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Archive for October, 2008

Halloween Fun Time

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Lists of scary rap songs or particularly homicidal/suicidal rap tracks are the norm for Halloween but that’s never made a lot of sense to me because Halloween’s about having fun. Dressing like an asshole and getting candy and all that. Halloween memories for me are either the being a kid and walking around hoping to get a few more packages of Wonka Bottle Caps kind of fun or like, the being 16 or so and sneaking into this high school the night before Halloween–because that’s what you do the night before Halloween–and getting high on dust-off you found in the janitor’s closet kind of fun.

DJ Booman – “Monster Mash (Doo Dew Kidz Remix)”

Since posting a Booman track worked-out so well the last time. This is from 2006 or so if I remember correctly, and in typical Baltimore Club fashion, it takes a couple of disparate but connected samples like “Monster Mash” and Vincent Price’s awesome speech off “Thriller” and bounces between them and a classic club break. I especially like the piano line from “Monster Mash” and the way it comes around at the right time throughout and after Price’s speech, these great snippets Tangerine Dream-ish arpeggiation get a few moments to shine before the beat drops again.

Fat Boys – “Are You Ready For Freddy?”

The go-to on all the rap stations is Will Smith’s “Nightmare on My Street” but don’t sleep on this Freddy Krueger/Fat Boys collabo. Rappers need to be back on goofy shit like this. Instead, they collaborate with the queer from Coldplay or on a fashion line. One could easily see Kanye or Wayne doing a silly Halloween-themed song though.

-Whodini – “Haunted House of Rock”

-Jimmy Spicer – “Adventures of Super Rhyme”

Spicer raps like a vampire…that counts, right?

-Xela – “Halloween Theme” off Halloween/Suspiria 7″
And if you want something more conventionally “scary” and Halloween-like, it should be atmospheric instead of suicidal, like this cover of John Carpenter’s classic theme for Halloween by XELA. Using a film projector sound almost like percussion, the usually-electronic XELA does a almost natural-sounding cover of the famous synth-horror theme. The other side of this is an equally awesome cover of the theme from Suspiria; XELA also have a zombies attacking a ship-themed album called Dead Sea that you should check out.

Written by Brandon

October 31st, 2008 at 4:29 am

What Good Is A Ear If a Q-Tip Isn’t In It?: Thoughts on The Renaissance

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The Renaissance feels like a mix of all the rumors and half-completed projects that’ve bounced around Q-Tip’s career during the 2000s. It’s less electro, but similarly futuristic feeling in some way that makes sense when you hear it but can’t really be described. There’s also a clear flow and trajectory to the songs and their sequencing but because the songs also sound like odds and ends, it feels like a really well put-together mix CD from a friend, where the transitions are perfect but the tracks themselves don’t share a whole lot of commonality.

Nothing on the album sounds like it’s interacting with music being made in 2008–but that’s a compliment–and the best songs, like “Move” or “You” occupy a weird place between sounding from the 1990s and still ready for the radio right now. This becomes even more impressive when you compare the best moments to a bad moment like “Won’t Trade”, which besides being a mixed sports metaphor love song, has a beat by Mark Ronson who made his career sounding defiantly retro with Amy Winehouse last year. And so, you have this song that’s trying to sound old and retro but is so specific in its retro signifiers that it just sounds like it’s from 2007, which you know, is probably when the beat was sent Tip’s way. In contrast, a song like “Gettin Up” with echoing Black Ivory chords and Tip’s flow invokes Tribe like crazy but feels current too and not only because it mentions e-mail.

There’s a jagged and ineffective transition between Tip’s straight, rhyming and the production which skates by on sounding cohesive enough but still falls out of place too many times. “Johnny Is Dead” has a weird, jarring feel-good chorus, “We Fight/Love” ends up in bad neo-soul territory, and “Manwomanboogie” sounds like well, a song with a title like “Manwomanboogie”. And the appearance of Norah Jones on “Life is Better” takes you back to a time when pop music for whatever reason cared about a chick that should’ve never become anything but a chick with a good voice on Blue Note records.

There’s an over-arching theme of love that’s palpable and affecting and not Common’s silly new-age sense of universal love but just romantic love and it’s wonderful possibilities. And when everything works, the warm soul echoes and equally warm electronica squelches perfectly complement Tip’s sincerity and there’s really nothing you’d rather be listening to at that moment. Hazy funk guitar on “Johnny Is Dead”, those piano chords from “Getting Up”, everything about “You” (maybe the first fully successful rap ballad), stretched-out keyboard tones on “Believe”, Nintendo arpeggiations mixing with in the distance crooning on “Shaka”…it’s almost there, so close and so, you come out of The Renaissance feeling a little ripped-off.

The problem with many new internet-oriented rappers releasing way too much music, both feeding their hype and covering their artistic asses–if a song’s not good, no biggie, we’ll wait for next week’s “leak”–is indeed something worth calling “bullshit” on, but it seems a little better than artists like Tip having nearly a decade to make a classic and turning out an alright album that was nevertheless, clearly cobbled together is frustrating and if you think hard enough, infuriating.

As has become something of a habit here, looking at almost-successful albums from the point of view of sequencing is always fun.

1. Believe
2. Johnny Is Dead
3. Gettin Up
4. Official
5. We Fight/Love
6. Manwomanboogie
7. Dance on Glass
8. Move
9. Won’t Trade
10. Life is Better
11. Shaka
12. You

The problem with starting the album with a track as immediate as “Johnny Is Dead” is that is deceives the listener in terms of what to expect from this album. “Believe” is a fine track and has solid rapping on it, but it hints at the soul-oriented nature of the album. From there, we get into the rap tracks, while also moving “Won’t Trade”–which sorta sucks but also is easy to like–towards the end, giving “Move” something that can maybe sort of accompany its energy. I put all of the almost rambly, neo-soulish tracks together because none of them are bad and they actually work better as one slog through than returning as the unfortunate end-of-album combo of “Dance on Glass” and “Life Is Better”.

And then you know, you follow-up “Dance on Glass” with the undeniable “Move”, follow that up with “Won’t Trade” which keeps the energy level and then slowly move back into ballad land. “Shaka” is a fine album closer, but “You” summarizes the album’s over-arching themes better and actually has more emotional pull than “Shaka” despite that song being about dead people. Tip does a better tribute to death in “Life is Better” when his laundry list of rap heroes is interrupted a second time by “Where my nigga Dilla at?”…it’s like Pimp C throwing in a “I really miss Robert Davis” really early on in Underground Kingz; powerful because it’s just stuck in there, as if the mourning rapper just can’t not mention the death even if it’s a little off-topic.

Written by Brandon

October 28th, 2008 at 5:02 am

Metal Lungies: Alchemist Beat Drop

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“The weird loops of nostalgia and reverse nostalgia coursing through Alchemist’s “The Man/The Icon” beat are nearly too much to parse out. Let’s start with Alc taking “Lucky Me” — a piece of near disco from Philly soul legends The Stylistics — and chopping it back into the warm R&B they were doing five years earlier. Those disco party strings become warm Thom Bell orchestration, near Santa Esmeralda horns revert back to the gloriously maudlin sound we associate with The Stylistics; it’s all tight and immediate instead of loose and bell-bottom ready…”

Written by Brandon

October 27th, 2008 at 4:46 pm

Why Hip-Hop Won’t Suck More in 2009 Than Any Other Year…

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Dukes over at The Full Clip posted a pretty muddled and ultimately sorta safe but still worth discussing entry on XXL’s latest batch of “Freshman” and how it’s evidence of the negative influence of blogging on hip-hop. His biggest conflict is one that nearly anybody could agree with, at least at first: Very few of these guys have proven themselves and only a couple of them seem all that spectacular.

Dukes’ point is one about a frustration with the immediacy of the internet and shortening attention spans and lots of other stuff. It’s best defined by a concern he expresses when he implicitly compares these guys to rappers of the past. All the rappers on XXL’s latest cover are not spectacular–except, his totally subjective support of Kid Cudi, Blu, and Wale–and that their (relative) fame “seems more hustle than art…”, as if the 1991-equivalent of internet hustle wasn’t being employed by every rapper that blew up in the next couple years after that. It’s verging on nostalgia without coming out and saying it or maybe, not really knowing it?

The quickest rebuttal to Dukes’ blog blame is this: Look at last year’s cover. It’s certainly less “blog rap”-oriented and even though the number of artists on each list that I like is about the same, this year’s is a way more promising list. Simply put: You’ll have to defend this year’s list to less rap fans. It’s harder to dislike say, Charles Hamilton than Lil Boosie (even though Boosie’s way better in every way really). Interestingly, last year’s group is actually more representative of varying tastes in rap and a wider spectrum, but that’s another point, we’re apparently talking about rap music as a whole. So, if this year’s list is what the blogs created and last year’s list was something else, then blogs are not going to destroy hip-hop next year.

How or who or what led to last year’s choices is unknown and while this year’s list is a bit more on the side of the kind of dudes bloggers have been bigging-up than last year’s, that seems more of a sign of how rappers use media outlets to get their names out there than anything else. These are not a bunch of rappers who got a song posted on some sorta-popular blog like this one or anything, these were guys with enough press or pull or clout or whatever to get their music to a bunch of powerful “bloggers” and rap websites and from there, it trickled down and then back up.

These guys all maintained a hype and were able to capitalize on the rap blog world’s obsessive quest for the newest leak, freestyle, or whatever, but every one of them were “established” in the sense of having a solid team of people blowing them up before they actually blew-up.

It still seems baffling how a semi-talented turd with a white people-baiting bit as deep-rooted as Sarah Palin’s “Joe Sixpack” routine like Asher Roth went from being nobody to being hyped by XXL, sucked-off by NahRight, and on this cover, but it didn’t have a whole lot to do with bloggers, it had to do with the same fucking connections and superficial “hustle” that’s broken your favorite and least favorite rappers. If there’s something to blame the bloggers for, it’s not really questioning or analyzing any of these up and comers and just sort of accepting them and instead, dropping 75 words on how this song samples ‘Adventures of Dizzy’ for NES or how this guy performed at that one FADER after-party and rapped on old-ass Franco Battiato tracks or how this guy’s really taking it back to 1994 or whatever else.

Dukes’ piece is giving the blogs way too much credit. Unless of course by “blogs” you just mean the frequently updated section of every print magazine’s website or NahRight which really isn’t a simple blog anymore (and has always had tight industry connections). And if that is what Dukes means by “blogs”, then his frustration’s misdirected because these “blogs” and semi-corporate websites have picked up where lagging magazines sales dropped off. It has very little do with this blog or most of the blogs I read…

Written by Brandon

October 24th, 2008 at 2:28 am

Posted in Wale, XXL, hipster, the internets

Rudy Ray Moore & Hip-Hop Pre-History

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Examining and attributing influence to figures from rap’s pre-history that had an “influence” on actual rap history always feels like leap. You’re either idealizing the creation of the genre as totally outside of most other things and compartmentalizing all the differences between Tapper Zukie and Kool Herc or you kinda admit the influence even though it’s almost always a stretch. You can hear Gil Scott or Last Poets and be like, “I see how this is like rapping” but it’s just still not rapping and it’s weird.

And then, there’s the slippery slope thing of like, why these can be considered influences and not like a ton of white, rap-like stuff from way earlier, and then before you know it, you’re like some aged English teacher trying to hip the young kids to like, Lord Byron or some shit and arguing the really stupid thing that rap is just poetry, which it just ain’t.

But whatever your feelings on rap pre-history, Rudy Ray Moore’s connection to rap is pretty solid. The over-the-top filthiness of Ghostface, Too Short’s freaky tales that always have some moral edge to them, Devin the Dude’s conflation of Southern rap dirty jokes and century-plus old–let me put my professor glasses on—characterizations from the black diaspora, and Schooly D’s “Signifying Rapper” being an update on Rudy’s “Signifying Monkey” itself an update on a pre-reggae toast/routine/rap, are obvious touchstones.

See, Moore’s influence on rap is beyond “he put rhyming words in order before it was formally called rapping” but a whole big mess of more interesting and harder to put your finger on stuff. His Dolemite character and persona is like the “multiply your real persona times ten and run with it” formula that most rappers work with today and if I wanted to be douchey, I could say Dolemite’s one of the inventors of “swagger” because it wasn’t just that Dolemite told really hilarious jokes, but it was as much the way he told the joke and in many ways, more about the way he told it. Nearly all his jokes weren’t his own, variations on dirty jokes you heard your whole life, spruced up to be even more outrageous than you’re anticipating.

It’s all about self-aware exaggeration in a Dolemite routine, women with pussies so big a truck literally drives inside them, little kids that know more about pussy eating than I do, etc. etc. A weird mix of “adult” stuff and the like, cartoony, quasi-Tall Tales imagination with some kind of lesson or moral flip to it.

That is how Rudy Ray really put his stamp on rap. That thing of talking like everybody else and appealing to so-called “base” thoughts of the “lowest common denominator” (but really just where most of our brains are most of the time), but being kinda humane and almost morally serious at the same time.

While most people will rightfully point interested parties towards the movie Dolemite or Rudy records like Eat Out More Often, I wanted to highlight two of my favorite, slightly lesser-known Rudy Ray Moore projects.

-Petey Wheatstraw (1977) directed by Cliff Roquemore (Libra)

The thing is, short of the actually terrible Avenging Disco Godfather, Dolemite is by far the least entertaining of the Dolemite movies. Directed by D’urville Martin, who tried to make the movie absurd and also sort of like a “normal” movie, Dolemite lags and doesn’t have the immediate, who-gives-a-shit feeling of the later Dolemite movies.

Starting with Human Tornado, Cliff Roquemore took over and he made the movies really crazy in a way that stopped winking at itself and just fucking went there. When Roquemore’s credit pops-up on the screen, it accompanied by a small, parenthesized “(Libra)” which always reminded me of Underground nutbar director Robert Downey Sr. sticking “A Prince” at the end of his credit, because Roquemore’s working on the same exact absurdist level as Downey-and since film critics are just now getting around to taking Downey seriously, expect at least a hundred years before a Cliff Roquemore retrospective.

There’s too many great things to talk about in the movie, so real quick: The Devil represented by an old black guy in bright red track suit, appearances by Wildman Steve and Leroy & Skillet, a really incredible soundtrack (which was re-released a couple years ago and isn’t too hard to find, lots of ridiculous Devil make-up and a ton more.

Luckily, this scene happens to be on YouTube, so you’re spared a long, over-written description of one of the funniest fucking scenes of all-time:

-Afros, Macks, & Zodiacs (1995?)

This is basically a party video back when party videos still existed. Two hours of old “blaxploitation” trailers with the occasional interjection by Rudy Ray Moore surrounded by pretty busted girls half-telling one of his classic jokes. At the end of the video, Blowfly and a bunch of other surprises show up too. Here’s a clip of one of those dirty-joke interjections (fuck anybody who disables embedding by the way).

For the hell of it, here’s my personal favorite trailer from the collection, which you know, has enough “rapping” in it to maybe be an influence on rap unto itself:

And the classic “Got Your Money” video…

Written by Brandon

October 22nd, 2008 at 1:04 am

Some Thoughts on 808s & Heartbreak Hype

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“Most of the feckless, listless quality of today’s art can be blamed on its drive to break out of a tradition while, irrationallity, hewing to the square, boxed-in shape and germlike inertia of an old, densely wrought European masterpiece”-Manny Farber

-It’s pretty dumb that a lot of people that previously disliked Kanye’s music are on-board for this goofiness. The same thing happened with Jeezy’s The Recession where in some lame attempt to be discerning or not an outright hater, a bunch of people decided this album was so much better or more interesting than previous Jeezy albums when it’s more of the same and is successful for that reason.

-Please note that it’s not Kanye singing that’s weird about 808s & Heartbreak, rather it’s that he’s only singing. Stick College Dropout in and notice that on the first musical track, there’s a whole lot of Kanye singing. Of course, there’s a whole lot of rapping on there too. Dopey critics cool enough to get invite to the big listening party came back comparing Kanye to whatever derivative electronica they listen to–Jeff Weiss was wise to connect this shit to Cameo and stuff like that, because it’s as much that as it is Thom Yorke warbles–and saying there’s “no rapping” on the new album need to put College Dropout in too and again, listen to “We Don’t Care” and plenty of other songs where Kanye uses a kind of half-singing rap style that’s sort of always been there. “Heartless” has as much rapping on it as “We Don’t Care”.

-These songs–again, except for “Heartless”–are really undercooked and boring. Rudimentary synth whirls and some real simple drums–a gross misreading of the Southern Rap use of the 808 which is deceptively simple, not actually simple–and then some “soul-bearing” lyrics, a pretty damn catchy chorus/hook and then repeat. “Heartless”, with that out-of-nowhere “hey!” from some in the distance crew of homies, something resembling a loop, well-placed electronic flutters, it’s a real song. These songs sound like rap songs without the rapping, which is exactly what they are.

-The biggest problem with this album, from the three songs everybody’s been able to hear, is not that it’s not really a rap album or that it’s weird, but Kanye’s painfully obvious, performatively sincere lyrics. “Love Lockdown” and “Cold Winter” are full of singer-songwriter cliches of sleepless nights and losts loves and all that kind of stuff. He hits a more fun and more insightful level of emotion and fun (because even sad music’s fun on some level) on “Heartless” because yes, he’s rapping and so there’s not this slow dirge to the whole thing, but also because he employs the fun and contradiction of rap. There’s goofy lines (“how could she be so/Dr. Evil”) and real emotions. The rest of these songs it seems, are as contrived as the Wes Anderson/Michel Gondry stitched heart he’s wearing in the promotional photos.

-This album is not simply some emotional outpouring from Kanye. His mother died in the Winter, he got divorced or de-engaged or whatever in the Spring (no doubt these two things are connected), and he started working on this album like a month ago or so? He’s appeared on stuff, he’s been touring, it isn’t like he was hiding in his mansion for all these months. What’s really occurred is he tested the waters with “Put On” and got a good, positive response from it and decided to ride it for a quick album. Let’s not forget that as much as this is some weird, experiment by Kanye (and it undoubtedly is), it’s also a fully-planned and conceptualized non-rap album in a time when rappers just aren’t what they used to be and T-Pain rules the world.

-This should be released as an EP. Even if it’s 40 minutes long and as conceptual as his previous albums, he’d be smart to contextualize it as an EP; a nearly spur-of-the-moment tangent that’s weird and interesting and willfully different.

-No doubt every song that’s leaked and every song on the album will grow on me. All Kanye’s music is like that. Part because he’s really smart and makes pretty complicated and interesting music and part because everything’s he’s making seems to mine one small aspect of a greater picture that he’s already illustrated fully on College Dropout and therefore, feels like he could be doing so much more. Kanye West is a a new, weird, post-modern cliche; the artist who’s grown up worshipping and reading “game-changing”, ever-evolving artists and has adopted that as his artistic model, making it as much of a cliche as the boring, non-evolving, stagnant musician.

Written by Brandon

October 20th, 2008 at 4:01 am

Posted in Kanye West

Anybody know about this shit?

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So, here’s why I’m ending “Baltimore Club Week” early. Sorry dudes, I don’t really have any money so anything about copyright infringement/violation freaks me out. If this was enacted by the artists involved, that’s kinda gay (I have the same area code as you dudes), anybody smart enough to understand this stuff?


Blogger has been notified, according to the terms of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), that certain content in your blog infringes upon the copyrights of others. The URL(s) of the allegedly infringing post(s) may be found at the end of this message.

The notice that we received, with any personally identifying information removed, will be posted online by a service called Chilling Effects at We do this in accordance with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Please note that it may take Chilling Effects up to several weeks to post the notice online at the link provided.

The DMCA is a United States copyright law that provides guidelines for online service provider liability in case of copyright infringement. We are in the process of removing from our servers the links that allegedly infringe upon the copyrights of others. If we did not do so, we would be subject to a claim of copyright infringement, regardless of its merits. See for more information about the DMCA, and see for the process that Blogger requires in order to make a DMCA complaint.

Blogger can reinstate these posts upon receipt of a counter notification pursuant to sections 512(g)(2) and 3) of the DMCA. For more information about the requirements of a counter notification and a link to a sample counter notification, see #counter.

Please note that repeated violations to our Terms of Service may result in further remedial action taken against your Blogger account. If you have legal questions about this notification, you should retain your own legal counsel. If you have any other questions about this notification, please let us know.


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Affected URLs:

Written by Brandon

October 17th, 2008 at 1:16 am

Posted in Uncategorized

City Paper Review: Mount Eerie Lost Wisdom & Dawn

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“Since Mount Eerie, the 2003 follow-up to pretty much certified indie classic The Glow Pt. 2, Phil Elverum has switched his band’s name from the Microphones to Mount Eerie, started selling his music almost exclusively through his web site, and released a impressive mess of singles and full-length oddities with little interest in how they’re digested. This year has already seen the rerelease of The Glow Pt. 2 and a new Mount Eerie EP, Black Wooden Ceiling. The EP is an unexpected homage to black metal, a halfway point between all the nice stuff expected from Mount Eerie and the trebly heaviness of metal’s most evil subgenre…”

Written by Brandon

October 15th, 2008 at 4:04 am

Posted in City Paper, Indie, Mt Eerie

Baltimore Club Week: DJ Excel Listens To Metal

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-DJ Excel “Open the Doors (Alright)”

When I first heard this song on DJ Excel’s MySpace a bunch of months ago, it was that warm, rolling bassline that kicks the song off that grabbed my ears. It’s sort of bluesy and Southern soul-sounding, like it was swiped from a Booker T & the MGs or Willie Mitchell recording. Not the kind of thing usually stuffed inside of a Baltimore Club track at all, but it’s perfectly integrated and throughout the song, Excel chops and turns it every which way, moving it about as far away from it’s original sound as possible. It stops and stutters to meet-up with a Jim Morrison sample, it’s turned backwards into a Disco-y, quasi-dance punk bass riff, and it’s stuck late in the song into super-tiny pieces to be a slab of pulsing bass for atmosphere.

Slowly though, the bassline’s original source hit me. Again, I assumed it was just identifiable as one of the hundreds of STAX records that’ve imprinted themselves in my brain but then I realized it was the fucking outro bassline from proto-doom metal/Stoner Metal Gods Sleep; their song “Dragonaut”, the devastating opening track to their album Holy Mountain! Or was it? I e-mailed Excel who indeed verified the source.

-Sleep “Dragonaut” off Sleep’s Holy Mountain

Maybe you recognize “Dragonaut” from the movie Gummo

From Crunk and all that it took from and inspired (that was more than five years ago now!), to stuff like “Party Like a Rock Star”, and even Baltimore’s own Blaq Starr calling last year’s release King of Roq, there’s been a focus in party music towards the aggressive sounds of metal, but Excel instead, treats Sleep’s music like any other sample for a club song: Something to sample and rearrange and totally fuck around with. It’s used with the same disinterest in convention and open-mindedness as the Jim Morrison vocals or the sped-up Manzarek organ that also pops-up throughout.

As pretty much every terrible article on Baltimore Club will joke about, there’s a lot of yelling on Club tracks. Either the artists themselves or samples, namely Lil Jon right now and before that, DMX and Mystikal. Here, Excel employs the voice of another classic yell-er, Jim Morrison and uses Morrison’s gutteral ad-libs and classic “Break on through” croon the same way others use a Lil Jon “Yeeeaaahhhhh!”.

-DJ Excel “Skratch Break” off The Underground Files: The Prequal

There’s also this interlude from Excel’s excellent hip-hop mixtape–emphasis on the mix part, this is an incredible, forward moving mix of throwback-style hip-hop–which samples the interlude “Embryo” off Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality. As a shout-out by the Lords of the Underground plays-out, Excel loops a small part of the “Embryo” turning it into an angular, looping riff, before letting it play-out identifiably over some heavy drums of death.

-Black Sabbath “Embryo” off Master of Reality

Check out DJ Excel’s My Space for some exclusive tracks–especially his version of “Love Lockdown” and an insane 11 minute mix called ” Bmore A.D.D” (is that a Notwist sample I hear in there, Excel?)–his blog, 41yo, and as always, his label is BMore Original Records.

Written by Brandon

October 14th, 2008 at 3:02 am

How Big Is Your World? Some Good New Rap Songs.

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-DJ Khaled featuring Kanye West & T-Pain “Go Hard”
Click here to download “Go Hard”
At the same time as the confessional “Love Lockdown”, we’re also being treated to a bunch of purposefully bullshit, joke guest verses from Kanye. On “Swagger Like Us” and most of this song, he’s spitting his increasingly out-there boasts (the extended “sick” talk gets genuinely gross). And while it’s not the tone-change of his sudden confessional on “Put On”, in the second verse, Kanye turns some self-mythologizing into a quick admittance that he’s sort of a dick and should’ve shut the hell up once or twice (“Maybe I would’ve slowed down/If I knew what I knew now…”) which is enough insight on a song like this. “Go Hard” is a good example of why Kanye’s an interesting rapper even if you think he can’t rap. While he’ll never achieve the grace or effortless flow of any of the greats, he’s got a rarified approach that keeps him relevant and turns another lame DJ Khaled reach for a banger into a weird and interesting song.

-B.O.B “Generation Lost”
Click here to download “Generation Lost”
The same way people who listen to rap and worry about lyrical content listen and say “[INSERT FAVE RAPPER HERE] is good, I just wish he wasn’t singing about drugs and guns all the time”, I hear something like this or Bishop Lamont or Lupe Fiasco at his most obsequious and think, “He’s a good rapper and all, I just wish he wasn’t rapping about how rappers all suck now”. Still, “Generation Lost” works because it really is as much about how B.O.B says as it is about what he’s saying. Like your favorite Southern rapper or the dumbest one out there, B.O.B embraces his accent and the specificities of how he enunciates and pronounces words, and he delivers his tough message in a lacksadasical Southern flow. He’s also having fun even as he’s telling you how it needs to be about more than having fun, bouncing his flow all around that piano loop. This song’s still fun and B.O.B knows he’s the outsider, bragging about his outsider status and joking about at the same time when he says shit like, “So, I’m a play my guitar/And rap about aliens and sing about stars”.

-Devin the Dude “I Can’t Make It Home”
Click here to download “I Can’t Make It Home”
Maybe the most overwhelmingly sad Devin song since “Doobie Ashtray”? The Dude’s entire persona’s based around being a scruffy fuck-up, so a lot of his songs have some sadness to them, but this song’s like, not even fun, like palpably sad. This isn’t a song about the fun kind of drunk (or drugged) driving, this is like, you’re still too drunk to leave, but the party’s ending and you feel weird chilling out for another forty-five minutes–especially “to sober up”–so you convince yourself you can drive home and it ends pretty bad. Really, the song has enough emotional pull and light humor that you can imagine it scoring the inevitable but still tragic drunk-driving arrest scene in some movie about a drunk or something. Especially effective and like cinematic is the way the first verse ends with Devin impersonating the cop saying “You Sober?”, it’s like fade-out, fade-in to Devin in the cop car thinking “I’m fucked.” What makes the song sadder is how Devin’s fairly level-headed about it all or accepting of it, describing it the same way he’d describe any other crazy adventure he stumbles into. Excellent use of rap and bullshit too, the chorus and the like, Freddie Jackson pianos add to the song’s pathos. Seriously, I sorta can’t get through this song, too real.

-Zilla Rocca “The First Order of Business”
Click here to download “The First Order of Business”
The hammering piano, squeaks of ghostly voices, and some space-age guitar in the hook, is appropriately cartoony for Zilla Rocca’s all over-the-place (in a good way) flow. Mid-way through Zilla’s second verse, the beat gets all flanger-y for a few moments and it doesn’t slow the song down or anything, it’s just some weird and fun switch-up, no different than the beat dropping out at certain points and the same fuck-it-all-I’m-going-in feeling as Zilla’s rapping. He stuffs more than one Frank Miller reference in there, a ton of other hilarious punchlines (“you’re a text message full of stupid-ass typos” is a personal favorite), and moves brilliantly between verses and a hook that doesn’t feel like the catchy part of the song or something, but just a logical extension of the verses and a breather before Zilla kills it again. Think about how a lot of 90s rap songs have these kinda long as shit chant-hooks that aren’t even really supposed to be memorable but just summarize the song or something, that’s what the hook on “The First Order of Business” is like. One of my favorite things about Zilla’s rapping is how he never affects any kind of “tough” or “street” or anything voice that even many good rappers do, it’s just his real voice and real Philadelphia accent dropping hilarious and insightful shit.

-Glen Campbell “All I Want Is You”
Click here to download “All I Want Is You”
Glen Campbell’s no joke and he’s always been no joke, and even though it’s easy to make “Rhinestone Cowboy” jokes and shit, his 60s lush country pop is incredible and warm and everything else. In a lot of ways, Glen’s responsible for the pop-country of the past twenty years–that’s not a negative although I see why you’d read it that way–and the album from which this U2 cover comes Meet Glen Campbell is a sort of quasi-comeback attempt, an updating of his lush sound, and showing all these dopey frat-boy country fucks how to make actual ballads and not the kind of ballads that get you Republican pussy at the State Fair or whatever. Comparing this album of covers to the Cash American Recordings series is superficial. This isn’t stripped down or emotionally bare, it’s a show-boaty and obvious as all of Glen’s work and it’s as full of longing too. The way he sings “all the promises we break” makes it sound hopeful but aware that we don’t keep all our promises and the wobbly, country solo in the middle is great because it’s covered by all these other instruments and never breaks-out, which is sort of what this song and this album’s about, an acceptance of what we have and what we can do with it, not all this sexy “dreamer” stuff that most songs are about.

Written by Brandon

October 10th, 2008 at 3:14 am