Friday, January 22, 2010

Comeback #6: Roto-Rooter/Plumber

After a short (read as: forever) intermission on "The 3000 Tour", it's back. Today's reminiscence comes due to, what I can only assume is, Andre's dabbling in charity work for his fellow southerners' music. He extended beyond his ATLien reach all the way over to Alabama and hopped on the official remix of 2006's summer jam out of nowhere. I thought the "Walk It Out" thing was completely crazy and unexpected, but chalk this up as an even bigger surprise. I just wish Jimmy wasn't a tag-along for a second time ...

Rich Boy - Throw Some D's (Remix feat. Andre 3000, Jim Jones, Nelly, Murphy Lee, & Game)

Ain't a hood aggin but a aggin from the hood
See mama stayed on me so I turned out pretty good
But if you wanna try it sucka, Nike, we can do it
Ha ha sleep, Tylenol PM if I pull it
Sh-sh-sheep, count em for the rest of ya life
Yeah yeah ya partner got away but now he vegetable-like
So so I sent his mom and dad a whole case of V8
He could die, any second, how much long it's gon take?!
Gon get it over with, oh what if, you were in my loafers then
You might be the dope and I would flush it down the toilet
Like the boys in blue, when they come through with them boots
And they kickin down the do', and they don't care who they shoot
But we do care who they shoot, so we do what we must do
So we act like we run track, then we run straight to the back
But they comin from the back, so we run back to the front
They say "get down on ya knees". We say "what the f you want?"
They want cheese, they want bread, they want dough, they want mo'
Than I wanna give em but if I keep talkin they won't know
That my cousin in the back, and we call him Roto-Rooter
Slash plumber, cash runner, and he fire on them computers
Log out!

No one else could get away with this. Dre's verse has absolutely nothing to do with anything involving throwing anything, much less D's. But he does tell a darn good story, whether rooted in his own personal history a couple decades ago or just to write just for the sake of dopeness. It's not the usual Andre musings of life the he's given since the new millennium, but it's very witty, humorous, and even a standard of perfection if you're gonna compare it to any of the crap verses that follow. I don't know why the St. Lunatics took two minutes out of their eternal irrelevancy, but they did. And then Game decided to wrap the whole deal up by spitting the most recyclable throwaway car verse of all time. There's literally no redeeming moment in the song after the genius intro involving a certain Lil' Jon and Dre's ensuing demolishment of this song's purpose. So that results in me having spun back this first verse prolly a hundred times while the song itself maybe has like 3 plays on my iTunes. That V8 line is one of the greatest ever, I ish you not.

... but do take my word for it.


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Random Basketball Notes, 27th Edition

So I think I've proven that my long column privileges need to be revoked. My Iverson hopes were quickly dashed and now my musings on Gilbert Arenas have been shot to Hades. Crap.

And while Allen quickly found a new home at his old home in Philly, Gilbert will probably have an even tougher road to a potential new destination. AI didn't play a "prank" on a teammate that invoked the most stereotypical assumptions of NBA athletes as well as leading to a felony charge upon further investigations. Gil shoulda known that people like you a lot more if you just inexplicably complain about everything rather than own and display hundreds of firearms. Funny how that works.

But who really cares about them, huh?

My real NBA story of the season so far, besides inglorious amounts of injuries to every single team, is the ... *drum roll* ... Lakers. These Lakers are legitimately playing the worst basketball I've seen out of them since Kwame Brown was on the roster. Since the Cleveland Christmas blowout, we've managed to get rocked by the Suns, Clippers, Blazers, and Spurs all on the road. And while some people quickly excuse road losses against any decent opponent, I say, "screw that". Trust me, I just said it. Playoff series are won by the team who can break the other's home stand. Unless you trust your guys for every Game 7. Which I don't. And then we've let the Kings (twice), Warriors, Rockets, and Mavs all hang with us before squeaking out wins with Kobe ball-dominating and often shooting a terrible percentage.

And yet even with this subpar run piled on with Pau missing 17 of 40 games, Kobe playing with a gimp shooting hand and handicapped back, our bench sucking 90% of the time, questions of Andrew being able to play effectively with Gasol, and a still mysterious Artest Christmas concussion incident ... the Lakers have the best record in all of basketball. Suck it, suck it, suck it. 31-9. Currently a game and a half in front of the Shaq-lugging Cavs. It's unbelievable. While everyone clearly isn't healthy, we now have the complete roster at our disposal for the moment with Luke Walton now in the picture. So we'll see the full starting five with its full bench mob in the coming days. Watch out, league. These sucky Lakers are the best team out of all of you.

Speaking of the Kentucky Wildcats ... (?) ... they're undefeated. 18-0. We've been tested by all our opponents this month (Louisville, Georgia, Florida, and Auburn) and had highly shaky seconds halves, but we wound up beating all of them. Our RPI seems to be decimated by the day since our opponents from our (supposed-to-be) signature wins (NC, UCONN, and UL) have all had relative floods of losses come their way. Let it be known, though, that I appreciate each and every win, because runs like these are never guaranteed to come back around. But still ... we definitely got some work to do. John Wall has tapered off noticeably in the recent games. You wouldn't ever have suspected that if you look to ESPN headlines and highlights for your information. He's easily become the face of college basketball (as well as SI and Sporting News) and a breakaway candidate for Player of the Year at this point midseason. But fans who watch him day in and day out would be more inclined to look up that he's only shot 44% from the field in the last 6 games since our Drexel beatdown for the program's signature 2000th win. And while that's still a perfectly legit and applaudable percentage for a guard or literally any freshman, it doesn't even touch the 53% that he had been shooting in the first 11 games he had played. You can chalk that up to improved competition or increased defensive attention or anything else you want, but true UK fans will notice there's just been a slight drop-off in #11's game impact. He's still easily the greatest thing to come to Lexington in a decade and the most talented baller out there, but this is just an observation. Which I believe is highly correctable, by the way.

The flip-side to that is the recent emergence of DeMarcus Cousins as potentially the best big man in the collegiate ranks. Though he's prone to a record amount of first half foul trouble, he's actually become our go-to player, as hard as that is to believe. He proved it immensely in the last four close games that when the ball is dumped down to him late in the game, he will deliver. And that's something that I never thought I would see after the Stanford overtime game where he nearly blew the W singlehandedly in regulation. On a per 40 minute scale, Cousins is averaging 31 points, 18.5 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks. That is monstrous, ladies and gentleman. And that's not even mentioning his magical free throw turnaround since the Cancun Challenge where he's shot 75% from the stripe in 12 games after hitting at a clip of 50% in the first 6 games. He's proven that even when the opposition's entire game plan is to get him pissed off, in foul trouble, and try to make him hit someone, he can still remain cool and be amazingly productive, regardless. He's a beast who's improved exponentially from where he was physically and mentally earlier in the season. And I believe he's the one who is going to define our continued national legitimacy with his unstoppable work in the post. Wall will continue to garner all the attention and be the next big thing, as he deservedly has earned and very well will be, but look out for Boogie. I'm telling you.

Now let's just hope my idiotic predilections are only ruthlessly disgraced when it comes to professional sports. Because I can't afford to be wrong about my University. Plus there's the fact that Wall & Cuz are right down the hall at this very moment ...

... but do take my word for it.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cross My Heart

Here's a follow-up to the original "Exhibit C" post. Turns out Just Blaze wasn't the first one to mess with this sample. Exile and J. Cole beat him to it. In terms of when the songs were released, at least. And if you're familiar with these guys' production styles, you'll find what you expected in that Exile's rendition is crazy busy and over-layered to where you can envision how heavy he was destroying those MPC pads and Jermaine's is the most smoothed out to were he just flows mellow and sings out the hook. Find out which beat chopper you prefer.

Billy Stewart - Cross My Heart

Exile - It's Coming Down
J. Cole - Get Away
Jay Electronica - Exhibit C

... but do take my word for it.


Thursday, January 7, 2010

Best Songs of '09

There's no reason you should hold my personal year-end opinion over anyone else's since it's strictly subjective when trimming literally thousands upon thousands of songs from 2009 into a single 10 joint list. So you can either ignore me altogether and scoff at my attempt, or you can enjoy my personal guide to what my ears consistently were bumping in the 365 days that made up last year. Oh, and by the way, Coldplay sucks. I don't care how many awards they win or how many songs they do with my favorite rappers.

11. Bonus: "Hurricane" - 30 Seconds to Mars feat. Kanye West

This was the surprise track of the year for me. I, like most rap fans, can admit to never having heard a song by 30 Seconds to Mars before. And the song motivation itself could easily be chalked up to a midlife crisis collaboration by Kanye in-between his 808s and Taylor Swift heartbreak. But it’s actually an amazingly epic composition. I can deal with the slightly whiny hook by the lead singer because the lyrics are so heavy and the production is so prolifically explosive. I can only assume that Ye at least did the drums, but regardless, this “Hurricane” is fit to play in the climactic scene of the next crazy huge billion-dollar-budget action movie. Mark it.

10. "I Figured It Out!" - brandUn DeShay

This song is everything you don’t hear in any rap songs. Nowadays or ever. It’s a track stripped of all posturing. It’s raw and emotional and just tells a story. It intros with gorgeous strings immediately as the story unfolds and the production continues to crescendo until the climactic and glorious presentation of the sampled hook. It’s put together brilliantly and is a standout track for me from brandUn’s second full-length project. You should already know that all his music is dope, but this one finds its niche in a section of hip hop that doesn’t exist: genuineness.

9. "In Case I Actually Get Her" - Charles Hamilton

Your immediate greeting in this song is the gentle acoustics of Rihanna's "PS (I'm Still Not Over You)". CH then jumps straight into the closing of his conceptual opus, Well isn't This Awkward. If you don't enjoy all the things that make Charles Charles, then you may not enjoy this too much. But the "lo fi" mastering with rough sample dubbing, the dead pan delivery of lyrics driven by heartache, and the over-harmonized hook singing are exactly what make this the epitome of Hamilton music. His lyrics are always witty and he shows a masterful focus in bringing an alternative close to this full project over a song from his love obsession. You'll know right away if the track's going to strike you in a strong way. It captures a completely different emotion throughout as he deepens the pitch of the selective portion of the original RiRi joint and makes it a classic CH composition.

8. "Nothing On You" - Bobby Ray feat. Bruno Mars

B.o.B is one of those artists that I (and many others) really hope is smiled upon by the industry. It very rarely happens to someone who actually deserves it, but here's hoping that Bobby breaks the mold. The ATLien who can rap, legitimately sing, and actually play guitar comes correct on this lead single from his future debut album. He infuses his full-scale musicality and understanding of catchy, substantive songwriting effortlessly. I don't think anybody knows who Bruno Mars is, but he can sing any chorus he wants to from here on out. This lively ode to (*gasp*) monogamy is a genuine hit created in a similar vein to "I'll Be in the Sky" (an entrant in '08s top song list). If this song is any indication, Bobby Ray's proper debut should be huge and make its mark in progressive rap music forever.

7. "Otherside" - Macklemore

I strictly have 2dopeboyz to thank for this one. Otherwise I probably never would have been introduced to the Seattle emcee Macklemore. Once the Red Hot Chili Peppers riff sample comes on with this song, I'm swept away. This was one of the very few rap songs in recent memory that absolutely demanded me to spin it back over and over again immediately. It has an insane energy of importance to it that's punctuated with Macklemore's clear diction of an untackled subject matter in rap. And while you would think that any song discussing the ramifications of the cough syrup-abusing epidemic would come off boring and preachy ... it's anything but that, damn it. With his very opening bar, Macklemore joined Shad in becoming the only rappers to convince me of their respective greatness immediately. I've never heard a rapper rap like him, and with that, this song instantly catapulted itself to a premier representative of the entire year in music altogether.

6. "Heart of a Lion (KiD CuDi Theme Music)" - KiD CuDi

Even more than "Soundtrack 2 My Life", this song was the soundtrack to my life. CuDi's three-year-old single "Day N Nite" ruled all of 2008 and he made sure to ride that momentum into something spectacular this year. I have to prevent myself from just dishing on the entire album so I can save that for the top LP list. This song specifically is the second track in Act II: Rise of the Night Terrors and represents CuDi mentally preparing himself for everything that's about to come in his life. It's all about deading the effects of what's haunted you all your life previously to accept the potential good out of a situation that may not seem to be positive at all. If you can somehow create confidence from a place in your life that gives rise to pretty much every feeling besides confidence, then you can go somewhere. And I really don't care if you feel like the song's that deep. Cuz it is to me. Plus, if you're not in the mood for psychoanalyzing, then just scream the hook as loud as you can to your heart's content and forget about everything else. No, no, no, no, no, no, nooo, YEAH, nooo, YEAH ...

5. "Exhibit A" - Jay Electronica

Everyone was hanging off "Exhibit C" (including me), but it just so happens that its prequel hit a little closer to home for me. The production on this joint is bonkers. It's a perfectly crafted beat if there ever was one. And I've never been a big Just Blaze believer, either, so I don't exactly know where this came from. Mr. ElecHanukkah made sure he took full advantage of it, too. The elusive emcee remains as the intellectual name-dropping alternative to Game and has the enlightened bars to back it up. Every run of falling keys is a powerful moment and this is one of those obscure tracks that people will point to years down the road and still hold in insanely high regard. Trust me. I spit that wonder rhymer sh/me and my conglomerates/shall remain anonymous/caught up in the finest sh/get that type of media coverage Obama get/spit that Kurt Vonnegut/that blow your brain, Kurt Cobain, that Nirvana sh ...

4. "Fear" - Drake

"Best I Ever Had" didn't convince me. "Every Girl" sure as hell didn't convince me. And I still haven't gotten through a full listening of "Money to Blow" without falling asleep. But "Fear" was the track to finally break through to me. Up until this So Far Gone addition was released, I would have sworn that Weezy had drained all the realness out of Drake that he'd worked crazy hard to establish with Room For Improvement and Comeback Season. But no, it just turned out that Aubrey was waiting for one of those once-in-a-lifetime DJ Khalil beats to come bouncing his way to force him to rap about something again. In what's pretty much his own anti-"Forever", subject matter-wise, Drake details what his newfound fame hasn't done for him. And the song just feels good to listen to. Even with the obligatory autotuned hook. I'll take all of it. He claimed this is the transition record between his latest mixtape offering and the content that's gonna make up his debut album. And that statement better hold up, cuz this song is on classic status. [... *looks at Drake* ...] And don't let me down, man, cuz my roommate has hung out with you twice already and he's got me believing in you as a person. So ... yeah.

3. "Unthinkable (I'm Ready)" - Alicia Keys feat. Drake

I should've been convinced earlier by "Houstatlantavegas", "Little Bit", and "Brand New" that Drizzy was straight when dealing with R&B songwriting. But no, it took a collaboration with the love of my life for me to see how legit he was in crafting a classic. He smartly only provides just the slightest hint of background vocals for this song, though, and let's Alicia take care of everything else. The beat was dually produced by Miss Keys and Drake's in-house producer 40, and I will swear by the tandem in all future ventures. The deep drum pulses and vibrancy of the piano baselines sprinkled with 40's signature atmospheric mastering make this a surefire hit. The only thing that would keep me from crowning it a Billboard charter is the fact that Alicia had a similarly powerful track, "Lesson Learned", on her previous album that was never released as a single at all. Regardless, though, Drake's edgy songwriting pushes Alicia in a slightly deviated musical direction from normal that only brings back perfect results. I think this new album is the best in her catalogue, and this specific song is the beacon that I find myself winding up at the most. Every line has an urgency to it and the emotive effects linger long after the song's finished playing.

2. "Fo Yo Sorrows" - Big Boi feat. George Clinton, Shorty, & Too $hort

How? Can a rapper really have a premier song of all of 2008, follow it up with a premier song of all of 2009, and still have those songs' album nowhere in sight? Yes. Frickin' Sir Lucious Left Foot is still a figment of our imagination. But somehow I can't seem to get too mad at that fact when this song is better than most entire albums dropped in '09. This is funk at its finest as obviously influenced by Mr. P-Funk himself, reprising his "Synthesizer" collaborative role. Too $hort even manages not to ruin it with his expectedly welcomed novel misogyny and drug talk. The fluent double-time as well as slow-flowing Big Boi personas are in full effect here commanding his shared stage, but the driving force behind this unbelievable composition is the retardedly perfect Shorty hook. For those who think life is unfair/cuz I blow my smoke in the air/as if no one is standing there/then I'll roll one tonight, fo yo sorrows/in my chair, as I sit back smiling from ear to ear/with a fistful of your girlfriend's hair/yes, she'll blow one tonight, fo yo sorrows. Don't judge it until you're singing every word of it in some imitative voice that you'll never have down right. And since Andre is nowhere to be seen, this is Big's murder blow to anyone who ever held the notion that OutKast wasn't a two-genius crew. This song gives me the stank face every single time. It's beyond ridiculous.

1. "Pretty Wings" - Maxwell

My song of the year comes as the return-to-form track from an artist fresh off an eight-year hiatus. The only funny thing is that I never knew who he was in the first place. Upon first listen, I knew that "Pretty Wings" was something really special. Upon fiftieth listen, it still had the same perfect luster with each note and was well on its way to being the most played song in my entire iTunes collection. It stumbled into my life in the exact same fashion as Alicia Keys' "No One" had years prior. The music video managed to be leaked to my attention before the mp3 ever even did. All I saw was the beautiful woman in the still image and that was enough for me to check it out. That video and its gorgeous accompaniment were profoundly impacting and I'm still in love with every facet of instrumentation in its composition. Literally every song on the new album is a classic to me, but even in all their collective glory, "Pretty Wings" alone will forever define 2009 with every chime. Sometimes what's meant to be is for it not to be. But this song will still be there regardless, so life's all good.

... but do take my word for it.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Til Erybody Know My Name

The third Christmas mixtape is from DC newcomer Chris Barz. And like fellow DMV representer Wale, Chris has the backing of the amazing Best Kept Secret production team. And neither Chris nor BKS disappoint.

The final track on this project is "When the Stars Come Out", which is a song that I hailed as an instant classic on my very first listen. And the subsequent spins haven't changed that one bit. I even got to catch up with his impressive EP entitled Do You Know Him?. All that was left after that was to wait for his proper release with some assistance from singer Jesse Boykins III (a frequent Mickey Factz collaborator) and Tabi Bonney (he of "Put It in the Pocket" fame).

Chris Barz -
Class[Sickz] Out the Dark

With a free-associating rhyming style and gravelly voice, Chris Barz will inevitably draw comparisons to Lil' Wayne upon first listen. That's neither to his betterment nor detriment, though. He easily distinguishes himself through his vast diversity in attacking the lush instrumentation of his BKS beats. Whether it's the ATCQ-influenced "House Party", the self-doubting and guidance-seeking poetic interlude of "Letter to God", the story-rapping about an inter-career relationship spanning between "Dreamers" and "Dreamers Part II", or the uplifting head-knodder of "Fall (Keep Movin')", Chris keeps you on your feet from track-to-track. He has the natural blend of lighter braggadocio lines mixed amongst the topical tracks that go deeper and can delve linguistically more complex into organic poetry-type rapping. You can't judge this project from any single song itself as it prospectively broadens with each new track. Here's hoping for his continued success with this and all future projects as he keeps spitting dopeness. And maybe even if he possibly jumps on the "Hold On (Remix)". Ha.

And on a final note, I cannot stress to you how greatly this album is produced. Chris made a perfect choice is going over mostly all Best Kept Secret joints. Between this project and helming Wale's The Mixtape About Nothing, I don't know how they haven't taken over more of the rap game. Certain producers can create an epicness about them, and BKS definitely does this.

1. Hustle Music
2. Mr. Barz, Mr. Barz
3. Wherever We Go (feat. Jesse Boykins III)
4. What's the Definition of a Class[Sickz]?
5. School Ain't Workin' (No Money)
6. Dreamers (feat. Jesse Boykins III)
7. Dreamers Part II - Somethin' Stupid
8. Interlude - Letter to God
9. You Cool
10. House Party
11. OK Baby
12. Til Erybody Know
13. On the Radio (She Crazy feat. Tabi Bonney)
14. Fall (Keep Movin')
15. When the Stars Come Out

... but do take my word for it.