Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Worthwhile Jay-Z Interview

Most interviews with Jay-Z seem to be basically the same; a brief overview of his career, a glimpse at his current business ventures, and a few softball questions for him to decide whether or not to answer. But, the recent one he did with Cipha Sounds and Rosenberg for the Juan Epstein show was different. He was there on his latest stop to promote his new book, Decoded. The interview was in-depth about Jay's life, past and present, and covered a lot in the way of Hip Hop, that fans will appreciate. The full thing is about an hour long, but well worth the listen.

The Away Team

The Away Team are the latest signees to Duck Down Records' ever-expanding roster since their comeback to the top of the underground got some real traction a few years ago thanks to a few veterans of the label. Sean Price emerged as the dopest MC out of the BCC and has proven his talent with project after project of quality material. Buckshot teamed up with 9th Wonder to help bring back the days where one MC and one producer could make an entire, cohesive album together.

Duck Down used the momentum wisely to scoop up a bunch of talented free agents to make the label back into the powerhouse it once was. In fact, they are probably even much stronger now than they were back in the mid-90s when they originally made a name for themselves. Their roster today is ridiculous. Coming out of the same NC camp as 9th Wonder, The Justus League, is The Away Team. I guess the JL don't have themselves a Dru Ha to make them into their own label. The group is made up of MC Sean Boog and producer Khrysis, a beatsmith many have said is more talented than the much better known 9th Wonder. The group's previous work has been solid, but with this new deal they say their best material is ahead. And, with a title like Scars & Stripes, it's hard to doubt them.

If Duck Down's recent track record is any indication, I'd say this is an album to look out for in early 2011. I'm not sure how JL and DD got together in the first place, but I'm glad they did. The merging of talent from different regions for this label has been good for music so far.

So, pick up the Independence Day Mixtape by The Away Team online if you haven't yet to see what they have to offer. And, I'm gonna go pull out some old O.G.C. and enjoy my weekend.
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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Skyzoo Freestyle

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Hope you all enjoy your day with family, food, and football. In the meantime, check out Skyzoo discussing his album with Illmind and freestyling on the Rap Is Outta Control radio show with Torae and DJ Eclipse. If you haven't heard the album yet, you need to.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Jay-Z And Kanye Album

I'm sitting here in my cubicle this morning listening to "The Joy" the track that was released on one of the G.O.O.D. Friday releases, but if the advance I heard is correct, isn't making the final album. Pete Rock made the beat using a Curtis Mayfield sample prominently, and Jay-Z makes an appearance. I like the song a lot though after hearing what I think is the final album I see that it doesn't really fit with the rest of the songs. After the release of a few songs featuring Jay to the internets an announcement came out that the two were going to release an album, or at least an EP together. I'm excited, but I'm just hoping it's an offering of brand new material. If it's just gonna be a collection of the material Kanye already leaked it will be a huge disappointment. The way things are these days with artists putting out tracks as they complete them, by the time the album comes out all the material is old. If I've already been listening to more than half the songs for months it's kind of hard to justify getting the album. I really hope the two of them take the time to craft something monumental insteading of giving fans another Best of Both Worlds.
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Turn 4 The Worst

Admittedly, it's taken me a while to write up something about Joe Budden's latest. Aside from not really having the time to sit down and write, and being distracted by some other albums in between, I really hadn't fully made up my mind about the project as a whole. There is some good material and some more forgettable and not very well executed songs. Though there's definitely way more good - No, make that GREAT material on this album, than the former.

The main reason that Budden seems to draw in so many listeners is the honesty he has with himself, which he chooses to fully express in his rhymes. And, not only does the audience get a real picture of what the MC is actually like as a person, Joey's rhyme style and storytelling skills have a way of relating his own experiences to a broader vision of what life is like for the common man.

By far, the best track on MM4 is "Role Reversal". I haven't heard a concept-driven song this interesting in...I don't know when. The song finds Budden being a father to another man's son, while at the same time filling that man's role, to some extent, with his own boy. He hates the father of this child but, at the same time, relates to him, knowing that he's perhaps been placed in the same situation that he, himself, is in. Because of the lack of relationship with his own child, Joe makes up for it in his mind by offering this other guy's child the most of everything, and the advantage of having a real father. I get more and more out of this track the more I hear it. It actually may be my absolute favorite of the year by any artist.

The interludes on this mixtape are completely useless, annoying, and unnecessary. Nothing else to say there. Also, there are a few rhymes with wordplay that should have been left on the cutting room floor (i.e. "avoid calendars, cause all his days are numbered"). But, the the only real downfall to MM4 is the uneven and, at times, incomplete sounding production. I just wish there was more there to listen to as a backdrop to Budden's rhymes. It's hard to explain, but listening to some of these tracks, it sounds like Budden has to rescue it with his lyrics to make the track worth listening to, instead of everything meshing together. The beat doesn't do it's job often enough of keeping me engaged.

However, overall this is another gem in the classic mixtape/album series that is Mood Muzik. I don't think it's too much to say that this is the best mixtape series of its kind to ever come out. I don't want to get caught up in trying to add some quotables because I'll literally be here in front of my PC all night. And, instead of one hot line here and there, Budden's clever prose blends together seamlessly, making it necessary to quote an entire verse, instead of a bar or two, to really paint an accurate picture of his talent.

Mood Muzik 4 is an amazing album, with unlimited replay value for any listener. Budden has the voice, the delivery, the rhymes, and the honesty to make him one of the main MCs carrying the torch for Hip Hop these days, and truly pushing it forward. If you're not up on him you are really missing out on one of the perennial voices in the culture. Pay attention.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Magical Rappers

This blog is funny as hell, so I had to throw it up here.

It's just a bunch of photos of rappers looking like magicians. I can't get enough of this.

Purified Thoughts

This video brings a lot to what my previous post covered. Here is Ghostface in the studio with producer Frank Dukes recording "Purified Thoughts".

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Q On Producing

I heard something today that kind of got me down about Hip Hop for a minute, to be honest. I was watching an episode of The Colbert Report that aired Thursday night. Quincy Jones was the guest, and he was there to promote his new album and book.

One of the first questions Stephen Colbert asked of Jones was "What does a music producer do?"

He answered, "Put it like this...if the cover is bad, if the tempo is too slow, or too fast, if the key is wrong, if you got the wrong engineer, you got the wrong studio, the wrong background singers, the wrong arrangements, and the song doesn't work then it's the producer's fault...if it's a hit, it's the artist".

That last part was kind of tongue-in-cheek, obviously. But, he made a good point about what it means to produce a piece of entertainment art. A film producer would be responsible for things in much the same way. But, not so much in Hip Hop. At least, not in a lot of cases, it would seem.

When constructing a Hip Hop song/album, the MC meets with (usually) several "producers" who more often than not have spent time by themselves in a room making instrumental tracks prior to the meeting, which they put into a collection to play for whoever is requesting their talents. Sometimes there is no meeting at all. Sometimes the MC will just have a bunch of tracks sent to them, and pick out what they like to rhyme over, never even sitting in the same room with their collaborator.

My point is that the way a guy like Quincy Jones' approaches music seems to be lost on most "beat makers" in Hip Hop today. This is probably because a lot of these guys aren't really producers at all. They layer sounds in a computer program, but have no ear for how to arrange vocals and instruments. Additionally, when there is no understanding of an artist's unique ideas or abilities (pardon the pun), no give and take of ideas, no unique application based on who you're working with, what you get is generic, cookie-cutter music that will sound the same no matter who is involved. And that's not always the producer's fault either. A lot of times it seems to be the MC who is too lazy or insecure to actually sit in a studio and create something. So, "beats" end up being made by the hundreds and delivered to the highest bidder with no real interest in what finished product comes out of them.

To hear such an accomplished musician like Jones talk about what he does made it depressing to think about what has passed for production and for music in Hip Hop a lot of the time in this last decade. Bottom line there are a bunch of people that really need to step it up if they want to consider themselves artists or musicians. I know that the way a Hip Hop track is built is often much different from how someone constructs one in another genre, but the creativity and real collaboration is clearly absent a lot of the time.

Thankfully, there are also more and more artists coming out with exciting music in our genre these days as well, and are pushing themselves to really create something while inspiring many more. The use of live instruments and outreach into other sounds is helping a lot, as are single-producer albums that have come back into popularity with Hip Hop artists recently - this especially forces the producer to take responsibility for the entire finished package that is delivered on a project. The passion for the music is really being expressed by some of my new favorite artists. And, some of the older ones have reignited theirs as well. So, for the most part I feel good about the direction being taken. But, for fucks sake if you're gonna collaborate with someone the first step is being in the same room with them.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

"The Way That I Rhyme" - J-Live

I'm unable to pull myself away from playing with my new Android for more than a few minutes. But, here is something I wanted to share. One of my favorite and one of the more consistent MCs, J-Live has a new EP out called Undivided Attention. Here is the single.

J-Live f/ Boog Brown "The Way That I Rhyme" VIDEO from J-LIVE on Vimeo.