Posts Tagged 'T-Pain'

Lonely Island’s “I’m On A Boat” (ft. T-Pain) = Stress Relief

Man, people are really freaking out right now. Recession, swine flu… Yes, there is a lot going on right now that you can get stressed out about. But do yourself a favor and take a deep breath. Now, exhale (just not on me).

Sometimes we need to remember to relax and not take everything so seriously. Sometimes it helps to watch a Lonely Island music video. Especially “I’m on a Boat”. Now take a walk down that big blue watery road and chill the #*$& out.

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Musical Musings

With 2008 and all the music that came with it steadily speeding away in our rear view, I got to thinking a lot about what we did and didn’t see last year in the musical world, and what’s coming. When it comes down to it, 2008 was largely defined by some of the musical trends we saw, the continuing struggle over DRM and the ever growing attempts to market, brand and distribute music in ways that utilize multiple media and social platforms.

Musically, there was a greater push towards mash-ups (AmpLive Interview) and punk fueled Indie rock. Bands like Fall Out Boy and Bloc Party among many others kept driving guitars, sometimes melancholy lyrics and music that’s in your face in terms of pace at the forefront of the radio mainstream. Hip-Hop continued its usual pond-like trend: scum on the surface, beautiful water underneath with “artists” like T.I., T-Pain and Flo-rida topping the charts while rappers like Akrobatik, eLZhi and Black Milk continued struggling to boost their word of mouth. The line between Hip-Hop and Pop was continually blurred as radio Rap brought in more Rock and World music sounds into their songs.

We saw Kanye West rebound from a personally disastrous year to re-vamp his sound with 808s and Heartbreak, and we saw Guns ‘N Roses dig themselves out of a nearly 20 year grave to release the much anticipated Chinese Democracy album, something that many fans thought they’d never hear. Of course, most fans expected to hear either a new Eminem album (Relapse) or the long awaited and highly anticipated Detox album from Dr. Dre, and they got neither.

The DRM battle raged on in 2008, and in even just the beginning weeks of ’09 we’ve seen a nice movement in the area. For most of 2008, the IFPI (2) and the RIAA battled downloaders, both large and small, in court. Looking for lost compensation, they took to trial serial filesharers and spent massive amounts of time and money scaring college kids into settling out of court for fear of an expensive and punitive sentence against them. In the end, these efforts were largely useless, and in my mind, a joke, as they claimed to be fighting for the artists, while we all pretty much know how little the labels show the artists from individual song downloads.

The record industry spent months wringing their hands over lost profits and ways to control music that they long ago lost almost all control over. You have to wonder if, looking back now, they aren’t thinking of all their recent efforts as merely shutting the barn door after all the animals already escaped. And the change in tune has been brisk… Now, just two weeks into ’09, Apple has announced one of the broadest and most accessible withdrawals of DRM and price restructuring of MP3s in years. The four major labels have helped produce this movement, and it shows the increasing power of the consumers in the music marketplace. Once tied to hard copy formats like CDs with an average price table, consumers this year found diverse and creative ways to obtain their music, forcing the hand of the labels to recognize that DRM is not what the people want. How this lack of DRM will effect iPod sales or iTunes downloads remains to be seen. The launch of the App Store on iTunes also took music mobile with an incredible number of music related apps (and a few apps that are just plain incredible) designed for the iPhone.

The idea of Take Away shows and having artists perform live in unconventional venues took off. Nine Inch Nails picked up on Radiohead’s experiment with a free download format of an album, but they’ve taken it a step further now by offering over 400 GB of HD video footage from their concert tours up on torrent streams for fans to remix and create DVDs. This fan interaction has become tantamount to bands in the last year with MySpace including music, and a large number of acts going from conventional websites to social networking platforms.

And while these social networking sites and the bands that use them were beginning to become increasingly entwined, musicians were getting in the mix as well, literally. Late in 2008, MixMatchMusic officially opened its doors to musicians from all over the world to create, upload, collaborate and work with stems to broaden the ways people approach making music. With the DemoGod award at Demo ’08, a write-up in the San Francisco Chronicle and the ever-popular RemixSarahPalin.com, this vision of worldwide musical collaboration and the power of mixing and matching steps closer to being a full-fledged reality. (MixMatchMusic)

So what’s next? With the DRM barriers falling, the new foundations of band and fan interaction being laid and Web 2.0 casting a wider net over the ‘net, music in 2009 could be anyone’s game. Personally, I’m just waiting for The Detox… And now a moment for the outstanding musicians we lost this year, Bo Diddley and LeRoi Moore, among others.

What I’m Hearing, Vol. 8

For a taste of October’s music, click here.

November’s update comes with over 100 tracks spanning both new and old albums, and quite a bit in terms of the Yancey family. We’ve got hip-hop and indie rock, R&B and rap. Enjoy!

Black Milk, Tronic: An album that pushes the traditional boundaries of hip-hop with futuristic synths and musical approaches, Black Milk still puts out several songs that utilize nostalgic samples. I won’t say much more because I’ve already written a full album review, but in my recent interview with Hieroglyphics members Opio and Tajai, they named Black Milk as one of the hip-hop producers they were liking the sound of recently. Read the full album review here. Don’t Sleep On: “Long Story Short,” “Bounce,” and “Losing Out” featuring Royce da 5’9″

Bloc Party, Intimacy: When Bloc Party released their initial effort, Silent Alarm in 2005, it brought a distinct sound to the indie rock arena with Kele Okereke’s emotional British accent and their hard charging guitars on songs like “Banquet.” That album spawned a remix album before the release of what I viewed to be a lackluster sophomore effort on 2007’s A Weekend in the City, an album that had three, maybe four really solid songs, tops. Thankfully though, Intimacy not only serves to take some of the band’s music in another direction, but returns the indie sound on their rock songs to the top-notch form that looked possible from their debut. Intimacy still has driving drums and screaming guitars, but the band has started to utilize more in the way of drum machines and electronic flourishes that create a new dimension for them to explore and in some cases creates some of the most musically advanced songs the band has produced to date. Okereke’s use of his voice is showing maturity, commanding more range of both pitch and emotion here. In some songs, it feels like the input they had on their work from Silent Alarm Remixes has prompted them to explore in new directions. A very solid album. Don’t Sleep On: “Signs,” “One Month Off,” and “Talons.”

Illa J, Yancey Boys: I’ve read a few reviews of this album that basically mock Illa J’s approach and state that he only made this album because he got posthumously released tracks from his big brother J Dilla. I think these reviews miss the point of the album in that Illa J doesn’t fancy himself a rapper or hip-hopper, he’s a self-described singer/songwriter, so it only makes sense that what he does over Dilla beats is going to be different from Dilla’s output when he was alive. On this album, the younger Yancey proves himself musically diverse and extremely relaxed, while also recognizing the importance of respecting Dilla’s production. The tracks here are laid back and jazzy, and Illa takes no effort to listen to, he’s that easy. Click here for the full album review, and click here for my interview with Illa J. Don’t Sleep On: “R U Listenin’?” feat. Guity Simpson, “We Here,” and “DTFT” feat. Affion Crockett

J Dilla, Welcome 2 Detroit: With the way underground hip-hop is structured and feeds into the mainstream, it’s often possible for fans to miss an initial classic album from an artist, and then never check it out once they’ve gotten big because it gets lost in the new music. With Illa J’s debut album dropping this month featuring almost exclusive production from Dilla, it only made sense to make sure people were aware of J Dilla’s initial solo offering and the way it intersects with the rest of the hip-hop genre. On Welcome 2 Detroit, Dilla’s signature melodic and stoned out beats are in fine form with lyrical help from other Detroit rappers such as eLZhi (WIH6) and Phat Kat. The album, released in 2001, still sounds fresh and innovative today and features several tracks that showcase Dilla’s ability to fuse other sounds into his hip-hop such as the co-produced (Karriem Riggins) “Rico Suave Bossa Nova” and “B.B.E. (Big Booty Express)” which Dilla seems to have created in order to slip onto future releases of the 1977 Kraftwerk album Trans-Europe Express. Don’t Sleep On: “Shake It Down,” “It’s Like That,” feat. Hodge Podge and Lacks, and “Pause” feat. Frank-N-Dank.

Jedi Mind Tricks, A History of Violence: Underground hip-hop mainstays Jedi Mind Tricks return for their 6th studio album with more hard hitting tracks, masterful production and intricate lyrics. The conspiracy themes from previous albums remain here, and the production draws from interesting samples such as the strings and haunting foreign lyrics on “Monolith” and the sparse flute in “Trail of Lies.” The lyrical deliveries on these tracks are tight, concise and deep in content, and on the whole, the album is a display of exceptional craft from artists working together with a common musical vision and knowledge of their strengths. Don’t Sleep On: “Trail of Lies,” “Death Messiah,” and “Heavy Artillery.”

Kanye West, 808s and Heartbreaks: Following the death of his mother, I was wondering what the latest output from an artist so in touch with his emotions and personal experiences would sound like. On the one hand, I could see West shaking off the events of the last year or so and putting out his most bouncy and sample-laden disc to date. On the opposite end of that, I could imagine West delving deep into what was going on and producing an intensely personal album. On 808s, West moves in a direction completely opposite of the roads he’s traveled before, and comes out all the better for it. Let’s be clear. 808s is not an album for anyone expecting the continuation of sound and work from West’s previous three albums, and it’s not an album that everyone is going to enjoy musically. Using an 808 drum machine and extensively using Auto-Tune to sing rather than rap, West has produced a stripped down and emotionally raw album. Heavy on synths and in points retro-80s sounds (tracks here could have made an Aphex Twin or Tricky album), West lays bare what’s going on with him and refuses to apologize for the new direction of his music. What’s amazing is that while I think the roster of musicians today who could completely change course from one album to the next and do so successfully is small, Kanye does make that list with this album. Dark, personal and musically adventurous, 808s and Heartbreaks exposes West as the musician he is rather than the hip-pop clone machine he’s often typecast as. Don’t Sleep On: “Paranoid,” feat. Mr. Hudson, ” “Bad News” (which features a sample from Nina Simone‘s “See Line Woman”) and “Street Lights.”

Ludacris, Theater of the Mind: While some artists are out to create philosophically moving pieces, or to in some way further the hip-hop culture, Ludacris doesn’t concern himself with such lofty ideals. He’s about making money. A lot of it. On his 6th studio album, Ludacris returns with the formula that has made him the hottest rapper in the South’s history… pulsing and grimy beats full of horns and deep bass kicks meet with quick delivery lyrics touching on sex, violence, money and his ability to outsell other rappers. Keep in mind, I’m not saying that this formula doesn’t work for him and doesn’t have its place within rap and hip-hop, but it is without any sort of creative growth that Luda moves forward. If there’s any doubt about the kind of sales Ludacris would like to see, this album is the most saturated rap album I’ve seen in years in terms of cameo appearances. Ludacris is the lone rapper on only 2 of the 15 tracks, getting guest appearances from Floyd Mayweather (yes, the boxer), Chris Rock (yes, that comedian), Jamie Foxx (still an actor?), Common and Spike Lee (one of them is a rapper, right?), Nas, Jay-Z and current Top 40 mainstays T.I., The Game, T-Pain and Lil Wayne. This approach either means that he intends to make a lot of money based on name recognition of his guests or he realizes that to put out an album that only has him on it, he’d need to come up with full lyrics to all of his songs, a task that might seem daunting (I mean, how many times can you really come up with new raps about rims and Cadillacs?) While musically and lyrically this album isn’t challenging, it has certainly produced some tracks that we’re sure to be hearing in clubs and parties very soon. Don’t Sleep On: “Intro” (only a minute of rapping, but well worth it, and one of only 2 songs with just Luda on it), “Undisputed” feat. Floyd Mayweather, and “Wish You Would” feat. T.I.

Opio, Vuture’s Wisdom, Vol. 1: The first in a trilogy of albums to be released by Opio from Hieroglyphics with production by Architect. The idea behind the albums is that people are saying hip-hop is dead, or at least that’s the popular expression lately. Vulture’s Wisdom refers to the ability to pick what’s left of life from the bones of the deceased, and this album shows that Opio hasn’t lost any of the edge that has carried him through more than a decade in the industry as a part of the Hiero Imperium. Be on the lookout for my interview with Opio and Tajai, where they discuss their plans to release a new single every week in 2009. Don’t Sleep On: “Don Julio,” “Mind, Body and Soul,” and “Some Superfly Shit.”

Singles… these are the songs where the full album just didn’t cut it, but the songs deserve their time in your ears. Check out “4 Wind,” a multi-lingual remix of the cut from Breez Evahflowin and Dirt E. Dutch’s Troublemakers album, and the radio ready hip-pop of T-Pain songs “Can’t Believe It” featuring L’il Wayne and “Karaoke” featuring DJ Khaled where T-Pain goes off on the rest of the industry (funny coming from the guy who did “Bartender”) and claims the only cool rappers are Kanye West and L’il Wayne. Well, at least he’s consistent. There you have it, the November update… up next is the second installment of last year’s 11 Songs to Be Thankful For.

Thoughts From a Music Lover at 3 AM

I was congested recently, thinking about my next post. Often, they’re lined up in a nice little row of topics I’d like to attack. Then sometimes, the row goes empty leaving nothing but empty spaces like fragments of a song cut off when a car window rolls up. I was going crazy last night bouncing around on a series of ideas surrounding my recent watching of Great Balls of Fire with Dennis Quaid and Winona Ryder. The movie, while a heavily dramatized and condensed stab at a true story (even though co-written by Myra), had me in knots thinking about Billboard Top 100s (which by the way is topped by Flo-Rida (give him creative credit here people, he’s a rapper from Florida) featuring T-Pain right now) and charts. The whole movie makes this rockstar life look so simple in terms of printing the record, getting some money, heading out on the road, climbing the charts and then getting some more money. But the simplicity of the era, the build of distribution and the uproar over lyrics as lewdly suggestive as “there’s a whole lotta shakin’ goin’ on,” is a far cry from today where songs are available before the album comes out and radio airplay is far more often than not sexually suggestive if not down right graphic. I invite the non-timid reader to take a look and see what it really means to “superman dat ho.”  And for someone looking for intelligent rap, I challenge them to find a radio station willing to play an Immortal Technique cut.

In an attempt at some research for a post about historical Billboard Charts, I came across some very interesting data, but nothing that really felt substantially tied to something I actually wanted to write about. For instance, the number one song for 1997 was Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind“, which was a remake of his own original to Marilyn Monroe, re-released for Princess Di‘s death. So the sympathy, worldwide, sold the record in bunches. At number 3 on the chart to end that year? For coincidence or eerie destiny you have Puff Daddy’s/P-Diddy’s/Sean Combs/Whatever he wants to call himself next‘s tribute to Biggie, “I’ll Be Missing You.” Not only are they both posthumous tribute songs, but they’re both remakes. At least in Elton’s case, he used his own material…Puffy had to borrow Sting’s. Either the prevailing thought was that we were quite mournful and gobbling up tribute songs like they were lunch meat, or we just liked songs that reminded us of our past. Or neither. The charts are kinda fickle like that.

In stark contrast, the 1957 year end chart, right around the time ole Jerry Lee was getting ready to run in my ’80s nostalgia movie of the day, is filled with love and romance songs, often by the boy flavor du jour. Elvis‘ “All Shook Up,” two songs with “love” in their title, rounded out with a “Little Darlin” and Jimmy Dorsey‘s big band throw back, “So Rare.” So were the folks then more in love and romantic than we are now? Or are they less obsessed with death and tribute songs? Or are these all fictional connections of a paranoid sociological mind at work? Maybe a combination of the ten?

Of course, I couldn’t stop there. I had to compare the top album sales from those years…1997: Spice Girls, No Doubt (Tragic Kingdom), Celine Dion (Falling Into You), the Space Jam Soundtrack and Jewel (Pieces of You). In 1957, you have 4 of the top 5 as Soundtracks…musicals in three of those cases no less! Oklahoma, My Fair Lady and The King and I. What a bunch of soundtrack and musical obsessed bunch of folks those were! Or maybe the folks of ’97 were just obsessed with female singers, or melancholy material (after all, the Jewel cd is pretty sparse and sad and Tragic Kingdom is pretty much all about breaking up.) But while these are all interesting observations, again, they’re not substantive in any way other than some mild curiosity about trends or trivial data collection about Billboard.

And so the debate over what’s to come next (not to mention a pack of oreos and Mission Impossible 3) leaves me tossing and turning and bolting out of bed at 3 am to realize that in all this worry about posts and targets and complaints and opinions and mixing and matching and topics topics topics, there’s no way I’m ever going to write another post! What am I gonna do, spend the next 6 months pouring through all the historical trends Billboard allows me, Excel spreadsheeting it and trying to draw conclusions for the perfect blog post? I’m gonna say no to that right now.

And that’s when it hit me…remember the music, and the music lovers? So now, at around 4 am having written feverishly for an hour on a mixture of action movie adrenaline, the unclotting of a writer’s block, and the type of free-wheeling, free-association game that this type of post allows my mind, I get to the point I started out to arrive at in the first place…I love music! Forget writing about it. I heard once from someone, somewhere, “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.” Not to say that I don’t love writing about it too, but I LOVE listening to it, and maybe in all this writing and hypothesizing on methods of distribution and the state of the industry, we might sometimes forget the commodity that we’re actually talking about. So let’s not forget the music, shall we? I invite all of you who who have made it this far through my late night ramblings to comment or email me with their five answers to the following questions (and don’t be surprised if we have the start of the new topic germinating right here before our very eyes):

1) Think about one song that you tend to listen to when you’re happy. What is it, when was the first time you remember hearing it, and what about it makes you smile?

2) Think about one song that stands out in your mind from a movie or tv soundtrack. What movie/show is it, did you know the song before or only after you heard it on that source, and what song is it?

3) When it’s storming, like it is now over here in CA, what song suits your mood?

4) What was the last song that you reached the ending of and restarted immediately so you could hear it all over again?

5) With summer and BBQs still a few months away, what song can’t you wait to hear once the boat’s on the water, so to speak?

That’s better. I think I can sleep now.


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