Sunday, January 18, 2009

Is this hip hop?

I don't know about some of you, but for me, winter signals a shift in the kind of rap I want to hear. In the spring and summer, I'm a bit more inclined to listen to tales of workin' the slab, bendin' corners, chasin' hoes and all that fun stuff. The music feels warm and appropriate for the time of year. But as soon as winter rolls around, all I want to hear are crime tales from abandoned urban youth. A couple years ago, right before finals, I distinctly remember only listening to Hell on Earth, The Infamous, and Hell Hath No Fury for a couple weeks straight. Obviously the weather alters my mood. After reading about Tray revisiting The College Dropout five years later, he inspired me to go back to a time when I thought Kanye was a rapper that I could connect to. That's not to say I ever thought he was the best, but let's be honest; I'm not from, nor have I ever had to run the streets. So listening to some guy who comes from a fairly well-educated family rap about topics that matter to him was pretty affecting to me. But now that I'm older, those skits fall way, way flatter than i remember. Maybe it's because I am also a college graduate without a drug habit or a job at the Gap.

Anyway, along with the change in weather, there's a big event (in my mind) coming to Cambridge in a couple weeks: M.O.P. at the Middle East. In anticipation of that, as well as my hunger for riot music in the winter, I've been listening a lot to First Family 4 Life. It's not as clean in execution as Firing Squad, which has Premier as executive producer, but this thing is pretty tight. I've written about "4 Alarm Blaze" before, but thinking back, I have a hard time figuring out what is really the standout track on this album. Firing Squad, for me, has a couple clear standout tracks: "New Jack City," "Anticipation," "Brownsville" and "Downtown Swinga '96." FF4L lacks the standalone "signature" track of the album (maybe "Handle Ur Bizness"), but they're all so good it doesn't matter. Premo gives Fizzy Womack and Berkowitz five great beats, and the ones by Laze-E-Laze and Fame are great too. In terms of rapping, these two break no new ground, and you know that is true with any M.O.P. song. But these two have more passion in their voices than most; I can always feel their hunger and borderline desperation. The guest list is pretty on point, too: Tef, Jay-Z, O.C., Heather B, Guru, Freddie Foxx, and Treach. Besides Guru, all have great, energetic performances. Thinking about Guru being sleepy reminds me, why isn't "1/2 & 1/2" on this album, or a Gang Starr album for that matter? I know it's on Full Clip, but there is no excuse for either party to omit such a gem.

Getting back to business, whereas Firing Squad is a really well constructed album that builds up to its best songs then allows you some time to soak it all in (an hour of Fame and Danze yelling at you/threatening fake-ass gangstas can get a bit too intense at times), FF4L feels like a collection of the best songs that the Mash Out Posse had made over the course of a year. If you have a chance, totally pick this up.

M.O.P. (prod. by Premier)- Breakin' the Rules
M.O.P.- Facing Off


tray said...

Yeah, the skits are fairly useless, but that's what the skip button is for. As for winter albums, I always go back to Dah Shinin this time of year. Have there been any great winter albums made recently, though, or even in this decade? Seems as the South has risen, it's become all summer all the time in rap. I see The Inspiration as a great winter album, but I'm not sure that anyone else feels that way.

Jesus Shuttlesworth said...

winter albums? hmmm... well, College Dropout was in Feb. '04, i believe. in terms of the rest of this decade, i can't think of any that were well-crafted from beginning to end. i lack the soft spot for Jeezy that you have, but i will certainly concede that The Inspiration has some pretty solid songs on it. it's really all about Mr. 17.5 for me. those two need to do a full album together.

tray said...

Mr. 17.5 is definitely a highlight, and particularly well-suited to the winter. It always amazes me how he can make something as dopey as "I take it back to the kitchen, back to the rocks" sound really great, as if rap had gotten too faraway from the kitchen/rocks and it needed Jeezy to take it back there.

Alexander J said...

The verses off of 1/2 and 1/2 are some of my favorite of all time. Plus that Primo beat is such a fucking banger.

"We can scrap, with guns, knives, chains and raps."

As Jesús and I picked our copies of College Dropout on the same day, I do remember feeling a certain connection to someone who was speaking from the heart as a non-white American. To quote Chappelle on his "How I got the lead on Jeopardy"; "I'll take fucked up shit white people did for a thousand...They stole their land while giving them syphilis...who is anyone whose not white? He looked down at the cards, disappointed, "Oh my god, he's right."

AaronM said...

The first M.O.P. record I heard in full. I actually like "Warriorz" a lot more, but still...M.O.P. and Jay-Z over "Eye of The Tiger"? Fuck yeah!