Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

My Disturbing Dark Twisted Meandering on the making of Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is up now at The Passion of the Weiss.

What makes this album from Kanye swirl around the glass?

Hint (the chorus specifically):

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I’m on TV Talking Like It’s Just You and Me

I remember before Kanye West’s Graduation dropped, when he was in the battle for first week sales with 50 Cent and his LP Curtis two years ago.  I told anybody who would listen that Kanye would be victorious for the simple fact that every time he drops an album, there’s a story behind it.  Curtis Jackson was chiefly concerned with you treating his dick like a Pixie stick or a roller skating rink or some other kid’s delight.

Kanye had a lot riding on Graduation.  He was mainstream now after “Gold Digger”, his national lambasting of George Bush, and some truly remarkable Grammy moments (I dont’ care what anybody says, this outfit was fucking KILLER minus the taco meat of course).  He had been the Renaissance Man for vets like Common, Twista, and Jamie Foxx whose previous releases were almost allergic to Soundscan.   And his Big Brother Jay-Z was officially retired.  Graduation could’ve been titled The Man Who Was To Be King.

Can you believe it’s been 2 years since “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” “Stronger”, “The Good Life”, and “Flashing Lights” came out and yet they’re still selling the Stiles from Teen Wolf glasses Kanye promoted at Target right now?  I still listen to “Good Morning” every time I go to the gym to get the blood flowing.  I still get goosebumps when “Big Brother” finishes the album.  Graduation isn’t perfect as I say in my write-up, but it’s not too far off.  But Kanye says it best: This is my dissertation, homie this shit is basic, welcome to Graduation.

The Top 10 Hip Hop Albums of the Decade at Passion of the Weiss

Whatchu Gon’ Do Today? Just Say, Hey I Wanna Get Paid

Here’s a brief account as to why Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2 is just DAT SHIT!  Last week we were at the Lizard Lounge banging out a proper jointage when this album came up in conversation after talking about the late Baatin (RIP).  Three guys all went BONKERS when Vol. 2 was just merely just whispered. 

Here’s the background on these three men: 1 MC/producer from Philly who is akin to Nas and Lupe Fiasco, 1 MC from Camden who is akin to Busta Rhymes and Method Man, and yours truly, a South Philly MC/producer who looks like Ben Affleck in “Chasing Amy”.  Our collective backgrounds on the surface have little to no connection.  Our styles are wholly separate but individually dope.  We are all different ages.  And we have spent our lives raised on the east coast boom bap.  With all that said, Fantastic MOTHERFUCKING Vol. 2 had us smiling and laughing and yelling and reenacting the ritual of driving around banging “I Don’t Know Why” with a shorty that you truly didn’t know why the fuck you were fucking with her.

Read up on Slum Village’s Fantastic Vol. 2 and Reflection Eternal’s Train of Thought at Passion of the Weiss’ Top 50 Hip Hop Albums of the 00’s #20-11

Staring Out of Stevie Wonder’s Glasses

It’s been 4 years since he dropped and I still have never purchased anything by The Game.  It’s a shame because even though he’ll never be a technically sound emcee, good Gold almighty, can The Game pick out some beats!

Today’s entry in the Passion of the Weiss Top 50 Hip Hop Album of the 00’s from yours truly is The Game’s debut LP The Documentary It is perhaps the best instrumental mainstream hip hop album of the past 10 years.  I could care less about The Game or his name dropping or his past or his weird fixation with his rap heroes who ended up funding, developing, and writing most of the album.   What I find fascinating is that a novice rapper (he had only been spitting for 4 years by the album’s release date) was beating the shit out of more polished vets at the most critical aspect of album making: beat selection.

Think beat selection isn’t huge?  Compare The Love Movement to Midnight Marauders or Iron Flag to 36 Chambers.  Great MC’s usually remain great MC’s over the years–their ear for beats, well…that’s another story.  The Documentary’s soundscapes SHOULD have been for Jay’s comeback album, or 50 Cent’s follow-up to Get Rich or Die Trying, or at least Chuck Norrising any of Nas’ output this decade (maybe…in retrospect…letting Chris Webber beats make an album over Timbo, Hi Tek, Focus, Needlz, Just Blaze, etc wasn’t a good idea?). 

When I listen to The Game’s debut, I’m doing so as a white girl at the club: fuck lyrics, that beat is catchy!  “Put You On the Game” by Timbaland is possibly my favorite beat he ever made.  “Dreams” by Kanye not only has the illest bassline of his career, but it could’ve been the second single from Scarface’s The Fix.  “Westside Story” is typical Dre/Storch fare, but that snare drum is cleaner and sharper than Sledge Hammer’s hammer.  “Hate it or Love It”–a beat not out of place on a Little Brother album was ALL OVER RADIO AND TV!

As an MC, Game has his moments of illy, but Dre could’ve switched him out with Cedric Ceballos and this album would still bang.  His follow-up LPs have largely featured more outstanding production though it appears his Boost Mobile phone has been cut off and Dre an’ them aren’t following him on Twitter anymore.  But think about this: if “frustrating album” emcees like Ludacris, Method Man, and Busta Rhymes could put together the audio lineup for ANY of their LPs that Game exhibited on his first LP…Jesus Christ on wooden crutches!

Right Here Holding My Nuts

Why I owned a trucker hat in 2002

Why I owned a trucker hat in 2002

Continuing this week’s Top 50 Hip Hop Albums of the ’00s at Passion of the Weiss, the #37 album on the list is El-P’s Fantastic Damage, an album I was asked to wax poetic about. 

Listening to FanDam recently, it amazed me how much of an influence El-P has unconciously had on my career as a MC, producer, and indie rap label head.  You could argue that he’s the most influential scion to the now-jumbled world of independent hip hop–without Company Flow’s Funcrusher moving 30K units in the mid 90’s, there is no Rawkus Records, which means no Mos, no Kweli, and most importantly, no Shabaam Saadeeq (I keed!). 

Fantastic Damage is aptly named because seven years after I’ve noted every horrifying lyric of “Dr Hellno and The Praying Mantis” and every cosmic turnbuckle cut from DJ Abilities on “Accidents Don’t Happen”, I still feel uneasy and challenged when dissecting “Stepfather Factory”, overwhelmed with articulate gully rap on “Dead Disness”, amped up like Jimi’s Marshall speakers when El-P’s verse kicks in on “Delorean”. 

When this album dropped in 2002, I was going into my junior year of college at Temple University.  White college rappers at that point followed two lanes: El-Producto and Def Jux or Vinnie Paz and Jedi Mind Tricks.  I chose the former (though JMT’s Violent By Design is still outstanding) and I continue to be awed and pushed almost to the brink of sci-fi rap insanity whenever I listen to El-P, albeit for the first time or the one hundred first time.

Read The Top 50 Hip Hop Albums of the 00’s #40-31 at Passion of the Weiss   

Slept for Days, Swept Away

Here’s 2 clippings for the Shadowboxers as I clean the digital house:

The ever-enjoyable blog So Much Silence gives The Slow Twilight some love.

Imagineyenation is still bumping “No Fury (Zilla Rocca Remix)”

And in Shadowboxer news, I’ll be performing my first Philly show this Friday at The Trocadero Balcony.  More details for that once I get them, but I’m guessing it’s 9pm-2am $10 21+.

The real enchilada of this week is a project I’ve tossed some words to, along with some of the best writers and critics on the webs, and that would be Passion of the Weiss’  50 Best Hip Hop Album of ’00s.  I was honored to be asked to contribute my personal list of albums as well as write-ups for albums I either loved like sweet potato fries or only had a passing interest in when the album initially dropped however many years ago.  It was good exercise–only writing about things you know every nook and cranny to is easy living, so trying to think of new angels on LPs that didn’t live up to my elitist ear in 2002 was exhausting at first but ultimately more rewarding than listening to The Pretty Toney Album for 834th time (“fuck around be a sta-tistic”) and heaping praise on Microsoft Word officially for the first time.  At the end of the week, once all the albums have been listed, I’ll post my initial list from May when we started this debacle. 

Passion of the Weiss’ Top 50 Rap Albums of the 00’s #50-#41

Keep On T-Painin’ It

Death Of the Doctor Seuss Hat

Death Of the Doctor Seuss Hat

I’m late to the Jay-Z D.O.A. party, but here’s my point in my first column for iStandardProducers.com: Auto-Tune as a device for hip hop hooks is no different than Premier’s scratched vocals, or DJ Screw’s chopped and screwed dubs.  Sure, using the same vocal effect as Cher doesn’t seem very hip hopish, but really who can resist the chance to unleash their inner Celine Dion in today’s rap&b.

Realize It’s All Real: Auto-Tune is Not the Black Angel of Death

We Have Nothing In Common

Head over to iStandardProducers.com for my track-by-track reviews of 2 albums that literally share no commonalities: Cage’s Depart From Me and J Dilla’s Dillanthology 2.

As a longtime fan of both gentlemen, I can honestly say they both have iTunes LPs on their hands, i.e. albums I’d only cherrypick 3-4 tracks from and keep on my computer forever.  Trying to compare Depart from Me to Dillanthology 2 is like comparing “The Last House on the Left” to….”The Player’s Club” ?!?  Yeah.  Literally nothing in common going on here.

Here’s the link for Cage’s track by track review

Here’s the link for Dilla’s track by track review

You’re Now Rocking with the Def!

My first entry for iStandard is a piece on the Mighty Mos Def, something I was all too eager to write last month when The Ecstatic dropped.  In case you didn’t see my post on Mos for his Verse of the Year Nominee for “Auditorium” (which I would in retrospect swap out for “Revelations”), the Boogie Man has returned to form in 2009 with a solid-and-almost-spectacular LP that hasn’t left the Rocca Mobile upon its purchase.

Here’s my track-by-track review of the beats for Mos Def’s new excellent LP The Ecstatic at iStandardProducers.com

I’m the Newest Member of the iStandard Gang

Rejected storyboard from the film "King Ralph"

I told you earlier this year that ClapCowards would be doing less original content and editorials ’cause big things would be poppin’.  Today I can finally say what that big thing is (no fishsticks): I’m now an online contributor to iStandardProducers.com. 

I feel like Peter Gammons when he left the Boston Globe to join ESPN.com.   Or Jay Mohr when he left BlizzCon 2007 to write for Fox Sports Net.

What does that mean to you, faithful reader of ClapCowards?  Well, I’ve been given free reign to do more production-based blogs over at iStandardProducers.com as well as editing interviews with upcoming producers and generally talk about whatever the heck I want as long as it’s beat related (the beauty of Q-Tip’s snares, the danger in El-P’s embrace of the Triton, why I need to kidnap the cat who made “Quiet Dog” on Mos Def’s new outstanding album The Ecstatic and water board him for those hand claps).

If you’re following me on Twitter or Facebook, I’ll be sending out a few blasts each week on iStandard articles and news.  I will do my best to keep things personalized and interesting though; I have no interest in being a full-time promoter or spammer.  If you feel like I’m beginning to overdo it with the promo, feel free to let me know.  The last thing I want to do is become an MC/producer/label head/engineer/blogger/online contributor/hip hopper you unfollow on Twitter  .

In this day and age of Charles Hamilton and the Web 2.0 MC, I find it difficult to balance the approach of being accessible and visible while shutting the eff up and focusing on the craft.  Since we’re making it up as we go along, and because technology changes seeminly every 3 months (note to the Beeper King: technology is NOT cyclical), it’s unnerving to have a comfortable routine on MySpace…then uprooting it for the blog…then modifying it for Facebook….then obsessivly Tweeting the mundane details of a slice of pizza and cup of rootbeer. 

The bottom line is that I don’t want to oversaturate you–this is about music and dialgoue, after all, two things I love more than anything.  I’m extremely excited to be working with iStandard, as I’ve watched first hand the past two years just how much good they do for hip hop and the people who love it, follow it, and want to make a living from it (myself included).  We’re also kicking things up a notch at Beat Garden with new artists to introduce and a new website that will be more media heavy and possibly be a one-stop shop.  My random incoherent thoughts on why Quaker Oates doesn’t induce outrage from the religious right (look at the logo and name–like people would be fine with “Islam Oates”) might not ever get the full blog post treatment.

I’ve received WAY more hits on this blog then I ever could have imagined in the past year and 1 month since the inception, and I never take for granted the comments, links, and responses I get.  I’m still trying to figure out how to juggle all of these keypads, logins, status updates, etc. with beats, rhymes, and life.  

At least I’m not getting punched in the mouth on YouTube by shitty “slam” poets.