Thursday, November 30, 2006

You’re now about to witness the power of dickriding a legend.

When he isn’t playing the role of a deranged Blood, The Game always seems to find a way to sneak mentions of Dr. Dre past our ears. He did it on his debut The Documentary and we just thought he was overly ecstatic to be rapping. But now it’s as if Dre gave him the winning Powerball lottery numbers, took a bullet for him and holds an umbrella over his head on some Fonzworth Bentley tip. No one should owe anyone else this much love, but here’s an approximate count of references to the good doc on this new album The Doctor’s Advocate. I broke out the good old pen and tally marks, and listened as close as I could.

Chronic (Dre is responsible for the term being in everyone’s lexicon) – 23 mentions
(the good) Doc, (Dr.) Dre or D-R-E – 39 mentions
Aftermath – 11 mentions
Detox – 2 mentions
Fuck Tha Police – 1 mention
Gin & Juice – 2 mentions
Let Me Ride – 1 mention
Nothin But A G Thang – 1 mention

That's roughly 80 things he says related to Dr Dre, he also mentions Snoop, impalas and NWA members a bunch of times.

So Dre didn’t produce any of this album, but his ghost producers and biters did, what’s the difference? Some of this sounds like vintage Dre (“Lookin At You”, “The Shit”, “Strip Club”, “One Night”). He even goes as far as crying to Dre on the title track, which has to be the most awkward rap song in history.

He’s done this same routine now for two albums in a row, but he’s still moving units. I for one am hoping he’s in Dre’s will, otherwise there’s no legitimate reason for this jilted lover routine. Dre might need to take out an order of protection.

Side Notes:
1)He’s on the verge of receiving the 2006 annual Smarten Up Nas award, with lines like “(She like) Black Air Ones, bangin The Black Album track number one” – Track one was an intro

2)The Oprah/Hurricane Katrina/floating away on the roof of a Camry joke became funny after the third time hearing it, because you’re over the shock and have settled for how helplessly ignorant it is. The whole “Wouldn’t Get Far” track renders him completely insane though

3)“Compton” is probably my song of the year.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

They Got A Right To Be Hostile Part 2

Continuing where I left off, discussing great acts who are getting the shaft from their recording homes.

Artist: The Roots
Label: Def Jam
Releasing Albums Since: 1994
Their Case: Whether or not you’ve heard an album from The Roots, you know one thing: Their live show has no peer. They switch up sounds with each new release, and have established a reputation for killing most of their competition with their production plus Black Thought is pretty nasty on the mic. The Roots have pretty much set the mold for ‘the good music isn’t promoted’ vs. ‘this is what people want to hear’ argument. Some idiotic executives just don’t believe that a Hip-Hop band can sell albums, thus they’re forced to tour at least 2/3 of every year. ?uestlove has said that they record albums so that they can perform new material and tour so that people know there’s a new LP in stores. The good thing is that in one night they take in more than a lot of peoples’ salaries, 200+ nights a year. So they aren’t hurting even though they can’t seem to get a break with good promotion.

Artist: Ghostface Killah
Label: Def Jam
Releasing Albums Since: 1996
His Case: Pretty Tony may be the greatest story of the last decade or the saddest. He’s come from the monstrous Wu-Tang unit into his own, quietly has the group’s best solo catalogue and never sells records in line with his talent. He’s a great storyteller with imagery plus comedy, battle raps, insane slang and boundless creativity are at his disposal. Ghost can make a good mainstream record, yet he sounds out of place when he goes too far to the right. On paper he has 2007’s album of the year, with Swift and Changeable being his upcoming collab with the equally amazing MF Doom. He could retire today a legend with gems like “Get up in that bitch face and tell her ‘Ghost said take your clothes off’” and rhyming over a Delfonics song without sampling it. Here’s to hoping he doesn’t get fed up and just hang it up soon, because no one wants to be rapping for nothing. Maybe his paper is straight through GZA’s bond analysis tips though.

Artist: Rhymefest
Label: J Records
Releasing Albums Since: 2006
His Case: He won a Grammy for co-writing Jesus Walks before his album came out, and Kanye is his pal. This should have been a surefire plan for marketing success, unfortunately J Records is tax write-off paradise with Alicia Keys being their only hitmaker at the moment. Blue Collar is a sleeper, no thanks to the somewhat lackluster single “Brand New”. Just Blaze and No I.D. gave him bangers, he makes great songs for the layman and still manages to have a good time with his music. But with hardly anyone knowing the album existed, he was pretty much doomed. He’s overcompensated by putting on a hell of a live show, but that still doesn’t make up for his label’s failures.

Artist: Little Brother
Label: Atlantic/ABB
Releasing Albums Since: 2003
Their Case: They went from internet wunderkinds with a classic debut in The Listening and horrid distribution at the hands of ABB, to the limelight and Atlantic Records wound up dropping the ball with The Minstrel Show. Supposedly BET said the group was too intelligent for their video to get played with a song about enjoying their careers; so like The Roots and Rhymefest, Little Brother has to amaze those who have slept by tearing it down on the stage. For a few weeks earlier this year Phonte was the talk of the town over at, as he was taken to task for preaching to the choir about corporate interests responsible for programming what people wind up loving. Add to this a scorching DJ Drama mixtape and LB has a serious underground buzz, as they’ve dedicated themselves to bringing music with fierce lyricism and feeling back to the mainstream. Earlier this year a group of females asked me what was hot that I would recommend, I played Tanya Morgan’s Moonlighting (find it if you haven’t). and the immediate knee-jerk response was “They sound like Little Brother”. My point is at the very least people know the name, and hopefully with their upcoming effort Get Back Atlantic will do right so that more know the music.

P.S. Yes, 3 of the acts I talked about are on Def Jam. Dont blame Hov, he's not a businessman he's a business, man.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

They Got A Right To Be Hostile Part 1

(Great Acts Who Have Legitimate Gripes With Their Record Labels)

Assuming you don’t live in a cave and in fact have the slightest inkling of what 2006’s Hip-Hop scene is like, you see what kind of music is getting the most push. Misogynistic, violent, oversexed materialism has pervaded our airwaves without an alternative. Some of it actually sounds good and can be excused for the sake of a guilty pleasure or a cheap thrill, but most of the music is garbage. You can argue that these topics have been prevalent since the days of 2 Live Crew, Too Short and NWA but positive messages also got more exposure back then. The fact remains that most listeners only bump what they’re programmed to check for, and most of the mainstream programming is low grade whether it’s musically, topically or both. There’s little to no heart left in the game, with 80% of acts ready to sell their soul for a chance to eat (Hello David Banner and Fat Joe). So what happens when the artist sticks to their guns or even worse makes “commercial” music with integrity and still doesn’t get a fair shake? Let’s examine a few who’ve given their blood, sweat and tears, and wouldn’t be in the wrong to drop a Frigidaire from the sky at this point.

(Note: I didn’t factor in Lupe Fiasco because a little while back I broke down his lack of marketability, strong music aside)

Artist: Joe Budden
Label: Def Jam
Releasing Albums Since: 2003
His Case: His self-titled debut was ambitious as they come, Just Blaze did the lead single which was a smash and it seemed like he was set. With a strong street single called “Focus” and a line in your commercial record that went “The game is bad player, aint it bad player?/Don’t worry Joey’ll bring it back player”, the world was his. I remember this VH1 special which Q-Tip narrated, that had a scene where he was on the phone with Kevin Liles. The bossman asked Joe “Are you ready for this Tuesday?” He replied something to the effect of “I’ve been ready for this Tuesday since I was 10 years old”. It was by no fault of his own that he flopped, Def Jam pretty much dropped the ball. The album was too street, too serious without many of the party records that the label was used to putting out. He’s murdered the mixtape scene, got the respect of many for exposing all of his demons on record, made G-Unit look like the buffoons that they became after blowing up, yet he still doesn’t have a release date set for his much anticipated sophomore release “The Growth”. When I met him a little over 3 years ago I said “Fuck what the numbers say, you’re the best new rapper of 2003” (yes I was referring to 50 who eclipsed the whole industry that year), and he said May 2004 his new album would be out. Party and bullshit just isn’t his lane and perhaps that is what’s holding him back. The only good I see in this is if he continues channeling his frustration through song, the fans will have plenty more to be amazed by as he’s officially become the streets’ favorite underdog.

Artist: The Clipse
Label: Jive
Releasing Albums Since: 2002
Their Case: They dare to boldly go where few have (Camron, T.I., Jay-Z and a short list of others) rapping lyric-driven witticisms about drug dealing. It’s hard to continually top yourself with fresh ways to say “I deal cocaine to make my living”, but Pusha T and Malice are hell bent on trying to make this art inexhaustible. Let me stop and tell a true story: A few years back a group of my college buddies who rap for fun were hanging out watching wrestling, Dwayne Johnson was coming down the aisle and his fans were going wild. One of the rapping viewers in the room immediately spouted out “I’m like the WWE, I keep people screaming for the rock” and it was a remarkable moment in time. What The Clipse do is that to the nth degree, using complicated rhyme structures, great flow, strong vocabulary and brilliant metaphors to describe pushing blow. Anyone worth their weight in Hip-Hop was utterly captivated this past year by We Got It For Cheap Volumes 1&2. For example:

Vicious with the verse, Im as genius as Rae/you niggas seein nothing on the Zenith like Rae/black hands, white keys, I seen this I’m Ray/got more white in the hood than the KKK/the grand wizard of that almighty blizzard/(then he said some line about his drugs coming scissored)

Their debut “Lord Willin” was critically and commercially successful, which should have made them an easy shoe-in to have a strong buzz for a follow up. Unfortunately, this is Hip-Hop we’re talking about and with them getting lost in a Jive merger, Neighborhood Push let it be known that them crackers didn’t play fair. Jive has pretty much abandoned Hip-Hop altogether in favor of pushing pop acts like Britney Spears and N’Sync. The label cockteased salivating fans, dangling the carrot known as “Hell Hath No Fury” for the longest, and while it’s finally set to drop this Tuesday most of their buzz has been squashed by one Shawn Carter’s return. The sad irony here is they rap all of the same ignorance that sells, and they do it over great beats yet people are moving units while coming weak with what the Thornton brothers have pretty much perfected.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Dear Puerto Ricans: Big Pun is not the G.O.A.T

I know Big Pun meant a lot to his people, but let’s be serious here. I didn’t think much of it when Fat Joe went on and on calling him the greatest rapper of all time, I let the bias slide because that was his mans and them. But Pitbull just wrote a review over at AllHipHop (my part-time unpaid stomping grounds) proclaiming Capital Punishment to be stronger than it is by leaps and bounds. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a classic but it isn’t terribly hard to make a great album: Flow well, put a decent amount of thought into the bars you write and don’t settle for beats you wouldn’t want to hear anyone else rock over (Ghost does it all the time, Hov had a knack for it up until Kingdom Come but I’ll digress.)

You’re not the greatest to ever do something because you died prematurely. Unfortunate things happen to talented people and they’re remembered for what they did while they were here. But there’s this unwritten rule that adds future potential at the time of death when we examine one’s greatness. My understanding is that “100%” (the joint with the salsa sample) made Puerto Ricans feel great to have their music represented in hip-hop, which elevated him in their eyes even more than the street audience did with Capital Punishment. I just remembered the “Boricua, Morena” chant from Still Not A Player. That still doesn’t make him the best rapper who’s ever spit a verse.

Yes he was lyrically proficient, yes he could flow (although rumors say he used to punch vocals - that’s to stop and come back), yes he had an array of topics and was witty. But what separated him from say Pharaoh Monch or a plethora of other great MCs? Pun was very talented but he departed this earth with a classic debut and a sophomore release that fell short of the mark.

I’d settle for calling him the greatest Puerto Rican to do it up until his time of death in 2000. After all who knows what Ray Benzino Jr. might be capable of in 15 years?

(I would make similar points using Brooklyn and B.I.G., but who really needs that kind of beef?)

Thursday, November 23, 2006

15 years later, Dres hasnt lost a step

Trust me, you need this album. He still has great lyrics, flows and his beats are strong

(primarily done by Bean One -

Be Careful (Cuidado)

Shorty -

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Jay-Z has 103 classic songs to Nas' 64

Perhaps this will quiet down some of the incessant debate. I dont quite care whether you agree with my choices. I've always preferred Jay out of the two, but I gave Nas his credit where I felt it was due. I only included their solo albums, no soundtrack songs, guest appearances or anything that wasnt on an album of theirs.

Classic Nas Songs

N.Y. State of Mind
Life's a Bitch
The World is Yours
Memory Lane (Sittin' in Da Park)
One Love
It Ain't Hard to Tell

It Was Written
The Message
Street Dreams
I Gave You Power
Watch Dem Niggas
Take it in Blood
Nas is Coming
The Set Up
Black Girl Lost
If I Ruled the World
Silent Murder

I Am
N.Y. State of Mind Part II
Hate Me Now
Small World
Nas is Like
Undying Love

Project Windows
Come Get Me
New World

Stillmatic (The Intro)
Ether (Note: It's only a classic in the sense that it was the answer record and a few misguided souls think he actually won, so I included it)
Got Ur Self A..
You're Da Man
One Mic
2nd Childhood
Destroy & Rebuild
The Flyest
What Goes Around

The Lost Tapes
Doo Rags
U Gotta Love It
No Idea's Original
Blaze a 50
Everybody's Crazy
Drunk by Myself
Black Zombie
Poppa Was a Player

God's Son
Get Down
The Cross
Made You Look
I Can
Book of Rhymes
Revolutionary Warfare

Street's Disciple (Disc One)
Nazareth Savage
American Way
These are Our Heroes
Just a Moment

Street's Disciple (Disc Two)
Street's Disciple
Me & You (Dedicated to Destiny) (Note: He sings the whole song if I remember correct, but the beat banged)
Thief's Theme

Where Yall At (released earlier this year)

That's approximately 64

Classic Jay-Z songs

Reasonable Doubt
Can't Knock the Hustle
Politics as Usual
Brooklyn's Finest
Dead Presidents II
Feelin' It
22 Two's
Can I Live
Ain't No Nigga
Friend or Foe
Coming of Age
Cashmere Thoughts
Bring it On (Note: A lot of people dont like this song and I dont have a clue why)

In My Lifetime Vol. 1
A Million and 1 Questions
Imaginary Player
Streets is Watching
Friend or Foe '98
Lucky Me
Who You Wit II
Face Off
Real Niggaz
Where I'm From

Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life
Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem)
Ride or Die
Nigga What, Nigga Who
Money, Cash, Hoes
A Week Ago
Coming of Age (Da Sequel)
Can I Get a...
Reservoir Dogs
It's Like That
It's Alright

Vol. 3... Life and Times of S. Carter
Hova Song (Intro)
So Ghetto
Do it Again
Dope Man
It's Hot (Some Like it Hot)
Snoopy Track
Watch Me
Big Pimpin'
There's Been a Murder
Come and Get Me
Hova Song (Outro)

Dynasty Roc La Familia
Change the Game
I Just Wanna Love U
Streets is Talking
This Can't Be Life
Stick 2 the Script
You, Me, Him and Her
Parking Lot Pimpin'
Squeeze 1st
Where Have You Been

The Blueprint
The Ruler's Back
Izzo (H.O.V.A.)
Girls, Girls, Girls
Jigga That Nigga (Note: A lot of people dont like this song, but the crowd reaction when he performs it live says I cant be wrong)
U Don't Know
Hola' Hovito
Heart of the City (Ain't No Love)
Never Change
Song Cry
All I Need
Blueprint (Momma Loves Me)
Breathe Easy (Lyrical Exercise)
Girls, Girls, Girls (Remix)

MTV Unplugged
People Talkin'

The Blueprint 2: (Disc One)
Hovi Baby
Excuse Me Miss
All Around the World
Fuck All Nite
The Bounce
I Did it My Way

The Blueprint 2: (Disc Two)
Diamond is Forever
Guns & Roses
Meet the Parents
Some People Hate
Blueprint 2
Nigga Please
A Ballad for the Fallen Soldier
Show You How
Bitches & Sisters
What They Gonna Do Part II

The Black Album (Note: I almost included "Moment of Clarity", but I didnt want to upset anyone)
December 4th
What More Can I Say
Dirt Off Your Shoulder
99 Problems
Public Service Announcement (Interlude)
My 1st Song

Kingdom Come
---------------(Note: I've played the album all of three times and it's still not out yet, but here are songs that I feel will stand the test of time)

The Prelude
Oh My God
Lost Ones
Do You Wanna Ride
Dig A Hole

That's roughly 103.

The N (Hip-Hop Is Dead) could be classic all throughout and Nas' catalogue wont be up to par. There really isnt much left to debate, his fans can cop pleas and say Jay released more material therefore he should have more heat. To which I reply, with a 2 year headstart on Reasonable Doubt, why hasnt Nas been equally on his grind all of these years?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Is Lupe Fiasco just not cool enough for hip-hop?

Disclaimer: This blog entry is NOT dissing Lupe Fiasco, read that again if you have to. It’s just examining why he came out and flopped regardless of a huge buzz and good music to back it up.

Let’s face it: This world is dictated by what’s cool. Some of us are cool without trying hard, some of us dedicate our lives to it (“Son I just copped the limited edition 1988 James Worthy Dunks”), and those who aren’t cool secretly hope to make it there one day or live in some fantasy world where they are (the goth crowd for example, outcasts to society but cool in their own world.) Off the top of my head the only two hip-hop artists I can think of who don’t care whether they come off as cool or not are MC Paul Barman (a personal favourite of mine) and Sage Francis (who sucks). MF Doom doesn’t care about getting mainstream rotation but he cares about whether his audience thinks he’s cool, if you get my drift. El-P cares that his label puts out music that the backpackers consider cool. Pretty much anyone not trying to be cool probably won’t ever get any attention whatsoever.

Lupe Fiasco’s “Food & Liquor” seemingly had a heavy buzz due to “Kick Push”, but it came out and did dismal numbers. I bought the album, the beats bang and the lyrics are on point. Why did he flop? I’ll try to examine this without blaming the dreaded “lack of support from the label”

Here’s a formula I’ve worked out (hopefully the days of making “girl” records are out the door, so I won’t include that audience in the equation)

If the internet loves you (Tanya Morgan, MF Doom, Little Brother, Ghostface, Got it For Cheap Vol. 1 & 2) you’re lucky to have an audience of 50,000 tastemakers who might put other people on to what’s new and good. I’m one of those trusted 50,000.

If the hood loves you, there’s a shot at you going gold (Mobb Deep circa Loud, Wu-Tang circa ’93-97, M.O.P., Camron circa Rocafella, “Grindin” by The Clipse)

If white people love you, you’re on your way to multi-platinum – when I say white people I don’t mean backpacker white kids (who will pretty much go to any show and support that mythological “real shit”) I mean the MTV TRL audience. “Hey Ya” didn’t take Speakerboxxx/The Love Below to 5 million sold because Funkmaster Flex was dropping bombs on it.

The more of those fan bases you get to love your music, that’s how many more units you might move (Game sold 5 million with his debut, 50 Cent went diamond his first time out, Jay-Z is a glob al superstar)

Bringing all of that back to Lupe’s potential audience:
The internet – They love him, his mixtapes got heavy burn. He’s all the rage this year on hip-hop message boards looking for a good lyrical alternative to the trap, flossing, gun busting and hoe pimping.

The hood – Most of the hood is trapped in their ghetto world (shoutout to Janus) and isn’t trying to hear much outside of what they understand. Kanye has the world in the palm of his hand, but a cameo on “Touch The Sky” just wasn’t enough. The beat for “Kick Push” was undeniable, but the topic material is stories about skaters. If Jay-Z had that beat it would have been a monster. “Daydreamin” was way too left field for the ghetto, and while in a club last month “I Gotcha” came on and I had to remark how it was too lyrical for that setting. That’s a hat trick of isolating this audience. A bad ass woman recently sang “If your status aint hood, I aint checkin for you”, get with the program. I understand Lupe wants to educate and bring substance, but he needs to pull a Lauryn and add a figurative ‘motherfucker’ so the ignant niggas hear him.

White people – You kind of have to monkey it up for them to love you. Again I’m not talking about white kids who love Boot Camp Clik and the GZA. I mean the ones who loved “Big Pimpin” because the accompanying visual had Dame Dash pouring champagne on bikini clad hotties. The ones who dance like strippers when Ludacris’ “Money Maker” comes on (I witnessed this first hand). Hell, go on Youtube right now and search for any hip-hop song that’s considered hot right now. I 99.9% guarantee there’s this type of Caucasian that I’m explaining, on a homemade video making a shammockery of that song in the name of fun. You can’t have ‘wild and crazy white people fun’ to “Kick Push”, you just nod your head to the beat and feel it.

Skaters – They tend to be so self-absorbed and quasi-revolutionary that they don’t care enough to buy albums, even if there’s a song celebrating their culture.

In Sum: In 2006 if you’re not niggerish enough to reach the ghetto and white people don’t see the appeal (where’s your catchy hook and cool dance?), it’s looking slim for you. Punchlines that people have to think 10 seconds about? Look at where that got Ras Kass. Name dropping designer clothing that the average person hasn’t heard of won’t cut it unless you’re about to drop an album called Kingdom Come. Trying to enlighten people drove Mos Def & Talib Kweli away from being considered “conscious” and has damn near driven David Banner out of his mind. All in all I support Lupe Fiasco because he can rap, his production team is incredible and with his debut he made a sincere effort at reaching people’s minds. I just wonder what kind of market there is for him.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Four reasons I'm not concerned (and you shouldnt be) about Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2 disappointing

There's no such thing as a weak Aftermath debut.

(Dre's compilation from like fall 97 doesnt count, neither does Eminem's debut because the Aftermath brand wasnt really popping until Chronic 2001.)