Song of The Year-The Pines by 070 Shake

Song of The Year-The Pines by 070 Shake

by Dan-O

Leadbelly would be pretty excited about the 2020 Cover of one of his favorite songs, Where Did You Sleep Last Night? It comes on 070 Shake’s new album Modus Vivendi. She makes it a completely modern experience with heavy autotune and synths, but Shake and her team(Mike Dean produced this! LIVING LEGEND STYLE) do an excellent job of rearranging parts of the song to leave space for her to add new lyrics of her own (along with heavy bass and some finger snaps). While you could listen to this the first time and not connect it to Leadbelly or Bill Monroe until mid-way, the haunting quality is maintained in an attentive way. When violins come in near the end the bass is still rolling like waves and she is still beckoning for The Pines.

I’m very happy that this song continues to live in various forms. It’s authorship is unknown and dates back to the 1870’s (most likely). Leadbelly and Monroe did it, Nirvana in 1993 during their Unplugged. American popular music borrows a lot from other cultures without apology or acknowledgement. We vampire Caribbean and African sounds just to name check a few. It is important we have a healthy reference point for what American songs are, that our entire artistic landscape is not a shopping cart full of other cultures stuff. We created hybrids that are ours. Old Irish folk mixed with the Blues and songs like Where Did You Sleep Last Night are gorgeously painful in a way that is American. That doesn’t mean we should play it over and over again, we should keep rebuilding it to fit us as we change. The emotions contained within the story always will.

 

Marvin Gaye made A P.O.W. Christmas song YOU NEED to hear

Marvin Gaye made A P.O.W. Christmas song YOU NEED to hear

by Dan-O

You need to follow Questlove of The Roots on all social media platforms. He ranked every Prince album release (including unreleased stuff to that point), and it is because of him that I found out Marvin Gaye had an unreleased album called You’re The Man recorded after What’s Going On that JUST got released in 2019.

Marvin has always been king of the intoxicating vibe so I totally missed how hardcore I Want To Come Home For Christmas is on the first listen. When he belts out that he wants to see baseball and Santa Claus I registered the desperation in his voice and that the song seemed intense but by the time I did the second listen in the car it was clear how bold this song is.

My favorite song on the album is actually the alternative mix of Where Are We Going. It has never lift the speaker in my mind. The song that has snuck and stuck in my head, had me snapping my fingers singing “Day in, Day out.” while 2 stepping. That is the one I will listen to for the rest of my life regularly BUT…

I Want To Come Home For Christmas is important for how you think of him as an artist. He did not simply have a beautiful voice. He fought for space from singing covers sweetly under Motown to take full control of his career and content. From that point on he was absolutely fearless and you should never forget. Marvin Gaye made a song about a prisoner of war not just missing Christmas in the states but hoping his family wasn’t missing him that much. Wanting them to move on, secretly understanding he’s not making it out.

Ali is remembered for being loud and having a great jab but what he should be known for is being TOUGH. He got hit straight on by the hardest punchers in the history of the sport and walked out of the ring every time. He got up when he got knocked down. Tyson didn’t.  Marvin likewise is known for the voice and the sexual healing but don’t play with his legacy. What’s Going On is the Pet Sounds of R&B except the songs are about a lot more than a Sloop John B. Marvin was brilliant and fearless. You can hear how much the hurt in the world hurts him in this song. You need to hear it.

Thank you Questlove.

My Favorite and Least Favorite sexual song of 2019

My Favorite and Least Favorite sexual song of 2019

by Dan-O

I love moments. A song is sometimes a story but other times just a series of moments. A vividly rendered song allows you to be in those moments. The interesting part about my favorite and least favorite sexual songs of 2019 is that both bring you into moments. My enjoyment of them comes down to where I like to be pulled into and where I do not.

To start with my least favorite: Boosie Badazz is the best. His songs are personal and confessional and at times …offensive. Every project Boosie drops is a full throttle roller coaster ride. The bumpiest part of that ride is easily his sex songs. Boosie and Kevin Gates are the guys who take sex songs TOO DAMN FAR.

That Fucking Song off his new mixtape Goat Talk is a bunch of steps beyond where Teddy Pendergrass dare trod. It’s not actually a full on song. It’s guttural dirty talk (focusing on updates about how close to climaxing each partner is). The beat burbles and the hook is just him telling you how close to popping he is. We never get past the sweat movement and juices of the act to the people involved. I accept that this is a great thing for listeners who may be sexually attracted to Boosie but not being one of those this song is rough. He presents a window in to a moment I do not want.

The sexual song I loved the most in 2019 comes from a debut album called Painted by an artist named Lucky Daye. His voice is fantastic and the songs really do flow without ever seeming repetitive. Call is the name of the song and it grows out of a gentle guitar strum into a thumping smooth sway. His voice doesn’t just hit the right notes it conveys the giddiness and excitement of being eager to hang out with someone who really syncs with you. Even corny lines like “You been on my mind, on my mind like a toupee,” come off as a genuine part of the story, and the story is sexual it is drinking and finding each other’s bodies but not just that. It’s all mixed in with finding the conversation. Lucky Daye says “new sensations” and that is how the best kind of sex/lust/love has been in my life. A chance to charge into new experiences with someone you trust. It’s just as sappily satisfying as this song.

Rap Radar Podcast can teach you how a song gets made.

Rap Radar Podcast can teach you how a song gets made.

by Dan-O

Rap Radar Pod has interviewed every important artist in hip hop this year (or it feels like that). During the December interview of Burna Boy he showcases the coolest accent ever. He’s got a deep voice with a Nigerian/UK combo accent. Nineteen minutes into the thirty nine minute and fifty three second interview Elliott Wilson asks about the song Location from Dave’s album Psychodrama. A simple softball about how it came about and you can hear his silence for a moment until he says “Dave is a genius, man.” Elliott laughs and references an interview they did with Dave saying “He said the same of you.”

Burna Boy says he expected to do a feature with a rapper, in and out, but he sat down and watched. He says Dave should live in a lab. Dave was interviewed shortly before that interview and got asked about that same song. Thirty Six minutes and twenty six seconds into that interview you can hear Dave talk about Location. He says Burna Boy freestyled his whole part in such a short amount of time he is still processing that speed. Burna Boy comes off his interview shaking his head talking about how Dave building his beats from scratch.

The two couldn’t be more different. The song that got eleven million streams in eight months from Burna Boy is called Ye and saw a 200 percent spike in streaming when Kanye dropped his album Ye people clicked on his during the confusion and liked it. This song that put him in more ears than ever turns out to have been completed in minutes and only came about when BB was drunk at a night club where a dude played him the beat over his phone and said the producer was upstairs waiting to record it. Instead of telling the guy to shove off he went upstairs, made the song in minutes(quickest song he’s ever made he says), and went on his inebriated way. It’s the perfect story. While African Giant is one of my five favorites of the album and is just as thoughtful as it is fun…it’s author doesn’t sit on material or question himself. Burna Boy is always in the flow of himself. His verse on location isn’t just about bringing girls to his location it’s about a dear friend who is on probation for five more years. When that hook hits and you sing along your still talking about the criminal justice system even if you don’t know it. He’s always in the flow of himself and that’s not just melody it’s introspection and political thinking.

Dave is a madman. He talks extensively in his Rap Radar interview about the reason behind making the song Lesley eleven minutes long. The need to not just have the arc but all the details and call backs and Easter eggs. I said it in September when I wrote about his album ” more importantly… this dude has a plan. He’s excited for us to get his FIRST Psychodrama. Great writers love to plan and develop and I can only imagine what this dude has for us in the future.” He opens the album in a therapists office getting personal right off the bat and giving you a setting that makes sense so you don’t feel awkward. He’s meticulous and diligent…maybe that’s not the right word. He’s so in love with finding the depth in art, the kind of depth that resonates, that working harder to achieve it doesn’t bother him in the slightest.

When these two linked up they made one of the years most interesting songs. The interviews gave us a chance to hear each appreciate a way of doing it they would never personally try on but respect intensely. It is much more valuable for an artist to have peers who work successfully and different from them than like them. When you have a window into the other side you can see things you wouldn’t even have gotten to on your own. It’s a good lesson for all of us.

Here is the video for Location

2019 FME MVP =GRISELDA

Joe Budden was blowing his top. The legendary Eminem rant (on Buddens podcast) where he talked about how closed off he was and all the other things that went wrong with Slaughterhouse. He did an excellent job not taking responsibility. The most interesting part was when he indicted Shady Records of taking the wind out of the sails of the Griselda crew. He said they were coming up at a great clip and since signing to Shady hadn’t been heard from. I can’t lie, it worried me. He’s not wrong that Eminem loves to sign top lyricists and let them sit.

Budden’s argument was missing a key piece. 50 Cent did pretty well on Shady, and Griselda have absolutely SMASHED 2019. They are hands down the 2019 FME MVP. The trio came to Shady with a plan. This year they worked out a timeline and flooded the streaming services with new releases.

Take a look at my dope @$$ Griselda release graphic:

GRISELDA TIMELINE

This crew consists of three primary members: Conway The Machine, Westside Gunn, and Benny The Butcher. An argument can be made that New York producer Daringer is enough of the secret sauce to be considered a member. Amongst the key three emcees’ they put out a total of 7 projects in the calendar year. Out of the twelve months in 2019 only six didn’t feature a new release from one of the Griselda crew.  It’s been an unprecedented load of material and all of it at a very high level. A level that never strayed from their core design no matter how it extended itself or how much money betraying it might add.

Benny The Butcher did an EP with the greatest guest list of the year. Right after the intro skit you hear him next to Black Thought. Next song Jadakiss, and closing out the project with Pusha T’s second best guest appearance of 2019 on 18 Wheeler. No matter who was with him Benny blew like Sonny Rollins on the Sax, whether Conway or Eminem was coming on next…it didn’t matter. The Butcher has a gift and no fear.

Conway The Machine’s Everybody Is Food 3 is the opposite in some ways. It only features one guest rapper (Berner) and is highly personal in content. In 2012 Conway was shot in the back of the head leaving him with Bells Palsy. When he gets personal or angry or really anything it is INTENSE. Look What I Became continued the introspection but made room for the crew to feature and go full NY goon rap knucklehead. Conway went beyond skill this year ,into himself, with rewarding results.

Westside Gunn is one of the top rappers in the world. Full stop. Flygod Is An Awesome God is one of the best albums of the year.  His follow up Hitler Wears Hermes 7 has better production and is somehow more fun to listen to! His energy is so intense that when he jumps on FME 2018 MVP Roc Marciano’s song Boosie Fade (off his excellent new album Marcielago) Genius has three question marks(one of those question marks covers like three bars) in their transcription of his lyrics. He comes in HOT every time and it is always worth it.

All year the crew was playing chess with these releases and WWCD(What Would ChineGunn Do) was the checkmate maneuver. All year I anticipated their large scale pop friendly turn as the anticipation built. Everyone talks about making SUMMER music or SUMMER anthems. What that really translates to is declaring you make enormous hit singles to flood the radio. For some people that’s natural(Wiz comes to mind) but most are reaching for another tax bracket. The crew from Buffalo completely dismissed this or may not have even thought of it. WWCD is ice cold. When it dropped I told everyone it is WINTER music. Cruiser Weight Coke, Freddie Hot Spot are songs you can hear your breath too. I’m not the only one who knows. I can hear it in Raekwon as he does the Marchello album introduction. I listened to Wu-Tang in my friends’ cold basement, in ratty jeans and Shaq 95’s. The remorse, the anger, the vision all found their way into one another on every verse. As Raekwon Told them “they covered a lot of ground” and they are his heart…I believed him. They gave us a years worth of twisted soul samples and dark piano loops with rarely a hook to be seen. Verse after verse after verse. 50 Cent features and so does Eminem but nothing changes because of that. I was already debating their top spot when I saw this video of them playing the album for Jay.

As a hip hop fan I feel like I’ve watched multiple Jay-z documentaries multiple times and I know that face. I know Jay’s face when he’s connecting to something special. He can’t fake that screwface. I know what his mug looks like when he’s just there to be nice(Jay recently dropped his 2019 playlist and had some WWCD on it). This year Griselda didn’t take the charts but they took New York and with it a following that might or might not translate to great reviews or world takeover status.  It earned them 2019 FREEMUSICEMPIRE MVP.

Joe Budden made the mistake of discounting how hungry Griselda is. No matter what label they ended up on, they were going to be heard. No back up plan.

FME MVP HONORABLE MENTION

FME MVP HONORABLE MENTION

by Dan-O

No matter what the run time is, a Billy Woods song is a meal. You can spend some real time lost in his lyrics. Read the only full verse from the last song(Stranger In The Village) on his second album of the year, Terror Management.

(Per Genius)

Came through atop a half dead mule
Apostate marabout
Pale urchins put the swoosh on his pointy shoe
A slew of rare pelts, helm a skull of caribou
Blood on the ice shelf, snares is simple loops
Trinkets that bitches think is cute
Dirty pictures that he keep outta view
Minor riches looted from who know who
Piano wire on a spool, thread for the loom
Dog eared first edition of Barracoon
Jah Goo mix grabba that’s the jet fuel
Ivory mouth, skin so black it’s blue
Ain’t never been south, never seen the dunes
Regale ’em with tales of Khartoum/Eyes big enough to drown
Gather round, gather round

The song is two minutes and two seconds and full of the pen game that made Woods top soloist of 2019. He has a real talent for snarling powerfully succinct messages that knock the listener back ” Trinkets that bitches think is cute” and contrasting them with dizzying head-scratching word usage or poetic and HIGHLY literary imagery ” A slew of rare pelts, helm a skull of caribou”. It can feel like you’ve gone from rap song to novel to essay and back again.

If you’ve read my interview with Woods (preceding post) you can tell his answers push back on singular assertions. From Pessimism v. Optimism to his own lyrics, he sees the world from lots of angles. This is not just present in his lyrics but in the form of his songs. Listen to Lauren Kelly Benson singing at the very beginning of Blood Thinner in a withdrawn and trembling delivery. You can hear her lightly hum in the background but she doesn’t do a “hook”. The song ends with an audio clip. Fielded really stretches out over the soulful beat on Western Education Is Forbidden. She comes on at about two minutes and thirty four seconds and takes us all the way to three minutes and fifty seven seconds, closing the song. Every guest star is very well served in placement. The way he structures these songs are so different so strange compared to what I have taken in as accepted normal. On his verse that starts the song Windhoek(Terror Management), he steps off the plane and explains that he is “Calm and cordial, overly formal.” But adds  “I regret to inform you this is the new normal.” The guidelines for a rap song are totally artificial.

My favorite song from Billy Woods this year could be Steak Knives (Hiding Places) which is under a minute and a half. I never thought I would love a rap song that short. The end of this song is the total Woods experience. Someone has been asking after him and he doesn’t know why. Here is how the song closes.

Facial expression lookin’ silly
Kept askin’ me how he got away with all them dealings
I replied I been goin’ through this same things that he had
But that was a lie, I could see he doin’ bad
Second place is steak knives, he said, “What you say?” (What?)
I said, “Nah, it’s just a line” (It’s just a line)
It’s just a line

Earlier in the verse our narrator dropped an album with a thud. Now Old Doug is comin’ to his Mama’s house asking around for him and he’s in his head about what this could be about. By the end he’s left with the realization that Doug is doing so much worse but he’s not going to help. It’s a mirror that reflects at all of us because it’s not written with the gentility of a “meaningful” song. He spits it like Chuck D on Fear Of A Black Planet but he writes it like Ada Limon writes about gardening. Great MC’s, great writers in rap music are like parents in our mind. They teach you things when you won’t listen to anyone else. The line that made me gasp out loud was “Shorty can’t eat no book/ what I told Ta-Nehesi Coates.(Western Education Is Forbidden off Terror Management)” It was Coates in a recent interview, when asked about rappers, who stated hip hop had provided the best writers of recent years and he had learned from them more than other sources. I couldn’t help but wonder if a Coates v. Woods discussion really happened. Either way, I know Coates is somewhere listening as hard to Billy Woods as I am.

Billy Woods release schedule this year:

Hiding Places 03/29/2019

Terror Management 10/04/2019

Bookmark Billy Woods bandcamp and buy. That link is https://billywoods.bandcamp.com/

You can also go to his label and stock up.

https://backwoodzstudioz.com/shop/

 

 

FIVE QUESTIONS FOR BILLY WOODS

Intro and questions by Dan-O

Answers by Billy Woods

It has been very difficult this to year to pick an MVP. So many artists committed to their vision on a very high level. I will reveal the Honorable Mention next week and roll out the OFFICIAL MVP post the week after that. In the meantime, one of the brightest stars of 2019 hip hop was Billy Woods. He came to Maine recently and somehow, through a chain of cool people, I scored an interview with him. Five questions for one of the most analytical rappers still releasing new content. I am so happy my seething nerd brain found his for this brief time.

1. If someone references your music as pessimistic do you view that as a pejorative? Do you reject the classification? Pessimism keeps closer to the things in life that need the most attention. Well managed, it is a real plus for me and your music is a natural part of that for me. How do you feel about it?
Hmm. Good question. I do not think of it as a pejorative, and I feel like as a general statement that could be an accurate description but I do feel like “pessimistic” is a bit of an oversimplification. Or perhaps just not as nuanced a term as I might choose. “Pessimism” in-and-of-itself is only interesting to a point, and ultimately is no more revealing of life and humanity than optimism. I think my music can be bleak and unsparing, but it is also about snatching one’s humanity from the fire’s that rage about and within us. Sometimes it’s about coming to terms (or failing to) with loss and powerlessness, which are negative things but opportunities to be human, to pull something meaningful from the chaos. In life, everything that ever meant anything to you will eventually be taken away. How to confront that inescapable truth and not be beggared by it, is the question that I often find myself chipping away at.
2. You’ve hit a real high point visibility wise. I have a theory that artists with dense or experimental material need to teach the audience how to listen. Once they do, that audience opens up for others (Prince’s popularity makes it easier for D’Angelo to break) Are you feeling things opening up? When did you mark that transition?
In regards your second sentence, I agree that audiences need to be prepared or taught to listen, but where and by whom is the question. Example one; I was a big fan of the Wu as a teenager, by the time I am in college, Liquid Swords, Cuban Linx are two of my favorite rap records of all time but Ironman just didn’t connect the same way. It was still Wu, and I liked it but Ghostface was not in my top tier of rappers. I really didn’t think about him much. Then in 1998 I am in my apartment in Harlem and Vordul comes through and starts talking about this song “Cobra Clutch” on the new Wu-Tang compilation/side-project The Swarm. I had already heard the album and the song, and Vordul is gassing it up like this is one of the greatest verses he ever heard and I am skeptical. Then we listen to it, and he is breaking down the slang and visuals, the fucking technique, you understand? And we start going through some other Ghost shit that I already had heard but I hadn’t really heard! And it changed everything for me. So often I think it’s about fans and artists and critics putting people on to “how to listen” to someone. As an artist, I can’t come out the speaker and explain to someone why “The Man Who Would Be King” is special, someone listening has to be in tuned to what’s happening, has to hear it, and put people on. As an artist, I have to try and make something that is compelling enough that someone out there wants to do that. Wants to press rewind, wants to take that dive, wants to put people on. Either that, or get a really expensive publicist.
 
And while agree that previous artists lay the groundwork, if what you are doing is original enough that it is not immediately recognizable as the fruit of it’s predecessors, the average person is not going to make that effort. For example, I was just starting out as an artist when I found MF DOOM, and he appealed to me as a listener and greatly influenced me  as an artist. I took a lot from him as I was trying to find my own way but I wasn’t making knockoff DOOM records, I was doing billy woods. The references were totally different, the perspectives more personal, the style more literary, the flow more unkempt. I needed people to ++make a leap and people don’t want to make a leap, they want to hear what they are expecting to hear and already know they will like.
3. You’ve tattooed 2019 with gripping personal stories about poverty. “F’n with the joystick, pretendin’ I was really playin'” at the end of A Day In A Week In A Year comes to mind. Images like that are part of hip hops enduring legacy of explaining poverty to America. Do you see this musical focus dissipating? What happens if we lose art about poverty?
I will answer your question, but I want to say that although “poverty” is the overarching metaphor in that end piece, there are other things happening too. A  desire for escapism, a lonely latchkey child, the bitterness of coveting…after all, I didn’t need to play those games. We aren’t talking about having enough to eat. But at the same time, the barrier between being and out is hard and fast. The age when you realize that you want things which you cannot have but other people can, for reasons completely beyond your control or (seemingly) ability to remedy. It also functions, in the song, as the unveiling of another moment in the narrators simultaneous journey through his past and a suddenly very immediate present. The song in some ways is the equivalent of finding a shoebox full of polaroid photographs when you are clearing out your childhood home.
 
As to your query, that will likely never happen. And if it does, it will mean that either poverty or human beings have ceased to exist.
4.Is it reasonable to believe we can at some point move America past colonialism/manifest destiny mentality? Is it too ingrained in our national character?
America is simultaneously a powerful nation state and just an idea in people’s heads, so this is a difficult question to answer. But all things eventually give way, right? Or at least under the names we have ascribed to them.
5. How many levels of your writing do you NEED your audience to understand in order to feel comfortable?
It should sounds dope. It should stay with you, long after you have put it aside. 
Please go to Billy Woods bandcamp and bump everything. If you’ve never heard him everyone says you start with History Will Absolve Me which is considered an underground CLASSIC. Buy what strikes you. Teach your friends why it is dope.  https://billywoods.bandcamp.com/album/history-will-absolve-me

The Greatest Name-Checker in Rap History

The Greatest Name-Checker in Rap History

by Dan-O

The Game put out a new album(Born 2 Rap) that is not great. He takes samples from high profile songs and says Nicki’s name a bunch because he wants to have sex with her still (he’s been saying thirsty things about Nicki for YEARS). He talks about Jay a lot. I feel like his reputation is that he is the wildest name-checker in rap and I wanted to course correct.

Chino XL is the actual name. If you know him you remember 2pac cursing him out by name in Hit Em Up. Why did that happen? Well, on his 1996 DEBUT album(Here To Save Us All) he got a Ras Kass feature on a song called Riiiot! And this is part of his first verse.

“Governmently engineered like e bola for this rap garage sale
By this industry, I’m trying not to get fucked like 2pac in jail
You can hate me, but await me like I’m magic johnson’s
Death in a box with jordan’s pops that ass’ll never take another breath
Cuz, I write the songs like barry manilow
I like my sugar brown like hugh grant fucked d’angelo.”

 

 

 

He ends that song with a verse that includes the line “Punchlines with more elasticity than Biggie’s stretch marks.” My point is this: next time we talk name-check rap think about the context. Game keeps talking about Jay because he wants to be Jay. He keeps talking about female rappers he wants to sex because he’s thirsty. All his name drops are out of desperation.  Chino XL has a career full of jaw dropping name drops that don’t benefit him at all. In 1996 he was clowning OJ Simpson, in 2012 he was making fun of Muhammed Ali’s brain stem. If you are going to drop the name of someone important do 2 things for me A.) don’t walk it back and apologize B) make it heinous. Do it out of an unparalleled fearlessness. Shake the world up so the people who feel safe don’t anymore….and when the consequences come take them like a seasoned criminal takes a sentence. Or don’t do it at all.

What If The Grammy’s Didn’t Completely suck? And why they do.

2020 grammys

What If The Grammy’s Didn’t Completely suck? And why they do.

by Dan-O

I remember being angry about how much the Grammy’s suck since grade school. It was just a sad naked reality. A giant bloated out of touch parent leaning over and saying “That Will Smith, huh?! Best rapper alive.” Interestingly, their problem is very grade school. When the 2020 nominee list announced Lizzo leading the pack with eight nominations we all understood she will likely walk out with a bushel of gold statues. The problem is not Lizzo, who is charming with a great voice and feverish energy. My question is why does Lizzo need that spotlight? She’s got platinum and gold plaques on the wall. The Grammy’s remain a boring homecoming king/queen ceremony rewarding the most rewarded and exposing the most exposed.

Life is not the homecoming dance. Life is the chaos of a billion hues and it is an award show’s job to paint with those colors, turning them into something a viewer can be truly engaged by. They should see a performance from an artist who wins and hit google with wide eyes. Who is that?! That is what the Freemusicempire awards would strive to do. I decided to stop complaining and clear out their brackets, fill them with what I would showcase and look at the difference.

Let’s start with Album of The Year. This is their list.

Album of the Year
“I, I” — Bon Iver
“Norman F—ing Rockwell!” — Lana Del Rey
“When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” — Billie Eilish
“Thank U, Next” — Ariana Grande
“I Used To Know Her” — H.E.R.
“7” — Lil Nas X
“Cuz I Love You” (Deluxe) — Lizzo
“Father of the Bride” — Vampire Weekend

Mine:

Album Of The Year

85 To Africa by Jidenna

Father Of The Bride by Vampire Weekend

Bandana by Freddie Gibbs and Madlib

Beware of The Dogs by Stella Donnelly

Help Us Stranger by Raconteurs

Kiwanuka by MK & Danger Mouse

African Giant by Burna Boy

Hiding Places by Billy Woods

So I only kept one of their nominees and I can go over the people I ejected but that’s not as fun as imagining the world riveted as Billy Woods holds up a gold statue and delivers the illest, hardcore depressingly political acceptance speech. Imagining my mom texting about this charming Jidenna fella as he performs before the award is given out. I’m the weird one because everyone else wants to reward Bon Iver’s 5th best album or Lana Del Rey ballading in Adele’s lane. I’m not mad at Lil Nas X because my kid sings Old Town Road like a Romero zombie…but I’m not gonna pretend like the album was good. Popularity is immaterial. Regardless of what you feel about Vampire Weekend the album was DOPE. I won’t see Burna Boy dumped in some “World Music” sub category, that album is AOTY contender through and through.

Next up, Record of The Year: their list

Record of the Year
“Hey, Ma” — Bon Iver
“Bad Guy” — Billie Eilish
“7 Rings” — Ariana Grande
“Hard Place” — H.E.R.
“Talk” — Khalid
“Old Town Road” — Lil Nas X Featuring Billy Ray Cyrus
“Truth Hurts” — Lizzo
“Sunflower” — Post Malone & Swae Lee

A lot of their nominees happen because of the radio. I listened to the Ariana Grande once and moved on. Having a kid I get as much Sunflower as I do Old Town Road but I still wouldn’t put it top eight. Shout out to people bumping Khalid; please explain to me how his music isn’t generic and his vocal range a straight line.

Here are mine.

Record Of The Year

Old Town  Road by Lil Nas X

This Life by Vampire Weekend

Anybody by Burna Boy

Cuz I Love You by Lizzo

All Your’n by Tyler Childers

Bop by Da Baby

Sing Along by Sturgill Simpson

BGM by Wale

Their nominees for Best New Artist:

Best New Artist
Black Pumas
Billie Eilish
Lil Nas X
Lizzo
Maggie Rogers
Rosalía
Tank and the Bangas
Yola

Mine:

 Best New Artist

Da Baby

Megan Thee Stallion

Lil Nas X

Rosalia

Lizzo

Stella Donnelly

Ari Lennox

J. S. Ondara

I respect that the Grammy committee put Rosalia and Black Pumas on their list. I refuse to accept Lizzo as new on her third album. I refuse to create a best new artist list without Megan Thee Stallion who has blown the doors off her own songs as well as guest verses with Maxo Kream, Wale, etc. She has been WORKING. Not every genre is creating new vibrant stars but folk has J.S. Ondara and Stella Donnelly who don’t have “one album wonder” vibes at all. They will be around for years.

Onto R & B here is their best album:

Best R&B Album:

1123 — BJ The Chicago Kid
Painted — Lucky Daye
Ella Mai — Ella Mai
Paul — PJ Morton
Venture — Anderson .Paak

Mine:

 

Best R&B Album

Shea Butter Baby

Kiwanuka

Friends by Omar Apollo

American Love Call

While We Wait by Kehlani

Case Study 001 by Daniel Caesar

The New Breed by Dawn

Ugh, Those Feels Again by Snoh Aalegra

Only regret I had was ditching BJ The Chicago Kid who I love and always rep for. Before we get into the rap categories, before you get mad at their nominees, know that The Grammy’s know Rap like John Candy knew Physics, like Newt Gingrich knows humility.

Best Rap Song: “Bad Idea” — Chancelor Bennett, Cordae Dunston, Uforo Ebong & Daniel Hackett, songwriters (Ybn Cordae ft. Chance The Rapper)
“Gold Roses” — Noel Cadastre, Aubrey Graham, Anderson Hernandez, Khristopher Riddick-tynes, William Leonard Roberts Ii, Joshua Quinton Scruggs, Leon Thomas Iii & Ozan Yildirim, songwriters (Rick Ross ft. Drake)
“A Lot” — Jermaine Cole, Dacoury Natche, 21 Savage & Anthony White, songwriters (21 Savage ft. J. Cole)
“Racks In The Middle” — Ermias Asghedom, Dustin James Corbett, Greg Allen Davis, Chauncey Hollis, Jr. & Rodrick Moore, songwriters (Nipsey Hussle ft. Roddy Ricch & Hit-boy)
“Suge” — Dababy, Jetsonmade & Pooh Beatz, songwriters (Dababy)

Best Rap Song

Palmolive by Freddie Gibbs featuring Killer Mike

XXL by Da Baby

Threat 2 Society by 2 Chainz

Cash $hit by Megan Thee Stallion featuring Da Baby

Even Tho Its Hard by Trae The Truth

Oprah by Rapsody featuring Leikeli47

Nobody’s Favorite by Rick Ross featuring Gunplay

BGM by Wale

Let them lead on Best Rap Album and I will play the closer.

Best Rap Album:

Revenge Of The Dreamers III — Dreamville
Championships — Meek Mill
i am > i was — 21 Savage
IGOR — Tyler, The Creator
The Lost Boy — YBN Cordae

Best Rap Album

Hiding Places by Billy Woods

Freddie Gibbs x Madlib-Bandana

Brandon Banks by Maxo Kream

Baby On Baby by Da Baby

Eve by Rapsody

Wow…That’s Crazy by Wale

Shelby by Lil Skies

Psychodrama by Dave

  1. ROTD III is great but too long not cohesive, a great compilation but not one of the best rap albums
  2. Tyler knows that album is not a rap album.
  3.  The nerve of not including Maxo or Freddie Gibbs or Rapsody is staggering.

So before you get mad at the nominees take a piece of paper out and pull your most important categories, wipe them clean and put your own nominees on paper. Look at them. Make sure you bought all those albums, so those artists you love ate off you. If we are going to keep pointing angry fingers at awards getting it wrong, we have to manage our own ethics.

#Bandcampgold-Kiwanuka by Michael Kiwanuka produced by Danger Mouse

#Bandcampgold-Kiwanuka by Michael Kiwanuka  produced by Danger Mouse

by Dan-O

An albums first song needs to put you squarely in their world, so the rest of the songs can expand it. Think about how important it is to start Eric B & Rakim’s Paid In Full with I Ain’t No Joke. My go-to favorite first song-off-an-album this year was Cuz I Love You by Lizzo. It really sets the table for the boisterous heartfelt ride your about to go on. You Ain’t The Problem might actually have it beat.  You Ain’t The Problem starts with the tambalas, drums certainly but not the kind you may have been expecting. You hear a crowd a woman laughing and the music really kicks in. We don’t actually hear Michael Kiwanuka until one minute twenty two seconds into the song. When the voice comes he is singing in sharp bursts to meet the pace of the music. When he says “Don’t hesitate, time heals the pain, you ain’t the problem…” it’s as soulful as the songs he is known for but this time it’s groovy fuzzed out and moving. Kiwanuka builds on the advancements made by Danger Mouse and Michael Kiwanuka on 2016’s collaboration Love & Hate. The sonic background is dense, as an example, Rolling moves as fast as the first song; thick with handclaps tamborine bass and guitar. You have to think of Michael Kiwanuka as both the author and the instrument. Danger Mouse’s job is to challenge the instrument.

What makes it one of the best albums of the year is that somehow it’s complications manage to feel simple. A lot of post-Ocean R & B is daring to be daring. You can feel new sounds and ideas being hurled into songs where they normally wouldn’t be and it doesn’t always work. As a singer, Michael Kiwanuka has a voice that is clean and clear. His songwriting matches. His songs sound essential rather than attempted. Famous producer, super nerd, and great twitter follow Young Guru once spoke of him as the new Bill Withers and I think that really is his best comparison. He makes everything clear.

If your Danger Mouse and you have access to that unique an artist…why not brew these songs as advanced as you can…as thickly orchestral as they allow? The voice will always be there to keep the listener on track. That being said, when things slow down its really beautiful. Piano Joint (This Kind Of Love) is an amazing heartbreak song that benefits from its intro.

I’m not giving Danger Mouse credit for Kiwanuka (the album or the dude) I loved Home Again when it dropped in 2012. I’m giving him credit for shifting him from automatic to stick shift and putting them both in charge of the different gears.

Kiwanuka is the best pure R&B/Soul album this year. The crescendos of instruments mixing with background singers that give way to the single brooding voice of our narrator on Living In Denial take their place in the history of music. At fifty one minutes and thirteen seconds with fourteen tracks, the average length of song is about a minute and a half longer than your supposed to provide in 2019. Kiwanuka is not consciously bucking conventions; Hero is certainly a radio friendly song and You Ain’t A Problem as well as Rolling are danceable. The great albums set their own tone and make you adjust. Whether it fits in the musical landscape or not. The day it came out a friend of mine texted me saying simply “This Kiwanuka is special.” I can’t find a better way to sum it up.

Stream or purchase below:

https://michaelsamuelkiwanuka.bandcamp.com/album/kiwanuka