the first 10 months of 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008
1. Erykah Badu - New Amerykah: 4th World War
2. Parts & Labor - Receivers
3. Young Jeezy - The Recession
4. Jaguar Love - Take Me To The Sea
5. Evangelista - Hello, Voyager
6. Nine Inch Nails - The Slip
7. Robin Thicke - Something Else
8. A.B.N. - It Is What It Is
9. Raphael Saadiq - The Way I See It
10. Coldplay - Viva La Vida Or Death And All His Friends
11. Lil Wayne - Tha Carter III
12. Sloan - Parallel Play
13. John Legend - Evolver
14. Prodigy - Product Of The 80s
15. T.I. - Paper Trail
16. My Brightest Diamond - A Thousand Shark's Teeth
17. Jonathan Richman - Because Her Beauty Is Raw And Wild
18. Walter Becker - Circus Money
19. The Raconteurs - Consolers Of The Lonely
20. Raheem DeVaughn - Love Behind The Melody
21. Termanology - Politics As Usual
22. David Byrne & Brian Eno - Everything That Happens Will Happen Today
23. Nas - Untitled
24. Ne-Yo - Year Of The Gentleman
25. Grand Buffet - King Vision
26. Jazmine Sullivan - Fearless
27. Rich Boy - Bigger Than The Mayor
28. Blake Leyh - X-Ray Yankee Zulu Tango
29. Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts I-IV
30. Statik Selektah - Stick 2 The Script
31. The B-52s - Funplex
32. Dwele - Sketches Of A Man
33. Sheek Louch - Silverback Gorilla
34. Prodigy - H.N.I.C. 2
35. Dan Friel - Ghost Town
36. The Roots - Rising Down
37. R.E.M. - Accelerate
38. AZ - Undeniable
39. Faraquet - Anthology 97-98
40. The Pretenders - Break Up The Concrete
41. Little Feat - Join The Band
42. Portastatic - Some Small History
43. various artists - The Wire: " … and all the pieces matter"
44. Firewater - The Golden Hour
45. Ted Leo - Rapid Response EP
46. Apollo Sunshine - Shall Noise Upon
47. The Alchemist - The Cutting Room Floor Vol. II
48. Mike Doughty - Golden Delicious
49. Jennifer Hudson - Jennifer Hudson
50. Young Dro - I Am Legend

1. Ne-Yo - "Closer"
2. Sara Bareilles - "Love Song"
3. Jordin Sparks f/ Chris Brown - "No Air"
4. Jazmine Sullivan f/ Missy Elliott - "I Need U Bad"
5. John Legend f/ Andre 3000 - "Green Light"
6. Pink - "So What"
7. Snoop Dogg f/ Too $hort and Mistah F.A.B. - "Life Of Da Party"
8. Cherish f/ Yung Joc - "Killa"
9. T.I. f/ Swizz Beatz - "Swing Ya Rag"
10. Ryan Leslie - "Diamond Girl"
11. Coldplay - "Lost!"
12. Soulja Boy - "Donk"
13. B.O.B. - "Haterz Everywhere"
14. T-Pain f/ Ludacris - "Chopped 'N Skrewed"
15. Jennifer Hudson - "Spotlight"
16. Hot Stylz f/ Yung Joc - "Lookin' Boy"
17. Slim f/ Yung Joc - "So Fly"
18. Paramore - "That's What You Get"
19. Ray J - "Gifts"
20. Alicia Keys - "Teenage Love Affair"
21. Ryan Leslie f/ Cassie "Addiction"
22. Webbie f/ Lil Phat of 3 Deep and Lil Boosie - "Independent"
23. Ludo - "Love Me Dead"
24. Coldplay - "Viva la Vida"
25. The Jonas Brothers - "Lovebug"
26. Robin Thicke - "Magic"
27. Ne-Yo - "Miss Independent"
28. T.I. f/ Rihanna - "Live Your Life"
29. Young Jeezy f/ Kanye West - "Put On"
30. Plies f/ Chris J. - "Put It On Ya"
31. Shawty Lo - "Foolish"
31. "Weird Al" Yankovic - "Whatever You Like"
32. Theory Of A Deadman - "Bad Girlfriend"
33. Katy Perry - "Hot N Cold"
34. Nas f/ Keri Hilson - "Hero"
35. Smashing Pumpkins - "G.L.O.W."
36. Lil Mama f/ T-Pain - "What It Is (Strike A Pose)"
37. Lupe Fiasco f/ Nikki Jean - "Hip Hop Saved My Life"
38. Jack White and Alicia Keys - "Another Way To Die"
39. Nickelback - "Gotta Be Somebody"
40. 50 Cent - "Get Up"
41. Trina f/ Killer Mike - "Look Back At Me"
42. Plies f/ Ne-Yo - "Bust It Baby Part 2"
43. Maroon 5 f/ Rihanna - "If I Never See Your Face Again (Remix)"
44. T.I. - "No Matter What"
45. Ashanti - "Good Good"
46. Janet Jackson - "Luv"
47. Chris Brown f/ Keri Hilson - "Superhuman"
48. Young Jeezy - "Who Dat"
49. One Day As A Lion - "Wild International"
50. Ron Browz - "Pop Champagne"
51. John Legend - "Show Me"
52. Big Boi f/ Raekwon and Andre 3000 - "Royal Flush"
53. Atreyu - "Falling Down"
54. Ne-Yo - "Go On Girl"
55. Snoop Dogg - "Sensual Seduction"
56. The Roots f/ Wale and Chrisette Michelle - "Rising Up"
57. Keri Hilson f/ Lil Wayne - "Turnin' Me On"
58. T.I. - "What Up, What's Haapnin'"
59. DJ Pharris f/ R. Kelly, Fat Joe, Fabolous and Busta Rhymes - "The Money"
60. Jesse McCartney - "Leavin'"
61. John Mayer - "Say"
62. Lee Carr - "Stilettos"
63. New Kids On The Block f/ Ne-Yo - "Single"
64. Bow Wow f/ Yung Joc - "Big Girls"
65. Nelly f/ Fergie - "Party People"
66. Nine Inch Nails - "Discipline"
67. Chris Cornell - "Long Time"
68. Busta Rhymes - "Don't Touch Me (Throw Da Water On 'Em)"
69. Sophia Fresh f/ Kanye West - "What It Is"
70. Danity Kane - "Damaged"
71. Lil Wayne f/ Bobby Valentino - "Mrs. Officer"
72. Ice Cube - "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It"
73. Pitbull f/ Lil Jon - "The Anthem"
74. Metro Station - "Shake It"
75. Usher f/ Young Jeezy - "Love In This Club"
76. Sara Bareilles - "Bottle It Up"
77. Plies f/ Jamie Foxx and The-Dream - "Please Excuse My Hands"
78. Michelle Williams - "We Break The Dawn"
79. New Kids On The Block - "Summertime"
80. The Pretenders - "Boots Of Chinese Plastic"
81. LL Cool J f/ The-Dream - "Baby"
82. Ace Gutta f/ T-Pain and Rick Ross - "Cash Flow"
83. G-Unit - "I Like The Way She Do It"
84. Lil Wayne - "A Milli"
85. Bun B f/ David Banner, Rick Ross, 8 Ball & MJG - "You're Everything"
86. Timbaland f/ Keri Hilson and Nicole Scherzinger - "Scream"
87. Missy Elliott - "Ching-A-Ling"
88. Coheed And Cambria - "Feathers"
89. Erykah Badu - "Honey"
90. Foxboro Hot Tubs - "Mother Mary"
91. Chingy f/ Amerie - "Fly Like Me"
92. Sheek Louch - "Good Love"
93. Soulja Boy - "Let Me Get Em"
94. Chingy f/ Ludacris and Bobby Valentino - "Gimme Dat"
95. Leona Lewis - "Bleeding Love"
96. Mike Jones f/ Hurricane Chris - "Drop & Gimme 50"
97. Hurricane Chris - "Playas Rock"
98. Say Anything - "Shiksa (Girlfriend)"
99. Weezer - "Troublemaker"
100. Jaheim - "Never"

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My show reviews on the City Paper's Noise blog this month: the Scribble Jam preliminary @ Sonar (winner A-Class pictured above), the Bow-Legged Gorilla/Magical Beautiful/Beans @ the Windup Space, Kirby Adams/Nothingberryplasma/Brendan Sullivan/Bbop Doons @ the Ottobar, Apollo Sunshine @ DC9, The Meat Puppets/Built To Spill @ Rams Head Live, and Little Feat @ the 9:30 Club.

(photo by Al Shipley)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Next Friday the 2nd annual Baltimore Crown event is taking place at the 5 Seasons, and there's a lot of performances scheduled as well as an MC battle, which will be judged by the crowd, and a producer battle, for which I've been asked to serve as one of the judges. This year there's also going to be awards voted on by the public for various categories, and info on voting is here (there's a "Best Blog and/or Website" category, hint hint).

Monday, October 27, 2008

A lot of people seem to keep Robin Thicke at arm's length and not quite embrace him as a serious R&B artist, possibly because he's white and the son of (and dead ringer for) a cheesy pop culture institution like sitcom star Alan Thicke, maybe even moreso than people regarded inevitable point of comparison Justin Timberlake, who's both white and himself a cheesy pop culture institution via 'N Sync and the Mickey Mouse Club. And though Thicke's clearly talented and sincere in his love of soul music, I kept him at arm's length, too, more because of the reliance on a less than perfect falsetto in his singing and a flair for shamelessly corny loverman lyrics. But I gotta give it up for the guy, his third album, Something Else, is fucking solid. The falsetto and the cringe-inducing lyrics are still there, but they only occasionally grate because the tunes and sonics, all written and co-produced by Thicke himself, are beautifully realized.

Songs like the stark and stately waltz "Dreamworld" and the more rock-inflected tracks "Hard On My Love" and "Shadow Of Doubt" pull together the album and make it a little more interesting and varied than a straight R&B record, but they fit alongside the more straightforward material comfortably enough that they don't feel like self-consciously diverse novelties. The uptempo disco soul of the single "Magic" gets a few kindred spirits in "Sidestep" and the title track, and there are of course of the slow, soft babymakers, none of which will be quiet storm evergreens like "Lost Without U," but still do their job. And Lil Wayne's "Tie My Hands," which remains one of my favorite songs on Tha Carter III, works unexpectedly great here as a somber closer, not even sticking out the way a rap collaboration usually would at the end of an album like this. In a year when a lot of talented R&B auteurs like Ne-Yo and Raphael Saadiq are making good albums while overstating how creative or unique the direction they're going in is, Robin Thicke has tried to stay well within the bounds of a genre that still hasn't fully accepted him, and came perhaps even closer to making a thoroughly great modern soul album.

Saturday, October 25, 2008
New Corporate Rock Still Sells, all about Incubus and the hilarity that is Hollywood Undead.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Jennifer Hudson f/ Ludacris - "Pocketbook" (mp3 link removed by Blogger)

Jennifer Hudson didn't quite wait as long to capitalize on her Oscar moment with an album release as Three 6 Mafia, but for a while there it felt like she was getting there. In fact it's kind of ridiculous how long it took her self-titled debut to see release, over a year and a half after Dreamgirls and her subsequent award win. There was some talk about her label disliking the album or thinking it wasn't contemporary enough and sending her back in the studio, but it seems to me like releasing what ever album was done at the time right after Dreamgirls would've probably sold better than a more commercially savvy album released on the heels of getting 6th billing on the "Sex And The City" movie. if she had released an album, any album, in the same calender year as her Oscar win, she probably could've glided to multi-platinum status regardless of the quality, just like Jamie Foxx did with his mediocre album and moderately successful singles. this graph says it all, really. "And I'm Telling You," of course is tacked onto the end of the album, as is a song to represent her gospel background (they might as well have tacked on "I Have Nothing" for her Idol fans while they were at it), so she's still hitting all her demographic sweet spots, but the label clearly had a lot of other ideas for her and the album.

So, since Jennifer Hudson as it exists now is the album Arista kept retooling and throwing big names at for a year, was it worth the extra time? They could've just given the whole album budget over to Stargate and Darkchild to make adult contempo radio R&B, which I half expected based on the great single "Spotlight." And while that's true of about half the album, generally with weaker results than "Spotlight," there's also a whole smattering of much clubbier material from of-the-minute producers that you might sooner expect to see on the new Ciara album. And the way the album is sequenced makes this approach seem much messier than it really needs to be; one of the mellowest songs, "Giving Myself," is awkwardly shuffled in the middle of a block of songs produced by Timbaland, T-Pain and Polow Da Don. Of those songs, the Timbo track "Pocketbook" is the clear winner, which I was kinda surprised by given how little I've liked his Danja-less productions in recent years. But the song is a completely winning, sassy, goofy banger, with possibly my favorite Luda verse of the year so far. And it's kind of a shame that, considering how Hudson and her album have been marketed so far, they probably won't ever release it as a single, even after they spent all that money to get guys like Tim and Luda on the album.

In My Stereo

Thursday, October 23, 2008
Robin Thicke - Something Else
Jennifer Hudson - Jennifer Hudson
Grand Buffet - Escape From Anthony Baboon's Nautical Playhouse
Fat Joe - The Elephant In The Room
N.E.R.D. - Seeing Sounds
Scottie B. - My Crew Be Unruly
Kode Street - Kode To The Streets
Haze - The Orchestration: The Mixtape
Wilderness - Vessel States
Yukon - Medallion EP

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

T.I. - "Porn Star" (mp3)

There used to be a certain mystique attached to albums released by rappers during or directly before or after serving prison terms, and that may have still be true as little as 4-5 years ago, when T.I. was first ascending to fame and catching his first case as a celebrity (I always think of Ethan's response when it looked like he'd be getting a 3 year sentence: "hopefully this will lead to his all eyez on me!!"). Now, though, there's so much prison rap that it's pretty much a genre unto itself, and a new entry into the canon, even a high profile one, is kind of business as usual. Paper Trail, though, is at least somewhat unique in that it's really a house arrest album, and that the end product actually reflects the state in which it was made; between his titular choice to start writing down rhymes again and the kind of contemplative (and sometimes almost preachy) lyrics that permeate even big pop singles like "Live Your Life," it's hard to forget the circumstances it came out of.

That's not to say there's not a good amount of silly shit on Paper Trail, though. It's actually alongside Urban Legend as the T.I. album with the most blatant R&B crossover bullshit, although that album had some classic hardheaded singles to balance it out, and Paper Trail instead just does the soft batch stuff much better. "Porn Star" seems to be a song that a lot of people are singling out as a weak spot on the album, but even if it's kind of a cheesy girl song, that beat is ridiculous. After his great work on Young Dro's album, I thought Lil C was headed for big things or at least a spot alongside Toomp and Khao as one of Grand Hustle's main in-house producers, but then all he did on T.I. Vs. T.I.P. was the unremarkable "Raw," and I kinda forgot I was even checking on him. Then "Porn Star" come outta nowhere, taking one of his recognizable synth sounds from "Shoulder Lean" and completely flipping it, and I kinda wish Tip had gone with a different hook or topic for people to take the track more seriously, even if Ricco Barrino's vocals on "Porn Star" aren't any more annoying than B.O.B.'s tuneless hook that damn near ruins "On Top Of The World."

Part of what sours Paper Trail and keeps it from being an ambitious and likable blend of contemplation and crossover is just how much of it T.I. spends obsessing over Shawty Lo and what people said about him on "the blog sites," as he calls them, after his arrest last year. He handles both topics so succinctly and perfectly on "What's Up, What's Haapnin'" and "Ready For Whatever," respectively, that revisiting them in every other song just becomes annoying and exhausting. "My Life Your Entertainment" is especially whiny, although it's kind of funny how T.I. and Usher unite to stand up to gossip-mongers, when one of them is talked about and speculated upon because of a serious legal situation and the other one just gets made fun of because he can't decide whether to let his mother or his wife run his faltering career. Still, I've always had more affection for thoughtful T.I. than most people seem to ("Praying For Help" might be my favorite song of his), and there's a lot of him in that mode to enjoy, even if the 3-track block of downtempo songs comes off as kind of a redundant downer, and only "You Ain't Missin' Nothing" really sticks and says anything interesting to me.

Movie Diary

Tuesday, October 21, 2008
1. The Dark Knight
The wife and I were like the 2 last people on earth to see this in the theater, but after 2 months of trying to go see it, and either not getting out, or ending up seeing something else, we finally caught a matinee of this. And even though I wasn't the biggest fan of Batman Begins (didn't dislike it, it just didn't leave a big impression), and my expectations weren't super high, this was definitely pretty great and lived up to the hype. The reviews selling it as a serious "crime epic" are a little ridiculous, but the twists and details at least rung true within their own universe. I was always kind of a skeptic of Ledger's Joker mainly based on the bits in that first trailer (the way he camped up saying "commissioner" really rubbed me the wrong way) but in the context of the movie everything worked, it was a pretty perfect performance. And I expected to be as annoyed by Bale's cookie monster Batman voice as a lot of people were, but all in all it didn't really bother me; there wasn't actually much dialogue from Wayne-as-Batman, and it was an adequite device for making it believable that certain characters could speak to both Wayne and Batman and not make the connection. I still want to say I liked Iron Man more on principle just because I'm more partial to that approach to comic book movies, but I'm not sure if it'd be true.

2. Waitress
What a nice little picture. The combination of whimsy, emotion and pies gave me a lot of the same feelings as "Pushing Daisies." And other than the lout husband character being kind of a hollow caricature (it's one of those movies that does the ol' "he wasn't like that when we met" dance but doesn't really do anything to make you believe the suffering spouse didn't just straight up willingly marry an asshole), everybody in it is really likable and good. Wasn't really familiar with Adrienne Shelly's work before, but now that I've seen this I am sad that she passed away after making it. Any word on whether her 2 other features as a director (I'll Take You There and Sudden Manhattan) are worth checking out?

3. For Your Consideration
Man, these Christopher Guest movies are really a study in diminishing returns, huh? This kind of had the same problem as The TV Set, where it took a very real show business scenario of the industry taking an idea and diluting it and slowly ruining it, and just removed all the realistic elements and turned it into a boring meta-movie cartoon where the jokes weren't really funny enough to be worth sacrificing the potential for resonance or commentary.

4. The Man Who Wasn't There
Despite the black & white noir aesthetic, I realized when I came to the end of this movie that all the Coens had done was written a more stylized version of terrible contemporary dark comedies like Very Bad Thing where a ridiculous amount of tragedy and death and misfortune keeps happening to a hapless protagonist, which was not at all a comparison I was prepared to make when I started watching this.

5. Balto
A mid-'90s non-Disney animal cartoon that I don't remember when it came out, but my wife saw at the time and loved. Pretty good, nice balance of drama and comic relief, and it's kind of from right before Pixar took over and studios stopped putting a lot of money into these really handsome, traditionally animated features.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Jazmine Sullivan - "Live A Lie" (mp3 link removed by Blogger)

I didn't know much about what to expect from Jazmine Sullivan's debut album, Fearless, other than that it features one of my favorite R&B singles of the year, "Need U Bad." And in some ways that song's a red herring, and in some ways it gives you a good idea of what to expect. It's the only song with any reggae overtones, and it's a bit breezier and more immediately accessible than the rest of the album. But almost every song on the album is about some kind of romantic angst, and is sung with the same spleen-venting intensity. If you tire of R&B vocalists who oversing everything regardless of the nature of the material, you'll find this to be an exhausting listen, along the lines of a Keyshia Cole record or the last Alicia Keys album. There's a whole lot of wronged woman revenge fantasies on here, which might be OK if "Call Me Guilty" was as fiery as "Ring The Alarm," or "Bust Your Windows" (one of my least favorite R&B singles of the year) wasn't a pretty tame tale of vengeful car destruction compared to "Before He Cheats." And really, Sullivan just doesn't quite sell those songs with any tangible passion or anger, it just sounds like she's blaring and blaring without projecting the emotion those kinds of songs need.

But there's also a lot of playful, diverse genre-hopping on Fearless that saves it from being a totally fatiguing vocal showcase. The bonus track "Switch" (which is a bonus track and not part of the proper album for no apparent reason, which always bugs me) and "One Night Stand" grate on me with their cutesy girl group harmonies and Mark Ronson-style Disney retro production, but I could see people really liking those songs. And there are string-driven songs almost completely devoid of drums like "Lions, Tigers & Bears" that take the album fully out of radio R&B territory, or even out of the type of unorthodox territory you'd expect from an album featuring production and songwriting by Missy Elliott. But it's actually Salaam Remi, the producer who's been underrated and insulted by insinuation every time someone says later Nas albums don't have good beats, who really shines on the album's more offbeat arrangements. In fact, one of the most intriguing things about Fearless is that 5 of the songs produced by Remi credit samples of original compositions recorded by Salaam Remi, which makes me curious if he has some unreleased solo album out there that's only making its way to the public through repurposed versions on Sullivan's album.

The 2008 Remix Report Card, Vol. 10

Sunday, October 19, 2008
"Boyz (Remix)" by M.I.A. featuring Jay-Z
Jay's flow isn't what it used to be, but sometimes it seems like he just decides to jump on songs that he has absolutely no idea how to flow over, like "Rehab" or the song he totally ruins on the new Raphael Saadiq album, usually when he's trying to show how diverse his tastes are or some shit. I totally expected this to be like that, but he finds a decent groove in here. I wrote a thing on Gov't Names recently about how for 3 years I was annoyed by the army of rock critics that worshipped M.I.A. and went nuts every time any mainstream U.S. hip hop artist like Missy Elliott acknowledged her existence. But then in the past few months that all turned around, and suddenly "Paper Planes" is getting played on rap stations and sampled on a T.I. song, and K-Swift was spinning this song, "Boyz," a lot right before she passed away, and it started to kinda grow on me. I still think M.I.A.'s a terrible vocalist and lyricist and her music is mostly nothing special, but I guess I gotta just tolerate her ubiquity in a larger arena now.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B

"Lost! (Remix)" by Coldplay featuring Jay-Z
And here's yet another example of a Jay-Z corporate merger diversifying his portfolio collaboration, this time with his buddies in Coldplay, who you'd think he might stop repping so much after this, but oh well. I don't know anyone who thinks this, but I really liked "Beach Chair," it may not be saying much but it was by far my favorite song on Kingdom Come, and even if the whole Coldplay/hip hop thing is a thoroughly weird and unwelcome phenomenon, it worked a hell of a lot better than Kanye or Swizz's Coldplay songs. I really like this song, but the remix is pretty much gratuitous and unnecessary, Jay dropping a short verse that he wrote 2 years ago.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C

"Magic (Remix)" by Robin Thicke featuring Wale and Mary J. Blige
I was kinda surprised by this, Mary's jumped on remixes like Ne-Yo's "Do You" before but that was kind of a slow jam that made sense as a duet, this is just an upbeat song with her singing one verse and kinda warbling over the chorus, but it actually sounds really good.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B+

"Paris, Tokyo (Remix)" by Lupe Fiasco featuring Pharrell, Q-Tip and Sarah Green
I guess this is Lupe's little gesture, after coming off like a total defensive jackass swearing up and down that he doesn't care about Tribe and never did, to bring Q-Tip onto a remix of his totally awful and vaguely Midnight Marauders-esque single. Of course, Tip is still, so far past his peak, ten times the MC anyone else on this track is or ever will be.
Best Verse: Q-Tip
Overall Grade: C-

"Pop Champagne (Remix)" by Ron Browz featuring Swizz Beatz, Lil Kim and Ludacris
Now that Jim Jones has jacked this song for his own single, we'll probably get a different remix of this after that runs its course, but right now I guess this is the official remix. It was funny to me that right after I wrote on this site about Ron Browz's mixtape album from earlier this year, which was all hardheaded traditional NYC shit, he blew up with a ridiculous bandwagon-jumping Aututune song. I still haven't totally decided if I like this song or it's just annoying, but it's slowly growing on me. Kim still sounds as awful with Autotune as she did on that "Sensual Seduction" remix months ago, but Luda's flow is pretty great, one of my favorite verses from him lately, that "freeze my hand up, and pinky ring it" shit is cold.
Best Verse: Ludacris
Overall Grade: B

"Summertime (Remix)" by New Kids On The Block featuring Jadakiss
I think we're past the point when anyone can genuinely act all OMG WTF when a respected rapper works with a white pop act, but this matchup is still pretty funny. Jada's been murdering every verse lately, but he doesn't really lay into this like he could've, and I actually kinda like the original song.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C

"Supa Sexxy (Remix)" by Charlie Wilson featuring Jamie Foxx and T-Pain
I hadn't heard the original version much before I put it on that T-Pain production mix the other day, so I've really been jamming to it lately and it's really one of my favorite beats of his. This remix is just OK, though, same melody and basic idea but the uptempo original beat was much better than the generic slow jam shit on this, it's basically just like that that "She Got Her Own" version of "Miss Independent," right down to the appearance by Jamie Foxx, who sounds pretty good on this.
Best Verse: Jamie Foxx
Overall Grade: C+

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Portastatic - "I Wanna Know Girls (Acoustic Demo)" (mp3)

I've always been a big fan of Superchunk's rarities collections, and that last one Cup Of Sand got a lot of spins around here, so I was really looking forward to Portastatic's own compilation, Some Small History, which I reviewed in the City Paper this week. It's definitely a scattershot deal, for fans only, but there are some real gems. This one just kills me.

Thursday, October 16, 2008
Producer Series Mix #11: Nappy Boy Productions

1. Chris Brown f/ T-Pain - "Kiss Kiss"
2. T-Pain f/ Shawnna - "Backseat Action" (mp3)
3. Lil Mama f/ Chris Brown and T-Pain - "Shawty Get Loose"
4. T-Pain - "Church"
5. Charlie Wilson f/ T-Pain - "Supa Sexxy"
6. T-Pain - "Calm The Fuck Down" (mp3)
7. T-Pain f/ Trick Daddy and YoungBloodZ - "I'm Sprung 2"
8. Ciara f/ T-Pain - "Go Girl"
9. T-Pain f/ Mike Jones - "I'm N Luv (Wit A Stripper)"
10. T-Pain f/ Tay Dizm - "Dance Floor" (mp3)
11. Ray L - "My Girl Gotta Girlfriend"
12. T-Pain f/ Styles P. - "I'm Hi" (mp3)
13. Foxx f/ T-Pain - "Bounce"
14. T-Pain f/ Ludacris - "Chopped 'N Skrewed"
15. T-Pain f/ Akon - "Bartender"
16. Bow Wow & Omarion - "He Ain't Gotta Know" (mp3)
17. T-Pain f/ Yung Joc - "Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin')"
18. T-Pain - "Sounds Bad"
19. T-Pain - "Fly Away"

With the release of T-Pain's third album, Thr33 Ringz, just a few weeks away, I thought it'd be interesting to look at his work as a producer. The narrative of his career so far has been that of the Rappa Ternt Sanga, just another Southern MC who decided to record some R&B songs on a lark, caught a hit with it, became a go-to guy for hooks, and set off a widespread trend of Autotuned vocals. But he's been somewhat unheralded for a third skill set, considering that he's produced the entirety of his albums, and a large number of the singles he's been featured on (although a lot of the more generic tracks he's had hits with, like "Low" or "Cyclone" or "Got Money" aren't his, which is a plus in the talent column). And though I think a lot of people realize he's a producer and writer by this point, I don't know if he's really gotten his due on that front yet. If someone came out in the past couple years with the variety and number of beats on big hits that he's done in the past couple years, but wasn't also a perfomer, they'd be compared to Timbaland's recent work, or at least considered a peer of newer super producers like Polow Da Don.

And the amazing thing really is the variety. Considering we're talking about a guy who took a particular vocal gimmick, and shamelessly ran it into the ground on almost every song he's done, he doesn't lean on certain drum or synth sounds the way many producers do. There's a few recurring motifs, but for the most part he doesn't repeat himself much at all. Even the songs I don't particularly like, like "Shawty Get Loose" (because of Chris Brown's Yankvovic-esque vocal tone) or "Buy U A Drank" (just plain annoying even by snap song standards) have some pretty nifty production touches. And unlike his buddy Akon, who also produces a lot of his own hits, T-Pain doesn't appear to have any kind of production partner or assistant who might be quietly putting in a lot of the legwork, it seems to be all him. Aside from an album track here or there, or the T-Pain song that was given to labelmate Ray Lavender for a single, he doesn't seem to produce many songs without also appearing on them. But given the overexposure he's had in the past year or two, I'm kind of hoping he eventually takes a little break from the spotlight and focuses on the beats; he could follow the path took a couple years ago, and do some harder beats for album tracks on a few A-list rappers' albums, and start to get some of the respect he might have already if he wasn't also clowning around in a top hat on TV all day every day.

Previously in the Producer Series:
#1: Shondrae "Bangladesh" Crawford
#2: Rich Harrison
#3: Kevin "Khao" Cates
#4: Chad Wes Hamilton
#5: Neo Da Matrix
#6: Carl "Chucky" Thompson
#7: Polow Da Don
#8: No I.D.
#9: Bink!
#10: The TrackBoyz

Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Today in the Baltimore Sun there's a story by Sam Sessa about Amotion and Deep Flow Studios. Sam called me up and quoted me for the article, since I've interviewed Amotion myself a couple times, and there's also quotes from Juan from Darkroom Productions.

Monday, October 13, 2008

This week Neighborhoodies is doing a week of shirt designs based on slogans and phrases submitted by the folks at Idolator, and one of the first shirts that is up for purchase is the one featuring the name of my column, Corporate Rock Still Sells. Obviously, the phrase is just a small twist on an already established phrase, but even in the era where you can easily print anything on an item of clothing, it's kind of surreal to think there's a t-shirt for sale with something I thought up. I'm definitely gonna have to buy one, even if I think I'd feel goofy wearing it. Oh, and CRSS #23 went up a few days ago.

TV Diary

Saturday, October 11, 2008
1. "Little Britain USA"
Now honestly, this is some of the most repulsive shit I have ever seen. I'm not even going to make an argument for why, I'm just saying, jesus it's awful. It's like Norbit x "Monty Python" x "Tom Goes To The Mayor." If you like this, kill yourself. Between this, Russell Brand on the VMAs, and how shitty How to Lose Friends & Alienate People was, I'm ready to lobby for some kind of embargo on importing British comedy for the time being.

2. "Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger - London, New York, Johannesburg"
I think stand-up specials probably work best when it's just one night, or maybe two shows, edited together as seamlessly as possible. So I'm not a fan of the format for this, which kind of makes a big deal out of being shot in 3 different cities with different-looking stages and Rock in different outfits each time, and big showy edits that cut between him doing the same line in each city, or altering it to include the name of the city he's in. So much of Chris Rock's comedy is about the rhythms he gets into, the exact way he repeats stuff, that this kind of drains something essential out of it. Still pretty funny, although it's kind of like his last couple HBO specials where he realizes it's kind of his big grandstanding forum and tries to make too many mind-blowing "EVERYBODY THINKS THIS" proclamations.

3. "Gary Unmarried"
Adding this to "The New Adventures of Old Christine" and "Two And A Half Men," CBS has now officially staked half of their primetime comedy schedule on jokes about pathetic divorcees. It's a shame Paula Marshall is such a show killer, I've always had a monster crush on her and would watch her in any old crap every week.

4. "Kath & Kim"
Was there some kind of posthumous revision of Molly Shannon's SNL career that I completely missed? Suddenly the last year or two I see her getting to be the first female alumni to come back and host the show, headlining a new prime time show, and being listed as one of the top 10 cast members of all time. Wasn't she always annoying as frequently as she was funny, and constantly inflicting the worst running characters on the show? Anyway she could be good in a supporting role in a sitcom but I don't see her as a main character, but she's not the problem here so much as everything. Basically this has all the single camera comedy problems I detailed when talking about "Worst Week" a couple weeks ago, but even worse. Selma Blair doesn't really have any serious comedy chops, either. I always thought Mikey Day was one of the funnier people in the hack factory that is "Wild'N'Out," though, good to see him doing something else here.

5. "I Love Money"
Basically this is VH1's version of "Real World/Road Rules Challenge," but it's inherently better because of the demoralizing title that forces the participants to own up to their desperation (although "I Love Being On TV" would be a better title). I never was into "Flavor Of Love" or any of its spinoffs, though, except "Rock Of Love," and they only got the most annoying chicks from that show on here, so the only real eye candy is Hoopz, and the dudes from "I Love New York" are so disgusting it's amazing. Still kind of entertaining, but overall boring and I'm hoping the "Rock Of Love Charm School" show will be better.

6. "Pushing Daisies"
Still one of the best shows on TV, but the writers' strike cutting the first season short has kind of made the new season an uphill battle, both in regaining its audience and momentum, and in living up to those pitch perfect first 9 episodes with over twice as many this year. The first couple episodes have been pretty strong, though, I think making Emerson a more rounded character is going to pay off well.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Little Clayway f/ Backland, Comp and Tim Trees - "Want To Be A Millionaire" (mp3)
This week in the City Paper I wrote a feature about Little Clayway (and also his sister April Love). He's always been one of the more interesting guys in Baltimore rap as far as I'm concerned and was a good interview, he really said some honest and perceptive things about the city and the scene. This posse cut is a track from the promo version of his upcoming album A New Beginning, which should be dropping officially sometime soon, maybe November.

I also have a couple movie reviews in the paper this week, a longer one of The Express and a shorter one of How To Lose Friends & Alienate People (which is not online).

(photo by Rarah)

In My Stereo

Wednesday, October 08, 2008
T.I. - Paper Trail
Jazmine Sullivan - Fearless
Ted Leo And The Pharmacists - Rapid Response EP
Ne-Yo - Year Of The Gentleman
Little Feat - Join The Band
Ron Browz presents The Wonder Years
DJ Big L - Operation: Pay Attention Vol. 2
DLake - Bmore of a Hipster, Vol. 2.0 "The Mixtape"
Vision - The Art Of War
Caleb Stine & The Brakemen - I'll Head West Again

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Raphael Saadiq f/ Stevie Wonder and CJ Hilton - "Never Give You Up" (mp3)
Back over the summer, I was on Raphael Saadiq's MySpace page, looking into the new album he was getting ready to release, when I heard an impressive song on his page by someone named CJ with a voice that was strongly reminiscent of Marvin Gaye. So I clicked over to CJ's MySpace page, and realized that he was this amazingly talented teenager from Baltimore signed to Capitol Records who I'd somehow never heard of. Then, Saadiq's album, The Way I See It came out in September and it's pretty fantastic, one of the best R&B albums of the year, and CJ is featured on one of the best tracks, singing lead on half the song and playing drums and piano on "Never Give You Up," which also features Stevie Wonder on harmonica. I haven't been able to find much more info on the dude, but this 2006 article from The Urbanite says that he was 17 at the time, and was signed to Capitol Records in '05, so he's probably 19 now, which is still really amazingly young for someone with his kind of talent, who gets to record with people like Stevie Wonder. I sent him a MySpace message months ago requesting an interview and never heard back, so if anyone knows him and can let him know I wanna do a feature for the Baltimore City Paper on him or something, let me know how I can get in touch.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

My latest review for the Baltimore music page on is of Ponytail's Ice Cream Spiritual.

Netflix Diary

Saturday, October 04, 2008
1. Baby Mama
I was slightly wary of this because I'm not the biggest Amy Poehler fan and generally feel like a little of her goes a long way on SNL, and this looked a little less joke-a-minute than I'm used to Tina Fey being on 30 Rock or Weekend Update. But it was pretty strong all in all, plenty of funny parts that weren't in the trailer and it had a little more story to it than I expected. I'm still waiting for Romany Malco to parlay all these great little supporting roles into a better starring vehicle than Too Legit: The MC Hammer Story, though.

2. 30 Days Of Night
I feel like I've been seeing way too much vampire stuff lately, when really that whole world of fiction has just never struck me as inherently fascinating like a lot of people seem to think. This one at least had a pretty cool location and premise, but it was kind of like I Am Legend in that the slowly rising dread of the first act was a lot more effective than all the crazy shit that happened once you actually started seeing the vampires and they started talking to each other in their made-up Klingon language with subtitles. This might be the first Josh Hartnett movie where I didn't totally hate him, although I thought it was kind of funny how even as his character was stranded for a month he still was only able to grow the horribly scraggly beard he for some reason likes to wear in a lot of movies. I didn't recognize Ben Foster at all or even know he was in this until the closing credits, although he's such a 'serious actor' ham that I'm not surprised that he went for a role as ridiculous as the one he had in this.

3. Michael Clayton
Without having seen any of the others except No Country, I'd venture a guess that I liked this more than I would any of this year's Oscars' other best picture noms, but I still don't quite understand how it got so many awards and nominations even given the pedigree. Other than that it's, in a roundabout way, about the same thing as Erin Brockovich, and that Tom Wilkinson ostentatiously chews scenery in one of the most hackneyed award-grabbing performances in recent memory, it seems like a kind of standard issue 'smart' thriller. Not complaining, mind, it was good.

4. Ratatouille
Worth all the hype, and I wish I'd gotten around to seeing it in the theater. Maybe Pixar's most gorgeous film and definitely in my top 3 overall. The casting on these things is always weird to me, though, like why get a really funny but not hugely famous stand-up like Patton Oswalt to voice the main character if he's essentially an earnest straight man who doesn't do much of the heavy lifting on the comedic elements? I mean, he works in the role, it's just odd.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

DJ Khaled f/ Rock City, Ace Hood, Blood Raw, Bali, Lil Scrappy, Shawty Lo, Brisco & Bun B - "Final Warning" (mp3)

I wrote a review in the City Paper this week of We Global, which is even worse than We The Best, if you can believe it. It's a shame, Listennn was actually pretty good but whatever claim this guy could lay to at least having some quality control over the records he releases is way gone now. This record is actually one of the worst songs on the album, but I'm basically posting it so you can hear Shawty Lo's verse, which is so brazenly half-assed it actually ends up being impressive in a way.

Also in the film section this week, my review of Miracle At St. Anna, which is very very flawed, but still better than it's been getting credit for from most crits.