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.
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
February 22, 2007
February 13, 2007
We went from too black and too strong to Sisquo and the damn Thong song – “Best Day, Worst Day”
For a guy named Killer, Mike sure is exuberant. He’s also angry, righteous, boisterous, thoughtful, brash and probably a little rash. All reasons to love him I assure you. The most obvious touchstone for Killer Killer is Ice Cube circa say 1992. Killer has got a conscience see. He sees all this stuff happening to and in black America and it pisses him off. But he likes to party too and make songs about the ladies. Actually, he’s unable to prevent his songs from slipping between categories. He’ll randomly begin to criticize some fake pastor on what ought to be a party track, or direct his ire at the women on what seemed to be a social commentary track. Whatever he’s doing though, Mike is compelling.
Shit, just last week a young nigga got shot, playing Superman, racing bullets in the parking lot – “Aye Oh”
He isn’t compelling for extraordinary metaphorical or word juggling skills, although he does occasionally deploy those as well. The Ice Cube comparison holds here as well. Killer says whatever is on his mind the directest way possible. he puts some humor into it and delivers every line, whether dissing Soul Train or lamenting rappers who’ve quit rapping for acting, as if it’s his last one. He’s got one of those big voices (think Big or Chuck D) that leave you completely convinced of whatever it is they are saying.
The problem with Killer being on the Contenders series is that he’s already made an album totally worthy of adulation. Killer’s Ghetto Extraordinary was delayed from release for so long that all the material he recorded for it went into the mixtape, The Killer. He released that in 2005 and you really must listen to it to get an idea of what he’s capable of. The entire mixtape is full of sharp, banging, raucous beats. There is psychedelic stuff that shows the Outkast influence, like the bouncy “My Chrome,” hard edged street beats like the unhinged energy of “Aye Oh” or the 808 propulsion of “Get Em Shawty,” and as it is a mixtape, there are also a couple of jacked beats including the awesome feat of turning 112’s saccharine “Cupid” into “A Dope Story.” Still there is an inescapable joy of life to the whole proceedings that keeps it fun to listen to, no matter how hard he’s going on any topic.
Killer Mike has been a part of the Outkast crew for a long time and he fell victim when Aquemini, the record label they started to release their own projects, fell apart. He’s on Big’s Purple Ribbon label along with some other folks you might have heard of (Bubba Sparxxx, Sleepy Brown) and some others you’ll soon be getting familiar with (Janelle Monae, Scar). The Killer is still my favorite Killer album/mixtape, but he released I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind, a street album (as he calls it) last year and it isn’t any lighter on righteous fury or good times. Check it all out, and check out the Killer Mike Primer below to get you started. One.
Dude murdered for his shoes, it was childish, but look how we remembered you. Came to your funeral in the same tennis shoes, too young and ignorant to see that our act of defiance caused your mother so much stress and crying – “You Don’t Want This life”
February 5, 2007
GQ has been pimping this album pretty heavily, and for once, those snark happy, snappy dressing, music trend jumping folks were right. This album rocks, or rather purrs.
Like a breath of British air blowing through the speakers, this is a rather quiet affair for a rock album. It’s very English, brimming with restraint and evoking muscial traditions like the woozy Reggae swing of the Clash. That Reggae/Ska tinge comes through in the pacing of the tracks and through the influence of bass player, Paul Simonon formerly of the Clash himself. The other folks in this band you might have heard of are lead singer Damon Albarn (Blur, Gorillaz), Tony Allen (only Fela Kuti’s fucking drummer) and Simon Tong (the Verve).
So yeah, it’s a superstar affair and it’s kinda cool being able to pick out all the separate influences as you listen to the album. It’s like everyone is doing their own thing but somehow or the other it all meshes into this oh so smooth and pleasing whole. Albarn sings all quiet and British like about English weather, civil unrest and happiness in spite of it all. His voice never really rises above a murmur the entire album. The rest of the music is just as laid back. Tony Allen creates all these intricate little drum patterns switching things up repeatedly during the songs, seemingly veering into drum n’ bass on some of the tracks. There is no banging around here, this is not Audioslave. Even when the album peaks on the title and final track with an extended jam session; bass, guitars and pianos going at it, distortion here, noise experiment there, it never really rises to anything too frenetic. It’s moving sure, and damned good stuff, but this is an album so polite you could take it to tea with your mum.