Notes on “Mr Wonderful” -Action Bronson’s First Studio Album

Yes. This is about Action Bronson. And yes, I know that a few posts ago, I didn’t mince words about about what a significant asshole I feel he was for making his “Brunch” video, in which he nauseatingly glorifies violence against women with zero remorse. I am willing to admit that I may have gone a little too far condemning him. I’ve had some time to think about it, and there’s no denying his talent, which is why I’m lifting my ban on his music.

I have a confession to make. Even after writing that post, I was listening to his music copiously… (The  “Saab Stories” EP specifically.) I absolutely love ‘Triple Back Flip’ (produced by Harry Fraud). Despite my displeasure with Action Bronson, my excitement began building the moment I heard he was releasing his first LP this year. I was convinced that the release date was March 17th. You should have seen me joyfully typing the album title into the Spotify search screen only to be crushed when I realized I had another week of waiting. Lol. I was even seriously contemplating taking the three hour Amtrak ride to NYC on the 23rd for his album release party at SOBs. All of this from someone who once declared Action Bronson to be a cheap Ghostface imitator. Oh how the tables have turned.

Fast forward to today. “Mr Wonderful“, Action Bronson’s debut album is finally here! It was released on Tuesday, March 24th and I’m all over it. Heavily. (Surprise, surprise). I’ve been listening to it plenty and I’m sold. My fandom is cemented. The quality of the album is everything I was hoping for. He didn’t disappoint. There’s nothing worse than having high hopes for a debut only for it not to deliver.  That didn’t happen. I love that I got more than what I expected from him. There was only one draw. One major distraction. This nagging thought that persisted each time I listened to the album;  Wow. He really sounds like Ghostface Killah.”

I find Bronson’s style, inflection and delivery to be eerily reminiscent of early Ghost. You’re lying to yourself if you’ve never thought this. I’m unsure if this is intentional but judging from his interviews, I’m not inclined to believe it’s his intent to sound like a Ghostface clone. That’s not to say that there weren’t points during the album where he would rap something so acutely Ghostface-like, that I’d give my speaker the side eye. But ultimately, he puts words together in a way that’s 100% his. Even with the glaring similarities between him and Ghost, he does manage to maintain a stoic individuality and a certain distinct swag the more you get familiar with his music. Yet still….I may have gotten a little misty-eyed around listen number four, recalling the days when Ghostface was the only rapper who had that, stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks innovative style, and unapologetic charisma. I get a slight ‘Supreme Clientele’ vibe from this album too which is probably due to its radical sound and its dissimilarity to other recent rap releases.  That’s saying something, because ‘Supreme Clientele’ is a flawless rap album to me.

I did find “Mr Wonderful” to be markedly more subdued than Bronson’s previous work. It feels more focused too and thankfully it isn’t an unfortunate hodge podge of comical braggadocio. You know…that typical, over- the-top posturing usually present on a debut rap album. It’s playful in some areas, and dark, thought-provoking and meaningfully contemplative in others; the kind of album that I love. Unique and miles from ordinary. The humor peppered throughout coupled with the unconventional sound, make it fun to listen to. The track ordering is perfect and the overall content is amazing. Bronson also sounds very confident and self assured on this album. There’s no denying that he knows exactly who he is. “Mr Wonderful” is extremely well-crafted with solid storytelling, stellar ad-libs and highly addictive tracks. And I’m here for all of it.

So Action Bronson, I forgive you. But could you quit making vile, tasteless music videos please? You don’t need to do that anymore. Your talent speaks volumes without you having to resort to such needless vulgarity.

My fave tracks:

Terry, Actin Crazy, Falconry

Just realized there is a video for “Actin Crazy”. Check it out below

Lol. He’s such a character.

-MM

The Solution

You ever think you know what a word means, and then realize that the actual meaning of that word is totally not the meaning you had in mind? I decided today that I was going to start referring to myself as an “audiophile.” I always thought it sounded cool and  was a term used to describe someone completely obsessed with music and high quality sounding audio. To be on the safe side, I hit up google and saw this definition:

A person who is especially interested in high fidelity sound reproduction.

Well, ok then. Not quite what I was thinking. So maybe “music junkie” is a better term to describe me. Supposedly it means a person who explores the many different genres of music; constantly listening, downloading,and researching new bands. Yes. This is me.

So being the music junkie that I am, I am constantly searching for ways to experience the best quality sound when I listen to the music I love at home. I’ve fallen in love with Bose audio over the years, but realized that Bose is better suited for classical music or live concert recordings than say, rap. I love my rap and hip hop and I love hearing a pounding bass line. I gotta have that bass.

Remember that ASAP Rocky song “Bass” from ‘LiveLoveAsap”?

I don’t own a stereo system. I recently purchased a Bose Mini Soundlink speaker with Bluetooth and I’ve had my Bose wave radio for a few years. I always feel like something is missing when I listen to my favorite rap tracks though. It’s the bass. Since then, I’ve been searching for an audio system that will give me a robust, clear sound that will fill my whole apartment. I finally found a solution! You ready for it? I feel like this deserves a drum roll.

My solution was to purchase a bluetooth enabled Soundbar and wireless sub woofer. I’m probably late to the party and I can’t believe I didn’t think of this sooner. Soundbars are meant to enhance your TV’s audio and give you that surround sound theater feeling, but because they are Bluetooth enabled you can also stream music from your phone or tablet. I had been eyeing a particular Vizio 5.1 model that came with 2 small speakers,a 42″ soundbar and a 6” subwoofer, for a while and finally purchased it online for store pickup at the BestBuy in West Hartford yesterday.

vizio 5.1

Before I left my house to go get it, I got an email from the store informing me that it was no longer available. I went to the store anyway and after harassing a sales associate for at least an hour to find a comparable model, I left with a really awesome one by Polk. I got a good deal on it so I was thrilled; around $320. It was originally $400. This is what it looks like.

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When I got home, set it up in my living room and paired my phone to it with the BlueTooth, I was blown away by the sound. It was crystal clear and the bass was incredible. I almost started crying because it was what I had wanted all along. And when I watch movies it will sound like I’m at the movie theater. My main use for it will be to stream music from Spotify while I study at the dining room table. I went to bed last night extremely pleased with myself.

Naturally, I woke up this morning determined to get another one for my bedroom. I had seen a less expensive, smaller model by LG on sale for $200 so I went back and got it today. The sound bar is a little longer than my 32” TV and not as sleek as the Polk one, but I’m loving the sound. This is what it looks like.

LG 2.1

Buying both was an investment but I strongly feel I  needed these items. Now I’m better equipped to enjoy my myriad of Spotify playlists. I couldn’t be happier!

So if you’re like me, and you don’t want to get a cumbersome stereo system, consider getting a Bluetooth enabled soundbar with a wireless subwoofer! There are tons of great options out there! I promise it will change your life!

-MM

Audio Dope: “Me, Liquor and God” by Night Beds

I decided I needed to mix things up a bit concerning my music preferences a couple of months ago. Being the creature of habit that I am, I usually listen to the same music day in and day out. I know you know what I’m talking about; pressing play, day after day on your go-to playlists with those “tried and true” tracks that you love but won’t admit to yourself that you’re tired of. Yup.

On this particular day, I took to Spotify (which is probably my favorite thing ever) to discover something new. I came across an Indie playlist and heard, “Me, Liquor and God” by Night Beds. My life changed forever when I heard it. No freaking lie. And there hasn’t been a day since that I haven’t listened to it at least once!

I don’t know much about Night Beds but I swear (on everything I love) that this track is PERFECTION; complete and utter flawlessness. It’s that type of song you think about when it’s not playing. I’m convinced it has transportive qualities. The music is like velvet, and the lyrics are heartfelt and real. There’s a lot more to be said about how great this song is, but I’ll spare you. You’re just going to have to take my word for it, and listen for yourself.

I am all the way hooked. I’m talking, ‘playing it on repeat for hours and hours and hours’ hooked. Every time I listen to it, it feels like I’m hearing it for the first time and I’m not sure if I’ll ever get tired of it.

‘Country Sleep’ – Night Beds

Night Beds has a new album out called ‘Country Sleep.’ (pictured above)

‘Country Sleep’ is on Spotify! I’ve listened to it a few times, and I really like it.

It doesn’t include “Me, Liquor and God” but it contains plenty of other satisfying, super dope tracks.

Night Beds is in line to become my new St Vincent; that one band/singer whose music I take the time to research, slowly digest and savor because I connect with it strongly for some reason.

Give this track and the album a listen. I dare you not to like it!

-M

They Have My Heart…

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Wonder what this says about me?

Hopefully, that I like talented beat makers.

Alchemist’s beats always rub me the right way. They’re always elegant, endlessly thoughtful and tinged with a sinister, haunting quality, which I live for. Basically, I really love his stuff.

There’s isn’t much to say about Dilla that hasn’t already been said. He was amazing at crafting the most spine-tingling and wildly satisfying beats…ever. My favorites are the tracks he did for Ghostface’s ‘Fishscale’, and of course the ones that compile his much-lauded, ‘Donuts.’

Madlib won my heart a while ago with the DOOM assisted ‘Mad Villainy’, but when I heard Freddie Gibb’s ‘Pinata’, my heart just opened up to him. His beats are not only innovative, but also very polished and distinguished.

I’ll always love MF DOOM and his 50 trillion aliases. He has a knack for crafting robust, vintage sounding, buss your shit open beats.

And 9th wonder is a skilled purveyor of all audio that is crack. I love his expansive discography and all that he has accomplished in his career so far.

Skibeatz and Harry Fraud have worked with some of my favorite rap newbies like Curren$y and Smoke DZA and made some beautiful music recently.

Which producers are your favorite?

Let me know in the comments.

-MM

Current fixation: St Vincent

I’ve been listening to a lot of St Vincent lately. I discovered her in 2012 and fell in love with her 3rd album entitled “Strange Mercy.’ Her real name is Annie Clark and she’s an excellent guitarist and a dope vocalist. I really dig her music, which can be classified as “indie pop” or “baroque pop.” She released her 4th album, ‘St Vincent‘ last year. It also goes hard, but of her four albums, I like ‘Strange Mercy’ the best. The lyrics to her songs are sometimes very dark but always unexpected. I really like ‘Strange Mercy’ because it has a very lush sound that captivates after the first listen.

Here’s a video of Annie in 2011 performing ‘Cruel’, one of my favorites from her “Strange Mercy” album at KCRW studios. This video is cool because you get to see her playing the guitar live.  It’s obvious that she is a very skilled musician as well as a cool artist. She also sounds just like her tracks when she sings live. Enjoy!

And here’s a taste of what she sounds like now. This is audio of ‘Prince Johnny’ from her self titled 4th album. I was obsessed with this song the first time I heard it. So freakin’ dope!

Updated: Reviewing Ghostface Killah’s discography

Ghostface Killah is my favorite artist and rapper of all time, and in the wake of attending my 7th concert, I decided to take a trip down memory lane to reflect on and  review his extensive discography.

First up is:

Ironman (1996)

I was about 15 and not fully into rap when Ironman was released. I knew who Ghostface Killah was because I remember ripping a colorful wallaby-filled Ironman cover ad, out of Vibe magazine and taping it to the front of my Chemistry notebook in high school. “Cream” had been my first real introduction to the Wu-Tang Clan in 1994, one year after I’d moved to this country from the island of Jamaica. At the time, I was still heavily into R&B. A couple years later when my appetite for Hip Hop and Rap was at a high point, I begged my neighbor ‘B’ to borrow his Ironman CD. I’d heard the song “Camay” and fallen head over heels in love with it. To make a long story short, he never lent me the CD and for a few years Ghostface fell off my radar…but not forever. I officially purchased the album in 2008 and it blew me away. His rhyming style was unlike anything I’d ever heard. Each track was hella exciting,  well produced, and not to mention, razor sharp! The album was also very cohesive with a strong unifying theme (I love that!) and it featured excerpts from cool movies and entertaining skits. There were no other albums like it when it was released. No other artists, except those in his own crew, were doing what Ghostface was doing. This album blazed a new trail and is one of my favorites today.

Supreme Clientele (2000)

Supreme Clientele was the next album that Ghostface released. I wrote about my initial reaction to it in this post. Once I heard this album, I was knocked out….completely! I couldn’t stop listening to it. This is without a doubt my favorite Ghostface album EVER. I can listen to it from beginning to end, without skipping one song. The theme is super creative and I love how all the tracks come together to paint a vivid picture. The production, is impeccable and Ghostface’s lyrics are savory and almost unearthly. It doesn’t even matter that you can’t understand what he’s saying. All that matters is how fantastic the tracks sound. They are so addictive that you can’t help but find yourself thinking about them when you’re not listening to them. And you can’t help but smile or chuckle when you think of the hilarious “Woodro the Basehead” skit. There are so many amazing moments on this album. Supreme Clientele is a triumph; a rare jewel, that should be regarded by all as one of the best rap albums of this century.

Bullet Proof Wallets (2001)

Bullet Proof Wallets was the follow up to Supreme Clientele. This album came out while I was a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. This was an exciting time in my life.  I was so thrilled to hear this album that I walked up to the enormous HMV at 32nd and Broadway between classes to purchase a copy. I had a portable CD player then and I remember being so excited peeling the wrapping off the CD. I had high expectations for this album and I wasn’t disappointed at all. From the first track to the last track it was a solid album.  “Maxine” and “The Forest” both tickled my fancy and I really connected with “Walking Through the Darkness”. Other standouts were “Strawberry”, which is undoubtedly the sexiest and smuttiest Ghostface song every written and “The Hilton” featuring Ghost’s right hand man Raekwon. This album also had a lot of radio friendly tracks on it like “Never Be The Same Again” featuring Carl Thomas and “Love Session” featuring Ruff Endz. I’m shocked it didn’t do better than it did and that to this day, it has not been certified Gold. I mean, damn… this was a decent album.

The Pretty Toney Album (2004)

For this album, Ghostface switched record labels. This was his first baby at his new home, Def Jam. The Pretty Toney Album deemed by many as more of a tragedy than a triumph, had both its good and bad moments. One of the lowest, worst, most horrible moments, was the Missy assisted “Tush”. I can’t begin to go into how awful this song was. Okay, I am over-exaggerating but I really think it slightly ruined the album. “Save Me Dear” is one of my favorites. It’s so bouncy and catchy you can’t help but sing along. But it is track 12 entitled, “Holla” that is the true gem of this album. Ghostface pours out everything he’s got on this 3 minute and 19 second opus. The skits on this album are markedly better too, namely “Kunta Fly Shit”. You almost wish they were songs instead of just short skits. The Pretty Toney Album gets a solid 8 out of a 10 from me.

Fishscale (2006)

Fishscale is probably theGhostface album that I enjoy listening to the most. I really connected with it very strongly.  Unfortunately I haven’t seen Ghostface perform many songs from it during his live shows. I have no idea why because I think it is AMAZING. From “Shakey Dog” to “The Champ” to “RAGU” to “Big Girl”, all of the songs on this album awaken an emotion.  I love the use of the Dell’s “I can sing a rainbow” on “Shakey Dog”. I am also enamored with the enchanting beat on “RAGU” and the amusing tale Ghost spins on that track. The J Dilla produced ‘Whip me with a strap” and “Beauty Jackson” add dimension to an already impressive album. I really think Ghost should be proudest of this album because it achieves the same thing Supreme Clientele did. It ushers in a new wave of exciting, cutting-edge sound while managing to stay coherent. It also went Platinum, so kudos to Ghostface for that. This is the Ghostface that I love the most; a seamless melding of grimy and gangster with a shot of introspection and spontaneity.

More Fish (2006)

Ghostface should have probably stopped the “Fish” theme right after Fishscale but he felt he had more jewels to share. Unfortunately not too many of them appear on More Fish. This album suffered from a lack of cohesiveness and too much Theodore Unit. Bogged down with horrible skits and too many throw away songs you almost wish Ghost hadn’t released it. Don’t get me wrong though. It wasn’t all bad. There are a few good songs like “Street Opera “featuring his son, Sun God, “Josephine”, “You know I’m no good” and “Alex (Stolen Script)”.

The Big Doe Rehab (2007)

This album heralded in a new Ghostface. The callous, hardcore, gun toting Ghostface that we only caught brief glimpses of on other albums was fully present on this go around. I was shocked when I heard “Walk Around”, an impressive little ditty about Ghostface shooting a man in the head at close range. The story telling on that track is amazing, as well as Ghost’s dialogue with himself. Also notable were “Yolanda’s house”. “Killa Lipstick” “Rec Room Therapy” and “Shakey Dog featuring Lolita.” I hadn’t expected this type of album from Ghostface. This was his darker alter ego and I really dug it. Ghostface is always evolving as an artist, which keeps the music fresh and his fans happy!

Ghostdini: The wizard of poetry in Emerald City (2009)

Honestly, I didn’t like Ghostdini:The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City when I heard it the first time. I thought it was much too soft. I wasn’t feeling it at all because I thought it was obviously geared towards females. I still can’t fully say that I love it 100%, but I do like it a lot. I’m a big fan of the way the tension builds in “Guesthouse” (featuring Fabolous), and I’m always touched when I hear “Lonely”. It’s a strong album all in all and the only skippable track is the cringe worthy “Stapleton Sex”, because who wants to hear a song where Ghost raps about having sex in overly graphic detail more than once? There were some funny moments in that song..like at the end where he says he needs a cigarette, and his lover says, “you don’t smoke nigga”. Ghost nonchalantly answers, “Oh yeah, I forgot”.( LOL) “Do Over” is another treat as well as the radio single “Baby” and the rousing, “Stay”. “Forever” is my favorite track on the album. The beat is great and so is the message.

Apollo Kids (2009)

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It took me a while to connect with Apollo Kids which was released in 2010. I felt like it was released with little fanfare and I don’t remember seeing a lot of promotion for it. I don’t believe it got much press either and I thought there was something kind of backwards about that. He named an album after one of the best tracks on Supreme Clientele, so naturally the expectation was that the album would have been bangin’ too. But I don’t think it lived up to the hype. I didn’t listen to it until late last year, and I wasn’t overly impressed. Don’t get me wrong though. There are some noteworthy tracks, namely “Purified Thoughts” and “Black Tequila” which features Cappadonna and Trife. I’m such a huge fan of Cappadonna. He bodies most of the tracks he appears on, and this was no exception. “Drama” featuring Joell Ortiz and The Game, was dope as well and the Pete Rock produced, “How you Like me Baby” is very satisfying and catchy. My final verdict on this album is that it deserves a 7 out of 10 but maybe that will change if I listen to it some more.

 Twelve Reasons To Die, 2013

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Twelve Reasons to Die is Ghostface Killah’s tenth studio album. I didn’t see this album coming at all. It kind of blindsided me to tell you the truth. I remember being on Twitter on the morning of April 16th, 2013 and seeing Ghostface tweet about his new album! I screamed, dropped whatever I was doing, and quickly signed on to Spotify so that I could listen to it. The first track, “Beware of the Stare” was jaw-dropping! I must have played it back to back 20 times before being able to move on to the next song. The concept of the album was so ill! “The album’s story is set in 1960s Italy and centers around the character of Tony Starks (Ghostface Killah). He is an enforcer for the DeLuca crime family, who is murdered by his former employers after striking out on his own and falling in love with the kingpin’s daughter. His remains are melted in vinyl and pressed into a dozen LPs that, when played, resurrect him as the Ghostface Killah, a force for revenge incarnate….”

The music on this album is UNBELIEVABLE mostly due to the production skills of Adrian Younge who crafted the sound for the majority of the project. My favorite tracks on the album are “I Declare War“, and “The Center of Attraction” featuring Cappadonna. The latter track stirs up something in me every time I hear it. Ghostface’s lyrics are stirringly heartfelt and unfiltered. He pours out his heart in an incredible fashion as he raps about his perfect girl. It makes me want to melt every time I hear it. I love the way the album is centered around the one theme, and how each track is like a piece to one of the best puzzles ever!

This was a dope album, even with the gritty, and sometimes gruesome murder-themed lyrics. I wouldn’t be mad if this is how Ghostface chose to go out. He’d be ending his career on a very high note. This album is again, unlike any other albums or anything his contemporaries are doing. And that is why I love Ghostface the way that I do. He’s always pushing the ticket creatively and will be my eternal favorite.

So that’s it. Those are my thoughts on the work of someone I deem the greatest. Let me know what you think, or leave a comment letting me know what was your first impressions of these albums. I’d  love to hear your thoughts!

-MM

Update: Ghost also recently released “36 Seasons” and “Sour Soul” with BadBadNotGood. Great albums but I honestly haven’t listened to both a whole lot. Will add my thoughts once I’ve done so.

Really, Action Bronson?

what a let down...
what a let down…

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Action Bronson, you almost had me. I was on the brink of being lured in by your sounds. I was about to fall hard for you. But then I saw that disgusting “Brunch” video of yours on YouTube. You know the one where you hurl all sorts of profanities and insults at a dead girl and then dump her into the ocean after rolling her body into a rug. It was truly grotesque and removed any desire I may have had to get to know you better.

To be honest, I was looking to you to fill a void. My favorite rapper hasn’t released new music in a while and you sound eerily like him. But here’s what’s obvious; you will never be Ghostface. I don’t care how much you sound like him. He would never make a video disrespecting woman to the degree that you did. Not even at his lowest.

The “Brunch” video really rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t care if it was a metaphor or an over-exaggeration of a bad breakup, it was in poor taste.

Let me back up though. Let me not assume that everyone knows who Action Bronson is. Action Bronson is an American rapper from Flushing Queens who wasn’t really on my radar until now. My step brother was a big fan of his and shared some of his music with me last year, namely ‘Rare Chandeliers,’  produced by Alchemist and ‘Well Done,’ produced by Statik Selektah. For some reason, I wasn’t receptive to his music before. I recently thought I was ready to embrace it wholeheartedly, but the “Brunch” video has me thinking otherwise. I get the whole artistic expression thing, but sometimes you can take it a little too far. What’s unfortunate is that I was really starting to like his bold delivery and irreverent lyrics.  I was even willing to look past the fact that lyrically he’s a Ghostface clone. And his voice was just starting to excite me. Not to mention I was also digging the way he handled himself on beats by Alchemist. ‘Rare Chandeliers’ is dope. I can’t front. Bronson rhymes the way I wish Ghostface still did. But… it’s too late. I’ll never look at him the same ever again. I have no desire to get into his music anymore. I’m moving on. I’ll stick with the original. The End.

-MM

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What I’m Listening to Right Now

I just made a dope little Spotify playlist from eight songs that appear on these two projects.

'Saab Stories' - Action Bronson x Harry Fraud
‘Saab Stories’ – Action Bronson x Harry Fraud (released June 11, 2013)
'Albert Einstein' - Prodigy x Alchemist
‘Albert Einstein’ – Prodigy x Alchemist released June 11, 2013

I hadn’t listened to them both until recently and I’m not really sure why it took me so long to hear them. Anyway, these tracks that I’ve mentioned below go VERY hard…

1) “Death Sentence” – Prodigy x Alchemist feat. Roc Marciano– from The Albert Einstein project
Prodigy’s deep-voiced cadences complement the understated Alchemist beat perfectly. An assist from Roc Marciano ups the dopeness factor and makes this song a bonafide standout.

2) “Dough Pildin” – Prodigy x Alchemist – from The Albert Einstein project
This track has the type of Alchemist beat that I live for; subtle and beautifully crafted. Prodigy spits his usual philosophical braggadocio making this another win win.

3) “Breeze” – Prodigy x Alchemist – from The Albert Einstein project
This is my favorite track on the ‘Albert Einstein’ project. The beat is impossibly smooth and P’s flow is incredible. He effortlessly rides the beat and unloads quotable after quotable. I can picture myself  lying on a beach somewhere warm listening to this. This track is laid back perfection.

4) “Raw Forever” – Prodigy x Alchemist – from The Albert Einstein project
I chose this track because I like the way the beat constantly changes up. This is a classic feel good track that leaves me happy after every listen.

5) “Say My Name” – Prodigy x Alchemist – from The Albert Einstein project
This beat sounds so amazing to me. P’s lyrics are first rate as usual. This is the kind of sonic gem that I could memorize word for word.

6) “Triple Backflip” – Action Bronson – from ‘Saab Stories’ produced by Harry Fraud
This song was my first real introduction to Action Bronson and I gotta say, I really liked it after that first listen. Harry Fraud is obviously no slouch in the production department. The beat sounds very opulent and inviting.

7) “The Rockers” – Action Bronson feat. Wiz Khalifa – from ‘Saab Stories’ produced by Harry Fraud
I liked this beat as soon as I heard it. It sounds like it should be featured on a, “for the ladies” type of track but Action Bronson eschews the formulaic subject matter and raps about something entirely different. And it works.

8) “Seven Series Triplets” – Action Bronson feat. Prodigy and Raekwon – from ‘Saab Stories’ produced by Harry Fraud
The beat on this track reminds me of one Ghostface might have used on ‘Fishscale’ or ‘Bulletproof Wallets’. It has a somber, appealing quality to it and the guest rappers Prodigy and Raekwon, really bring out the beauty of the beat.

Hartbeat Fave: Phyllis Hyman

Phyllis Hyman was an incredible singer-songwriter who was the epitome of elegance, confidence and style while she was alive. One of my favorite recordings by her is “Complete Me” which appeared on her well received 1979 album, “You Know How to Love Me.” I purchased this album on a whim around 2000, and I’ve never once regretted it.

She was a wildly talented artist and possessed a captivating voice imbued with quiet sophistication and a unique richness. She also never sang without copious amounts of passion and emotion. She will forever be one of my favorite singers. Following are some of my all-time images of her, as well as a YouTube video of “Complete Me”.

-MM

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This shot was the cover of the “You Know How to Love Me” album.

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She had amazing style…

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Photo of Phyllis HYMAN

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Good Reads

I’m reading again! When I was in school a month ago, it was difficult for me to read recreationally.  But now that I’m out, it’s on! I’ve recently been reading several books about Hip-Hop. Since I love it so much, I figured I should know more about its history.

I started with Bakari Kitwana’s “The Hip Hop Generation”

It was a good read. Bakara Kitwana refers to the hip hop generation as those born between 1965 and 1984. It wasn’t much of a history of Hip Hop as I had hoped but in it, he makes clear arguments about what has affected Black youth over the last twenty years and  offers up solutions. I had bought this book years ago (maybe in 2003 or so) intending to read it right away but never did. It felt good to finally finish it.

After reading that book, I decided I wanted to read a history of Hip Hop, so I started Jeff Chang’s “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop; A History of the Hip Hop Generation”.

I am really enjoying it so far. The author has a brilliant way with words and paints vivid pictures about Hip Hop’s humble beginnings leading up to today. It’s the kind of book you don’t want to put down because it is so riveting. I’m half way through it. I almost wish Kitwana had used the same language to write the “Hip Hop Generation” because I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more. But I guess the subject matter didn’t really lend to that.

Next, I  read M. K. Asante’s “It’s Bigger than Hip Hop – The Rise of Post Hip Hop Generation”

I’d been reading all about the “Hip Hop Generation” and wanted to read about the “Post Hip Hop Generation” which follows as well. It was a decent book. The author is a young activist and is a professor at Morgan State. He “uses hip hop as a springboard for a larger discussion about the urgent social and political issues affecting the post-hip-hop generation, a new wave of youth searching for an understanding of itself outside the self-destructive, corporate hip-hop monopoly.” In it, he has an interview with Dead Prez. I’m supposing that he got the name of his book from their song. He also interviews Hip Hop itself. It was a well-written book and I’ll probably read it again.

And last but not least, I just finished John H McWhorter’s, “All About the Beat: Why Hip Hop Can’t Save Black America”

I happened to come across this book while browsing for other books about Hip Hop online. Written in 2008, McWhorter asserts in this book that  Hip Hop doesn’t have the potential to foster a revolution of positive change in the lives of black people. I didn’t know how to feel when I read this, especially when I had held the belief that hip-hop was so great and powerful and such a strong, prevailing force in my life. McWhorter smashes the claims that hip-hop is politically valuable because it delivers the only “real” portrayal of black society. He points out that hip-hop is, at its core, simply music, and takes issue with those who celebrate hip-hop as the beginning of a new civil rights program and inflate the lyrics. While reading, I found myself jotting down notes and agreeing with quite a bit of what he wrote.  Yes,  sermonizing rather than working on the problems is not the answer.  We really do need to “translate hipness into action and activism”. It was short, but sweet. And it was refreshing to read a book written by someone on the other side of the argument. McWhorter dislikes the term “Hip Hop Generation” and thinks history is not on the side of revolution now. Some key notes:

– “Snapping our necks to beats and rhymes will have no effect on what happens in the congressional chamber”

– “The seduction of rhythm is indeed much of why so many people entertain the prospect of a revolution based on rap music.”

– “Rhythm is deeply seductive. Even babies like it.”

-“Black people need to get beyond the idea that something is true because it is expressed in infectious rhythm.”

– “The idea that rhythm and inflection constitute coherent political insight worthy of extended attention is wrong.”

– “Words, sentences, logical connections, and constructive thought will be our salvation. Mysticism will not – even if it’s set to a great rhythm track.”
-“The beat is not truth”

-“In being art, especially popular art, hip-hop is automatically disqualified from being meaningfully political”

-“Anyone who says hip-hop is dead is being theatrical and seeking attention”

– “A revolution does not consist solely of howling grievances”

-“The fact that our ancestors were brought here as slaves and endured Jim Crow does not arouse people anymore.”

Now that I have a working knowledge of Hip Hop history, I think I’ll delve into Black history some more. There’s a book that I had to read for an African Studies class at Drexel called “Black Intellectuals” by William M Banks that I’ve always wanted to re-read. And there is one on the Civil Rights Movement called “Freedom Bound – A History of America’s Civil Rights Movement” by Robert Weisbrot that looks interesting as well. Following those, I will probably begin “We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century” by Rod Bush. Reading is dope.

-MM

Soundtrack to Life

What if we all had a soundtrack to our lives, that always played, as if we were in a movie? Like say… if we got a promotion or met the man or woman of our dreams then a song on our soundtrack would play all by itself, making that moment that much more special? Yeah, that would be pretty nice.

Since I love music and I sometimes want to hear it  24 hours a day, I love the idea of having a perfect soundtrack to life.

Here is the 15 track soundtrack that I would want playing at special moments in the movie of my life . (I’ve selected classic R&B, hip hop and jazz songs so that I won’t get tired of them anytime  soon.)

1) “Complete Me” – Phyllis Hyman
Listen

2) “Camay” – Ghostface Killah
Listen

3) “Freakin you Remix” – Jodeci featuring Raekwon, Cappadonna and Ghostface  Listen

4) “What’s Beef” – Notorious B.I.G.
Listen

5) “Picture me Rollin” – Tupac Listen

6) “Regrets” – Jay-Z  Listen

7) “You’re da Man” – NaS Listen

.8) “Going in Circles” – Isaac Hayes  Listen

9) “Provider” – N*E*R*D Listen

10) “Can I Kick it” – A Tribe Called Quest Listen

11) “The Sweetest Thing” – Lauryn Hill
Listen

12) “Come Over” – Faith Evans Listen

13) “Ragu” – Ghostface Killah
Listen

14) “Blue in Green” – Miles Davis (For when a good jazz song is necessary) Listen

15) “No Detour” – Sarah Vaughan/Ella Fitzgerald Listen

Even happier

This photo was taken today, March 9th, 2011, the anniversary of Biggie’s death. As we get closer and closer to the NCAA tournament and March Madness, my smile is going to get bigger and bigger.
Happy because it’s looking good for Uconn, and of course Duke. Going to fill out my brackets in the next few days. I can’t wait for the tournament to start!!!

-MM

One moment in time

Below is an image from the night I went up on stage while Ghostface Killah performed at BB Kings in October 2005. This moment in time is significant because I got to briefly dance with my favorite recording artist of all time!

meandghost

There was a YouTube video of the moment floating around but the user has since made it private. It appears on the ‘Ghostface Live in New York’ DVD as well.

Oh what a night! I was ridiculously happy to dance with him because I love him and his music very, very much!

 

-MM

Joe Budden: Master Storyteller?

Ok, so let’s recap. We already know Nas, Big, Jay-Z and Ghostface top the Exceptional Story-teller list.  (Well…….mine atleast) But what about Joe Budden? Can we add him to the list too?

 I asked myself these questions upon revisiting a track on his Mood Muzik 2 mixtape entitled, “Three Sides to a Story“. On this particular track, Joe spins a riveting tale from three different perspectives.

In the first verse he describes the life of a young man, named Derek, whose life is riddled with drama. Derek is in and out of jail and lives a hard life and no matter what he does he always finds himself in a f*cked up situation. Derek’s sister Sally is the focus of the second verse. She is molested by her mother’s boyfriend but her big brother Derek is in jail, so he cannot help her. It is difficult to hear Joe recount her tale and even though it brings a bad feeling, you can’t help but continue to listen. He uses simple language to paint a vivid picture of anguish, horror and sexual molestation.You can imagine what this girl must have gone and envision the pain she must have felt. Joe uses just the right words to get his point across and transport you right to the scenes he so expertly describes. This is evidence of an extremely effective story-teller.

The third perspective is the culmination of this sad story. It is told from the stepfather “Bo”‘s perspective. I wont ruin it by telling you what happens but let’s just say that the ending is not a happy one.

With this track Joe Budden proves he can hang with the big dogs. I was always aware of his talent for grittier, more street infused rhymes but he also has a knack for the quieter, true-to-life soliloquies as well.  With that said, I definitely feel that Joe Budden belongs up there with Nas, Jay, Big and Ghostface as a “Master story-teller”. And yes I’m basing that off just this one song, and I hope he makes many more like it.

If you haven’t heard the song, you can listen to it here on good old YouTube!

Know anymore Joe Budden songs that are a better example of  his excellent story telling ability?  leave a comment!

RELATED POST: Who’s The Best Storyteller: Biggie, Jay-Z or NaS?

HARTBEAT FLASHBACK: VIDEO -Tupac “Keep ya Head Up”

 

You ever come across a song that you just have to stop and listen to whenever it comes on….no matter what you’re doing or where you are? Tupac’s “Keep ya Head up” is one of those songs for me. 

This song started my love affair with Hip Hop in 1993. I remember seeing this video at age 12, four or five months after moving to this country from Jamaica. It had a profound impact on me and I fell in love with Tupac immediately after. This song had a very positive, wholesome message which did a lot to challenge what the grownups in my life claimed Hip Hop was all about and from that first viewing of the video, I was hooked. I began to listen to more Hip Hop and purchase  his music as a result. I would soon realize that not all his music was as uplifting as “Keep ya Head up“, but I loved him just the same. 

 This song showed Tupac’s softer side but before long I was introduced to the more volatile, angry side which I loved as well. Tupac always had an important message to share and I always tuned in to hear it. My mother hated him  because he was always in the news (remember? and not in a good way) and I remember she hid my “Don Kiluminati:The Seven day Theory” and “R U Still Down” cds because of this. It didn’t matter to me though. I always found a way to replace them. 

 Tupac inhabits position #3 on my greatest emcees of all time list. His music will always appeal to me and this song will always be one of my special favorites. Here’s the video: 

Bonus video if you read the rest…. 

Continue reading HARTBEAT FLASHBACK: VIDEO -Tupac “Keep ya Head Up”

Flashback: VIDEO – N.E.R.D – “Provider”

We all need flashbacks every now and then. But only the good kind.

Here’s a GREAT one for you. Remember N.E.R.D’s 2002 “In Search of” album? The monster debut by Pharrell Williams, Chad Hugo and Shay Haley?

If you don’t, here’s a reminder:

insearch

Is it coming back to you yet?

There is a song on the album called  “Provider“. It isn’t as well known as “Lapdance” or “Rockstar”, but for good reason. This track is for those die hard N.E.R.D fans who can appreciate an alternative sound. It won’t be everybody’s cup of tea, but I really enjoy this heartfelt ode to selling drugs and dealing with hard times.

Check it out!

Pharrell looks yummy in this video. Bird chest and all…lol

And Too bad there’s no video for another album cut,  “Bobby James”<—-(click me). That song is crazy dope!

Bonus:  “That Girl” – Pharrell

I adore this song!

Ubiquitous Hip-Hop Accessory: The “Jesus Piece”

The “Jesus piece”  has long been regarded as one of Hip Hop’s most beloved accoutrements.

It is an oversized platinum, gold or silver  pendant, made in the likeness of Jesus, sometimes encrusted with diamonds and other gems . Worn on a heavy rope style chain, these pendants have been a staple of Hip Hop youth culture for nearly thirty years. (from Urban Dictionary.com)

I am not exactly certain who originated this popular adornment. Kanye West would probably argue that he made the “Jesus piece” popular but I believe that the real honor should go to the Notorious BIG, who was seen wearing one in the popular image below.

Cubans with the Jesus Piece” – The Notorious BIG (Hypnotize)

In recent years, rappers like Kanye West, Jay-Z and Kid Cudi have championed the ‘Jesus Piece movement’ by wearing these pendants embedded with colored and black diamonds and precious stones. Styles made from lighter wood have also been popularized by Kanye West, Jadakiss, LeBron James, Braylon Edwards and even Pau Gasol. Here is a Jesus Piece gallery with a few items ranging from beautiful to seriously hideous:

Kanye West’s Piece

Kanye’s piece not, shining as brightly.There is something extremely gaudy about it…but hey, I’m not a famous rapper. What do I know?

Kanye’s Murakami Jesus Piece pictured above…(Pretty cool, eh?)

a better view of Kanye’s Murakami “Jesus Piece”
Jay-Z’s Jesus Piece

Jay-Z’s is some sort of burnished metal.

The “all black everything” Jesus piece

Kid Kudi’s Jesus Piece

Kid Cudi’s looks exactly like Kanye’s. Maybe he borrowed it??

This one (above) is quite bizarre. Who would wear this?

chromed out Jesus Piece
The Jesus on this one looks like he has dreads….
supposedly this one is priced at around $20,000
South park Jesus Piece (Kinda cute)
This one is quite ugly (Forgive me Jesus!)
red wood Jesus Piece
brown wood

 More of the people who wear them

Jadakiss and his wood Jesus pieces
even Pau Gasol for Christ’s sake
And King James as well…
guy with all four colors available for the wood Jesus Piece

What’s notable is that most times the wearer isn’t even making a statement about any religious beliefs, just simply wearing one to be fashionable. And don’t expect this trendy fashion statement to go anywhere anytime soon either. With the affordable wood version more accessible than the costly precious metal and stones version, these pendants will be around for years to come…or as soon as this fad burns out.  And of course fake Jesus pieces abound as well. With the “Jesus Piece” branded as a classic, just like the cuban link chain now everyone can dress just like their favorite rapper or athlete…used to?

Just found this interesting piece…. right here that claims the Jesus Piece is dead. But I don’t think that’s necessarily true. I think it’s a classic and classics never die. It might go into remission for a while. But it will not die.

And just in case you were wondering what the point of this post was….I just always wondered about Jesus Pieces and who wore them besides Kanye West. Apparently not too many people still do. My Google search was futile. I guess Kanye is now sole owner of this trend, but it looks like he’s retired his Jesus Piece for this ridiculous hunk of metal. Oh well…long live the Jesus piece!

Just for fun: Check out the dudes from ‘It’s the Real’ in “Jews for Jesus Piece”

FLASHBACK…(VIDEO: Saigon “Gotta Believe it)

Because I am perpetually late, I just realized that Saigon had a video for his monster single “Believe it”. I definitely need to spend more time on Youtube.

This one was posted up September 2009. Atleast it only took me a year to find it…lol

So for archival purposes…and mainly for my own viewing pleasure, I present you…..”Gotta Believe it” by Saigon

Super Throwback! – (VIDEO: “Spaceship” – Kanye West feat. Consequence + GLC)

Well would you look at that?

I didn’t even know there was a video for “Spaceship” by Kanye West, GLC and Consequence until today, August 28, 2010. The album was released February 10, 2004!! I need a tremendous late pass!

Not sure how I missed this one. But now I have a deep feeling of closure. I feel satisfied having seen this video. The song is brilliant and finally having the visuals to go along with it is really fantastic.

This video rocks!

Further proof that I am always late – (VIDEO: “Disperse” – Consequence + friends)

This Consequence video for “Disperse” was uploaded on July 29, 2008.

2008!!!

And I am just seeing it for the first time today. This is  is my absolute favorite track off Consequence’s 2007 classic album, “Don’t quit your day job” and just in case you cared, It contains a sample from this track

Enjoy!

Well…now that my initial excitement has worn off, I can say without hesitation that this video sucked. I was expecting more. In the video’s defense, it went along with the song but it also looked really low budget. I could have done without Lupe Fiasco being shown dancing around all crazy every 3 seconds, even though he did have some shining moments. I don’t know though. I guess Consequence was trying to save money. The video was definitely an injustice to the song. And that’s all I have to say about that.

My dilemma…

So I just noticed today that I’ve been fixating on the same music as the years go by. I just checked out a post I did 3 years ago and I’m STILL listening to almost all the same songs I wrote about then, today. This has to stop

BIG exclamation point!

My taste in music hasn’t really evolved at all in the past 10 years. I still like and listen to all the same old songs. The problem is that I haven’t heard any new songs recently that have moved me. Maybe the production just isn’t as good as it was in the past? I know one things for sure though.  I can’t  keep listening to the same albums like  “Diplomatic Immunity” and “Supreme Clientele” all the damn time! I need some new music to become obsessed with!

Recently, I got excited listening to Wiz Khalifa. I liked his style and the beats he used on his “Kush & Orange Juice” mixtape. I purchased his “Deal or No Deal” album on iTunes and I listen to it a lot. This was my first attempt at staying current.

Now I want to check out Curren$y. I’m not 100% sold on him as an emcee though.  I find his voice…well…a teeny tiny bit annoying, but I previewed the album (well, I heard all the 30 second clips of the album) and it sounds like something I might like. Going to buy it.

Before I go any further…I gave Fat Joe’s “The Darkside” and Rick Ross’ “Teflon Don” a chance too but didn’t come away with much. This was my second attempt at staying current. I liked “Free Mason” and “Maybach Music 3” on ‘Teflon Don’ but nothing stood out to me on Fat Joe’s album. And that is probably going to be it for me and mainstream Hip Hop for a while. I find the albums to be uninspired, boring and contrived. And then I have this thing about not listening to music if I don’t like the artist’s voice…  which is why I avoid Lil’ Wayne and TI like the plague. The only mainstream artists  who I’ll pay any real attention to are Ghostface, Jay-Z, 50 Cent (well, most times), NaS, Kanye West and Mos Def . I’ve never gotten into Bun B even though I’m sure his album is very good. It’s just not my steez I guess. I may check it out though, just out of curiosity, just to hear what a Source” 5 mic” album sounds like.

So I have a real dilemma. I just can’t seem to come across a lot of good music that holds my attention lately.

Hoping that will change when I listen to or purchase these albums/mixtapes in the near future:

Distant Relatives – Nas and Damian Marley (Can’t believe I haven’t heard this one yet!)

Big Picture – Big L (I’ve never heard a Big L album. Guess that makes me a fake hip hop head)

Boy Meets World – Fashawn (He has a good buzz right now. I want to hear what he’s all about.  But on second thought, I’m not really digging his voice. I have to see if I can get past that because there are some good beats on this album)

Fornever – Murs + 9th Wonder ( Never heard a full Murs album before either. Would like to check this out) I always do the 30 second preview of each track before purchasing. Upon doing that I only liked 2 tracks: “Vicky Veil” and “I used to Love Her (Again)” which I purchased on iTunes.

Till the Casket Drops – Clipse (I don’t own a Clipse album. Would be nice to hear whether or not they’ve evolved.) Gave it a listen and I like it!! The beats are tight! Purchased!

Kimbo Price – Sean Price (I like this guy…always have. Eager to hear this mixtape. Downloaded as of 8/28)

Double Barrel – Marco Polo + Torae (This is another album I’ve been hearing about. But I will dismiss it if I don’t like their rapping voices. Yes…I am surface like that)

Preface – Elzhi ( I like Elzhi and I want to give this a listen)

Another Heist – Camp Lo (Curiosity about whether this is good or not will make me listen to it)

Born Like This – MF Doom (Not sure how new this is but I love all things Doom)

Shibuya– Nicolay (not that familiar with Nicolay, but the title sounds cool so I’m game)

I am so desperate to add some quality new music to my iPod. Feel free to suggest some more albums I should listen to…Please and Thank you!

The 1st annual Beat Awards


Welcome to the 1st annual beat awards, a glamorous affair where the best beats are recognized with countless accolades. I’ve  presented awards to several deserving beats selected from a pool of my all-time favorite tracks. Please keep in mind that this is NOT a definitive list. Also, it is important to note that the awards were given to beats on songs that I play constantly ; and with good reason. These beats are truly incredible and deserve some sort of acknowledgment.

So without further ado, let’s get into it . Here are the awards in  no particular order:

MOST SEDUCTIVE BEAT – “The Future” – (Joe Budden)

– There’s no surprise why this beat won this award. It is very sonically pleasing and extremely seductive. It  makes me think the dirtiest thoughts and  Joe Budden’s rapping style fits it perfectly. Thanks to ‘Dub B’s killer production skills, I could listen to this track on repeat indefinitely. Listen here

BEST BEAT’ – “Mighty Healthy” (Ghostface Killah)

– This beat gets the blue ribbon for well, the best beat ever in my opinion. It’s hypnotic, hard-hitting and grimy and perfect for Ghostface Killah’s unrestrained flow. Produced by Mathematics. Listen here

HARDEST OLD SCHOOL R&B  BEAT – “Going in Circles” (Isaac Hayes)

– Not sure who did this one but it  does something to me. Maybe it’s the amazing back up singers or Isaac Hayes soulful crooning. Or maybe its the fact that Ghostface sampled this track for his “Malcolm” track. And we all know how I feel about Ghostface. Listen here

BEST J DILLA BEAT: Reminisce (Bilal feat. Common and Mos Def)

– Yeah I’m saying it. This is the best beat produced by J Dilla!  I get super hype whenever I hear this track. It is super addictive too. I can’t really describe it, but know that it’s just as good as I say it is..Listen here

MOST SOPHISTICATED RAP BEAT – “Camay” (Ghostface Killah)

– There isn’t a smoother beat than this anywhere. I hear this track and I just want to start undressing…lol. When that piano riff comes in and Teddy P starts singing,  it’s a wrap. The drums also help this track maintain a fine balance between sexy and grimy. Listen here

BEST HARDCORE BEAT- “When you hear the” (Mobb Deep)

-Produced by the Alchemist this one just has too many good qualities to name. The sinister tone, strong chords and odd wailing in the background make this the perfect murky track. Mobb Deep sounds ideal riding this beat. Listen here,

BEST RAINY DAY BEAT – “Speakin’ so Freely” – (Mobb Deep)

– This gem was produced by Havoc and what a beauty it is!  I love listening to this song in the rain. It just puts me in a good frame of mind. There is something about the simplicity of it that is incredibly beautiful. I could listen to this one on repeat too for a really really long time. Listen here

BEST BEAT TO PONDER LIFE’S MEANING TO – “Regrets” – Jay Z

-This is probably my absolute favorite Jay-Z song.  It was produced by Peter Panic and I adore it! I love the softness of this beat and the  way it comes in. I think about this song when I’m not listening to it. Very effective beat. Listen here

BEST BEAT TO GET AMPED TO – “Cold as Ice” – MOP

-I know what you’re thinking: “Ante Up” is a much better beat to get amped to. You may be right, but there’s just something about “Cold as Ice” that gets ME hype. Maybe it’s all that base and the persuasive vocals. Listen here

MOST SOULFUL BEAT- “Never Change” – Jay Z

-Every time I hear this song I let out a huge sigh instinctively. I’ve used the word beautiful too many times in this post, but I can’t help it. This beat really is beautiful. This is one of those beats perfectly suited for an introspective, “Look at me now” type of song and Jay-Z seamlessly delivers. Listen here

SEXIEST NEW BEAT/CRACK MUSIC AWARD – “Never Been” – Wiz Khalifa

-Another beat that rubs me the right way. It’s quite unlike anything I’ve ever heard before and I like it! Produced by Sledgren. Listen here

BEST SOUL SEARCHING BEAT- “Once Upon a time” – Raekwon feat. Takitha

This is one of those super sad beats that you should listen to on a cold rainy day. Listen here

MOST ELEGANT BEAT – “Bad by myself “- (Jim Jones, Stack bundles and Max B.)

The smooth sophistication of this beat was very unexpected. I’m not sure who produced it but I think it is so pretty! Puts me in a good mood instantly after I listen to it. Listen here

SMOOTHEST BEAT – “Want you to Want me” – (Tanya Morgan)

Another polished beat. It has a vintage sound to it that I absolutely love. This song also fills me with happiness. It has a nice groove. This is happy sexy music, people!

Listen here

BEST R&B BEAT – “Almost doesn’t Count” – (Brandy)

A  Grammy award-winning very, very pretty beat. Brandy kills it on this song. Produced by Guy Roche.

Listen here

BEST HEAVYWEIGHT COLLABO BEAT –  “The What “- (Biggie feat Method Man)

This is another one of those timeless beats. If I smoked weed, this would be my song of choice to smoke to. It is the beat best suited for the epic collaboration between Method Man and Biggie Smalls. Produced by Easy Mo Bee, this beat gets the red ribbon for hotness!

Listen here

REALEST BEAT – “Politics as Usual” – (Jay-Z)

Another impossibly smooth beat.  One of my all time favorites. Jay-Z’s ‘Reasonable Doubt’ album is chock full of amazing beats like this. This one was produced by Ski

Listen here

BEST BEAT TO INCITE A REVOLUTION – “Rising Down” – (The Roots)

This beat commands your attention the moment it begins. It is extremely effective. You can feel the tension rising as it progresses and it sounds FANTASTIC turned up really loud. Produced by Questlove.

Listen here

MOST SUITABLE BEAT FOR INTROSPECTIVE RHYMES- “Dear Whoever” – (Skyzoo)

I like everything about this beat. I want to sing along when I hear it. Props to Illmind for this one.

Listen here

MOST SOUL-STIRRING BEAT –  “You’re da man” – (NaS)

This has to be one of the most beautiful beats I’ve ever heard (for lack of a better way to describe it). The music is extremely calming and when paired with NaS’ soul stirring vocals this track really pops. Produced by Large Professor.

Listen here

MOST ROUSING RAP BEAT – Free Mason – (Rick Ross feat. Jay-Z)

There is just something about this beat that appeals to me. It just screams “I have arrived and I’m not going anywhere”. I guess it’s fitting that Rick Ross and Jay-Z are rhyming over it. Produced by The Inkredibles.

Listen here

BEST SAMPLE USAGE – Never Die – (Young Chris)/MAYBACH MUSIC – RICK ROSS

The sample in this beat was used by the likes of Rick Ross before Young Chris got his hands on it. It is one of the best beats ever. It has all the ingredients that make an epic beat: arresting music, a fantastic sample and the ability to sound fresh years after it’s release.

Listen here

BEST BEAT USED BY THE ROOTS – Step into the Realm – (The Roots)

I love this beat. It is very dimensional. Nuff’ said.

Listen here

BEST ROOTS BEAT (RUNNER UP)- “Aint Sayin’ Nuthin  New” – (The Roots)

I also love this beat. It puts me in a Philly State of Mind. I love the way it changes up. I love the brooding quality of the guitar (is that a guitar?) and the keys. This beat is every changing. Not sure who will accept this award though. Unsure of the producer.

Listen here

BEST LATIN INFUSED BEAT  – “Desperado” – The Firm

The spanish guitar on this track is ferocious! Makes me want to dance. Producers are Curt Gowdy and the Trackmasters. Great Job fellas!

Listen here

MOST HAUNTING  BEAT-  No Hook – (Jay-Z)

This beat is serious. It’s dark and somber and the perfect companion to Jay-Z’s gloomy raps. I love it!

Listen here

BEST MOVEMENT MUSIC – Beautiful Noise – (The Diplomats)

Charlemagne and E Bass are responsible for this one. This is a simple beat but there is something undeniably magical about it. It commands your attention and emotions. Very effective!

Listen here

MOST RECOGNIZED BEAT- Where I’m From (Jay-Z)

There can’t be anyone left who hasn’t heard this beat. Whether on Jay-Z’s rousing “Where I’m From” or on the poppy Dirty Money track, the beat takes center stage to any vocals. It is so gritty, hardcore and timeless. Producted by the Hitmen.

Listen here

BEST EMO-RAP BEAT – Flashing Lights (Kanye

West)        

The music on this beat tugs at your heart strings, touches your soul and does every other cliche’d thing you can say about authentic soul music. There’s something about the notes or the chords that evoke emotion. Kanye wins big.

Listen here

BEST FEEL GOOD BEAT- We Gon’ Make it (The Lox)

I dare you to play this song and not feel good. This is probably the best use of classical music in a beat.

Listen here

BEST “DONT SECOND GUESS ME”/TRIUMPHANT COMEBACK BEAT- “Believe it” – (Saigon)

Just Blaze strikes again with a miraculous beat for Saigon’s “don’t count me out just yet” killer single. Just realized there was a video for this! Sweet!

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BEST BEAT IN DIPSET CATALOG – “I really mean it” – (Diplomats)

Another very special beat and  another bad creation from Just Blaze. I love the triumphant horns and the strong vocals. Like Juelz Santana said “Now that’s powerful music”.

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MOST HYPNOTIC/ADDICTIVE BEAT – “Runnin” – (The Pharcyde)

It starts off sweet. You know you’re in for something and the beat  progressively builds into a delightful groove. complete with the sounds of a record being scratched,  a bangin’ base line and fantastic drums. The vocals blend perfectly with the beat making this one of the stand out songs in Hip Hop.

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MOST TRIUMPHANT BEAT – “Dip-set Forever” – (Cam’ron)

Produced by Kanye West, there is something very triumpant about this beat. It samples “Forever” by Chuck Cissel and I truly love it.

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So there you have it. The best beats in my humble opinion. Remember I just picked my favorites. Hope you agreed with a few of them. Feel free to add your own in my comments section and see you next year!

The Saddest Song….EVER!

If you know me at all, then you know I’m a huge “hip hop head”. I don’t fool around with R&B too much, but when I do, I prefer the quality stuff. The stuff that comes straight from the soul and pulls at your heart-strings. The kind of music that is so sad, and heartfelt, that you feel a little depressed after listening to it.

One such example is “Wild is the Wind“: an amazingly beautiful song filled with yearning  and deep sadness. See the lyrics below:

Wild is the Wind
 Love me, Love me. Say you do. Let me fly away with you
For my love is like the wind, And wild is the wind
 
Give me more than one caress. Satisfy this hungriness
Let the wind blow through your heart
For wild is the wind
 
You touch me….I hear the sound of mandolins
You kiss me,  and with your kiss my life begins
You’re spring to me, All things to me
 Don’t you know you’re life itself?
Like a leaf clings to a tree, Oh, my darling cling to me
For we’re creatures of the wind
And wild is the wind, So wild is the wind
 
You touch me, and I hear the sound of mandolins
You kiss me and with your kiss my life begins
You’re spring to me, All things to me
 
Don’t you know you’re life itself?
Like a leaf clings to a tree, Oh my darling cling to me
For we’re creatures of the wind
And wild is the wind, So wild is the wind
Wild is the wind, Wild is the wind
Wild is the wind
 

I know of three versions of this song. One by Nina Simone, One by David Bowie and a more recent one by Amel Larriuex. I am most concerned with the versions by Amel and Nina in this post.

Both versions are for lack of a better word, serious!

Amel Larrieux’s version

Alright, Let’s begin with the new comer. Amel Larrieux rose to fame in the early 90’s as one half of the R&B duo Groove Theory. As a solo artist, her ethereal voice and honest lyrics make her one of today’s best soul singers. Amel has a beautifully gorgeous voice. So gorgeous that it almost makes the listener cry. When Amel pleads, “Love me, Love me, Say you do” you can hear the emotion and deep desire in her voice. It floats lightly over every word coaxing out the most insanely beautiful sound. The background piano music is both soothing and depressing and builds along with Amel’s voice. I almost gave this version the award for the saddest love song I’d ever heard, until I heard Nina Simone’s version.

Nina’s version

If you don’t know who Nina Simone is, read her bio here . From the moment the first key is played, you know you’re in for something. And then she sings the first note and her voice is so rich and beguiling that you just float away with her. I’m sorry Amel, but Nina’s voice blows yours away. It is husky but then again, smooth; so pain-filled yet triumphant.  Nina’s voice oozes pain and desperation on this track. She pleads in a way that only she can to whoever it is she’s begging to love her. Once you’re done listening to this track, I guarantee that you’ll be a little depressed. Listening to her version is an experience. If you get a warm feeling in your stomach after listening to Amel, then  it will feel like your stomach is on fire after listening to Nina. It is one of the most beautifully sad tracks I have ever come across, and I am a sad song connoisseur.

 

SO hands down, Nina, the veteran, trumps Amel, the up and comer. Both versions are incredible but Nina’s just has that little something more. You should check both Nina’s and Amel’s versions out and add them to your music collection…. immediately! This song puts the blues in Rhythm and Blues.

 

50 Cent – Beat Jacker…

It seems beat jacking is rampant in Hip Hop…

It happens a lot. One minute you hear a fresh track on one album, then the next you hear the beat from said fresh track, slightly retooled on a completely different album.

(To be clear, I’m not talking about when one artist releases a hot song and everybody and their mother jumps on the beat. I’m talking about a track  on a released album appearing again on another released album down the line.)

Some time ago, I realized that 50 cent used the same beat for “God Gave Me Style” as rap veteran Cormega did for “Glory Days”and  I got excited! (I get a rise out of little things like this because I always enjoy seeing how different artists utilize the same samples. My favorite example of this is the sample used by both Rick Ross for “Maybach Music” and Young Chris for“Never Die”, a lovely track entitled “And I Love Him” by Friends of Distinction. It thrills me to pick apart the DNA of rap tracks with dope beats).

  

So back to my realization…..

 That day I realized the same sample appeared on a similar beat used by two different albums. But one of the albums, Cormega’s “The Realness”, was released 4 years before 50 cent’s “The Massacre”. Did 50 hear the “Realness” and hand select the beat from “Glory Days”? Or did the producer resurface and offer 50 the beat too? Or maybe a new producer found the sample and manipulated it a little differently than the original producer? Who knows?  I’ve also always wanted to know: once a beat is given or sold to one artist, how then does another artist get access to it? How are they able to use it on their album if it was already previously released?

Cormega vs 50 Cent: Who used the beat better?

 Discovering that both Cormega and then beat jacking 50 cent used this one particular sample was a pleasant surprise. These are very dissimilar artists and as you can imagine, their handling of the beats varied as well. Cormega is an excellent emcee who has flown under the radar for many years never fully getting his props, while 50 cent is an internationally known hip hop star with a larger than life persona.

I was happy that Cormega was the first to use this beat. It further solidified the fact that he was in fact, a trailblazer adept at hand picking great beats for his critically acclaimed albums. Released in 2001, “The Realness” was in my opinion, a masterpiece. As was 50 cent’s 2005 effort, “The Massacre”. Both consisted of well crafted beats and razor sharp rhymes but only one has gone on to receive countless accolades and sell millions. Today we can appreciate what Cormega was trying to accomplish with ‘The Realness” but it goes without saying that it was nowhere near as successful as “The Massacre”.

 The beat used on “Glory Days” and “God Gave me Style” is quite enjoyable to listen to. It has a very pleasant and uplifting quality to it. This particular sample was taken from Eddie Kendricks’ song, “Each Day I Cry a Little”. The finished beats used by 50 and Cormega were made to sound cleaner and more robust and were souped up with banging drums.

Listen to a 30 second snippet of  the  actual song the  sample was taken from here

Or check this video out

Both artists used the beat in a different way which would make the business of deciding who did the better job very difficult, seeing as though I love both Cormega and 50 Cent.

More about the beat….

This beat is what I like to call “world class”. A world class beat, (much like the beat used on Jay-Z’s street anthem “Where I’m From”), is so fantastic and soulful that it is destined to pop up on different tracks year after year.  I’m not surprised that this beat turned up again on 50 cent’s “The Massacre” album. He beat jacked again for another track on this album. His song “I Don’t Need em” (which also appeared on “The Massacre”)  uses the same sample as Ghostface Killah’s “Metal Lungies” ,which appeared on “The Pretty Toney Album” and was released a year earlier than “The Massacre” in 2004.

But back to the matter at hand.

 The “Glory Days”/”God Gave me Style” sample is smooth, chill and perfect for someone with an even, unaffected flow and both 50 and Cormega possess this kind of flow.

 Listening to both songs, there are a few notable similarities and differences, the main similarity being that the sample used is the same. The subject matter of each track is one of the main differences.

How was the beat used?

I love Cormega as an artist and I think the concept of “Glory Days” is genius. Who doesn’t enjoy a song about reminiscing? As humans, we enjoy doing this; looking back on life and relishing old memories. Cormega gets nostalgic about the ‘glory days’: those days when “gangtas really did it”. On this exceptional track, He recalls wanting to be like Harlem legend, Alpo and getting his first taste of power after seeing the movie, ‘Scarface’.

50’s use of the sample is more introspective, but he brags as well. He manages to pull off both extremes skillfully. He sings that “God gave him style; God gave him grace” and “God put a smile on his face and made him shine like the sun”. He also gives praise to the Big man upstairs, crediting his stellar CD sales not just to luck but to the fact that he is unapologetically blessed. I like this track because 50 gives thanks to God who has made EVERYTHING he has possible. This track gives the listener a rare look into 50’s sensitive, grateful side. Of course there are parts of the track where in typical 50 fashion he brags on his skills, but that is to be expected. He also reveals bits and pieces of his personality with lines like “some days I’m in a crowd all by myself” This track is a true gem that entertains while offering words of encouragement to the listener.

Did the artists deliver?

After listening to both tracks I asked myself the question, “Did what the artist delivered match my expectations”?

When I think of Cormega I think of a serious emcee. I expect thoughtful, mind bending lyrics that are on a higher plane. I expect a high level of introspectiveness and self awareness and a unique style. And on this track, I got that and more.

Did 50 surprise me or was this song what I expected? 50 cent is a “fun loving one minute, grimy the next” emcee. You expect braggadocios rhymes, machismo and inevitable fuckery when you listen to a 50 track. But I got a totally different side of 50 cent than expected…and the results were good.

Another difference between the two songs is the way the beat was manipulated. 50’s version is a little livelier than Cormega’s. The drums are less prominent on Cormega’s. Both beats are still enjoyable just the same.

Who used the sample best?

So….who used the beat best? It’s a draw. I just can’t decide between the two so I’ll just say that both artists did an excellent job. Both artists are extremely talented and made great use of a spectacular beat.

As for this practice of recycling beats, I hope it’s something that will continue because it fun to make comparisons between the artists and try to pick out the subtle differences in what is essentially the exact same sample. There are many instances where this happens. Can you think of any others?

My Ten Favorite Ghostface Killah Songs

Anyone who knows me knows I love Ghostface. Love is actually an understatement. I adore that man. He’s been my favorite artist since I heard his “Supreme Clientele” album ten years ago. He’s released many albums over the years with many INCREDIBLE tracks. These are the ones I call my favorites:

1. Camay

If I had to go through life listening to only one track on perpetual repeat then this would undoubtedly be that track. I love EVERYTHING about it! I love the soft strains of the piano and the understated base line paired artfully with the prominent drums.  I love how everyone featured on the song raps so fluidly and effortlessly over the beat. I love the subject matter…Damn it, do I love the subject matter…. I LOVE the Teddy Pendergrass sample and the elegant refrain, “Love was never born to say goodbye….Just another helpless fool in love is what I am”. I LOVE Ghostface’s verse. I want to melt every time I hear it. I kid you not. “Camay” is extremely powerful and it has a certain euphoric effect on me. I can’t really explain it. I just love it.

2) Child’s Play

With music borrowed from George Jackson’s “Aretha, Sing one for me”, this track always puts me in a nostalgic mood. It’s the kind that reminds you of happy childhood memories making you yearn for the good old days.  Ghostface looks back in amusing fashion and drops a couple jewels as he is apt to do. The unforgettable bars about “Pretty little Sally” make this track extremely ill. He’s one of the best story tellers in the game.

3) Mighty Healthy

 Probably one of the most hardbody tracks Ghostface has ever recorded. You may not know what he’s talking about, but you can certainly feel him. Everything (the beat, the lyrics, the concept) seamlessly melds together to make one dope ass track.

(photo by yours truly)

4) Beauty Jackson

 

The beat manipulated by J Dilla was already dope, but Ghost’s smooth, stirring rhymes add an inexplicable dopeness to this track. I dare you to listen to this short yet satisfying track and not think about it afterwards. Ghostface showcases his amazing story telling ability here as well. You almost feel as though you’re right there  standing at the bus stop about to witness him trying to  bag Miss Beauty Jackson. This is probably the song of his that I find the most addictive.

5) One

This was my first introduction to solo Ghost and “Supreme Clientele”. After one listen, I was hooked. Something clicked and I liked it instantly. I love the subject matter and Ghostface’s overall swagger on this one. It samples “You Roam when you don’t get it at home” by the Sweet Inspirations.

6) Holla

 Pulllllll uuuupppppppp!! This is the song that started my infatuation with seeing Ghostface perform live. Seeing him do this track is quite an experience. First, they shine this electric blue spotlight on him and then, he just pours out his heart and soul in spectacular fashion, for a good 4 minutes. Probably the most amazing thing you’ll ever see. He’s such a great performer. I love how heartfelt this track is. It will always be a lifelong favorite.

(photo by Yours Truly (me)

7) Strawberry

Ghost Deini needs love too and he gets downright filthy (on the second verse of this track) with one of the most memorable ‘nasty verses’ in the history of rap. There is no way in hell you can listen to this track and not get a little moist..lol

.8) Big Girl

Another beautiful, beautiful track with a powerful message. In this one Ghostface beseeches young girls to turn their lives around and “be an accountant, a doctor or lawyer and get paid.” He really cares.

9) Ragu

 More powerful music and poignant story telling. If you didn’t know Ghost was a master of rap then this song solidifies that.

photo by Ava

10) Walk Around

I like to think of this track as ‘grimy Ghost’ at his best. The heavy subject mater and lyrics sound so real, you definitely believe Ghost was actually  in the situation he raps about.

Runner ups

  • Walking through the Darkness
  • Shakey Dog
  • The Hilton
  • Save Me Dear
  • Malcolm

Jamaica Mon…

It’s hard to believe that only two short weeks ago I was soaking up the warm Jamaican sun and frolicking on the beach. Now that I’m back here in boring Hartford it doesn’t even feel like I went anywhere. But I did….. and I have some pictures to prove it. Take a look:

The beautiful Iberostar Rose Hall Grand Hotel (with infinity pool). I really enjoyed staying here.

The amazing beach. I spent a lot of time here….

The exterior of the hotel.

The lobby of the Iberostar Rose Hall Grand Hotel Continue reading Jamaica Mon…