100% life from concentrate
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i love the cocaine 80s movement. artists coming together to make good music. not for pop radio or to sell light beer. just for the “pursuit of dopeness.” here’s the latest offering from the crew ”congratulations.” on the song, common takes listeners through the story of his boy’s wedding. he’s backed up by vocals from jhene aiko & james fauntleroy as well as smooth production by no i.d. (spotted on his tumblr).
i never got with the odd future wave. love what frank is doing on the r&b front, but most of what i heard/saw from their rappers (tyler, earl, hodgy, etc.) was mostly wack and/or weird. that said, i’m glad i gave tyler’s new video a shot. his song “ifhy” adds some color to the gray areas of love. visually, it reminds me of the imaginative stuff busta rhymes was doing out in the 90s (see here & here for examples & nostalgia). on both fronts, he does a good job negotiating that subjective line between weirdness and creativity. check it out and let me know what you think. also on the strength of this, i’m gonna give tyler’s new album wolf a run-through (will update ya on it when i do).
do you remember cassette tapes? today, making a playlist is easier than saying “point & click” but *warning: back in my day story coming* back in my day, i had to record my favorite songs from the radio on to a memorex tape, hoping that the dj wouldn’t mess it up by talking.
in the video above, ithaca audio celebrates 50 years of “the format that brought us mixtapes and the birth of home sampling culture.” watch their live mixtape, performed on an older-than-this-century tascam 1” tape machine. tracklist below:
Jose Gonzalez – Crosses
Etta James – Something’s got a hold on me
Florrie – Give Me Your Love
Soul II Soul – Back to Life
Katy B – Katy on a Mission
Reverend and the Makers – Champion of the world
Labrynth – Earthquake
Liquid – Sweet Harmony
Gwen Stefani – What you waiting for?
The Ohio Players – Fire
La Roux – In for the kill
Prodigy – Smack my bitch up
Deadmau5 – Ghosts n Stuff Nero Remix
Deadmau5 – Raise your weapon
Adele – Skyfall
The Supremes – Come see about me
i checked out big boi’s vicious lies and dangerous rumors on a whim and i’m glad i did. with a mix of sounds and lyrics as colorful as the album cover, i’m guessing he had as much fun making it as i did listening to it. for a little taste, here’s “shoes for running” featuring b.o.b & san diego-based band wavves. find a way to get your hands on the full album. your ears deserve it.
in the past, life rewind was about recapping my favorite songs of the year. this time, i’m expanding it to a fuller blog review. more to come in the next few weeks.
in the meantime, we’ll start with my top 12 songs from twenty-twelve (not ranked) with a full playlist at the end. if some of your favorite songs aren’t on the list, let me know what i missed in the comments.
Fun. “We Are Young” f/ Janelle Monáe
first heard this on a super bowl commercial and was hooked ever since.
the cover polaroid of kendrick lamar’s good kid m.a.a.d city album dubs the cd as a film and for good reason. with storytelling, different flows, solid production, wordplay and soundplay, k-dot gives you something that you’ll wanna see as much as hear (in fact, he should flush it out into a real movie or broadway musical à la american idiot). won’t say that i’m a fan of all the “scenes” but the total package is impressive. ”sing about me” is a good preview of what i’m talking about. check it out and let me know what you think.
i’ve had this j. cole song on repeat since it dropped yesterday (cool that he released it by emailing it directly to a fan). even though the rapper is pretty successful right now, he doesn’t ignore his personal flaws and those within the things that helped shape him. cole also produced the track (as he often does), making great use of cee-lo’s “fool for you”.
new video for my favorite song on life is good. nas said he found some inspiration for the album in marvin gaye’s here, my dear. marvin used that project to metaphorically and literally settle some issues with his ex-wife. nas does similar work on “bye baby” as he opens up about his marriage and divorce to the singer kelis. the song was produced by salaam remi and 40 with help from guy’s “goodbye love” (aaron hall makes a cameo in the flick).
one of the better articles that i’ve read this year was about yasiin bey (fka mos def). it showed how the rapper’s religious faith influenced not only his name change but also some of his music (read it here). you can hear the spiritual presence on this song from his mos def days, “champion requiem”:
yasiin starts the track with “Bismillah ir-Rahman ir-Rahim” (arabic for “In the name of God, most Gracious, most Compassionate”). he goes on to credit any goodness in him to “the Creator” and later says “Listen God did not make me a fearful person/The only fear I have, Is my fear to adhere his path.” the emcee could have preached these things at many houses of worship.
that said, spiritual rap is like an abandoned child. one parent (mainstream religion) shuns it for not being godly enough for holy praise, regardless of the lyrics. the other parent (mainstream hip hop) shuns it for being too godly (or corny) to entertain or make a profit. moreover, the music often just sounds bad to both. sometimes that’s the fault of the artists, but also at play is a resistance to change that closes people’s ears.
while holy hip hop might never find the acceptance it yearns for, it can still have a place in both worlds if done right. with “champion,” you see the potential on the spiritual end to deliver a message to places and minds that pastors, imams or priests might not reach (yasiin even wishes to hear his words “in the ghetto streets where y’all at…In the parties where it be so packed and the atmosphere be so black”). for the hip hop heads, it’s another opportunity to edify people using the same medium that they love.
how do you feel about spiritual hip hop? what would it have to do to be successful in both religious and hip hop settings? if you know of any good songs that might fit the bill, share in the comments.
related: a documentary that address the issue
jay-z and kanye’s watch the throne didn’t fully match the hype (in part because the hype behind it was so high), but it still had a lot of great music on it. this 10-min documentary, shot mostly in australia, gives us a peek at how the album came together. a couple of my favorite moments are kanye rapping about russell crowe in front of russell crowe and seeing hov working on the lyrics to “why i love you.” check out the video above as well as this interview with the director robert lopuski. in it, he talks about the first time he bumped into kanye (literally) and what the film-making process was like for him as both a director and a fan.