Posts Tagged ‘Jay-Z’

Lorin’s Favorite Music of the year 2013

December 30, 2013

2013 turned about to be the year when every major artist in the game dropped a big album and maybe half of them were any good. For every triumph like Yeezus or Hesitation Marks you’d have a disappointment like Magna Carta Holy Grail or Random Access Memories. I could write a whole thing on the let down albums this year. Nah. Too easy.

20) Stay Trippy – Juicy J

Those Rubberband Business mixtapes were my shit and Stay Trippy was a long time coming and totally worth the wait. All bangers about strippers and drugs, which is what we as human beings want from Juicy J. “All I Blow Is Loud” and “Gun Plus a Mask” are instant classics and “The Woods” is probably the best thing Justin Timberlake did all year.

19) Heartthrob – Tegan and Sara

“Love They Say” is pure beauty and sadness. So is “Closer”. Whole thing has this weird mix of happy/sad going on. I’ve never really cared for Tegan and Sara before this album and I know there was talk about Heartthrob as some kind of craven grab at popularity but these songs sound real good, and real true. Getting a budget doesn’t mean you can’t still be true! And everyone wants to be popular! Who are we to tell Tegan and Sara they can’t put food on their families?

18) Blurred Lines – Robin Thicke

If this guy could dance he would have the world on a string. Still, everything on this album is better than both those bloated 20/20 thuds. Breezy and fun, done in 40 minutes.

17) Trap Lord– A$AP Ferg

All you need to know about this album is that the chorus to “Dump Dump” is

“I fucked your bitch, nigga, I fucked your bitch

I fucked your bitch, nigga, I fucked your bitch

She suck my dick, nigga, she suck my dick

She suck my dick, nigga, she suck my dick”

16) Artpop– Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga is overstudied and not nearly as good as she thinks she is. And yet, this album is fire. So many bangers, just vicious shit. Purposely ugly in all the ways that appeal to me, yet with these huge neon hooks. The hook for “Sexxx Dreams” is like a laser to the face. “Aura” is a monster.

15) B.O.A.T.S II: #MeTime – 2 Chainz

2 Chainz goes front to back here, just casually dropping bangers and classics like it is just the most natural thing in the world.

14) Save Rock and Roll – Fall Out Boy

Fall Out Boy are one of my favorite bands. Their three album run in the mid 2000’s is some hall of fame shit. They don’t get any respect though because their audience is largely girls and old men like to write rock history. Save Rock and Roll is weird and actually doesn’t have a ton of guitars on it, but it still has great hooks, fantastic singing from Patrick Stump, and a song about masturbation. The boys are back.

13) Nothing Was The Same – Drake

2013 was my year of Drake. I know why people don’t like him and sometimes I still don’t like him but I think he has more songs I like than dislike and Nothing Was The Same is pretty good. I think it could have used a couple more bangers like “Started From The Bottom” but that wasn’t what he was feeling at the moment. But did you hear “Trophies”? Shittttt.

12) Excuse My French – French Montana

This may be the last we hear from French Montana. The album flopped and people have already moved on but this album has tracks. Hot fire all over and these beats, son. Diddy paid good money for these beats and it would be a shame for all of us to ignore them. Also, the ignorance of “Pop That”, “Marble Floors” and “Ocho Cinco” all on the same album is awe inspiring. May French continue to be worried about nothing.

11) Dynamics – Holy Ghost!

The first three songs are kinda eh but then it makes a huge jump in quality and you can forgive those first tracks and come to like them a little bit. I saw these guys live this year and they aren’t very interesting performers but the songs sounded good and while they can’t really pull off their ballads live, those tracks are the best songs on Dynamics. “I Want To Be Your Hand” is an instant classic.

10) Matangi– M.I.A.

This album should have been called Bangers. M.I.A. never fell off, really. I’ve gone back to MAYA a few times and it is still hit and miss but who doesn’t have a moment like that? We keep giving Jay-Z second chances. Matangi is easily M.I.A.’s best album, no contest. The production is vicious, she still doesn’t give a fuck, and unlike her other records it isn’t back loaded, it’s just loaded.

9) My Name Is My Name– Pusha T

I still listen to Hell Hath No Fury all the time. I bought Till The Casket Drops even though the reviews were bad. I listened to No Malice’s solo album(terrible, btw). I rocked that Play Clothes mixtape for like half of 2009. I’ve listened to the Re-Up Gang record at least 4 times. I really really like The Clipse. My Name Is My Name is largely flames, Pusha T goes hard, Kanye hooked him up with some hot beats(“No Regrets” oh shit), dude is back. I wish The Clipse were back but this is great. Best Pusha track of the year is “Millions” off of the Wrath of Kaine mixtape.

8) Hesitation Marks – Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails have never made a bad record. This is a fact. Look it up. Every album is good to great, though us hardcore Nailheads can argue over which is which. (Year Zero is my shit). Hesitation Marks isn’t a return to form, thank god, it’s just the next step. There are dancey songs and funky songs and songs that are slow like “Hurt” and it is all fine and good.

7) Black Panties– R. Kelly

What do I do with you, R. Kelly? How do I reconcile your past actions with the music you made and continue to make? It’s tough. And tougher for the victims of your crimes. Black Panties is a really good album. The track with Future is next level. “Legs Shakin'” is bananas. “Every Position”, totally nuts……Man. I dunno.

6) Long.Live.A$AP – A$AP Rocky

A$AP Rocky is a cool dude. That’s what he sells, being cool as shit. The first half of this album is like riding in a haze of cool(and weed smoke). Then he drops “Fucking Problems” and “Wild For The Night” and your heart level jumps up and you freak out and start breaking things and then you simmer down again. Then “Ghetto Symphony” comes on and you level a city.

5) Old– Danny Brown

If you ever bad mouth Danny Brown on Twitter, Danny Brown Stans will come out of the darkness and flood your mentions with anger and vitriol. “Danny Brown is the truth!”, they will scream. “Danny knows what is going down in these streets!” He does! I agree! This album is great, leave me alone.

4) Beyoncé– Beyoncé

Like the rest of you, I’m still digging into this one, but it’s highlights are plentiful. “Drunk In Love” and “Blow” were early favorites, and “XO” gets better with every listen. I was rocking “Bow Down/I’ve Been On” since January so “***Flawless” is of course my shit. Frank Ocean is still boring, though.

3) Yeezus – Kanye West

I like how nothing is going right for him in “I Am A God”, which everyone seemed to miss. Oh well, Kanye foreverandeverandeverandever.

2) For Professional Use Only – Araabmuzik

Araabmuzik got shot this year by some guy trying to steal his chain. Araab lived, dropped a sick remix album, kept on keeping on. Plus, you’re asking for trouble trying to rob the guy who made “This For The Ones Who Care”.

1) Paramore – Paramore

I started to like Paramore a lot after those two guys left the band and some astute blogger somewhere pointed out that all the songs on their last album were about how those two guys were just a bunch of assholes. That they quit because they were concerned about “keeping it real”, whatever that means in the pop/punk scene, which is the phoniest scene around. This album is a great rebuke to those guys, and really anyone who shit on this band, because the songs are sooooo good. Songs about being adults, and moving forward, and living your life after hard shit happens. I listened to this album a lot, and it was a no brainer when I had to pick my favorite of the year. “Ain’t It Fun” is a nice final “fuck you” to those guys who quit, but it could also just be about lazy people. There are levels to this shit.

Best songs of 2013
1) “This For The Ones Who Care” – Araabmuzik

2) “Fo Real” – Future featuring Drake

3) “Do What You Want” – Lady Gaga featuring R. Kelly

4) “Hold On, We’re Going Home” – Drake featuring Majid Jordan

5) “Fucking Problems” – A$AP Rocky Featuring Drake, Kendrick Lamar, & 2 Chainz

6) “Suit And Commercial” – The Hood Internet (Daft Punk/Justin Timberlake)

7) “Higher” – Just Blaze x Baauer featuring Jay Z

8) “All You’re Waiting For” – Classixx featuring Nancy Whang

9) “Going With You” – Sebastien Grainger

10) “I Told Em” – French Montana

Advertisements

The Best Albums of 2011: A list

January 20, 2012

Do you need an introduction? Well, I liked all these albums.

20) Patrick Stump – Soul Punk

Fall Out Boy stan for lyfe. Stump has his Timberlake moment and he nails it. The lyrics are cheesy but that’s because he has no time for winks and artifice. Dude wants to dance, girl.

19) Wild Flag – Wild Flag

Carrie wanted to rock again so she assembled a wrecking crew and done wrecked some shit.

18) Spank Rock – Everything Is Boring and Everyone Is a Fucking Liar

Spank Rock has important things to say and ideas to relate but thankfully he still makes booty jams. Go with what you know.

17) Foo Fighters – Wasting Light

In the Foo Fighter’s documentary Back and Forth, Dave Grohl points out that it was miraculous that There Is Nothing Left To Lose won a Grammy and it was recorded in his basement. He was equally incredulous when Wasting Light was nominated this year since it was recorded on tape in his garage. For his next one he should put Butch Vig in his pantry and Pat Smear in the laundry room.

16) Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – Lost In Translation

A really good rapper who loves to rap about being under appreciated and getting head. Well, someone appreciates you, eXquire.

15) Beyoncé – 4 (Deluxe Edition)

The regular version is fine but you need the deluxe version for the song where she convinces her companion (Hov one presumes) to stay home from the club and makes the point that if he stays home he gets to have sex with Beyoncé. Well played, B.

14) Rival Schools – Pedals

Walter still sounds tougher than he looks and Ian is still a casual guitar god.

13) Justice – Audio, Video, Disco

In a way, Justice are taking a piss. But their interviews are so sincere and they say things like “My favorite book is the Bible” and aren’t kidding. They already did their half ass version of Don’t Look Back and now they’re doing a variation on Boston, except their spaceship crashed.

12) Cut Copy – Zonoscope

Divisive, this one. If In Ghost Colours cured cancer than this one took care of scoliosis.

11) Limp Bizkit – Gold Cobra

Wes Borland saved up all his best riffs and didn’t even use them in his own fucking band. It’s like he knew one day he’d want to put on the ol’ body paint and play “Break Stuff” for the millionth time. Fred Durst is now full on hilarious and lacking in apparently any self awareness, naming a song “Douchebag” and taking it’s chorus to homoerotic realms previously unexplored. He also refers to himself by the name “Polar Bear”, as his rhymes are indicative to the native climate of Siberia.

10) DJ Quik – The Book of David

DJ Quik is the kind of guy who will brag about things that no one else brags or even necessarily cares about. But that’s because Quik only deals in tangibles. He really does play piano, write his own rhymes, and once pistol whipped his sister for black mailing him. Also he still has all of his hair.

9) The Rapture – In The Grace Of Your Love

Jesus saves? Alright, just this once. Seeing as you brought all these jams with you.

8) Win Win – Win Win

Banger city, population: these guys. The Glenn Beck parody is on point too and I don’t generally fux with skits.

7) Das Racist – Relax

They’re still funny but most importantly the beats are fire. I’m not mad they put “Rainbow In The Dark” on it since “Rainbow In The Dark” rules so who gets mad when a good song comes on? Not me, that’s for sure.

6) SebastiAn – Total

SebastiAn took his time putting out his debut album, some might say past the sell by date of this particular sound and style of music, in this case ’07 era blog house filter disco. But that stuff is great! And unlike dubstep you can dance to it. Everybody still likes to dance, right?

5) Lady Gaga – Born This Way

What a thrill to have Lady Gaga finally take her philosophy to making music videos and applying it to her music. That philosophy of course is more, more, more, steal, steal, steal. Love it. Her videos are still shit though.

4) Fred Falke – Part IV

Daft Punk make boring soundtracks now and Mylo won’t come out of his house except to yell at Kylie Minogue so Fred Falke rolled up his sleeves and did the hard work for them. I don’t want to say Fred’s a genius or anything but this thing is front to back bangers so maybe he is. Have him take a test and get back to me.

3) Sloan – The Double Cross

Sloan are great. They made another great album. They’ve taken Diddy’s words to heart.

2) Jay-Z & Kanye West – Watch The Throne

The first time I listened to this album I thought it was good. Then I listened to it again and I thought it was still good but maybe had some other issues. I went back a third time to check out those issues but also to listen to the three song stretch of “Niggas In Paris”, “Otis”, and “Gotta Have It” which is the best 9 minute stretch of any album this year. I went back a fourth time and really started to enjoy the new lyrics on “That’s My Bitch”. The fifth time through I was in traffic and just kinda vibed with it. The sixth time I listened to it I had taken a break so it was all fresh and new again. Definitely started to appreciate Jay’s fire on “Why I Love You” but had started skipping “Made In America” at this point. On my seventh listen I was more amused than irritated by “Lift Off”, which only exists because Kanye was dying to use that NASA sample. On my eighth listen I pondered why they didn’t figure out some way to work “H.A.M.” into the equation instead of as a bonus track. On my ninth listen I was sure that someone should have told RZA to calm down with the ghostly wails on “New Day” so we could actually hear all of the lyrics. That said, just hearing these guys say “Me and the RZA connect” is treat enough. On my tenth listen I reconciled the fact that even if “Who Gon Stop Me” samples dubstep these guys at least take it’s bludgeoning sound to a logical conclusion and take that shit all the way over the top with Holocaust references, since dubstep is sorta the Holocaust of music scenes.  I just listened to Watch The Throne for fun after that. Good album!

1) Friendly Fires – Pala

Friendly Fires are too pure for this world. Even their sad songs are iridescent dance jams. Ed MacFarlane sings like he might die tonight and we’ve got to make the most of it, right now. “Are you ready, there’s not much time.” “Where are we going?” “I don’t know, but we’re going to dance the whole way!”

20 Songs I liked in 2011

December 28, 2011

Just the other day someone told me that they think I just hate everything. Strong words with just a touch of hyperbole and a basis around the fact that the new albums by Common, Young Jeezy and Drake are some lame horseshit. Well, the Jeezy album is more boring than terrible. But that Common album. Oh my lord. But if you go through the archives on this very blog you’ll find that more often than not the compulsion to post to the internet was to shit all over something like Law Abiding Citizen(which I’m discovering has it’s share of defenders) or Transformers 3 and not sing the praises of, say, Drive. A valid criticism. So in a show of acknowledgment to my critics here are twenty songs that I enjoyed in 2011. I’m sure you’ll be kind in the comments.

20. Cher Lloyd – “Swagger Jagger

Apparently a celebrity in the U.K., Cher Lloyd is repeatedly stalked by critics, haters and sycophants. To combat them, she made this song where she cutely raps about how they can’t get enough of her because they be jealous and are simply jocking her steez(Or swagger jagging) and then she sings the chorus over a pulsing electro beat that rocks so hard the ground shakes in the video. This dumb thing stole my heart.

19. Rihanna – “Where Have You Been

No Rihanna, where has this song been? I know it’s made up of other songs and it’s not really all that original but it’s a fucking banger and anyone who knows me knows I love fucking bangers. She’s screaming “Where! Have! You! Been! All my liffffffeeeee!” and synth lazers are firing under her and then the world explodes. Oh, production by Calvin Harris? That makes sense.

18. Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire – “The Last Huzzah!” feat. Despot, Das Racist, Danny Brown & El-P

The beat to “Huzzah” is hot as fuck so Mr. Muthafuckin’ eXquire invited all his bestest friends over to rap on it. And rap they do. El-P spits fire, Danny Brown makes me reconsider everything I’ve ever said about him, Das Racist kill it as usual and this Despot guy is pretty good too. eXquire gets the last word because hey, it’s his song. Necro produced this? Thrilled I can enjoy something he has created that isn’t sad or disgusting.

17. Rival Schools – “69 Guns

United By Fate was my shit in 2002. This was unsurprisingly my shit in March.

16. Justice – “Helix

My favorite song on that new Justice album everybody didn’t like. I don’t fux with 70’s radio rock but I enjoy Justice’s decision to smash and chop it into danceable guitar solos. Y’know, like Daft Punk used to do. Remember them?

15. Young L – “Bottle of Rose’

Sifting through the myriad of hip hop mixtapes that come out every two days is worth it for those moments when some marginally talented misogynist gets ahold of a wrecking ball beat and kills that shit dead. Really, what would you say over a beat this sick? Nice things? No you wouldn’t.

14. Foo Fighters – “Rope

This band has three guitarists now. Three! I think they all get to do something fun here.

13. Limp Bizkit – “Why Try

In which Fred Durst spends the entire first verse and chorus literally killing you only to have you come back to life in the second verse just to get killed all over again. Nothing if not thorough. Wes Borland approximates an actual buzzsaw guitar, everyone else does their job and I pretend I’m in 11th grade again.

12. Beyoncé – “Love On Top

Listen, I like “Countdown” just fine. More than fine actually. But when it comes down to it, I will always pick the songs that choose Off The Wall as their inspiration.

11. Lady Gaga – “Bad Kids

I have to say that the bad behavior displayed in the track is pretty benign. Much like Lady Gaga in general, best to just move on and not dwell on it. But the Hi-NRG meets hair metal tableau works, despite the horror that is hair metal. I won’t call it magic. Maybe luck?

10. SebastiAn – “Kindercut

For everyone who was disappointed that the new Justice album didn’t sound like the old Justice album, SebastiAn has a banger for you.

9. The Rapture – “How Deep Is Your Love

Five years gone The Rapture pop back in with a straight up disco floor filler, acting like they haven’t been gone a millisecond. Good work, gentlemen.

8. DJ Quik – “Ghetto Rendezvous

Only DJ Quik would air out his grievances with his sister on a beat this funky.  Enjoy the groove while DJ Quik tells his sister she has a yeasty vagina.

7. Das Racist – “Michael Jackson

I feel you. Holla.

6. Sloan – “The Answer Was You

Picking a standout from an album of standouts is a challenge (a delightful challenge) but hey, Jay is on fire here. His best song since “Don’t You Believe A Word”.

5. Spank Rock – “Race Riot

XXXChange is my dawg 4 lyfe. I’ve been eagerly awaiting an actual recording of this song since seeing Spank Rock perform it live four years ago. Worth the wait, Spank Rock and XXXChange channel the Yoyoyoyoyo era with blaring horns and cowbell. Of course the centerpiece is the “Shake it till my dick turns racist” instruction. Yeah, this is a song about cumming.

4. WIN WIN – “Interleave With You” feat. Alexis of Hot Chip

Hey, it’s XXXChange again. The guy is great. Alexis has a great, sad vocal here but the MVP is that distorted bass synth line that creates a subtle background melody. You know the one. This is the song you play at your cyborg wedding AFTER you play “All Is Full Of Love“. Respect.

3. The-Dream – “Body Work/Fuck My Brains Out

Originally a teaser for the now set for release in 2012 new The-Dream album, “Body Work/Fuck My Brains Out” is a nine and half minute career high. The first half all midtempo slow grind, The-Dream yowling and moaning out his desire, stopping and starting the beat at his discretion for emphasis and to do one his trademark “Ohhhh”‘s. So intense is his obsession for this woman at one point he admits he can’t even defecate if she isn’t around. Damn. “Fuck My Brains Out” is the raunchiest earworm this side of Prince’s “P-Control” and it’s “Listen to me baby” line has become a personal lyric meme between my wife and I.

2. Friendly Fires – “Hurting

Is it going to hurt some feelings if I say that “Hurting” is Friendly Fires best song? The truth hurts.

1. Jay-Z & Kanye West – “Niggas In Paris

They did this song five times when they played Pittsburgh but I certainly could have heard it a few more times. Basically, Jay-Z starts off killing it, Kanye comments that Jay just killed it so hard that it’s kinda crazy, then Kanye kills it, more affirmation of said craziness, then the world explodes. Let’s do that again! My wife played this in the car about five or six times in the last two days, and it was the first song that played on random when she drove to work this morning. THIS MEANS SOMETHING. What it means is that this song is great and we listen to it all the time.

On Take Care, Fear of God II, Camp and Talk That Talk

November 16, 2011

The problem with Take Care is that Drake’s honesty is boring. Love or hate his decision to write songs about drunk dialing ex-girlfriends and this self involved “fame is hard” narrative, he fails to be interesting lyrically and musically. Take Care‘s 17 tracks of maudlin pity parties feature the kind of bland pronouncements just about anyone could convey. The act of a great artist is to make the mundane interesting, to present the human condition from an angle not always considered. The Drake on Take Care appears lucky instead of talented. Drake presents his scenarios in a unadorned and straightforward manner with little word play and a confessional style reminiscent of over hearing someone else’s conversation involving people you’ve never met. Unlike Kanye West, who is a mess of doubt and hubris and quite obviously a little crazy, Drake is pretty simple, a rich guy who fucks a lot of women. “Marvin’s Room” might be based on a real ill-advised drunk dial but is Drake any different on this track than any other where he’s telling women “they can do better”. There is a cloying sexism to Drake with his “Take care” and “Make me proud” sentiments that feel jerky and condescending. Drake’s party line would be “Had a lot of sex, made plenty of money, not bragging just saying, feels empty”, delivered in that same plain spoken style, artless and often tone deaf. Drake’s lyrics on his first album  and his mixtapes were kinda corny but that corniness was endearing (Heck, I made sure “Best I Ever Had” got played at my wedding) and to abandon those attempts at lyricism for dull statements is a strange decision. Also, what is this; “Don’t listen to those lies/I swear they’re all lies“. This is Drake 2.0 so he’s not trying to be funny.

The beats on Take Care rarely ascend above a plodding midtempo so you can’t even dance to this shit. Just Blaze shows up at one point and straight up kills it but Drake doesn’t help by literally rapping about going through a girls phone and turns what should be a swagged out jam into another pity party. Oh well, I’m just glad to see Blaze back in the game. That dude has still got it. Finally, I don’t know what to make of the choice of turning “Back That Ass Up” into a ballad, but rest assured it was a bad one.

What must it be like when an artist or creative type realizes that their glory days are behind them?  Pusha T solo stuff remains a mixed bag of decent spitting on top of whatever beats that is solidly OK, which for anyone would be fine but this is one half of The Clipse, the guys who did this and this and THIS. The beats are never out and out bad but like I said, just OK. The best tracks are the Juicy J feature “Body Work” and the Neptunes production “Raid”. “Body Work” is your standard “we kill people” track and those are usually pretty good and hey so is this. “Raid” has a great beat and inspired verses from Pusha and 50 Cent of all people but strikes out with a particularly grating Pharrell hook which, y’know, hey, they can’t all be winners. The most exciting moment on the album is when Pusha promises a new Clipse record during the outro. Don’t forget to call the Neptunes when you’re making that one, Push.

I was about four tracks into Camp when I realized that I didn’t like any of the Childish Gambino mixtapes and that Camp is just more of the same, frantic rapping with pop culture references but no strong hooks. Obviously Donald Glover wants to be taken seriously as a rapper which means no funny business but Childish Gambino just gives me a “Party All The Time” vibe, Glover playing against his strengths to deliver “serious” hip hop that no one would ever put on at a party or dance to yet is the essence of what type of music he is clearly trying to make. There is no arrogant foolishness or wild eyed frenzy because Glover is so intent on being taken seriously that there is no room to breathe. Watch the video for “Freaks and Geeks“, where Glover raps his heart out with rhyme after rhyme of references and word play but it isn’t exhilarating, only exhausting. It’s a shame that the album title refers to this instead of this.

Talk That Talk has the most good songs by Rihanna in one place at least until her inevitable Greatest Hits album. The ballads are still dull and the sex talk awkward and unconvincing but there are some bangers which I didn’t really expect. Loud did a bait and switch with “Only Girl In The World” and with Talk That Talk‘s lead single “We Found Love” I figured that would be the album’s peak, much like how “Rude Boy” was the shining moment of glory amongst Rated R‘s crappy rock songs and dubstep. Imagine my joy and surprise upon hearing “Where Have You Been”. A straight up monster, “Where Have You Been” is a future Hall of Famer which is surprising since part of the vocal steals it’s melody from a Johnny Cash classic that I wouldn’t think to nick from when crafting a dancefloor jam. The hook is pure butter and proves that Rihanna is at her best when she abandons the ice queen style that she tends to fall back on and embraces being a human being. Most importantly, the beat is fucking sick as hell. Elsewhere, Talk That Talk is about what one could hope for from a Rihanna album with an obligatory Jay-Z verse on the title track that I enjoy in spite of the fact that I find Hov unconvincing in his pose as a man who is still actively pursued by groupies. Over 40 and about to be a father I can’t believe Jay-Z would spend any time interacting with anyone he talks about on the track. The-Dream and Tricky Stewart contribute of course but for some reason their track “Birthday Cake” fades out before it even becomes anything. The dubstep track is relegated to the deluxe version so small favors there. At this pace, Rihanna will make a half way decent album by the time she’s thirty. Just keep making those club bangers, girl.

Jay-Z wrote a book for your mom called Decoded

May 1, 2011

Decoded is one of the most frustrating books I’ve ever read. Pitched as a biography/defense of hip hop (as reiterated by Jay-Z throughout the book) Decoded comes up short in both aspects. The biography aspect is vague while the defense of hip hop amounts to “I love hip hop, it is deeper than you realize, here are a couple pages of my lyrics with annotations.” Jay-Z is at the point in his life and career where he is no longer a normal person and he only runs with millionaires and celebrities. Stories about meeting Quincy Jones or Bono lack any outside perspective because Jay-Z is on their level. He can’t convey any excitement because he can’t convey any empathy for his past self. All of his stories from his drug dealing days are slight and lacking in detail. I can’t tell if this is for legal reasons or because he is so ashamed of his past. Jay-Z makes numerous references to how young and foolish he was in his younger years but relays this information with a bored detachment and with that level of detail. Decoded is obviously Jay-Z expanding his brand while not wanting to offend anyone with what makes Jay-Z Jay-Z. Jay spends pages on his rise to success but presents the story like an accountant delivering bank numbers. It’s about half way through that realize you’re listening to someone explain their plan to get rich. There is numerous mentions of artistry and art and a chapter that talks about Basquiat but it all reads like lip service on the way to end goal, which is money of course. Of course I know that Jay-Z and plenty other rappers talk about money and consumer culture in their music but when it is placed plainly on the page the information becomes tired and boring. The annotations that accompany the lyrics are superfluous and are largely skippable, which is a sad thing to say about any book. Jay-Z spends an inordinate amount of time telling when he should be showing. The lack of detail is absolutely maddening even for stories that are already widely known. The best he can tell us about the Notorious B.I.G. is that they smoked a blunt together one time and that B.I.G. didn’t go to a club with them because he thought he might get killed. (Irony!)  Decoded names no names, steps on no toes, and doesn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know. Decoded is a book for your mom.

As someone who has been a fan of Jay-Z for awhile now Decoded is a crushing disappointment. I never expected it to be a good book, but being interesting wouldn’t have hurt. Whoever told Jay-Z he had to start being respectable should go fuck themselves.

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 10 – 1

December 2, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

Albums 70 – 61

Albums 60 – 51

Albums 50 – 41

Albums 40 – 31

Albums 30 – 21

Albums 20 – 11

10.  Primal Scream – XTRMNTR (2000)

XTRMNTR is awesome for a bunch of reasons, the main reason being that it is fucking bad ass. Primal Scream aren’t inherently bad ass but they pulled it off here. If you didn’t know anything about their other work(which I did not at the time of release) you would have figured them to be screaming revolutionaries with a big plan to burn it all down and start anew. Actually, they’re hippies(self loathing hippies). ANYWAY, XTRMNTR is generally angry, loud, and funky. So many great bass lines, or the same bass line on a different song. I know Kevin Shields was involved in this record but all my props go to the guy who wrote the bass lines. They rule. Bobby Gillespie’s atonal singing sounds positively amoral. Has anyone referred to this album as a giant boot to the face?

9.    Ghostface Killah – The Pretty Toney Album (2004)

Dude is incredible. Ghostface Killah is one of the greatest rappers to ever do it and he has an amazing ear for beats. No one, NO ONE, has as many consistently great rap records as him. The Pretty Toney Album finds Ghostface more soulful than usual, of course more soulful for Ghostface still means more references to “pussy” than one might expect. “Run” is another in the long list of great Ghostface crime songs and “Beat The Clock” is Ghostface arguing with himself to rap as fast as he can about anything at all AND WINNING. Well, his mind promises vengeance one day.

8.    The Strokes – Is This It (2001)

My favorite song on Is This It is “Alone, Together”. It contains my favorite Strokes lyric coincidentally: “Life is unreal/can we go back to your place”. Is there a better representation of being a young shallow guy? Nope. There is a striking honesty in that line that I’m sure plenty of critics caught on to that caused them to christen The Strokes as rock’s saviors. Every stupid(also not stupid) rock song is about getting girls, but The Strokes had a sly sense of humor about it. If only they’d stayed funny forever. Is This It is a quintessential “first record”, showing off a band who have honed themselves to their peak abilities and can only be harmed by all the rewards their success will bring.


7.    Ghostface Killah – Fishscale (2006)

Ghostface hones his craft. So many classics it’s surreal: “Shakey Dog”, “The Champ”, “Be Easy”, “Whip You With Strap”, “Big Girl”, “Kilo”. Ghost does every kind of track on this record and it is murder.  Ghostface is an emotional rapper and performer and he never traffics in anything but the truth. When Ghost raps to the girls doing cocaine on “Big Girl”, he may have supplied them with the coke but he isn’t blind to their lost potential. Ghostface thrives on the details, be it the brief history of a tenement denizen he passes on the stairs on “Shakey Dog” or the explicit ways in which he has dissed you on “Be Easy”(fucked your sister and given you urine to drink). Fishscale may not have reignited his career but it is a star-affirming work all the same.

6.    Fall Out Boy – Infinity On High (2007)

Infinity On High is Fall Out Boy’s “we are not a fluke” album. “The Take over, The Breaks Over” is the kind of punchy pop rock that no one does better than FOB. And “I Have All This Ringing in my Ears and None on my Fingers” is, title aside, Fall Out Boy at their finest. This is also the record that everyone realized that Pete Wentz’s lyrics are actually funny, sorta witty and way more interesting than about 95% of the lyrics in rock music today. Listen, I know most people don’t get or understand my love of this band. It’s admittedly tough to explain, but let me try. Catchy songs, great singer, genuine emotion; these are all the things I hear when I listen to Fall Out Boy. Pete Wentz is someone who loves a turn of phrase and Patrick Stump is the only guy who can take these lyrics and make them anthems. (Seriously, no one else can deliver these lyrics). The rest of the band developed in one album from a shaggy group to a tight unit who couldn’t just play their instruments well, but with skill and style. Great band, great album.

5.    Jay-Z – The Black Album (2003)

The greatest album by the world’s greatest rapper. Reasonable Doubt might be more consistent but The Black Album is Jay-Z at his career peak. “P.S.A.”, “99 Problems”, “What More Can I Say?”, hell, what more can I say? The Black Album is the ultimate Jay-Z primer for anyone who’s ever asked, “Hey, why is that Jay-Z guy so popular?” Because he spits insane fire all over this album, son! Jay-Z is at his best when he has something to prove, and with TBA he had to prove that there are none greater and that he cannot be topped. So he grabs up a murderer’s row of producers (Just Blaze, Kanye, Rick Rubin, Timbaland) and just kills it over their beats. Their best work produced Jay’s best work. The film Fade To Black is a nice addendum to The Black Album as it follows Jay-Z through the recording of the album and shows his process. His process: killing it. For a the best summation of my thoughts on The Black Album, see the the guy’s face at 2:33 in this clip.

4.    Radiohead – Kid A (2000)

Kid A is a bit of an obvious choice, but obvious because it is so obviously great. I’ve easily listened to it more times than any other Radiohead record. I recall at the time of it’s release people talking about Kid A in fearful, hushed tones. “Kid A is too quiet.” “The sound on it is so cold and distant.” “What happened to the guitars?” Then and now, I haven’t a clue what these people were talking about. Kid A is easily Radiohead’s best and warmest record because it was such a dynamic change for the band. Kid A is exciting precisely because Radiohead weren’t doing an easy record, they were experimenting and trying out new ideas and larks. I’ve heard a million songs and albums with guitars. There are so many other instruments in the world and Radiohead know how to play them! Let them.

3.    Daft Punk – Discovery (2001)

The joy inherent in the first 5 tracks on Discovery are the basis for Daft Punk’s career thus far. They were certainly genius’s on Homework but Discovery is the dance party that everyone truly rallied around. When people get excited about Daft Punk, it’s because of “One More Time”, or the guitar solo on “Digital Love”. Daft Punk seem on track to never top Discovery but asking them to do that is a pretty tall order. Like I said, have you heard this fucking thing? I’m surprised they can still get out of bed in the morning and consider putting out any other music.

2.    Death From Above 1979 – You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine (2004)

Sebastien Grainger goes through plenty of emotions(passionately) on You’re A Woman, I’m A Machine. He vacillates between slick lover man and impassioned angry jerk from track to track, so one moment’s rough embrace is followed by a track of screamed recrimination. Which is all to say that Grainger is complicated guy with issues and Jesse Keeler wrote some fucking monster riffs. These guys were made for each other which is why they can’t stand each other anymore and dissolved the band. Reverse soulmates. I’ve actually met them both briefly, and from those encounters I found that Sebastien came across like someone with somewhere else to be and lacking in patience while Jesse was  thoughtful and genuine. Polar opposites really. That these guys were able to hash it out long enough to make this masterpiece is both a mystery and gift.

1.    Queens of the Stone Age – Rated R (2000)

Just one of the greatest albums of all time. This record came along in the summer of 2000 and changed my life. This was the album that explained to me that music is wide and varied, that the rules do not apply because there are no rules. Rated R is eleven tracks of “Fuck the rules. Who made the rules, anyway? Fuck them too.” Drug songs of course but also in-jokes, eight minutes of manic horns to close out the record, and RIFFS. The guitars crunch out every riff and they’re some of the greatest riffs ever too. Josh and Nick were just starting their too brief partnership of awesomeness and much like Jesse and Sebastien, they utilized their differences to great effect. This is why all great bands end. Too many great ideas and powerful egos in one room, eventually something has to give. But before the implosion, they gave us Rated R.

Favorite Albums of the 2000′s: 20 – 11

October 9, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

Albums 70 – 61

Albums 60 – 51

Albums 50 – 41

Albums 40 – 31

Albums 30 – 21

20. The Strokes – Room On Fire (2003)

This is how you make a second album. A whole lot like the first one, but faster. I’ve met people who love Is This It but hate Room On Fire. Those people are ridiculous. Every band should follow The Strokes’ lead. “Reptilia” and “Under Control” are insta-classics. We should be so lucky to live in a world where The Strokes nailed it on their second record. The third one still sucks.

19. Bloc Party – Silent Alarm (2005)

Kele Okereke is a great singer with a penchant for heartfelt delivery and writing angular guitar lines. I don’t think he likes doing the latter so much anymore but on Silent Alarm he made a strong case for being the king of that shit. Backed by the amazing Matt Tong on drums, Silent Alarm is straight dance rock murder.

18. Fall Out Boy – Folie à Deux (2008)

If you’ve ever watched the Pantera episode of Behind The Music(the best episode of Behind The Music) you might recall the part where Phil Anselmo expresses regret for his estrangement from Vinnie Paul and says, (paraphrasing) “I need Vinnie Paul in my life, and Vinnie Paul needs me in his.” This same bit of narcissistic attachment can be applied to the relationship between Patrick Stump and Pete Wentz. These guys need each other. Bad. Fall Out Boy only succeeded because of that strange alchemy of Stumps vocals and songwriting mixed with Wentz’s twisting, punny lyrics of self-deprecation/revenge fantasies. Folie a Deux is a triumph, and of course the only way to follow up this victory is to implode. I pour a drink.

17. Sleater-Kinney – The Woods (2005)

What is it like to write a classic? Better yet, when does one realize they’ve written a classic? Do the band members nod and smile during playback of the demos or is it earlier? Maybe during the recording faze, when a member lays down a particularly ripping guitar lead. I’m curious if any of the member’s of Sleater-Kinney could answer this question for me, since THE WOODS is classic from front to back. “The Fox” starts out by burning your face off and the rest of the album turns you into kindling.

16. Interpol – Antics (2004)

Antics rules. I like to equate it to Carlos D actually pulling a gun out of that holster and shooting someone. “Not Even Jail” is a monster, a bulldozer. I didn’t think these guys had it in them. Front to back sleek menace on top of riffs and the usual Paul Banks “that could be construed as either good or bad lyrics” lyrics.

15. Friendly Fires – Friendly Fires (2008)

One of the greatest debut records of all time. Oh, that was fun to write. Friendly Fires arrived fully formed, strutting and confident with songs, son. I could list a couple here but then I would have to list them all. I will mention that about half these songs are about heartbreak and regret yet they sound like the fun distilled into music. “Lovesick” is the most enjoyment you’ll ever have dancing to a song about leaving some coldhearted shrew.

14. Spoon – Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (2007)

Spoon are always tough to describe. They make stripped down indie rock(by definition) what never sounds generic or obvious. Certainly those words can’t be used to describe “The Ghost of You Lingers”. Or “Black Like Me”. Whenever I hear of a band sounding “Spoon-like” I know they’ll have some angular guitars but none of Britt Daniel’s screechy passion and honesty.

13. Jay-Z – The Blueprint (2001)

Jay-Z is just great you guys. On The Blueprint Hov lets you know why he is great. He’s great because he dealt drugs so you don’t have to. He’s great because he’s not looking at you dudes he’s looking past you. He’s great because you don’t know. Now get your damn hands up.

12. Local H – Here Comes The Zoo (2002)

One of the greatest rock records of all time.  Seriously, one of the greatest rock records of all time. “5th Avenue Crazy” is about getting beat up by some crazed drug addled chick who just wants your money for cocaine. “Rock and Roll Professionals” is a bitter attack on more popular rock bands that “sell out” but it doesn’t matter because it rocks faces. “Half Life” has the line, “You’re born with nothing better make it enough/Half life a kick in the teeth/the alcohol will be your only relief”. One of the greatest rock records of all time.

11. Spoon – Kill The Moonlight (2002)

Britt Daniel can do soulful. He can do screechy. He can make his guitar feedback, or he can strum it with care and concern. Britt Daniel can do anything.

Favorite Albums of the 2000’s: 30 – 21

September 8, 2010

Albums 100 – 91

Albums 90 – 81

Albums 80 – 71

Albums 70 – 61

Albums 60 – 51

Albums 50 – 41

Albums 40 – 31

30.  Kanye West – Late Registration (2005)

Late Registration is Kanye West’s best album so far. Minus the skits it kills from front to back. Every track has a genius moment whether it is the Curtis Mayfield sample on “Touch The Sky”, actually making Adam Levine useful on “Heard ‘Em Say”, Nas’ verse on “We Major”, and especially Jay-Z’s guest spot on “Diamonds From Sierra Leone (Remix)”. Straight fire, that one. Everyone involved brings their A-game because the A-game is the only way Kanye operates. Every song is meticulous and the beats are varied and wonderful. He could have released every song off here as a single.

29.  Modest Mouse – Good News For People Who Love Bad News (2004)

I’m not a Modest Mouse superfan for the simple fact that everything previous to this record sounds to me like screeching crazy talk or boring mumblecore. Good News is a lark, a bitter pop record that just happened to resonate with a large group of listeners at just the right time. Every song on here is wonderful, even the bad ones. A fun thing to do with this album is test people and see how many can tolerate “Dance Hall”. On repeat.

28.  Cut Copy – In Ghost Colours (2008)

In a way, Cut Copy are too subtle. In Ghost Colours is the jam, no doubt, but the first couple listens aren’t immediately obvious because unlike music that is popularly associated with dancing, it don’t bludgeon you into submission. The guys in Cut Copy lend a soft, airy sound to their tracks, which they then lay their synths and hooks on top of. “Polite” isn’t quite the right word, “courtesy” might be better. After a couple listens though you realize that every track kills, is the jam, is your favorite song ever.

27.  Liars – Liars (2007)

Liars are a infuriating band. Their first album is fire, their second album is an abortion, and their third is offensive in the worst way: it’s fucking boring. That said, Liars is a return to the straight fire of the album #1 with touches of the better elements of their otherwise shit records. It rocks, it howls, it has actual riffs! It might be the only time that Liars decided to be awesome and not give up halfway through and just moan into the microphone for 45 minutes.

26.  Justin Timberlake – Justified (2002)

Michael Jackson made this album by passing on these beats. Oh Michael. In packaging and design Justified looks like any other solo record from a former boy bander, but thanks to those beats and a natural swagger and confidence Justin Timberlake was able to free himself of that past, to the point where I’ve actually heard people say, “Which group was he in again?” Remarkable.

25.  Tenacious D – Tenacious D (2001)

This might be the single most hilarious comedy album of all time(True). I have every line of it memorized(also true). Along with being very very funny it also has great songs. I heard someone lament that the idea of a fully produced rock record misses the point of Tenacious D. I would argue that the appeal of the D was that they were actually really great all along and that this record is a fluke of genius that answers the question: “What would Tenacious D(the fictional band in this scenario) actually write about on a full length album?” Doubling teaming and cock pushups, that’s what.

24.   Interpol – Turn On The Bright Lights (2002)

Paul Banks has a great voice. His lyrics are weird but never particularly awful. Turn On The Bright Lights is a sad ode to New York City. You could view it as a reaction to 9/11, or just a piece on grief and change in general. Banks’ lyrics lend themselves to your own interpretation. The production is grand and because it rocks for most of it’s runtime there isn’t an overbearing cloud of melancholy. The bright lights of the title might mean “Time to stop sitting in the dark and get back out there!”

23.  Jay-Z – Jay-Z: Unplugged (2001)

Greatest Unplugged ever. The Roots play Jay-Z’s songs, Jay-Z raps half of them, lets the audience handle the other half and basically it’s the best party ever. Fresh off the release of The Blueprint, Hov is smooth, confident and hilarious. But of course he is. Hits for days and days and days.

22.  Fall Out Boy – From Under The Cork Tree (2005)

Did you know that Fall Out Boy were(Were? Oh. Damn.) one the great pop bands of this glorious decade? True story. From Under The Cork Tree was the first indication of their skills as hook men. All great songs, energy to spare and enthusiasm. Can’t say that enough. They might have sucked live but the recorded work is what will live on. You know who else sucked live? The Beatles. Just sayin’.

21.  Queens of the Stone Age – Songs for the Deaf (2002)

Queens of the Stone Age make an album mocking the lameness and homogenization of rock radio and end up getting played on rock radio. Songs for the Deaf is Queens heaviest record and the last to feature Josh collaborating with Nick. And Dave Grohl drums. Oh does he drum. I read some interviews around the time of Lullabies release that the making of Songs was a tough process with “certain people” around that Josh didn’t want around. I’ve always figured it was producer Eric Valentine, whose other production credits include a Good Charlotte album and the first Third Eye Blind record. What kind of advice and guidance could he possibly give Josh? My guess is that they threw Valentine’s name on the credit list but didn’t listen to a thing he said, like Sloan did on Twice Removed. The radio skits on Songs were derided at the time of release but hold up as the glue that keeps the record cohesive and flowing instead of mishmash of ideas.

The Blueprint 3 by Jay-Z. Real Talk.

September 10, 2009

Blueprint_3

I hold the opinion that there should be no such thing as a “bad” Jay-Z album. He’s the greatest rapper alive, he has access where others do not, how can he not keep dropping classics? The answer, most likely, is that Jay-Z is only human, and humans have been known to make mistakes. The Blueprint 3 is one such mistake.

I’m not sure why Jay-Z insisted on having a Blueprint trilogy. Sure the first one is a classic, but he already did this three album cycle shit back in the 90’s. And it’s not like The Blueprint 2 was screaming for a finale. I like that album fine, but the criticisms of a bloated nature are not at all out-of-bounds. Also it isn’t nearly as good as The Blueprint. That said, The Blueprint 3 is closer in relation both thematically and song-wise with Kingdom Come, which most people agree is Jay-Z’s worst album. The Blueprint 3 is better than that record, but only just so.

Let’s start with the beats, the bedrock of any great rap record. Jay-Z has long been fabled for his beat choices. Just see him suss out the beat for “What More Can I Say?” in the concert film Fade To Black*. It appears that much like on Kingdom Come, Jay has become less discerning in his tastes. Maybe Hov is just reading the labels and not really listening, but these Timbaland and Neptunes beats aren’t that hot. Timbaland’s “Reminder” might be one of the shittiest tracks he’s ever done that hasn’t appeared on Shock Value. The Neptunes’ beat for “So Ambitious” outdoes it with a weak shamble and a basis around video game sound effects. It sounds like it was sampled from the soundtrack to a The Legend of Zelda. Timbaland does a slightly better job on “Off That“, but the beat is all forward motion, no innovation. Did the guy blow his wad on FutureSex/LoveSounds? But when we’re talking about a failure of beats, the prize goes to “Young Forever“, Jay-Z’s attempt to get a foot in the door of the ever important high school senior class market. If this is any indication of Jay-Z’s next move, expect a freestyle over Toto’s “Africa” before his next album drops.

I’ve read plenty of criticism over the last few years since Kingdom Come that Jay-Z hasn’t really been bringing it lyrically and that his rhyming skills and flow are deteriorating. I had never agreed with this statement until hearing The Blueprint 3. Across the board, track for track, I don’t think Jay-Z delivers anything generally crazy, quotable, or with any sense of greater style. And the man’s only true competition is himself. Take a track like “Thank You“, which plays like a retread of The Black Album‘s “Encore“. Jay starts out saying it’s a song for his fans, but then quickly flips it into another attack on his critics, equating them rather clumsily to September 11th, with a strained metaphor of crashing planes into buildings. The beat is nice, but we’re two tracks into the album and he’s evoking terrorist attacks against battle rappers he won’t even name. Not to mention that the first song is an attack on his critics as well. Listen, I’m well aware of the fact that most Jay-Z songs are about how he is awesome, his critics can kiss his ass, and so on. The problem is that Jay-Z used to make songs like this that made such statements self evident. “The Takeover” is a track that slams Nas, Mobb Deep and a slew of other rap competitors by actually being an amazing track built around stellar rhymes, rhyming, and an insane, heavy beat. Jay-Z was telling everyone they weren’t as great as him and proving it at the same time. With The Blueprint 3, Jay is just saying it, taking his top status for granted. He used to show us he was the greatest, now he can only tell us about it. When asked in an interview whether Kanye West out-rapped him on “Run This Town“, Jay-Z responded with a non-committal shrug and instructed the interviewer to compare his overall work to Kanye’s and ask him who was the best. Well sure, if we play it that way of course Jay-Z wins. His hits vastly outweigh his misses. But if he keeps whiffing like this he might just screw up his average.(“Run This Town” is still terrible, by the way. Mostly, it’s Rhianna’s yarl.)

Nice things to say? Sure. Swizz Beatz proves his worth on “On To The Next One” with a wicked beat that is proto typical Swizzy but still energetic. “D.O.A.” isn’t bad, like a second rate “Roc Boys“, which I guess isn’t much of a compliment. Oh well.

I’m a little confused on the theme of The Blueprint 3. The original Blueprint was Jay-Z throwing down the gauntlet and letting everyone know he was a force to be reckoned with. No guests except for Eminem, production from mostly Kanye and Just Blaze**; shit made sense. The Blueprint 2 was more of a victory lap, which is why it felt a bit lazy. Yet, there were some top flight beats and Jay had some sharp rhymes to go along with them. This third iteration seems to indicate, “I’m still here, I’m still great”? A good chunk of the running time is devoted to this plot point, when not denigrating haters and critics, with a occasional aside to reference women from his past (“Venus vs. Mars“) or pay respect to every commercially successful rap act to come up in the last twenty years (“A Star Is Born”). “A Star Is Born” is treacle bullshit, sharing a motif with “Empire State of Mind”, also on The Blueprint 3. On “Empire” Jay lists random New York City locations, while on “Star” he lists random rappers. “Empire” is a little better, and the tracks might even work in with better beats, but the verses are snared between a god awful choruses. The message of these two tracks is “I love New York, also various rappers. Group hug.”

The great irony is that this record clearly cost millions of dollars. Millions in marketing, millions for the beats and studio time, all in the service of what turns out to be a relatively mediocre product(“On To The Next One” notwithstanding). Yet, for significantly less money, Hov is outclassed, on the same release day mind you, by Raekwon’s Only Built For Cuban Linx…Pt. 2. Great beats, trenchant and evocative rhymes, plus passion. Jay would probably argue that if you stack up his career against Raekwon and a blah blah blah. Hey Jay, let’s stack up your pre-retirement career against your post. Real talk.

*Watching this clip still gives me goosebumps, followed by giddy elation. Do you see the guy make that face at the end of the clip, that “Holy shit, Hov is killing it” face? In the first verse of  “On To The Next One” Jay raps that if we don’t like his new albums, go listen to his old ones. Gladly.

**Just Blaze has been unjustly ignored by Hov of late. Just had to footnote that.

Asher Roth. The guy kinda sucks.

April 27, 2009

For all the shit that's he's put out in the last few years, not to mention recently, Eminem used to be pretty good. I recall more than a few songs on his first three albums that were downright funny and dare I say, great. Also, and perhaps more importantly, Em was very funny when he wanted to be. I remember a time when Eminem would drop a song that would have you and your friends screaming and laughing, shocked by the audacity of the lines he was spitting, and the way he was saying them. Currently, he's dropping some hideous comeback crap, chock full of dated references and if the new leaked track is to be believed, sad horrorcore throwbacks. Which brings me to Asher Roth, the current new fresh kid to ape and take advantage of the Eminem style. You might have heard his terrible "I Love College" song. What is remarkable about this guy is that he has all these Eminem comparison's without actually having any of Eminem's most important characteristics, humor, self awareness, and ability.

Asher Roth is a bad rapper. Slow and clunky, the lines in "I Love College" flow like a broken conveyer belt at Fed Ex. Lines don't necessarily rhyme, and it's all completely witless. Which I guess is fine for an attention getting, audience pandering first single. To make sure I was justified in disliking this guy, I sat down with his album, Asleep In The Bread Aisle. Woof, my friends, woof. Asher Roth hasn't a thing to say. While much has been made of his middle class upbringing, his lack of personal strife and conflict is both boring and offputing. "Bad Day" sounds like a bad comedian riffing(and whiffing) about riding coach in a plane, with the HI-larious punchline, "I forgot my iPod." Certainly all in jest, but also not that funny. If this were just one jokey song amongst some hard hitting material, I'd shut up right now and lay praise and hosannas. But it's just one of many.

 "Lark In A Go-Kart" is a bad Family Guy episode in lyrical form, with as many pop culture references as Roth can spit at a time, which isn't that many, since he's such a slow rapper. Listening to Asleep In The Bread Aisle, I felt a little bad for anyone going to college who will most likely be subjected to this relentlessly during their freshman year. My freshman year, I had to contend with the first Nelly album and Lil Kim's "How Many Licks?". Yes, I lucked out. "Ride Wit Me" is actually pretty great. Asher Roth should be so lucky to make anything as catchy and fun as "Ride Wit Me" or anything on Eminem's most acclaimed discs.

The laziness is the most striking aspect of Roth. At one point on Asleep… Roth devotes an entire track to defending himself against Eminem comparisons. You wish, man! I should put out a terrible record and devote a track to telling everybody to stop comparing me to Jay-Z. What do I have in comparison to Jay-Z? About the same amount of things  Asher Roth does with Eminem. On Eminem's first album he killed his wife and disposed of the body with his kid! Em convinced Dr. Dre to shoot a guy in the face. Asher Roth rides around stoned and meets a girl who "just wants to dance." Asher Roth wants to Pacino to Brando's Godfather, but he's more AJ Soprano to Gandolfini's Tony. A young imitator with all the chances and none of the ability.

The line being thrown around is that when Roth's low sales are announced next week, it won't be because people heard the album sucked, it'll be because it "undershipped", which must be the "dog ate my homework" for the underperforming artist. My advice to the record companies looking for their next great white rapper, find a guy with flow who actually gives a shit. And make sure he's actually funny, not "remember Saved By The Bell" funny.  

Read and post comments |
Send to a friend