Results for Jay Z

interviews

Lawrence Lessig

Next up, Jim and Greg play a bit of The Grey Album, a mashup of The Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album made by DJ Danger Mouse. This album received a lot of critical praise in 2004 (it even topped both Jim and Greg's year-end lists). It's a completely modern work that could not be made without recent digital technologies. The rub? It cannot be purchased anywhere, and most people who have heard it don't own a hard copy. This is because according to current copyright law, what DJ Danger Mouse did was completely illegal. To discuss how laws like this are stifling art, and how music in the digital age is changing, Jim and Greg welcome the definitive expert on this issue: Lawrence Lessig. Professor Lessig, a faculty member of Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society, has authored three books on cyber law and free culture, tried cases before the Supreme Court and founded Creative Commons, an organization trying to expand the range of creative work legally available to share.

While copyright laws have existed for over 200 years, music was not protected for a long time. Early in the 20th century, protections for musicians and songwriters were put in place, but these laws did not necessarily hinder creativity. Once a song was recorded, anyone had the right to record it. This encouraged artists and was fundamental to the growth of the music industry — so much so that even the RIAA defended this right. The 21st century version of this kind of conversation between artists is sampling — but under current law, Professor Lessig explains, sampling is considered piracy. Therefore, creative expression and evolution are not fostered the way they were in the last century.

Digital copyright laws also affect the consumer. In fact, Lessig suggests that“creator”might be a more appropriate name. In the last century, fans would buy music or make mixtapes, but current technology allows listeners to take part in the creative process. The law currently treats these creative consumers, many of whom are kids, as thieves. While our guest doesn't condone illegal behavior, he hopes to see existing laws change, rather than prosecute fans who are hardly criminals.

In addition to changing laws, Professor Lessig recommends that record companies use the Web rather than fight it. If he ran a label, he says, he would encourage people to participate in the creative process and remix an artist's work. Lessig would also allow and encourage artists to release their music on the internet. A small number of bands including Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Wilco have been able to do this with really positive results. Finally, if he ran a label, he would not bite the hand that feeds him, backing away from the harmful DRM technologies that labels are bundling into their content.

Go to episode 12

Vic Mensa

Vic Mensa is a young rapper who hails from the South Side of Chicago and isn't afraid to write about taboo topics like violence, racism and social injustice. While Mensa is a protégé of rap legend Jay-Z, he has his own unique style and swagger: he loves skateboarding, is gregarious and has a pretty stellar singing voice. His debut studio album, The Autobiography, is an ambitious record chronicling the entirety of his 24 years of life, and it's full of hard hitting beats and impactful (and sometimes hilarious) lyrics. Jim and Greg talk to Vic Mensa about overcoming drugs, his love for rock music and how he made a record that plays like a book.

Go to episode 635

L.A. Reid

lareidcoachella TLC, Mariah Carey, Pink, Justin Bieber, Outkast, Usher, Whitney Houston, Jay-Z, Kanye West…you name the pop star, and chances are he or she has worked with this week's guest, Antonio“L.A.”Reid. While he began as a drummer in the R&B group The Deele, it's really behind-the-scenes that L.A. has made the most awesome noise—first, as a songwriter/producer with Babyface in the 1980s and 1990s, then as a record exec at LaFace, Arista, Island Def Jam and now Epic Records.

L.A. shares his insights into what makes a great pop song, great (melody, hooks, emotion and the ability to sound good, even with a pillow over it) and some of his biggest professional triumphs (signing“the Beast”Rihanna, coaching Kanye West) and failures (Lady Gaga…the one that got away). He's also not afraid to get candid about music industry sacred cows, whether it's Michael Jackson or major labels themselves.

Go to episode 542

Lawrence Lessig

Next up Jim and Greg play a bit of The Grey Album, a mashup of The Beatles' White Album and Jay-Z's Black Album made by DJ Danger Mouse. This was an album that received a lot of critical praise and attention. It even topped both Jim and Greg's year-end lists. It is a completely modern work that could not have been made without recent digital technologies. The rub here is that it could not be purchased anywhere, and many people who heard it don't even own a hard copy. This is because, according to current copyright law, what DJ Danger Mouse did was completely illegal. To discuss how laws like this are stifling art and how music in the digital age has changed in other ways, Jim and Greg welcome the definitive expert on this issue: Lawrence Lessig. Professor Lessig, a faculty member of Stanford Law School and founder of its Center for Internet and Society, has authored three books on cyber law and free culture, tried cases before the Supreme Court and founded Creative Commons, an organization trying to expand the range of creative work legally available to share.

While copyright laws have existed for over 200 years, music was not protected for a long time. Early in the 20th century protections for musicians and songwriters were put in place; however these laws did not necessarily hinder creativity. Once a song was recorded, anyone had the right to record it. This encouraged artists and was fundamental to the growth of the music industry, so much so that even the RIAA defended this right. The 21st century version of this kind of conversation between artists is sampling, but under current law, Professor Lessig explains, sampling is considered piracy. Therefore, creative expression and evolution are not fostered the way they were in the last century.

To demonstrate this point, Jim and Greg discuss the evolution of one song in the 20th century. Whether it was called“To the Pines,”"In the Pines," or even“Where Did You Sleep Last Night,”musicians like Leadbelly and Nirvana would quote and reference each other, essentially engaging in a dialogue and helping to inspire one another. This kind of songwriting and recording is the definition of a musical community and has been around since music itself. The sad truth is that such a community can't legally exist today. Listen to the songs that may have been lost had this been the case before the digital age:

  • Bill Monroe - "In the Pines," recorded between 1936-1941
  • Leadbelly - "In the Pines," 1947
  • Bascom Lamar Lunsford - "To the Pines, To the Pines," 1949
  • Joan Baez - "In the Pines," recorded between 1960 - 1963
  • The Grateful Dead - "In the Mines," 1966
  • Nirvana - "Where did you Sleep Last Night," 1994
  • Rancho Deluxe - "In The Pines," 2005
  • Smog - "In The Pines," 2005

Other versions include:

  • Clifford Jordan - "Black Girl," These Are My Roots, 1965
  • Mark Lanegan - "Where Did You Sleep Last Night," The Winding Sheet, 1990
  • Dolly Parton - "In the Pines," Heartsong, 1994
  • Louvin Brothers -“In the Pines,”Tragic Songs of Life, 1956
  • Youth Gone Mad feat. Dee Dee Ramone - "In the Pines," Youth Gone Mad, 2002

Digital copyright laws affect the consumer as well. In fact, Professor Lessig suggests that“creator”might be a more appropriate name. In the last century, music fans would buy music or make mixtapes, but current technology allows the listener to be a part of the creative process. The law currently treats these creative consumers, many of whom are kids, as thieves. Our guest does not condone illegal behavior, but strives to change existing laws rather than prosecute people who are hardly criminals.

In addition to changing laws, Professor Lessig recommends that record companies use the Web rather than fight it. If he ran a label he would encourage people to participate in the creative process and remix an artist's work. He would also allow and encourage artists to release their music on the internet. A small number of bands including Clap Your Hands Say Yeah and Wilco have been able to do this with really positive results. Finally, if he ran a label, he would not bite the hand that feeds him and back away from the harmful DRM technologies that labels are bundling into their content.

Go to episode 134

Jeff Chang

Jeff Chang, author of Can‘t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation, joins Jim and Greg in the studio this week. Jeff, who co-founded the Quannum Label in San Francisco, was on the show previously when his book first came out, and he and our hosts engaged in a discussion of hip-hop's history. Now that Jeff's book has come out on paperback, Jim and Greg welcome him back to the show to discuss where hip-hop is today and where it is going. In order to get a sense of hip-hop's diverse makeup, the three music journalists decide to embark on a geographical tour of the genre, beginning with Chicago and working their way through the United States, and even the U.K.

Go to episode 15

Grizzly Bear

Jim and Greg are joined next by the members of Grizzly Bear. The Brooklyn-based band started rather modestly in 2004. Now they've become one of the most talked about groups in indie music today. In addition to notable appearances at Lollapalooza and the Pitchfork Music Festival, the band opened for Radiohead and Paul Simon. Plus, they count Jay-Z and Beyonce as fans! Jim and Greg spoke with Daniel Rossen, Ed Droste, Chris Taylor and Christopher Bear on a Sunday morning in front of a live studio audience at the House of Blues in Chicago. There the band performed songs from its latest album Veckatimest. Unfortunately Michael McDonald wasn't there to join them on "While You Wait for the Others."

Go to episode 206
specials

SOOPie Awards

As 2006 comes to end, Jim and Greg take a look back at the year in music — the good, the bad, and the ugly — and give out their annual“Soopie Awards.” Here are this year's winners:

  • The 14:59 Award: Kevin Federline. The dancer turned husband turned wannabe rapper started off this year with a new single, "Popozao," and a new hope for a better, bill-free, life. Now K-Fed is a soon-to-be twice-divorced father of four who was dumped via text message and booed by fans on the same night. The clock is ticking…

  • The Most Clichéd Criminal Act Award: Snoop Dogg. Rapper Snoop Dogg was arrested a number of times this year, but the final criminal act really took the cake. He was stopped after an appearance on The Tonight Show with what must be the gangsta rap starter kit — pot, cocaine and a weapon — soon to be available at a Wal-Mart near you.

  • The Award for Rock Aging Gracefully: The Sex Pistols. Upon receiving an invitation to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Sex Pistols responded thusly. Sound Opinions H.Q. is glad the punk spirit is still alive somewhere.

  • The Award for Rock Aging Poorly: CBGB's. One place the punk spirit isn't alive is Las Vegas. Yet that's exactly where the original Lower East Side punk headquarters is relocating. We just hope Patti Smith doesn't join Celine for an extended residency.

  • The Best New Sheriff in Town Award: Eliot Spitzer. 2006 was a big year for the Attorney General. Mr. Spitzer not only won the office of Governor of the State of New York, but he also brought down some of the giants in the music industry who continued the practice of payola. He received his largest settlement from Universal Music (which checked off all major record labels) and is now moving on to radio.

  • The“Hootie”the F** Are You? Award*: three-way tie between Rascal Flatts, The Fray & KT Tunstall. No one seems to know who you are, but your names continue to appear on the charts. Jim and Greg can only blame this on the Hootie effect.

  • The Politics Paying Too Big a Price Award: Dixie Chicks. After telling a British audience that she's ashamed the President is a fellow Texas native, Natalie Maines and her fellow Dixie Chicks have been boycotted by country radio stations and have been forced to cancel many tour dates. Jim and Greg wonder whatever happened to free speech?

  • The Politics Not Paying Enough of a Price Award: Barbra Streisand. Maybe we'll rethink that free speech thing… On her recent tour, the always liberal Barbra Streisand decided to incorporate political satire and sketches into her performance. After paying hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars for tickets, many audience members wished Babs would just stick to singing. Jim and Greg agree.

  • Award for Best Rock Couple. Nominees: Paul McCartney and Heather Mills; Kim and Marshall Mathers; Kid Rock and Pamela Anderson. The Winner: Jay-Z and Nas. They've been“beefing”for years, and made their careers dissing one another. But now pure friendship (aka Def Jam and profit-sharing) have brought them together. Thank God those two kids worked it out!

From all of us at Sound Opinions, Happy New Year!

Go to episode 57

The Business of Hip-Hop

Jay-z As Jim and Greg explain in the news segment, hip-hop continues to be the music industry's cash king. It's come a long way since starting as an underground street art, and tracing the development of the hip-hop economy can shed a lot of light on the workings of the music industry. As Jay-Z famously rapped,“I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man.”Jim and Greg talk to Dan Charnas about this multi-billion economy. Dan is a music journalist who also spent many years working at rap labels. His new book is called The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop.

Go to episode 268
reviews
American Gangster (Acappella)Kingdom Come available on iTunes

Jay Z Kingdom Come

This week Jay Z releases his tenth album, American Gangster. Inspired by the movie of the same name, the current king of hip hop (and possibly of all time), brings another dose of gangsta stories told with his trademark flow. In 2003, the rapper“retired,”and then un-retired. His return album, Kingdom Come, was a major disappointment to Jim and Greg, but Greg for one is pleased with what he's hearing on American Gangster. The stories are nothing new, but Greg loves the way Jay-Z crafts them. He is also returning to the '70s blaxploitation sound that infused one of his best albums, The Blueprint. While the mogul certainly doesn't need any cash, Greg gives this album a Buy It. Jim is less enthused. He loves the production, and was shocked to hear great beats from Sean“Diddy”Combs, but the lyrics are too much of a hurdle for him to get over. He wishes Jay Z's ideas were as complex and nuanced as those in the movie American Gangster and only gives the record a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 102
Art AngelsArt Angels available on iTunes

Grimes Art Angels

Canadian electronic artist Grimes recently released her fourth album called Art Angels. She came from the underground music scene and rose to popularity with her 2012 album Visions, and was later signed to Jay Z's management company Roc Nation. Although Grimes is a talented singer and multi-instrumentalist, she's best known for the electronic dream pop sound that Art Angels is full of. At first, Greg was concerned that Grimes would lose her edge by putting out a more mainstream pop record. However, he is happy to report that Art Angels contains some elements of mainstream music but the entire album is done on her terms. Greg gives it a Buy It. Jim agrees; he not only enjoys the sonic components but also the powerful and feminist lyrics. He loves the record most because it's both energizing and fun. An enthusiastic Double Buy It for Art Angels.

JimGreg
Go to episode 521
G I R LG I R L available on iTunes

Pharrell G I R L

For a long time, baby-faced Pharrell Williams was better known as a producer for artists like Jay-Z and his own N.E.R.D. But in 2006 Pharrell stepped out more as a vocalist, releasing a lukewarm solo album and increasing his guest appereances on other artist's tracks. In 2012, two of those tracks, one with Robin Thicke and the other with Daft Punk, launched him to new heights of stardom. And with that momentum, Williams is back with a second solo album. G I R L's slick combination of disco and R&B sounds make the record an instant Try It for Jim. He would‘ve gone Buy It if it weren’t for Pharrell's tired lyrics about women. Greg also sighs at the empty lyrics, adding that Williams should stick with what he does best: producing. His ability to channel dancable rhythms from the likes of Prince and Stevie Wonder is his greatest asset and ultimately the only thing earning G I R L a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 433
Kingdom ComeKingdom Come available on iTunes

Jay-Z Kingdom Come

After a much-hyped“retirement,”Jay-Z has returned with a new album, Kingdom Come. While many folks take up pottery or flock to Florida during their retirement, the hip-hop star became a CEO, bought a basketball team, and made a number of cameos. Perhaps this life didn't satisfy J-Hova, because he was compelled to return to rapping after only three years. But, neither Jim nor Greg can understand the urgency. To them, he just sounds bored. This is not a new issue for Jay-Z — he's often been plagued with a great voice and very little to say. But Greg thinks Kingdom Come is his worst effort ever. The album gets two Trash Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 52
Shock Value (Instrumental Version)Shock Value available on iTunes

Timbaland Shock Value

Superstar producer Timbaland also has a new solo album called Timbaland Presents: Shock Value. Timbaland, otherwise known as Tim Mosley, has produced massive hits for pop and hip hop stars like Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake. But, in addition to having a knack for making commercially successful tunes, Timbaland is also one of the most inventive, innovative and avant-garde producers of all time. This fact makes it all the more difficult for Jim and Greg to give their ratings of this album. Jim thinks the first half of the album is worth checking out for some solid production. But, he wishes Timbaland hadn‘t been so base and clichéd in his lyrics. He also questions the creativity involved in the album’s all-star collaborations. He gives Shock Value a Burn It. Greg can't even be that kind. He is completely disappointed by this album and is forced to give it a Trash It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 71
NO ONE EVER REALLY DIESNo_One Ever Really Dies available on iTunes

N.E.R.D. No_One Ever Really Dies

After a seven year hiatus, N.E.R.D. (the Pharrell Williams/Neptunes side project) has returned with their fourth album No_One Ever Really Dies. As The Neptunes, Chad Hugo & Pharrell crafted synthy, quirky, poppy hip hop and R&B for the likes of Jay-Z and Kelis in the 1990s and early '00s. Then in 1999, they formed N.E.R.D. with Shay Haley. In the time since N.E.R.D.'s last album, 2010's Nothing, Pharrell Williams has made a name for himself as a solo artist. Most notably, he achieved mainstream success with the smash hit "Happy," all while maintaining his signature sense of quirk. Greg says it's that quirkiness, along with a knack for hooks that attracted him to their sound in the first place. He likes this effort for its“weird, buzzy tone”and its psychedelic energy. Greg gives it a Buy It. Jim calls N.E.R.D. an“experimental garage band.”He adds this project has an uneven success rate with its long list of collaborations, including tracks with Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, and Ed Sheeran. Jim gives it a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 632
Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (5th Anniversary Edition)Food and Liquor available on iTunes

Lupe Fiasco Food and Liquor

After being leaked and speculated about for months, the final version of Lupe Fiasco's debut solo album Food and Liquor was released this week. Lupe, or Wasalu Muhammed Jaco, has previously worked with fellow Chicagoan Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z, who executive produced this album. The first single off the album, "Kick Push," is a modest hit, but both Jim and Greg think the song and the entire album deserve more attention. They love how Lupe weaves stories in such a unique way. He's a self-professed geek ("Kick Push" is about skateboarding and the album cover shows an image of the rapper floating through space with his trapper keeper) and you won't hear any typical hip-hop fare on this record. The music digs deep for its jazz and soul samples and doesn't depend on a plethora of cameo star producers. Both critics give Food and Liquor a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 43
LemonadeLemonade available on iTunes

Beyoncé Lemonade

Queen Bey is back with her refreshing new visual album, Lemonade. In the vein of her last work, the self-titled Beyoncé, Lemonade was a surprise release. This time, she put out a one-hour visual film of the same name on HBO about enduring infidelity, difficult times and Becky with the good hair. One of the many things Greg enjoys about Lemonade is Beyoncé's ability to become more vulnerable and gritty both in what she's singing about and how she's singing it. He also loves that she's working with unlikely collaborators like Jack White, James Blake and more. Greg thinks this is the best work of her career and gives Lemonade a Buy It. Jim wholeheartedly agrees, calling the album a masterpiece. He encourages listeners to listen beyond the drama of Jay Z & Beyoncé's struggling relationship to the greater picture Bey paints about the mistreatment of black women in America. He loves that she made an artistic record with some serious substance. Jim gives it an enthusiastic Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 544
Hip Hop Is Dead (Bonus Track Version)Illmatic available on iTunes

Nas Illmatic

Rapper Nas had the number one album last week entitled Hip Hop is Dead. While Jim and Greg don‘t agree with that sentiment, there wasn’t much about the album that would prove otherwise. In fact, Jim muses that this record is "hip hop on life support." Nas first broke out with his album Illmatic when he was only 20 years old. He has only come close to topping that debut with singles like "Ether" that played on his rivalry with fellow New York rapper Jay-Z. Now, after what must have been epic peace accords, Nas has been signed to Jay-Z's Def Jam label. His new boss even appears on the track "Black Republicans." Both rappers have tremendous deft and flow, but Jay-Z has always been able to remain popular with songs of very little substance. Nas, by contrast, is better when he is using language to say something, not make party music. Both critics found Hip Hop is Dead empty, boring, and at times, a little schticky, and subsequently, it gets a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 58
The Breakthrough (Bonus Tracks)Mary available on iTunes

Mary J. Blige Mary

Jim and Greg next review the latest release from reigning R&B queen Mary J. Blige. Blige is an artist who has been put through the ringer, but things were a lot more stable during the making of The Breakthrough. This didn‘t affect Blige’s sound, however, which is as gritty as ever. While Jim and Greg prefer the singer live, they agree that this is Blige's best album since 1992's What's the 411. (Sound Opinions H.Q. also recommends her 1999 release Mary). Our hosts are especially impressed with how Blige manages not to be overshined by the presence of so many star producers like Dr. Dre, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Will.i.am, nor star guests like Jay-Z, Raphael Saadiq and Nina Simone (from the beyond). Fellow divas Beyoncé Knowles and Alicia Keys can't always say that.

JimGreg
Go to episode 6
Infinity On High (Deluxe Edition)Infinity on High available on iTunes

Fall Out Boy Infinity on High

Next up Jim and Greg review Fall Out Boy's fourth album, Infinity on High. The pop punk quartet from the Chicago suburbs sold 3 million copies of its last album, and 15-year-old girls everywhere have been anxiously awaiting the follow-up. Teenagers aren‘t the only Fall Out Boy fans out there. The band’s boss, Def Jam head Jay-Z, has also been championing them and arranged a larger-than-life debut. Jim also counts himself as a fan. He thinks Fall Out Boy is a smart, fun, exuberant band full of the punk spirit of bands like The Ramones. He admits that the lyrics are nothing profound, but gives the album a Buy It for its huge attitude and timeless pop songs. Greg admires how Fall Out Boy conducts itself as a band and thinks lead singer Patrick Stump has an impressive voice. However, he doesn't think they do a good enough job of differentiating themselves from other pop punk bands like the All-American Rejects and Sum 41. He wishes they did more with new producers like Babyface. This critic finds Infinity on High a little too generic and can only give the album a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 63
The Blueprint 3The Blueprint 3 available on iTunes

Jay-Z The Blueprint 3

Hip hop's top entrepreneur Jay-Z has a new album out called The Blueprint 3. It's the third in the rapper's Blueprint series. For the first he worked with then unknown producer Kanye West. Then for the second he invited a slew of big name guest stars. Now he splits the difference–West is back in the studio, as are guests like Timbaland. Greg finds the result split; half the tracks are good, half show the rapper on autopilot. Jim was also disappointed to hear that Jay-Z didn't really explore his life as a business man and celebrity husband in any unique way. But, the voice is still wonderful. It gets a double Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 198
B'day

Beyoncé B'Day

One of pop's reigning divas, Beyoncé Knowles, is releasing a new album the day after her 25th birthday. The aptly titled B'Day (not to be confused with this), is Beyoncé's second solo effort since splitting from girl group Destiny's Child. This is a big year for Beyoncé—besides the new album, she is also starring in the forthcoming movie-musical Dreamgirls and still going strong in the role of Mrs. Jay-Z. Jim suspects that all of Beyoncé's other concerns overshadowed her interest in the music on B'Day. With the exception of soul-sampled songs like "Sugar Mama," Jim thinks the album is an unfocused mess and gives it a Trash It. Greg had high hopes for Beyoncé (who can boast singing and dancing ability as well as a pretty face) but her current message is lost on Greg. He can't understand why the former "Independent Woman" would decide to play such a victim. Therefore, despite some good beats and good singing, he has to give B'Day a Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 40
Watch the ThroneWatch the Throne available on iTunes

Jay-Z & Kanye West Watch the Throne

And speaking of collaborations, Jim and Greg review this year's most anticipated one: Jay-Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne. Do these guys even need an introduction? If Jay-Z's highly lucrative past collaborations with R. Kellyare any indication, Jim bets the Throne album and tour will hurt neither artist's bottom line. But what about the music? While Greg admits nothing could have lived up to the hype, he's disappointed by how Jay-Z and Kanye have misread the tenor of the times. In a summer of high unemployment, economic turmoil, and foreign revolutions, they're still rapping about their wealth. Kanye's recent albums may be among the best of the past decade, and Jay-Z might be the greatest MC living, but Greg and Jim agree - this is a Trash It record.

JimGreg
Go to episode 298
UndunUndun available on iTunes

The Roots Undun

After over a decade of music-making, Philadelphia quintet The Roots have earned a reputation as the best live band in hip hop. They've put out ten studio records, backed artists like D'Angelo and Erykah Badu, and rule the airwaves every night as Jimmy Fallon's house band. Has this caused the quality to drop off on the group's latest release Undun? Greg says not a bit. He named the record his second favorite of 2011 and he's not backing down. He especially wants to call out DJ Black Thought for some overdue props; Greg ranks him up there with Jay-Z. He says Buy it. Jim agrees, but unlike Greg, he's not loving the four-part classical suite that closes the album. It's beautiful, but out of place. In fact, the self-consciousness of the whole story underlying Undun - the rise and fall of a street kid - puts Jim off. It's a Buy It album, but not the band's best.

JimGreg
Go to episode 319
In My MindIn My Mind available on iTunes

Pharrell In My Mind

The next album up for review is by superstar producer Pharrell. Pharrell Williams is best known as part of the production duo The Neptunes, who have crafted hits for everyone from Jay-Z to Justin Timberlake. He and partner Chad Hugo also recorded some of their own music as N.E.R.D. Now, Pharrell has branched out solo (or as solo as a hip-hop artist can be these days) with In My Mind. A quick glance at the number of hits credited to Pharrell might make this album seem like a no-brainer. But it festered without a release date for such a long time that it raised some eyebrows. And, after giving the record a listen, Jim and Greg can say that those suspicions were not unwarranted. Greg explains that for someone who makes his living creating innovative beats and catchy hooks, the lack of such a sound on this record was shocking. Jim agrees, and neither critic thinks that Williams has the chops or personality to be a solo star. Kanye West, a producer who actually managed this feat, collaborates with Pharrell on "Number One," but it's a dreadful showing from both artists. In My Mind gets a Trash It — and Sound Opinions wonders if Chad is the genius to look out for after all.

JimGreg
Go to episode 35
Magna Carta... Holy GrailMagna Carta Holy Grail available on iTunes

Jay-Z Magna Carta Holy Grail

Jay-Z was the first to point out that he's not just a businessman, but a“business, man.”He's sold 50 million records in the past two decades and is valued at almost half a billion dollars. And with this latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, he sold a million albums to Samsung before the actual release date. So you cannot argue with Jay's success. But, what about the music? Jim hears a lot of complaining and a lot of bragging. The only reason for his Burn It rating is the terrific sounding production from people like Timbaland and Swizz Beats. Greg thinks Hova is just coasting on this record. There's no emotional depth and no reason you shouldn't Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 398
lists

Anti-Love Songs

This year, we're celebrating Valentine's Day as only Sound Opinions can, with some anti-love songs! Greg and Jim share their favorite tracks that convey how much love can really stink sometimes. Then they chat with some listeners to hear what they have to say.

Go to episode 532

Songs About Mom

Throughout the year Jim and Greg like to mark special occasions by playing the best and most appropriate music to celebrate. And nobody deserves more love than Mom. Here are some of our hosts' favorite songs for Mother's Day.

Go to episode 492

Musical Road Trip

It's summer time, which means for many of us that road trips are on the horizon. Jim and Greg highlight some of their favorite songs about American cities, states, and regions, from Boston and New York in the east, all the way to California in the west. Of course, they also stop by the Great Plains and the south on the way.

Go to episode 603

Turkey Shoot

It's Turkey time! Let out all your holiday frustrations on some well-deserving musical turkeys. Here are the albums that most let Jim and Greg down in 2013 as part of our Thanksgiving Turkey Shoot:

Go to episode 416

Best of 2007

It's a critic and a music fan's favorite time of year. Jim and Greg run down their top albums for 2007. You can view their complete lists below.

For more end-of-year discussion, check out the Sound Opinions Message Board.

Go to episode 107

Songs About Mom

Throughout the year Jim and Greg like to mark special occasions by playing the best and most appropriate music to celebrate. There has been Valentine's Day and Father's Day, but shockingly, they've never tackled Mother's Day…until now. Pop music is full of tunes inspired by Mom, and here are some of our hosts' favorites.

Go to episode 337
news

Music News

It's no secret that Lil Wayne and his label, Cash Money, are not the best of friends these days. In fact, Cash Money boss Birdman and rapper Young Thug were recently named in an indictment for the attempted murder of Lil Wayne back in April during Wayne's tour in Atlanta. While Thug's manager Jimmy Winfrey was the only person charged with the shooting itself, the incident is yet another installment in the decade old conflict between Weezy and his label. To add to the drama, Wayne sued Cash Money earlier this year for $51 million over losses from the recorded but unreleased Carter V album. Instead of settling the suit, Cash Money has responded with its own $50 million suit against Jay Z's Tidal streaming service. Wayne's The Free Weezy Album was released earlier this summer as a Tidal exclusive, and Cash Money claims that Jay Z is using the profits in a“desperate and illegal attempt to save their struggling streaming service.”

German/Swiss electronic musician Dieter Moebius has passed away at the age of 71. The Krautrock experimentalist had a prolific career, releasing a total of 17 albums credited to his name in one way or another. Moebius is best known for his work with Harmonia and Cluster, his collaboration with Jim's old friend Brian Eno. The musician's passing was confirmed by bandmates Michael Rother (of Harmonia and Neu!) and Hans-Joachim Roedelius (of both Harmonia and Cluster) on their personal Facebook pages. Eno once called Harmonia“the world's most important rock band,”and Jim agrees that the band has influenced the work of many modern rock artists. Jim plays "Dino" by Harmonia to honor the great electronic pioneer's legacy.

Go to episode 504

Music News

Amazon recently announced its move into the publishing world. Authors like Laverne and Shirley's Penny Marshall have inked deals to have their books published and distributed by the online retailer. These kind of deals are similar to the exclusive releases sold by music retailers like Wal-Mart and Starbucks. So it begs the question: Is Amazon the music label next?

Longtime soul musician Syl Johnson's songs have been sampled by countless other artists. And consequently he's turned into a "serial litigator" according to Greg. The latest people to face his legal wrath: Kanye West and Jay-Z. The hip-hop stars used a sample of Johnson's track "Different Strokes" in their song "The Joy" from Watch the Throne. And now Johnson is seeking an injunction, damages and legal fees.

In other music news, Stone Roses fans will be happy to learn that the Manchester band will hit the stage for the first time in 15 years. Greg compares the group to the Oasis of its time, but wonders if they'll still have the chops. After all, The Stone Roses split after a disastrous show at the Reading Festival in 1996.

Go to episode 308

Music News

Former Death Row Records mogul Suge Knight is facing life in prison. He was arrested for murder and other charges in connection with a hit-and-run incident that left a man dead and another in critical condition. It's a Phil Spector-like fall from grace from someone who practically defined West Coast hip-hop in his heyday.

There were quite a few developments this week in the world of digital streaming. SoundExchange reported that it paid out $773 million in royalties in 2014 for digital performances. This suggests that streaming services and satellite radio may be closing in on old-fashioned terrestrial radio. Even Jay Z wants in on the action: he's reportedly bidding on the Swedish streaming company Aspiro. Meanwhile, Spotify has put the brakes on its planned expansion into Russia as the ruble tumbles and rumors spread that President Vladimir Putin is clamping down on media and social networking sites.

Go to episode 480

Music News

Jay Z just launched his music streaming service, Tidal, to the public. Kanye West, Madonna and Daft Punk were just a few of the artists who attended a press conference to announce their support for the service. According to emphatic speaker Alicia Keys, Tidal's mission is to give artists more control over how their music is distributed while taking some of the authority out of the hands of tech companies. The basic monthly fee is $9.99, while the premium, hi-fi subscription is $19.99. It will be interesting to see how the service will compete with giants like Spotify and Beats, or fellow artist Garth Brooks' brand Ghost Tunes.

This year Lollapalooza Festival is being anchored by a Beatle. Paul McCartney is one of the Lolla 2015 headliners, which also includes Metallica, Florence + the Machine, Sam Smith, Alabama Shakes and The Weeknd. This will be McCartney's first stint at Lollapalooza, though he previously played at Bonnaroo in 2013.

In other festival news, if you're planning on getting a pass, don't bring your selfie stick. Lollapalooza and Coachella have banned the photographic aids from the grounds as the monopods often block the views of other concertgoers and could be potentially dangerous. However rest assured, you can still take pictures and selfies as long as you use your arms like a normal person.

Go to episode 488

Music News

Last year, Apple purchased Beats headphones and its streaming service for $3 billion. This was an attempt to get away from the already antiquated iTunes method of paying to download a song. On June 8, Apple unveils what the new Beats will look like. The Wall Street Journal has reported a subscription will cost $10/month and there will be no free tier like on Spotify. Beats has also paid millions to Pharrell and Drake to be guest personality DJS (and to stay away from Jay Z's floundering TIDAL). Will it be the next big streaming service?

A$AP Rocky topped the Billboard Charts this week with his album At. Long. Last. ASAP. However he isn't the first hip hopartist to do so in 2015. Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Big Sean have all inhabited the number one spot. 2015 has had many different leaders as opposed to 2014, where the soundtrack to Disney's Frozen held top billing for much of the year. At 5th place comes a surprise: the religious band Hillsong United. Our hosts are curious to see how far their fame goes.

Go to episode 497

Music News

Five years ago LCD Soundsystem announced its retirement. Boy has time flown, because they are back. James Murphy and his bandmates will be reuniting this summer for a series of performances at festivals like Coachella, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza. Jim and Greg lament that the schedules for the season's major festivals are virtually the same. Music critics from the New York Times agree and won't be covering any of the big three, instead focusing on boutique festivals and summer concerts. As they write, these destination festivals are more about fun in the sun than music.

After one year in business, Jay Z's streaming service TIDAL has numbers to report. According to the service, they have 3 million subscribers total and Kanye West's new album The Life of Pablo has been streamed roughly 250 million times. Jim, Greg and other industry-watchers are skeptical about this figure. But, however the accounting shakes out, TIDAL is small potatoes compared to the leader Spotify with 30 million subscribers and Apple Music with 11 million.

Go to episode 540

Music News

It has been a wrenching couple of weeks. More videos have surfaced of black men shot to death by police officers, the murder of five police officers in Dallas and all of it resulting in mass demonstrations in cities across the country. Musicians like Miguel, Jay-Z, Ariana Grande and others have released new music in reaction as part of the broader Black Lives Matter movement. Greg and Jim explore the history of musical reaction to tragic events going back to the Kent State shootings in 1970.

Go to episode 555

Music News

Live Nation has already conquered this continent, and now they have their sights on our neighbors to the south. The biggest concert promoters in North America just struck a deal with the biggest concert promoters in Latin America, CIE. The arrangement gives Live Nation the exclusive right to book world tours into CIE venues. This means they've got their paws on nearly all the major concert halls and arenas in Mexico, and a big chunk of those in Brazil. CIE sees the deal as a way to get access to all the major talent in the world, that is, of course, assuming Madonna, Shakira and Jay-Z fill your talent quota.

Next time you want to“Do the Dew,”that could mean popping on some headphones. Soda company Mountain Dew just started a new music company, Green Label, that will release free exclusive downloads by artists like Cool Kids and Matt and Kim. To music fans wary of these kind of corporate relationships, Cool Kid Chuck Inglish explains that the company is just trying to support music, not sell their products. Jim is not convinced, but Greg responds that these days an artist needs support wherever he can get it.

The last news item this week concerns The Doors' long time legal drama. The California Supreme Court just denied a petition by two surviving members of the band, Ray Manzarek and Robby Krieger, to review a lower court's decision that blocked them from touring under The Doors' name. Manzarek and Krieger added“of the 21st Century,”but still continued to use images of the late Jim Morrison in their advertising. Now they'll have to pay up to the third surviving member John Densmore, as well as Morrison's family.

Go to episode 144

Music News

For years the RIAA has been using the tactics of lawsuits and intimidation to try to curb illegal file-sharing, but recently both the consumer and the legal world are fighting back. Two prominent legal minds are calling for major copyright reform. The first is Harvard University law professor Charles Nesson, who has come to the defense of a Boston University student targeted in a music industry lawsuit. Nesson argues that as a private group, the RIAA can't carry out the civil enforcement of a criminal law and has vowed to take this case as far as it can go.

Another legal bigwig asking for reform is Marilyn Hall Patel, the judge who presided over the case that killed off original Napster. Seven years after her landmark decision, she hasn't seen the music industry make any strides to improve the situation and has proposed a new plan to create a new public/private organization with authority over the licensing and enforcement of copyrighting.

The words "Ticketmaster" and "Live Nation" are hard to escape these days, and with good reason. The two monoliths are unavoidable if you go to see concerts, and now that is the case with listening to and purchasing music as well. Jim and Greg discuss two new developments with the soon-to-be competitors. Ticketmaster has decided to be a little more customer-friendly with the next series of Eagles shows. They will reduce the convenience fees and waive delivery and handling fees for customers who print tickets at home. This decision comes after Eagles manager Irving Azoff was named the CEO of Ticketmaster Entertainment. Jim and Greg think this is a move in the right direction, but still find the price of Eagles tickets to be ridiculous.

Live Nation has also taken a new step. After inking a number of 360-degree deals with artists like U2, Madonna and Jay-Z, they now have plans to launch artist pages (similar to MySpace) pages where they can sell mp3s. This will essentially make Live Nation the world's biggest music store, and an even more powerful Live Nation is not something our hosts look forward to.

Go to episode 156

Music News

A number of free agents are popping up in 2009 including 50 Cent, Beck, Ryan Adams, Pearl Jam and Metallica. These music heavyweights have been on label rosters for years, but now, following in the footsteps of bands like Radiohead, it appears they have a shot at going out on their own. Jim and Greg agree that none of these artists actually need a record label. But, Greg points out that many might be tempted by 360 deals similar to what Madonna and Jay-Z have with Live Nation. The money's not in record sales anymore, so if major labels can entice an artist with the promise of profits from touring and merchandise, we may not see as much independence.

Go to episode 165

Music News

First up is the news that one of music's most successful major label artists is going indie. Jay-Z gave notice to Def Jam, the label for which he formerly served as president. He plans on being a“a completely independent artist.”But, given his 360 deal with Live Nation, Jim and Greg aren't sure this statement carries much weight.

In other hip hop news, rapper T.I. has headed off to jail this week. He‘ll be serving a one year and one day sentence on a weapon charge. While this is not the first time an esteemed musician has served prison time, it is unique that both T.I.’s albums and singles are thriving on the Billboard charts. So while the "King of the South" takes a time out, his career moves on full steam ahead.

After years of singing about darkness and pain, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails is showing his softer side. He has helped a 27-year-old fan raise more than $800,000 for a life-saving heart transplant. By asking fans to pay $350 for pre-show access and $1000 for dinner with the band, he has been successfully helping Eric de la Cruz to reach his goal. In one day alone, Reznor took in $250,000, proving he really is the master of web marketing and distribution.

Music fans were sad to learn of the death of Jay Bennett this week. The multi-instrumentalist and former Wilco member died at the age of 45. While the cause of death is not known, what is known is Bennett's great talent. Many people take their image of him from the Wilco film I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, but Jim and Greg both believe Bennett will be sorely missed and stress the positive effect he had on the band's music. In honor of Jay Bennett, they play "Pieholden Suite," from Wilco's 1999 album Summerteeth.

Go to episode 183

Music News

The list of possible inductees for next year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony has been announced. Among the first-time nominees are Kiss, LL Cool J, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Genesis. But there are some old faces, too. ABBA, The Stooges, and Donna Summer have all been up for induction before. Jim and Greg think they deserve recognition, but also have a healthy dose of skepticism whenever they talk about the Hall of Fame. It's notoriously conservative and often overlooks more fringe genres. Plus, as Jim explains, winners always run the risk of being encased in glass and wax in Cleveland.

A heavy debate on piracy and the internet is brewing in Europe. First, the controversial“Three Strikes”law in France has passed in the French assembly. This means that if a French citizen is caught downloading illegally three times, he or she will lose internet access and be subject to fines up to $450,000. Their neighbors in the U.K. are also concerned about this issue. British pop stars like Radiohead, Annie Lennox, and Robbie Williams are members of the Featured Artists Coalition, which recently released a statement coming down firmly on the side of the consumer and defending internet file-sharing as a promotional tool for up-and-coming artists. But artists like Lily Allen and James Blunt have taken the other side. Jim and Greg find this to be a bit ironic considering Allen's use of MySpace early in her career.

Before they launch into reviews of new fall albums, Jim and Greg take a look at how things are going on the charts. The Beatles are still the big winners, selling more than 2 million albums worldwide in just five days. But, as Jim points out, this is a fraction of what they might have sold back in the CD heyday of 1992, and a fraction of what they might have sold digitally. Another big chart winner is Jay-Z, who sold almost 300,000 albums of The Blueprint 3. Hip hop still dominates the charts, with big-selling albums by Drake, Lil Boosie, and Kid Cudi, whom Jim and Greg discuss later in the show.

Go to episode 200

Music News

The news starts with Front Line Management's lawsuit against Axl Rose. Front Line's founder and chief executive is Irving Azoff, who is also executive chairman of Live Nation Entertainment, which merged with Ticketmaster last month. Jim and Greg discuss the impact of such a lawsuit on an artist. Considering the mega-corporation controls ticketing, venues and many other aspects of the industry, they may not be one to tangle with. Also, they note that the lawsuit is over a breach of "oral contract." Who agrees to an oral contract these days? Especially with Axl Rose!

Jim and Greg discuss the yet again delayed emergence of Spotify in the U.S. The Internet music service, introduced in 2008 by Daniel Ek, has become one of the most popular of its kind in Europe with 7 million users. But despite rumors that it would come to the States this summer, Ek is still having trouble navigating our thick legal system. He wants Spotify to be legitimate, and that means a lot of licensing fees. But once it does hit our soil, Greg predicts big success.

It hit about 80 degrees this week in Chicago, and while it may snow again next week, we've got our eye on the summer. Jim and Greg run down some of the biggest music festivals of the season. First up is Coachella this month, which will feature Jay-Z, LCD Soundsystem and Faith No More among others. The following month, music fans can travel to Washington for the Sasquatch Festival to see My Morning Jacket, Kid Cudi and Ween. In June Bonnaroo will host the Dave Matthews Band, Stevie Wonder and Weezer. Two of the biggest festivals are right here in our hometown: Pitchfork Music Festival, which will boast a Pavement reunion, and Lollapalooza, which Greg can nearly confirm will have headliners Lady Gaga, Green Day, and a reunited Soundgarden. But, Jim points out that not all of the best multi-act concerts are destination festivals. Lilith Fair is back this year as a traveling women-fueled act with Mary J. Blige, Cat Power and Kelly Clarkson.

Go to episode 227

Music News

It's been quite a week for Kanye West. First an album leak, then a baby born, then an album release. But leave it to Jay-Z to steal his thunder. His upcoming album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, won't be released until next month, but already it has sold over one million copies. The buyer? Samsung. It will be giving Galaxy users early access to the record, which was further promoted by this ad during an NBA Final game. So if Billboard were to recognize these Samsung sales, this would be the album to beat this year.

Another chart success this week: Black Sabbath. Only this one was over four decades in the making. Ozzy Osbourne and his bandmates (less Bill Ward) debuted at #1 in both the U.S. and the U.K. The band only came close to this kind of success once before in 1971, but 13 is a record-breaker.

Go to episode 395

Music News

Jim and Greg discussed the great Kanye West/50 Cent sales battle a couple of weeks ago, and this week the results are in. Kanye took it in a landslide with a #1 spot on the Billboard charts and a whopping 957,000 copies sold. Kanye's album Graduation is the biggest selling album so far this year and is the 15th biggest sales frame since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991. 50 Cent's album Curtis only sold 691,000 in the first week, though for a hip hop debut that's nothing to scoff at. As Jim and Greg note, no one should shed a tear for 50 Cent. On Forbes' list of the biggest earning hip hop stars, Fiddy holds the #2 spot behind mogul Jay-Z. So, despite this recent loss, 50 Cent is laughing "Straight to the Bank."

If you've been surfing YouTube recently, you may have noticed Trent Reznor's call for more stealing. The man behind Nine Inch Nails is fed up with his record company's decision to hike prices for his album Year Zero and he let his grievances be known at an Australian concert. While he doesn't legally have the authority to give his music away, he does have a point; HMV in Australia is selling Year Zero for AU $32.99, which converts to about $28 in the States. That's definitely more than a music fan should have to pay for an album, especially one that utilized a web-based marketing campaign.

And while one musician embraces the web, another does not. Pop icon Prince plans to sue YouTube and other major web sites for unauthorized use of his music in a bid to“reclaim his art on the Internet.”In a recent statement his representative wrote:“YouTube … are clearly able (to) filter porn and pedophile material but appear to choose not to filter out the unauthorized music and film content which is core to their business success.”Prince obviously doesn‘t need to use the web to build a fan base, but to Sound Opinions H.Q., he’s beginning to sound like a cranky old man.

Also in the news is the death of longtime James Brown collaborator Bobby Byrd at the age of 73. One of the chief architects of Brown's trademark sound, Byrd is often referred to as“The Godfather of Soul's Godfather.”You can hear his contribution in tons of early Brown tracks. In fact, the repeating phrase“Get on up,”on "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine" was sung by Byrd. Byrd also had a successful solo career, and as Greg explains, his music can be heard sampled in countless late early hip hop songs. To pay honor to the soul/funk/R&B legend, Jim and Greg play his song, "I Know You Got Soul."

Jim and Greg speak with John Jurgensen, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. John recently wrote an article about how US visa procedures are squelching a British pop invasion. Artists like Lily Allen, M.I.A. and recent Mercury Prize winners The Klaxons have had to cancel tour dates and postpone recording sessions due to difficulties obtaining visas. John explains that this is partly due to Homeland Security crackdowns, which now mandate that artists themselves have to go to an embassy in person for fingerprinting and a retinal scan. John also says that artists have to prove that that they are legitimate,“internationally recognizable”acts. Jim and Greg wonder just how much more legit you have to be if Mercury Prize winners are getting hassled. The three reporters understand that these procedures are in place not just to protect Americans from danger but also from a loss of jobs, but unlike in the agriculture and technology industries, you can't sub one musician for another. And a loss of jobs and tour dates for one singer means the loss of many for the hundreds and thousands of promoters, roadies, sound engineers and teamsters here in the States.

Go to episode 95