Archive for review

Lupe Fiasco- LASERS refracted (review)

Posted in Hip Hop with tags , , , , on March 7, 2011 by JB

Over the last month, a lot of news has come out about Lupe’s new album LASERS. After a long fight with the label just to get it released, Lupe warned that he’d be “embracing hypocrisy” on this album. Like a lot of so-called “conscious” rappers before him, Common I’m looking at you, Lupe has had a hard time moving from conscious hip hop to radio rap, whether this move was desired or completely forced is a whole other question. So now after months percolating under the pressure to stay true to himself and the label’s crack-head addiction to ringtone rap and club bangers, we get this strange, contradictory piece of work, Lasers.

After a few listens, it’s an interesting record that seems to be in conflict with itself. You have a few decent storytelling joints and conscious songs like Till I Get There and All Black Everything, in other words classic Lupe. Then you got those deep songs like Letting Go and Beautiful Lasers. The dark imagery and electronic soundscapes perfectly complementing each other. (Little Known Fact: You know that digitized, sterile sound juxtaposed with raw, human lyrics that Kanye’s been obsessed with lately? Lupe’s had that down for a while.) So again, classic Lupe. And I LOVE Words I Never Said. Political, controversial, deep, and all of it pounding on top of this dark digital beat.

Complain about the liquor store but what you drinking liquor for?

Complain about the gloom but when’d you pick a broom up?

Just listening to Pac aint gone make it stop

A rebel in your thoughts, aint gon make it halt

If you don’t become an actor you’ll never be a factor

It’s just the other half of the album that’s a bit harder to figure out. I Don’t Want to Care Right Now and Out of My Head are songs obviously aimed at the Top 40, and are pretty mediocre radio songs to be honest. But it’s in these songs that you can almost feel that hypocrisy stewing within Lupe, battling against his more creative, more true-to-self tendencies. Even in these songs, there are moments when Lupe seems to suddenly recognize the contradictions and tries to snap back to his usual self, even if for just a few seconds. Take a look at these lines from I Don’t Want to Care Right Now.

Don’t leave 48 you’ll find a killer in the first floor

It was me boy, to commercials

Feeling out of place like PETA at a fur store

So I left with a couple dozen fur coats

Like he said, he’s trying to embrace the hypocrisy. Although I’m not convinced of his success, the experiment is interesting in itself. Lupe has publicly said that he has lots of mixed feelings about this album because of all the fighting with the label and because of the compromises he had to make. Of all the songs, he’s suggested that The Show Goes On was the biggest compromise, the song he had to do if he wanted a release date. And of all the songs, this is my hardest song to evaluate. Loving it one moment, and hating it the next. Because come on, the song is cheesy as hell. It’s a nice beat, but it uses an INCREDIBLY OBVIOUS Modest Mouse sample, and worse than that, they based the hook on the sampled song. It’s such an obvious cash grab, a desperate plea to the radio stations. “Please play me.” It’s like that runt on the court always begging you to pick him for your team. (Well truthfully, that runt was me, but let’s not get off topic.) Plastic music. It’s a song that has no real heart. But then right when I’m ready to dismiss it completely, I remember how Lupe almost subverts the whole thing. Almost.

Have you ever had the feelin’ that you was bein’ had?

Don’t that shit there make you mad? They treat you like a slave

Put chains all on your soul and put whips up on your back

They be lyin’ through they teeth, hope you slip up off your path

I don’t switch up, I just laugh, put my kicks up on they desk

Unaffected by they threats, then get busy on they ass

In those six lines, Lupe almost turns a label-forced radio song into a song about fighting major label, mainstream music oppression. Of course, that doesn’t make up for the rest of the song which is pretty uninspired, but he’s got these little deviations, these Freudian slips, hidden in almost all the vapid radio songs. And at the very least, that keeps things interesting and keeps things Lupe.

When all is said and done, it’s not a bad album. The record’s got four or five great tracks. Conscious and clever as ever, and that’s more than you’d find on most other CDs. It’s only when you realize it’s Lupe rapping that you start to feel disappointed. With such high expectations, it was almost guaranteed that he’d fall short. Lupe tried to make a record that was for him and for the label, an album that spoke to real people and also the people at Billboard. Was he completely successful? Definitely not. But good luck finding another record as radio, as conscious, and as conflicted as this.

DOOM “Born Like This” review

Posted in Hip Hop with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 13, 2009 by JB

I just read this awesome DOOM interview on HipHopDX. If you’re a DOOM, Ghidra, Vaughn, Madvillain fan, you gotta read it. DOOM/Dumile is a real interesting guy. Plus, it sounds like the Ghostface collab, Madvilliany 2, and a new Ghidra record could all be coming out this year. That’s crazy. Well, anyways, the interview reminded me that I still got to do my review of Born Like This that I said I’d do. I’ve been listening to it on and off for the last week and a half to let it soak in. To sum it up quick: Not his best record, but still dope. Now I’ll break it down.

After the intro, the album starts out with Gazzillion Ear.  It’s a great start with DOOM spittin’ on a very DOOM-esque Dilla track. It always seemed crazy to me how DOOM and Madlib and Dilla seemed to just gel together like it was meant to be. But yeah, the track’s solid.

Next track is Ballskin, a track I featured on here a week or two ago. It’s one of my favorite tracks on the cd. Jake One clearly knows how to produce for DOOM, and the track is just classic DOOM. Next is a Raekwon feature, Yessir. It’s good, but I buy DOOM records for DOOM, you know what I mean. And no one can sound just like him. But it’s still a nice track and fits in pretty well with the rest of the cd. Absolutely, Madlib produced, is another good DOOM track. Above average but not a stand-out track IMO. Next is Rap Ambush, one of the best tracks on the album IMO. Also Jake One produced, just like Ballskin. The guy’s production is perfect for DOOM, and DOOM goes off on the track.

Lightworks is a Dilla-produced DOOM track that’s alright, but one of my least favorite on the album. Next up is Batty Boyz, which is the controversial track on the album. Some people will definitely be offended because the track is kinda homophobic. Personally I think the tracks kinda funny. In the interview, Dumile (DOOM) insisted he wasn’t homophobic and explained the thinking behind the track. “It’s not about homos. It’s about Batman and them. They just happen to be homos. It’s a story about Batman and it’s like I got a personal beef with Batman, or I’ll say the character DOOM, has a personal beef with Batman.” So that track’s not for everyone I guess.

Next up is Angelz, the track w/ Ghostface (or should I say Tony Starks). I love this track, it was released months ago though, so that’s made some people angry. But it’s still a cool track, so I’m cool with it being on the cd. Technically, this version is a little different than the version released before, and actually the first version was a little better. Less was more. Having a worse version of an old song is kinda lame, but if you had never head the other version, you’d all love this song just as much. Still a good track.

Track 10 is Cellz. DOOM samples Charles Bukowski, a writer that heavily influenced DOOM when making this album. Not a track you could dance to or anything, but still very tight and very DOOM. Still Dope is a sweet track. Empress Starhh Tha Femcee kills over a good DOOM-produced track. But like I said it, I don’t really like hearing tracks on a DOOM cd when there’s no DOOM. Still a nice track though. I didn’t like Microwave Mayo that much when I first heard it, but it’s growing on  me. Another cool beat produced by Jake One, it sounds like a harpsichord. DOOM brings the lyrics and the weird like he always does while also criticizing other rappers.

“Rappers like the gay club strip tease/With hippies on the yip sayin “hey bub grip these”/ They screamin for attention/ Deemin’ at the mention of a scary demon convention” 

More Rhymin’ is just another normal DOOM track. Average production and DOOM lyrics, not bad, but nothing special either. That’s That is one of my favorite tracks on the cd. He uses his Styrax Gum beat, one of my favorite DOOM beats and comes with his unique flow and lyrics.

“Can it be I stayed away too long?/Did you miss these rhymes when I was gone?/ As you listen to these crazy tracks/ Check them stats then you know where I’m at/ And that’s that.” 

I’m conflicted about Supervillianz. The verses by Kurious and Slug are straight. However, the beat gets tired after awhile and I can’t stand the autotune in the song. Depending on how much you can stand the autotune, it could be a good track. With tracks 16 & 17, the cd finishes off with a message from Bumpy Knuckles and the outro.

Overall, the cd’s pretty good. Lots of other reviews online said it was alright, but they were disappointed. I guess I’m a little disappointed too. After waiting this long, I was expecting the end-all-be-all DOOM album, the ultimate classic DOOM. This wasn’t quite that good. But it was still really solid. Less stand-out tracks, but actually more consistent than some of his other albums if you ask me. Overall I’d say: Madvillainy > MMM..FOOD > Born Like This > Operation: Doomsday (Don’t get me wrong, it’s his first and a classic, but overall as an album, its less polished than the others). Not his best, but DOOM’s still got it, and the cd still goes hard. Luckily for us, it sounds like more cds are on the way. Born Like This: 4/5.

cop it.

as a bonus, here’s another great track off Asher’s leaked album

Sour Patch Kids- Asher Roth

End of Easter (plus Asher review)

Posted in Hip Hop, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on April 12, 2009 by JB

 Ive never seen a more Easter-y pictureI’ve never seen a more Easter-y picture

So on Easter morning I went to church with the family. I love going to church on Easter Sunday because it’s the one of  the only days in the year my church has a choir, and it’s the only day they sing “Rain Down.” 

That’s the best (i.e. only) version I could find online. But anyways, that’s my FAVORITE church song. I only get to hear it once a year on Easter, so that’s why I like going to Easter Sunday mass. And they finally took the leash off the guy who sings it.

The guy who sings the main part used to go crazy. He would go all out, but then the last couple years, it seemed like he was holding back or something. But today he just went for it. It was awesome. Like one of those crazy masses on TV with the soulful choirs.  

Yeah, that looks about right.

Looks like my church choir. White and creepy. But full o' the Holy Spirit!

I also got some sweet chocolate rabbits and stuff. So Easter was pretty good for me this year.

 

So have you listened to the Asher Roth cd yet? I have. And I think it’s pretty good. Not all of the tracks are great, but definitely enough to make it worth the purchase. The cd’s got the right tone and is pretty cohesive musically. Looking at what people are saying about it online, a lot of people are complaining that he’s not that “talented,” that he’s corny, and that he’s not really saying anything in his songs. And I got a problem with some of those claims.

1. Talented? It depends what your definition of talented is and what your actually looking for in music. He’s got a decent flow, not one of the best, but definitely good. His flow gets tired sometimes in a way that Em’s never does, but its definitely not bad. Lyrically, he’s nothing special, nothing AMAZING I guess. But he’s definitely competent, funny, and unique. Name one other rapper who’s ever name-dropped Teddy Ruxpin.

The rap game would be better with more Teddy Ruxpin.

And then what are you looking for in music? A rapper can have the best flow or the most intellectual lyrics, but his music can still be garbage. Flow and lyrics are important. But in the end, when you’re selling hip hop or any kind of music, you’re selling the artist, his personality, and his style (vibes, tone, mood). Asher’s got enough of each that the cd’s pretty enjoyable, and I think it’ll sell decently.

2. Yeah, you’re right. He’s corny. I mean, the guy referenced Teddy Ruxpin in a song.

3. He doesn’t say anything important. Yeah that’s right too. Kinda. But it goes back to what I said before. No one (and I mean no one) only listens to hip hop to hear the message, to learn, to understand ghetto realities. Hip hop is music. Some music should be deep and conscious, and some should be fun and good to listen to. There are many rappers who have emptier lyrics than Asher. He’s got a couple nice concepts and slightly deep tracks on here. (He’s also got some dumb songs like “She Don’t Wanna Man,” which I’m sure some people will like, and “Bad Day”) Also, the guy’s being true to himself and speaking about his own experiences. It’s not like he’s a former correctional officer pretending to be a gangsta (that would be embarrassing). He’s a white, suburban kid. Some might think his music isn’t hard enough or he’s not relatable, but he’s just being Asher.

At the end of the day, it’s good music. Not everyone will listen to it, because it is “white people rap.”

I mean, even this guy said he likes Asher's music.

But it’s still good, unique, and something new. Not the deepest, but not so shallow that you feel dirty after you listen to it (like I do with some of the radio stuff). Undeniably better than a lot of the other mainstream stuff. Definitely give it a chance, and if you like it, support young hip hop.

Trackwise, I’d say “Fallin, His Dream, As I Em, and La Di Da are the best tracks. Some solid tracks. And then the worst, as I said before, are probably She Don’t Wanna Man and Bad Day.

Overall, 3.8/5

Fallin’ (my fav track)- Asher Roth