Posted tagged ‘mystikal’

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!

VH1 Hip Hop Honors 2010 – Reporting Live!

June 4, 2010

Best 2010 Hip-Hop Honors Ever!

It’s the early morning of Friday, June 4th and I’m writing this having just returned home from the 2010 VH1 Hip Hop Honors event. This year’s theme is The Dirty South, honoring such legends as Master P, J. Prince (founder of Rap-A-Lot), 2 Live Crew, Timbaland and Jermaine Dupri. Thanks to the homie Adam Bernard, I was invited to witness the festivities firsthand and let me tell you what a rare treat this was. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota and would spend my weekends hopping from music store to music store. Due to the North Star state’s geographic location, rappers from every region eventually had their material matriculate back to us. I got a fever for several simultaneous flavors and really learned to love rap music for its various variants. Now was my first opportunity ever to see many of my heroes in the flesh, so of course I had to be there.

Seriously.

Before I begin, I want to point out that the entire show was shot “out-of-order” so if anything in this recap happens in a different sequence or doesn’t make it to air, you can chalk it up to the magic of television. I’m going to attempt to avoid spoilers, but knowing VH1’s track record you’re going to be bombarded with commercials of all the surprises so unless you have the will-power to not watch the numerous “What Chilli Wants” marathons over the next 72 hours I’d advise you to proceed with caution.

After hours of standing, the night began with a tribute to Rap-A-Lot Records’s founder J Prince. Rap-A-Lot’s string of releases from 1990-1994 is my favorite period of any record label’s output ever. The medley of the label’s biggest hits began with Geto Boys member Willie D and The Game performing “Mind Playin Tricks on Me.” Say what you will about The Game’s music and penchant for name-dropping, but his love for Hip-Hop really shines through in his live performance as he knocked Bushwick Bill’s verse out of the park. The medley also included Juvenile doing “Nolia Clap” and Drake dueting with UGK’s Bun-B. None of these acts were announced beforehand, so you can imagine how the place exploded when they just appeared on stage one-right-after-another.

We were then treated to the opening vignette and an incredible brief (We’re talking 2-3 jokes tops) monologue from Craig Robinson, best known as Daryll from “The Office.” His dry wit was quite a change from the playfully obnoxious partying of Tracy Morgan in years past, but with the flamboyance of the talent being honored and doing the honoring he made an effective straight man, making the presentation palatable for the not-so-country attendants at hand. Also on hand were comedians Eddie Griffin and “Community’s” Donald Glover, the latter of which’s introduction of 2 Live Crew got the biggest laugh of the night.

I thought it was a smart move to divide the tributes by region, allowing the night to work as something of a crash course in “Country Rap Tunes.” Odd as it may sound, Jermaine Dupri got the biggest reactions of the night. For whatever reason, whenever his name was mentioned, the crowd erupted. Odder still is that he got this warm reception yet his tribute video and performance was the only one audible heckled. The only thing I found jeer-worthy of his segment was Diddy giving the worst performance of the night with arguably the least convincing lip-syncing ever publicly performed. What made it so bad was that during his “Welcome to Atlanta” verse, Dupri was still backing him up with a live mic resulting in awkward audio for all.

As for the second worst performance, it fell in the middle of an otherwise great No Limit tribute. Romeo came out dressed like his father circa-’96 to do “I’m Bout It, Bout It” and his tremendous attention to detail in the attire made it work. Off to a great start, things come to a screeching halt when this transitioned with the smoothness of a parking break into Silkk the Shocker’s “That’s Kool.” Despite being the final “hit” of the original No Limit Records, Silkk gave-up midway through the verse repeating one bar four times and then half-finishing the rest, just in time for Trina to miss her cue, do the second half of the chorus, and exit. Gucci Mane then came out as he and Kid Capri attempted to reenergize the crowd getting them just barely ready for MYSTIKAL to do his “MAKE ‘EM SAY UGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH” verse, saving the night. It’s really great to see Mystikal back on the scene and as energetic as ever, but his appearance just made the choice of “That’s Kool” all the more baffling. Here you have a chance to reunite Silkk and Mystikal for arguably the label’s third most well known song (“It Ain’t My Fault”) and instead you opt for “That’s Kool,” a song nobody really liked or wanted to hear in the first place?

While Silkk Lupe-ing himself will most likely still make it to air, one thing you won’t see is the Serato breaking down during 2 Live Crew’s performance, resulting in them restarting three times over. Sadly, this means you’re going to miss the night’s most genuinely touching moment. After “Me So Horny” and “Hoochie Mama,” the opening notes of “Banned in the USA” suddenly went silent. With the show stopped and countless technicians rushing the stage to fix the problem, Luke walks out and says “No Music? F**k it then. Let’s do this.” He then goes into the Crew’s old “One and One” routine (their reinterpretation of The Kinks “All Day and All of the Night”) as each member joins in with a “just like old times” look in their eyes. Moments like this are what a show like Hip Hop Honors should be about and it would be a shame if you never got to see it.

With the bulk of this show set to be made in post-production, the lineup’s randomness really drained the crowd. The real star, however, was the tremendous set design and art direction. Every artist had a distinct motif that really captured who they were. It helped give each region a distinct look to match the sound and added a grandiose touch of theatrics. Both VH1 and the artists involved really went out of their way to make the night as comprehensive as possible, from Cool Breeze (the man who coined the phrase “Dirty South” on Goodie Mobb’s 1995 album Soul Food) performing the Organized Noize tribute to Mannie Fresh grabbing the mic in between 2 Live Crew technical difficulties to acknowledge Suave House and other southern icons that VH1 forgot.

While I really have no idea how this is going to look on air, I had a great time. The Rap-A-Lot medley was the best performance and believe me when I tell you it is not to be missed. If you check it out, be sure to look for me. I’m the one white guy who isn’t wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses indoors or has a flat-out embarrassing tattoo. Seriously caucazoids, step your game up!

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

A Guide to One-Take Rap Videos

May 7, 2010

Take me out to the blog post! One take, that is!

As this site has well established, rap music is awesome. What’s also awesome, is the art of the music video. Once thought to be merely a three minute promotional tool aired for 1-3 months and then never seen again, thanks to the YouTube era they’ve now entered immortality and help determine who is going to direct our Terminator sequels. Being primarily a commercial for a song, record labels and musicians alike have tried cutting costs as many ways possible. Since rock group The Replacements introduced the one-take video in 1986 with “Bastards of Young,” videos that have been one-take or made to seem like they were one-take have been successful as both an eye-catching and cost-cutting tactic.

Since I think we’ve all seen enough OKGO, I’ve decided to compile the definitive list of one-take rap videos.

Xzibit – “What U See is What U Get” (1998, Director: Gregory Dark)

The video that made me a regular BET watcher, a tribute to Hitchcock’s Rope, “What U See is What U Get” follows Xzibit to the store to get some milk, only to have any and everything get in his way. While it’s much more impressive to see on television as there’s A LOT more going on than can fit in a YouTube screen, its sheer ingenuity and replay value has allowed it to stand the test of time much more than its more expensive counterparts*.

MF Doom – “Dead Bent” (1999, Director: Piston Honda)

Once upon a time before he was a no-showing cartoon of himself, MF Doom was an indie oddity whose mask existed as a metaphor for one hiding their scars within rap music. A tragic figure, he was never more visually realized than the 1999 video for “Dead Bent.” A reinterpretation of Cibo Matto’s “Sugar Water,” Doom exists hauntingly as an everyday supervillain. Consider it – domestic Doom.

Scarface – “On My Block” (2002, Director: Mark Klasfeld)

My favorite rapper and my favorite video director team up to make my favorite from this list. One continuous trip around the block shows everything Scarface’s neighborhood has gone through over the course of his life. Beautifully bookended by a life/death dichotomy, this is one of only two videos I ever remember BET heavily promoting the debut of**. Keep your eyes peeled for Scarface’s only appearance in the video selling Uncut Dope out of the trunk.

Lil Jon f/ Mystikal & Krayzie Bone “I Don’t Give A” (2003, Director: Gil Green)

This one is the most obviously not one take, but the choppyness serves a purpose. A rap reinterpretation of Prodigy’s infamous “Smack My Bitch Up” video***, this video follows a night on the town with Lil Jon and the Eastside Boyz as all H*ck breaks loose. With a cameo list only rivaled by UGK’s “International Players Anthem”, the rapid fire jump-cutting to concert footage come-to-life is meant to mimic the experience of live music while on syrup. Consider it visual chopping and screwing.

louis logic & JJ Brown – “The Great Divide” (2006, Director: Jed I. Rosenberg)

What’s cool about former Demigodz member louis logic’s “The Great Divide” video is how it is a direct interpretation of the song without being a literal one. The frozen frame of the camera showing logic walking in place while the entire rest of the world walks past him mirrors the song’s protagonist who can’t get out of his own way and live his life until the very end when he just releases himself and walks along with the world.

Hangar 18 – “Feet to Feet” (2008, Director: Paul Iannacchino)

After not appearing in their 2007 album Sweep the Leg’s first video “Baking Soda,” Definitive Jux MCs Alaska and Windnbreez made a video that rested on the strength of their charisma. Capturing the energy of their live performances, the one-take serves as both a channel of unfiltered Hangar as well as some pretty cool visuals.

Nyle – “Let the Beat Build” (2009, Director: Chadd Harbold)

Finally, the video that was number #1 on YouTube, Okayplayer, Gawker, Google, NASA and everywhere in-between, Nyle’s “Let the Beat Build.” His senior project, capturing the vibrant energy of the NYUterus, the sheer insanity here is that the entire clip is a live performance. A labor of love****, it wound up getting so popular that it bucked the entire corporate music industry label system and landed on MTV*****. Since you’ve probably read everything there is to read about this video, please enjoy this song that Nyle and I made last year as a free download.

YOU JUST NEED ONE TAKE!

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

*I just rewatched the Busta Rhymes-Janet Jackson “What’s It Gonna Be” video for the first time in a decade, and it’s aged so bad it hurt my feelings.

**The other being Juvenile’s “Follow Me Now,” which has nothing to do with this list.

***Extra props for keeping the original twist ending.

****Love, of course, meaning hours upon hours of rehearsal.

*****That’s MTV ONE! Insert the same “MTV-never-plays-videos” joke you’ve made since 1996 here.