From Sky: Week Ten – Chiraq pt. I

Alright, I’ve been waiting to discuss this artist and this sub-genre for some time now but I didn’t quite know how to go about it. Now I do.

I’m not going to give too much away this week. It’s simple. I want you to listen to the two tracks below and I want to know what you think of them.

One catch. Absolutely NO research. Not this week. Simply watch the tracks. Break them down. Do you. No research though. None. You are allow to look at lyrics, but I’d prefer not RapGenius.

This is Chief Keef. This is drill. This is Chicago. Or as they call it there, Chiraq.

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From ‘Cole: Week X – Who? What? Where? Week

Sometimes my assertion that every work has a piece of the zeitgeist comes back to haunt me. But I swear and stand by it.

By which I mean, sometimes I can’t quite find it. But I feel like it’s there.

This week, I’m asking you to listen to the first thirty seconds of this song, and tell me where he’s from.

Then, listen to the rest of the song and ask yourself,
how did you know?

From ‘Cole: Week Nine Response

Firstly, I’m sorry about the late late response. Week 9 should have been called stress week.
But better late than never.

I feel like this is cheating because I’ve written about Outkast on bestsong, and I pretty much said the same thing I’m going to say now. But I absolutely agree with the reddit post about the club scene in ATL. It really is a throwback to the origins of Hip Hop, back to the block party and the streets and bringing the noise to the people.

OutKast

StreetExecs put a big emphasis on having the tracks hit the club and in-person networking. When you think about it, that’s exactly what happened during Hip Hop’s inception. But it’s also a huge part of the zeitgeist. Think about Twitter, about Youtube and Facebook, about social media and how it’s used for spreading the word nowadays. Networking has grown past the local to the global–to the use of internet media to spread the word.

But I find OP’s assertion that lyricists don’t thrive in Atlanta to be ludicrous (ha, see what I did there?). Outkast had brilliant rhymes and sweet lines. I mean, Speakerboxx/The Love Below is one of the best double albums ever (showcasing each of their individual talents). And this track is going to be timeless, forever ever (forever ever).

OutKast

It’s really beautiful that Outkast has captured and preserved a part of the zeitgeist, like an LP, or an A-track, or a polaroid picture.

From Sky: Week Nine Response

Hot or not, eh?

First off, you certainly don’t have “questionable” tastes in music. I mean, I’m not hot on a lot of that Korean stuff, but I get it.

But… then there is… this.

When you said this guy was an unknown, man, you weren’t kidding. I’d like you to link the original reddit post as well. I’m interested to see what others thought.

It starts off sounding like it was made in GarageBand with those opening beats. Then, in comes Setch apologizing. Immediately I began to relate. Especially the line “Life didn’t go by my plan / I’m still stuck kicking cans / broke with this degree in hand” , as well as the line about student loan debt, had me relating hard. At first I was immediately captivated by it. The hypnotic perking triangle in the back and the different fonts for each lyrics helped as well. He got a little “edgy” with his Columbine line, “Rejected by the people / feeling lethal / might just snap into half and crack like a Columbine sequel”. I kinda could sense a hesitation in his voice. He wasn’t as strong delivering that line as I wanted. It made him come off bad, in my opinion. Then we have a sample, who knows where from, about getting back up. Which I dug. Then Setch goes off. Proving he has some real chops when it comes to spitting quick. He’s lyrics break down a little at some points, get a little too easy, which soon becomes absolute rapid fire chopper rap gibberish… and it ends. At first listen I went back and played that second verse again, thinking I had been zoning and not pay complete attention to the lyrics. Again, it got to the point of incomprehensible (word of the day) blather. I’ll straight up give you ten bucks if you can honestly say that you can keep up the entire way with the lyrics. All in all, after a first listen I was like, yeah, this is alright.

Then I started to realize that you mentioned you saw it on reddit, and it totally made sense.

I really resonated with the lyrics. I feel like a lot of people would… but of course that was what everyone else who would watch the video and relate with anyone couple of his lyrics would think as well. It was a track really written to resonate with a good portion of the people in the country right now. They’ve got a degree but they don’t have a job in their field and are struggling to make ends meet. It’s a snippet of time. Never has this been a problem in our country before. I believe there a world you like to use in this situation–zeighiest– and I totally see why this is a part of it.

The Beach

Have I ever told you how much I love the movie The Beach? Oh man, it’s amazing. If you’ve never seen it, man, go see it. Rent that shit. I saw the film before traveling to Southeast Asia in 2010. While in Thailand, where the story takes place, I read the novel. Garland would write about banana pancakes on Khao San Road and I would read it, eating a banana pancake on Khao San Road. Although, I do like the film more than the book, which is usually not the case. The film, on the other hand, makes Leo into a familiar backpacker. I could relate so much to that film, and the book. I love it. I love it so much. Everyone I’ve ever showed the film to didn’t care for it. The first couple times I was like, whhhattt? Then I just seem to accept that the majority of the the viewers didn’t care for the film. It’s got a 43 on metacritic. It’s a bad film. But I love it because I can relate to it so much.

Back to Setch.

I really related to his lyrics, but that doesn’t make it a good track or good lyrics. Let’s face it, the production quality is poor and a lot of his lyrics are cliche. This is the case for the first verse. The second verse starts real solid and just smashes in to terrible cacophony of tripe. Part of me wants to make meaning there, saying something along the lines of “So much to say, in so little time”, but I really just think it’s bad.

So it breaks down like this.
First verse – passable excluding the Columbine line.
Sample – solid
Second verse – dreadful

I gonna say it’s wack. I mean, for a one time listen through, a YouTube viral video, sure, one time, but that’s about it. After that it become less and less appealing and enjoyable, which I think something is high quality has a replay value to it, like you want to listen more.

I am curious to see what you think about it though.

Feature – MF DOOM Discussion Week Four – A Look at King Geedorah’s “Take Me To Your Leader”

Let’s be honest, it’s not easy to follow up Operation: Doomsday.

Take Me To Your Leader

As I wrote about last week, I found it hard to see MF DOOM as a villain after listing to Operation: Doomsday. There wasn’t much, if any that made me see him in that light. Maybe DOOM knew this. With the last track of Operation: Doomsday, “Hero vs. Villain (feat. E. Mason)”, DOOM even explored this idea. This was the listener’s struggle. Villain or simply misunderstood?

Well it’s been four years since Operation: Doomsday and DOOM is back. This time he is announcing his villainess with authority. Not only is DOOM, now going under the moniker of King Geedorah, stating he is in fact a villain, but rather he’s *so much* of a villain that he’s personified himself as a three-headed gold space monster. The other featured on the album? They’re personified as other villains in the Godzilla cannon. Nothing like making a statement and doing so in the form of monsters. DOOM went from a super villain of the comic book variety and extrapolated it to, literally, a band of monsters.

King Geedorah

When it comes to the album as a whole, it is clearly a concept album. Take Me To Your Leader is much more of a concept album, in my opinion, than Operation: Doomsday was. This is easily the album’s biggest draw–that or the production. Much like on Operation: Doomsday, DOOM does all the production himself, again under a different pseudonym–Metal Fingered Villain. Metal Fingered Villain is, well, MF DOOM. I’m not talking about Daniel Dumile, I’m talking about MF DOOM. I love this meta idea that the music of the Metal Fingered Villain, Dumile’s album prior, is fueling the music of this ride of the monsters. It doesn’t matter if it’s a DOOM album, King Geedorah or Viktor Vaughn album, Dumile is always reminding us he’s a villain. I talked a little in my last post as to why I believed this to be so, so I won’t go into that here.

The track that best exemplifies the brilliance of Metal Fingered Villain’s production has to be the track “Monster Zero”. Composed entirely of samples, “Monster Zero” does so much for propelling the album’s storyline as well as showcasing the production. “Monster Zero” uses foreshadowing:

[Radio Reporter]
It is very likely that one or more of you know this individual
Someone who’s experienced working in a laboratory
With access to select biological agents

a possible reference to Viktor Vaughn, DOOM’s next moniker and next album. The track also uses allusion to equate Dumile with King Geedorah:

[Radio Reporter]
Someone who’s standoffish and works in isolation
A killer who may have used off hours in a laboratory to produce-
[Man]
Music, brother!

illustrating Dumile’s work ethic in the studio and equating it to a super villain in their respective laboratory. The track also, complying with hip hop basics, and going back to what Dumile himself called, “bragging rap” in an interview, says:

Pay heed to my warning, the entire Human race will perish from the Earth
When the monster, Geedorah passes, only flaming ruins are left

This is Dumile’s way of bragging and boasting about himself.

“Monster Zero” really is, in my opinion, the best track on the entire album. “One Smart Nigger” does this as well, but not with nearly the success of “Monster Zero”. This isn’t to say that there aren’t other great tracks on this album. Frankly, though, the majority of the features on this album are quite forgettable. This is with the exception of Biolante’s verse (rapper Kurious) on “Fastlane” and mystery rapper Mr. Fantastik’s back and fourth with DOOM on “Anti-Matter”. Other than that, none of the other features really stood out to me. All in all, they work as one though, being a concept album and listening to the album straight through, as I believe Dumile intended.

When it comes to Dumile’s rapping, it’s hard to top “The Fine Print” (though the back and fourth with Fantastik on “Anti-Matter” does come close. From the first line, “Render unto Geedorah what is Geedorah’s”, Geedorah straight up baffles with his rhymes, referencing everything from 70s cartoons about sharks to Three’s Company. This is the Dumile I love, no hooks, just straight bars. The end of the track also shows off Metal Fingered Villain’s sampling and production again.

I’m here to tell you that the future of your planet is at stake
I urge that you transmit that message to the nations of the urge
Now do you feel like telling me where your leader is?

Then the album just ends. This may be the most villainous act of King Geedorah–giving the listener no resolve. The verse that accompanies the track, that of Geedorah’s, of Dumile’s, and there he is, back to his “bragging rap”. Then it just ends. He’s making us want more. He starts this with his lack of verses on the album, and ends it with no resolution. We want more King Geedorah. He’s making himself an anti-hero. We’re rooting for King Geedorah.

I’m not sure what to make of this whole,

Are you a homo? (Like the others)
We help thousands of homos every month!

It’s in the old days right
The women knew who the women were
The women knew who the men were
The men knew who the women were
And the men knew who the men were

ending of the album. In many ways it sounds quite homophobic, and expresses a time when you didn’t have to wonder about a person’s gender. This however, really trips me up. Not sure what is trying to be said here.

All in all, Take Me To Your Leader is an alright album. I think the concept essence of it really works and shows Dumile’s ability to really compose a concept album with great success. I think the transitions between monster-esque and rappers from the city is somewhat shaky at times and may or may not mesh in the sense of the storyline and concept of the album, but it works enough to achieve what I believe Dumile was trying to achieve. Better than Black Bastards and Mr. Hood, not quite as good as Operation: Doomsday.

From ‘Cole: Week Nine – Hot or Not Week

So, sometimes I have to sit a question whether or not something is a masterpiece.

I feel like there’s something here..but maybe it’s a question of my questionable taste.

So this week, I ask you to enlighten me.

I feel like this guy is more up your alley than mine. I feel like he’s…dark. Reminiscent of Em. And Delusional Thomas. But more subtle. Really don’t know much about him since I haven’t done my research, looks like there’s more than meets the ear.

But if he’s totally wack, let me know!

From Sky: Week Nine – Southern Throwback

Takin’ it back to 2001. This that pre-9/11 shit.

Although it was only number one at the Billboard Hot 100 for one week, this track was insanely popular. How popular? It was number one in five countries. The track went gold in the United States and two times Platinum in Australia. The album, Stankonia, has gone Quadruple-Platinum.

Now, I want you to read this reddit post:

http://www.reddit.com/r/hiphopheads/comments/1xczqd/the_hottest_songs_in_the_clubs_of_atlanta_right/cfa8ap2

OP is the owns the management firm Street Execs. They manage 2Chainz. In the original post which stemmed this comment, OP showcases the hottest tracks in the Atlanta clubs today. I particularly find Obie’s comment that follows streetexecs answer interesting.

OutKast is from Atlanta.

This is just something to think about.

Dat cat in the video.

-S

From ‘Cole: Week Eight Response

I know Music Monday is supposed to be about the music, but really, I can’t talk about this track without talking about the video.

I agree with whichever redditor posted this in that thread about gratuitous violence. I just can’t pinpoint why. It’s not like we even see anything…there’s a shot fired at one person after the first minute, and after that, no violence against anyone else that we can see. Just drugs, guns, the usual rap fare. But still it feels more violent than any other video because it feels so real.

It’s the opposite of the Jackie Chan effect. Jackie makes his stunts ridiculous so you know they’re fake. He doesn’t want anybody to suspend their disbelief so far that they’d be willing to try what he does on an everyday basis. But everything in this video looks legit. I fully believe he has those guns in his posession. I believe he can cook coke. I believe he set up a mic in the back of his crack house. It’s not far-fetched; this guy is shooting a documentary.

Gangsta Gibbs

This all comes back to how important credibility is in the rap game, and how fragile it is. Rappers are constantly having to reinforce and enforce their machismo, their masculinity, which means one small infraction and all of a sudden you’re a (female body part here). This video definitely reminds me of that, in a way that was unexpected. If you look at it lyrically, it is very subtle. Nothing in his tone is overbearing, he just speaks his rhymes and he sounds so formidable. It’s like Weezy says, “real G’s move in silence like lasagna.”

As for comparisons to Pac, Gibbs is pretty spot on with his voice. His timbre somewhat reminds me of Pac, but in general his rhyme scheme, his lyrical progression throughout the song, is honestly softer than what Pac did. Pac did a lot of heavy emphasis on certain syllables (being the poet that he was, I’m sure it was intentional) to drive his point home. But Gibbs…there’s definitely something in the way he speaks without him having to do that. Something more subtle.

Which is interesting, because the video waves his thuggishness in your face. It all but pushes the trigger. Very cool, very intriguing, and different from most of the others we’ve seen thus far.

From Sky: Week Eight Response

rap

Noun

–a type of popular music of US black origin in which words are recited rapidly and rhythmically over a prerecorded, typically electronic instrumental backing.

a piece of music performed in rap style, or the words themselves.

That’s that Oxford shit.

Frank Ocean raps very rarely. His verses include “Super Rich Kids” on his Channel, Orange album, his murdering of Earl Sweatshirt’s “Sunday”, Tyler’s “She”, as well as his verse on the rap collective Odd Future’s track “Oldie”, and a year ago he released a single track, “Blue Whale”, which was entirely rapping. I promise you I’ve listened to every Frank Ocean track I could find.

Frank Ocean

I mean, every word out of that man’s mouth is glorious. To me, and I’d argue to many others, “Oldie” proved to the world that this kid, who, hot of the high critical praise of his freshman mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra, whose album Channel, Orange was slated to drop only a couple months later, could rap.

Here’s his verse. Go ahead. Listen.

Listening to Sail Out for the first time made me realize I’d been sleeping on Jhene Aiko. Sleeping hard. Of course I had heard her on Gambino’s tracks and back on Kendrick’s Overly Dedicated. I had liked what I had heard. I thought the girl could drop great hooks. I looked at her in the same way i look at a pop star. Think about Kelly Rowland. Miley Cyrus. They’ve done hooks in various rap tracks but I never look at them as having any real control over their involvement in it. So, I listen to her second mixtape Sail Out, then I scope all her features on Ab-Soul, Kendrick, Drake, Schooboy Q and J. Cole. After this I download her freshman mixtape, Sailing Souls. Girl can sing. I dig it.

Jhene

Then Music Monday’s come around and your asking me if what she does is rap. I can honestly say that idea had never crossed my mind until you introduced it.

I go back and listen to all again. I was even changing out Frank Ocean at night for Sail Out. Again–girl can sing… but rap?

You gave me three verses to examine. Kendrick’s verse in “Stay Ready”, Jhene’s verse on the “What a Life” portion, and Drake’s on “From Time”. Well I did. In my opinion they illustrate the diversity of various styles artists bring.

It’s clear Kendrick’s verse is rap as well as Drakes. Now, examining the lyrics only, Jhene’s verse looks as if it could be something rapped. But it isn’t. I listened to “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)” from Sail Out. Now that. That is a track where she comes dangerously close to rapping. The same goes few her track “Hoe (feat. Miguel & Gucci Mane)” from Sailing Souls, and “From Time” on Drake’s Nothing Was The Same. Did you notice I only said “dangerously close”. I do not believe Jhene Aiko is a rapper or that what she is doing on some tracks is rap. As I said, she’s close at times. There lines in “Comfort Inn Ending (Freestyle)” that tell deep, intimate personal stories,

“‘Cus my brother was dying
And you gave me a shoulder to cry on
It was nothing, it’s nothing, it’s nothing, it’s nothing”

much like rappers do. Her fourth verse in “What a Life” shows great flow and interesting rhyme schemes. Again, much like rappers do. There is one thing that is prevents classifying her as a rapper in my book–harmonic inflection in her voice. She is singing, not rapping. Does she have many of the elements that make her a rapper? Yes. But she lacks the biggest quality. They’re not rap songs their rap tracks. Why? Because rappers don’t sing. I’m not saying Bino isn’t a rapper because he sings, or Drake. They have released rap tracks where they don’t sing, they… rap. There is not harmonic inflection in their voices. They straight rap. Jhene has yet to do this. She has yet to put out a rap track. Therefore she’s not a rapper.

I would say that Jhene Aiko is as much as a rapper as Frank Ocean, but plot twist, Frank Ocean is a rapper. The verses listed about showcase his rapping. No harmonic inflection. Straight bars. Until Jhene can completely drop that harmonic inflection in her voice, she won’t be a rapper. Personally, I hope she doesn’t drop it. I love it. It’s what I love about her music. I don’t think of her any less because she’s not a rapper. I do however, no longer look at her a pop star either. She is much like Frank Ocean is, hard to nail down genre-wise. Frank sings, Frank raps. Jhene sings. Jhene sing-raps. Their genre? Hip Hop.

Isn’t taxonomy fun?

-S

FEATURE – MF DOOM DISCUSSION: WEEK THREE – A LOOK AT “Operation: Doomsday”

Night and day. KMD’s Mr. Hood and Black Bastards are night and day from Operation: Doomsday. There’s new themes, new gimmicks, new and multiple characters. Hell, it’s like he’s…another person.

Operation: Doomsday

I couldn’t help but listen to Operation: Doomsday without thinking about the context of the album. A couple years prior to the album’s release, Zev Love X was homeless and living on the streets of NYC. Dude was straight up homeless. He left hip hop behind. I can only imagine how difficult this must have been for DOOM. I can’t help but seeing that this time in his life greatly effected the lyrics on Operation: Doomsday. There’s a few things that really admire about this album–DOOM being meta and his mind-blowing lyricism, the concept, and the listener’s struggle.

On the more analytical level, what stood out most to me had to be DOOM’s lyrical approach. Even from the first track (that isn’t a skit) DOOM flat out spit insanity. The first lines of “Doomsday”:

I used to cop a lot
But never copped no drop

is a baffling entendre. This line can be interpreted in half a dozen ways. This is clearly DOOM’s intentions, especially considering this is the opening line. Tracks like “Doomsday”, “Hey!”, and especially “Rhymes Like Dimes,” are full of wicked entendres. I think it’s fair to say that DOOM is an artist you could listen to for the rest of your life and pick up something new in his lyrics with every listen.

What really struck me on my recent listen to Operation: Doomsday was how meta DOOM is at times. The first of these lines that really caught my attention was from “Doomsday” where DOOM spits,

I wrote this one in B.C. D.C. O-section
If you don’t believe me, go get bagged and check then
Cell number 17, up under the top bunk

What makes this line meta is how DOOM is addressing writing the actual track he’s currently spitting. Supposedly written during a stint in B.C. D.C. (Baltimore County Detention Center), “Doomsday” lays a sturdy and deep foundation for everything that’s DOOM to come. Now, this is where the enigmatic side of DOOM comes out as well. First, to address the context behind this line, I can’t seem to find a definitive answer as to whether or not DOOM was actually incarcerated at some point in his life or not. Being homeless could have lead to an arrest or two, logically. DOOM, however, gives us the answer to whether or not he’s bullshitting for the sake of rhymes–DOOM says go get pinched and if you land yourself in cell number seventeen, check under that top bunk for “Doomsday” lyrics.

Other instances of DOOM being meta comes in the track, “The Finest”, a track shared with Megalon AKA Tommy Gunn.

Come on stay, I wrote this rhyme on my born-day
Remind me of the same style I flipped on “Hey!”

DOOM references not only the current track he’s spitting, but his flow on “Hey!”–a song eight tracks passed “The Finest”. These meta lines are some of my favorites. Those, in combination with those wicked entendres, DOOM’s lyricism on *Operation: Doomsday* is easily the album’s most enduring quality.

DOOM

When it comes to Operation: Doomsday, it’s hard to argue that it’s not a concept album. Although it may not tell a singular story throughout and, more times than not, tends to focus on a central theme–this misunderstood super villain. I can understand why a lot of people can’t get into DOOM because of the skits. Granted this is the gimmick behind the concept album, that it must be listened to completely though. In that case the the skits really aid to the progression of the album. This is especially seen on “?” and in “Hero vs. Villain (Epilogue)” where DOOM is stopped from world domination. In “?”, the beginning skit,

My servants began to forge what was to become
The most dreaded costume on the face of the earth
The last thing to fit was the mask
Will it conform to my twisted features in comfort

the creation of this super villain alter ego is explored, as well as the creation of the disguise–his mask of course. In “Hero vs. Villain (Epilogue)” the skit does much the same, in that it furthers the progression of the albums story.

I really enjoy a great concept album. I’ve always been to type of person to listen to albums straight through and when this is done with *Operation: Doomsday* it can be a really magical thing.

The last part I wanted to touch on was that of the listener’s struggle. This might not have been something you, fellow listener, experienced unless you’re aware of the albums context, DOOM’s backstory prior and were aware with KMD and Subroc’s death. Remember, before *Operation: Doomsday* was recorded, DOOM was homeless. Think about how people interact with the homeless. People can either be really humane to them, offering them food, money, shelter in some cases, while at the same time people can be very evil to them–think Bumfights and people verbally assaulting them. DOOM takes the good/evil struggle to another level in *Operation: Doomsday*; here we have this… person, this rapper, MF DOOM, and we can’t really put a finger on whether or not he’s a super villain or a superhero.

Think about Batman. Batman was often confused as a villain despite being the best thing that ever happened to Gotham City. DOOM and Batman have this same struggle. With Batman though, it’s quite evident that he’s, in fact, a superhero. With DOOM, however, it’s not as crystal. DOOM doesn’t really do much that makes us see him as a villain. The skits imply that he is in fact a villain, and do more to perpetuating this idea than DOOM’s lyrics do. In “?” when DOOM raps about his brother:

Like my twin brother, we did everything together
From hundred raka’at salats to copping butter leathers
Remember when you went and got the dark blue Ballys
I had all the different color Cazals and Gazelles
The “SUBROC” three-finger ring with the ruby in the “O”, ock
Truly the illest dynamic duo on the whole block
I keep a flick of you with the machete sword in your hand
Everything is going according to plan man

we can really see that DOOM isn’t really a villain. That last line,

Everything is going according to plan man

with the proper context, is quite powerful. We feel sadness and empathy for DOOM. At the same time, he’s a super villain, who we’re not supposed to root for. The final track, “Hero vs. Villain (Epilogue)”, examines this from an outside perspective, much like the listeners, since the track is spit by E. Mason and not DOOM.

There is, of course, the other way people interact, or rather not interact, with the homeless–ignoring them all together. DOOM, however, will not be ignored. DOOM takes these basic human interactions towards the homeless and incorporates them into his lyrics and addresses them at other rappers. DOOM makes us decided for ourselves as to who the man behind the mask is. Is the mask a way of hiding himself from the cruelness of the world or rather a way to reinvent himself. Looks like DOOM left us with another entendre, something else to ponder.