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Can’t Tell Me Nothing Mixtape Part Three: Tracks 13-25.
13. Young Folks
I’m not that interested or excited by this song, I hope that it’s really this short and this isn’t a snippet. It isn’t terrible but if this is the other track Kanye’s leaking to get listeners excited about his album, well, it isn’t working. However, I guess there’s not really any indication that this is even supposed to be a track on ‘Graduation’, I hope it isn’t.

14. Interviews
This song actually works better if this long-ass Kanye rant is a part of the song. It feels right that Kanye would go from a sing-songy rap to a flat-out rant and as I’ve said a few times now, Kanye’s speaking voice has a rapper-like rhythm and enthusiasm to it anyways. The college student playing Christ in a play/ Kanye portraying Christ on a magazine cover comparison is pretty disingenuous but when Kanye discusses how he’s “not political” I think he’s being totally sincere.

Kanye calls himself “social” and “emotional” rather than political and that’s pretty accurate. As I’ve suggested in discussing Kanye’s so-called “hypocrisy”, he’s not a man of principles which if you’re political you sort of have to be. Instead, he is concerned with the effects of policy and action on people. His perspective on corruption is not rooted in political principles or ideals but in its direct, negative effect on others. It’s worth nothing that Kanye said “George Bush does not care about black people” and not something more extreme. Caring, sympathy, empathy are the concerns of many of Kanye’s songs be it the “single black female addicted to retail” of ‘All Falls Down’ or his own mother, hurt by another boyfriend on ‘Hey Mama’. Kanye ends this track emphasizing his care for “people” and I think he means it, but what sounds like an improvised rant is clearly thought-out because Kanye’s rant about “people” segues directly into the Common track ‘The People’.

15. Common – The People
The transition from Kanye talking to the organ sounds that begin this track is really powerful. More impressive and affecting than a transition on a mixtape ever needs to be; my big fear is that this mixtape will be more enjoyable and better structured than ‘Graduation’ and I don’t think that is unreasonable given my feelings on ‘Late Registration’.

All of these beats for Common are ridiculous; too bad they are sort of wasted on Common. On this one, I really like the elevator music-sounding keyboard part. Common’s self-righteousness is truly mind-boggling. When he says “I look on the bus at them [the people]/When I see them struggling, I think how I’m touchin’ them/The people-”. So…Common looks at a bus of “struggling” people and his thought is how he’s affecting them with his music? First of all, that’s a load and it shows just how disconnected with “the people” Common really is. He’s like John Kerry or something. The “average” person, (which I guess is what Common is referring to), gets more enjoyment out of Huey and DJ Unk than a song full of clichés about the struggle and such…

16. Big Sean – Get’cha Some
This might be a better example of what I was talking about on the GLC track. I don’t know who Big Sean is but he’s already telling me how rich he is; I don’t get it. Not a bad song and exactly the sort of thing that is made for a mixtape but nothing more.

17. Consequence – Don’t Forget Em’

I ripped on this album, mainly because I was disappointed and I still think it was just tossed together but this song is really good. It’s very moving and sad, Cons’ like half-resigned half-excited rapping, is very moving. It is also easier to take when cut down to three minutes because you get less of the crappy 50 Cent-ish chorus. The song also sounds really weird, like it sounds recorded in an asshole or something. It sounds distant, like it was recorded off the radio, ‘Two Words’ from ‘College Dropout’ has a similar “raw” sound.

18. Sa-Ra – White! (On The Floor)
Not much to say about this. Not very good. I don’t really get Sa-Ra, especially because they dress like and seem to consistently refer to themselves as “creative” or “next level”. They just aren’t creative or next level, the Neptunes or Timbaland, even Jazze Pha make similar shit that is a lot more fun than this.

19. Because of You (Remix)

Wow. For some reason Kanye’s verse here really kills me. Like, brings me to tears (this is where I say no homo). It’s presumably addressed to his wife which is legitimately touching and I think it discusses the conflicts that just about every guy or girl feels; like, even when you’re in love you’re still a piece of shit thinking about other girls or guys and maybe even cheating. Shit is complicated and Kanye does a good job addressing that without ever becoming defensive and the corniness of it comes out of legitimate feelings of love instead of what he’s “supposed” to say. His verse goes beyond any clichés of a love song, it almost sounds like something he might write for a girl and rap just to her, too embarrassed to reveal it to the public.

I wonder if Kanye’s pending marriage hasn’t had a significant effect on his recent deeper reflection. On this mixtape, he seems pretty honest, as when he admits to being high “off that drug called fame” as he does on the ‘Interviews’ tracks that follows ‘Young Folks’. I know I’m on some Perez Hilton type shit here but my assumption is Kanye actually likes his fiance? I remember thinking that because, although she’s pretty hot, she’s like attainably hot, and if he was finding a trophy-type wife he probably could have found someone “hotter”, so they probably really do get along.

20. Buy You a Drank (Remix)

This goes along with the marriage stuff on the ‘Because of You Remix’ because its Kanye outlining what he is interested in. Again, it’s really a verse about devotion and commitment: “Fuck a drink/I’m a buy the bar if you’re worth it”. I don’t know how into groupies or any of that shit Kanye was but he seems to have learned or already knew how empty and well, easy it is to just get girls. He’s looking for a challenge which he says explicitly: “And I don’t want no girl that’ll answer to “Hey yo”/Make it more harder, make me put some work in.”

The pacing and mixing of this mixtape is excellent. I like how we only get Kanye’s remix verse and then the chorus and about a minute of the main performer on the song instead of the entire remix. For repeated listening this really pays off. The transition from this to the ‘Throw Some Ds’ interlude is perfect. The ‘Because of You’ and ‘Buy You A Drank’ remixes also act as a contrast to the gleeful misogyny of the ‘Throw Some Ds’ remix.

21. Throw Some Ds (Interlude)
22. Throw Some Ds (Remix)
23. Tony Williams – Dreaming Of Your Love
24. Really Doe featuring Jennifer Hudson – Magnetic Power
25. PM – Hater Family

Sorry, I’m stopping here. These posts are way too long and kinda shitty. You all know about the ‘Throw Some Ds (Remix)’ and the last three tracks on the tape are pretty weak really. The Tony Williams track is pretty good, especially the vaguely Morricone-esque beat/sample but not much else to say about the other two.

Written by Brandon

June 8th, 2007 at 7:06 am

Posted in Kanye West, mixtapes

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Can’t Tell Me Nothing Mixtape Part Two: Tracks 6-12.
6. Common featuring Kanye West – Southside (Snippet)
This song is proof that Kanye can do what I want him to do. The real issue is, for me as a fan, accepting that he isn’t interested in doing much of anything that overtly recalls ‘College Dropout’. He gives these amazing beats to an over-the-hill Common and dicks around with losers like Jon Brion and apparently, Chris Martin of Coldplay…nothing I can do about it. I think Kanye is so concerned with “innovating” that he jumps to “new” ideas more frequently than he really should. Being innovative was never something Kanye was credited for anyways. He could have rode his ‘College Dropout’ flow and production style for at least two more albums before it would have been boring.

When this beat goes to the chorus, there’s this subtle soul-singer sample (Gil Scott Heron?) that stands out a little more each time I listen. The bridge or whatever you’d call it, with the “Southside!” chants and other weird stuff is a total surprise, like the “take em’ to church” part of ‘Never Let Me Down’. I just don’t think Common really “deserves” this, you know? Common has always dropped the occasional turd of a simile or punchline, but with age they seem to get dumber and dumber.

7. Common – The Game
The drums on all of these Common songs sound similar to the drums Kanye used on literally every track ‘College Dropout’ and before. They sound cut so short they don’t really resonate, they just sort of pound or knock, it sounds very strange. Here, he seems to be using a similar style but with some studio effect on them…the reason I discuss drums is because these Common tracks were supposed to be in homage to J Dilla but they really don’t sound anything like Dilla’s drums, which are always really thick and loud. Dilla also used really weird rhythms and stuff and Kanye never goes there, which goes back to my point of Kanye not being an innovator. Kanye is less an innovator and more a focused and rarified artist. I think he is the kind of guy that should probably mine the same territory for the rest of his career and slowly open himself up to new ideas rather than leap into the studio with anybody and everybody. Kanye’s too open-minded.

8. Porno Interlude
This is hilarious. Kanye just having fun, talking about how some aspects of his career would have been compromised had he gone to the AVNs. This is why I prefer Kanye’s version of politics to that of Common’s or Talib Kweli’s. He is not interested in projecting a singular image; he understands pluralism and even, hypocrisy as a crucial aspect of living. Honesty and expression dominate his views, not a given set of political views or beliefs. Kanye’s also just a really great speaker, like a stand-up comedian or some kind of blowhard talk show host. Notice the way, just as he begins to tell the imaginary story of how he’ll sneak into the AVNs in disguise, the beat he is talking over, slows down, sort of sounding like a spy movie soundtrack.

All of the porno talk on this mixtape seems in reference to the ‘Rolling Stone’ interview which Kanye discusses on track 14 ‘Interviews’. I get the impression Kanye’s porn obsession was more of a joke than a reality and because ‘Rolling Stone’ didn’t get the joke or chose not to get it, the porn obsession has followed him around. It says something about where Kanye is at right now that he’d just sort of joke about it and/or explicitly acknowledge it than waste time trying to correct or fix the problem. He knows why that would make him look like more of an ass.

9. 88 Keys featuring Kanye West, Malik Yusef – Stay Up (Snippet)
Another skewed perspective on wealth, as he raps sympathetically about an apparently wealthy guy who can’t get a boner. Not bad, not really much to say, when Kanye ends his verse by going ‘Borat’ (“now y’all can have sexy time/It’s niiiicce!”) its really hilarious. I’m assuming the spoken-word stuff is supposed to be a joke, right? This little snippet is encouraging because it shows Kanye and friends doing whatever the hell they want. Also, these songs all transition into one another perfectly.

10. Talib Kweli featuring Kanye West – In The Mood (Snippet)
Talib Kweli should just retire. I don’t hate him, Black Star, ‘Reflection Eternal’, and ‘Quality’ are all pretty great, but his already grating personality has become more apparent as he keeps reaching for semi-mainstream fame. This song is just gross. Can you imagine Talib with a girl? I don’t know, it just seems like it would be really embarrassing, like a bad blind date Lisa Bonet might encounter on ‘The Cosby Show’. Talib is a nerd, he is not a mack and his attempts at being one are obvious. He and Jus Rhyme from ‘The White Rapper Show’ share the same dead, painfully sincere personality. The worst line here is “I know you into me, so let me get into you”…I usually don’t care but when you put yourself on a pedestal like Talib Kweli I can’t help but point out a certain degree of misogyny he has when talking about women in songs. Here, he seems date-rapist impatient (“let’s stop talking because this feels like an interview”) and it reminds me of a middle schooler trying to talk about women the way he thinks his older brother would.

11. Fonzworth Bentley featuring Pimp C. and Lil Wayne – C.O.L.O.U.R.S
Sort of just this Outkast rip-off but I kind of like it. I think this song would do better if it were only Fonzworth, the guests add very little and the song could afford to be a little weirder, not anchored in anything resembling rap reality. This song is not good but it stands-out because there’s just no way rap will take this guy seriously and I think that probably makes Kanye sort of sad. He grew up on the rap of the 90s where in a lot of ways, the rule was “anything goes” and all kinds of weird rappers and personalities had hits and showed up on MTV.

Kanye’s mega-fame has been confusing because he is something of a rap weirdo himself. He clearly finds a great deal of influence and inspiration in the rap eccentrics of the 90s, be it Ol’ Dirty Bastard or Chi Ali or Pharcyde or Ma$e’s marble-mouth sort-of flow and other than a few ‘Late Registration’ stunts and incidents, Kanye’s always been interested in joking around and not taking himself too seriously. I think his supposed egomania is drenched in irony and only the willfully retarded miss-out on the joke.

12. Kid Sister featuring Kanye West – Pro Nails
The kind of track mixtapes are made for…this song is really entertaining and weird but I’d never think to buy an album by Kid Sister. Kanye’s rapping on this track is very weird, an attempt at an old-school flow that comes off as awkward as ‘Fergalicious’. The chopped-and-screwed-esque chorus and the authentic-sounding old electronics are spot-on, never smelling of ironic homage. It’s a shame Kid Sister’s flow and style are about as sincere as Spank Rock…

Written by Brandon

June 6th, 2007 at 4:46 am

Posted in Kanye West, mixtapes

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Kanye West – Can’t Tell Me Nothing Mixtape Part One: Tracks 1-5.
1. Friday Morning, May 25th 2007 (Intro)
Kanye actually sounds excited here. Throughout the mixtape, Kanye has a way of talking/babbling over a song or beat and kind of matching its mood, as if he were rapping. Here, his enthusiasm and shit-talking matches the energy of ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’ by Daft Punk. Talking over the Daft Punk song he will sample for the second track, is like exposing the seams of his music. I think because Kanye is sampling something a part of his audience may not be aware of, he feels it necessary to introduce the song as it originally sounded. It’s like citing his sources. It also kind of demystifies the music-making process which fits because the mixtape has a loose “theme” of the not-so-glamorous side of music and fame and all that good stuff.

He’s exposing the seams of a world that, despite the fact that we regularly see pics of some celebrity’s pimply pussy, still feels unbelievably glamorous and exciting. Kanye’s always discussed this, but at points on this tape, he implicates himself in a way that moves beyond self-consciousness and into self-criticism.

Kanye’s humbled again. He seems to really feel foolish for some of his ‘Late Registration’ P.R antics and it’s given him something to prove just as he had to in making ‘College Dropout’. Joey over at ‘Straight Bangin’ said: “College Dropout was a record that [Kanye] had to make; Late Registration was something that he could make.”

2. Stronger (Snippet)
I was a skeptical of sampling Daft Punk because it is unnecessary and purposefully “weird”, but this song or snippet is good. A full version has leaked but it has uber-douche Tim Westwood all over it so I haven’t even fucked with it…after Kanye says “cause that’s how long I’ve been on ya” and the beat begins, it feels super-dramatic, like the beat dropped twenty stories down. Kanye sounds alive on these songs, excited and even a little angry but not self-righteous. When he asks “do anybody make real shit anymore?” it sounds like the anger of a disappointed fan, not an arrogant artist. When he says “bow in the presence of greatness” these great synth stabs come-in; it’s very powerful.
I’m sure its offensive to a lot of rap fans, but even before Kanye really began to ride the spiritual crap, I’ve felt that his rap is the most “spiritual” since Goodie Mob. He has a way of using tension and release in a way that often feels truly overwhelming. You know how Goodie Mob often give you a couple verses before finally getting to this transcendent chorus? Well, I think Kanye has a way of doing that with subtle production touches.

3. CRS – Us Placers
Wow. I would have never thought this was a good idea but this song is really great. My favorite on the tape. The sampling or really, looping of the Thom Yorke track, is used in a way that isn’t show-offy like “hey, we’re sampling Radiohead!”. It made me go find the original Yorke track the same way an old RZA beat would make me look for whatever New Birth track was being sampled. Unlike those great soul samples, which work in their own right, Yorke’s ‘Eraser’ is pretty much a waste of time. The most striking parts of ‘Eraser’ are found in ‘Us Placers’.

See, the problem with rock music (which is still what Yorke is doing) is that it is too simple. Yorke gives you a single emotion and extends it for an entire song, just sort of whining and moaning through it all; after the first minute, I have it pretty much figured out. When you put three different rappers over it, pondering fame from their rarified perspectives, it’s even more powerful than one guy whining pseudo-poetic nonsense because all the ideas bounce and attack one another, leaving little resolution but a lot to consider.

Lupe Fiasco goes Don DeLillo as he previously did on ‘Daydreamin’, simply listing material things to show you how gross they are. On this track however, he seems legitimately saddened by them as opposed to being too good for it all. What he mentions is a little more poignant as well, “Mexican floral arrangers” and “someone to take the rap so I stay stainless” stood-out for me. Kanye’s verse is incredibly poignant, discussing the rather-sad concept of the “almost famous” again, pointing towards the fucked-up aspects of fame. Think about it. Most people, if they are lucky, have the fortune to be quickly chewed-up and spit-out by the entertainment business. Those are the lucky ones. I love Pharrell’s rapping, I really do; who cares if he’s not technically good or if he’s sort-of ripping off Slick Rick. His sensitive college-dude form of spirituality (“earth’s got gas/When it burps its fine”) quickly gets serious when he addresses the Virginia Tech shooting.

So…you have these three guys taking a sober, darker look at fame or just, life and its all tied together by Thom Yorke’s chorus (“the more you try to erase me/the more, the more that I appear”) which becomes a rumination on fame and material wealth. The more shit you buy or the more shit you talk, none of it will make you feel better, it all makes the pain more apparent.

4. GLC – I Ain’t Even On Yet
Tom Breihan mentioned the impressive transition from ‘Us Placers’ to this song and I’d add that the entire mixtape really moves. Kanye keeps the track-lengths down by giving you snippets or chopping a verse here and there, but he also really presents a mixtape with a vision behind it. As I’ve been harping on, there’s this whole “fame’s not what you think it is” theme going on and there’s also a sonic consistency to most of the music. The sound is more electronic, clearly indebted to the South, but Kanye’s interests in arranging and borderline over-production still stand-out. The whole tape reminds me of Kanye’s pre-‘College Dropout’ mixtapes which were released around the point where Kanye could give like, anybody a beat and out would come a pretty great song (anybody remember Bump J?). I’m not even sure if this is a Kanye production, but that isn’t the point; everything on this tape sounds of the same genetic code.

Kanye’s understanding of counterpoint and contradiction are often discussed but it’s usually oversimplified and turned into the same kind of crap Tupac apologists cite as “complicated”. What Kanye can do well is, toss-in many related but often contradictory ideas and then, temporarily resolve them. His music, often verse-to-verse is like a timeline of experience, how he once felt about something, how his perspective has changed and how he’s embracing and fighting that change. Following ‘Us Placers’ with one of his up-and-coming weed carriers bragging about the shit that was just explained as meaningless is really interesting. AND…GLC’s song is at least in part, as the title would suggest, about the absurdity of a weed-carrier rapping about being famous, so it’s all legitimately hard to figure out, which is good.

5. Can’t Tell Me Nothing
Yeah…I like this song. It has some bad lines and stuff but overall it’s really, really, good. Nothing on the radio sounds like this. It’s full and dense; the drums and electronic qualities sound like something off of Jeezy’s ‘The Inspiration’ and it makes me remember what excited me about that album when it came out. There’s an undeniable power to those thick synths; they work like strings only less pretentious and more danceable. There’s plenty to dislike about Jeezy but I appreciate his work ethic and it paid off in that he made a great album with ‘The Inspiration’. He obviously sort of lifted the college stuff from Kanye, calling his albums ‘Thug Motivation 101’ and ‘Thug Motivation 102’ but he also lifted sonic consistency and pacing from Kanye. I know ‘College Dropout’ isn’t the first cohesive rap album but when it came out, it felt like a breath of fresh air and it’s cool that Jeezy feels its influence.

Written by Brandon

June 5th, 2007 at 6:15 am

Posted in Kanye West, mixtapes

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Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah.
Yeah…another lazy post…sorry, I’ve been kind of busy…
-Armond White’s Review of ‘Knocked-Up’: Speaking of good in-theory, I have a similar ambivalence to ‘The 40 Year Old Virgin’ and what I’ve read and seen of ‘Knocked-Up’. I WANT to like these movies because I like the idea of offensive comedies that also deal with real emotions but I feel like these movies always fall short…they also have a weird predilection towards kind of offensive black jokes (which according to the linked review, happens in ‘Knocked-Up’ as well). I’m aware of Apatow’s career and I used to love ‘Freaks & Geeks’ but now I sort of see it as the kind of show that is a) only good becuase it’s on television (that’s like being the tallest midget) and b) makes its viewers feel smart. Anyways, Armond White’s review highlights a lot of my conflicts with these movies. Also, his unfair, curmudgeonly, asshole writing style is something I’ve no doubt, stolen a lot from…

-‘Excite the Feds: Wes, who commented on the Lil Wayne entry and works harder for his college newspaper than any one else EVER, started a blog. He’s got a good entry on Lil Wayne that acts as a kind of contrast to mine. Check it out.

-The Kanye ‘Can’t Tell Me Nothing’ Mixtape has got me excited as balls. Seriously. I take just about everything back that I said here and here. I’m going to have a review of it for Monday.

-Besides the Kanye mixtape, the only new thing I’ve been listening to is ‘Cendre’, a collaboration between electronic musician Christian Fennesz and composer Ryuichi Sakamoto. It’s basically Fennesz playing shards of electronic noise and buzz underneath Sakamoto’s super-clean piano playing. A lot of douchebags are worried about it because it sounds too “new age” and of course, that’s not very cool. The reality is, if you love this glitchy, farty-sounding, pleasant electronic music then you’d be full of shit to not like some (SOME) new age-ish type stuff. Fucking hypocrites. I couldn’t give two shits about Wilco anymore but it’s similar to people complaining that the new one sounds too close to the The Eagles. What’s wrong with that? Does everything have to be cool or avant-garde? Fuck everybody.

It also is hardly new-age music because it isn’t designed to make you relax. It’s really weird, even scary at times. Sakamoto plays some Three-Six Mafia-esque horror movie chords and when you put Fennesz’s bubbling menace of electronics underneath it…there aren’t a lot of good vibes. I think this was the intention of the album: make scary new-age music. Everything about it seems designed to offset one’s ears. Sakamoto’s piano is mixed way too high and Fennesz’s noise too low, so your ears are always bouncing back and forth, trying to hear one or drown-out the other and it really kinda fucks you up.

The only actual complaint about ‘Cendre’ is, it doesn’t make me want to gobble painkillers like sweet tarts and totally bliss-out like the other Fennesz releases. However, it is good for driving or walking, especially around 8:30-8:50 here in Forest Hill, Maryland, when the sun is setting and it gets grey-blue-orange out; what my friend Jesse called ‘Maryland Vice’…

Written by Brandon

June 1st, 2007 at 3:59 pm