The New Classics

May 17, 2009

Album Review: Eminem, Relapse

Filed under: Album Review, Hip Hop — Tags: , , , — Greg @ 11:03 am

05.17.09

Eminem Relapse

So here’s what you probably already know by now: Eminem still hates celebrities, still raps about killing and raping women, still uses that silly voice that he used on the song dedicated to dissing a hand puppet, and has become a lesser version of himself from nine years ago. But his relevancy has dropped considerably over the years and so has his ability to stay in touch with what the fans want to hear. Sure, in 1999 we had never heard someone so vocal in their lyrics about how cheesy American pop music was. Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, N Sync all got taken down a peg or two, and at the time it was a relief to hear someone stand up against that crap. Now that it’s 2009, all we see is ridicule of our pop stars and celebrities all over the tv, papers and internet. We don’t need Eminem to join in anymore and put his two cents in about these stale topics – it’s already taken care of everywhere else. We also don’t need a grown man (almost 40 now) rapping in character of a psychopathic murderer/rapist with a voice that sounds like Conan O’Brien’s evil villain impression. What we do need is a fired-up, aggressive and lyrically dominant Eminem – a ‘The Way I Am’/’Soldier’/’Lose Yourself’ Eminem. We need a heartfelt, thoughtful, smart ‘When I’m Gone’/’Stan’/’Like Toy Soldiers’ Eminem. Neither of those sides of Marshall Mathers show up for very long on Relapse, but I think I’ve figured out why. Continue Reading

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May 16, 2009

Album Review: Busta Rhymes, Back on My B.S.

05.16.09

Coming off of the most complete album of his career in 2006, Busta Rhymes has experienced plenty of label fuckery: Back on My B.S. has gone through 2 years worth of pushbacks, 2 different label deals, 3 different “lead” singles, and several name changes. Regardless of all of this, Busta has remained optimistic, and has consistantly been releasing new music to the internet as possible tastes of the new album. Unfortunately, the best of those tastes are nowhere near the finished product. Continue Reading

May 14, 2009

Album Review Catch-Up, Part 1

05.14.09

There has been so much music coming out over the past few months that I’ve been neglecting a lot of album reviews for the simple fact that I don’t have a whole lot of time. By the time I finally sit down to do an album writeup, there’s 4 or 5 other albums that have my interest. It’s a blessing and a curse to live in this digital age, as we have so much great music right at our fingertips, but not enough time to digest and enjoy it before something new comes along. This especially a problem for someone like me, who loves collecting EVERYTHING. So for the sake of catching up with myself and saving myself time in the future (although a few of these reviews I have half-done already, but am scrapping in favor of this format), here is part one of all of the albums fit for coverage – now in bite size:

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May 2, 2009

Mixtape Review / Download: Lloyd Banks, 4-30-09 Happy Birthday

05.01.09

Lloyd Banks-4-3-09
Trying to stay relevant in today’s rapidly changing, extremely fickle rap world, G-Unit’s best lyricist Lloyd Banks drops his second mixtape of 09, this one being a double cd. A few of the problems from January’s The Cold Corner have been fixed this go-round, and it’s Banks close to his best.

Back in his mixtape groove similar to 2002 when the Unit was all over the circuit, Lloyd Banks needs to stay aggressive to keep up with today’s artists. He hasn’t had an official album release since 2006, and Rotten Apple wasn’t anything to brag about. On ‘4-30-09’, he’s free from the watchful eye of 50 Cent and reminding us why he’s no Tony Yayo.
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April 18, 2009

Mixtape Review / Download: Rhymefest, The Manual

04.18.09

The Manual

There’s rules to this shit. I wrote me a manual.” – Notorious B.I.G., as quoted in the sample from ‘Ten Crack Commandments’ at the beginning of the first track (after the intro) ‘Coolness’. This “manual” is obviously the underlying theme throughout this project; Rhymefest is looking to give younger fans, but mostly younger rappers, instructions on the genre of music they are involved in. And it all starts with knowing their history.

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April 17, 2009

Album Review: UGK, 4 Life

04.17.09

UGK 4 Life
Everyone knows that half of the legendary Houston rap duo UGK, Pimp C, died in late 2007 in what was probably the most crushing blow to rap since Big Pun’s untimely death in 2000. Riding the wave of their most successful album in fifteen years, it was a huge shock and a tremendous loss for music. But Pimp’s other lyrical half Bun B decided to carry on for one last bow before putting the UGK name to rest, with an album that is more of a continuation of their career rather than a final chapter.

UGK certainly doesn’t stray far from their familiar style or subjects. A good portion of UGK 4 Life consists of breezy Cadillac music about money, weed & women. But obviously it shouldn’t be written off as by-the-numbers rapping, because if that were the case, they wouldn’t have had such longevity in the industry. The duo is cool and witty enough to pull this off from album to album and song to song and still able to throw some curveballs. For instance, in one of my favorite songs of the album ‘Purse Come First’ the chorus is by Pimp C: (Flippin’ and dippin’, sippin’ and grain grippin’ / watching life through my rearview mirror I ain’t trippin’ / I done rolled with the best and acted bad with the worst / dick is a commodity bitch, the purse come first). Nothing too introspective there, but once you dig into the verses you start hearing lines about Pimp questioning the Catholic church, or Bun B’s big brother & war profiteering conspiracy theories. By the time guest rapper Big Gipp shows up on the third verse, he seems lost and out of his league rapping about swisher sweets and candy colored coupes because that seems to be ALL that he knows. UGK are at least able to rhyme about a variety of topics, even if it is just under the surface, and that’s what sets them apart from the by-the-numbers rappers that they can easily get confused with.

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April 6, 2009

Album Review: Jim Jones, Pray IV Reign

04.06.09

pray_iv_reign

I wouldn’t classify myself as a fan of Jim Jones at all. In the past, I’ve found his lyrics to be lazy, his constant ad-libbing after every line annoying, and his cockiness unwarranted. His mixtape/album last year, Harlem’s American Gangster, was not only a cheap and completely obvious ripoff of Jay-Z’s American Gangster, but he somehow tried to play it off as an original idea. A few years ago, Jones had a nationwide hit with ‘We Fly High (Ballin)’, which some misguided people are still shooting invisible basketballs to. That was 2006, also the year of ‘This is Why I’m Hot’. But instead of going the way of Mims, Jim Jones has managed to stay relevant, still coasting off of his ‘Ballin’ success, and music business connections. Besides a song here and there (‘My Life’ from Hustler’s P.O.M.E.), I haven’t enjoyed much of the music he makes.

All expectations for Pray IV Reign, at least in my case, were extremely low. But despite all of these preconceptions, Jim Jones might win the 2009 Most Improved Player award. Pray IV Reign is actually not bad.

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March 27, 2009

Album Review: Handsome Furs, Face Control

Filed under: Album Review, Indie Pop, Indie Rock — Tags: , — Greg @ 9:56 am

03.27.09

handsomefurs-facecontrol
It takes something really special for me to really latch onto newer bands lately. It does happen: Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver & Frightened Rabbit have all become favorites of mine within the past year, all putting out superb albums in 2008. And then there are the groups who put out a song or two that I really like, but the rest of the material doesn’t connect with me for whatever reason. Blitzen Trapper, Black Lips and Grizzly Bear, to name recent examples, all fall into that category for me. Those are bands that I will probably follow for as long as they continue to put out music, but I don’t feel any obligation to own everything that they create.

I don’t really know what I expected from Face Control, but I was anticipating this release based on the strength of ‘I’m Confused‘, the first (and at the time only) song I’d ever heard from the group.
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March 11, 2009

Album Review: Joe Budden, Padded Room

03.11.09

joe_budden_-_padded_room

The initial island-sounding melody of the opening track ‘Now I Lay’ is misleading. But in the first few lines, Budden shows his cards by reciting the opening bar from his 2003 breakout song ‘Pump It Up’. But Joe isn’t trying to recreate the party atmosphere from that record, which he makes clear right off the bat: (That’s how it all got started / back then I wasn’t so cold-hearted).
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January 25, 2009

Album Review: Franz Ferdinand, Tonight: Franz Ferdinand

Filed under: Album Review, Indie Rock — Tags: , — Greg @ 4:58 pm

01.24.09

Franz Ferdinand, Tonight
It’s been about 5 years now since Franz Ferdinand burst into the mainstream with their fist pumping, foot stomping anthem ‘Take Me Out’, but since then they haven’t gotten too much farther. A few hit-or-miss singles, and a sophomore album that was completely forgettable. But on Tonight, the group manages to take the best elements of their previous work, and spin it into their finest album to date.

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January 17, 2009

Mixtape Review / Download: Blu, (So)ul Amazing Part 2

01.17.09

If you were going to take Lil Wayne’s work ethic, mix it with Mos Def’s lyrical abilities, and jazzy modernized A Tribe Called Quest-like beats, you’d be creating Blu. He puts out material almost constantly, if we were looking at his 2008 discography: Below the Heavens as part of Blu & Exile, The Piece Talks as part of C.R.A.C. with T’Raach, Johnson&Jonson with Mainframe, and part one of his mixtape series (So)ul Amazing. It’s hard enough for rappers to put out one good album, but to put out 4 quality releases in the span of one year is a testament to how talented this kid is. So here we are in 2009 and (unofficially), Blu is putting out some new and unreleased material for consumption, and it is every bit as exceptional as anything else that bears his name. Continue Reading

January 15, 2009

Mixtape Review / Download: CurT@!n$, The Great Adventures of Dope Boy C: WHSL- Rebel Radio (Mixtape)

01.15.09

I’ve never been a big fan of rappers borrowing other people’s beats, either for mixtapes or albums. I always find it better when the artist has his own voice, and isn’t doing what has already been done. Five of the 13 songs on The Great Adventures are instantly recognizable rehashes of past popular songs (‘Get Busy by The Roots, ‘Breathe’ by The Prodigy, ‘I Get Money’ by 50 Cent, ‘Deep Cover’ by Dr. Dre, and ‘Where I’m From’ by Jay-Z). I understand that this is a free mixtape, and maybe these happen to be beats that CurT@!n$ has always wanted to rhyme over. But from a listener’s perspective, these are just bumps on the road to hearing fresh material. As an artist, why would you want to even try to attempt recreating a classic when you are not going to even come close to being as good as the original?

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January 11, 2009

Album Review: Animal Collective, Merriweather Post Pavillion

Filed under: Album Review, Indie Rock — Tags: , — Greg @ 10:17 am

01.11.09

Animal Collective - Merriweather Post Pavillion

There is a real sense of space that you get in listening to an Animal Collective record. Maybe it’s the echoes or the airy sound effects, but they always have me floating in another world listening to them, not unlike a Pink Floyd album. I’ve been far from an Animal Collective enthusiast in the past, however, finding about half their material as unlistenable noise, aside from a few highlights per album. Merriweather Post Pavillion is the first AC album that I can listen to front to back and fully enjoy. Now, maybe this is because my ear for music has matured, or perhaps I’ve been brainwashed by so many blogs telling me how great they are that I have reluctantly begun to agree. Or maybe the band has simply become more accessible. All of that is besides the point, though, because here we have a really great album that takes the listener on several different journeys.

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January 2, 2009

Mixtape Review / Download: Lloyd Banks, The Cold Corner

01.02.09

The 2009 G-Unit isn’t the same as the G-Unit from 2004. I’m not just talking about the rotating members of the group, I am talking popularity terms. 50 Cent, Tony Yayo & Lloyd Banks aren’t at the top of people’s playlists anymore, and you can feel 50’s desperation. He’s coming out with bad movies and awful reality tv shows, holding onto old rivalries to try to sell records, and turning on his own crew. 50 Cent might be the star of the fading group, but Lloyd Banks has always been the superior emcee.

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Mixtape Review / Download: Strong Arm Steady, Gang Mentality

01.02.09

Any artist who gets the co-sign from Talib Kweli deserves some attention. Strong Arm Steady comes from Kweli’s own Blacksmith Records with this mixtape to prepare us for their upcoming album, Arms & Hammers.

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