My lame once every few month update average needs to improve, or I need to shut down the site. I’m paying the cost of spotify a month to keep the page up, ha!
YEAR IN REVIEW REAL QUICKLY THOUGH: I’ll do this quickly, because those clickbait articles aren’t worth your time. Album of the Year? D’angelo and the motherfucking Vanguard “Black Messiah.” Seriously, a surprise D’angelo album was the best christmas gift ever. I finally understand the insanity that Beyonce fans felt when her album dropped out of nowhere. This album is syrupy soul goodness with incredible production and good lyrics. Actually, I cant tell if all the lyrics are solid because D’angelo remains his loveable mumble bumble self. He gives fast talking mumblers like myself hope. Honorable Mentions for 2014: Run the Jewels 2 (duh), Isaiah Rashad “Cilvia Demo” (dont sleep, best TDE release this past year), Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, J-Zone, Blueprint, Ratking, Von Pea, etc.
2015 is starting off cold physically, but on the music tip, it’s hot fire. First worthy of discussion is this impressive Lupe Fiasco Tetsuo and Youth album which feels like honest progression from an artist that was making me sleepy after The Cool. I liked a few tracks on Lasers and Food and Liquor 2, but overall both albums are very forgettable. The rap/rock track attempts were super abrasive. I literally dont know anyone who wasnt in college or had no real responsibilities who bumped those records like they were any good. This new joint features more cohesive production from talents like S-1 and DJ Dahi, and Lupe is suuuuuuuper lyrical on this one. It sometime dances on the line of intelligent wit (see El-P) and complete bablore (see Canibus post-2000 BC), but man he snaps with a purpose throughout this record. “Murals” is a 8 minute lyrical barrage. ”Deliver”, “Prisoner 1 & 2″, and “Madonna” focus on the trials and tribulations that face poor folks stuck in downtrodden neighborhoods. Funny how Lupe has delivered his best music on this topic when he is probably at his wealthiest. It is hard to believe the guy behind “Kick, Push” is pushing you to think like he is here. Make no joke, this record is high brow, this album is going to drive hella ad revenue to RapGenius as fans try to dissect Lupe’s intricate wordplay. ”Dots and Lines” is arguably my favorite Lupe track e-e-ever. Wonderful soulful track with a wacky banjo intro and outro, but damnit it works. Easily 4.5/5 for me and worth your money.
The long awaited debut from NYC-throwback king Joey Bada$$ B4da$$ has finally hit the webs/streets. I loved how Pro Era got a bump from a picture by elder Obama daughter, Malia. My first thought is wow, it is great how the President and First Lady have such awesome taste in Hip-Hop! Like, they probably grew up with Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt, and have instilled good music tastes for their kids. Malia is arguably the most famous 15 yr old in the country, and she rocks with boom-bap Hip-Hop instead of mindless Taylor Swift. That’s damn cool, right? This album overall is pretty solid too. Joey is a clever emcee, and he is able to get some sweet production from Kirk Knight, DJ Premier, and Freddie Joachim. I’ve been bumping Freddie Joachim beats since my college days, and it’s wonderful to see him get such major play. His production on “Waves” was the foundation of the buzz for Joey, and he has produced the best joints on here in my opinion in “On & On” and “Piece of Mind.” None of these tracks (albeit on one listen) grab me like Lupe, but Joey knows how to ride a beat and drop a hot verse. It’s clear that the classic, golden-era boom bap Hip-Hop inspires Joey. His album reeks of that inspiration, but yet isnt quite as inspirational as those classics. I do think he is capable of that greatness, evident on tracks like “Save the Children” and “On and On”. 3.5-4/5 for me, wortgh your cop.
Speaking of spending money, it’s funny how I talk about buying albums but I haven’t bought a physical album in a hot minute. My wife and I pay for Spotify for like 15 dollars a month, and I have access to crazy amounts of music everywhere. This begs the question though – am I a shitty fan? I’m going to more shows these days (Aesop Rock soon!), but I seem to only pre-order or buy albums of artists I know or have known for mad years. It’s funny how we all talk about how there is no money in music, and that shit is a lie. The money is just shifting from purchases of albums to purchases of licenses of services like Spotify. If I’m a new artist, I’m making sure the contract gives me a fair share of the licensing fees from services like Spotify, Beats music, etc. That digital performance right isnt a joke man, gotta take advantage of the future of music.
Action Bronson absolutely body-slammed his Funk Flex appearance, and has released some solid singles including the souulfooool and smooth “Terry“. The album’s production is key, because Bronsolino has always been an entertaining cat. Part of me wonders, would Action be as huge if he wasnt a white guy? Dont get me wrong, he is an insanely hilarious character with incredible rhyming skill, but do you think a young Ghostface (a guy Action reminds everyone of) would generate this buzz in 2015? I mean Ghost just dropped a good album “36 Seasons”, and is about to drop another with funk/jazz trio badbadnotgood. (Check “Ray Gun” though). Either way, I root for Action Bronson because he has always come off as authentic.
Kanye West has had himself a week. From faux-interrupting Beck’s acceptance for Album of the Year at the Grammmy’s to his NY Fashion Show appearance, he has been dominating the airwaves.
Quick note about the fashion show: Kanye looked like he is designing clothes for homeless mannequins in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. When I see these models, I dont see beauty or fashion, I see “this is what those humans in Zion from the Matrix movies would look like if you put a tan cloth condom over their entire body.” I found it weird that a backpack rapper like Kanye evolved into a fashionista over the years. But I guess if this is considered “successful fashion” it appears all you need is a brash persona, the ability to condescend easily, and charge people a lot of money. Kanye got all that in spades.
Honestly though, lost in the hooplah is the release of new music in the form of “Wolves” and the Paul McCartney-assisted “Only One.” Kanye has gone back to his version of singing over really good production provided by other people, and while it isn’t exactly “Hip-Hop”, the overall product is strong. I wonder if Kanye doesnt think he can drop a traditional rap album that would meet the quality of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, so he is just like f*ck it, experimental music from now on.
Drake did that thing where he dropped a surprise album out of nowhere in the form of “If You’re Reading this, oh my god this title is too long and narcissistic” (or something like that). Really, as the main man Gene Legend said, this album should be called “Everything Sounds the Same.” Besides “10 Bands”, “Know Yourself”, and the bonus cut at the end where Drake is rhyming with a purpose (yeah I said it) the tracks are hard to discern from each other. The Drake formula of no real drums, just soft trap 808s + singy-song rap verse + emotions sells like a mofo though, so I guess I cant knock what works for the masses. But this isnt an album I’d listen to regularly, and it almost sounds like that’s the point. Lil Wayne’s anger with Cash Money Records is well known at this point and maybe Drake releasing what sounds like cutting room floor/mixtape tracks in advance of his latest album is a smart way of trying to dead that contract.
Random thought about the presidency: There are random seven year olds out there who are children of racists who only know the U.S. Presidency as occupied by a black man.
So we cancelled cable last month and I have to say, overall, it’s been pretty solid. You can chromecast most TV shows on major networks and the only real loss is sports. I end up going to a bar or a friend’s place to watching meaningful sports games. I didnt realize how much time I wasted watching sports that didnt matter to me. This goes beyond random college basketball games, it’s not listening to sports coverage which is the biggest gain. Shows like First Take, Around the Horn, etc appeal to like our most base instincts of shitting on people we dont know for how they throw/catch balls. I’ve enjoyed just watching games, reading an article here and there, and escaping all of that negativity.
Ok so I legit do feel bad about not writing much as I get shamed by friends and fam, but I especially feel awful for not writing anything positive on the anniversary of Dave’s passing. To that end, I’d like to talk about a mutual friend and talented emcee Kenn Starr who just released his sophomore album, Square One. Ya’ll should know Kenn Starr for his stellar debut Starr Status and the fact he rhymed on the D. Ellis tribute track produced by 9th Wonder. His debut was released the year Dave passed and it’s great to hear him release another record. His latest album boasts production from Black Milk, Kev Brown, and more. Seriously, that should be enough to inspire a purchase. Peep the official video for “Say Goodbye” produced by Black Milk and the entire album at Mello Music Group.