Friday, December 30, 2005

2005 Joints

20. Gwen Stefani - Hollaback Girl: Kelis got “Milkshake” and issues with P. Gwen, you lucky, lucky girl.
19. Purple Ribbon All-Stars – Kryptonite: Study the syncopation on lengthy choppy hook leading into club shout of ‘A!’ and tell me how do the Outkast-affiliated reinvent ‘the catchiest hook you ever heard’ every damn time?
18. K-Otix - George Bush Doesn't Like Black People: Ye made it a hot line. Ye made it a hot song. The KO made it more than that. One of the earliest and best musical responses to the Katrina disaster.
17. Lil’ Jon, Usher, Ludacris, Eastside Boyz - Lovers and Friends: This time dead-on high-school grind throwback. Its straight-up jacked but the original doesn’t mention Rudy and Bud.
16. Amerie - One Thing: Crazy in love with the kit (and caboodle, too). Not the year of Rich Harrison but his season had this highlight.
15. Kano – Reload / Lady Sovereign – Ch-Ching: That rhythm gear-shift and odd extra beat is perfect on both. I want grime to sound like this all of the time. I pair ‘em as a 1, 2 punch although I’ve only seen Kano rock a stage.
14. Terrence Howard / Al Kapone - Whoop That Trick: Inseperable from the flick. Menace of the bass and highs and the relative subtlety of the hook shows the ‘mythic’ creative process behind ‘gangsta.’ Haters of the genre opened their mind a little bit more.
13. Ying Yang Twinz – Wait: Nastiness but won't wake the neighbors. Collipark caught ‘Drop it likes it Hot’ and sneaked away with the keys to… um, quiet crunk? I’ll coin it: Quunk! Sounds cute? Yes.
12. Joi, Bun B, Pastor Troy - Say Say Lil Fine Ass Nigga: Slim flirts in the dirt with purple dranks but no 'green eggs and ham.' It never surfaced up north but didn’t stop the heavy ipod play. “Slide down my rainbow” and “Like a whore” are juxtaposed with Prince-like deftness but typically unfazed Bun B steals the show with the raised-eyebrow delivery of “That shit is soundin' like a plan, shorty.”
11. Don Omar - Reggaeton Latino: The car jam for the hood drowning out bhangra and G-Unit. Reggaeton surged as close to mainstream as it ever has and you know that always calls for an anthem. Luckily Don had this one on “Chosen Few” ready to go.
10. BellX1 – Like I love You/Slow (from copy, right): Perfect pop from Justin and Kylie gets flipped into something beautiful. A snarky chuckle nearly undoes the haunting twangy plucks but the harmony just won’t let it fall apart.
9. Juelz Santana, Young Jeezy, Lil’ Wayne – Make It Work: Ignorance is bliss.
8. Ciara, Ludacris - Oh: Do I slow-dance to this? ATL crunk affiliation channels TX slowed-down sound for her best song. (Sidenote: Luda wins most underrated rapper again this year.)
7. Common, Kanye West, The Last Poets - The Corner: Classic cadence: Hasaan reigns. Flipping triples: Com regains. Hubris, hooks: Kon game remains.
6. Cassidy - I’m a Hustler (Ask about me): Swizz Hova-hook-focus continues cracking and (with ‘Bring Em Out’) finally makes me a fan.
5. Mariah Carey – We Belong Together: Uh, maybe you heard this one… Nudged out of best ‘break up song’ of the year by Keyshia only because MC’s sounds happy.
4. Keyshia Cole – I Should Have Cheated: The extended orchestration on the intro and outro could have done it… Any R&B girl might have done it… But what did it was Keyshia letting the pain catch her throat on a few notes but standing strong on all the others.
3. 3-6 Mafia, Young Buck, 8Ball & MJG – Stay Fly: Far from a novelty track Tenn MCs ride the double time… or the half time… with such a variety of flow and memorable moments… one of the classic posse cuts? Yeeeaaahhhh.
2. Damien ‘Jr. Gong’ Marley -Welcome to Jamrock: We recognize JR streets (images, beat, sample) and they recognize murder (violence, righteous delivery, bass/sample combo).
1. Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Mike Jones - Still Tippin’: 2005 was the year this brilliant sound led the charge for all things Houston representing great/good/not-so-good MCs over the Salih sound conveying Screw at regular speed, no less.

Special mentions:
R Kelly – TITC: Not good. Genius.
Dizzee Rascal, Grit Boyz - Damage Control Freestyle (from Houstonsoreal): World music exchange made brilliant by Dizzee’s attention to rhythm. Raskit haters listen up!

2005 Long Players

13. DJ Mark Marcelo - Ignant Mix: Like Americas 2005 ‘Top 40’ if Casey Kasem was thizzin’ it. Proof that ‘hyphy’ thrives without the MTV-predicted breakthrough. The synthy g-funk and spacey blips let some of the most creative verbalists in the country act hella silly and still stay tough.
12. Rapid Ric - Whut It Dew 2: This mix (combined with the savvy of Matt Sonzola and Roxy Cottontail) is one of the few things that got me out to a club this year. ‘Nuff said.
11. Cuizinier – Pour Les Filles: Takes the lessons of contemporary mixtapes (pacing, variety, adlibs, jokey jacks, border-crossing-beats, wimpy with whup-ass…) and does them right! Losing the ‘real’ and keeping the fun, Cuizi goes on the ‘offensive’ one better by being a white French guy pushing American black ghetto signifiers into abstraction. Reinventing ‘chopped & screwed’ in a French kitchen is awfully good. I could only speculate on how TTC fit into the last wave of Parisian tensions but that would take away from the ridiculous fun. Offended yet?
10. MIA – Arular: She lost post-internet-momentum but deserves all the buzz… and criticism. This album, from the absolute present, brings all those spin-off genres back together and provides lots to talk about… but it’s better to listen to.
9. Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter II: Who knew the backpack album of the year would be from the Cash Money Millionaire(s?). He has been GREAT during the jumpy early years (don’t let haters tell you otherwise) but he steps up calmly and confidently to a new grown era “oddly” concerned with the ART (rather than the MART) of rhyme… and TC2 still opens big. The off-the-dome rhyme structure doesn’t hinder hits (right, Hov?) but Wayne’s delivery emphasizes the ‘off-the-dome’ rather than the ‘structure.’ That places it comfortably in nerd headphones but might not stop car systems from bumping it.
8. Juelz Santana – What the Games Been Missing!: The leaks threatened to steal the thunder from this rumbling young man but damn if it don’t surprise when his direct style works on simple hooks AND story-raps. He has studied phrasing more than internal intricacies but name another rapper that sits so comfortably next to Jeezy, Ghostface and Rakim the God himself. For all of his ego, Juelz doesn’t threaten them. He reminds them of… themselves.
7. Feist – Let It Die: Fiona-like, fitting no category, but fiercely Feist. She grabs and wears influences like slinky cocktail dresses and they all fit perfectly. The warmth emanating from this album is all in her voice but it runs from cabaret velvet to ‘70’s sunsets to round-sound Lanois-like tom-toms to the comfort of AM radio. And it’s perfectly cool too.
6. Slim Thug – Already Platinum: His voice embodies the Texas sound, yet the LP is NOT the Texas repper due to the Neptunes beats…. And it’s STILL amazing. If it was mostly the voice Slim would rule rap. If it was beats, then the Neptunes would rule. In some ways they compete against eachothers strengths but the result is something quite original and unexpected. The mirror image of ‘The People’s Champ’ and yet…
5. Paul Wall – The People’s Champ: Paul has always put down consistently entertaining collections of songs. Sans Cham, drug dealing history and melanin abundance Paul does extremely well representing a well defined world that was ‘discovered’ this year. Less talented than most of the dudes around him but producing respectable, arguably definitive, genre artworks. Limited content actually adds to the definitive nature of the work… the George Clooney of rap? No wonder they both smile a lot. And have lots of talented friends.
4. Keyshia Cole – The Way It Is: A whole album of break-up songs sets her up to be the next Mary J… throwing the hood on ladies shoulders. The cracked vocal believably a product of the environment (“if that’s the ca-a-ase…”) and she’s repping HARD. She serves up the around-the-way-girl strength, pain and sex-appeal like it wants to be with all the black-radio fixin’s. ‘I Changed My Mind’ got the proper context and ‘I Should Have Cheated’ gets classic status. How can she be so tough and so so vulnerable… tell me, Keyshia… tell me…
3. Young Jeezy – Let’s Get It:Thug Motivation 101: “Dramatic” is not a positive for most of my album listening but the slightly overdone tracks work well with the uncooked rasp by the cagey new superstar MC. These are not ‘cipher’ rhymes. These are VOCALS. Perfectly timed vocals… telling THE story and convincing the listener. The occasional swing or slight twist on a line or a word becomes a striking peak in a landscape laid bare of emotion (regardless of claims to being ‘so emotional’). The ABSENCE of trying to impress misguided “traditionalists” is of course the source of Jeezy’s awesome PRESENCE on almost every track he touches. Simplicity is what makes the rhymes fascinating. Too zen for you? C’mon, he even kinda LOOKS like Buddha?!? Jeezy is BEYOND clever.
2. Re-Up Gang – We Got It For Cheap Vol. 2: The way Cam now owns ‘The Dougie’ (invented and formerly owned by Doug E.) The Gang owns these tracks. That’s the way a mixtape is supposed to work. Track/jack choices hit me in the backpack AND the gully as Gang affiliates hug the rails on ‘Daytona’… and ‘Elevators’ even! Solid, dark and cold, but with grams and grams of unexpectedly funny references told in the non-dramatic Clipsean tone. I have a ‘netted copy that is one file with no song breaks… and that suits me just fine.
1. Boyz N Da Hood - Boyz N Da Hood: This is not making any year end lists but no album got heavier rotation for me this year. Call it an early-in-the-year release. Call it the Jeezy and Jody jones. Call it Duke on ‘Still Slizzard.’ Call it young’n trap-tales with Duke and Big Gee providing some old soul heft and balance. Call it ‘Happy Jamz.’ Call it the text book MC-lessons on ‘Trap Nig**z’ or ‘Pu**y MFs.’ The Jeezy / Weezy switch and ‘maker of the bands’ fronting dough, potentially creates the first hardcore-rap Menudo (So is dude ‘Ricky Martin’? Thaaas riiight!) and I look forward to the next iteration of young, hungry southern MCs making little Diddy dollars… and bigger solo deals. I love rap GROUPS (even if they are studio built) where the MCs are distinct and talented and show it on (almost) every album cut… is that too much to ask for?

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

even better better

West Coast to the East, then right back to Atlanta
And that's how we / tight / tight, tight

I got a nice reaction from the Cool Breeze post. It even inspired Aurich out left-coast-way to apply one of his renaissance skills towards a ‘quick’ slurred and chopped version of the namesake jam. It’s one of those ‘why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?’ reworks that goes “one mo’ ‘gain” to the already doubled-up Freddie finishes. And he was good good enough to share it via this little outpost...

Good, Good - Cool Breeze (Slurred & Chopped version by Aurich)
(files re-upped)
(yousendit) (rapidshare)

Expect more things from Aurich.
Thanks, bro!

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

another 41st side of things

the br- the br- the br- (you know the rest?)
(photo from Frederico Ughi website)

Joseph Berger reports in the New York Times article "Her Film Project Happens to Be Her Project" about a film by Selena M. Blake titled "Queensbridge: The Other Side." This could provide a nicely balanced double feature matched up with "Tragedy: The Story of Queensbridge."

A few highlights from the article...

…The gritty setting inspired a legion of rappers.
Yet Ms. Blake, 43, also knew a Queensbridge that never made the news, a place where bus drivers, postal workers and seamstresses kept an eye on one another's children in the courtyard jungle gyms, and borrowed potatoes to finish off a stew. She felt so secure that she often forgot to lock her door. In the late 1990's, it was a drug dealer who banged on it to let her know that the police were towing her car. "They look out for you here," she said…
…And it tries to resolve a paradox about low-income projects: why places that have become a synonym for human misery should boast long waiting lists. Right now, 326 families are waiting to get into Queensbridge…
…The film rapidly crosscuts interviews between "thugs," as it calls the troublemakers, and current and former residents who have made good. The latter include State Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead; Mr. Artest, who baby-sat for Ms. Blake's son, Daniel Brown; Todd Craig, an instructor at Queensborough Community College who earned a master's degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education; and such hip-hop luminaries as the rappers Marley Marl and Capone.
Marley Marl, whose real name is Marlon Williams, recalled gazing at the Manhattan skyline beyond the Queensboro Bridge like Dorothy beholding Emerald City in "The Wizard of Oz."
"What I liked about Queensbridge was the roar of car wheels going over the bridge - there was a certain hum - and it was very meditative for me," he said. "I used to go over to the park and write lyrics and dream and look at Manhattan. One day, I was going to take over Manhattan."…
…She starts the film by flashing statistics that disprove some popular notions. Only 21.6 percent of Queensbridge's tenants receive welfare, and, excluding the elderly, almost all the rest are employed, though Queensbridge's average gross annual income is less than $20,000 and the average rent is a little more than $300 a month The average tenant has been there 16 years…
…Life in Queensbridge has improved with the overall drop in crime. Residents say drug dealing has plummeted since February, when Roslynn R. Mauskopf, the United States attorney in Brooklyn, announced the arrests of 37 people for selling drugs on "the Hill," as Queensbridge's shopping plaza is called. In 2004, there were no murders and just 25 assaults, according to Housing Authority statistics…

Thursday, December 08, 2005

ill beat blues?

kool giancanna

"Veteran producer & production manager Domingo has partnered with Offering upcoming Hip Hop producer’s an opportunity to produce for rap legend Kool G. Rap."

Timing is everything...

“First-Ever Hip-Hop Infomercial 'Phatt Traxx' … offers 36 professionally produced, hit-potential instrumental tracks that rappers and hip-hop singers can use for demo and performance use, without paying royalties, for under $30… Styles include West Coast, East Coast, Dirty South, Reggae Hip-Hop, Latin Hip-Hop, and R&B/Hip-Hop… No longer will Artists have to spend thousands of dollars on trying to make a hit demo.”

...I kid, I kid.


OK... Let's play "Who's Missing?"!

UPDATE: (MTV has most of the folk identified over here)