Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Riches To Rags

One of the more underdiscussed developments of the recent rap scene is the fact that Big Boi, one half of arguably the best duo in rap history (I'd also accept Gang Starr, EPMD, M.O.P., or Run-DMC) has been essentially reduced to rubble. This is in no way an indictment of his rhyming ability, just the company he keeps on records and the fact that his album is still stuck in purgatory. Sir Luscious Leftfoot has been on the shelf for at least 2 years now and it obviously isn't a quality issue, just about every leaked snippet has been top-shelf. For one reason or another, the TIs must not feel like a solo album from the more conventional rapper in OutKast is a good investment.

And now, it seems like Big Boi has resorted to the trap-rap cameo circuit in order to gain some sort of "buzz", that magical word that connotates the number of teenagers who think you're, like, totally the shit, dude. Sadly, this is where Gucci Mane seems to have come into play. Daddy Fatsacks has done at least two collabos with Gucci, not to mention Gorilla Zoe & DJ Khaled. Gucci is starting to become a star in his own right, but it seems a little bit ridiculous that a man who had his own role in crafting several classic albums and has contributed his own fair share of scorching 16s would be reduced to permanent Scottie Pippen status in his own city.

Sure, Andre had his own bizarre run where he cameo'ed on remixes for Walk It Out & Throw Some D's, but he spent a good portion of the Unk song telling dudes to buy smaller shirts, better cars and to stop generally being such a nuisance. Big Boi is recruiting Gucci to attempt to jump start his curiously stalled solo album, and rapping on remixes with Da Juiceman to boot. Whatever happened to people actually remembering that someone is actually a good rapper and just being excited for an album of new music from him? Dude has already dropped collabs with 3K & Mary J, what more do people want? Andre could put out a 30 second freestyle over the Make Da Trap Say Aye instrumental and the Internets would all trip over themselves to play fantasy A&R for his solo.

Long story short, if Shine Blockas doesn't get his album in stores, I don't know what will. It is about as good as you could ever envision a collab between two such different artists turning out. Big Boi brings Gucci into his style of songmaking and the result almost comes off as the bumpkin cousin to International Players' Anthem. One can only hope the song and the album get the proper push needed to see daylight in retail form.

Monday, October 5, 2009

MTV's Hottest MCs List: Bang Bang Edition

Once again, MTV decided to rank the rap game's hottest MCs and once again the blogosphere has erupted with criticisms of the list. And for once, they have a point. Without further ado, we will parse through MTV's choices and show where wrongs should be righted.

#10 MTV's choice: Fabolous Bang Bang Skeet Skeet's: Jadakiss
Fab certainly should have been in Top 15 consideration, but to put him on is to completely forget the year that Jadakiss has had. The Last Kiss far outperformed Loso's Way and Jada has been on a tear in the cameo/mixtape circuit. With appearances on records for everyone, including Busta Rhymes, Red Cafe, Capone-N-Noreaga, Cam'ron, G-Unit, French Montana and Raekwon, 'Kiss has solidifed his spot as the go-to NY guest 16 spitter.

#9 MTV's choice: 50 Cent Bang Bang Skeet Skeet's: Young Jeezy
While 50 has dropped 2 quality mixtapes, he hasn't dropped an album in 2 years, and his various attempts at a hit single have fizzled. Jeezy dropped one stellar tape (Trappin' Ain't Dead) and has murdered the cameo circuit, lending his raspy tales to Jadakiss, Birdman, Drake, Lil' Boosie, Jamie Foxx, Jay-Z, Maino and Rick Ross. Talk about a diversified portfolio. Mr. 17.5 also rode the residual buzz for The Recession, dropping online videos and issuing a Jay-Z remix for "My President Is Black". Jeezy also struck a blow against his rivals Gucci Mane & OJ Da Juiceman with the scathing "24, 23" diss.

#8 MTV's choice: Raekwon Bang Bang Skeet Skeet's: Rick Ross
MTV including Ross in its Top 5, and omitting Eminem & T.I. from its list are probably the most asinine aspects of it, but who can be certain? If this list had been made a few months ago, Bawse might have cracked the top 5, but now, no cigar. As it is, Ross has had quite a run, making an album that may possibly crack the year's top 10 and flooding the underground with occasionally impressive freestyles and remixes. Deeper Than Rap was the rare album that nearly lived up to the unbelieveable hype. While Ross didn't fare too well in his war of words with 50, the public perceived Deeper Than Rap a success, despite the fact that it sold about half as much as Trilla and a third of Port Of Miami. With the release of the highly enjoyable double disc White Sand mixtape and the upcoming Triple C's album, Bawse might just be able to rise up this list yet, but for now, its #8 for the Bawseman.

#7 MTV's choice: Young Jeezy Bang Bang Skeet Skeet's: Lil' Wayne
Jeezy was a tad high on MTV's list, but Wayne was astonishingly overrated. A #2 spot for a guy who hasn't released an album in almost a year and a half and has spent a good chunk of this calendar year either singing or half-assing the few raps he's bothered to record, way to go, MTV. That being said, Wayne derserves a spot on this list because he's managed to maintain a presence on the marketplace through his work with Young Money (read: Drake) and the few people still calling him for a cameo verse. Most of the same calls he would have gotten last year have since gone to Gucci. He's also accidentally breathed some life into the female MC game by bringing out Nicki Minaj, who is god-awful. She's been dangerously close to getting her own post, "Itty Bitty Piggy" nearly being the song to make me pull the trigger. If someone can explain her appeal to me in a way that has nothing to do with her T&A, I'm all ears.

#6 MTV's choice: Gucci Mane Bang Bang Skeet Skeet's: Gucci Mane
Finally my opinion and MTV's intersect. Gucci derserves to be slotted ahead of the fray, but not in with the superduperstars. With countless mixtape hits and guest slots for Black Eyed Peas, Mariah Carey, Lil' Wayne, Busta Rhymes, Cam'ron, Ludacris, Mario, Nelly, Soulja Boy and Wale, Gucci was damn near inescapable this year. (Believe me, I tried.) He also followed in Lil' Wayne's footsteps and unleashed a horrible protege & clique on the world with this OJ Da Juiceman character and these Brick Squad fools. Waka Flocka Flame? Really? As I've always maintained with Gucci, he's not half terrible and does have a penchant for the catchy refrain, but will his style ever translate into good albums and a real (non-ironic) following? I'm very doubtful that will he will ever be much more than he is now, a flavor of the moment.

#5 MTV's choice: Rick Ross Bang Bang Skeet Skeet's: Kanye West
It seems appropriate to slot Kanye here, being that he hasn't dropped an honest to goodness rap album since Curtis has, but has managed to maintain a certain buzz level through producing and ripping any guest 16s that come his way. Just ask Jay-Z, Clipse, The Dream, Jamie Foxx, Rick Ross, Keri Hilson, Q-Tip or Kid Cudi. He also manages to stay in the conversation, real album or no real album. 808s & Heartbreaks, despite being not all that great, managed to scan almost 2 million copies and spawn several radio hits. The beat for "Say You Will" also made its rounds on the mixtapes, with Drake & Big Sean both blessing the track with some of their finer lyrics.

#4 MTV's choice: Kanye West Bang Bang Skeet Skeet's: Drake
Very tenatively do I place Drake here. But, getting co-signs from Eminem, Jay-Z, Lil' Wayne, Kanye West, Snoop Dogg, and everyone else who matters helps the process. It doesn't hurt that So Far Gone has several moments worthy of the hype, and even more impressively, is on track to scan at least 200,000 legitimate copies. Low numbers for an album release, yes, but for a mixtape that has been Zshared & Sharebeed to death for almost a year now, extremely impressive. As for whether the kid can rhyme, sure he can, but is he worthy of the hype bestowed upon him? Not really. All he's done is distill the qualities people like best about Eminem, Kanye West, and Lil' Wayne and streamline them for mainstream audiences. When you're taking from three of the most mainstream rappers going and still watering it down even more, that's quite an accomplishment. But, by using Eminem's willingness to go into his own self doubts, in tandem with a rhyme style/flow that goes back & forth between being a descendant of Kanye & Wayne, he will certainly be cashing large record label & Hollywood royalty checks for years to come.

#3 MTV's choice: Drake Bang Bang Skeet Skeet's: T.I.
I guess T.I. being in jail is MTV's excuse for not including him. By squeezing out Tip & Em, they made room for Raekwon & Fabolous, two guys who made the best album they possibly could this year, but are in no way hot or relevant in a national sense. Possibly Fabolous, due to his tendency to show up on at least a few R&B remixes a month. T.I. could have had a case for the top spot if not for his incarceration and subsequent failure to put out the Paper Trail reissue. Though it was released in the tail end of 2008, many of the songs played well into 2009. T.I. also kept his name hot doing guest verses for Mary J. Blige, Bobby Ray, Jamie Foxx, Ludacris, Rick Ross and Young Dro. If his last stint in the pokey was any indicator, Tip will come back with a vengenance.

#2 MTV's choice: Lil' Wayne Bang Bang Skeet Skeet's: Eminem
This entry corrects two of MTV's biggest mistakes, the overrank of Wayne and the omittance of Marshall. Not only did Em drop a quality album just a few months ago, but he has also been hard at work on a follow-up, due to drop later this year. He also took time out to give Mariah a lyrical beatdown for her depiction of him in the "Obsessed" video and gave Alchemist a classic freestyle to use for his Chemical Warfare album. With the news that Em got some Just Blaze beats in addition to his usual stash of Dre tracks for Relapse 2, anticipation is at an all time high. Not many rappers can claim fans want a whole new album from them just months after they dropped their last one.

#1 MTV's choice: Jay-Z Bang Bang Skeet Skeet's: Jay-Z
This is a slam dunk choice, given the time in which this poll is being released. Of course Jay is the hottest out right now. If this poll is done in March or even July, Jay might not even crack the top 5. With The Blueprint 3 (massive post comparing and contrasting it with OB4CL2 coming soon, almost halfway done) solidifying his place at the top of the food chain, the only question left is what next for Jay? He has been quoted as saying his next album will be an experimental effort, which is necessary, but how will he experiment? If my gut feeling is right and the album turns out to be Hov doing his best Grizzly Bear or MGMT rendition, it could be dope or it could be the worst thing rap's ever seen.

So there you have it, a fairly unbiased view of the actual hottest MCs out. You can also make an argument for Fabolous, Kid Cudi, 50 Cent, Raekwon, Cam'ron, Wale, Ghostface Killah, Lil' Boosie, Plies, or the MC of your choosing, but who do you bump? If a #11 had to be chosen, I suppose it would be 50, but that's more to do with what he's done than what he's about to do.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jody Breeze Vs. Young Jeezy?

And in this week's installment of people going at the throats of people they used to be cool with, we have Jody Breeze & Young Jeezy. Each used to be in the fairly decent Boyz N Da Hood and it could be argued that they each displayed the same level of talent on the lone album Jeezy recorded with the group. Be honest, no one remembers Duke & Gee, and at one point Breeze was one of the south's top up-and-comers right alongside of Jeezy. While The Snowman has become a household name (in Southern households and any household with teenagers), Breeze languished on Jazze Pha's vanity label, releasing several quality singles, but still with no solo to show for it.

Recently, a new Jody track surfaced. Recorded over Drake's "Uptown" instrumental, he lyrically lambastes Jeezy for a variety of offenses, but never really let the listener know exactly why he's upset. In the past few days, more than likely to synch up with the release of his new mixtape Death Of The Hoeman (hardy-har), he has actually released the timeless classic of the pointless beef that will no help no one: the 10-minute long YouTube shit-talking clip. In it, all he manages to offer for a reason for the beef is a unfriendly club encounter with Jeezy's lackeys and a time where Jeezy bad-mouthed him to Block, all stuff that seems really easily to solve if two people just addressed each other like grown men. Whats worse is that Breeze goes out of his way at the end of the clip to point out his affilation with the BMF, Big Meech in particular. I should think neither of these men would want to call any more attention to this association than necessary, especially considering Jeezy's rumored level of involvement in the day-to-day operations of BMF.

Now, instead of Jeezy possibly lending Breeze a hand with his solo career with a verse or a hook (almost certainly the real reason why Breeze has made this sudden ploy for attention), they stand opposed. I'm sure nothing much more will come of this, although Jeezy usually drops a couple subliminal shots here and there on his LPs ("You're a pocketbook boy, a Louis Vuitton fag"), he isn't much for battles, outside of his bizarre & quixiotic quest to destroy Gucci Mane, who is almost a certain lock to self-destruct Boosie-style right when his album drops.

Long story short, these types of beefs never usually end well for anybody, as only the lesser known artist stands to gain from it. Hopefully, Jeezy doesn't say anything back and this dies a peaceful death. Jody Breeze is a talented rapper who can blow up without a Jeezy beef to propel him. Instead of wasting all the time and energy to record a worthless diss song over another rapper's beat, make some original music that can get you meaningful airplay. Get together with some unknown producers and try to cook up that next sound. If that's not your steez, get together with Drumma Boy, Zaytoven, and the like. But this beef is not the anwer you're looking for.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

And Best Friends Become Strangers, Pachangas

In the wake of the revelation that the late Big Pun's wife and kids are living in a shelter, and Fat Joe's subsequent response that he secured Liza Rios hundreds of thousands of dollars thru the release of Endangered Species and even wrote her a follow-up check out of pocket, it really makes the mind wonder.

While I do feel for Pun's children, who haven't done anything wrong in all of this and are the only ones who have to suffer for their mother's foolishness, something has to be said for a mother who let at least $160,000 run through her hands, and that's by her estimate and the real number is surely at least twice that. We all know at least one person like this in real life, and trust me, by the time they are crying poverty to the world, they have likely been through the amount of money they are claiming "all went to bills" 2 or 3 times over. And from the looks of her on that video on WSHH, she clearly hasn't skipped any meals, so its hard to believe she's in any discernible financial dungeon. For her to feel like Fat Joe has some level of responsibility is valid to some extent, but clearly not the extent that she seems to believe.

Big Pun has been lionized in rap, and rightfully so, the man was one of arguably the top 10-15 MCs ever to pick up a microphone. But, in death, we seem to blow certain things in proportion in our minds. Capital Punishment sold in the neighborhood of 1.5 million copies, but this was when album budgets were absolutely ridiculous and I'm sure that Wyclef, Joe, Noreaga, Busta, and the like did not come cheap. Likewise for the all-star cast on the beats. Yeeah Baby barely went gold and due to Pun's death, did not receive all that much promotion beyond the first couple of singles. And the aforementioned Endangered Species barely made a dent at all and surely cost a fortune to make.

So, it seems inherently stupid for Mrs. Rios to believe that she should be set for life off her deceased husband having sold 2 million and something records in his lifetime. I'm sure the two of them had a quite bit of fun with the money while it lasted, and she should resign herself to reality and go get a 9 to 5. But, I'm sure some of you will say, what about all the other widows who live off their husband's musical catalog? This is where Liza Rios' selfish attitude really burned her. Instead of rushing to put out a DVD where he's pistol whipping her, she should have been ensuring that no one ever found out this ugly side of Pun. That is, since you're intending to eat and eat and eat off him for life.

Many deceased artists continue to produce cash for their next of kin in the afterlife, but this isn't with album sales money, that dries up for the most part, especially since rap albums in the '90s cost a mint to make and with the ginormous advances artists were receiving, many barely recouped on them. And with hardly anyone even buying new albums these days, its doubtful that Pun's catalog moves even 2-3K a year. Artists usually continue to make money with licensing deals, for movies, TV shows, commercials, etc. This is where it was in poor taste to release that DVD. While I'm sure Big and 'Pac had their dark sides, their mothers/wives/mistresses/side pieces have for the most part sung their praises, which has allowed to gravy train to keep rolling. By painting Pun as a vicious wife-beater on that DVD and again on E!'s special on hip-hop wives, mainstream media will never use his music for anything of consequence because of the negative connotation he has to a lot of people. The 700-pound Spanish dude who smashed his wife's face with a gun butt is a lot less appealing than say, the charismatic thug with the Napoleon complex or the less fat Brooklyn rhyme slinger with radio hits for days. Big L is probably more positively remembered by mainstream audiences at this stage than Pun is.

Let us not forget that Pun had maybe 2 or 3 legitimate crossover hits by the time he passed. And only one that any casual fan of rap will remember. Long story short, get a job, Liza Rios. Your time to cash in would have been not taking two quick checks to paint him as an abusive animal. Although I'm far from one of Fat Joe's most enthusiastic supporters, the man has a point here. After someone lets hundreds of thousands run through their hands with nothing to show for it, why would you continue to give this person money? I feel for the children here, but if their mother is this financially irresponsible, short of moving them into your own home, there is not much that can be done to help them here, as their primary caretaker is too self-absorbed to realize what she has done to them by refusing to move on from the idea that Pun's music should have been enough to ensure her a lifetime of laziness.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Sometimes The Rap Game Reminds Me Of The Crack Game

Today has seen a bit of a mini-controversy, as one of the few West Coast newcomers to achieve a somewhat national buzz, Nipsey Hussle, released his third mixtape. Instead of just coming up off a ZShare link, however, most links on the de rigeur just had an imeem playlist and a link where to legally purchase. Interesting strategy, although it seems to have backfired in some way, as links to download the mixtape were in circulation within hours. But, this whole brouhaha does raise some very intriguing questions.

How long before record companies finally stop having their artists flooding the marketplace with free material? Yes, the mixtape fusillade strategy worked for Lil' Wayne & 50 Cent, but that's because they built a massive fanbase and had even their mixtape songs circulate onto the radio. When, in Nipsey's case, the third mixtape has songs that he is intending on including on his debut album, it is understandable why an artist can feel the need to be financially compensated. Since the mixtape/illegal downloading era started, one of the most common complaints about major-label releases is the fact that the 3-4 hottest street singles/biggest top 40 songs have already been out for months beforehand. Or, that their mixtapes are simply a better listen than their album (Asher Roth, any 50 post-GRODT, Nas). Could it be that Nipsey, realizing this, simply tried to hedge his bets by making a few dollars before he was cursed with one of those inevitable fates? Or was it his management team? Another intriguing subplot in all of this.

Will this change promotional strategies leading up to album releases? Undoubtedly so. The TIs have to be taking notice to the fact that almost every big recent chart-topper, outside of The Carter III, did not have a big-name tape trotted out beforehand. Eminem, T.I., Kanye, Jay-Z, et al. have eschewed that method, and the few that still adhere to this level of promotion, such as Nas, 50 Cent, Ludacris or Jadakiss, seem relegated to the B-list.

Will new artists continue to flood the market with pre-release material? Probably not. Between Wale, Kid Cudi, Drake, and the like, none of them seem too set of allowing fans to have a full discography on them before their first official set hits stores. Cudi has only released one tape, and Drake has only released one that circulated all that far. I believe this bodes well for them as the fans that they do have will truly be anticipating their debuts. I just don't think any of them have as many as the TIs think they do. If the suburban white kid with a top 10 pop smash can't get people excited, what chance do any of these guys, outside of possibly Drake, have?

Who could possibly the next artist to try to get people to pay for a mixtape? My money is on Gucci Mane, and it won't be Gucci himself. With his buzz being as high as it could ever be, the time is now for them to capitalize, only Gucci himself doesn't seem too interested, having not even named the album yet, let alone done any discernible work on it. When he has his next inevitable skid bid, I see his label putting expensive beats on his mixtape joints, selling it as an album, and laughing all the way to the bank.

Between all of this and the recent report that Mariah Carey's next album will include a 34-page mini magazine filled with ads and product placement, it seems that record companies and artists have both begun to realize that the album sales well has run pretty dry. I have a feeling that by year's end, things will look drastically different. But, as always, true talent will begin to rise, as there will be less and less money to be had for the creatively deficient.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

No Pancakes, Just A Cup Of Syrup

With the rap scene at the moment being particularly stagnant and not having a whole lot of new material to listen to, lately its been a fun mission seeking out new artists and records and re-finding old albums and mixtapes I've enjoyed in the past. These endeavors have often led me into Gucci/OJ territory. I've attempted to avoid those two for most of their existence, save for the occasional Gucci single. When they began guesting on several A-listers' singles, either by themselves or as a duo, I slowly began to attempt to decipher them. While I have drawn a line in the sand towards OJ's ignorant drivel (thank god Cam got ahold of "Make Da Trap Say Aye" and showed his no-flowing ass how to ride the track), Gucci keeps showing glimmers of hope that he can become the rapper many already (foolishly) believe he can be. He has somehow graduated into a guest-spot assassin, usurping Lil' Wayne as the most ubiquitous Southern artist on mainstream/club records.

And as much as I don't want to admit it, he wrecked his 16s on various high-profile collabs, something Wayne never seemed to be able to do. When Wayne went on his bizarre streak of completely flubbing his slots on Graduation, American Gangster, Paper Trail, The Carnival II, every Rick Ross album to date, et al., it kept him from truly achieving top-flight status in people's minds. Meanwhile, Gucci has merked guest 16s for everyone to Black Eyed Peas to Mariah Carey to Wayne himself. However, with all the being said, he is still vastly overrated and a direct product of people being desperate for new superstars. Which in understandable, considering the rap industry hasn't minted any new megastars since Kanye West & 50 Cent. Lil' Wayne & T.I. don't count, they've been milling around down there since the '90s and were in a proper position to capitalize on the Southern boom that brought platinum plaques to everyone from Mike Jones to Chamillionaire.

Now, the race seems to be on between Gucci Mane & Drake as to who can capitalize on their otherwordly buzz the quickest. How Gucci doesn't have an official record in stores by now is mind boggling. Why bother with the whole rigamarole of putting out a ladies' single and a street single? Gucci is at his sporadically entertaining best when he is given either supreme trunk rattlers, a la Fatboi & Drumma Boy, or spacey keyboard blips provided by Zaytoven. Lock him in the studio with these guys, a few other select producers who stick to that script and none of the B-listers he normally lets run his songs into the ground. I can't guarantee a classic, but from listening to Back To The Traphouse, its evident he has real songwriting ability and can actually provide his own hooks. Allow him possibly a few guest apperances from proven 16-bar killers like Fabolous, Ludacris, or Wayne and leave Mya, Shawnna, Nicki Minaj, Waka Flocka, OJ, and all the other marginally talented sexpots and weed-carriers and have him make basically a Wilt Chamberlain tape on steroids.

This aforementioned scneario obviously will never take place, as the record label keeps hoping the Big Boi/Juelz collab will take off and probably has a Keri Hilson/Jazmine Sullivanesque collab on tap that will also flop around like a dying fish, and Gucci will be pushed back. Hopefully, I'm wrong because right now Gucci reminds me of a baseball player, someone like Dave Kingman. A lot of home runs, but a hell of a lot of strikeouts, too. Gucci needs to stop swinging for the fences every time, realize his strengths like his nemesis Jeezy, and stick to them.

As for the other kid, Drake, he's probably screwed at this point. He should have been quickly signed and had an album pushed out while "Best I Ever Had" was bubbling. Now, he will be competing against that song and most likely losing in the public eye. Look at Maino, his album didn't come out until "Hi Hater" had already been out for almost a year. Despite a well-crafted concept album and a couple of fairly decent crossover singles, his album was released to little to no fanfare. The longer they wait, the more the initial buzz dies down. We will just have to wait and see what happens when Thank Me Later drops.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Evidence Of Absence

In lieu of crowning the "official" summer jam of 2009, as most sites or blogs are known to do by mid-July, a whole bunch of random thoughts instead. And yes, it is because there is no real contender for jam of the summer, if only because Birthday Sex, Best I Ever Had, and Every Girl have all been out since Timbs & North Face weather.....and we're off:

How does an absolute no-talent like Ace Hood get a second album out already if we're all agreeing that his association with Khaled has nothing to do with it? I've sat down and given each of his albums an honest listen and the same thing happened each time, I was left with a collection of solid beats, occasionally great guest appearances (Jazmine Sullivan on "Champion", T-Pain on "Cash Flow"), and no real idea of who Ace Hood actually is. He can flow his ass off, for sure, but on closer inspection his lyrics have no real meaning. He's basically a homeless Southern man's version of Game, at this point, and we'll get to him in a minute.

With Forever King/War Angel mirroring the buzz for Return Of The Body Snatchers/Sabrina's Baby Boy, people seem to be very quick to proclaim the supposed greatness of Before I Self Destruct. Curtis only had a handful of moments where 50 even approached his past heights, and I fail to see how it will be different this go-round. I'd much rather hear Relapse 2 at this stage. I predict 50 rolling out yet another single for the ladies that fizzles around like a damp firecracker, followed by a ridiculous publicity stunt in the weeks leading up to BISD's release.

Memo to The Game: Jay-Z said he ain't talking about you, what about that could your mentally unstable ass possibly interpret as a diss? And then to swagger jack Max B for your C-grade diss? The Game has truly reached the point where nothing he does can shock me anymore.

Loso's Way was shockingly competent. Fabolous actually remembered to make songs men could enjoy. Pachanga & Lullaby are easily two of the better album tracks Mr. Jackson has ever managed to make. The irony is that this album will barely fare better in the marketplace than Maino's did. A shame, really, because Maino's album was a pleasant surprise and the same goes for Fab.

It is a crying shame about Max B. Granted, most of his 16s were indecipherable gibberish and his hooks were sung about as off-key as possible, but he brought a certain joie de vivre that New York rap has been missing since their evident refusal to listen to anyone who dropped their first album after Biggie died.

And on that note, I'm out 3 solid albums for your listening pleasure: Mos Def-The Ecstatic, Currensy-This Ain't No Mixtape, Twista-Category F5

Monday, July 13, 2009

It's Called Child Support, Not Baby Mama Support

It's time for one of those random thoughts about this and that posts, starting with the revelation that Nas only sees fit to give Kelis $5,000 a month for child support during their divorce proceedings. 60K a year may not be enough in the land where bossy milkshakes get caught out there bringing all the boys to the yard, but in real life, this is more than adequate. I'm not usually one to comment on gossip on this blog, after a long while of hearing these outlandish child support cases levied towards ball players and athletes, enough is enough. This comes on the heels of the truly ridiculous T.I. case, where that wonderful woman claimed she needed over 10K a month, being that it truly wasn't fair that T.I. had a nicer house than she did. Ladies, its called gainful employment, try it. Spreading your legs in hopes that the next chart-topping rapper or NBA lottery pick just so happens to forget to wrap it up and you can use the resulting bundle of joy as a defacto lottery ticket won't cut it, and judges need to stop rewarding these women with such generous settlements. The last time I checked, Pampers and Similac were not all that expensive. In a country where families live on 30K, awarding unemployed sperm recepticles with 3 or 4 times that for managing to get a more talented person to knock them up seems remiss, but maybe that's just me.

And now I'm back off my soapbox........

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

As The Dust Settles

A few weeks have gone by since the onslaught of new albums from Eminem, Cam'ron, Meth/Red, Busta, Quik/Kurupt, DJ Drama, etc. We've seen album-quality mixtapes from The Cool Kids, Young Jeezy, and 50 Cent (War Angel is the first time I've heard 50 spit like he gave a damn in at least a year). All of which has left the rap game in a very interesting position. Eminem has reaffirmed his position, dropping the mostly excellent Relapse. Cam'ron dropped an album much better than Jim Jones', and nobody cared. Which is a shame, Crime Pays reminds me of most Cam'ron albums, and they usually improve upon further listening. When I first skimmed through it, nothing much grabbed me. Now, I can almost make it through the entire disc with only a handful of skips. Plus, you have to appreciate anyone who can reference Coming To America, Guy Fisher, and Boyz N The Hood and still have it come off sounding fresh.

None of the new albums were particular standouts, although I will say that Method sounded like he cared on most of Blackout 2, and same goes for Quik on their collabo. Kurupt and Redman must have found the same strain of weed that Method did after Tical dropped, because they both seemed like they were phoning it in big-time on major portions of the twin Bla(qk)outs. Quik/Kurupt could have been much better, had Kurupt even shown up and Quik had spent a little less time perusing his world music collection.

Busta's album was an atrocity, especially coming off the underrated Big Bang. Busta needs to stop chasing trends and realize that he's a leader in the game. 20 years deep and doing multiple Ron Browz collabs is not a good look. Neither is doing joints with Estelle that seem to be trying to be Flo Rida. Blessed was obviously the album that needed to come out, as just about all of the leaked music sounded proper and Busta has a discography of solid top-to-bottom albums.

All of this is why the coming months are crucial. After the TIs dropped a succession of albums that must have seemed like surefire winners and seeing numbers no different from Asher Roth's, it seems they are finally ready to usher in a new generation, with releases from Wale, Kid Cudi, The Cool Kids and Maino on the horizon. Gucci Mane and Drake seem to have grabbed everyone's attention, with Gucci preparing to drop this summer and Drake being engaged in a bidding war that has supposedly reached $2 million.

Further clearing the way for fresh faces is Lil' Wayne's failure to prove to the TIs that its a good idea for him to drop a rock album. Spoiler alert: it isn't. Why Lil' Wayne, someone who has to have unreleased tracks for eons doesn't go the Plies route and just relentlessly release rap albums every 6-8 months is a head scrather. He could mine this unlikely time period that has allowed him to take the Best Rapper crown with the mainstream/pop crowd and get as much as he can while he can. Then, when mainstream rap inevitably picks its next "Best Rapper", you go ahead and drop your rock album, similar to how pop music stars drop country albums when their time in the spotlight is over. There has to be an audience for a hip-hop Darius Rucker, especially in the south, where anything seems to go.

And before people below the Mason/Dixon take offense, I want you to tell me why OJ Da Juiceman is getting such love down there. Several honest attempts to listen to him have left me befuddled as to how he's getting magazine covers and collab calls from R. Kelly & Jadakiss. Its no wonder why Jadakiss is now pushing a Who's Real Remix with all of the old Ruff Ryders, even DMX. OJ only seems to have one flow, as there is no difference in how he raps from one track to another. He raps in a mushmouthed nonsyllabic flow which makes it hard for anyone to understand anything coming out of his mouth.

While I do understand that some rappers have limited subject matter, he literally sticks to the same exact subjects every song (gettin' money, trap this, bricks that). It almost feels like a sick joke that the TIs are playing to see how low the mainstream consumer is willing to go. Gucci isn't very much far higher up on that same ladder, but he at least is pretending (let's not kid ourselves, the man is a son of teachers and college educated) to be as buffoonish as he is. OJ seems to be a part of a joke that he isn't even in on.

While I don't particularly hate Gucci Mane, part of me doesn't want him to succeed in any kind of big way. Gucci himself is okay in limited doses and has a knack for catchy refrains and good guest 16s that should serve him well. But, didn't we play this game already two years ago with Back To The Traphouse? He had done some time, been through the whole Jeezy kerfluffle and was supposedly a street legend in Atlanta. He got The Game, Ludacris, Pimp C, Rich Boy, Shawnna, and Lil' Kim all on the next album and still nobody cared. I don't see what makes anyone think it would be any different this time. And my personal reason for not wanting me to see him blow is because that means we would be subjected to even more OJ. Hopefully, Yo Gotti can come in and steal some of this GoochJuuman hype and propel himself to national stardom.

This brings us to Drake, Wale, Kid Cudi, etc. With Jay-Z, Kanye West, 50 Cent, and Eminem looming in the fall (If you think Dr. Dre drops before he sees what Relapse 2 and Before I Self Destruct do critically and commercially, you're an idiot), it seems like now would be a good time as any to launch a successful new career. For all these labels know, Best I Ever Had and Day N Nite could be the biggest hits these guys ever have. These labels need to strike while the iron is hot and get albums out for these guys. After all, these last few years have taught us that the rap audience has an extremely short attention span.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dawn Of A New Era?

According to hitsdailydouble, we finally have the answers to two of hip-hop biggest current questions: Would the record-buying public continue to support Rick Ross, even after exposure after exposure and his own attempts at self-sabotage and would people actually support Asher Roth, the first of the XXL Freshman 10/Internet All-Stars to have a physical copy of his album in stores? The answer to the first question is kinda, and to the second, yeah.

While Ross still was able to drop and do his usual numbers, that's not a great sign, considering that Bawse pulled every stunt known to man to get people to cop this album. Between the idiotic 50 Cent beef, his weekly self-etherings on Worldstar, his countless unintentionally comedic quotables, actually admitting to his CO past, the big budget beats & guests, for him to come out and not have actually succeeded in garnering any new fans isn't a good sign for him or gangsta rap as a whole. This is not any fault of Ross', not musically, at least. Deeper Than Rap is 2009's answer to The Documentary, an album with the best beats money can buy and as many guests as you can cram on a record. While Ross clearly has been learning to ride a track much better and is no longer simply talking over the beat, he's not saying much that makes any sense. With all the name dropping, R&B hooks, references that didn't quite hit the mark, and 50 Cent bashing, it even felt just like a Game album. And he somehow managed to omit the one song that was supposed to be on that album that I was feeling the most, Cigar Music. And he let Avery Storm ruin Rich Off Cocaine by having him croon that ridiculous refrain for which the song is named. But, having the finest beats can only carry you so far. The album did not need Ne-Yo, T-Pain, The Dream, Robin Thicke, John Legend, and any of the other R&B singers I neglected to mention. The album did not need Foxy Brown (I remember when she actually could rhyme), Trina, Gunplay, Lil' Wayne in full-on "I could care less" mode or any other of the terrible guest rappers I neglected to mention.

By comparison, Roth's more mellow, honest affair with less hoopla and big name guests must have seemed appealing to a lot of consumers. He doesn't pile on huge names, with only Keri Hilson, Cee-Lo, Busta Rhymes, and Jazze Pha helping out. It's primarily produced by his own in-house producer, whose name escapes me. Instead of farcical fairy tales, he's mostly spitting about real life experiences. However, the right intentions does not a classic album make.
While I did enjoy a handful of tracks off Roth's debut LP, with Lark On My Go-Kart, As I Em, Be By Myself, Lion's Roar, and Fallin' being quality work. I found myself enjoying his Greenhouse Effect mixtape far more, though. This is not because the album is trash or not enjoyable in its own right, but because without the constraints of major-label record making, it allowed the listener to get a much better feel for the type of rapper Asher is. The merits of Ross/Roth aside, this signals a new direction in rap. Perhaps major labels will stop bankrolling compilation albums of rappers like Ross, Game, etc. with all the $100,000 beats and A-listers on every other track, and start letting rappers with a new vision get their shot. Considering how monkey see, monkey do the labels are, it stands to reason that at least Kid Cudi, Drake, or maybe even Wale might drop something soon. I'd evcn settle for B.O.B. or Blu at this point.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Curious Case Of Ron Browz

As most everybody has seen themselves pushed back into some kind of 2009 TBD limbo, and the scene has gone more and more stagnant, it only seems right to commentate about the bizarre rise of Ron Browz. What makes his ascension even more puzzling is that the music he's currently dominating radio playlists with is the antithesis of the hard-rock '90s NYC rap he produced for most of his career. The man was extremely influential to the careers of many of the greats, from Nas to Big L. Now "Pop Champagne" & "Arab Money" are no "Ether" or "Ebonics", but they are moderately listenable in their own right.

But, as with everything in hip-hop that is moderately listenable, it is now being cloned for everyone with a few extra dollars. Fat Joe, Capone-N-Noreaga, even Cardan are all now dropping Ron Browz joints, complete with his off-key AutoTune wailing. To clown him for not being as good at using the plug-in as T-Pain is almost besides the point. New York's resentment towards the south has now reached the point where almost all of their artists have adopted stylistic trends from the region, without regard for hypocrisy. Fat Joe probably has more songs with Wayne than Pun at this point.

Every other region of the country constantly has new and bubbling talent about to come to the forefront, but NYC seems to want to cling to all of their stars of yesterday, while endlessly hating anyone coming up, by either comparing them to Hova or B.I.G. You would be hard-pressed to find more than just a handful of spitters from 718 you would want to listen to a full album of. Maino can't even drop an album after dropping the minor national hit "Hi Hater". Saigon's Just Blaze produced debut can't find a home. Papoose has the feeling of someone who has realized his chance to blow up has come and gone, his latest single was a poor attempt to recapture Cash Money's old formula of ending every rhyme with the same phrase, a sad departure for a man that made his name spewing 10 dollar words all over tracks. Jim Jones can't possibly drop another album worthy of the hype. Max B can't drop an album because it's not worth anyone's money to pay Jim Jones the millions he'll demand for his rights. Uncle Murda stands no chance of ever dropping an album. G-Unit seems to have hit that wall where they could drop the next "All About The Benjamins" and no one would listen or care.

Which is a shame, they still drop decent joints, with Banks' new mixtape series and 50's new album sounding much better than Curtis or The Massacre. All of this makes me think that the rap game in NY would be better served if Browz would spread some of his dirty south by way of Harlem joints around to some newcomers who could use the break. Busta Rhymes, Capone-N-Noreaga, Fat Joe, and even Jim Jones have all made valuable contributions to the world of hip-hop. But Busta & Jim still don't even have release dates, and CNN & Fat Joe won't make themselves any new friends with "Rotate" or "Winding On Me".

"Winding On Me" is truly a waste, as it has Browz' least annoying hook, a much more fully rounded beat than most of his new productions, and a 16 from Wayne that's one of the few I've heard him do in months that wasn't AutoTuned, sang, or half-assed. These songs, for whatever they are or aren't, would have been better served going into the hands of the up and comers, kids that would have been benefitted from the controversies of "Arab Money" or the Top 10 potential of "Winding On Me". For obvious business reasons, it was in Browz' best interests to pawn off his new brainchild on all of the old-guard rappers in NYC. Now that he's become a hot name, for better or worse, it would be a good thing to see some new kids get in on the trend, and possibly build a career out of it. Look at people like Plies, Rick Ross, etc. All they do is make halfway decent albums with a few trendy club joints. In 2009, I'd like to see NYC stop acting so cool, support their artists and let somebody new blow up. I'm as big a fan of Jay-Z, Notorious B.I.G., Nas, Mobb Deep, CNN, Joe, etc. as much as anyone, but how much do these artists have left to tell us? Just some food for thought.