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Pitchfork: Top 100 Tracks Of 2010

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Pitchfork’s always fascinating list of the top 100 songs of the year is up. I wrote the ones for “Blessa” by Toro Y Moi, “Over” by Drake, and “Exhibit C” by Jay Electronica.

Written by Brandon

December 14th, 2010 at 7:34 am

Don’t Wrap Up Rap Just Yet: Jay Electronica

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There’s nothing wrong with Freddie Gibbs–though, that there’s nothing wrong with him is indeed, what’s wrong with him–but his raps and his business model served-up to contrast with hip-hop’s bleeding into lots of more old/newfangled pop sounds, as they are in Sasha Frere-Jones’ “Wrapping Up”, is problematic. Gibbs does worker-bee, working-class, crime-tinged hip-hop really well but that’s about all he does. And this might something to note or celebrate in terms of hip-hop as a genre if indeed, there weren’t still a shit-ton of dudes stretching the 90s rap form to its limits and not simply carrying on the tradition.

Jay Electronica, whose style, though primarily pulled from 90s New York rap, pads that kind of buzzing lyricism with the sound of the South (dude was born in New Orleans) is indeed the actual future of hip-hop. Like a Jim Jarmusch of rap, Electronica’s art brims with a wordly-wise sense place (or lack thereof) as everything gets all muddled and global. He doesn’t have a label. He tours. He drops a few songs and year and every one of them is a fucking event. He’s Web 2.0 (or whatever point-”o” we’re now on) and aggressively throwback, all at the same time.

The internet-wide rewindable on his latest song, “Exhibit C”, is a prime example of 90s rap insular word-combo rapping for the sake of rapping and some personal/political/world-at-large type stuff that’s deeply rooted in the concerns of the now: “They call me Jay Electronica/Fuck that! Jay Elec Hannukah/Jay Elec yamulka/Jay Elec Ramadan Muhammad Asalam Alakum/Rasoul Allah supana watallah through your monitor.” And to boot, “Exhibit C” has some references to the East jacking the South’s slang and a touch of self-mythology all wrapped in genuine, earthy struggles: homelessness, hunger, violence and all that good stuff. The song was posted on blogs as varied as Nahright and Dirty Glove Bastard and everything in between.

Oh yeah…and the lines before that quotable bounce from an old-school rap references, to a laundry-list of seemingly disconnected things (Fruit of Islam or Friends of Israel maybe both , Garvey, Tesla) to an MGMT reference. And it’s all rapped over a fluttering soul-beat–which is deceptive because Jay is just as known to rap over mega baroque, synthy soul beats (“Exhibit A”) and beatless, crystalline loops of something or other (“Act I”) as he is something this stirring though conventional though no less glorious.

further reading/viewing:

-”Wrapping Up” by Sasha Frere-Jones from The New Yorker
-”Das Racist to Sasha Frere-Jones: Stop Killing Rap”
-”Audio: Jay Electronica – Exhibit C [Prod. by Just Blaze] (Radio Rip)” from Dirty Glove Bastard

Written by Brandon

October 29th, 2009 at 2:26 am

Posted in Jay Electronica

How Big Is Your World? Good, Recent Rap-ish Songs


-Hot Stylez featuring Yung Joc ‘Lookin’ Boy’
Click here to download ‘Lookin’ Boy’
This queerby kid I used to know that went to art-school in Brooklyn told me about how one night he was taking the subway back to his room with a bunch of other art-school queerbys and this homeless black dude kept harassing him, saying stuff like “Yo, this nigga- this nigga looks like he eats cookie-dough ice cream!”. Well, ‘Lookin Boy’ is sort of that brilliant insult in song-form. Like, it doesn’t really make any sense that you can explain but you hear it and you know what Hot Stylez and Yung Joc are talking about and it’s fucking hilarious and like spot-on, somehow.

It’s basically a song illustrating what every nerd or asshole I know spends a lot of their time doing…these sort of vaguely-offensive, people-watching insults that aren’t necessarily that mean but are like really accurate and get extra points for diving kinda deep into pop-culture for the joke: David Ruffin, Morris Chesnut in ‘Boyz in tha Hood’, presumably that weird short gross lady from ‘The Weakest Link’, Lambchop…

-J Dilla ‘Believe in God’
Click here to download ‘Believe in God’
From ‘Jay Love Japan’, finally released on CD in America last month and even at like, 17 minutes and around 13 dollars: worth it. The lazy fade-in on this track is perfect and the record sampled is pretty blown-out, all full of fuzz that adds this additional percussive element, which along with those Dilla drums we just expect on everything Dilla made, is pretty devastating. ‘Believe In God’ hits its peak when those soul-strings are cut short and whirling around and folding into one another along with some subtle piano, wordless vocals, and then…it fades-out too fast and that’s perfect too.

What’s great about the title of this song is it’s an order: Believe in God. A lot of beat-makers give their songs these sort of moderately profound-sounding, atmospheric titles, and it’s easy to imagine a beat with a nebulous title like ‘Belief in God’ that suggests somehow the song imparts the feeling of a belief in God but this track’s like Dilla telling you to believe in God. It feels like the weird conflation of DJ-ing, beat-making, and whatever else on ‘Donuts’ where these perfectly tweaked soul and weirdo samples were used to really fucking say something from a guy who you know, was dying and all, so he had some pretty-real shit on his mind.

-Jay Electronica ‘I Feel Good’
Click here to download ‘I Feel Good’
A simple chipmink soul sample, some back-and-forth piano, and some simple drums and a catchy chorus that doesn’t fall-back on R & B histrionics, it’s neither street shit or rap and bullshit and it’s a lot of other stuff too. What can you say to a pretty brilliant attack on anti-Southern rap sentiment that really reminds this hyperbolic asshole of early Nas?

Like a dick, I blew off Jay Electronica at first, but Monique hipped me to that ‘What the F- is a Jay Electronica’ mix put out by WEDOITRIGHT and there’s plenty to like and quite a few songs that more than explain dude’s “hype”. Like a ‘College Dropout’ and before era Kanye West who just made hot soul beats and joke songs and didn’t give a shit or like those early ‘Doomsday’-era MF singles, Jay Electronica feels like a rapper actually full of potential and not like he’s blowing all he’s got on his mixtape. Jay’s 31 and I think that’s important to remember; he’s had a lot of time to think about a lot of stuff and it shows. Bonus points for not referencing “haters” but getting to the heart of what makes everyone in the world not feel good: “…the dumb shit that people say.”

-Ryan Leslie ‘Diamond Girl’
Click here to download ‘Diamond Girl’
The guy that made the still-good-every-time-you-hear-it beat for Cassie’s ‘Me & U’ has this sort of out-there crazy R & B jam that has none of the irony of R. Kelly or the robo-jokes of T-Pain. He’s actually serious in singing this sexy song for the ladies or really, for one very special girl, which is awesome and also, makes it more like an older love song. Fuck these post-modern loverboys with girls on the side, this guy with a name that sounds like he should be a cast member on ‘The Hills’ might be where it’s at.

See, Kanye West or Pharrell try to make songs like this but they sit down and are like “Yo, this is some Space-Vegas shit” so it comes out like, planned and a little mannered and don’t get me wrong, that still rules (the Pharrell/Kanye track on the new Madonna album comes really close), but ‘Diamond Girl’ is just this power-up in an NES game disco party synth-line over and over, a few extra bloops, and then some like rappers’ swagger on the vocals (he kinda goes Lil Wayne late in the song), along with some goofy lover-man sincerity! Yes!

-M83 ‘Couleurs’
Click here to download ‘Couleurs’
The new M83 album ‘Saturdays=Youth’ is great not because it somehow “captures” the 80s or teen angst or whatever else people who don’t actually listen say, but because it actually takes all those feelings and musical influences, and not only the “cool” ones critics feel comfortable citing. That’s to say, there’s nothing hip or ironic about ‘Saturdays=Youth’, it’s real and awesome and embarrassingly sincere and moves beyond 80s music signifiers or homage.

Yeah, there’s a lot of New Order bouncing around- especially on this song- and “Blade Runner’ synths” reads/sounds cooler than “a Vangelis influence” even though they are the same thing, and but there’s also like Christopher Cross and John Carpenter and ‘Knightrider’ and tons of Michael Mann soundtrack and it has some like electronic cow-bell and maybe some 808s and this great part where it slows-down and kinda funks-out.

-And click here to download all five songs; they make a pretty good mix.

Written by Brandon

May 2nd, 2008 at 9:40 am