Tag Archives: Kanye West

Song of the Day: “Welcome to the Jungle” – Jay Z & Kanye West

Last week, Kanye West declared that there would never be another Watch the Throne collaboration, due to Jay Z’s involvement with Tidal. If that’s actually true, it’s a shame because Watch the Throne was a pretty good album that contained some of the best moments of each rapper’s respective career.

One of the more interesting tracks on the album is the hypnotic “Welcome to the Jungle” due to its personal nature. Kanye only appears for a brief moment during the bridge, leaving Jay Z alone to channel his inner pain. For a man who loves portray himself larger than life and seems to have it all, it’s a harrowing moment when he reveals that he sometimes wonders why he was even born.

The “jungle” here isn’t the means street of Los Angeles found in Guns N’ Roses song. Rather, its life itself all the heartbreak and depression that comes with it. The song’s namesake  isn’t lost on Jay-Z who opens the song, declaring, “Black Axl Rose, move halfs and wholes/Come down to the jungle, just ask for Hov.” The Rose reference aside, the song starts withJay Z in autopilot mode, rapping once again about his hustling days. A few moments later though, he digs deeper and mourns the deaths of his nephew, uncle and father, leaving his faith in God tested.

The second verse is even more disturbing: his mother can’t see his smile and he numbs the pain with champagne and weed to no avail. Looking into the mirror, he doesn’t seem himself, but rather an opponent keeping him down. The song ends with Jay Z admitting, “I’m already dying, so fuck it.”

Throughout the song in various moments, Swizz Beats (who produced the song) shouts out “Godammit!”. It’s one of the few instances in recent years that I can think of, where the phrase retains its original power as an angry cry to God.

If Watch the Throne II never happens, at least we still have the original to listen to.

 

Retrospective: The Top 10 Albums of 2005

 

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I’m feeling a bit nostalgic at the moment and finding it hard to believe that 2005 was 10 years ago. Overall, 2005 was a pretty good year for music and saw quite a few artists releasing some of their best work. So here’s my Top 10 for 2005.  (In no particular order.)

“Come on Feel the Illinoise!” – Sufjan Stevens

Come on Feel the Illinoise! is a wordy, highly literate – just how many words and references can he throw in “Decatur”? – complex and musically ambitious album. It could easily fall under the weight of its own pretentiousness, but somehow it doesn’t. Managing to incorporate The Wall of Sound into a lo-fi record (particularly on the glorious “Chicago”, Stevens delivers not only the best album of his career but also one of the best of the 2000s. With a mix of folk, classical and even buzzing guitars (“The Man of Metropolis Steals Our Hearts”) Come on Feel the Illinoise! reveals something new with each subsequent listen.

“Aha Shake Heartbreak” – Kings of Leon

Before they went mainstream (and downhill), Kings of Leon were a white-hot, dirty rock n’ roll band. Aha Shake Heartbreak shows that version of the band at its best: a strange hybrid of Allman Brothers Southern-boogie played with Stooges-style anarchy. Caleb Followill’s voice was nearly indecipherable as he belted out tales of his dick getting soft from too much drinking and threatening to take people down in a cock-fight. Every song is a classic and is an album the Kings never bettered. (Note: I’m going with the US release date in 2005, not the UK edition which was released at the end of 2004.)

“The Woods” – Sleater-Kinney

If Sleater-Kinney hadn’t decided to return with this month’s No Cities to Love, The Woods would be a hell of a way to go out. The Woods is a dark, furious beast of a record that crushes anything in its path. Janet Weiss never pounded so hard – check out her rolls on the opener “The Fox”. Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker both deserve more recognition as guitarists- their interlocking riffs and wild feedback on “What’s Mine Is Yours” is the stuff of legend. Even the slower moments are dazzling as evident on the surprisingly poppy “Modern Girl”. At the time, The Woods was more than a fitting coda to one of America’s best bands. Glad to have them back.

“Cold Roses” – Ryan Adams & The Cardinals

Ryan Adams released two great albums (this one and Jacksonville City Nights) and one underwhelming one (29) in 2005. What sets Cold Roses apart from the other two is the lack of self-importance. On Cold Roses, Adams seems relaxed and embracing his inner American Beauty.  The highlights are many: “Sweet Illusions” is breathtakingly gorgeous, “Let it Ride” makes Adam seem command of the world’s best bar band. And “Easy Plateau” might be the best Alt-Country song he ever recorded.

“Welcome to Jamrock” – Damian Marley

I’ve always thought that the musical children of Bob Marley rely too much on his name and music and have never carved out a career of their own. Damian Marley, however is the exception wisely choosing to infuse hip-hop (in his case, “toasting”) into his musical heritage. The title track is a vivid portrait of Jamaica’s dark underbelly where “people are dead at random”.  The driving opening track “Confrontation” is a perfect showcase for Marley’s fast-paced vocal dexterity. The highlight is the Nas’ assisted “Road to Zion” who (naturally) gives an absolutely flawless verse.

“Silent Alarm” – Bloc Party

As far as debut albums go, Silent Alarm is a pretty good one. There’s a razor shape focus in the songwriting and delivery which is only amplified with the jagged guitars and dramatic drumming. The post-punk aggression in many of the songs makes the earnestness easier to swallow.  Make no mistake, Silent Alarm is a political album but it’s the quieter and apolitical moments like the soft “So Here We Are” that are the most memorable.

“Z” – My Morning Jacket

 Z found My Morning Jacket ditching their trademark reverb-heavy sound for a warmer vibe and deconstructing several different styles throughout. “Wordless Chorus” is psychedelic soul at its best: a showcase for Jim James’ to truly show his vocal shops during the outro. “Off the Record” is charged by a classic guitar riff, before sliding into a pseudo-reggae coda that reminiscent of both “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?” and “Layla”. A landmark achievement for the band, Z is endlessly inventive and rewarding.

“Plans” – Death Cab For Cutie In the mid-2000’s, Death Cab For Cutie found themselves at a crossroads much like late 80’s R.E.M.  Both acts received critical acclaim for their indie albums and questions arose what a major label debut would do to their sound.  Plans unlike Document (which boasted a heavier sound for R.E.M.) isn’t a radical departure for Death Cab, but rather a summation of what they do best: weary mid-tempo ballads that mixed with a few rockers for good measure. Plans achieved a rare feat of bringing in new fans while also satisfying the old ones.

“Arular” – M.I.A.

Arular is what happens when Sandinista! meets hip-hop and eletroclash.  Arular is a radical album on all fronts and is the first indication that not only does M.I.A. not shy away from controversy, but tends to thrive on it by writing songs about terrorism and snipers in Sri Lanka. Musically, the album is a barrage of sounds from all corners of the world mashed up together brilliantly. Bonus points for also sampling The Sanford and Son theme song. Not for the faint of heart, but a riveting record all the same.

“Late Registration” – Kanye West

Late Registration is probably remembered most for “Gold Digger” which was everywhere. But Late Registration is the album where West truly solidified his status as a visionary. Deciding to move away from the Soul-sample heavy sound of The College Drop-Out, West ups the ante by incorporating string sections and chamber music throughout Late Registration. Lyrically the template for his later works start here: biting social commentary mixed with boasting and self-deprecation. Easily one of West’s best works.

 

Albums By Artist I Love, But Have No Interest In

To love a particular artist, doesn’t necessarily mean that you should consider that their entire catalogue is amazing.  Even the greatest artists have terrible albums or ones that just don’t move you.  Some of these listed are albums that are known to be terrible, others are just ones that have never quite caught my attention for whatever reason and have decided that they are not worth my time.

Elvis Costello – Armed Forces

 

I know that this supposed to be a classic Costello album, but there’s just something about it that I can’t quite get a grasp on. Maybe it’s the cold production that turns me off.  To me, the album seems stuck between the energy and anger of This Year’s Model and the go-for-broke eclecticism of Get Happy!!   It does however, contain one of the greatest opening lines in album – “Oh I just don’t know where to begin”.  I’m inclined to agree with you about Armed Forces on that one, Mr. Costello.

 

R.E.M. – Reveal

Yes, everyone knows that Around the Sun is a piece of shit.  Even the band, specifically Peter Buck.  But Reveal is also pretty terrible too. I understand where R.E.M. was trying to do, which was to make a Beach Boys-style pop record. But the songs don’t go anywhere and the harmonies aren’t quite up there with the best of the Beach Boys imitations. Ironically, they were better at this type of stuff when Bill Berry was still in the band and they weren’t trying to make a Beach Boys style album.  Up may have its faults, but at least it was interesting.

 

Outkast – Idlewild

Outkast are geniuses.  They’ve given the musical world so many great albums.  But Idlewild is not one of them.  From their beginnings right up through Speakerboxxx/The Love Below, their ability to mash styles and still be under the umbrella of hip-hop was a thing of beauty.  But Idlewild falls flat under its own ambitions: a hip-hop album with ’30s musical stylings.  Too often throughout the album, the listener is left wondering what the hell is going on rather than having their minds blown.  Outkast wisely disappeared after this album’s release ensuring that everyone remembered why they were great in the first place.

 

Bob Dylan – The Entire Christian Era

In the past few years, it seems there’s been a bit of revisionist history concerning Dylan’s ’80s albums. The consensus seems to be that they’re not that bad and that there are some good songs throughout the ’80s.  Hey, I admit to liking Empire Burlesque and Infidels and even Knocked Out Loaded has its merits (that being “Brownsville Girl” of course.)  But as far as the born-again era?  Dylan was the epitome of the counter-culture in the ’60s so who really wants to hear him singing about finding God and how those who sinned will be eternally damned?  Imagine if the Rolling Stones decided to have an album full of songs about the joys of domestic life or Rage Against the Machine put out an album that wasn’t political.  It’s the same thing.

 

U2 – No Line on the Horizon

The 360 Tour was great. U2 are always great as a live band.  But No Line on the Horizon is even worse than the misguided electro-tinged Pop.  With Horizon, U2 put out an album that wanted to please fans of their experimental side and fans of their soaring anthems.  A nice attempt that ultimately goes nowhere. “Get on Your Boots” is their most embarrassing song while “Magnificent” is half-baked re-write of “Beautiful Day”.  Say what you want about U2 but even at their worst, they’re never boring – except for this album.

Kanye West – 808s & Heartbreak

 

Every once in a while, I think I should give this album another chance. And then I listen to it and I just can’t do it. West seems to think it’s a bit ahead of its time, and maybe that’s true. I tend to think it was ahead of its time even for him. The desolate and cold atmosphere was better served on last year’s Yeezus.  808s & Heartbreak finds West at a crossroad: an artist conflicted with his own image and where he aspires to be. It’s not exactly a terrible album, but it’s the only time I’ve ever been disappointed in a Kanye West release.

 

Pearl Jam – Riot Act

Pearl Jam’s 2003 Tour found the band hitting a stride. Musically they were at the top of their game, and Eddie Vedder gave some of his most passionate performances due to the beginnings of the War in Iraq.  Too bad Riot Act (the album they toured behind) is pretty much the worst of their releases.  Riot Act is the exact opposite of that tour: tired and bland.  There’s nothing majestic like “Nothing As It Seems” from 2000’s Binaural or glorious as “In Hiding” and “Given to Fly” from Yield.  The one sole rocker “Save You” sounds forced and its excessive use of expletives is downright embarrassing.

 

The Who – The Who By Numbers

For the sake of the argument let’s forget that Face Dances and It’s Hard never happened.  After the sprawling and epic Quadrophenia, The Who returned with the lackluster The Who By Numbers.  Almost all of The Who’s trademarks are gone: chaotic drums from KeithMoon, powerful vocals from Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend’s crunching power chords. Townshend wrote the album in the midst of a life crisis but unlike his solo album 1980’s Empty Glass, his anguish left him uninspired.

 

The White Stripes – Get Behind Me Satan

After the brilliant Elephant, The White Stripes released this mess. Get Behind Me Satan is what happens when an artist starts believing their own hype and then completely abandons the things that fans love about them. The album is unfocused and meandering.  The saving grace is “My Doorbell” but even that with its repetitive hook can get annoying after a while.

Album of the Year: “Yeezus” – Kanye West

 

It seems only fitting that one of the last pieces that Lou Reed wrote was a raving review of Kanye West’s Yeezus. Reed was known for his un-comprimising rock and roll; songs with topics that the mainstream wasn’t ready to hear.  Yeezus does that too. Instead of songs detailing kinky sex and drugs, West’s album is filled with his thoughts on race, classicism and riffs on why he’s not taken seriously as artist.  And of course, the music is very Reed-like: abrasive, dark and uncomfortable.

West is no stranger to pushing buttons. It seems at least one a month there’s a headline from something “outrageous” he says. But with the exception of 808s and Heartbreak, his music was aimed for the masses. It’s easy for people to dismiss him as a person, but it’s hard to deny his impact on music. Daft Punk pretty much owe their comeback this year to him. Gansta rap became passe when he dropped The College Drop-Out. Even hip-pop artists like Flo-Rida have stolen his signature soul-sample inspired sound.

Yeezus on the other hand, is the exact opposite of that. It’s his In Utero, Plastic Ono Band and White Light/White Heat. This isn’t an album designed to pack in the most numbers of fans. It’s a strike in the heart of America. Just take a look at the title of the songs: “New Slaves”, “I Am God” and “Black Skinhead”.  Right away the listener knows that West is not fucking around this time around.

I have to admit, that even I was taken aback by Yeezus on my first listen. It’s minimalistic beats and jarring electronic noises were at first off-putting.  The first track “On Sight” is full of scattershot synths and noises.  “How much do I not give a fuck?” West asks on the track. With this music behind him, he almost makes it seem like a rhetorical question.

Almost.  The irony is of course, that West very much gives a fuck about his music.  So much in fact, that it has gotten him in trouble every so often for saying so.  You don’t have to listen to one of his “rants” to understand it. Another bit of irony found in Yeezus: almost all of his rants this year are encapsulated within “New Slaves”: a song that has been lauded as one of the top songs of the year, while his “rants” are constant headlines at celebrity news-sites and even more “legitimate” ones like the Huffington Post.

Yeezus is Kanye to the extreme. If you don’t like him, the album isn’t going to convince you that he is. If you think he’s an asshole, there are plenty of rhymes within the album to back your thoughts on that. That’s basically the theme of the chilled out “Hold My Liquor”. Over a psychedelic beat with spaced out guitars (that’s what it sounds like at least), West wrestles with himself, wondering why: “you love me when I’m hung-over, you love me when I’m not sober”.

But everything you love or hate about West is best represented in “Blood on the Leaves”. By the time you get to this song, you’re thinking he can’t go any further.  But he does by sampling Nina Simone’s version of “Strange Fruit”. Other minds might have used that sample as the backing for “New Slaves”.  But somehow, West uses that sample about one of America’s worst moments, to tell a cautionary tale of scorned love and gold diggers (yes he revisits that theme).  On paper it sounds like a disaster waiting to happen.  But somehow it works because West is a master at mixing the sacred and the profane.

It’s this reason that “I Am a God” is hilarious.  I always thought if you take that seriously, you’re missing the point. It’s supposed to be over the top.  How can it not be when West demands his “damn croissants” and then chills with Jesus as he stacks his millions?

The whole album ends with the glorious “Bound 2”.  After an album that is filled with musical mind-fucks, West ends it by being fairly straightforward with the now-classic  “uh huh honey” sample, courtesy of Brenda Lee.  “Bound 2” is the only time throughout the album that West steps back for a moment and muses whether he and his love will make it to Christmas. With the Ponderosa Twins Plus One singing “bound to fall in love” in the background, West finally lets his guard down and declares that “admitting is the first step”.

No other album that came out this year matches the scope and riskiness of Yeezus.  Not even close. I could care less about his ranting and raving.  It’s his personality that fuels music like this.  Brian Wilson has often declared himself to be a genius and nobody argues. And of course, he’s right.  And so is Kanye.

Song of the Week: “Power” – Kanye West

 

Say whatever you want about Kanye West’s rants and personal life, but the dude knows how to make songs. While “Runaway” is emotional center-point of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, “Power” is the album’s sonic masterpiece.  Like Sly and the Family Stone, Prince and even Outkast, Kanye takes a wide variety of sounds and influences to create something new and original.  “Power” incorporates elements of Metal, Gospel Prog-Rock, Emo and Soul into one big package.

“At the end of the day, godammit I’m killing this shit,” West declares half-way through the song.  It’s not really boasting when it’s true.  He knows that whatever else is said about him, it’s hard to argue that he’s not killing this shit.  The trails of the Taylor Swift incident, the Hurricane Katrina telethon and rants are gone every-time the dude steps in the studio.

“Screams from the haters, got a nice ring to it,” West observes. With “Power” he seems to be throwing back every insult that’s been thrown at him.   You say he’s got a Jesus complex? He’s going to make a beat out of an entire choir and make it the song’s hook.  Think he’s crazy?  Leave it to West to make King Crimson seem cool and relevant by sampling “21st Century Schizoid Man” in the song’s chorus.

In a stroke of genius, “Power” was played in the background of a trailer for The Social Network.  Though they’re from completely different worlds, Mark Zuckerburg and Kanye West are not entirely different. From the outside, we’ll never to get to know them personally and their stories and exploits will be written about for years to come.  Yet, their achievements have changed the cultural landscape.  Who knows where they’ll be in the future, but as West says, “til then fuck that, the world’s ours.”

 

Album of the Week: “The Blueprint” – Jay-Z

With all respect to Reasonable Doubt, The Blueprint is Jay-Z’s magnum opus. It’s the album where he declares himself to be hip-hop uncontested king with the beats and rhymes to prove it. It’s the rare hip-hop album that was a critical, commercial and under-ground success.  Eschewing the commercial aspect of his past few albums, Jay delivered an album that was made for the streets where he hailed from.  Jay-Z has always rhymed about growing up in the Brooklyn projects, but The Blueprint proved that he hasn’t truly forgot what it was like.

In some ways, the Jay-Z found on The Blueprint recalls the Bob Dylan of the mid-1960s: cocky, assured, and boastful. And like Dylan from that era, who’s going to argue with the self-imposed claims? Both were unapologetic about their talents, and antagonistic towards those who thought otherwise: “Welcome to ladies and gentlemen to the 8th wonder of the world,” He declares at the beginning of “Izzo”.

“You will respect me, simple as that,” Jay raps on “The Ruler’s Back”.  It’s not so much a challenge as a straight-up fact.  A few lines later in the same song, he acknowledges that “there’s a lot of rappers out there trying to sound like Jay-Z”.  Instead of telling the imitators to simply fuck off (though he does that and more to Nas on the immortal “Takeover”), he offers some tips on how to sound like him.  Not many rappers could get away with such a line without sounding idiotic, but Jay-Z does it so effortlessly, that for a second you might actually think that he’s being sincere and perhaps even helpful. And by the time you realize that it’s such a nasty put-down, he’s already moved on.  And those he feels are insignificant and not worth his time are given “half a bar”.

Unlike a lot of other rap albums, The Blueprint contains only one cameo with Eminem showing up on “Renegade”.  Perhaps it’s fitting that Eminem would be the only one to appear since he was the only rapper whose skills could match Jay-Z’s at the time.  If anyone else would brought a verse to The Blueprint, it would have been reductive. Otherwise, The Blueprint is all Jay doing what he does best: obliterating everyone else in the process with wit and gritty tales of his time in the Brooklyn projects.  His  flow and rhymes never sounded tighter, and his words drip from his tongue like butter.

Besides the rhymes, what makes The Blueprint truly great is its sound. Sampling soul songs has become something of a past-time in hip-hop in the past decade, but at the time of its release, The Blueprint was groundbreaking in its use of samples.  Much of the credit for that goes to a pre-fame Kanye West whose retro sounding beats were already gaining attention in the hip-hop community. It’s his hand that gives “Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)” its classic 70s sampling using Bobby Blue Band’s “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City”.  On “Izzo” his use of the Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” gave Jay one of his biggest hits.

Like Dylan who had trouble following up his mid-1960s trilogy, subsequent Jay-Z albums never quite matched The Blueprint’s power.  While The Black Album contained “99 Problems”, much of it was lackluster.  Jay-Z didn’t disappear like Dylan, but he did make a much touted “retirement” that left both him and his fans wondering if he had truly peaked with The Blueprint. It wasn’t until The Blueprint 3 and Watch the Throne almost a decade later, that Jay-Z sounded like the Hov of old.  No matter what came afterwards though, The Blueprint remains a classic of hip-hop in the new millennium and one of the best albums of the past decade.

Album of the Week: “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy” – Kanye West

(Since the Grammys are this weekend, this week I’m looking back on should be nominated and also given “Album of the Year”.  For shame, recording Academy!)

Prior to the release of My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, even some of Kanye’s supporters were ready to throw in the towel. For years, his volatile personality threatened to overshadow his music: the outbursts at various award shows, the tardiness at concerts, calling out George Bush on Hurricane Katrina.  It all came to head when he bum-rushed the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards, interrupting Taylor Swift as she accepted her award for Best Female Video.  Even President Obama called him a “jack-ass”.  Hip-hop’s most innovative artist had suddenly become a joke.

“Who will survive in America?” asks Gil Scott-Heron in a sample that ends My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Though Heron’s question is political, West applies that to himself throughout the album. West no doubt knew that whatever he came out with next after the Taylor Swift incident would make or break him in the public’s eye.

West need not worry.  Not only did he turn out the best album of his career, but also one of the best Hip-Hop albums ever made.  Sonically, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy incorporates the soul-heavy samples of The College Drop-Out, the bombast of Graduation, and the atmospherics of 808s & Heartbreak.  The album is a culmination of West’s entire career – but bigger and bolder.  The beats are among West’s best, and just when you think you’ve got the groove – there’s a sudden time-change.

The sounds that make up My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy are vast and wide.  Choir chants are contrasted with a metal-heavy beat (complete with a sample of King Crimson’s “21st Century Schizoid Man”) on the album’s lead single “Power”.  The last three minutes of “Runaway” contain elements of West’s voice filtered through Auto-tune, mimicking (and dueling with) a distorted guitar that fights its way back and forth against and orchestra and piano.  Only Kanye West could create a collage of sounds like this and make it work.  What should be senseless noise, becomes a battle between old world music (the orchestra and piano) and the new (West’s voice and the Auto-tune) with no clear winner.  Elsewhere, “All of the Lights” tries to fit in as many guest-vocalists as possible.  It’s almost overbearing at first along its choppy beat, but it sums up the entire album: nothing is subtle or quiet here.  Every single note and every single song is meant to be bold and brash.

The sounds draw the listener in, but beneath the sonic boom, West lets his guard down.  He’s not afraid to admit his faults or his fears.  At the end of “Power”, he contemplates “jumping out the window, letting everything go”.  Elsewhere, admits that “the plan was to drink til the hang-over”, before revealing darker thoughts: “But what’s worse?  The pain or the hang-over?”

Like many Hip-Hop albums, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy has numerous guests spots.  With the exception of an explosive Nicki Minaj on “Monster”, none of them overshadow West himself.  And while his rapping is quite good on the album, overall My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy makes it clear that for all his egotistical rants, West may have truly lived up to his own hype.

 

 

The Ten Most Important Artists Of The Last Decade (Full List)

This is technically a repost, but for those interested it’s all in one spot.

1.) The White Stripes

2.) Kanye West

3.) Jay-Z

4.) Britney Spears

5.) Danger Mouse

6.) The Strokes

7.) Radiohead

8.) Lil Wayne

9.) Green Day

10.) Death Cab For Cutie

The Ten Most Important Artists of the Last Decade: 8. Lil Wayne

The first time I heard Lil Wayne’s voice was on the song, “Barry Bonds” off of Kanye West’s Graduation in 2007. I knew of him, but never actually listened to him. When he appeared on the second verse on the song, in his thick syrup induced drawl, my head turned. “What the fuck is this?”, I thought in astonishment. It was unlike anything I heard in hip-hop. His flow seemed to work around the beat, as opposed to be linked to it. And then there were the bizarre lyrics: “my drink’s still pinker than the easter rabbit”; “stove on my waist turn beef to patties”. It was clear even then, that the dude followed his own path. Instead of following the normal rules, he seemed to be re-writing them as he went along.

His voice is everywhere these days – besides his own songs, it seems that he is on almost every single hip-hop song on the radio. It seems so commonplace, so it’s easy to forget how weird, bizarre, and how good he can be. Many rappers stick to a constant flow in the song, making it easy to rap along. In any one of his songs, Wayne takes detours that others would be afraid to take. His voice is not normal, and he often enunciates particular words that would otherwise be un-rhymeable – “I’m rare like mr clean with hair, No brake lights on my car rear” from “Phone Home”. “A Milli” is one of the strangest hip-hop songs to be released in the past few decades. There’s no hook, except for the statement, “motherfucker I’m ill”. From anything other rapper, the strange beats and repeated “a milli” voice in the background would have been annoying, but Wayne sees it as a challenge, delivering a tour de force of a song.

Prior to Tha Carter III, he built up a following with the albums 500 Degreez, and Tha Carter. But it was really his mix-tapes Dedication 2 and Da Drought 3 and his appearances on singles from Fat Joe (“Make it Rain”), Chris Brown (“Gimme That”) and Wyclef Jean (“Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)”) among numerous others in 2006 and 2007 that gained him a wider audience. When Tha Carter III was released in June 2008, it was clear that hip-hop belonged to Lil Wayne.

But being his unpredictable self, Wayne followed-up the blockbuster Carter III with the critically panned Rebirth, which was his much touted rock album. To some, Rebirth might be seen as mistake (and while it certainly is forgettable) it proves that Lil Wayne does whatever he wants, critics and detractors be damned.

Is Weezy, the best rapper alive, as he has often claimed?  Perhaps.  If nothing else he is without a doubt one of the most innovative, prolific, entertaining and wildest rappers out there.

The Absurd Review: Kanye West & Jay-Z: “H.A.M.”

“H.A.M.”, the first single from the Jay-Z and Kanye West collaboration Watch The Throne surfaced earlier today.  The idea of the two hip-hop giants making an album together sounds exciting, but if H.A.M. is any indication of what direction Watch The Throne will take count me out.  Both rappers sound uninspired, the beat is sub-par, and what’s with the weird 80s synth in the background?   The final half of the song contains violins, and a choir.  Kanye, dude you already did similar things with better results on “Power”.

What do you think of “H.A.M.”?