Diggin’ In the (Same) Crates

October 30, 2009

Oliver Sain — “On the Hill” (1972) (download)

Puff Daddy ft. Jay-Z & The Notorious B.I.G. — “Young G’s”

D.I.T.C. — “Day One”

You know you have low expectations for an album when you’re debating whether to buy it for the price of $1.00. Conventional wisdom should tell you that even one or two good tracks will justify the price, but you know that if the filler around those tracks is bad enough it will truly make you pine for a refund. On Tuesday, I bought Puff Daddy’s No Way Out amid just such concerns, and after giving it a listen I’m still not sure I spent my money wisely. Sure, there are some worthwhile moments on the album (mainly the four appearances by the Notorious B.I.G.) but the vast majority of Diddy’s (first) monument to his own self-importance suffers from vomit-inducing production and far too many verses by Puff himself, whose grindingly boring delivery makes the somnolent Mase sound like L.O.N.S.-era Busta Rhymes.

Aside from the “Benjamins” remix (whose beat changeup on Biggie’s verse marks one of the only surprises on an achingly predictable LP) No Way Out‘s strongest record is the Jay-Z and Biggie-helmed “Young G’s,” which again showcases the chemistry between the two Brooklyn giants, over a loop that, incredibly, was NOT lifted from a #1 record from the 1980s. When people mention “On the Hill,” from Oliver Sain’s 1972 Main Man LP, they inevitably bring up “Young G’s,” which flipped a tiny section of the song (beginning at 3:40) into a jazzy backdrop perfectly suited to the braggadocio of Hov and Biggie (let’s just not talk about Puff.)

Credit goes to Rashad Smith (who?) for placing such a banging record on an album otherwise marred by terrible production, but unfortunately for Rashad, Bronx legend Diamond flipped the same sample that same year, doing arguably a better job and resisting the jigged-out flourishes (in this case, the Kelly Price chorus)  that make even the best of No Way Out sound dated twelve years later. And while Biggie remains in a class all his own (“Young G’s” becomes infinitely more exciting the minute he starts flowing), D.I.T.C.’s “Day One” boasts five dope verses from five of NY’s finest, rather than just one amazing performance preceded by an underwhelming Jay-Z spot and a sleep-inducing verse from Puff. One of my favorite cuts of all time, “Day One” exemplifies everything great about the New York collective, reflecting the crew’s purist approach in its understated mixture of an obscure break, carefully-chosen drums, and across-the-board fire from each veteran lyricist. Which is not to take anything away from Puff’s record. It’s just hard to top perfection.


Sometimes I Wish I Lived in New York

October 29, 2009

Apparently tickets to this are only twelve bucks, and all those producers will actually be there in the flesh. If you haven’t heard the album yet, pick it up. Production is solid to excellent, and the lyrics are thoughtful, passionate, and mature. In terms of depth of content and love for the craft, nobody’s really fucking with this dude. Support him!

Not Bad For a Country With Such Shitty Weed

October 25, 2009

Despite having the literally the lowest-quality weed I have ever smoked (as in it’s brown, comes in blocks, and is full of sticks and seeds), Argentina seems to produce a surprising amount of reggae, ranging the spectrum from pop (Los Cafres), to roots (Dread Mar-I), to the populist and politically-tinged (Todos Tus Muertos, Resistencia Suburbana.) Perhaps one of the most interesting exponents of reggae argentino is Fidel Nadal, who aside from being one of the most visible representatives of Argentina’s tiny black minority, is also an observant Bobo Ashanti Rastafari. After fronting Todos Tus Muertos—a group influenced as much by punk and hardcore as  by traditional reggae—and even joining Mano Negra on the classic Casa Babylon (1994), Fidel has cultivated a more mellow sound in recent years,  a move that has increased his fanbase throughout Latin America while dissapointing many longtime followers. I’m certainly unqualified to comment on that controversy, but I must admit I was pleasantly surprised to hear “International Love” on the Bay’s urban Latino station last week. It’s not often that a reggae track makes it into the usual mix of reggaeton, bachata, and rock en español, and even rarer that an Argentine artist gets any significant play. Though it definitely opens Fidel up to charges of selling out, “International Love” is undeniably catchy and ebullient, the rare record one can enjoy equally whether smoking a joint solo or dancing in the club. I’ll certainly turn the volume up next time it comes on in the car.

Hit the jump for another video from the album International Love, “Luz y Compañia,” shot in the same Buenos Aires suburb where I once enjoyed a very sweet piece of afternoon delight. It was a long bus ride, but well worth the trip.

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What Do I Have to Do to Give You My Money?

October 23, 2009

Though it hurts me to acknowlege the fact, I’m aware that CDs are on their way out, and that sometime in the near future virtually all new music will be released on a digital-only basis. And when that day comes, I’ve already decided that I’ll stop buying new music altogether, instead hunting down old CDs to fill the many gaps in my collection. Because frankly, if I can’t hold an album in my hand, I don’t really want to own it. But while I’ve always thought of this as some kind of distant reality, I’ve realized lately that the last days for CD-buyers are already upon us.

Take what happened to me this week. I’d love to be sharing my thoughts with you on Cormega’s Born and Raised (which dropped, in theory, this past Tuesday) but despite several attempts at different stores, I haven’t been able to buy it.

On Tuesday I went to Amoeba, which is the kind of store that still stocks and can move records by people like Cormega, only to find that they hadn’t gotten a shipment. Which sucked, 1) because I had a credit from  the week prior (they sold me the wrong CD), and 2) because I’m incapable of entering Amoeba without buying anything. So after scooping up Casual’s Fear Itself and Goodie Mob’s Soul Food for 1.99 each (clearance, baby!) I left feeling dissapointed and confused (well, confused when I looked in the Goodie Mob case and found a CD by First Degree the D.E. WTF!) But no biggie, I thought, I’d just come back Wednesday and cop the new Mega then. No luck. Called Amoeba, and still no shipments. And I couldn’t buy it at my local spot, because Creative Music hadn’t even ordered any copies. I guess when you get as little business as they do, you can’t risk ordering CDs you might not sell. I then checked hipster wetdream Aquarius, and was not surprised to hear they’d never even heard of Cormega. But then again, they barely stock any rap. So I guess my question becomes, where am I supposed to go to buy this CD? It’s too indie for Best Buy or Target (the closest things to corporate music stores still in existence) and the indie retailers that should be carrying it aren’t, either because Corey’s label fucked up, it’s too much of a risk, or they only stock records by Yo La Tengo. The end result of all this is that it’s now Friday, and I still haven’t copped Mega’s album. And after reading the largely mediocre reviews online, it’s no longer at the top of my list. Yeah, I’ll still buy it eventually, but not before I cop, and absorb, O.C. & A.G.’s Oasis (if, when it drops next Tuesday, I can actually find a copy.) And the thing is, the average person would just say fuck it and download Born and Raised illegally. After all, they don’t have much of a choice, especially if—like me—they feel stupid paying for digital music on a site like Itunes (and fuck waiting five business days for an Amazon shipment.)

Ugh. For a true music collector, the whole situation is just depressing. But at least we can take solace in all the great previously-released music that’s still out there in physical form. Take the Beatnut’s The Originators (2002), which I picked up last week, and which happens to boast a banging track with none other than Mega Montana. Yeah, it’s seven years old, but it’s the closest thing to new Mega I can give you. As the ‘Nuts would say, Toma.

Beatnuts  ft. Cormega — “U Crazy” (download)

Don is Love

October 20, 2009

U-God ft. Cappadonna & Killah Priest — “God is Love”

Kreators ft. Cappadonna — “With You”

Cappadonna is probably no one’s favorite rapper, and he’s certainly fucked up a good share of Wu bangers  throughout his association with the Clan (“Triumph,” anyone?). Lately, however, I’ve been warming to this dude’s style, as the same characteristics that once struck me as flaws (eg. unpredictability, inconsistency, seemingly half-assed verse construction) start to sound more and more like benefits, especially in an industry increasingly populated by sanitized, pre-fab rapper-dolls. The antithesis of a Drake or Kid Cudi, Cappadonna is a true rough-neck, unconcerned with softening his edges or perfecting his flow. He just gives you raw emotion and whatever the fuck comes to his mind, yelling into the mic with that inimitable, street-hardened voice. Donna’s Slang Prostitution dropped in January, but despite the amazing cover art, I’m not sure I’m ready to digest a whole album of his verses. I have been loving some of his guest appearances lately, though.

The tracks above showcase two very different sides of an emcee not typically praised for his versatility. “God is Love” (from U-God’s excellent Dopium) finds Cappa in “Wu-Tang’s for the kids” mode, as he admonishes other rappers for glorifying street life and bringing down the hood. While I fail to see how Cappa’s not similarly guilty, it’s hard to argue with the passion in his voice, and there’s no question he steals the track. On “With You,” really the only good song on the Kreator’s Live Coverage (2004), Cappa again goes first, here contributing a laugh-out-loud performance reminiscent of his immortal verse on “Ice Cream.” For a song ostensibly for the ladies—down to its laid-back beat and R&B vocals—I can’t imagine a better opening line than, “I love a honey half-Chinese and half-Guyanese/be quick, drop to her knees.” Sounds like a Craigslist personal! Who says men aren’t picky?

Rappers Learning Spanish: New Trend?

October 17, 2009


Aventura ft. Wyclef & Ludacris — “Spanish Fly” (The Last, 2009)

Suga Free — “Sana Sana” (Smell My Finger, 2008)

She had big breasts, honey had me harder than a Spanish test!

One of my favorite Big L lines (from The Big Picture‘s “Who You Slidin’ Wit”) speaks to an unfortunate reality within hip-hop and American society at large. Despite the plethora of minorities and languages present in our country, most red-blooded “Amuricans” seem to have difficulty mastering any language other than their native English, and many have absolutely no interest in even attempting such a task. Until recently, American rap has largely reflected this reality, but the ever-growing Spanish-language market seems to have woken some rappers up to the potential of bilingualism.

On “Spanish Fly,” by the chart-topping bachata group Aventura, Ludacris experiments with some basic Spanish—probably what he remembers from high school—and the result is an endearingly silly Spanglish verse. Luda may not know much, but he tries, and the effort will surely win him new fans among Aventura’s legions of admirers in the U.S., Latin America, and Spain.

With “Sana Sana,” meanwhile, Suga Free is clearly aiming to crack a specific Latino market: that of the many Mexicans and Central Americans in his native Southern California. The title comes from the Mexican saying “Sana sana, colita de rana, si no sanas hoy sanarás mañana,” which roughly translates to “Health, health! Tail of a frog. If you don’t get better today, you will by tomorrow!” Free also throws in some Mexican slang, at one point calling himself “el más padrito” (the coolest.) He even translates his trademark adlib, “wait a minute,” hilariously finishing his verse with an energetic “espérate un momentoooo!” In terms of the effort involved, Pomona’s favorite pimp easily outdoes Luda, given that he kicks an entire verse in Spanish, rather than a few elementary school-level lines. If he indeed wrote the verse itself (and I think he did, given how well it fits his style) Free deserves serious respect, because he’s actually taught himself a good deal of Spanish. I wonder if he picked it up from one of his hoes…

So Much For Women’s Lib

October 15, 2009

From Juelz’s Twitter, accompanied by the tweet, “A! Drink it girl its Comin i Know you Thirsty !!!


Pic via Nahright; you know I don’t fuck with Twitter.