Sunday, January 27, 2008

Fuck Bush, I'm goin' the fuck back to Stankonia

Maybe the blog-hop hype machine's not dead after all: "Gonna Go to Ghana," off Killer Mike's Ghetto Extraordinary (named as such because it's the hiphop Extraordinary Machine to Hell Hath No Fury's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), beats anything off The Big Dough Rehab (yeah, including "Yolanda's House"). After the best spoken intro since "It's Britney, bitch!" sets us off, here comes a pure Andre 3000 production with fidgety computer bass, cooing soul sisters, and Mike's spectacularly gruffy delivery. In fact, the whole album ain't bad either; the music liquifies like a lower-rent Stankonia if Pimp C played Lanois to OutKast's U2. Does that make Killer Mike Eno? I can't even follow my own ridiculous analogies. But seriously: like UGK, or Devin the Dude, Mike is the rare Dirty South rapper who appears to retain long-term control of his own musical consistency.

Consistently funky to be precise, from OutKast's underrated "The Whole World" to his own "A.D.I.D.A.S." in 2003, to Ghetto's rocking "Shot Down," which Mos Def would be proud of. I know Ghetto was made for three years ago, and that I haven't heard his actually-released I Pledge Allegiance record, but the dude seems to care enough about his beats to not veer into lazy snap or anything anytime soon. Peep "Shot Down"'s extended bass solo ending if you don't believe me, or how he rights the wrongs on his superior "Rubberband Man" rip "Aye-O" with abstract computer bleeps and tuba squirts. He'd be a more commanding mic presence than T.I. even without, though. For sure his loyalty is more charming on impromptu crowd-pleasers like "I love a girl from the hood/Fuck a video ho" and "Ain't hard to find me: I'm in the South."

Monday, January 21, 2008

Glib is the new pink


New York, Day 52: I've applied for every job ever. You know I'm reduced to the throes of desperation when Eve 6 lyrics start to make sense.

Making old friends, fostering new enemies, the usual.

I'm performing a temporary experiment where I don't grade records. However, Lil' Wayne, Hot Chip, the Magnetic Fields, Heather Leigh Murray and the Mountain Goats, in that order, are getting the most play around here of the '08s. I'm also rediscovering my love of making mixes for people; I'll make one for anyone who asks, free of charge. The catch is you have to trust my taste.

The Beautiful South are obsessable. is now in full effect, thanks AK. Our writers are, as always, spectacular. I promise to study the complete works of Achewood in return.

Even if Jen didn't go back to school today I'd still miss her a lot.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Higher than an eagle's feet

First things first. Tell your friends.

Now that business is out of the way, let's talk pleasure. Do you need more nerdy white crits extolling the genius of Lil' Wayne? Of course not, so don't read any further, because the grade at the end is going to infuriate you.

Lil' Wayne - The Leak

All the, pixels, that went into Da Drought 3 last year? I can jive with that. Actually-produced rap doubles disappoint so often that the fact the only mixtape I've ever desired to play three times is a minor miracle, even if most of those listens were work, trying to absorb and retain as much of Weezy's wildly entertaining freestyling gifts as possible. The man's so obsessed with money because, well, as the last best rapper alive put it, skills don't sell, or else everyone would try to be Talib Kweli. Thankfully "skills" don't sell, because that guy's rich now and lay-z. And Lil' Wayne considers himself to be so rich in both money and rhymes at this moment that he doesn't blink about tossing coins from his caravan for the eager peasants to scoop up. He's got plenty where they came from, not worrying about a "drought" at all.

A great double mixtape should be exempt from complaints like too-long, inconsistent production, and what Jeff Weiss calls unfair beat selection, though I'm more impatient. In the filesharing age, mixtape beats aren't limited, imaginations are. If Aesop Rock declined to jack "Upgrade U," first, he's only holding himself back. Yeah, Drought 3 succeeded in every advertised way. But it was still a mixtape, an appetizer. And I couldn't top 10 something I only wanted to scan for quotables quotes or read about. If Yngwie Malmsteen and Celine Dion aren't allowed to get good reviews for choosing masturbation over craft, then why is Weezy? Craft can make you or break you in hiphop, just ask Ludacris, another wildly entertaining rapper, who hasn't made a good song, much less a whole album, in four years.

Last year, I termed Weezy F. Baby to be the hiphop Robert Pollard, a solitary oddball who dares you to sort through his leavings. But asserting that he throws all of his junk out there for history to decide, that was wrong. Mr. Carter knows exactly what he is doing. Critics shouldn't waste words on bootlegs that they might want to save for the real thing later, and as accomplished as four cds of freestyled madness were last year, he was only getting warmed up. Critics who thought he was running dry when he played it easy on his two biggest guest slots ever will now realize he was just being stingy. A five-song EP called The Leak was sneakily slipped onto iTunes over the holidays, and anyone who's still unaware of it needs to hit Shareminer immediately. It's simple really; four perfect bangers and a fifth ("Kush") that's merely very, very good. You've already up your mind on whether you think his jokey similes are the work of a genius or a one-trick pony, but this is where Weezy shows off previously unknown songwriting gifts.

From the punched-in soul breaks in the otherwise scorching "Gossip," to the sung(!) chorus of the piano-and-strings melodrama "Love Me or Hate Me," all five tunes augment his flawless delivery and cleverness with plush bedding and blazing chariots, setting an admirably nonstop flow in place (re: tastefully) for once. The result is bewildering; proving against everything people were starting to worry about on a fucking sampler EP could either whet the world for the best hiphop album of the year or set 'em up for an even bigger fall than expected. If Tha Carter III is nearly as consistent as this, I won't hesitate to bestow this grade on it. But for now, better than any rap release of dismal 2007, even Graduation, this perfect overdistillation of an oddball genius is just the right size, and with original beats to boot. And when's the last time a rapper, or any artist, attempted a great EP anyway? As effortlessly cool as Da Drought 3, and you can fit five of these on that, which means more pleasure in less time. On second thought, if the much labored-over Carter III isn't the hiphop of the year, it's nothing to be ashamed of, because--and being one of those fallible critics myself, be sure to check back in July to call bullshit--I think he already made it. Crown him.

Lil Wayne - The Leak: A+

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Misery Business

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I love reading Tom Breihan because he writes about music worth reading about. That is, music you'd never want to listen to. In a way, I could give a fuck about the trillionth critic's life-changing experience of hearing "All My Friends" for the first time. And it was my song of the year. What I'm interested in is party crunk, hyphy, Billboard rock, red state know, stuff that's both more culturally relevant and more foreign than Kala. If you think Os Mutantes are exotic, just wait til you try and penetrate the complete works of Finger Eleven, a band whose free promo cassettes I recall receiving in junior high and were both commercial and critical nobodies until an unholy mesh of Franz Ferdinand and Alter Bridge called "Paralyzer" slightly-diverged-from-the-Nickelback-cookie-cutter all the way up the charts from nowhere. Wading through this stuff has become a dirty job and I love the people doing it.

Now six columns in, Al Shipley's Corporate Rock Still Sells column might be the single most important music report online, bridging the gap of mostly unlistenable rock radio (and yes, Shipley hilariously expounds on the meaningless differences between the "active" and "modern" classifications) and Idolator readers, who as a given, understand the references when darts are launched at Pitchfork. Foo Fighters and Trent Reznor might seem like old hat for those who want to read about Panda Bear's latest trip to a vinyl basement, but Shipley has a talent for pointing out elephants in the room. Why did Nine Inch Nails' barely-heard-from second single "Capital G" score higher on the airplay quota counter than the oft-sighted "Survivalism"? And how did the Foo Fighters manage to quietly infiltrate the biggest Grammy categories, a feat they never managed at their visibility peak? Sure you could give the Stadium Arcadium excuse, that safe vets were need to fill out the ballots. But in a Springsteen year? Can't even haul out a Crash/Brokeback conservative bias theory, because Dave Grohl's last album was a campaign travelogue to John Kerry, and because the Dixie Chicks fucked shit up last year. The brilliance of Shipley's attention to Billboard is that he's earning a knack for pointing out the unpredictable within the supposedly predictable.

An impressing and depressing companion to the column is Idolator's other corporate rock study, Anonimous Interview Series, which interviews "seasoned industry bigwigs" with names withheld, and exposes the awful truth to up-and-coming bands that some college radio douche could forget to make your record #1 via a nasty hangover, even after the handshakes and payola (pizza) have commenced. I don't know, maybe this stuff just scares the shit out of me because I'm a musician who'd like to try full-time commitment down the road, but I also prefer reading indie/blog-sharpened personalities discussing Entertainment Weekly issues than actual issues of Entertainment Weekly or indie-rock blogs.