The 2010 Remix Report Card, Vol. 2

Sunday, February 28, 2010
"How Low (Remix)" by Ludacris featuring Ciara and Pitbull
The rap industry's habit to offer up multiple remixes of the same damn songs continues to spiral out of control, which is why this month I'm just quickly gonna cover 3 new remixes of songs I covered last month. This shit needs to stop. Like the previous remix, this combines a doubletime-ready party rapper who knows exactly what to do with this beat with someone who's a little more awkward, and I wish they'd just matched the pairs up different so we'd have one great Twista/Pitbull remix and one lame Ciara/Rick Ross remix.
Best Verse: Pitbull
Overall Grade: B-

"I Wanna Rock (Interstate Trafficking Remix)" by Snoop Dogg featuring Rick Ross, Yo Gotti, Maino, Roscoe Dash, and OJ Da Juiceman
I generally fuck with Green Lantern as a producer, and I like the way he took the sickly bass melody of the original and just slowed it down, but getting the fucking "All Da Way Turnt Up" guy to do his Tom Delonge impression over it pretty much ruins it. Plus this fucking thing is 7 minutes long and most of the rappers suck ass.
Best Verse: Maino
Overall Grade: D

"O Let's Do it (Remix)" by Waka Flocka Flame featuring Diddy, Rick Ross and Gucci Mane
Now here's at least a new remix that's a better and more complete revision of what I covered last month. I wondered previously if Gucci Mane, the no-brainer choice to headline the remix of his protege's big hit, went to jail before he had a chance to record a verse for it -- obviously I was wrong, but you can't help but shake your head at the hubris of Gucci saying "you heard Gucci was locked up, but that was just a rumor" on a verse that ended up dropping while he's behind bars. He does sound good on that beat, though. Lazy-ass Waka still just re-uses his verse from the original.
Best Verse: Gucci Mane
Overall Grade: B+

Saturday, February 27, 2010
Some new The Singles Jukebox blurbs, many of them featuring me getting argumentative in the comments section because I was bored in the office a lot this week:

Robin Thicke – Sex Therapy [5/4.3]
Big Boi ft. Gucci Mane – Shine Blockas [5/7.43]
Jay Sean ft. Sean Paul and Lil Jon – Do You Remember [3/5]
Lil Wayne – On Fire [2/3.73]
Mary J Blige – I Am [6/6]
Jennifer Lopez – Louboutins [2/4.07]
Lady Gaga ft. Beyoncé – Telephone [4/7.08]
Justin Bieber ft. Ludacris – Baby [3/4.09]
Melanie Fiona – It Kills Me [5/6.12]

Friday, February 26, 2010

This month on the Baltimore City Paper's Noise blog, I reviewed the new DJ Class EP, Blue Lava. I was probably kinda harsh on it, but it was just so disappointing to me after how great all his other recent tracks had been.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010
My latest article for Splice Today is a fun little piece called
Two Is Enough: Why comedy duologies are better than trilogies, and why Ghostbusters III could be a big mistake.

Monthly Report: January Albums

Sunday, February 21, 2010

1. Yelawolf - Trunk Muzik
I guess you could say that one of my new year’s resolutions is to be less close-minded about new rappers, because I kinda grew up in the era where paying attention to radio and MTV was enough to be able to hear most of the new hip hop artists worth hearing, and as little as a year or two ago all the MCs getting internet hype were nerdy Kanye wannabes. But now pretty much nobody of any worth gets their break with a radio single anymore, and there’s a whole wave of less overtly internetty rappers coming up with zip file mixtapes that I’d gotten way too used to being able to ignore. One of the more universally liked ones recently has been Yelawolf, and while it was a little hard for me to take his singing voice after being introduced to it via the fucking Flock Of Seagulls hook that Slim Thug song, he’s a really slick doubletime rapper. I don’t know why he gets compared to Twista so much, though, he sounds so much more Bone Thugs to me.

2. Jay Electronica - Victory
Jay Electronica is someone else I kinda put off hearing for a long time using his terrible terrible name as an excuse, but now that I’m listening to him, who knows, maybe I’ll even give Nipsey Hussle a chance! I guess this is some kind of best-of type mixtape so it seemed like a good place to start, and there’s definitely some really impressive verses on here, even if it’s hard to feel blown away unless you, I don’t know, wish rap stopped changing after Illmatic. His name makes a lot more sense now that I’ve heard him call himself “Jay Coldplay” and favorably compare himself to Kevin Spacey in K-PAX -- apparently he’s a really dorky college student circa 2002 trapped in a great rapper’s body.

3. various artists - Hope For Haiti Now
I have to say, I wasn’t expecting much from this, I mainly bought it because I was feeling kind of shitty about not having donated anything to Haiti relief in any other way and my TV was broken the night of the big telethon so I missed all that stuff. But this is overall pretty enjoyable, with some really nice versions of classic songs by mostly good artists, and even that Jay-Z/U2/Rihanna thing isn’t the trainwreck it could’ve been. Sure, a lot of it is bland or forgettable, but I fuck with Shakira doing The Pretenders and J-Hud singing The Beatles and the versions of their own songs that Madonna and Sting and Beyonce do. And it’s kind of refreshing that the vibe here is all sadness and compassion, no weird political undertones or aggressive patriotism like with the music in that 9/11 telethon back in the day. That new “We Are The World” is totally unredeemable ass, too, so it’s nice to be able to have this and feel good not just about buying but listening to it.

4. Eels - End Times
It was weird to think about it and realize recently that I’ve heard all of the Eels’ first 5 albums, all either because my brother had them or I ended up with a promo. Electro-Shock Blues is really good but it’s hard to think of myself as a fan when the guy (ugh do I have to call him “E”?) has such a regrettable mix of impressive songwriting/arranging chops, completely cringe-inducing wordplay and self-pitying drama queen lyrical tropes. I mean I don’t doubt the guy’s as unhappy as his songs often make him sound, but the weird cutesy edge that’s gotten his songs placed in all three Shrek movies makes it all a little hard to take. It almost seems redundant that this is his “divorce record,” it seems like he’d be writing these kinds of miserable heartbreak songs regardless of what’s going on in his life. And in spite of all that, I still find myself enjoying this.

5. Omarion - Ollusion
I decided to give this album a try on the basis of loving the single and first track “I Get It In,” and though the album is bookended with another awesome Tank-produced track at the end, it’s about as goofy and slight as you’d expect. There’s a ballad about sexing on a copy machine, “Last Night (Kinko’s),” and “Hoodie” features a “hella far” that’s almost as funny as the “hella toit” in “I Get It In.”

Monthly Report: January Singles

Thursday, February 18, 2010

1. Gucci Mane - “Lemonade”
I have to say, although I liked a lot of Gucci Mane songs before “Lemonade,” this might be the first one I’ve really totally loved. The depressing period in the past couple years of Bangladesh, once one of my favorite producers, blowing up off of the overrated “A Milli” beat and an army of even cheaper-sounding knockoffs seems to be finally coming to a close, with actual great beats of his like “Video Phone” and this song all over the radio. And even though “Lemonade” technically has “A Milli” drums, everything else about it is a totally different beast, with that jackhammer piano riff and absolutely amazing fluid, squirming bassline. And then there’s Gucci, running with whole car/clothing colors = food lyrical concept that rappers before him like Jadakiss and Young Dro raised to an artform and building a whole song around it in a way that should translate to ‘high concept deep cut’ but instead comes out as ‘hit single.’ Although Noz has talked about Gucci being huge in Washington (and it’s probably true to some extent – my sister-in-law teaches in Southeast D.C. and once reported “I’m A Dog” somewhat unsettlingly being the most popular song among her 5th graders), radio in this part of the country has been really slow to play much by Gucci, came kinda late to “Wasted,” etc. (I literally heard “Photoshoot” on a Baltimore station for the first time this week). So it’s kind of cool that radio here actually seems as excited about “Lemonade” as I am, even if they still really need to start playing it more than “O Let’s Do It.”

2. Sade - “Soldier Of Love”
I probably shouldn’t be surprised at how aggressive this is, since “No Ordinary Love” is pretty much a hard rock ballad (I was actually going to make a joke about how a band like the Deftones could cover it and then looked it up and realized they really have), but I was pretty taken aback by how much this bangs, and all the little snare and bass and synth stabs just jumble up into these beautifully gnarly polyrhythmic grooves. This isn’t really anything like “Pretty Wings” but I mentioned it in my Singles Jukebox blurb because it’s kind of thrilling that in this day and age someone so far removed from what contemporary R&B radio usually plays can still land a big hit there if they come back with a song this good.

3. Nick Jonas & The Administration - “Who I Am”
I was pretty much totally alone in liking this on the Singles Jukebox, but it’s really good, I think, although I think I was kinda predisposed to liking his solo stuff since Joe Jonas isn’t on it and Nick wrote some pretty great Demi Lovato songs. I kinda sorta wanna hear this album.

4. Ne-Yo – “Never Knew I Needed”
2009, the year after The Year of the Gentleman (the post-gentleman year?), was pretty uneventful for Ne-Yo, trickling out a 4th single from the album that sounded like a 4th single, while his biggest feature was a terrible Keri Hilson single and his biggest songwriting gig was a terrible Rihanna single. Toward the end of the year, he finally released a pretty good new solo single, but it was for the soundtrack of that Disney movie The Princess and the Frog and R&B radio wouldn’t touch it, nor would any other format. When I heard the movie got 2 Academy Award nominations for Best Original Song, I thought maybe he was getting some recognition for the song after all, but nope, turns out Randy Newman did music for the movie too, so he got to add to his pile of statuettes with his 18th and 19th Oscar noms to date.

5. Birdman f/ Drake and Lil Wayne – “Money To Blow”
As I’ve written before, Drumma Boy has the habit of making awesome beats and then letting terrible artists rap and sing inane bullshit over them, so that I end up enjoying the songs in spite of myself, which is frustrating but probably one of the highest complements you can pay a producer. After “Every Girl” and “Successful” I guess this brings the total of songs with Drake on them that I grudgingly enjoy to 3, and I’m kind of scared of that number continuing to rise as he continues his reign of undeserved ubiquity. He really needs to stop talking that “Houstatlantavegas” shit, though, like, bitch you’re from Canada! You should be saying something like “comin’ to you live from the city of Saskatorontreal.” My friend who’s obsess with Birdman remixed this song for his new blog, The Birdman Is Not Normal. He really is a far more intriguing and mysterious individual than Wayne if you think about it – they should’ve made that documentary about Birdman instead.

Movie Diary

Monday, February 15, 2010
a) 100 Feet
Part of the Sci Fi Channel's unfortunate rebranding as 'Syfy' seems to involve laying off the hilariously low-budget original movies with the worst CGI in the world and premises shamelessly ripped off from Jurassic Park, and instead filling up their weekend programming with C-list theatrical thrillers and horror flicks. I weep for the possibility that monthly airings of Raptor Island may be a thing of the past, but for the time being I'm enjoying the wealth of bad scary movies. This one had an interesting premise (battered wife is haunted by the husband she killed while trapped in their home on house arrest), but so-so execution.

b) Boogeyman 2
The Syfy weekend horror blocks came especially in handy this week, when the wife and I observed our usual Valentine's Day tradition of ordering Chinese food and watching scary movies. However, Syfy made the completely bizarre decision to run Boogeyman and Boogeyman 2 in reverse order. It didn't matter too much, since they had completely different casts and stories and only the flimsiest common thread of a premise to justify sharing titles, but it was still a weird programming move, and 2 was weak enough that I didn't really bother watching the first afterwards. This had some good nasty gore, but it was also one of those movies I need to remind myself now and again that gore and gore alone can't hold my interest in a horror flick, as much as I do enjoy a good bit of blood-spraying carnage.

c) Joshua
This is another 'normal family has a creepy kid who starts doing horrible things for no apparent reason' horror flick, and not a particularly great one. But Sam Rockwell, who I don't always like as an actor but sometimes am really impressed by, kind of elevates it by making his father character kind of unable to contain his own resentment toward and suspiction of his own 9-year-old son, who appears to be trying to hurt or kill his newborn sister, and actually makes you second guess who you should feel about him being a dick to the little baby-shaking bastard. This is pretty disturbing to watch when you have your own newborn baby, too, like you start thinking: what if the baby had an older sibling that seemed to be hellbent on killing it? Unsettling stuff.

d) Shortcut To Happiness
I watched this a few days before a My Year Of Flops piece on it ran in which I learned that Alec Baldwin directed it and that it was shelved for something like 6 years after being filmed. But at the time I was just like hey, weird, an Alec Baldwin movie I've never heard of, let's check it out. And like the AV Club writer, I was more disappointed by how chaste Jennifer Love Hewitt was playing a sexy incarnation of Satan than anything else.

e) Company Man
Douglas McGrath, Woody Allen's Bullets Over Broadway co-screenwriter, somehow got himself a starring vehicle with an all-star supporting cast, including Woody in a small entertaining role, despite the fact that I'd never heard of him before this movie, and the fact that I'd never heard of the movie itself until catching it on cable almost a decade later speaks to how much of a fluke that was. This was really funny, though, and much better than its footnote vanity project status would suggest, with McGrath playing a schoolteacher who stumbles into becoming a CIA agent in the '60s, although at some point the satire goes offtrack and the story goes from entertainingly ridiculous to just kind of stupid.

The Top 30 Freeway Tracks of 2009

Saturday, February 13, 2010

When Philadelphia rapper Freeway released a song for every day in December 2008 as part of his "Month of Madness" online campaign, it was easy to assume that he was blowing his load and releasing all the material he had for free, in a risky gambit to get some publicity in hip hop's new blog-driven era. After all, in the nearly five years between his 2003 debut album Philadelphia Freeway and the 2007 follow-up Free At Last, his output consisted of one mixtape of all-new material, and a relatively moderate number of guest spots and scattered solo tracks. That Free spent most of his between-album hiatus on a religious pilgrimmage and seriously considering whether to continue his music career is immaterial -- he just hadn't shown an exceptional work ethic up to that point, so it was reasonable to assume those 31 songs would be his big statement for the time being. The fact that they were all songs, many of them with beats by well known producers, and were largely up to the standards of his albums, was impressive, but it wasn't a hugely high profile endeavor, and a lot of the bloggers the campaign was aimed at seemed to feel like it wasn't the smartest move for Freeway.

But then, Free just kept going -- first trickling out frequent freestyles and collabs to the blogs, then dropping a new album, then more songs, then another album, then a mixtape and another mixtape, until in the space of 12 months (from December '08 to November '09), he'd put out by my count over 130 tracks, most of them complete solo songs with original beats and 2 or 3 verses. He was hardly alone, though; a number of rappers had taken what's become thought of as the Lil Wayne career plan, of building buzz by recording and releasing as much music as humanly possible, to absurd extremes in the past year, chief among them Gucci Mane. And it was Gucci who set off the latest arms race with his Cold War series, dropping 3 mixtapes in one day in October. That set off a flurry of copycat projects, with the trend already jumping the shark this month with Gorilla Zoe releasing 28 mixtapes (!) this month. So let's be clear: Freeway isn't making more music than every rapper out there, but I've enjoyed more of his work in the past year than any other rapper. Without getting into a hacky "hip hop is like jazz" thing, I will say that rappers are more like jazz soloists than pop singers or rock bands in terms of productivity. The best of them can walk into a studio without a plan or a thought in their head, listen to what the backing musicians (or pre-programmed beats) are doing, get in front of the microphone for a few takes, and walk out with a completed track or even an album's worth of material in one night -- no demos or drafts or long brainstorming sessions, just instant product. So when they're put into a marketplace alongside pop singers and rock bands that labor over their records over much longer periods of time, their turnaround probably seems more mind-boggling than it is.

Doing a year-end list just to sum up one particularly prolific rapper’s output is a somewhat recent bloggy development, as far as I can tell. The first I can remember is when my former Government Names co-author DK posted the top 30 Bun B features of 2004. Later similar-minded lists included Vibe’s top 77 Lil Wayne tracks of 2007, and about a year ago my friends at So Many Shrimp compiled the 30 best Gucci Mane tracks of 2008 that really set off a lot of coverage of Gucci in ‘09. The difference with those lists and this one, though is that Freeway is not a Southern rapper with a groundswell of regional buzz, just an East coast vet from a once powerful crew that’s still managing to put himself out there as a viable artist, even if he’s probably not winning many new fans. His album with Jake One out next Tuesday, The Stimulus Package, is looking to be his highest profile release of the past couple years, and he’s got a new mixtape, Freelapse, and a collab album with Beanie Sigel, Roc Boys, out this month. Throughout the past year, talk of Freeway signing to Cash Money, with his own Free Money imprint, got thrown around in the press, but I’d be surprised if that ever came to fruition with an actual album release. But clearly, Freeway does have some momentum going forward in 2010, and he may end up releasing as much music this year as he did last year. But I have no illusions about him ‘blowing up’ at this stage in his career, or even becoming a serious underground phenomenon. All I hope for is that people pay him more attention for consistently putting out great music than they’d pay, say, a former groupmate for dissing their old boss.

I will say that I know Freeway isn't the greatest rapper -- his voice is an acquired taste, and he's generally more about flow and feeling than about creative rhymes. And not all of his recent stuff is great, especially the songs with awkward sex talk and/or really half-assed hooks. But I've been fascinated by the guy named Leslie Pridgen with the weird voice and the neckbeard ever since I heard him on "1-900-Hustler" in my brother's car after he bought The Dynasty almost 10 years ago, and he's remained an artist worth actively following well after nearly all his contemporaries fell by the wayside. It'd be tempting to post mp3s of this stuff (not all of it, just a few tracks, since posting a zip file of 200 songs by one of my favorite Roc-A-Fella alumni would be a major dick move), but given the mp3 blog massacre by Blogger over the last few days I'm gonna play it cool and just write about the songs and occasionally provide YouTube links:

1. ”North Philly’s Finest” (YouTube)
A quick soundbyte of Freeway's State Property groupmate Peedi Crakk ("North Philly get it in!") sets up the high energy vibe of my favorite track from "The Month of Madness," with a fast, bleepy beat produced by Cardiak and Free locking into the kick drum pattern with a relentless flow.

2. "Hahahaha" (YouTube)
This Blunt-produced track wasn't on any mixtape and surfaced on some blogs, but it's just incredible, you need to hear it.

3. ”Keep Yo Hands Up (Remix)” featuring Sheek Louch (YouTube)
I was pretty harsh on Philadelphia Freeway 2, Free's 3rd official album, when it was released a few months after "Madness." Mostly I was just annoyed that his weakest project to date was billed as a sequel to my 14th favorite album of the past decade, but all in all it was still a pretty decent record, although the single is still by far the standout, particularly the remix with fellow East coast 3rd-stringer Sheek Louch.

4. ”Transporter”
Later in the fall, another independent album was announced called Streetz Is Mine, but this time Free took to YouTube and interviews to decry the album as a 'fake.' Ultimately, though, it was released, and appears to be a complete album of new songs that Freeway willingly made and assembled as an album, so I can only assume he was just mad about his business dealings with the label that released it. It's a shame he publicly denounced this record, too, since it's one of his best releases of '09 and miles better than Philadelphia Freeway 2, ending on a high note with a track that packs enough energy to deserve to be named after a Jason Statham movie.

5. ”When I Rap” (YouTube)
The aforementioned Freelapse mixtape that dropped this month is Free's tribute to Eminem, which seemed like a kind of strange idea out of nowhere, despite the fact that there's nothing new about any rapper being a vocal fan of Eminem. I haven't heard the whole tape yet, but the first leak from it appeared last year on Free's The Calm Before The Storm mixtape, salvaging the beat from an unremarkable Eminem Show outtake and making it a showcase for Free's most dazzling doubletime flow to date. Incidentally, Free appeared on another mixtape also titled The Calm Before The Storm by Twista, who probably deserved to use the title more since it was a prelude to his Category F5 album.

6. ”Freeway’s Beard” (YouTube)
Oddly, months before the announcement of Freelapse, Eminem jokingly referenced Free in a radio freestyle while doing Relapse promotional rounds in the UK, explaining his long absence with “Everyone trying to find me, I disappeared, I was hiding in Freeway’s beard." 6 weeks later, Free surfaced with his response, with producer Phoe Notes looping the line into a hook and Free constructing an entire song out of the ridiculous premise. There's a long tradition in recent years of rappers sampling any MC that mentions them on record, especially if it's a more famous peer, but Free sidesteps the parasitic or sycophantic potential of a track like that by embracing the comedic potential of the line with hysterical results. I could not stop cracking up the first time I heard this: “Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves, so he probably had some slave niggas hidin’ in his/ can’t forget Kenny Rogers, can’t forget the bearded lady, who else can I fathom?/ oh, Grizzly Adams/ it’s so many beards Em could’ve jumped up in and vanished/ but he picked mine, best beard on the planet.”

7. ”Check Check” by Kurupt featuring Freeway (YouTube)
Though a West coast institution as one half of the Dogg Pound, Kurupt originally hails from Philadelphia, and it's great to hear him lock horns with one of Philly's most recognized contemporary rappers on a hard as nails beat that suits them both perfectly. Kurupt may have had one of the busiest and most unappreciated runs in 2009 rap after Free, with a gang of collabs with Snoop, Daz, and DJ Crazey Toones in addition to his classic BlaQKout LP with DJ Quik, and one of those under the radar projects was The Tekneek Files with his brother Roscoe, the record that "Check Check" appears on.

8. ”Love”
Throughout the year, Freeway hyped up his album with Jake One, The Stimulus Package, but it ultimately ended up getting pushed back to 2010. But it turns out they had enough material for a whole mixtape of Free on more JO tracks, The Beat Made Me Do It, although it kind of sounds like an outtakes collection to me, unfortunately. Still, some really nice laid back tracks on here, including this one, which is pretty much just Free over a mellow soul loop with no drums or anything added to them.

9. ”Rap Spitters” (YouTube)
The Beat Made Me Do It was hosted by Don Cannon, and I was a little disappointed when I found out that it was all Jake One beats and none by Cannon, who I think is probably my 2nd favorite Freeway/producer combination, for cuts like the "Cannon" remix, the Free At Last outtake "Step Back" with Lil Wayne, and several "Month of Madness" standouts, including this one with a killer busy organ line and the kind of driving drums Free always sounds great flowing over.

10. “Move Back” by Sha Stimuli featuring Freeway and Young Chris (YouTube)
My #1 Freeway/producer combination, naturally, is with Just Blaze, who produced nearly all of Free's best known early tracks, including "Roc The Mic" and the bulk of Philadelphia Freeway, but in a way I didn't really become a big fan of Freeway himself until he moved on and proved he could make great music with a large variety of other producers (even if many of them work in the same soul sample vein). Still, it was nice to hear Free and Just on a track for the first time in years for Sha Stimuli's single.

11. "Battle Field" (YouTube)
One of the most dismaying things about the relative lack of media coverage of Free's flurry of music was that his mentor and State Property groupmate, Beanie Sigel, got about a hundred times as much attention last fall when he finally decided to break ranks with their old crew and diss Jay-Z. Free, who appears to still be cool with both sides of the conflict, of course got asked about it constantly, and finally responded with a diplomatic and non-committal rap over a Pat Benatar sample. Beef fans looking for dirt didn't get much out of it, but in a weird way I think this sums up why I like Free, the way he's willing to sidestep the aggro bullshit while still being as honest as possible, although I wish he'd just tell Beans to follow his lead and just make music instead of crying about anyone owing you anything.

12. “Where’s My Opponent” by Beanie Sigel featuring Omilio Sparks and Freeway (YouTube)
Beanie did release a pretty good indie album himself, Broad Street Bully, in September (which, again, got only a fraction of the attention the beef did a few weeks later), and of course the rest of State Prop, which has shown remarkable solidarity considering all the different directions they've gone in since the Roc split, is all over it, including Free on three tracks. This one's by far the best, with each MC ending their verse by snarling "where the fuck is my opponent" in lieu of a chorus.

13. "Get Wit Me" by 100 Grandman featuring Freeway and NOE (YouTube)
100 Grandman is a Baltimore rapper I've covered from time to time on my other blog, Government Names, and last summer I was surprised to see that he hooked up with DJ Drama for his own official Gangsta Grillz mixtape, despite being completely unknown on a national level and only moderately popular on a local level -- I guess the guy has as much money to throw around as his name implies. And he continued to show off his connections by getting Free to guest on one of the tape's best bangers, along with the Baltimore-based Jim Jones affiliate NOE. Really, though, one of my favorite things about this track is hearing Drama shout out Baltimore rappers like Skarr Akbar and Tim Trees at the end. This isn't even Free's first Bmore collab, since he also appeared on Mullyman's 2005 single "All My Heart."

14. "Hustler's Life" featuring Rita Taylor (YouTube)
Amazingly, there were Freeway mixtapes apparently made in '09 that he hasn't gotten around to releasing yet. A few tracks supposedly from one called Free Or Die trickled out to blogs earlier in the year, including this one over a loop from the oft-sampled Teddy Pendergrass classic "Come Go With Me." Toward the end of the track, Freeway keeps ad libbing and playfully singing the "come on over to my place" hook, before asking the engineer to give him some AutoTune to sing it one more time and cracking himself up. There were also a bunch of tracks leaked in '08 from an album called Freedom Of Speech that has yet to surface in its entirety.

15. "The Last 2" by Young Chris featuring Freeway and Beanie Sigel (YouTube)
Another SP posse cut for old time's sake, off Chris's The Network mixtape. Chris, to his credit, has hit the mixtape circuit pretty hard himself, although I just can't take him that serioulsy as an MC -- you ever fuckin' listen to a Young Gunz album? This song is somewhat infamous for featuring the Beanie verse that he re-recorded for "I Go Off" with 50 that everyone then interpreted as being about Jay, despite it first being released way before the beef.

The Next 15:
16. "Get It Started"
17. "Say It" by Termanology featuring Sheek Louch, Joell Ortiz, Saigon, Bun B and Freeway
18. "Straight Madness"
19. "So Romantic"
20. "I'm Philly"
21. "East Coast Love" by Ki featuring Freeway
22. "Let's Get It On" featuring Tek and Jakk Frost
23. "Bank Rollz"
24. "Really Rough Out Here"
25. "My Style" by Dame Grease featuring Sheek Louch, Pusha T and Freeway
26. "It's A Good Day"
27. "Freezin' Hot" by Ice City
28. "Streets Won't Miss 'Em"
29. "Attitude"
30. "Best At It" by Brother Ali featuring Freeway and Joell Ortiz

Wednesday, February 10, 2010
The Singles Jukebox is finally back and reviewing songs for the new year! Here are the first few songs I've scored:

Young Money ft. Lloyd – BedRock [2/4.2]
Alicia Keys – Try Sleeping with a Broken Heart [7/6.12]
Sade – Soldier of Love [8/7.17]
Timbaland ft. Justin Timberlake – Carry Out [2/4.46]
Nick Jonas and the Administration – Who I Am [7/4]
Rihanna ft. Young Jeezy – Hard [1/5.4]

Netflix Diary

Monday, February 08, 2010
a) District 9
Like most people, I got pretty geeked out about the trailer for this, and while it was good and had some cool visuals and novel elements, I don't know, there was a lot that left a bad taste in my mouth. I knew the director had said that it was more of an action movie than a pure apartheid analogue or political statement, but it was still kind of jarring how quickly it moved from the thinly veiled metaphors to a completely ridiculous plot full of cheesy action movie beats, and I wasn't ready for how the middle of it reminded me more of Mad Max or Cronenberg's The Fly than anything else (and weirdly enough the grossout/body horror stuff that I usually enjoy squirming at seemed just kind of over the top and unwelcome here). Also the jumping between the mockumentary and the omniscient POV the whole time, with both looking exactly the same through the camera, really frustrated me, as did the lack of realistic details in the overall story (by which I mean, the lack of explanation about, say, the aliens' language or how they and the humans came to understand each other). It was still really good and original on a lot of levels, but it just drove me nuts on a lot of other levels.

b) Zack And Miri Make A Porno
Seth Rogen seemed like a really good fit as far as a currently bankable star that could possibly want to star in a Kevin Smith movie, so I went into this somewhat optimistic (Smith's incapable of greatness but Clerks 2 aside pretty much all his movies have at least something that makes me laugh consistently). This is kind of a slog, though, combining all of Smith and Rogen's weaknesses and few of their strengths. Getting kind of tired of Seth Rogen subverting his innate wiseass teddy bear appeal by being prickly and prickish in pretty much every movie he's in, especially the ones where he's supposed to be the rooting interest.

c) "Sons Of Anarchy," Season 1
Had heard good things about it, still easing myself into it and not yet hooked, but following it with interest. It feels weird to watch such a show so clearly indebted to "The Sopranos" since I decided at some point that there's way too many things that irritate me about "The Sopranos" to really get into it, but this mostly doesn't share those qualities. So far Katey Sagal's character is the one really interesting, unpredictable element that's driving it forward for me, some of the other plot points and character dynamics feel a bit predictable, but I like it.

d) "Burn Notice," Season 1
I wasn't sure if I expected more than a middle tier cable drama but this is somehow more flat, less fun than I thought it would be. Sometimes it's clever, but not nearly as clever as a spy show really should be. Bruce Campbell's entertaining as always but the rest of the supporting cast is kind of a drag, not sure if I should stick with this.

Friday, February 05, 2010

I've got a review of Big In Japan's Live At 8x10 2009 up on

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

The Ted Leo Covers Mix

1. "Ghosts" (The Jam) (mp3)
2. "Six Months In A Leaky Boat" (Split Enz)
3. "Joey" (Concrete Blonde)
4. "I Got Your Number" (Cock Sparrer)
5. "Suspect Device" (Stiff Little Fingers)
6. "By Your Side" (Sade) (mp3)
7. "Since U Been Gone / Maps" (Kelly Clarkson / The Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
8. "I'm Looking Through You" (The Beatles)
9. "Nobody's Driving" (Amebix)
10. "With Every Heartbeat" (Robyn)
11. "So It Goes" (Nick Lowe)
12. "Speak Now" (Terry Reid)
13. "Keep On Pushing" (Curtis Mayfield & The Impressions)
14. "Little Girl In Bloom" (Thin Lizzy)
15. "To Whom You Were Born" (Lungfish) (mp3)
16. "Rappaport's Testament: I Never Gave Up" (Chumbawumba)
17. "Many Rivers To Cross" (Jimmy Cliff)
18. "The Numbered Head" (Robert Pollard)
19. "Dirty Old Town" (Ewan MacColl)

Ted Leo's long been one of my favorite contemporary songwriters (in addition to making my favorite album of the past decade), but he's also always had an interesting and varied repertoire of covers that have kind of peeled back the layers of his influences, some obvious and some a bit more surprising or revealing. I'd been kind of vaguely collecting his many covers in a playlist for a while now, but it wasn't until he recently started using his Twitter as an outlet to record and toss out quick covers (including tracks 3, 6, 10, 11 and 12 here) that I had a good hour's worth of 'em. So I thought I'd post a few in anticipation of his new album The Brutalist Bricks being released in March, in the same vein as my playlist of Carla Bozulich's many covers and interpretive works.

Some of these songs I out and out love and think Ted does a great take on, especially "Six Months In A Leaky Boat," the song which gave The Tyranny of Distance its title (included here is the full band Sharkbite Sessions version, not the solo recording from the Tell Balgeary, Balgury is Dead EP). A good number of these songs I hadn't even heard of before he played them, although I think the only song I love that he didn't really do justice is "Since U Been Gone" -- it's just not a song that translates to a stripped down solo performance well, the transition into "Maps" is awkward and forced, and I feel bad for the guy that it kind of became this big deal that he covered it to the point that people shout it out at shows.

The above are all studio recordings, more or less (a few are lo-fi home recordings, and I think "Keep On Pushing" is from a radio session) -- there's a whole other bunch of covers that Leo's played live (the Misfits, Daft Punk, Springsteen) that might've sounded great in the moment but probably don't exist in the form of any particularly good recordings. About half are just voice and guitar, and the other half feature either the Pharmacists or Ted himself backing himself on drums.