Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Maddy at DC zoo

Maddy at DC zoo

(need snapfish account)

Maddy also got her first loose tooth this Sunday. Liz won't let me use pliers to finish the job.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Rap Doubleshot

Common Be ****
The Game "The Documentary ****

It's funny. Rap/hip hop/whatever you want to call it started off DJ centered. DJ's would mix (by spinning records, later splice tape and today on a computer) beats and music to create musical collages. New York added the MC aka rapper in the 1970's. the Sugarhill Gang had the novelty hit "rapper's delight" in 1979 followed by Grandmaster Flash making it real. As the 80's and 90's rolled on, the rapper became the center of attention, even in a pc group like Public Enemy. Part of this was driven by Paul's Boutique by the Beastie Boys. This was a masterpeiece that changed rap music. Dense sampling made the orignal music unrecognizable and what emerged completely new. The courts saw otherwise and the crackdown (everything had to be liscensed plus royalties to each party) drove up costs - rapped simplified to one or two samples with an outrageous lead rapper. Think P Diddy. At the same time, NWA introduced ganster rap, focusing on "reality" (sex and violance) rather than more tradition positive messages and boasting (bragging remained but the stakes were raised). The ironic thing is that gangster rap is what took rap mainstream and rap grew to stand over pop music like rock and roll used to - dangerous enough for white kids in the suburbs to buy but safe enough for suits in LA/NY to sell. Think P Diddy. However, as the 2000's wear on the dj (now credited as producer rather than writer) is once again becoming the backbone of rap and setting the agenda. Original music is as important as the samples, integrating jazz-like stylings as well as traditional pop and r&b. The roots, driven by live music, are a great example of this althought they are an entire band rather than an individual. That's a short history of rao, but things go in circles as you can see and rap has been around long enough that it can now loop around.

Kanye West won the Grammy this year and deservabley so. Now that Kanye West is everywhere - his own new album, included. You know he did Jay Z, Twista and John Legend, but did you know he did Alicia Key's You Don't Know My Name too ? After creating some of the best rap over the last couple of years with JayZ, he branched out on his own and is kicking it with his own distint sound. Like other producers, he isn't the strongest rapper. An allegiance with Common solves this. Common caught my eye with the song "come closer" a few years ago - a straight love song to his wife. Common comes across as an older version of Kanye. They are both angry about poverty and racism and both actually sing about being Christians (take that liberals). But Common has seen enough to have gained some wisdom (while Kanye is like a junior in college or a drop out as he calls himself). "be" comes off as a modern day Marvin Gaye album. "They say" could be "what's going on." "Testify" is just a great angry song, but it's steady in its intensity. My favorite track is "The corner" - great beat, clearly Kanye West produced.

West only has one song on "the documentary" - "dreams." But it is such a great song that once you hear it, you can't get it out of your mind. The Game come from G-unit which was discovered/formed by 50 Cent who was discovered by Eminem who was discovered by Dr. Dre who was one of the founders of NWA. Dr. Dre is also the main producer here (this is what I'm talking about when I say things go in circles). But this is an allstar team of producers including timbaland, just blaze, and eminem among others.

The game comes across as a more intelligent version of 50 cent. He knows the history of rap
(and everybody gets a shout out) and the history of African-americans. But he's also a guy from compton who ran with gangs and got shot. He seems smart enough to know better, ecspecially with a baby son (see "song like father, like son" and on the back cover, wearing a tiny pair of black Chuck Conners) but lyrically he always circles back to ho's, dope dealing and gangs. He hasn't broken his own personal circle. He's moved beyound racism but is still stuck in the street. He went to Lamaz class (10 pound 4 oz kid) for god's sake, but he gotta be a gangster too. The game should take his own advice from "like father...".

The other problem half way through the album, he runs out of things to rap about and he starts repeating himself. If he could write 12 great sets of lyrics, I would give him 5 stars but he only wrote six. However, the music stays strong through out. "Hate it or love it" and "how we do" (both with 50 cent) are classic Dr. Dre tracks. "Church for thugs" is the stand out track, due to the great horns (although "no more fun and games" also by just blaze comes close). "start from scratch" is not a great song, but it gives you his history. Eminem's track sounds like every other Eminem produced song (stick to rapping, Marshall). And of course, there's Kanye too.

Bottom line. The Game made half a great album. Common with Kanye does his thing better than ever.