I Love Rap

Dec 19

A$AP Rocky - Wassup
Produced by Clams Casino
From 2011’s LIVE.LOVE.A$AP

     This the only rap song I’ve wanted to listen to for the last two months.

     With the spacious atmospherics of a classic Jay Dee-era J. Dilla track (think ATCQ’s “Get a Hold" or Slum Village’s "Untitled (Fantastic)”) and a massive but empathetic bassline worthy of a cold 80’s pop classic like “Time After Time" already providing the high, Clams Casino just needs to throw down an occasional to metronomic clap and a cymbalic vamp to keep things moving forward, but it’s the times he leaves them off that the song really flies.  These moments when Rocky is left to wander off into the foggier parts of his mind are the ones that push the song from a classic head-nodder to a serious eyebrow-raiser.

     A$AP Rocky’s a genuine talent.  The kind of guy that’s bound to get better, but shows up fully formed. I mean, as great as the instrumental rides, Rocky lands it so cleanly and with so much originality that any rapper would be making a mistake by taking their own stab at it. “Back once again” is not the way you expect someone to start track four of their first full-length mixtape, but when you find it locked on repeat longer than the “Niggas in Paris” instrumental at a Watch the Throne concert, it starts to make a lot of sense.


May 24

AGREE TO DISAGREE with Dave and Raphael

I know I haven’t posted in a while, but here’s a debate from Facebook that a friend of mine and I had about GLAAD’s reaction to Tyler, the Creator’s lyrics.


Dave Segal writes a blog about rap music. Raphael Bob-Waksberg writes this blog that you are reading right now. They are good friends who often disagree about things on Facebook (like the below conversation). This is… AGREE TO DISAGREE.

Dave: GLAAD going after Tyler, the Creator over lyrics is ridiculous. He’s equal opportunity in his offensiveness. He’s not just homophobic and misogynistic, he’s also racist, beastialic, masochistic, incestuous, and so on and so on. That’s the whole point. It’s like getting mad at a SAW movie because there were scenes that bothered people with a fear of needles. Do you really expect sympathy for that?

When you listen to intentionally offensive things and then write about how offended you were by them, you might as well just start out with, “Congratulations!” cause you’re just affirming their success.

(Or like me getting upset about a GLAAD blog post about Tyler, the Creator! Was I expecting the post to call him a hero? Come on! Know what you’re getting into, Dave!)

Raphael: It’s kind of like your SAW example, if people who had a fear of needles made up 10 percent of the population, and people who had a fear of needles were constantly harassed, often to the point of suicide, and if there was an organization whose very purpose was to look out for people who had a fear of needles and to call out those who are making their lives more difficult, so hopefully the world can be a less ugly place for people who have a fear of needles, and maybe we as a culture can stop deifying people who spew hate, ESPECIALLY if spewing hate is “the whole point.”

Adam Conover: I agree with both of you, so I’m just going to point out that I think it’s funny that the only thing people ever “spew” is hate. Just once, I’d like to see someone spew, say, a math lecture.

Dave: I think part of looking out for people who have a fear of needles is to choose your targets wisely. Choose those who are actually defaming needle-fearers, instead of those who are using needles to scare people in conjunction with every other fear you can think of. If you ignore the broader context and focus on the part that bothers you, you risk diminishing your other, more important, claims because you come to be known as a knee-jerk reactionary organization who can’t differentiate attacks on and harassment of needle-fearers from art and poetry whose intent is to examine that which people are scared of.

Tyler is delving into the dark side of his own teenage mind, and other people getting upset about what he finds, to me, shows that they don’t understand what he’s talking about. It’s more Dostoevsky than it is Limbaugh.

Raphael: I guess we just have different reads on GLAAD’s statement because I don’t find it reactionary or knee-jerk at all. If GLAAD isn’t saying things like “Tyler’s attempts to be provocative as well as his indifference towards the consequences of his actions are irresponsible,” and “words matter; slurs have the power to fuel intolerance,” then I don’t know what the point of GLAAD is.

Tyler, the Creator IS actually defaming women and homosexuals, even if it’s in the name of “examining that which people are scared of,” an excuse that to me reads as ridiculous and empty as GLAAD’s statement reads to you. There is nothing subversive or satirical about calling people “faggots” (lots of teenagers do this) or joking about rape and violence against women (lots of teenagers do this too), nor is it a particularly new and fresh conceit to claim these things are subversive or satirical. (As far as writers go, Tyler seems to be more Bret Easton Ellis than Dostoevsky.)

Saying horrible things just to get a rise out of people, or just because you think it’s funny are not in my book good enough reasons to say horrible things. You accuse GLAAD of ignoring the broader context, but I think one of the major critiques against Tyler (even from Odd Future defenders) is that it’s unclear what the broader context is. Of course I believe that Tyler doesn’t actually want to cut up women’s clitorises with broken bottles, but I’m not sure there’s an intent behind his lyrics more sophisticated than “saying this stuff is taboo and therefore it’s funny.” Him saying things in interviews like “I’m not homophobic. I just say ‘faggot’ and use ‘gay’ as an adjective to describe stupid shit” doesn’t exactly fill me with confidence.

The “If you don’t like it, just look away” strategy only works if you don’t want anything to change. In today’s environment, where teen bullying is still a major problem and 1 in 6 women are sexually assaulted, I’d much rather organizations like GLAAD stay on the offensive.

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Mar 31

Nice & Smooth - Sometimes I Rhyme Slow
Produced by Nice & Smooth
From 1991’s Ain’t A Damn Thing Changed

I saw my first Chic-O-Stick last night and considered it a sign.

And if for some reason you don’t know, let me save you an hour of humming to yourself — it’s Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car”.

Mar 29

Busta Rhymes - Iz They Wildin Wit Us And Getting Rowdy Wit Us (ft. Mystikal)
Produced by 2000 Watts (aka Darrell “Delite” Allamby)
From 1998’s Extinction Level Event

One of the better sonic reproductions of adrenaline that I’ve ever heard.

Mar 24

Ol’ Dirty Bastard - Recognize (ft. Chris Rock and Pharrell)
Produced by The Neptunes
From 1999’s Nigga Please

One of my favorite combinations of voices of all time. It’s a damned shame these three didn’t become a super-group.

Neptunes production always goes best with rough/raw voices. It’s a wonderful dialogue. Think back to their work with Mystikal … you know I’m right.

Mar 22

Sir Mix-A-Lot - Posse on Broadway
Produced by Sir Mix-A-Lot
From 1988’s Swass

Sir Mix does his take on the Beastie Boys. Nails it.

Mar 17

A mix of Nate Dogg classics made in ‘08. DL


Mar 15

Raheem - Shotgun
Produced by Karl Stephenson & J. Prince
From 1988’s The Vigilante

I threw this album on for the first time the other day. Dug a little bit of this, a little bit of that. Then “Shotgun” comes on and it’s got that late 80’s hardcore rap style that I always dig matched up with some nice electronic tweakin’ that makes me go nuts. So already, it’s on my shortlist of new old gems.

Then the melodic guitars came in on the chorus, and I just lost it. What are they doin’ on a song from 88? So good.

So I played the song like ten times in a row, and finally got around to checking out who was behind this little monster. Turns out it’s one of the few credits that Karl Stephenson ever racked up. His production career consists of a few early Rap-A-Lot records (like pre-“proper”-Geto Boys), half of Beck’s Mellow Gold album, half of MC Skat Kat’s solo album (yes the cartoon cat from the Paula Abdul video had a whole album), and Karl’s own Forest for Trees album that apparently made him have a nervous breakdown and stop producing.

But, man, does that chorus kill it …

Mar 10

Lakim Shabazz - Getting Fierce
Produced by The 45 King
From 1989’s Pure Righteousness

This record is full of hard-hitters like this. One of my fav’s of ‘89.

Mar 08

Mos Def & Talib Kweli (a.k.a. Black Star) - Respiration (ft. Common)
Produced by Hi-Tek
From 1998’s Black Star

Did Common have to borrow clothes from Busta Rhymes for this video shoot? He looks ridiculous in the army fatigues.

Mar 01

Earl Sweatshirt - Luper
Produced by Tyler, the Creator
From 2010’s EARL

Somewhere between a golden age story rap and a late-nineties horrorcore ditty. A slice of adolescent frustration that follows whatever path it wishes. It’s not my everyday, but I enjoy the look inside.


Feb 24

Unkle - Guns Blazing (Drums of Death, Pt. 1) (ft. Kool G Rap)
Produced by DJ Shadow
From 1998’s Psyence Fiction

Kool G Rap over DJ Shadow production. Kool G make ya face fall off …


Feb 22

World Renown - Roll Wit It
Produced by Blackcat
From 1995’s unreleased World Renown

Even if this was the only good track on their unreleased album, it would warrant a re-issue (or, really, first issue). But the fact is, I’ve heard a handful of tracks from them that are this strong, and that’s without being able to hear the whole album, and it just makes it that much more mind-boggling as to why it never came out.


Feb 17

Craig G - Ummm!!!!
Produced by Marley Marl and Craig G
From 1991’s Now, That’s More Like It

Craig G’s 2nd LP definitely has some solid cuts. Someday I’ll put together a mix called Space Jams, and this will be on it. Surprisingly, the Monstar’s Anthem probably won’t.


Feb 15

Curren$y - Famous
Produced by Monsta Beatz
From 2010’s Pilot Talk II

In case you weren’t up on how classic Curren$y’s getting …