Here we are again, at the end of another eventful year. Seven billion people now populate the earth. Osama bin Laden is dead. I finally got a job. While tempted to continue on in an elegant display of glittering generalities and positive platitudes, I will simply shortcut to the basic point of this blog- I listened the shit out of some music, and will now encapsulate them in blog form.
If you’ve never heard of dubstep, listen to this before proceeding:
Someone treated me to a similar assault of electronic perversion earlier this month. At the end of the song, I was cradling in the corner with my thumb in my mouth, praying that his speakers would stop screaming at me. What was that sound? How could one call it music? Nevertheless, my ears begged for another listen, and with one small leap of faith, buying Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites, I had thrown myself into this new sonic frenzy they call dubstep, so much so that I went to my first concert ever. Dubstep was able to pervade my daily life in ways that my previous bouts with standard electronica had failed to do, mostly because of this genre’s break-neck intensity.
Yes, it is an obnoxious genre to listen to at certain times, but even the names of the chief artists alone should let you know that this isn’t for easy listening. It is punk music for our digital age; a blast of raw, filthy bass intelligible only to us no-good, snot nosed, “first world” vandals.
Of course, as this is a DJ-driven genre it warrants a bit of trial-and-error in order to find a handful of songs that are good (especially since a billion dubstep songs are released daily). My loyalties lie with Skrillex and Knife Party, and are good starting points for those willing to dig deep. Listen to dubstep in your car first. This genre is not meant solely for headnodding.
Section.80 is one of the most creative hip hop albums to have come out in the new millenium. Like every other album you can think of, they don’t qualify. Not only is this album replete with tender, jazz and electronic-infused beats and the best lyricism to be had from any New School MC, but the topics he discusses are much appreciated. Not many artists can produce a song describing the plight of women, simply because they never wanted to or the fact that the references to the opposite sex in any previous work is lathered with misogyny. And not many artists can be honest about our generation’s runaway zeitgeist with copious amounts drugs, sex, and ignorance without being shunned. It was not my favorite album of the year- it wasn’t even an album that particularly wowed me at first, but it was the album that earned my deepest respect.
Hmm… where do I begin…
WTT was not horrific to me. Nor was it the great collection of bangers it was purported to be. The mass hysteria that cocooned this album from the beginning of the year until its release date was so thick, I could not help to think that this could have been the best hip hop album to ever grace my ears. Sadly what I was given was one great song (Otis), two OK songs (Gotta Have It, Murder to Excellence), and an absurdly ornate album cover. That left about nine songs worth of dead weight which made me almost incensed as to the amount of time and effort that these men had worked on for what felt like forever. My solemn postulation is that this album was a way to release the under-cooked morsels from the expensive MBDTF recording sessions, which explains the wide and inconsistent array of beats they rapped on. Kanye was competent, but let’s be real- Jay-Z has fallen off.
FAV TRACK- Otis
Many critics wrongfully relegated this as a free mixtape. No one painstakingly crafts 21 songs, complete with Southern home-cooked beats and front porch poetry delivered with such a majestic drawl and deserves this sort of insult. Return of 4eva is, at least to me, a Southern renaissance album; a body of work that truly represents the willpower and regional tendencies of the Third Coast. I have to admit, the length of this album is a bit much, but the majority of these songs got massive rotation. King Remembered In Time.
This album came into my life strictly by impulse, on a boring May day and after a couple clicks on Amazon. Folk music had not been even my slightest interest up until then. And yet I found myself overwhelmed with such heavy emotion half an hour in. Helplessness Blues is a ponderous look into what we strive to make of our lives, of how every little fold and contour on the road of existence is just as important as the giant banks and curves. The instrumentation is so lush and organic, truly a gift for any acoustic lover. And let’s not even get into the angelic vocal harmonies this band is capable of; they put Destiny’s Child to shame. I love this album.
Casual will kill your favorite rapper in a rap battle, then shit on his corpse with another smokin’ hot 16. His album The Hierophant is truly only defined as dope, and the opening song alone qualifies that a thousand times over. What I admire so much about Casual is how dense his lyrics are compared to his colloquial, slack-jawed delivery. Not to seem mean, but he kinda sounds like that bum under the freeway you see on Saturdays, but I think that that underestimation simply adds power to his poetry. Fiend of Hip Hop is such a glorious track; when the beat comes in man… finito.
If there was ever a hip hop genre defined as nerdcore, this would be the best example. Don’t get me wrong though, Milo is not a pasty, socially-challenged introvert… well not to an extreme. I dug this album because he was so honest about his interests compared to the average self-conscious nerd person his age, and he didn’t feel obligated to whine about it a la Childish Gambino (seriously, he’s a good comic, but his music is an amalgam of sexual assault and an unnerving lack of prozac). The beats fit his demeanor quite well, basically composed of electronic landscapes cut into looping beats. Milo is more hardcore than Soulja Boy, IMO.
For an album that is filled to the brim with drug abuse, overt misogyny and a near-psychopathic view on life, it seems odd that this is one of my favorite albums of the year. Danny Brown somehow managed to turn his horrible bout with drugs and his self-proclaimed rockstar life into comedy blacker than obsidian, with a voice that also embodies that off-kilter atmosphere. His lyrics literally slobber over you with their out-of-left-field references and hyperbolic exaggerations (the song “I Will” is so insanely gross…) Danny Brown is just as wise and thoughtful as he is reckless.
Otis is a fucking killer track. Those guys are like Donkey Kong and Godzilla going after each other for the best rhymes. And the cherry on top is the beat, which is barely a beat. They paid like half a million for the rights, took the song and chopped that shit up like kielbasa. I was turned off by the grunting, but now I get. It adds so much intensity to the song. As if Kanye did like a pound of blow before he made the beat.
I’m rambling now…. WHO GON STOP ME HANH?
The sixth track on Kanye West’s magnificent “urban fairytale” album, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, completely fits the adjectives of the album’s title exactly. The buzzing intro lyrics [“I shoot the lights out/Hide ‘till its bright out”] are completely out of place for a rap track, which is made clear by the subsequent verse by Rick Ross, which is some of his best work despite it being four bars. The hard bass line, near-tribal 808 drums, and swoozy synth are a testament to Kanye’s place as a leader in modern hip hop production. His rhyme is honestly a bit undercooked, but still fits the overall theme of the song with his tense assertion of his status with outrageous bragging. Jay-Z’s verse is great, blurring lines between reality and fantasy by comparing the terror of classic cinema monsters to his rap career. And Nicki Minaj kicks in the teeth of any dissenters of her fame with her jaw-dropping, schizophrenic verses that flow seamlessly even with her frequently changing personas.
In other words, “Monster” is a bomb-ass track.
That being said, it was a clear contender for a single, which was cemented by the leaked video early on in 2011. With the official release of the video on Mr. West’s page, we can all bang out this abrasive, crazy posse cut with them rapping in front of cars and drinking imported wine. Oh wait… no. In fact, the video is so far from the routine rap video that it could stand alone as an experimental short film.
It’s not often that a music video is prefaced by a disclaimer, but never before has it been so needed. Those who are not into gruesome horror films should take a warning, as this is a knowingly graphic and shocking display of art(?). There are models hung from meat hooks as Ross puffs a thick cigar. Kanye lounges near two pale bodies in lingerie, and he casually arranges their hands. He is then seen rapping the chorus as zombies bang on a window-paned door. Jay-Z rhymes in a clean suit and polarized shades while a naked woman is lazily stuffed in a sofa in the background, her ruby red shoes still on. Minaj is clad in a dominatrix attire while also sitting on a chair with her signature Hookiejookie something Barbie something hair. There are also random scenes of a tattooed contortionist in a hallway, conjoined twins connected at the shoulder, black women in werewolf cosplay, and more that should be witnessed without spoiler.
What do I think of the video? Well, it certainly aims at taking an extremely literal take on the title of the song. It is far from the norm and certainly is an aesthetically challenging piece. However… I think it was a bad choice, in terms of morality and the impending backlash. I have no problem with the video, but there have already been groups calling it a banner for sexual abuse due to all of the victims being models. Most of the true fans would realize that this choice was in tandem with the “haute couture” nature of Kanye’s album promotion, such as the ballet in “Runaway,” but outsiders, ignorant and unwilling to look further beyond what they see, will only cause more trouble for his career.
This is for my friend willowisps. You should totally follow her.
She wanted me to tackle this from the viewpoint of the music video. I found that possible because the first time I heard it was without visual aid or satisfaction.
The first time I watched the video was without sound. There are visuals of a huge pile of what seem to be cogs, burnt rubber and the like. The camera whisks into space, where a capsuled Kanye West spits his short verse in a blazer and disco pants. A whirling enigma appears, clouded in purple chiffon fabric. It begins morphing from an alienesque figure to Katy herself with what seems to be the world’s best Cirque du Soleil outfit. The hair, the makeup, and the clothing are eccentric to the point of no return, yet not so detached from reality as what another female pop artist might wear. The get-up reminds me of “Queen of the Damned.” Her eyes are amber voids. Images pop in and out: a budding plant, a DNA helix, a cheetah biting the shit out of some poor creature, explosions, etc. She is now in some white dress spinning around. She finally lands near some obsolete robot as Kanye pops back in for another short bar. Katy kisses this robot thing and it lights up… and becomes an albino.
A naked albino.
The place is bathed in light. She then pulls off the lower half of her dress to reveal her freakish centaur legs and they walk away from the screen. I laughed so hard at that last part, because there was no sound and it was just a naked dude and some chick with poorly CG’ed legs slowly walking away.
Now for the music. The instrumentals in the back are fine, I guess. It does have decent bass for the stanzas, but the chorus parts are overproduced. Synth and club beats are not never going to be incorporated in her music. Here comes my actual gripe- the lyrics, but I will explain the good before the bad.
The concept of the song is a nice take on a relationship. From Katy’s verse “You’re so hypnotizing, Could you be the devil? Could you be an angel?” it can be said that she knows this guy is not entirely honest with her, but she could care less. I find that interesting. It does lose many points for being heavily repetitive and not adding more creativity in the stanzas, but she seems to be a decent singer and her parts are completely inoffensive.
Kanye West’s stanzas are utter dogshit. They detract from the entire song by focusing solely on engaging in coitus with a person who does not seem too keen on that:
I know a bar out in Mars Where they driving spaceships instead of cars Cop a Prada spacesuit about the stars Getting stupid ass straight out the jar Pockets on Shrek, Rockets on deck Tell me what's next, alien sex I'ma disrobe you, than I'mma probe you See I abducted you, so I tell ya what to do I tell ya what to do, what to do, what to do
In addition, his voice is fitted with so many vocal tricks and gimmicks that are annoying on the first play and are certain to become increasingly annoying on consecutive plays. The fact that he rapped on a Katy Perry song strictly for publicity is so overt and off-putting, that his contribution to the song equates to a crimson-red zit on the glossy face of this pop song. (sorry Yeezy.)
The music video is creative; definitely one of the most effective and meaningful videos for this genre in a while. Katy’s parts are decent. Again, her lyrics could be better. Kanye ruins the song with his verses.
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