Sunday, June 19, 2011

I've Moved

I've moved to tumblr. Sorry blogspot fans. Enjoy all my further posts here:

45 Paper PlatesLink

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Helter Skelter

Saturday, June 4, 2011

DuFlocka Rant (10 Toes Down)

I think I can honestly say that this is the best WFF release since Flockaveli. Backed up with the beats that he needs, the goes in a more brooding and menacing direction than his angry stuff. It seems apparent to me now that the difference between a good and bad Waka song is a good chord progression. That's really all there is to it.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Sweet Jesus


A definite highlight from the new MMG album. Mill's Tupac needs work but overall he works this song to a good froth. Regardless, the beat is a steamroller, and quite a surprising and innovative corollary to the increasingly tiresome Luger-esque hegemony.

Pretty good? "U Don't Know" allusions are annoying though. Better than the original regardless.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Politics are kind of annoying but that's mostly the video. Using Kanye influences in a compelling fashion.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New Weeknd. Could see this working into a larger album like butter into a buttercream.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The most original rap release I've heard this year. Get it here.

I would recommend this tape at this point. It's not amazing, but the beats are immersive and DZA is entertaining, sounding like a lazy mix of Curren$y and Jay-Z.

This is kind of good, but Ke$ha, even in her most diluted state, still triggers my gag reflex. And Nicki singing in the beginning is a little hard to take at first. Not sure if its worth it. I will, however, probably enjoy it when this song wrecks my eardrums at some house party next week.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Monday, April 25, 2011

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Best of the First Quarter

So I'm taking a cue from Yayo and making a list of my favorite music from the last quarter (or so). This is, however, a list less oriented around judgement and more around calling attention to what I've enjoyed listening to. Also, I've not payed attention to album cohesion or consistency, so these tapes and albums have some duds. I've linked one of the better songs from each album underneath it as a frame of reference. Hopefully this will bring to people's eyes music they have missed. The albums are listed loosely from worst to best:

Rich Boy - 12 Diamonds
"All I Know"

Crystal Stilts - In Love with Oblivion

Wiz Khalifa - Rolling Papers

Fat Trel - April Foolz

Gunplay - Inglorious Bastard
"Rollin ft. Waka Flocka Flame"

Mouse on Tha Track - Swagga Fresh Freddie
"Unwind ft. Shell and Foxx"

Panda Bear - Tomboy
"Alsatian Darn"

Lil B - Angel's Exodus

DJ Burn One - Joints
"Fuck Ya (Starlito)"

Chancha via Circuito - Rio Arriba
"Quimey Neuquen (Remix)"

LinkSpaceghostpurrp - NASA

Young Dro - Equestrian Dro
"Polo Down"

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart - Belong

Smith Westerns - Dye It Blonde
"Dye the World"

LinkMax B - Vigilante Season

Destroyer - Kaputt

DJ Quik - The Book of David
"The End ft. Garry Shider"

Young Sam - Jerkin Can't Die Pt. 2
EMA - Past Life Martyred Saints

Dum Dum Girls - He Gets Me High
"There is a Light that Never Goes Out"

Curren$y and Alchemist - Covert Coup
"Scottie Pippens ft. Freddie Gibbs"

Lil B - Illusions of Grandeur
"Cocaine Killer"

KD - G-Fluid

Clams Casino - Instrumental Mixtape
"All I Need"

LinkThe Weeknd - House of Balloons
"The Party and the Afterparty"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

I've always understood the appeal of Main Attrakionz but I hadn't seriously enjoyed one of their tracks until I heard this one. This is impressive. I strongly recommend Blackberry Ku​$​h.

Whoa kemosabe. Boring cadence but it grows.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jared Paul - Ubeatquitous

Hey buttheads, a friend of mine recently released his debut album, the very punny Ubeatquitous. Although I'm biased, it is surely quite lovely, silly, rockin, etc.

Jay Cue - Pyramid Life [REVIEW]: Another review for, in the jazzy young people making raps vein.

Hey, wait, this is good.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

This just made me so pumped for the Curren$y album.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Starts out in the Vitamin C graduation song vein but the chord progression goes somewhere much darker. Most of the credit, however, goes to Ashanti. File under throwaway album cuts that I like but will probably not remember to play again later.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Comments on "What's My Name ft. Drake"

I'm late to this I know, but I've been brooding over this thing for quite a while. To me, this is Rihanna's "What You Know" or "Wuthering Heights", all three being virtuoso displays that somehow fail to give the impression that anyone is showing off. As everyone has said, Drake sounds like a idiot here, and whether or not he intended that, it really works as part of the song. Try listening to the Rihanna-only version of this track, you'll find its not nearly as good. Drake's verse, to some extent, allows the consequence that impregnates the beat to go unfulfilled for quite a while, so that when Rhi Rhi arises in swirling lights, cutting Drake off practically mid-sentence, she sounds like the most nonchalantly confident "girl in the world", rolling three progressively more monstrous hooks into our ears without introduction or interruption. As far as the T.I. and Kate Bush reference goes, she just doesn't stop, rotating from hook to hook to hook to just enough "na-na"s for us to catch our breath and back again. And like T.I., what's key is that she has enough confidence that she can act like she's not just repeating herself, enough calm that she can make the same "what you know about that" or "it's me i'm Kathy"s or "go down town witta girl like me"s sound like development rather than repetition. And in the end, its better that way, because I never want that chorus to end.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Introspective yet completely lacking in self-awareness. I like it.

Exciting (for now) new album.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

So Chris Brown is doing a JT impersonation and Timbaland is doing a Timbaland impression but this is still good. It is kind of annoying how much Timb has become a parody of himself, though.

Vans Syndicate x Luke Meier from WHAT MATTERS MOST on Vimeo.

Is it possible that Shabazz Palaces is going to by the rap Mars Volta? I'm having the same "this is so cool and random that it must be deep" reaction that I once had to the visual media that TMV put out in my late high school years. Hopefully the admiration won't fade and some understandable complexity will come out of this group, because some of their stuff is really engaging.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Its very disconcerting, as a person who's trying to say relatively definitive things about music, how clear my judgmental vision can be in hindsight. I've chosen HHNF as my token palette-cleansing classic album as of late, and all I hear is "IMPERFECTIMPERFECTIMPERFECT". If I could swallow a set of speakers that played "Wamp Wamp" on a loop in my stomach forever, I might not have a problem with that.

Um, what is going on here?

Monday, April 4, 2011

I've been listening to the Clams Casino instrumental tape a lot, and this is by far my favorite. It is amazingly good, like its rocketing up my iTunes playcount list. I love his signature shuffling sound, although I have no idea what it is. Where did this dude come from? In interviews, he almost seems like he has no sense of purpose. So non-nonchalant. He also doesn't seem to be all that aware of the music that everyone is comparing him to. Its a little crazy, but it makes sense. He's bypassed the anxiety of influence by simply not having influences at all. He just makes music and its ridiculously unique.

Here's the original:

Friday, April 1, 2011

Comments on BADLANDS

I really don't have any idea how to talk about this Dirty Beaches album. To start, I guess, I could say that it really exemplifies the falsity of a perceived connection between originality and goodness. This album is incredibly original: it combines post-rock, lo-fi, early rock-and-roll, classic rock and numerous other influences into a relatively cohesive style, one that I have never expected to experience. Is it good though? Eh.

These days its pretty common to see different bands pulling from various eras and styles of music from album to album, to the point that we hear a song by an established band and say, "this sounds like Men at Work." The most recent Strokes album probably showed the dark side of this reappropriative stylistic exploration. We see the Strokes doing Men at Work, as opposed to the Strokes developing a new multi-faceted sound. On the other hand, you have people like the late LCD Soundsystem who similarly pull from influences, but do so fully enough that variation on their part doesn't seem like LCD Soundsystem doing Gang of Four, but rather LCD Soundsystem exploring their abilities and developing within their sound that has been inspired in some way by Gang of Four. Dirty Beaches occupies a middle ground between these two extremes. There's no way to deny that this sounds like a guy doing an Elvis impression, but there's no way we can say that the band is trying to sound like Elvis as a whole. Elvis wasn't this weird.

So, to be honest, the best songs on this album are those that sound most like a "real" song, with verses, choruses, bridges etc. This is not necessarily because their less melodic songs are too "out there" in their derivations, but because their more complete songs allow them to more fully embody the mix of styles that they have grabbed. The beginning and end of this album are, to be frank, boring. "Speedway King" succeeds in being thoroughly ominous+Elvis, but that's about it. It takes the sort of repetitive post-rock approach, with repeated extraterrestrially throbbing instrumentals, but with none of the growth that allows bands like Boredoms to make compelling music. It is, in other words, impossibly anticlimactic. "Black Nylon", similarly, sounds like the soundtrack on an Akira Kurosawa print: interestingly creepy, but there would be no difference if this song was three minutes or ten. Its not developed enough to create a textured mood.

These songs, however, are almost the building blocks of the album's better (much better) tracks. "Horses" has a similarly constant unchanging loop, but it moves, it implies that more things will happen. And they do: Alex Zhang Huntai, the guy with the voice, actually goes through various, relatively well defined segments. There's even a terrific guitar solo, distilling the atmospheric body horror of the song into a series of viscerally creepy clicks and booms. All of this succeeds in making the songs constantly yet intricately and kinetically creepy. It doesn't change, but it seems like its always moving.

The best moments on the album occur when this mixture of influences truly congeals into pretty unsettling combination of old and new, of old subtly developed restraint and modern repetitive and equalizing disorder. The combo succeeds in making the restrained elements seem foreboding and the relatively explosive elements seem costly. It solves the old rock problem, that shock needs contrast. Here the various elements serve to widen the distance the emotion has to move, making the difference seem all the more drastic. My favorite song ("A Hundred Highways"), for example, sees Huntai crooning almost calmly over a reminiscently methodical blues bass-line, while razor sharp guitars lick the higher register. Its all very tense until the guitars erupt into a solo that is so steeped in anger and loss that I could swear that the guitarist had just suffered some sort of major life-changing trauma, sounding like the hell-fire of Hendrix, just less positive and purpose driven. Its effective in an almost physically relatable way: sputtering, moaning, vibrating out the pain. The lo-fi, surprisingly, just serves to make it more universal, in the sense that a certain distance serves to make the eccentricities of their sound seem foreign rather than weird, allowing the universally relatable sounds to rise closer to the surface.

Unfortunately this sort of relatable tension and release only seems to happen once or twice. At other times it seems that the band is simply concerned with either being eccentric, poutingly moody, or both. "True Blue", for example, just seems to be all eccentric restraint filtered through flattening lo-fi hiss. At this point I just don't know what to do with them. What are they getting at? Nostalgia? If they are I'm not feeling it.

Overall, its a hit or miss album that, if it is worth it, is worth it for the promise of more consistency later on. Hopefully Huntai will be capable of separating the creepily touching wheat from the boringly eccentric chaff.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


One of the really great things about E-40's massively unprocessable amount of output--releasing two nearly twenty track albums on the same day--is that the sheer volume makes it impossible to shove tracks into the slots that you would expect a rap album to have. There is no one strip club track, no one track for those who didn't make it, no one track about 40's lady etc. While there are a couple of obviously radio intended exceptions, this glut of tracks doesn't necessarily create a lot of diversity. Instead, the album has an overwhelming consistency that allows the tracks to differentiate between each other much more subtly.

That being said, I'm not attempting to say that any of these tracks present anything that you might call expected. Everything about most of the tracks here serves to form a consistent sound that is at the same time subverting some serious emotional and sensory expectations. Much of that I can attribute to 40 himself. You can never pin down the man's attitude. He is at once viscerally and unavoidably serious and undeniably silly. This line is a perfect example: "I had to hand wash my clothes/didn't have a washing machine or a dryer/momma used to have to hang her period panties out on the clothesline wire." This line, from "Born in the Struggle", is an intensely embarrassing statement about of the psychological consequences of poverty. At the same time, to put it simply, it is ridiculous, and furthermore, vile. And yet 40 almost never cracks a smile. He always succeeds in being larger than life but in a world thats a little bit cartoonish, working his way into our expectations and the pushing outwards on both sides, both towards the real and the fantastic. In terms of style, I can compare him in some ways to Scarface, in that he seems to have an incredible disregard for the number of syllables in his lines, being constantly off beat up close but on beat with a wide lens. It was, for example, not necessary for him to say the word "machine" or the word "a" in this line, but it works wonders, like all of his lines, lifting off dramatically yet always sticking the landing.

Most importantly, the sort of head spinning ambiguity that pervades his flow and lyrical content is definitely communicated through the songs as whole pieces of music. Most of the songs have a blow-you-off-your-feet fullness coupled with unexpected and unnerving amounts of well-placed naturalistic emotion that you cannot help but be effected by. But it all has a certain hint of whimsy, with fat-tongued bass lines, voice acted snippets ("BUMBUMBUM") being used as important song elements, and cartoonishly round yet kinetic synths.

The song "Me and My Bitch" is a perfect example of 40's powers. The beat consists of a continuously ominous yet undeniably silly mouth-like synth line. The lyrics, while they initially seem to be based around a boring rap cliche, are actually a complex and relatively disturbing portrait of a horribly turbulent relationship. At the same time, 40 raps in a tone that makes him sound like he's telling a ghost story with a flashlight under his chin, spitting lines about his girl loving his dirty underwear and about how "cum is thicker than blood". Even his ablibs ("Hawhooo!") are at once disturbingly visceral and playfully ridiculous.

Overall, if you're looking for a highly original rap experience this album is definitely worth the money. I'll definitely keep supporting E-40 in the future, despite him being 43.

I'm not going to pretend that I didn't find this through Pitchfork. Regardless, SWAG.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

I don't know whether this man of capable of divesting himself of Jay-Z associations (this video isn't all the encouraging in that regard), but this song is definitely entertaining and it makes a decidedly anachronistic style seem as fresh as is possible.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I forgot to mention this song in my coverage of the Strokes album. And I like this performance, although it kind of makes me feel bad for Julian for some reason. Good work otherwise.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


The day that Vigilante Season came out, I read a tweet that, although I don’t remember who wrote it, basically mourned that the world would allow autotune to enter a Max B song. Since I had not listened to the album yet, this really bothered me, thinking that Vigilante Season had succumbed to the pop pied piper like Pink Friday or the album cuts from Rolling Papers. I was, luckily, wrong.

If this is a pop album, I have been using the wrong definition of the word for quite a while. The (actually very minor) use of autotune, however, is a good hint as to how one should read this album. Max B, although he is quite a good rapper, really brings the listener into his songs through his half-sung, half-drunk choruses and the effectiveness of a song’s particular hook and the ability of the production to support it says a lot about the effectiveness of the song as a whole.

The rapping, on the contrary, really needs time to grow on you, seeming sloppy at first, but eventually producing some serious earworms. Max actually has a pretty slow, meticulous flow, which is not overly complicated but seriously effective when he does choose some well-placed fancy footwork. That being said, the album on a whole doesn’t seem to be all that put together. It seems as though Max chose various elements for each song via-dartboard, producing some songs that really punch and some that just seem like orange juice and toothpaste. The album excels at the ends, with two single-worthy tracks at the beginning and a consistently effective second half. The best tracks on the album produce a partially deluded yet self-aware happiness that I can only compare to something like the effects of addiction: Max is happy, but he knows he shouldn’t really be. In the end, the best of Max’s style, which Yayo has accurately described as wino-esque, actually ends up being quite sad. Songs like “Money Make Me Feel Better”, “Green Gain”, and “I Need Money” have a sort of propped-up, uneasy quality that makes them really effective. These songs, in addition, have the album’s subtlest, yet somehow most catchy hooks, resulting in consistently complex and moody songs that somehow make me feel both uneasy and empathetic. Larger, more anthemic tracks are only slightly less effective and often include interesting production choices: “South Wave”, for example, has an almost gothic techno-like beat, culminating in a terrifically desolate chorus. The same goes for "Lord Tryna Tell Me Something".

The album just goes off the edge when there is an element that clearly just doesn’t fit. “Model of Entropy” flounders simply because its loungy, laid back chorus doesn’t allow the song to move anywhere when rapping comes along. The same goes for “Where Do I Go”. “Tattoos on Her Ass” has a powerful beat and chorus, but the verses, in which Max B mostly disses Lil Wayne, just fail to be as menacing as Max seems to want them to be. These misses, however, really only highlight the highs of the album in there inability to communicate complex emotional extremes in the way that the best songs are really capable of doing. And it is for that reason that I recommend this release. Free Max B.

The Weeknd has sparked a lot of discussion about "hipsters" and R&B, but I have to say that if you like R&B and you don't like this, there is something wrong. This isn't all that left-field, its just totally solid. I think that the attraction of the indie crowd to this mixtape has less to do with sound and more to do with distribution methods. This is basically in a consistent-sounding album form, which is something that even the biggest R&B artists usually don't provide. If you're not willing to pay a lot of attention to the latest Chris Brown or Drake singles, listen to the radio, or sift through their albums for the "good" stuff, then this mixtape might seem like a revelation.

Edit: Ok so I've been listening to this mixtape so much, and I might regret this, but this is the most consistently good album/mixtape I've heard this year. Every song is ridiculously immersive. I have, of course, heard a lot of great music that didn't necessarily excel in the form of an album, so take this statement with a grain of salt. Here's another great track:

Friday, March 25, 2011

Regardless of what I think about his music, K.R.I.T. has the best attitude.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Comments on the Parts of ANGLES that I Liked

It’s strange that people are always commenting on how events surrounding an album's release can affect its reception and yet they still let it happen when that kind of album inevitably comes back around. Many, for example, see Rihanna’s Rated R as particularly well received because of the domestic abuse scandal that informed it so much. And yet, when it came along, they still let it affect, sometimes even engulf, their criticism.

In many ways, then, I should be a perfect candidate to talk about this new Strokes album. I did not grow up with the Strokes. In seventh grade, when their debut came out, I wasn’t confident enough to even identify with any music at all. I think I just liked Weird Al. So they are not an important part of how I think about music as they are to so many people. They do not represent a specific archetype of good music to which I can compare other bands. To put it simply, Is This It, although I enjoy it very much, does not really mean anything to me.

But still, there really is no point of me out-and-out reviewing this. For one, its not amazing. If it were, it would be worth decontextualizing. But we’re not going to be coming back to this for years to come and more importantly, this isn’t essential listening, something non-Strokes fans should really give a chance to. If you care, you’ve already heard it. If you don’t, I’m sure you don’t care what I think.

So I thought I might just talk about three songs that I did like, so that if you are highly dissatisfied, as so many are, you might still be able to squeeze some pleasure out of it. Ok?

"Machu Picchu"

The first song on the album is incidentally my favorite. The song gives off the impression of tension, but not so much so that they’re letting it effect them all that much. Other than Julian’s trademark liminality, every aspect of the production in the verses is stark and hard-hitting, from the drums to the tortured reggae riff. And the chorus, oh man, the chorus shows the band in ecstatic free fall: if there ever was a more textbook case of tension and release, I haven’t heard it. The same goes for the bridge, which consists of a surprisingly well done system of layered vocals. All-in-all “Macchu Picchu” shows the band simultaneously in and out of sincerity in a way that’s effectively fascinating, making us wonder if the emotion of the song is a little bit too over the top to be real. Whether it is or not, the ambiguity makes it playfully enjoyable.

"Two Kinds of Happiness"

“Two Kinds of Happiness” is, to its benefit, entirely more sincere than the song above. The song, as basically everyone has said, resembles something from The Cars, a band that had a real knack for being both overly sincere and a little ridiculous at the same time. The Strokes lean to the sincere end, the song’s saving grace being that it is so emotionally effective from the very immediate beginning. But even then, the chorus is unexpectedly fervent, to the point where it removes some of the song’s believability. Insincerity without playfulness is not all that appealing. The song is, however, redeemed by its verses and because they’re so good, I can still really enjoy it.


“Gratisfaction” is one of the more left field additions on the album, taking inspiration from the Strokes’ trademark nineteen seventies, but the wrong side of the culture divide: not from artsy new wave but from stadium rock. This track reminds me specifically of Queen (with a little bit of the Beatles), but with an added sort of jaunty nostalgia. More importantly, the track is short and sweet, which is more than you can say about any song by Queen itself. Simply put, solid work.

Other than that, I had mixed feelings about the rest of the album. If you care about it, listen to it yourself.

To listen to the songs I mention above, you can stream the entire album here.

Comments on "That's Life" and Aesthetic Appreciation

If you haven’t somehow picked it up from my earlier posts, I have a real pet peeve about the mixture of politics and morality with art. Its not that I have a problem with the inclusion of these things in art: it would actually be impossible to remove them from any art that isn’t completely abstract. It is, rather, the judgment of art’s quality based on its moral or political content that really pisses me off. Rap is an especially ripe field for this and the issue is complicated. It is not simply that critics laud so-called conscious rap undeservedly, but that critics use morality as a reason to dislike rap inconsistently enough that it removes the readers ability to understand where the so-called value of the music comes from. Many critics, for example, that might have been seemingly repulsed by explicitly sexual music by people like Lil Jon have recently not been able to shut up about the (admittedly overblown) sexually repulsive content of Odd Future. Why the inconsistency? I have some ideas but I really don’t know. What I do know is that my ability to love music is not related to my evaluation of the morality of its lyrics or the political stance of its creator. Its a simple as that.

So you can understand why, when I recently discovered Killer Mike’s “That’s Life” and subsequently listened to it fifty times in a row, I was perplexed. 2006’s “That’s Life” is basically a political monologue, a track in which Mike expectorates all of the frustrations that he has with the moral inconsistencies of major public figures. It is, in other words, ridiculously dated, with references ranging from Tom Cruise’s couch jumping to FEMA’s disastrously mishandled response to Hurricane Katrina.

I can imagine really being effected by this track at the time. There is something extremely cathartic, even five years later, about someone just calling a spade a spade, in the way that a speech with similar content would be cathartic. But why do I want to listen to if over and over again? If the political content of the song is what makes it worth while, I should be able to just listen to it once or twice to get the message. Ok, so Bush doesn’t like the poor, that’s it. But that’s not it.

The fact is, even though I was around in 2006, I was 17. I was aware of the political issues of the time, but my opinions on them were completely unfinished, and because of that my feelings today about the issues Mike raises are not nearly as passionate as they could be. But this song is effective even in the references that I don’t remember. I don’t, for example, remember when Oprah boycotted Ludacris, but when Mike says, “I saw the smirk on they face when you came at Luda/The same nice ladies that forgave Martha Stewart”, my heart just keeps on racing. While the references of this song are extremely specific, it is simply a fact that the sentiment, that of a confidently defiant frustration with hypocrisy, is not. In this situation, although politics and morality are definitely necessary ingredients, it is politics that serves art, not the other way around. This song is effective because the frustration that Mike communicates is relatively universal to people of any political or moral stance, not because the specific political problems that Mike has are ones that I should have myself. Bush has been out of office for years, but when Mike says, “And his momma said the women oughta feel at home/Gettin’ raped in the bathroom in the Superdome,” I don’t need context to be effected.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that the song is effective musically as well? It is.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

There is always a place for Nardwuar. Although he didn't really get any info out of them, this is really fun to watch.

Comments on FEAR OF GOD

Pusha T seems to be experiencing a sort of Black Album period. I’m not saying that Pusha is planning on retiring, but both projects are made by rappers that, whether or not it is true, cinematically imagine themselves to be at the top of their game. The first song, “My God”, is the spiritual equivalent of “PSA”, a sort of angry, widescreen coronation. What makes this song good, other than the fact that it almost achieves the same level of exaltation that Jay-Z does, is that it maintains an essentially Clipse quality that I didn’t expect at first. While the production is by no means sparse, and Clipse tracks always seemed to be, it maintains, through the main riff and the scattered organ lines, a sort of eeriness that Clipse, especially Pusha T, always did best. This is a lot of Pusha's appeal, a sort of confident, self-recognized sinisterness, the feeling that he has no allusions about what he’s doing, but he’s going to do it anyway.

The best parts of this mixtape, “My God” really being its high point, are capable of expanding this sentiment into larger, more powerful mode. That, unfortunately, does not happen all that often. Rick Ross steals “I Still Wanna”, a huge chaotic storm without any real sign of Pusha’s influence. More subdued songs, like “Alone in Vegas”, “Raid", and “Cook it Down”, maintain the essential Clipsy-ness, but just not as well as the duo did in their heyday. Attempts at pop, like “Feeling Myself” and a remix of Soulja Boy's “Speakers Going Hammer”, are even less successful. To put it simply, it just doesn’t seem like he knows what to do with these songs, doing the same old thing in a context that just doesn’t make sense: both Pusha T and Soulja Boy, in other words, have a hard time not sounding like Pusha T and Soulja Boy. Even more left field additions, like the Queen-sampling “Open Your Eyes”, fail just as badly. It’s amazing how universal this is.

It seems that the lesson of all this is simply that Pusha T is just not a very versatile rapper. The best songs on the mixtape are forward developments for sure, but they are not at all outside of his wheelhouse. And its a small wheelhouse. His “Can I Live” remix is probably the most telling on this point. The song begins, “They say this took confidence/I just call it patience/’Cause I had too much pride to take this muthafuckin’ cadence”. This is a pregnant line, full of self-knowledge, self-loathing, and bitterness. But most importantly it shows confidence. Pusha’s sentiment is pretty close to the tortured debonair of Jay-Z’s original, but misses the essential self-questioning that Jay represented so well. This alone is enough to make the song boring and awkward.

To put it simply, Pusha T’s style is self-restrictive. This, however, is not at all a bad thing. First of all, the specificity of his sentiment is part of what makes him so good. Listen to “Momma I’m So Sorry” and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. More importantly, a lot of musicians could be much more consistently good if they realized that development often has to happen in small steps, as “My God” shows us. I really believe that one of the reasons Nas never again reached the heights of his debut is that he, a similarly restricted rapper, doesn’t understand or doesn’t want to accept this concept. So while most of this mixtape isn’t really worth keeping, its saving grace to some extent is the fact that it shows some real development to a pretty complex personal myth. Pusha T, in other words, is not repeating himself and I can appreciate that.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Comment on Criticism in General

People are always griping about albums getting perfect scores or being reviewed as "the best album ever" (see basically any criticism of Kanye's most recent album), but I have to say that I am in support of it. Think of the nineteen sixties. Can you think of ten albums that you would give perfect scores to? I certainly can. Albums didn't even really exist in earnest until the middle of that decade. And yet that's an average of one perfect album per year. What can we take from this? We could say a lot of spit about people idolizing artists and albums above their real worth, something that I can sometimes get behind, but seriously, where is the fun in that? As much as I would like to say that people over-idolize the sixties, and despite my ability to find some puny fault in Blonde on Blonde, that album is amazing. Its terrific, transcendent, a beautiful experience. If we allow ourselves to be swept up in Dylan worship, as well we should, why can't we allow ourselves to be swept up in Kanye worship? If one perfect album came out every year in the nineteen sixties, why can't one perfect album come out every year in the twenty teens? We don't have to raise things above everything else. Let's lower the standard. What makes a perfect album? A perfect album is an album that we like to listen to, a lot. We shouldn't second guess our enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is what art does to people. Let it happen.

You know, people talk about Waka Flocka being untalented and anti-intellectual, and yet, despite the fact that everyone is trying really hard to replicate it, none of them have even come close to making a song as good as anything from Flockaveli.

In other words, this song is not that good.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Most would agree Mike G is the most underappreciated member of the OFWGKTA league, a sentiment that his second album will hopefully change. Here's the first single, showing Mike to be surprisingly relaxed for the Wolf Gang, a definite strength. The beat is a lurching swamp as usual, with an interesting descending bass line. Oh, and there's a great "My Love" reference.

Comments on "My Little Grimey N*gga"

If you don't know already, E-40 is experiencing a kind of second (third?) coming these days, getting ready to release another two albums at the end of this month. This song has recently been all over the internet and for good reason.

If you read this blog you know I have a little hang-up with musical masturbation, which often makes it hard for me to like rappers that are famous for their technique, like Eminem, Twista, Busta Rhymes etc. E-40 is in the fast, technique-heavy category in a serious way, shoving extra syllables and seemingly awkward flows into practically every bar, but I do not find it hard to enjoy his music. It seems that 40 really understands that he's using his voice as an instrument. While it might seem like he's showing off sometimes, I would say that ninety percent of the time his expressions of pure technique are done in the service of a particular style. This track in particular is a perfect place for him to go off, with a minimal, slow-tempo beat and a terrifically laconic, mind-cleansing chorus from Stressmatic. 40's voice can really act as a counterpoint, can really create the song in the verses, with lines like "syrup and cha-cha sniffin'" and the deliciously pitched up "everybody knew his name". As much as I like chaotic, off-kilter production, I like chaotic, off-kilter rapping like this just as much, as long as its in the place where it has the space to work its magic.

And if that isn't enough, this is one of the best works of rap storytelling I've heard in a while. Solid work.

Everybody is blogging about the Chris Brown's staccato-rap track "Look at Me Now" but I'm finding "Deuces" much more compelling. The track shows all contributors showing a lot of restraint, which in R & B is harder to come by than in other genres. Brown allows the slight turns of his verse to drive it forward as opposed to show-offy acrobatics. Tyga, who probably has the best verse, portions his verse into single equally sized statements, using the most defined portions of the verse for emphasis. Also, I hate to be this person, but it sounds like Tyga been listening to a lot of Lil B. Lastly, Kevin McCall caps it off with the most aggressive verse, and he even makes a good DJ Drama joke. All in all, pretty good. Too bad that I came to this like 8 months late.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Pusha T - Cook It Down from Illusive Media on Vimeo.

Swag chefin' at about 1:30. And oh yeah, I'm kinda looking forward to this mixtape, although Pusha's flow gets a little bit preachy at points.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

This is the first I've ever heard of Max B, but I really really really like the attitude, as well as just about everything else about this song.

Comments on THE MC

"There is a certain level of guilt to being a rapper like me" - Too Short

So I watched this old documentary last night and I was pleasantly surprised. If you spend a lot of time looking into media about hip-hop you'll find that, first, there isn't much of it, especially on the internet, and second, that most of it touts the same old story.

The classic narrative goes something like this: In the late seventies people in the south Bronx were tired of being poor and hungry so they started DJing and dancing, some guys started leading the crowd and rapping was born. After the song, "The Message", came out, hip-hop became inherently political, forever. Run-DMC and LL Cool J made it popular, Chuck D and the Bomb Squad made it worthy of critical acclaim, and Rakim made it complex. Fast forward to the turn of the century, and somehow hip-hop is dead and people are just rapping about money and hoes. Hip-hop is not longer about the "real" street life.

This movie basically follows this narrative, asking questions like, "what's the deal with profanity?" and "do you have to be black to rap?" If the movie was just the narrator, I would have turned it off in ten minutes. You basically have to ignore everything he says, and the first twenty minutes of the film, where the "history" of hip-hop is recited, are probably the least interesting. The movie, however, is saved, and in a big way, by the staggering volume of interviews done with rappers. These aren't just the classic NPR-worthy rappers like Jay-Z or Black Thought but basically everyone important from East Coast Rap before The College Dropout (with a few big exceptions).

What is so striking about all the raw material here is that although the makers of the documentary attempt to build the traditional view of hip-hop by asking these questions, the content given by rappers is both very various and not necessarily in line with the boring old story. KRS-One probably gets the most screen time, which is both because he's the most charismatic and because he agrees most with the "hip-hop is political and rap is entertainment" view, but even he says interesting stuff: he talks about the power of art to create an artist and even a weird Kierkegaard-like understanding of his relationship with God. But even more interesting are the statements by 50 Cent and Clipse, people hailed by critics but not necessarily seen as conscious by any means. A very relatable Malice even talks about his necklace and what it means to him.

In this vein, the most notable counterpoint to the narration is when the question of "real", comes up. While some rappers criticize people getting away from the "struggle", most of those interviewed (even Talib) eventually give a very strong defense of poetic license, the most notable segment of which is a clip of Beanie Sigel basically defining the word "real" as meaningless.

Other highlights include any appearance of Kanye, who just can't keep himself from giving a much too enthusiastic a cappella rendition of "Spaceship", Jin, who really dates this film, Ghostface, who shows his nerdy side, and DJ Premier, who talks about what he sees as the differences between Nas and Jay-Z. My personal favorite appearances, however, are those of Too Short, who is probably the most down to earth of anyone in the movie, giving us that gem of a quote above. The only real qualms I have with the interviews are the very notable exclusion of any regional rapper other than Too Short. In fact, it seems like the creators demonize Southern Rap to the extent that they show pictures of Birdman every time anything sinister (like conformity) is being talked about.

What's ultimately encouraging and illuminating about the documentary is that those who do espouse the "Hip-Hop used to have MCs and people today are rappers" view are the least relevant to the discussion of post-turn-of-the-century rap. Those who have more of an influence today have their own more realistic ideas about what it means to rap and those ideas umbrella basically into the idea that rapping, like all music, exists to entertain a listener. So if you're interested in what some rappers think about what they do, I would recommend this movie.

The MC: Why We Do It is easily available to watch instantly through Netflix.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Reks is trying much too hard to make a really trite point and not hard enough to establish either a consistent tone or an enjoyable song. Revisit this or this or, most importantly, this other DJ Premier produced gem and you'll understand what I mean.

This is basically a better version of "H.A.M.". The rave-y techno is an interesting addition to a pretty standard anthemic Maybach Music structure and melody. Also, this may not be his most charismatic verse, but I suggest you check out Meek Mill.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Comments on "The Wolf"

Karen has come a long way since "Heartbeats", but not so quickly that we can't go back and see it happening. Silent Shout saw the Knife turning their music towards the frigid and stark in a major way. Fever Ray saw her drawing herself out and removing some of the pop. Tomorrow in a Year saw the further extension and relaxation of their craft, possibly a little too much, the tightest thing on the album being eleven minutes long. And now we're here, with "The Wolf".

I really see this song as a refinement of the Tomorrow in a Year sound, in the vein of the fabulous "Colouring of Pigeons". That song saw the Knife immersing the audience in a rich world via repetition, intensity, and drone-like strings. "The Wolf" does something very similar in less than half that time. There is no pop here, but rather than building up to intensity, Karen hits us with full-on drone immediately, with sound so deep and physical we can't help but shaken by it. In the same sense, similarly unconventional tympani-like drums grace this track but appear infinitely more urgent: the entire song is in full swing about ten seconds in. And although this track is inherently repetitive, it never seems that way.

What's even more interesting is the almost complete lack of "electronic" sounds here. I even hear what seems to sound like a little guitar distortion. While the Knife's crazy attention to detail allowed them to meticulously fill out their skittering electro sound and still be stark, it seems like the use of rich instrumentation has allowed Karen to sound, not stark, but alive in an incredibly detailed, and more importantly, incredibly arresting way, in a way that even the best moments of Silent Shout aren't capable of doing. While SS was a cold statement of nihilistic anticlimax, "The Wolf" seems to be Karen getting at a vision that may be equally pessimistic, but decidedly more human.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Another highly effective track from RFDM.

Friday, March 11, 2011

I was originally a little disappointed with Red Flame Devil Music Edition, but as with everything Lil B, it has definitely grown on me. This particular song is ridiculous as usual: a Slick Rick style throwback with on-the-edge-of-sincere lyrics about a chest cold.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

I have some reservations about this Lil B review, but it is, all-in-all, a very satisfying treatment from a major publication.

A “loud-quiet-loud” aesthetic has become almost a cliche at this point, a way of describing dynamic interludes that are both obvious and over-dramatic. While I didn’t necessarily prescribe to this dismissal of the technique, it had always seemed so easy to me that I was surprised that its use was so praised among canonical musicians. I have recently been quickly falling in love with Big Black’s Song’s about Fucking, and it has definitely changed my mind.

Steve Albini, the lead guitarist of Big Black, has basically produced for every band known for this aesthetic, from Surfer Rosa to the controversial first mix of In Utero to PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me. We can effectively trace the sound all the way back to him. Big Black, however, is, in essence, a hardcore punk band: it is very hard to find a Big Black song that changes in volume or speed. What you can find, and what I think is more important than this oversimplification of musical effectiveness, is a highly attuned sense of dynamics and contrast. While this song may be loud all the way through, it contains an extreme mix of both sludge and clarity. While the Pixies might create intensity by paralleling a riff at different ends of the volume spectrum, Albini crams a number of crisp, yet flat lines into one space, making it hard to listen to more than a single instrument attentively. Out of the muck you might pull that bass that sounds like a lead pipe, the flat tire snares, or slightly out of tune guitar jangle. Whatever you pick will be intense.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I like this quite a bit.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

This is a good cover. End of story.

Monday, February 28, 2011

I just picked Young L's mixtape up today because of a suggestion from TumblinErb, and damn, can he make beats. I had listened to his earlier tape L-E-N, but I dismissed it because his crappy rapping was just too much for me, and its still really unfortunate that he's such an uninteresting MC. But his production is highly interesting. This song specifically is sort of a resonant inversion of the "Drop It Like It's Hot" formula.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Ok, so Luda's verse is horrid, but otherwise, where was the critical reception for this?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Yes, it seems like everyone's reaction to this song is, autotune again? But if I could say, this song makes me yearn for a world where autotune isn't such a cliche: it helps that Wiz doesn't sing all that much. He effectively turns the sad robot cliche into a legit rap song, keeping the melancholy and turning the autotune from an affectation into a real vector of the song's mood. I never thought that such an effect would sound organic but somehow it does. I'm actually existed for Rolling Papers.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


"Front cover the The Fader for you lame haters"

I’m a fan of Anthony Fantano. His reviews of avant-garde, post-rock, noise, and similar genres show a vast knowledge of music and a deep understanding of how these genres can be enjoyable. I, however, have found that this review of Lil B’s recent album Angel’s Exodus pushes so many of my buttons that I cannot go without ranting about it.

To begin, I can understand not liking Lil B. His production quality is not great, technically speaking he’s an good to horrible
rapper etc. I, also, am not necessarily the biggest fan of this release, although I think that says more about rap music’s relationship to the album format than anything about Lil B. What is wrong with this review is not the rating, but the tone.

Fantano does almost all of his reviews with an LP hanging behind him, usually a highly regarded one from the genre being discussed. When he reviews rap albums, I have seen two albums gracing his wall: Dre’s The Chronic and Madvillian’s Madvilliany. While these are very different albums from very different contexts, the way that they relate to his reviews is very telling. The Chronic sets the 1990’s as the grand point of reference for good rap music. I know that Anthony does not like gangsta rap lyricism, so I’m assuming that this album is often behind him because of its insane production value, in appreciation of Dre’s well known perfectionism. In other words, Fantano has already set the field of play. In some sense the presence of The Chronic says, this album will be evaluated in terms of production, which may or may not be its merit. This is both a refusal to evaluate an album holistically as well as a refusal to evaluate an album based on its own perceived merits. I think that Fantano’s appreciation of lo-fi albums would show this to be an inconsistency.

More importantly, the album hanging behind him here is Madvilliany, a great album, but a very telling choice. Fantano’s title as indie music critic leads us to assume that he approaches all music through a lens that turns from the mainstream. The fact that this album is hanging behind him just shows us what that lens is for this genre, a sort of high-minded and rather unuseful rap intellectualism that really has no bearing on the independent rap at hand. Both albums that he uses in rap reviews are evidence of his criteria of evaluation, and unfortunately, these criteria just don’t apply to what makes Lil B a good musician. While Lil B has, in fact, sometimes been compared to MF Doom, much of this youtube/bedroom/indie/youth/postbased/cloud rap movement that is taking over the blogs these days consists of a willingness to disassociate oneself with the standards of what makes rapping and producing.

This sentiment, then, clashes pretty heavily with Fantano’s conviction that the album’s best track’s are its bonus tracks, where Lil B “rides the beat” like a “real rapper.” To ride the beat implies a consistent flow but what “real rapper” seems to mean is only that Anthony is already not taking the album seriously. While Anthony always includes humorous elements in his reviews, this review shows a certain amount of condescension that is not at all normal.

This attitude is most present when he talks about the album’s lack of “cooking” tracks. Lil B’s music can mostly be divided into serious, technique heavy tracks and so-called “ignorant” party tracks, otherwise known as “cooking songs," referring to their signature dance, which Fantano mimes briefly. Which category of Based music is better is highly argued on the internet, many touting his serious tracks as best seemingly because they show that Lil B is actually a "good rapper" to nay-sayers. Although I enjoy both, I tend to tilt towards the “cooking” side, simply because its Lil B doing what he does best: being ridiculous, fun, subtle, and overly sincere, a physical embodiment of what Jesse Thorn would call “the new sincerity.”

When Fantano calls B out for not including party songs, he could be seen as playing to this sentiment if only he wasn't saying it with such sarcasm. By questioning where the “woo”s and “swag”s are, he’s basically just taking a jab at anyone who may take this music seriously. Essentially, Anthony makes Lil B sound stupid by intentionally taking the piss out of his own highly impassionate attempts to find something good about the album. When he compliment’s B for being “real”, his tone doesn’t suggest that he actually finds merit in this, but rather that he'll give him a break because Lil B clearly just doesn’t know better, that its not his fault because he just lacks the self-awareness to make good music. This intentional dismissal of the aspects of music that usually lead people to appreciate it just shows an unwillingness to investigate thoroughly what is a rapidly mounting popular movement. In other words, Fantano’s attempt to treat this music with critical eyes just makes him look ignorant instead.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

I know I'm a little late to this, but I still haven't been able to swallow this twenty five track mixtape in one piece, and because its something I really think I should spend some time with, I'm going to wait to talk about it. But here's a good taste.

Despite his very essential "normalness", Wiz Khalifa also seems to figure out a subtle way to make his songs very appealing. I'm still trying to figure out how.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

I did not have high hopes for OF on Fallon. I've heard that their concerts were spectacles but not necessarily good performances. I stand corrected. They knew what they had to do and they did it. Big shock risk somehow equals huge entertainment payoff. They totally succeeded in showing everything about their music that makes it compelling. Highest amounts of swagger. And they're not yelling. And the Roots totally work. I can't get over this. Shit.

Why Mos Def is there at the end I have no idea. I guess he's a fan.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Effective in a sort of plodding, yet dynamic sort of way. I haven't heard much like this before.

Monday, February 14, 2011

There's more to this than just a "road song" and that's what's intriguing me.

As is par for the course with OFWGKTA, their videos are shorter and differently mixed than their audio tracks. Here's the full version of "Yonkers".

Speaking of Cash Money: sometimes there is something to be said for pure expressions of technical prowess. It is, however, usually the case that technique serves persona. I'm impressed with Birdman's balls, not his rhyme structure.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

As one of the commenters says, this is Cash Money at its best. Oh and an awesome Bun B is here. Remember Mannie Fresh? No neither do I, I was in fourth grade. I know he's important though.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Cher at her best.

As much as I wish the music industry would get over new wave revivalism, I must admit this song is quite good.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Comments on "Yonkers"

Tyler the Creator has always been unhinged. The first time I saw the the “French” video, I sat in silence for five minutes worrying about what the modern world was doing to these kids, not realizing that Tyler is only two years younger than me. And despite the macro-vision that many take this new unsettling youtube/tumblr-rap movement to give us about what is happening to urban youth, Tyler is at least that vision distilled and packaged neatly in a syringe. He is often, as many critics have stated, evil, meant to scare the living bejesus out of listeners. We’re supposed to be afraid he’ll do something to either himself or those around him.

And that’s what makes “Yonkers” so significant. This is the first time we see him helpless. While so much of his earlier work used comedy as a weapon, here he doesn’t really use it at all, leaving him practically defenseless. When he lashes out, instead of being unsettled by his sick thoughts, we finally feel pity. Now the camera is turned back at us. So much of OFWGKTA’s aesthetic is based on body horror: stigmata, vomit, prescription meds, loose teeth etc. This song finally puts in full view what has been hinted at all along, a sort of “what have you done to me” sentiment that doesn’t necessarily point a finger at us, but certainly makes us think about how we treat others. But most of all, the track seems inevitable in its sense of doom as if Tyler’s inability to deal with himself and his body is something that unfortunately just happened.

At the very same time, he is so careful to emphasize the theatrical in his performance. Although he insists in interviews that he’s just doing what comes to his head, he focuses on how character will come through his music even more than the average emcee. The sort of “one-man show” quality of this video only serves to bring that fact to the fore and, in a way, it is a perfect way to summarize his character. It is him, but he’s putting it all up front for us to see, making it entertaining, making feelings into actions, and thoughts into words. And because hip-hop is a genre so reliant on personality, this song shows a crucial new side of Tyler’s character.

As always, we can see in this track what makes Tyler compelling. He’s not afraid to be experimental and yet that experimentation is not alienating enough to keep us from understanding it as emotionally complex. In other words, it may be new, it may be different, but its still rap music.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Been growing on me. Its stark in post-based sort of way.

Clams Casino is seriously someone to watch.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

I like this song well enough, but I think music needs less vision and more real personality these days. I'm tired of hearing about a band's "sound". For real.