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September 2005

Posts from August 2005

Trapped In Confusion

Did you catch Sunday's MTV Video Music Awards telecast?

First of all, the show was an absolute bore. However, I did enjoy Kanye West and Jamie Foxx's performance of "Gold Digger." The two were looking very dapper in their black-and-white tuxedos.

But one of the strangest performances of the night was from R. Kelly. The R&B loverman sung "Chapter 6" from his ongoing musical soap opera, "Trapped In a Closet." There is word that Jive Records will release the final Chapters 6-10 (and Chapters 1 through 5) on a CD/DVD package in October -- kinda like what Usher did with Rhythm City Vol 1: Caught Up.

As I was watching R. 's solo performance, I was simply bewildered by the spectacle.

Why is R. Kelly lip syncing?
Why not show the "Chapter 6" video on the screen behind Kels sans the bedroom props and quick camera shots? Let's have some visuals with his bizarre performance.

I liked R.'s suit, though.

Blogcritic Pete Blackwell also watched Kels' performance and called it "an absolute car crash of a one-man show."

Pete writes:

"Chapter 6 provided a little taste for his fans to whet their appetite for the final four episodes while leaving several questions for people to ponder. What will become of our hero and his unfaithful wife? Will he confront the cop who is her lover? Will it be physically possible to listen to all ten chapters in a row without bleeding from the ears? Only time will tell."
Of course, now that R. Kelly has performed "Chapter 6," I desperately want to hear Chapters 7 through 10.

Damn that Kels!

I also have some sad news to report: It looks like the beef between 50 Cent and Fat Joe beef is still cooking. These two corny niggas rhyme-spitters need to grow the fuck up.

Oh, and I'm not a big fan of pop songbird Gwen Stefani. But damn, Gwen's ass was literally poppin' in this leopard dress.

Gwen-y is definitely a holla-BACK girl! Who knew?


I'm outta here . . .

Holla!


First Listen(s)


I copped Kanye West's Late Registration CD on Saturday. After three repeated listens, here's my take on the disc "a la Bol" style (this is not a full album review). These are my afterthoughts -- stream of consciousness type stuff.

You can also listen to the disc in its entirety via EJ Flavors' Radio Blog.

Before you begin reading, I decided to not mention any of the "Me Phi Broke" skits that are featured on Late Registration because they were dumb and totally unnecessary. Hey Kanye, stick with the music and leave the interludes for DJ/producer/skits master Prince Paul. Now on with the recap:


"Heard 'Em Say" (F/ Maroon 5's Adam Levine)

The beat is bangin'! Kanye said some poignant things on here. This is a dope kick-off song to the set. This is a standout track.

"Touch the Sky" (F/ Lupe Fiasco)

Just Blaze is a great producer. This is a kick-ass anthemic song and I love the Curtis Mayfield horn-sampled loop on here. This is a radio-ready single. A hot contender for Song of the Year honors.

"Gold Digger" (F/ Jamie Foxx)

Another great rap song. It's fun and cheeky. Rap music needs to be fun nowadays.

"Drive Slow" (F/ Paul Wall and GLC)

I like how that jazzy horn sample comes in and out of the song. Paul Wall is a dope rhyme-slinger and a shining star in the Dirty South. I would love to hear his debut CD The People's Champ. Paul Wall is about to blow up so don't sleep on him. I like GLC, too. This is a nice track.

"My Way Home" (F/ Common)

I like this track, but I betcha this song was axed from Common's Be. Nevertheless, this is a skippable track for me.

"Crack Music" (F/ Game)

This joint is siiick! Kanye is trying to get socially consciousness, once again. Kanye says that the crack era/Ronald Reagan-era birthed gangsta rap -- duuhhh! At least 'Ye is trying to educate a few fools who didn't know that. It's cool, but it's not impressive. White critics will probably fawn over this song because of Kanye's attempt to get hardcore. But Kanye gets a C for his efforts. But he geets props for trying to bring some type of socially awareness in the rap game. Game should have not appeared on the hook -- he should have spitted a rhyme. All and all, this is a very dope track. It's crack music, nigga. Whuuut!

"Roses"

No relation to Andre 3000's "Roses" on The Love Below. And quite frankly, Andre's song is way better. I like the beat, but I'm not feeling Kanye's lyrics on here. He keeps talking about the AIDS epidemic, which is cool but let's move on, Kanye, because you are not offering us any real serious thoughts about the situation. The beat is sick, though. Kanye is a dope producer.

"Bring Me Down" (F/ Brandy)

I'm not feeling this track. This is the requisite R&B/hip-hop song for the album. Some say that this is a radio-ready single. Ahh, nope, this isn't it. This tune falters because K-Wizzy and B-Rocka are boring on this song. This number should have been cut from the disc. This song brings me down. Next track, please!

"Addiction"

Oh, boy. Kanye is fucking up now. He's trying to get all abstract. K-Wizzy is not an abstract dude. I kinda like the beat, but I'm not feeling Kanye on this song. This sounds like Kanye's abstract love ballad. This is definitely a skippable track.

"Diamonds" (Remix) (F/ Jay-Z)

I like this song. Nice sample -- James Bond theme shit or whatever. Jigga is dope as usual. I believe Kanye's sincerity on this track. Yes, I do believe that Kanye is concerned about the issue of Africans dying in diamonds mines because of America's fascination for the bling-bling.

"We Major" (F/ Nas and Really Doe)

I like this track but it's not my favorite. It sounds too lazy. Nas is okay on here and Really Doe . . . well, I just don't know about him. In the end, this is a skippable track for me.

"Hey Mama"

Great! Kanye is back on track. This is a nice joint. Any rapper who dedicates a song to his mama, get props from me. And I don't care how teh ghey that it is. Niggas need to love their mamas more and stop acting like stank bitches. This is a standout track. Props!

"Celebration"

Oh, brother. I'm not feeling this song. Kanye is in his "let's get experimental" mood again. And Kanye ain't saying shit on this joint. This is definitely a throwaway track. Wooo-wheee, this is poo-poo. I'm not feeling this joint at all. Damn, what's up with this track, Kanye?

"Gone" (F/ Cam'ron and Consequence)

Thank you, Kanye. THIS BEAT IS SIIICK!!!! Crrrazzy! Another standout track!
A straight BANGER! Cam'ron blazed the track with his nursery rhymes. Consequence is dope, too. Holy shit, this is Hot! This is a rap radio-ready single. I love the piano loop and dramatic violins. A rewindable track, fo sho. Blazing! You got another hit here K-Wizzy! Yessir!

"Late" (Hidden Track)

I like this song, it's kinda soulful. It's ii-ight. But in the end, it's a skippable track, for me.


Afterthoughts:

There is no sophomore jinx here. This is a very good album. The good parts are that Kanye's production acumen is as sharp as ever. There are some tight beats here. Kanye's average lyrics skills are a problem, but not so much that it hampers the cohesiveness of the disc. As oppose to the other rhyme-spitters in the rap game right now -- who are average at best when it comes to lyrics -- Kanye fits right in. I think 'Ye should have trimmed the song selections down to about 11 tracks.

Now the real important question: Is Late Registration a hip-hop masterpiece?

No!

But it's certainly one of the finest rap albums in 2005. It will definitely grace my Top 10 year-end list, but not very high. I love Kanye's latest and I'm currently dumping joints into my iPod. Kanye didn't impress me lyrically on this disc. But like I say before, 'Ye shines lyrically on some tracks, while on others he's horrible. He's your average rapper. And most of the rhymers who are topping the music charts right now are average, at best . . . so what's the fuss?

Kaye West's CD Late Registration is not bad at all -- in fact, it's great. There are some definite bangers on here.

Horray for Kanye! He did it again!


Holla!


No Lovin'?

"I love hip-hop, I just hate the niggas that's in it . . . "
-- Phonte of Little Brother

What is this?

Hip-hop magazines are not showing any love for Little Brother's CD The Minstrel Show? Is there some kind of conspirarcy going on that I don't know about?

After reading this article on HipHopDX.com, it looks like to me that hip-hop magazines XXL and The Source are too scare to give Little Brother's upcoming disc a "Classic" rating.

What gives?

Phonte says:

"I was told, by some of the [XXL] writers when we had the listening session in New York, that our album was better than Common's [Be] album. So I'm thinking that if Common's album got a XXL [rating], and cats is sayin that The Minstrel Show is better than that, then ours would be up there too. "
He then continued: "Basically we was told by XXL that 'Yo the album is dope but we don't want to give two classic ratings in a row.' So either they are feeling like they already gave it to Com so they can't give it to us, or they are about to roll out the red carpet for [Kanye West]."
Damn that Kanye! (LOL!) He's fucking it up for everybody!

But then Phonte goes on to explain about The Source fiasco. For those out of the loop, the former Editor-In-Chief Joshua "Fahiym" Ratcliffe resigned from his gig at the mag when Source CEOs Wack-zino and Dave Mays changed LB's mic rating from 4 and 1/2 mics to 4 mics. This, after Fahiym told Little Brother they were going to get a 4.5 mic rating in the magazine.

Phonte explains the scenerio:

"The Source, man . . . basically Fahiym felt that the album was dope and deserved a 4 and 1/2 and the writer who wrote the review and alot of the staff felt the same way. But Benzino and Dave Mays just didn't agree. From what Fahiym told me, it was mainly Benzino that acted crazy about it. So basically, it was told to Fahiym that this is what we do, we sign your checks and if you don't like it then get out. Fahiym was like, 'Aiight, well then I'm out!'"
What is going on?

Yo, we need to champion rappers out here who are trying to bring a new musical direction to the rap game.

So why is everybody so scared of The Minstrel Show?

Hold on, brothers . . . hold on.

Speaking of which, check out Little Brother's banging joint "Hold On."

Like I said before, "Hold On" is a better song than their current single, "Lovin' It." In fact, it ridd-ocks -- it's a straight banger. I want Little Brother to blow up big time in the rap game because they deserve it. They are the next OutKast as far as I'm concerned. I see nothing but classic albums from this North Carolina trio. But studio wizard 9th Wonder must step his production game up! And Little Brother must team up with Young Guru and DJ Hi-Tek -- who is now a big-shot beat lacer -- on production. These two guys can give them the beats they need to go platinum.

I see the future for Little Brother . . .

Damn, I wish I was an A&R executive at Atlantic Records.

Little Brother's The Minstrel Show is due out on Sept. 13.

Holla!


Better Late Than Never

Reviews are still pouring in for Kanye West's CD Late Registration -- some of it is good and some of it is bad. All in all, one of the critical sticking nagging points with the disc is Kanye lyrical skills -- or lack thereof. But mostly all have said that Kanye's production (with assistance from rock producer Jon Brion) on the set is top notch.

This is the last round up of reviews before I offer my take on Kanye's CD. And for the record, when I say the K-Wizzy is a hip-hop genius, I'm not saying he's "the greatest rapper of all time" and that Nas, Rakim or [name your favorite rapper here] should bow down and kiss his feet. HOWEVER, in terms of Kanye's musical input in the rap game -- production-wise and sometimes lyrically -- this man is doing an exceptional job. In my opinion, Kanye is hip-hop personified. Or, as one blogger proclaims, "Kanye West is a very smart man."

I love "Gold Digger" and I think it's a fun rap cut. Yes, Kanye is sub par with his the lyrical skills but so are 50 Cent, Madlib (Quasimoto), Common, Mike Jones, Kano, Slim Thug and others. Like those rhyme-spitters I aforementioned, they shine on some tracks while on others they are horrible.

That being said, Kanye's lyrical flow is an acquired taste. I don't mind K-West's lyrical flow sometimes. And I do believe he has a brilliant mind when it comes to this hip-hop shit. On Late Registration, Kanye seems to broaden his horizons thanks to some studio help from Jon Brion.

And blogger Douglas seems to agree, as well. On his blog, The Armchair Novelist, he dissects each track of Late Registration describing the production values and lyrical output. Douglas says:

"It's hard to compare this to College Dropout, but if I had to, I'd have to say that Late Registration is slightly better. It drags after the first eight tracks, and picks up steam at the end. If this album were only fourteen tracks, it would be rap album of the year.
"[Instead it's] the second best, but this year has been so lackluster for rap music, that if Jay-Z came back and recorded himself taking a bath, he'd have the second-best rap album of the year. We know this is going on a year-end list or two. Maybe Kanye can trim the fat and capitalize on his absurd level of potential when graduation day comes along."
But what seems to hold this CD back from garnering "classic" status is Kanye's lyrical skills. Poet-humanitarian hardCore believes that Kanye is, well, lyrically faking it. "Man, I swear, I don't get the fascination with Kanye," questions hardCore. "I really don't [and] "I'm not hating either. I enjoy[ed] some of the beats, but there is something missing in his [MC] game. When he tries to be deep and educated, I don't believe him. When he tries to be raw, I don't believe him."

Music head Frankie of a hint of red blog also concurs that Kanye needs to step up on his lyrical game:

"I love how everyone claims to like Kanye West yet no one has realized how shitty of a rapper he is. Man-o-man . . . his beats are cool and he's a wonderful producer (listen to Be) but the man just has no talent when it comes to rapping."
And blogger Rizoh believes Kanye is simply a con man:
"Peep the KonMan on the most recent issue of Time magazine as they rightfully attribute the success of Hip-Hop's backpack-mainstream connection to Mr. West (amongst others). His upcoming Late Registration album is obviously one of the most anticipated albums of 2005, so what better way to add fuel to the fire than to have Hov get at the corporate guys at Time."
In the end, I think Joey of Straight Bangin' blog gives an excellent assessment of Kanye's lyrical and production skills on Registration. Joey says:
"Kanye's second album is not nearly as good as his first. Sure, it's more refined. And it will probably make music critics piss themselves while they fight each other for a chance to write absurd, grandiloquent pronouncements like 'With soaring, regal beats and a triumphant aesthetic . . .' But his rhyming is only decent at best; some tracks, like 'Addictive' suffer from [The Roots'] Tipping Point syndrome (different for the sake of it); and others, like 'Heard 'Em Say,' are just horrible. (Phrenology remains the best of the recent attempts to "move the genre forward" or whatever self-absorbed explanation artists give when they do something risky and stupid.)
"Really, this is a pop record made by rappers. There is a decidedly absent hip-hop element to this record. Great beats are important, but the greatest of beats -- even contemporary bangers like 'Grindin'' -- earn such high regard because while they carry the rhythm and melody, they also showcase the MC. That's not the case on this soulless album."
While you wait for the official release of Kanye West's Late Registration, which hits stores on Tuesday, peep these tracks below from the disc:

You can listen to Late Registration in its entirety right HERE. (Warning: you have to fill out a questionaire) (via NME magazine online)

Big-ups to the folks at HipHopGame.com for lacing rap fans with hot Kanye West heaters:

Kanye West (F/ Consequence and Cam'ron) -- "Gone"

Kanye West -- "Touch the Sky"

And peep this joint out: Kanye West and Brandy team up again for "Bring Me Down."
(Via Kevin Daily)
(Additive Note: This is not my favorite song, so already Kanye gets a strike from me with this tune.)

Holla!


As G.O.O.D. As "Gold"


I got a prob with niggas speaking gossip/
Talk about what cha know nothing in this nonsense/
That's a Bronson, Charlie take precaution/
Get cha sold on the block/ no not an auction/
Dearly departin' / I'm not a G/
But I move like they move with a head full of smarts, man/
Here these niggas go ram-blin'/
'Cause they don't know about the business we be han-dlin' . . .

-- Rapper Big Pooh of Little Brother, "Lovin' It"

Although Bol thinks super producer-rapper Kanye West is gay, I, myself, think that K-West is a hip-hop genius. (Yeah, I said it! Whuuut!)

Exhibit A:

I'm totally lovin' Kanye's video for "Gold Digger" (F/ Jamie Foxx). The clip is a visual eye candy featuring Kanye's swagger and video pin-up girls. The video is mad funny, tastefully done and visually brilliant. Ryan from the coolest music-video blog, Purpology, describes 'Ye's clip as "classy."

Ryan pens (or types):

"[Kanye] spends most of this clip with his back to the camera as if he's too good to fully turn around in his own damn video. It's brilliant and cocky and it makes you want more. Though there would be no Little X (or X, whatever) without Hype Williams, the fisheye-friendly director seems to be eating himself (influentially speaking) as this one comes off as a classy X "just shoot the star against a bright background" rip. Classy because the women are wearing vintage lingerie instead of cut-off jeans and they're posing in front of backgrounds that look like old-school Playboy ads."
Exhibit B:
Music reviews are already pouring in on Kanye's Late Registration CD, which has been leaked on the Internet within the last couple of days.

Everyone's favorite hip-hop blogger Oliver Wang gives Kanye West's disc a partial thumbs up.

O-Dub writes:

"For those praying for the sophomore slump . . . it's not happening. This isn't just a passable album nor is it College Dropout, Part 2. Everything on here sounds more mature and fussed over. That doesn't necessarily make it better than College Dropout (I'm not ready to make that kind of assessment) but it's no fall-off either. Believe me -- I would have been happy if the album sucked and Kanye was forced to dial his diva-ego down a notch but really? I couldn't believe how many times I heard a song off here and thought, "damn, this is really kind of good."
But Bol of byroncrawford.com thinks Late Registration is straight garbage and that Kanye is mucho teh ghey.

Bol spits in his acidic intro:

A year from now, after he's run afoul of the Jews and hence gone broke and taken up karate, people are going to look back and say, "You know what? Byron Crawford was right: Kanye West really does have very little actual talent." What a poor fucking album.
But writer Sach of Chungking Express in Brooklyn blog has written -- in my humble opinion -- the best critical review of Late Registration. He gives a track-by-track description of each song and its aesthetic appeal.

Overall, Sac describes the disc as such:

"Beyond quality material, West himself has learned to play his strengths and minimize his weaknesses: he's bumped his emceeing up a notch with a more agile flow and by inviting more guests to fill in verses, a smart move considering a little West goes a long way. Production wise, West has come a long way from the Blueprint's "chipmunk soul."

Realizing that he wanted a bombastic, operatic sound, Kanye hired film-composer/rock producer Jon Brion to assist him behind the boards: the result is a warmly mixed, synth heavy album that reinforces Kanye's bombast but at least does so consistently. This is not an album for fans of hip-hop's '88 sound, but those who appreciate the modern aesthetic will find themselves hard pressed to find a better produced album this year, even if the over the top grandeur may or may not be looked back on as the rap equivalent of Styx/Foreigner or at best, Queen."

And for those of you who are wondering, who is this guy -- or in Bol's case douche bag -- named Jon Brion, MP3 blog 15 Minutes To Listen offers a short discography on Jon's production work. But Jon is mostly known for his studio time with reclusive rocker Fiona Apple (both her debut album Tidal and the 1999 follow-up When the Pawn . . .).

Finally, blogger (Mike) Shep really enjoyed Kanye's Late Registration but hated the bonus tracks. He believes there should be a ban on bonus tracks by artists because they are often gimmicky and unnecessary.

Shep opines:

"The album (Late Registration) is going to be one of the best albums of the next year or so. The production on it is stellar. But in general, these bonus tracks are pointless and can be left off. Pressure the artists to release good music and people will buy again. You don't need gimmicks like this to make people buy the album, all you need is good music."
And it's safe to say, that Kanye West makes G.O.O.D. Music.

I'll give my take on Late Registration when I have an official copy in my hands.

Holla!