Carter 4: Room Temperature Hot Dog Water Music (This Is Not A Review)

 

Okay, people.  I really tried to sit down and give an unbiased listen to this album.  I really opened up WordPress with the intention of writing a solid, thoughtful review.  However, the more One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, mixtape-freestyle-level federal-assistance bars this man Li’l Wayne dropped on the first several tracks I listened to, the more I came to an unfortunate realization.  I can’t very well put more thought and effort into writing a serious album review than Li’l Wayne himself put into making a serious album that his fans (this does not include me) have been anticipating.

Wayne and his fans tout him as the best rapper alive, but how do you claim this if your music declines in quality over time and you show no maturity or evolution over the span of your career?  Basically, he evolved into a rich toddler.  Wayne is a 28-year-old grown man and is still to this day (on studio album #9) kickin’ Romper Room raps like there’s no tomorrow.  Let’s get into a few of these anemic bars:

Really, Wayne? You’re “going in like your water broke”?

Really, Wayne? They left you out to dry like a towel rack?

Really, Wayne? You’re all about your riches so your name should be Richard?

When it Waynes, it pours?!?!?!  Really, Wayne?  Really, Wayne?

Weezy F. Baby. The F stands for Fuckouttaheeeeere...

I can’t believe his fans are really about to be okay with this project.  I mean, I guess you can get anything past people who condone their favorite rapper screaming Blood gang whilst rocking vermillion skinny jeans.  I would think a prison bid would have given this man time to think a little bit and master his art a little more, but all these raps tell me is that Wayne probably had a Nintendo Entertainment System in his cell with one game: Bubble Bobble.  Dwayne had two books in his cell during his entire sentence judging by these bars: Harold & The Purple Crayon and Goodnight Moon.  There was no personal growth, no reflection, no Eye of the Tiger style preparation for his ability to get free and back in the studio…just a whole lot of pushups and he mighta learned origami or flipped through some Archie comics.

The sad thing about the Carter 4 is that the only things that make the album listenable or noteworthy have nothing to do with Wayne himself.  Every rapper featured on the album (yes, even Aubrey Graham) make an example out of him on each track.  Andre 3000 waltzed into the studio in a bow tie and gaberdine slacks and made a grandson out of you on your own joint; how’s that feel?  Tech N9ne probably rocked a Johnny Cage from Mortal Kombat outfit to the studio and embarassed you, Dwayne.  I can’t recall any album in recent memory where the best tracks are the interlude and outro and I definitely can’t remember any previous album from a solo artist where the best tracks don’t even feature that artist.  On top of all this, the production is pretty damn good.  Too bad Wayne didn’t do anything but smear some primary colors on these canvases.


On a sidenote, Dwayne…get ya man Juelz and do that collaboration album y’all were talkin’ about 16 years ago or some such shit.  I don’t think anybody wanna see him doubting himself like this…

Smh.

Couldn’t resist:

Continue Reading

Album Review :: The R.E.D. Album by The Game

The Game represents a conundrum many consumers of culture face in the modern day: in the information age, we know way too much about celebrities and their personal lives and everyday emotions.  Not only do we have more access to celebs than ever before; they also have more access to us, via emotionally-charged Twitter rants, blog posts, video blogs, DVDs nobody really asked them to make, etc.  The Game is one such rapper: a talented MC who is unfortunately known more for his feud with 50-Cent and company than for his actual output.  I’m born and raised in California, so when Game first appeared I was appreciating seeing the west coast back on the scene, but the more Game’s personality emerged, the more I distanced myself from him as an artist.  Though musically I felt he was talented, and still do, his material has always been plagued by his now-trademark incessant name-dropping and constant whining about his estrangement from mentor Dr. Dre and issues with Interscope and 50.

The R.E.D. Album is like a slow re-structuring of Game’s whole approach to music, though transition is not complete yet.  The usual issues still pop up, only peppered in amongst quality music and decent choice of guest stars here and there.  The elephant in the room here is the re-appearance of Dr. Dre like a wayward father, providing vocals on several interludes as well as the track “Drug Test” along with Snoop Dogg and Sly, an appropriately West-Coast club banger also co-produced by Dr. Dre along with DJ Khalil.

Kendrick Lamar without question steals the show on “The City” with a stellar verse and hook contribution.  “Heavy Artillery” brings us the Rick Ross we’re used to and the Beanie Sigel we’ve been wanting since The Roc fell apart some time ago.  “Paramedics” is a frantic joint that Young Jeezy should have probably tried to put on his mixtape from a few months ago, considering his contribution here is better than anything I’ve heard from him in a while.

The mournful “Ricky” has a cinematic feel to it and is probably one of the best tracks on the album, but might have been better if Game had stuck to a specific topic or linear storyline as opposed to just arbitrarily rhyming.  “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” provides that storytelling missing on “Ricky” with Game adopting a whole other flow for the time being.  This is the stuff of vets; changing up the flow and subject matter adds texture to the project so the listener isn’t hearing the same “look I can rhyme” 16s on every track, but hearing new approaches to keep the interest there.  “Born In The Trap” is produced by the legendary DJ Premier, who predictably gets busy on the boards.  If only Game could have avoided dropping the name of every single rapper with a record contract on this track, this would have been a highlight.

The Game’s gang affiliation is no secret and is even more prevalent on this album and at the same time it’s even more questionable.  On “Red Nation” and “Martians vs. Goblins”, Game joins forces with fellow Hollywood-Blood Li’l Wayne for a bunch of questionable flag-waving (what kind of Blood says “when I’m with my uncle, fuck it, then I’m a Crip too”?).  On the latter, Tyler the Creator shows up to spit some trite, unnecessary-expletive-ridden and predictably homophobic shock-rap over what’s coincidentally a pretty dope No-ID track with Game emulating his style to lackluster results.  Kind of a waste, in my opinion.  “Red Nation” might have been worth a damn if anybody really took either rapper’s affiliation to the Bloods seriously…and if this was ’92 and anybody cared.

May need more people.

Game puts the guns and the bandana away on a few tracks to mixed results.  “Hello” featuring Lloyd goes overboard with the “take you out the hood and buy you everything in the world, girl” Captain Save A Ho rhymes, with Game dropping every single brand name he could think of just like he usually does with MCs.  Lloyd’s vocals are just way too predictable and terry-cloth soft.  “Pot of Gold” featuring Chris Brown is so cheesy it made me uncomfortable, just like when the Game was rocking a red mohawk.  I understand the motivation to move units, but there’s a line between mainstream appeal and just making rap songs that sound like they came straight off the One Tree Hill soundtrack.  Where The Game does the crossover properly is “All The Way Gone” featuring Mario and fellow emotional rapper Wale, where the rhymes actually compliment the syrupy backdrop instead of sounding copied-and-pasted.  I’ve never been a Drake fan, but the pairing with Game on “Good Girls Go Bad”,which sounds like a knockoff Kanye track, is actually not bad. 

As far as studio LPs go, The R.E.D. Album isn’t as bad as most people expected and Game might be back on the radar for the time being.  You take the good with the bad: the records where the artist is actually spittin’ along with the records where he’s trying to reach the women and the party scene.  Though it’s clear The Game hasn’t listened to the criticism over the years and made the changes he needs to, it’s clear he’s putting more effort into making quality music.  If only he’d allow us to see more of his lyricism and less complaining, flag-waving and name-dropping, hip-hop heads could begin to take him somewhat seriously, all butterfly tats aside.

 Ricky x The Game

The City x The Game f. Kendrick Lamar

 

Continue Reading

Album Review :: Watch The Throne

People have forgotten how to listen to a hip-hop album.  In 2011, hip-hop fans have become accustomed to gauging a new album’s worth based more on the span between announcement of the project and actual release and, in this age of free music, whether or not it’s worth a buy.  Regarding the latter, an album has to basically move mountains to be worthy of a purchase, what with it being as effortless as a bodily function to acquire said album.  It’s also the era of the a la carte album…buy what you want, leave the rest.  That being said, there are a number of factors that will cloud most people’s perceptions of Watch The Throne, the product of an epic collaboration between Jay-Z and Kanye West.  I decided to listen to the whole thing front to back as opposed to

Watch The Throne can best be described as an event.  Jay and Ye succeeded in building just the right amount of anticipation for what turned out to be a pretty solid album, yet an album plagued by the hype machine that inspires fans to expect the gates of heaven to open as soon as they hit play. 

“No Church In The Wild” features Frank Ocean and succeeds in setting a sort of tone for the album, but unfortunately that energy falters once you hit “Lift-Off”, which is an accomplishment in terms of production, but Beyonce’s over-the-top vocals add a cheesy, Bond film theme song element to the track.  I almost expect a Kidz Bop rendition of this song to come out in a few months.  Luckily, “Niggas In Paris” and “Gotta Have It” make up for that misstep, giving you a little more of what you might have wanted/expected out of the project. 

As explained throughout the song, RZA joins the team on “New Day”, a mellow joint that attempts to strike some of the same chords as Jay’s “Beach Chair”, but doesn’t quite reach far enough.  Nevertheless, comparisons aside, as it should be, this is a dope song.  “That’s My Bitch” is almost purely disposable in my opinion, but may suit the palates of some.  Like all of the songs on the album, even for tracks you don’t like you still have no choice but to respect the talent behind the boards.  I’d even go so far as to say that an instrumental version of the album needs to be released ASAP.  The replay value would increase exponentially.   

I almost turned to the next track as soon as I heard Swizz Beatz’ voice on “Welcome To The Jungle”.  Like how and why are people allowing his tired vocal contributions into the recording booth?  He represents a personal pet peeve of mine,  but for the sake of giving the album a fair listen for review’s sake, it’s actually a decent track.  I suppose “Murder to Excellence” and “Made In America” constitute the socially conscious portion of the album, but came across as skip material to me, particularly with Frank Ocean’s unnecessarily sugary vocals on “Made”.   I grew to like “Why I Love You” after a couple of listens (I give everything a full 3 listens before reviewing it), but “Primetime” and “Illest Motherfucker Alive” (bonus tracks) could have easily replaced “Lift-Off” or “That’s My Bitch” as regular tracks.

There are a few fumbles here and there, but I don’t think it does the listener any good to sit there and pick an album apart for what it isn’t as opposed to appreciating it for what it is.  This project from these two artists doesn’t surprise me, but this level of artistry from any artist should be refreshing.  In an era of stale LPs and stellar mixtapes, West and Jay dropped an album that can be described as dope…buyable if people still really bought albums like they used to.  Perfect?  By no means…but how many albums can really be played straight through with no missteps or tracks that don’t appeal to you specifically as a listener?  And if you can think of two, how common does that make such an occurrence?  Quite simply, if you didn’t like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Kanye, then you won’t like Watch the Throne Kanye.  If you haven’t cared for Jay-Z’s creative direction over the past few projects, then don’t expect Blueprint or Reasonable Doubt Jay to appear here.  However, there’s no pandering for new audiences or conforming to sell units in my opinion…just two artists trying to expand the artform based on what was palatable to their seasoned ears.  As usual in their respective solo careers, Jay and Ye set the trend and at the same time make it impossible for others to successfully follow behind.  Whether you can get into it or not, this is the kind of different that’s good.  Some will make it out to be more than what it is, while some will unfairly deem it trash, whatever the motive may be for such a judgment.

Personally, I’m grateful.  Not dumbfounded by the excellence of it or by any reinvention of the wheel (this was not that), just grateful for something to add to the collection.

Continue Reading