100% life from concentrate
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as a follow-up to the motivational single “mission”, lupe fiasco enlists grammy award winners jennifer hudson & common on his new track “remission”. like the original song, “remission” was inspired by the fight against cancer. proceeds from both songs go to the charity stand up to cancer, which raises funds “to accelerate the pace of groundbreaking translational research that can get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now.” you can download “remission” here & donate directly to the cause here. also, check out the su2c fundraising telecast (tonight @ 8pm est) to see the trio perform the song.
If you ain’t using all the talents God provided you with/ For the betterment of man, understand you ain’t nothing but a waste
talib kweli’s “state of grace” is hip hop at its most beautiful. the song offers a blend of social commentary & storytelling over a smooth beat. colorful visuals by dreambear complement the lyrics but also stand out in their own right. check it out and let me know what you think. also, to hear more from talib’s latest album gravitas, click here to get it direct from the man himself.
related: talib kweli on religion
as a part of kanye’s 2010 g.o.o.d. friday series, cam’ron, pusha t, big sean, jim jones, vado & cyhi da prynce joined mr. west to celebrate “christmas in harlem”. the track was produced by hit-boy & also features vocals from teyona taylor & musiq soulchild. it’s the only christmas song that i play all year round since the sound quality transcends the season. enjoy & merry christmas.
related: behind kanye’s mask
j. cole’s latest single is a shot of self-esteem, encouraging listeners to be happy with how god made them. the surviving members of tlc are featured on the track (which is fitting since this song shares a similar message as their single “unpretty”). full lyrics below. cole’s sophomore album born sinner comes out in 2 weeks (pre-order it here):
I’m on my way, on my way, on my way down (x2)
You’re the one that was tryna keep me way down
But like the sun know you know I found my way back round
[Verse 1: J. Cole]
They tell me I should fix my grill cause I got money now
I ain’t gon’ sit around and front like I ain’t thought about it
A perfect smile is more appealing but it’s funny how
My shit is crooked look at how far I done got without it
I keep my twisted grill, just to show them kids it’s real
We ain’t picture perfect but we worth the picture still
I got smart, I got rich, and I got bitches still
And they all look like my eyebrows: thick as hell
Love yourself, girl, or nobody will
Oh, you a woman? I don’t know how you deal
With all the pressure to look impressive and go out in heels
I feel for you
Killing yourself to find a man that’ll kill for you
You wake up, put makeup on
Stare in the mirror but its clear that you can’t face what’s wrong
No need to fix what God already put his paint brush on
Your roommate yelling, “Why you gotta take so long?”
What it’s like to have a crooked smile
This crooked smile
[Verse 2: J. Cole]
To all the women with the flaws, know it’s hard my darling
You wonder why you’re lonely and your man’s not calling
You keep falling victim cause you’re insecure
And when I tell you that you’re beautiful you can’t be sure
Cause you see that no one wants you back and it got you asking
So all you see is what you lacking, not what you packing
Take it from a man that loves what you got
And baby you’re a star, don’t let ’em tell you you’re not
Now is it real? Eyebrows, fingernails, hair
Is it real? if it’s not, girl you don’t care
Cause what’s real is something that the eyes can’t see
That the hands can’t touch, that them broads can’t be, and that’s you
Never let ’em see you frown
And if you need a friend to pick you up, I’ll be around
And we can ride with the windows down, the music loud
I can tell you ain’t laughed in a while
But I wanna see that crooked smile
[Bridge 1: J. Cole (TLC)]
Crooked smile, we could style on ’em (back ’round)
Crooked smile, we could style on ’em (back ’round)
(You’re the one that was trying to keep me way down.
Like the sun, I know you know I found my way back round..)
[Verse 3: J. Cole]
We don’t look nothing like the people on the screen
You know them movie stars, picture perfect beauty queens
But we got dreams and we got the right to chase ‘em
Look at the nation, that’s a crooked smile braces couldn’t even straighten
Seem like half the race is either on probation, or in jail
Wonder why we inhale, cause we in hell already
I asked if my skin pale, would I then sell like Eminem or Adele?
Yo one more time for the ‘Ville
And fuck all of that beef shit, nigga let’s make a mil
Hey officer man, we don’t want nobody getting killed
Just open up that cell, let my brother out of jail
I got money for the bail now, well now
If you asking will I tell now? Hell naw
I ain’t snitching cause
Man, they get them niggas stitches now
If you was around, then you wouldn’t need a witness now
How you like this crooked smile?
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).
country music star brad paisley and rap icon james smith aka ll cool j created a buzz with their recent collabo “accidental racist” (listen to it below & check out the lyrics here):
the thing is most of the buzz that i’ve heard hasn’t been positive. some people view the song as a source of unintentional comedy; for others, it’s a source of shame and anger. while i think the two artists had good intentions in making the song, here are 4 lyrics from the track that symbolize where they went wrong:
“lookin’ like i got a lot to learn but from my point of view/i’m just a white man comin’ to you from the southland” (brad paisley): paisley starts out fine in acknowledging that he has a lot to learn (we all do on some issues). his reasoning though for what he doesn’t know is problematic. the “i’m just a white man” line echoes the “i’m just a simple man” trope found throughout country music. however, paisley’s use of it here to explain his “accidentally racist” behavior doesn’t fly. it’s 2013 where many people, especially those with paisley’s financial means, have a wealth of knowledge literally at their fingertips if they want it. whatever his intentions were for wearing a dixie flag t-shirt in the song, even a so-called simple, white man from the south (and paisley’s west virginia barely qualifies) should be fully aware that the racist history associated with the flag (a history that even paisley acknowledges in the song that we can’t just rewrite) will make the shirt offensive to many people. choosing not to avail yourself of such knowledge or even worse, knowing better and not acting on it, isn’t an accident. it’s a failure (in this case, potentially a harmful one).
“i try to put myself in your shoes and that’s a good place to begin/but it ain’t like i can walk a mile in someone else’s skin” (paisley): again, paisley starts off right by trying to put himself in another person’s shoes. however again, he downplays his capacity for change in the matter with the rest of the line. of course, you can’t literally walk in another person’s skin (unless you’re eddie murphy). still, pointing that out here makes it seem like the understanding he’s seeking is beyond his scope when in reality, it’s not. a good part about empathy is that it can allow us to feel/understand another person’s struggles without fully experiencing it for ourselves (if we open ourselves up to do so).
“dear mr. white man” (ll cool j): the start of uncle l’s verse might seem innocuous to some, but for me, it hearkens back to the forced one-way flow of respect given by blacks to whites dating back to american slavery times. sadly, this reading of the lyric actually fits the humble, subservient tone mr. smith takes with the rest of his verse (it’s ironic that he later equates himself to quentin tarantino’s django when throughout the song he sounds more like stephen, sam jackson’s character in the movie). smith’s flaccid approach is surprising coming from the same man who did this. worse though, he seems to place himself on unequal footing when in this particular dialogue, a widespread establishment of equal standing is needed to address our nation’s racial problems.
“if you don’t judge my gold chains/i’ll forget the iron chains” (ll cool j): here, smith tries to make a deal with his white counterparts where if they stop judging him based on stereotypes, he’ll forget their ancestral sin of slavery. while the rhyme might make it seem like an equal exchange, it’s far from it. the most troubling part about it is the premature concession to just forget the iron chains and many other atrocities associated with america’s enslavement of black people. the purpose of remembering slavery isn’t to hold a grudge. history, regardless of the pain/embarrassment it may stir up, provides us with proper context for how we became the individuals/society we are today. such context is important when discussing race and the socio-economic issues linked to it (without it, we might confuse the progress in things like affirmative action as a final solution to an ultimately more complex problem).
in the end, the biggest mistake made by the “accidental racist” singer & the “accidental uncle tom” rapper isn’t as much about racism as it is about ignorance. paisley tries to use an “aww, shucks” attitude to avoid the responsibility demanded of him by his access to knowledge but it doesn’t work. for ll, his overly accommodating approach + premature “let bygones be bygones” attitude undermines the time/effort needed to truly heal 200+ years’ worth of wounds.
there’s a great quote from malcolm x that comes to mind: “don’t be in such a hurry to condemn a person because he doesn’t do what you do, or think as you think or as fast. there was a time when you didn’t know what you know today.” i don’t think anyone should simply condemn paisley or smith for their missteps (especially when they might be attempting something that other mainstream artists don’t on the regular). nevertheless, i do hope that the different reactions to the track will help them know better and do better in the future.
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).
update: i listened to the album. he shows flashes of talent throughout, but it’s buried under the aforementioned weirdness too often for my taste.
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.