Monday, January 21, 2008

Rap (or Hip-Hop) Review

For the past few days, I have been on a rap binge. My sister came home from college with a few rap albums she said I need to hear. Then we went to the library the next day and we left with a few more rap albums. I listened to all of these (a total of seven, less than I thought) in two days. I came out with a whole new viewpoint on rap (or hip-hop or whatever).

As with most young people, I had that requisite rap stage in fifth grade and into middle school. For some reason, Like Mike really captivated me. I don't know why, nor do I want to know why. I listened to that soundtrack a million times. I thought I was pretty cool for listening to that. After a while, I moved into the whole "Rap is crap" phase of my life. I wasn't really interested in 50 Cent, Nelly, Young Buck, G-Unit, or any of those people really. I hated rap, rappers, and all the people that listened to it. In eighth grade it was really bad. I was a blues snob and hated everything. However, like all things, I grew out of that stage (thank God). Now, thanks to a sister who is a music major, I have been exposed to many different types of music, including rap (again). This time around, I made sure not to abandon my roots (experimental rock). And this is what I came up with:

In the past week, I have listened to:
The Black Album – Jay-Z
Graduation – Kanye West
The Cool – Lupe Fiasco
Kala – M.I.A.
Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A
Hip Hop Is Dead – Nas
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Public Enemy
The Low End Theory – A Tribe Called Quest

After listening to all of these, I feel a little "rapped" out, but not so enough that I can't write about these.

The Black Album – Jay-Z
This was my least favorite album of all that I listened to. Jay-Z's voice just doesn't have it for me. Also, I just don't feel that Jay-Z can really rap about his subject matter. It's confusing, but let me explain. I think of Jay-Z more as Shawn Carter now than Jay-Z. I see him as a millionaire mogul. And then I hear him rapping in "Justify My Thug," and I just don't get it. Why does a multi-millionaire mogul need to rap about his "thug"? I'm probably not in touch with the whole street thing (Esco or J. Hova, want to clue me it?), but this song seems a little unnecessary. I'd probably be more accepting of this if it was in his older stuff, but in 2003? I don't think so.
Anyway, I would have to say that my favorite song off of this album is "99 Problems." That's probably everybody's favorite Jay-Z song, but it is a great song. It has a "Fuck Tha Police" feel in it. That's the only song I really like off of The Black Album.
Guess I'll have to get some more Jay-Z.

Graduation – Kanye West
Compared to The College Dropout, Graduation is great. I did not like The College Dropout at all. There were too many skits in it and I didn't really feel the flow in it. Graduation is a different story. I really like the feel to it and I like Kanye better than Jay-Z, so that might have something to do with it as well. I don't really have any qualms about this album.


My favorite song off this album is "Stronger." I really like the song, partly because of the Daft Punk sample, but West does a good job of rapping over it and not totally destroying it.

The Cool – Lupe Fiasco
Now, if there's one thing I hate, it is super long rap albums. However, The Cool doesn't do that to me. Despite weighing in at 19 tracks, Lupe Fiasco can keep my attention span for the period of time needed to listen to the entire album. This album is full of great tracks. "Go Go Gadget Flow" is my favorite song off of this album. "Paris, Tokyo" and "Hi-Definition" keep this album interesting. I'll admit my interest fell off near the end while I was listening because of the length, but nonetheless, a great sophomore release. No sophomore slump for Lupe Fiasco.

Kala – M.I.A.
M.I.A. has been taking the British underground scene by storm and for good reason. She is a rising star in the world. Kala is a great album. She's got great beats and everything. My favorite tracks are "Paper Planes" and "Come Around." "Come Around" is fine until Timbaland comes in and starts rapping. The songs on this album have almost tribal beats to them, making them extremely catchy.
Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A
I liked this album but I just had one problem with it: the songs are too damn long. I guess when you have X number of members you have to let each of them have a shout-out, but it gets ridiculous. I barely made it through this album just because of the length of it. Still a great one. Not as good as some of the other ones, but I still really liked it.

Hip Hop Is Dead – Nas
This is the best album out of all the ones I listened to. I really liked Nas's delivery and the album had the whole epic delivery to it. I'm going braindead right now, but the album is just good top to bottom. My favorite song off of this one is the title track, which seems cliché, but I always find it in my head. This is probably my favorite album out of all of these.

It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back – Public Enemy
This album is a showcase of Chuck D's genius. Most of today's generation would just recognize Flavor Flav from this and just talk about him. However, I feel that Flavor makes it hard to take Public Enemy seriously, because whenever I hear his voice I just start thinking about Flavor of Love and just start laughing. Chuck D steals the show though. I have read about how this album is all him and if it is, it is a work of art. I would have to say that my favorite song off of this album though is "Cold Lampin' With Flavor." No other songs really stick out even though it is a great album.


The Low End Theory – A Tribe Called Quest
I really, really like this group and album. I love the bass and drum beats in all the songs, and I like how the lyrics seem to lack the pretentiousness found in the lyrics of other artists. I find the fact that there is an Arsenio Hall reference in almost every song quite amusing. This album has a laid-back feel, but you can feel the beat being pushed by the drums and bass and the occasional horn solo. Great album. My favorite song is "What?" credited to the fact that it was the line "What is a compound without a element?"

Rank of the Albums
Hip Hop Is Dead – Nas
The Low End Theory – A Tribe Called Quest
The Cool – Lupe Fiasco
It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back – Public Enemy
Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A
Graduation – Kanye West
Kala – M.I.A.
The Black Album – Jay-Z

Your thoughts on my opinions?

Or your opinions on my thoughts?

I'm no hip-hop/rap expert by the way.

Thanks.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

have you listened to jay z's american gangster? if you get the concept then it really comes together, unlike justify my thug.

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