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  1. #1
    Rae
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    two new hip-hop releases - Kanye West and Talib Kweli

    I ended up with an advance copy of Kanye West's forthcoming Graduation (due Sept. 11) as well as Talib Kweli's new Ear Drum. Overall, I should spin each of them a few more times before really passing judgement, but I'm initially pleasantly surprised by one and surprisingly let down by the other.

    Much has been made of 50 Cent's public proclamation that he would "quit music" if Graduation outsold his concurrently-released Curtis, but even if Kanye's album lands that punch (which it looks like it will, given the presale numbers), I'm not sure there's too much else worth celebrating about it. The production isn't pedestrian, but it isn't remarkable, either. The rhymes, on the other hand, seem uncharachteristically half-baked. I've come to expect Kanye's lyrics to be bold, insightful, quick-witted, or at least quotable, but all of those qualities seem to be in short supply. Even clever couplets like "I've been on ya since Prince was on Appollonia" (from the queasy groupies-come-hither club track & first single "Stronger") wear out their welcome after being inexplicably repeated several times, and non-clever ones like "some'd do anything for a Klondike / well, I'd do anything for a blonde dyke" fall cringingly flat upon first recitation. And while the invocation of Barry Bonds' name on the track of the same title seems rife with possibility (a black man reviled in the press for his cocksure attitude and inherently suspect success? ready the parallel-drawing pen), it's mostly mined for lazy sports metaphors (Kanye and Barry both "make hits"-- get it?). I'll spend more time with the record, of course-- Kanye has a spotless enough track record with me in the past that I want to get into this one-- but after being so instantly smitten with his previous efforts, I'm pretty disappointed that the only really arresting moment upon first listen came during the bonus tracks (the awesomely stoned vibe of "Us Placers", which finds Kanye, Lupe Fiasco, and Pharrell laconically rapping over Thom Yorke's "The Eraser" [listen]).

    Luckily, expectations were easily exceeded by the other new hip-hop release I laid ears on this week. I've always found it fascinating that after parting ways from Black Star, Mos Def and Talib Kweli have both seemed to cultivate personas that were the exact inverse of the dynamic they occupied in that seminal group-- the charismatic Mos Def has become dense, dark, and political, assembling the Black Jack Johnson band as a (frequently mirthless) attempt to reclaim a place for blacks in the recorded history of rock music and even going so far as to obstruct his face behind a kerchief on 2004's The New Danger and issue 2006's The New Magic completely art (and artifice)-free, while the bookish Kweli has labored to affect an image both flashy and accessible. Unfortunately, for Talib that approach has mostly led to ill-advised bangers like Train of Thought's "Move Something" (replete with flashbulb sound effects that sound as canned as ancient sitcom laugh tracks) and "Back Up Offa Me", but on Ear Drum, it's surprisingly successful. For the first time, the results don't seem forced-- Kweli has never sounded more listenable than on the shimmering "Country Cousins", a collegial shoutout from his concrete jungle-informed urban intellectualism to the stylistically divergent output of his Dirty South contemporaries, graced by an extended cameo from UGK. Elsewhere, he waxes seductive on the flirty "Hot Thing" (and at least leavens lines like "I love your city sass / I love your country ass" with praise for the way the object of his affection slyly defuses racism and sexism, and has the good sense to rhyme "bounce like a '64 Chevy" with "we can go steady"), which features a hook that'll irreversibly worm its way into many a titular organ. He also manages to infuse his trademark egg-headedness into most of the tracks in a way that isn't distracting-- a jam like "Hostile Gospel" explores complex spiritual questions but features production by Just Blaze that sounds great coming out of yr speakers regardless of the lyrical content. Overall, it's a delight to hear an album as uniformly excellent as Ear Drum coming from anyone, but even more so from a genre vet who has heretofore had a somewhat inconsistent solo career.

    Anyone else had a chance to check out either of these records?

    ~Rae

  2. #2
    Suspended PeruvianSkies's Avatar
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    Sorry, but I gotta say one word to this: yawn.

  3. #3
    Rae
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    Quote Originally Posted by PeruvianSkies
    Sorry, but I gotta say one word to this: yawn.
    You didn't really have to say that.

    ~Rae

  4. #4
    Forum Regular nobody's Avatar
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    Haven't heard either one yet, but expect I will. I've been a bit let down by Kanye, really. I thought his first record was great, but the follow-up was very disappointing to me. I know lots of people were into it, but I saw it as a big step down. I greatly preferred his production on Common's Be that came out in the same time frame.

    I'll really be looking forward to the Kweli record now especially with your complimentary remarks. I thought hi last one got trashed more than it deserved. I actually still pull it out from time to time, so even his less renowned efforts hold some appeal for me. Fact, I think I'm gonna go cue up The Beautiful Struggle right now while you got me thinking 'bout it.

  5. #5
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    If I had read this thread 5+ years ago, I woulda been gitty. But I'm just not into the Kweli scene anymore. I still play his older stuff like :Lunchroom Classics", "The Light" on P. Monch, and a few tracks from Mission Control. I even saw the new Common CD at the store about a month ago, and I just walked right pass it. I'll probably go buy it soon though... I just dont know. Mos had a tiny moment on BS and that's it. I need to go back and buy older albums.

    Here is my need to buy list:

    *RA da Rugged Man: Rugged Man Must Die.
    *Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein pt 2? (Did it ever materialize?) Now Playing: The Cold Vein
    *Killah Priest - Heavy Mental (I STILL DONT HAVE IT!!!)
    *Mr. Lif - Colossal(or something)
    *Immortal Tech - Where is the 3rd Revolutionary? I just dont think it's gonna be as good as his first though... Vol. 2 was good but not as raw as the first.


    Always nice to read a post about HipHop, and not just some Indie Rock/Jazz/Psuedo Speed Prog.

    JRA

  6. #6
    Suspended PeruvianSkies's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rae
    You didn't really have to say that.

    ~Rae
    In life we don't really have to do anything, but we do anyway.

  7. #7
    Rae
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    Quote Originally Posted by 'ammo

    Here is my need to buy list:

    *Cannibal Ox - The Cold Vein pt 2? (Did it ever materialize?) Now Playing: The Cold Vein
    *Mr. Lif - Colossal(or something)
    *Immortal Tech - Where is the 3rd Revolutionary? I just dont think it's gonna be as good as his first though... Vol. 2 was good but not as raw as the first.
    I'm pretty sure pt. 2 never dropped. I don't remember Colossal all that well (I used to have it at one time), but IMO Mr. Lif got better later and that was a little before he hit his stride (the one I really need to pick up is Mo'Mega). Immortal Technique? You're really taking it back... there isn't any contemporary hip-hop that you find interesting?

    ~Rae

  8. #8
    Man of the People Forums Moderator bobsticks's Avatar
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    Never been a Kanye fan but...

    ...I've given Eardrum a few listens and I give it a thumbs up.It's certainly better than alot of what passes for hip-hop these days. Talib Kweli has always put forth a slick product and his ability to flow smooth is evident on this as well. Despite lackluster production I can groove on some of the heavier horn sections in "Eat To Live" and "In The Mood".

    Content-wise I've gone on record as being a pretty harsh critic of modern hip-hop. Negativity for the sake of negativity or records that glorify ignorance and anti-social behavior don't play with me. Kweli, as always, straddles that fine line between positivity and discussions of the ironic qualities of urban existence. "Silicon Booty" indeed.

    It's interesting you would mention Mos Def, though I suppose the two will remain "intertwined" due to their history. I found some of the more soulful passages on Eardrum had me reminiscing about Jill Scott's "Collaborations".

    A good disc for a smooth bump on the ride home.

  9. #9
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobsticks
    ...I've given Eardrum a few listens and I give it a thumbs up.It's certainly better than alot of what passes for hip-hop these days. Talib Kweli has always put forth a slick product and his ability to flow smooth is evident on this as well. Despite lackluster production I can groove on some of the heavier horn sections in "Eat To Live" and "In The Mood".

    Content-wise I've gone on record as being a pretty harsh critic of modern hip-hop. Negativity for the sake of negativity or records that glorify ignorance and anti-social behavior don't play with me. Kweli, as always, straddles that fine line between positivity and discussions of the ironic qualities of urban existence. "Silicon Booty" indeed.

    It's interesting you would mention Mos Def, though I suppose the two will remain "intertwined" due to their history. I found some of the more soulful passages on Eardrum had me reminiscing about Jill Scott's "Collaborations".


    A good disc for a smooth bump on the ride home.
    You gotta PM.

  10. #10
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Contemporary Hiphop? LOL.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rae
    I'm pretty sure pt. 2 never dropped. I don't remember Colossal all that well (I used to have it at one time), but IMO Mr. Lif got better later and that was a little before he hit his stride (the one I really need to pick up is Mo'Mega). Immortal Technique? You're really taking it back... there isn't any contemporary hip-hop that you find interesting?

    ~Rae
    I guess it has to be newer than a couple of month old...
    Do you chech out SandBoxAutomatic? I used to get on that site, at least once a week, but havent been slacking... I just checked it out a minute ago, and there seem to be a new Jazzmatazz. I should check it out for sure.
    The Aesop is out, but I'll be staying away from Atomsphere. I just can't get into that whole Minnesota vibe.


    For the Mo' Mega, I could live without it. He doesnt have that energy anymore. Not on the Mo' anyways.

    JRA

  11. #11
    Rae
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrhymeammo
    I just can't get into that whole Minnesota vibe.
    Daggers! A whole scene dismissed with a few keytaps. I'm interested to know what the "Minnesota vibe" is perceived as outside of MN. Is that Brother Ali record making the rounds? P.O.S.? Is our branch of the Anticon stuff like Fog & Dosh seen as distinct? How about Kill the Vultures?

    ~Rae

  12. #12
    Forum Regular audiobill's Avatar
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    Like the Reviews...

    Hey, Rae.

    Nice review, brother. I, especially like the sounds of that Kweli disc and I'm going to try to get it so I can give these ears something to listen to. I, too, have been disappointed with Kanye's latest (although I've yet to hear his Tues. release). I'd almost forgotten about the Kweli release but thanks-a-ton for pushing me in that direction.

    Cheers,

    Bill

    That Kweli song "Hot Thing" has some wonderful vibes to it. Can't wait to hear the rest of the album.

  13. #13
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rae
    Daggers! A whole scene dismissed with a few keytaps. I'm interested to know what the "Minnesota vibe" is perceived as outside of MN. Is that Brother Ali record making the rounds? P.O.S.?
    Nah, I'm talking about that Hieruspec kinda vibe. LOL.

    It's okay man, cuz all we have here is Cunninlinguist and Nappy Roots......

    JRA

  14. #14
    Man of the People Forums Moderator bobsticks's Avatar
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    I'm surprised this thread hasn't erupted into flames...

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    Suspended 3-LockBox's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobsticks
    I'm surprised this thread hasn't erupted into flames...
    Do you want it to? This type of music ain't my bag but its a thread about music, so it has as much place here as any. But just cuz I got nothin to contribute to it, doesn't mean its open season...

    I know you feel that way too.

  16. #16
    Rae
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    Quote Originally Posted by bobsticks
    I'm surprised this thread hasn't erupted into flames...
    Quote Originally Posted by PeruvianSkies
    Sorry, but I gotta say one word to this: yawn.
    .....

  17. #17
    Close 'n PlayŽ user Troy's Avatar
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    Since when is "yawn" a flame?

    Don't be so delicate.

  18. #18
    Rae
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    Oh, I'm not so thin-skinned as all that. Can't you see the permanent smile on my avatar?

    Still, it would be nice if everybody took a page from the book of 3LB and didn't feel the need to chime in on how worthless they think a particular genre is. I know prog gets it just as much, but it's still tiresome. At least I can still post about Bruce Springsteen with impunity.

    ~Rae

  19. #19
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    So Rae,

    What's your take on the album at this moment?

  20. #20
    Rae
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    The Kanye? I'll be straight up-- I gave it away. A friend of mine was dying to hear it, so I played it for her in her car & ended up just leaving it there. I hope she's getting more mileage out of it than I did (no pun intended).

    Still spinning the Kweli, though!

    Oh, and I read somewhere that that bonus track with Lupe & Pharrell may actually be a teaser for a full-length under the name CRS or Child Rebel Soldiers. That could be something I'd be into hearing.

    ~Rae

  21. #21
    Suspended PeruvianSkies's Avatar
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    in the infamous words of the Human Torch...

    FLAME ON!


  22. #22
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    I'm listening to the new Kanye now. Personally, I like it better than Late Registration if not quite as much as College Dropout. He is mining the same territory over and over it seems lyrically, but musically, I like the way he pulls in influences not frequently seen in hip hop these days. Working with Daft Punk and sampling everything from Can to Steely Dan gives the album a fresh sound for me. In an age where hip hop can get bogged down with just churning the same musical ideas over and over, its nice to hear a mainstream hip hop record that branches out in areas lots of people listening won't have much knowledge of.

    We'll see how it holds up...and still looking forward tog etting a listen to the Kweli sometime soon. But, so far, I'm enjoying Kanye.

  23. #23
    Rae
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    Yeah, the Can allusion is cool, but it's in such a throwaway song. Glad you're getting some enjoyment of it, anyway. I'm sure you'll be hearing the Kweli imminently.

    ~Rae

  24. #24
    Man of the People Forums Moderator bobsticks's Avatar
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    A couple more spins into Eardrum and I'm a happy camper, initial reaction still intact. I still haven't found an unstoppable desire to grab the Kanye but we'll see, although brother Rae's reaction doesn't make me grab the car keys.

    One that's getting some spins at Chez Sticks and abroad is Mr. J. Medeiros' Of Gods and Girls. I could wax poetic about the Portugueese-by-way-of-Miami club flavor of this disc but this review does a pretty complete job:http://www.herohill.com/2007/07/revi...gods-girls.htm

  25. #25
    Suspended PeruvianSkies's Avatar
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    I never understood the point of 'sampling', isn't that sort of a nice way of saying 'stealing'???

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