Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pac and Primo: A long-awaited union

Okay, okay, aiight...this time I PROOOOMISE to keep up with this blog. As we get through the first quarter, hip-hop starts getting better and hence there's more to talk about.

The first thing that truly hit my radar this year is The Don Primo Edition, a mixtape of classic 2Pac verses over classic DJ Premier joints. Though I'd imagine that two of hip-hop's true talents blended together would be difficult to muck up, I'm sure it's possible. Fortunately for my treadmill run last night, it wasn't.

Twenty-eight tracks with a few interludes and some otherwise pointless guest artists fill out this bad boy. While I don't gush over 'Pac like so many of my contemporaries, I believe - nay, I KNOW - that Primo is literally the best thing that's ever happened to the musical aspect of hip-hop. My favorite cut from the mixtape is definitely "My Enemies Give Me Power:" It's "When We Ride on our Enemies" - that old Mobb Deep diss cut - over Nas' "I Gave You Power." The intro with Bishop yelling at Q in Juice gave me goosebumps.

I miss hip-hop. Download the link above and enjoy.

01. Intro - Primo Pac F Kanye Common
02. Holla If U Friend Or Foe
03. Gettin Money
04. Open Fire W A Full Clip
05. Understand My Style F Nas
06. Sleep On Me
07. Primo Speaks
08. Its All Real
09. Interlude - War
10. My Enemies Give Me Power
11. Here I Am Fk Yall
12. Paper On My Block
13. Hail Mary
14. Interlude - Hip Hops Influence
15. Old School Memories
16. Neva Call U Bth F Jeru Da Damaja
17. Against The World
18. So Ghetto Out On Bail
19. Thug Style
20. A Classic Combination F Kanye Biggie Big L
21. Interlude - From Ny 2 Cali
22. Better Dayz
23. Interlude - Origin Of Makaveli
24. Thugz Mansion
25. This Life I Lead
26. Throw Ya Gunz Up
27. Ready 4 Wuteva
28. Outro

Monday, February 9, 2009

Not gangsta...SO not gangsta!!!

The most anyone's seen Ray J since...ever.

Last Saturday afternoon, following a hellish journey home from Los Angeles, I was too catatonic to do damn near anything, let alone get up and find a remote control so as to change the channel on the television.

And so it stayed glued to VH1 as I played catch-up on my computer. I endured the drivel of reality shows with washed-up 90s stars and camera whores before I finally got up to switch on the PS3 so I could continue watching my "The Tudors" DVDs.

As I got up, "For The Love of Ray J" came on. The pilot episode. I had read about it briefly on the plane ride in that abortion of a hip-hop periodical known as The Source, so my curiosity was ever-so-slightly piqued. I stayed through the first commercial break. Then the second. And then, before I knew it, I'd reached the elimination portion of the show and lost a good hour of my life that I'll never get back.

First off, it's safe to say that VH1 has become the Krispy Kreme of basic cable: Everyone knows the shit is not good for you in way, shape or form, but folks can't stay away. I never, ever go looking for VH1 shows, but if I end up glued on the station for whatever reason - usually a result of being in front of someone else's TV who has it on - I find it difficult to turn the hell away.

But I digress. "For The Love of Ray J" is constructed with pretty much the same formula as all these other "find love" exercises in putting society's dregs out there for public consumption. But for some reason, this series is even less palatable than than the others. I think it has to do with the fact that there is absolutely, positively nothing compelling about Ray J.

Flavor Flav? Interesting motherfucker. Bret Michaels? Former rock god. Who can name more than one song from Willie Norwood? If you can, email me and I'll hit you in the face with pizza dough for being a tool. This cat wouldn't exist in anyone's mental Rolodex if big sister Brandy hadn't had her run. The only reason anyone has mentioned his name in the past three years is because he railed half-Armenian, half-horse socialite/social disease Kim Kardashian and put the shit on videotape for all to see.

Leaking an intimate sex tape to the public without the expressed permission of his partner is plenty enough for any respectable woman to not want anything to do with a guy. But we're definitely not dealing with respectable women. VH1 is single-handedly setting the feminist movement back years with every one of these reality shows, just as the negroid males on the same shows probably took a handful of votes away from Obama.

Jimmy Kimmel put it perfectly when he addressed some of the Flavor of Love stars at The Roast of Flavor Flav: "Now where was I before I was interrupted by these whores?" Each of them get on the show and talk in the private camera room about how they're "different" from the rest of the women in the audience because they're "actually here because I am looking for something special; something real." And yet, they all end up 7/8ths naked in front of the camera embarassing the dogshit out of their parents. Dumb broads.

I mean, where do they find these women?? When they're all getting to know each other and rattling off their respective professions, all I wanted to hear -for whatever reason - was "medical school, lawyer, retail buyer." Nope. "Hairdresser. Waitress. Slutpiece." And as fine as most of them are, several of them screw up their natural beauty with terrible makeup, tawdry behavior and clothes that'll never get them invited to any man's dinner to meet the family. I mean honestly...a tattoo of a fucking jungle cat on the side of your face?!?!?!? I hope ol' girl comes from money...

And then you got Ray J himself feigning genuine interest in the women while projecting a not-so-modest solipsism that has him looking like a utter stooge. I always thought Flav was playing something of a caricature of himself on his show, but Ray J doesn't seem to be acting; the D-level singer is probably as surface-level as he'd have you believe.

I'm definitely done after one episode of this show. Especially since he kept the dirty, buttcheek-clapping stripper. If any of you are convinced these shows have any tincture of reality or genuineness, joke's on you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

...And That Right Soon: The Best of 2008

So better later than never, right?

Please forgive my infrequent blogging as of late -- life has gotten in the way of the time/motivation to flex my creative headbone. But as I've done every year for the past half-decade or so, I want to present my compendium of best hip-hop songs of the year.

While 2007 was a boon year for the genre, 2008 left a bit more to be desired. At the end of '07, I had to sit down and make some serious choices regarding what would make it on an 80-minute CD-R. This time, I had to go back and really think hard about what actually made it out last year, and what was worthy of actually making a CD full of my favorite stuff.

It seemed that there was a bit of a dearth in the year's midsection in terms of quality music; the first quarter was uncharacteristically decent (The Roots, Elzhi) and the fourth also provided a few gemstars (Black Milk). But the summer of 2008 was a period in which I truly immersed myself in the world of alternative rock music for the first time in my life. Playing Radiohead all day, every day made up for the lack of good hip-hop to round out my mix CDs.

Royce Da 5'9" and Black Milk both continued their supremacy from 2007, and by extension made it on more than a few cuts on the best-0f mix. Somehow, Kweli made it on this bastard twice, which is interesting considering he's such a fallen star in my estimation, despite being one of my favorite emcees. Skyzoo probably made it on the mix for the last time, as he's getting exceedingly uninteresting and worthy of checking out only for beat choice.

Speaking of beat choice, just as is the case every year, a couple of these cuts are here for no other reason than stellar, infectious production (The Jake One, Nicolay and Kidz In The Hall joints). I'll never claim to be more righteous than the next listener for appreciating shit with empty lyrical content that either bangs in the whip or has fantastic musical quality. The difference is, I just don't make it a habit.

A few more thoughts:

- There are a lot of mixtape tracks on here with cats rhyming over other folks' beats. Every year someone else does far more justice to a beat than the original artist. See Royce and his decimation of every Lil' Wayne beat he goes over.

- Where the fuck is Saigon's album?!?!?!?!?

- This mix features what will probably be the best flipping of a song from a Corey Feldman movie (#10)

- The Foreign Exchange should have been on this mix. But Phonte wanted to make the sophomore album all about substandard crooning, so...

-Nas is still a fucking monster on the mic, but his beat selection has probably faltered forever.

- Termanology basically blew an album full of the best production lineup in like 13 years. But "The Chosen" has a Havoc beat that takes me back to the old Queensbridge days. And Term blacks out over it.

- Elzhi's solo album was a bit disappointing overall, but Detroit hip-hop still trumps everything else.

1. "The Leak" - Slaughterhouse (Royce Da 5'9", Joe Budden, Crooked I, Joell Ortiz)
2. "Done Talkin'" - Royce Da 5'9"
3. "Believe It" - Saigon
4. "Momma Can You Hear Me?" - Talib Kweli
5. "The Necessary Evils" - Skyzoo
6. "What We Live" - Nicolay and Kay
7. "A Billi" - Jay-Z
8. "Let Your Hair Down" - Kidz In The Hall (feat. Skyzoo & Lil' Eddie)
9. "Home" - Jake One (feat. Vitamin D, C-Note, Maine & Ish)
10. "Thou Shall Not Fall" - Joe Budden
11. "America" - Nas
12. "Long Story Short" - Black Milk
13. "Hot Thing" (Remix) - Talib Kweli (feat. Jean Grae)
14. "Royal Flush" - Outkast and Raekwon
15. "Motown 25" - Elzhi (feat. Royce Da 5'9")
16. "Heart Breakers" - Son of Ran and The Messengers
17. "Criminal" - The Roots (feat. Truck Turner and Saigon)
18. "The Chosen" - Termanology
19. "What If We Cry?" - Jay-Z and Coldplay