Results for rap
Mark Anthony Neal and Joan Morgan
Next Jim and Greg welcome Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of Black Popular Culture at Duke University and author of New Black Man: Rethinking Black Masculinity, and Joan Morgan, a writer and critic who recently left her post as Executive Editor of Essence Magazine. Joan and Mark have been debating the merits and demerits of hip hop since they grew up as friends and neighbors in "Boogie Down Bronx." And Joan was one of the first music critics to examine the dichotomy of hip hop fandom and feminism in her 1990 Village Voice review of Ice Cube's first classic album AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted. Greg asks Joan what she makes of misogyny in modern hip hop. She explains that it was always there, but the level of it has changed. That concept of women has consumed commercial rap music, so listeners don‘t hear a lot of balance in perspective and tone. She also explains that something like the Ice Cube album is actually easier to wrestle with because it’s a brilliant album. Joan and Mark explain that labels are as complicit as artists in perpetuating a certain level of misogyny since they are the ones actually limiting the range of what you hear in hip hop.
Greg wonders if perhaps the consumer has already begun to speak out. Last year's top hip hop act, T.I., sold 1.7 million copies of his album King. Those aren‘t paltry figures to be sure, but they are definitely much smaller than what we’ve seen from star rappers in years past. Mark sees less revenue and less investment in major-label hip hop as a good thing; it's an opportunity for fresher sounds to come into the marketplace. Jim likens the trend to the development of indie rock in the '80s. That market was also glutted with big name acts like Poison and Mötley Crüe, leaving music fans to seek out underground rock from bands like Hüsker Dü and The Minutemen. Perhaps next we'll enter into an era of indie hip hop.
When asked about the effectiveness of banning certain words in hip hop music, Joan first expresses disappointment in what came out of Simmons and the Hip Hop Summit Action Network's meetings. Without doubting Simmons‘ sincerity, she calls the resulting call to action anemic at best and disingenuous at worst. Mark also grates against people, especially members of the“old guard,”making proclamations about culture or language. This kind of criticism is compounded by the fact that critics of rap music often don’t understand aesthetics. Mark's specific example is the hit hip hop single "In Da Club." People that take issue with the shallow nature of 50 Cent's lyrics may be failing to hear what makes a song like that so popular — the production and the beats. Mark furthers that rulings against specific words don't take into consideration that some rappers can make really complex, compelling statements using racial or sexist epithets. Joan adds that you can also say some really sexist, racist and homophobic things without using any“bad words”at all.Go to episode 82
Try to put Minneapolis-based performer Dessa in a box and you quickly run into problems. She's a philosophy student turned slam poet, a member of Minneapolis's hip hop collective Doomtree, and a lecturer in hip hop poetics. In an environment where many rappers and rap fans are quick to dismiss hip hop that mixes rap and singing, Dessa's three solo albums combine rap, harmonies, and unusual instrumental backings. She and her band stopped by the studio to perform songs from her latest album, Castor, The Twin. Dessa describes finding inspiration for songs on the city bus, and explains why rap lyrics are not just poetry by another name. She even has some advice for first time performers: If your legs are going to shake, best not to wear shiny pants.Go to episode 326
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
The Business of Hip-Hop
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
Vince Staples Summertime ‘06
The year 2015 has been a prosperous time for rap and hip hop, with Fetty Wap, Wiz Khalifa, A.$.A.P. Rocky, and Silento dominating the charts. However, a new and different kind of artist has emerged with the debut album Summertime '06 from California rapper, Vince Staples. An ode to growing up in his native Long Beach, Greg finds Staples to be very talented in both writing and articulating his perspective. He compares Summertime '06 to early works by gangster rappers like N.W.A. and likes how he gives a lens into a culture that no one else is really talking about right now. It's a Buy It from Greg. Jim agrees and says that gangster rap can easily become misogynistic and pro-violence sounding, but that's not really what Staples is interested in doing. Jim compares him to artists like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper, but wishes that Vince would write more about the sense of community and positivity in the neighborhoods like Kendrick and Chance do. However, he believes Staples is a very important voice and give Summertime '06 a Buy It.
Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly
In terms of combined critical and commercial success, Kendrick Lamar may be the most important rapper to emerge this millenium since Kanye West. On To Pimp a Butterfly, the followup to his 2012 breakthrough Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, he's teamed up with high-profile producers like Pharrell Williams and Flying Lotus. Greg is floored by the album's macro-level themes, depicting the world as a kind of prison and engaging with racism, injustice, and black history in general. Equally stunning is the album's diverse musical range. Greg thinks Lamar is driving the sound of hip-hop forward while also looking back to the deepest roots of African-American music. Despite a few missteps, like a pretend interview with Tupac, Greg finds the ambition and execution flawless. Jim concurs. While he felt that Lamar didn't bring enough to the characters he played on his previous album, he now believes that Lamar is providing them with proper depth and context. He calls the record a musical smörgåsbord with its jazz underpinnings and its bevy of unexpected samples. To Pimp a Butterfly is a double-Buy It.
Nicki Minaj Pink Friday
Nicki Minaj has taken the rap world by storm. Some are comparing her to Lady Gaga, while others say Lil' Kim. But neither do justice to Minaj's flair for role-playing and rhyme skills. Jim doesn't think all of the tracks on her debut Pink Friday are successful, but when she's on, she's on. He'd also add Missy Elliott and Peter Gabriel to the list of comparisons. Jim gives the record a Burn It rating. Greg has been blown away by the rapper's cameos on other records, but the situation is reversed on Pink Friday – the guest stars outshine her. Despite the ruckus Minaj has caused in the rap world, Greg is let down. He gives Pink Friday a Trash It.
Johnny Cash American V: A Hundred Highways
This Independence Day also marked the release of a new posthumous album from country legend Johnny Cash. American V: A Hundred Highways is the latest in a series of collaborations between Cash and producer Rick Rubin. As Jim and Greg explain, this was an unlikely partnership resulting in extraordinary music. Rubin, who has mostly worked in the rock and rap arenas with such acts as Run DMC and the Red Hot Chili Peppers, brought a new perspective to Cash's music. He highlighted the strength of Cash's vocals and introduced him to songs by Roberta Flack and Nine Inch Nails. But, both Jim and Greg agree that the collaboration was less than amazing this time around. Cash began recording these songs in 2003, after the death of his wife June Carter and shortly before his own, and you can hear his failing health in his voice. Greg likens the experience to that of listening to Billie Holiday's final recording, Lady in Satin. Both albums leave the listener feeling like a voyeur intruding on the singer's pain and sadness. Jim misses the sense of joy and triumph that Rubin helped bring to Cash's work in the last few years. He wishes that the music had a little more“middle finger”in it, referring to the team's famous Billboard ad in which Cash gives the country music establishment the bird. Therefore, both critics can only give American V a Burn It rating, and instead direct fans to two other releases: Personal File and the American Records box set, Unearthed.
Childish Gambino Because the Internet
Next, Jim and Greg duke it out over Because the Internet, a new release from Childish Gambino, the hip-hop alias of comedian, writer, and "Community" star Donald Glover. Glover has been seen as a dabbler since he first entered the hip-hop scene back in 2008, but Jim thinks that this record cements his status as a bona fide rapper. Jim considers him a versatile lyricist, capable of waxing poetic on the digital era in one moment and spitting Borscht Belt one-liners the next. That makes Because the Internet“a fun ride,”and Jim would Buy It. Greg hears the versatility, but not the fun. The lyrics are clever, he admits, but Glover but comes off as mopey and emotionally uninvested, while saying nothing that hasn't already been said—a total Trash It.
Mick Jenkins The Healing Component
Mick Jenkins is a key player in the Chicago hip-hop scene Jim and Greg discussed earlier. After receiving national acclaim on his first mixtapes, the rapper has now released his first official album: The Healing Component. Jim picks up on a message of love flowing through the album. Jenkins calls for love as a solution to the problems of the black community, yet he's not simply being naive and sunny. He references Eric Garner's death and Black Lives Matter throughout, but ultimately is optimistic for the community. Jim says the album is brilliant and that Jenkins is an important new voice. Greg admires that Jenkins is not doing what everybody else is doing in hip-hop. Rather than work with big name producers, he's opted to create his own stoned, abstract jazzy sound. For Greg, this is what art is all about – the album is both community minded and pushing forward culturally. The Healing Component gets a double-Buy It.
AIM is the fifth record from Sri Lankan-British rapper M.I.A. She's known for being political with her music and this album is no different taking on weighty issues like immigration and the refugee crisis with songs like "Borders" and "Visa." Greg says that while the album shines at times, it is frustratingly inconsistent. Sometimes falling into a pop sound that undercuts the songs. Jim agrees and thinks the album is“half-baked.”He thinks M.I.A. could have used a producer or collaborators to focus the album. AIM is a double-Try It.
Cannibal Ox Blade of the Ronin
Back in 2001, Cannibal Ox put out one of the best rap albums of the decade called The Cold Vein. It was produced by Run the Jewels rapper and recent Sound Opinions guest, El-P. Since then, Ox members Vast Aire and Vordul Mega embarked on lukewarm solo careers. But now they are back for the group's second album, Blade of the Ronin. For Jim, the two MCs are better together than they are apart. The album has elements of psychedelia and Wu-Tang Clan's style, but for Jim it feels old. It's not as good as Run the Jewels but better than most, so he gives it a Try It. Greg is a huge fan of the duo, but thinks that the merger of futurism, sci-fi and ancient Egypt is nothing new. While he enjoys the record, it's no classic. Greg also says Try It.
After much anticipation, rapper Drake has finally released his fourth album, Views. Over the past six years, the Canadian artist has risen to the top of the commerical rap genre, releasing four albums and several mixtapes, all of which have gone platinum. Jim takes issue with the album's subject matter, with Drake frequently complaining about the perks of his superstardom. Aside from that, he thinks Drake has yet to take his 808s & Heartbreak-inspired music to another level, something contemporaries The Weeknd and Frank Ocean have managed successfully. Greg agrees, though he acknowledges that Drake's earlier material was pretty effective. Ultimately, Greg thinks we‘ve already heard this Drake album and he’s capable of more. That's a double Trash It for Views.
The virtual band led by Blur's Damon Albarn, Gorillaz, is back with the group's fifth album. While they may technically be a“fictional”band, their impressive record and concert sales are very real. Their new record, Humanz, features collaborations with artists like Mavis Staples, Pusha T, Jehnny Beth of Savages, Grace Jones and more. Jim thinks Humanz is another great and creative effort from Gorillaz. He thinks the guest cameos work well from track to track, and that Damon Albarn created an interesting, dystopian effort. He gives it a Buy It. Greg is also a big Gorillaz fan, and thinks that Albarn gets the best out of his guests, and particularly loves the cameos from new artist Benjamin Clementine and rapper Vince Staples. While he doesn't think much of the collaboration track from Albarn and“enemy”Noel Gallagher of Oasis, he thinks Humanz is a great end of the world party soundtrack. He gives it a Buy It.
Lupe Fiasco DROGAS Light
After a public battle with his former music label, Atlantic, rapper Lupe Fiasco has finally released a new album. DROGAS Light is Fiasco's sixth studio record, and is the first of his final trilogy of albums. Jim has always enjoyed Lupe's music, and says that he is one of the most intelligent people he has ever interviewed. That being said, this album is not reflective of his intellect and lyrical prowess. Many of the tracks feel like leftovers from other projects and sound far too much like bad commercial rap songs. Jim gives it a Try It at best. Greg is also a huge fan of Lupe, and almost always finds his music profound and interesting. However he finds DROGAS Light to be repetitive, crass and unimaginative. Although it pains him to do it, Greg gives this album a Trash It.
Chance the Rapper Coloring Book
Chicago artist Chance the Rapper recently released his third mixtape, Coloring Book. And while he's at the forefront of the rap genre, he's never actually sold a single album. That's because all three of his mixtape releases, as well as two collaborative albums, can be downloaded for free from the Internet. On Coloring Book, Chance enlists a slew of popular guest stars, from fellow Chicagoan Kanye West to the man of the moment, Justin Bieber. Jim really enjoyed this record, especially Chance's use of gospel music to empower individuals and generate a sense of community in order to combat violence. While he doesn't think it is quite as good as his last release, Acid Rap, Jim strongly believes the music and lyrical insight on this album is equal parts impressive and inspiring. He gives it a Buy It. Greg agrees, saying that Coloring Book is one of the most ambitious records in hip hop right now. He even points out that West's recent album, The Life of Pablo, wouldn‘t be what it is without Chance’s gospel sound influence. Greg appreciates the larger themes of the album and how it connects so well to the music of the Civil Rights Movement. It's a Double Buy It for Coloring Book.
DJ Shadow The Mountain Will Fall
DJ Shadow emerged in the early '90s as a major figure in the northern California underground hip-hop scene. His debut 1996 full-length Endtroducing….. was one of the earliest and greatest of sample-based albums. But when you make a masterpiece your first time out, where do you go from there? His latest album The Mountain Will Fall features fewer samples, more synths, and more collaborations – notably with rap luminaries Run the Jewels. Jim says the album is not an easy listen – there are tracks that seem frivolous or intentially grating. But after spending time with it, he finds the record a great soundtrack for ominous times and calls it a Buy It. Greg appreciates that DJ Shadow never repeats himself. Instead he's nodding to contemporary EDM, Italian classical music, and old school hip-hop and turntablism. Greg calls The Mountain Will Fall a fine record that isn't as cohesive as Endtroducing….., but still worthy of a Try It.
Kanye West The Life of Pablo
Recently, rapper Kanye West released his highly anticipated follow-up to 2013's Yeezus. It's called The Life of Pablo (well, sort of). After a large-scale fashion show and album presentation at Madison Square Garden, West decided that the record wasn‘t quite ready to be formally released yet. It’s still not available to purchase, but can be streamed on TIDAL and has been illegally downloaded over 500,000 times. This controversial new record pairs perfectly with West's recent antics, Twitter tirades and confusing outbursts. Jim's biggest problem with T.L.O.P. is its misogynistic lyrics - nothing new in hip-hop, but a new low for West. Jim adds, it's a shame because the music is fantastic. He gives it a non-enthusiastic Try It. Greg largely agrees, finding Kanye's disdain towards past romantic and business relationships to be petty and old news. Music-wise, he thinks there are just too many tracks on The Life of Pablo and wishes he had edited more diligently. He gives it a "Trash It."
Kendrick Lamar DAMN.
Rapper Kendrick Lamar just released his latest album, DAMN. which follows his massive 2015 record To Pimp a Butterfly. Since his rise to prominence a few years ago, Lamar has become the standard to which other rappers and hip hop acts are measured. Jim finds DAMN. to be a“grower”that the listener appreciates with repeat listenings. While this record doesn‘t grab you in the same way as To Pimp a Butterfly, he loves Lamar’s latest effort. Between his enlightened lyrics and classic gangster rap sonics, Jim thinks this album is a Buy It. Greg agrees, as Kendrick shows a mastery of storytelling and flow with this record. And while the sound may be stripped down from previous albums, Kendrick is no less ambitious as he draws lines between street violence and American foreign policy. Greg says DAMN. is no less than a“masterpiece”making for a double Buy It.
Kendrick Lamar untitled unmastered.
Last year, Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar released the groundbreaking album To Pimp a Butterfly. Both fans and critics enjoyed the record, and it earned him numerous Grammy awards just a few weeks ago. Now he's back with untitled unmastered., his new album full of“leftover”tracks from Butterfly. To Greg, the polished songs hardly seemed like leftovers. He admires Lamar's fusion of different musical styles and poignant lyrics and says Buy It. Jim is also enthusiastic. While contemporaries Kanye West and Drake have also recently released“unfinished”material, this is a bigger achievement.“Short, but sweet”and a double Buy It.
Lupe Fiasco The Cool
Rapper Lupe Fiasco has a new record out called The Cool. The Chicago native, and recent Letterman guest, got attention with his 2006 debut album Food and Liquor. With this second record, the self-professed nerd has taken a turn for the dark. His music is reflecting the serious subjects that have always been apparent in his lyrics. Greg admits that at times Fiasco borders on preachy, but he was impressed by the complexity of The Cool and gives it a Buy It. Jim was a little lost by some of the lyrics, but finds the music incredibly inventive. He thinks people who deny that rap is music should listen to this and also gives the record a Buy It.
Billy Gibbons Perfectamundo
If your only knowledge of Billy Gibbons is through his band ZZ Top's cartoonish videos, you may be surprised to find he is a gentleman, scholar, and connoisseur. He was also one of the first guests ever on Sound Opinions. Through his father, a bandleader in the Houston area, Gibbons was able to meet and apprentice under the famed Latin percussionist Tito Puente. On his first solo album Perfectamundo, the Texas guitarist is exploring those Afro-Cuban roots. Jim admits that Gibbons doesn't have much to say lyrically, but finds the record deep culturally. Gibbons manages to unite the blues and Latin music and has a great time doing it. For Jim, the album is a complete and utter joy – it gets a Buy It. Greg, however, disagrees. He likes the combination of the Hammond B3 organ with the Afro-Cuban polyrhythms, but finds there are too few of those moments. Gibbons makes a failed attempt to update his sound with guest spots from Houston rapper Garza, and his songwriting is underdeveloped with inane lyrics. Greg is forced to give Perfectamundo a Trash It.
Blackalicious Imani Vol. 1
Sacramento rap duo Blackalicious has had a huge influence on hip-hop over the past twenty years, crafting a more psychedelic Northern California sound than their LA counterparts. Imani Vol. 1 is their first album in a decade and, to Jim's ears, they haven't lost a step. Jim praises the complex, philosophical rhymes of Gift of Gab as he explores themes of perseverance and faith. Producer Chief Xcel continues to bring in sounds from across genres to create dense but accessible backgrounds. Greg appreciates that Blackalicious is picking up where they left off, not making a forced attempt at modernizing their sound. The record maintains the optimism and spirituality always present in their music, while also addressing the continuing struggles faced by African-Americans. Both critics are glad to have them back and give Imani Vol. 1 a Buy It.
Drake If You're Reading This It's Too Late
Drake's release of his latest opus If You're Reading This It's Too Late was a complete surprise, à la Beyoncé — though there's debate whether to classify it as a mixtape or a proper album. The Canadian superstar is once again working with producer Noah“40”Shebib. Greg credits Drake and Shebib for creating a uniquely atmospheric aesthetic for his introspective rap. But the minimalist beats make this feel half-finished: there are no hooks or pop hits, and the record never picks up steam until the end. Jim won't even concede any originality in the production. He says, Drake has been ripping off Kanye West's 808s & Heartbreak his entire career. To Jim, Drake is incredibly hard to like, as he continues to whine about his petty personal problems. If You're Reading This It's Too Late gets a double Trash It.
Lupe Fiasco Tetsuo & Youth
Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco was written off by some after battling his label for years and earning notoriety for his outspokenness on Twitter. According to rumor, it even took threats from hackers for his new album to be released. But according to Jim, Tetsuo & Youth is Lupe at his lyrical best. The deft pop culture references are wonderful, of course. But ultimately it's the tragic evocation of life in poor black communities that moves Jim to tears. According to Greg, the density and poetry of Lupe's rhymes is matched by the adventurousness of the music, filled with unconventional jazzy rhythms. He calls it the rapper's best work since his debut. That makes it a double double-Buy It in a single episode.
Divine Styler Def Mask
R&B singer D'Angelo wasn't the only artist to emerge from an extended hiatus last month. Brooklyn rapper Divine Styler also returned with a surprise album in December. Def Mask is his first new dose of radical hip-hop in almost 15 years. The album steers clear of Styler's previous pseudo-psychedelic rhymes and rhythms. Instead, it charts a course for the stars joining the ranks of prominent musical Afrofuturists like George Clinton and Janelle Monae in creating a dense, sci-fi-laden sound. Styler's impressive wordplay takes a leery look at today's technology obsessed culture, but despite its dark, neo-noir tone, the album is able to maintain a certain amount of optimism throughout. Def Mask is an ambitious undertaking that is at times both unsettling and uplifting and it marks a celebrated return for Divine Styler. Both Jim and Greg say Buy It.
Lupe Fiasco Food and Liquor
Next up, Jim and Greg review the new album by Lupe Fiasco called Lasers. The Chicago hip-hop artist debuted in 2006 with Food and Liquor, showcasing a sensibility unique in rap. This third album was a labor, and not necessarily of love. Lupe has admitted to having real difficulties with his record company – difficulties that led to compromises on a lot of tracks. That said, Jim loves Lupe's lyrics and "1960s message." There are inflated choruses and too many guest stars, but his words trump it all. Jim says Buy It. Greg wishes he could agree, but it's too clear which tracks he was less involved in. He looks forward to the next effort, but for now says Burn It.
The Streets The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living
The first album up for review this week is the The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living, the third album from British rapper The Streets. Emcee Mike Skinner first caught the attention of American fans with his debut album Original Pirate Material and its hit single "Let's Push Things Forward." Its follow-up, A Grand Don't Come for Free achieved a lot of critical and commercial success. In fact, it was one of the top albums of 2004 for Greg. People familiar with these albums will know Skinner's rap identity is that of the average bloke — he typically pairs stories of daily life in England with chintzy beats. With this album, however, Skinner can hardly think of himself as the everyman. The narratives in these songs poke fun at his pop-star status and all the pitfalls of fame. While Jim and Greg find this new take funny, they don‘t find it as emotionally poignant. Therefore, it’s a Burn It from Jim, and a surprising Trash It from Greg.
Ghostface Killah Fishscale
Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah also has a new album out. Fishscale is the fifth solo record for this hip hop veteran, who joined the Wu-Tang Clan over a decade ago. Ghostface has always been known as a complicated, skilled lyricist, and he lives up to his reputation on this release. Fishscale, itself a slang term for uncut cocaine, gives a narrative of life on the streets in New York. These stories are paired with samples and beats from producers like Jay Dilla, Pete Rock and Just Blaze. Listen to the sample of a blaxsploitation-style education film in the track we play, "Kilo." Incidentally, this is the first Ghostface solo album without any production from fellow Clansman RZA. Whether or not that bodes in Ghostface's favor is up to our hosts. Jim believes gangsta rap and songs about drug dealing are pretty played out, but admits that Ghostface brings something completely new. He compares the rapper to writer Jim Thompson and gives Fishscale a Burn It. Greg has to go with a Buy It rating. He is compelled by the stories of Ghostface's childhood, the surreal rap tangents and the immense hooks. According to Greg, this record parallels early NWA records and is not only one of the best albums of Ghostface's career, but of 2006.
Asher Roth Asleep in the Bread Aisle
Next up is Asleep in the Bread Aisle, the debut album from rapper Asher Roth.“The bread aisle”refers to Wonder bread, and part of the marketing push behind Roth is that he is not just a rapper, but a white rapper. Comparisons to Eminem are inevitable, but Jim thinks that comparisons to The Beastie Boys and The Streets are more apt. He appreciates Roth's honest, mundane storytelling, as well as the great grooves and gives the record a Buy It. Greg hates to say it, but believes that if Asher's race wasn‘t a story, no one would be paying attention. He calls Roth’s frat rap mediocre at best and gives Asleep in the Bread Aisle a Trash It.
Mos Def The Ecstatic
Mos Def first gained attention as a member of Black Star with fellow rapper Talib Kweli. He went on to have a successful solo career, but these days more people might recognize him as an actor than a musician. Now he is back with The Ecstatic. Jim and Greg both thought his rap career was all but over, so this record was a welcome surprise. Jim heard it more like an unfocused mixtape than an album, but he loved Mos Def's energy and the work of his producers. Greg found the rapper more engaged on this album and calls it a triumphant return to form. The Ecstatic gets two Buy Its.
Kanye's mixed success on Yeezus gets Greg thinking about West's creative predecessors, and an artist who did anger-filled“industrial rap”even better. Saul Williams' 2004 self-titled album merged aggressive, minimalist, production with anger-filled rap in a way that got industrial music heavyweights like NIN's Trent Reznor to pay attention. (Reznor later produced an album for Williams.) Greg plays "List of Demands" for his Desert Island Jukebox as an example of what Yeezus could have been.Go to episode 395
In the HMO-free universe of the Rock Doctors, everyone is entitled to better musical health. This week's patient is Pat from Chicago, IL. Pat wrote to Sound Opinions H.Q. for advice on how to get better acquainted with hip hop, and we immediately set her up for an appointment with Drs. Kot and DeRogatis. Pat explains that she's generally fairly hip to music, preferring doses of Bob Dylan, Wilco and Galaxie 500. But when it comes to hip hop, she's clueless, and in an effort to expand her musical horizons and have some music in common with her rap-loving nephews, she asks for some guidance.
Greg gives the first prescription. He's not sure if his approach will be too radical, but judging from Pat's tastes, he decides to go out on a limb. He recommends the patient listen to Outkast's fourth album Stankonia. Greg admits to Pat that some moments might be slightly too "gangsta" or misogynistic for her, but he hopes that the first-rate songwriting and bold beats of tracks like "Ms. Jackson" will win her over.
Jim's prescription is 3 Feet High and Rising, the classic hip hop album by De La Soul. Jim thinks Pat will respond well to the creative stories being told by the three geeky hippies from Long Island. He also thinks she will appreciate some of the more recognizable samples, like Hall and Oates' song "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)."
A week later Pat finishes her treatment and reports back to the doctors. She starts off by breaking the bad news to Greg: Stankonia is not for her. She felt there were too many misogynistic moments like the song, "We Luv Deez Hoez," and wouldn‘t feel comfortable sharing this album with her nephews. But, on the brighter side, she really enjoyed the De La Soul album. It’s definitely something she could see herself listening to in the future, and she particularly liked the song, "Eye Know," which samples both Steely Dan and Otis Redding. So, while the treatment wasn't a total success, Pat is on the road to better musical health. And, more importantly, she now has more hip bragging rights with her friends.Go to episode 90
Last week the Atlanta Police Dept., in conjunction with the RIAA, raided the Aphilliates Music Group office in Atlanta. The result was the confiscation of 81,000 mixtape CDs and the arrest of DJ Drama. Drama is one of the top mixtape DJs working today, having created pre-release buzz for rappers like T.I., Young Jeezy and Lil' Wayne. 50 Cent, Lupe Fiasco and The Clipse can also credit mixtape CDs with laying the foundation for their careers, and many of the best hip hop tracks released each year are put out by these underground DJs and not by the major labels. The question is why some members of the record industry are now treating this useful form of publicity as contraband. Jim and Greg invite hip hop historian and journalist Jeff Chang to join them in a discussion of the role of mixtapes in hip hop and the effects of this recent raid on the rap industry.Go to episode 61
After welcoming new listeners on Connecticut Public Radio, Jim and Greg talk about the Nielsen SoundScan report for 2010. Eminem's Recovery was the biggest selling album of 2010, but the year's biggest selling artist for the second time in three years was Taylor Swift. Album sales continued to trend downward, but music purchases were actually up overall. So more and more people are listening to music than ever – especially rap and country music. And vinyl had its best year since SoundScan began tracking numbers in 1991.Go to episode 268
A Tribe Called Quest founding member Phife Dawg has died at the young age of 45 from complications due to diabetes. Jim and Greg are still inspired by ATCQ's masterful early '90s rap recordings, which introduced a jazziness and Afrocentric positivity into hip-hop. Born in Jamaica, Queens, Phife had a distinctive high-pitched tone and some of the most nimble rhymes in rap history. In tribute to Phife, Jim and Greg play Tribe's biggest hit, "Can I Kick It," showcasing the humor that was his trademark.Go to episode 539
Music legend James Brown died earlier this week at the age of 73, so the first part of the show is spent paying homage to the“hardest working man in show business.”Jim and Greg discuss Brown's long-running career from the soul era up through today's hip hop music. In fact, Greg explains that Brown's track "King Heroin" is a rap tune that pre-dates hip hop. And, Brown is one of the most sampled musicians in rock history. To illustrate this fact, our hosts take the track "The Payback" and play some of the major hip hop songs that are built on it.Go to episode 57
Jim and Greg start the show by warning listeners that their tax-free downloading days might soon be over. With e-commerce sales exceeding $130 billion a year, and iTunes sales hitting $5 billion, it was only a matter of time before the states started to want a piece. This year nine states have considered digital download taxes, and five of those have already enacted them into law. Certain purchases will never be subject to tax if the vendor doesn‘t have a physical presence in that state, but the bigger issue is that whether it’s through taxes on sales, taxes on file-sharing, or taxes on internet usage, the government's going to get its piece of the pie.
Isaac Hayes died earlier this week at the age of 65. As Jim and Greg reveal, the self-taught musician started out as a songwriter at Stax Records in the early '60s. He became a“master arranger,”and his raps and braggadocio provided a prototype for modern hip hop. But, he is of course most well-known for his Oscar-winning song "Theme from Shaft," which was dramatic both musically and lyrically.Go to episode 142
First in the news, the state of Illinois may impose a tax on digital music and film downloads in order to help bail out its $13 billion deficit. If the legislature approves Governor Quinn's proposal, Illinois would join 19 other states that currently have such a tax and be able to get $10 million revenues annually. Per usual, this has prompted partisan debate, but Jim and Greg doubt either party is much concerned with the music fan's perspective.
One of rock's biggest stars, Paul McCartney, is going indie. The former Beatle has announced a plan to take his solo catalog from major label EMI and move it to the independent Concord label. McCartney previously worked with Concord as part of his now defunct Starbucks Hear Music deal. EMI is one of 4 big music companies dominating the industry these days, and as Jim and Greg explain, these labels depend on back catalog revenue. It takes little overhead to repackage an album from an artist like McCartney, and they can reissue it over and over again to new consumers.
Jim and Greg next discuss rapper Guru who died last week. The hip hop artist moved to New York City just in time for the genre's golden age. He developed alongside Public Enemy, Run DMC and Tribe Called Quest, to name a few. Guru joined up with DJ Premier to form Gang Starr, a duo with a revolutionary sound fusing rap with jazz. This, along with his fluid vocal style, made Gang Starr one of hip hop's most influential acts. To honor the late artist, Jim and Greg play "Jazz Thing," a track from the Mo' Better Blues soundtrack featuring jazz musician Branford Marsalis.Go to episode 230