Monthly Archives: November 2007

News Flash: Some rap dork likes the new Ghostface record!

I’m not even sure what I need to say about the new Ghostface that five hundred other white bloggers will not helpfully offer over the next two weeks. I mean, it’s incredible in all the ways that every Ghostface record has been — hungry, vivid, with beats that are both slightly outre and viscerally satisfying — much like Ghost’s rapping itself. A lot of people are rightfully expressing disbelief at the statistical improbability of a rapper entering his forties dropping his seventh solid-to-classic album in a row; it seems like everyone is waiting for frailty to set in. Ghostface is just not having it. Despite his evident discomfort in the commercial sphere, (see his recent, disheartening rambling about “ringtone rap” and the lack of lyricism in Southern hip hop) he has stayed lean and hungry. If anything, he sounds hungrier now; his voice has grown even more strident and unhinged over the years.

But like I said, what on earth can I offer that will make this little late-night rant about Ghostface worth your click? You’ve got a lot of other places to be, and I’m sure right now Tom Breihan is busy chaining together adjectives in a clumsy effort to re-re-describe Ghost’s voice.

I mean, these days, liking Ghostface is to rap as liking Miles Davis was to jazz in the sixties, or liking Ray Charles was to rhythm and blues was in the fifties; everyone knows to do it. Any aspiring hipster who is hoping his CD collection just might help him get laid knows to proudly declaim his love of Ghost. The man’s reputation, at this point, needs no further burnishing.

But here I be, listening to Big Doe Rehab, and marveling at the storytelling abilities, the images, both gruesome (after shooting a man point blank in the head: “Oxy Clean for a week around the chest area, right hand side/I’m plucking off little pieces of meat”) and hilarious (see the fishsticks n’ foreplay saga of “Yolanda’s House”), but always uncannily vivid. Not to contribute to the ongoing fetishism of this incredibly hard-working artist, but he is starting to assume the qualities of a force of nature. We Can’t Be Stopped, and all that.

So go buy it when it comes out. But of course, if you’re even here, you’ve already downloaded the leak. The enemy is us.

NEXT UP ON THE MOST CUTTING-EDGE RAP BLOG EVAR: LIL WAYNE’S LYRICS ARE OFTEN QUITE SURREAL, NO? ALSO, YOU MAY NOT HAVE HEARD, BUT THERE’S THIS GROUP CLIPSE THAT RAPS ABOUT DRUGS!

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3 Comments

Filed under blogosphere echo chamber, Posted by Tyco, RAP MUSIC

8 Diagrams: Mostly Awesome 3/4 of the Way through the First Listen


If you don’t know: 8 Diagrams.

Turns out we say dude a lot.  And laugh at our own jokes.  Shockah!

drillteamalex: god this “gently weeps” track is SO BEYOND UNNECESSARY
jaychampvinyl: hahaha
jaychampvinyl: ft. erykah badu
jaychampvinyl: =the kiss of death
drillteamalex: + john frusciante!!!!!!!!!
drillteamalex: uuuuuuuuuugh
jaychampvinyl: hahaha
drillteamalex: they get right back to it on the next track though
drillteamalex: “shot right through yr hovercraft”
drillteamalex: hahah
drillteamalex: OK DUDES
jaychampvinyl: hah
jaychampvinyl: gives me warm fuzzies to hear Meth and Ghost back-to-back again
drillteamalex: YES
drillteamalex: and ghost tones it down!
drillteamalex: and it doesn’t suck!
jaychampvinyl: I’d begun to forget that Ghostface was ever anything but a solo artist anymore
jaychampvinyl: yeah agreed
jaychampvinyl: beat on this one fairly nondescript tho
drillteamalex: first track?
drillteamalex: yeah it’s fine
jaychampvinyl: yes
drillteamalex: but it’s not, like, stupid
drillteamalex: which is good
drillteamalex: haha
drillteamalex: plus, dude
jaychampvinyl: haha
drillteamalex: KUNG FU SAMPLE!
drillteamalex: hahah
drillteamalex: durrrrrrrrrr
jaychampvinyl: right
drillteamalex: but yeah it’s good to hear
jaychampvinyl: Wu Tang fer DUMMIEZ
drillteamalex: i really like the next track
jaychampvinyl: yeah this is good
drillteamalex: and fuckin “rushing elephants”
jaychampvinyl: Raekwon fucking sounds good no matter what
drillteamalex: it’s true
jaychampvinyl: that voice
drillteamalex: there’s already a fucking detailed wiki on this
drillteamalex: gawd
drillteamalex: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/8_Diagrams
drillteamalex: “Rushing Elephants”
* Verse 1: Raekwon
* Verse 2: GZA
* Verse 3: RZA
* Verse 4: Masta Killa
* Produced by RZA

drillteamalex: oh man
drillteamalex: that’s what i’m talkin about
jaychampvinyl: ahaha
drillteamalex: rza produced or co-produced every track on here
drillteamalex: or should i say
drillteamalex: # “Sunlight”
* Verse 1: RZA
* Produced by RZA

drillteamalex: THAT’S what i’m talkin about
drillteamalex: hahahahaha
drillteamalex: ugh sometimes i feel like they really need the resist the “let’s have an r&b hook” urge
drillteamalex: like all the time, basically
jaychampvinyl: hahaha
jaychampvinyl: they DON’T NEED IT
drillteamalex: srsly!!!!!!!!!!!
drillteamalex: come on dudes!
jaychampvinyl: if anyone can fucking survive without a terrible R and B hook, it’s Wu
drillteamalex: yr not gonna score a hit with the ne-yo set!
drillteamalex: YR JUST NOT
jaychampvinyl: hahaha
jaychampvinyl: right
drillteamalex: ohhhhhhhh man
drillteamalex: rza’s flow is sooooooooooooooooooooo awkward!
drillteamalex: it’s so apparent when he has a “solo cut”
drillteamalex: haha
drillteamalex: dude.
drillteamalex: w
drillteamalex: t
drillteamalex: f
jaychampvinyl: what??
drillteamalex: “i’ve been / misunderstood by those who met us”
drillteamalex: “they had / ears of corn and heads of lettuce”
drillteamalex: !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
jaychampvinyl: HAHAH
drillteamalex: COME
drillteamalex: ON
jaychampvinyl: RZA?
drillteamalex: YUP
jaychampvinyl: yessss
jaychampvinyl: U-God
jaychampvinyl: thoughts?
drillteamalex: he is the gertrude stein/wesley willis of rap
jaychampvinyl: hahahaha
jaychampvinyl: okay
drillteamalex: not u-god
drillteamalex: rza
jaychampvinyl: I was gonna say
drillteamalex: u-god is like the campbell’s tomato soup of rap
jaychampvinyl: U-God is, um, forgettable
jaychampvinyl: hahaha
drillteamalex: looks like they pulled streetlife away from his bag boy grind at the safeway long enough to put down a verse
drillteamalex: sweet
jaychampvinyl: HAHAHAHAHAHAHH
jaychampvinyl: dude
jaychampvinyl: that’s a fucking quotable and a half
jaychampvinyl: that statement is a blog post in and of itself
drillteamalex: nah right should have our IM convos on fuckin RSS feed son
drillteamalex: holla at yr IT specialist

3 Comments

Filed under IM, Posted by Doorknobs, Posted by Tyco, RAP MUSIC

Devil got my head in a vise…

“Was terrified of death but I don’t fear it now/Was blind, dumb, and deaf but I hear it now.”

beans.jpg

No one. I mean NO ONE. Does world-weary paranoia like Beanie Sigel. No one rages more bitterly against life’s indignities. And no one sounds more like Scarface in his raging, shivering, powerless prime when he’s on.

All the proof you’ll ever need of any of this should be here.

But Beanie has given you more. “Judgment Day” samples “War Pigs,” and is as good as — nah, better than — I imagined it to be. Beans attacks the track with an astonishing ferocity and fills the verses with vividly bleak imagery. Some immediate quotables (I can barely type fast enough to catch them as they strafe by):

“Satan’s whispers got me back on my dark liquor/That firewater killin’ my liver/ The snake hisses in my ear, he’s a natural born killer.”

“I wake up with my sheets soaked, half-asleep/Hearing Tupac’s voice screaming blasphemy.”

The delivery is vintage Beans — every single line spat through gritted teeth, the sound of barely contained murderous impulses. He raps like his soul’s at stake.

Here. I’m sure I have more to say, but fuck that all for right now. Just listen. I’ll be back for more later…

1 Comment

Filed under Posted by Tyco, RAP MUSIC, rock/roll

Yikes, Trae’s music is really fucking depressing.

trae1.jpg

Also, every single album cover looks exactly like this.

For those of you who don’t know (read: anyone/everyone but me, Doorknobz, Tom Breihan, Noz, and prolly Jon Kalmuss-Katz) Trae is a Texan rapper who sounds like he has the world’s worst head cold. Seriously, when he mutters “yeah,” it sounds like “byeahd.” He can hardly talk. He’s like the guy one of those ads for nasal spray where the whole head turns into a giant nose. His plugged-up mumble a fascinating instrument, and like a lot of circa-2007 rap dudes (Jeezy, obviously, but also East Coast weirdos like goblin-gangsta Peedi Crakk or yelling donkey-bray gangsta Freeway) he knows exactly how to use it to maximum effect.

Trae raps on every song exactly the same way: double-time, with his already overwhelmingly thick voice doubled so that it cuts through EVERYTHING, kinda the same way Sabbath piled/compressed their guitars in layers and layers until the sound was so thick it was like a lumbering beast. Trae has no range: his singular mode of expression is the sullen mumble. However, he’s elevated sullen mumbling into about as high an art form as it could ever be.

About two weeks ago, he released Life Goes On, the followup to last year’s unrelentingly dark and magnificently sad Restless, to almost zero fanfare. None of the places that repped for Restless last year have uttered a peep about this record, so I guess it falls to come-latelys like me to rep for the album while they rep for, um, Mitchy Slick or Wiz Khalifa or something.

First off, it ain’t as good. Like, the middle section is straight boring, and the song he does with 2Pac’s dessicated, rotting corpse is terrible. Production-wise, whereas Restless made a virtue of monolithic uniformity, this one just sounds flat in places. The sound of Restless boiled all of Houston rap’s sonic signifiers — slow, creeping basslines, chopped and screwed vocals, towering synths, piano plinks — down to an essentialist sludge, so that the album practically exuded Rap-A-Lot records in general and Screwed-Up Click in particular. In its rigorous formalism, it reminds me, oddly, of how DJ Premier honed and perfected mid-90’s East Coast rap’s signature sound to the point that he now partially embodies the era. Life Goes On gets a lot of the same Houston-rap notes right but somehow misses the music; many of the productions just sound rote.

Still, there are enough flashes of brilliance that the album shouldn’t be immediately consigned to the one-hot-album-followed-by-ummm-WHATEVER bin. Case in point: “The Truth,” a song that pretty much defines what Trae does best — again, sullen mumbling — and takes it to its logical extreme. There are no choruses or hooks on “The Truth” — just one long, pained rant, made even more affecting by its impotently under-the-breath delivery. He’s not confronting anyone with his endless list of grievances — he’s muttering them to himself in the corner. Trae, if his lyrics are any indication, has led a horrifically difficult life, haunted by death, and it shows here: “I know my brother Dickey sittin stressed/First his gal got killed, then his baby mama next/He been gone since ’92 for somethin he didn’t do” he says at one point, and then later: “I got a call about ten, I can’t go through this again/Terrell’s momma just died to be an angel in the wind.” The song doesn’t end; it just fades out, with Trae in mid-verse: “Damn, it’s like I’m out of breath/Praying through the night I can bring my niggas back up out of death.” God knows how long he went after the fader was brought down.

The goods: The Truth

BONUS TRACK: Smile ft. Jadakiss and Styles P

6 Comments

Filed under Posted by Tyco, RAP MUSIC

Picture yourself in a living room: The Spoon Post

So I’ve been thinking about writing this post for days (UPDATE: weeks) now, and fear (UPDATE: know) that the initial inspiration may have drained out of me. But I’m cracking my knuckles and giving it a shot anyway, dammit, cuz this blog needs a post! Our readers need constant, updated entertainment! (ALL of them!) Keep shovelin’ motherfucker! Must feed the gaping maw of the Internet!

So here’s what I’ve been thinking, for days now, about Spoon.

…. giving you a second to cue your favorite Spoon record ….

needle11.jpg

Ok …..GO:

Spoon are one of the many indie-rock bands overlooked by Sasha Frere-Jones in his bizarrely generalized critique of indie rock a few weeks ago in the New Yorker, in that they generally understand the combust

ive power of rhythm, of restraint and abandon, of booming bass frequencies and sharp percussion, and other qualities generally ascribed to “black” music. The best Spoon songs introduce a simple, rhythmic figure, often on piano, and then punctuate it with small, striking elements – well-placed handclaps, for instance, (the chorus on “The Way We Get By”) or a melancholy two-note doodle of a melody surrounded by space (see: Everything Hits At Once, at the 1:03 mark). This oft-remarked-on use of space is what distinguishes them from pretty much everyone else in indie rock (Interpol understood it for a minute or two there as well), and it’s why their music shares some (SOME!) DNA with Timbaland, whose music is often so spacious as to feel cavernous. Every band member contributes to this sensibility, but it’s Jim Eno’s drumming — arguably the greatest drummer in indie rock — that pretty much embodies Spoon’s musical philosophy.

But that’s not even what interests me most about Spoon: that’s just what attracted me to them initially, and what most critics gravitate towards when writing about them. (Either Mike Powell of Stylus said it best, with his review of “Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga” — “Spoon has made a career out of being terse” — or it was Sasha Frere-Jones, in a much more characteristic — read “excellent” — piece).

No, what makes me return again and again to Spoon is the lurking spectre of Britt Daniels’s concealed hurt, which broods beneath the music’s swagger. It’s the subsumed hurt of a 50’s-generation male, the kind Tommy Lee Jones portrays so beautifully in No Country for Old Men. (He achieves this largely by standing around being baggy. Method acting at its finest.) Emotions never coalesce into words; they just swim around until they find an outlet, whether appropriate or no. Cue “The Fitted Shirt,” a song from Girls Can Tell that expresses both Daniel’s veneration of his father’s generation and his uneasy sense that he will never measure up in their eyes: “When I was growing up, and Dad head off to work/He put coat and tie on/over fitted shirt/Nothing else would fit right, or seem so directly applied/the fitted shirt hung on me.”

ragingring3.jpg

De Niro as Jake LaMotta as self-flagellating Modern American Male. (Remember, this post is about SPOON.)

Fitted shirts aren’t the only by-products of malehood of that Daniels fetishizes. In “My Little Japanese Cigarette Case,” he sighs the words, over and over: “It’s just my/Japanese Cigarette Case/Bring the mirror to my face/Let all my memories be gone,” and I picture him clutching the little case tightly as if it were a talisman that could ward off weakness or self-doubt. Then there’s “The Underdog,” in which the bright, cheery horn section is undercut with Daniels wistfully singing: “Picture yourself in a living room/Your pipe and slippers laid out for you.” Your PIPE AND SLIPPERS? Now we’ve bypassed James Dean and headed straight for Ward Cleaver. Even with this uninentionally comical image (where’s the dog bringing a newspaper in its mouth?) the longing is clear, and affecting. Daniels imbues these inanimate objects –the fitted shirt, the pipe and slippers, the cigarette case — with a profound sense of moral authority, of the stoic wisdom of his father’s generation.

Then there’s the messier, more stereotypically “feminine” side of his persona, which finds its way out in moments of arrogant, wishful denial (“I turn my feelings off/made my untouchable for life” he insists in “I Turn My Camera On“) or in startling moments of open-hearted confession. The clearest example of this is in “I Summon You,” perhaps the most emotionally raw moment in Spoon’s catalogue. Over a simple acoustic-guitar shuffle, Daniels mournfully surveys a wrecked relationship, which climaxes in the devastatingly succinct line “How’d we get here? It’s too late to break it off.” If the terse, indirect nature of his other music is to be believed, Daniels and his other probably “got here” through mutual misunderstanding — “the signals have crossed” — that Daniels tries to cut through with a simple, pleading directive: “I summon you here, my love.” Then, silence, as he waits and the guitar ticks off the seconds.

There’s a lot more out there, but not sure I’m ready to tackle it all. Consider this an installment. (Ah, the privileges of blogging. Imagine doing this with a paper?) Till next time, dearies…..

4 Comments

Filed under post-millenial manhood, Posted by Tyco, rock/roll

Cass: Wist, Doom and L.A. via Baltimore

Safe to say I like Cass McCombs significantly more than anyone else I know. Not counting shadowy internet personalities, ‘course. I’ve had a Cass post somewhere in me for the last six months+, so it’s a bit odd/unsettling to just sit down and try and puke one out w/o a clear “thesis” or whatever. But I guess sometimes (okay, most times) that’s gonna be the only way to get something (ANYTHING) from digital ink to digital scroll.

Immediate heresy out of the way: I’m gonna focus mostly on A, Cass’s debut full-length, here, with probably a cursory stab at deflating Dropping the Writ, his latest, and almost completely fly by Prefection, the sandwiched LP. This is partly for sanity’s sake (I clearly need to feed my will bite-sized morsels) and also partly because the chinked-armor, basement looseness of A serves as the better contrast to the morning-sun-in-L.A., Devendra-as-the-Eagles milquetoast-ness of Dropping the Writ. Stay with me here (I’ll try the same).

Almost all of A drags. The drums are loping and aggressively drowsy; you could probably count the number of times the hi-hat gets hit on one hand. The sonic stew is essentially standard issue: guitars (clean electric, acoustic), bass, acoustic piano, keys, drums. It’s not like dude is e-bowing an electric violin or some shit. Even the stand-out elements – drone-y/buzzy keyboard, the super left-panned distorted electric guitar ripping on “Gee, It’s Good to Be Back Home” – are subtle-at-best.

Cass’ voice itself is a slightly off-kilter indie wheeze – it does well to be perma-brushed with reverb. Still, it’s affecting, and adds equally to the understated task at hand, wherein all these unremarkable things (standard instrumentation, dirge-y pace, post 90’s indie dude vox, general folk-rock) create an ENCOMPASSING sense of sincere emotion and doom.

There’s something in the repetition of A. There’s a paranoia and a DRONE to it – even when there are moments of swinging or lilting or gentleness, it’s almost MENACING. Even a determinedly passing look at the lyrics/themes (and believe me, I more determined to pass ’em by than anyone) seem to paint an anguish, a desperateness: “I went to the hospital / they put me in a bed / I may soon be gone / To pluck on our hearts”; “You ain’t gonna pin it on me / I don’t wanna hear your sermon / You spit like hypodermics”; heck, the entirety of “Meet Me Here At Dawn.”

Sure, from a distance there’s a teetering on WISTFULNESS or, like, indie MOR or somethin’, but this isn’t a fuckin’ soundtrack to yr post-work camomile, believe. These tunes (and YES, there are FER REAL TUNES on here) are enveloping and patient and HARROWING.

At this point, I’d almost rather not delve into Writ – a second installment perhaps. As way of a preface, just know: there is a dynamic shift more than anything else. There’s twinkle and vocal swells and some occasional (and occasionally welcome) sweetness, but what there AIN’T is MENACE. A minor, odd gripe I suppose, but there it is.

I Went to the Hospital [mp3]
Meet Me Here at Dawn [mp3]

3 Comments

Filed under Beatific sadness, Posted by Doorknobs, rock/roll