Saturday, August 31, 2013

This week I wrote a piece for the latest issue of Maura Magazine, about the recent phenomenon of classic bands touring without members of the classic lineup as a cost-cutting measure. It's my second piece for Maura Johnston's publication, after contributing an article back in January, and it's a really great magazine that's well worth the low subscription rate, I highly recommend spending a little money to read my piece and see if you want to become a longterm subscriber.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Complex Magazine "King of the City" feature this week looked at the top rappers in 13 different scenes, including the DMV, and I wrote the section about Washington, D.C. and Baltimore rappers.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013
The Short List in this week's Baltimore City Paper.

Deep Album Cuts Vol. 11: Fall Out Boy

Monday, August 26, 2013

Fall Out Boy, the band so constantly self-conscious of their own success and potential failure that they named a song on their major label debut "Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year," have in fact now managed probably popular music's biggest comeback of 2013. That is, an actual comeback where they reversed a steep downward commercial trajectory that had plagued them for years, not just 'Justin Timberlake's last thing was really successful and this year he came back and had more success.' And I really didn't see it coming -- Fall Out Boy were last seen in 2008 with the brilliant Folie a Deux, possibly my favorite rock album of the last 5 years, which totally failed to capture the rock fanbase or the crossover pop appeal they commanded at their peak. Now, thanks to a flawlessly executed surprise campaign for a new album after years of hiatus, "My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light 'Em Up)" has returned them to heavy rotation on both pop and rock radio, which I couldn't have remotely expected when I first heard the song a few months ago. So it seemed like a good time to look back on their catalog, which is not exactly huge, but at least has been fruitful enough to already yield a greatest hits compilation that this can serve as a complement to.

Fall Out Boy Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist):

1. Sophomore Slump or Comeback of the Year
2. Disloyal Order of Water Buffaloes
3. Chicago Is So Two Years Ago
4. XO
5. Young Volcanoes
6. Golden
7. 7 Minutes in Heaven (Atavan Halen)
8. (Coffee's For Closers)
9. The (After) Life of the Party
10. The (Shipped) Gold Standard
11. w.a.m.s.
12. Just One Yesterday featuring Foxes
13. It's Not a Side Effect of the Cocaine, I Am Thinking It Must Be Love
14. Nobody Puts Baby in the Corner
15. Homesick At Space Camp
16. I Slept With Someone In Fall Out Boy And All I Got Was This Stupid Song Written about Me
17. Rat A Tat featuring Courtney Love
18. Tiffany Blews featuring Lil Wayne
19. Save Rock And Roll featuring Elton John
20. I've Got All This Ringing in My Ears and None on My Fingers
21. Hum Hallelujah

Tracks 3 and 15 from Take This To Your Grave (2003)
Tracks 13 from My Heart Will Always Be The B-Side To My Tongue (2004)
Tracks 1, 4, 7, 14 and 16 from From Under The Cork Tree (2005)
Tracks 6, 9, 20 and 21 from Infinity On High (2007)
Tracks 2, 8, 10, 11 and 18 from Folie a Deux (2008)
Tracks 5, 12, 17 and 19 from Save Rock And Roll (2013)

I actually don't consider Fall Out Boy that great a singles act -- I'd only really rate "Dance, Dance" and "Thnks Fr Th Mmrs" out of their big hits as being among their best songs, although most of the hits are at least decent and catchy, and there are some really good misses as well. So this represents the bulk of my favorite Fall Out Boy songs, and it was fun to try to organize all their huge leaps in sound and ambition into something somewhat cohesive, or perhaps more deliberately all-over-the-place than any one of their albums.

There's a lot of straight-ahead punk pop, albeit with uncommonly wordy verses and uncommonly powerful singing, But there's also piano ballads, horn-driven pop songs, drum machine-assisted dance beats and hip-hop crossovers, brazen classic rock, and uncategorizable weirdness. For such a careerist band, they've really managed to be pretty unpredictable. I could easily have slotted a few songs from Patrick Stump's ill-fated solo album Soul Punk, which I love about as much as any of the band's albums, on here, but I didn't want to shoehorn that into something that I think really celebrates the unique chemistry that this particularly quartet ended up with.

I liked being able to put their collaborations with Courtney Love, Lil Wayne and Elton John all together because they're surely the only band in the world that would even think to work with those 3 people, let alone use them so well in their own songs (never mind collaborations with Jay-Z and Elvis Costello, which similarly demonstrate the range of Fall Out Boy's taste, although in those instances the stunt casting didn't work as well for me).

Previous playlists in the Deep Album Cuts series:
Vol. 1: Brandy
Vol. 2: Whitney Houston
Vol. 3: Madonna
Vol. 4: My Chemical Romance
Vol. 5: Brad Paisley
Vol. 6: George Jones
Vol. 7: The Doors
Vol. 8: Jay-Z
Vol. 9: Robin Thicke
Vol. 10: R. Kelly

Friday, August 23, 2013

I posted Greenspan's new video "Make Believe," featuring Jay Luv and the late Smash, on the Baltimore City Paper site.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013
The Short List of Baltimore concerts in this week's City Paper.

Monthly Report: August 2013 Singles

Monday, August 19, 2013

1. Yo Gotti f/ Young Jeezy and YG - "Act Right"
Yo Gotti has been a steady C-lister on the trap star circuit for so long without any real undeniable talent or even the kind of star quality that keeps guys like Jeezy or 2 Chainz out there, so it surprises me when he comes up with something pretty good, and especially something as great as "Act Right." Even here, a lot of the credit belongs to HBK P-Lo, who gave it just fantastic hi-hat programming and ridiculous bass, but Gotti sounds great on this like he rarely has before, and Jeezy continues his run of adapting strangely well to DJ Mustard-style post-hyphy tracks (for the longest time I thought Mustard produced this, but I was wrong). I wish this song was bigger, it deserves to at least on the same level as "R.I.P." All these songs are in my Spotify playlist of favorite 2013 singles, by the way.

2. Zedd f/ Foxes - "Clarity"
This song has been creeping up on me, and the American public in general, for a good long while, but it really hit me a few weeks ago when I was driving to an early job at like 6am all bleary-eyed and it just sounded tremendous. Whoever this Foxes person is, I really liked her spot on the Fall Out Boy album earlier this year too, this is definitely a runner up to "Sweet Nothing" as my favorite dance producer/guest singer EDM pop crossover joint of the year.

3. Ariana Grande - "Baby I"
"The Way" is obviously one of the best pop jams of the year in a way that even Mac Miller couldn't fuck up, but it's good to finally have another single from Ariana Grande that's also great but with no guest rappers or anything getting in the way. It doesn't jack any familiar sample, but keeps the overall '90s vibe going with a writing credit from Babyface himself. This one's a little more feathery and fluttery and I feel like it might not take off big, but I just love the drums and the rapid vocal melodies.

4. Doe B f/ T.I. and Juicy J - "Let Me Find Out (Remix)"
For a while this song kinda blended into the background to me, because Doe B is such a nondescript dude (eyepatch aside) and there are a billion records out right now with Tip and/or Juicy on them, but man that beat just sounds so great and evil, and everyone's verse suits it perfectly in its own way.

5. 2 Chainz f/ Pharrell - "Feds Watching"
When this song dropped a while back, it immediately felt like the fluke success of "Blurred Lines" had suddenly set us back into that zone 6-8 years ago where rappers where just blindly buying tracks from Pharrell that nobody should ever rap on trying to land a hit. And while this song has definitely not blown up like all the singles from the first 2 Chainz album and could very well get his release date pushed back, it has gotten bigger than I expected, and sounds pretty dope on the radio. The beat's a little slight but the chorus is catchy as hell and it's one of those rare times when 2 Chainz manages a whole song by himself without his flow or his lyrics just falling apart into a puddle of bad ideas at least once.

6. Chrisette Michele - "A Couple of Forevers"
I've never been big on Michele's music, something about her delivery sounds a little cloying and contrived to me, but this song knocked me out the first time I heard it on the radio earlier in the summer. I gave the album a chance and it didn't do much for me otherwise, but this is still a jam.

7. Toby Keith - "Drinks After Work"
I've been fond of noting over the last year or so that Toby Keith has been on a streak of alcohol-themed singles, and this is his 5th in a row now. I can't complain because I like all of them and probably love 3 of them, including this one. Keith has written the overwhelming majority of his hits, but now and again he buys one, and this is from the same songwriting team that did Little Big Town's "Pontoon." I could easily picture someone else singing this song, but it works for Keith really well, just a great little slice of life kind of song with a huge string hook that kinda reminds me, weirdly, of "Come On Eileen."

8. Wale f/ Sam Dew - "LoveHate Thing"
I can talk shit about Wale and his album as much as anyone, but the fact is I really do like the live band Go-Go/R&B vibe he occasionally brings to the radio on songs like "Pretty Girls," and this song is really just beautifully produced (in part by the guy from Mint Condition!), great drums, great vibe. And for once Wale doesn't sound like he's straining to be the rapper he thinks he needs to be for his career, even if the guy he seems to truly be is kind of whiny and obsessed with his career and status and 'haters,' which works here because it's kind of a thoroughly examined song about those topics that constantly peek through in his lyrics.

9. John Legend - "Made To Love"
I think John Legend's always made more interesting music than he gets credit for, although one can certainly be forgiven for that since his only album in the past 5 years was that covers thing with the Roots, and the recent singles with Ludacris and Rick Ross weren't very inspired. But this song really grabbed me and got me curious about the new album, very cool and surprisingly texture to the percussion on this song, and just the way the guitar and the vocal are mixed are kind of subtly on some other shit.

10. Taylor Swift - "Red"
I'm forever ambivalent towards Taylor Swift as neither a force for good nor evil in popular music, going back and forth based on whether I like or dislike her latest song, but generally I tend to like her singles the most when they're basically power pop anthems, like "The Story of Us" and "You Belong With Me," and now this. It hit the top 10 almost a year ago just off downloads, but now it's her country radio single, at the end of a long album cycle which has been almost entirely geared away from country radio, and it sounds pretty damn good after all those goofy Max Martin songs.

Worst Single of the Month: Rocko f/ Rick Ross and Future - "UOENO"
Obviously the main reason this song is divisive is that line on the Rick Ross verse, which Rocko says he took off the song and replaced with remix verses by Wiz or 2 Chainz or whoever, but the fact is now that this is an estimable radio it it sure as hell seems like most stations are playing that loathsome Ross verse anyway. But I gotta say I just hate this song period, it's a lethargic useless beat and one of Future's worst hooks (which is weird because I like his derivative new single "Honest" a lot more than this), just kinda hate the whole thing even besides the disgusting date rape lyric.

Friday, August 16, 2013

I wrote a post on the Baltimore City Paper site about Baltimore rapper Jay Wyse's new album and video.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013
This week's Short List.

Superchunk: The Imaginary Box Set

Monday, August 12, 2013

This summer one of my favorite bands, Superchunk, is releasing their 10th album, I Hate Music, due out next week. Over the last decade or so in which the band was mostly inactive, as their catalog gradually grew in my esteem, to the point that I might place them as the best band of the 1990s, I've made a lot of best-of mixes of their songs, on tape and then on CD-r and then on my iPod and then on Spotify, which is where I decided to piece together this absurd monstrosity in anticipation of the new album.

Superchunk famously founded Merge Records, and have always been in control of their catalog to a fastidious, even obsessive degree. They've released a myriad of singles and EPs of songs not on their proper albums, most of which have been collected on their three rarities compilations, as well as six live albums in the Clambakes series. But they'll probably never make a box set, that totem of classic rock importance that is reserved for bands that, well, have the commercial clout to justify it. So I thought I'd make one for them, categorizing their output into six themed 'discs': singles (i.e. songs from their albums that were released as an A-side of a single or EP, or for which a video was filmed, including the two advance releases from I Hate Music), fan favorites (songs that were often as popular as those singles), deep album cuts (ones not quite so popular but still great), non-album rarities and B-sides (as well as A-sides of standalone singles that never appeared on albums), covers, and finally demos and acoustic versions of their songs.

Superchunk: The Imaginary Box Set

Disc 1: The Singles (Spotify playlist)
1. Slack Motherfucker
2. Hyper Enough
3. Driveway To Driveway
4. Precision Auto
5. Seed Toss
6. Watery Hands
7. Learned To Surf
8. Mower
9. 1000 Pounds
10. Art Class (Song For Yayoi Kusama)
11. FOH
12. Digging For Something
13. Package Thief
14. Hello Hawk
15. Throwing Things
16. Me & You & Jackie Mittoo
17. Late-Century Dream
18. The First Part

Disc 2: Fan Favorites (Spotify playlist)
1. For Tension
2. Skip Steps 1 & 3
3. Iron On
4. Like A Fool
5. My Noise
6. Detroit Has A Skyline
7. Why Do You Have To Put A Date On Everything
8. Phone Sex
9. Pink Clouds
10. Cast Iron
11. Water Wings
12. Burn Last Sunday
13. Untied
14. My Gap Feels Weird
15. Punch Me Harder
16. Sick To Move
17. Good Dreams
18. Martinis On The Roof
19. From The Curve
20. Silver Leaf And Snowy Tears
21. Everything At Once
22. Florida's On Fire

Disc 3: Deep Album Cuts (Spotify playlist)
1. Eastern Terminal
2. European Medicine
3. Kicked In
4. Cursed Mirror
5. Tie A Rope To The Back Of The Bus
6. Let It Go
7. I Guess I Remembered It Wrong
8. Marquee
9. Here's Where The Strings Come In
10. Out On The Wing
11. Sprung A Leak
12. Slow Drip
13. Honey Bee
14. Saving My Ticket
15. Rainy Streets
16. Winter Games
17. Slow
18. Every Single Instinct
19. Animated Airplanes Over Germany
20. Without Blinking
21. Flawless
22. The Only Piece That You Get
23. Tiny Bombs

Disc 4: B-Sides and Non-Album Tracks (Spotify playlist)
1. This Summer
2. Never Too Young To Smoke
3. Forged It
4. The Majestic
5. Reg
6. Dance Lessons
7. Fishing
8. Connecticut
9. White Noise
10. Cool
11. On The Mouth
12. Foolish
13. Does Your Hometown Care?
14. What Do I
15. Clover
16. Sexy Ankles
17. The Hot Break
18. Knock Knock Knock
19. With Bells On
20. The Length Of Las Ramblas
21. Becoming A Speck

Disc 5: Covers (Spotify playlist)
1. 100,000 Fireflies (Magnetic Fields)
2. Anything Could Happen (The Clean)
3. Beat My Guest (Adam And The Ants)
4. Girl U Want (Devo)
5. Train From Kansas City (The Shangri-Las)
6. Scary Monsters (David Bowie)
7. Cruel Summer (Bananarama)
8. Say My Name (Destiny's Child)
9. Brand New Love (Sebadoh)
10. It's So Hard To Fall In Love (Sebadoh)
11. I Believe In Fate (Sebadoh)*
12. I'll Be Your Sister (Motorhead)*
13. Nancy Sin (Beat Happening)*
14. Lying In State (The Verlaines)*
15. Night Of Chill Blue (The Chills)*

Disc 6: Demos and Acoustic Versions (Spotify playlist)
1. Detroit Has A Skyline (Acoustic)
2. Learned To Surf (Demo)
3. Cursed Mirror (Acoustic)
4. Driveway To Driveway (Acoustic)
5. Seed Toss (Acoustic)
6. Pink Clouds (Acoustic)
7. Art Class (Acoustic)
8. Low Branches (Acoustic)
9. Sick To Move (Acoustic)
10. 1,000 Pounds (Duck Kee Style)
11. Florida's On Fire (Demo)
12. Late-Century Dream (Live Acoustic In-Store)*
13. Rainy Streets (Live Acoustic In-Store)*
14. Hello Hawk (Live Acoustic In-Store)*
15. Drool Collection (Live Acoustic In-Store)*
16. The Animal Has Left Its Shell (Live Acoustic In-Store)*
17. Eastern Terminal (Demo)*
18. Digging For Something (Demo)*
19. Yeah, It's Beautiful Here Too (Demo)*
20. Crossed Wires (Demo)*
21. Never Too Young To Smoke (Demo)*
22. Throwing Things (Acoustic)*

* Not available on Spotify.

If I had my druthers or something, I'd do a 7th disc of live tracks from the Clambakes series, but since those aren't on Spotify and I haven't heard them all anyway, I won't bother (although the acoustic disc has several discs from the unplugged Clambakes Vol. 1). But in any event, that's my absurdly comprehensive overview of the band that I'd give as a primer to anyone I was trying to convince of Superchunk's greatness (if I didn't want to make a boiled-down one hour best-of or just hand them my favorite album, Here's Where The Strings Come In). Obviously, if you were new to the band, the first 2 discs are where you'd wanna start, although a lot of my favorite songs are on discs 3 and 4, while 5 and 6 are kind of full of optional curios for hardcore fans (for instance, things like the Destiny's Child cover are included in the interest of completism, but I wouldn't recommend actually listening to that to anyone).

In any event, this is just my way of, as they say in Office Space, celebrating their whole catalog. I get the impression that Superchunk are the kind of band that a lot of people associate with high school or college (in my case, both) and tend to prize whatever album or era they heard back then above all others, particularly if it's that No Pocky For Kitty or Foolish era. For me, I got into them a little later, and put Strings above all others but generally think they aged really well, embracing higher production values and more sophisticated arrangements while still maintaining a stronger rhythm section and more energy and fast tempos than most indie bands did when they hit their 30s and started getting 'ambitious' or 'diverse.' I always really highly recommend stuff like Come Pick Me Up and the better half of the Cup of Sand comp to any lapsed fan of the early years, and this was a good way to put the whole 24 years or so into a context that I think respects all of it.

Saturday, August 10, 2013
I did a little list of 10 groundbreaking achievements in music history for Complex Magazine.

Friday, August 09, 2013

I got to see Jay-Z and Justin Timberlake's show at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Thursday and cover it for the City Paper. Fun night!

Wednesday, August 07, 2013
This week's Short List.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

New piece for Complex Magazine, a list of 10 underachieving rappers.

Monthly Report: July 2013 Albums

Monday, August 05, 2013

1. Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines
I've already written a lot about this album and Thicke's back catalogue lately, so I won't say too much either other than rank former within the latter. I'd say this album is not up there with Something Else, but on par with or close to Love After War and Evolution, which is pretty damn good, plus it's just very different from those records (and much better than its closest cousin, Sex Therapy), so it feels like a pretty refreshing summer party album. The bonus tracks produced by The Cataracs on the deluxe version are a nice surprise I just found out about a few days ago, too. As always you can listen to these albums on my 2013 albums Spotify playlist, at least the ones that are on Spotify.

2. Kevin Gates - Stranger Than Fiction
When The Luca Brasi Story dropped a few months ago, I wasn't too wild about it, I think more because I was still getting used to Gates's voice more than anything else. But now I'm a little more on his wavelength and get it, because I enjoyed this record much more immediately, although I'm not sure if I necessarily think it's better, because I went back and liked Luca Brasi more too. I feel like this one's getting maybe a little underrated or presumed to be not as good as the breakthrough mixtape, might even be listened to less because it's a low profile retail album in a market that's driven by free tapes and big budget major label albums. But really aside from the terrible Wiz Khalifa remix this thing goes, I don't see anything wrong with it.

3. Matic808 - Yeezus: Baltimore Club Edition
I already mentioned this last month when writing about the original Yeezus, and in a recent column, but yeah this is just crazy, not just for the fact that Matic did it but that it works so well beyond just the novelty of the concept, he really went in and re-thought the arrangement for every single song, didn't just speed it up to 130bpm and slap a "Think" break on it. It also makes some sense because Baltimore club producers since Blaqstarr have been exploring a dark clausterphobic vibe not too different from Yeezus for a long time now. Check out the remixes on DatPiff.

4. Cex - Prismatic Spray
I've been following Rjyan's records and shit for over a decade now, and occasionally see him at shows or argue with him on Twitter, he's a good dude. I find it hard to keep up with his output the last few years, especially now that he's gone back to straight up weird beat music, which sometimes gets a little wallpaper-y to me compared to the stuff that had vocals back in the day (I am sadly still pretty closed-minded about most music without vocals). But this new one's pretty good, I like the closing track "Everything Crumbling" best.

5. Sara Bareilles - The Blessed Unrest
In case there was any doubt that I am a VH1-watching sap, I kind of love this woman, just a beguiling voice and some really smartly written piano pop songs. The Ben Folds-produced EP she released last year was kind of a step in an offbeat direction, but it felt like a self-conscious indulgence while she worked on a full-length that would convince her label she can still make hits. This album, for better or worse, doesn't really sound like a radio killer -- the single "Brave," written with one of the fun. guys, is neither good nor particularly popular. But the rest of the album is really good and kind of in the vein of the EP, particularly "Hercules" and "Islands. It'll be really stupid if they don't release "Little Black Dress" as a single, though, that thing is a hit.

6. Ace Hood - Trials & Tribulations
He's easy to make fun of, but Ace Hood is far from the worst major label rapper, and has quietly become one of the better ones in his rapidly shrinking lane (although it doesn't help that Meek Mill has emerged doing something similar with so much more intensity and personality). And I also like that he's made struggling and paying dues the subject he obsesses over and offers endless variations on, like Rick Ross with opulence or whatever -- I mean, I can identify with songs about being broke and desperate more than most other kinds of rap songs. And "Another Statistic" and "Hope" are pretty good, well produced songs, even if there's not much on the album that frames Ace Hood as well as "Bugatti."

7. Jay-Z - Magna Carta... Holy Grail
All summer I've been revisiting Jay-Z's back catalog, getting back in touch with my favorite music by my favorite rapper, doing my deep cuts playlist and Complex's underrated tracks list, and then this past week I ran a message board poll of best Jay-Z songs that ended up being almost entirely pre-retirement stuff. All of this is to say that, although I listened to Magna Carta a lot when I wrote my City Paper review, and ended up finding a few tracks I can enjoy (mainly "Nickels And Dimes," "Part II" and "F.U.T.W."), this is mostly a pretty forgettable record, inferior in every way to every album he made before 2004. Hearing garbage like "Tom Ford" and "Holy Grail" on the radio won't help my view of the album, either.

8. Joe - Doubleback: Evolution of R&B
This guy is kind of the ultimate contemporary R&B journeyman who just keeps going for years and years making occasional hits while still being forgotten and underestimated. Maybe bad ideas like the cover and title of this album are part of it. This is a nice mix of old-fashioned and contemporary, though, ill-advised strip club joint "Magic City" aside, and "Compromise" is basically "Fine China" if it was better written and sung by someone other than Chris Brown.

9. Ciara - Ciara
This album has a nice little run from tracks 3-6 where I really dig it, but before that you've got that lame-ass "I'm Out" record, and after that you've got some seriously braindead R&B 101 songwriting like "Super Turnt Up" ("your love got me leanin', boo"), "DUI" ("driving under the influence of your love") and "Overdose" ("don't let me overdose, I took your love, I think I took too much"). The metaphors are so strained on this album that we're lucky "Body Party" didn't have lyrics about cake and balloons. I wish I could review this album with the headline "Ciara Missed."

10. Drew Scott - Places I've Ever Been EP
Drew Scott is Druski, the producer who helmed the bulk of Dawn Richard's great Armor On and Goldenheart projects. I'm a little foggy on the details, but apparently they had a falling out recently, and he's not involved in the album she's releasing later this year, and he just dropped this solo EP. On paper, I'd say that's a bad thing for her, since he had such a huge hand in crafting the unique sound on her records, but her new single "Meteors" is really great and indicates she'll probably do fine with other producers, while his solo stuff is just kinda nothing special. Some nice beats, and his voice isn't terrible, but it's just a bit bland. And there's a really stupid song called "Sex In Paris" with some Frenchy ooh la la oui oui accordion on it.

Worst Album of the Month: Ty Dolla $ign - Beach House 2
I don't wanna have a whole conversation about misogyny in music and whether it's okay sometimes and not okay other times, I just know that this dude is just gross and takes it too far in almost every song, basically sounding like a less talented and way douchier Trey Songz. Some of the production is really dope but generally it ain't worth it, he has yet to write another song as good as "My Cabana" and I always thought that one was kinda overrated to begin with. I'm kinda actually hoping the industry waters him down so that if he ends up with a radio single and/or major label album it ends up really light on the hateful demoralizing lyrical element.

The 2013 Remix Report Card, Vol. 5

Sunday, August 04, 2013

First things first, this is the first RRC that I've done since my big list for Complex of the Best Rap Remixes Since 2000, so if you haven't seen that yet check that out, I worked my ass off on that.

"Act Right (Remix)" by Yo Gotti featuring Young Jeezy, IAMSU! and YG
I love the original, but throwing a 2nd West coast dude on it for a remix seems kinda pointless, althoguh I do like IAMSU!'s verse on this more than YG's, so there's that.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B

"Ain't Worried About Nothin' (Skeemix)" by French Montana featuring Game, Problem, Dizzy Wright and Crooked I
Now this seems a little arbitrary, a West coast remix of the summer's big New York record (which sounds like a Southern record), but whatever. It's nice, I guess, Game does some of his embarrassing chameleon shit but I dunno who he's biting, Crooked I slaughters everyone else on the track. Dig that artwork, though, hahaha the Edward Snowden face.
Best Verse: Crooked I
Overall Grade: B-

"#Beautiful (Remix)" by Mariah Carey featuring Miguel and A$AP Rocky or Young Jeezy
These are just 2 of 5 different official "#Beautiful" remixes Mariah released, along with an espanol version ("#Hermosa," which is pretty good) and two dance mixes, but I'll just cover the rap remixes. The first one maintains the beat from the original song, which doesn't really seem primed for a guest rapper, least of all A$AP Rocky, plus Miguel's ad libs all over the track are kind of annoying. The remix with Jeezy, however, was produced by DJ Mustard and has his whole twist on the beat, which looks really strange on paper but sounds kind of fantastic. Also Mariah lays some new vocals on the track that sound good.
Best Verse: Young Jeezy
Overall Grade: C / B+

"Give It 2 U (Remix)" by Robin Thicke featuring 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar
This is one of those times when 'remix' is a semantic distinction, because a few months ago Robin Thicke played this song during a radio interview and both 2 Chainz and Kendrick were on it, but once it was officially released, it was just Kendrick on the single and the version with 2 Chainz was a remix bonus track on the deluxe edition of the album. What's even funnier is that Thicke said he's a 2 Chainz fan and sent him the record himself, and then Kendrick was the guy the label wanted. Hearing either of these guys on this ridiculous Dr. Luke track is kind of fun, but Kendrick handles it better, which surprised me since I've never liked his guest verses on clubby stuff like "Fuckin' Problems" and "How Many Drinks." 2 Chainz is maybe just too awkward for his own good here.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C

"Let Me Find Out (Remix)" by Doe B featuring T.I. and Juicy J
I didn't know this record before Tip and Juicy jumped on it, so I just think of it as a dope posse cut, but the original was hot just anyway and the remix is pretty great, I wish this had been bigger on the radio.
Best Verse: Juicy J
Overall Grade: A

"Let Nas Down/Made Nas Proud (Remix)" by J. Cole featuring Nas
This is maybe not so much a remix as a response song but J. Cole apparently knew about it before it dropped, so it's official enough to me (which makes it worse, really, like he was really engineering behind the scenes to put a positive spin on this embarrassing-ass song). Nas kills it and raps circles around Cole, but the whole thing leaves a bad taste in my mouth, like this dude was just humblebragging that Nas had complimented him in the first place, and then baited Nas into complimenting him again on a bigger more public scale. Fuckin' fanboy rap.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B

"Like Whaaat (Remix)" by Problem featuring Wiz Khalifa, Tyga, Chris Brown, Tyga and Master P
Problem referenced Master P on the original record, so he's just returning the love on this remix, which otherwise features a bunch of overexposed motherfuckers I'd be happy to never hear rap again. It's hilarious how Master P is still hated on by clueless people as 'the worst rapper' but he can rap so much better than a bunch of current stars on something like this.
Best Verse: Master P
Overall Grade: C

"Satellites (Remix)" by Kevin Gates featuring Wiz Khalifa
Fucking Wiz Khalifa, this was never my favorite Gates song or anything but he really ruined this shit, his verse is almost as bad as the one on the "Bugatti" remix.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: F

"Versace (Remix)" by Migos featuring Drake
This remix was pretty divisive, on Twitter I made a joke that half my timeline was mad that Migos did a record with Drake and the other half was mad that Drake did a record with Migos. I don't really care that much about either of 'em, but it's undeniable that Migos wrote a hit and it's always kinda lame to me when an established star just kinda jumps on a record like this as it's on the come up and just overshadows it in the public perception of the song, like the shit with Kanye and "I Don't Like." And Drake just sounds kinda dorky jacking their flow on this.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B-

"The Way (Remix)" by Ariana Grande featuring Fabolous
I think they kinda messed up by not having a remix with one of Big Pun's old homies like Fat Joe and/or Diddy or someone else from Bad Boy to play on the "I got a bad boy" line in the chorus. But I can't complain, because I'm so happy that one of the best pop jams of the year finally has a version without Mac Miller on it, and Fabolous is as good as it gets for rap & B collabs anyway.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: B+

"We Can't Stop (Remix)" by Miley Cyrus featuring Khia
This song is still the worst shit on earth to me, and pretty much the only way it could get more clownish is if they put Khia on it, so congratulations Miley I guess. It's at least nice to hear Khia do the "la di da di we like to party" homage without the bizarre emphasis on random syllables that Miley does, though. But when is Miley gonna kick a verse on the remix to Meek Mill's "Believe It"?
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: D

"Work (Remix)" by Iggy Azalea featuring Wale
LOL at this post ending with a trilogy of white girls looking for street cred, the game is outta control. I already confessed a few months ago that I actually fuck with this song, but Wale seems like an odd fit for this remix, other than the fact that he already chanted "work work work work" on his old song "Bait," which of course he gets back to callback to, along with the on-the-nose "I'm just watching Iggy pop" line that of course he would say. His verse actually ain't bad until he starts doing this weird drawl halfway through, though, then it's just embarrassing.
Best Verse: n/a
Overall Grade: C-

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Baltimore City Paper's annual Big Music Issue is out this week, and I haven't read all the stories yet but it looks like a good one. I didn't do much for it besides my usual Short List concert calender and a Rap Sheet column, with news about Height With Friends, Street Scott, Wordsmith and Mic Life Magazine.

One cool thing that the City Paper crew did for this year's issue was the Big Baltimore Playlist, with unreleased tracks from over 100 local artists. They ended with so many submissions that they went ahead and threw a track from my band Western Blot on there. All the way at the end of side 4 of the Soundcloud playlist is our new song, "As Friends, As Lovers, As Co-Defendants," along with a lot of other great acts. Our next show is on Tuesday!