I was extra frustrated with the original title of Nas' untitled album a few years back (and the outfits he and Kelis wore with that word on it), but when he came out with one of my favorite CDs ever "Distant Relatives," he won me over (again). I loved watching him on "Behind the Music," especially when he talked about Kelis (man, I wish those two would've worked out). I've always been a fan of most of his music. I used to play the hell out of "I Wanna Talk To" and "Dr. Knockboot" on the "I Am" album when I was in undergrad at Northern Michigan University and saw him perform live when I was in grad school at DePaul. So what do I like about this album? Everything.
Four this week since I did 11 last week.
1. Lupe Fiasco's interview on The Breakfast Club: Minus stupid questions about bodily functions and praying over white women, this interview was pretty intelligent. No matter how many goofy questions were asked, Lupe kept the interview from going left and his views on positive hip-hop and lyricism were so dead on. I still don't agree with him when it comes to voting and the presidential election, but I was very impressed with "L.A.S.E.R.S.," love "Bitch Bad" and will definitely be checking out "Food and Liquor 2."
2. Nas' "Life Is Good" CD: I heard "Bye Baby" and "Daughters," but I have an interesting track record with Nas' music. I've seen him perform live in grad school and loved it. I think he's absolutely gorgeous. I thought it was cool how unapologetically in love with Kelis he was and crack up on "Behind the Music" when he talks about her. I gushed over his CD with Damien Marley and still constantly listen to "Distant Relatives." I even leaned more his way with the Jay-Z beef. But sometimes he'll make a song (or an album title) that makes me wonder about him. This CD though? I play it straight through. I'll review it later, but I just really enjoyed it. It was such a relief to hear a hip-hop CD and actually want to listen to the lyrics while bobbing my head to the beat. It's rare that I find both on one CD. I see why he's had so much success on the Billboard charts with this one. The Deluxe version with the bonus songs is the best. Buy it on Best Buy or Half.com. (I will review the CD some time this weekend when I'm at home. Hanging out on my days off right now though.)
Plenty to smile about these past couple of weeks so let's get this thing going!
1. Watching 'The Marvin Gaye Story: Don't Talk About My Father Because God Is My Friend': I've said pretty much all I can say in this blog post, but I was talking to my mother today who said, "I'd go see that again." My response, "I knew I wasn't the only one." It was that fun to see.
2. My great great aunt at my cousin's wedding: Everyone was a little concerned about whether my great great aunt would make it to my cousin's wedding. She's 100 and, although still spunky, people are starting to get more worried. I knew my aunt really wanted to be there so it was cool to see photos of her in attendance. How often do we have centenarian relatives who are around for special events?
3. Hanging out with Mom on her __th birthday: She probably won't care if I publish her age but just in case. It was fun hanging out with her to attend the Marvin Gaye play and have a cooked meal ready for her to eat (cabbage, hot water cornbread, iced tea). She enjoyed it, too.
Black Ensemble Theater's 'The Marvin Gaye Story: Don't Talk About My Father Because God Is My Friend' (5 out of 5)
I'm a huge Marvin Gaye fan so when I saw a flyer of Marvin Gaye staring at me from my great great aunt's cocktail table, I snatched it up quickly. I'd been brainstorming on something fun to do for my mother's birthday on July 18 and I got my love of Marvin Gaye (although I think I've upped her on super fan) from my parents. So I bought tickets to this play the very same night. I wasn't really sure what it would be about (outside of the obvious) but if Marvin Gaye is involved, I'm there! I already own all of his hits via CDs; "The Real Thing" DVD; made him my first choice for a Black Music Month series on Yahoo!; and had plenty to say about Tammi Terrell on "Unsung." On my desk at work and on a wall at home I have the Ebony "Black Cool" cover issue with Marvin Gaye. There is no R&B artist I like as much as Marvin Gaye even though he died when I was 2 1/2 years old.
With that said, I was a little concerned about who would play his part. I've always rooted for Jesse L. Martin because he reminds me of Marvin Gaye, but the movie talk keeps coming and going. This play was as close as I was going to get to bringing him to life again. It wasn't just about the acting. I was wondering who could possibly pull off singing a Marvin Gaye song (I have the same skepticism whenever someone tries to sing Michael Jackson, and only two artists have impressed me so far -- Chris Brown's breakdown 2010 BET Awards performance and the outstanding cover from Tahj Mowry). When you're playing a legend, you have to be immaculate. Black Ensemble actor Rashawn Thompson was indeed!
I'll have to thank MTV's "AMTV" for liking B.O.B. I'd heard of him, and I knew he worked with T.I., but none of the singles I heard really caught my attention. I heard the compliments directly from T.I. about B.O.B., and I've been on a tangent a million times about how wack today's hip-hop (mainly) is but he just didn't spark my attention. Then one late night I accidentally happened to luck up and see "Both of Us." I've been really into country music for the past couple of years so my head whipped around to see Taylor Swift singing because I never knew she was the one singing the song. After that video I started listening to more songs by B.O.B. and realized I was missing out. This CD is really cool minus a song or two.
I'm not into "Where Are You?" When artists have a sit-down with themselves, it either really works or really doesn't. I'm not sure if enough listeners are familiar with B.O.B. to consider him an artist that has changed. When Drake and T.I. did it, we were familiar with the topics they talked about. I think B.O.B. has slipped under the radar of celebrity tripping, but the song is him wagging a finger at himself. I could be wrong though.
However, I appreciate that I'm listening to the lyrics far more than the beats, although he doesn't shortstop on the beats. My favorite song besides "Both of Us" is "Ray Bands." That's not usually a song I would hop on, but I watched him perform live on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno." That performance seemed like it would've connected more with Mo'Nique's audience than Jay Leno's, but I was amused that B.O.B. didn't seem to give a damn. Cornbread thick dancers stepping like they were in sororities. Him with a gold grill, randomly gyrating or getting close to one of the dancers. I liked the energy. I like his energy in general. Even on his most fast-paced song, he still remains pretty cool. I play this CD straight through (minus the Nicki Minaj collabo, which she is talking about a bunch of nothing for the millionth time) and feel like I need to do some reverse buys to check out his earlier work.
I'd been wanting to hear his mixtape for a couple of years, but I never heard of DatPiff.com so up until this past week when I listened to David Banner's "Sex, Drugs & Video Games," I didn't know where to get it. I own all of the rest of his music, but this mixtape was missing from the collection (and a pain in the ass to burn). And now that I've heard it, I love it just as much as the rest of his CDs. As much as I complain about the excessive amount of times rappers use the word "bitch" on a CD, what originally caught my attention about this CD was how hilarious "Bitch Crazy" is. I like it when rappers can blend real experiences with comedy, and he clowned on that track.
As far as the rest of this CD, he did what he does on every single CD. He does a little bit of singing, a whole lot of rapping, plenty more talking about his personal experiences (and not just the b.s. about partying and money) and isn't afraid to rap about love and camaraderie. What do I like about this CD? Everything. What don't I like about it? Nothing. I press play and let the entire CD play straight through. It's just that good, and it took me far too long to hear it. I like Clipse and Rich Boy's accent always gets me charged up.
One other thing I enjoy about this CD is how well he and Trey Songz collaborate. Usually when I hear a bunch of collabos, one rapper (or singer) is better than the other. Even with artists who are equally talented (ex. Kanye West and Jay-Z on "Watch the Throne"), I tend to like one artist more than the other on each song. Same goes for Eric B. and Rakim or Mos Def and Talib Kweli (Black Star). But these two artists are equally yoked ("Replacement Girl" and "Missin' You [Remix]" are two of my favorite collabos). I'm not crazy about Trey Songz as a rapper, but I love it when he sings on other people's songs (as well as his own). I'm not over the top snapping my fingers when Drake sings but he can pull it off, although I dig him as a singing rapper. But what I like more about Drake is that I'm actually listening to what Drake has to say. He's the type of rapper that I would listen to a capella because I know he's going to say something important or thought-provoking more often than not. Ninety percent of the other rappers I hear on the radio, especially the new ones, could disappear from music and I wouldn't give a damn. If Drake ever retires, I'll be pissed though.
Side note: For you folks who don't like Drake because he will do positive raps about women and isn't afraid to talk about loving, you need a hug. Rappers sounding bitter, calling women out of their names and co-signing with saying they're only hos and tricks is counterproductive. If females are so terrible, stick to men. You'll save everybody the pouting, scrubs! Watch "Waiting to Exhale," get the scowl off of your face and meditate.
I've heard quite a few singers try to go into rapping (and vice versa) and I can count on one hand the number that can successfully do both (Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot...noticing a pattern here?). Chris Brown is the first male singer who I've ever heard who can not only pull off rapping, but he's really good at it. When I heard "Look at Me Now," I was surprised. When I heard Chris Brown on the cypher for the "2011 BET Hip-Hop Awards," I was thinking, "Oh wow, he's for real?"
This entire CD is full of great beats, high energy and his raps complimenting every inch of the rhythm. So why 3 stars instead of 5? My only complaint is he's not talking about much. Unlike on his R&B CDs ("Fortune" is a banger), it's the same topic over and over again. We hear about the women (who he repeatedly calls "bitches," something I could definitely do without), his riches (hip-hop is known to be flashy but it gets boring quickly) and partying (nothing wrong with a party every now and then). But then what? The raps sound like any other Hip Hop Template Rapper could've done them. Hos, bitches, big asses, money, haters and an excessive amount of times using the n-word . How many times can rappers rhyme about the same thing?
The only time he kept my attention was when he did songs like "Leave the Club" (he was singing though), "Marvin's Room" (as much as I like Drake I think Chris Brown has the upper hand on this one, and he's singing again), "Sweetheart" (yup, singing again) and "Strip" (s-i-n-g-i-n-g). Surprised the hell out of me that I'm bumping "Ladies Love Me" harder than any other song though. Justin Bieber on "Ladies Love Me" is like Eminem on Jay-Z's "Renegade." He slayed this song, and I was absolutely surprised. I did not think Justin Bieber would be a good rapper and shrugged at "Boyfriend." I heard him rapping Tupac verses on a recent interview, but it's one thing to rap someone else's song and another to pull off your own lyrics. Now whether he wrote the lyrics on "Ladies Love Me" is beyond me, but the delivery on this song was impeccable. I play this song nonstop and am still surprised that two singers who I never envisioned rapping did such a great job. What I like about Justin Bieber's verse is he didn't curse, he didn't use the n-word (my gawd I hope he never does), he didn't call women "bitches" and he still had the best verse on the entire CD (I paid no attention to the other guest rappers). The Biebs killed it. I turned into a Belieber.
"Whoa there, whoa there, baby you just need to stop, I'm busy out performing and I'm going to the top!"
I'd be interested in supporting Chris Brown as a rapper. He's 55/45 when it comes to talent between rapping and singing, which means he's almost as good at rapping as he is singing. I can't even say I like him better as a singer. I enjoy him as a rapper, but I just want him to rap about something that matters, something bigger than himself.
Originally when I heard on a Breakfast Club interview about him asking people to donate a dollar for a movement he started, I was thinking, "If you can afford to pay all these speeding tickets, why don't you use your money for us all?" I'd enjoyed a few of David Banner's songs but others not so much. However, every single time I saw him during an interview he impressed me. He's a really intelligent guy who dumbs down some of his music to please an audience hell bent on ignoring the history of hip-hop. So when I got to songs about loose Mexican women on the West Coast and naked women counting his money, I was set to move on to the next mixtape on DatPiff.com. Then I got to songs like "Malcolm X (A Song to Me)" and "Swag Remix," and played the hell out of these songs. Nonstop repeat. I downloaded these songs so fast and confirmed why I continue to listen to his music. Yeah, he has some seriously vulgar music that's not talking about much of anything, but when he drops some knowledge on us, he seriously does. Even on songs that I'm not crazy about the lyrics ("Yao Ming"), his energy is so crazy that I can't help but bob my head to the song (and for some reason 2 Chainz is growing on me). I'm going to donate to his cause, $1 for every song I enjoy. "Sex, Drugs and Video Games" (the single) and "Amazing" are growing on me, too, so I'm calculating $4 in donations so far.
I was on the news desk looking for articles to add to the MoD pages when I happened to run across LA Times' article "Animal rescuers become a sick, abandoned dog's many best friends." I had a German Shepherd mixed with Labrador Retriever for 13 years and dognap my parents' German Shepherd for the past 7 years so dogs are clearly close to my heart. I can't wrap my mind around why someone would own a dog they can't take care of or let that dog get to the point where it's drinking its own urine (fucking ridiculous!), but this line almost put me in tears: "Now sitting before me was the canine equivalent of a Charlie Brown Christmas tree. Shy and smelly, he was perfect."
Anyway, I really enjoyed the article but I think it's terrible that the article had to be written in the first place.
Before I start this review: I heard music reviewers were murdering this album because of Rihanna. If Rihanna was able to forgive him, do a song with him (i.e. "Birthday Cake"), follow him on Twitter (well, she unfollowed him now) and go on about her career and life, why are you still mad? If you're shaking a fist at Chris Brown but rocking along with Eminem's lyrics, that's hypocritical ("Bad Versus Evil" was a middle finger to women everywhere). If you're shaking a fist at Chris Brown but blasting James Brown (check out Tammi Terrell's "Unsung"), you need a T-shirt that says "I'm a hypocrite." If you think Tommy Lee is still a cool drummer but can't stand Chris Brown, get matching "hypocrite" jeans. (There's an interesting read in the LA Times that I think the grudge holders should check out: "Commentary: Is Chris Brown the victim of a double standard?")
Even though I thought what Ike Turner did was totally messed up, I still rocked along to Ike and Tina Turner's duets. I'm completely opposed to domestic violence, but Rihanna let it go. Neither person is in my family or even someone who knows me by name so I'm treating them as entertainers. Their personal lives are their own. I was disappointed for a couple months, but I got over it in 2009. You should, too!
Now onto the review: I can't find one flaw in the entire album. It's full of love songs, dance songs, some incredibly vulnerable lyrics and some subliminal messages for a lady out there ("Don't Judge Me" and "4 Years Old"). I don't even understand how Rihanna came up in any of the songs. The man didn't stop dating after that relationship. Most of the songs sounds like he's talking to someone else (but only he can confirm/deny that). Either way, his latest album has the same quality music full of energy, and his voice appears to have improved even more. Because I loved his performance at the "2012 BET Awards," "Turn Up the Music" is my favorite song at the moment but I love dancing to "Trumpet Lights." It has that Chicago footwork/house music style that I know somebody's crew is snapping to. He won the awards he won and continues to put out phenomenal music because he is a talented artist. No matter what you personally think of him, I'm judging his music. And this right here is a banger! I don't skip past any songs.