January 24, 2008
I do believe this video is the sickness: Colin Munroe’s “I want those flashing lights”
Kanye must be mad salty that this guy not only jacked his shit, he made a sick video with a concept Yeezy might well have liked to use himself. It’s hard being West.
This other Colin Munroe video and track ain’t half bad either. Goooo Canada!
November 20, 2007
This song is so underrated. I was at the grocery store yesterday with the ipod on random when this Kanye’s “Last Call” came on. Its almost thirteen minute length assures that it is often dismissed as an unearned egotistical moment for a man with no shortage of them, particularly as it comes at the end of his very first album. I disagree. “Last Call” is one of the greatest documentations of the hustle I’ve ever heard as a motivational track, frankly it bests “U Don’t Know,” “Hustlin” or whatever else you want to throw out there. This is where Kanye’s everyman personality pays off.
A perfectly lucid description of the successes and failures it took for his voice to ever make it to our ears, the song is so amazingly detailed and warmly narrated, you can’t fail to relate to it. Plus it isn’t filled with Jay-Z type bravado about always being the greatest and perfectly plotting the path. Kanye works, finds a little success, then a whole lot of nothing happens. He retires to the one bedroom with the Ikea mattress. He pushes again, finding detractors, meeting his idols, seeing success around the corner and we’re with him in all this. This shit is so fucking real you can’t help but love that moment at the end when he asks you to raise a glass for him.
I recently sat in an unfurnished room with a group of young men on the come up. It’s the same moment for them that Kanye’s track describes, that Rocafella moment, trying to get the glory, with nothing but heart and talent and the dream to keep you going. Young, unknown, unproven but sure of your own talent and putting in the kind of work that it takes to actually get to the top. Long nights, bad Chinese food, barely enough cash for the subway but hustling for the right gear to rock the show with. Setbacks and weak shows and retooling the whole thing so it works better, it’s a magical moment. Take a moment and enjoy it fellas. It’ll never be this way again.
November 20, 2007
Shout out to Kanye, someone I’ve long considered the most important man in hip hop and one of the most creative and honest forces out there right now. I’m appreciative of his being real and vulnerable and able to talk about real things in an age where 95% of the other artists out there are more concerned with how many endorsement deals they can get on and too busy trying to “keep it real” to even maintain coherence. Moments of extreme irrationality like Cam’ron’s statement on not snitching on a serial killer in his neighborhood on 60 minutes come from spending so much time obssesing about how you’re viewed and keeping to a code that you start to lose sense of what’s real and what isn’t. Somewhere between ninety and ninety-nine percent of today’s rappers are that way and Kanye stands out very tall for always being about himself and what’s important to him. The man’s mom dies and no one can doubt how important she was to him because he didn’t make a million songs about not loving a bitch, but wrote “Hey mama” and constantly praised and professed his love for her loudly and publicly. How many other rappers can say that? How many people period?
Strange, I didn’t even come to the computer to write this post. I was gonna write about a Kanye track and I guess ‘d had that bottled up. I’m going to wrap this up and start my post afresh.
My heart goes out to Kanye, wishing him strength in this moment and success in the future. Take the time you need to recover man. I can’t wait to see you in concert, but that shit will totally wait. Your music is amazing, your spirit apparent and no one will penalize you of all people for being human and taking the time to deal with your loss. You’re too talented to go away and we’ll be waiting whenever you return, if you do decide to take a break. Much love from a fan.
Edit: If you’ve seen the video of Kanye performing in Sweden or so, you’ve heard by now that he’s not interested in taking any time off. I can respect that. Bring it to New York fool. I got dollars in my hand waiting to see the hardest working man in showbiz. Chea, chea, we gon’ be there.
November 14, 2007
Some real fly hip-hop concert tees. Hip Hop shows have the worst merchandise for sale, or even more often, no merchandise at all for sale. I’ve probably seen ten hip hop shows this year and not one of those had anything better than some bootleg shit for you to buy. How the hell does Hova, a cat that owns his $600 M per year grossing clothing line not even have one damn t-shirt that says, “Dope Boy Fresh,” “Roc Boy in the Building” or “So Enlightened, I might glow in the dark.” Shit stay in the spirit of the thing and make something for the girls too, “Fly girl since ’88” or “Magnate magnet.” That shit upset me man.
That new Lupe ish. I know no one anticipating this like they were Kanyeezy or Fiddy, but mark my words, The Cool is on the extra-planetary tip without losing the audience. This is going to challenge The Graduate on many end of year lists.
For everyone to acknowledge that Nas was wrong. Or maybe he wasn’t. Maybe hip hop was dead and he went ahead and sparked a heartbeat in the damn thing. Hip Hop is feeling real lively to me right now. That Kanye vs. 50 battle might have been stagey as all fuck but it got cats hyped and thinking about what they care about in Hip Hop. The Kanye album was ridonkulous, Common was on point, Dizzee Rascal repped the UK right, Jay-Z dove into his rubber band stash and pulled out a classic, I’m anticipating one or two more seriously rough albums soon (I see you Wyclef, Lupe, Wu-Tang). The mixtape game remains solid even with the feds fucking with it and I’m seriously feeling some of the young cats on the come up (Termanology, Cool Kids, Mickey Factz, who have you).
A more focused Flint’s Philosophy. I’m back like the peace sign.
September 6, 2007
I’ve been thinking a bit about what the game’s been missing. I’m hoping that next week Kanye not only outsells 50, but moves a sick number of records, signaling to the music industry’s gate keepers that gangsta rap is not the end all, be all of Hip Hop music. In the wake of such a thing occurring, I’ve made me a list of essential things every potential MC who comes my way has to have.
How To Be A Credible Contender: Vol 1
A. Basic talent and ability. Does this cat rhyme good? Every would be rapper can’t be Rakim, but its difficult to be an MC without an understanding of rhyme schemes and the ability to bend words to convey meaning while staying on beat. This property is not hard to find. Learning to rap on beat and get a simple enough point across is not the most difficult thing in the world, although there are lots of jokers trying to be rappers who haven’t even mastered this basic step.
B. Is this rappers technique superior to any? Or even distinct in any way? I think this is where 90% f the rappers handing me CDs outside Virgin and concerts fail first. AFter learning to rhyme, they never realize they’ve actually got to move beyond this and create something distinct about themselves. So if you’re standing out there in the rain passing out CDs full of derivative flows and content that is being done better on radio every day, get back to training and work on your style. Your Kung Fu is not strong enough.
c. Tell me a story, any story, just make it interesting, chock full of detail and interesting enough to keep me listening. You getting money, you on your grin, you put in work in the streets, a detailed description of your closet in the most mundane detail possible? There is nothing entertaining about this shit. Entertain me, make me laugh, touch on something I haven’t heard before, cover a topic no one’s touched since ATCQ, go boho like Arrested Development, or burn the track with some vivid narrative of youth gone wrong like its a New York train circa ’72. Even major label rappers fail at this most of the time these days. If you all don’t get more interesting, I’m going to put my Blues men on the ipod and listen to nothing but Howlin Wolf and Lightin Hopkins for the next year.
D. Present yourself so I actually care what your story is. Look I know what the Hip Hop uniform is. I’ve got fresh sneaks aplenty. Hoodies and baggy jeans ain’t hard to come by, but if you look like everyone and your album cover features nothing but your scowling face or scowling crew, you ain’t Hip Hop, you just boring. Wasn’t there a time when freshness was the thing in Hip Hop? Not just copping the latest trendy tee but actually creating a distinct and interesting look of your own. Give Kanye shit for dressing like the catering staff went on LSD all you want but give him respect for being a distinct presence every time he steps on a magazine cover or red carpet. Let go of your fear young one, you don’t have to be a clone.
5. The abstract – swagger, star potential and most importantly, intelligence and an understanding that what sells on the ball court will not necessarily sell on iTunes. You’ve got to have the swagger to be a star, but be true enough to what you stand for to not lose your way once you have a single that sells. You’ve got to have the intelligence and willingness to learn and study the game. The skills alone don’t pay the bills. There are lots of talented rappers without the heart or intelligence to succeed in the industry. If you ain’t ready, I don’t even want to hear about you.
Anyway, I actually started this whole thing because I wanted to write about Mickey Factz, whose mixtape I’ve been feeling (like it was Nia Long on my lap). Flashback Vol 1. – Back to the Future is focused in its beat selection, ganking beats from the 80’s through the 00’s. How many mixtapes in 2007 you know cover Poison, Round the Way Girl and Mona Lisa (the Slick Rick version, not Wyclef’s)? The follow up to his equally geek friendly, In Search of the Nerd, Flashback just sounds fun. Mickey’s style is pretty distinct, a melding of mid 90’s b-boy cool and hip hop hipster cockiness. Yeah, he’s all about fashion, fresh gear and fly girls but he also does a fierce take on Jay-z’s “Friend or Foe”, putting would be rappers in their place and drops straight straight battle rap alongside some pretty fierce girl identified only as Mallory Knox. The total effect is something like fusing the goofy good fun of early Will Smith with that superfly street style that’s all the rage (gold sneaks and Japanese fashion), and infusing with a decent dose of street cred. And none of this feels forced, from the way he rhymes to the way he dresses and the mixtape art, everything is working together. Somebody sign this cat and launch a real career. I could totally work with this.
August 21, 2007
The sartorially inclined will want to rush out and cop the August/September Complex magazine. Mr. West, Kanye is guest editor for the issue so of course it’s all about the threads. The first really engaging piece has Kanye expanding on the future shock, sci-fi cool look he’s been promoting Graduation with. It’s not a look that’s easy for amateurs to pull off, particularly in its reliance on loads of high end minimalist gear from Jil Sanders, Dior Homme and the like. Nevertheless it’s really cool to see such a specific look explored in a range of ways and it’s all pretty much cool as fuck.
The real gem for someone like me who’s trying to get his grown man on though is the T.I. “man in a suit” pictorial. Jesus H. Christ! No one should do a fashion shoot without getting T.I. involved ever again. Plain and simple, the man rocks a suit. I mean, there is a shot in the magazine of him in a Chambray shirt, charcoal suit, black shoes and pink socks. That’s certifiably sartorially advanced. There’s a good range of really interesting suit ideas, as good as anything I’ve seen in any of the high fashion magazines and with very little of the silliness. The good thing about getting someone as street as T.I. to model is that you know he’ll never agree to the silliest of the fashion contrivances high fashion stylists lean on to differentiate themselves with. What you’ve got are interesting, innovative ways of wearing a suit without looking like an idiot.
Image via Hip Hop Crunch
A note about Complex Magazine itself is that they’re really killing the game in their own quiet way. No Hip Hop associated magazine has production values nearly as good. Their photo shoots are always great and the interviews worth reading. The magazine stays narrowly but very sharply focused and for the fashion identified, each issue might as well be porn. Get in on it.
August 2, 2007
The mix of surrealist imagery, historical allegory and social criticism in Dizzee’s video makes it likely the sickest video of the year, from one of the sickest (and my favorite I think) Hip Hop albums of
the year. The other thing that’s great about this song that’s missing from a lot of Hip Hop is good old fashioned story telling. Hidden behind that scattered flow and accent of his are storytelling chops worthy of anyone from Slick Rick to Jimmy Hendrix.
“1 day i was with ma breddrin Aido roaming the street, on the main road hungry looking for summin 2 eat, not no burger or no chips, shit that’s easily digested, its the shit that if your caught u’ll be easily arrested”
It’s really annoying when the guys from across the pond do better work with a form that originated in the US but I figure it’s for the same reason as NY losing it’s dominant place in Hip Hop. Ownership breeds arrogance and stagnation. Everyone whines about how everything that comes out of any other market isn’t real Hip Hop rather than taking creative chances and letting their work evolve with the market. It isn’t 1994, but from the artists and music NY keeps fielding, you’d think Biggie and Tupac hadn’t already had their day and everyone had to keep trying to recreate them.
April 23, 2007
This list is very hastily thrown together with very little editing but I think it’s a fair representation of the shit that causes me to really bug out. The order is not perfect but surprisingly not too suspect actually. If I didn’t have pressing matters concerning completing graduate school to attend to, I would spend more time on this. As it is I only did this because I couldn’t possibly miss being part of this. Thanks to Joey of Straight Bangin’ for the chance to be part of it. Killer shit below:
1 Biggie- Ready to Die
2. Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt
3. UGK – Riding Dirty
4. Outkast- Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik
5. Scarface – The Fix
6. Kanye West- College Dropout
7. Eric B & Rakim- Paid in Full
8. Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
9. Mos Def – Black on Both Sides
10. Nas- Illmatic
11. Jay-Z – Blueprint
12. Bone Thugs N’ Harmony – E. 99 Eternal
13. Wu Tang- 36 Chambers (Enter The Wu Tang)
14. Clipse – Lord Willin’
15. Snoop Doggy Dogg- Doggystyle
16. Common Sense – Like Water for Chocolate
17. Mos Def and Talib Kweli are Black Star
18. Eminem – Marshall Mathers LP
19. Public Enemy – It Takes a Nation of Millions
20. Ice Cube – The Predator
21. Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death
22. Outkast – ATLiens
23. 2Pac – Me Against The World
24. Bubba Sparxxx – Deliverance
24. Mobb Deep- The Infamous
25. Prince Paul – A Prince among thieves