Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Craig G & Marley Marl - Operation Take Back Hip-Hop (Review)

Longevity and respect are key attributes for anyone aspiring to cement a legendary place in Hip-Hop’s annals. While trends continue to come and go as the culture has become driven more by image than music, there have only been a select few (Masta Ace, Ghostface, arguably Redman etc.) who started in the “golden” era and wound up maintaining artistic relevancy throughout the years. Two decades after making an indelible mark in the game and scoring numerous accolades, Juice Crew veterans Craig G & Marley Marl have set out to drop science once more with the quite self-explanatory Operation Take Back Hip-Hop.

Craig G is to be commended as a Hip-Hop vigilante of sorts with a creative execution that extends further than strictly making music about rapping, addressing various scourges that have plagued the music industry (record labels, the internet, the radio) on “Quality Work” and impressively painting a picture of cultural armageddon with “The Day The Music Died”. Song concepts are a strong suit of this project, as Craig runs down how far he’s come from petty street crime on the autobiographical lead single “Made The Change”, serves a heartfelt love letter to music and the creative process of making it with “Just What I Need” and joins forces with Cormega to launch salvos against the ubiquity of studio thugs on “War Going On”. Good intentions aside, the album heavily falters due to Marley Marl’s stale and uninspired production, with “All Seasons” sounding like a Dr. Dre knockoff and the utter abomination of “Rock Dis”, serving a blow to the legacies of the albums main attractions as well as that of the Blastmaster KRS-One.

Craig G’s heart is in the right place as Operation Take Back Hip-Hop finds him nearly desperate in attempts of fleshing out his personal definition of authenticity. Unfortunately, most of this album’s tracks simply aren’t strong enough for him to carry forth a piece that hits on all cylinders. Long time followers will likely question both Craig’s ear for beats in this day and age and how much longer he will truly matter in the ongoing fight to keep quality music prevalent.

Rating: @@@

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Cool Kids - The Bake Sale EP (Review)

Art has begun to imitate the lifestyle of those pushing creativity’s envelope as hip (hop) culture continues thriving on all things fresh and new. The term hipster has come to be derided by detractors who place a negative connotation on the word as well as those in the life who take offense to its usage, as the prescribed faction finds no fault in believing they’re simply cooler than thou. With a group name that could double as ironic or one that takes itself too serious, The Cool Kids are at the forefront of this burgeoning albeit questionable movement. After a slew of critical acclaim and media exposure, The Bake Sale EP is the group’s latest offering in lieu of their present major spotlight.

As with most of today’s retro-sounding acts, The Cool Kids can justifiably be labeled as promoting style over substance, employing a fun yet minimalist approach not unlike that of DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, or Kriss Kross in their heyday. Keeping in mind that braggadocio and self-confidence are surely nothing new in rap culture, the flaunting of fashionable footwear over strange sounding bass & percussion on “One Two” isn’t readily accessible for those outside of the insular hipster demographic. While supporters of the group cheer on the novelty of paying respect to the old school (the Rick Rubin homage “88”, and the Miami bass influenced “Basement Party” ) as well as their simultaneous focus on carving a new niche (“A Little Bit Cooler”), the group never seems to stray from a facade where they’re the life of the party whose aesthetics we should all aspire towards.

Compared to the many that perpetrate and build careers around fake imagery, The Cool Kids can’t be vilified for staying true to themselves. But all the same, Mikey Rocks and Chuck Inglish must suffer reproach for stylistically presenting a package that likely won’t resonate with anyone who doesn’t obsess over being a part of “the in crowd”. The Bake Sale EP would serve as a fine parody of self-deluded hipsters, but as actual product it should fail to move everyday Hip-Hop consumers who find themselves unconcerned with trendy hoopla.

Rating : @@ 1/2