Thursday, January 29, 2009

Jay-Z "American Gangster"

After much procrastination I decided it was time to stop and get this review done. It is almost February after all and I have the next artist already picked out to receive my dissection (even if I did loose all their music this week, damn hard drives!). You're just gonna have to wait for that (don't spoil it for 'em Caroline!) - right now it's time for American Gangster, the last studio album we have received from Jigga.

After watching the Denzel epic of the same name about Frank Lucas' rise to power in New York, Shawn Carter hit the lab with Puffy's latest incarnation of the hitmen LV & Sean C and banged out one of his most impressive works, albeit a step in the wrong direction for the man who will one day be viewed as the first to deliver a true grown man rap album.

Not that I don't blame him, while critics tended to enjoy Kingdom Come his fans (this one included, at the time) were filled with rage due to his choice to talk about his current life instead of the street life he had forever immortalized on wax. Here was his chance to literally step into character and give those fans what they know and love him for.

While Jay wasn't probably on the level that Mr. Lucas made it to during his run on the street, Jay-Z is a venerable Frank Lucas of the music industry and from the opening of this opus it is this street smart aesthetic that carries the album into our CD player (that's what I'm fucking with these days, forget an iPod) for multiple spins.

Over the course of his albums and my reviewing of them I've been forced to thoroughly listen to the verses delivered. This was partly due to the age of some of the records, but by and large the lyrics were always in the background to me. Sure I caught lines here and there but I was never one to rewind a Jay-Z tape. That changed when this album dropped.

Maybe it was thanks to popping mushrooms and holding the gate fold LP in my hands reading the lyrics, but from my first listen of American Gangster I was blown away by the imagery painted by Jay here. Yes the content isn't socially redeeming, but it's not demoralizing either. There is an arch to this record that helps tie it all together. While it was intended to be viewed as a concept record I can't go so far as to say this is on the level of something Prince Paul would deliver, but it does tell a story – and it's a story we should all heed, whether we are involved in the street life, business life, or our own life (whatever that may be).

Taking us from the pinnacle of success by illegal means to the often violent downfall American Gangster is a journey through the mind of one who has seen it all to some extent. His success may have come from the streets but just like we see on “Fallin” Jay knows how you go down in that arena and he wasn't looking to make that sacrifice. Instead he took his skills to the stage and has become one of the most celebrated individuals of the past decade.

In that time he has proven to have an ear for great beats and a mind that will create vivid displays of poetic creation. Stepping away from his stand by team of Just Blaze and Kanye West, Diddy delivered a batch of soul drenched instrumentals from the steady grinding team of LV & Sean C to great results. They chop up the classics from Curtis to Marvin, Barry White to the Dramatics and cement the Daptone movement by flipping The Menahan Street Band's amazing “Make the Road By Walking” like it was a dusty 45 dug up from forty years ago, even though only dropping in 2006.

Of course he can't abandoned those that have helped him get to where he is at completely, with Just delivering the excellent “Ignorant Shit” with a great sounding Beans – these two compliment each other perfectly! Pharrel and his Neptune partner lace “I Know” with their typical happy club sound and proves to be the prefect canvas for Jay-Z to play with words and describe the ills of addiction through a metaphor that will guarantee you to crack a smile.

Much was made of the appearance from Wayne here and given that it takes place over the weakest beat on the album (perhaps one of the worst of Jay's career) not much can be said. They both sound good and Wayne holds his own, it's going to be a long road for him to be at Jay's level though.

Awhile ago I referred to American Gangster as sounding “tired.” While that could have had as much to do with my own lack of enjoyment being found with in rap lately, for all it's greatness this album does feel like it's missing something.

“Like what,” you ask?

Does it have great beats? Yes. Dope rhymes? Yes.

But it isn't Jay-Z anymore. Regardless of his attempt to create a concept record inspired by his life and a movie about a true OG the life this record emphasizes isn't in him anymore and that lack of passion is omnipresent throughout. You can almost feel his desire to appease the fans. Where is that pain from “Lost Ones?” Where is the honesty that makes Kingdom Come and all your best albums? You made Reasonable Doubt, you don't owe us anything when it comes to the street tales.

Maybe Blueprint 3 will deliver the soul again?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

TML Radio #4

With a little snow falling it was easy to stay inside and go through the new songs for the week - not much, but I came up with some of the best for ya'll to bang in this weeks edition of TML Radio.
TML Radio #4
You aren't gonna find any of the Joe Budden/Saigon beef, although you will here probably the best song of the Slaughterhouse music we've been privy to in a remix to Joell's "Move On."

I have been waiting for one of the continuous stream of Freeway cuts to grab me and while I'm not sold that this is the best Free has to offer, it's decent enough.

Reks makes another appearance and continues to prove to me that not hearing Gray Hairs is a mistake - can anyone hook me up?

As my time in Seattle begins to tick away I'm glad to be hearing some of the best music from local crew Dyme Def. I've been disappointed in a lot of the leaks but "Cheers" is superdope. Anyone who hasn't heard Space Music needs to get it in their life!

Elswhere you will find an assortment of up and comers from XV goin' in on "Bad News" to Jay Elec and Che Grand rock a Mr. Porter heat rock and Esso lacing "Rock the Mic" (I'm guessing this is Bow Wow's version?) reminiscing about the joints that he grew up on - fresh.

I might get some hate for including the new Rick Ross cut "Mafia Music" but the beat is smooth and Ross flows pretty much for it's entirety - I like dude's flow, what can I say. Did ya'll ever really think he was moving weight anyway?

"Prom Queen" didn't make the cut but I threw in a very rock sounding remix to Raje's "Loser" which features Wayne and Tyga - it's interesting and feeds my curiosity for experimental rap. While I'm not sure how Rebirth is gonna turn out, I'm excited that Wayne will take the chance and do something different. Music is in dire need of someone willing to take chances and, regardless of the quality, it's good to see someone push people to expand their minds.

And then of course there are the Obama songs. I was sick Tuesday, but got on the net to watch the speech and while I was bummed by the screw up of the Oath of Office, I was awed by the speech and am very excited to see what is in the future for our country. I'm curious if anyone else didn't want to say that just a month ago, and now does it not feel good to say it? I'm proud to be from here again and I do believe that is due to the hope I see in our new president.

On that note, of course I got the Jay-Z "DC Mix" of Jeezy's hit and I included One-2's letter to "Mr. Obama" along with the amazing Freddie Foxx cut "Yes We Can." You might be wondering "Bumby Knucks is doing an Obama song? Why don't he just stick with his street shit that he does like no one else?" Don't worry it's well worth the four plus minutes and should be played to all!

Thanks for rocking with me this week! Peace,
-Will J.

Sundays of Soul, Vol. 8

It's that time once again! Sundays of Soul in full effect. While it took us a few weeks to get back on top of things, Rob and I are gonna deliver the soul to you for the next few weeks and hopefully find a way to keep in going once I depart the 6.

After some technical problems we got everything straight and dropped a few tunes live from the 308 straight to you - I hope y'all are having a great weekend and that this will be the soundtrack to your afternoon!

TML Radio #4 on it's way...

Saturday, January 24, 2009

The Musik Lounge Podcast #9: New Sounds

A week of sickness means a lot of listening time and I heard some great music this week and found some great stuff both on the internet and in the stores of Seattle. I got three weeks left and I'm definetly planing on taking advantage of any oppurtunity to get my dig on! Lord knows what the stores in Coos Bay, Oregon will bear - I think trips to Eugene will be in order...

With new adventures and intentions in mind, I present to you the latest installment of the Musik Lounge podcast, New Sounds. I threw this down Friday afternoon and while I've deviated from the "strictly wax" policy (two of these cuts are mp3's, sue me) I think you will be entertained by the assortment of styles touched on throughout. Enjoy this mix and pardon my scratching - I have to play around a little!

New Sounds

Piet Van Meren "Cool Echo" (Cinemaphonic: Soul Punch)
Sandy Nelson "Soulful Strut" (Rebirth of the Beat)
Snoop Dogg "The One & Only" (Paid Tha Cost To Be The Boss)
Def Squad "Music (Remix)" (8 Hot Missles)
Marvin Gaye "Flying High (In The Friendly Skies)" (What's Going On)
Bobbie Humphrey "Chicago, Damn" (Blacks & Blues)
Bugge Wesseltoft "Modular" (New Coneption of Jazz)
Wick Wack "Mellow Soulf Fruit" (Mushroom Jazz Vol. 4)
Gary McFarland & Gabor Szabo "Simpatico" (Simpatico)
The Temptations "No More Water In The Well" (With Lots O' Soul)
Santana "Future Primitive" (Caravanserai)
Fat Jon "Change Your Mind" (Humanoid Erotica)
Hi-Tek "Love Language" (Train of Thought Instrumentals)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

S.o.S Vol. 7 "Better late than never" edition

So... I said I would give ya'll a Sundays of Soul on Sunday regardless. Then I talked with Rob on Sunday and he was down to come through on Monday. He did. I got lazy (and sick) and didn't want to post it that night, and Tuesday came around and I just never did it. So here it is, Sundays of Soul done on a Monday and delivered to you on a Wednesday. Better late than never right? Get your groove on!

See Gran Tornio.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

TML Radio #3

Damn... Going through 150 plus tracks from the week takes longer than I thought it would! Oh well, here it is this weeks installment of TML Radio. Kick back and vibe out to this assortment of songs from artists big and small, known and unknown. In honor of the upcoming events of this Tuesday January 20th I had to kick a few songs that speak on the topic - including the one Jeezy just dropped a video for!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Something to contemplate...

So the TML was a little quiet this week. I’m not gonna try and say that I’m real busy and don’t have time… I got time. I got more time than I ever have had since I began doing this thing - almost a year ago that I started? Damn.

So whats up with no updates? I just didn’t care this week.

Hip Hop wasn’t moving me and as excited as I had been about trying to review American Gangster… Let’s just say it sounds tired. It’ll still come, in due time.

For the moment I’m playing country songs on Lia’s radio show and whishing that I didn't need to look for a job while at the same time preparing my resume and getting my hopes up on a job that I probably have about zero chance of getting – but I’ll still give it a shot!

Been reading a lot of Wax Poetics lately and not going out. Hell I’ve been reading in general. Even picked up a Sci-Fi book last week and have been reading about ten pages a night. It’s interesting, if not completely understandable. I think I actually had more luck figuring out what my philosophy books said back in college.

Listen to me “back in college” like it was so long ago. But damn it does feel like a minute since I’ve been going to classes. Did get to listen to some interesting lectures on Friday courtesy of the Grammy U program that I never did join while actually in school… hmmm… Sorry Court!

But anyway, the TML is gonna be active in whatever way I feel it needs to be for the foreseeable future. I know, I know, all the bloggers of the world gotta hit you with that new shit constantly and I may be signing my own death – but it’s my blog and I’m gonna do what I gots to do. Y’all know what I do and if you dig it you’ll check it from time to time regardless.

For now you can count on the podcasts (S.o.S will return tomorrow whether Rob comes through the spot or not!) and expect something different from the reviews. I’m bored of it and feeling the need to challenge myself a little. I guess that whole journalism school thing might have that effect, no?

Would anyone be interested in reading some interviews circa ’05 – ’07 with a number of “underground” emcees? I’ve been contemplating digitizing my old interviews from the radio show days and it could be fun to turn them into a periodic post or two. Just an idea.

Blu is killing it all.

And I'm a little late but everyone should watch Californication. Fuck the Chili Peppers for suing over the name, get over yourselves and make a solid record again.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

TML Radio #2

And I'm back around these here parts for another go with TML Radio - I hope y'all are enjoying the tracks and hearing some stuff you weren't up on. This week we had a lot of joints, I had to cut more than I ever remember in the past, but I think I found the best ones to offer you! It's the Musik Lounge y'all, keep rocking.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Saturday Spin: The Dragons "BFI"

After a year and a half of playing catch up I’ve finally read the back issues of Wax Poetics and gotten to new issues I missed out on. And leave it to the first new issue I read to throw an excellent surprise my may – welcome to The Dragons.

A trio of brothers (their last name is Dragon) who were living it up in the late sixties in LA found themselves with some instruments and studio time concocting their own tunes, inspired by the sounds of the times and their own youthful innocence and lack of experience.
Amplified Emotion

BFI was the result, which only saw it’s release recently thanks to Ninja Tune. Inside you will find an amalgam of sounds bordering on a little bit of all that was going on musically at the time of it’s conception.

You hear hints of The Beatles pop formulas, although nothing quite as straight forward as what the fab four were known for. You hear some Doors influence and a lot of soulfulness combined with distortion and fuzz. Organs are layered into the tracks and vocals are ran through any number of effects processors. BFI is an experiment in sound that demonstrates great creativity – even if a little unguided.

“Big Mike Requiem” finds them opening the track with some heavy organs that could have been pulled right out of a church sermon before seeing it transform into and fast jam. But it’s “fast” nature comes from a sped up pitch rather than from the actual playing, adding chipmunk like sound to the vocals – well before Kanye.
Big Mike Requim

Throughout the album you hear great grooves laid down and an assortment of vocals. While no label reps saw a hit within these tracks, rightfully so as I’m not certain even the sixties and seventies acceptance of experimental tunes would have been ready for these, you can hear the raw talent from three brothers who grew up around music and all continued on play as session musicians and make careers within the ever growing and changing music industry. Luckily for us, today the industry has room for old ideas and an open ear for something we might have missed out on forever.
Are You There

Happy Birthday & R.I.P Max Roach

I'm some what new to the music of Max Roach, but what I'm hearing is only fueling the already legendary rep the pioneering Bebop drummer has. Today, Januray 10, 2009 would mark his 85th birthday and while people always tend to pay tribute on the days of someones death, I want to celebrate their life and the music that we were blessed with in those years.

So give a listen to some of these videos and get familiar with the man and the myth - listen to how he plays and then go out and pick up anything with his name on it!

Be sure to watch to the end as Max gets busy before they wrap the song up!

"Your hands shimmering on the legs of rain."
-From Max Roach's grave stone.

May he always rest in peace and forever be remembered in the grooves of the wax.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Children of the Night "100 %"

Emcees Lansky, Remy Banks and Versa hail from Queens NY and make up Children of the Night (COTN, pronounced Cotton – as in the fabric of life). Having spent years in the NY underground they have united under the COTN flag to deliver their debut mixtape 100 % and are looking to break out of their backyard and make an impact on the national Hip Hop scene.

In these days and times within the music industry making a name for yourself is as hard as ever and putting in the work is only half the battle. As blogs continue to gain momentum and followers, fans are slowly gaining control of the music once again deciding what it is they want and if you aren’t on point the people won’t be fucking with you. Luckily Lansky, Remy and Versa all have skills plus a natural chemistry that brings to mind the essence of any number of classic Hip Hop groups.
100 % sees these three trading bars over fourteen smooth and soulful tracks reflecting on their lives in the city and the music they love.

On “Cartunes” they prove they aren’t scared to have fun and goof off watching some TV, but they just as easily touch on matters of a more serious nature on “Fabric of Our Lives” – the hook is a great play on their name and the tapes title, but the verses display a great sense of understanding the industry and its practice of creating throwaway tunes for the masses; something they don’t appear to be trying to appease.

Production credits aren’t included here, but from the note on the back (“The production here has been handled as if it was our freshman LP”) it sounds like the beats here are originals, although a few sound very familiar. Whoever is cooking up these tracks has studied the legends and channels Dilla (I feel like a couple of these are his?) in a way I’ve never heard, along with some RZA influences the beats sound like vintage NY Hip Hop but completely new and exciting – you will be nodding your head to these beats while burning blunts with the homies.

100 % is an impressive debut from a group that shows a lot of promise. Heavily influenced by the sounds that made NYC the mecca for Hip Hop, Children of the Night deliver a record that shows what the city has to offer. Tune in and give ‘em a listen, they might just allay any need you may have for an album from many of those dubbed the saviors of New York Hip Hop.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Termanology "If Heaven Was a Mile Away"

Pretty much out of nowhere Termanology came out with If Heaven Was A Mile Away on New Years day. Serving as a tribute to J Dilla we are given just over forty five minutes of Term rocking over a number of classic Dilla soundscapes. Now I know you may be thinking “who is this kid from Mass thinking he can rock to some Dilla?” Well I'm with you on that, Termanology seemingly has no connection to Mr. Yancey and as he states on the outro he wishes he could have gotten to work with him while he was here and this tape is his fulfillment of that dream – as much as it can be given Dilla's passing.

Regardless of Term's right to rock some of these tracks, he pays respect and the tape serves as a great example of what Dilla could have accomplished if he had been able to keep blessing us with his genius. Termanology is aware of the line he may be crossing and while it may seem an odd move he succeeds in delivering what I think will prove to be one of the most memorable mixtapes of this new year, a year that has already proven to be filled with great music.

If you gave Politics as Usual a listen you know what Term is about, don't expect much of a deviation in themes or ideas here. He does bring in some friends which only draws emphasis to his flow which I'm still trying to make sense out of. He is a good emcee, but can come across repetitive and seems to utilize the same flows on a number of tracks. This makes the guests a much desired diversion, add to this that he runs with some of the current hottest along with some legends in the game and you are in for some fun.

On “Say It” we see Termanology next to Sheek Louch, Joell Ortiz, Bun B, Saigon and Freeway none of whom disappoint. Bun is up to his typical standards (why didn't II Trill make it onto more year end lists? Don't worry mine is coming, just gotta do it right!) and sounds amazing over the Dilla instrumental. Saigon is always on point and Ortiz continues to impress me with wittiness and fun demeanor on the mic – he will be the secret weapon if the Slaughterhouse ever comes to fruition.

“Pay Jay” sees the Justus League crew representing with Pooh coming through along with Chaudon and Scudda to give Dilla his props. I've always been partial to Pooh (No hate to Phonte, just like how Pooh carries himself, and I still think he had the best verse on Get Back - he opens the album with a purpose!) and between him holding down the hook and opening the track I'm still riding for him. Chaudon hasn't really been in my ear all that much, but I think I'm about to check out Carnage after hearing him here.

A few of the tracks on this tape are short one verse songs which is fine and fun, but when we are actually given a full track from Term he shows impressive growth and a continuing drive to improve. While the street talk can get old, I understand the impact it has had on dudes life. Luckily he has chosen to give it up in exchange for the microphone and on “Circulate (100 Bars)” he flows non-stop for four minutes touching on his rep on the block and what prompted him to step away from that white.

While he kept his crew ST Da Squad off his debut, they come through here on a few tracks as do Skyzoo and Reks on the mixtape closing “Bar 4 The Stars,” where Skyzoo continues to murder everything he touches, riding Dilla's trademark off kilter drums like few do. Statik Selketah is holding down the cuts for the tape and he drops in some great vocal snippets for the hook here and throughout proving he intends to keep mimicking Primo in the right way.

Termanology is still new to the scene, even with five volumes of his Hood Politics series out and a debut filled with Illmatic producers he has a way to go and this tape only shows that he is prepared to put in the work and make the changes that will make his name ring out on wax like he claims it does on the block. Time will tell, but for now enjoy him rocking over some Dilla heat, no one sounds to bad with James Dewitt Yancy behind the boards.

Dert "Talk Strange"

Yes I was up listening to beat tapes late last night, and the night before. I’ve always enjoyed instrumental Hip Hop – the Strictly Beats blog was my introduction to the music blog scene – and as such I figured why not give some new beat tapes a listen. As it is every year, the first quarter generally starts out fairly slow on the release of new music. Luckily the industry is changing and while our favorite rappers won’t be coming out readily with new music a number of up and comers have been blessing us with great music non stop since before the 2009, and it seems that it’s only going to continue.

Dert is a talented producer. As I mentioned in the Jansport J post below, sometimes beat tapes are inspired by one source, as is the case with Talk Strange, an instrumental project inspired by the tunes of Icelandic songstress Bjork.

My familiarity with the music of hers is fairly minimal. I heard the Timbo produced tracks and may have ran through the last album once? A couple of her older albums have gotten some play from me in the past also, but never to an extent of which I could identify where much of the sounds found within Talk Strange come from. Regardless, if you enjoy Hip Hop inspired instrumental music you should give this a listen.

Given Bjork’s experimental nature it’s understandable much of the sounds found within this record aren’t your typical Hip Hop fodder. However, Dert utilizes her voice beautifully across all 18 tracks and blends in electronic synths and sounds with an assortment of hard hitting drums and other samples to create yet another impressive electro tinged Hip Hop outing from LA.

While listening you will hear influences from fellow LA beat makers such as Madlib, Flying Lotus and Daedelus. But this is not to say the album sounds unoriginal. On the contrary, Dert has allowed his influences to coalesce with the music of Bjork while adding his own take on the current state of Hip Hop instrumentals – these tracks stand on their own as some of the smoothest and refreshing Hip Hop beats I’ve heard in awhile.

Never letting anything play for too long, he keeps the tracks moving and you guessing what might come next. He can flip string samples and create something you might expect from Pete Rock and the next minute have a track that is as subtly beautiful as it is intense. Toying with emotion is commonplace for a good singer, utilizing the voice to convey how they feel. Here we see Dert channel these feelings through his productions.

Whether you are looking for some new tracks to rhyme with or just need something to put on while you are chilling at home reading a book, Talk Strange should find a place in anyone’s collection – this is what I like to see at the start of the new year!

Jansport J "The 2 AM Tape"

The world of instrumental Hip Hop is vast and intriguing. Never do you really know what to expect from a beat tape. Sometimes it’s an emcees album stripped of the vocals, sometimes it’s a collection of beats composed from one source and sometimes it’s just a dope collection of music put out by a beat maker trying to be heard.

Jansport Js latest offering, The 2 AM Tape, would fall into that last category – but he added a slight twist:
“This project is an instrumental concept album revolving around all of the common characters, events, and thoughts that take place in the middle of the night...2 AM. The album provides a soundtrack to these events, and takes the listener through a journey through the goings on of 2 AM.”
Concept albums aren’t exactly common within Hip Hop. Sure you have the classics like anything Prince Paul lays down and Nas did a decent job last year (although giving up on the name hurts the overall theme) but by and large rappers seem more interested in just spitting rhymes. Jansport J doesn’t rhyme here but he does chop up some excellent samples and lay down some smooth and soulful bangers for you and I to enjoy, perhaps while up in the middle of the night.

Running with the late night theme the tape is a journey in sound from beginning to end – and you will want to let it ride front to back. Demonstrating a sufficient knowledge of sampling and beat composition many of Jansport’s offerings here will get you nodding along steadily wondering where he is going to take you next.

“The Sex” sees him flipping a great trumpet sound and layering in some sounds of pleasure for a fun song that might just get you and a friend in the mood. “The Munchies” follows and while it may seem like an abrupt theme change, its driving guitar lick and clever vocal sample (“and the trees are green”) will keep you entertained.

“The Anxiety” features some drums that could hit harder but the spooky sound effects (I don’t have a clue what he is sampling here) and synth work is perfect for that late night paranoia we can all suffer from. J also pulls in a number of vocal snippets from any number of places (TV, film, etc) that add to the ambience he is looking to deliver.

He loops up the Beatles for the excellent “The Break Up” and adds some great dusty drums underneath – again they may not thump like some would prefer, but I doubt anyone would complain as this track screams of a forgotten era of beat makers.

With The 2 AM Tape we are transported into Jansport Js late night world and on many occasions it’s probably not to far from the actions many a person has partaken in over the course of an evening. J proves he has the chops to make a hot beat but at the same time carry a project on his own – it’s not the second coming of Shadow, but he shows promise and I guarantee if you enjoy instrumental music this will get a replay or two from you. Maybe even in the middle of the night.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

TML Radio #1

It feels good to get back to the blog game and it feels even better to have my gear set up right so I can do these podcasts from my spot rather than going into the office on my day off... well what used to be my office.

With the recent relaunch of my Musik Lounge mix series I figured it would be a good time to start the Hip Hop podcast again with a slightly changed name, welcome to volume one of TML Radio giving you the latest and greatest in the Hip Hop world! Stay tuned y'all.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Saturday Spin: The Enemy UK "We'll Live & Die in these Towns"

One of my goals for the New Year is to listen more. Now I listen to music pretty constantly – but while home for the holidays I realized that when it comes to new, modern music I stick fairly close to the comfort zone of Hip Hop. This isn’t a bad thing, I love rap and it’s by and large the music that inspires me. That being said I’m a vinyl fiend (watch out for a relaunch over there soon!) whose crates are filled with music from across the board yet rarely do I allow those musical interests direct my listening habits when it comes to music of today.
"40 Days & 40 Nights"
I started Saturday Spin as a way to get myself to listen to stuff outside the box - namely a big pile of CDs I acquired while involved with KSUB, Seattle U’s radio station. I don’t fully know what to expect from the large majority of these discs, I’ve come across artists I know and artists I’ve never heard of. Music that I don’t see any value in and music that I’m sure no one else but me would see value in.

The Enemy UK (as they are dubbed here in the states) released their debut We’ll Live and Die in these Towns in July of 2007 making this hardly a new album (I’m trying to figure out where it came from as I thought most of the CDs I had were from more recent times) but still something worth a listen.
"It's Not OK"
Comprised of three members (what is it with Europe and the power trios?) they rock hard and heavy for most of this thirteen track affair, taking select moments to mellow out such as on the notable David Bowie penned “Five Years.” Vocalist Tom Clarke demonstrates the ability to actually express emotion by singing with some range and depth, understanding the use of his vocal chords he establishes himself as more than your average “emo” singer. The art brings out the emotion rather than the emotions being the art.
"Five Years"
Opening with a basic guitar riff (also courtesy of Clarke) “Aggro” is an up tempo romp that I imagine gets the audience worked up to a frenzy, although hopefully no one is taking their advice to set the streets on fire and instead just mosh!
The New Year will see them on tour with seminal brit rockers Oasis which should help expose them to more people along with hopefully helping them break away from some of the more modern stereotypical “rock” sounds. Say what you want about the Gallagher’s (we know how the Hip Hop world feels!) they created a sound that was as much Beatles pop as it was a breath of fresh air to the rock genre – The Enemy is on track to developing their own style, lets just give ‘em a couple more albums and some time to grow; the talent is there.

Bonus Live Video: “You’re Not Alone”

Friday, January 2, 2009

Jay-Z "Kingdom Come"

I know, I know I've been off an on with these Jay features but I only got two left and I'm determined to knock 'em out! Of course The Black Album didn't end up being Jay's parting shot to the game and form the looks of things we might be many years and several more albums away from Shawn Carters departure from the mic.

With Kingdom Come Jay-Z proved once and for all that his talk of laying down the mic was just that, talk. But was it bad? Most took it as less than top form Jay that we all expected from his return effort but time is a funny thing and listening today it stands in his discography as a different record. From less street talk to an elevated level of reflection and introspection this is grown man rap for the older heads to vibe with – but even if you are in your twenties, or teens for that matter, you should be able to find songs here to rock with.

While Hov has always blessed us with impressive rhymes if you listen throughout the album you will be treated to some of the most serious flows he has ever given us. From the beginning he is here to educate, continuing on from his comments on “Moment of Clarity” about what sells “The Prelude sees him open the album with:
The game's fucked up
Nigga's beats is bangin, nigga your hooks did it
Your lyrics did and your gangster look did it
So I would write it if y'all could get it
Bein intricate'll get you wood, critic
On the internet, they like you should spit it
I'm like you should buy it, nigga that's good business
Hehe, forget this rap shit I need a new hustle
A little bit of everything, the new improved Russell
But before he raps up this beautiful intro, courtesy of B-Money on the beat flipping an amazing Mel & Tim sample (Stax!), he has to give us a hint at what it is that drives this album:
Ten year veteran, I've been set
I've been through with this bullshit game but I never quit
I used to think rappin at 38 was ill
But last year alone I grossed 38 mill'
I know I ain't quite 38 but still
The flow so +Special+ got a +38+ feel
The real is back, hehehehe
Between those checks and that every ticking clock that is age, Jay-Z isn't who he was ten years ago and he knew it. With Kindom Come he is trying to demonstrate how a thirty eight plus year old rapper can still spit and not look like a fool.

Just Blaze is here holding down the next three cuts and they all knock with great drums and sample choices from Rick James (“Kingdom Come”) to Johnny Pate and Lafayette Rock Band (“Show Me What You Got”). On the later we see Blaze bringing in a number of musicians to replay the samples giving the song a distinct sound for Jay to party with. Being the lead single, “Show Me” is a braggadocios ride (“I am the Mike Jordan of recording”) through Jay's psyche but should get even the stiffest of heads nodding along with great flow and an overall fun feel. It may have been the winter's turn but this is summer music if I've ever heard it.

When the Black Album was in it's early hype stages it was said that Dr. Dre would be contributing a beat – that of course didn't happen, but his omission form those production credits is more than made up for with four beats from the good doctor here. Dre is one of the older members of this culture and even if his beats have a very distinct “Dr. Dre” sound he does it to perfection and proves why his name can't ever be forgotten.

Before Chrisette Michelle laced that great Nas hook she got down on “Lost One” over a great piano line and classic Dre drums with Jay for what may be the most open song Jay has ever dropped. From the first verse about his roll in the industry to the second about his and Beyonce's relationship (I guess y'all could make it back to “we”) the song is perfect. Add to this a final verse about his nephews death:
My nephew died in the car I bought
So under the belief it's partly my fault
Close my eyes and squeeze, try to block that thought
Place any burden on me, but please, not that lord
But time don't go back, it goes forward
Can't run from the pain, go towards it
Some things can't be explained, what caused it?
Such a beautiful soul, so pure, shit!
Gonna see you again, I'm sure of it
'Til that time, little man I'm nauseous
Your girlfriend's pregnant, the lord's gift
Almost lost my faith, that restored it
It's like having your life restarted
Can't wait for your child's life, to be a part of it
So now I'm child-like, waiting for a gift
To return, when I lost you, I lost it
Place this in a list of the greatest songs recorded (Check most of the video below, watch the whole thing here).

“30 Something” is a demonstration of Dre's sound sometimes coming across as too identifiable, but just as he did on the last one, Jigga flows with great ease changing his style up here and their along with adding some great adlibs. Even if you aren't grown up, this might just make you wish you were.

DJ Khalil laces a soul filled banger for the celebratory “I Made It” before the Neptunes and Usher assitsted “Anything.” While it's another consistent track in the flow of the album, the Neptunes come across as too commercial (pretty much all of their tracks scream single don't they?) and the Usher hook doesn't add anything to keep this from being club fodder.

Beyonce is featured on the boring “Hollywood” a track that serves more as an oppurtunity for these two lovers to get on wax together and talk about fame. Again it's an example of the grown man life Shawn Carter leads, however probably an example the public doesn't need to hear.

Even if this is grown up rap, Jay can't let beef escape him. Swizz Beatz cooks up one of his weaker compositions for Jay to spit some venom towards a former friend on “Dig A Hole.” While not completely a waste of time I'm too much of a fan of the Roc-A-Fella dynasty to get excited about it's two founders exchanging words – especially when one of them doesn't even spit, just lets lames try to talk shit.

From this frivolous exercise we slide into what may be the first outright political record of Jay-Z's career. “Minority Report” features Ne-Yo singing some haunting vocals over an equally chilling slow burner of a beat from Dre. Over those trademark ominous Dre chords and the steady sound of rainfall Jay gets serious:
People was poor before the hurricane came
When the downpour poured it was like when Mary J. sang
Everyday it rained, so everyday the pain
But ignored 'em, and showed 'em the risk was to blame
But life is chain, cause and effected
Niggaz off the chain, because they affected
It's a dirty game, it's whatever is effective
From weed to sellin' 'caine, gotta put that in effect
Wouldn't you loot? If you didn't have the loot
Baby needed food and you was stuck on the roof
And helicopters swoop down just to get a scoop
Through his telescopic lens, but he didn't scoop you
For the next five days, no help ensued
They called you a refugee because you seek refuge
And the Commander-in-Chief, just flew by
Didn't stop, 'though he had a couple seats
Just proved Jet blue, he's not, jet flew by the spot
But if he ran outta jet fuel and just dropped
Huh, that'd've been somethin' to watch
Helicopters doin' fly-bys to take a couple shots
Couple portraits, then ignored him
He'd be just another Bush surrounded by a couple orchards
Poor kids, just 'cause they was poor kids
Left them on they porches, same old story in New Orleans -
Silly rappers, 'cause we got a couple Porsches
MTV stopped by to film our fortresses
We forget the unfortunate
Sure, I ponied up a mil' but I didn't give my time
So in reality I didn't give a dime
or a damn, I just put my monies in the hands
of the same people that left my people stranded
Nothin' but a bandit, left my folks abandonned
Damn, money we gave just a band aid
Can't say we better on than we was before
In synopsis, this is my Minority Report
Can't say we better on than we was before
In synopsis, this is my Minority Report
And in what has to be the only way this album could end, Jay-Z calls in a favor enlisting Chris Martin of Coldplay to cook up a spooky beat and sing the hook on “Beach Chair.” This song has always left me scratching my head and even today after all this time I still can't say for certain what he is trying to speak on, but it comes across as an interesting dissection of life and what it means to lead one. Jay has lead one of special significance and Kingdom Come like no other album in his catalog will exemplify exactly what it is he should be remembered for.

The Musik Lounge Podcast #8: The Genesis

Welcome to 2009! I hope y'all had a great holiday and celebrated right. I dropped off the map, but I'm back in the 6 and ready to get busy with the blog once more. I'm gonna be branching out to some other blogs as well, contributing my personal tastes where I can and hopefully continue to expose people to some great music!

I spent the day rearranging my apartment, if I can't move to some place new I guess this will have to hold me over. 2009 marks some big changes for me - from being out of school (and loans that expect to be paid starting in a few days) to not having a job (gotta get on the hustle and find something, anyone know people looking for someone?)it's a new begining. In the process of shifting things around this box they call an apartment I managed to get my Pro Tools working right and that means I can get back to dropping mixes like I used to.

For those who were checking in with me back then (we got any long time readers?) you will be treated to more of the same i.e. some basic mixing and fading, some blending and an all around journey through whatever sounds I'm feeling at the moment. While I've been delivering weekly podcasts for Soul and Hip Hop (look out for new ones to begin Sunday!) within these mixes you won't have to listen to me talk or be stuck in one genre.

With that said here is number 8 of The Musik Lounge Podcast, entitled The Genesis. In case anyone is curious about the last two Jay-Z reviews, I open this one with "Show Me What You Got" - Kingdom Come will be up for your enjoyment hopefully later tonight or tomorrow morning!

Thanks for checking out what I do around these parts and I hope you enjoy, stay up!

The Genesis