Thursday, August 27, 2009

014: "u mad?": The 5 Best Rap Beefs Of All-Time (#4)

#4: 50 Cent Vs. Rick Ross

A clear lesson in "careful what you wish for". Though the origins of the feud are mysterious and various (the most popular belief is that Rick Ross dropped the initial warning shot after 50 allegedly looked at him funny at some awards show), the feud ended up terribly for the Miami-based rapper as his past as a correctional officer came to light, largely destroying the credibility he had built for himself.

50 Cent, never one to shy away, decided to use his website as a soapbox from which to fire off video after video, mocking the Miami-based rapper and Ross cohort DJ Khaled. In one particularly strange incident, the NY-based rapper even threatened Khaled's mom. This feud showed Curtis Jackson's truly fucked-up persona as bizzare video after bizarre video was rolled out. 50 hangs out with Rick Ross's ex-baby mama, who helped give 50 ammo in the form of pictures and videos of Ross in his pseudo-cop uniform. 50 also managed to unearth a sex tape (which is definite NSFW territory) with Ross's current baby mama, narrating it in his Pimpin' Curly persona. Ross managed to walk away from this somewhat unscathed. Sure, his reputation and persona as a drug-pushin', law-ignoring son-of-a-bitch took a hit, but he continued on his way, merrily playing a character he fashioned for himself. 50 released two mixtapes and continually pushes back his newest studio record. Perhaps by 2011 we'll see it come out.

Unfortunately, unlike the majority of the beefs, this wasn't kept on wax too much, but the level of amusement and the sheer amount of material 50 came out with in order to totally bury Rick Ross is astounding. Some may even contend that 50 and his network of folks put in just a bit too much work. But maybe that's just me asking too much.

Friday, August 21, 2009

013: Apologies, Then We Get Down To Some Wu-Related Business

This blog has laid dormant long enough... At least as far as my output is concerned. I feel like my stupid, meaningless opinions and ideas need to continue onwards, and as such, I command thee, blog, to RISE.



The Wu-Tang Clan is a vast army of slang-slinging, an enterprising group of hustlers who have no lost love for each other. But brotherhood is brotherhood and as such, they've managed to put out collective albums that have lasted beyond the ages. Hell, even their last record wasn't that bad. But their vast wealth of solo material available continues to boggle the mind as all 9 members (even Ol' Dirty Bastard, from beyond the grave) continue to put releases out that vary vastly in quality, so in that spirit we'll be looking at some of the great (and downright terrible) records members have put out.

Top 5 solo albums

5. Ol' Dirty Bastard - Return To The 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version
ODB, bless his heart, was at his very core a man always struggling in-between being the designated wildcard of the group and trying to find some semblance of artistic integrity. Joe Bananas tiptoed that high-wire very deftly on this, his first record. Released in the aftermath of the ultra-successful 36 Chambers album (as well as Method Man's platinum-selling debut) and with production duties largely handled by Wu architect RZA, Russell Jones starts his album off with an eccentric 5-minute intro that sees him quoting Blowfly and pretending to emote through a series of feelings he can't seem to properly project. At first glance a strange left-turn, it makes perfect sense for a man known mostly for his comic-like antics. From then on ODB manages to bring the ruckus all on his own with the piano-driven 'Shimmy Shimmy Ya', before moving on to the vastly under-rated 'Raw Hide' (which features great verses from Meth and Raekwon). The album continues to astound with stellar track 'Brooklyn Zoo' (and its sequel, Brooklyn Zoo II) as well as several posse cuts. The real winners here are the beats RZA constructs for Big Baby Jesus: playful, vibrant, resonant with the personality spitting lyrical on it. An album that steps out of the standard rap pattern and delivers a product that is full of unforeseen twists and turns, engaging the listener far more than typical rap fare.

4. GZA - Liquid Swords
The first Wu member to wrangle himself a record deal prior to the group's debut album, the Genius jumps outta the gate as part of the first-wave of post 36 Chambers releases. The RZA once again comes to the rescue on this album, orchestrating a collection of dusty beats that feel as if they were laying dormant decades prior to being utilized by the GZA. The intro sample, lifted from 1980's Shogun Assassin, sets the mood for the rest of the album: rapper as warrior, man as a creature constantly seeking conflict. Spiritual, introspective and laid back, the record brings the goods consistently, the GZA's almost-mumbled prose definitive, his aim sure. The RZA and the GZA both hit the mark on this one.

3. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
Ghostface Killah is perhaps the most soulful of the Wu-Tang set. His albums have always been chock-full of soul-based, string-laden beats that find the Wallabee Champ perpetually living in a '70s haze. Ghostface is also gifted with the inate ability to tell stories with such gusto and a keen eye for detail that following Ghost down the lyrical rabbit hole as he spits is no easy task, but rewarding if done right. Dude is more enthralling than most suspense flicks and it feels as though he finally combines his most gangster moments along with some grasps at his ladies man persona, careful to appear thug even through his most difficult moments. It doesn't hurt that the stellar production on the album brings out the best in Ghost, as he comes full circle, combining the best parts of his prior albums. Debut solo album Ironman was too hard on the gangster tip, and follow-ups Supreme Clientele, Bulletproof Wallets and Pretty Toney Album found Ghost relying a bit too much on the soulful atmosphere he so loves, creating an uneven output that finally coalesces into a complete package on this album. Oh, and just for kicks, the album ends on one of the best posthumous Biggie collabs you will ever hear, as if the album couldn't get any better.

2. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx...
Raekwon is definitely one of those 'practice what you preach' fellahs. The man, who during his tenure in Camp Wu, has allegedly spent his free time involved in various illicit activities (as corroborted by the RZA), helped pioneer the mafia gangster genre. Along with Jay-Z's debut album and albums by Nas and AZ, this strictly New York phenom quickly spread to the rest of the country, inspiring many. This landmark, street-tough release found Rae living up to his chef moniker. The dude was on fire, enlisting the help of Ghostface Killah throughout most of the disc as his lyrical cohort, extolling the virtues of a drug-dealin', mafia-inspired, enemy-hating lifestyle. Raekwon's subsequent output has been far inferior to his debut release, marked by repetitive lyrics and boring production, rarely living up to his abilities to enthusiastically come at the genre as he should. Rae himself has acknowledged this fact and the forthcoming OB4CL2 should slay, given the fact that we've all been waiting 15 years for a proper follow-up.

1. Method Man - Tical
Bring The Pain. Meth Vs. Chef. All I Need. Release Yo Delf. Case closed.
Actually, not so fast. The dirty and down-low production (the beats had to be reconstructed in a matter of days by the RZA after an accident destroyed the originals) add a distinctive flavour. Meth as a street hustler, bringing in the ladies with promises of growing old together. Lots of great guest spots and Meth definitely shows up to play on every track. Simply mesmerizing, musically and lyrically. To understand is to listen. Over and over.

4 Wu albums that disappointed

4. Wu-Tang Forever
Now I know I'm gonna catch some shit, but damn. The second group album (a two-disc marathon) was wildly inconsistent, spreading material thin and giving the world subpar solo joints. Stand-out cut (and first single) 'Triumph' sets itself apart from an album of boring, forgettable raps. Concise is the key to victory in the land of the Wu, and this album is a product of excess, of celebrity and an unsureness about where to go next on the part of the RZA, who applies a 'throw it against the wall and see what sticks' approach, trying to cater to whoever will listen.

3. The World According to the RZA
The RZA decided to use his clout as an industry figure to put out, for all intents and purposes, what one would consider a compilation album of rap acts from around the world. Label politics forced him to release this as a solo record, and he does sporadically show up to spit, though he leaves that largely up to the contributors. A strange pele-mele of various styles and languages that is nothing beyond a novelty, unfortunately. Stick to Bobby Digi releases and we won't have a problem. Also has the fuckin' worst album cover ever. 1994 called, they want their shitty fonts and halo effect back.

2. Raekwon - Immobilarity
From riveting gangster accounts to overdone and droning. This follow-up to OB4CL finds Rae trying to display the fact that he can go out on his own, eliminating one of the features that made his debut memorable (the exclusion of Ghostface), utilizing other guests sparingly over RZA Lite beats from producers who studied the Wu Architect and tried their best to sound like him. It goes nowhere quickly, and is worth barely a second listen. The Chef keeps the drug element around but is unsure about how to best talk about it, instead just relating hood stories in a tone that makes him sound bored. Also, it has the worst Method Man guest appearance I've ever witnessed. Meth, sounding thin and haunted, delivers line after line in an off-putting cadence.

1. Method Man - Judgment Day
Bloated, skit-loaded, boring. The follow-up to Tical fails in every respect, barely containing any of the memorable tracks that made Tical a classic. A truly sad moment. No keepers. Who the fuck wants to listen to a skit that's merely an 8-second phone call from Donald Trump? No one. That shit ain't gangsta in the least, it's tacky and shitty. Fuck. Thankfully, Meth's recent output has changed the current of my feelings towards his work.

3 solo collabs that make you say "hold up"

3. Beyonce feat. Ghostface Killah - Summertime

2. Shaquille O'Neal feat. The RZA and Method Man - No Hooks

1. Mariah Carey feat. Ol' Dirty Bastard - Fantasy

2 Wu-Tang members that should forever work together

Ghostface Killah and Raekwon. Have appeared together on countless songs, and continue to collabo to maximum effect to this day. The ying and the yang, the sun and the moon, the obvious and the metaphorical. They complement each other, almost like rap's Hall and Oates. Good apart, stellar together.

The most consistent Wu member
Without a doubt, Ghostface. Even his lesser albums feature engaging production and several rough gems to enjoy. Ghost is fearless, flirting with pure R&B tracks and guesting on tracks that you wouldn't normally associate him with. There is something for everyone on all of his tracks, and he's usually engrossing, lyrically-speaking. Also, he has a song all about being Santa-like. Who can't get behind that?

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

012: Foxes Fellowship

I saw Fleet Foxes in concert tonight, finally putting to rest the long arc of the fourth law of thermo-nuclear-dynamics, to borrow an inside joke from tonight's conversation. Which is—in this case—beauty wins. Holy shit. So much beauty. I am engorged to the point of suffocation. I am suffused with gorgeousness. Oh, it's too much.

I'm really glad I kept on listening to Ragged Wood on Maddie Lee's wonderful Tumblr blog. I'm so glad Brigitte sent me a YouTube link to White Winter Hymnal. O, I'm so glad.

Come back soon, guys! I will try to buy a medium-sized t-shirt earlier in the night next time. Hopefully I will not be turned away.

And the rest of you: Listen to this shit. It is golden; it is good as gold.