Monthly Report: July Albums

1. Maxwell - BLACKsummers'night
Maxwell's first 3 albums were all released during my teenage years, and they all seemed to pass me by, even during the time that my interest in R&B was really being awakened; it's like his singles always came out during periods when I wasn't listening to the radio or watching cable much, or I'd just tune them out because they didn't seem terribly interesting. But "Pretty Wings" just grabbed me from the very first listen and has yet to let go, and I'm loving the rest of the album just as much, especially "Help Somebody." Really need to give his back catalog a chance now.

2. Demi Lovato - Here We Go Again
Still haven't checked out her first album from less than a year ago that I liked all the singles from, but this is really good, moreso when she sticks to big stadium pop-punk bangers like "U Got Nothin' On Me" than the blander midtempo stuff like the John Mayer-penned one or the one that sounds exactly like Maroon 5's "Sunday Morning."

3. The Alchemist - Chemical Warfare
There's a skit on Chemical Warfare where cartoonish caricatures of a gangsta rapper and a backpacker nerd argue about whether the Alchemist is better when working with Mobb Deep types or when working with Swollen Members types, and even though it's not terribly funny, it kind of neatly illustrates the fact that Alc is one of the few guys in rap who has enough of a foot in each camp to capably make fun of both, and himself, in such a way. He's caught between two worlds in a way beyond just the one that all white guys involved in hip hop are. Of course, having people like Oh No and Lil Fame guest on the same album isn't nearly as novel in 2009, at a time when Freeway is signed to Rhymesayers, as it was 5 years ago when Alchemist had the same kind of subtle subculture clashes all over 1st Infantry. But even if other white boom bap producers like Statik Selektah have made albums like this feel a lot more commonplace now, Alchemist is still the greatest white boom bap producer of all time, and his beats just keep getting more tangled and dense with left-field samples and creative rhythms. "That'll Work" with Three 6 Mafia and Juvenile is anything but a token Southern beat, and is up there with my very favorite songs of the year.

4. Twista - Category F5
It probably says something about me as a rap fan that I consider Twista one of the greatest of all time, just on the flow alone, nevermind how generics his lyrics might be most of the time. But fuck it, I never get tired of that doubletime shit, and in an era when even good rappers are doing fucking slow-ass singsong Yung Joc flows, he's never been more of a welcome change of pace. I really have no idea which of his 3 post-Kamikaze albums is best or worst, they're all just kinda Twista albums, but I like them. You got the usual people that are always on his records (Do Or Die, R. Kelly, and Johnny P. sounding awesome with really cheap/distorted AutoTune), plus some guys that it's a little fresh to hear on a song with Twista (Lil Boosie, Gucci Mane), overall a good mix. The Kanye/No I.D. track "Alright" that got done too late and ended up an iTunes bonus track, is better than almost anything on the proper album, though.

5. Gucci Mane - The Movie 2: The Sequel
It's kind of funny how Gucci Mane has become this polarizing figure with bloggers taking these ridiculous positions about whether he's a lyrical genius or mentally retarded, when he's just a good solid wordplay-heavy Southern rapper along the same lines as Young Dro, who people have never had to argue that much about loving or hating. I guess that's what hype does, though, everyone's gotta pick a position. I still don't think I'm really on board with all the love, and generally like him in small doses, but this is a good quick follow-up to Writing On The Wall, really liking "Burr" right now. Plus we should really enjoy all these Zaytoven-produced mixtape tracks while we can, since Gucci is currently amassing the the boring-ass beats all-stars for his official album.
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I thought that Category F5 was really middling, as much as I like "Talk to Me" and "Wetter." When he's backed by those million-dollar Kanye beats - "Slow Jamz" and "Overnight Celebrity" are both masterful songs - Twista is fine, but he doesn't have much to offer as an MC.

Oh, and Scott Storch and Jim Jonsin might suck, but Cool & Dre and Bangladesh have been responsible for some of the best pop-rap singles of the decade: "New York," "Holla At Me," "Hate It or Love It," "Rodeo," "What's Your Fantasy," "A Milli."
Scott Storch has great songs, those producers all have great songs, really. I'm just saying, in 2009, none of them are appetizing prospects for an album's liner notes. Fuck "A Milli" and all the carbon copies Shondrae's been selling.
I don't think Jim Jonsin has ever produced a great song (all of his beats are cheesy synth drivel) other than "Lollipop," and I can't even remember the last impressive Scott Storch beat - The Game's "Let's Ride," maybe?

Fuck "A Milli?" Dude, that was Wayne's best performance on Tha Carter III. He never spits like that anymore. And who would you rather see produce on a Gucci album? Toomp? Drumma Boy? Polow? Don Cannon?
Listen, I hate on Storch as much as anybody, but he's got classics under his belt. None since 2005 or so, but the same can be said of Cool & Dre, who've dropped nothing but garbage in the last 2 years. Jim Jonsin used to be dope too, dude produced "Dammit Man"! Talking about Wayne's performance on "A Milli" and how he spits isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of the production itself, or the beats Bangladesh has done since.

Gucci's where he's at right now because he's got producers like Zaytoven and Fat Boi that suit his style and helped create his sound -- if they're barely on his album it'll be some self-sabotaging industry bullshit.
None since 2005 or so, but the same can be said of Cool & Dre, who've dropped nothing but garbage in the last 2 years

Well, their beats on L.A.X. sucked, but what about "Phone Home?" "Lights Get Low?" They're not firing on all cylinders like they were during their 2004-06 heyday, though, I'll give you that.

I actually liked the two Jonsin-helmed Pretty Ricky singles that were popular in '05, but lately he's become the go-to guy for staggeringly terrible synth-rap. "Whatever You Like," "Kiss Me Thru the Phone," "I Run." He's completely fucking awful.

Talking about Wayne's performance on "A Milli" and how he spits isn't exactly a ringing endorsement of the production itself

That's true, but I wasn't talking exclusively about the beat, which does bang - I was defending it as an overall piece of work. You said "fuck 'A Milli,'" so I assumed that you hated the song.

For all I know, you're right about Gucci - I like what I've heard from him, but I know next to nothing about the guy. Before he became a blog favorite in 2009, he was best known for "Freaky Gurl" and for feuding with Worst Rapper Alive Young Jeezy, was he not?

Anyway, sorry to be argumentative. I forgot to mention that I've been reading Narrowcast since last fall and that I like it a lot, even if your hatred of Kanye (his work this year has been fire!) baffles me.
"Phone Home" and "Lights Get Low" are mad annoying imo, Dre should not be allowed to do hooks.

Kanye's alright this year, but his wack lines would be a lot more tolerable if he wasn't suddenly selling this bullshit "I'm a great rapper now" angle. He's ok now, he was ok before (and he was the closest he'll ever get to great about 4 years ago).
Being argumentative is all good, though, I could do this all day.
Yeah, what's up with Dre trying to be Pharrell with his constant hooks? Otherwise, "Phone Home" is bonkers - not to sound like a Wayne fanboy, which I'm most assuredly not, but his bug-eyed, stoned-out-of-his-skull delivery on that song is pretty absurdly great.

I think Graduation is Kanye's masterpiece, even if the best moments on Late Registraton and Common's Be are prettier and more vibrant than anything on Grad. He's a good rapper and a spectacular artist - way, way more creative and lively and charasmatic than the middling MCs (Jeezy, recent Wayne, recent T.I.) he's inexplicably such a fan of.

On an unrelated note, what do you think is the best song on Chemical Warfare? I'd say the title track, which blows most of Relapse out of the water. Didn't you say a few months ago that you weren't going to bother hearing Relapse/Back on My B.S./Crime Pays? Wise decision.
I like the Eminem track alright, but "That'll Work" is by far my favorite.

I got a lot of issues with Graduation, that was kind of the album where he started to lose me, although there are songs I love on it.
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