Sunday, April 15, 2007

Weezy's Rampage Continues

As many of you are probably aware of, Lil' Wayne has continued his unprecendented market saturation with the recent release of his double disc mixtape opus entitled Da Drought 3. It seems to exist only to give Weezy a chance to spit on every song he didn't get a chance to, spit more bars on a few songs he already has cameoed on (It's Me Bitches, Down & Out, We Takin' Over) , and to profess his love for R&B temptress Ciara. The release of this mixtape, coupled with his recent declaration that The Carter 3 won't be out until the end of the year, leaves Wayne at an interesting crossroads. Whether or not you believe that he's made his recent lyrical improvements on his own, or whether you feel like he's still a subpar rapper, his effect on the creatively deficient world of recent hip-hop can be felt on every coast. However, it feels like Wayne may be concerned that he's already hit a ceiling and that he won't be able to continue improving at his current rate. His plan of continuing to spit on every available guest spot while not putting out an album also reeks of complacency. Take T.I. for instance. He is wisely choosing to strike while the iron's hot. King has just recently left the Billboard Top 200 and the first single off T.I. Vs. T.I.P. has already been leaked out. What's more puzzling about the pushback of Carter 3 is the fact that Wayne routinely brags about never having to touch a pad, which should make recording a breeze. The most troubling aspect of Da Drought 3 has to be the fact that Wayne clearly seems coked up and pill'ed up for most of the recordings, ending and beginning tracks with nonsense ramblings about Gummi Bears and hitting people in the head, not to mention continuing to rhyme in a faux Jamaican accent. Hopefully Kanye West's reported involvement in recording the third Carter will include getting him to stop doing that. Da Drought 3 is not without some classic Wayne quotables, however. "On top of my paper like I'm startin a heading", "You ain't satisfied til your son callin, tellin you where to leave the money in the mornin", "I don't know karate but after the brain, I kick you out", "I swim with the big, I don't have time to deal with Willy The Squid", among others. One interesting note about the mixtape is that Wayne not only adresses Gillie, but also the allegations brought up by the kiss picture of him and Birdman. He speaks on it openly, in a way that will give homophobic Weezy detractors plenty of ammunition, especially with such lines like, "I hope when we kiss, it makes you sick to your stomach" & "hell yeah, I kiss my daddy". Such personal introspection can only make his upcoming album that much better and one can only hope he continues to pursue it, possibly leaving Birdman and his peculiar relationship out of it. At any rate, Wayne just simply needs to put down the syrup, cocaine, and pills and pick up a pad and pen, because as fun as it is to hear his "spit sporadic" style on the hot beats of the moment and in limited doses on other artists' tracks, a full album of Kanye West and Scott Storch produced drugged out freestyles does not appeal to me. The scary part is that Wayne has developed a fanbase that treats even his most nonsense rhymes as gospel. He could do well to learn from Cam'ron, a skilled wordsmith who fell victim to a rabid fanbase that could see no harm in his tutti fruity louie rhymes until it was too late and he had been eclipsed in songmaking quality and stature by Jim Jones and Juelz Santana. Wayne needs to stop reading his own press clippings before a few years go by and Currensy is outselling him. More continued effort into crafting rhymes that will stand the test of time should keep him from such an inglorious fate.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

140K is the new gold

Last week, Young Buck's Buck The World album debuted with around 140,000 copies sold and much fanfare about how these sales reflected the end of G-Unit as a viable commercial force. This week, superproducer Timbaland opened up with pretty much identical numbers to Buck's, at around 140,000. I think it is safe to say that the Young Buck naysayers have been silenced. If he can sell the same amount in his first week as one of the hottest properties in music right now, not just rap, it's a fair assumption to say he won't be rapping (or stabbing people with forks) for his dinner anytime soon. It's also a sad indictment that rap fans have pretty much given up on going to the store, as I would presume many of Tim's sales came from fans of Justin Timberlake, Nelly Furtado, and Fall Out Boy, all guests on the album. While I wouldn't deem it out of the question for Shock Value to pick up steam over time and outsell Buck in the long run, it has to be considered a mild upset that such a star studded album couldn't make it over 150K in the first week of sales. In an era where Mims can't ride the #1 single in the country to much more than 75K 1st week sales and Rich Boy can't parlay his smash hit into much more than 110K to start and what looks like a finish in the 300K region, it begs the question of how much longer labels will continue to put money into the promotion of rap albums. Some signs suggest that people are tired of being pandered to and that they will pony up their hard earned dollars for an album that truly derserves it. Young Jeezy has sold almost 3 million copies of his first 2 albums during this dark period, and without ever making that crossover grab song, only relenting by allowing Akon & R. Kelly to sing hooks about selling drugs rather than crafting them himself. Ludacris and Jay-Z have maintained their streak of platinum hits and T.I. still has the highest selling non Black Eyed Peas rap album over the past year and a half. It's time for labels to stop trying to trick rap fans out of their money and start building an artist's fanbase off more than ringtones and MySpace pages. I don't buy all of the bootlegging allegations, because artists like Nickelback and Justin Timberlake are still doing monster numbers and their albums are just as easily downloaded as anyone else's. The Shady/Aftermath camp is another prime example of rappers who have built the fan's trust enough so that they can still maintain their sales. The Re-Up compilation of mostly Shady second stringers dressed up with a few verses from 50 & Shady himself is nearly platinum off one poorly promoted single. Here's hoping that the label execs stop creating paint-by-numbers affairs and start allowing their artists' real personalites to shine through. The major label machine could take a big cue from Jim Jones, who has managed to move almost 400,000 units independently, using his catchy single to bring people into his world. Casualties like Mims, Rich Boy, and Timbaland could stand to learn a lesson from Jones' relentless self promotion and creative marketing schemes. Until then, people will continue to refuse to part with their money and opt for downloading.

Gotta Spend Money To Make Money

In this month's issue of XXL, Fabolous referenced the fact that even though he had shot videos for his big-ticket collaborations with Pharell and Young Jeezy off his Real Talk album, the label never put them out and even had a hard time releasing his second video for "Baby". With the increasing reliance on the 2nd and 3rd singles to sell an album over time and the insistence of label bigwigs to use high profile cameos to push those singles, let's take a look at some songs that never saw the (video) light of day even though they should have, by either label convention or otherwise.

Jay-Z f/ Pharell & Usher--Anything

Granted, this may have not been Hov, Usher and Skateboard P's best foot forward, but an event album like Kingdom Come needed more strategic planning in order for it to become the hit it was destined to be. A collaboration with 2 pop darlings probably would have proven more successful than Lost Ones. Lost Ones was without a doubt the album's finest track, with Dr. Dre providing a haunting backdrop for Jay to spit about his laments towards Dame Dash and Beyonce. However, this isn't the type of stuff that finds much of a radio audience and certainly doesn't warrant Budweiser & TNT marketing moolah.

Busta Rhymes f/ Stevie Wonder-Been Through The Storm

This song makes the list due to sheer across-the-board appeal. It has long been my opinion that The Big Bang didn't do its proper numbers due to complete bungling of the singles. The album should have been released earlier in the year, when Touch It and its remix were burning up the airwaves, before the remix video shooting tainted all of the goodwill Busta had built up. The 2nd single should have been the Dr. Dre-produced, raucous Missy Elliott collabo How We Do It Over Here (girls love Missy and they're the ones buying the albums these days). Been Through The Storm would have made a perfect selection for the 3rd single and would have tapped into the older demographic (also actual record buyers) who remembers Stevie's heyday, before he was relegated to cameos on Busta Rhymes & Snoop Dogg albums. Oh, and the song itself is one of the best Busta has ever recorded, a great storytelling song filled with remorse and regret, complemented beautifully by Stevie's chilling refrain.

Lil' Wayne-Weezy Baby

Easily the catchiest song on The Carter II outside of Fireman, this could have been the song that catapulted Weezy F into that stratosphere of stardom reserved for a Ludacris or OutKast. Interviews revealed that this was the single Wayne wanted to go with, but that he was outvoted by Baby (the same man who led off his solo debut with a Puffy duet) and Slim. While Hustler Muzik was a great song in its own right, the choice of using it as a 2nd single is very questionable, for much the same reason that Lost Ones didn't make any sense for Jay to use in the same capacity.

Chingy f/ R. Kelly-Leave With Me

Let it be known right now that while I am not the president of Chingy's fan club, I do find that there is an occasional place for his brand of harmless club rap (dont pretend you weren't bumping Right Thurr or Holidae Inn, we all were). And there always seems to be a demand for new R. Kelly stylings, as evidenced by the lack of damage to his career by child porn allegations. This bounce laden offering for the club would have very easily saved Chingy's faltering career. While the king of R&B is mostly responsible, that is pretty much the point. Why take the huge dent in the recording budget that must be involved in securing R. Kelly to produce and sing on a track unless you plan on utilizing it to sell your album? Powerballin' seemed full of similar follies, considering that only one single saw the light of day and passable (and presumably expensive) collaborations with Kelly, Janet Jackson, Nate Dogg, Lil' Wayne, and David Banner all sat on the shelf. Although, looking at Hoodstar's subpar performance despite single assists from JD & Tyrese, perhaps his label knew what they were doing all along.

Notorious B.I.G. f/ Jay-Z-What You Want

Quite possibly the only song on Duets that could have been released as a single and not annoyed the shit out of me and the other 50 million rap purists/Biggie afficionados. Of course, Puffy's money grubbing ways led him to deem a Nelly and Jagged Edge collabo good enough to be the lead single and I'm sure he thought his presence on the track would make people forget that Big would have never been in the same room with a Nelly or Jazze Pha. What You Want even featured 2 B.I.G. 16s that hadn't already been beaten into the ground by every aspiring mixtape rapper and bedroom DJ in America, plus one of Jay-Z's best postretirement verses. I guess I couldn't very well expect very much from the man who cherry picked smash hits from The Lox & G. Dep's albums as they were in progress in order to advance his own career.


One of the craziest Neptunes beats in recent memory and Pitbull (more likely TVT, considering Lil' Jon & Ying Yang's appearance on the actual 1st single Bojangles) found it a better idea to go with a tired Lil' Jon booty anthem with a refrain cribbed from an old Ying Yang Twins song. Who knows, Jealoso just may have the song that took Pitbull from Southern club sensation into full fledged superstar status. The track itself is a marvel, as Pharell completely immerses his technique in all the things that make Pitbull's style of rap great, with innovative instrumentation and a more precussion based rhythm that's tailor made for Pitbull's more musical rhyme schemes.

The Game-One Night

Other than the energetic first shot One Blood, Game's single selection for his latest LP has been less than satisfactory. His failure at duplicating the Dr. Dre/50 Cent formula with Strip Club fell flat, and Wouldn't Get Far's attempts at creating controversy (witness the subsequent "beef" with Vida Guerra) have fallen on similarly deaf ears. One Night or even Ol' English (a monster earwig in its own right) would have been perfect for him to cultivate his west coast appeal and deliver on the tremendous growth he showed on Doctor's Advocate. One Night features one of the more ignorant catchier refrains in recent history and I'm more than certain that Game's core audience would have eaten it right up.

Young Dro f/ T.I.-My Girl

The table had been set, with a huge first single and a namedrop of My Girl's refrain on Shoulder Lean seemed to preclude the obvious 2nd single choice. However, Grand Hustle trusted the mixtape buzz of Rubberband Banks and released it instead. Time and time again, labels trust the streets instead of realizing that more often than not, mixtape buzz does not translate into album sales (ask Cassidy, still smarting from releasing B-Boy Stance as his 2nd single with Nas and Mario collabos in the can). My Girl is far from a poppy sap story, though. The light, tropical style beat is the backdrop as Dro & Tip swap stories about their lady friends and their lady friends' lady friends. The Nitti blazer Man In The Trunk would have also been a more apt choice if Grand Hustle was so intent on a street look for the 2nd single. As it stands, Best Thang Smokin' was one of the most slept on albums of the past year and Young Dro has officially moved to the front of the new young breed of southern MCs.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Plies: Stuck Off The Realness

Recently, I stumbled across a few different mixtapes from a new rapper out of Fort Meyers, Florida, who goes by the rhyming moniker of Plies. From a technical standpoint, he is one of the worst rappers to emerge from the cauldron of southern street pharmacists and deep fried d-boys. However, he conveys such a fierce energy and will to win on the microphone that I can't help but enjoy several of his songs. Think of Young Jeezy's lived-to-tell-the story credibility & lyrical simplicity mixed with David Banner's pure intensity. For a strong sample of his typical subject matter, go to and download 30 Days, The Truth Hurts, or 100% Real Nigga. While his rawness is still evident, plenty of determination and grit shine through. In particular, Bond Money stands out. With an atypical bouncy track, Plies spends much of the song warning enemies that he has the money to bail himself out of jail, calling everyone "fuck niggas", and falling on and off beat. He also displays 50 Cent's penchant for ending records with half a minute of superfluous shit talking. His freestyle over Lil' Wayne's "Go DJ" track, creatively named "Got My AK" is another display of Plies' raw emotion and fiery delivery. A fair warning: if someone rhyming niggas with triggas and sometimes forgetting to rhyme at all bothers you, Plies is not for you. If you want to hear the battle cry of a man who simply sounds terrified of being stuck in the poverty of Fort Meyers for the rest of his life, by all means, check out his music. Important ears have begun to perk up as well. Akon, T.I., Nitti, Pitbull, Mr. Collipark, Pretty Ricky, T-Pain, and Slip-N-Slide labelmates Trick Daddy and Trina have all either sought him out for cameos or put their own twist on his records. Meanwhile, powerful southern DJs such as DJ Drama, Greg Street, and DJ Scream have all lined up to host his latest mixtapes. Plies looked like he had the path to stardom all lined up, when his Akon collaboration "I Wanna Fuck You" began to burn up the airwaves down south and looked poised to cross over to mainstream radio. Mysteriously, a new version with Snoop Dogg appeared a few weeks later and Plies was soon forgotten. In a recent interview with Allhiphop, Plies revealed that record industry politics kept him off the version of the song that rose to the top of Billboard's Hot 100 and propelled Akon to double platinum status and Snoop to over 800,000 records sold. Industry naysayers also scuttled Plies' plan to pull an 8Ball and release a triple CD for his debut album. While 8Ball was an established member of the southern rap elite and wanted to allow new rappers to shine when he decided to release a triple CD, it is a much more audacious move for a newcomer to attempt. There was also a second attempt at cultivating a lead single for Plies, the Nitti produced banger "Got 'Em Hatin". For whatever reason (lack of promotion, perhaps?), the song never took off outside of Florida and Plies was in the hole with Slip-N-Slide for 2 high profile cameos. It seems now that luck has finally shined down on Plies with his latest attempt to break through, as the collab "Shawty" with T-Pain has begun to pick up steam. Over a Drumma Boy track that sounds like The Runners mixed with Just Blaze, Plies professes his love for his shorty in between T-Pain's crooning about beating people up for his girl. While this isn't the best showcase for Plies' talents, one can only hope this will be his springboard into the mainstream. Any debut rapper who has the guts to go places with his music and is audacious enough to attempt a triple CD debut album (quickly crushed by Slip-N-Slide, who told him not to bother because it would only count as one album off his contract, essentially reducing him to giving them 2 albums for free) is all right in my book.

Download worthy Plies tracks besides the ones mentioned:

Chopper Zone
100% Real Nigga
A Nigga Realer Than Plies
I Just Want The Paper
Know Somethin'

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

50 Cent's Make Or Break Time

A series of recent events has all but ended any hope of G-Unit reclaiming their lost sales dominance. However, whether you enjoy 50’s music or not, with over 14 million sales of his first two major label albums, he has to be considered a contender to become the first rapper in over a year to move 2 million copies. Early returns aren't promising and signs are beginning to suggest that 50's attempts to cause contoversy and love of beef may be foreshadoweing a fall from the top more befitting of Tony Montana. Lloyd Banks & Young Buck may be able to blame some of their sales declines on rampant bootlegging, but such a precipitous fall from grace can only be blamed by public decline in G-Unit interest. How else to explain Banks going from over 1.5 million copies to just cracking 300,000? What's more astounding is that what Rotten Apple lacked in star power, it made up for with impeccable production and Banks' most inspired rapping since then G-Unit mixtape era. What's sadder still is the fact that Young Buck's impressive sophomore set will also be swept under the rug (132K the first week after 2 videos when even Mike Jones can sell close to 1.5 million, ouch), thanks to shameless stunts, like Tony Yayo's Slapgate or 50's inclusion of a month old Cam'ron diss on Buck The World. Evidently, 50 himself likes his chances to not only clear 2 million, but maintain his worldwide average of 12 million copies an album. He was quoted on Hot 97 as saying that no less an authority than famed Interscope exec Jimmy Iovine agrees with this assessment. I myself was skeptical until hearing the first 50 song that he has leaked off his new album. By now, many of us have already heard Straight To The Bank and have formed our own opinions on it. From a pure rap aesthetic, it's an undeniable banger. Dre clearly took his time and crafted a banger to put some of the lifeless beats on The Massacre to shame. I can easily see this being a Disco Inferno type of unofficial single to set off promotions for the new album. What this all boils down to now is whether the man called Fiddy will either emulate labelmate Eminem and become America's new favorite bad boy or resign himself to a Puffyesque career of coasting off past sales accomplishments and creating the occasional listenable album (although Press Play was one of more slept on albums of the past year). 50, notoriously indifferent about using big name production, has apparently decided to open his checkbook for more beats from the good Doctor and the ridiculously red-hot Timbaland. Judging from the 50/Timbaland/Tony Yayo collabo off the Timbaland solo album (why Yayo got on this and not Buck is bewildering, he would have murdered the track), it seems that Tim has a good idea for creating backdrops to supplement 50's slurry threat rap act that has replaced his charismatic survival appeal that he rode back into the rap game on. This all sets the table for the next year or two that will define the future of rap. The Carter III and T.I. Vs. T.I.P. will decide the future of the current southern d-boy craze, and Eminem & Dr. Dre are finally going to drop their new albums, with Eminem's receiving a larger dose of Dre involvement than Encore. Bear in mind that Jay-Z is surely at the very least pondering his next move after the critically lukewarm response to Kingdom Come (mostly unwarranted when you consider that Jay-Z's worst album is still better than most of what sells nowadays). 50 Cent is simply the going to be the first out of the gate. While it is not a great sign that Buck, Banks and Yayo's first week sales combined could not come within 200,000 copies of Kingdom Come, especially given Yayo's claims that he was going platinum in one week, it is possible that 50 could reverse this trend. I, for one, will be watching closely.