Summer Time Music.

With this being the last post on this illustrious blog and summer right around the corner, I think there’s no more appropriate way to celebrate than by coming up with a rap mix for the summer.

What’s different between this and spring?  Summer is even more laid back, it’s more about having fun, and it’s even slower moving (tempo wise).  It’s also focused on being happy, relaxing, and having fun. A mix of new with some old classics to fit this summer.

So without further ado, enjoy the summer of 2012 folks…

B.o.B. – So Good

Dr. Dre feat. Snoop Dogg – Still D.R.E.

Meek Mill – Middle of da Summer

Big Tymers – Still Fly

Snoop Dogg feat. Pharrell – Let’s Get Blown

The Cool Kids – Summer Jam

Wiz Khalifa – Name on a Cloud

Jay-Z – I Know

Chris Brown feat. Big Sean & Wiz Khalifa – Till I Die

Rick Ross feat. Kanye West – Live Fast, Die Young

Big Sean feat. The-Dream – Live this Life

Kanye West: The New Age Rock Star

Times have changed pretty drastically since hair bands were completely trashing hotel rooms, doing copious amounts of drugs, and having sex with everything that moves.  Well maybe only the first thing has really changed… but it seems that many of the most popular artists these days are tame by comparison and much less personally destructive.

Where property destruction and lawlessness was the modus operandi of the most on-edge musicians 30 years ago… today it seems to be more of just acting like an asshole in general.

No one seems to be more of a king at acting like an asshole (and most importantly, getting away with it), than Kanye West.  His ego is… quite remarkable.  May I present a compilation:

Quite the collection, no?  99.999999% of people could not get away with acting like this and still be wildly liked.  For that reason… Kanye is the new age rock star.

So why can he get away with this?

 

Because Kanye is really, really, really good at what he does.  There are just so few musicians that are as advanced and talented as Kanye West right now.

So just like rock stars of the past and many of the celebrities we enjoy, we’ll let his negatives slide because he’s a once-in-a-generation talent.  Many people still hate him and can’t get over how arrogant/egotistical he is (and South Park famously mocked him for this), but in the end we don’t care about every time he jumps on stage and upstages Taylor Swift as long as every album he makes continues to be as high quality as every album he’s ever made.

I salute Kanye as the true embodiment of the 2012 rock star.  While he’s different than those of 30 years ago, he fits the culture as the best example of what a rock star is these days…  The best way to characterize it:

 

Kanye West can sell out a stadium full of people who openly admit his ego is completely out of control…

… and no one minds once the show starts.

 

What do you think of Kanye’s stance in pop culture today?  Do you agree with my points or disagree?

Kanye West “Theraflu” — Why It’s Awesome

On Wednesday, April 3rd, with Kanye West’s label G.O.O.D. Music’s posse album due for release in the coming months (though no official date yet), the much-anticipated first official G.O.O.D. Music single dropping in just two days, and Kanye’s next solo album not expected until the end of the year, one might expect Kanye wouldn’t release any solo material.

They would be wrong.

On Wednesday, the internet erupted when out of nowhere NYC legendary DJ Funk Flex dropped this one on the air:

Kanye is officially back with “Theraflu”, produced by Hit-Boy.  Why is this song awesome, it should be quite obvious, but let’s run it down:

  • Kanye is back with new material, always a good thing for music (there’s a reason he’s won 18 Grammys).
  • The beat is really hot.
  • Early in the calendar year is normally not a great time for rap releases, this provides some excitement.
  • The lyrics/shots Kanye took.

For whatever reason, Kanye is angry… and he’s not afraid to call people out on this one.  His lyrics provide many examples to choose from:

“Tell PETA my mink is draggin’ on the floor…”

Believe it or not, they were not too happy about that line.

“And the whole industry wanna f*ck your old chick… The only n*gga I got respect for is Wiz…”

A reference to his former girlfriend Amber Rose and her new engagement to fellow star rapper Wiz Khalifa.

“And I’ll admit I fell in love with Kim… Around the same time that she fell in love with him…”

The Kim Kardashian/Kris Humphries “wedding”:

Followed by…

“Well that’s cool baby girl, do your thing… Lucky I ain’t have Jay drop him from the team…”

Kris Humphries plays for the New Jersey Nets in the NBA… Who are owned in part by one of Kanye’s best friends, Jay-Z.

Aside from Kanye’s general brashness these lines made the song the talk of the internet.  This year is a lot more exciting than it would be without this song.  Great

The Future of the West Coast?

The west coast has been down for a bit on rap ever since Game’s fame has waned.  Still a very strong and traditional area for rappers (Los Angeles), we’ve seen the rise of two Los Angeles-based rappers.  One is notable now and one represents hope for the future.

The “hot” rapper now is Tyga.  Frest off his mainstream label album debut, his song “Rack City” remains one of the hottest in the country.  Devotees of this blog may remember my mention of him from the last post as he’s signed to Young Money.  How long his buzz will last will be fun to follow, but for now he’s got the clubs blasting his song:

Tyga embodies the current LA movement.  While his acclaim is exciting for the LA natives, the one that everyone out there is really excited about is a kid named Kendrick Lamar.  Hand-picked protege of West Coast God Dr. Dre, Kendrick Lamar is much more old school in terms of being one of the most “lyrical” young rappers out.  While most of the game has moved towards selling image (it always has, but even moreso), Kendrick scares other rappers by being able to make amazing songs but also having the ability to destroy them on a song.  Even notched a feature on Drake’s last album for his troubles.

Last week he released his debut single “The Recipe” featuring Dr. Dre (who he quite obviously wrote for on the song) and I’m in love with it:

For those rap fans who read this blog (particularly from the West Coast), what do you think of Tyga? Of Kendrick Lamar? How do you see their careers playing out?

Best Current Rap Crew: G.O.O.D. Music vs. Young Money

Power tends to be consolidated in rap… Rap has always had great crews/label rosters.  What gets to be the most fun though is when to groups come to dislike each other and lob disses at each other.  While there have been a few minor dust-ups between these groups (Common vs. Drake most recently), I don’t think it’ll flare up.  That doesn’t mean we can’t debate, which group is the best now and which has the best future ahead of it?

Have to head to the Tale of the Tape for this one and discuss the most notable members of each crew.

Young Money (YMCMB)

Established Under: Cash Money Records (Baby & Mannie Fresh)

HEADLINER (FOUNDER):

Lil’ Wayne

Hometown: New Orleans, LA

Resume: 3 #1 albums, 4 Grammys (10 Nominations).  One of the most famous rappers of all-time.  9 studio albums to date.

NOTABLE CREW:

 Drake

Hometown: Toronto, ON

Resume: 2 #1 albums (his only 2 albums).  4 Grammy nominations (all for first album, second album to be nominated next year).  Arguably the most popular rapper out right now.

 

Nicki Minaj

Hometown: Queens, NY

Resume: One #1 album (only album out, second album due in May which will debut at #1).  One of the biggest current stars in music.  Turning into a pop superstar (performed with Madonna at Super Bowl halftime).

Tyga

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Resume: Newest famous member of the crew.  1 studio album.  Current single “Rack City” in Top 10 of Billboard.

VERSUS…

G.O.O.D. Music

Established Under: Roc-a-Fella Records (Jay-Z)

HEADLINER (FOUNDER):

Kanye West

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Resume: 4 #1 albums (out of 5 total, his debut album peaked at #2).  18 (!!!) Grammy awards.  One of the most famous rappers and producers of all-time.

NOTABLE CREW:

Common

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Resume: 1 #1 album (1 #2 album).  2 Grammys (11 nominations).  8 studio albums.  Rap legend.

John Legend

Hometown: Springfield, OH

 Resume: 9x Grammy winner.  3 studio albums (peaked at #3, #4, and #4 on Billboard).  One of the most famous young singers in the world.

Big Sean

Hometown: Detroit, MI

Resume: Newest famous member of the crew.  Debut album opened at #3.  Single “A$$” went double platinum.  One of the brightest young stars in rap.

Kid Cudi

Hometown: Cleveland, OH

Resume: The most eclectic member of the group.  3 Grammy nominations.  3 studio albums (Debuted at #3, #3, and #4 on Billboard).

Breakdown: It really comes down to what you like… Young Money is more of a top-heavy crew with Lil’ Wayne, Drake, and Nicki Minaj being legitimate superstars while only Kanye West is the only superstar from G.O.O.D. Music.  However, G.O.O.D. Music has 29 Grammys compared to Young Money only having 4 (all from Lil’ Wayne).

Do you like style or substance?  If you like style then Young Money is the bet.  If you like substance, go with G.O.O.D. Music.  It’ll be fun to watch how this plays out with each empire continuing to grow with new artists yet to establish themselves.

What do you think?

The Value of Being the Musical Enigma: The Weeknd

Recognize him?  Most people don’t.  But if you follow rap/R&B you definitely know his name… He’s The Weeknd.  He’s a beautifully-voiced singer named Abel Tesfaye from Toronto who delves into the darkness of drugs and women with incredibly eclectic production.  Example A:


He’s released three critically acclaimed mixtapes (AKA free albums) to fans and his buzz is growing exponentially…

Exponentially is just hyperbole right?

Well, not when the top rapper in the game right now (Drake) is aligning himself with you and featuring you on his newest album:

Annnnd when he’s apparently already turned down a $7 million dollar record deal.  I come to wonder when I see that number……. how much of that has to do with the insatiable fans he’s created by being such an enigma.

With the internet making people superstars, he’s done an amazing job of becoming a star by not really existing on it except in grainy interviews and old studio videos.  He has ZERO music videos online.  He has ZERO interviews.  No one really knows anything about him and one has to wonder if half the buzz isn’t from fans just trying to figure out more about him.  This is the best interview video you can find, and he doesn’t even turn around:

This is the best video of him (in terms of actually being able to see him) on the internet and it’s from 2008… and it’s a cell phone video from a bus of him singing “happy birthday” to someone:

With all of this buzz and the lack of info on him, I hope he cashes in. Half of me can’t help but wonder if he’s going to become less interesting once he hits it big time… Or if he’s always going to play himself as an enigma like Prince.

He’s got the talent… He’s created an immense amount of value…  I’m looking forward to seeing how this one plays out.

Obligatory Post About Sampling — Frank Ocean’s “American Wedding”

As this is a rap-centric music blog, it wasn’t going to be long before we had to tackle the issue of sampling.

For those of you unfamiliar with the term “sampling”, it’s when an artist uses another artist’s copyrighted recording for their own song.  This can be done with or without permission (I’ve done it without permission numerous times and not been busted… *knocks on wood*).  Essentially when an artist samples another artist they need to get permission and most likely will owe them a base fee/royalties based on the commercial success of the recording.

Sampling is the foundation and backbone of rap music (though it isn’t limited to the genre) and certainly remains a controversial and litigious issue.  The latest controversy stems from R&B and Odd Future crooner Frank Ocean and his song “American Wedding”:

Sound familiar?  Some readers may have spit out their coffee/water in outrage!  Why? Well it’s basically just Frank Ocean singing over the instrumental of “Hotel California” by the Eagles:

As you can tell, Ocean’s version takes the complete master recording of “Hotel California” by The Eagles and even borrows their melodies for much of his singing.  Though the song was not released on any album and no profit was gained, The Eagles were none too happy about it.  Their publicist released this statement shortly after the song leaked:

“Frank Ocean did not merely ‘sample’ a portion of the Eagles’ Hotel California; he took the whole master track, plus the song’s existing melody, and replaced the lyrics with his own. This is not creative, let alone ‘intimidating.’ It’s illegal. For the record, Don Henley has not threatened or instituted any legal action against Frank Ocean, although the Eagles are now considering whether they should. Any further questions regarding this matter should be directed to Warner Music Group as it is the entity that currently owns the master recording and made the contact with Frank Ocean’s representatives concerning his infringement of the master recording.”

Mr. Ocean responded with his own side via his Tumblr, feeling incredulous over the entire ordeal and specifically called out The Eagles leading man Don Henley:

“Don Henley is apparently intimidated by my rendition of ‘Hotel California’. He threatened to sue if I perform it again. I think it’s fuckin’ awesome.”

He went on to say…

“I guess if I play it at coachella it’ll cost me a couple hundred racks. If I don’t show up to court, it’ll be a judgement against me & will probably show up on my credit report. Oh well. I try to buy my shit cash anyway. They also asked that I release a statement expressing my admiration for Mr. Henley, along with my assistance pulling it off the web as much as possible. Shit’s weird. Ain’t this guy rich as fuck? Why sue the new guy? I didn’t make a dime off that song. I released it for free. If anything I’m paying homage.”

And this is exactly why we have a controversy over sampling.  Did Frank Ocean break the law?  Yep.  If I was Don Henley/The Eagles would I be angry?  As an artist myself, I would say probably yeah.  Did Frank Ocean have a point about not making a dime from the song and seeing it as paying homage?  Definitely.  Does that matter when it comes to the law?  Nope.  Is the request for a statement expressing admiration of Don Henley a weird request?  Yep.  Where does this leave us?  Who knows at this point.

So we have yet another controversy about sampling.  What’s your take on this?  If Frank Ocean isn’t making a penny off using their recording, should it matter?  He’s obviously gaining promotion from the use but putting a dollar amount on how much is hard to quantify.

And what about the artistic angle?  Do you think he’s paying homage or had his own motives?  Do you see this as stealing or simply building upon the past?

As usual with sampling: lots of questions and very few answers.

What do you think?

 

W-w-w-w-w-w-w-warm Weather Music (Rap Obviously)

As Spring is beginning to poke it’s head around the corner, I figured it was time for a new mix.  With the changing of seasons my taste in rap songs change and the types of songs I want to listen to are adjusted.

If this was going to be a summer mix, I’d go with warmer songs with slower tempos.  HOWEVA, since it is Spring, it’s important to go with more upbeat music as the excitement of nice weather gets the blood flowin’ with “warm” feeling.  As I’ve said before the combination of music and situation is analogous to that of wine and cheese.

If you’re a fan of rap and looking forward to Spring, enjoy the following 10 songs and let them become the soundtrack to your Spring… Sunny days lie ahead:

Lil’ Wayne feat. Drake – Right Above it
 

Gym Class Heroes – New Friend Request

Kid Cudi feat. Kanye West & Common – Make Her Say

Clipse feat. Rick Ross – I’m Good (Remix)

Jay-Z – D.O.A.

Lupe Fiasco – I Gotcha

The Game – Game’s Pain

T.I. – What You Know

Wale – Mama Told Me

Jim Jones – Perfect Day

The Problem of Incredible Talent & Heinous Crime


I’m assuming that based on that picture you all know where I’m going with this.  However, assuming you’re completely unaware of what I’m talking about, this post is going to deal with Chris Brown and Rihanna… Well, mostly Chris Brown but their careers hit such a critical crossroads that you can’t mention him without Rihanna and the implications of that one awful night…

Hitting the rewind button for a second, let’s provide a little backstory for those unfamiliar with the situation.  Chris Brown and Rihanna are pop superstars who arrived on the scene a little less than 10 years ago; Chris Brown with his self-titled album at 16 and Rihanna with Music of the Sun when she was 17.  Naturally the stars found a way into each other’s hearts; I don’t imagine young pop stars can find many people they can identify with.

Their relationship went swimmingly for a short while and they were media darlings as each’s stardom continued to approach the ‘super’ level.  However, everything changed on February 7, 2009, the night before the Grammys, when Chris Brown violently assaulted Rihanna.  The result was a media firestorm that cast Chris Brown as a horrific woman-abuser and Rihanna as the victim of assault that is unfortunately none-to-unfamiliar to women around this nation and the world.

Despite this (or perhaps because of it) Rihanna’s career continued to flourish.  Her next few albums were all chart toppers and she had become a true superstar.  Even more surprisingly, after Chris Brown’s apology tour (and having most charges dropped/lowered), Chris’ career had also grown to the superstar level (though women’s activist groups and Rihanna fans would continually rail against him and bring up the story of his heinous crime).

Both Chris Brown’s and Rihanna’s careers have been moving along quite nicely since (both growing, but Chris’ under the shadow of the events of that one night), however a new storm seems to be inevitable.  Rihanna and Chris Brown had reconciled their differences many years ago, with Rih forgiving him but choosing to go in her own direction not long after the fateful night.  However, old habits die hard and it seems that Rihanna and Chris have found their way into each other’s lives again with each appearing on a remix for the other’s song:

The difference in label responses is interesting and the results are controversial nonetheless.  Island Def Jam does not support Rihanna’s new song at all while Chris’ label loves that he got Rihanna on his song.  The songs have inevitably started a controversy in the public with many rehashing the events of February 9, 2009 and feeling as though Rihanna is foolishly running back into Chris’ arms.  All the issues of 3 years ago regarding abusive relationships have come back into the public forum for debate.

NOTE: Now as an aside on this blog I’ll debate a lot of things, but not a crime as heinous as abusing a female.  I’m in no way defending this crime but this issue brings up an important question for our society which I’m going to dive into below.  As another aside, I’m not diving into Chris Brown and Rihanna getting back together, I think it’s a terrible idea but that’s not the purpose of this post.

The question I’m interested in is, should Chris Brown still be haunted by the crimes of his past?  We call this nation one of allowing people to get second chances… but it’s also one that has people treated very differently by the law depending on how rich they are.  Chris Brown would have definitely received jail/prison time for his crimes had he been a non-rich/non-celebrity member of society.  However, the reason he’s so rich is his incredible talent.  Hate him or love him, we can all admit (though many begrudgingly) that he’s a fantastically talented entertainer:


So the question I want to ask/consider is should what happened three years ago still haunt Chris Brown’s career?  If he wasn’t back with Rihanna… I’m not so sure it would.  We’ve forgiven incredibly talented superstars for doing much worse (Ray Lewis potentially murdering someone comes to mind), but should we?

I think we can all acknowledge this “treatment of celebrities/talented people” as a glaring hypocrisy in our society.  But how as individuals do we feel about it?  As stated above, Chris Brown would not be a free man if he wasn’t Chris Brown… but he is.  Should that matter?  The ethical side of me easily says, “Yes!”  Unfortunately, the “I think these people need to share their gifts with the world” side of me says “Well…” and it droans off into an eventual “Well…. no.”

So as a reader of this blog, we can see in this specific case (and many others) how incredible talent and heinous crime come to a head.  Chris Brown’s past hasn’t been mentioned with such fervor as it has in this past week with him and Rihanna making career amends of sorts…

More often than not… we let crimes slide if someone is worth it.  But should we?  If we all look in the mirror and admit it’s hypocritical, I suppose not.  For those who hate Chris Brown and think he’s not even that talented to start with, that’s an easy question.  For those who are on the other side, though not forgiving of his crime, it becomes a deeper issue.

An even deeper issue… Would people care as much if the woman he hadn’t abused wasn’t the beautiful Rihanna?  What if it was someone who wasn’t famous?  What if he abused an unattractive female?  What if he just beat up some random guy?  I hate bringing perceived attractiveness into this, but I absolutely think it matters and plays a role.  If the situation had been altered, would we still be mentioning this with Chris or like with other celebrities would we have tried to move on from their pasts?

I have no real answer.  You probably don’t either.  I’m not sure that’s a bad thing.  I’ve always thought about this though and thought it would be an interesting topic for dialogue.  I’d be interested in knowing what my readers think so comment away!

Rainy Day Rap Music.

I was having a hard time thinking of what I wanted to post next about (lots of cool/new topics I could write about), but I really have been enjoying these rainy days and they’ve sparked a 10 song playlist.  The thing about music and a situation in life is they go together like wine and cheese; nothing makes me happier when I’m walking around with my iPod than when the right song comes on that describes the situation perfectly.

Envision this music as great music to go sit out on your porch and just watch the rain fall while you think about life… Where you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going…  It needs to be reflective, calm, and flow smoothly with no abrupt musical changes and at moderate to slow tempos with mostly organic sound (not synthesized).

Without further ado… If it’s raining outside feel free to turn this on:

Alex’s Rainy Day Rap Mix:

Joe Budden – If I Die Tomorrow

Consequence – Who Knew My Luck Would Change

Rick Ross – Tears of Joy (feat. Cee-Lo Green)

Nas – Thugz Mansion (feat. 2Pac and J. Phoenix)

Lil’ Wayne – Tie My Hands (feat. Robin Thicke)

Common – Windows

Cam’ron – Do Ya Thing (Remix)

Jay-Z – Song Cry

Wale – Prescription

And finally…

Game – Better Days

Now if you’ll excuse me… I’m heading back to my porch.