things genre-eclectic and influence-global. Her much-awaited, eponymous first album was released on April 29th, 2008, and it does not disappoint, with an excellent mix of rock, electro, punk, dub reggae, and 80s influences on display throughout the twelve track album. My favorite track, the album’s finale, is a remix of one of her more dub punk efforts, “You’ll Find a Way.” The remix is kind of a minimalist — or maybe sparse is a better word — electro-reggae banger (it would absolutely kill on the dance floor in the right club with the right clientèle) that showcases Santogold’s incredibly unique and powerful voice, switching back and forth from her near-screaming to a sensual and almost casual stage whisper. It’s an extra-unique track from already unique and talented artist. And check out the hot album cover too. Keep your eyes on this one, she’s musically frisky.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Bill Monroe – Rawhide

Ok, it’s been long enough; time for an all-bluegrass picks. At the heart of bluegrass music lies the fiddle tune, they are the lifeblood and the soul of the music. Most of them are real old-timey songs whose origins lie beyond common memory. Nonetheless, everyone knows them and everyone plays them. Fiddle tunes don’t always feature the fiddle but rather the group of instruments as they trade solos. This one features Monroe’s mandolin and his superior skills come in clear as day.

2. Chris Thile – Salt Creek

Chris Thile is possibly the top mandolin player in the country at the moment. Not yet thirty, he has found acclaim since he was in elementary school. Best known for his work with the band Nickel Creek (which broke up recently), Thile has been doing solo work for some time now. This song is a traditional fiddle tune and, compared to either of the previous tunes, it’s plain to see how Thile stretches the bluegrass genre. You can still hear the song’s celtic roots and driving force but it quickly turns into something much jazzier and bluesy. This is about the best that newgrass (the more modern/less traditional bluegrass) has to offer. Enjoy.

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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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