Saturday, October 18, 2008

Scrobble Scribble #12: The Lost Tapes by Nas

One of my favourite albums ever is Nas's debut, "illmatic". I don't know what possessed me to buy that album, and when I first bought it I didn't really understand it. But a few years later I can understand why it has been hailed as the classic that it is - the in-depth stories of a young, articulate artist not trying to glorifiy himself but reflecting the gritty realities of his surroundings and simply making the best of what's been handed to him. Backed by some of the best Hip Hop producers of that time (Large Professor, DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Q-Tip) who delivered on bringing original, perfectly fitting beats that could nod heads or put minds at ease, it was an overall masterpiece. Even the only guest, AZ, rips it in "Life's A Bitch" with some of the best lines i've ever heard in any song. Unfortunately, as most Nas fans would know, "illmatic" was too good and ever since, everyone compares his output that has followed, trying to measure it up to the classic that it is.

What I think the problem with Nas and Nas fans are expectations and hype. This is my theory. Hip Hop fans love to hold Nas on a higher plateau, and this affects the quality of the output. So now on most Nas albums, you'll get a handful of nice songs but the rest are damn near below average because he felt too much pressure to do something as good as "illmatic". Don't get me wrong though, I'm a big Nas fan myself and he's in my top 5 of most listened artists on Last.FM. But how do you explain that the three albums after Nas's debut had a similiar album cover and then when one finally got trashed by critics and fans, he came back with an album called "Stillmatic"? Hmmm. Anyway, on a lighter note, and to further my theory, this post is about "The Lost Tapes".

The premise of "The Lost Tapes" is a compilation of unreleased tracks from the aformentioned "Stillmatic" recording sessions or from the earlier double disc version of "I Am...". Unlike pretty much 110% of any other unreleased compilation that I have (which I hope isn't that many), this is actually good because five of the tracks aren't a remix or demo version of some old track that I've heard to death. No, why this album is so good and is actually better than some of Nas's studio albums is because it is made up off actual unreleased, unheard songs. And they're actually listenable. Some of these tracks are just crazy good such as No Idea's Original with a badass guitar and a bit of drum thrown in. It's great, and Nas raps about how pretty much everywhere, violence is happening for all the same reasons:

But it all revolve around drugs, fame and shorties Stuck for your bling, stripped for your chain, the same story From, Czechoslovakia to Texas metropolis Them, treacherous rockstars in the Mexican mafias Be scrappin with tats on they back, violent wars Nothin less than a lethal injection if ever caught Courtrooms, eagles and flags, American style While in our world, the ghetto stays incredibly foul

That was one of my favourites of the album but there's many on there. You get a lot of political songs on the album like Purple and Black Zombie, as well as inventive narrative where Nas tells the tale as a drunk in Drunk by Myself and Fetus where Nas describes his experience while still being unborn. May sound corny but Nas being as literate as he is, he's the only one that could execute it seriously. The choice cut for this one will be "Poppa Was a Playa", funnily enough produced by then-unknown Kanye West, gets Nas recounting the ways his dad would sneak around with other women. Nas doesn't really sound mad at him and is more glad to have had him around. The beat isn't dark either but sounds celebratory, I find it just great to listen to.

The winning formula of "The Lost Tapes"? It was a compilation of unreleased tracks, and as most compilations suck in quality, there wasn't any expectations for this to be so great. Unreleased tracks are usually unreleased tracks for a reason. However, rather than being on of the few good songs on Nas's albums, he compiled them all onto this which somehow just made sense. "The Lost Tapes" is an oddity in that, and was a success in succeeding expectations.

Nas - Poppa Was A Player


Real old school Hip Hop. This is the "Life's A Bitch" track I mentioned before where AZ drops some of the most memorable lyrics ever.

Nas (feat. AZ) - Life's A Bitch

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

Scrobble Scribble #11: I Want it Back by The Professionals

This is a belated post that I meant to do when the album that this belonged to got released. That album is "WLIB AM: King of the Wigflip" by Madlib who has in recent years grown to become one of my favourite artists, currently holding the number 1 spot on my Last.FM. He is very prolific, uses different aliases, has many side projects and, being a Hip Hop producer, has created beats for many Hip Hop artists. He has created straight Hip Hop albums, abstract Hip Hop, Dance, Jazz and even Funk albums. Just this year, he's released five projects (inclusive of this one). He is signed to the Stones Throw label.

For "WLIB", Madlib contributes the last addition to the BBE Beat Generation series which was started by J Dilla, Madlib's Stones Throw label mate and Jaylib (J Dilla + Madlib = Jaylib) partner. Although I didn't really notice much of a radio theme, that seems to be what Madlib was aiming for with this release showing how he can move between diverse sounds. However, since I suppose it is Madlib's radio station you get more of the music that he's experienced in which is Jazz, Soul, Hip-Hop and other urban-drenched sounds. On "WLIB", you get RnB, typical Hip Hop, abstract Hip Hop and instrumental beats. There is a few Stones Throw label mates that show up on a few tracks, and other guests include Talib Kweli, Murs and Stacy Epps.

I Want it Back is a collaboration between Madlib and younger brother Oh No as The Professionals. Oh No is also signed to Stones Throw being a fairly original artist in his own right. I'm assuming that Madlib provides the beat while Oh No does the rapping over this track, as Oh is the only one that can be heard rapping. I love the beat, it's a looped violin? Or organ? I'm not sure but it just works and is an epic beat . Oh No drops lyrics about how Hip Hop basically sucks because noone listens to the older Hip Hop, which was when it was better and "had more meaning". It's the same argument that pretty much every rapper gets on on every album, especially conscious rappers. But sonically, I can still dig it and maybe you will too. And this is one station I won't turn off.

The Professionals - I Want It Back

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Scrobble Scribble #10: Computer Love by Glass Candy

To follow the James Pants post I bring you Computer Love by Glass Candy off their "B/E/A/T/B/O/X" album, released this year. Still in the same sort of genre of James Pants, Glass Candy's music would be electronic, dance, disco. Last.FM also has electro/synthpop as a genre. This post will most likely be short because I actually only got the album a few days ago so I don't know much about Glass Candy or "B/E/A/T/B/O/X" but I had the album on repeat a lot yesterday, just because it sounded so good and is exactly what I needed. A good recommended artist would be Australia's own Cut Copy.

So I was really up for hearing a bit of dance and electro, and Glass Candy delivered. This selected track is a cover of Kraftwerk's own Computer Love, which I haven't listened to so I wouldn't be able to tell you if Glass Candy are faithful to the original (sorry, I am pretty useless for that). Something you may recognise immediately, I didn't until I had to ask my sister, that piano-like synth was used in Coldplay' Talk as they sampled Kraftwerk for that single. The girls who sings on this one does quite well but I honestly would've been fine if this was an instrumental. As it moves towards the end, that Talk sample is looped, with a constant drum pattern and a few odd but, I can't think of the word, but unobtrusive electronic effects. Enjoy!

Glass Candy - Computer Love

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Scrobble Scribble #9: We're Through by James Pants

Ahhh, James Pants. He's pretty odd. Signed to the Stones Throw label, which sung praise for in #4, the story goes that Pants met label head honcho Peanut Butter Wolf at his prom, or something. Oh and I just found out this week that he named himself after one of his pets and he was doing journalism but dropped out. To be honest thoug, before his debut album was getting hyped he just seemed so weird for the sake of standing out on the Stones Throw label. But obviously he uses this to his advantage and backs it up with a thoroughly the original and likable "Welcome", a great introduction to the musical style of James Pants.

Well maybe not a great introduction if you're trying to figure out what music he's actually making. Do you call it Funk? Electronic? I prefer to call it new age Disco but maybe that's me. Key quote from Pants' page on the Stones Throw website:

"Mr. Pants is a purveyor par excellence of that unmistakable “fresh beat”: 80’s Soul, Electro Boogie, Early Rap, New Wave, & Post-Punk Disco, all of which can be found on Welcome where James plays drums, keys, guitar and sings."
James Pants on Stones Throw Website

I'm also hard-pressed to find a recommended artist. However if you like Justice, Jamie Lidell & M.I.A. and other artists in that vein, you'd like James Pants. It's the irony of "Welcome" that the album itself is so out there. You get a few vocal tracks, you get a few instrumentals and its a wild ride of an album that should really be experienced. As it says on the Stones Throw website, "There's enough pants to fit any style."

Just a bit of a side note before I mention a bit on the track We're Through. The artist who did the cover for James Pants was Parra who has also done some other prior artwork for Stones Throw. I couldv'e sworn though that he did Kanye West's Good Life video but apparently I couldn't find anything to back that up.

I have choosen We're Through out of many because I love the way it builds at the start and opens those bells. It's got a pretty constant bassy sort of thing going through it. Pants' vocal work doesn't really deliver on her but that doesn't matter but the intrumentation just allows you to enjoy the track in all it's bouncy spaceness.

James Pants - We're Through

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Here is the clip for Good Life (also look up Justice's D.A.N.C.E. as its done by the same people in the same style). Is it similar to Parra's artwork for this album?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Scrobble Scribble #8: Esperanto by Jack McDuff & David Newman

Back at it again after a week's break. Technically, I could've given a post last week but I'm too lazy and worked heaps last week. The uni break extends to all of my work, thus I did nothing last week.

Don't think of it as a break though, because here at Scrobble Scribble I'm always scrobbling some of the music I listen to everyday. And tonight, it's a bit of "Double Barrelled Soul" by Jack McDuff & David Newman. I've chosen to use the individual artist URLs above because I think it's more accurate (and the correct artist for this album isn't adjusted). I'm a bit of a jazz fan, but not so far as in knowing actual stuff about muscian's and to be honest, I only picked up this album because it was cheap, had a stlyin' album cover and I had an album of McDuff's lying around some place which wasn't too shabby. According to the greatest encyclopeadiea of our time, Newman got his start playing in the Ray Charles band and "Brother Jack" McDuff and has probably released more than 50 albums (which is actually probably standard for jazz muscians back in the day though).

Not knowing as much about Jazz, I'm not sure what you could compare this album or the song Esperanto to. From it's name, and a bit at the start, I would've compared it to "Sketches of Spain" by one of my favourites, Miles Davis. But that organ and the flute that comes in pits it more in a down-tempo, jazz-groove rather than the spanish tinge in "Sketches...". It's a soft tune, but will surpise you with the screaming keys that come in around the middle which are a bit out of place, but what do I know. Esperanto means 'one who helps' in its language by the way, if that helps the listening experience.

Jack McDuff & David Newman - Esperanto

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Scrobble Scribble #7: Race for the Prize by The Flaming Lips

Pushing through the proverbial mush that is my capped internet, I march on in this blogosphere to bring you the 7th entry in Scrobble Scribbler - Race for the Prize by The Flaming Lips.

The Flaming Lips are a fun little band apparently. Whenever I hear about/see their gigs their is always some confetti, balloons, costumes and a giant bubble involved. I'm so shocked that I haven't had a chance to go yet, but the next time they come I will definitely not skip on that chance. Neither should you, because it would be quite the experience.

I have around 5? Or a bit more than 5 I'm not sure [Actually 10 upon further inspection, including DVDs and EPs]. The earliest album I have of theirs is "Hit to Death in the Future Head" which I haven't actually listened to that much so I can't tell you what I think about it. I'd really like to listen to Zarieeka one day.

How can I describe The Flaming Lips? Well, it's sort of like psychedelic/indie/space rock. Out of all rock bands, I'd have to say that The Flaming Lips is my favorite and actually pushed me to get into rock post my Hip Hop stage. As for similiar artists - I'd say MGMT though they're more dancey they have that psychedelia about them.

So Race for the Prize is off their stylistic breakthrough of an album, "The Soft Bulletin" which, if you asked, would probably be named their best album evar by critics. I wouldn't call it my favourite album of theirs because I would only listen to a few songs of off this. If I had to pick a favourite I'd probably choose their album after this one, "Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots" because it just seems to make more sense to me. Go figure.

The lyrics of Race are sort of positively cynical. Sure you have two scientists racing for "the cure", "for the good of all mankind" but they are "sacrifice their lives" because "they're just humans, with wives and children". What is the greater good? That we have two humans that spend all their time researching, and if one wins that scientist get all the recognition yet they have not developed time with their family? Or should we not find a cure so that they can just be the same with humans. Do we need a cure? Yes probably and to get it, we have to sacrifice a life to save lives. Do we view them as heroes or egoists?

The vocals coupled with the instrumentation don't really give you a true indication and I think the true message is that you have to accept both sides of what the song gives you. Because if you listen to the instruments, I can only really identify the drum I don't know what that other synthesizer/piano/keyboard is and I think there's some guitar probably, they're very loud and celebratory but Wayne's singing is sort of mellow. I get this sense of anxiousness in his singing, troubled by the fact that these two scientists are racing and trying to reflect on the situation.

Anyway, great song. One of my favourites - it's 5th most played on my Last.FM charts - The Flaming Lips are a magical band that created something special in this song.

The Flaming Lips - Race for the Prize

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As my internet is slow, I am not sure which video on YouTube would be the best to see a bit of their amazing live performance because I looked it up ages ago. Instead, here is a clip of The Flaming Lips with The White Stripes performing Seven Nation Army that I watched semi-recently. It is really fucking cool.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Scrobble Scribble #6: Gila by Beach House

^Do you like that? Just a little bit more of an integration of Last.FM by me into this post. And may I add - I much prefer typing up these Scribbles than doing video after the horrible quality of Scrobble Scribble #5.

So I would've Scrobbled that track around a bit more than an hour now. As I am typing I'll probably play it again just to refresh my memory on the song, check my charts.

Gila, taken from Beach House's newest album "Devotion", is mesmerizing and slow. I can't honestly say I don't know a true similar artist to Beach House, although you could find out through Last.FM, but apparently they're given the genre label of "dream pop". Actually, Last.FM's recommended artists aren't very accurate (although I don't really classify as a regular listener of any of the listed artists). The closest artist I can think of musically, would be Air. Air is more electronica inclined but they have that dream pop type atmosphere.

Gila is more organically orchestral because of the organ in this particular song giving it a very ethereal type quality. The singer, Victoria Legrand, has a distance from the song and an echo effect which rely enforces that etherealness. When she sings Gila in the chorus is really good, and soft. To be honest, I can't make sense of the lyrics and the closest thing I could find about the world Gila itself is a creature called the Gila monster.

Just a short post for Beach House, there's not really much else to say but enjoy the good, chilled music.

Beach House - Gila

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In Scrobble Scribble #5 I mentioned near the end of the video that I saw Beach House perform Gila on Pitchfork which was what inspired me to do this post. The video is below, it is the 1st part of 3 done for the Juan's Basement segment on