Monday, June 29, 2009

Another part of me.

I'll be on hiatus/vacation for the next two weeks. In regards to recent events, at this point I really have nothing to say. The more I read about his life, the more this hurts me. I'm sure I'll write more later, but I'm still processing about what he meant to me. Also, that move at 2:25> Usher's career.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The would-be "Best of Both Worlds"

After hearing Jay's boring new song about how he hates Autotune, but somehow, not the most famous artists who use it (because they're creative?), I got to thinking again about what is the best Jay-Z album. Now, if someone like Noz or Trey Stone are to be believed, then it's Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter. A couple years ago, back when I was living in Seattle, I had a lot of free time and mostly thought about rap and went to my local used record store. After reading Noz's defense of Vol. 3 in the comments section of these posts, I figured I would actually cave and buy a record that is really only known for "So Ghetto" and "Big Pimpin'." Just in case I wasn't feeling up to buying the album that day (or ever), I could listen to it at some handy listening stations. Now, those of you who read Posse on Blogway way back when may remember some post he did about a fantasty Timbaland/Hov album and embedded some songs in that post. One of those songs is Vol. 3's "Come and Get Me." For whatever reason, I wasn't really able to get into while reading his post, but I figured that If was was going to buy a hard copy of the album, I better know what this song sounds like, so it was the first track I listened to. It started off decent enough, with talk of "remov[ing] your roof" over some beat that did not sound like Timbo at all... then it changed to this slow, sort of futuristic album cut. As though it should be the title track, with Jay defending his rise to stardom following Vol. 2. With this song at least, I was convinced.

I went looking through the album credits to see who was responsible for the rest of the production, since Jay fans love to celebrate Jay-Z's beat selection meanwhile shitting on Nas. "So Ghetto?" Check. The other four Tim tracks? Check. Everything else, though, was just not grabbing me. To be honest, all the other beats sound horribly dated from the DJ Clue?/Dame Grease/Swizz Beats era of New York rap... except these sound like their throwaway beats. Remember the first single, "Do It Again?" It's not a bad beat or song, per se, but it isn't engaging at all, and certainly shouldn't deserve Jay's supposed seal of excellence or approval. And do not get me started on "S. Carter." As soon as it started, with Amil's shrill whine, I stopped the CD player. Why he dumped Foxy for her I will never understand. Overall, the songs I heard from the album just didn't convince me that it was an album worth owning.

As I mentioned before, Noz had this rap nerd fantasy post about a Tim/Hov collaboration album. Personally, I don't think that would have worked in 2007, or anytime since Jay-Z has retired. He simply cannot rap as well as he could back in '98-01 and Timbaland, except for a few cases (like Jeezy's 3 A.M.), has simply outgrown rap. I'm not sure he could bring it anymore. But, there is a wealth of material from the past that could have been compiled to make probably Jay's best album. Think of this as a missed opportunity. Now, I would say Timbaland's best beats were from about '97-'02 or '03, and if certain people are to be believed, Jay was at his best around the time of Vol. 3. Now, what would an album look like if Jay had waited two years between Vol. 1 and Vol. 2? Here's my idea of the tracklist, in no particular order:

Intro: Hand It Down
So Ghetto
Paper Chase
N*gga What, N*gga Who
It's Hot (Some Like It Hot)
Snoopy Track
Hey Papi
Lobster and Scrimp
Big Pimpin'
Come and Get Me

Look at that, what album in 1999 could touch a lineup like that? Even with Bleek on the first track? It's amazing what a little quality control could have done for his place in 90's rap. Maybe then DMX wouldn't have been the megastar at that point in time. Oh well, I can dream.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Do you see what I see?

A while back, I wrote a post about the Backwudz's first album Wood Work. Again, if you haven't heard it, check it out. A couple months ago, on MGG's site, I saw a youtube video from Big Marc of the group doing this song he entitled "Concrete Complications." What struck me at first was how he had changed his whole look and rapping style. From throwbacks and fitted caps to a Freeway-esque beard and a fledgling mohawk as well as an over-enunciated cadence (a change from his thick Southern drawl) that OutKast has always been so fond of. I would say that he got this from Wayne, but it's clear from his style to the topics he chose to write about in that short song that 'Kast was a more direct influence. Anyway, I thought it was pretty serviceable, nice to see someone who'd been out of the spotlight for so long back giving us something to consume for a little while, but I figured that would be about it. I also knew he'd released a mixtape over old (?) Dilla beats and renamed himself "A. Leon Craft," which I passed on since it felt a bit weird to hear the combination of those two for whatever reason. But maybe a month or so ago, I heard his appearance on "Caddys" and started to take notice. For one, he's putting out music rather consistently, so clearly there is something in the works. But also, the thing that made me hesitant about "Concrete Complications" was gone from his verse. Before, it felt like he was trying much too hard to be Andre from the way he presented himself physically, to his style and writing subject. On "Caddys," he sounds more comfortable with his new flow and he's just rapping well, not overly concerned with getting a message across to the streets. Then, a little more recently, I heard his song "Spaced Out." It's pretty nice. I am sure some of you are skeptical of someone who calls himself A. Leon Craft and hails from Atlanta, but don't worry, he's not treading old ground. Instead, he's taking Andre's verse on "Xplosion" to it's logical extreme and taking the space meme as far as he can. Given that on the songs I've heard he's used it for cars and women, he seems pretty comfortable with it. I'm looking forward to what he has in store next.

Also, I have no idea what's gotten into me recently, but enjoy this posting streak while it lasts.