9/28/08

T.I. - Paper Trail



Following the solid T.I. vs. T.I.P., T.I. got arrested for trying to buy some big fuckin' guns. Money talked and he ended up getting 366 days and 1000 hours of community service. While on house arrest, he built an Eiffel Tower out of legos and recorded Paper Trail.

The title comes from T.I. going back to the old school method of writing his lyrics down on paper. Sitting down and editing his verses to perfection has resulted in T.I.'s best lyrical performance since Urban Legend. He sleptwalk through King and was half-woke for TIVSTIP. His underrated technical abilities have always taken the backseat to his ability to easily bounce complex rhyme patterns with his southern drawl. Here, he has returned to his Urban Legend ability to blend technical lyrics with substance, emotion, and relatability.

The production is typical of any recent Southern release: Great. Rhythmic, blaring synths and brutal drums. DJ Toomp's (absent from TIVSTIP) return is welcome, as he delivers the gutter 56 Bars & Every Chance I Get. Drumma Boy (producer of the year so far) shows some versatility in his four produced tracks, including the standout What Up, Whats Haapnin. Danja produces the multi-instrument lead single No Matter What. Other contributors include Kanye West, Swizz Beatz (worst producer alive), and Justin Timberlake.

It opens with 56 Bars and I'm Illy, a two headed battle-rap combo that establishes he can still talk shit with the best of 'em.

"Somebody betta tell 'em mayne
They swag owe my swag everythaing
Very plain to see you studied me awful hard
To the point that my swag need a bodyguard
I'd like a thank you card ordered, yall oughta be
Having yall swag send my swag an apology"


The best track, Ready For Whatever, comes next. Over a synthy guitar, he explains the reasoning for his convictions.

"I'm a father to my sons, asset to my community
Look all that I done, my good outweigh the negativity
Mentally, I was focused on not letting history
Repeat itself, thats why heat was kept in the vicinity
Yes officially, I broke the law, but not malicely
Through all of the publicity, was anyone considering
My position and the logic hid in my decision
But they caught me with 'em now I'm off to prison, period
But is it, the heart to understand if you listen
Either die or go to jail, thats a hell of a decision
But I'm wrong and I know it, my excuse is unimportant
I'm just trying to let you know, that I aint think I had a choice"


The rest of an album is a combination of enjoying the pleasures of life and analyzing the mistakes the he's made. Smash hit Whatever U Like is simply a warmer version of Lollipop and thats what makes it a great song and so much better than the original. He attempts to make the most of a shitty situation on "Live Your Life" and "My Life, Your Entertainment" which feature Rihanna and Usher, respectively. What Up, Whats Haapnin is an intense diss track aimed towards those who tried to keep him down (Shawty Lo, Ludacris, bloggers). Ironically, Ludacris is featured on the triumphant On Top of the World, dropping another great verse. Every Chance I Get is a balls-out (no homo) flossing track and T.I. throughly dominates the Kanye West produced Swagga Like Us, which also features West and the Carters.

It ends with three somber introspective tracks. SlideShow has TI analyzing his life and the decisions he made as a young buck. You Ain't Missin' Nothin' is a dedication to all his incarcerated comrades, seeing as he will be one of them soon. Dead and Gone has T.I. wiping his hands of his prior recklessness over a Justin Timberlake that sounds like one of Timbaland's "futuristic" tracks.

Paper Trail is one of the best releases so far this year and it would be the best and a classic if the lame commercial attempts Swing Ya Rag and Porn Star had been removed and the futuristic Let My Beat Pound would've been kept.

Overall: 9/10 - 4.5 - A

Best Songs: Ready for Whatever, I'm Illy, No Matter What

9/24/08

Kanye West: My iTunes beatdrop



Swaggerjacked from Metallungies

NOTE: My comments will not be as half as engaging as the comments on Metallungies.

---From Jay-Z's The Blueprint: Takeover, Izzo, Heart of the City, Never Change, Girls Girls Girls Remix.

Kanye's big startup point and he definitely impresses. More than Just Blaze? Nah. But he definitely shows that he could be the premiere producer in the game. He was a lazy bastard on damn near every beat here, mainly just altering the pitch and adding some drums. It resulted in some great music though, so I can't really complain.

When the beat finally comes in at around 0:11 on Takeover, my head automatically starts bobbing. Of course, we've heard Jay straight go off on Nas, Mobb Deep, Jadakiss, and anyone else who thought they were ready. "And all you other cats throwin' shots at Jigga, you only get half a bar fuck yall niggaz". How do you come back from that?

Izzo is nice and it's always my main reason why singles don't have to be complete bullshit. I never noticed the little piano thing at the end of every second bar.

Heart of the City is the best beat on The Blueprint besides U Don't Know. It's just perfect and Jay straight spazzes.

My uncle is an inspiring rapper and he got ahold of the Never Change instrumental. He made a remix called "Rain" and he had my little sister on the hook saying "Rain, rain, rain". He kept on blast for at least a month, so anytime I listen to The Blueprint, I automatically skip Never Change. It's still a great song though. "I'm like a dog, I never speak, but I understand". That's the type of shit that makes Jay better than 98% of the rap world, dead or alive.

The Girls Girls Girls Remix is much better tha the original and thats really saying something. The 808s, the vocal sample, and Jay's arrogance are bumped to a higher level of bangerism (Yes I can make up words).

---From Jay-Z's The Blueprint 2: The Gift and The Curse: A Dream feat. Notorious BIG & Faith Evans, Some People Hate

The Blueprint 2 is sooooo underrated. It has some of Jay's best technical lyricism and arguably the best production he's ever been given. A Dream is a perfect opener, mainly because of the Biggie sample and also because the transition into Hovi Baby is so liquid.

The vocal sample in the beginning of Some People Hate is really deceptive. It sounds like it should be on the start of a Sunshine remix or something. The sample on the chorus is one of the choruses you have to sing along to. Jay gets gangsta on these haters mayne.

---From Cam'ron's Come Home With Me: Dead or Alive feat. Jim Jones

Hands down, one of the sickest tracks Ye has ever produced. This dusty cowboyish chipmunk sample comes in, Killa says "Wha-oh", and then the strutting guitar rocks in. Perfection. Killa and Jones straight demolish it. It owns. It takes until the vocal sample drops out, about 20 seconds before the end, to notice the xylophonic taps.

---From Scarface's The Fix: In Cold Blood, Guess Who's Back feat. Jay-Z & Beanie Sigel, Heaven

His work here is pretty solid. The most interesting thing about his work here is that he doesn't even produce the most Kanye-sounding track on the album: Safe. That honor goes to no-name, China Black.

The first eight seconds of In Cold Blood is probably the most menacing thing Ye has ever made. A disembodied Gladys Knight sample is tuned down to a gothic level, 808s knock, and some subtle strings swoop in. The finished product has these really catchy knocks that sounds like a xylophone or someone banging on a glass bottle. The string and piano thing that comes in during Face's first verse is the funniest indulgence ever. Face proves why he's the best storyteller alive (Nas and Ghostface, SIT DOWN!!).

Guess Who's Back is the 2nd worst song on the album and that shows how great The Fix is. The beat is just the first twelve seconds of The Original's Sunrise, stretched and looped, with a boom-bap added. I always disliked the fact that Jay has his own verse, and Face was forced to share a verse with Beanie Sigel. Still a great track.

Heaven has Face waxing poetic about his wife or child and then his Christianity and faith. The beat is all funky guitar plucks and subtle strings. Things get serious about forty-five seconds from the end, when an echoey sample says "Heaven" and it slams into a really sorrowful boom-bap. Face talks to the government about the state of the hood, in a really calm voice, but you can still hear the "what the fuck is going on?" in it.

---From Jay-Z's The Black Album: Encore, Lucifer

Change Clothes catches alot of shit, mainly because of the sub-standard beat, but Encore is definitely the worst track on The Black Album. The beat is vibrant, mainly because of the crowd in the background and this riff-type sound. Jay doesn't sleepwalk through it, but he doesn't really go in. It sounds like a great freestyle that was turned into a couple of really boring verses.

Lucifer is Dead or Alive's sexy sister (Dead or Alive is sexy too). It starts with a sick piano loop and drops into guitar struts and plucks with a great vocal sample. Jay is on his murder shit and he shows off some excellent technical lyricism.

---From The Diplomats' Diplomatic Immunity: Un Kasa

This, In Cold Blood, and The Truth are the best examples of Kanye's minimal approach. This track has nothing but squirming electric guitars and some popping drums. Un Kasa goes off and rides the same rhyme scheme foreeeevvvvveeeeerrrrr. Cam's adlibs are hilarious.

---From T.I.'s Trap Muzik: Doin' My Job, Let Me Tell You Something

In the blogger world, their seems to be an automatic Tupac backlash. Well, I'm apart of the group. He doesn't suck or anything, but he's definitely overrated. I catch alot of shit for the statement I'm about to make, but I still stand behind it: T.I. is a better version of Tupac. He takes everything the Pac was great at, except the paranoia, and steps it up a notch. Trap Muzik is the album that Tupac never got to make. Me Against The World is a classic, but it still has filler that gets a pass, because of the production and Pac's charisma. Doin' My Job is the track that best enforces what makes T.I. better than Pac and one of the best rappers alive. He can communicate exactly what goes through the mind of a young dude forced to sell dope. Those are the type of songs that Pac was good at, but he lacked ability to create a picture. Ye lets the vocal sample howl and the stressed out guitar helps TIP create a very cinematic aura.

Let Me Tell You Something is a vibrant Roger and Zapp jack where TIP gets to show off his lady-fetching skills. Ye strips away everything except a light synth layer and the vocoder sample and he adds some conga drums.

---From College Dropout: The entirety

College Dropout is pound for pound one of the best rap albums ever. Excellent lyrics, excellent themes, excellent production, funny but real skits, excellent sequencing. Their's a ninety percent chance, that if someone says "What is the most (insert positive adjective here) Kanye West beat ever, that beat can be found on College Dropout. The best tracks include the kitchen-sink soul of Never Let Me Down, the ultra smooth R&B Slow Jamz, & the epic anger of Two Words.

---From Cam'ron's Purple Haze: Down and Out* feat. Kanye West & Syleena Johnson, The Dope Man* feat. Jim Jones, Dipset Forever

*I don't really know if Kanye West produced these tracks. On Fade to Black, Kanye West was shown auditioning the Dope Man beat to Jay-Z, but the beat is credited to Bang. And Kanye has admitted that Brian Miller actually produced Down and Out and he just cleaned it up. So the only song that I know for sure Ye produced is Dipset Forever.

Of the 19 real songs on Purple Haze (one of the best albums ever, by the way), about 13 of 'em could contend for best song on the album. I think most would pick Down and Out. Popping drums, chipmunk sample screaming "DOWN, DOWN", and yelping brass that sounds like train whistle. To quote Tom Breihan "Cam's flow is a thing of beauty.".

The Dope Man is a ruckus NWA jack, where Kanye adds some crisp snares to the whining synth line and the old lady talking about funk and shaving powder. Before Jim Jones discovered swag and started writing his own rhymes, he was arguably the best pure lyricist in the Diplomats. He was kinda the star of Diplomatic Immunity and his West-Coastish voice fits perfectly here.

Dipset Forever would be the closing track on any other album, but Purple Haze isn't just any album. Smooth chipmunk vocals and cinematic strings. Cam gets kinda introspective despite choking a chick while she's giving head.

---From The Game's The Documentary: Dreams

Dark strings and conga drums. Game catches alot of shit for name-dropping and being a weirdo, but when he goes in on a track, he's pretty great. His cinematic lyrics and gruff voice go perfectly with the beat.

---From Late Registration: Wake Up Mr. West, Heard 'Em Say feat. Adam Levine, Gold Digger feat. Jamie Foxx, Drive Slow feat. Paul Wall & GLC, My Way Home feat. Common, Crack Music feat. The Game, Roses, Addiction, We Major feat. Nas & Really Doe, Gone feat. Consequence & Cam'ron, Diamonds from Sierra Leone, Late

I think Late Registration is a damn good album, but I must agree with Brandon Soderberg when he says that its a just a bunch songs thrown together. I highly recommend his REDUXED version. I like the Diamonds Remix and Hey Mama, but they're pretty useless when you really sequence it with some thought. I'd add Roses at track eleven. Most of my feelings on this album have already been stated. Lush production, great rhymes, great guest appearances. A few random thoughts.

Their is something really great about Paul Wall's verse on Drive Slow that I just can't put my finger on. It's really just another pretty good verse about cars and other Houston things. I think its "I could still catch boppers if I drove a cab". Uber-confidence.

My Way Home makes alot more sense in the reduxed version. It comes right before Crack Music, which gives it some sort of moral significance, but it isn't lost in all the skits and stuff that messes with the proposed darker tone of the 2nd half (Hey Mama, Celebration)

Why is Game's voice on Crack Music???????????????

In the reduxed version, Gone becomes the best song and Cam has the best guest appearance.

---From Common's Finding Forever: Start The Show, The People, Drivin' Me Wild feat. Lily Allen, Southside feat. Kanye West, The Game, U Black Maybe, Break My Heart, Forever Begins

Be isn't really all that. It's a solid album, but after Testify it gets pretty boring. Finding Forever is an upgrade, because Ye adds some pop to the drums and it's more focused.

Start The Show is a pretty good opener, with popping drums, rising strings, and metallic string plucks. Common goes in at wack gangsta rappers.

The People is essentially a more upbeat version of The Corner. Rugged guitar alternating with electric piano taps.

Drivin' Me Wild has a really low piano sound running through it, but on closer listen, its Lily Allen's voice. Popping snares, light piano, and Lily Allen's voice is basically it. Common spits about putting too much pressure on yourself. I really like the "Astronaut lady" line. He catches shit for that, but come on, its pretty relevant.

Southside has a rugged, strutting guitar and a masculine, yelling vocal sample. Kanye drops by and gets royally served.

The Game is definitely the best song on the album. Kanye does some great Premo-aping. Heavy dusty drums, flaring horns, and great scratching. Common goes off on some conscious battle rhyming shit.

U Black Maybe has a high vocal sample, some nice drums, and some type of key arrangment. Common spits about what "black" really is. Getting on and leaving the hood?? Staying in the hood and "keeping it real"?? Deep ass song.

Break My Heart has another great chipmunk sample and alot of quirky synth taps. Common tries his hand at seducing some chick and he does a pretty solid job. "She said I aint the type to be dating rappers, I said I got my SAG card baby I'm an actor". GOLD

Forever Begins is arguably the soulful apex of the album. Tambourine, sub-militant drums, disembodied vocal sample, & piano work. Common's thousand-year old father talking was unnecessary though.

---From Graduation: Good Morning, Champion, Stronger, I Wonder, Good Life feat. T-Pain, Can't Tell Me Nothing, Everything I Am, The Glory

His work on Graduation is about on the same level as Late Registration. The great stuff is great, but the bad stuff is bad. Luckily, iTunes has a delete button. Ye is, lyrically, doing his thing throughout and the beats compliment him well.

To quote myself:

Techno-influenced synths are spread everywhere, low and booming like Can't Tell Me Nothing or high and squirming like Stronger and I Wonder.


Most of my thoughts can be read in my Graduation review.

---From Jay-Z's The Blueprint 3: Jockin' Jay-Z

So far, Ye's 08 work can be marked by the overall simplicity of it. Jockin' Jay-Z has a screwed up chorus, shotgun drums, and strutting synths. Jay swags all over it.

---From The Blueprint & T.I.'s Paper Trail: Swagger Like Us feat. Kanye West & Lil' Wayne

Shuffling drums, somewhat sad synths, and a MIA sample for thsi "event" record. Ye is solid, Jay brings it, Wayne drops the ball, and TI comes in for the grand slam.

---From Lil Wayne's Tha Carter III: Let The Beat Build

I'll do an updated version of my C3REDUX later on. Let The Beat Build should've been the final track. Wayne saying "I'm not racing, I'm just sprinting" would've held alot of significance if C3 was a classic and this would've been the final track.

9/13/08

DJ Khaled - We Global



NOTE: DJ Khaled is the most annoying person to ever enter the music industry. EVER! His overzealous yelling, repetitive catchphrases, and unnecessary N-word drops on every track on the album automatically drop the album's score down. Let us move on.

We Global follows the same formula as Listennnn and We The Best. Throw a bunch of rappers (good or bad) on a solid beat with a somewhat catchy hook and have DJ Khaled yell over it. This can lead to either a hardcore banger, or a solid track, or a straight stinker. We Global is filled with all of them. We The Best was pretty good, because Khaled's roster lineup was top-notch. He spends too much time promoting wack young artists, instead of sticking to the reliable veterans.

It opens with Standing on a Mountain Top. It has an epic towering, almost Jeezy-esque, beat, but once Khaled starts half-talking, half-rapping it turns into a Dipset-like parody without the comedic value. Ace Hood isn't very good. He sounds like a younger Rick Ross and since Rick Ross' voice is his best quality as a rapper, Ace Hood sucks. Go Hard is a certified banger. Kanye West & T-Pain have great chemistry together and it shows. They should also be the only people allowed to use auto-tune. The lead single, Out Here Grindin', is solid. Beat is standard Runners shit and every is pretty solid except Ace Hood. I really can't decide who had the best verse, because everybody is just solid. I'm leaning towards Trick Daddy.

Go Ahead is a weak lady-fetching track. The only thing it has going for it is the beat, Lloyd's hook, and maybe Rick Ross going double-time. Maybe. I'm On is the 2nd best track on the album. Nas gets to be flossy over a jagged Cool & Dre beat. The Game's solo Red Light really should've been on LAX. Game's main appeal is his balls-out (no homo) personality. He puts everything on his mind on the page, from his constant Jay-baiting to criticing the NBA for not choosing *** for the all-star game.

Khaled was supposed to assemble his ultimate all-star lineup for the title track. Instead, we get Fat Joe, Trey Songz, & Ray J. This songs suck alot. And I don't believe Fat Joe when he says he made 20 mil off of Koch. She's Fine is a great lady-fetching track. Danja's beat is verrry Timbo sounding and it features Sean Paul, Missy Elliot, and Busta Rhymes, who has been on fire this year. Final Warning is sooooooo terrible. Khaled makes another retarded roster decision, putting one of the best rappers ever (Bun-B), alongside a bunch of bottomfeeders. Thankfully, Bun has the first verse.

Fuck The Other Side would've been a great Trick Daddy solo, but again Khaled promotes the DunkRydas and kicks to Trick to the chorus and a hard final verse. Bullet is the only time that album actually goes global, adding some Jamaican flavor, courtesy of DJ Nasty & Cham. Rick Ross continues to express me. Blood Money is a terribly boring song. Standard beat, standard verses, standard concept. Standard. The closer, Defend Dade, really surprised me. Pitbull doesn't do anything special, but his charismatic voice over the rising synth is intense, especially his third verse.

Overall: 5/10 - 2.5/5 - C+

Best Song: Defend Dade
Best Song, Lyrically: Go Hard
Best Song, Production: Red Light
Album MVP: Pitbull
Album LVP (tie): DJ Khaled & Ace Hood

9/6/08

Young Jeezy - The Recession



Your favorite's rapper favorite rapper is back with another delivery for the streets. And it's predictably great.

Young Jeezy has said that The Recession is like Thug Motivation on steroids. I thought this was impossible because Thug Motivation 101 is already a regular album on steroids. Clearly, I was wrong. The production is humongous, made up of blaring, gothic synths and clobbering drums. Small details in the production are altered in an attempt to eschew monotony (eschew is my new favorite word). Female vocals are added to the mix on the defiant "Word Play" and the damn-near heartbreaking "Don't Do It". Don Cannon cooks up some bouncy soul for "Circulate" which is allegedly about a constantly disproved Republican economic method (See here, 5th paragraph). The only problem is that some of this production can get a little samey and that results in filler like "Got Alott" & "Hustla's Ambitionz". The latter could've been a song that adds to Jeezy's slowly revealing character.

Jeezy catches a slack for not being lyrical and moreso, for not caring about lyrical. Despite what Jeezy cares about, he has taken major strides as a lyricist. At times, he still rhymes bars with the same word, but his gravelly voice fits perfectly with the dark production and his technical lyricism is improved. His most improved quality is his ability to express emotion in a given situation. He takes his album title seriously and even though their is plenty of trap-flossing talk, The Recession Intro and Crazy World show that Jeezy is aware of the lower-class struggle. I believe anyone who has ever been stressed, for whatever reason, can relate when Jeezy says "Woke up this morning, headache THIS BIG!!" on My President.

The constant baller talk is broken up by a handful of topical tracks. On "What They Want" Jeezy uses a bunch of sports terms as a drug-dealing metaphor. It's less of a story, and more of an endless lyrical exercise. "Don't Know You" is battle rap towards those who claim to have sold dope (Gucci Mane, most likely). His first verse is damn good account of drug-dealer paranoia.

"Not only have I done it, I did it, I lived it
Delivered 'em myself, yeah I'm making house visits
I'm praying while I'm driving, it's making me religious
And the headlights behind me, it's making me suspicious
And maybe I'm tripping and maybe I'm not
And maybe it's nothing, just hope it ain't the cops."


"Everything" and "Takin' It There" are two aggressive thug lust tracks. Everything is notable for Anthony Hamilton being able to adapt his soulful voice to the bombastic production and also a pretty good verse from Lil' Boosie. Lead single Put On features a stressed out Kanye West using a vocoder/autotune and not sounding terrible (coughsLilWaynecough). Album closer "My President" is a bigger better version of Nas' Black President from Untitled and it also features Nas dropping a hard verse. The golden star of the album is unquestionably "Don't Do It". Backed by a Mary J-esque sample and a majestic orchestra, Jeezy's first verse is a tale of a trip to visit an incarcerated comrade. This verse ranks along with Jay-Z and Scarface's most cinematic, emotional tales. It really is that good. After his 1st verse, it becomes a track about not selling out, something I highly doubt Jeezy will ever do.

Overall: 9/10 - 4.5/5 - A

Best Songs: Don't Do It, Crazy World, Put On