Steve J. Moore

Posts Tagged ‘Hip-Hop’

Walk This Way Kanye

In Music, Radio, TV on December 31, 2008 at 1:06 pm

Minor disclaimer: I do not like Kanye West  as a person (just see his blog). Mine is far from perfect, but if you actually find a post where he writes, you will get an idea of just how childish and spoiled this overly-produced mega star is. I do, however, have room to appreciate him as an artist.

 

I do like hip-hop and rap (see post on Atomosphere). My tastes in music vary greatly and I credit myself as a person who gives people chances. So, I listened to Mr. West’s entire new album 808s & Heartbreak (I applaud him for his grammatical ommission of an apostrophe in plural but not possessive “808s”) and tried to sincerely block out my usual desire to laugh, cry out in pain, or sigh in disgust.

 

I need music to have a reason behind it. I need to believe that the person or group I’m listening to believes in a message of some sort, even if that message is “we have no message.” As I see it (before hearing 808s), Kanye believes in only himself and his continued ability to make money.

 

808

 

The track list is as follows:

1. “Say You Will”  

2. “Welcome to Heartbreak” (feat. Kid Cudi)

3. “Heartless”  

4. “Amazing” (feat. Young Jeezy)

5. “Love Lockdown”  

6. “Paranoid” (feat. Mr Hudson)

7. “RoboCop”  

8. “Street Lights”  

9. “Bad News”  

10. “See You in My Nightmares” (feat. Lil’ Wayne)

11. “Coldest Winter”  

12. “Pinocchio Story”

 

While listening, I kept thinking to myself,

 

“Geez… who wrote these lyrics…

they’re so boring…”

 

Then I realized that Kanye wrote all of it himself (of course!). Perhaps the only well-produced parts of Mr. West are his beats. Most of the words rapped in the album wouldn’t get you through a high school talent assembly. When you usually get infusions from incredible groups like Daft Punk in songs past ( I keep telling myself they just did it for the money) and you only get acclaim for your sampling feats, there’s a problem with your talent.

 

But moving back to 808s, there were several tracks that started with promise. I couldn’t help but thump my foot and bob my head in time with a few musical phrases here and there. A cool beat would develop… some nice synth motion…that’s not bad… and then BOOM— the Auto-Tune takes over and all you can hear is Kanye’s unsinging, unrapping, whine (it’s something like cats being stepped on during a bowel movement):

 

ugh.

 

It would be different if the well-managed drum machine was interrupted by someone who could either actually rap, like Mos Def, or someone who can actually sing, like John Legend. Sadly, there is no such reprieve with Kanye.

 

I know things like black lights, venetian-blind sunglasses, and pretending you’re as cool as Jesus (or John Lennon) are important, but when did making good music take a back seat to meaningless (albeit highly sellable) personalities?

 

kanye1

 

Most of 808’s is, sadly, exactly what I thought it’d be: ignorable, forgettable, and some of it just plain bad. I won’t start a separate rant here, but I’m tired of songs “feat. ‘so-and-so'” that you would have no idea of unless you were in the studio during the session and you saw them bring in lunch. Sadly, Hip-hop has become somewhat dependent upon name-dropping lately.

 

Here’s the game: lay down one hot track…

*beat boxes while holding tin foil*

release the “song” under a cool pseudonym ignoring spelling and reason (probably with Asian influence for good measure) like:

“Sh4ng Sung”shang_tsung

Then, sell your marketable moniker to big names in need of a quick shot in the arm.

“Bounce ‘dat” by Beyonce feat. Sh4ng Sung

Ca$h in!

 

 

I’m not trying to say hip-hoppers/rappers need to stop collaborating, but just save your thanks for the liner notes unles your act is like Run DMC and Aerosmith.

 

 

I’ll end with a quote:

“Unfortunately for certain media outlets, you will never be able 2 ‘Michael Jackson’ me. That means 2 make it seem like everything I do is so weird or out of place…they always try 2 make it seem like everything is about my ego! That joke is getting old.”

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When Life Gives You Lemons…

In Music on September 1, 2008 at 4:36 pm

What better time than Labor Day Weekend to ponder the nature of optimism? Of course, the first logical jump my mind makes from that word is to hip-hop–wait, did I just say that? Maybe I meant something else like rap–wait, rap? Ok, so those words aren’t the first that come to mind when I think about accentuating the positive, but one can always be proven wrong.

Driving my little gold Toyota Corolla around Springfield, I don’t usually consider myself any flavor of cool for doing so. I get over thirty miles-per-gallon so I suppose that’s cool by today’s green standards even though there have been diesel cars getting over forty and fifty since the early 1980s. Nonetheless, I can’t help but feel inordinately cooler when I start rockin’ some beats. Recently, I heard from a friend that the best hip-hop album of the year was by Twin Cities duo called Atmosphere.

Titled mysteriously When Life Gives You Lemons… the standard edition album features a golden facade striped by a dark band

but the deluxe edition cover offers a one-line insight into the authorial intent: a rap thesis that blings of audacious optimism.

Solving the mystery, we learn that the guys of Atmosphere, upon receiving lemons from Life, just Paint that Shit Gold. The title alone just grabs you by the shirt and looks you in the eye, which is exactly what it intends to do.

Unlike rhymes from Fitty or Diddy, you won’t find big butts or hos in different area codes. What you will find is a collection of stories. Rap narratives of hardship, good and bad choices, drug abuse, a man missing his father, and the escapes children make when the world around them is harsh.

Not a rap fan? Hate hip-hop? Bored with what the radio plays? Try some smart, self-aware, and reality-based music that isn’t interested in selling songs as much as telling stories.

Now, since it’s a holiday weekend, I’m going to get back to chillin’, maxin’, and relaxin’ all cool.

I don’t care what they say…

In Uncategorized on August 5, 2008 at 7:17 pm

Writing on music was not something that I had ever intended to do often however, given my current state of affairs I’ve found myself listening (and catching up) on music more than other things because I can multi-task while listening to an album a lot easier than I can with a book, beverage, film, or game.  So, very pleasantly I find myself in the position of listening to more and more music of late.

In the past four years or so, I’ve broken down just about every wall of musical prejudice in my heart. Now, I like to think there is almost no genre or style of music that I wouldn’t give a chance. Everything done out of honest expression has some sort of value that can be derived or enjoyed. That being said, no I’m not reviewing anything really strange and obtuse like a John Cage album with tracks of complete silence. Nor am I going to try and posit the presence of some transcendental value in Hannah Montana’s latest musical foray. It’s just something I happen to profoundly enjoy.

The British winner of The X Factor (I promise my blogs on music won’t solely reference contest winning singers) has more than a heaping spoonful of vocal talents to backup her debut release Spirit. Here on the other side of the pond, most of us did not hear about her until months later when her single Bleeding Love hit the charts and decimated whatever it is that makes songs top charts…I’m no expert on such events but I know that they are certainly no indicator of how “good” a song is.

That’s what ears are for and boy, does she make me wish I had more ears. Lewis’s voice is hauntingly powerful in scope and yet serenely delicate in its style. Bleeding Love was produced by someone associated with One Republic‘s lead singer, which is maybe one reason why that song is just incredible. The abrasive pulse thumps and claps as her voice just shines through with shrill highs that are actually pretty rather than feline and annoying like Mariah Carey some people we have heard.

Somehow this album makes me feel vindicated as a child of the 80s and early 90s. The subtle clave and synth snare just make me want to start working out in hot pants or something.

I don’t care what they say/ I’m in love with you/They try to pull me away/ but they don’t know the truth/ my hearts crippled by the vein it keeps closin’/ You cut me open and I keep bleedin’ love.

Lewis feels to me like everything I wanted in a successor to Whitney “crack is whack” Houston. Sheer power and beauty in sound with great production value on top of it all.

I’m in love with this album a little bit and I’ll keep bloggin’ love.

PS- Since my wife teaches dance, it’s a given I have no choice to that we watch So You Think You Can Dance together. This piece is choreographed by Napoleon and Tabbitha D’umo who also host Rock the Reception where they teach couples who can’t dance how to throw it down on their big day. Mostly they are the people in the industry responsible for making hip-hop dance more than humping and well, more humping. This is what made me get this album:

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