Posted tagged ‘lil wayne’

THE TOP TEN RAP SONGS OF 2012! (C.A.T.T.L.E.)

January 31, 2013

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You know, it’s funny. Typically, we at Popular Opinions used to post all of our year-end Chaz’s Arbitrary Top Ten List Extravaganza retrospective pieces in January because, let’s face it, the month is largely a cultural dead zone where absolutely nothing happened. But this month, we’ve already had major album releases, hot singles and dis records. It’s been an unusually eventful January, but to deny the past year in wake of such events wouldn’t be fair to the year’s biggest songs. While 2012 was the first year in a long time that there were probably more memorable rap albums than memorable rap singles, a handful of absolute gems made the choice cuts some of the best tracks in recent memory. It is with them in mind we look back at the ten best rap songs 2012 gave us!

10 ) T.I. featuring Lil Wayne – “Ball”

Easily the best T.I. song in about five years, “Ball” is not only a “Triggerman Break”-based throwback to traditional bounce music, but the most energized both T.I. and Wayne have sounded in quite some time. As seen in the Marc Klasfeld directed video, both T.I. and Wayne seem to genuinely be having a blast, lending itself to one of the year’s most enjoyable party records.

9 ) Kristoff Krane – “Birthday Song”

Twin Cities hip-hop artist Kristoff Krane has been most known for his more experimental outings, making his surprisingly conventional Fanfaronade album one of the year’s most welcome surprises. The lead single, “Birthday Song” using the metaphor a lamenting a lonely birthday party for the frustration found in the under-supported moments of being an independent artist.

8 ) Aesop Rock – “Zero Dark Thirty (Blockhead Remix)”

As great as it was to hear Aesop Rock return with his entirely self-produced Rhymesayers album Skelethon, contributions of his frequent collaborator Blockhead were missed. Fortunately, the album’s bonus tracks included a remix by the cult hero producer that not only recaptures the classic Aesop-Blockhead vibe, but flushes out different elements of the lyrics, allowing the song to be appreciated in a wholly new spectrum.

7 ) Nikki Minaj – “Stupid Hoe”

A lot of people hate this song for the dreaded one-two punch of being the worst video of Hype Williams’ career and its obnoxious chorus, but once you divorce the uninspired unfitting visual component, you’re left with a tribute to numerous regional dance musics all masterfully combined into one unrelenting machine gun of a single. More avant garde than most of her contemporaries are willing to give her credit for, “Stupid Hoe” is pulse-pounding razor-sharp fun.

6 ) Odd Future – “Oldie”

The Odd Future movement took an interesting turn in 2012. Still wildly successful, the crew’s projects have become successful enough to turn their devoted fanbase somewhat insular, allowing themselves further freedom to do whatever they want. Also, their television show is great. But their biggest contribution to the year was “Oldie,” an extended posse cut playing to the absolute strengths of the entire rosters and capturing the fun and inventiveness of their movement in a single track, punctuated by an absolutely excellent homecoming verse by the returning Earl Sweatshirt.

5 ) Future f/ Diddy & Ludacris – “Same Damn Time (Remix)”

Probably the most fiercely debated hip-hop artist of the year, Atlanta’s Future’s persona/abilites/talent were all the subject to a polarizing, intense divide over the course of 2012. But if there’s one aspect of him that can’t be denied, it’s his incredible ability to write hooks. “Same Damn Time” is not only the year’s most infectious catchphrase, but the remix brought us the single greatest moment Diddy’s ever had behind the mic.

4 ) The Underachievers – “Gold Soul Theory”

The most promising new rap group of 2012, The Underachievers’ “Gold Soul Theory” was poignant, catchy, well constructed and everything one could hope for in a breakthrough rap single. With a production that uniquely heightens the exotic otherworldly elements of the lyrics, both members’ deliveries slice through the soundscape with an undeniable charisma, making their forthcoming 2013 debut mixtape among the year’s most anticipated.

3 ) A$AP Rocky – “Goldie”

Diverting slightly from the spacey Clams Casino soundscape that helped him first breakthrough, A$AP Rocky’s “Goldie” simply added more layers of his favorite influences to create an entirely new sound uniquely his own. Sleek, thunderous and brimming with cool rooted in the Harlem hip-hop tradition, “Goldie” helped bring the A$AP vision to the next level.

2 ) Mystikal – “Hit Me”

While 2012 gave us the James Brown biography The One, among the greatest music books ever written, it also gave us Mystikal channeling the “Godfather of Soul” for his single “Hit Me.” While Mystikal’s had a few songs since his return from prison in 2010, “Hit Me” has been far-and-away his most blistering. Wildly fun, “Hit Me” is proof Mystikal’s not only still got it, but he remains the man right ‘chea.

1 ) Kendrick Lamar – “Swimming Pools”

As I wrote here, Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools” is special because it’s not just a song that mentions drinking, but rather uses the social activity as a deeper exploration of peer pressure. Along with presenting a social message in a way that respects its audience’s intelligence enough without having to painfully spell it out, every single other aspect of the song is executed in a manner of absolute mastery. With Lamar’s tight narrative and wonderfully varied arsenal of flows, his performance alone would make for one of the top songs of the year. Fortunately, the track’s production courtesy of T-Minus  is every bit as nuanced and painstakingly lavish as Kendrick’s rhymes.

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

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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!

Rebelmatic “Prey For the Vuture” – Album Review

February 20, 2010

Creature of Habit

In New York City, there’s three landmarks that every tourist inadvertently has to see: the Statue of Liberty, the Empire State Building and Creature. Rapper, published author and innovator of street salesmanship, Creature’s spot in Hip-Hop’s birthplace is one that every person winds up visiting. Originally one third of Beatnuts-produced 90s outfit The Triflicts, Creature rose to infamy by riding a self-propelled one man campaign picking up where New York legend Percee-P left off. After appearing everywhere from MF Doom’s album to a Tony Hawk video game, he self-released 2005’s Never Say Die, an album considered alongside Legendary Status and The Prelude as an underground hand-to-hand classic that featured collaborations with indie-rap darlings Slug (of Atmosphere), Jin (of the Ruff Ryders) and Busdriver (of Project Blowed). Despite the celebrated guest list, it was Creature himself whose East Coast Goodie Mob mentality made for a layered professional sounding release that sounded like nothing else in the independent Hip-Hop marketplace. One album, monthly concert series and critically acclaimed book (The Underdog Manifesto – a fantastic read) later Creature returns with his band Rebelmatic for the one-of-a-kind listening experience Lil Wayne’s Rebirth should have been – Prey For the Vulture.

The term “rap-rock” has become a dirty word in the average listener’s lexicon, and with good reason as the purveyor of one usually has little-to-no understanding of the other and the results are failed cash-ins at best and failed crossovers at worst. It tends to be capably adequate rock groups semi-rhythmcally rehashing “hear/fear/hate/wait/to/do/whoa/go” to the delight of frat boys and angst-y pre-teens for 45 minutes, or successful rappers having remixes over the the cockiest of cock rock or the the softest acoustic guitars as if those are the only two types of rock music to ever exist. Both sides are guilty and there was a secret tribunal sometime in the mid-2000s where a truce was reached to insure these atrocities never happened again. Prey For the Vulture works because Rebelmatic doesn’t attempt to improve upon a flawed formula, they discard it and start for scratch.

Prey For the Vulture has Creature seeming to follow an unspoken “only do it if it sounds good” rule. While he’s had a flow that has effortlessly shifted from a straight-forward rap cadence to a more melodic delivery when the moment has called for it his whole career, now that he’s backed by a band there has to be a temptation to force rapping or singing on everything. He avoids this for the most part and his flow has never sounded more at home. Along with an incredible vocal performance that finds a way to showcase everything he does best somewhere on the record, an amount of credit should also go to Fred Ones and Ken Heitmueller whose mixing and mastering find the perfect balance of boom-bap thumb and flourishing guitars to give the entire project a cohesive sound that sounds professional on a rock or rap level.

The album opens with “Get Up N Go” which, along with “Reckless Eyeballin,” is one of the two remakes of songs from his 2007 album Hustle to Be Free. I say ‘remake’ and not ‘remix’ because the songs are re-recorded from the ground up and feel as if this is how they were supposed to sound all along. It’s a proper kickoff to an album that carries a sense of epic-ness far greater than any synth-based faux-film score beat cluttering countless rap albums today. It gives an added strength to Creatures lyrics which marry the social outrage of punk with the class struggle of rap, best exemplified on “Set Myself on Fire” where he asserts “Poverty ain’t paradise in a room full of parasites.”

Genre-bending has seldom sounded so natural, and the first 2/3 of this album achieve it well. But it’s how polished the best moments are that make the lesser ones stick out. Both “Close as Strangers” and “Ballad of the Cyclops” capture the bleakness and despair of this pre-apocalyptic New York dystopia perfectly, making the call-to-arms “Silent Alarm” and the heavy-handed “Wet Baby” almost redundant. On an album that makes such a punk rock effort to deliver the bare-essentials, they tack on unnecessary fat to the tenderloin. Otherwise, the album succeeds in not being a rap album for punks or a punk album for hip-hoppers, but just being a great Rebelmatic album. That alone makes it a hard album to recommend because the thick musical roots seem strong enough to trip any potential genre converts and since the fierce unapologetic politics might prove an obstacle for Creature to win Kid Rock’s audience, a full fledged crossover seems somewhat out-of-the-question. I doubt this is what the man was aiming for in the making of Prey For the Vulture, but for the P.O.S. or Bad Brains crowd wanting their “stereotypes with a side order of rebellion,” this album will bring the nest they built in the ashes of CBGB’s together perfectly.

We give Prey For the Vulture a Four Out of Five.

Until next time Let’s Agree to Agree!

Curtis Plum “Call My Cellphone” – Music Review

February 15, 2010

‘Outsider Art’ is a funny term*. While there exists a tangible ‘mainstream’ and an ‘alternative’ to whatever that mainstream is, outsider art occupies the territory outside of that. While counter-cultures primarily exist from a reactionary need, outsider art tends to thrive in a vacuum, not concerned with their medium’s peers in the slightest. Both vague and to-the-point, it’s a label that gives you an idea of what you’re in for when you still have no idea what to expect. I break this down to frame Curtis Plum in a special light, one brighter than any cell phone.

plumphone

Have You Heard?

Discovered by Sage Francis and quickly scooped up by his Strange Famous Records imprint, Curtis Plum stands the oddest man in a room full of oddities. While not a traditional rap record by any means, Sage’s investment and vote of confidence in Plum is the ballsiest move a rap label has made in some time. Much like Daniel Johnston on Atlantic or, more accurately, Wesley Willis on Alternative Tentacles, Plum’s spot on the roster seems to exist just because it feels right. What began as an exchange of MySpace messages snowballed into a record deal seemingly based on the principles that 1) Sage likes the music a lot and 2) he thinks it should be heard. Fortunately for us, he’s right.

Call My Cellphone is ten tracks of unhinged uninterrupted Curtis Plum. A genuine eccentric, there’s a sincerity in play that shows the man doesn’t have an ironic bone in his body. From the title track (“Take a photo of you on your phone with my phone / save it on my phone and I press upload / take one of me on my phone with your phone / internet photo of my phone by my dome”) to taking Pitchfork posers to task on “Indie Rocker” (“It was Blink 182 / Now it’s Blink, you’re a jerk”) Plum creates a carnival sideshow out of the absurdities of everyday life. His voice, sounding like the polite lovechild of the B-52’s Fred Schneider and Katherine Hepburn, creates a conversational relationship with the listener that make the entire project seem like some recorded pleasant exchange with a stranger.

But that’s not to write-off Plum’s very real talents. While Plum’s appeal is that he’s a legit loon giving you a half-hour of him in all his Plum-ness, his comedic timing is perfect. On “Get on the Dancefloor” Plum uses the standard dance song’s lyric structure and vocal inflections to explain that, as much as he would like to see you dance, it’s totally your call and he’s cool with whatever you decide. In a lesser man’s hands, it’s a one-note 15 second joke that wears out its welcome the second it’s repeated. Plum’s charisma, however, keeps the listener hanging on his every word. This is even more apparent in his storytelling. “Jack in the Pine Box” chronicles Plum’s golf course confrontation with the restaurant chain Jack-in-the-Box’s mascot, “XBox Trife Life” has Plum as a video game console lamenting his own existence, and the show-stopping “Lil Wayne Tried to Rape Me” has Plum asking ‘have you ever been molested by a tiny hand man? Have you ever been touched by Lil Wayne’s little hands’ and, at the album’s climax, busting out a double-time flow to explain to the Platinum selling rapper that he’s a heterosexual. Folks, this album exists.

The album closes with “Bike Cop Reanimated,” a dead-on style parody of the super-serious epic song-sequels that are prone to clutter the conclusions of rap albums. Plum nails the soundscape and presence of such an undermentioned phenomenon so perfectly that I refuse to believe it’s a coincidence. With early press material insinuating this will be Plum’s only record Call My Cellphone, is destined to become a cult classic. While some may appreciate it on a face-value Dr. Demento level, Plum’s deliberate craftsmanship raises the project far above novelty status making it a welcome addition to any record collection between Philosophy of the World and Trout Mask Replica. This album’s not for everyone, but in a post-Tim and Eric world it’s clear that an audience for this type of project exists. For the people that won’t get it, no explanation will be good enough. But for those that do, no explanation is needed.**

We Give Call My Cellphone a Five Out of Five

Purchase the album here at Strange Famous Records.

So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

*Meaning it’s a goofy term for silly-billies.

**I’ve seen this quote originally attributed to everyone from Jerry Lewis to Jeff Jarrett, so since google is failing me I’m just going to take credit for it, K?