Friday, June 6, 2008

The Real Meaning Of Nothing

The past week has seen the release/leak of two different projects, one which has already been discussed relentlessly and one which has flown largely under the radar. The Carter III, I will tell you right now, comes nowhere near living up to the impossible hype. That's not to say it isn't a fine inclusion in The Rapper Eater's catalog, but after 3 years, even 5, if you count the Sqad Up mixtapes that seem to be forgotten when people mentioned his seemingly overnight rise, what bizarre reference could he make that would still surprise people? The effects of his relentless output are evident as several songs feature bars already spat on countless volumes of Evil Empire mixtapes. For example, Shoot Me Down has him spitting tales of going after his mother's boyfriend with a cleaver, which would have been gripping entertainment if most hadn't already heard the same bars on World Of Fantasy off one of the last summer's Drought Is Over tapes. His interest in concepts is what keeps the album afloat, especially considering that the lyrics are no advancement and in in some spots, weaker, than those on The Carter II. Jay-Z effortlessly outdoes him on his own song, and I also found myself enjoying Juelz Santana's bars on You Ain't Nothin' much more than the latest Wayne AutoTune tomfoolery. I also found myself wondering where his Dr. Dre beats went (maybe the raps Wayne supposedly wrote him for Detox weren't up to snuff), where his Ludacris collabo disappeared to, and why he didn't put the long performed Pussy Monster Freestyle on it.
However, it is one of the better albums to come out in awhile, but this more of a commentary on the lack of creativity and new product in rap music than it is on the supposedly classic quality of the album. A classic album has no tracks you don't enjoy, just tracks you enjoy the least. Lollipop is in no way a song that belongs on any classic rap album. It was a desperate ploy that at least seems to have worked enough to get the album out, but one wonders how much longer the label would have sat on it until Wayne finally issued the full out pop song that they may have been hounding him for. The toughest part about this album is that there's not much to compare it to. To place it with other southern classics doesn't even seem right. I can't imagine still listening to this in 10 years, like Aquemini or Too Hard To Shallow, or even 400 Degreez. It's just like any Lil' Wayne mixtape, it has moments where you're convinced he could stand with the all time greats and moments where it sounds like someone reciting Tha Block Is Hot on lean. I also wonder how he managed to make an entire album without Birdman chiming in once. The Carter III is perfectly acceptable by today's standards of music, but for someone who desperately wants us to mention him with all time greats, it falls far short of those lofty standards.
Wale, on the other hand, has managed to quietly put out one of the more satisfying listens in recent memory. I've barely heard a whisper about his recent drop The Mixtape About Nothing, which is a shame. The tape eschews the usual beat jacking festivities except for one Roc Boys freestyle, and uses soulful production as the backdrop for Wale to talk about the state of affairs in rap and other social issues. As expected, Seinfeld snippets are played before a few tracks, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus even has an interlude. He uses Micheal Richards' racist tirade to set off a track where he speaks on racial conflict on a level that makes you wonder whether Nas should call him for a cameo as The Roots already have. His fluid style of rapping and willingness to talk about just about anything under the sun (Eddie Murphy, Cleo Lemon, Napster) makes him that much more enjoyable to listen to. He even manages to rap alongside Lil' Wayne, Bun B, Pusha T, and Black Thought and sound every bit their equal. On the heels of the enjoyable but more uneven 100 Miles & Runnin', this mixtape valuts his upcoming album near the top of the list for most awaited.

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