Tuesdays With Hip Hop – Wtf is Tom Ford? That new Jay-Z

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So Jay-Z got a crew of all-stars including Timbaland, Rick Rubin, and Cookie Monster in the studio and tried to craft an timeless album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, that rolled out a week early to those with a certain Korean cell phone running Android. I have a brain-damaged iPhone 3G but the album leaked and found its way onto some Russian file-trading sites and into my Serato crates last Friday. Verdict?

Hova does not not disappoint on this, and lots of these songs will go off in the club, but he didn’t take any risks. I’m not a huge Jay-Z fan, though I listened to Hard Knock Vol 2. daily during 8th grade basketball practice. Money wudn’t a thang. I stopped caring around the time Big Pimpin came out but really dug Rock La Famila. Side note – whatever happened to Memphis Bleek???? Never got into The Blueprint(s), ignored the beef with Nas, but really liked The Black Album, especially “Lucifer.”

We’re in a totally different rap world than the one where Jay-Z came up in the late 90s. Back then mainstream rappers were about ballin, hustlin, pimpin, and being buisnessmen and killas. Slick, cold, ruthless are adjectives that come to mind. Now we have weirdos like Danny Brown and Chance The Rapper, everyone poppin molly, 2 Chainz on everything, and collaborations between rappers and electronic artists a la ASAP x Skrillex. Jay-Z does not really fit into the weirder side, see for example his interview with Nardwar, compared to Lil B’s or Waka Flocka. Jay-Z appears stiff and out of place, but he’s also a smart businessman and hired the right people to make this album relevant. I think Jay-Z sums up his place amongst current rappers with this line:

“I don’t pop Molly I rock Tom Ford.”

Jay-Z doesn’t have time to get thizzed out. He’s the rich uncle at this point, almost like Uncle Phil on Fresh Prince. He’s too busy making business deals to fuck around, and for this album he assembled some A-level producers and made an amalgamation of what’s cool right now, especially “trap” beats. But this is the Bavarian cream Maybach version; it’s almost surgically clean. Does that mean it’s an instant classic? Not necessarily but it’s strong.

Jay-Z – Tom Ford

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I can’t help but compare this to the Kanye album, as Jay-Z and The Roc birthed Yay’s stardom and these albums came out within weeks of eachother. Not to mention Rick Rubin had a big hand in producing both LPs. Well, Yeezus is certainly the more cutting-edge, next-level album. Without a doubt. Jay-Z isn’t doing anything new here per se, he’s just doing Jay-Z really well with excellent hip hop beats whereas Kanye came with some crazy New Slaves/Black Skinhead acid house industrial ish.

For the club? The Jay-Z album wins for sure. There’s not much on Yeezus that would work on the floor. It’s almost apocalyptic at points. There’s plenty of peak time fodder on Magna Carta, some warm up tracks warm up, even some R&B. It’s much more accessible.

For the future? Definitely Yeezus. See, Jay-Z didn’t really take any risks with this album, but it’s still good, and the best I’ve heard from Jay-Z since the Black Album. I give Magna Carta Holy Grail a solid 8 and Yeezus a 9.5. This is my favorite song from the album, and the bassline sounds so much like “Triumph” by Wu-Tang. Love the chorus, almost sounds like Donovan.

Jay-Z – Heaven

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Tuesdays With Hip Hop: Killer Mike and EL-P “Run The Jewels”

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Back from Chongqing in one piece. A full treatment on that bizarro trip coming soon, still sorting out what happened in thirty-six sleepless, mad, surreal hours. Until then, let’s get back on track with Tuesday’s usual frequent hip hop offering.

Atlanta’s Killer Mike and New York’s EL-P’s new “Run The Jewels” collaboration carried me through a loathsome bus ride from ShengWan HK to the Shenzhen airport. That slow, underestimated crossing cost me one flight that I can refund only by “going to Taobao,” China’s eBay.

But June 2013, what a month for rap! EL-P and Killer Mike brought ’88 back through a technicolor ruffneck-Orwellian lens on this one. So much verbal interplay between two veterans who just attack EL-P beats that slam like boom-bap dubstep and grime. Crazy dense verses that you have to rewind and think about for a second as opposed to generic-albeit-effective lyrics on DJ Mustard produced tracks feat. Tyga, etc. Run The Jewels’ raps are often amazing and too bothersome to dictate. UK slang popping up on this one “actin aggy talkin bout he plexed.”

Run The Jewels – 36″ Chain

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I hope we’re in an era of great, short rap albums like this and Yeezus. Remember when rappers had like twenty songs per album and at least half sucked? No Limit Records was notorious for this. The ADD/You-Tube generation has infinitely more choices and avenues for music than mine did – basically ain’t nobody got time for that in the 4G era, unlike back in ’96 and that was one your six rap CDs on steady rotation in a Sony alarm clock or Discman like damn why is DMX so angry that he made six skits just yelling. About ten tracks or less is golden for a great album.

With a much, much smaller segment of the population buying physical music, compared to fifteen years ago, it’s better to launch a solid product like this, then line up the tour and merch and cake $$$gzzzz.  A-Trak’s label Fool’s Gold released the album for free download but serious fans can buy the vinyl, CD, herb grinder, or T-shirt, and Run The Jewels launch a US/Canada tour on July 10th. Sadly no Michigan date but they’re at the Pitchfork festival in Chicago. Really simple and effective website design too. Exemplary.

If you like this, check out Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music (2012), also produced by EL-P.

Tuesdays With Hip Hop – Kanye West, “Yeezus” Reviewed

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Most hip hop albums, like dance music albums, are not proper albums like Ariel Pink’s “Before Today” or Bowie’s “Ziggy Stardust.” Well, Kanye’s “Yeezus” feels pretty damn close to a proper album, and it’s unbelievably good. Outstanding production by an all-star team including Daft Punk, Hudson Mohawke, Rick Rubin, TNGHT, The RZA, and other A-level cats, above-average rhymes about real issues like race, religion, consumerism, and youth violence in Chicago, in-your-face-ness like old punk rock, and a general feeling of “I don’t give a fuck and this is the album I wanna make” make this the best rap album of 2013, better than any rap album from 2012, and really just a new direction for rap music.

I’m not a Kanye fan but concede that, like Diplo, he’s an important tastemaker with above-average and occasionally brilliant output. “Yeezus” falls into the “brilliant” category.  There are no radio singles in the ten tracks here. If these become radio singles, that’s because Kanye has once-again changed WHAT is popular.

Some will complain that this is weird and arduous. That’s true, but lots of art is difficult. Look at Duchamp and his toilet. Kayne starts this ten-track journey with no drums, just angry rhymes over abrasive synths that sound like a bad acid trip or some old industrial techno records – beat produced by Daft Punk. Pretty gully move for a mainstream rapper, as he shouts “how much do I not give a fuck? lemme show you right now ‘fore you give it up” then just drops an old soul sample in the middle of this electro sludge. Five seconds later the synths come back like nothing ever happened. Brilliant.

The next track, “Black Skinhead,” starts with a guitar sample that sounds like Black Sabbath then drums that recall “Rock and Roll Part 2″ by Gary Glitter.  “I keep it 300 – like the Romans, 300 bitches, where the Trojans?” Samples get dropped in again, this time stoner metal guitar instead of acid. Kanye sounds like a wolf – “I’m aware I’m a wolf, soon as the moon hits.”

Love the dancehall samples on this album, especially on “I’m In It.” Almost reminds me of The Bug.

The production does outshine the lyrics. It’s weird hearing Kanye rap about girls over a sample from a song about lynching black people in the south (Nina Simone/Charlie Parker’s “Strange Fruit”). God damn I wonder how much that sample cost. But the beat makes up for it, and so do his lyrics on other songs like “New Slaves” where Yeezus addresses real issues like consumerism and being slaves to brands and conspicuous consumption. I’ve never been a fan of Kanye’s rapping so he exceeded my low expectations on this album.

Best track? The production on “Bound 2″ is so unbelievably good. I’ve already listened to it at least 100 times.

Kanye West – Bound 2

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Standout Tracks: “I’m In It,” “Bound 2,” “New Slaves,” “On Sight,” Black Skinhead,” and “Blood On The Leaves,” “I Am A God.”

Misses: “Send It Up” and “Hold My Liquor,” both of which feature Chicago rappers, King L on the first and Chief Keef singing a bizarre chorus on the latter (I do enjoy the beat on “Hold My Liquor” though). Maybe it’s because I don’t understand what’s going on in Chi-raq with all the youth violence there, but these songs feel out of place.

Overall:

Production: 10/10
Rhymes: 7/10
Creativity: 9.5/10

This is a game-changing album. Get this now.

TUESDAYS WITH HIP HOP | NY RAP

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it’s Tuesday somewhere. many places really, just not Shanghai. maybe Nigeria?

For real why does everyone everywhere rock NY hats? Even people from world cities like Tokyo, Paris, and Shanghai. I go to hat stores here and find seventy different NY caps but not a single Detroit one. Like, really bootleg NY caps with fur and sparkles.

Nigerian dude in Shanghai wearing an NY cap: “Hey bro how you doin?”

Me: “Good thanks. Where you from man?”

Nigerian dude in Shanghai wearing an NY cap: “Ghana, man. You ok man?”

This is when I walk away but think about asking “So, Yankees huh? Jeter’s from Kalamazoo.” But actually I don’t know shit about baseball so if dude challenges me about the World Series or something then I look like a cunt.

Actually a lot of Koreans wear Detroit hats but they don’t know what the D means. So I’m like “yo, Detroit!” and they’re like “yogi…an-yay…….yogi….” and shit gets awkward. Same thing happens all the time with Asians in Michigan State shirts. Even when I say in Mandarin “Hey I went to MSU too!” I get confused looks 70% of the time and I try to explain I’m an alumni and people just walk away like “这个老外说什么。。。”

But this even happened at a bar in fucking Oxford England. Saw a guy wearing a University of Michigan sweatshirt, so I walk up and tell him I’m from Michigan, and dude says “oh, I must have got this in 62′ when I was in Vegas. Have you been to Vegas? you gotta go.” Vegas.

Anyway, here’s some of my favorite NY rap, starting with this classic diss song that prompted an even harsher comeback from KRS-One on “The Bridge Is Over.” I’m not a huge fan of MC Shan’s rhymes on this, but the beat goes hard. Conversely, I hate “The Bridge Is Over” beat but KRS obviously rhymes better than MC Shan.

Marly Marl ft. MC Shan – The Bridge

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Illmatic, clearly one of the greatest rap albums ever. Hard to pick one track but I haven’t posted this one before.

Nas – Life’s a Bitch

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And this never, ever, ever gets old.

Cam’ron – Killa Cam

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TUESDAYS WITH HIP HOP, PART 4 – Dirty Raps and Blowfly

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You’ve heard dirty hip hop before – 2 Live Crew, Ice-T, Too Short, Three 6 Mafia, but do you know about Blowfly from Miami? This guy used to write number one hits for R&B and soul singers back in the 60s and 70s, but also released some X-rated tracks with titles like “That’s What Your Pussy’s Made For,” “Too Fat To Fuck,” and the nine-minute “Beggin’ For Pussy Medley.” The groove on “More Than One Pussy” really stands out.

Blowfly – More Than One Pussy

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Lookin like a pro wrestler, he performs in a superhero suit, blue mask, and cape to this day, and the website for the documentary “The Weird World of Blowfly” claims he wrote the first rap song ever, back in 1965. If so, that far predates Gil Scott Heron’s 1974 “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” and Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.”

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I just discovered Blowfly and his 1984 LP “X-rated” in a folder of 80s hip-hop a homie recently passed me. Funny tunes with a really 80s vibe. Something like an X-rated Weird Al meets the Egyptian Lover and Dam Funk. He even raps over other popular beats from the time, like Lional Richie’s “Hello” and Cybotron’s “Clear” on “Electronic Pussy Sucker.”

Blowfly – Electronic Pussy Sucker

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Love the intro, “You know I saw this fine bitch the other day, in a store that sells computers and video games…”

blowflyxrated1984

Without Blowfly, we may not have other classic dirty rap like 2 Live Crew, also from Miami, who were arrested for performing songs from their 1989 album “As Nasty As They Wanna Be” after a federal court judge ruled the album obscene. Music shop employees were even arrested for selling the CD until the obscenity ruling was overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit in 1992. Funny how the courts in Florida worked then, but not during the 2000 election recount with Bush vs. Gore.

2 Live Crew – Pop That Pussy

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New rappers like Tyga, YG, and 2 Chainz just sound vulgar when they rap about the P because they lack the weirdness and creativity that made Blowfly and 2 Live Crew so appealing. That’s why I’d rather listen to Lil B than the aforementioned rappers, because he’s a weird character who doesn’t seem so serious, e.g. “I popped three pills I look like Harry Potter…I’m finna eat that pussy.”  Really wanna know if The Based God knows about Blowfly, the OG nasty rapper.

Lil B – Red Light Fashion

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TUESDAYS WITH HIP HOP, PART 3

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I woke to a WeChat messages saying “Rap is in such a golden age u are sound asleep on. Feel bad for you.” Him talkin Chance The Rapper’s “Acid Rap” mixtape. Mahanadan also warned me not to sleep on this. Twice in twenty-four hours; I had to cop.

We may be in a golden age of rap. Music like this proves that creativity and new styles still exist in a genre that’s at least 35 years old. This mixtape might be on par with Kendrick Lamar’s debut LP, especially this track “Juice.” This kid is 18 years old, on a lot of drugs, and getting kicked out/suspended from his elite high school in Chicago. Crazy flow, so fresh. Download the whole tape for free over at DatPiff.

Chance The Rapper – Juice

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Another 18 year-old kid, not chill like Chance The Rapper, kept flashing a cell phone in my face requesting Jay and Kanye’s “____ in Paris” and I never played it. Boy got all angry was huffing around real fierce. Kids need to learn song request etiquette and context. I had 17 year-old girls requesting “something more upbeat” at 10:17PM when a) was still plugging in my Serato b) her and her Becky friends were literally falling on the floor repeatedly, at 10:17. Anyway, this is the only version of that Jay/Kanye I still play. Shout to Chicago, again. Still remember leaving Love Bang last December, walking into Shelter, and hearing Kode9 drop this.

But god damn this song/melody. I stayed in a few Saturdays ago, laying on my bed at 2:00AM, looking up at the ceiling in silence and all the sudden from seemingly four floors above… “Deen den Deen Den…” came through the wood.  Funny to drop this version in the club. People expect the verses but everything crashes into noise until “don’t let me get in my zone…” reemerges. Brilliant.

DJ Rashad – Welcome To The Chi

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Moving on from Chicago to New York. I’m confident that Wu-Tang Clan’s Ghostface is definitely a real life gangsta who just happens to make brilliant music sometimes. His new LP with Adrian Younge is incredible. A full story, beats made with antique instruments, the sound of death in the rain…don’t sleep on this one.

Ghostface & Adrian Younge  ft. William Hart (Delfonics) – Enemies All Around

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And finally, some Fat Boys – from 1986.

Fat Boys – Can You Feel It

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Tuesdays With Hip Hop #2 + SHANGHAI ALL-STARS Friday @ SHELTER

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Trying to do this every week. Feeling a bit south of Florida this Tuesday so let’s get it started with some Spanish hip hop from Tego Calderon (Puerto Rico) and into Shyne (Belize), who at age 21 rolled into a Manhattan club with Puff Daddy and J Lo, shot some peeps, did ten years in jail, then moved to Israel upon release.

Tego Calderon – Slo Mo’

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Shyne ft. Barrington Levy – Bad Boyz

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广告一下: You already know the only weekly hip hop party* in Shanghai is Come Correct every Wednesday at The Shelter. Well, this week Come Correct gets Friday night too.

*that i know of..maybe there’s some secret hip-hop function under an overpass in Baoshan district or something, but I seriously doubt it. i’m also not counting Muse “hip hop” nights and other actually-not-hip-hop-at-all affairs.

That’s right, Come Correct doing a special Friday night called “SHANGHAI ALL-STARS” this Friday, with a dream-team lineup featuring:

-DJ Caution and Choyce Cutz on four turntables and two mixers,

- T-Plus, scratchmaster LJ from Guiyang, and DSK.

- 还有 DJ Cavia and yrs truly back-to-back

It’s free before 10:29 and RMB40 after. See you there.

 

 

 

 

 

TUESDAYS WITH HIP HOP

Some have asked  “Is your last name really Heatwolves? What kind of name is that?”

Here’s a bunch of chill hip hop for this Tuesday that feels like a Murrrrrrday. At least two Detroit artists in here.

Charizma & Peanut Butter Wolf – Methods

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Slum Village – Fourth & Back (Rock Music)

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Ice Cube – You Know How We Do It

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Esham – 24/7

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The Fat Boys – Jailhouse Rap

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