How did 2015 Rap become Elevator Muzak?
I realized something deeply troubling today. After checking out the latest releases from Ghostface and Statik Selektah I’m convinced that we have now officially entered the Elevator Muzak era of rap music. While The Roots have been churning out tunes seemingly designed for coffee shops and cafes for the better part of the last decade, we’re now at a stage where previously reliable CRC stalwarts such as Lil’ Fame, Sean Price and Ghostface Killah are often rapping over music that lacks any sort of urgency, excitement or abrasiveness. Does this signal a change in the dynamics of the rap game where everyone over the age of thirty is rapping over stuff that Kenny G would consider vanilla and the so-called ‘underground’ fans want a soundtrack to sip pumpkin ales and chai lattes?
Are Hip-Hop Instrumental Albums A Waste of Time?
This week has seen the release of Pete Rock‘s latest album, PeteStrumentals 2, the follow-up to the first edition from 2001. Unlike the original, which was spiced-up with outstanding appearances from Roc Marciano and The UN, Freddie Foxxx, Nature and CL Smooth, the new one is a beats only affair. As much as I enjoy a good hip-hop instrumental from the like of the 45 King and DJ Spinna, do I really want to listen to an hour of rhyme-free music?
That Shit I Don’t Like: Lyricist Lounge, Volume 1
My old drinking buddy Phillip Mlynar penned Lyricist Lounge: An Oral History this week, which reminded me of just how disappointing the actual album dedicated to that place was. As a record buyer during that period, I fondly recall that period in the mid to late 90’s when MF Doom, Juggaknots, Jigmastas and Scaramanga were releasing some cutting-edge music. But I also remember that, as it’s always been, 85% of the singles released during the ‘indy rap renaissance’ were either generic, corny Backpack Rap or weirdo Company Flow type nonsense. When the Lyricist Lounge, Volume 1 album in 1998, there was a fair amount of hype behind it and in what would turn out to be one of my more regrettable purchasing decisions I decided to shell-out for the 4 LP edition only having heard the breezily enjoyable ‘Body Rock’ single with Mos Def, Tash and Q-Tip.
No Country For Old (Rap) Men: To Review A Butterfly
The new web editor over at Acclaim asked for me to write about the new Kendrick Lamar album. I attempted to keep an open mind as best I could.
No Country For Old (Rap) Men: To Review A Butterfly
The Awful Truth About Rap Shelf Life
The limited shelf life of most rap groups is a an unfortunate reality. For some MC’s, the window of opportunity is so small that getting stuck in record label limbo for two or three years can spell career ruin, while even some of the genre’s greatest groups such as Run-DMC and Public Enemy suffered album release delays which saw them slip from cutting-edge to being eclipsed by the new kids on the block (with the exception of Donny Walberg’s ‘posse’).
That Shit I Don’t Like: Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star Album
The Rawkus era, so fondly remembered by misty-eyed hip-hop forum regulars as some kind of third golden era, left me largely nonplussed at the time and with the steady passage of time passing us by, many of those records haven’t aged well at all. I was all about Hydra Entertainment and Tru Criminal, personally, but I did have an unfortunate run-in with the horrendously overrated Black Star LP after a buddy of mine who worked in a record store recommended it to me while I was ordering second-hand Big Noyd singles. After the records arrived in the mail and I threw on the Mos Def and Talib Kweli album, which certainly looked the business courtesy of Brent Rollins sharp artwork. I was then subjected to what can only be described as the most disappointing album purchase since I copped the first Arabian Prince album.
Let me break it down the issues I have with this record, one at a time:
The Unkut Opinion: It’s Mostly (Completely) The Voice
There may only be two rapper’s with high pitched voices who I can tolerate – Milk D from Audio 2 and Ad Rock from the Beastie Boys, who also happened to have joined forces to record “Spam,” perhaps the most ear-splitting, obnoxious and completely brilliant rap song of all time. Otherwise, I have little to know time for whiny-voiced rapper dudes, regardless of how clever their rhymes may happen to be. While many aging hip-hop fans have a special place in their hearts for groups such as Souls of Mischief and Pharcyde, to my ears their debut albums represented the musically equivalent of golf being “a good walk spoiled.” Both 93 ‘Til Infinity and Bizarre Ride II The Pharcyde featured outstanding production weighed down by some of the most annoying voices ever to rap.
Twenty Rap Albums To Be Buried With
I’ve had a few requests of late to break-down my list of personal favorite rap albums, so to set off this tenth anniversary week of Unkut Dot Com, here are the twenty tapes I’d like to be buried with, or take to a desert island with a crate of AA batteries for the Walkman.
Timeless Classics Or Only Classics For Their Time?
Every now and then, one of these rap websites puts together a list along the lines of “The 30 Greatest Hip-Hop Albums of 1993″ and such, which in theory isn’t something I should have an issue with. The reason I mention it is that a decent proportion of these albums – most of which are widely regarded as “classic” and important records – don’t exactly inspire me to dig them out of the shelves and throw them onto the turntable (or, if I’m feeling lazy, navigate to the folder on my hard drive). Is this simply due to the fact that I played that shit to death back when it was released? Or is it more of a case that some music outlives its usefulness?
Take De La Soul’s much discussed 3 Feet High And Rising, for example. While there’s no doubting the impact and originality that Prince Paul and Plugs 1, 2 and 3 brought to the table, I can confidently state that I have no intention to ever listen to that record in it’s entirety in the foreseeable future. That’s likely more of a reflection of my preference for anti-social rap with loud drums than anything else, but it’s an issue worth considering. Let’s take a look at the 1989’s greatest hip-hop albums according to ego trip‘s Book of Rap Lists for example:
Beast Coast vs. A$AP Mob In A Fashionista Rap Royal Rumble?
When Nas dedicated “Loco-Motive” to “all my 90’s dreaded N-word”, he had no idea of the floodgates that were about to open. Not that throwback rap is anything new, but things have apparently gotten to the stage where the Pro Era crew are now claiming that no one outside of the Beast Coast collective is allowed to shamelessly pander to nineties hip-hop nostalgia. After A$AP Mob dropped a track called “Trillmatic” the other day, over an a-typical vibed-out beat and featuring a blistering contribution from Method Man, Joey Bada$$’ manager felt a type of way and aired out the following on Twitter: “Love to see more rappers bite the pro era swank. Good shit Nast. Smh lol whats new with these “New York” negus?” To which Nast replied: “style jacking who my nigguh. 1990 born up you got us fucked up my g need to talk whatchu know” , followed by this more incenidary remark: “I GOTTA SHOW DEZ LIL NIGGUHS HOW TO REP THE 90’s FOR REAL” Roffle Harris.
The Unkut Top Five Dead Or Alive, As Of This Week
These things change from day to day, but here are my current picks. Discuss among yourselves…
The Guy Who Called Critical Beatdown ‘Mediocre’ Finally Fires Back
Back in August I called out a guy named Aaron over his series over at The Rap Up which saw him revisit a number of rap classics from the perspective of a young fan. He’s now penned a response of sorts.
No Country For Old (Rap) Men: Secret Men’s Business
This is the result of Mom “accidentally” locking me in the basement for four days with nothing but a pack of Funyuns and a can of Arizona Ice Tea.
No Country For Old (Rap) Men: Secret Men’s Business
That Shit I Don’t Like: Freestyle Fellowship – Innercity Griots
If there is one thing that really pisses me off, it’s pretentious Coffee Shop Art Rap. This album was released during the height of the “experimental” LA hip-hop movement, which gave us high-pitched whiny efforts such as The Pharcyde and The Wascals (who were just a shittier version of the former). I guess we should blame the Good Life Cafe, which was fawned over by RapPages and other music mags on account of being a refreshing alternative to rapping about girls and guns over P-Funk. The thing is, King T and the Alkaholiks proved that it was possible to make great rap out West without sounding like a bunch of jazz loving beatniks, but since they were basically brag rappers the hip-hop media craved something more “left-field”. Thus the world had to endure the “conceptual improve” styling that is the Freestyle Fellowship.
Tim Dog Found Alive And Well?
In news that shouldn’t be particularly surprising to anybody who watched the extensive Dateline report on Tim Dog‘s numerous “bad business deals” with a series of lonely ladies he met through internets dating, one of his “rubes” is so thirsty to get her $100 a month repayment plan continued by Timothy that she’s hired a private investigator to prove if the Dog actually died earlier this year. The story has even been picked-up by a local news show, despite the fact there is no actual proof that he’s still alive.
After being informed by a longtime Bronx resident that, “most Webster Ave niggas are con artist”, I think I may have a lead. Over at Discogs, a lone seller is offering a copy of Tim Dog’s final album, BX Warrior, on CD for $91. Since I’m pretty sure nobody actually bought that album, or even knew it existed, there’s a good chance that this is Tim’s latest hustle. I put to you that he left Atlanta with a briefcase full of BX Warrior CD’s, hopped the red-eye to Germany and is currently living with his latest online dating conquest in Berlin, who is helping him prepare the next Tim Dog Greatest Hits box set/all-black strip revue/movie project with Denzel Washington.
However, if it turns out that Esther Pilgrim is completely wrong about this crackpot theory, I hope she gets hit by a bus for continuing to drag the great man’s name through the mud. I mean she did get to experience a romantic night in Atlanta with the guy who made “Fuck Compton”, after all. You can’t put a price-tag on that kind of experience!