Monthly Archives: April 2012

DO SOME ACROBATICS TILL IT LEAD TO YOUR ARREST

Lately I’ve been pretty good about keeping up with any interviews that come out for artists I’m interested in (or interested in being interested in), but the more of them I find, the more I realize how much time I’ve spent not being very up to date about that side of the music I listen to.  So I’ve made an effort to search around for some older interviews that might provide an interesting snapshot of some artist at a different phase of their career than they’re at now.  This can be especially interesting with rap, where tastes and styles change and morph so quickly to the point that you only need to go back a few years to see some surprisingly different ideas and sounds being talked about.

One of the interviews that didn’t necessarily provide me with a ton of info (mostly due to its length and lack of very substantive questions) but I definitely enjoyed a lot was the Fader Q+A with E-40 from back in 2008.  It’s particularly interesting to read this article in 2012 with all of the election talk that’s happening right now; 40 expounds on his excitement for voting for Obama in the upcoming election (“I’m voting for Obama.  I’m voting for Obama all day.”) with the palpable enthusiasm that I think a lot of us felt around that time, that “what’s going to happen if he gets in there??” feeling that made a lot of people, like E-40 as we find out, vote for the first time in a presidential election.  Pretty interesting.

Another notable part of this interview for me was when he was talking about his newest video at the time, “Poor Man’s Hydraulics“, and how the filming of it went down.  Apparently they didn’t jump through all the bureaucratic hoops you’re supposed to when shooting a video of this type.

If we had been out there to get permits and all that, they wouldn’t have even let us shoot it. So we did it guerilla style. We from a small city, but we a lot of players and gangstas, and intelligent hoodlums, we got a lot of talented people out there. So we was just like, Let’s hurry up and do this, cause we know the po-po gon’ shut us down.

I think this move on E-40’s part is very telling about his approach to music and art in general.  The album he’s pumping in this interview is his 11th, and he’d been a successful rapper for over 15 years at this point, but here is sporting dreads for the first time in his life (“I was just doing it to just do it”), shooting a video for his newest single in his hometown totally “guerilla style”, without permission from the authorities and having to shut down early because they eventually did get busted by the police.  I think a lot of artists, understandably, once they reach a certain age and point in their career they start to kinda sit back and don’t feel the excitement of taking risks that E-40 always has.  He explains that attribute of himself very bluntly in that same interview:

I ain’t scared to roll the dice, a lot of other cats might be scared. I’ve been taking chances on my career my whole life. To those that never had an E-40 album, I’m not just a radio guy, my albums have concepts, I got something on there for everybody. Also, read up on my discography, be open minded, ‘cuz I’m not gonna sound like your favorite rapper. I’m in my own lane. At the end of the day, you gon’ say, You know what? That boy 40, one thing about him, he had his own thing, he was unique, he was a trendsetter, and he poked out like nipples.

I’ve got piles of respect for that, and I think E-40’s model is one that many rappers would benefit greatly from following.  I mean, how many rappers do you know that put out tripledisc albums of brand new material of a very consistent quality when they’ve already been rapping for over 20 years?  I can only think of one.

E-40 – Poor Man’s Hydraulics

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WE DON’T PLAY, WE…

I came to Norman with absolutely minimal planning yesterday.  I mean I packed a bag, I remembered my toothbrush and clean socks and my laptop (so I can write this post to y’all), but that’s about it.  I didn’t call anybody or make specific plans with any specific people, I didn’t figure out a place to stay, I just figured it’s Norman, it’ll work out.  So far I’ve been 100% correct in that assumption, and it’s been awesome.  I got to see some of the coolest music I’ve seen at any Norman Music Fest last night behind Guestroom Records, I ran into several people that were all wonderful to talk to, had some great conversations, I got two Arizona Arnold Palmers from CVS for a dollar, and at the verrrrry end of the night, I got hooked up with the best spot to crash at possible: future DRIVE SLOW contributor Matt Hall gave me free reign over his whole house for the night, beautiful!

As nice as that gesture was though, I was amazed when I woke up this morning how Matt gets any sleep at all around here, there was more noise from his neighbors today than I heard at the festival all last night, I swear!  I heard somebody hammering some nails on one side of the house (Thom, I’m looking in your direction…), kids running around, somebody was blaring “Who Let the Dogs Out?” at one point, I had saxophone arpeggios floating in the window from the other side of the house (I ain’t mad at ya, George), I think I heard a weed eater at some point, oh and of course the weekly tornado siren test.  It was ridiculous.  I still can’t complain about the situation as a whole, Matt’s bed is very accommodating (wink to all the ladies out there), his kitty cat The Nin (not real sure how to spell that, it’s pronounced “Neen” but it’s short for “Menina”) was very sweet to me, and not every sound I heard was unpleasant, I did happen to catch this one from some far away loudspeaker…

KC and the Sunshine Band – Boogie Shoes

…which I swear tricks (ha!) me into thinking this song is playing every time, which I’d honestly prefer though I got nothin against ol’ KC.

Trick Daddy – Take it to da House (feat. Trina & Slip-N-Slide Express)

Here’s to more coincidental good fortune for today, who wants to come roll the dice of life with me??

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BOOMER SOONER

What’re the odds of me stumbling across this song just a few hours before I make my first trip down to Norman in like a month?

Smalls – Crimson and Cream

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POINTING THE FINGER, THE FEELINGS THAT LINGER LEAVE YOU ASKING QUESTIONS WHY

ex·plic·it/ikˈsplisit/

Adjective:
Stated clearly and in detail, leaving no room for confusion or doubt.

I think it was George Carlin that first influenced me to think about that word in its literal sense when it’s used derogatorily towards ideas or activities that are deemed “inappropriate” by some authority (government, school, business, parent, public opinion, etc.). When people use the word “explicit” in relation to a piece of art, that is usually what they mean: inappropriate.  I can’t help but wonder how the word “explicit” came to mean what it does in this sense, and I can’t help but suspect that it’s linked in some way to its literal meaning.  It’s not the fact that a certain work deals with sex or violence or whatever other taboo subject, it’s the fact that they’re up front about it that seems to bother so many people.  It would seem that there are certain subjects that people in charge of things think should simply not be stated clearly or in detail.  If an artist playfully hints at some sexual undertones (how many English teachers have you heard bring up Shakespeare’s sexually suggestive material with an approving grin?), then they’re praised for being edgy and clever, but if someone states something about some inappropriate subject in a way that “leaves no room for confusion or doubt”, then you will often find those same people doling out harsh criticism and ridicule.

I’ve touched on a related issue before here, but in this case you might have guessed by now that I’m revisiting this area again as an attempt to support Brian McKnight in his recent explicit lyrics scandal.  I think this particular instance of a very common phenomenon is particularly poignant because Brian McKnight has been making more-than-subtle sexual music for at least 20 years now with no controversy that I’m aware of over the content of his lyrics.  But now, after making over a dozen albums playing by the rules, he releases one song where he gets literal and even many his die-hard fans are turning their backs on him publicly.  What’s everyone so afraid of?  What do we really lose when we allow ourselves to speak without ambiguity about these “sensitive” subjects?  How much healthier would we be if sex wasn’t always cloaked in this shroud of mystery and taboo all the time?

I’m very disappointed in everyone who is leveling criticism at Brian McKnight over this, and I hope that Brian is hearing the people that are speaking out in support of him louder than all the squares who want to pretend like sex doesn’t exist when they’re in public.  I think it’s refreshing to hear a song that specifically expresses a desire to please a woman sexually; I think that’s definitely something worth singing about.  I’m behind you, Brian, keep it up and be yourself.

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LET THE BEAT BUILD #9 – BJ & KENDRICK

I’ve had a lot of people telling me I should like Kendrick Lamar for a while now, and it’s not that I’m unimpressed by his work, quite the opposite, but there’s just always been some little something that puts me off about his delivery, and I’ve not been able to call myself a full-fledged fan quite yet.  However, in my experience, this reason for not listening to a certain artist is usually not well founded, and I’ve overcome many a superficial dislike of an artist by continuing to give them a chance and trying to find just the right song to teach me how to overlook whatever small quibble I have with their style and just embrace it.  It boggles my mind to think that there was a time when I cringed just enough at Lil’ Wayne’s rap style to not listen to his music, and that opinion has absolutely reversed over time.

So in that spirit, I decided today to put in a concerted effort to give Kendrick another chance, and with my somewhat forced-open mind, this song has hooked me in a stronger way than any of his others so far.  The way his voice cracks on certain words perfectly compliments his painfully honest message about feeling fortunate in so many ways despite his obvious flaws; his sincerity is completely undeniable and he does an amazing job of being introspective without becoming self-indulgent or self-involved in the process.  I remember hearing this when it first came out and feeling slightly moved by it, perhaps perceiving a small portion of what I now understand about it, but I don’t think I was listening quite close enough to it to really appreciate everything that is going on in this song until today, and I think I may have found that gateway song for myself that could get me onboard the Kendrick Lamar train.

And if nothing else, the song’s got a really nice build in it, so I can at least have something continue my New Year’s-born series with by posting of this song.

BJ the Chicago Kid – His Pain (feat. Kendrick Lamar)

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FUCK THE CRITICS

I learned something very interesting about music criticism yesterday.  I don’t care much for music criticism in general for reasons that I don’t need to go into right now, but I do keep up with a select few sources that don’t just make me frustrated when I read them.  While checking up on one of these main sources yesterday, I learned this about the music journalism world:

The numerical ratings of a record don’t necessarily reflect the exact opinions of the writer whose byline appears next to it. We have some input, but editorial usually has the final say.

Andrew Noz

I found this very interesting given that I would imagine that many people take into account the numerical rating of an album way more than the explanation of that rating that follows.  In the case Noz was responding to in this post, he’d reviewed Fat Trel‘s newest mixtape and didn’t even submit a numerical rating with it, and the editors chose one either based on their own opinions or on what they felt Noz’s opinions were, or maybe some combination, but either way, the reviewer in this case did not supply what, for many people, is the most crucial piece of information in a music review.

Noz goes on to address the unfortunate fact that the numerical rating attached to a review (and not the body of the review itself) is what many people are most influenced by in the closing of the blog post I quoted above:

I’m as cool with a 6 as I would be with a 7. Or a 5. It’s an insignificant designation.

There’s a reason I spent hours writing a balanced, 800 word review of that record. If I could’ve said it in one digit I would’ve. Read, dudes.

Andrew Noz

I agree with this sentiment very strongly, numerical ratings for something like music has always seemed absurd to me, and I think the only difference between me and Noz in this case is that I would have stressed listening to the album in question over reading a full review of it as being of primary importance.  I’m just as bothered by people being really influenced by what reviewers say about music as I am about them being influenced strongly by the numerical rating, and I wish people had the courage to make up their own minds about the music they hear rather than allowing themselves to be guided by the “experts” to form their opinions.  This is not to say that Noz cares more about writing than music, that’s not a fair generalization to make based on this quote.  He was asked about a piece of music criticism, so he addressed it from a music criticism perspective, and I’m sure he feels very much in favor of people listening to as much music as possible.  But I do feel like a “Listen, dudes” closing might sum up my main aim in writing this blog; hopefully that comes through.

ONE TWO — UM — BUCKLE MY — UM

Chances are, everybody that reads this blog has at least heard of ASAP Rocky, his LiveLoveASAP mixtape last year was big enough to get him a multimillion dollar major label deal, where he’ll hopefully continue to shine as he has been so far.  A lot of people I hear talking about that album seem to enjoy the production on it as much or even more than Rocky’s rapping, and many people’s attention seem pretty acutely focused on the numerous Clams Casino beats on that tape.  I definitely get down to all those tracks, but I have to admit that when it really comes down to it, it’s the Beautiful Lou production that really resonates with me, especially on this one.  This has got to be my favorite song from that tape.

ASAP Rocky – Trilla (feat. ASAP Twelvy & ASAP Nast)

That beat to me sounds like if RZA had been born in Houston instead of Brownsville, the simplicity is perfectly executed and utterly captivating, like so many of Beautiful Lou’s productions.  So why am I writing about this now, almost 6 months after the release of that mixtape and after he’s already put out plenty of newer awesome material?  Because I just found out where that deliciously syncopated vocal sample came from that perfectly responds to the call of those thick, heavy drums throughout the beat.

Das EFX – They Want EFX

You’ve gotta really have your ears open to catch it, it only happens once, but it’s early on in the song when the beat drops for a couple seconds around 0:24.  Sometimes I hear an old song and it practically screams out for someone to come and loop a couple bars of it to make a beat out of, but this one is some very impressive selection on Lou’s part, in my opinion.  To catch that little break and then to combine it with the guitar and drums like he does in that “Trilla” beat is some serious genius-level sampling, it kinda blows my mind.  I hope Lou keeps grinding and putting out material of the quality he’s been releasing, I feel like he’s one of the more underrated producers in rap right now.  Keep it up, Lou, I’ll be following your ascension to musical success with much anticipation.

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MY NAME COOL BREEZE I GOT THAT COUNTRY CROCK

After that nice surprise I got from the intro to Future’s new album, I decided to try to track down some other Big Rube appearances on some lesser-known Dungeon Family albums, and I chose Cool Breeze‘s first album, entitled East Point’s Greatest Hits to start with because I’ve heard good things about it for a while now, and I’ve heard that it was actually Breeze and not Goodie Mob that originally coined the term “Dirty South” for their song of the same name.  So chances are, this dude’s got somethin’ to say.

On first listen, I am very impressed by Cool Breeze’s debut.  The Big Rube track is one of the best one’s I’ve heard anywhere, there’s a verse from 8Ball that might be my favorite of his of all time, and there’s a real nice mix of moods throughout the whole thing; from danceable, party-vibe sounds to some really nice cruisin’/hangin’ out type tracks, which is what I’ve come to expect from pretty much any major Dungeon Family release, they do a really nice job of floating back and forth across that accessible get-up-and-dance vibe and the more cerebral, thoughtful vibe.  Organized Noize takes care of almost all the production, which pretty much guarantees success in my book, and Breeze does a really nice job of adapting his flow to the different vibes that they bring to the table.  I recommend this album very highly if you’re a fan of early (or mid or late for that matter) OutKast, Goodie Mob, Sleepy Brown, etc. type music.  I think I’m going to find myself hooked on this album for a while, and I’ll probably fall in love with a few different songs in the course of it, but the one that’s really caught me on the first listen is this track, if for nothing else than the opening line, which I lifted for the title of this post.  Absolutely perfect.

Cool Breeze – Butta

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I GO OUT MY WAY FOR IT, ANYTHING BUT PRAY FOR IT

It’s been a little while since I heard any new music out of New Orleans legend Juvenile, so when I saw he’d put out a new mixtape I greeted it with about 80% excitement, and maybe 20% skepticism.  Time out of the spotlight and out of the studio can sometimes prove to be detrimental to an artist’s style and technique, so I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high for this comeback push from Juvie.  I mean he’s been doin’ this rap thing for a loooong time now.

The Nino the Magnificent final product wasn’t really what I expected, which isn’t to say that I was disappointed, just a little surprised by a few things.  For one, it’s only 8 tracks long, which is, at best, half as long as an average rap mixtape, and in some cases only one third as long.  Not only that, but when you actually listen to the tape, you’ll find that only four of those songs contain actual new raps by Juvenile, the rest is either intro/outro hype or “             Speaks” interlude material, so what we’ve really got is a four song EP with some filler.  But maybe he’s going for quality over quantity, I can definitely respect that approach.  I haven’t listened to the whole tape with proper attention (or speakers for that matter) yet, so I’m waiting to pass judgement on the whole thing until a later date.  I will say, however, that I was very happy to see this track on there, this was one of the good surprises this tape offered.

Juvenile – Stop Traffic (feat. Rich Boy)

I really loved all of Rich Boy‘s material from 2011, I’ve featured some of his music on a couple posts on here as a matter of fact, and while I haven’t really heard much new shit from him in almost a year now, I still put on 12 Diamonds and Gold Kilo$ every now and then and they still sound great to me.  So it’s cool to see Juve jump on one of my favorite songs from that period of Rich Boy’s that I really like.  Much like many of the songs on both of those Rich Boy mixtapes though, this one, I feel, would be even more enjoyable if it was maybe twice as long, or just had one more verse from either one of them on there.  But I am happy to see Juvenile really rapping like himself on this beat, he doesn’t seem to be trying to cater his style to super mainstream tastes, he’s really being himself on here and that’s what I think will make his future material great.  I’ve also heard some examples lately of Juve reaching a little bit and emulating some more modern rappers though too, so we’ll probably just have to wait until his full album comes out to see where he’s at nowadays.  I can’t really say that he doesn’t still sound good doing this kinda Rick Ross type flow though, so maybe we don’t really have anything to worry about.  I’m all for artists trying new things and updating their styles too, and sometimes brief periods of emulation can push you outside of the barriers you set for yourself and expand your horizons, so maybe it’s all for the best.  But getting in a zone where you’re only rapping in an unoriginal style isn’t doing anybody any good, in my opinion.

Just be you, Juvie, we love you just the way you are!

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I STAY NOIDED

The tradition continues!

First it was MondreMAN, then DâM-FunK, then yesterday, after I complimented his fingernails in a Twitter post, Death Grips started following me back.  So I feel it’s only right that I afford him the same recognition that I gave Mondre & DâM, but for some reason I feel like it’s not quite as appropriate to show some hour-long interview or muse whistfully about their contribution to rap, or music, or my soul, or whatever, I just wanna say this: Death Grips makes INTENSE music, and equally intense videos, and his newest one, I was surprised to discover, reminds me of my favorite non-Yoko Ono Fluxus Film.

Death Grips – I’ve Seen Footage

Erik Andersen – Opus 74 version 2

YUH!

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