As the title (gleaned from the his highness late Old Dirty Bastard) this post is heavy on the hip hop. The weeks most anticipated and high profile release is undoubtedly Eminem’s Recovery, a decidedly underwhelming attempt to regain the lustre that wore off in 2003 after The Eminem Show and 8 Mile. It strikes me that almost every reviewer desperately wants Eminem to regain his place on top of the hip hop mantle, and many give him a pass because this album is slightly more bearable than the atrocious Encore (2005) and even less inspiring Relapse (2008). His decline is truly unfortunate, because EM is definitely one of the most talented rappers to emerge in the last decade. The sad reality is that his songwriting over the past 5 years careens wildly from desperately self indulgent and unimaginative attempts at self reflection and self pity to absurdly juvenile and stale attempts at wit and humour or equally puerile and cynical efforts to be provocative (another Elton John being gay joke? really?) His over the top tales of violence, homophobia, and misogyny worked in the Slim Shady LP (1998) and Marshall Mathers LP (2000) because they were executed with rapacious wit and a firm tongue in the cheek. Unfortunately, “You can get the dick/just call me the ballsack/i’m nuts/Michael Vick in this bitch” really doesn’t cut it. Oh, and the production is horrid.
Wow, that must be the most I have ever written about an album that I don’t like. It was just supposed to be a segway into the stuff I DO like…
Artist: Rhymefest Album: El Che
Rhymefest has been around for years, helping the likes of Kanye West and Wale create some of their signature tracks. A Chicago native, Rhymefest incorporates dollops of the Chi flavour in his music (particularly those nods to midwestern soul). The most striking thing is his off the wall sense of humour. Rhymefest is clearly a guy fairly comfortable in his own skin, and he eschews braggadicio and hard posture raps for more day to day tales that are interspersed with random jokes and thoughts. “Who the fuck is driving my car/ I don’t know where the hell we are/ all that I know is that it is far/ Wisconsin!/Oh shit thats FAR!” love it. The production is varied and interesting enough to hold the (rather long) album together, and it does justice to Rhymefest’s style and ambition. I’m not convinced that the entire album maintains a consistently high quality, but there is enough here to justify a nod.
Top Songs: Prosperity, Last Night
Artist: The Roots Album: How I Got Over
9 albums in and the Roots just keep cracking out superb, intelligent, jazz infused hip hop. They are firmly in the underground, but their influence and the respect they have accrued transcends across hip hop, and indeed across genres. Their organic approach to music (they are a band in the traditional sense of the word) allows a level of texture that compliments their refined lyrical cadence. How I Got Over continues 2008’s Rising Down’s move toward bleak and politically infused lyrical themes, however with less palpable anger and a hint that brighter days may soon emerge. The production is also less jagged, with an emphasis on melody and mood. The Roots’ interest in different genre’s is highlighted by the fact that they recruit members of The Dirty Projectors and Monsters of Folk in this latest effort.
I’ve always felt that the Roots represent the more refined and grown up side of Hip Hop. Regardless of whether it is your cup of tea, it is difficult to deny the artistry and talent that this group contains.
I’m still familiarizing myself with this album, and honestly I’m not sure I can recommend top tracks, but here is a small sample of what is on offer (follow link for first one)
Artist: Strong Arm Steady Album: In Search of Stoney Jackson
The underground California Hip Hop vets collaborate with the great Madlib to create a dense, lyrically driven album that will be appreciated by those who like Hip Hop for the lyricism and a more old school vibe. Prominent guests include Talib Qweli, Planet Asia, and Guilty Simpson. Again, I wont pontificate on ‘top’ tracks, but here is a taste…
FROM THE VAULT
remember this awesomeness????? When Eminem was actually good?