I’m not tuned in to these streets like I once was, guys. I used to have my fingers on the pulse of what was cool and what wasn’t in rap music. Granted, that was well over a decade ago , but still…I’ve been there!
While rappers named stuff like Lil Yachty and Lil Uzi Vert exist, I certainly don’t know what they do or what they sound like (I could guess and probably be right, though). For me, the last time I had a handle on mainstream rap, guys like Jay-Z and Pusha-T were very relevant. Now, in 2016, I can’t say with 100% confidence where either of these rappers stand with rap rans under the age of 35. I liked Pusha’s last album. It had some joints. I haven’t checked for Jay with any real curiosity since, I dunno…”Roc Boys” came out. So, to see them on a song together currently is more confusing than anything. Like, is it good? It could be. Will the kids like it? Who fucking knows? So, today’s column is a check in on all that.
I present to you the new Pusha-T/Jay-Z song. Unfortunately , it’s only streaming on Tidal so I can’t embed it here. But , you can peep it in this link.
Side note, releasing stuff on just Tidal and Apple music…I get why people do it but…goddamn…making music like an exclusive country club is just the worst. Especially if you’re a miser, like I apparently am. But,i digress…
What do you think of this song? Here’s a little poll. There is a wide variety of choices so feel free to vote for more than one option. It’s a free country guys.
I’m always a proponent of old rappers doing good. In the last few weeks 3 legends and one highly regarded old rapper who still hasn’t released an album, released duets that I think deserve some attention. In this corner…
We have Black Thought and Pharoahe Monch. This is a cut off of Monch’s New album “Psdt”.
Monch is pretty much every rap nerd and rapper from the 90’s favorite MC. If not favorite, he’s top ten easily. There is no denying his skill set. While his solo albums never really had the same impact as his work with Organized Konfusion, there’s no denying his place amongst the upper echelon of rappers. Black thought is right there with him. Now, truth be told, he’s not a rapper I particularly love. I think he’s kinda boring BUT the dude is as skilled as rapper as it gets. It’s a moot point. He’s got every base of technical rapping down to science. Here’s the track:
In the other corner…
We have Jay-Z and Jay Electronica. Now, if you’re dipshit, you think Jay-z sucks. I’m speaking in the all-time sense. I’ll be the first to admit that Jay hasn’t made shit in a while that I loved but to deny his legacy is short sighted and , simply, flat out wrong. You may not like his topical range (People that claim this have obviously over looked his huge collection of introspective songs he’s done over the years) but his track record is impeccable. As for Jay Electronica, he’s a guy I’ve been touting for years now but he’s also a guy who can’t fucking put an album out. I’ve heard rumors as to why…one being that his album is finished but won’t be put out cause it lacks any sort of radio singles. If that’s the case, it’s pretty annoying…but he’s not the first or last to fall victim to that kinda shit. Anyway, this song is them rapping like Migos over a dope track. Also, Jay-Z disses Drake. No clue why and I honestly don’t care. It’s a good song though.
Even though I grew up surrounded by fine art, I admittedly don’t really know anything about it or understand it very well. My dad was an artist and I attended all sorts of art related events from a young age. I worked in galleries. I’ve met countless artists who are both respected and successful only to forget their names the moment they walk away. Perhaps it was my own form of youthful rebellion to simply not give a fuck about it. Or maybe I took the parts I like from it (the creativity, the lifestyle of freedom, the “anything goes” mindset in terms of careers) and ignored the other parts that didn’t make sense to me. Truth be told, I honestly never got too into fine art cause I was simply not good at it. I couldn’t draw. I couldn’t paint. My sculptures looked like petrified shit slabs. In fact, you should see my handwriting. It’s as if I do it while riding a horse. So, read this with that in mind. While I am technically an “artist” in the sense that people who make music are artists, I’m not an artist like the people I’m talking about here. I’d also like to clarify that, while it may seem like I’m shitting all over artists and art in general, I’m not. They do something I cannot do. From Bob Ross to the worlds most renowned painter, I can’t do that shit so it’s all equally impressive to me (and also kinda boring as well but, hey, that’s just how I see it). The bottom line is, this is all coming from a humble place and a guy who admittedly less talented than most people.
Over the years there have been many types of art that I scoff at. Like some dude who built a waterfall and called it art (nah b, you’re not an artist, you’re a landscaper) or that thing that people did in central park in 2005 with “The gates”. Maybe it’s just me but turning central park into a croquet course for lazy giants just didn’t work as “art”. I understand that art is everything. But I take issue when people just kinda do some random bullshit and act like they’re changing the game. It’s the equivalent of when David Blaine stops doing card tricks and starts calling “watch me not drink water for a month!” a magic trick. It’s just not the same thing.
You take that and add in the concept of “Performance art” and the lines get even more blurred. With performance art, you can literally do anything and it’s accepted. Sometimes I wonder why more people don’t just do that…literally anything…and give it a faux deep/politically charged name. The beauty of art is that you can spin it anyway you want. The ugliness of that same facet is that it leaves the door open for endless bullshit and fakery. I could do an art show where I line up five homeless dudes, light them on fire and pissed out the flames. I could call it “Giuliani” and I would be a genius. I’m just saying, the line between brilliant and absolute crap in that world is microscopically thin.
Last week, Jay-z did a performance art piece in a NYC Gallery (I’m literally too indifferent to google which gallery).
What he did was rap his song “Picasso baby” for 6 hours straight. While this is a feat of endurance (I’d imagine David Blaine is a little salty he didn’t think of it first), watching the video I couldn’t help but feel like I’ve seen it before. Oh wait…his performance art piece was basically like every overbooked, crappy underground rap show I’ve ever seen except:
1)In a well lit room
2)Only one rapper who won’t shut the fuck up, as opposed to 30.
3)lots of old white people
4)people looked genuinely happy
5)It probably had good sound
It got me thinking, man what if that was the point of Jay’s Performance piece? A biting commentary on shitty underground basement ass rap shows. Clearly, it isn’t. But it could be and that would have had way more depth than whatever bullshit explanation he actually has for this.
The thing is, I’m not even mad at Jay. I think his new album is pretty good for a 42 year old who doesn’t really have anything to say or prove. I’m a long time fan. He certainly takes risks, albeit very calculated ones. This was just another thing that jumped out and reminded me how comically corny and pleased with themselves the entire art world is. And that goes out to all forms of art. From a painter who uses tampon blood to the movie star explaining why this action movie is better than the other action movies to the Dj who acts like he’s a genius cause he has the hang of Serrato and happens to play whatever music is popular with teenaged girls. It’s all under the same umbrella and it’s all bullshit.
This isn’t to say there aren’t real artists under that umbrella. Obviously, if there weren’t , none of us would be talking about this. There are those who inspire and make all this worth it. Jay-Z has been that artist for me in the past. Not so much lately but I can’t really knock a man who’s so rich and bored he doesn’t know what to do with himself. After all, that’s goal right? Getting to the point where you can do whatever you want cause no one can say shit to you at the end of the day. Well, that and personal and spiritual fulfillment, whatever that may be.
I think for his next trick, Jay-z should take 10 of the most revered paintings ever and copy them but with crayons. I’m joking but, seriously,I’d probably buy one if I could afford it. Jay-Z’s “The scream” Would be fucking hilarious.
I was doing a show recently and the first opening act was about to get on. I had just spoke to him briefly. He was a rapper just beginning his career and , seemingly , trying to figure out his approach to making it in music. He was a very nice kid and , I gotta, admit, I admired his drive. Anyway, when he got on stage , there were about 20 people in the audience. Unfortunately, the venue was built for about 500-600 people. Shit was like a ghost town. Not the kids fault, as this was my show and he was the first opening act but, as any performer who’s been through this can tell you, that shit can be deflating. He starts his set and immediately I realize the promoters have mis-booked this artist. Prior to getting on stage, he had described his musical stylings as underground but polished like mainstream rap. He wasn’t far off. He had a game plan. He had dancers. He had all sorts of stage tricks that, if he were famous, would play great. The problem is, he was doing would be party jams and anthem type tracks for an audience of no one. Which raises the question , if a party track is heard by no one and not at a party , is it really a party track? It’s the old “tree falls in the woods” thing but with a twist. The thing is, in this day and age making a party track (especially for rappers) is as calculated as it gets. I’m not buying anyone’s shit saying they make party tracks for the love of the art. No, at best, they make it cause they want people to dance and have fun. At worst, they make it as a means to get money and blow up. So, when an artist comes out, and tries to force this kinda song to happen, it’s usually an express way to failure. Party tracks only work if that’s ALL you do. OR if you’re established and have enough talent/pull with your fan base (I’m speaking of rappers here).
The amount of times I’ve seen an unknown opener try and set off the show with some elaborate call and response crowd participation hook ,only to be met with deafening silence ,is staggering. The amount of times I’ve seen that actually be successful, I could count on my vaginas.
I’m in no way saying people shouldn’t make upbeat songs that play in clubs. Obviously there’s a place for everything. I just feel certain rappers and new artists in general, need to know their audience before they commit to something like this. A prime example of the failed party track is when a group with a loyal following built from past music (very likely music made from a somewhat grimy perspective) decides they wanna blow up and make a joint for the clubs. This will never work. No underground lyrical type rapper is ever gonna become a millionaire by all of a sudden making the hot club joint on his independently released album. All that does is piss off the fans you already have. The only exception, I suppose , would be the Black Eyed peas transformation from Souls of Mischief knockoffs (The Atban Klan) into the clown car of corniness they are now, but they we unoriginal from the jump so it’s not like they were really making a huge sacrifice by selling out. Some might argue Jay-z but the dude paved his way into being in a position where he could do whatever he wanted. He earned the right to make an occasional club joint and , overall has made some pretty classic party tracks. Also, keep in mind, I’m speaking completely of the song MADE for the club, not the random awesome song that happened to get popular and become a club anthem. That kinda thing is completely different. It’s the difference between “Let’s get it started” and “big Pimpin”.
Whenever this topic comes up, the first thing that pops into my head is The Clipse. I love The Clipse. This is a group that had one of the biggest hit makers (the Neptunes) behind them for two whole albums and , while they made two great albums loved by about 300,000 people, they never had that huge commercial success. Why would they? They are actual great rappers who ONLY rap about selling coke. Even Jeezy and Rick Ross take a day off from that and they’re watered down enough to be palatable to your average retarded midwestern Whig smoking blunts with his dumb friends behind a gas station 24 hour grocery. The Clipse are a group who needed to simply do them. Rap about coke over dope beats. That’s it. The fans would eat it up and they would be able to maintain in this fucked up music industry. Sure, they could do upbeat songs and some people will dance to them.
But , in terms of an entire album, just stay the course. Instead of doing this, they opted to make an album full of would be club anthems that none of their fans wanted to hear. There are few things worse for a revered artist than gathering a solid and loyal fan base and then just deciding to change up everything with the slight hope that one song is gonna finally propel you into that next level. Especially if it comes at the expense of a whole album. That said, because I have faith in them as rappers, I will always check for The Clipse but they gotta understand that there comes a time when you just gotta stick with your strengths. They’re way too good to piss it away trying to make music for 16 year old girls to dance to. After all, there is no audience more fickle and mind numbingly horrible than your average 16 year old girl. It’s no wonder that demographic pretty much guides pop music as we know it. Ughh….Kill me.
Anyway , back to the show opener with the high hopes, he finished his set and walked off to the cheers of his girlfriend and one or two other people he knew. He didn’t even seemed phased by it. I suppose he wrote it off to a tough crowd. I’d say it was the non-existent crowd but same difference. While he had been on stage, I was talking to a friend and mentioned “Man, there’s nothing worse than the unrequited party jam”. Later that night, I got on stage and felt the cold hands of ironic justice jam it’s fists in my ass and clap when I rocked a somewhat party flavored set for about 45 people (Houston, represent!). Shit was brutal. Playing music made for dancing, only to see a crowd staring at you is pretty rough. Some girl did flash me her boobs though so it wasn’t a total loss.
It’s that simple By Jaz (Feat. Jay-z)
It’s crazy to listen to some old shit and remember how fun and innocent some rap was in the early 90’s. Nowadays, a group the the UMC’s couldn’t exist but back then, a dude like Jay-z could be on a song like this.
Anyway, this is a joint off of Jaz’s somewhat rare “Ya don’t stop” Ep. Good times.