Monday, October 30, 2006

Nas set to critique hip-hop.

Def Jam Records has just announced details about Nas’ eighth album, his first for the label.

Hip-Hop Is Dead will be released Dec. 19 and looks to be a poignant commentary on the state of hip-hop music. XXL Magazine has an audio snippet of the title track, produced by of the Black Eyed Peas.

Strangely, the song features the very same sample used in Nas’ 2004 single, “Thief’s Theme.” It finds Nas at his best, rapping about the decreased quality of hip-hop music and placing much of the blame on radio DJs.

The album has confirmed guest appearances from Damian Marley, Snoop Dogg and The Game, and production from Kanye West, and Dr. Dre. It is rumored that Hip-Hop Is Dead will also feature producers DJ Premier and Just Blaze, as well as the long-awaited collaboration song between Jay-Z and Nas, who once feuded but are now friends and labelmates.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Snoop Dogg arrested... again.

Snoop Dogg was arrested for gun and marijuana possession Thursday, a month after being arrested for trying to board a plane with a police baton, according to an MTV article.

Both instances occurred at California airports. He was arrested Thursday in his car while at the Bob Hope Airport in Burbank and was released on $35,000 bond by 7:50 p.m.

Maybe it’s a broad generalization, but why do many rapper’s repeatedly find themselves in these legal tangles? Fabolous was recently shot in the leg while exiting a club. While he and his posse fled to the hospital, they were pulled over for speeding and arrested for gun possession. 50 Cent was also recently arrested in a large public scene, where police arrested him near Times Square with a large gathering of spectators.

But many rappers, Snoop especially, have a long history of arrests. One would think that after a few, you’d learn your mistake. But maybe some rappers tend to get slaps on the wrist when arrested because of their stature, so they continue to do as they please despite the consequences.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Def Jam lacking?

Def Jam Records announced a slew of late-2006 albums on their Web site, amid controversy about the marketing and promotion of their recent releases.

Atlanta rapper Young Jeezy and singer Bobby Valentino will release new records on Dec. 12, while Fabolous and hip-hop veterans Ghostface Killah and Nas will bow new albums on Dec. 19. This will be Fabolous and Nas’ first material released on Def Jam.

Def Jam, the legendary hip-hop label that brought the world hip-hop greats like the Beastie Boys, LLCoolJ and Jay-Z, was always known for the great promotion its artists received, promotion they likely wouldn’t receive on the bigger, non-hip-hop-oriented labels. But recently they’ve come under criticism.

Recent albums by LLCoolJ and Method Man, both of whom have been on the label for more than a decade, received little promotion, with neither album having songs in major radio play and Method Man not even getting a music video. The Roots, who fled to Def Jam after dealing with a years-long battle with Geffen Records, also received little promotion and radio play for their outstanding Game Theory. LLCoolJ, Method Man and Black Thought of The Roots have all been vocal about their displeasure with Def Jam.

Now, Def Jam is cramming five albums into two release dates. The label, which once spaced their releases months apart in order to maximize sales, is now dumping big releases together in a short span of time, which may have a negative effect on sales because fans may not have money to buy them all. Not to mention that Def Jam president Jay-Z’s comeback album, Kingdom Come, which is sure to be one of the best-selling albums of 2006, will be released on Nov. 21, less than a month before.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Tupac to release another posthumous album.

Yet another “new” Tupac Shakur album will be released on Nov. 21, more than ten years since the his death, according to this story by Billboard.

The eighth posthumous Tupac release is entitled Pac’s Life, and will feature collaborations with Snoop Dogg, Ludacris and T.I.

When will the madness cease? Tupac may be the only artist to have released more material after he died than when he was living. And the sad thing is that these releases are not being released the way he intended.

Most of the albums released since his death feature vocals from unreleased and rare songs, paired with production and guest artists that Tupac never shared a studio with. Even worse, many of these “collaborations” are with artists he never got along with or who were not even making music at the time of his death.

The last Tupac release, Loyal To The Game, was a mash-up of both unreleased and highly-recognizable Tupac verses matched with production by Eminem and guest appearances by G-Unit. These mash-ups with current hip-hop artists is unethical in my eyes and presents a distorted view of Tupac’s material and legacy.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Diddy: Artist?

There is a thin line between artistry and integrity and Diddy walks it.

The artist formerly known as Puff Daddy and head of Bad Boy Records has always been a better businessman than performer, but does he even deserve credit as an artist? He’s never denied that other producers have done much of his work and that other rappers have ghostwritten his songs, but it has never been as blatant as it is on his new album, Press Play. Several songs from this album can be heard on his MySpace page.

It had been rumored that artists like Common, Talib Kweli and Black Thought of The Roots would be ghostwriting songs for Diddy, but those have yet to be confirmed. Yet, a peek into Press Play’s liner notes reveals some of the album’s ghostwriters.

Underground rapper Pharoahe Monch (visit his MySpace page) wrote “The Future” and “Hold Up,” and Diddy does little to hide this fact by rapping in Monch’s VERY distinctive flow. Diddy similarly steals the rapping style of ghostwriters Nas and T.I., on “Everything I Love” and “Wanna Move,” respectively.

But how much credit does Diddy deserve for this album, when he neither wrote nor produced any song on his album? True, Diddy made a relatively strong album with Press Play, but is that so difficult to do when you have the best producers and writers in hip-hop music doing almost all of your work?

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Game set to release new album

The Game is making some bold statements about himself and his new music.

The Compton, Calif. rapper is set to release his sophomore album, The Doctor’s Advocate, on Nov. 14. In a recent MTV article, he likens himself to a one-man version of the seminal West Coast hip-hop group N.W.A.

Dr. Dre, a former member of N.W.A., is the doctor referenced on The Game’s album title, yet he will have no contributions to the album. Dr. Dre produced several songs on The Game’s debut, The Documentary, which was co-released by 50 Cent’s G-Unit Records and Dr. Dre’s Aftermath Records. Since its release, The Game’s contract was shifted to Geffen Records (another subdivision of Interscope, like G-Unit and Aftermath) due to his feud with 50 Cent.

One must wonder, though, why would an album would reference another artist if that artist is nowhere to be found? When The Game found out Dr. Dre would not be contributing, he should have retitled his album. Instead, he is stuck with references to Dr. Dre on his lead single, “It’s Okay” (which can be heard on his MySpace page), that have little to do with the content of the album.

So far, it has been confirmed that The Doctor’s Advocate will feature production from of the Black Eyed Peas, Just Blaze, Scott Storch and Kanye West.

Monday, October 09, 2006

New Jay-Z single leaks.

Less than a month after it was announced that Jay-Z would come out of retirement, his new single has found its way to the Internet and radio.

“Show Me What You Got,” the first single from Jay-Z’s ninth solo studio album, Kingdom Come, was supposed to be released by Def Jam Records on Oct. 11, but was readily available online Friday afternoon. Shortly after, radio stations across the country began playing the song. According to a story on All Hip Hop, Def Jam was investigating the leak.

The song is produced by frequent Jay-Z collaborator Just Blaze, and can be heard on his MySpace page. Blaze sampled vocals and horn melodies from songs by Johnny Pate, The Lafayette Afro Rock Band and Public Enemy, and paired it with live instrumentation to create the beat for “Show Me What You Got,” according to a story from XXL Magazine.

The song, like many of Jay-Z’s first singles, isn’t very notable in the lyrics department. Jay-Z doesn’t make any poignant political or social commentary on the song, but he usually saves that for album tracks. But the beat will surely satisfy both hip-hop connoisseurs and partygoers alike.

Friday, October 06, 2006

The return of Rawkus.

The razorblade insignia of Rawkus Records was a stamp for great hip-hop in the late ‘90s. After disappearing in the early 2000s, Rawkus is back with a brand new roster, as it tries to duplicate its previous success.

Although it was a small independent label, Rawkus managed to create stars out of artists like Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Hi-Tek and Pharoahe Monch. Now with a fresh start, the label has the task of selling up-and-coming acts like The Procussions and Panacea to a hip-hop market progressively less interested in artistic integrity and musical substance.

The Procussions, a Colorado-based trio, were the first of Rawkus’ new generation to release an album, 5 Sparrows For 2 Cents. They recently completed the 2K Sports Bounce Tour, opening for A Tribe Called Quest. To listen to The Procussions’ music, visit their MySpace page.

Meanwhile, Panacea released their debut full-length album, Ink Is My Drink, Tuesday. Mixing lush vintage hip-hop beats with vivid storytelling, the album is one of the most refreshing hip-hop releases in recent memory. Samples of their music are available on their MySpace page.

For more information on Rawkus Records, its roster and music, make sure to check out its home page.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Before Gnarls, there was Cee-Lo.

Gnarls Barkley may have had the biggest song of 2006 with “Crazy” (Gnarls Barkley’s home page), but many don’t realize that the distinctive high-pitched voice behind Gnarls Barkley has been a prominent figure in the hip-hop world for more than a decade.

Cee-Lo (see his MySpace page) made his debut on Outkast’s 1994 single “Git Up, Git Out” and shortly followed this appearance with Soul Food, the debut album from his group Goodie Mob. With his distinctive rapping and singing style, Cee-Lo released three Goodie Mob albums, two solo projects and provided guest vocals for almost every Outkast album, in addition to dozens of other hip-hop albums by other artists.

Yet with all of Cee-Lo’s hard work, it has been St. Elsewhere, his experimental duet album with producer Danger Mouse (under the moniker of Gnarls Barkley), that has brought him the most notoriety and fame.

This image of Cee-Lo’s greatest hits collection (a European release) put things into perspective for me. That sticker on the cover, which reads “Cee-Lo is the voice of Gnarls Barkley,” will probably be a huge booster for the album’s sales.

Here in the United States, a similar compilation of hits, titled Closet Freak: The Best of Cee-Lo Green The Soul Machine will be released Oct. 31. Who knows, this well-timed release may help introduce Gnarls Barkley fans to a broad range of Cee-Lo’s work they may not have been aware of.