Saturday, July 31, 2010

Next Friday night I'm gonna be a guest on Strictly Hip Hop on WEAA 88.9 FM as part of some kind of panel discussion. If I get more info about exactly what time between midnight and 5 a.m. I'll be on or what other guests I'll be on with, I'll add to that to this post later, but for now that's all I know. Tune in!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

I reviewed Sri Aurobindo's new album Cave Painting on Friends Records for

Monday, July 26, 2010
Here's my latest low score massacre on Singles Jukebox:

Nicki Minaj – Your Love [0/4.5]
Rick Ross ft. Ne-Yo – Super High [3/6.5]
Drake – Find Your Love [2/5.25]
Ne-Yo – Beautiful Monster [3/6.62]
The-Dream ft. T.I. – Make-Up Bag [2/6.11]
Eminem ft. Rihanna – Love the Way You Lie [3/5.5]
Cali Swag District – Teach Me How to Dougie [1/6.33]
Lyfe Jennings – Statistics [4/4.89]
Maroon 5 – Misery [4/3.75]
The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang [6/5.2]
Liz Phair – Bollywood [6/4.46]

Saturday, July 24, 2010

This month on the Baltimore City Paper's Noise blog, I wrote live reviews of Soul Cannon/The Get Em Mamis/Mania Music Group @ the Windup Space, the Nels Cline Singers @ the Black Cat, Smashing Pumpkins @ Rams Head Live, and Tortoise/Jason Urick @ Sonar.

The 2010 Remix Report Card, Vol. 7

Thursday, July 22, 2010
"All White Everything (Remix)" by Young Jeezy featuring Yo Gotti
This is already kind of irrelevant since he's since released the superior "Jizzle," but for a second this was Jeezy's new single and for a nanosecond there was some kind of perceived controversy because apparently Yo Gotti invented rapping about the color white or something and people thought Jeezy was jacking his slang. So this remix is I guess their way of squashing that talk, which is cool, but a not great rapper tacking a verse onto a not great song is nothing to write home about.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C+

"Champagne Life (Remix)" by Ne-Yo featuring Rick Ross
Ne-Yo's other new single "Beautiful Monster" is crap for a whole other set of reasons, but "Champagne Life" is crap because it kind of sounds like one of the anonymous hooks he does on rap singles. In fact the first time I heard it I was like, this had to be his back up to pitch to Rick Ross if he didn't take "Super High," so it's appropriate that Ross himself remixed it. Even as a Rick Ross R&B joint it's not very good, though, let alone compared to the usual high standards of Ne-Yo's solo records.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C

"Hard In The Paint (Remix)" by Waka Flocka Flame featuring Ciara
In the last edition of RRC, I wrote about the "Hard In The Paint" remix with Gucci, but now there's one with Ciara as part of her attempt to return to her crunk 'roots.' It's kind of dope, against my expectations.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B

"Lose My Mind (Remix)" by Young Jeezy featuring Drake
"Lose My Mind" is easily my favorite straight up rap hit of the last few months, and I kept wondering why they hadn't dropped a remix yet. So I was pretty horrified by the news that Ontario Aubrey got a verse on this shit. Seriously, how do you swap out a Plies verse for Drake? How does that even happen?
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: F

"My First Kiss (Remix)" by 3OH!3 featuring Gucci Mane and Ke$ha
Fresh off the fuckin' Travie McCoy remix, doing this reaffirms that Gucci is in full on crossover aspiration mode, rapping on any damn thing that will get him a little closer to pop radio. He kinda kicks a nice fast flow, though, makes the best of it all things considered.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C

"Stop The Party (Remix)" by Busta Rhymes featuring T.I., Cam'ron, Ghostface Killah, DMX and Swizz Beatz
In a repeat of the "Touch It" ordeal from a few years ago, Busta did a clunky underperforming single with Swizz Beatz, and is now trying to give it new life with an overstuffed remix. And again, they throw a bone to DMX. Like the "All I Do Is Win" remix, this is only one southerner away from being an all-NYC posse cut and I kinda wish they'd kept that theme, even though Tip is dope on this. I'd say that all the sound effects and shit they stop the beat for mess up the momentum, but it's a halting, awkward song no matter what.
Best Verse: T.I.
Overall Grade: D

"Super High (Sativa Remix)" by Rick Ross featuring Wiz Khalifa, Curren$y and Ne-Yo
It's not often I give Ross props but I have to say it's rare that you get a big mainstream artist actually using an official remix for his single as a way to kinda give shine to some cats on the come up that they aren't already affiliated with or kind of in the same lane as, it kinda makes Ross seem more up on things that he thought to hook up with these guys. I still don't really get Wiz or Curren$y, they always seem kinda bland and boring to me, or maybe they're just so high that they're too relaxed to make exciting music? Still, I like the idea of this remix and it fits the vibe of this song.
Best Verse: Wiz Khalifa
Overall Grade: B+

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

This week in the Baltimore City Paper I have a feature on Mullyman about his new album Harder Than Baltimore and why he leaked the album himself, his production team on the album, his collaborations with Bossman and his ventures into Baltimore club music. It was kinda cool to come full circle and do this story almost exactly 5 years after I met Mully and wrote my first City Paper article about him in 2005.

Monthly Report: June Albums

Monday, July 19, 2010

1. Gucci Mane - Mr. Zone 6
Since I’m friends with some of the biggest, most obsessive Gucci Mane fans in the world, I can usually rely on them to let me know when I need to check out something from him. The enthusiasm seemed pretty low everywhere for Burrprint 2 so I never really listened to that, but this one has generated a lot of excitement. And I gotta say, at first I didn’t really get it; I’m not very into “Normal” and it’s not as immediately appealing as the first Burrprint was last year, Gucci’s vocal presence seems a little more restrained or maybe his voice is just lower in the mix, I dunno. But it’s growing on me as I realize that a lot of my favorite tracks are buried in the second half. Gucci’s never had the best choruses but “Socialite” and “Makin’ Love To The Money” have great hooks.

2. The Gaslight Anthem - American Slang
The ‘59 Sound was pretty great but it was also one-dimensional in that way where you get the sense this is a band you don’t really need more than one record from. But I got the album and EP that preceded it anyway, and now I can throw them all in a shuffle playlist with the new one and barely be able to tell the difference. There’s worse flaws than consistency, though, and for all I know I might end up liking this one more than The ‘59 Sound eventually. The big charging um, anthems like the title track don’t do it for me quite like stuff like “The Diamond Church Street Choir” and “We Did It When We Were Young” where they change up the tempo a litle.

3. The Roots - How I Got Over
I’m a pretty big fan of the darker tone of the couple Roots albums before this, especially Game Theory and in general the more studio-oriented records like Things Fall Apart, so their return to sounding more like a jazzy live hip hop band isn’t particularly exciting to me. All the indie rock singers I’ve never heard before guesting on here don’t really bother me since I wouldn’t be able to recognize them and there’s been some kinda indie shit on the last few Roots albums anyway. I wish I heard the mood/arc people keep saying this album has, though, the tone doesn’t really draw me in, but there are definitely some good songs here. I really dig what they did with John Legend's song.

4. Rasputina - Sister Kinderhook
I heard some of these songs at their Ottobar show in April and on the live CD recorded last year that I got at the show, but so far I’m still slowly getting into the album proper, which I definitely don’t like as much as 2007’s Oh Perilous World but isn’t without its charms.

5. The-Dream - Love King
My line on The-Dream has always been that I don’t particularly like him as a singer or songwriter, but tolerate him because his producers, Tricky Stewart and LOS Da Mystro, make great beats. So it complicates matters for me that they only worked on half of Love King, and The-Dream produced the rest completely solo. And though it’s tempting for me to play it off like oh I can tell, the fact is I would have had no idea if I hadn’t looked at the credits, the guy is a sharp understudy. I will say that musically this is definitely his weakest album, though, there are still lots of hooks but they aren’t quite in as great supply. The guy’s personality comes across more loathsome than ever, though, especially since a beautiful woman just divorced him while his current single basically says it’s OK to cheat if you buy your girl a nice purse to make up for it.

Monthly Report: June Singles

Saturday, July 17, 2010

1. Nickelback - “This Afternoon”
Nickelback is, improbably, pretty much the only major act in American pop music left that can keep pushing its 8th single off an album more than a year and a half after its release date, without the need of a deluxe version or remixes or anything to entice the marketplace. And there’s something canny about waiting this long to release this as a single, given that it’s kind of uncommonly good-natured -- most Nickelback hits are dour power ballads, and the ones that aren’t are usually tough guy hard rockers with lyrics that sound like they’re narrating a coke-fueled date rape. This is their unlikely attempt at a summer jam, and it totally works, with the goofy CMT-looking video and the shamelessly glossy Mutt Lange production that all the other Dark Horse singles kind of wasted. So far this song is on a lot of pop and adult contempo charts, but not any rock charts, which isn’t uncommon for Nickelback’s more accessible singles, but kind of surprising just because I have been hearing this song a lot on my local rock stations.

2. Lady Gaga - "Alejandro"
So I guess this is the 2nd Lady Gaga single I gotta give props to, although I still like it about 100th as much as "Bad Romance" and it's not that much better than some of the earlier singles I turned my nose up at, and the video is a huge drab drag. Still, huge huge chorus. If I'd taken Spanish in high school and they called me Alejandro I'd probably like this song more, but since I took French I'm still waiting for a pop song called "Alixandre."

3. J. Cole - "Who Dat?"
J. Cole is one of those guys who's in the weird position in rap of nobody really giving a fuck who he was until Jay-Z signed him, so a lot of the attention he's getting is just kind of the cynical waiting to see if he's the new Memphis Bleek or what. And there was also the kind of uncomfortable thing where people kept comparing him to Drake seemingly more because he's light-skinned than because of anything about his music. Either way, it turns out he's one of these Little Brother/Jay Electronica type northern-sounding southern rappers, but his single is surprisingly good. It's at most the 3rd or 4th best rap song called "Who Dat," but still.

4. Green Day - "Last Of The American Girls"
Despite the fact that I have more of a stomach for current mainstream rock than almost any critic I know and just gave props to a fucking Nickelback song, there are some bands whose creative direction in recent years just totally makes me barf, like Green Day from American Idiot onwards, which has totally sapped them of the humor and energy and rubbery rhythm section that made them any good to begin with. I was so appalled by the couple people I know who liked 21st Century Breakdown that I really grudgingly will even admit that with the 4th single off the album they've finally got a really catchy one that I'm starting to like a lot. Also the girl in the video is so hot.

5. Sade - "Babyfather"
I already talked about how much this song makes me smile on Singles Jukebox, but yeah, this is nice, one of my favorites on the album, makes a good single.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

This week the Baltimore City Paper rolled out its annual Big Music Issue, and it's got a lot of interesting stuff in there, can't wait to read all the articles. The one I wrote is called Might Don't Make It: Baltimore hip-hop may never go mainstream--is it up to its iconoclasts to carry the torch if it doesn't? I hope it'll start some conversations and some arguments; it might seem like I'm trying to shut down all the talk about if/when Baltimore might blow up, but really I just wanted to debunk some of the more naive and dated theories and strategies and get people past them, so they can set more realistic goals and maybe make more meaningful accomplishments. Most of the article is kinda me ranting, but I also used it as an opportunity to talk to some of my favorite unheralded underground hip hop artists and get their perspectives on the subject: The Black Sunn, Sean Toure', ScholarMan, Kneel Knaris, Born King, and Singodsuperior.

(cover by Sam Holden)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

I wrote a review of the Don't Break The Needle EP by J Roddy Walston and The Business over on