The 2012 Remix Report Card, Vol. 2

Friday, March 30, 2012
"Drank In My Cup (Remix)" by Kirko Bangz featuring J. Cole and 2 Chainz
I suppose it'd be too on-the-nose to have Drake or any H-town legend on the remix of this, lest they highlight how completely unnecessary the song itself is. So instead we get a couple big guys of the moment who don't totally make sense on this song but have one-size-fits-all styles that work surprisingly well here. J. Cole sounds like an entitled little bitch whining about how he didn't get a VMA nomination, though.
Best Verse: 2 Chainz
Overall Grade: B

"Let It Go (Remix)" by Red Cafe featuring Diddy, 2 Chainz and French Montana
I don't like to feature songs here that made no real noise until their remix, and like most Red Cafe songs noone cared about this one until they threw some rappers people like on it. I love the fact that while Kid Cudi is off doing rock side projects and the Hunger Games soundtrack, his presence in actual rap music in 2012 is Diddy using his name as a "spaced out" punchline.
Best Verse: 2 Chainz
Overall Grade: C+

"UP! (Remix)" by LoveRance featuring 50 Cent, T.I. and Young Jeezy
I have no idea who LoveRance is or why this song is suddenly inescapable, but it's sad that 50 Cent's inability to make a solo hit anymore hasn't extended to his boring generic sex rhymes on rote club bangers like this and "Down On Me." The addition of Tip and Jeezy makes a little less rote, but the more LoveRance gets edged out of his own song the more I'm like who the fuck even is this guy.
Best Verse: Young Jeezy
Overall Grade: B-

"Wild Boy (Remix)" by Machine Gun Kelly featuring 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, Mystikal, French Montana and Yo Gotti
Interesting thing about this edition of remix report card is that the original artist on every track is a new and/or unestablished type who hasn't dropped an album. By the same token, not a very ringing endorsement for the state of rap in 2012, especially when you compare Mystikal to the rest of the lineup on here. The real Steve-O being on the intro is kind of funny but it's still just too dumb for words that this song exists. So this is an improvement, at least.
Best Verse: Mystikal
Overall Grade: B+

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

I wrote about the "clappers" currently taking over urban radio for one of my favorite installments to date of my Radio Hits One column for Sound of the City.

Monthly Report: February 2012 Albums

Monday, March 26, 2012

1. Mark Lanegan Band - Blues Funeral
When Lanegan released his last album with Isobel Campbell, I said here "I’ve always liked Mark Lanegan’s voice and have been procrastinating about getting into the Screaming Trees for going on two decades now," so I am proud to say that I finally listened to Sweet Oblivion on Spotify after almost 20 years of hemming and hawing about buying a Trees album. But anyway, this album's really good too. I think a lot of the narrative about how different it is from his previous stuff with the drum machines and all is a little bit inflated, it sounds a lot like Bubblegum to me, but there are moments like "Ode To Sad Disco" that produce a very strange and very lovely hybrid of thinks you wouldn't really expect to go together.

2. War On Women - Improvised Weapons
I'm a big fan of Shawna Potter and Brooks Harlan's other band Avec, and had the privelege to meet Shawna a while back and she asked me to write a press bio for her new band, War On Women. So I went and checked out the band live not really knowing what to expect and was just blown away. Improvised Weapons, like their live show, is just a quick 20-minute explosion of riot grrl thrash metal where the lyrics are as ruthless and smart as the music is. I really hope people hear and dig this record, it's a hell of a ride.

3. Kalenna - Chamber of Diaries
As a huge stan for Last Train To Paris, I've eagerly followed every Diddy-Dirty Money spinoff mixtape and solo project, and this one is especially good (and now with the apparent demise of Dirty Money as a going concern, all the more reason to closely follow what emerges from these folks). Dawn Richard's A Tell Tale Heart mixtape last year had pockets of serious potential, but the lack of mastering and overall low key vibe just held it back big time for me, whereass Kalenna's first solo mixtape is a little more swaggy and polished but also totally consistent with the LTTP vibe, some really great production, especially on "Poison." A really unfortunate array of guest verses by no-name rappers, though, which is really one of the biggest pitfalls of R&B mixtapes.

4. DDm - Winter And The Tinman's Heart
I reviewed this recently, it's a pretty cool record and it's an interesting moment in the evolution of this battle rapper Midas I first met 5 years ago and has been through a lot of musical and personal upheaval in the time since then, some of which is tied to him coming out as the rare (though increasingly less so) 'gay rapper' but really his music has always been good and interesting regardless of that.

5. Jumpcuts - Electrickery
Another Baltimore band with an album I wrote the press bio for. I've known Andy Shankman for a few years and have in the past year worked on some music with him (he played guitar for the short set I played at my birthday party at the Windup Space in January), and have heard the debut album from his main band, Jumpcuts, in various stages of completion for a while before it finally dropped last month. "Singular" is my favorite song, and as far as I know it's the single from the album because at some point I started telling Andy, "you need to pick a single, and that's the one, 'Singular' is it." The drummer from Celebration and Beach House's producer worked on this, it has some pretty cool synth sounds.

6. Heartless Bastards - Arrow
I liked but didn't love this band's last album, feel pretty much the same about this one although I feel like it may have more potential to grow on me over time, some of the uptempo stuff like "Late In The Night" is really hitting a nice twangy '70s rock sweet spot for me.

7. Rich Kidz - Everybody Eat Bread
Some cats I know were pretty excited about these guys, decided to check out this tape. It's alright, above average swag rap, but I don't like the way this stuff has been turning very earnest and serious with a bunch of half-assed melodic hooks, it's like every corner of the rap world has decided to make concessions to the Drake era.

8. Van Halen - A Different Kind Of Truth
The band sounds good, but David Lee Roth is both the best and worst thing about this album, since he's as entertaingly bawdy and nonsensical as ever ("Bullethead" has the best collection of one-liners), but his voice is pretty damn rough, and it's so easy to imagine that if they'd kissed and made up a little earlier he might've sounded much better.

9. The Sword Swallow - The Sword Swallow
Yet another record by a Baltimore act that I'd had on iPod for a while before it was officially released in February. Back when I worked on my data dump of Jon Ehrens bands last year, The Sword Swallow stood out as one of the weirdest in a roster of weird records, the sound of a pop/rock songwriter just taking apart a bunch of unused compositions and stringing them together into unpredictable collages, surprisingly one of his most fun things to listen to.

10. Gucci Mane - Trap Back
I don't totally get the excitement around this tape. On one hand, Gucci's buzz has been ebbing for so long that there's nowhere to go but up, but on the other hand, I don't think I like this more than Writings On The Wall II, and that was only last summer. In general Gucci getting more bleak and trap-obsessed is just kinda not interesting to me.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I already did some blurbs for the first round of the Village Voice's Sound of the City March Madness bracket of New York musicians, and more recently I did an in-depth round two matchup analyzing Leiber & Stoller vs. Alicia Keys.

Friday, March 23, 2012

I reviewed DDm's Winter And The Tinman's Heart, featuring guest appearances from Los and Rye Rye, for

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Thanks to Stephen Colbert, it's now a lot more impressive to some members of my family that I'll be speaking at The Experience Music Project's EMP Pop Conference on Friday. I'm getting my Baltimore club-themed speech ready for my panel and getting on a bus to New York City tonight, will be there the whole weekend and hopefully meeting lots of people and having lots of fun. .

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In this week's City Paper I have a feature about the awesome, unique Baltimore band The Sneaks.

(photo by Christopher Myers)

Monday, March 19, 2012

Two weeks ago when I went to see Chevelle at Rams Head Live in Baltimore on March 5th, I was not necessarily expecting to see an amazing rock show, I just wanted to take my wife to see a band she really liked that she'd kind of gotten me into over the last few years. But I did hope that the Chicago trio, who’ve sold three million albums over the past decade as one of the most consistently successful bands on hard rock radio today, would at least do justice to their dozen or so hit singles. But I got a sinking feeling the moment Chevelle began their set, as it became almost immediately clear that drummer Sam Loeffler’s chops left something to be desired, and he struggled to stay on beat from the opening bars of the first song. But something else proved to be an even bigger issue a few seconds later: his younger brother, Pete Loeffler, appeared to be lip syncing along to a pre-recorded vocal track. His vocals were just a little too perfect, a little too close to the familiar album recordings, and stayed at the same volume even if he pulled his face further away from the microphone, or was late in moving toward it at the beginning of a verse. There were even times when I wasn’t too sure there wasn’t a pre-recorded guitar or bass track playing from the soundboard, too, but it wasn’t clear enough that I may chalk that up to pure paranoia.

In Pete Loeffler’s defense, his microphone was definitely on, and he was really singing (and speaking between songs) throughout the night. And if he needed a little help capturing the band’s sound live, fair enough: he has one of the best and most distinctive voices on rock radio today. Early on, I regarded Chevelle as kind of a watered-down pop version of more respectable alt-metal bands like Tool and the Deftones, taking the surface aesthetic of those bands and sanding off the edges, getting rid of anything to proggy or abrasive or weird. But over the last few years, I’ve come to regard Chevelle as a frighteningly consistent singles act, largely because of Pete Loeffler’s voice, which switches effortlessly from a tuneful croon to a blood-curdling scream, and the band’s ability to synthesize its influences into incredibly catchy 4-minute radio songs like “I Get It” and “Jars.” But perhaps what Loeffler had worked hard to perfect in the studio wasn’t so effortless onstage, and he or the band’s handlers felt that he needed a little help to pull off the sound fans of the band’s recordings expected.

Of course, Chevelle aren’t the first touring act, or even the first rock band, to perform with the help of some canned recordings. Milli Vanilli helped make lip syncing one of the most embarrassing crimes any musician can be caught doing in the minds of many music fans, but their actual sin was that the guys onstage didn’t even have anything to do with the vocal tracks they were performing to. And the outrage over Ashlee Simpson being caught lip syncing on Saturday Night Live a few years ago had more to do with ridiculing someone whose studio vocal performances weren’t exactly revered to begin with. While people may dismiss Britney Spears, who has lip synced pretty much every live performance in her whole career, it hasn’t really hurt her career or her reputation, because she does it without shame, and hasn’t messed up or missed a cue yet. It’s only when an act seems to be trying to get away with something without anyone noticing it, like Chevelle, that it’s tempting to call them out and question their artistic integrity, as much of an antiquated notion as that may seem.

Increasingly, as more and more bands incorporate loops, synths and drum machines into their albums, many have used pre-recorded tracks onstage to help get that sound across in live performances. But Chevelle are an old-fashioned power trio, its members playing guitar, bass and drums,with little or nothing else in the mix, which makes their use of taped vocals a little more incongruous and surprising. They’ve been a major label band for most of their career, but their independently released debut, 1999’s Point #1, was engineered by underground rock vet Steve Albini. The band is also a well-oiled machine, and it’s hard to tell how much irony is intended when they call their official website “Chevelle Inc.” A few years ago, Pete and Sam Loeffler infamously fired their own brother, Joe Loeffler, who was at the time the band’s bassist, which perhaps cements my impression of the band as coldly corporate on some deeper level.

Chevelle’s show at Rams Head Live wasn’t a completely choreographed run through their studio material. One of the band’s biggest and best hits, “Send The Pain Below,” was played slightly lower than on record, and several deep cuts from their albums were played alongside the singles. But there was still something flat and inert about the performance, even when Sam Loeffler was getting past his initial awkwardness and playing his drums well, and it wasn’t too distractingly obvious that his brother was getting a lot of help with his vocals. Even when they were breaking a sweat and performing some very loud, aggressive rock songs, all three members of the band wore earpieces and had to painstakingly stay in time with the recording they were playing along with. When the band returned to the stage for an encore of their 2002 breakthrough hit, “The Red,” and the moshpit-worthy current hit “Face To The Floor,” the energy level of the audience ramped up considerably, but the band still seemed to be on a short leash.

The sad thing is that Chevelle weren’t always this way. In 2003, they released a live album, Live From The Road, in which Pete Loeffler is clearly singing live, imperfectly but well, and the band sounds much livelier than they did at Rams Head on Monday. At some point, they introduced backing tapes, but one hopes that they’ll drop the habit someday and be a full-on live band again. They’d probably have more fun.

Last month, Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl faced a major internet backlash for his acceptance speech at the Grammys, in which he declared, “The human element of music is what's important. Singing into a microphone and learning to play an instrument and learning to do your craft, that's the most important thing for people to do. It's not about being perfect, it's not about sounding absolutely correct, it's not about what goes on in a computer.” Many took his speech as a rockist denouncement of genres like dance music and hip-hop that rely more on drum machines and AutoTune than live instruments. But it seems more likely to me that Grohl was commenting on how Foo Fighters are increasingly rare among major label rock bands who don’t rely on the kinds of crutches that Chevelle uses when playing live, and recorded their last album on analog with little studio trickery to . When I saw the Foo Fighters at the Verizon Center in November, it was a much more impressive show, and not just because the band has chops, but because they were willing to play without a net, and make mistakes here and there, and keep an air of spontaneity even in a well-rehearsed setlist. Chevelle could stand to take that kind of risk again.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Village Voice's Sound of the City blog is doing a funny little March Madness bracket to determine the ultimate NYC musician, and I wrote blurbs about some of the musicians in the competition: A Tribe Called Quest (versus the Yeah Yeah Yeahs), Jon Spencer (versus Madonna), and Sonic Youth (versus Arthur Russell). I think it's pretty obvious where I'm backing the winning horse and where I'm not, but it should get a little more unpredictable in the second round.

Monthly Report: February 2012 Singles

Saturday, March 17, 2012

1. Young Jeezy f/ Jay-Z and Andre 3000 - "I Do"
Been meaning to put this song in this space for a while and now it's pretty much run its course but I've still pretty much never gotten sick of it, even that dumb Jay verse is at least pleasant enough that I don't need to change the station for it or anything. Sure it's a transparent "International Players Anthem" knockoff but it's also probably Andre's best verse since then, that has to count for something.

2. Travis Porter f/ Tyga - "Ayy Ladies"
I'm not sure if I even like Travis Porter so much as I love the producer of all their big singles, F-Ki, who has this great playful ear for strip club bangers that feels somewhat derived from the Mannie Fresh/Mouse On Tha Track mold but totally has its own feel and great use of vocal loops and weird left field textures. Even Tyga, who is still just too embarrassing to exist even after "Rack City," can't ruin this song. It also feels like Travis Porter are the only guys on the radio who actually sound happy to be partying, everyone else is on that Drake sadsack tip or mean mugging.

3. Foxy Shazam - "I Like It"
The very day that my column about butt-themed hit songs ran, I was in the car and heard this song on the radio (which features the chorus "that's the biggest black ass I've ever seen and I like it"), and immediately felt chagrinned that I'd missed to chance to include it in the article. It's apparently already a top 10 mainstream rock chart hit, too. Totally ridiculous and stupid, but that cross section of Zep and Queen that they hit sounds really great.

4. Jennifer Hudson f/ Ne-Yo and Rick Ross - "Think Like A Man"
Although I loved "Spotlight" and "No One Gonna Love You," I feel like there's a definite sense that J-Hud's records so far haven't really performed to expectations or lived up to her vocal talent or her whole industry golden girl status. So when I heard this song I was like damn they really hit the mark, this should be huge, even if it's from the soundtrack for some dumb Steve Harvey movie. The song hasn't really caught on yet, but it still just sounds great. She looks amazing in the video, too.

5. Robin Thicke - "Love After War"
Love the album, love this song, and it's charted pretty well but for some reason I haven't heard it on any of the R&B stations here much (one of them played "Pretty Lil Heart" for a minute but that one's just not nearly as good).

6. Eric Church - "Springsteen"
The first time I heard this song, I had just turned on the radio from listening to The Promise, and have been in a big Bruce phase for a minute anyway, so it really just felt like this perfect serendipitous moment. The song itself could be better, but it hits enough of the right wistful notes to get what it's going for.

7. Nicki Minaj - "Stupid Hoe"
At this point I feel like giving Nicki any kind of encouragement is a bad idea, but whatever, this song is fun, I've rarely ever heard a diss track so gleeful and silly and relentless.

8. Monica - "Until It's Gone"
Really nice little song, nothing special but much better than the overhyped Brandy duet that just followed it up.

9. The Foo Fighters - "These Days"
After getting over my initial disappointment that the most "Walk"-like song on Wasting Light was released as the next single, I remembered I still do like this way more than "Walk" and have given into it as another good if not great FF single to throw onto the ever growing pile.

10. B.o.B f/ Lil Wayne - "Strange Clouds"
It's crazy that B.o.B is so far gone pop that even his first song in a while that actually sounds like rap is produced by Dr. Luke. The shit bangs, though.

TV Diary

Thursday, March 15, 2012
a) "Awake"
I realized when watching the pilot for this that this kind of morbid, high-concept show with a really complicated premise revolving around death is the kind of thing I love when Bryan Fuller does it with a healthy dose of humor and knowing absurdity on "Pushing Daisies" and "Dead Like Me." But this dour, relentless show, I really have no time for. The idea might've worked for a movie, but the idea of visiting these characters and this story every week, man, no thanks.

b) "Life's Too Short"
I thought maybe Warwick Davis would make this worth watching, but it's just kind of the same old Gervais shit, with someone else playing the fool so that they can get away with a lot of short jokes.

c) "Smash"
This has been pretty consistently entertaining, even if it has lagged somewhat since the pilot, particularly when they try to do these little dramatic moments with Debra Messing's family or whatever. And a lot of the theater world diva stuff is just so on the nose that you see every plot development coming a mile away. But whatever, it's a fun show, hot chicks, and the bar is pretty low for fusing music and narrative in a television series, so I have to applaud its success.

d) "Up All Night"
Can they just cancel this already? It's slowly turning into a live action version of "Baby Blues" and every single person in the cast should be freed up to go do something better. I mean this show is actually making me want to watch reruns of "Samantha Who?"

e) "Whitney"
This show is more aggressively mediocre than "Up All Night," but I kind of watch in horror almost every week just to see if they can keep running through every 'unmarried couple' plotline in sitcom history in record time on the quest to be a mentally challenged "Mad About You." I feel kind of bad for Whitney Cummings because she looks great on talk shows and stuff and then for some reason is a fraction as attractive on her own show for some reason.

f) "Breaking In"
I kind of think Megan Mullally is hot and hilarious so I welcome her addition to the cast of this show in place of the guy from "The Whitest Kids U' Know," especially since let's face it, Christian Slater is not really built to anchor the cast of a comedy by himself. Plus she fits in here a little better than she did as a similar second season substitution on "Party Down." Still not an especially good show, but it's slowly getting better, FOX's live action comedy lineup is actually getting to be pretty decent for the first time in over a decade.

g) "Breakout Kings"
I like that when "Breakout Kings" lost a cast member for the second season, they made the msot of it by killing that person off in a really dramatic fashion in the season premiere. This show is pretty dope, shame it's on A&E so nobody will ever notice.

h) "Bob's Burgers"
So happy this show is back, it bums me out when networks renew a newer show but then bring it back as a mid-season replacement, so there's this ridiculous 9-month break where they lose a lot of momentum in building an audience. Season premiere was great, though, the Goonies homage complete with Cyndi Lauper song at the end was inspired.

i) "Archer"
I still much prefer "Bob's Burgers" in the H. Jon Benjamin multiple TV show horserace, but this show is growing on me, at least when it's not making rape jokes all the time, the writing and the voice cast have settled into a really good rhythm.

j) "Community"
Speaking of networks putting shows on break, I wasn't really as freaked out by "Community" going off the air for 3 measly months as a lot of people were, but it's good to have it back. I didn't really get to sit down and give this week's episode my proper attention on Thursday, will have to watch it OnDemand, but it seemed good, aside from the increasingly tiresome meta handwringing about being "too weird" or not.

k) "Cougar Town"
Another show that was on break for too long, although oddly the thing that made the biggest impression on me about the new episodes was that they finally put the title card up after a little 2-minute intro. It used to really bother me that the show would go on for like 8 minutes and then finally they'd be like "oh, here's the name of the show" after it felt like it was half over.

l) "30 Rock"
Kristen Schaal isn't used here as well as on "Bob's Burgers" or "The Daily Show," but I'm enjoying her little arc as the anti-Kenneth. Also any new Dennis Duffy episode is welcome, dude is like the new David Puddy.

m) "Sesame Street"
My son is 2 and a half now, which means he's hitting the age where muppets are a big deal. He's way into Elmo, obviously, but his favorites are Big Bird and Cookie Monster. It's fun to see what "Sesame Street" is up to these days since I hadn't watched it regularly in over 20 years, there are some things and some characters I miss, and it is way too Elmo-centric, but as long as my son minds I don't.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

For the 20th anniversary of Sir Mix-a-Lot's "Baby Got Back," I dedicated my latest Radio Hits One column to breaking down the biggest ass-themed hits ever before and since then, and even put together a Spotify playlist of the 20 biggest butt hits, sequenced in descending order of chart success.

Monthly Report: January 2012 Albums

Saturday, March 10, 2012

1. Ichicuts - Filthy First Year
Last month I saw a local band I know play a show in Baltimore (a band called Jumpcuts, no relation), and these guys Ichicuts were also on the bill and really impressed me. Two guys, one on drums and the other juggling bass and synths and vocals, well written and engaging songs with a really odd and twitchy aesthetic built up aroudn them. There was something about the guys and their attitude that struck me as strange that made them stick out, and then when I found out they're a New York band I was like OK yeah, that's it, bands in Baltimore don't act like that (not a bad thing per se, just different). As it turned out, they just released an album, and while it lacks a little of the energy of the live show, it mostly retains what I like about them, and as the album goes on it gets better, ending strong with "Cut Up Cut Out" and "Respectful."

2. The Water - Scandals And Animals
As with the monthly singles, I decided to expand this column from a top 5 to a top 10 for the new year, and that goes hand in hand with another change to start including local Baltimore artists in this and my year-end lists. There are a lot of reasons for that, but mainly because people in Baltimore make great music and it's silly to seperate it from everything else, and because increasingly there've been some great records by people I know personally or work with or write PR copy for that I wouldn't be able to cover professionally in any publication, so I can at least talk about them here on my own blog. First and foremost here is the debut album by the instrumental duo The Water, who've been one of my favorite live bands in the city ever since I first saw them a few years ago. And now they've finally got a studio release that captures their huge, amazing sound, mainly thanks to my friends at Mobtown Studios, and I visited with them in the studio while they were working on it, and wrote the official press release for the album, and invited The Water to play at my 30th birthday party back in January. So you can take my praise with a grain of salt because I'm not totally distanced or objective, but this is an awesome record, "Cornish Guilt" and "DeSelby" are my favorite tracks.

3. T.I. - Fuck Da City Up
T.I. has had such a weird up-and-down career over the past 5 years, where it seems like he was always either coming out of jail or about to go back in, so there was this constant recurring comeback narrative that didn't have much to do with what his music sounded like at the moment. But there was a definite dip in quality around the time No Mercy bricked, and his run of remixes the last few months has really been pretty great, so I'm good with where he's at right now even if I'm not trying to buy too much into the latest comeback narrative. It bodes well that this tape is full of songs with ATL's new guard (2 Chainz, Travis Porter, Future, etc.) but doesn't feel forced at all, T.I. defined so much of the music these guys are making anyway that it all fits together pretty well, and "Hot Wheels" with Young Dro and Travis Porter is just dope, that shit should be a hit.

4. Future - Astronaut Status
I definitely wouldn't have expected a few months ago that I'd even be able to stomach a full-length Future mixtape, as much as I hated "Racks" and "Tony Montana." But lately I started to warm to "Magic" (at least before I realized how much the chorus is a rewrite of Gucci's "Wasted") and "Racks" and the Caddy Da Don remix he did, and really this tape is pretty aight, at the very least I'm starting to hear his voice and his own aesthetic more than just a generic AutoTuned goon. "Shopping Spree" is pretty dope.

5. Guided By Voices - Let's Eat The Factory
I've never been a big GBV fan, I basically think of them as a singles band and the Human Amusements at Hourly Rates comp is the only CD of theirs I've ever owned. I like their 20-songs-in-40-minutes barrage approach to making albums more in theory than in practice, or maybe I just expect that kind of thing to be more overtly entertaining and novelty-driven, like early They Might Be Giants albums. But anyway this is nice, a bit more lo-fi than I would've expected or even liked, but I get that they're getting the old lineup back together and going 'back to their roots.'

6. Schoolboy Q - Habits & Contradictions
I don't feel too much guilt about not really following all the new rappers that are so celebrated on the internet, but I am trying to hear more new rap in general and I should probably give more of this stuff a chance. None of the Kendrick Lamar stuff I've heard has really grabbed me, but I decided to check this out and I think while I like Schoolboy Q a little more, I'm not a huge fan of him either. Basically he's got this tasteful blankness of so many new rappers, like he might as well be a slightly tougher J. Cole when you get down to it. Even on the rare occasion that he kinda sounds like he's having fun, "There He Go" and "Sexting" get annoying really quickly. And by the time I get to that track where he says "fag" over and over I had just kind of turned against the album and didn't really want to hear it anymore.

7. Sinista - Here, My Dear: The Mixtape
I reviewed this for the City Paper recently, it's very flawed and slapdash in a lot of ways but it's also undeniably compelling, might grow with me more over time.

8. Rick Ross - Rich Forever
As one of the only mainstream rap fans left who doesn't give a shit about Rick Ross, I was actually ready to give this a fair chance after all the buzz and say OK, he made a dope record, he deserves his spot in the game. But man, this tape really ain't shit, "Keys To The Crib" is the only song I would really bang again, most of the beats are pretty generic post-Lex Luger bullshit and Ross is still getting graded on that generous curve where being better than 2006 era Ross is considered a big deal. As I always say, Ross on his best day still barely competes with guys like T.I. on their worst day.

9. Jason Urick - I Love You
I also reviewed this recently, it's quite lovely in some spots but also a bit spare for my taste, I always kind of wonder whether Urick is gonna have something way more interesting up his sleeve down the road than what he's done so far.

10. Yo Gotti - Live From The Kitchen
This album was a disappointment, I thought Yo Gotti had finally released the live LP I'd been clamoring for all these years! Nah, but really, though, I've never really understood Yo Gotti's appeal aside from making the same basic kind of music as a lot of more famous and/or more skilled rappers, and for that matter I never really understood how he reached the modest level of success that he has. This album is at least good for it is, though, until that shitshow with Big Sean and Wale and Wiz Khalifa kind of throws off the whole 'would be dope as a mixtape' vibe of it. I will give him credit for "Letter," that's a pretty compelling song.

Friday, March 09, 2012

I reviewed Jason Urick's new album, I Love You, for

Movie Diary

Thursday, March 08, 2012
a) Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest
After hearing all about the behind-the-scenes drama about this movie as it was being made and completed, I didn't really have much of an appetite to see it. But then it popped up on cable and I got really excited and remembered that The Low End Theory is still probably my favorite rap LP of all time. Michael Rapaport's direction is actually pretty decent and does a good job of evoking the mood and the joy of Tribe's music and some of the interviews and musical montage segments are really great, but of course the second half of the movie falls into all the in-fighting stuff that the making of the movie itself got sadly mired in (which makes the 'resolution' of the end of the film ring false). But even that stuff is still kind of fascinating since it's less typical rap beef and more of an archetypical rock band dynamic of a bunch of guys bickering about whether it's a true group or a star vehicle for a frontman, etc.

b) Bad Teacher
These kinds of unapologetically sleazy anti-hero movies are not my favorite type of modern comedy, but I appreciate them when they're done well, and I really enjoyed how relentlessly nasty Bad Teacher is, really didn't pull any punches.

c) Your Highness
A pretty dumb movie but at least kinda sorta entertaining, if for no other reason than NatPo. I think I wanted it to be more low key and casual than it was, I was kind of amazed at how much much they spent on these big special effects scenes that weren't very funny and were actually kind of ugly to look at, it really didn't benefit the movie in any way.

d) Battle Los Angeles
Even after seeing this I can barely tell it apart from that other identical-looking space invaders movie that came out around the same time.

e) Last Play At Shea
I for some reason don't hate Billy Joel, so I found this doc pretty entertaining.

f) The Cottage
My wife and I have a Valentine's Day tradition, as I've said here before, by getting Chinese takeout and watching horror movies, and this year we scrolled through the OnDemand menu looking for various scary movies and having a hard time deciding. I ultimately decided to check out this movie because I like seeing Andy Serkis in non-motion capture roles, and at first I felt kind of annoyed at it being categorized as a horror movie since the first hour or so is basically just a farce, a caper gone wrong kind of movie. But then the serial killer shows up and it gets pretty gorey, if still in a very over-the-top satirical way. Funny movie, though, sharp dialogue, some really fun performances.

g) Fade To Black
Weird historical fiction kind of thing about Orson Welles, with Danny Huston doing a not very convincing at all Welles. I think the movie would've come off more enjoyable and original if they'd just changed the character's name and made it more overtly fictional, really.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

My good friends at Mobtown Studios and the Windup Space are putting on their 3rd annual NOVO Festival of instrumental music this week on March 9th and 10th, check it out if you can and hear some great music.

Saturday, March 03, 2012

My latest Radio Hits One column takes a long, hard look at the phenomenon of artists releasing bonus tracks from deluxe editions of albums as singles, especially artists on Young Money.

Friday, March 02, 2012

On two Friday nights last month, I spent a few hours on the air on Strictly Hip Hop on Morgan State's WEAA 88.9 FM, arguing with a panel about the top 20 greatest MCs of all time. For me, the discussion itself was way more entertaining and thought-provoking than the list we came up with could ever be, and I kinda wish people couldn't even see the list without listening to the process we used to arrive at it. But the final top 20 list is online now and I gotta say I think we did alright, I'm not embarrassed by it.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

The Experience Music Project's annual EMP Pop Conference is being held in New York City for the first time this year, and I will be driving up later this month to appear on a panel and read a paper previewing research from the book I'm working on, Tough Breaks: The Story of Baltimore Club Music. My presentation is on Friday, March 23rd, but I'm going to be staying in the city the whole weekend, taking in other panels and visiting friends and hopefully meeting a lot of other music writers that I've read and/or interacted with online over the years, should be fun.