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My 5 favorite weird Wu-Tang songs

My 5 favorite weird Wu-Tang songs

by Dan-O

Showtime dropped a four part documentary series about the Wu-Tang Clan that is everything to anyone who has a place in their heart for the Staten Island pioneers. I am doing promo for it right now because it’s the last I can do for the MC’s who raised my hip hop mind. In salute to the sharpest swords of Shaolin I wanted to give you five songs from The Wu that are gloriously weird. The point of this grouping is that it is a mix of songs you likely know and ones you likely don’t.

Raekwon featuring 2 Chainz-F.I.L.A. World from Fly International Luxurious Art

When Wu dropped we stared at the cover and listened to the interlude where RZA explained each member like a superhero. Pretty quickly my pick was Raekwon. He wasn’t as bombastic as other options but I love how smooth he is and the weird ways his mind works. F.I.L.A. World is a great example. The first Wu member to rap with Outkast teams up with 2 Chainz on a KILLER Scram Jones beat that feels like it was made for Rick Ross. Everything fits because The Chef fits anywhere a mic plugs in.

Method Man featuring Raekwon-Meth vs. Chef from Tical

Never heard nothing like it. Track is set up like a street MC battle where we are the audience. Method Man spits fire directly against Raekwon verses. The fans always isolate who beat who on what track but no one ever sets it up as a direct contest on wax. The Wu-Tang are all swordsman convinced they can slice through anything so neither had any fear of losing. It’s my favorite Wu member (Rae) vs. the one I give the most guff to (Meth). That is a conversation for another time. This track is not just bonkers it is a necessary listen for anyone getting into The Wu. It shows you how different their talents are and how seriously they take it.

Old Dirty Bastard-Drunk Game (Sweet Sugar Pie) from Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version

Old Dirty was not a clown. Funny how the same kids that watch Heath Ledger as the Joker wax poetic on the brilliant madness of that character but can’t see the genius of ODB. He specifically set out to damage the basic structure of the hip hop album. In 1995, when Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version was released the format for a hip hop song was rigid. R & B was considered soft and you could get called weak for having an R & B hook. It was a reputational battle to be the hardest and that had a lot of cats pretending their way to the finish line.  Dirty declares his love of sweet soul music by singing his off beat love song in the most carefree yet sincere way he can. Yes he does a lot of laughing and yelling and making noises you’ll never hear anyone else make but he loves this genre and understands its relationship to Rap. This is the music his mom played for him and my Dad played for me. We can never lose this soul. Listening to Dirty fake orgasm and turn his grunting into an ad-lib was truly mind blowing for high school Dan. It was like the Joker setting mob money on fire.

Ghostface Killah featuring Jadakiss-Run from The Pretty Toney Album

The Pretty Toney album is a disturbingly overlooked classic. An important landmark in Def Jam’s shift to an R & B-first operation. They put it out with no publicity. Ghost was mad but Ghost is always mad, his focus draws from it. As a storyteller Run is a perfect illustration of his powers.  Most rappers would never write a song where they are running. They only paint pictures of themselves in positions of power. Not only does Ghost charge into the songs concept, he drills down into the details from the opening seconds. His opening bars on this are ” A Yo I jumped from the 8th floor step, hit the ground. The pound fell, cops is coming. Running through the pissy stairwells I ain’t hear nothing, buggin’, ” You interested in this story? Heck yeah. He’s not just scared and admitting it he’s frantic and builds the entire story in 19 seconds. Don’t get so wrapped up in the personalities the Clan has that you forget these are all genius level artistic talents. All time stuff. I didn’t even get a chance to talk about Jadakiss(‘I learned from the OG’s to save everything’ #classic) . That’s how good Ghost is.

Wu-Tang Clan -Hollow Bones from The W

RZA’s genius production is on full display here as he pulls and tugs at a Syl Johnson sample until it screams for mercy. The pain it emits gives Rae, Deck, and Ghost the perfect backdrop to stew in paranoia, threaten, and take drugs to numb the pain. I always love the Wu songs that are tortured and pained like this one. So few 90’s rappers were willing to explain their hood PTSD as in depth as the Clan (I love you Scarface). I wonder how many upper middle class white kids learned empathy for the economically disadvantaged from them? That isn’t a shot. I am so grateful hip hop was there for the Wu to bring them out of the situations they rapped about and even more grateful they could spend these decades teaching us what it was like and how they’ve grown.

 

P.S.

Fame by U-God featuring Styles P from The Keynote Speaker

Wu fans made fun of U-God. I am guilty. If you listen to Keynote Speaker from 2013…he’s not bad. We probably gave him too much hassle the way we did Sheek Louch for not being as good as Styles or Jada. He’s solid and grounded and has had some not good but GREAT verses. Every legendary crew has someone who became the “least favorite” and if you look at them individually, everything looks totally different. This is all to say I am sorry U-God.

 

 

 

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Song Review-Big Titties by Rico Nasty featuring Baauer and Earthgang produced by Kenny Beats

Song Review-Big Titties by Rico Nasty featuring Baauer and Earthgang produced by Kenny Beats

by Dan-O

When I post this on my personal social media I will have some friend (possibly plural) who clutches their chest with a deep breath offended by the title of this song. Human beings burst forth with imagery and emotions that in polite company we are not supposed to discuss. Rico Nasty and Kenny Beats 9 song flying uppercut of a project, Anger Management, is a vent allowing that steam release.

It is possible that no female mc in the world is as interesting right now as Rico Nasty(at least to me). No one screams harder, smashes with as much force, or sounds as free. She can be thoughtful without needing to be ultra-personal. Her authoritative energy doesn’t accept the basic femcee broken hearted calling card. She is punk rock making songs where she blisters the track but following them with songs about success that discuss god and family.

I’m not listening to anyone’s album in hopes I will find a new friend to agree with. My hope is that we will be able to explore something interesting together whether it be personal lyricism, game changing production, or the depths of an emotional outlook I don’t work from very often. If you can bring energy to the party that no one can match you really do have something. Everyone I know who has heard Big Titties understands why it is special.

Kenny likes to push her. When Kenny Beats Rico Nasty and Key! Hooked up for the deluxe edition of his fantastic album 777 I definitely wanted more of the dynamic. No one can command attention like Rico and no one enjoys turning a track from crunk to too-damn-much like Kenny Beats. So songs like Big Titties are a bi-product of masters pushing each other to get crazier and crazier. Weird chimes, stabbing bass, verses with weird-voice-superstar-rap-duo Earthgang. Rico destroys the chorus, Kenny works in what sounds like a clown horn.

 

#Bandcampgold-Black Beans by Exile x Choosey

Black Beans#Bandcampgold-Black Beans by Exile x Choosey

by Dan-O

The world makes us feel terrible. Mac Miller and Nipsey Hussle are dead. Ogres are in power and they don’t even lie to us about how old evil and full of greed/hate they are. Music is necessary, all kinds of music. Black Beans is a beam of light on the dark days and because of that it holds an important place on my favorite albums of 2019 list.

I have to start by talking about Exile. I haven’t done it enough on this blog. I’ve been debating how I feel about his strengths since Blu linked up with him for Below The Heavens. While other boom bap producers (Daringer, Roc Marciano) are superb at twisting the instrumentation and sample into an evil snarl that suits the goon rappers spitting over them; Exile is the best at optimizing his soundscape for warmth. You can listen to the Intro or the first song (I Did) and none of the production is overly dense or crowded. Exile chooses the right elements and places them properly making great use of background vocals, samples, and background vocals. His production perfectly captures that Rawkus records feeling of hearing Mos Def spit on Respiration from the Black Star album(a Hi-Tek comparison is not a bad one). Black Beans is Exile’s best work in YEARS and his work over the years was impressive before it.

If you think this album is corny I guess you’re right. If you think the loving poetic tribute to heritage at the end of the title track is corny, I’m fine with that. If you don’t understand why Choosey is rapping about the candy lady on his block on Satisfied when he could have fake murdered someone in that verse… it is a natural hip hop reaction. It’s a perfectly adequate short term coping mechanism for living on this scary cock-eyed planet. Shut all those instincts off and listen to tracks 4,5, and 6 in a row. Four is single ready it is called Low Low and the horns are PERFECT, Aloe Blacc nails the hook with pinpoint accuracy and emotion while Choosey paints the scenery of a nice day with a pretty lady. Track five is Show You and Choosey is at his most melodic. The West Coast MC doesn’t need any help on the chorus sing-rapping a hook that burrows deep in my brain to this second. It’s a relationship song without the nasty baggage. He wants to show her what the future can be and never turns into the darker or condescending tones a lot of rappers do when trying for these songs. Track six is so great. You Got It is all hand claps and mixing while Choosey spits fast but seemingly effortlessly. Jimetta Rose is another fantastic guest singer woven into the fiber of the song. You Got It has a noble mission: to get you up and dancing. These three songs get to the heart of celebration that Black Beans is crafted around.

The candy lady verse that starts Satisfied is my favorite of the album because I am corny. It is so unexpected. The first line of the song is “Every hood had a candy lady,” said with a smiling nostalgia. He’s talking lollipops and getting candy out of her hand. Choosey’s mission is to celebrate his shared black and Hispanic heritage. Through the thirteen songs he applies his determination to painting the picture to it’s smallest detail. It’s not just about lowriders, Cadillac’s, and jewelry it is about the people. In that verse he also says “Them cop’s was all in our face saying ‘don’t hang with them bangers’ N_ the gang was the neighbors…” he doesn’t shy away from the violence and terror present in his environment. America knows gangs as large scary groups but Choosey knows them as people and sums it up our national tension quite nicely with, “They hate the fact but can’t deny that we some damn creators.” Choosey knows you think you know his hood. He also knows you haven’t felt the sunshine on your face there. You haven’t kissed for the first time as Salsa spilled out of an apartment window there. Listen to the song Sangria, pour sangria over some apples and cantaloupe (don’t forget diced pineapple) and let Exile teach you how to relax as Choosey brings you where he’s always been.

Stream or Download Black Beans below:

https://choosey.bandcamp.com/album/black-beans

 

Song of The Year-Cuz I Love You by Lizzo

Song of The Year- Cuz I Love You by Lizzo

By Dan-O

This is my favorite first song of the year (it’s from the self-titled album). Sure, Lizzo has a show stopping voice of the kind I would stab an alien for. That is not the most exciting thing about Lizzo. I can’t get enough of how totally reckless and bonkers she is. Her uncontrolled energy bursts in all directions on the title track produced by Ithaca NY rock band X Ambassadors.

I’m sure a lot of people are writing how great this album is from a body positivity standpoint; that it is great to have more vibrant black female voices. Problem with those takes is they come out of a jar ready to be spread out to fit anybody from Janelle Monae to Cardi B etc etc. Artists are specific not general so criticism should be specific.

While listening to the song you can find yourself asking questions: who would hit the high part of their register this much?! Who would open their album laughingly calling themselves a former ho?! When Pitchfork reviewed Cuz I Love You they pointed to ham fisted lines and awkward images as tough to swallow. Lizzo just doesn’t have the time or energy to go Fiona Apple with the lyrics. Her strength is that she doesn’t carry the fear a lot of us do. She’s not afraid to belt so hard she has to catch her breath, and let you hear, not afraid to say something we all know is corny like “I would do it for you all my friend, ready baby?! Will you be my man?” The desperation in the delivery and pulverizing honesty in the lyrics take center stage even as X Ambassadors fill the track with high energy pro-wrestling rock entrance music. Musically she’s so wild she’s free to be honest and in a world this deceptive and artificial it feels so good to hear.

 

Fight for The Future of Lil Uzi Vert

Fight for The Future of Lil Uzi Vert

by Dan-O

We complain a lot. All of us do. In Hip Hop, we get mad at youngsters for not doing what the older generations would do. Real rap problems exist: loss of interesting word usage, too much of a focus on ad-libs, drug addiction creating a generation of junked up kids with no goals. Take a moment and acknowledge that Lil Uzi Vert is a strong component in resolving some of these.

At first, Uzi was discounted simply because of the Lil. The Bad and Boujee feature was blistering but Uzi’s audience is his own and real. He has their attention and uses it. XO Tour Lif3 by September 2017 had 1.3 BILLION listens counting all streaming platforms (Wiki info). That song is about suicide mental breakdowns and heartbreak. He helps a suffering generation express acknowledge and process feeling like crap. In and of itself, that is important.

You might have heard he announced his retirement, announced he had label issues. We can’t let any of this happen. We can’t let labels hinder him. We can’t let him fall into whatever took Mac Miller away. I am not just saying this because he means a lot to his generation. I am saying this because I love this genre.

When he dropped the loosey Free Uzi as a youtube video (not on streaming services) it racked up 9.6 Million views but, more importantly, it’s an incredible song. Free Uzi is the Philly phenom exploding with bars, stringing any word he wants easily onto one of raps best flows. The propulsive beat allows him to easily surf while maintaining perfect breathe control. He’s not a mumble rapper, you can hear him saying things like “I remember when them N_’s all laughed at me,” as he dances in a convenience store with his friends. It’s just him having fun and stretching out his legs while breathing fire. It seems like the giant response to Free Uzi pressured his label into letting some more of his music loose.

Conversely, Sanguine Paradise (the first single they let out whatever prison they keep his music in) is a fully fleshed out single ready for the pop charts. The beat is beautiful (very pretty piano that does not slow down the speed of the song) unlike the speedbag flow of Free Uzi, Sanguine Paradise is a more melodic. Every line feels like a chorus.

This dude can dig into mental health, relationships, or just brag on a level where he becomes James Spader from Pretty In Pink, and SPIT. Find 1017 vs. The World mixtape and listen to him trade with a sober Gucci and stand tall. Not anyone can do that. I genuinely think this dude is the light of a new generation and if you don’t understand “the kids” you should listen to him. He’s the best chance you have.

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Five Song Tribute to The Legacy of Nipsey Hussle

Five Song Tribute to The Legacy of Nipsey Hussle

by Dan-O

The night before Nipsey Hussle was killed I was up later than my family bouncing from Youtube video to Youtube video looking for the right end point to justify going to sleep. The one that sealed the evening was a ten question relationship quiz with Nipsey and Lauren London. I’ve had love for LL ever since the movie ATL and honestly didn’t know they were an item (I really don’t check personal life of famous people stuff one way or another). Throughout the video Nipsey is plugged in and genuinely excited to get these questions right. He got eight out of ten right and the only two he missed were purposely phrased oddly to reference some inside couples jokes, Nip was too focused on finding an answer to follow the thread. I smiled all the way to bed because he was so proud to have done well and I immediately thought this connected to the core of who he is. Nipsey Hussle was 100% in everything he did so if someone tells you he loved Lauren London with the intensity of the sun you have to say, “Of course.” Nipsey doesn’t half way do anything. Beyond the genuine chemistry and mutual admiration between them, on a deeper level, Nipsey Hussle wanted to wreck that quiz because if Nipsey Hussle authored the quiz it needed to achieve excellence.  His will wouldn’t tolerate any less. He would marshal all his focus to be the best partner for her the same way he was the best rapper he could be. I was so happy they had each other.

Then the next day happened.

All I can do is give you five songs that show you the size of his willpower, the immensity of his heart and the force he could exert on a sonic landscape.

U See Us from Crenshaw

This might be the quintessential Nipsey song. It’s a stampede of speaker shattering bass and a grandiose hook that pulls you into the purpose of Hussle. No one wanted him to succeed. He didn’t break on a label, when he first dropped I thought he was a basic Gangsta rapper. By the time Crenshaw dropped he was making giant sized workout rap with energy heart and personality. Look at his car, look at his girl, look at his success and see it. See in that success how artificial the ceilings on life’s potential accomplishments really are.

FDT by YG featuring Nipsey Hussle from YG’s album Still Brazy

People who played it cute on Trump are regretting it now. SNL booked him as a host and has been trying to make up for it ever since. Too late. Lots of rappers had made the mistake of using Trump as their symbol of wealth and when he became an Info Wars cult member they didn’t know how to react so they didn’t. They just kept their head down and made music. YG and Nipsey Hussle had the stones to explain the whole situation and declare themselves. YG warns Donald will be a terrible president if elected and Nipsey says he thought Trump for president was a joke and says if we let him win we probably gonna feel broke. Real spit.*

Last Time That I Checc’d featuring YG from Victory Lap

Any song YG did with Nip is solid gold. Those guys are charged up all the time and ready to send shockwaves through tracks. Last Time That I Checc’d is stupid relistenable. This makes it harder because his last album, Victory Lap, was his very best. He mastered his mission statement became a king beat picker with a fantastic ear and sent his hooks into your mind to repeat until everyone’s lips mouthed along. Every time he says he did it all without a co-sign and that he’s self-made know, that information is more reliable than scientific studies of the moon. This dude pulled himself from mixtape dude to best  album of the year list with features from Puff Daddy, Ceelo Green, Kendrick, The Dream and we all got robbed of what he would have built on top of that success.

50 Niggaz from Mailbox Money

Nipsey had a special delivery. He could shout the N word in a way that made it devastating but this song is what I loved most about his pen game. As a writer, he always showed supernatural empathy. The repeated refrain of “Would you just accept that we murdered your children? Could you just accept that we murdered your children?” asks the same white male who is angry about rioting or angry that the victims father had the nerve to say something that might stoke resentment further… to flip perspectives. What would your process be like if you were on the other side? Once he has you there we can talk Zimmerman, Ali, rappers getting unfairly targeted and a picture comes together. This is such a great political song because it’s conversational and unpretentious. Nipsey is not trying to prove to you how smart he is. He’s beseeching you to utilize your emotional intelligence for someone other than yourself and people who look like you.  If he had lived we would have seen a lot more music like this as he elevated in leading by example.

I Don’t Stress from Slauson Boy 2

Nipsey was just a different dude. This whole song his voice is strained, pained and emotional but his lyrics are methodical. He starts the song hurt that his mother is stressing but quickly snaps into his mode. To put it bluntly “I never fold under mental pressure, I get better.” His determination was colder than most in that it was completely unwavering, no matter what the circumstances were. It was hotter in the sense that the fire he had just never burned low. The most Nipsey Hussle lyric of all time might be in this song when he says “Plenty of times I felt like this the end now N_.  But I catch my second wind around the tenth round, N_.” The scariest fighters in boxing history were the ones who could save their real power for the tenth round when the other guy was breathing heavy through his mouth. Those fighters were fueled by something really scary, the type of determination you can see in Bernard Hopkins fights. That’s what Nipsey had on every song.

Every song from now on won’t have that.

*a little P.S. on the FDT write up, if you somehow read my site and love Trump and are offended I have no choice but to stand as tall as Nipsey and YG did, hold your gaze, and say FUCK Donald Trump. Let you feel any way you want about it.

 

 

#Bandcampgold-Hiding Places by Billy Woods x Kenny Segal

#Bandcampgold-Hiding Places by Billy Woods x Kenny Segal

by Dan-O

Biographers live in the world of their subject for years. Can you imagine? In depth talks with family, old letters, review of their work, nailing down different periods of life and what they meant. The subject has to be important enough to fuel the biographer. If that spark flames out it’s a world of bad for everyone. I could be the biographer for Billy Woods & Kenny Segal’s new album Hiding Places. Over the past week I’ve been deep in lyric reading and song re-listens pulling at different sections of what it all means. I could do two years research on the end of A Day In A Week In A Year when Woods says:

“I read the play, hatchet job, but you work with what you got/  Life is just two quarters in the machine

But, either you got it or don’t that’s the thing
I was still hittin’ the buttons, “Game Over” on the screen
Dollar movie theater, dingy foyer, little kid, not a penny to my name
Fuckin’ with the joystick, pretendin’ I was really playin’
Pretendin’ I was really playin’
Pretendin’ I was really playin’ “

Pretending to play when you don’t have the money is a central memory for kids of a certain generation. Being able to go full thrust with your imagination and the screen regardless of what was working against you forms the basis of an artist’s mind.  The joy of playing v. the ability to get in the game this is why it connects back to the hack play, dedicating yourself to your art when your art sucks is still pretending to play.

And that is just one fragment of one song. All the songs are built from these incredible impactful fragments that come together to form a singular emotional realization part poetic beauty part violence drizzled in lots of frustration. My favorite song is a minute and twenty eight seconds long. It is called Steak Knives and it is not simply about how horrifying a life of crime is but about how painfully destructive living in poverty can be without the endless fight for money we hear rappers talk about. As Woods says in the song “it’s sick but banalities might as well be death threats/Let it sit/ there’s the threat of sepsis” He opens the song by a roaring fire about to make love to a woman who specifies she does not want a relationship and ends it flippantly acknowledging ,in a passive aggressive way, that he doesn’t have the breathing room to help those not as driven. Second place is steak knives.

All the songs are lyrically rich threatening and evocative. I need to spend some time complimenting Kenny Segal who walked a tight line. Producing for a dense lyricist is a heck of a trap: keep it simple and your doing what most producers could do and it sounds boring, make it weird you might throw the MC off their flow. Songs like Houthi are masterfully open; ready for a lyricist to shine BUT it shifts drops out cuts in and alternates in a hypnotic way that keeps it from being stale. Production is consistent but fragmented. When you think you know a song it undulates in a different direction. Listen to all the subtle changes going on in Spider Hole before the guitar slams in at two minutes and twenty one seconds. Menacing does this sound design disservice. It’s not just menacing its thick and deceptively expansive. Central sounds build neighborhoods to live in.

I was looking for the one line Billy Woods said that scorched my heart and left my eyes Simpson size. These bars define the entire Billy Woods experience and I’ve had them bouncing around my head since the first listen. That moment happens in the first verse of Speak Gently “I’m a bad penny/I’m the feelin’ after you killed ’em and seen the safe empty.” That image is something no MC has ever left for me. Standing in front of a body, mind racing, only to look up at an empty safe all of it for nothing…left with the shame of my actions and the taste of monetary failure. Sick with everything wrong about this world at once. That’s Billy Woods superpower. He’s in total control of that feeling. No hero stuff he’s the viciousness of reality cutting through all the layers of defense you keep in front of it. Every verse makes your eye water like Listerine just before you spit.

Stream or purchase Hiding Places below:

https://billywoods.bandcamp.com/album/hiding-places