Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Nero - Relive It

Back in February, I wrote a little something about this guy Nero that I came across and his mixtape album type thing, Alive & Vibrant where he rhymes over some classic 90's beats (an idea that unfortunately is starting to get a little old now, by the way, as several MCs have done the same thing - Luguz, Skillz, and a few others that I probably don't care about as much - On the other hand, what does it say to you that so many of today's MCs would rather rhyme over beats that are 10-15 years old).

Either way, I was impressed with the rhymes this guy spit on that album. I still don't know much about the guy except for the fact that he's a lot younger than I expected (still not legal, if I'm not mistaken) meaning he has a mature flow for his age, and a knowledge of hip hop that matters, which is a plus. Oh, and he's from NY - state? city? I don't know. Yesterday, I nabbed a copy of the re-release to the album called Alive & Vibrant: Relive The Moment . Mostly the same as far as I can tell w/out pulling out the original because I don't feel like it right now. A few new tracks though too. Mark my words this guy is someone to check for in the future...or actually right now. My previous criticisms still stand, since it's pretty much the same album. But, at least he's showing his ability to keep up and deliver with different styles. The real test now will come when he has a clean slate of fresh beats on his own album. We'll see what he does with that. I'm feeling good about his ability to craft a great album though. Relive The Moment was posted for free, so here's a link:


Go ahead and d/l this and have a good time. Then go and buy each of the albums these beats are from (if you don't already have 'em) and have an even better time.
UPDATE: I listened a little more closely to the title track - he was born in Queens, if that matters to anyone.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Rakim - Holy Are You

This new track was posted last night on all the hip hop sites. If anyone that cares has not heard it by now I'm surprised. So, the wait is coming to a close after I don't know how many years of false release dates, label changes, etc. Or, so it seems. All I saw posted was a "fall release". Not even a date this time. Meaning I'll believe it's coming out when I can actually go to a store and hold a copy in my hands (or maybe see it on Amazon as 'in-stock'...I rarely go to the store anymore).

But the song is out, and on every site I go to now, I'm looking at literally hundreds of people sharing their thoughts in the c-section. But, when first listening I stayed away from the comments already posted (probably around 20 on the site I was at). I don't want any hint of influence on my opinion. However, I couldn't avoid it completely - the poster shared his feelings saying "good lord this goes in". Well, goddamn...I'm pretty excited by now. This may be the Rakim I've been waiting for, not the one that disappointed with his last two releases.

So, I gave the song a listen...and then another. I think the production bangs pretty hard - I like it. But, it sounds kind of pretentious in my opinion. I would have preferred something more stripped down and raw. Drum-heavy, rather than synth and bass-heavy. I think that would have been a little more fitting. Rakim's flow is there, his voice and delivery are solid, but lyrically?? I don't know. I was bored. It sounds like he spit those verses before on The 18th Letter and/or The Master . Not literally - you know what I mean. That same kind of shit - gods and the earths...blah, King Tut, pyramids, blah, blah...alpha and omega, cosmos, genesis, hieroglyphics, blah, blah, blah. Not only does it sound like what he's been spitting on his previous lackluster projects, it sounds like the same shit people put Canibus down for spitting all the time. But, when The R does it, it's classic apparently.

I love Rakim's music as much as any other head out there, but I have no reason to be anything but honest. If something is not up to par, than it's not. I'm not saying that Rakim doesn't have it anymore, but in my opinion he missed the mark with this one. He's traded his descriptive lyrics based in current reality for the metaphysical and historical metaphors, which I can only take so much of. And when the entire song follows that theme, as have many others, it gets old. If this is the sound and tone of the upcoming project as a whole I'll probably be disappointed again.

But, for some reason, a lot of people seem to be scared to listen and comment objectively. Like because they know Rakim's place in hip hop they have to say they love it or they'll be shunned as an ignorant pop rap fan who knows nothing about true hip hop. In reality, if you do know your history, you know that this song is no comparison to the classic Rakim tracks of the past. Not at all. Everyone has their own opinion, and it may be different from mine. That's fine. But, when I read comments like "I love it. Hip Hop just got its pulse", "This might be the track of the year", and "this is the best song I've ever heard" I just have to call foul. Are you kidding me? The best song you've ever heard? It's clearly not even the best Rakim song ever. People can have their own opinion, and they should. It's clear that they don't though. Give me a credible sounding critique of why the song is great, classic, or whatever and I'd like to hear it. Until then, I'll just keep laughing at my 'peers' and hope that The R doesn't read their 'opinions' and get to thinking this is the best he has to do.

I'm still optimistic about the album though.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Birthday Girl

Yesterday was my wife's birthday, so (among other things, of course) I sent her a link to this video. The song isn't really reflective of her specific birthday. "Birthday Girl" is about a girl turning 18 years old and finally kind of being accepted into the adult world (and having adult men legally go after her). The video is a little strange with strange men bringing the girl strange presents hinting at their 'desire' to have her. The only similarity is that it was my wife's birthday.

Plus, we both like the song a lot. When it was first released/leaked to the internet there was an uproar from a lot of fans of The Roots. They were complaining that the song was too pop for them. That including Fall Out Boy was just wrong. And since the band had also recently signed with a major label (albeit a hip hop label, Def Jam) these fans feared that they were going pop altogether to try to get some fame and fortune while they could. I read a lot of comments calling them sellouts. Shortly after, it was announced that "Birthday Girl" would be cut from the tracklist of the new album altogether.

Good thing I downloaded a copy, I thought. I liked the song a lot from the very beginning. It's true that the song doesn't scream "The Roots". It's not something I would have guessed they'd make. But, so what? It sounds good.

Now, I'm not someone who says that these fans that hated the song and spoke out about it are not really fans at all because if they were they would stand by the band. Despite what some think, that's not how it should work. A band or MC I like is not part of my family. I don't have to be there through good times and bad. Why would I want to listen to music I don't like? Why should I force myself? Because I like other songs they have done? That doesn't make any sense to me. I had a lot of people say that kind of thing to me when I said how shitty an album Encore by Eminem was. And, it was.

However, I'm also not the kind of person that thinks pop/radio-friendly music is inherently bad. It's all what you do with it. Is there a point to the song? Is the music and melody good? Are the lyrics good to? Is it original and genuine, or is it just part of a "pop formula" orchestrated by the record label, or the artists themselves to get the attention of the masses? I'm pretty confident to say that only a few of the people that dissed the song and the band just didn't like the song. Most of them didn't even give it a chance. They heard the guitar riff and the Fall Out Boy singing the hook, and immediately dimissed it as pop music trash. A sellout move. That's a little ignorant if you ask me. I think if they bothered to listen to the lyrics and structure of the song they'd see what my wife and I see. A great performance by The Legendary Roots Crew (and Stump). It's a lighter sound than The Roots usually deliver, but it is well-done. It has a topic and meaning. It has substance - the lack of which is what bothers me personally regarding much of today's pop music. And while it may sound 'poppy', it sounds good to me. I will keep this song in my Roots collection forever even if others have discarded it foolishly.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Rebel INS Vs. Mouse?? - Who Cares?

One thing is for sure, ANY member of the Wu will kick Joey's ass on the nickname tip...especially Method Man! Remember that skit on Tical 2 with Chris Rock introducing him? "AKA The Iron Lung...AKA The Ticallion Stallion AKA..." I haven't listened to that in years. Skits were occasionally good back then.

But, is it me or is this beef/battle shit really getting ridiculous? Everyone's so sensitive and wants to start some shit to get attention, or even worse, so that they can have something to talk about in their rhymes. Now this is the latest "beef" - Joe Budden versus a member of the Wu other than the one that was "dissed". Too bad for Inspektah Deck. I kinda feel bad for him in a way. He must be really hard up right now. In need of someone to say his name again. So, Joe Budden looks at some bullshit list constructed by the now defunct (thankfully) Vibe Magazine, gets his feelings hurt and makes some comment on video (because every shit he takes has to be on video apparently) about how Method Man is ranked higher than him for no good reason. Who cares?

Apparently, a few people do (or they're just bored and don't have much to talk about). Among the many comments from a multitude of interested parties Ed Lover is calling out Budden on the radio about how he fucked up pretending that Method Man is as good as he ever was and would rhyme circles around Budden (yeah, right). On the same video Budden said he never heard of The Furious Fives' Cowboy, by the way - a comment which I'm glad Ed Lover pointed out. Budden tried to play it off because he felt stupid about that one, obviously. But, Meth gets on the radio and talks some shit, but then backs out of any battle by saying simply that he is not a "battle rapper". So? Is Budden a battle rapper, really? No, I don't think so. He's just good enough to do that as well as anything else. The guy's a beast and can't really be fucked with to be honest. He's on top of his game and very, very few MCs of his caliber exist in hip hop right now. And Meth must realize that to some extent. I don't really wanna see those two battle at all anyway. It would be boring, and there's just too much phony beef in hip hop to make me care anymore about who has problems with who.

But, Meth didn't care enough to respond and it could've blown over, but Rebel INS I guess saw it as an excuse to diss someone that people are talking about these days and took the opportunity to try to get recognized. The problem is no one dissed Deck, and making a diss record when Mth himself didn't spit a verse in Budden's direction looks dumb. Plus, plain and simple the song sucks. It's weak and unoriginal (did he really say "you can't see me with binoculars"? - never heard that before). Deck didn't bring his A-Game so now he looks stupid. He better hope that Budden doesn't decide to make a song in his direction because even with the whole Wu getting at him, Slaughterhouse is pretty strong right now. Although, it may end up looking even worse for the Inspektah if Joey doesn't see it as a track worth responding to.

Bottom line, I wish Joe Budden would shut the hell up and stop dissing people randomly...and INS should get in the booth and create a new great album all by himself. I'm fairly sure he has the skill, and myself and the rest of the Wu fans would appreciate it. There's been too many half-assed Wu member albums over the years.

Note: To be fair, Chamber Music is good despite all of the pointless blather from RZA. "Harbor Masters" is one of the strongest Wu joints in recent memory, and Deck definitely shines on it. Blackout 2 is slowly growing on me, although it is by far neither MC's strongest work. And, I haven't listen to U-God's Dopium yet.