Archive for the ‘Really Quick!’ category

REALLY QUICK: ‘Watch the Throne,’ ‘Tha Carter IV,’ and the Hip-Hop Numbers Game.

September 9, 2011

What the album comes packaged in - Tha Carter Foreskin!

For those of you who read this site and ONLY this site, you’ve probably been wondering both where I’ve been and what else the internet has to offer. Well, I’ve been writing for several sites and publications, such as The New York Times, Complex Magazine, Funny or Die etc., and regularly write my music reviews at Spectrum Culture. Being I write for so many sites now, Popular Opinions is going to serve as something of a mothership, not only a place where I generate the same quality content you’ve grown to love and respect, but a place to keep you abreast of all the different articles I’ve been writing for different sites.

So, given the two biggest stories in Hip-Hop for the past month, let’s talk Watch the Throne and Tha Carter IV.

Here’s my full review of Jay-Z and Kanye West’s Watch the Throne

Here’s my full review of Tha Carter IV

Now that you’ve read both of those, let me break it down like this:

The Best moments of Tha Carter IV > Jay-Z’s rapping on Watch the Throne > The Worst moments of Tha Carter IV > Kanye’s rapping on Watch the Throne > The Game’s rapping on The R.E.D. Album.

If I knew you were debuting on Billboard that high, I would have baked a cake!

But probably the most rewarding thing about Tha Carter IV moving almost a million (or a millie) units in its debut week is the sign that people once again really seem to care about Hip-Hop. I know, your industry friend on Twitter has been exercising his ‘SMH’-typing fingers and wondering aloud “why do people care about first week sales?” Well, in some weird way, they’ve become a returning cyclical excitement for the modern music listener. Remember in 7th grade when you kept a piece of notebook paper hung up in your locker with a list of upcoming albums and their release dates so you could count down each day remember to cop them? Prior to Nas’ I Am… and Jay-Z’s Vol. 3 ushering in the MP3 era, if you lived outside of New York the possibility of bootlegging new albums before their release was non-existant. Release dates seemed to signify something, and now they act as almost a validating testament for artists that we’re excited about. When Atmosphere and Tyler, the Creator had albums debut in Billboard’s Number 5 spot, or when UGK finally debuted at Number 1, I did feel somewhat like my high school basketball team just took State. Sure, it’s a silly numbers game, but ladies love numbers. Fellas do too! While strong catalog titles may in all actuality be a more impressive feat (shouts to Waka Flocka Flame whose “No Hands” single has been on the Hip-Hop charts for an astonishing 56 weeks in a row!)  seeing an album’s release be an important pop culture event is a pretty cool thing.

As for Tha Carter IV, it may redefine how a rap artist is treated in the music industry. Typically, every artist on a major label is one under-performing album away from being a has-been. Looking at the past decade, how many artists have gone from the biggest single of the year to not even making the sticker when they guest on other records? Wayne may have changed that. At the height of Wayne hysteria, Tha Carter III moved one million copies its first week. Two years later, his follow up album Rebirth did only 100,000 copies. Last week, Tha Carter IV did 1 million again. While all of these were #1 debuts, the really impressive feat here is that not only was Rebirth a pretty substantial dropoff, Tha Carter IV is possibly the biggest artist comeback of our time. To put it in perspective, for everyone ONE person that bought Rebirth, NINE MORE bought Tha Carter IV. Further, this is TWICE the number that Jay-Z and Kanye’s powers combined (436,000) managed to sell. Compound that by the fact that Jay and Kayne had NO LEAK, and Wayne’s was readily available for pirates more than a week ahead of time, and you realize what a commercial slam dunk this record was.

At the end of the day, what does this all mean? Run the numbers anyway you want, but what has me genuinely excited is that a million people paid for copies of a rap album that they really didn’t have to. That’s pretty cool.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

REALLY QUICK: Reflections on South Park’s “You’re Getting Old”

June 10, 2011

Welcome to the second installment of our new feature here on Popular Opinions – ‘Really Quick.’ Here, instead of the usually extensive blog post, I’m going to just offer up a quick explanation as to why something is the way it is. Consider these the go-to posts when someone needs a quick answer to something they should already know.

We all had *that* birthday.

A few nights ago, Comedy Central’s flagship franchise ‘South Park’ offered up “You’re Getting Old,” an episode that does what the series does best – get people talking. Only this time, instead of a quick turnaround of a major world event or the skewering of a pop culture phenomenon, the hubbub was in regard to an uncharacteristic downer ending where, not only did everything not work out, but Stan didn’t learn anything and the very basis of the show was torn, perhaps irrevocably.

The episode centered around Stan turning 10 and not finding any redeeming qualities among anything in his life, something his doctor diagnosed as “being a cynical asshole.” It strains his relationship with his friends, and mirrors the same turmoil between his parents as Sharon’s logical unrest with Randy pursuing another absurd interest hits a fever pitch and, in the show’s closing moments, a montage shows their divorce as they sell their house and Stan moves away.

It had all the makings of a series finale. While creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker are signed on to do two more seasons of the show, it wouldn’t be particularly out of character for them to unceremoniously leave things early without any pomp and/or circumstance. While the episode was promoted as the ‘Mid-Season Finale,’ a distinction they’ve never called attention to before in previous episodes before their summer break, serving up a final episode without public knowledge it was the end isn’t unprecedented either as Adult Swim’s ‘Home Movies’ had a similar unannounced growing-up heartbreaking conclusion to end its run in 2003. That in mind, what the ravenous ‘South Park’ fandom online has largely speculated is that this episode was more than just the typical soapbox for its creators where Stan represents Trey and Kyle is Matt. Theories ranging from Randy and Sharon being Matt and Trey’s relationship to Comedy Central following last year’s Muhammad fallout to Stan representing unhappy ‘South Park’ fans have been the popular trains of thought, but as “Not Without My Anus” proved 13 years ago, Matt and Trey don’t really care enough about their fans’ opinions to deliberately give them what they do or don’t want. And that’s a good thing. That’s why ‘South Park’ has been as consistent as its been for so long; its core objective is two obscenely talented guys making each other laugh.

Randy Marsh Swag.

What everyone seems to be missing about “You’re Getting Old” is that, while most agree the show’s most inspired moments have sprung from the kids being kids, that’s precisely why the episode touched such a nerve. At age 10, or around there, who didn’t go through suddenly losing a friend/friends through either social interests or moving away? Perhaps we buried that feeling of “we want to do different things and don’t want to be around each other” with all the other emotional scar tissue of adolescence, but with how small your world is at that age, losing a friend really hurts. While the show did do a phenomenal job simultaneously mocking pretentious hipsters who don’t like anything as well as a mass-media that’s challenging to like, it’s this awakening of the “losing a friend” feeling that sits as the centerpiece of a phenomenal episode.

As for the doomsday criers thinking this is the definitive sign that the show’s ending soon, don’t forget this isn’t the first time we’ve been teased with the end. Originally ‘South Park’ was going to end after the first movie. Years later, following Team America, the internet was certain the show was coming to an end when series regulars like Ms. Crabtree were turning up dead. I think, if this change signifies anything, it’s a tonal shift for the show. 15 years ago Matt and Trey were youthful kids who were part of that young pop culture, so their throwing stones at their pop culture surroundings was just what they did. Now that they’re in their early-40s, mocking youth culture takes on a different perspective as it’s not for them to understand anyway. Do they then just call everything “shit?” Even if they, as Sharon said, “hit the reset button” when the show resumes this September (or, better yet, give us another full-length Terrance and Philip episode) the episode remains one of their most powerful crowning achievements. For those of us who have grown-up with the show over 15 years, presumably longer than the majority of our real-life relationships have lasted, losing Stan really felt like losing a friend. For a television show to tug those heartstrings a midst a hurricane of diarrea only shows the brillance that is “You’re Getting Old.”

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

REALLY QUICK: Why Biggie is Considered One of the Greatest MCs of All Time

March 10, 2011

One of my favorite Shawn Mortensen pictures.

Welcome to another new feature here on Popular Opinions – ‘Really Quick.’ Here, instead of the usually extensive blog post, I’m going to just offer up a quick explanation as to why something is the way it is. Consider these the go-to posts when someone needs a quick answer to something they should already know.

If rapper Canibus has made only one major contribution to rap music, and he has, it’s his line “the greatest rapper of all time died on March 9th,” from his dis to LL Cool J that, over a decade later, reminds us all of the day we lost Biggie. If you weren’t a Hip-Hop fan in the late-90s and are only aware of Puff’s mythical “I lace the track you lock the flow” friend whose Wikipedia page the movie Notorious was based on, chances are the last thing you’ve heard discussed about the man is his actual recorded output. Many of Biggie’s staunchest supporters will simply bellow “BIG POPPA IS THE GREATEST OF ALL TIME” and not even acknowledge your question of “why?” as they’re too busy playing Def Jam’s Rap Star with Hulk Hogan.

Long-story short, beyond that bizarre moment of pop culture when a genre’s two most popular artists were murdered a midst a sensationalized media blitz, The Notorious B.I.G. is one of the most important and influential artists to ever pick up a mic. Many people consider him one of the all time greats and REALLY QUICK here’s why…

An Undeniable Masterpiece and there is no argument to the contrary.

Ready to Die is one of the best rap albums of all time, largely due to Biggie. From the rhyme writing to the performance in terms of both voice and flow, it’s impressive on every technical level and in the LP’s fully realized vision is made to sound easy. Also, his collaborations at the time were all stellar and at least half of Life After Death is undeniably a virtuoso at work. Let’s also remember that at the time of his death he had only been rapping for SIX YEARS.

Biggie could be a ‘lyrical-spiritual-miracle’ type rapper one second and then effortlessly switch to a less-is-more storyteller all with maybe one transitional bar with no filler. That’s not even including one of the best voices and most charismatic presences in the genre’s history. When you have one of the best rap albums of all time AND 90% of your recorded output is incredible, you can’t really knock someone nominating him for a ‘best of all time’ position.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!