July 13, 2017

Reviews in Bulk: R.I.P. Prodigy Edition

The recent passing of Albert "Prodigy" Johnson was a severe loss for the genre as a whole. I'm not going to spend a lot of time cherry-picking my favorite bars or tracks, as that's been done all over the Interweb already, but regardless of how I felt about the man's later output (both by himself and as one-half of the formidable Queensbridge duo Mobb Deep, who was in the midst of a tour when the man passed away), Prodigy was one of the finest emcees to come out of New York in the 1990s, and, unlike a lot of your favorite rappers, the man had legitimate classic records under his belt. His cold, calculated-but-aloof flow will easily place the Mobb's finest works, the breakthrough The Infamous and its follow-up Hell On Earth, onto Best Albums of All Time lists for decades to come, and the man still had some bangers following all of that.

What follows isn't a new write-up, as I, admittedly, haven't listened to any new Prodigy work in quite some time (upon hearing the news, The Infamous and Hell On Earth were played back-to-back immediately). Instead, I've compiled a list of all of the Prodigy and Prodigy-related reviews I've written to date, in the hope that you two may discover or rediscover the man's body of work, which absolutely deserves all of the attention its received. Some of the photos may not work anymore, but I can't be bothered to fix any of those links at this time: besides, this is really about the writing anymore.

For the hell of it, I've also included what I've written about his rhyme partner Havoc, in addition to Mobb Deep affiliates Rapper Noyd and the Infamous Mobb, which gives you that much more to comb through.

May 25, 2017

Wait, Max Finally Posted Something New, And It's Another Article Following XXL's 2012 Freshmen Class?

(So here's the thing: my hiatus is still a thing that is happening. Sorry, but it is what it is. However, the past year-and-a-half have seen some false starts, such as this article I started last fall that I never bothered to finish. I've chosen to clean and press it in an effort to actually get some page views, maybe?, but when you view the song selections, keep in mind that this is something out of my nonexistent vault, and that I obviously realize that, say, Future has dropped eighteen more albums' worth of material since the time I originally took pen to paper. And so.)

This year (again, remember, I wrote this in 2016), XXL's annual Freshman Class list contains no less than two artists I have honestly never even heard of (even as I write this annotation), one that I have but don't give much of a shit about, one comedian-turned-rapper, and several rappers who all sound the same to me, and yet are each probably going to have their superstar moments, because life is unfair and hip hop is terrible. It actually made me miss the relative simplicity of the class of 2012, whom I've been following each year of their careers since making the cover of a magazine that nobody gives a fuck about anymore: at least some of those guys (and the lone token woman) rap

And with that, let's look at where the 2012 class is now, five years removed from their first taste of fame. Have any of them exploded? Imploded? Sure, whatever, who cares; this is just an excuse for me to make fun of artists that I hate while promoting the one that I actually like on here. As usual, insert the standard disclaimer about how I don't know if the series will proceed beyond this year here.

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.)