July 30, 2016

You can figure this out.  I have faith in you two.

Depeche Mode - "Lie To Me"
Clams Casino - "LVL (Instrumental)"
Radiohead - "True Love Waits"
Neon Indian - "Annie"
ScHoolboy Q - "Dope Dealer" (featuring E-40)
Ennio Morricone - "Overture" (from The Hateful Eight
The Smiths - "Jeane"
BADBADNOTGOOD - "Flashing Lights"
Sia - "Cheap Thrills"
Copacabana Club - "Love Is Over"
Pusha T - "Trouble On My Mind" (featuring Tyler, The Creator)
Crystal Castles - "Empathy"
Puff Daddy - "Money Ain't A Problem" (featuring French Montana)
Portishead - "We Carry On"
Bauhaus - "She's In Parties"
Drake and Future - "Diamonds Dancing"
Kevin Gates - "I Don't Get Tired (#IDGT)" (featuring August Alsina)
New Order - "Guilt Is A Useless Emotion (DJ Dan Edit)"
Garbage - "Even Though Our Love Is Doomed"
Nice & Smooth - "No Delayin'"


December 18, 2015

Yeah, I'm Taking A Break Now

Well, it was bound to happen.  I've been on quite a tear since February, writing two posts a week, even with the new features that focused on specific songs that were a transparent ploy to not review albums.  But life's a motherfucker, and last Tuesday I finally blew a deadline, and thus ends the longest consecutive writing streak this blog has ever seen.

I had planned on taking a break anyway after the new year, because goddamn it, I deserve one, but now I think I'll need to push up the hiatus.  So as of right now, I'm taking a step back.  Hopefully, I'll come out of the other end of this sabbatical with new inspiration or something.

In the meantime, feel free to fill the comment section with another round of what you have on your current playlists.  That was a pretty popular feature, so I figured I'd recycle it pretty quickly, as I am one of those Natalie Portman-esque assholes that believes that the right song can change your life.  I'm not able to provide my own random selections just yet, but I'll pop up in the comments soon to add mine to the mix.

Enjoy the holiday season, and thanks for reading!


December 11, 2015

Back To The Well: PRhyme - "Wishin'"

A year and two days ago, the duo of DJ Premier and Royce da 5'9", with a rather large assist from producer-slash-composer Adrian Younge, formed PRhyme and recorded a self-titled effort that finally saw a full album's worth of Primo and Royce collaborations, something that the hip hop heads in the reading audience always tend to love.  Today marks the release of a deluxe reissue of PRhyme, which expands the nine-track original effort into a thirteen-song, um, well, not so much a behemoth, since it's still far shorter than most rap albums these days, but still, more songs, right?  

One of those new songs happens to be a sequel to what ended up being my favorite track on the O.G.: "Wishin'", the Common-featured romp that put Royce to work over two related-but-worlds-apart Primo instrumentals, one slower and methodical, while the other was heavier on the boom-bap influence, not to mention the constant allusions to other DJ Premier contributions to our chosen genre.  You can listen to it above, if for some reason you're still not familiar with it, but I'm sure we all agree that, while the Academy Award-winning Common does a good job with his contribution, he shouldn't have been the first choice for Younge, Primo, and Ryan.  My vote has and always will go to one Nasir Jones, who could have rocked the shit out of the beat, both versions, possibly leaving Royce in the goddamn dust, since a Nas who sounds inspired is streets ahead of the Nas we usually end up hearing.

No, Nas does not appear on the sequel, appropriately titled "Wishin' II".  I was initially disappointed, too, but it turns out there was a very good reason for this: it turns out that Black Thought, of The Roots and The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon fame, was originally offered the cameo first, but was unable to participate after the unfortunate passing of his manager in 2014.  Which is why Common took his place.  After announcing their collective plan to re-release PRhyme this year with a few new tracks, Black Thought apparently contacted Primo and asked if he still wanted him to come through for this "remix" (I'm not writing a proper "remix" post because this is categorized as more of a sequel than anything else), and, well:

As you can hear for yourself, Thought rips the instrumental in goddamn half, as is his way, because he's underrated as shit.  Ryan, who, to his credit, contributes new lyrics, actually sounds out of his depth when he finally pops up, although he quickly gets his bearings back when Primo switches back to the harder boom-bap-ier essence.  Primo even helpfully provides commentary at the very beginning, which you don't need to hear if you just read my other paragraphs, so ha ha, sucker!  

"Wishin' II" works well as an extension of the original song, or as an alternate-universe take on the same shit-talking, except with a slightly weaker Royce verse, as though he had heard this beat so often that he kind of lost his spark for it.  But it's worth it to hear Black Thought over one of my favorite instrumentals from last year, even though I still wish someone had convinced Esco to take a crack at it.  Oh well, there's always the double deluxe super-fancy edition of PRhyme next year, I guess.

IS THE SEQUEL JUSTIFIED?  Yes, if only because there was historical context provided by Primo, which actually ramped up my excitement.  The original still has a home on my random playlist to this day, but it's kind of cool to hear the beat reused by an artist I actually like.  Still not convinced that I need to hear the rest of the new PRhyme songs (I've heard one Logic song, I think I'm good, folks), and I'm most certainly not writing about the reissue, but this inches me ever so closer to giving a shit.


PRhyme - PRhyme (review)

December 8, 2015

Remixed For Your Pleasure: Nas - "Made You Look"

I had originally intended to write something a bit more substantial today, but as I sit here with a self-imposed deadline closing in, I'm saying, "Fuck it".  I'll have to adjust the rest of my publication schedule for the remainder of the year, but don't you two worry your pretty little heads, The Game will ultimately get his day in the sun.  Just not today, because I'm very busy.

"Made You Look" was the first single from Nas's sixth album, God's Son.  It was important for a couple of reasons: (a) it helped establish a clearer direction for Esco's career path, which had previously been disrupted by a bitter rivalry with fellow New Yorker Jay-Z and a series of increasingly shitty albums, a trend he had just begun reversing with Stillmatic prior to this, and (b) because it's actually really goddamn good.  Over a fine Salaam Remi beat that utilizes The Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache" to great effect, the Nasir Jones of 2002 reintroduces himself as a shit-talking mastermind who might have had his ear for beats swapped out for one that fucking works.  Obviously, that didn't pan out entirely for him, but I still believe that Salaam Remi is the best thing that has happened to Nas since Illmatic.

Apparently "Made You Look" is Nas's third-highest charting single to date (thanks, Wikipedia!), behind probably "I Can" (also from God's Son) and "If I Ruled The World (Imagine That)", I assume (from It Was Written).  This is notable because, unlike those other two tracks, "Made You Look" makes no attempt to appease a mainstream audience.  The first sound you hear is that of a gun firing, one that is repeated multiple times throughout the hook, as though Nas ran out of fucks to give.  And yet the song itself isn't very violent, content-wise: sure, Esco's braggadocio occasionally approaches inappropriate levels of onomatopoeia ("You know I 'click-clack' where you and your mens at" is an actual sentence uttered on this track), but "Made You Look" could easily be considered one of the man's breeziest to date.  Also, have I mentioned yet that it's actually really goddamn good?

A few weeks after "Made You Look" hit the Interweb and radio airwaves, an official remix was commissioned, so obviously Nas and his label also grew quite fond of the track.  Over the same Salaam Remi instrumental, because why fuck with a good thing, right?, Nas delivers a new verse alongside two guests who were seemingly chosen through a Hunger Games-style lottery system: Jadakiss (from The Lox) and Furious 7's Chris "Ludacris" Bridges.  That audible "Huh?" sound you heard back in 2002 came from me when I first read about the remix.

On one hand, it was awfully nice for Nasir to relinquish two-thirds of his song to rappers that he personally liked, even if the mainstream was less kind.  At least, I assume he really liked Ludacris: Luda could also have been a late-game choice made by the label in an effort to move units of God's Son, because he was pretty fucking popular back then.  (Jadakiss, of course, has never been popular.)  Over Remi's banging beat, it would have been difficult for anyone to sound terrible, so Kiss and Luda do well with their contributions, Jada especially (he was still claiming he was "Top five dead or alive, and that's just off one LP", which is horseshit, because Jadakiss will always be better as a supporting player than as the star attraction, but his "Out of shape but I make sure that my guns healthy" line is kind of funny).  But Nas walks away with his own remix, thanks to his switching gears and bringing a more aggressive flow to his closing verse, listing different euphemisms for guns as though that's the kind of shit he had been waiting to do his entire life.

Curiously, the "Made You Look" remix didn't even make the final cut of God's Son, left to reside in the purgatory of eternal B-side.  But at least it's not difficult to find or anything.

GO WITH THE O.G. OR THE REMIX?  I prefer the original, as Nas's bars sound more focused, even though he's really not saying much of anything, but at least he kind of sounds like he's enjoying himself more on the remix.  Anyone who wants to hear Ludacris entirely out of his element should seek out the remake, though: the guy is actually pretty good with adaptation.  Also, Jadakiss is there.

As this was released as a single, I've included the official video below.  It's for the censored version of the song, though, so prepare for drops in the audio where words and gunshots should be.


Nas  - God's Son (review)

December 4, 2015

Reader Review: MED, Blu, & Madlib - Bad Neighbor (October 30, 2015)

(Today's Reader Review comes from frequent contributor Justa, who unpacks yet another Blu project, this one being his collaborative effort with MED and Madlib, Bad Neighbor.  Leave your thoughts for Justa below.)

December 1, 2015

Ice Cube: War & Peace Vol. 1 (The War Disc) (November 17, 1998)

O'Shea Jackson's fifth solo album, the awkwardly-titled War & Peace Vol. 1 (The War Disc), came five years after his prior effort.  During the interim, he filled the days by dropping a compilation album (Bootlegs & B-Sides), a Westside Connection project (Bow Down), a film that is considered to be a cult classic today (Friday), his weed carrier Mack 10's debut, and not by recording a goddamn thing for the whispered-into-the-wind promise that was Helter Skelter, his collaborative album with former N.W.A. coworker Dr. Dre that was teased with the intense "Natural Born Killaz" off of Death Row's Murder Was The Case soundtrack.  Yeah, there was that one other track that Suge Knight got a hold of and gave to 2Pac instead, but aside from that, Cube and Dre never did shit to advance this particular narrative.  It's a shame, really: in the mid-1990s, that album could have changed lives and shit.  

November 27, 2015

Remixed For Your Pleasure: Justin Timberlake - "T.K.O."

Justin Timberlake is an artist (yep, I called him an artist, what of it?) whose appearances on the pages of this blog have been fairly infrequent, mostly because I don't really write about R&B or pop albums.  But the man has done a fucking amazing job of reinventing himself over the past decade: he could have, and under different circumstances would have, faded into obscurity after the dissolution of his previous boy band N*SYNC, but instead of doing just that, he doubled down, proving himself to be a talented, charming, and actually funny-on-purpose motherfucker, pretty much excelling at everything he's tried to do.  Except drama: his acting chops aren't entirely there yet, as evidenced by David Fincher's The Social Network, where he was the weakest link (although, to be fair, everyone else in that goddamn movie was terrific, so there was only so much he could do).  The main reason I've kept up with the man's work is his choices in collaborators: when he went solo, he paired up with two of my favorite producers, who were also two of the most popular producers on the fucking planet at the time: Timbaland and The Neptunes.  His relationship with Pharrell Williams may be taking a break, but Timberlake and Timbo are still going strong, since his last two projects, 2013's The 20/20 Experience and The 20/20 Experience - 2 of 2, were primarily handled by Timbaland and his team.

You knew all of that already, so I don't know why I decided to write all of that down.  Oh well.  Anyway, the subject of today's post, "T.K.O.", was the underperforming second single from 2 of 2, featuring a Timbo beat that is reminiscent of his work on 2006's FutureSex/LoveSounds.  Timberlake croons about a relationship with a woman that is turning toxic, with the fighting and the makeup sex that comes along with it, although he questions both her motives and his own throughout.  So, you know, much more mature content than anything a boy band could pull off.  He relies too heavily on the boxing metaphors (see: the motherfucking song title), but the song itself isn't that bad for what it is: at least there's still someone out there that can squeeze the creative juices out of Timbaland, who hasn't really been the same since Missy Elliott moved on to different production.

Appropriately enough, on Black Friday in 2013, Timberlake unleashed the "Black Friday Remix" of "T.K.O.", where he minimizes his role significantly in favor of rappers J. Cole, A$AP Rocky, and Pusha T, who, of course, first made an impact on the mainstream on Timberlake's first solo single "Like I Love You" alongside his brother (No) Malice.  I'm fairly certain this remix also wasn't that popular, but to be fair, it couldn't receive regular radio airplay anyway, since the re-do is explicit as shit.  I give credit to the Timbs for allowing their guests to rant without being censored, but I question just what audience this shit was created for in the first place, since the only way you would have ever heard of this remix was if you actively sought it out.

Not surprisingly, most of the guest stars sidestep the song's original theme, instead using Timbaland's (slightly tweaked but not really) beat to further their own agendas.  Rocky manages to use the word "fuck" approximately eighty-four times in the span of five bars, it seems, while Pusha-Ton advertises what was his then-upcoming debut solo album, My Name Is My Name (although he is also quick to point out his past history with Timberlake).  Of the three, the guy most bloggers were talking the most about was Cole, who chose this opportunity to respond to Kendrick Lamar's long-ass, confrontational verse on Big Sean's still-technically-never-officially-released "Control": his verse was carefully designed to sort-of adhere to to the topic at hand (again, toxic relationships), all the way down to his "breakdown" toward the end of his performance.  All of this sounds like I'm talking shit, but in reality Cole isn't bad: it's just kind of weird that it took a remix of a Justin Timberlake song for someone to actually express their feelings regarding all of the challenges K-Dot laid down on "Control".

GO WITH THE O.G. OR THE REMIX?  I think the hip hop heads here will probably go with the remix, due to the inclusion of actual hip hop, but the original version is also pretty decent.  It isn't classic Timberlake, but it still sounds better than most of the shit on the radio these days.

In case you care, I've also included the official video for the album version of "T.K.O."  I just realized that I've never actually watched it myself, but I really don't want to right now.