Hova’s Back

On Jay-Z’s latest album The Blueprint 3, the once and future king of hip-hop elevates bravado to an art-form not seen since his Black Album.  After Hov announced his retirement in 2002, he released two more albums that made you wish he really had quit the game.  It was confusing to say the least.  After clawing his way from being an unknown to being the president of Def-Jam records in ten years time, he left us after delivering the best rap album in a decade.  It’s not exactly a new schtick in rap music.  Too Short used to announce his retirement on every album.  The two albums Jigga released after The Black Album sold well but did not garner much chart success with Kingdom Come’s “Show Me What Your Working With” the only top ten single on either album.  American Gangster, released in 2007, fared even worse on the Billboard Hot 100 with no singles charting above number 55.

With sales already in excess of 1.6 million albums The Bluprint 3 put Jay-Z back on top.  Its third single, “Empire State of Mind” featuring Alicia Keys earned the rapper his only number 1 hit.  “Run This Town” with the ubiquitous Rihanna made it to number 2, but it’s the first single, “D.O.A. (The Death of Autotune)” that made this writer yell “Oh snap!”  The song brings to mind great battle raps like Rakim’s “Follow the Leader” or “I’m Bad” by L.L. Cool J all set on top of brilliant production from No I.D.  The mix of trumpet and electric guitar gives the track a smooth yet edgy sound. He admonishes other rappers to “grow a set” and says the way to prove your street cred is to simply, “get violent”.  That sentiment appears to be at odds with his assertion on “What We Talkin About” that “Ain’t nothin cool about carrying a strap”.  But this is rap music, not a dissertation.  That’s one of the best things about hip-hop:  It doesn’t have to be a seamless world-view. It can be jumbled and contradictory just like its predecessor Rock and Roll.  Example:  the self-proclaimed hater of auto-tune uses an auto-tuner on “Hater” later on the album.

“On to the Next One” and “Off That” are interchangeable, theme-wise. Namely:  Jay-Z is a trend-setter.  What do you expect from the only MC that does yoga?  In “On to the Next One” he proclaims, “Used to rock a throw-back, ballin on the corner, Now I rock a Teller suit, lookin like an owner.”  This song is good but I was hoping against hope that it would be some kind of insane collaboration with The Foo Fighters. (See “All My Life” from FF’s 2002 album One By One) “Off That” continues in the “I’m so avant-garde” vein.  Jay’s awe-inspiring ego is on full display on this one as he reveals that he’s “so tomorrow they order mines on yesterday”.  He even takes a second to get political on “Off That”:

“This ain’t black vs white, my n***a we off that
Please tell Bill O’Reilly to fall back
Tell Rush Limbaugh to get off my balls
This 2010 not 1864”

Once again:  “O snap!”

01 Jan 2010

Political Humor: “Healthcare Reform Will Not Be Televised”

As a general rule, we don’t talk politics here at On Deaf Ears. First, because it’s not that kind of site, and second, because our writers’ views are all over the place, from solidly conservative to very liberal with some stops in between.

But music and politics do intersect sometimes, and we’ve occasionally had coverage from the perspective of both our liberal writers and our conservative, uh, writer (who happens to be me).

This one I had to share.

Older readers, counterculture types, and music geeks are likely familiar with Gil Scott-Heron’s “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” Scott-Heron’s compelling proto-hip-hop blend of beat poetry and jazz has been a leftist anthem for decades now, even lending its name to the title of a documentary generally viewed as pro-Hugo Chavez.

Gil Scott-Heron – “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

 

Enter conservative musician, comedian, and guerrilla filmmaker, AlfonZo Rachel.

Zo (as he is affectionately known) serves up a brilliant parody, mocking President Obama’s repeated and transparently false claims that the congressional debates on the planned government takeover of health care, which is one-sixth of the economy and affects the lives of every American, would be aired on C-SPAN. Instead, we got shady backroom deals that handed out privileges to labor unions that the rest of us won’t enjoy and bought the votes of Ben Nelson (D-Nebraska) and Mary Landrieu (D-Louisiana). It finally reached the point where even a liberal like Jack Cafferty was calling the president a liar on national television and even a deep-blue state like Massachusetts was willing to elect a Republican to the Senate in an effort to stop the bill.

Healthcare reform was not televised. If it was, maybe the bill wouldn’t be hanging by a rapidly-fraying thread.

AlfonZo Rachel – “Healthcare Reform Will Not Be Televised”

The parody is so perfectly executed, I have to think that even that ol’ lefty Gil Scott-Heron got a kick out of it.

(Wikipedia has a good guide to the references made by Scott-Heron in “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”)

18 Dec 2009

Who Dat?!? (“The Saints Are Coming” by the Skids)

No matter who wins the Cowboys-Vikings game tomorrow, next week will be the ultimate battle of good versus evil. And evil better look out, because…

The Saints Are Coming.

18 Nov 2009

RIP Jimmy Lee Lindsey Jr., aka Jay Reatard (May 1, 1980 – January 13, 2010)

News came down today that Jay Reatard has passed away at the tender age of 29.  Reatard was a controversial figure in rock, not just because of his name, but also his on and offstage antics, which involved picking fights with his audiences and firing his whole band at will, among others.  However, Jay was a truly prolific artist who released tons of material, whether as a solo artist or member of tons of other bands.  And it all just kept getting better and better.  The man was surely in the prime of his artistic life, releasing killer song after song (many later released as singles compilations) and two brilliant solo albums (2006’s Blood Visions and 2009’s Watch Me Fall).  It’s a shame to lose such a promising talent so young, and many rock fans will be left to wonder what greatness they have missed out on with his passing.

I only dedicated one short blog post to Jay Reatard back in 2008, but I aim to correct that soon.  Watch this space for posthumous reviews of each of his solo albums as well as his singles compilations.  RIP, Jay.  To quote one of your song titles, “Oh, it’s such a shame.”

05 Sep 2009