Top 5 hip-hop records I heard this week (in no particular order).
- Jay-Z “Open Letter”
- Styles P. feat. Jadakiss “Red Eye”
- Cory Gunz “IDK My Limits”
- Big K.R.I.T. “Life is a Gamble”
- Pusha T. “Numbers on the Boards”
I said I would watch this year…but I didn’t. I just, genuinely, don’t care anymore. The award show has improved over the years but I still feel that some magic is missing. It doesn’t feel like there is any suspense as it relates to the winners. The bigger the record (as it relates to sales), the greater the chances it will walk away with the honors. When a song like “Niggaz in Paris” wins over a song like “Daughters“….well.
Most of the candidates in the Hip-Hop categories deserved to be nominated. The winners were predictable though. I was particularly interested in who would win best album. I thought Drake’s album “Take Care” was good, but “Hip-Hop”?
This album contain less “rap” than his debut. I don’t like the fact that the Grammys proved me right. It’s either a sales win, a popularity win, or a sympathy win (for old heads). I was hoping Nas would get the “sympathy” vote for his excellent work but oh well. At the end of the day, it is less about who wins and more about the message these wins send.
*Shrugs* I watched The Walking Dead instead…
So what passes as a classic these days? Is it that instant gratification you get on that first play through. Or does it depend on how often you listen to an album over time? The latter used to be the standard, but now it seems that fans toss that word around like it’s nothing. Have there been any albums you can call “classic” within the last ten years? I don’t know but I will give you my theory on it…
I think classic is a very delicate word when it comes to hip-hop music. There is a lot to live up to when you tell your man that “such and such” album is a classic. That means this album is on a level with past classics like: Raising Hell, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, Criminal Minded, Enter the 36 Chambers, The Low End Theory, The Chronic…. And so on and so forth. That in itself seems unfair. Your “new classic” shouldn’t be held to the standard of another man’s work, but that my friend…is the way of our world unfortunately.
There is a couple of key components that link these timeless gems. The level of craftsmanship dedicated to the sound and lyrics is what pulls you into the experience. You can listen to the album and instantly hear that the artist and producers genuinely cared about this project. They either had a ton of fun making the album, or were extremely focused on making an impact. I know it all sounds so serious but when you are trying to make your mark on the hip-hop map…you want to make the biggest mark.
Where I hear a classic someone else may just hear a decent album. I’ve been deeply involved with music all of my life, so I may hear things that others don’t. It doesn’t make me special. I just have a different ear than the next man or woman. If an artist can make an impression on someone who listen for craftsmanship versus a person who looks for “trendy” hip-hop; that is when I feel you have something unique.
When I first heard Jay-Z’s debut album Reasonable Doubt, I didn’t like it that much. I wasn’t a fan of the production. I for damn sure didn’t consider it a hip-hop classic. It wasn’t until the following year that I found myself playing the album EVERYDAY. Religiously. Then it hit me…this shit is dope! I never really got into the lyrics because I was so focused on the production. Then I realized that the production compliments the subject matter and overall theme perfectly.
The only thing that I did different from the original play through was open my mind. I shut out any hype, and all outside praises for the album. I allowed the album to prove itself worthy of my collection. And that it did. It may have taken a while but it won me over. Now, I can do the same thing with a bullshit album, but there is no way that repetition will get me to call it a classic.
Some classics help to define an era. In some cases, it can change the way others make their music. I knew Get Rich or Die Trying was a classic when I heard it. The momentum for 50 Cent going into that album was insane! And they delivered! It met the standards of his underground success, the radio hits were bananas, and for the 1st time in a long time we felt like the whole “We miss Biggie and Pac” era was gone. There was finally “new blood” taking the game in a familiar yet fresh direction.
When you go back and listen to that album, I remember the enthusiasm that surrounded it. It’s like looking at pics from a fun night out on the town or watching a wedding video years later. It just brings back good memories. Haters will hate but some shit is just undeniable. Timing is every thing and 50/interscope struck while things were hot.
At the end of the day, the criteria for a classic can be unpredictable. Instant and unanimous praise doesn’t always mean classic. For example, the general sentiment today is that the rap game is wack. So any good album is seen as certified classic. I’ve been guilty of that. Truthfully, time will reveal what albums made an impact over the years. Debates will ensue, track for track will be thrown out there, and some people will discover them all for the first time. You will too…
There are a lot of dope (I hope) releases this month. 2012 will soon come to a close, and I will post my annual top projects of the year. I’ve been blogging for a couple of years now and I have covered a lot of hot music. Out of all of my “Top” albums from year to year, what has survived the test of time so far? Here are 5 albums/mixtapes that I still rock like they are new, along with what I said about them at the time:
Raekwon feat. Ghostface Killah- “Only Built for Cuban Linx II” (2009)
“I’m still rocking this album like it came out last week. This joint is such a mood album. This is just a solid album altogether. Good hip-hop in an age of unwarranted hype for other hip-hop releases. I’ll settle for the real thing. Another classic. You should have this already…right?”
Freeway & Jake One “The Stimulus Package“ (2010)
“This mixtape hit early in 2010. The timing was perfect. It was the 1st of many dope mixtapes of 2010. I was caught off guard by it. I downloaded it not expecting much, and came away rocking this on a regular basis. Sh*t, I’m listening to it now as I type. I wasn’t always the biggest Freeway fan, but his lyrics/delivery with Jake One’s beats are a match made in hip-hop heaven. Though the sales didn’t mirror the acclaim, I think any hip-hop fan should take they hard earned money and support this dope example of -the emcee & the producer-.”
Kanye West “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” (2010)
“Hate him or Love him, Kanye West is the best doing it right now. Sorry. Who else can make Obama and the whole country refer to him as a Jackass, and still come out with one of the best albums of the year. F*ck what you heard, this album is classic! Why? It’s more than a hip-hop album….but it’s a hip-hop album (if that makes any sense). Everything is handle with perfection in mind. From the guest appearances to the beats, to the lyrics. Kanye has crafted an album that achieves what I think most artist like Diddy(LTTP) and Jay-Z (BP3) were aiming for. An album that combines sounds and influences from many genres and maintains the artists’ integrity. The singing may not be for everyone, but it is well placed and tolerable in most cases. 2010 was a good year for Mr. West.”
Kendrick Lamar “Section .80” (2011)
“Talk about slept on. I heard the snippets and was completely uninterested. Then I decided to give it a full listen after hearing so many people talk about it. Needless to say, I came away extremely impressed (snippets are never a good idea). I wasn’t only impressed by Kendrick’s various flows but the consistency at which this mix-tape album moved. This is the type of young mc that old heads say doesn’t exist (fix ya glasses old head). This is a “throwback” album. Well placed skits, hard tracks, flows, and a conscious tone/concept. Just take a listen to the track “Keisha’s Song” and you’ll realize he’s just not here to spit. Kendrick Lamar is a force to be reckoned with in 2012. Believe it. I do.”
Elzhi & Will Sessions “Elmatic“(2011)
“How do you do that? How do you remake one of the greatest albums in hip-hop history? It has to be a recipe for failure. Right? NOT AT ALL. (Not to be compared) Elzhi & Will Sessions’s Elmatic is a classic in itself. I know. How is that even possible? This tribute was sooo on point. First, Elzhi does an excellent job of paying tribute without trying to imitate Nas. He actually builds upon the classic lyrics by providing his own perspective (i.e. Detroit State of Mind). It works well. I tried to hate but COULD NOT FRONT. On the beat front, the band Will Sessions does a superb job of keeping the essence of the original tracks and injecting the original sample in most cases. It is a masterful job that doesn’t draw comparions (or shouldn’t) to the original classic…Illmatic. This was in my top 5 from day one. If you don’t feel this…well…hip-hop is not for you. WORD.”
Let’s just start with a couple of examples: Pete Rock vs. Lupe, Dmx vs. Drake, Common vs. Drake, Ice T. vs. Every Young Rapper, Trapped in the 90s N*ggas vs. Every Young Rapper, and now Lord Finesse vs. Mac Miller. It’s a frantic situation, yes it is!
As a fan of the culture as a whole, I’m not mad at any of it. It is basically nature taking it’s course. Some of the old dudes are down with it, while others are down right furious. Why? There isn’t one obvious reason for why the older generation (yes, you 90s ninjas are included) has such a beef with today’s hip-hop. There is just a blatant lack of tribute being paid. Period. A lot of “older” rappers/fans feel that this generation of young hip-hop stars aren’t doing anything to advance the music. They also feel, that what’s being created now can hardly be classified as “HIP-HOP”.
On the flip side, the younger generation of hip-hop feels as if they do recognize the old school. They respect skill, but this is a different time. They feel they make the music of “their” generation, and at this moment in time, skill is not necessarily a prerequisite for success/popularity. In 2012, the rules are just different from the 80s and 90s. Between low cd sales, the rise of social media, and the marketing saturation that blankets actual talent…what more can they do?
I am a “90s Dude” so to speak. I was born the year “Rapper’s Delight” came out. I came up on Kane, Slick Rick, Ice Cube, Rakim, and others. I went to High School during the Illmatic, 36 Chambers, and Ready to Die years. I partied hard in college thru the Bad Boy, Roc-a-Fella, Ruff Ryders, and Cash Money years. And I am still finding more reasons to be entertained by hip-hop music…but those old days are GONE.
Look, I agree with the arguments on both sides. I feel that there are a lot of artist (some with talent and some without) that have the spotlight now and waste it on popularity contest. I also feel, that there is a lot of young talent that doesn’t receive the credit they deserve for lyrically advancing the art form, if not helping to sustain it. Above all, I feel that my generation is beginning to turn into hypocrites as it relate to the “rules of the game”.
The Lord Finesse and Pete Rock situations are perfect examples.
I agree that artist should always reach out to those who did it first before they decide to remix or recreate anyone’s work. DMs on Twitter are NOT acceptable. Here is the curious part; that music is generally sampled from other older artist/musicians. No? Did Pete Rock or Lord Finesse reach out personally to these artist? Are they not just as important in this equation? Did they show them the same level of homage that they are now demanding of these younger kats? A lot of those old musicians created these melodies from scratch! Without them… there is no hip-hop.
I clearly understand the workings of the industry, and do realize that these situations are more about labels and money than Youth vs. Wisdom. I just feel like these types of things can be better dealt with on a more direct level. Hitting Twitter and blogs for attention doesn’t beat having a Lawyer serve a Label with papers.
Back to that hypocrite part…
I remember old soul singers being mad as hell at my generation because we would sample there music and make more money than they did. I was calling them Old Grumpy Men too. Then I realized that in most cases it was all about the money. Our generation completely respected their music, but it was a new day and we were trying to create music that spoke to our time. Yeah, all of it wasn’t good but a lot of good came out of it.
This is the same exact argument today. You are talking about producers and artist who are not making what they used to, so they have to get what they can. There is nothing wrong with that, but allow the youngins’ there time and the limelight. Hip-Hop music may be in a dry spell, as far as talent on a mainstream level, but Ibelieve things will get better…
Kanye has come a long way. It wasn’t until this song and this video that I really felt dude. Except for 808s, he hasn’t disappointed yet. One of the dopest and most personal songs of all time. “Turn Tragedy to Triumph…” This week’s Re-Release is Kanye West’s “Through The Wire“.
Producer Kanye West’s highlight reels were stacking up exponentially when his solo debut for Roc-a-Fella was released, after numerous delays and a handful of suspense-building underground mixes. The week The College Dropout came out, three singles featuring his handiwork were in the Top 20, including his own “Through the Wire.” A daring way to introduce himself to the masses as an MC, the enterprising West recorded the song during his recovery from a car wreck that nearly took his life — while his jaw was wired shut. Heartbreaking and hysterical (“There’s been an accident like Geico/They thought I was burnt up like Pepsi did Michael”), and wrapped around the helium chirp of the pitched-up chorus from Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire,” the song and accompanying video couldn’t have forged his dual status as underdog and champion any better. All of this momentum keeps rolling through The College Dropout, an album that’s nearly as phenomenal as the boastful West has led everyone to believe. From a production standpoint, nothing here tops recent conquests like Alicia Keys’ “You Don’t Know My Name” or Talib Kweli’s “Get By,” but he’s consistently potent and tempers his familiar …