No Trivia

Archive for the ‘Median’ Category

Top 10 Album Tracks Pt. 3

leave a comment

‘Right Or Wrong?’ by Median off Median’s Relief: Median’s sort of what people think Lupe Fiasco is or maybe, what Lupe should be…the “nimble flow”, decidedly Native Tongues in-spirit (fuck what Lupe says, he is)…even the embrace of never-were-a-good-idea concept songs and corny-as-fuck lines are found in much better (and worse) form on ‘Median’s Relief’.

This beat’s got a lot going for it. Really elegant piano and what sounds like vibraphone taps underneath it all, fit his pleasant flow. The serious but not too-serious feeling makes lines like “So you run it like a rebel/Chris Brown, pedal to the medal” and “if you get caught/Then you get to lose your rights and stuff” just sort of funny and not totally embarrassing. Is Common to blame for this bizarre conscious rapper conflation of message-music and punchlines that are so bad they negate the message entirely? To Median’s defense, he’s genuinely kinda poetic at times, like when he describes the voice he uses to say “Hello” to a chick as “an after-school ‘hello” and shifts his voice into a Guidance Counselor-esque soft voice for that “hello”, that’s good stuff.

‘Jus’ Ridin’ by 8ball & Devius off The Vet & the Rookie: This song is truly glorious. Seriously. Like I won’t even try again to explain how great it is, here’s what I said before:

“Jus’ Ridin’ is probably one of the greatest songs ever made, the sort of song that makes sense the first time you hear it. These super-clean kinda hard-ass guitars that play under the chorus, complemented by some typical Southern rap drums and an even cleaner sounding acoustic sound, with 8 Ball and Devius trading a few verses back and forth, it’s really simple and straightforward and great. The drums slightly change during each verse or an instrument is dropped-out, especially during Devius’ last verse, when its just drums and a slightly different acoustic part, it all makes the return of that riff even more exciting.

Plenty of straight rapping on this too. 8 Ball’s voice just gets deeper as he grows older and fatter, sounding like Baron Harkonnen should sound like or something: this angry, smart, decadent fat guy dropping classic lines. Devius is a good counterpoint as he raps with a youthful but still self-aware voice but he has more enthusiasm (“You know today look good”) and sounds like he’s having fun. I like Devius’ line about laughing at the chick he and his friends “ran a train on”. Also, Devius refers to himself as “Ted Deviase” or something like that, in reference to Ted “Million Dollar Man” Dibiase.”

‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place’ by Radiohead off In Rainbows:This is probably the kind of song these guys do in their sleep, but its better than third-rate electronics and it actually seems to be about something. Thommy boy dropped the “unborn chicken voices” junk and just talks about getting a number from a girl or some sort of like, Virginia Woolf – or just ‘You’re Beautiful’ by James Blunt- shared but minor moment between two people. The tenuous acoustic and the way it slowly builds layers upon layer of voice and bouncing bass and everything else, it’s predictable but that hardly matters because ‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place’ (an awful title by the way) grabs the perfect mix of enthusiasm and melancholy appropriate for a song about complicated human interaction. I was joking about the James Blunt connection but it kind of works, it’s the anti-’You’re Beautiful’!

‘Suicide Note’ by Scarface off Made: I’m a big fan of Scarface but I really don’t think he has any classic albums and ‘Made’ is no different, a bunch of really fucking great songs and some mediocre ones and a misstep or two. Is ‘The Fix’ ‘Face’s best? I think it might be. Anyways- for obvious reasons, this song is doubly affecting, but I’ve always been partial to these kind of emotionally-honest rap songs.

I’m sure plenty of rap songs do this and I can’t think of any at the moment, but the way Scarface’s voice comes in before the beat is sorta surprising and gives you like, no time to breathe or prepare for his story. The beat itself is on some Brothers Johnson ‘Land of Ladies’ shit, sort of dreamy and distant but then complicated by that really kinda scary backwardsy chorus…it fits the crazy emotions, the “this doesn’t really feel real at all” feeling one gets when someone they knew and loved has killed themselves.

Scarface maintains an interesting distance in the song in that he never overtly emotes, he just straight spits and assumes we know it’s fucking him up inside. The details are so well-wrought and just well, real, that it is clear without him going Ghostface-whine or Pimp C wistful (not that there’s anything wrong with those guys doing that or anything…). Going out of his way to say he was on his way to get with “some Asian bitch”, discussing in weird hindsight, the way he, for some reason went back to his friend’s house, the level-headed without being above-it-all details like “his wife read the bible” and then, ‘Face’s matter of fact ability to totally confront the real fact that the friend is gone forever and there’s nothing nobody can do about it…fuck!

I refused to “rank” these tracks because most of them have very little in-common, so I just went through them in the order that they album they correspond to was released, but looking back at the playlist, a little re-ordering makes a pretty satisfying 45 minutes of music. So, below is my suggested listening order for these songs…and, here’s a zipfile of all the tracks.

1. Jesu – ‘Weightless & Horizontal’
2. Crime Mob featuring Pimp C & Lil’ Scrappy – ‘Go To War’
3. Justice – ‘Stress’
4. UGK featuring Cory Mo – ‘Top Drop Dyne Remix’
5. Kanye West featuring Trick Daddy – ‘Can’t Say No’
6. Median – ‘Right Or Wrong?’
7. 8ball & Devius – ‘Jus’ Ridin’
8. Radiohead – ‘Jigsaw Falling Into Place’
9. Scarface – ‘The Suicide Note’
10. Boris – ‘My Rain’

Written by Brandon

December 28th, 2007 at 11:29 pm

How Big Is Your World? Some Good New-ish Rap Songs

one comment

-Playaz Circle featuring Lil Wayne – ‘Duffle Bag Boy’
Click here to watch the video for ‘Duffle Bag Boy’.

I could talk about the beat, I could talk about Playaz Circle’s ridiculous enthusiasm, but it’s Lil Wayne that makes ‘Duffle Bag Boy’. He doesn’t even rap, he just croons the chorus but I think I may prefer Wayne the singer (I’ve read about his Whitney Houston covers when performing live). What Wayne does on ‘Duffle Bag Boy’ is repeat the chorus with the same amount of chaos and fun as he does on his freestyles, croaking, crooning, and squeaking it out, a little different every time. It’s a typical music “trick” (deliver the chorus with increased passion each time) found on plenty of rock and soul songs but less on rap and pop songs. On rap and pop, the chorus following each verse is either repeated to sound as close to one another as possible, or the same chorus is pasted in, giving the song a symmetry between verses that makes it go down even easier. Wayne makes no such attempt at symmetry on ‘Duffle Bag Boy’ with the hook/taunt “Now go and getcha money little duffle bag boy” sounding and feeling different depending on his delivery. He sounds mocking on one chorus, forceful (as if he were ordering someone around) on another, and like it’s his last, dying words on the other.

It’s also long-as-shit for a hook, especially in the ad-lib crazy world of rap radio: “If I don’t do nothin’ I’m a ball/I’m countin’ all day like a clock on the wall/Now go and getcha money little duffle bag boy/Get Money!/Now, I ain’t never ran from a nigga/And I damn sure ain’t about to pick today to start runnin”. He even throws in that “Get money” ad-lib almost as an after-thought and not you know, the basis for a fucking song. Also, having a respected rapper sing the hook is a good idea for maintaining the balance of the song. There’s no awkward jump from “street” raps to Akon or female R & B singer and then back again.

And finally, add this song’s video to a growing list of great Southern rap videos that eschew narrative for a realistic but still exciting “day in the life…” or “here’s a few hours in the life of…” structure. ‘Stay Fly’ and ‘Throw Some Ds’ being the best ones…This one isn’t half-bad either- rapping in front of a ‘Stop N Shop’? That’s so good! Just one more way that the mindless anti-Southern rap types miss the point. With rap as big and grotesque as it now is, it is a political act to rap in front of a gas station.

-Median – ‘How Big Is Your World’
Click here to download ‘How Big Is Your World’.

This beat for Justus League rapper Median is a great example of 9th Wonder’s impressive production abilities. 9th really does get too much shit, undoubtedly his sticking to an archaic program like Fruity Loops and using soul samples that anybody could make into something awesome is cheap, but he’s one of the few “Underground” producers that actually produces. By produces, I mean he doesn’t just chop samples and organize them into beats, but does these little things that your ears may not even realize are happening but make you fall in love with a song. On ‘How Big Is Your World?’, it’s that slight change-up on those snares at the end of the measure or or the way he pulls that single-note pulse sound that echoes throughout into the forefront for the chorus and then drops it back into the warm, 70s soul haze for the verses. The thing that really made me go crazy about this song, production-wise, was that weird, crumbling, bassline that sounds like it’s both nimble and quick but being played by a guy wearing gardening gloves or something…plenty of producers can chop a good sample or make a hot loop, but most don’t waste their time with perfect mixing and other subtle details.

The song is an appeal for cognizance in the form of a non-judgmental but challenging question “How big is your world?” and ultimately, a song about self-reflection and moderation. Who are you affecting and how? Have you considered the consequences? The first line of the song, is the kind of too-easy to mock “concious” rap lyricism (“a tree died for me to scribe on this looseleaf”) but it’s also a microscopic understanding of one’s effect on the world and kind of loaded because fuck, you can’t not write on paper, so it goes beyond blame or prevention and into inevitability.

He sort of continues this sense of making rappers think of their effect on the world, be it the tree that made the paper bound in their notebook or the self-involved beefing that is so pervasive in rap, contrasting it with world events that you know, actually matter: “World trade terror/Now that’s true beef”. There’s a sincerity that begins with that smart demand for self-reflection and continues as the song bounces between the personal and the political and really does conflate the two. Median’s mother seems to be the (sorry) median where the person and political meet, as his voice quivers impassioned when he describes her living situation (“Now we got killers where my Momma be”) or her fucked-up working conditions (“Tryna get my mom out the factory job/Arthritis in her hands be makin’ her wrists throb”). It’s clear that she functions as a working-class everywoman as much as Median just giving you some affecting autobiography. I immediately thought of my retired Grandmother who still has arthritis because organizing greeting cards in Rite-Aids for 30 years sucks ass and Hallmark gave her a pretty shitty retirement plan.

Median also does the Kanye West thing that is quickly devolving into cliche, hinting at one’s flaws but I find them moving and real nonetheless. When he admits he was basically too busy “trying to find a freak” to concern himself with world politics, I’ll buy it. His half-joke about the other side of his personality, the “the one you’ve seen if [he's] ever played your ass” too is real without sounding forced. Those assertions too come across better because of Median’s flow which has a little of Lupe Fiasco’s “well-spoken but SASSY” style to it but is also quieter and more modest.

-Three-Six Mafia – ‘Like Money’
Click here to download ‘Like Money’.

With all the talk of Kanye or Timbo’s futuristic production, DJ Paul and Juicy J drop a beat as “next-level” as anything on ‘Graduation’ or ‘Futuresex’. The high-pitched scratching, catchy guitar riff, and to-be-expected hyper-complex drums programming that counters and complements itself, are all forced through this oppressive layer of flange and echo that destroys anything you listen to before or after it. Dig those clipped “drums” that coincide with DJ Paul’s “I look-I look”. I say “drums” and not drums because I don’t even think that’s any kind of conventional percussion, it’s like they threw some of Ben Burtt’s ‘Star Wars’ sound effects into the ol’ MPC and went crazy. I don’t think any rap group out there can match Three Six’s integrity. Dudes win an Oscar, get a reality show, and still make songs that sound like this. You know that crazy outro freak-out on ‘Doe Boy Fresh’? Well that’s what this whole song sounds like.

These guys sure do have a funny way of selling-out. Juicy J’s verse about doing coke and being paranoid is great as usual and really sort of off-sets one’s expectations of the song about money, from guys who really seem to be getting paid now that they have an Oscar. I’m not saying it’s some Kanye-ish “money doesn’t make everything great” statement but I’m not saying it isn’t either. What pushes Three Six above so many other Southern party-rappers (besides their production) is how weird and disinterested in being cool they are. Outdated slang, weird-uncool chants (“just look at me dummy”??)…you get a real sense of who these guys are and how they speak and think through their music.

There’s also a version with The Game on it that I think will show up on the album but I haven’t fucked with it because this version is too good.

-Bruce Springsteen – ‘Radio Nowhere’
Clickhere to watch the video for ‘Radio Nowhere’.

Not a rap song but I won’t front- I like this song. “The Boss” along with probably U2 and Led Zeppelin, are responsible for my general contempt for “rock n’roll” and inability to ever fully embrace it. In the past few years, I’ve grown something of an affinity for Springsteen and repeatedly tried to get into his music. I’ll hear a song, seek out the album and quickly grow tired of his forced accents, condescending idealization of the working-class, and E-Street overproduction…I dunno, Springsteen is just kind of a goon be it his all-American rocker phase or his poor man’s Dylan phase that elitist fans cite when jokes are made about “Clarence”…

So, funny I’d enjoy this song because it’s sort of this old-man rocker that even focuses on the theme of radio’s demise and goofily invokes America (“the last lone American night”) but the guitars totally do it for me. It reminds me of The Replacements or something, that kind of uplifting but depressed sound; it’s got a good tone which is important on a rock song. Springsteen also totally sells the song, delivering it with enough passion to match the guitars, those fucking guitars! You know it’s a good riff and a good tone when it’s able to recover the song after a saxophone solo!

When he sings “I just wanna hear some rhythm” it’s desperate, like Michael Stipe ‘Country Feedback’ “I need this” desperate but it’s not you know, pathetically desperate more like, “Godammit, I wanna hear this, right now” which to me is easier to relate to; it’s the same hard-ass vulnerability of Weezy’s “I ain’t never ran from a nigga/And I damn sure ain’t about to pick today to start runnin”- BUT…If all Brucio wants to hear is “some rhythm” then why doesn’t he just Crank Dat Soulja Boy?

or crank dat Ryu?
or (my favorite) crank dat Lion King?
or, I know he’s getting up there in age, so maybe he should crank dat Grandpa?

Written by Brandon

September 24th, 2007 at 6:35 am