Thursday, September 28, 2006

Final O.D.B. album to be released.

It seems like the new and final album from the late Ol’ Dirty Bastard will finally see the light of day on Nov. 7, according to this story
from Billboard.

A Son Unique has been delayed for more than a year, but will finally be released on the two-year anniversary of the Wu-Tang Clan member’s death. O.D.B. finished most of the album before he died, so it should be true to his intentions. Often, albums are released from deceased rappers like Tupac Shakur or Notorious B.I.G. years after their death and feature cut-and-paste jobs of old verses with new beats to create new music, which often aren’t reflective of the artist’s intentions.

Ol’ Dirty Bastard was a unique character in hip-hop who often brought humor and liveliness to the otherwise serious Wu-Tang Clan. This is why I think it is important for this last album to be released, because it will give fans some closure. His previous solo album was released in 1999.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Tribe Called Quest makes a comeback.

A Tribe Called Quest tore the roof off the House of Blues in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. Sunday, almost eight years since they disbanded following the release of their 1998 album, The Love Movement.

The core trio of Q-Tip, Phife and Ali Shaheed took the stage without saying a word. Ali Shaheed commanded his post behind the turntables and dropped the beat to their 1991 hit, “Buggin’ Out.” With the first lines of the song, “microphone check, one, two, what is this?” being uttered by Phife shortly after, A Tribe Called Quest quickly had a grasp over the audience and didn’t let go for more than an hour, relentlessly delivering their hit songs.

For much of the show, the crowd rapped along in unison, often jumping up and down. Former member Jarobi even joined the group onstage for an extended segment. By the time the show was winding down with the encore (which included the songs “Scenario” and “Award Tour”), it was evident how influential and important the group was to hip-hop and how many of their fans are loyal to this day, despite the fact that the group has not released an album or toured in almost eight years.

A Tribe Called Quest is currently headlining the 2K Sports Bounce Tour (concert dates are listed on the tour’s official web site). The Procussions, Consequence and Rhymefest are the tour’s opening acts.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Mos Def refocuses on his music career.

Taking a short break from his budding film career, Mos Def will release a new album in December. Three new songs are now available for streaming on Mos Def’s web site, and if they are any indication of the album’s direction, we’re in for a treat.

Tru3 Magic, his third solo album, will be available December 5 on Geffen Records. “Boogie Man” is the first single, and it features a cymbal-heavy jazz drumbeat paired with a minimal piano melody. “Sun, Moon, Stars” finds Mos Def singing over a simple funk bassline and congo drums. Of the three available for streaming, “Undeniable” is the worst. Despite its generic guitar-lick-driven beat, it still shows he is redirecting his musical career in the right direction.

With his recent influx of major film roles (The Italian Job, The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy and 16 Blocks), it seemed he had lost interest in his career as a critically acclaimed and politically active rapper and singer. This was further evidenced with his 2004 album, The New Danger, which was uninspired and too eclectic, failing to capture the audience he established with his first solo album and his collaborations with rapper Talib Kweli.

Tru3 Magic is slated to feature production from Kanye West, Pharrell Williams and Rich Harrison, three very talented producers whose sounds should work well with Mos Def. Hopefully his new album can help recapture his patient fanbase who may be frustrated with his apparent increased interest in film roles and decreased interest in making music.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Make a change to your ears' diet

Sick and tired of rap music with little substance? Are you ready to throw something at your television every time MTV and BET show a music video with scantily clad women and excessive materialism?

Luckily, two recent hip-hop albums provide compelling lyricism and songwriting, backed by excellent music.

First, Game Theory. The seventh studio opus from the Philadelphia-based band, The Roots, might be the darkest and most challenging record to be released in 2006 thus far, in any genre. The band plays intricate and spacey melodies that range from the frantic (“Here I Come,” which can be heard at The Roots’ MySpace page), to the melodic (“Atonement”). The album’s highlight, though, is rapper Black Thought’s ability to vividly capture the world’s problems through his songwriting. He delves into issues such as the Bush administration’s faults (“False Media”) and his fear of government spying (“Livin’ In A New World,” also on their MySpace page). When he isn’t tackling politics, Black Thought touches upon personal issues, such as broken friendships (“Clock With No Hands”) and the death of his friend, music producer J Dilla (“Can’t Stop This”).

Another great record, featuring more breadth and substance than most current hip-hop, is Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor. Lupe Fiasco, a native of Chicago and a devout Muslim, takes a left-field approach on this, his debut album. He rarely utters a curse word, and he is able to construct highly-metaphorical and witty stories that give his album a very down-to-earth feel. He has love songs (“Sunshine,” to his girlfriend and “Kick, Push,” to his favorite hobby, skateboarding), while he also tackles issues ranging from father-son relationships (“He Say, She Say”) to the effect of American-Muslim relationships in our post-9/11 world (“American Terrorist”).

All of Lupe’s album can currently be heard on his MySpace page.

So, while most thought-provoking and socially-conscious hip-hop rarely makes it onto the radio or MTV, this doesn’t mean it’s not out there. For those seeking more meat and potatoes in their musical diet, look no further than The Roots and Lupe Fiasco.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Jay-Z is back.

The cat has been let out of the bag. One of the worst kept secrets in the music industry has finally been confirmed. Jay-Z is coming out of retirement and releasing a new album on November 21, according to the new issue of Entertainment Weekly (see the cover).

Kingdom Come will be his first album since he retired with The Black Album, which was released in 2003. This will be the longest gap between Jay-Z albums since he burst into the music scene in 1996.

The new album will be released on Def Jam records, which he became president of after his retirement. Despite giving up on recording albums, he appeared on recent songs by Young Jeezy, Beyonce, Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West (to name a few), fueling the fire that his return was imminent.

According to several reports (including this article from Vibe) Kingdom Come will feature production from hip-hop’s biggest names, including Kanye West, Just Blaze, The Neptunes, Dr. Dre, Timbaland and Scott Storch.

This is great news for hip-hop, considering Jay-Z is one of the best artists of his generation, and he has a knack for making great albums.

Jay-Z is currently on a world tour, which involves both performing in concert and raising social awareness in poor countries. This great tour will be the subject of one of my upcoming blogs.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Talib Kweli prepares third solo release, Ear Drum

Brooklyn-based rapper Talib Kweli is at a pivotal crossroads in his career. After releasing two critically-praised albums, Black Star (a collaboration with rapper/actor Mos Def) and Train of Thought(a collaboration with Cincinnati-based producer Hi-Tek), he disappointed many with 2004’s Beautiful Struggle, his second solo album.

Beautiful Struggle wasn’t a bad album per se, but Kweli seemed out of place rapping his typical socially and politically conscious subject matter over beats that were a too club-friendly. He’s hoping to change that with Ear Drum, scheduled for release on Nov. 7.

MTV posted a story that seems to indicate that Kweli is moving in the right direction to restore his original sound. Ear Drum will be his first album on Warner Bros., after escaping the hip-hop purgatory of Geffen Records (The Roots recently left Geffen as well.)

According to the article, Kweli will soon be recording with producers Kanye West and Just Blaze, with whom he always seems to make great songs with (just listen to “Get By” and “Never Been In Love.”) Plus, the album will feature vocal contributions from hip-hop acts Strong Arm Steady and U.G.K., along with folk singer Norah Jones.

If the first single, “Listen,” is any indication (the song and its accompanying video can be seen on his official web site), of the album’s direction, than I think we’re all in for a treat.

Allow me to reintroduce myself...

My name is Adrian Ruhi...

No, that doesn't quite flow like the Jay-Z song, but it'll have to do.

I'm currently a fourth-year journalism student at the University of Florida, and I have an insane passion for music. This blog will be a collection of my ranting and commentary on the world of hip-hop music. Links to my other published work can be found on the right-hand side of this very blog.

Throughout this fun little journey, I encourage you to respond to any and every article, seeing as your opinion is valuable too. It's always fun to get a little discussion going.

I hope you enjoy.