Posted tagged ‘ti’

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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B.O.B. “The Adventures of Bobby Ray” – Album Review

May 4, 2010

WARNING: album will turn your iPod into a house of lies.

What is it about rap music that strikes fear into the hearts of music fans and record labels right now? While there seems to be a steady flow of rap releases every year, it seems the actual time spent “rapping” on them has been declining. It’s not a matter of guest appearances from R&B singers like the over-collaborative late-90s, rather rappers seem to be doing everything but rapping in order to help their rap record find an audience. Is the market for a straight-forward rap album just not there, or in this apocalyptic age of an everything-has-to-sell mentality are rap labels not comfortable enough with the rap audience being won over by a rap sheet of just rapping? Case in point, The Adventures of Bobby Ray the depressingly disappointing debut from Atlanta rapper B.O.B.

B.O.B. rose to prominence in summer 2007 off a string of mixtapes that made it seem like he was the rightful heir to the Outkast throne. For all the love Andre3000 gets (and rightfully so) for being one of the best rappers on the planet right now, it’s easy to forget that from 2004-2006 his “I-think-I’m-Prince” output was irredeemably awful*. So at a time when most of us were “kinda sour cause our favorite group ain’t comin’ with it,” B.O.B. appeared not as a poor imitation, but rather a heavily influenced artist who was now carving his own niche with songs like “Daddy” and “Sing My Song” that not only were great rap songs, but packed enough personality and seemed catchy enough to crossover to any audience. Then, he signed to Atlantic**. While early releases like “Grip Your Body” and others still showed tremendous promise, they were not an accurate indication of The Adventures of Bobby Ray’s 2010 release.

No relation.

The album is 48 minutes of “hey everybody, please like me.” While B.O.B. has shown an interest and talent in branching out from just rapping in the past, such as his B.O.B. vs. Bobby Ray mixtape that split the tracklisting evenly between rapping and singing, the presentation here just sounds contrived. The soundscape is heavily over-produced, the spaced-out singy-songy delivery is redundant and the guest list is one of the most blatant attempts at pandering I’ve ever seen. Joining B.O.B. are people who haven’t been interesting in a decade (Eminem, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer) and the people who are “interesting” in the most uninteresting ways (Lupe Fiasco, Janelle Monet). Many cite B.O.B.’s own musical fandom as the excuse reasoning, but if he were a real fan wouldn’t he know that not since 1996 has even Rivers Cuomo sounded interested in Rivers Cuomo?

The main reason why The Adventures of Bobby Ray fails as a rap album is how little rapping there is on it. Granted, the response to this is the same as Kid Cudi’s contingent who claim his is “not a rap album” as if there’s some sort of critic-proof forcefield that surfaces the second a rapper decides he knows how to sing. B.O.B. made a name for himself as a rapper, promoted this release as a rap album and it’s catagorized in the rap section. If it doesn’t walk like a duck or quack like a duck, why would you sell me such an awful duck?

They say that he's changing, cause he's getting famous.

I’m all for experimentation in music, but what the post-Gnarls generation of rappers fail to realize is that the greatest creative achievements come from what’s done within certain limits, not what’s done with no limits***. The disarming “Lovelier Than You,” a very genuine straight-forward sing-along, is great and would have worked perfectly as an endearing breather moment surrounded by actual rap songs. The fact that the album ends with it, “5th Dimension” (with worthwhile spacey non-sequitors) and “Airplanes Part 2” (where Eminem kicks the same ‘what if I never blew up’ verse he’s kicked for six years now, but this is one of the best times he’s done it so it works), the three strongest songs on the album, heavily devalues the rest of the album with each re-listen. While The Adventures of Bobby Ray might attract some audiences looking for a spaced-out existential singing endeavor, as a rap record it’s a dubious failure that should be banished to where the Idlewild things are.

We Give The Adventures of Bobby Ray a Two Out of Five

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

*A vivid memory of the 2006 Tower Records liquidation sale was, on the final day, the rows and rows of unsold Idlewild CDs next to as many copies of the Held Up soundtrack. The fact that a group whose previous effort moved ten million copies couldn’t get people to buy their new record for $1.00 is a testament to how wretchedly awful that album is.

**Not unlike Jive Records, Atlantic has proven completely inept time and time again with breaking new rap talent. While they have had success with TI and others who had already debuted on other labels and had the A&R work done for them, the streets are littered with everyone from Little Brother to Apathy that they clearly had no idea what to do with.

***Except, of course, for what’s done with No Limit Records. Those results are often bout it bout it.