Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A$AP Sets Release Date

New-York rap "revivalist" A$AP Rocky took to Power 99 in Philadelphia today to announce the Sept 11 re-release of last year's LiveLoveA$AP. The original was one of the strongest albums of any kind all last year and saw Rocky spitting over sterling beats crafted by a who's who of indie-rap producers. Now that Rocky's stock is grown, he's dusting off the album and adding a few surprises to it. We can expect collabo tracks with Pharrell, Santigold, and "Ridin," a track slated to drop months ago that features Lana Del Rey. While you wait for the release, check out the stellar single "Goldie," which will appear on the album and the epic teaser-trailer for Del Rey's "National Anthem" video which will feature A$AP as JFK. Live with it. 


"National Anthem"- Lana Del Rey

Monday, June 25, 2012

"B***h Bad"

It's no secret that 2011 was a lost-year for Chicago alt-rapper Lupe Fiasco. True he topped Billboard, but the uber-slick L.A.S.E.R.S. was the worst kind of rapper record, long on mediocre hooks and short on the commentary we've come to love from Lupe. When the "typical" Lupe track popped up, as on the phenomenal "All Black Everything" it was a breath of fresh-air on an otherwise stale album. Since then Lupe's been back at it, breathing life into the body of conscious rap. Not to say it was dead without Lupe, but the first two Lupe records had a way of seamlessly blend of the conscious and commercial that rivaled peers Kanye West and Common and past-masters A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul. 

So in 2012, Lupe's been steadily releasing tracks in anticipation of Food and Liquor 2, and each is a love-letter back to his past. On this new track, Lupe inhibits the familiar role of the "voice of reason," examining the weight of the word "b***h." Over a laid-back electro beat, Lupe asserts "b**ch bad, woman good," and tries tricky rhyme schemes nowhere to be found on L.A.S.E.R.S. The whole lesson runs less than 5 minutes, and at the end, much like Wale did a few years back, Lupe makes you think twice about a word that's all too common in the rap lexicon. It's clear that in 2012, Lupe's voice is no longer lost and he has a few things to say to us all.

"B***h Bad"

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Channel Orange Update

That's the official artwork for O.F crooner Frank Ocean's upcoming debut Channel Orange. Ocean revealed the minimalistic cover earlier today and also released the tracklist for the record. In addition to an updated take on "Thinking of You," we can expect studio versions of live tracks: "Forrest Gump," and "Super Rich Kids." The nine-minute epic "Pyramids" as now been slotted to the 10-spot on the album and we can expect appearances from guitarist John Mayer and Odd Future stalwart Earl Sweatshirt. Check out the tracklist below as well as the teaser trailer and a clip of "Pyramids." Stay tuned for more updates, as this is sure to be an album to watch.

1 Start
2 Thinkin Bout You
3 Fertilizer
4 Sierra Leone
5 Sweet Life
6 Not Just Money
7 Super Rich Kids ft. Earl Sweatshirt
8 Pilot Jones
09 Crack Rock
10 Pyramids
11 Lost
12 White ft. John Mayer
13 Monks
14 Bad Religion
15 Pink Matter ft. André 3000
16 Forrest Gump
17 End  

Channel Orange


Friday, June 22, 2012

In Revue- "The Idler Wheel..."

"This world is bulls**t" Fiona Apple boldly declared on the MTV stage at the precocious age of 17. While most artists in this age group are still struggling to find their voice, Apple chose every word with unwavering bravado. In a minute's time, she lambasted any preconceived notions of cool, quoted chapter and verse from Maya Angelou, and wondered why she was even in this world. It was akin to Kanye West's "gaffe" almost a decade later, a tidbit of truth that seen by most as pretentious. At the time, Apple was an artist with unbridled talent, showing up in the "Criminal" video as a tiny temptress with the world in the palm of her hand. Apple parlayed the provocative video into a '98 Grammy win and a solid follow-up in When the Pawn..., then the weight of it all became to much for Apple and she collapsed under the pressure.

Apple resurfaced five years later with the baroque Extraordinary Machine, managing to court controversy once more when the album's production changed hands. She took it on tour and then sunk right back into the ether. In the time between Machine's 2005 release date and The Idler Wheel, the indie landscape has been invariably altered. Brutal honesty is no longer the exception but the rule. This year alone has seen stiff competition from the female side of the realm, with Lana Del Rey soberly singing of a lost prostitute and Best Coast's Bethany Cosentino longing to see a love  "forever and ever." Apple's once remote island has been found-out and endlessly mined. But as always Apple has kept the treasure for herself.

One of the benefits of being gone for so-long, is that Apple has no pressure to sound like anyone but herself and it shows on the resplendent Idler Wheel. Apple has stripped her sound down to the bare essentials; drums and piano are the record's most welcome visitors. The minimalism of these tracks only serve to underscore the abject nature found throughout much of this album's 42 minutes. The opening chords of "Every Single Night" confer a state of childlike joy, but Apple soon becomes locked in a nightly fight she can never win and the whimsy is gone.

"Every Single Night"
With the pitter-patter of feet and a jarring piano strike on "Daredevil," Apple's internal fight, becomes a full-blown war, as she demands "look at, look at, look at me." Struggling to finish the phrase, its clear Apple's mismatched in the game of love. For her the deck was stacked long ago.  

Unrequited love can be one of the most oppressive feelings in existence, and is no stranger to the world of rock. Eric Clapton masterfully conveyed it on "Layla" and the Seeds were at their wits end with it on the pitiable "Can't Seem to Make You Mine." On "Valentine" Apple bears the full-burden of this love, as a thumping drum becomes a beating heart; one soon ripped out and thrown to the floor. Apple's love-letter is never opened, so she pantomimes and in a mordant cry for recognition turns to self-mutilation. In all of this her love is none the wiser, constantly keeping her just out of reach. 

Apple finds moments of contentment on "Jonathan" as she peers into the past and recalls a ride to Coney Island with the title character. Moments of silence are sweltering for some on the dating scene, but she embraces it, "I don't want to talk about anything."

Though Apple is comfortable on "Jonathan," she's wiser than her 34 years could ever suggest on "Werewolf," the album's centerpiece. When you're in the heat of the moment, a dual perspective is preposterous, the most worthless recompense that could ever exist. Apple's moment of clarity comes over a jaunty piano and wispy drum-strokes. "I could liken you to a werewolf the way you left me for dead, but I admit I provided a full-moon," she sings, seeing the other side of the coin for the first time. Apple adapts the mantra of "nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key," a furtive foreshadowing of the song's conclusion which comes with the cackle of kids. These lost children playfully carry Apple away to a time when introspection was an alien word.


One simple look at the album artwork Apple crafted herself and we can see this is an intensely personal record. The cover conveys the yin-yang of Apple's brain, a place where passion and pain incessantly circle one another. This is an album about the unbridled emotions that accompany us on our journey through the hills and valleys of love. In another way, its about the childishness of it all. Though an unwelcome idea, it seems almost silly to search for "our one true love" a quest so lofty it can never truly be completed, its a task only a child could go racing after. That youthfulness is in full-force on "Anything We Want," a smorgasbord of sound that could pass as a bastard child of Tom Waits' Rain Dogs. "Started off sipping water, and now we try to swallow the wave," while Apple is being weaned on the ways of love, she still tries to bite off more than she can chew.

Apple poses a pivotal question on "Left Alone," finding no immediate answer. "How can I ask anyone to love me, when all I do is beg to be left alone?" Even for the autobiographical Apple, its a startling moment of honesty. Outside of her journalistic screeds, Apple is in top vocal-form on the track, turning in her most stellar performance of the whole record. She seamlessly speeds up and slows down the music, rhapsodically "rapping" at points and obliterating any notion of a steady rhythm. The careening drums accentuate Apple's utter abandonment, chasing her to the song's conclusion.

Little more than a month ago, I was singing the praises of lo-fi folkie Willis Earl Beal's mesmerizing record Acousmatic Sorcery. I resolutely declared it the "strongest album to released so far this year," but truthfully it was a far-flung notion that any album released the rest of the year could top it. I now know how wrong I was. Like Acousmatic Idler Wheel is an album that reveals itself with one track at a time. A diary set to music, personal in nature with little concern for outside influences. While Beal, woke to find his "silent lover" was only a dream, Apple hasn't been to bed in years. Just when Apple begins to grow comfortable in her own skin and longs to be kissed, she realizes she's all alone, she's gotten her wish in the worst way possible. 

"Left Alone"

Thursday, June 21, 2012

If You Love G.O.O.D. Music

The long-awaited G.O.O.D. Music album Cruel Summer will now drop August 7 according to Clipse-member Pusha-T. Pusha also took time to add more fuel to the still burning Lil Wayne fire, calling Weezy's response track "Ghoulish" "trash." The whole feud was reignited when Pusha released the visceral "Exodus 23:1" which is rumored to appear on Cruel Summer. On the Clipse front, Pusha cryptically confirmed the release of a new album to be released "someday." Along with Pusha, the album will sport appearances from label-head Kanye West, Big Sean, the enigmatic Jay Electronica, and O.F. crooner Frank Ocean. With the start of Summer now upon, take time out and listen to lead-single "Mercy."


Saturday, June 9, 2012

"Pyramids"- Frank Ocean

Yesterday Odd Future's Frank Ocean cryptically hinted at a new album entitled Channel Orange with a short clip featuring Ocean crooning about Cleopatra. After that blew-up, Def Jam spoiled the surprise and officially confirmed the new album along with a slew of tour dates. While that was a move you might have seen coming, no one could have excepted Ocean to drop the full track from the video, a track that comes in at an uncharacteristic nine minutes.

The move was mind-boggling not because Ocean gave away free music (something he does with regularity), but because of that length. At nine minutes, "Pyramids" is the longest track in the Ocean cannon, one well known for effective minute and a half song bursts.Another oddity for Ocean on the track is the heavy dose of electronic sheen we see in the song's first half. Here sweat drips all over the track, with requisite breaks for Ocean to croon the chorus and cool off. Then the track shapeshifts to lovelorn slow-jam, as Ocean's Cleopatra kills herself and is reborn as a Las Vegas lady of the night. "Your love ain't free no more," Ocean despondently decrees. While Ocean repeats the melancholic mantra, the track descends into a wandering guitar solo, as Cleopatra presumably parades off into the night. Considering the chameleon nature of the song and its length, its easy to make comparisons to Kanye's "Runaway," the musical definition of despondent if there ever was one. But where Kanye was urging his love to leave him behind, Ocean is feebly praying she'll stay. With "Pyramids" Ocean has built his own monument to lost love that will stand the test time.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Top 35 Kanye Tracks

In the past I've spent plenty of time fawning over Kanye West releases. Today is 'Ye's 35th birthday, so in honor of Yeezy I picked up what I feel are his 35-best tracks. These tracks range from features to album cuts, hopscotching from debut College Dropout, detouring with 808s and Heartbreak, and finishing off with Watch the Throne. A few of the criteria for the selections are: overall popularity of the song (i.e. chart success), importance in the Kanye canon (some just hold more emotional weight), creativity of the track (beat or line wise), and overall replay-value. Got a problem with the rankings? Think something is sorely missing? Let your voice be heard. For now, enjoy the list.

#35: "Walkin' on the Moon" ft. Kanye West- The-Dream Love vs. Money

#34: "The Food" ft. Kanye West- Common Be

#33: "Kinda' Like A Big Deal" ft. Kanye West- The Clipse Til The Casket Drops

#32: "Deuces (Remix)" ft. Drake, T.I., Kanye West, Fabolous, & Andre 3000- Chris Brown  F.A.M.E.

#31: "Drive Slow" ft. Paul Wall & GLC- Late Registration

#30: "Touch the Sky" ft. Lupe Fiasco- Late Registration

#29: "Flashing Lights (Remix) ft. Lil Wayne & Jay-Z

#28: "Heartless"- 808s & Heartbreak

#27: "Blame Game" ft. John Legend & Chris Rock- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fanstasy

#26: "American Boy" ft. Kanye West- Estelle Shine

#25: "Forever" ft. Kanye West, Lil Wayne, & Eminem- Drake So Far Gone

#24: "Don't Look Down" ft. Mos Def, Lupe Fiasco, & Big Sean- G.O.O.D. Fridays

#23: "Otis" ft. Jay-Z- Watch the Throne

#22: "Down & Out" ft. Kanye West- Cam'Ron Purple Haze

#21: "Theraflu"- Cruel Summer

#20: "Diamonds from Sierra Leone (Remix)" ft. Jay-Z- Late Registration

#19: "Stronger"- Graduation

#18: "Run This Town" ft. Kanye West & Rihanna- Jay-Z The Blueprint 3

#17: "Power" ft. Dwele- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

#16: "All Falls Down"- College Dropout

#15:"I Put On" ft. Kanye West- Young Jeezy The Recession

#14: "Love Lockdown"- 808s & Heartbreak

#13: "Swagga Like Us" ft. Kanye West, Jay-Z, & Lil Wayne- T.I. Paper Trail

#12: "Big Brother"- Graduation

#11: "Get By" ft. Mos Def, Jay-Z, Kanye West, & Busta Rhymes- Talib Kweli Quality

#10: "Jesus Walks"- College Dropout

#9: "N***as in Paris" ft. Jay-Z- Watch the Throne

#8: "Addiction"- Late Registration

#7: "Lollipop" ft. Kanye West- Lil Wayne

#6: "Gold Digger" ft. Jamie Foxx- Late Registration

#5: "Street Lights"- 808s & Heartbreak

#4: "All of the Lights" ft. The-Dream, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Kid Cudi, Fergie, John Legend, Charlie Wilson, Ryan Leslie, Tony Williams, Elly Jackson & Elton John- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

#3: "Hey Mama"- Late Registration

#2: "Through the Wire"- College Dropout

#1: "Runaway" ft. Pusha-T- My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy


"Channel Orange"- Frank Ocean Album

This morning a recently posted video from Frank Ocean's official Tumblr has been making the rounds. The mysterious minute and 45 second clip slow revolves around a parked car (nothing new for a Frank Ocean clip), as Ocean croons in an electro-soul swagger about a girl named Cleopatra working at the pyramid. Dubstep-tinged synths back Ocean up with a touch of on-point drumming as the clip comes to a screeching halt. The words "Channel Orange" are flashed and a date of July 17, 2012. Could this be the release date of a long-awaited Ocean LP? Only time will tell. For now, enjoy the clip and another car-centered video of Ocean's while you're at it.

NOTE: It's now official via Def Jam, this is the release date for the record which is titled Channel Orange. So much for the secret. 

"Channel Orange"

"Swim Good"

In Revue- "Live from the Underground"

For nearly three years now, Mississippi-bred rapper Big K.R.I.T. has mined the sounds of Southern rap's past and delivered absolute gold. Starting with 2010's Krit Wuz Here, through April's 4eva N A Day, the man also known as Krizzle has been on an impeccable run. He doesn't just tip his hat to the "old school," he gets all his lessons there, being taught by greats: UGK, Goodie Mob, and OutKast. On his 4th release, and first official LP, Krit has graduated with top honors. 

"Pushin' rhymes like moonshine, with jump like juke joints," Krit introduces himself on the album's title track. The song is essential Krizzle, minor key piano, snarling drum hits, sharp scratches, and warped funk guitar. Adding to this Southern love-letter is a wicked harmonica solo that blares as a gospel choir reminds us this is straight from the "underground." When the track fades away, Krit comes crashing into a strangeland, said by a passerby to be the "mainstream." 

While many might worry Krit's in danger of selling out with this release he quells all fears with a run that ranks among his best on record. Beginning with the clobbering "Cool 2 Be Southern" replete with rhymes about being "Pine-Sol clean," and New Orleans horns Big K.R.I.T. tosses us in his gold-grill purple Caddy and takes us on a scenic ride of the South. The ride hits its high-water mark on single "Money on the Floor" which links Krizzle up with criminally unsung Memphis heroes 8 Ball & MJG and the snarling 2 Chainz. Krit's all car-talk on the track, as 8Ball rocks his Gucci shoes & MJG shouts-out DJ DMD's regional hit "25 Lighters." 2Chainz gets goonish over the sweltering synth and barks his best gun-threats. "No one can it do it better," the minimalist hook declares and for four-minutes we see why.

"Money on the Floor" NSFW

The aforementioned "Money on the Floor," isn't the last track to feature some Southern legends, a croaky Ludacris appears on the dirty "What U Mean?" and Devin the Dude shares a spliff with Krit on "Hydroplaning," the record's requisite weed track. Krit saves the best for "Pull-Up" where rap royalty Bun B rolls up and delivers a dazzling verse that namechecks HBO hits "Sopranos, The Wire, and Boardwalk Empire," while promising that UGK is "for life." If Bun B ever brings back the UGK banner, he has his Pimp C in Krizzle.

Live from the Underground grits its teeth with these bangers, but bears its soul on the type of slowburner Krit began with on "Hometown Hero," and mastered on magnum opus "Dreamin." "If I Fall" featuring Melanie Fiona is a piano-driven affair  that tells three tales. In the first, Krit "stands on his own two," balancing the rap game and the "real working world." The focus shifts to Krizzle's own mother in verse two, where she worries if her son will make it off the block. Finally turning to a lost love, Krit sees his relationship deteriorate, drugs and alcohol fanning the flames. There's respite in follow-up "Rich Dad, Poor Dad," the most moving track on the album. Here Krit's pop drops jewels of wisdom to his son, scored by a poignant piano-figure and militaristic drumming. Krizzle struggles to "be a better man in a world of negligence," and wonders if he's ready for children. The world Krit lives in is one where the gift of Christmas is simply being alive to see it, where cartoons of Saturday's superheroes fade away in your adult years. When he falls off his bike there's no one to pick him up, gravel is his only companion. Through all these trials and tribulations, Krit's motivation is a challenge set forth by his father, to be better than him.

"Rich Dad, Poor Dad"

Backed by blues-legend B.B. King, Krit next tells the haunting slave tale of "Praying Man." "My people done left me behind," the grainy voice of King croons as the praying man breathes down his neck. In the first verse, Krizzle sways in the breeze with a rope wrapped tightly around his neck. Still swinging, Death drops by and lends Krit a helping hand. We next see Krit tossed about in the Atlantic on a slave ship. Betrayed by his brethren, he is bound for America and the Reaper is there to greet him as he arrives. In all of this there is a beautiful metaphor of record labels acting as music's slavemasters, and nowhere is that better felt than in the final verse. Krit runs from the mainstream plantation as hell-hounds can be heard barking and nipping at his feet. Hands bloodied and feet bruised from a life of work for no pay, he takes up refuge in the "underground." Resting his head, Krit sees the Reaper one final time and is delivered from his oppressor forever.

Though most of these underground tunes are strong, a few may have you reaching for the dial. "Yeah Dats Me" comes across as a needless reheating of the "candy yams and collard greens" found on "Country S**t," and "Porchlight" is a bedroom ballad that doesn't get the boots knocking. The tracks are shackles for Krit, the type of mainstream slavery he warns of on "Praying Man." However, Krit is unimpeded for most of the album's hour length, running things and giving his all ala Boobie Miles. When the last note of the reprise wafts into the Southern night-sky, Krit can be found searching for someone to fill his shoes. Krit has become Southern rap's  king, and will wear the crown until the good Lord calls him home. After years of  learning from the South's best, the student has become the teacher. 

"Live from the Underground (Reprise)"

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

"Dope B***h" ft. Pusha-T

 The-Dream just dropped the celebratory "Dope B***h" on his Radio Killa Website. Following in the vein of previous singles: "ROC" and "Kill the Lights", the song is a supposed dry-run for his long in the works Love IV, which is speculated to drop through Def Jam on August 14. Over a shimmering piano-backed beat, The-Dream is in far higher spirits than we heard on any of last year's 1977. "They ain't got nothing on," Dream exuberantly sings in the first verse, while Pusha backs the man up and is blissfully-confident self. The walls are no longer closing in on Nash and he's got room to work his deceptive charm once more. "So fly, so cold," indeed.