Monday, December 29, 2008

I Paid 80 Bucks To See a ZOMBIE

Unlike the Morlocks, Lil Wayne's threats of cannibalism are only figurative - I think.

So tonight I saw Lil Wayne in concert. I don't really have much insightful to say about his performance that Mr. Weiss didn't say about what sounds like a pretty much identical one out in LA, but I suppose I owe my several readers some pontification on these things. As I've implied before, I do believe that Wayne is the best rapper out right now (I like to avoid the best rapper alive terminology as there are any number of rappers who were once better than Wayne who are still alive, or are still pretty good, like Face or Ghostface, and have a way better body of work), though that isn't to say I'm a huge fan of the guy or even listen to his mixtapes, just that we live in an era where a somewhat more talented version of early Busta Rhymes is the best thing going.

Before Wayne came out we were subjected to Keri Hilson, the Gym Class Heroes, and Keyshia Cole, and the contrast was instructive. Keri's an interesting artist in theory, has a pretty great single out, has way more talent, I suppose, than a lot of the other poppier female r&b singers, but live she was just abysmal. Horrible dancing, no charisma whatsoever, lots of stale "how are you today, Philly?" talk - a real bore. Gym Class Heroes' front-man was a huge douchebag. Keyshia was a more mixed case. She sings with a great deal of passion, but on stage she's hampered by her, shall we say, unconventional looks, her very unsexy attempts at sexily slinking around her stage set in some outfit out of Chicago, and, of course, the fact that none of her songs are actually any good. Though I know people disagree on this, but to me she's like a less gifted (though in some ways much more likeable) MJB if MJB couldn't write.

Then Wayne came out. The first thing you notice about the guy is how tiny he is. Wayne performs with a band now, so one guy after another descended from the ceiling with a guitar or a cello or what have you, so everyone's looking around trying to figure out where Wayne is hiding and when he's going to drop from the roof when all of a sudden you see this quasi-midget standing on a corner of the stage. The second thing I noticed is that he was wearing a backpack. (Later he wore this 'Hipsters' t-shirt; I'm not sure what it means.) Interesting. It occurred to me that, while today's backpackers certainly wouldn't, and don't, claim Wayne as one of their own, isn't Wayne very much in keeping with the origins of the backpack rap movement? If most historians of this shit date backpack rap back to Black Moon and Buckshot Shorty, isn't there a ton of similarity between Wayne and him? The same affability, childlike persona, amazing flow, lyrics that didn't mean much if anything, were often kinda bizarre ("bring the ammo, so I can play Rambo, when I shoot the crossbow inside the hoe") and sometimes weren't any good? How did we reach the point when that stuff was officially designated as Real Hip-Hop, while some still struggle to deem Wayne as such? From the rapping end of things - just the rapping end, not the production - is there that big a difference between "Who Got Da Props" ("suckers, I kick em like tae kwon do") and "Got Money," "A Milli," "Fireman," or "Go DJ," other than that the slang has changed a little? To me, Wayne's bringing back the playfulness in rap that we haven't really seen in a big way since the Native Tongues and Hit Squad. And though there are very important differences - Wayne's working within the constraints of a lot of boring rap cliches that weren't around to such an oppressive extent in the early 90s, has markedly inferior production than those guys did (isn't it a shame that Mannie left/fell off before Wayne became a great rapper?), and doesn't talk about nearly as much as they did (that is, Wayne has no "Millie Pulled a Pistol On Santa," or even a "Bitties in the BK Lounge," a song that doesn't have a Message, like the former, but is a deft portrayal of a certain setting and the sorts of class/sexual tensions that go on there - Wayne just talks about, as he puts it, Wayne's World, a world that's very much solely composed of whatever's in Wayne's little headspace) - he is diffusing, on the one hand, the mean muggery of gangsta rap and the pointy-headed "we're thinking deep thoughts/practicing the Lost Art of Real Hip-Hop" bullshit of backpack rap on the other, and that is very backpackerish in the original Buckshot/Das EFX sense, and something for which the guy deserves to be praised.

Another thing you notice about Wayne in person is how ugly he is. I suppose I didn't need to see him in person to realize that, but it is a little more noticeable when he's right in front of you. The weird thing about Wayne's bad looks and slight frame is that he plays them for assets - he's always making strange gremlin faces, ripping off his shirt, writhing around on the floor, lifting his shades to make a point, etc. Of course, we've had many rappers who've used their bad looks to lend a certain air of nobility or heft to their persona, like a Jay-Z or a Biggie, but what Wayne does isn't like that at all - it's much more in the Bushwick Bill/Flava Flav tradition, the tradition of the endearingly tiny hideous dude who bounces around the stage and throws his weird looks in your face. Which carries over into another thing you notice about Wayne in person. He's very modest, very humble. He brags a lot, of course, he's very confident, but not at all arrogant or egotistical in the mold of a Jay, a T.I., a Cam, a Jim Jones, a Nas, a Kanye, etc. He's never mean-spirited, not when he talks about haters (to the extent that he ever does), or the proverbial unidentified "you" that every rapper loves to remind is so much poorer/softer/less swamped in ass than he is, or women. Other rappers crack jokes about sluts, sneer at them, or angrily denigrate them; Wayne would love you even if you were a prostitute. The tone of something like Fabolous's "Breathe" is alien to him. There's simply a degree of kindness, friendliness, warmth, that's almost unique to Wayne in the contemporary rap scene and doesn't get talked about much. His praying for the audience, though it seemed a bit like a tired gimmick that he'd been doing all tour long, is a part of that. In conclusion, I'm still not sold on Wayne as a Great Rapper, and probably never will be, but I was left with a much deeper appreciation for the guy and his work.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Even a Fucktard is Right a Couple Times A Year

Yeah boyyyyy!

S o tonight at the Tray Family "See A Shitty Movie On Christmas Eve Because We're Jewish Extravaganza," Slumdog Millionaire was the movie of choice, and I've gotta say, worst movie I've seen in years. Worse even than Crash or Million Dollar Baby or this Gina Gershon vehicle my cousin directed. (Watch the first two minutes, they're hilariously bad.) And guess who got it right? Armond White, worthless idiot! Of course, he hates everything that isn't (a) a Spielberg film or (b) a bad Eddie Murphy movie, so no surprise there, but you have to give him some credit, being that he was one of only three professional critics to call this piece of shit on crappy frenetic cinematography wheels out, don't you? ( dudes don't count.) Well no, actually you don't.

I have to give Armond credit for one thing, he does get what's wrong stylistically with this movie when he says that it's like a "Baz Luhrmann version of Oliver Twist." Pretty much. I mean, the hero's mom gets set on fire by some religious fanatics when he's five, and the director's main interest seems to be, "hey, look at those pretty bright orange flames! Check out my jumpy handheld camera work!" (His secondary interest is teaching us a tidy little lesson in how religious extremists really suck.)

Other than that, though, Armond is as off-base as ever. It must be hard to go see a total piece of shit and hate it - for the totally wrong reasons. Besides the obvious problems with setting a movie about two kids suffering through some pretty horrific childhoods to M.I.A. (seriously, I just hope this movie doesn't kick off a hipster trend of M.I.A. fans adopting cute little kids from slums in India and then forcing them to listen to 'Paper Planes' all the time the way I was forced to listen to Simon and Garfunkel as a 3-year-old*), the movie sucks for the following reasons. Basically, the whole first hour or more is this obnoxious framing device wherein the titular Slumdog Millionaire watches tape of himself answering questions on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in a police investigating room (they think he cheated) and then thinking back to the traumatic event in his life where he learned the answers to those questions. So for ex., he knows who invented the revolver because his brother had to shoot a pimp who was prostituting the hero's sweetheart with one, and I guess Brother Bear referred to it as a Colt 45 at the time, ergo, our hero knows the answer. Or, he knows what Indian poet wrote some random song because once upon a time, these creepy dudes pretended to work for an orphanage and kidnapped him and his brother and asked them to sing said song so they could see if they were ready for professional beggar work - which, just to wring maximum sympathy out of the audience, apparently involves getting their eyes blinded out to make them more attractive to passersby. (They run away in time but their cute little friend does not.) In fact, every single answer he knew on the show somehow relates to some wildly traumatic event in his childhood. It's just one disgusting manipulative tearjerking scene after another. Which brings me to another problem with the movie - that, yeah, while it's one thing to portray the slums of Mumbai as a really sketchy, dangerous place, which I'm sure they are, I think you cross a line when the only two good people in the whole movie are the hero and heroine, and everyone else is either a pimp, creepy pedophilic child-beggar pimp, creepy crooked game show host, creepy crooked cop, creepy sadistic cop, flame-throwing religious fanatic, sadistic hired gun, or a selfish, sadistic, totally immoral gangster. Or a giggling slut. That's pretty much everyone, except for the poor fellow-slumdogs who are just there to be like, "go Jamal, rep for the slums, win those rupees!!" I'm not sure if I'd call the movie out-and-out racist or just really dumb, but neither one's a good option.

Armond, on the other hand, (a) thinks the movie doesn't go far enough in making white people guilty, (b) panders to liberals too much, and (c) fails to fulfill the Armond-given duty all movies that aren't stupid black comedies have to educate the viewer in "socially significant" subjects. It's a sort of damned if you do, damned if you don't conundrum. Armond's first complaint is that the movie "absolves the white man's burden" and responsibility for the crappy conditions of India, a former British colony. (The director's a Brit, a point White makes much of.) Well yeah, the movie says nothing about colonialism at all. But should it? My understanding is that India's poor wouldn't be in the abject conditions they're in if the government hadn't ran the economy into the ground for the first thirty-plus years of the nation's existence. That said, just as it would be ridiculous for a free marketeer like myself to leave the movie going, "gee, why didn't they make a bigger point of how Nehru destroyed India's economy with Soviet-aping state planning and protectionism and is largely to blame for the poor conditions in which the protagonist finds himself," it's pretty stupid for White to complain that the movie lacks an anti-colonialist mesage, regardless of how much colonialism is to blame for Indian poverty. That's just not what the movie's about. If you want an anti-colonialist or anti-socialist screed, go to the library.

Complaint 2 is that the movie contains little potted messages for "guilty liberals." For example, the police station where the hero is kept on suspicion of game show cheating bears some plainly non-coincidental similarites to Gitmo. (The kid's waterboarded, electrocuted, etc.) Yeah, I thought it was stupid myself that the director had to randomly remind us in the middle of an Indian game show flick that he's not down with America torturing terrorists, but I thought just a second ago White was pushing for some potted anti-colonialist message in the movie. Like which is it Armond? When they don't go didactic they're chided for assuaging the guilty liberal conscience; when they do go didactic they're chided for... pandering to the guilty liberal conscience! (Question: Why are all of Armond's criticisms always about the audience? Either he's bashing guilty liberals who aren't guilty or liberal enough, or these non-existent "process fanboys" whose sin is liking good directing - can't he ever stick to the movie itself?)

Complaint 3 is that the director should've dug deeper on how it's so ironic that the hero knows all the answers because of his insanely traumatic childhood. To quote from dude's tortured prose itself, "the irony of his game-show ingenuity should portray Jamal’s abuse and indicate the tragedy of mis-education every Millionaire question triggers, including his horrific recollection of ethnic cleansing and matricide.
" (Just as a side note, I'm convinced Armond didn't make it through 8th grade. How can irony portray?) Me myself, I thought the one redeeming aspect of the movie was that towards the end the director fell back from that awful contrivance and tried to tell a half-decent love story. Armond's problem is the exact opposite; he thinks that "Jamal’s reward is [too] self-centered; he’s reunited in puppy love with Latika". Here as in the Curious Case review, Armond wants the director to tell a dishonest story so as to send some political message. Rather than let the character be himself and just be happy that after all his trials and tribulations he's obscenely rich and about to be fucking some model-gorgeous girl he's been in love with all his life, Armond would like the director to re-portray Jamal's abuse. As if it weren't bathetic and pathetic enough the first time. How can he seriously complain that the kid's too self-centered after all he's been through? What would Armond say is the right way to end this shit sandwich? Should Jamal, after winning his "TWENTY MILLION RUPEEES," dedicate the money to fellow victims of ethnic cleansing and matricide? Give it to a charity? Shoot himself in recognition that his life has been irredeemably destroyed by the ravages of colonialization? Really, the only honest part of this whole schlockfest is that the kid doesn't see himself as some kind of symbol or representative of child poverty or colonialist exploitation, that he just takes the money, absconds with the pretty girl and tries to forget about his past.

Finally, this review is eminently representative of the name-dropping excrement that is Armond White's writing. At one point he randomly compares the movie to a Bunuel classic that dropped back in 1950 (this is like if some critic were to go, "Disney's latest: okay, but definitely no Wizard of Oz"), and then actually says that if only more people had attended the recent David Lean retrospective that recently went down in New York, "our film culture" wouldn't be so susceptible to bad movies like this, movies which "betray [their] moral and artistic connection to Dickens, Kipling and Forster's understanding of social organization and individual life patterns." Dude, individual life pattern this. But seriously, does White actually think that if more people went to some retrospective in New York, the global film culture would be less receptive to schlock? How parochial is this guy? The problem isn't that people haven't seen enough Lean, the problem is that most people are stupid and can't tell the difference even if they had. Plus, whenever someone who actually is good, like Fincher, comes along, your Armond Whites of the world shit on him when they should be celebrating the guy and tell you to go see the latest Indiana Jones instead out of pure contrarian fucktardedness.

* This is actually a really great analogy when you consider condescending shit like 'Graceland.'

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The New York Times Likes Plies

Dude must have been a real busted baby.

First, don't forget to read the post before this one. Anyway, all the top tens have been coming in (SFJ put "Hot N Cold" at #4! I'm vindicated!) and Saturday the New York Times dropped quite a bombshell. Jon Caramanica, one of their many pop critics, said that Plies's album Da Realist was the tenth best album of the year. Caradude had this to say about it:

On this, one of two great albums he released this year, Plies is staunchly literal, more of a conversationalist than a rapper. But why bother with metaphor, imagery and cadence when straight talk can be this rich?

Yeah, why bother with actually being good at what you do when you can just spit some good ol' straight talk? Sounds like something a John McCain flak would say. But Caraman doesn't seem like a complete idiot, he's got the Lox's "It's Like That" and the "They Know" remix in his top songs of the year (good choices), and he says of Carter 3, "so underwhelming, so imperfect." How true! On the other hand, he had nice things to say about Bust It Baby six months ago, which I wouldn't have thought possible. Specifically he said it was "surprisingly tender." Might want to rethink that one, kiddo. However, Caraman isn't the only guy to praise this Plies album. Noz said it was good, and you've got to respect the Noz, and Abe Beame, who I don't particularly respect or anything, but he's not stupid, thanked Noz for the pointer! Huh. So I decided I would give the thing a listen. He did have that one great verse on "Out Here Grindin" after all. But, because it's Plies, I didn't want to pollute my hard drive with his shit, so this assessment is strictly based on Youtube.


Over a gullier, less catchy version of that terrible Flo-Rida 'Low' beat, Plies raps some of the dumbest, least inspired shit I ever heard. Plies is so bored with this shit that he can't even be bothered to enunciate the last consonant on any word he says, making it a chore to decipher shit like "my goooo paranoii so pleee dough fleh, cuh ahh my gooo ayyy gah guh sensss." And it isn't a good sign when the first words of the first verse of the first song on your album go:

Couple killas on my right, couple killas on my lef

But I am a muthafuckin' killa mysehf


This song is about how he's got a lot of jewelry and feels like he can do whatever the fuck he wants and what the fuck u gon do bout it. Like a bad version of a bad Three 6 Mafia song, you know, one of those filler tracks where they don't give a fuck and lifelesly remake "Tear Da Club Up" for the 87th time, but it's still listenable because unlike this guy they have talent.


Well, Plies fucked around and made a decent song! He still can't rap, but the beat has this plucked harp sound in it, and the concept is him celebrating with random strangers who just got off probation. Which is original at least. It still would be nice, though if he could (a) rhyme, (b) switch his flow up a little, (c) get some charisma, and (d) lose that ridiculous accent that he doesn't even have in interviews. (He's also smart in interviews and doesn't talk about crackas and goons in every other sentence. It's really strange.)


How hard up is Ashanti for money? She really shouldn't be singing about how she only thinks about Plies on two occasions - when she wants it and when she needs it. Like think about how gross that is. Rihanna has really ended a lot of video models' careers, huh? As for Plies, I turned this off as soon as he started rapping. His raps about women are really pathetic. I can tell you, however, that the J.R. Rotem beat is nothing to write home about, even worse than his usual, and that, according to a lyrics site, Plies says that

  • I'm yo goon, you my goonette
  • You rubbin on Oscar, know that if you wake him up, it's gonna be problems
  • Wheneva she want it, she send Plies a text
  • When you need a refill, I'm who ya come see/ They give you 87, I give you 93

Plies has plenty money. He also asks a random 'nigga' to "take off yo' shirt," ostensibly to see if his ribs are showing. Plies - so rich that he can afford to eat enough fast food to keep his ribs from showing. He also tells some other random "niggas" that he's "somethin like their massa." See, this is the point where I get a little uncomfortable listening to some of these extra-stupid southern rappers. Other than that, though, it's a decent song for how ignorant it is, and the beat's by Drumma Boy so you know it's alright.


DJ Infamous, responsible for both Mr. Carter and the good La La, gives Plies a snoozer over which he bitches about his diseased family. AIDS, teen pregnancy, kidney problems, walking issues - the Plies's have got it all. Question: why doesn't Plies take some of that "plenty money" and take his AIDS-ridden auntie and his kidney-problems grandma to the Mayo Clinic, and while he's at it, he can take his 14-year-old sexually active cousin out of the hood and put her in a prep school where she'd be slightly less likely to get herself pregnant? Just a suggestion. Like come on, you can't go straight from bragging about going to the mall and "buyin eerything i wannid" to this shit. Oh, and Plies still can't rap.


Oh shit, Mannie Fresh produced this! Mannie, why you'd give a track to this mental cripple? You only have about twenty good beats like this left in you before you fall off for good.


It's always a bad sign when the youtube user who posts your shit is called "AkonFansChannel." Plies makes yet another heartfelt song about the injustice of our criminal justice system. You know, Plies may have a point and it's great that he cares deeply about this shit, but he really is the wrong spokesman for it. Dude can't rap at all and he makes incisive observations like "the system fucked up because it ain't sturdy." The criminal justice system is many things, but it isn't a wobbly table. At least, though, on this song every other line isn't about the poosey-ahh-crackaaa who sentence Plies's friends to prison for a hunnih yeaaa.


Plies wants someone to spend the night with him. Consistent with his pride in how he's "somethin like [other niggas'] massa," Plies is very proud of his live-in servant:

Who's that? Oh, that's my waiter
She does laundry, she cleans and she caters
She works for me 'cause I pay her
She'll take care of all of yo favors

At least he pays her.


In which Plies admits that he isn't the best rapper, but says that that's okay because to be the best rapper you've gotta tell lies, pretend to cook dope while wearing suits and ties, fantasize, and, uh, wear shades and tight jeans. Never that! Also explains that he's not lyrical, sorry b, because he dropped out of college and didn't earn his degree. Gutta! Goonery!


He's dressed in all blaaack. His niggas are straaaped. Somebody's gonna get whaaacked. He's dressed in all blaaack. He's also rapping like Juvie circa 400 Degreez on 'Gone Ride With Me.' Which is a welcome respite from his usual garbage flow but I'd rather just listen to the original. By the way, what's up with people ripping off Juvie these days? First Jeezy, now this shithead.


Uh-oh, it's about women. Plies shits on some imaginary girl's boyfriend for having a respectable job ("ain't that cute, he wears suits," Plies sneers), and asks, "before he fuck you do he finger you n eat you?" Classy.


Occasionally Plies says some slick shit on this album, but it's obscured by the fact that he sounds like he has Down's Syndrome. This song is one of those instances.


Mannie gave Plies this beat. Mannie has used this same drum pattern in the past few years about twenty times, most memorably on the first single for Lil Flip's album that never came out. I guess he thought we might forget about that. By Plies's standards, anyway, this is a decent song.


Time for Plies to rap some real shit for the goonie goo goos. Plies explains that he doesn't like to fuck with a lot of niggas 'cause niggas will fuck around and make you their co-defendant. Which makes sense, except half of these songs are about how Plies likes to hang with a lot of goons. Consistent much?


You won't believe who gave Plies this beat. No I.D. I mean, No I.D. has done work with post-retirement Jay, Bow Wow, Kanye, all kinds of talentless fucks like that, but Plies? Besides, this beat is an "I'm A Flirt" ripoff. More problematically, Plies is back to rapping about women. He brags that the AC works in his car, offers to grade the girl and give her a report card ("Your final exam - show me your wet box"), and generally makes an ass of himself. Bonus insane youtube comment on this one:

Plies may be far away from the best rapper. But I havta give it to him, he is one of the hardest working rappers out there. If he was the future of hip hop, I wouldnt be that disappointed. 3 albums in less than 18 months takes alot of work, and Plies is making hit after hit. Although his songs have decreased (Nothing will ever beat "Hypnotized") he is still good. Best rappers are still kanye, mos def, nas, and lupe, but Plies could do it in the next 4 or 5 more albums.

So a Kanye/Mos/Nas/Lupe fan thinks Plies could make it to the top in the next 4-5 albums, and says that nothing will ever beat Hypnotized. Well now I've seen it all! Anyway, this album sucked, Noz, Abe, and Caraman, you're all insane, and that's all for now.

Armond White, a Worthless Idiot

Dude is sixty and wearing a ringer tee. Someone get Jim Jones on the line to record a diss track.

I don't even know if any of the ten people who read me care about movies, but I read White's review of that new "watch Brad digitally age backwards for three hours" flick and I had to comment on what a dangerous moron White is. Let me say that White occasionally is right about some things that most critics aren't because, after all, he shits on anything that (a) isn't some retarded fart jokes comedy or (b) isn't directed by Steven Spielberg. So, for instance, he got American Gangster, Million Dollar Baby, There Will Be Blood (all bad, bad movies) right, if only by accident, and for this reason, some people of good taste take him seriously. Unfortunately, White (a) shits on some really great stuff too, (b) likes some very bad stuff, (c) can't write, and (d) is a total retard.

Take White's review of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, the Brad movie. Naturally, White hates it, because it (a) isn't a fart jokes comedy, and (b) wasn't directed by Steven Spielberg. Now I haven't even seen The Curious Case yet, it won't be out till Christmas, but do these sound like good reasons to hate on a movie to you?

1. "If Fincher [the director] was a socially responsive director," he wouldn't have even made this movie, he would've made another one. Specifically, instead of adapting the F. Scott Fitzie story that he did adapt, he would've adapted some other Fitzie story "appropriate to satirizing... materialism" through which "Fincher could have addressed contemporary economic/class divisions." But instead because he's a "technocrat fanboy" [does that even mean anything], he chose this material. So Armond's problem is that he didn't make a movie about class divisions and made a completely different movie instead. This is like saying that the problem with Jurassic Park is that Spielberg adapted Crichton's book about dinosaurs when he could've adapted this other one Crichton wrote about the dangers of illegalizing abortion. Seriously, if White wasn't so much on Spielberg's dick that he said the Jurassic Park sequel was the 7th best movie of 1997 (and Amistad, arguably a travesty of even greater proportions, was 1st), his Jurassic Park review might well have read "Jurassic Park: should have been about abortion."

2. It lacks "social or spiritual significance," "a philosophy about living and dying," and Fitzgerald's "ideas about society and ambition." It's hard to say what's dumber about these criticisms, the criticisms themselves or the braindead prose in which they're expressed ("ideas about society," hello). Apparently, a movie needs social significance and a philosophy about living and dying to pass muster with White. Or, of course, it can just really really suck like You Got Served, which White once said "expressed the sexual and political energy of a not-yet-calcified culture." Like, I agree that there's no great need to shit on movies made for teenage girls by people with the intellect of teenage girls, I'm sure there are lots of morbidly obese girls across the nation for whom masturbating to Omarion in that movie is their only form of sexual release, so at least it's doing some social good and shit, but at least admit that the thing was an insanely poorly written, acted, and directed movie. Don't B.S. me with "sexual and political energy" and then complain that a movie that's no doubt a thousand times smarter lacks a philosophy about living and dying.

3. "Pitt never ages into the sex god you expect. No homo." Oh wait, actually he forgot the no homo. Seriously, the interesting thing about Brad is that he doesn't play sex god characters, he plays blank colorless ones. Sort of like a Rock Hudson. Why White would prefer that the guy play to type, instead of, perhaps, playing a guy who's embarrassed or somewhat confounded by his looks, I don't know. Surely the latter's more interesting, right? Isn't that exactly why all the Paul Newman obits praised his late over his early work?

4. Too many "technological set piece[s]". Too much "process," which White bizarrely derides as "Fincher speaking in fanboy code." Yes, to all the little nerdy process-loving fanboys! See, Armond, process is a good thing. Brilliant technological set pieces are a big part of the reason why Lang's M was the first classic sound film ever made (and possibly still to this day the single best sound film ever made), or why Hitchcock was a great director or why the ending of The Usual Suspects is justly celebrated, etc. Technical facility's a big part of cinema. I would think a Spielberg fanboy would realize that.

5. Brad Pitt is "socially responsive," so he had Fincher fill the movie with Katrina references and supporting black roles... but they're not enough for Armond, who would prefer it if the blacks in the movie had "wakened [Brad's character's] awareness of Jim Crow." So let's get this straight. The movie would be better if it contained some no doubt completely extraneous scenes where Brad got all hot and bothered about segregation. Just what we need. More scenes in back-to-the-50s movies where characters conveniently and randomly start spouting liberal sentiments about race and gender. Isn't it a little more real to portray a Southerner who, while not being a bigot, didn't really care about segregation? Like what's better, an honest depiction of 50s New Orleans, or teaching the audience a moral lesson about the Evil of Jim Crow? Do we really even need to be reminded at this date that Jim Crow was wrong, and even if we do, doesn't a sympathetic character's not caring about it arguably do that better than his reciting some force-fed anachronistic speech about how bad it was? I also like how social responsiveness = black people.

6. Cate Blanchett, the female lead, is "unmagical," "heavy and graceless," a "deadweight art-movie icon," and "the perfect embodiment of Fincher's pretenses." Translation: White did not jack off to Cate after the advance screening the other night. Seriously, Armond's complaint here is that Cate isn't hot enough to play an "enchantress." What about the fact that she's a lot more interesting than virtually any really hot actress in Hollywood (although Theron has her moments), and that, also unlike any hot actress in Hollywood, she can act? And, can do a convincing Southern belle, which after all is what the role is? Doesn't all that count for something? Something tells me that Armond would actually like this movie better if it were directed by Chris Stokes and Meagan Good co-starred. That way you'd get a legit enchantress female lead (fuck whether she can act or anything), some way less "pretentious"/"technocrat fanboy" direction (read 'good'), AND, best of all, you've got the social responsiveness! Brad rejects Jim Crow by personally stepping over the color line - with Meagan Good! Plus, way hotter sex scenes for Armond to whack off to! Yeah, Armond's pretty stupid. I just hope that he isn't hiding something and I didn't just shit on an Alzheimer's patient. That wouldn't be very nice.

Friday, December 19, 2008

My Theses

Before Jeezy was stuntin on Martin Luther, Martin Luther was stuntin on dem popes.

I think there's a lack of clarity as to my general aims, intent, and beliefs about this rap shit, so I thought I'd clarify. Martin Luther style.

1. The canon's about right.

1.1. DJ Premier, not Timbaland, Mannie Fresh or even Dr. Dre, is the greatest rap producer. Ever.

1.2. Something like The Infamous or Illmatic is probably the greatest rap album ever, though admittedly it's pretty nonsensical to speak of the greatest rapper or rap album of all time.

1.3. Though canon revisionism is helpful in that there is some truly classic material that's traditionally been underrated from overlooked regions like the South and Midwest, and hated on labels like Cash Money, post-Biggie Bad Boy, and yes, No Limit Records, the canon's the canon for a reason, and there really is a difference in quality between something like 400 Degreez and Ready To Die, as great as 400 Degreez is.

2. Rap ain't what it used to be.

2.1. So for instance, though Wayne probably is the best rapper alive (or Z-Ro if you prefer - I'd throw Ghostface in here too but it's tough to argue for him after the exercise in comfortable mediocrity that was Big Doe Rehab), it's the height of folly to argue that Wayne is in any way comparable to the great rappers of the past. The situation we're in now is like if, five years ago, Duncan, Shaq, Kobe, Iverson, McGrady, LeBron, Webber, Dirk, and about 20 other guys died in a plane crash, leaving Steve Francis as the best basketball player alive. Or, take a real-life example. For those of you who are serious about movies, do you think there's a single director in America, currently doing good work and not just resting on his 70s laurels, who people will really care about 50 years from now? It's the same with rap.

2.1.1. The dumbest shit is when certain famous bloggers, in their attempts to defend Wayne and the like, go rewrite history and say that in their opinion, the best rappers of the early-mid 90s weren't Nas or Prodigy, but rather guys like Kool Keith and Grand Puba and Snoop and ODB, and Wayne's just carrying on that tradition. He is, yes (though they were substantially better), but Grand Puba simply wasn't as good as some of his peers. If you just listen to rap for the goofy post-lyrical types with kooky flows, you're really missing out on the bigger picture.

2.2. On the other hand, it's also the height of folly when people, in their attempts to prove that real hip-hop is still alive and well, say that Wayne or guys of his ilk are not the best rappers alive, but rather Immortal Technique or Aesop Rock or Lupe or even someone a little more mainstream like post-Stillmatic Nas or post-retirement Jay is. (There are people over on Nah Right who do the latter. Crazy, I know.) You've got to be insane to think that someone rapping for an audience of 200,000 white nerds is the best rapper out, or that there isn't a huge, obscene, qualitative dropoff between old Nas or old Jay and today's Nas or today's Jay. It's like loyal fans of some aging athlete who refuse to admit he's on the downswing and insist on pointing to his occasional great games, which increasingly become fewer and farther between.

3. It's probably not coming back either.

4. History, in the short term at least, is a one way street.

5. Though many, if not most, of the truly great works of rap fall squarely within the Purist East Coast Sample Based Boom-Bappy Goodness Tradition, it is paradoxically this tradition that today bears the least fruit. The worst rap is the rap that tries to bring the Golden Age (whichever Age that was for you) back, musically (this includes the kind of flow you use, flow's ultimately a musical element), lyrically, or thematically.

5.1. Like any rule, there are exceptions. Black Milk really isn't one (sorry); Ghostface, though, definitely is. (So are Styles's horribly slept-on mixtapes, on which a post is forthcoming.) Of course, this doesn't show you that the Boom-Bappy Moment hasn't passed so much as just that Ghostface is still living and capable of doing good work. We made the switchover from Impressionism to Modern Art around 1900, but there were still some very accomplished Impressionists who kept doing great stuff past that point. Monet himself lived and worked up to 1926. Didn't mean the movement hadn't moved on.

5.2. It is not just a freak coincidence or a sign of what dicks A&R's are these days that the self-appointed saviors of East Coast rap have been getting their albums pushed back for the past four years, but rather, a sign of how exhausted the style they represent is. Consider how bad the first singles off these eternally pushed-back projects were. "Fitted Hat Low," "Bang It Out," "Gettin Gwap," "Gangsta Party" (feat. Nate Dogg), "Pain In My Life"... "C'mon Baby" was alright, but more because of the beat than anything else. And think about how bad the excuses for these crappy songs were. "Oh, the label made me do a song with Nate Dogg. About partying. It couldn't help but suck." Gee, Snoop seemed to do alright given those constraints. Guru made party records. Show and AG made party records. KRS made party records. What kind of emcee are you if you're incapable of making a single or getting spins in the club?

6. Even though rap's a shadow of what it used to be and doesn't promise to improve much, it's still worth listening to. However limited a Wayne, Jeezy, Z-Ro, Beans, or whoever may be, it still beats the emasculating shit that passes for rock these days. Or Kanye.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

My 22 Favourite Songs, Period, Of The Year

You can almost see Nasty's wack juice rubbing off on him.

22. Wale f. Bun B and Pusha T, 'Back in The Go-Go.' I hate Lupe so much that I struggle to listen to Wale just because he sounds a little like the guy, but this is an awfully good song.

21. Ron Browz f. Jim Jones & Juelz Santana, 'Pop Champagne.' While Kanye tried to pass off his karaoke project as "art in its purest form," with all the pretentious bullshit, lyrically and musically, that that entailed, Mr. Browz just made a really fun record. The drums here are a lot better than those taiko drums everyone's fussing over on 'Love Lockdown' and those synths that hit midway through Ron's verse are really sinister. And the hook has this weird Arabic chant lilt to it. Bottom line, it's a really fun song that you have to be some real-hip-hop idiot to not like.

20. Rick Ross, 'Money Make Me Come.' I don't get why all the people who thought it was interesting and fresh when Cam rapped about women's wardrobes don't similarly find it amusing when Rick Ross goes "she don't call them purses, she call them bags/I don't know the names, I know they cost some stacks." He's really a master of the little detail. And this is the most hilariously ignorant song of the year (besides, of course, "Smell Yo Dick").

19. Van She, "Changes (G.L.O.V.E.S. Remix)." As Discobelle said, "more chilled than bangin, more fresh than noisy, this remix is sweeter than whatever is playing on your stereo right now."

18. State Property, 'Oceans Seven.' Everybody's including 'Get Busy' on their top tens. I think people just want to like the Roots but they know they really suck now, so they reach for the one song with someone who isn't boring juice, namely Peedi, on it. But why waste your time listening to the two and a half minutes of the song when Peedi isn't rapping and Black Thought's bitching about the dangers of the illadelph when you could listen to a great song with Peedi and Beans and Young Chris instead? Why?

17. Scarface, 'Emeritus.' Something about dude bores me when he's not infuriating me with that "George Bush doesn't care about black people" bullshit, but this is undeniably a great song.

16. Mariah Carey, 'I'll Be Lovin' You Long Time.' I didn't get the fuss about the Emancipation of Mimi, nothing on that album really struck me with the exception of Jada and Styles on THAT REMIX (best remix ever), but this here is quite a song. Too bad the version we were all subjected to for a few months had T.I. on it. What a boring piece of shit he is. I think the people at Slantmagazine (who generally should stick to reviewing movies) said it best when they wrote that the song "sounds like a hyperventilating cross between a graduation anthem and an early-'80s family sitcom theme song. Listening to it, I felt face to face with a couple of silver spoons: one heroin, the other grape jelly."

15. Pink, 'So What.' Great for all the other reasons millions of people have stated. If I didn't hate guitars this would be a lot higher.

14. Charles Hamilton, 'Windows Media Player.' I really like a rapper who's honest enough to make a song entirely about promoting himself. Not like some of these other garbage myspace no-names pretending to be all about the nice weather.

13. ?, 'Brooklyn Go Hard (Freestyle).' Sooner or later, someone who actually can rap will rip this beat and it'll be the mixtape moment of the year (Joell Ortiz, you so don't count, and Termanology, don't even think about it with your little overrated bitchass). I can't even imagine who that might be, but it'll happen. Until it does, though, it's just an average song.

12. Raphael Saadiq f. Jay-Z, 'Oh Girl (Remix).' There's nothing I hate more than a washed-up rapper. But when he's rapping over the work of a genius who somehow succeeded in making a retro soul record that sounds as if it could've been made in the period it's copying (sounds easy, but if it were easy to go back in time why has every post-2003 boom bap record and every black and white film made in the past 20 years sucked?), it goes down a little easier. Also, Jay's suddenly hamhanded flow suits the subject matter. It's certainly the most convincing rap he's ever done about being in love before, more so even than 'Song Cry.'

11. Soulja Boy, 'Turn My Swag On.' Great for all the reasons I've already given.

10. Kanye West, 'Robocop (Original Version).' I actually really liked this song before he tacked on that little PMS fit at the end about what a spoiled little LA girl his "girlfriend" was. Dude, pot calling the kettle effeminate.

9. Metronomy, 'Heartbreaker (Jupiter Remix),' tied with 'Heartbreaker (Kris Menace Remix).' Two incredible remixes, one very disco and upbeat and one very sad and ethereal, of the same British band's heartbreaker anthem. Gotta love the English accents.

8. Jackie Chain f. Jhi Ali, "Rollin (Diplo Remix). The debate over whether these Diplo remixes are far, far worse than the originals rages on - some aren't so great, but I love this one. It's really appropriate to rapping about popping skittles.

7. Lloyd f. Lil Wayne, "Girls Around The World." Pure candified Rakim-sampling pop.

6. Lil Wayne f. Kanye West, "Lollipop (Remix)." Just try to make an appointment with Mr. I Can't Make An Appointment. (Is that his pet name for his dick?) I love how Wayne says 'no homo' before the song even starts. Because this Lollipop shit is just that gay.

5. Soulja Boy f. Gucci Mane & Yo Gotti, "Shopping Spree (Mixtape Version)." In which three extraordinarily bad southern rappers suddenly discover talents they never knew they had over the most menacing beat I've ever heard used for a song about shopping. Like a great version of Gangstarr's 'The Mall.'*

4. Metro Station, 'Shake It.' Kinda like early Springsteen with the soaring keys and their adolescent drive to "get inside," except it's sung by a bunch of teenage faggots. Which is why they're just a one-hit-wonder and not Bruce Springsteen.

3. Katy Perry, 'Hot n' Cold.' A lot of people attack poor Katy for being homophobic, heteronormative, misognystic - so what? The bitch has a right to a man who doesn't PMS like a bitch.

2. Raheem DeVaughn f. R Kelly, 'Customer (Remix)'. Kells truly earned his self-given sobriquet 'Remix Killer' on this one. While he was on trial for pissing on a girl, he put out a remix where he croons - in a song where fast food is a metaphor for sex - that, "if you're feelin thirsty, I've got some good good lemonade." Then he disingenuously claims that he "ain't tryin to smash or outshine nobody" while proceeding to make you forget that this Raheem dude was ever on his own track. Besides the stunning pervertedness of it all, it's just a great song.

1. Young Jeezy f. Nas, 'My President Is Black.'
A song that captured the hopes and pride of a community, breaking every stupid conscious rap-cliche (you can't rap about your Lambo in a conshuz song!) along the way.

* Yes, folks, on this one song, Soulja Boy >>>> G-Dep, Gucci Mane >>>>>> Shiggy Sha, and Yo Gotti >>> Guru. And "Mr. Hankey," who produced the track >>>> Premo.

An Album Better Than All Albums That Dropped This Year

A force that sons everything in its path.

Continuing on my path of being iconoclastic and obnoxious, I thought I'd take a look back at one of my favorite albums, that widely acknowledged classic, Press Play. Before I do that, though, some comments on the Soulja Boy record. If you don't count the crappy intro, I'd argue that it starts with the best 1-2-3 punch of any album all year. Namely, 'Bird Walk,' 'Turn My Swag On,' and 'Gucci Bandana.' (Although the mixtape version of 'Gucci Bandana' is way better.) But the album rapidly goes downhill from there. 'Booty Got Swag' is particularly bizarre, this weird fusion of booty obsession and swag obsession (how does a booty have swag?), 'Whoop Rico' is a sad 'Knuck If You Buck' ripoff, 'I Pray' is laughable ("with. every. move. I. make. I. make. a. lot. of. people. mad/ but. with. every. move. I. make. I. make. a. lot. of. people. glad"), one of those "why does everyone hate on me" songs all crappy rappers make, there's a bad song about his new shoes on here, a shitty song for the preteen ladies, some unlistenable kiddie-whisper-rap with the guys who made "Lookin Boy," and a ton of other filler. Do download the mixtape versions of 'Shopping Spree' and 'Gucci Bandana' though.

But back to Press Play, which Jesus was so kind to remind me of, what a stellar album. Possibly the best-produced album to come down the pike in the past two years, the funniest album in the same span, an unexpectedly touching album, and quite easily my favorite post-Purple Haze New York album. The album memorably opens with Diddy bragging that he "survived Reagan, survived the first Bush" (yeah, you were at Howard and a nice Catholic school at the time, playing football with kids whose dads were in the Mafia) and that his life was "almost like seein through the eyes of a crack child." I guess you need a little prenatal crack in you to say things like "moisturize your situation and preserve your sexy." Then he raps some garbage name-dropping lyrics supplied to him by Game over a better version of the "Show Me What You Got" beat. In Diddy's hands, of course, Game's creepy Big/Pac obsession isn't so creepy because, unlike Game, Diddy actually knew the dead rappers of whom he speaks. After a short interlude (where Diddy, already on his third ghostwriter, amusingly quips "I've got a brand new flow man"), it's two straight Pharoahe Monch ghostwrites! Produced by Havoc! This is the first real genius stretch of the album. Among other things Diddy says that

  • "maaaaan... I extend credit to a vagabond!"
  • "America, fall back, you can't stop me
  • Got a thing for pigeon toed chicks who walk knock-kneed"
  • His kitchen is chrome
  • He likes to peep the moon through his retractable dome
  • What they thought they assassinated was only a Puffy clone
  • He's a Bluetooth nigga but he don't got any cavities.
  • He's a Bad Boy but far from a Detroit Piston.
  • You're not focused enough, you're not listenin. [To his brilliant lyrics.]
  • You need to slow down, hold up like kickstand. (What?)
  • He's got it wrapped like cocoons.
  • He pops shit like needles in cow manure balloons.
Then we have the first two singles from the album, which are also the album's second and third worst songs, followed by some futuristic Danja shit that should have been singles, complete with an on-fire Big Boi, a Diddy trying to rap like T.I., and some girl talking about fucking Diddy on Mars. After that, Nas kicks the best verse of his Def Jam career over a great Kanye beat and writes Diddy a damn good pair of verses too. Then, Diddy does this crazy Prince impersonation that's so bad, he had to have written the lyrics himself. I mean, it starts out:

If I take you out on a date
You'll feel real special and great
So why don't we formulate a plan
to meet up at a special place?

He also says that "nothin, can compare, to fuckin, fuckin my dear" and offers to lick the girl's "sweet cherry pill." Great. But after all that amazingness, there's a whole suite of r&b songs on love and Diddy's problematic relationship with that bitch he finally broke up with last year that shits on both (a) all commercial r&b and (b) a certain other producerterntrapperterntsanger's breakup album. You know, of course, 'Last Night,' or the badly truncated version they put out on the radio, but have you heard the Brandy-featuring drums and bass tour de force, 'Thought You Said'? Or Timbo's triumphant return to Aaliyahville on the Keri Hilson-featuring 'After Love'? Or the stunning Rich Harrison-produced Puff and Mary J collabo, 'Making It Hard'? I hope so. Shit is just as good as 'One Thing' or 'Crazy In Love' were the first time you heard them.

Now, it's often said that these are great songs but they'd be a lot better without Diddy, or with a different rapper - but really, would they? What rapper would do a better job with 'Making It Hard' than Diddy? Please don't say Wayne. He'd take these songs on a totally different direction, that, while potentially interesting, would ultimately ruin them, turn them into just another bunch of Wayne features. Luda, the ex-go-to guy for this type of shit, can't rap anymore. (Ross might be interesting though, as he's the only big-name rapper around who kicks love raps as opposed to sex raps, and these are love songs.) And on a serious note, there's an interesting dialectic going on between the professionalism of the vocalists and Diddy's amateurish raps that I like. Just as Kanye's godawful singing works for some people because his being lost and all off-key musically mirrors, in a way, the content of those songs, Diddy sounds like he's genuinely trying to work out some shit here. The Keris and Mary J.'s and Keyshias and Brandys give him a soundtrack over which he can do that. Unlike Kanye though, who, while he's bleating into autotune, still tries to maintain this air of artistic superiority and pseudo-profundity that's totally unearned, Diddy's just real humble and unguarded on these songs. The outro on 'Making It Hard,' where he talks about meeting Kim for the first time, is this genuinely touching shit, and that's really shocking coming from a douchebag like Diddy. Press Play: half bizarro rap record, half In The Wee Small Hours.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

One Song By A Whiny Celeb In The Closet Who Can't Sing That's Better Than That Whole Album Put Out By Another Whiny Celeb In The Closet Who Can't Sing

You can download this 80s goodness here. For a gang of techno remixes of this classic, see here.

5 Songs Better Than Anything That Dropped This Year

Hurricane G f. Redman and Erick Sermon -
Milky (Produced By Erick Sermon). This song is from '91 and Hurricane easily outshines Redman. That's really saying something. Plus the beat might just be the best thing E-Serm ever did. Too bad ol' girl went on to do absolutely nothing besides bitching about dudes who hated on Puff on 'P.E. 2000.'

Slick Rick - I Shouldn't Have Done It. First single off the Ruler's slept-on second album, The Ruler's Back. Rick kinda whispered this whole album and at times it gets a little too laid-back, but here it works to brilliant effect. Listen closely for the devastating ending.

Camp Lo f. Jungle Brown - Luchini (Remix). Kinda like that Knux Cappuccino jingle, if Cappuccino were actually good.

Memphis Bleek, Hand It Down. People said Premo came back this year. They can't be serious. Could today's Premo make Bleek sound good? Pain in Da Ass's bullshit snipped out for you.

Big Noyd f. Mobb Deep, Recognize and Realize Pt. 2. Possibly one of Havoc's five or so best beats ever, what with that insane heart monitor beeping weaving in and out of the track, and Prodigy drops this:

Yo it's the P, realistically speakin, get left leakin
Reality bites, I strike back, we even
You still breathin make sure his heart stop beatin
You bleedin on top the concrete, found indecent
Blank out when I see you, send shots at your cerebral
Go at your throat like a pit bull
Stop and feed you to the vultures, like Greek sculptures
You're left limbless, from start to finish
Your whole squad get hit hard
I run with a foul type nigs is war scarred
Resemblin' Vietnam, infantries that bomb
Your head nigga, headquaters we take over
My snake nigga crew strike like that of a cobra
Constrict like boas, wrap tight around your soldiers
Enclosed in, trapped within the clutches of madmen

Now go back to listening to that 808's pap. And weep.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Top 12 Singles Of 2008

40 years later, still fabulously relevant.

12. Ron Browz f. Jim Jones & Juelz Santana, 'Pop Champagne.' Jimmy and Juelz aren't so great, but the drums, synths and Ron are.

11. V.I.C., 'Get Silly.' This should've been so much bigger than it was. A Soulja Boy weedcarrier rapping reasonably well over what sounds like the soundtrack to an 80s sci-fi movie.

10. G-Unit, 'Rider Pt. 2.' WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA, WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA WHOA. The verses are nothing to write home about, but the hook was the best use of autotune by any rapper or ex-rapper all year.

9. Rick Ross f. Nelly and Avery Storm, 'Here I Am.' The best rapper for the ladies of our generation wins big on this touching story of his romance with a Florida State transfer (he "highly doubts she has problems with financial aid"). Seriously, Rick Ross is the closest thing to the Biggie of 'Big Poppa' we have today.

8. Freeway f. Rick Ross, 'Lights Get Low (Criminal Opera).' Great song. Pathetically low video budget. Ross must have been stunned by the poor quality of the video hoes on this one. (He has a great verse even by his lofty standards on this, by the way.) The video should have been a bank robbery - Free robs the bank but when he goes to trial, the tellers can't tell if it was him or the other fat rapper with the beard. And they all live happily ever after.

7. ABN (Z-Ro and Trae for the unaware), 'Who's Tha Man.' I couldn't decide between this and 'Still Throwed,' but I don't believe 'Still Throwed' was actually a single.

6. N.E.R.D. f. Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, and Pusha T, 'Everyone Nose (Remix).' Isn't Kanye so much more fun when he stops rapping about his own whiny white girl ass and raps about other whiny white girl ass? Even Lupe is fun here (although let's be clear, he easily has the worst verse on the song).

5. DJ Khaled f. Rick Ross, Boosie, Plies, Trick Daddy, Ace Hood, Akon, & Lil Wayne, 'Out Here Grindin.' Khaled does something right! Plies does something right! Boosie raps about his diabetes! The South's two biggest embarrassments and a bunch of guys who aren't so embarrassing to their region get it right on this song. Forget the overrated Fat Joe and Birdman-featuring mess that was 'We Takin Over' (even Wayne's verse wasn't actually good), this is the real deal.

4. State Property, 'Oceans Seven.' The return of the east coast posse record! Marred only by a weak verse from Freeway. Yes, even Omillio and Oschino show up here.

3. Soulja Boy, 'Turn My Swag On.' Earlier I compared this to a dumber version of 'What You Know,' but I have to rethink that. 'What You Know' was always a little flawed for me because the transcendence of the beat didn't sit well with the mediocrity of the rapping or the weird voice Clifford chose to rap in. Here, on the other hand, the cheapness of the beat fits perfectly with the crappiness of the raps. Why do I like this song? I mean, it's the sound of this talentless hack waking up one morning to discover that he's become impossibly rich and famous. And that's interesting to me.

2. Lil Wayne f. Kanye West, 'Lollipop (Remix).' Yes, the original sucked, but on the remix Wayne puts that Supremes sample (listen to the first two seconds of this) to brilliant use, justifying all the nice shit that idiot bloggers say about him for three minutes. And even Kanye is likeable, promising that Wayne won't murder him like everyone else and then promptly getting murdered.

1. Young Jeezy, 'My President Is Black.' An historic record for an historic moment. Even Nas, who has this
richly ironic line:

No matter how big you can ever be
For whatever fee or publicity, never lose your integrity

can't ruin this song.

Top 5 Most Overrated Rap Singles, Albums, Or Rappers Of The Past 365 Days*

Paragons of overratedness.

I'm back, and blogging from my mom's basement (literally). This is hard because I feel like not that much overrating went down this year. People began to see the light on The Clipse, notice that Wayne was kind of lazy and his use of autotune kinda sucked, question Kanye's artistic choices, etc. But we still had a fair share of overrated shit this year and it's the job of haters like myself to bring that to light.

5. Kanye West the Rapper. Besides his killer verse on 'Everybody Nose (Remix)' and his merely okay one on 'Lollipop (Remix)', I can't think of a single song where Kanye didn't shit the bed this year. This would definitely include 'American Boy' (could've been a great song with a merely mediocre Fabolous verse) and 'Put On' (see below).

4. Young Jeezy, The Recession. It just sucked, and while a few people saw that, they were the same ones who never got what was so great about Jeezy in the first place. Everyone else thought it was a solid album, a step forward into more political subject matter (hahaha), or, confoundingly, his best album yet. People, the record sucked. Why can't you see this?

3. Lupe Fiasco, The Cool. Unmitigated garbage. Okay, mitigated by his little Tribe-bite, 'Paris Tokyo,' and by 'Go Go Gadget Flow,' a nice double-time freestyle that could be a good song over a non-sucky beat. But otherwise, unmitigated garbage. 'Superstar' and 'Hip-Hop Saved My Life,' a horrendous track where Lupe suggests that Houston rappers who put out what he considers to be wack shit can be forgiven for their sins on grounds of financial hardship,** are particularly nauseating. I would put this #1, but a fair amount of people didn't rate the album too high.

2. Lil Wayne, 'A Milli.' In an ideal world, this would be just a good mixtape freestyle that got a fair amount of press, along the lines of, say, Jada's "40 Bars of Terror" from 2004. (Not along the lines of 'The Champ Is Here' off the same mixtape, as that's actually much better than 'A Milli.') In the world we actually live in, this got crazy, "Wayne's It Ain't Hard To Tell" props, like we were supposed to be extra grateful that dude was bringing back straight lyrics to the radio or something. Maybe I would be grateful... if said straight lyrics were really good. But in actuality they're a mix of clever bizarro shit and real clunkers, like "pop 'em like Orville Redenbacher" or "even Gwen Stefani said she couldn't doubt me" (the line makes no sense, think about it). And the beat's merely average.

1. Young Jeezy f. Kanye West, 'Put On.' Heralded as the song where Jeezy learned how to rap (wow, clever extended food metaphors!), it's actually the song where he learned how to imitate a lot of other rappers less entertaining than himself and quit being the multi-tracked, ad-lib kicking dynamo we all (well, many of us) knew and loved. Then Kanye arrives to whine that money and fame don't mean shit. The Jeezy of just a year ago, who said of Gucci Mane "what type of real nigga name himself after a bag/Nigga, you a ho, a Louis Vuitton fag," never would have done this record. Not only is it not GREAT, it's actually a terrible song.

* 365 days rather than 2008 so I can get Lupe's The Cool in, which dropped on 12/18/07.
** Worse yet, he somehow conned Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Willie D, and Bun into appearing in the video. None of them seemed to realize that the whole song was a huge diss to their work... as I've said before, rappers are dumb people.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Video of The Day

Sorry for the light posting. This kid is 2, and this video was posted on November 26. Prescient little youngster, huh?

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hastily Posted Thoughts on Crazy Like A Foxxx

Do I even need to say it?

Remember two years ago when Army of Shadows, Jean Pierre-Melville's masterpiece about the French Resistance against the Nazis was released on American screens 37 years after the fact, and it so thoroughly shitted on every movie that came out in '06 that many critics ranked it the best film of the year, even though it actually was made in 1969? Uh, probably not.* Similarly though, Freddie Foxxx's unreleased 1994 album Crazy Like a Foxxx finally dropped this summer, and after finally getting around to give it half a listen I've already come to the conclusion that it's the best album of the year. Not that it's that special compared to what was coming out at the time, but just as the worst song off The Infamous (that would be "Party Over" - Noyd kinda fucked that one up) is better than the best moments of most present-day artists' careers (especially Black Milk's), many of the merely solid albums of the mid-90s hold up way better over multiple listens than today's best releases. Like let's be real - Carter III is probably the one album people will even still remember from 2008 a few years from now, and how many times can you listen to Wayne compare himself to a Martian? Enjoyable shit, no doubt, but the novelty fades over time. Like any lyricist who pursues lyricism for the sake of lyricism, instead of tying his lyrical abilities to some kind of narrative (GZA, Ghost, Rae) or agenda (Prodigy, Nas), or both, all he's really got going for him is his "oh shit, what did he just say" value, and that dramatically fades after the initial surprise of "what did he just say". (Similar in a way to movies with trick endings.)

So it's Freddie Foxxx with the album of the year. Actually, it's a double album - when you "buy" Crazy Like a Foxxx, you're not just getting the original unreleased album, you're also getting the demo version with all D.I.T.C. production that he had to scrap for some obscure reason and replace with beats from himself and one Sid, AKA S.I.D., whom I'd never heard of until reading up on this project. Oddly, Sid's beats are actually better than Showbiz, Finesse and Buckwild's. A lot better.

For example, while D.I.T.C. laced Freddie with some boilerplate jazziness for "Can't Break Away" (a pretty depressing song about how he can't break away from the ghetto), this Sid dude samples a pan flute, some moody strings,** and most importantly a pretty and kinda sad guitar lick from Curtis Mayfield's 'Right On For the Darkness' three years before Mase and Total filched the same lick for 'What You Want.' Way more appropriate! On 'Project Mice,' one of those didactic tales
with a way-too-obvious metaphor that every mid-90s album had, D.I.T.C. serves up a super-spare, super-dull beat, just drums and a bleak bassline and an occasional piano stab thrown in for the slightest bit of color, that renders Freddie's tale a little too didactic, all too formulaic, and very boring. Seriously, in D.I.T.C.'s hands shit starts to sound like a gangsta rap spin on the sheep-counting sleep technique ("the first black mouse was named Ike .... the second black mouse was named Leroy... the third black mouse was named Tayshaun... the big white rat was named Bob***...). But Sid loops up Hank Crawford's 'Wildflower' of Kanye's 'Drive Slow' and Pac's 'Shorty Wanna Be a Thug' fame and throws in some cheap west-coast synths on the hook, turning that same dull story into something of a suspenseful boom-bap morality play. Go Sid! And would it be blasphemous if I said I always felt D.I.T.C. was overrated? Buckwild definitely had great moments, as did Showbiz and Finesse -- but they made Big L's album boring. (In fact, before they gave the beat for 'Da Graveyard' to Big L, Freddie rapped on it on the demo version of this album.) I don't even see how that's possible, but it happened. They're definitely no Beatminerz.

As for the raps, as the quotation above would tend to suggest, they're not too subtle. But you don't listen to Freddie for subtlety, you listen for passion, and he has that in spades. There's a common misperception that all dude ever rapped about was beating people up, shooting people, the size of his guns, the size of his other guns, etc. There's some of that here, but mostly you're getting a very reflective, thoughtful Freddie who raps about topics from crooked reverends to dissing the Ultramagnetics to racism - a guy who hangs with G Rap in his prime and outshines Pac on 'Killa' to the point where I just might have to lift my "No Pac On The iPod Rule" and put the song on (I really, really can't stand Pac). It's a hell of a record.

Freddie Foxxx - Can't Break Away (1994 Version).
Freddie Foxxx - Can't Break Away (Crappy D.I.T.C. Version).
Freddie Foxxx f. 2Pac - Killa.
Freddie Foxxx - Project Mice (Snoozy D.I.T.C. Version).
Freddie Foxxx - Project Mice (1994 Version).
Freddie Foxxx - So Tough (probably the best song on the record).

* Definitely see that though. A little slow but easily the best movie ever made about the Nazis. Regardless of what professional moron Armond White has to say about it.
** I could be totally wrong about this - I can't tell an accordion apart from a human voice. Kinda limits my bloggerability.
*** Oh yes, this song features a big white rat.