Monday, April 25, 2011

Gunz n' Butta: Cam'Ron's Best Album in Years

Cam'Ron has come a long way from the miserable attempt at a concept album with an equally lame name -- Confessions of Fire -- and even weirder album cover to his now completely mastered and refined rhyming style that has spawned too many rappers who claim Killa's signature flow as their own.

While his first album was far from wack, it was sort of a hodgepodge of random wild thoughts, complete with references of incest and the devil, all set over radio-friendly production in a mostly successful attempt to gain crossover appeal.

His flow back then was a random scattering of words that in the end did rhyme, but were slightly offbeat at times -- an unfortunate likeness to Drag-On and the Cam Stan also known as Stan Spit.

Nowadays it seems that he is primarily interested in creating the perfect rhyme, which, to Cam’ron, consists of knowingly ignorant, misogynistic, celebratory and money-obsessed lyrics that he knows his fans love him for: "You know me, fuck a freestyle, I'd rather hit Papi on speed dial."

And on Gunz ‘N Butta he gives his loyal listeners perhaps his best rhyming and lyrical effort since Purple Haze was released seven long years ago, a sentiment that Cam seems to agree with on the song American Greed: "Vado gotta vision that’s so raw, say no more, rewind, he remind me of me in 0-4."

Which brings me to Vado, Cam's aforementioned partner in rhyme on this album, sharing emceeing duties with his mentor, who seems to have discovered the latest in a talented string of his understudies who have gone on to receive individual critical acclaim -- a badge of honor for Cam, who for years now has shown his A&R-like talent without being in a corner office of a high rise building in midtown Manhattan.

Editor's Note: You can understand why Dame Dash appointed Cam to become the Vice President of Roc-A-Fella. Likewise, knowing how Jay feels about competition (and especially about Cam), you can understand Jay’s reaction to that appointment. But I digress…

Vado is a star is his own right, coming up with innovative rhyme schemes and a dizzying array of flows, all laced with potent lyrics that keep the listeners hanging on each and every word. With his high-powered delivery, all indications are that absent of music Vado could still rock rhymes effectively, a trait of a true emcee despite much of his lyrical content covering the requisite street life (after all, his name does stand for Violence And Drugs Overall): "Black Retros, yeah, them's 60 plus/ black Expo, necks broke just to look at us/ ridiculous delivery, them bars tight/ she fell in love with my kick game like Posh Spice."

And Cam doesn't stop with only putting on rappers; Gunz N’ Butta showcases the sounds of AraabMUZIK, the Rhode Island-reared, MPC-mashing maniac who is currently running with the production baton once firmly held by the Heatmakerz, who were responsible for the creation of Dipset's original, classic, sample-heavy sound that ran New York in the early part of the millennium.

Araab's beats -- which make up the bulk of this album's production -- do more on this album to discredit his naysayers who would rather reduce him to a gimmicky producing sideshow than his actual words ever could.

Standout tracks include but are not limited to Stop It 5, Breathe and I-Luv U, which, if released as a single, is my bet to become a certified summer banger.

Support real rap and buy the album HERE or HERE.

Here's some visual imagery in the form of music videos for songs from the album:

Friday, April 22, 2011

Ryan Leslie Solo Rap Album Coming Soon

Random news outlets are reporting that Ryan Leslie's upcoming album -- titled Les is More -- will be a Hiphop opus, an unexpected switch of genre from a singer who has cultivated a cult-like following from a successful career writing, singing and producing pop and R&B music.

Ryan Leslie has always been a fan and an active participant in both singing and rapping, and after being labeled a child prodigy and achieving a perfect score on his SATs, he attended and graduated from Harvard with a degree in Government -- all before he was 20 years old.

That's just a bit of background information to help put Leslie's rhyming endeavor in a bit of a better context. Because this guy is talented beyond belief, and, much like Pharrell, his vast range as a producer and songwriter is enough of a reason for me to give this album a serious listen.

But after listening to him sing years' worth of songs about his prowess with women, the new experience of hearing him spit a bunch of verses is surprisingly a let down. After all, he's had success with his rhyming on his own songs in the past. And his subject matter remains primarily the same as before -- women.

So what's different?

Well, it's one thing for a singer to kick an occasional hot 16 on one of his or her songs. But it's a completely different thing for that format to be reversed, with a singer rapping three verses while only singing on the hook -- on each and every track.

Maybe it's because of my dedication to Hiphop that I have such a hard time accepting a career R&B singer crossing over to make a rap album. Of course, this has been done before. But never by an artist whom I have such a great level of musical respect for.

And so I'm torn.

Hopefully, since the album is Hiphop in nature, it's more You Be Killin Em and less of the slower tracks. But hey, I guess since "Les is More," the jury will be out until I can hear the final product.

Until then, here are a couple of new songs from his album that is scheduled to be released on July 4, 2011:

Joan of Arc

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Remembering GURU (7.17.61 - 4.19.10)

Today marks one year since the passing of GURU and there are still so many unanswered questions surrounding his death.

The rapping half of the legendary Gang Starr lost his fight with cancer while his then-musical partner Solar juiced the event for all it was worth, issuing press releases and generally just trumping up publicity for himself at the expense of a comatose and then finally dead GURU.

While GURU is resting in peace, Solar -- the self proclaimed "super producer" who ironically hasn't produced a single musical contribution in the year since GURU passed -- is no doubt still up to no good, probably firmly latched onto his next unsuspecting victim, bilking up a storm.

The curious association between Solar and GURU raised eyebrows, with GURU's family and previous Solar victims sharing their stories of Solar's shadiness.

But this post is not about Solar. It's about GURU's legacy that is still thriving to this day; his undeniable classics Hiphop contributions that are still relevant and cherished by his truest and newest fans alike.

GURU's family is taking part in a tribute this Thursday in his honor at the popular New York City nightspot Le Poisson Rouge, with all donations and net proceeds going to GURU's son, K.C. Elam.

GURU's life will also be honored next month in his hometown of Boston during the 5th Annual UNITY Festival.

I always felt that during his life GURU was completely unappreciated by his peers, rarely being invited to be featured on somebody's track. Instead, GURU created his own lane with the timeless hits from his first three Jazzmatazz offerings as well as his Gang Starr efforts with DJ Premier.

While GURU was featured on albums from some of the underground's favorites, the who's who of rappers never invited GURU to collaborate. It was always GURU who had to extend the invitation to other rappers to be included on his own projects.

By my estimation, the reason for this was either his fellow rappers were afraid to be shown up by GURU on their own albums or people were just hating. Probably a combination of the two, considering the industry-wide negativity directed at Solar during the last couple of years of GURU's life.

Here are some classic visuals to remind you of GURU's "mass appeal," which, contrary to popular belief, was due to a lot more than "mostly tha voice."

Thursday, April 14, 2011

9th Wonder and Phonte Reunite!

In honor of the reconciliation between former Little Brother groupmates Phonte and 9th Wonder, I have decided to share a little homage of sorts to the prolific sonic brilliance that is 9th Wonder, the man who is almost single-handedly keeping boom bap Hiphop music alive and kicking. I said almost.

The two of them recently revealed they'd been working together on Phonte's upcoming solo album, with 9th producing most of the album.

It's been well documented that 9th and Phonte met in college before forming with Rapper Big Pooh the seminal rap trio Little Brother and ultimately creating and releasing The Listening, which was instantly and still remains a throwback for the ages -- a true school Hiphop album complete with highly skilled lyrics and rhymes from two rappers possessing Run DMC-like chemistry paced by the expert-sounding-but-still-rough-around-the-edges (think RZA on 36 Chambers) beat-making wizardry of 9th Wonder that combined elements of Pete Rock and J Dilla while still managing to stand out and distinguish himself as an exceptional, traditional Hiphop producer in his own right.

Since 9th's break from Little Brother six years ago, he has been on a mission to make music on his own terms while never again allowing himself to be pressured by major label executives -- which he says he experienced at the hands of Atlantic Records (which apparently still forces signees to compromise artistic integrity) surrounding the creation and consequent release of the group's second album (ironically titled The Minstrel Show), their first under a contract with a major label.

That mission, in addition to working with a diverse list of artists -- from Drake to David Banner to Murs to Lil B to Idris Elba to Buckshot -- has included the creation of It's a Wonderful World Music Group, which houses his record label Jamla, home to the following well rounded roster of artists:
Hopefully the album features more of Phonte the emcee and less of Phonte the crooner, but as long as 9th's beats make up the majority of the backdrop, the results should be nothing short of monumental.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Allure of Amber Rose

What is it about this bald woman that is compelling rich black men to lose all sense of rationale, allowing the former stripper to gain notoriety and infamy from dating Kanye West, which was before she dated the $100 million man, Amare Stoudamire, which preceded her current romance with hot rapper du jour, Wiz Khalifa?

Isn't she behaving in the most obvious of patterns for all gold-digging, talentless groupies? Haven't we seen this type of shameless hoeing before? What makes Amber Rose stand out above all the other groupies vying for the attention of her past conquests?

I wonder how those same aforementioned stars would react if Amber Rose was a dark-skinned woman with that same short-cropped hairdo.

Not that I'm advocating hoeing in any way, shape, form or fashion. I'm simply questioning the judgment of these wealthy pop culture figures who have a wide array of women to choose from, not just the limited pool of groupies that they seemingly prefer.

I'm not mad at Amber for getting her money while she can. Women like her who depend on a physical appearance for income have but a small window of opportunity to cash in. Once word hit the Web about indications of unsightly weight gain, she quickly quelled that rumor with the convenient timing of newly "leaked" photos of her frolicking topless in the Caribbean waters of Barbados, showing nothing remotely overweight about her at all.

But the question still remains -- what is so special about her that she has rich black men readily [and embarrassingly] accepting sloppy seconds? Who will be her next victim?

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Life & Times of Shawn Carter (The 2011 Version)

What is going on in the life and times of Shawn Carter?

Much like his favorite baseball team's arch nemesis, Jay-Z is going through a mind-boggling, highly unexpected slump. Only this time it will cost him $50,000.

And really it won't cost him personally, per se, since the professional sports franchise of which he is part owner will be held liable for Jay's own individual misgiving -- an NBA owner having inappropriate contact** with an amateur-status athlete.

You know, the same topic that should have been learned in NBA Ownership 101. If that course was ever attended by the person who, for clarity's sake, identifies himself as a "business, man," which is not to be confused with a "businessman" by any means.

But with this latest flap it makes one wonder if the Nets even need Jay at all, considering he was initially brought on board to help lure the league's best players to the Garden State -- a move the proved to be a failure when not one but ALL of the free agents this past summer passed on the chance, including, especially and ironically Jay-Z pal LeBron James, who many NBA insiders speculated would relish the opportunity to play for his idol.

However, with the Nets scheduled to eventually relocate to Jay's native Brooklyn, it would behoove ownership to keep him around for another couple of seasons to help boost ticket sales.

This NBA-related news comes on the heels of the arrest of rapper who Jay just months ago signed to his Roc Nation record label.

The rapper, K Koke, is from the UK and being held by English authorities under suspicion of attempted murder, which means Jay probably won't be able to exploit this brush with the law until the rapper is released, unlike what K Koke's American counterparts have managed to do when it comes to their own legal problems.

And speaking of the UK, Liam Gallagher of the group Oasis, apparently still mad at Jay getting the top billing at 2008's Glastonbury Festival, bashing Jay's Rocawear clothing line to a number of media outlets.

And we can't forget about the recent upheaval about Jay falsely representing himself as a connoisseur of all fine things in lieu of the fact that wine industry experts have officially declared Ace of Spades, Jay's current preferred brand of Champagne, as a highly inferior product.

Not to mention the fact that Jay's and Will Smith's pet project to remake the classic musical Annie starring Smith's own daughter, Willow, has been put on ice for the time being while searching for a director to replace the one who just quit.

Factor in those darned Illuminati rumors that have persisted for years now and the question is begged -- will these trends continue, leaving us to witness the eventual demise of arguably the best and most successful rapper of all time?

Don't get me wrong, Jay is presumably brushing this small clump of dirt off his shoulder, but these actions make you wonder if Jay is losing his aura of being untouchable.

**(No, not that type of inappropriate contact, though you are forgiven for considering that possibility.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

An Open Letter to Lil' Kim

Dear Lil' Kim,

Because this is a fan talking to you, I'm going to make this as short and sweet as I possibly can -- please stop beefing with Nicki Minaj.

I'm not asking you to stop because I think it's a battle you will lose. Black Friday already solidified your victory.

Rather, you need to take the high road, similar to how Jay-Z reacts when rappers (like Game and Jaz-O, to name but a few) attempt to insult him through derisive lyrical content -- ignore, ignore, ignore.

I understand her latest attempt to grab your attention probably stung much more than Roman's Revenge -- a diss track that is confusingly credited to Nicki's alter ego Roman Zolanski (hence, the song's name), an indication that Nicki doesn't really agree with dissing Kim but is doing so only for publicity -- but you've already said enough on Black Friday. In fact, you sounded like your old self circa the Hardcore album, which hit harder and was way more Hiphop than Nicki's pop album debut that was filled with atrocious Autotuned singing.

What you need to do is understand that the music industry, like life, works in cycles, and so if the past is any indication of the future, she, too will soon have an upstart female emcee trying to dethrone her, as Nicki is trying to do to you. That is, assuming Nicki's career matches or exceeds the longevity of yours.

Yes, I know she is on the cover of the current Elle magazine, but is that really Hiphop?

But not to be outdone, you recently landed the cover of the current Vibe magazine, a decidedly better fit than trying to appeal to a demographic that neither looks like you nor listens to your music.

Can't you see Nicki Minaj so desperately wants to be just like you? From your first album's cover (see above photo) to imitating much of your rapping style and fashion sense and even how she got put on (popular rapper du jour co-signs her and puts her on every remix under the sun), Nicki doesn't have an original bone in her body. She even went the plastic surgery route**, something you pioneered in Hiphop and rap.

Every aspect of her career has been modeled after yours. Take it as a compliment, as flattery, but not as a challenge. Although it may seem that her popularity has reached epic proportions, she is not nor could she ever be on your level.

Some more unsolicited advice is to perhaps reassemble the production team that helped put you on top so your fans can once again experience the sassy, "down-ass-bitch" attitude we all fell in love with on songs like Big Momma Thang, We Don't Need It, and especially Will They Die for You (from Ma$e's Harlem World album)?

You actually had some really dope, hard hitting tracks on Naked Truth. But then for some reason you descended into an R&B abyss [which continued on your next album] in which you felt compelled to showcase your singing abilities, leaving many of your rap-loving fans feeling somewhat alienated.

If you're going to do a project filled with singing, why not at least go the Andre3000 route and conceptualize the album so that the cohesive content can potentially make up for the lack of singing ability?

The problem is, as long as you acknowledge Nicki Minaj through your rhymes, we know that she is not only on your mind, but she's on your mind to the point that you feel the need to talk about her instead of conquering new topics that show true progression in a style that helped you win over your millions of fans in the first place.

We've seen other artists get side-tracked by becoming obsessed with talking about other rappers, eventually losing sight of the big picture -- making quality music -- while also losing their careers.

Your fans don't want this same fate to become yours, regardless of how close you may seem to that reality. There is still time to save your career, but the choice in direction is yours to make.


Lufwalnu Nabru Orgen, a fan

** I am in no way endorsing Lil' Kim's plastic surgery, which left her with severe facial disfigurement and unappealingly huge breasts.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Mister Cee: The Gay DJ

Well, I'll be!

All this time we've been searching high and low for "the gay rapper" when we should have been looking for the gay DJ!

Or at least that's what I call it when you're being fellated by a member of the same sex, such as was the case last week with the world famous DJ Mister Cee, also known as Big Daddy Kane's DJ as well as the man largely credited with discovering and launching the career of The Notorious B.I.G.

Actually, his list of accomplishments is impressive and shows a life-long dedication to a genre in which he's been an active and pioneering participant since the so-called golden age.

All of which begs the question -- how will Hiphop as a whole react to this startling news?

So far he remains on the air with his popular daily Throwback at Noon show, but there are some notable absences among his few supporters, some of who seemingly agree with the far-fetched theory that Mister Cee is being set up by the NYPD.

But a review of Mister Cee's priors reveals an eerie pattern of soliciting sex, making his alibi almost unbelievable. Almost.

Now, the next question is... who cares? Aside from a severe lapse in judgment, I'm even surprised at myself when I say that I really don't care what this man did/does in his personal time.

I've never heard him say anything negative against gays, so I can't call him a hypocrite. In fact, come to think of it, I don't think I've ever really heard him speak too much at all, aside from with his hands. As a DJ, that is.

And that makes this all the more confusing, because if we as a Hiphop nation accept Mister Cee as a great DJ regardless of his sexual orientation and predilections, then why can we not accept other talented DJs and/or rappers as such? Because we know they exist. And if we don't accept them, won't that make us the same hypocrite that we so desperately want to label Mister Cee as?

I'm going to wait for more facts to come out (no pun), but at first glance the writing on the wall is quite legible and requires no further translation.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Kid Cudi Quits Weed, Says It's For 'Kids'

Kid Cudi today announced via his Tumblr account that he has stopped using marijuana, an ironic move considering he owes all his fame to marijuana, the very topic of his breakout debut single Day 'N' Nite.

Going even further, he alienated his fans who may not want to see him quit, saying that he knows "misery loves company," implying that all of his fans who smoke weed are doing so out of a certain dissatisfaction with themselves.

He goes on to say that "hell does have an exit, and I found it. For those who are looking for a way out, i left the door open, and ill be waiting for whoever wants to grow with me," suggesting that anybody who desires to continue [or start] using marijuana is stunting their own development.

Adding that "Im happy being sober. Im happy being a new me. Giva fuck who thinks of me different, you didnt care about me in the first place if you cant be proud and happy for me growing up and starting a new chapter," another blatant insinuation that being intoxicated in general is juvenile at best.

What Cudi forgot to mention is that he earned his nickname Mr. Rager because of the wild behavior he displayed during his cocaine binges, which in one case resulted in him being arrested after literally tearing an apartment door off its hinges. So of course he now disapproves of marijuana use -- it's not particularly advisable for a recovering cocaine addict to use any narcotic of any type, period, lest he or she wants to fall of the proverbial wagon.

I can understand Cudi wanting to get clean after enduring his drug-induced problems, but for him to make such sweeping generalizations about people who use marijuana (including but not limited to his loyal fans who have helped him remain popular) is probably nothing more than a regurgitation of what his drug counselors told him at rehab, which is what I'm guessing prompted him to end his drug use.

But really the bigger question is that if Cudi now frowns upon smoking weed, will he still perform Day 'N' Nite -- his biggest hit to date -- at his concerts? If so, will he come off as a hypocrite? If not, will he maintain his loyal fanbase, some of whom buy concert tickets specifically to hear him perform that song?

Really, what is the point in publicly announcing that he will no longer be smoking weed? Why not just make that change in private? Or better yet, why not be creative and make a song about it?

Instead Cudi went the dangerous route of condemning all drug use, setting himself up for a very public relapse, not to mention this crazy PR move will probably not be met with open arms from the same Hiphop community that helped him maintain a high-ranking presence on the Billboard charts.

Part of Cudi's allure was that he was an unabashed, drug-using rebel. It will be interesting to see the transformation that his image undergoes for his next album since he can no longer rely on his bread and butter -- making songs about drug use.