Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Review: 'Generation X,' by Sadat X... a.k.a. Why The Great 'Dat X Benefits From His Fellow Brand Nubians...

"That's how it's 'pooosed to beee..." - Sadat X

Generation X is a perfect example of why Sadat X benefits greatly from having his weirdness grounded by Lord Jamar and even Grand Puba (and, if you wanna keep it current, DJ Alamo).

X's first solo joint, Wild Cowboys, is much more even-keeled by comparison. It had a largely understated, slightly-sophisticated feel courtesy of Diamond D and Minisotta, even though only about half was worth keeping around ("Open Bar," "Game's Sober," "Escape From New York" and a couple others). Generation X swings wildly between that Wild Cowboys feel and a variety of uptempo beats, dancehall inflection and out-and-out weirdness (Really? A beat that samples that Yael Naim song from the MacBook commercial...?).

I'd like to hate the opener, which interpolates "Tequila!" but it's actually kind of catchy and fun. "Jungle" rocks a nice, Wild-Cowboys-ish beat, and FINALLY, MORE THAN A DECADE AFTER THE BOOTCAMP FOR THE PEOPLE COMPILATION ALBUM, I FIND ANOTHER SONG WITH TWANIE RANKS.
Let's take a quick break for a sidebar here... Ever since he kicked a nice verse on BCC's "Rugged Terrain" that helped get me into dancehall, I've been looking for more Twanie Ranks, with absolutely no luck. I'd pretty much resigned myself to his status as weed carrier for the Originoo Gunn Clappaz (how sad is that?), but no longer. Back to the matter...
The album's cover says, "Produced by Will Tell," whoever that is. He does a decent job of crafting some tracks that suit Sadat's off-kilter flow, but there are definitely some unnecessary moments.

A few notes:
• Why exactly do we need Run-DMC-era drums for 2:37 of "X is the Word"? We don't.
• "I'm a new soul/Right into this strange world/Hoping I can learn a bit of what is real and fake" - There's is nooooo need to sample this song. Lord Jamar would have squashed that shit like he was Supreme Allah all over again.
• "X-Plain" rocks a nice, laidback piano melody and some of the album's best stream-of-conscious chatter.
• "The Okeedoke" and "Walk Upright" are proof that this Will Tell fellow did not deserve my earlier "whoever that is" sarcasm. These are hot beats.
• "Live" and "Make It Happen" both use well-worn samples for about the millionth time, but they still sound pretty nice.
• Supreme Allah would ALSO not allow X to sing a church hymn about himself on "He Walks With Me."

Sadat X had his best moments on Brand Nubian's Everything is Everything. Wild Cowboys was a decent step in his own odd direction, but Generation X suffers from a few too many generic beats and a severe lack of Supreme Allah.

Monday, December 29, 2008

128 Oz. of Haterade: Sterling Simms Edition

"I'm gon' do 80 on the freeway
Cravin' ya body
Switchin' bout four lanes
Thinkin' about it
Police are behind me tryin' to stop me
But I keep on drivin' 'cause I'm thinkin' 'bout your body
Police right behind me 'cause I'm DUI
But I keep on drivin' 'cause I'm thinkin' bout your body..."
- Sterling Simms, "DUI (80 on the Freeway)"

The basic framework for that song goes thusly: our mainest man Sterling has been doin' his thang with the Möet for a minute or two, and well, he's a little tipsy. But then he gets a late-night booty call, and the power of the pussy compels him to head over to her place, in the process attracting police attention for speeding while drunk. But he don't give a fuck, 'cause he's 'bout to tap dat ass like you never been had before! (as we all know, Möet Dick is much easier to work through than the much-reviled Whiskey Dick or, worse, the downright evil Four-Blunt Penis)

My question is this: is it fair for someone who has been - and remains - a big fan of gangsta rap to chastise this shithead?

At its core, gangsta rap is basically a recounting of life in shitty, violence-ridden neighborhoods by dudes who either were there at one time, are still there or are fronting like they are/were. And it's a vehicle for boasting about how hard you are and what you'll presumably to do a motherfucker who's dumb enough to step to.

Whereas Simms' song is pretty much saying, "I'm an asshole who is going out and deliberately putting innocent people at risk."

And no, I don't personally know anyone who has been killed in a DUI-related accident. I'm just sayin', it's one thing to talk about busting a cap in that ass for stepping on a man's Nikes... it's another to talk about purposely doing something that needlessly causes the death of people all over the U.S. in greater numbers than gun violence.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Review: 'Love the '80s,' by Zo! & Tigallo

Let your soul glow like Eriq La Salle in 'Coming to America'...

Nothing about my taste in music made me think I would like this six-song EP (two remixes) from Tigallo (actually Phonte from Little Brother) and Detroit producer Zo.

And yet here I am, dumbin' out for like the tenth time today to the sweet strains of a buncha covers of songs I'm used to hearing, well, quite frankly, in the dentist office waiting room.

But even the frantic whine of a dental drill boring into my molar roots couldn't stop me from doing what me and my boy used to call the "High in the Car Dance" to the billowing, synthy goodness of Joe Jackson's "Stepping Out 2008." Somehow they made that piano figure, that sounds oh-so-motherfuckin' corny in the elevator into a beautiful thing.

And yes, Phonte sounds a little bit like Lionel Richie Lite, but that works really well here. Love the '80s is truly a guilty pleasure.

There's supposedly only 2,500 copies of this pressed, but you can get it at Fat Beats and a couple other places.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Cenk Uygur Skewers Ultraconservative Religious Hypocrisy

Huffington Post contributor Cenk Uygur destroys the hypocrisy of the religious right in this hilarious - and well-reasoned - column, which makes a lot of sense. People who take the Bible literally are certainly guilty of selective reading in what they choose to rail against. Uygur takes it to extreme, suggesting that he doesn't want to hear another word about gay marriage until the first adulterer is executed:

The religious right picks and chooses which parts of the Bible they want to apply. And they choose based on which outsider group they would like to hate next. First, they emphasized slavery in the Bible when they wanted to hate black people. Now, they emphasize the parts condemning homosexuality so they can hate gay people.

They are completely and utterly disingenuous. They don't mean a word of it. They don't give a damn what the Bible says. They just want to use it as an instrument of hate.

The Bible says eating shellfish is an abomination. Yet there are no Red Lobster Amendments. The Bible says you shall not wear two different types of cloths at the same time. Yet there are no Propositions against cotton and wool combos.

The Bible says you should leave your family and join Jesus Christ. The religious right pretends that Jesus was about family values. He wanted you to abandon your family. Read the Bible.

The religious right pretends that the Bible says marriage is between one man and one woman. But that is a bald faced lie. Have any of these people ever read the Bible? The Bible is full of men taking on second wives, servants, prostitutes and concubines. And all the while, God heartily approves. How many wives did King David have? Eight? Twelve?

Read the whole column at the Huffington Post.

Steelers vs. Titans: F*ckity F*ck F*ck...

Nice catch, 'Tonio... but... fuck.

What an ugly - and thoroughly convincing - beatdown. The O-Line on both sides of the ball in the Steelers' 31-14 loss to the AFC South champion Titans was truly the story of the game. The Titans' line, No. 1 in the NFL, pushed, pulled and did their thing to allow Chris Johnson to run all over what was going to be the Greatest Defense of All Time.

Three critical turnovers by Roethlisberger - I'm not counting the pile-it-on INT return for a touchdown by Mike Griffin - and yet another Lorena-Bobbitt-style, cock-chopping penalty at a crucial moment by Willie Colon certainly didn't help things, but Kerry Collins (let me repeat that... Kerry Collins) went 20 for 29 all day against the secondary.

I'm probably being too harsh on two fronts here. First of all, this game was not crucial. Homefield throughout the playoffs would have been nice, but it doesn't change the fact that the Steelers will probably end up facing the Colts, which is going to be a rough go.

Second of all, Kerry Collins is actually a really good quarterback. You look at the draft class that he came out of (where Ki-Jana Carter went No. 1), and he's one of its few stars still in the league. He's led three different teams into the playoffs.

The main thing is that the Steelers' whole offensive scheme is suspect at this point.  The O-Line is gaaaaaaarbage, and when they're not letting the blocking scheme get shattered like 30-year-old drywall, Roethlisberger is hanging onto the ball too long. They're relying on a Willie Parker, who is, much as I hate to admit it, a shadow of his former self, through no fault of his own. He's just been injured too much.

Now... I've been pushing Mewelde Moore since before he even got to the Steelers. He may look like motherfuckin' Muggsy Bogues out there on the field (a Hornet in the proper colors, so to speak), but my girlfriend has rolled her eyes plenty of times this season while I'm doing the Awkward White Man Shuffle in the living room and singing "Meweeelde Mooooooore!" Small as he is, he can grind out hard yards, he bounces off first tacklers and has the speed to break big plays.

But all the moves in the world aren't going to help when the guys who are supposed to be opening blocks are getting steamrolled and giving up more sacks in one game than the fucking Titans have given up ALL SEASON.

I was hoping to see the Steelers go out and put together a nice solid 7-10 point win today, rather than post wins where they got a few calls from the refs or some help from Tony Romo. Instead I got what might be a preview of the AFC championship game.

If the Steelers make it that far...

Saturday, December 20, 2008

128 Oz. of Haterade: Plies' 'Da Realist'

What happened to this picture? I do not know... kinda like the new color scheme, though...

Look, let me clear something up real quick. I don't have a problem with mainstream rap, or songs that really don't have the most intelligent lyrics and/or aren't about much. I've been bumping Kutt Calhoun's "Speed" in the ride for like three months, and it is truly an inane song, with clunkers like "I serve 'em on Tuesday like Ruby's, Huey" and "They tryin' to roll a n**** like Smokey (Smokey and the BANDIT, n****?) Yeah n****, just like Smokey."

And I know, that's my problem. My other problem is that I'm a production guy. I grew up with a family that was into music... my mom's a choir director, my sister is an opera major, and I've been playing drums, trumpet, guitar (and now making beats) for as long as I can remember. I was drawn to hip-hop production mainly by way of DJ Premier, then even more so with the Beatminerz, Nashiem Myrick, MF Doom and Madlib. Having made something in the neighborhood of 150 or so beats (plenty of them bad), I can appreciate the work that goes into crafting a seamless, intricate beat.

Which brings us to the skittery hi-hats and TR-909 blasts of southern bounce production, which I also don't hate. Ludacris, in particular, has shown a penchant for picking a wide palette of variations on it that work very well (although let's be honest, "Do the Right Thang" is clunkier than a '73 Gremlin on three wheels; Luda should've just copped MF Doom's take on that sample).

A sizable number of southern rappers, however, opt for the opposite approach. I can also appreciate how easy it is to put together a generic-sounding trap-rap beat with the same Legion-of-Doom synths a gazillion people have already used.

Vibe magazine says Plies is the future of hip-hop. I kinda hope not.

A few quick notes on Da Realist:

• "Me and My Goons" - The vocal echoes on this song are mystifyingly annoying. They're repeating the line he just said, which doesn't rhyme with the line he's saying... the minimalist, stark beat is nice, though.
• "Gotta Be" - Plies rhymes over what kind of sounds like an old XScape track. Or Mary J. Blige. Or any Mid-'90s R&B Singer.
• "Want It, Need It" - Continuing with the theme established by "Gotta Be," I dare you to listen to this song and NOT envision any number of collaborations between a Mid-'90s Rapper of the Moment and His Sexy Counterpart R&B Chick, in a video where they spend the whole thing about an inch and a half from making out. From the cornball shaker fills to the Mariah-Carey clone job that Ashanti does on the chorus, this song had me all misty-eyed and shit reminiscing about the high-school homecoming dance.
• "2nd Chance" - This is what I'm talking about with Ludacris. This is a cool spin on the classic southern-bounce beat; some deep-space underwater shit.
• "All Black" - Probably my favorite track. Ultraminimalist, nothing but 909 percussion and low-end.
• "Pants Hang Low" - Another favorite, with a nice lockstep bounce on the hook.

But while there are a solid half-dozen tracks that I wouldn't immediately discard and never listen to again, it's also difficult to get over all of the mushmouth rhyming. Vibe's future of rap music kinda sounds like Master P and Soulja Boy somehow conceived a child. 

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Why Don't Any Producers Sample Afro-Beat?

"Go a slow, go a slow..." - Fela Anikulapo Kuti

It confounds me why more hip-hop producers don't mine sounds from Africa. Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate the difficulty of finding music from that part of the world. I discovered Fela Kuti pretty much by accident, a month or so after my boy turned me onto Napster in '99 before it blew up and went to a pay service.

I didn't have the capability at the time, but now that I'm making beats and remixes all the time, I'm just waiting for the right moment to break out the Afrobeat and find some sick samples. The opening rhythms alone that open Kuti's songs, as well as Tony Allen, the Daktaris, Lafayette Afro Rock Band and even modern groups like Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, have some great chops, and the horn lines are KILLER.

More than that, though, it's just plain old great music. It doesn't get more danceable, unless you're a disco freak, and the party don't stop: most of Fela's songs are about 15 minutes long.

And while I prefer the heady syncopated funk of central Africa for the most part, there's even more to be found in the northwest part of the continent. Up there you get the same heavy reliance on rhythm, but with more of an Arabic influence in the scales and melodies. I stumbled across some traditional songs from Algeria, Morocco, Mali, places like that... some very interesting stuff, good material for vocal samples and what-not. And if you're just looking for some flat-out great music to listen to, groups like Tartit and Tinariwen that are blending those northern African rhythms with modern blues (and using electric guitars to do it! The shit is sick!) are creating some even cooler music.

Afrobeat. It's the shit.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Review: 'iSouljaBoyTellem,' by Soulja Boy Tell 'Em

“I’m doin’ interviews/Addressin’ all these critics/Tryin’ to underrate me/Sayin’ I ain’t got no lyrics/Three times platinum/Yeah I brought the record/If you can’t respect that/Then what are you respectin’?”

I think that quote outlines, very clearly, why I hate this kid. I see his point, it’s just that he doesn’t seem to realize being a shitty-ass songwriter and selling mad records need not be mutually exclusive. Motherfuckin’ Chumbawamba went platinum, but that doesn’t mean I have a single ounce of respect for them. And they had the good sense to not go on record talkin' 'bout, "We deserve more respect as songwriters for our intelligent lyrics about 'pissing the night away' and fooling people into buying a full-length record that was just flat-out horrible."

Like a nasty dose of Ecstasy, I can feel my brain cells rotting away bit by bit as I listen to each successive track on iSouljaBoyTellem.

It isn’t just because there’s not a single melody on this record that I haven’t heard a bazillion times before – although that certainly doesn’t help things. It’s mainly his reliance on only half of the formula that worked so well for James Brown.

Brown famously developed many of his hits on the fly: as the JBs were working the groove for one song, he would alter it slightly, and suddenly have a brand-new, albeit similar, groove to use as the bedrock for something different. You take the vamp from “Sex Machine” and make it a shuffle, all of a sudden you got “Doin’ It To Death.”

Unlike the Godfather of Soul, however, the Godfather of Swag seems content to cast 95 percent of his songs as thinly-disguised versions of “Crank Dat.”

I won’t deny that, like Fiddy and the G-Unit, he’s got a way with the hook, but over the course of 62 minutes, things get far too annoying as he relies on what Tricky Stewart (the producer for Rihanna’s “Umbrella”) calls “the stupid part” that he always includes in his songs (for example, the “Ella, ella, ay, ay” part of “Umbrella”)

Basically, in Soulja Boy's case, take the most simplistic TR-909 beat you can come up with, add one, maaaaybe two software instrument playing a retarded-easy melody, and do verses about how this rap shit is just too easy (“Eazy”).

I can’t front on the man’s business sense, though. In addition to using the Internet to catapult himself to superstardom, he's even capitalized on the recent movie-industry trend of keeping things PG-13 to make sure you draw in the younger crowd: neither of his releases have explicit lyrics (if you don’t count his saying “Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em make this ‘ish’ look easy”), and his viral promotion is probably, unfortunately, the future business model for musicians.

But instead of opening up a musical market where you can bypass label difficulties, in Soulja Boy’s case it encourages shitty music and very little artistic growth. True, the kid is only 18 going on 19, and his concerns are still very much a teenager’s (“Kiss Me Thru the Phone,” “Shoppin’ Spree”), but by the time you get about halfway through, things are just excruciatingly boring.

Witness "Booty Got Swag (Donk, Pt. 2)," which takes its subtitle literally, using pretty much the exact same beat as "Donk." Or "Gucci Bandana," where we spend nearly four minutes discovering how excellent Soulja Boy looks in (what else?) his Gucci bandana. The one thing I'll say is this: he might sound like a completely off-key tool on the chorus to "Turn My Swag On," but NOT using Auto-Tune at least makes him a moderately different kind of tool. Unfortunately, he's got his own brand of samey-ness, patterned after "Crank Dat."

Then again, the album is probably not meant to be listened to all at once. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if all Soulja Boy cares about is the single/ringtone sales for “Bird Walk” and “Turn My Swag On.”

After all, this shit is about business. Definitely not music.

iSouljaBoyTellem will be released on Dec. 16.

Obscure Music Spotlight: The Three Suns

"Boop-bop, dweeeee-bop..."

Way back in the day - and for no explicable reason that I can readily conjure up - I decided to purchase a CD, featuring various artists and entitled Bachelor Pad Royale. Since I can't remember precisely when I bought it, I don't really recall what musical phase I was going through at that time. Probably the first of many jazz phases. Anyway, it was all big-band arrangements in the genre I've come to find out is called "exotica lounge music." 

This is the kind of stuff that Hugh Hefner probably played in the Playboy mansion back when he didn't need six Viagra to get up in the morning. Dudes like Jerry Goldsmith, Andre Previn and (my personal favorite) Les Baxter. I just remember being blown away by how fucking cool it all sounded. It was big-band jazz, no question, but most of the songs had this slightly-psychedelic tinge, and a lilt to them that just made it all seem very with-it, to turn a phrase of that era.

The Three Suns take the exotica concept and pare it down to, largely, a trio. There is plenty of extra instrumentation in their sound, but it has a relatively spare feel, compared with most music of that era. Their version of "Caravan," (from Movin'n'Groovin') is a bouncy, quirky update on the standard that features a plucky electric guitar working in concert with the rhythm section, and that sort of exemplifies their approach to lounge jazz.

On a musical level, I just really enjoy listening to it. On a production level, most of the Suns catalog was recorded between '59 and '65, and it sounds way ahead of its time in places. On a beatmaking level, the shit is AWESOME for little sample chops. A lot of reviewers call it "space-age bachelor-pad music," and some of reverb-drenched instrumentals over the Suns' discography is just begging to be used.

My current Suns obsession - being the holiday season and all - is A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas!, which puts their quirky spin on all manner of holiday tunes. When it comes to Christmas music, I'm largely a traditionalist (FUCK the Michael McDonald Christmas albums and about 90 percent of Mannheim Steamroller... for real), but this is one rearrangement I like.

Best LPs:
Fever & Smoke
A Ding Dong Dandy Christmas!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


"That's that A-rab money..." - Busta Rhymes


To bring us up to speed:

• Above, Busta makes the case that "Arab Money" is, in fact, merely an ode to the beautiful and rich Arab culture, and not a jumping-off point for the most gloriously culturally-ignorant single since "Walk Like an Egyptian."

Link to a hilarious Fader article, "A Rational Conversation Between Two Adults" about the song, featuring the following sidebar:

We consulted with Alex Wagner, the former editor-in-chief of The FADER, who is very smart and politically astute, to get her opinion.

ED: Would you say that calling someone “Arab” is not offensive, but if you do so pronouncing it “A-rab” it is offensive?

Alex Wagner: Uhm, yeah. “A-rab” fits into the category of “Orientals” or “Eye-talians.”

ED: But is “Arab” offensive on its own when pronounced correctly?

AW: It’s pretty generalizing. In what context are you calling people Arabs?

ED: I'm not calling anyone Arabs. I'm talking with Felipe about the Busta Rhymes song “Arab Money.”

AW: Oh yes. It’s kind of not cool, to just be like ARAB MONEY. Yeah. I would say that’s derogatory.  
• A video of Busta and his crew doing the "Arab Money" dance has made it onto al-Jazeera TV. My prediction has indeed come true: DJ Khaled is the new Salman Rushdie. The video piles just a little more cultural ignorance on the heap, as Bussa Buss introduces "the general of the A-rab Money Army right here, my man General Ali," (the gazillionaire in the beginning of the video) and then flashes a United Arab Emirates bill in front of the camera, boasting of having "real A-rab money right here in New York City":

Wow. Wait 'til al-Jazeera hears the remix with T-Pain, Akon and Diddy... I only wish I spoke Arabic, so I knew what the newscaster was saying.

OH SHIT AN IRAQI DISS TRACK! Iraq MC Narcicyst recorded a diss response to "Arab Money," featuring a few nice jabs like "Misrepresent us up in Duba/Arabs don't play up in Basra/It ain't "A-rab money"/It's called "Arab money" and "Even if you never heard of me verbally/You shoulda done your research/About the current state of currency/We hurt/Way more than we ball/Palestinian kids can't shop at these malls."

Actually, since I posted this, Narcicyst has apparently had an extensive conversation with Busta Rhymes, after which Busta agreed to pull "Arab Money" from video and radio rotation, if Narcicyst would pull his version, which was originally posted at Allhiphop.com. Here is Narcicyst's take on the conversation, from his blog:

After posting up my [response] song “Arab Money,” on Allhiphop.com, I was contacted directly by John Monopoly and Busta Rhymes. I spoke with [Busta] for 40 minutes about his intent, his message and his personal being and how he conducts himself as a man. I must say, Busta Rhymes is an incredibly humble gentleman to have called me and spoke to me directly about his feelings and how he feels about the fallout of “Arab Money.” He told me he has retracted the remix from all radio stations and has pulled the video from all video outlets until further notice and is sorry for any disrespect or negative outcome to the production of this song.

I must say I am extremely humbled and grateful, honored and shocked by the outcome of this situation. Busta Rhymes did not have to contact me. Allhiphop did not have to post the article about my song. God works in mysterious ways and I guess this is part of the plan. Busta rhymes, my brother, thank you for being 'the man' and being a honest and genuine person. I have supported you and your music my entire life and i will continue to do so and speak of you and represent you to the highest degree. In my mind you are an O.G. and a true individual, which is hard to come across nowadays.

Busta and I spoke about the importance of moments such as these are the respect we have for one another for acting cordially and respectfully towards each other. We spoke to the importance of hip-hop as a movement to represent all peoples internationally and as representatives of respective peoples, we are all one in the eyes and movement of hip-hop.

I would like to sincerely thank you all for listening, spreading the message and making this happen. I would like thank Busta Rhymes, John Monopoly and Allhiphop for your understanding, support and undying devotion to truth, respect, life and culture. This is truly a moment in hip-hop history. Busta Rhymes is the man!!!!!!!!!!!

I have removed the song from my blog and MySpace to concur to his actions of removing his versions of the songs and video everywhere else. In respect for Busta, I want positivity to surround his upcoming release and truth to be spread about the kind of person he is. He is a devout man, a believer and an honest individual with pure intention. God bless a'khooy.

Arabs are not free of wrong doings. We all do the do to represent our people and movement in a positive light, no matter what creed or color. If you were to do your research and listen to the Euphrates records, my two mixtapes that are free online (‘Stuck Between Iraq and a Hard Place’) and to see what kind of person I am. Growing up as a teenager I was ignorant to appropriate things such as the n-word and using it around people. As I grew up and educated myself past the age of 14, I realised the power of words and learned the history of the African-American plight in North America and developed the utmost respect for Africa and its people. In no way is the Arab experience comparable to slavery, in no way were we subjugated to the same dire conditions that slavery was. I also believe, we as Arabs are the new public enemy number 1 internationally and it is my duty as an Arab man to represent my brothers and sisters in a positive light. That being said, Arabs should never use the N-word. From people like DJ Khaled to any Arab representative in the game, words that do not belong to us and are not appropriate to the richness of a culture should be deleted and never be uttered ever. It is time for truth and change in the world, I think we are all ready to move as one. That being said, let us move as one and counter the hegemonic powers that are trying to control our ultimate self and power in this fucked up world. Thank you all for your support and time.

The Narcicyst

Dream-Team Collabs

Many an underground-leaning head has said the following about a record that's got a great MC, but only decent beats:
"Yeah, that shit is nice, but it would be SICK to hear him flowin' over a record of all Primo tracks."
And yes, in many cases, it would. But even if Primo WANTED to, he STILL wouldn't be able to find the time to make tracks for all of the heads making that wish. So without further ado, let's explore what I'd consider to be "Dream Team"-esque collab albums (by "collab albums," I mean LPs on the order of GZA and Muggs' Grandmasters... the Established MC/Established Producer Record) that will probably never, ever come out.

Back 2 the Basics (Lyrics: GZA; production: Black Milk) - BM added a few bangers to Pro Tools, and it would be great to see that stretched out to a full-length. The "concept" song is called "About Tree Fitty," and it's another 50 Cent diss that works titles of his songs into the narrative, as well as incorporating dialogue bits from the "Loch Ness Monster" episode of South Park (hence the title).

Iron Lung (Lyrics: Method Man; production: Madlib) - Madlib has occasionally expressed a desire to work with Wu-Tang MCs, and a lot of the eerie, more-brooding beats he's created would work very well with Meth's steez. Title track features Quasimoto.

Where It Ain't All Fun (Lyrics: Guilty Simpson; production: Beatminerz) - True, it's been a while since I heard a Beatminerz track that really got me moving (probably the Last Emperor joint off Brace 4 Impak, and a few of the tracks off the Alter the Chemistry remix disc), but working with a commanding MC like Guilty might get Evil Dee juiced to create some bangers (and get Baby Paul to do SOMEthing... is he even a Beatminer anymore? I know they replaced someone with Chocolate Ty...). Guest appearances by Starang Wondah and Heltah Skeltah... speaking of which...

We're Sorry About D.I.R.T., This Shit Will Be Waaaay Better (Lyrics: Heltah Skeltah; production: El-P) - My first instinct for this was to have P Brothers as the production team, but the more I think about it, the more I think I might like a collab like this. El's beats might force Ruck and Rock to expand their topic base, and doing a straight-up hip-hop record for a couple Brooklyn MCs might rein in some of El's more-experimental leanings. Guest appearances by Vast Aire and Buckshot.

F. Baby Music - (Lyrics: Lil' Wayne; production: Dan the Automator) - Alright, Lil' Wayne... you wanna get serious about making some out-there, space-Martian shit? Stop fuckin' with Auto-Tune and Southern bounce production and get the dude who brought us Dr. Octagonecologyst and Deltron 3030. Guest appearances by Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Kool Keith and, naturally, The Hot MC of The Moment.

The God Hour (Lyrics: Nas; production: DJ Premier) - This would finally be the solution for Nas's maddening addiction to picking crappy beats.

Return of the Crooklyn Dodger (Lyrics: Chubb Rock; production: Prince Paul) - Go listen to "No Rubber, No Backstage Pass," off the America Is Dying Slowly (AIDS) album, and tell me you wouldn't want to hear a full-length collab with these two. Guest appearances by Biz Markie, Young MC and Grandmaster Flash.

Perverted Monk Style - (Lyrics: Jeru the Damaja; production: P Brothers) - Nice, cold, stark beats would work nice with Jeru's flow, and it would certainly go a long way toward redeeming the crappiness of his last couple records.

The Executive Lounge (Lyrics: Jay-Z; production: Diamond D) - I've long thought that D's beats, which have one foot firmly in the street and the other in the VIP lounge, would pair up real well with Jigga's MC style, particularly post-retirement, when he's flossing even MORE than usual. And D could do a little rapping on the record as well. Guest appearances by P. Diddy, Lil' Cease and Beanie Siegel.

True School (Lyrics: J-Live; production: Dela) - French hip-hop producers are puttin' in some for-real work when it comes to crafting hot, jazzy beats. That's J-Live's bread and butter anyway, and off the strength of his Changes of Atmosphere record, Dela would pair up perfectly with one of my favorite MCs.

Seen? (Lyrics: Various dancehall artists; production: Pete Rock) - On both of his solo albums, Pete Rock has produced tracks with dancehall artists, and they seem to pair up very well together. I'd love to hear a comp with him doin' beats for Busy Signal, Vybz Kartel, Aidonia, Roundhead, Major Mackrel and a bunch of other dudes no one has probably heard of.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The OMM 2008 Hip-Hop Awards

"Welcome to our elements/Ladies and the gentlemen/Enterin' our settlement/Steppin' like an elephant/Fresher than a Velamint/Anyone remember when/Music still was relevant?/Then you'll love what we present"

DISCLAIMER: This is a personal list of my favorite hip-hop releases of 2008. It's not based on Billboard sales or anything like that. It's based on my particular taste in hip-hop, which largely runs toward the underground. I welcome any and all debate, but please don't post some dumb shit like, "YO WEEZY CARTER III IZ #1, FUCK DAT! F. BABY!" Back it up.

Best Overall Albums
Mighty Underdogs, Droppin' Science Fiction - If I had to name a top album, this would probably be it. Pound for pound, it's got the most enjoyable beats of any release I've heard all year, paired up with excellent lyricism courtesy of Gift of Gab and Lateef. "Hands in the Air" is the most instantly-catchy beat I've heard in the last five years or so (with the notable exception of "Arab Money," but my misguided love for that song is more a combination of marveling at its glorious ignorance and enjoying the World's Best Auto-Tune hook). Plus the "UFC" remix has the best DJ cut I've heard all year (DJ Shadow slicing up "Who gon' stop us/Not a goddamn one of ya" from "Mr. Me Too").
Guilty Simpson, Ode to the Ghetto - Call him a generic fake thug if you want, but if you're really getting serious about the "fake thug" or "generic gangsterism" genre, Guilty stands head and shoulders above anyone you could name and had one of the more lyrically- and sonically-solid debuts of the last few years. Because of Stones Throw's reputation for indy-minded, more-experimental hip-hop, I suppose people may have been expecting more of that, and were caught off-guard by a commanding baritone barking about the rough-ass streets in Detroit. But banging beats by Dilla, Madlib, Oh No and Black Milk provide  a rock-solid foundation for some of the best-turned phrases of 2008.

Best Return to Form
Kool Keith, Dr. Dooom 2 - Just in time for Halloween, a nice, moderately-creepy set of tunes from the original Weezy F. Baby (and by that I mean the original nonsensical lyricist). Dr. Octagonecologyst is an all-time classic in my book, so it was disheartening to see Keith's hit-and-miss string of alter-ego solo records (Black Elvis... ugh...). Even worse was the Swedish/German techno bullshit that clogged up Return of Dr. Octagon, which Keith didn't even authorize. The second Dr. Dooom album finds him back with fellow Diesel Trucker, Kutmasta Kurt, for a set that pairs up middleweight boom-bap with paranoid, sinister instrumentation.
Snoop Dogg, Ego Trippin' - Snoop on an album with a production team that includes DJ Quik and Teddy Riley? I'm down for that. It's easily Snoop's best, most instantly-likable album since Doggystyle.
Q-Tip, The Renaissance - You can call it Tribe-lite, derivative or deliberately backward-looking. But airy, jazzed-up beats and one of hip-hop's premier lyricists? Sounds good to me. Tip singlehandedly proves how easy it is to do a relationship rap record without Auto-Tuning yourself into submission and pretending to be Coldplay-meets-Gil-Scott-Heron.

Honorable Mention
Girl Talk, Feed the Animals - The inclusion of this one is debatable, since it's sort of up in the air whether or not it's truly a rap record. For sure, the front half is; the back half relies a little too heavily on techno, but there's no denying that this cat from Pittsburgh puts Danger Mouse to shame as the ultimate mash-up artist. 
P Brothers, The Gas - There isn't anything groundbreaking about this record. It's just really fucking good. Throwback boom-bap with a sinister edge, and featuring a crew (Money Boss Players, whose members guest on nearly every song) that I'd been hoping would eventually put out a full-length.

Best Albums (International)
Jazz Liberatorz, Clin d'Oeil/Dela, Changes of Atmosphere - If there's one thing that would have made Tip's Renaissance a little less throwback-y, it might have been the inclusion of beats from either of these French groups, both of whom put out solid, jazzy releases featuring a who's-who of indy rap (J-Live, J. Sands, Fatlip, Apani B., etc.). When it comes to creating mellow hip-hop, American underground producers better watch out. France is comin' up.
Scott Burns, Day 1 - Aussie rap? Hey, fuckit, why not, right? Especially when it comes across this well. Burns is like a toned-down version of UK rapper The Streets, but without all of the unnecessary experimentation and non-rhyme schemes. Day 1 is packed full of bouncy production that straddles the line between mainstream/underground, and "Different Things" is one of the most hilarious "opposites attract" songs I've heard.

Biggest Disappointment
Heltah Skeltah, D.I.R.T. - I don't know if I can properly convey how much this album truly sucked. from the Pen & Pixel cover (where Ruck and Rock are, no shit, wearing R. Kelly Sex Masks and superhero capes) to the painfully shitty  beats within. I thought I was disappointed when I listened to Magnum Force Crew? Oh, Dr. Hell No... compared to D.I.R.T., MFC is a hands-down classic.
Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak - I hesitate to add this, because after hearing "Love Lockdown," I had a feeling it would be pretty bad. My criteria for this category was sort of "expectation vs. result." My expectations for 808s were pretty low.