Shot Of Rhythm

[ Saturday, November 11, 2006 ]


Jukebox favorites

In the fine tradition of our friend Lauren over at Get Down Girl, I thought I'd post a few tracks that are lightin' up my airwaves the past few days.

-Everybody's been talking about the new Beyonce single, "Irreplaceable," and for good reason: it's a fine pop/R&B song that, unsurprisingly, has taken on anthem status with a growing number of our sisteren around the country. As much as I dig on "Irreplaceable," though, I'm still totally in love with the club bangers that make up the rest of B-DAY, including the one posted below, the straight funky (and straight Southern) "Suga Mama."

Beyonce - "Suga Mama"

-Christina Aguilera's album, like Beyonce's, continues to remain among my favorites of the year, and the below track - the nuthin'-but-a-she-thang grind "Still Dirrty" - is one of the main reasons.

Christina Aguilera - "Still Dirrty"

-The Pussycat Dolls are holding up way better than they should, and their newest single "Wait A Minute" - in collaboration with the ever-more-impressive Timbaland - is their best yet. In this year of a real pop renaissance, I hope that the Dolls take their rightful place with the artists above, as well as the other purveyors of full-blast creativity that have re-sparked pop's boundless energy and ongoing debates over sex, gender and honesty. Besides, Timbaland's never sounded better.

The Pussycat Dolls (feat. Timbaland) - "Wait A Minute"

-Now, sure, the Ying Yang Twins are ridiculous, over-the-top and sometimes flat offensive. But, I defy anyone to listen to the tune below, which leaked from their upcoming album, and not feel something start to bounce deep inside you.

Ying Yang Twins - "Jigglin'"

-From the ridiculous to the sublime: two newly leaked tracks from among the finest bunch of musicians that American music has at the moment. Each track is deep, righteous soul music, shot through hip-hop's post-modern kaleidoscope. The Roots have already proven themselves this year, with the finest album of the year, I can only hope that Snoop's new album is half as good as this track, and I hope that Dre and D'Angelo will both get back on their own wild horses really soon.

The Roots (feat. Zion I) - "Pity The Child"/"Come Together"

Snoop Dogg (feat. Dr. Dre and D'Angelo) - "Imagine"

See y'all around the Victrola...

On the box right now: Jay-Z, KINGDOM COME.


Dove With Claws [6:50 PM]

[ Wednesday, November 08, 2006 ]


Soul man

On this beautiful morning, when I feel like the world might not yet be spiralling into disaster, it seems like a perfect time to spotlight my favorite record of the past couple weeks, John Legend's ONCE AGAIN. I quite liked Legend's first album, particularly its rootsier moments, but wasn't quite ready to crown him the king of anything, in the fashion of some eager soul-heads. After this effort, though, I'm a few steps closer to the coronation. This is a rich, textured collection of material that manages to at once push against the genre's boundaries while maintaining a connection to its valuable component parts. Rather than circling the wagons around his debut's successful formula, Legend branches out into musical territory that can seem difficult at times (and makes ONCE AGAIN a more acquired taste than its predecessor) but ultimately, on multiple listens, reveals its many pleasures to the dedicated listener. It's also a much better collection of songs and performances than the first record, with Legend's voice sounding particularly supple and Hathaway-like on a few tracks. I've spotlighted three of those tracks below.

"Save Room"

"Slow Dance"

"Where Did My Baby Go?"

On the box right now: Birdman and Lil Wayne, LIKE FATHER LIKE SON.


Dove With Claws [8:20 AM]

[ Sunday, November 05, 2006 ]


Don't believe the hype man

When I'm not busy acting like I belong in a History PhD program at a top-flight university, I'm doing something a whole lot harder: I'm tutoring high-school students at an after-school program. These students, many of whom would be termed "at risk" for one reason or another, are - by and large - both pretty bright and pretty unfocused. A large part of my job consists of trying to get them back on one track or another, and I've found that I can make particular headway by trying to talk with them about something they actually care about, like music or TV. (Given my own significant interest in the subject, this is not too difficult.)

In one of these conversations, I realized something slightly disquieting: the kids love FLAVOR OF LOVE, the VH1 monstrosity starring Flavor Flav, who has recently completed his transformation from respected hype man and dangerous cultural insurgent to embarrassing buffoon, whose clowning has now reached the point of being almost offensive. As a longtime fan of Public Enemy, I can't help but shake my head, and wonder what the hell Chuck D thinks of all this.

On that day, when the students (and some of my undergraduate colleagues) started discussing FLAVOR OF LOVE's finer points, I couldn't help myself. Despite knowing exactly what would happen, and with all the irrelevance of hindsight, I said "you know, back in the day, Flavor Flav was blah blah blah," and you get the point. The reaction I got was similarly unsurprising: nonplussed faces, and several semi-indignant responses of "So?" Fair enough. What was I really expecting from the future generation? After all, people try to put them down just because they get around.

All of this made me all the more excited for Flav's recent solo album, which - released last week on the waves of his VH1 (don't believe the) hype - held some promise for me. I've always enjoyed the man's contributions to PE's records, and, as I once discussed on this blog, his briefly-released single from a few years back ("Git On Down"/"The Hot 1") was surprisingly dope. My hopes were raised even further when I saw that "The Hot 1," which is aptly titled, was included among the album's extensive track-list. Flav's a talented guy, and I couldn't help but be optimistic at the possibilities of finally having a solo soundtrack to go with his rapidly-dirtying cultural niche.

But the album sucks. I'm sorry, but it's the truth. It's 77 minutes long, sloppily compiled from what seems like eight years of Flav tracks and demos (at one point, he actually shouts out "1998!"), and packaged as cheaply as a bullshit tie-in oughta be. Flav does deserve credit for playing the instruments and producing most of the tracks, and - despite the fact that most of the sung ballads are varying degrees of lousy - he sounds in good enough voice to not make even the saddest efforts unlistenable. Among the muck, only two of the new tracks really stand out, "Let It Show" and "No Loot." The rapped tracks are competent and totally uninteresting, very unlikely to set any club knockin' in the way that "911 Is A Joke" or "I Can't Do Nuttin For Ya, Man" did with such effortlessness.

And then, the greatest travesty of all: they edited "The Hot 1." Whereas the rest of the album has plenty of explicit language, including multiple uses of "nigga," here the N-word is silenced, sometimes literally, creating a horribly jarring effect that damn near ruins that track too. I'm quite happy that I've got the unexpurgated version elsewhere, and I've posted it below.

It's a damn shame, Flav, and it doesn't do my continuing, futile case for your un-ironic importance any easier. I'll still fighting the good fight, of course, but I wish I had something a whole lot better than this D+ effort. Have fun on Channel Zero; I'll be over here, searching for something to rock the boulevard...

"Let It Show"

"No Loot"

"The Hot 1" (unedited version)

On the box right now: John Legend, ONCE AGAIN. I've got some stuff to say about this one, too, so I'll try to get to it soon.


Dove With Claws [12:54 PM]