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Posts Tagged ‘Polow da Don

The Friday Writers’ Bloc: June 13th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

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

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The Friday Writers’ Bloc: April 11th, 2008

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Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. Hella – The D. Ekan/Biblical Violence

Welcome to Hella (You’re Gonna Live!). This is one of my favorite bands of all time. They’re just the best. It took me about a year of listening to them though to begin liking or comprehending them though. At first it will sound like total chaos to you-guaranteed. It takes a bunch of listens to understand what exactly you’re hearing. I would characterize it as a brutal version of math rock. This is the first song off their first full length (Hold Your Horse Is). Just a guitarist and a drummer. The drummer, Zach HIll, is probably the sickest drummer alive. He just kills it. I love it. For those who don’t think they could actually play like that in real life, think again: Hella on YouTube.

2. The Plugz – El Claro y La Cruz

I wrote about these guys in my first blog ever, and noticed it was catching some views of late. Again one of my favorite early LA Punk Bands. This song is probably where they mixed their punk and latino styled best. I first heard this off the Repo Man soundtrack.

3. Butthole Surfers – Cherub

I just bought an original pressing of this vinyl (Psychic….Powerless…Another Man’s Sac) last week at Amoeba. I want to write about these guys soon so I won’t get into too much detail. Probably best known for their hit single Pepper from the 90’s, they started off as a completely drugged out punk band in the early 80’s out of San Antonio. Psychedelia and punk rarely join forces so the results are pretty interesting. This one in particular is a real psych rocker.

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Heavy D. & The Boyz – Now That We Found Love

Earlier this week I pretty much savaged longtime Hip Hop/R&B producer Teddy Riley in my review of Snoop Dogg’s new album. While I stand by my negative opinions of Riley’s recent work, the same cannot be said about his past productions. Bobby Brown, Guy, New Kids on the Block, Michael Jackson, and of course, Blackstreet all benefited from Riley’s R&B expertise. But that was 20 years ago. And while many people may remember Teddy Riley for “My Prerogative” and “No Diggity,” few know of his hand in Heavy D. & the Boyz’ 1991 classic single, “Now That We Found Love.” Now you do.

2. Tupac Shakur – Heartz of Men

In my review I wasn’t exactly easy on DJ Quik either, the third member of the newly formed production team QDT (Quik, Dogg, & Teddy). But like Teddy Riley, Quik still deserves props for much of his early production work. And though he found his niche in gangsta rap rather than pop music, Quik turned out serious beats for both ‘Pac and Snoop Dogg a few long minutes ago, as well as one of the funkiest hip hop songs (and videos) ever, “Break Bread,” by Flexxarally & AMG. To me, “Heartz of Men” is a perpetually underrated Tupac track, not often mentioned among his best work. And a big part of what makes it great is DJ Quik’s sick beat. Just try not to move your head once ‘Pac hits his stride on this one…..It’s impossible. This is just hip hop.

3. Beyoncé – Beautiful Nightmare (Advance)

I mentioned this song a couple of weeks ago while talking about the increased used of prominent synth sounds in American hip hop and R&B, which I think is a great thing. Now technically this new Beyoncé track hasn’t been released yet — only leaked to a few places — but word is that “Beautiful Nightmare” will serve as the first single from B’s upcoming album. While it has been reported that Timbaland has agreed to do much of the production for the new album, Freemasons, top-shelf dance producers from the UK, have also signed on to the project. (More synths). All that aside, there is still some controversy surrounding the production of this particular track, with some sources crediting Polow da Don and others crediting Jim Jonsin. Given the synthy baseline and the fact that the track was mysteriously leaked, it sounds like Polow to me. But either way, the track’s still hot and a good indication of what’s to come from Beyoncé.

roswellmueller’s Picks

1. The Microphones – The Glow, Pt. 2

Its album’s title track, it seems fitting that The Glow, Pt. 2 somehow manages to touch on so many of the places explored throughout the album, unfolding like a preview for sounds to come. As usual, Phil Elvrum’s use of lo-fi recording ads elements of both intimacy and fierce intensity. If you haven’t heard of the Microphones, I can’t recommend this album highly enough – a true favorite.

2. Philip Glass, Performed by the Kronos Quartet – String Quartet no. 5, V

Whenever I try and convince people that classical composition has more to offer than ridged baroque structure I play them this track from a collection of Philip Glass’ string quartet’s. I don’t expect to change too many minds, but this is an amazing piece of musicianship and composition.

Carman’s Picks

1. Noah Howard Quartet – Apotheosis

ESP-Disk was a label founded in 1966 with the intention of releasing Esperanto-based music. However, by their second release, The Albert Ayler Trio’s superb Spiritual Unity, they had already branched out into improvisational jazz and there was no turning back. One of the 45 gems from their first 18 months in existence was by a then-unknown saxophonist named Noah Howard who at the age of 23 recorded his first album as a bandleader with 1966’s Noah Howard Quartet. According to the liner notes of one of his earliest records, Howard was among the “first generation of post-Ornette Coleman saxophonists,” having been inspired by the reinvention of the genre that Coleman brought. Like most American free jazz musicians, Howard would defect to Europe where they were welcomed with open arms and continue recording (still to this day!), but my favorite record of his remains his debut. The collective gusto and intensity that both Howard and trumpeter Ric Colbeck play with on this record is unparalleled by any other woodwind/brass tandem I’ve ever heard.

2. Jackie McLean & The Cosmic Brotherhood – New York Calling

Like Howard above, McLean was welcomed in Europe by the Danish label SteepleChase when he was released by Blue Note, for whom he released almost a decades worth of material. Through SteepleChase he released more albums through the 70s with his new group The Cosmic Brotherhood. The year 1974 saw the release of New York Calling, an ode to his bustling hometown. McLean’s saxophone is obviously the main thrust of this song that captures the energy of the city, but I always found the performance of pianist Billy Gault to be the highlight of the song as it recalls the meticulous arrangements of George Gershwin, a man who also perfectly captured the spirit of The Big Apple.

3. John Cale – Child’s Christmas in Whales

It’s so unfair to me that Lou Reed was always hailed as the genius behind the Velvets when plenty of credit should also go to Cale. Cale’s post-VU resume is certainly stronger than Lou Reed’s, with production credits including The Stooges, Patti Smith’s Horses, and most of The Modern Lovers along a string of solid and experimental solo albums that Lou Reed can’t even hold a candle to (sorry, but Transformer is waaaaay overrated). This gem opens Cale’s excellent Paris 1919, and right away it showcases the pomp and flowery string arrangements by Cale and his erudite brand of songwriting that make Paris such a wonder.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc Playlist HERE

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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The Friday Writers’ Bloc: April 4th, 2008

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Michael-Bradley’s Picks

1. FEAR – Let’s Have A War

2. FEAR – New York’s Alright If You Like Saxophones

I’ve really been in a FEAR mode lately. After seeing the live footage of them performing in the Hardcore film “The Decline Of Western Civlization”, I’ve been pretty enamored with them. They had such a Fuck You attitude, it’s hard to not like these guys. Before the show even started they almost had a riot break out by exchanging insults with the crowd. A must watch.

The two FEAR songs I picked are fav’s of mine. I just love how the early Hardcore Punk bands could switch between such silly topics and politically charged songs fearlessly, and successfully. Though they are frequently lumped with Hardcore bands, I think FEAR’s style was a bit different from the typical hardcore band: They have a singer who can actually sing!? AND they have guitar solos? So they were a bit off the track, but their attitude proves them guilty.

3. The Adolescents – Amoeba

Amoeba by the Adolescents (Punkers from the OC) must be the most anthemic punk song ever. I really don’t have any idea what they’re singing about in that song, yet I find myself singing AMOEBA, AMOEBA, all the time. It’s just too cool. So, enjoy.

Jonathan’s Picks

1. Adam Tensta – 80s Baby

This is one of my favorite tracks off Tensta’s album because I too am an 80s baby — played the same video games, wore the same clothes, listened to the same music. The beat’s uptempo, yet maintains a smooth, even, wavy quality throughout, with a classic vocal sample in the chorus that really makes the song. And makes me want to put on my headphones and close my eyes.

2. Snoop Dogg Feat. Robyn – Sexual Eruption (Fyre Dept. Remix)

This is the newest — and best — remix of Snoop’s hit single, “Sexual Eruption,” featuring guest choruses and verses from Robyn, the Swedish electro-pop sensation whose self-titled album was easily one of the highlights of 2007. Producer Shawty Redd’s beat got an synthy electro upgrade on this remix, making an already bona fide club jam into certified banger. This is what a remix should be and rarely is.

3. Fantasia Feat. Polow da Don & Young Jeezy – When I See U (Remix)

I referenced this track at the end of my piece on Adam Tensta and the changing production styles of some American super-producers like Kanye West and Timbaland. While producer Polow da Don hasn’t quite reached “super” status just yet, his recent synth-driven success with Usher’s “Love In This Club” is certainly helping his case. On this, the official (though hard to find) remix of Fantasia’s “When I See U,” I generally try to ignore her mediocre singing, and focus Polow’s bold use of synth sounds that rarely make it out of European studios, let alone onto an American R&B record.

JustJake’s Picks

1. Gillian Welch – Wichita

“Wichita” is a fun song from a songwriter who doesn’t usually write fun songs. Gillian Welch is contemporary artist whose songs invariably sound old as the hills. This goes for her voice too. But, don’t let the catchy tune fool you, the lyrics are beautifully written and serious, yet simple, a Welch trademark. This version is from a 1999 performance with long-time partner (and excellent guitar player/singer in his own right) David Rawlings at California’s Strawberry Music Festival.

2. The Band – Rockin’ Chair

Vocals, musical talent, lyrics, The Band had it all. Oddly enough, four out of five members of what is arguably the greatest American band ever were Canadians. While “Rockin’ Chair” comes toward the end of The Band’s 1969 eponymous album and often gets overshadowed by songs like “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down,” “Rag Mama Rag,” and “Up on Cripple Creek,” it is really one of the group’s best. Richard Manuel’s vocals are rich and haunting and Levon Helm’s mandolin carries the song off to a faraway, wonderous place.

3. Steve Earle & The Del McCoury Band – Harlan Man

Steve Earle is a renowned songwriter and hard-edged country singer. Del McCoury and his band are straight off the Bill Monroe bluegrass family tree; meaning that they play bluegrass the way it should be played, hard, fast, and with soul. Put the two together and you get the awesome 1998 album The Mountain. “Harlan Man” showcases Earle’s songwriting prowess and gruff, no nonsense attitude. McCoury & co. provide the drive, and you’ve got yourself a great American song, off a great American album.

Ignatius’ Picks

1. Animal Collective – Fireworks

I once watched a friend of mine rip his headphones out of his ears when an Animal Collective song came up during shuffle play on his iPod. His facial expression lingered somewhere between somebody who has just finished eating an economy-sized jar of mayonnaise, and somebody who realizes too late that they’ve set their house on fire. He looked offended, as though his mp3 player had purposefully tried to attack his sensibilities and good taste. Enjoy the song.

2. Johnny Greenwood – Open Spaces

I was a huge fan of Johnny Greenwood’s solo output before his work on There Will Be Blood, and this soundtrack reaffirmed my ‘fan status’ tenfold. Open Spaces is the perfect bookend on this menacing hulk of a film score. What I think is truly remarkable is how his arrangements still hold so much weight outside the context of the film.

3. Ween – Ocean Man

I picked this track simply because it’s a fun song of an amazing record. Ween is often dismissed a novelty act, an accusation that I will no doubt refute in a later posting. Whether you worship at the feet of Boognish (the demon that inspired Gene and Dean Ween to begin their songwriting careers) or have written off the Ween brothers as a bunch of hacks, I would imagine it difficult not to enjoy this song.

Download this week’s Friday Writers’ Bloc playlist HERE

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