Tag Archives: EMI

Shyheim – The Lost Generation

Shyheim
The Lost Generation
May 28, 1996
Noo Trybe/Virgin Records/EMIUMG
055/100
The Lost Generation--Front
1. Shit Iz Real (feat. DeLouie Avant Jr.) // 2. Dear God (feat. Pop The Brown Hornet, June Lover & Nikki Williams) // 3. Jiggy Comin’ // 4. 5 Elements (feat. Down Low Reka, June Lover, Pop the Brown Hornet & Rubbabandz) // 5. Shaolin Style (feat. Squigg Trust) // 6. Real Bad Boys // 7. What Makes the World Go Round (feat. Rubbabandz, Smoothe Da Hustler, Trigger & Dzalias Christ) // 8. Can You Feel It (feat. June Lover & King Just) // 9. Life As a Shorty // 10. Don’t Front/ Let’s Chill (feat. 702) // 11. Things Happen // 12. See What I See (feat. Dzalias Christ) // 13. Still There (feat. DeLouie Avant Jr.) //14. Young Gods (feat. Killa Sin, Madman, Rubbabands, Raekwon & RZA)

Wu-tang affiliate Shyheim’s first album sold enough copies for Virgin record to allow him a second studio album (although nothing can be found online about any sort of gold certification). And by the time it dropped in may ’96 the guy still would have to cross the border to Canada or Mejico to legally buy a beer because he was barely eighteen by that time.
For The Lost Generation he mostly worked with the same people that made AKA the Rugged Child such a moderate success: Producer RNS, who according to Discogs was at one point Wu-svengali RZA’s mentor, (although no other interwebs source can confirm this in a satisfactory manner) and members of the sorta, kinda Wu-affiliated GP Wu which supplied most of the guest vocals.
Like on AKA the Rugged Child RZA supplies but one beat, but unlike the last time around his contribution lasts for over two minutes and features some actual Wu-involvement in the vocal department, because the hook is performed by Prince Rakeem himself and Raekwon the Chef (although a would-be-much-appreciated verse from either official Wu-member is missing, sadly). M.O.P.-producer DR Period and NaS-veteran L.E.S. also get to provide beats for Shy to rock over.

Oddly enough Shyheim seems to actually have become less mature-sounding since recording AKA the Rugged Child. A simple and logical explanation would be that on that album he didn’t write his own lyrics, leaving that to an older rapper, whereas on this one he did everything himself.
Shy’s juvenile, irreverent style isn’t without merit and sort of fits him him on occasion. Quips like God help me out nigga would certainly lose their charm coming from an older rapper but work just fine on Dear God, a song about ghetto hardship and desparantion and a definite highlight with a bleak yet smackin’ and smooth RNS beat and Pop da Brown Hornet paying hommage to Snoop Dogg’s Murder Was the Case on the hook. Unfortunately for Shyheim Dear God is a rare highlight on an album filled with mediocracy.
Shit Is Real, the album opener, is supposed to establish Shy’s street cred, but it’s subject matter and backing music are a straight mismatch, although it would no doubt have sucked too even without its wimpy R&B instrumental.
Jiggy Comin’ is about Shyheim’s trouble with the police, which is all well but he sounds like the type of kid that was taken to his mother by the law enforcement for nicking a candy bar rather than being sent to the penitentiary for anything serious, and talks shit to his boys blowing the story up via this track.
Shaolin Style flips an already overused Patrice Rushen sample and manages to add nothing of value to the well-known melody, the Method Man samples on the hook be damned.
The Lost Generation also has an introspective song and a joint for the ladies, Don’t Front/Let’s Chill and Still There For Me respectively. Both of them fall flat on their faces because Shy’s persona isn’t developed enough to to them justice and he fills them with gangsta clichés in stead, and they are made worse by having rather shitty R&B guest appearances accompanying him.

That’s not to say The Lost Generation is all shit though. But the moments that do work aren’t working because of Shyheim and would’ve sounded equally well, if not better, with another rapper taking his place or do sound good because there actually isn’t much Shyheim on them to speak of. Can You Feel It works because of it’s bouncy disco production combined with the spacy vocal distortion. See What I See has a eerie, pounding, percussive piano based instrumental by DR Period with a catchy, sung chorus courtesy of studio singer Dzalias Christ, 5 Elements and What Makes the World Go Round work well enough but mostly because GP Wu take over the track and are backed by RNS productions that sounds like someone from the actual clan might rock over them, had they had the opportunity. As does Young Gods, but that’s because it it’s a RZA creation, because it has minimal vocal involvement by Rae and RZA himself and because quite possibly was offered to someone from the actual Clan before ending up here.

Life as a Shorty is the only moment on the record where Shy regains the lyrical momentum he had on Dear God, sounding convincing and credible enough in his roll as a young hoodlum and unique enough to justify him having a rap career. This unfortunately doesn’t happen a lot on The Lost Generation. An album that sees Shy probably having his first attempts at writing his own lyrics. As such we shouldn’t be too hard on the guy. But the person who fired his ghostwriter may have been premature doing so because the Shyheim we hear on this album for the most part sounds like he has just heard gangsta rap for the first time and then decided to dive head-first into recording an album which is never a good thing.
Let that however not be interpreted as an outright and complete dismissal of Shyheim as a rapper. His debut AKA the Rugged Child is pretty good, as are the songs listed below and his follow-up work may very well be too because he still had a lot of growing up to do at this point.

Best tracks
Dear God
5 Elements
Can You Feel It
What Makes the World Go Round
See What I See
Young Gods

Recommendations
Download the above tracks off iTunes or Amazon, or pick this album up if you find it for really cheap.

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Arabian Prince – Brother Arab

Arabian Prince
Brother Arab
September 1, 1989
Orpheus RecordsEMI
055/100
Arabian Prince - Brother Arab
1. Sound Check // 2. She’s Got a Big Posse // 3. Get On Up // 4. Let the Good Times Roll (Nickel Bag) // 5. Never Caught Slippin’ // 6. I Got a Big Bonus Beat// 7. Situation Critical // 8. It’s a Dope Thang // 9. It’s Time to Bone // 10. Now You Have to Understand // 11. Getting Down 

Arabian Prince is mostly known for having been part of seminal gangsta rap group N.W.A, recording with them on N.W.A and the Posse and (allegedly) Straight Outta Compton, (allegedly) getting his vocals stripped from all but one song in post-production, the song he was still on essentially being a bonus track, tacked onto the album as an afterthought (and oft-cited as the reason Straight Outta Compton isn’t the perfect album it could have been), after the boys from Compton had decided that they didn’t really want to be an electro-funk dance outfit but the world’s most dangerous group in stead (Up until then Dre, Ren Eazy, Cube and Yella had been in a severe identity crisis, and when they had made-up their mind Arabian Prince got kicked out for what essentially constitutes “creative differences”.).

Keeping this in mind it is funny that Arabian Prince, for whom unlike Michel’le (another witness to Dr. Dre’s shady electro past) apparently there wasn’t even room as a solo-artist on Ruthless Records, comissioned an album cover that makes it seem as though he’s still very much part of the world’s most dangerous music franchise. What with the blood-red font in which his name is written, the dark shades and Raiders cap he sports and his gold rope-chain.

Despite what Brother Arab and/ or the people at Orpheus Records would have you believe, this is not N.W.A-offshoot. Not only as a matter of fact, but also in spirit.
Prince, who is all by himself here in the vocal booth, doesn’t drop the N-word anywhere, or any other curse word for that matter. This isn’t a problem in and by itself, profanity-free music can work (maybe even profanity-free gangsta rap) but it is is odd for a man from a gang called Niggaz With Attitude, coming straight out of Compton. And Brother Arab doesn’t quite pull it off lyrically, dropping some pretty pedestrian, clunky and unappropriately clean raps about achetypical gangsta rap subjects about violence, drugs and [bleep]ing your girl.

The beats all sound derivative, be it with jazz influence (Let the Good Times Roll (Nickel Back)I Got a Big Bonus Beat), like Compton Dre made them while on ritalin (She’s Got a Big PosseGet On UpNever Caught Slippin‘, Situation Critical) (This apparent lack of urgency may not be the beats fault, it may be just because unlike his former homeboys Arabian Prince doesn’t come across as remotely scary or violent) or the electronic dance-music N.W.A made in the form of Panic Zone and Something to Dance To (It’s a Dope ThingTime to BoneGettin’ Down)

It would seem that Dre, Cube, Ren, Eazy and Yella may have had a good reason for cutting Arabian Prince loose. Dude doesn’t have Cube or Ren’s rhymes, Eazy’s charisma or Dre and Yella’s beats (although the album cover does show that the man had some of that Suge Knight business sense). One is hard-pressed to see this guy contribute anything substantial to Straight Outta Compton, and he didn’t deliver the goods with his solo-debut either, which helped make his irrelevance and obscurity complete.

Best tracks
Get On Up
Let the Good Times Roll (Nickel Bag)

Recommendations
Don’t buy this album.


Shyheim – AKA the Rugged Child

Shyheim
AKA the Rugged Child
February 22, 1994
Virgin Records/ EMI
070/100
Shyheim - AKA the Rugged Child
1. Here Come the Hits // 2. On and On (feat. June Luva & Milk D) // 3. Pass It Off (feat. Rubbabandz, Down Low Recka & K-Tez) // 4. Never Say Never [Interlude] // 5. One’s 4 Da Money // 6. Here I Am (feat. Down Low Recka) // 7. Move It Over Here (feat. Pop Da Brown Hornet) // 8. Buckwylyn // 9. You Da Man (feat. Down Low Recka) // 10. Napsack // 11. The Rugged Onez (feat. June Luva, Prophet & Quasi) // 12. Little Rascals // 13. 4 The Headpiece [Interlude] // 14. Party’s Going On // 15. Shouts on the Outs

Following the classic that was Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) the first thing to come out of the Wu-camp was strangely enough not a solo album by one of the group’s actual members, but the debut album by Ghostface Killah’s fourteen year old cousin Shyheim. One would assume that music buyers would be more interested in a solo-album by, for instance, Ghostface Killah himself.

But then Shyheim’s link to the Wu, besides his family relation, is rather indirect. No one from the actual clan throws a verse in Shy’s direction, only loose affiliates GP Wu appear. The only indication that the original Clan has actually ever heard of Shy (besides him getting a shout-out by RZA on the intro of Clan In da Front off 36 Chambers) is one lone RZA instrumental on Little Rascals. The rest of the beats are provided by rumoured Prince Rakeem mentor RNS. It is therefor reasonable to assume that AKA the Rugged Child wasn’t part of RZA’s five year plan, unlike 36 ChambersTicalReturn to the 36 Chambers, Only Built 4 Cuban LinxLiquid SwordsIronman and that Inspectah Deck album that almost literally got flushed. Not surprising considering that Shy was never a card-carrying member of the Clan, but worth mentioning considering how often Shyheim and the occasional GP Wu member mention their affiliation with the Clan, as though no-one would give half a fuck about any of them if it weren’t for their more famous friends, who quite possibly could give half a fuck about any of them, but not really.

Let that not be an automatic dismissal of AKA the Rugged Child, a solid album to say the least, by a rapper with more skill than you can shake a stick at. The only thing that gives away his tender age is his prepubescent voice. It’s not entirely clear who wrote all these tight rhymes (one would be hard-pressed to believe it was Shy himself, although it remains a possibility), but what is clear is that Shy recites them very well. Shyheim may have been fourteen years old when AKA the Rugged Child dropped, but this certainly isn’t child-friendly rap. Go listen to Will Smith’s back catalogue if that’s your thing. This is a straight-up East-Coast gangsta rap album. And although it is especially unlikely that Shy commited any crime beyond shoplifting a candy bar, at least he raps about these subjects with gusto. And besides, what rapper do you know that beyond a shadow of a doubt lived the gangsta lifestyle, that’s alive, out of prison and doing well?

The boy comes in swinging with the mildy jazzy album-opener Here Come the Hits, on which he’s literally promising a succesful string of hit singles. (Unfortunately nineteen years later the man has yet to deliver on that promise, but his youthful optimism is engaging.) On On and On June Luva, as well as Audio Two’s Milk D lend a hand on the hook which is a reprise of Audio Two’s signature song Top Billin‘.  On Pass It Off our host outrhymes everyone of his older fellow Wu B-teamers in the GP.
On One’s 4 the Money the boy has the audacity to ambiguously dis 2pac, Kris Kross and you girlfriend over a beat that wouldn’t sound out of place on 36 Chambers. Shyheim doesn’t suffer from a lack of confidence, what with 2pac’s notoriously short temper. It marks the second time of the night that Top Billin’ is being referenced.
Little Rascals has the lone RZA-produced beat, and it sounds pretty good even though clocking just over two minutes it’s too short to make much of an impact.
Move It Over There has a fantastic dark RNS beat put to good use by Shy, and Pop da Brown Hornet who only appears in ad-lib capacity.

There are some minor complaints about some of the tracks.
On the posse-song The Rugged Onez the man of the hour fails to catch up with his invited guests, which is the only time that happens on this album.
Here I Am once again stresses the Clan-affiation thing too much, with the refrain being “It’s a Wu-thing”.
Buckwylyn is all graphic violence and no substance, and on You da Man the Down Low Recka and our host are kissing each other’s ass Coming of Age-style (a Jay-Z song off Reasonable Doubt on which Shy was allegedly supposed to appear before he was replaced by fucking Memphis Bleek) and it’s not very interesting to listen to.
Napsack is an ode to Shyheim’s beloved backpack, in which he claims to carry around a gun, which is just a silly concept, since he wouldn’t be very quick on the draw if shit went down, that way.
Party’s Goin’ On has our host performing a misogynic sex rap, which no ammount of goodwill, nor a sample of the Clan’s Tearz can fix or even distract from.

Even these songs aren’t outright failiures because RNS keeps bringing the banging beats, makes one wonder just why the man appears to never have gotten any work, besides on Shyheim’s first two albums and GP Wu’s lone album.

All in all AKA the Rugged Child is a surprisingly entertaining album. Sure, the little homie makes some beginners mistakes (some songs aren’t that well thought-through) but -and this is surprising- not as many as most rappers aged twenty and over usually do on their debuts. The Wu-Tang Clan gets namechecked more often than it should, especially since there wasn’t much of a working relation to speak of, but a talentless associate the boy most definitely is not. With all but one of the tracks being produced by RNS the album has a unified sound, and a good one at that. And Shy has enough talent to take advantage of this.

Best tracks
Here Come the Hits
On and On
Pass It Off
One’s 4 the Money
Move It Over There

Recommendations
Buy this album.


Sauce Money – Middle Finger U

Sauce Money
Middle Finger U
May 23, 2000
Priority Records/ EMI
080/100
Sauce Money - Middle Finger U
1. Intro // 2. We Gonna Rock // 3. Love & War // 4. For My Hustlaz // 5. Middle Finger U // 6. Do You See (feat. Diddy & Pam) // 7. Face-Off 2000 (feat. Jay-Z) // 8. What’s That, Fuck That // 9. Chart Climbin’ // 10. Crime Skit // 11. Intruder Alert // 12. C My First (feat. Bam-Blue)// 13. Pre-Game (feat. Jay-Z)  // 14. Say Uncle // 15. Section 53, Row 78 (feat. Maverick) // 16. What’s My Name // 17. V1 [Skit] // 18. What We Do (feat. Memphis Bleek)

Sauce Money, a Jay-Z affiliate, and the guy who penned P. Daddy’s Notorious B.I.G. tribute “song” (and earnt a grammy for it years before he had his own album) by all means should’ve released his debut album on Roc-a-Fella Records (he was at some point signed to the label but never got more than a couple of singles released, all of ’em with Primo beats, all of ’em terrific.) If Memph Bleek’s album went gold solely because of Jigga’s marketing machine (and do not kid yourself, it did) then Sauce could’ve been a best-selling monster, especially because he actually has some talent behind the mic.

Sorry Bleek!

This in and by itself may have been the trouble between Sauce and Jigga, the guy had proven that he could at the very lease write a hit song, and unlike most Roc-a-Fella interns (said Bleek, Amil, da Ranjahs, Kanye West) Sauce actually rivaled the Jiggaman in terms of rapping skill, so he might become too powerful to control, if he were ever to fullfill his potential, something Shawn Carter never had to worry about before or since, even with his most talented subordinate so far; Beanie Sigel. (Well maybe Kanye, but he’s not so much a rapper as a pop star.) But perhaps Sauce may just not have wanted his friendly and artistic relationship with Jay to turn into a business one, since being on your friends’ payroll can be a bitch. I don’t expect Jigga to drop any clues about this particular subject and with Sauce’s face being on New York milkcartons I doubt we’ll ever hear the truth, the whole truth and nothing  but the truth on this subject. It must be said that I’ve never heard of Jay-Z and Sauce Money beefing. In stead of going out like that Sauce’s career sory goes: Did guest verses on each of Jay-Z’s first three albums, dropped Middle Finger U without even his mother picking up a copy, proceeded to disappear off the face of the earth.

Enough with the hip-hop conspiracy theories, Sauce got signed to Priority Records, which may not have been the up and coming Roc-a-Fella but also wasn’t the crumbling Bad Boy Records, and recorded and released his debut album, today still his only album in existence; Middle Finger U to an audience of tumbleweeds, in may 2000. Apparently, most Puff Diddy fans do not actually read liner notes, because Middle Finger U certainly didn’t do I’ll Be Missing You numbers (luckily it doesn’t sound anything like that mawkish piece of fuckery either) Jay-Z’s fans apparently didn’t run to the stores to pick it up either, and that‘s a bloody shame because it’s in fact a pretty good, well-rounded album that has something to offer to most demographics without sounding forcedly over the map, not unlike most Jay-Z albums.

Sauce raps conversationally, much like his much more famous fellow Marcy Projects inhabitant. Unlike billionaire icy playboy Jay-Z however Sauce is a funny guy, cracking jokes and throwing humourous threats and punchlines to the listener throughout Middle Finger U. The mood varies from celebratory on the Frank Stallone-sampling For My Hustaz, to mournful on Section 53 Row 78, an euology of his late mother, with everything sounding good enough and making sense.

It would seem that Sauce mostly had the streets in mind rather than the pop-charts, which isn’t to say that this album is inaccessible or hard core, but the R&B hooks and the poppy beats are kept to a minimum, and when they do pop up they’re accompanied by a guest, such as Do You See which is actually more of a Sean Combs joint featuring Sauce, immediately following it is Face off 2000 a poppy, light-footed duet with Jay-Z about bagging chicks, that is a sequel to Face Off off In My Lifetime, vol. 1.

The production is being handled by Jay-Z veterans such as DJ Premier, Super DJ Clark Kent, Big Jaz, Bad Boy hitmen Prestige and Puff Diddy, old school legend Marley Marl and relative unknowns Spencer Bellamy and Mr. Rapture who all knock out serviceable backing tracks for Sauce to flow over, and he doesn’t put ’em to waste. Off course Puff and Jay pop up to provide guest verses, so does Memphis Bleek. But this is undoubtably Sauce’s show, not only taking up almost all of the mic time but keeping up with Jigga and destroying P. Daddy and Memph Bleek on impact (no surprises there.)

Chart Climbin’ has a Big Jaz instrumental consisting of some rhythmic piano keys and some funky organs that are driven in on the chorus. Intruder Alert is Sauce’s take on the Notorious B.I.G. Warning, and although it’s not quite as good as that classic song it comes close. What’s My Name could actually go toe-to-toe with the better NaS/ DJ Premier, Jay-Z/ DJ Premier and B.I.G./ DJ Premier collabo’s. (Even if it is apparently produced by Mr. Rapture who doesn’t appear to have ever worked outside of this album, apparently Middle Finger U is the soundtrack to more than one career ending prematurely.)

On Section 53 Row 78 Mr. Rapture jacks the instrumental of 2pac’s Pain off the cassette version of the Death Row released soundtrack of Above the Rim for Sauce to talk about his late mother to great effect, creating what sounds like one of the the moody contemplative tracks Jay-Z used to close his albums with.

As much greatness is to be found here there are some songs that miss the mark.

What’s That, Fuck That sounds like a Resevoir Dogs-aping instrumental (the Jay-Z song off the In My Lifetime, vol. 3 on which Sauce, as well as the LOX and Beanie Sigel appeared, not the the Tarantino movie) courtesy of legendary producer Marley Marl, who weaves a Jay-Z vocal sample into the beat that’ll have you hanging on to your seat, but not in a good way since it is placed so that you’ll constantly believe Jigga is about to drop in for a verse (which never happens.) and it is so goddamn distracting it renders the whole song unlistenable. C My 1s has Sauce dueting female rapper Bam-Bue (yeay, me neither) over a terrible Spencer Bellamy beat in such an aggravating manner that it makes this reviewer wish the people at EMI would’ve saved this song for her imaginary debut album. The Prestige/ P. Diddy produced Do You See? which features the shiny suit man himself and Pam from Bad Boy records R&B group Total has a beat that is so bland, soulless and high-gloss that it’s a miracle that Sauce doesn’t slip off the beat, if not off the song entirely (not Puffy though, he’s kinda in his comfort zone here).

Middle Finger is the album we would’ve had if Jay followed In My Lifetime, vol. 1 with more of the same stuff we got to hear on his first two albums rather than hook up with Timbaland and Swizzy for the hit-or-miss experimental production of Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life. This is far from surprising since Sauce seems to have dusted off some of the producers that Jigga stopped working on on Vol. 2 and Vol. 3 such as Clark Kent, DJ Premier, Big Jaz and Puff Daddy (where the fuck is DJ Ski?). Middle Finger U is an overlooked classic that should be revisited by those who enjoy the mid-to-late ’90s hip-hop sound. This dated-at-the-time-of-its release-but-vintage-today sound also helps explain why, despite being of high quality it never became that popular; By 2000 hip-hop as a whole, not the least Jay-Z himself, had moved on to other, more electronic sounds and Middle Finger U may have sounded like the aural equivalent of dinosaur to contemporary pop and rap audiences. Also, only one single was released, which is pretty poor marketing and puts this album in the we-have-no-follow-up-plans-for-this-guy’s-carreer-so-let’s-release-this- record-as tax-write-off category.

Hence: If it were released one to three years sooner, and promoted better upon release, it would be quite likely for Sauce Money to become a household name with one or several platinum plaques under his belt.

Alas, he wasn’t ment to be a star, or even to have a lukewarm indie-label career (meaning putting out shitty releases every year gobbled up by a small but loyal cult following.) But that doesn’t change a damn thing about the fact that Sauce Money and his album Middle Finger U are uncut dope.

Best tracks
For My Hustlaz
Middle Finger
Face Off 2000
Chart Climbin’
Intruder Alert
Section 53 Row 78
What’s My Name

Recommendations
Buy this album.


Eazy-E – Eazy-Duz-It

Eazy-E
Eazy-Duz-It
September 12, 1988
Ruthless Records/Priority RecordsEMI
085/100
Eazy-E - Eazy-Duz-It

1. [Prelude] Still Talkin’  // 2. Nobody Move // 3. Ruthless Villain (feat. MC Ren) // 4. 2 Hard Mutha’s  (feat. MC Ren) // 5.  Boyz-n-the-Hood [Remix] // 6. Eazy-duz-It // 7. We Want Eazy (feat. MC Ren & Dr. Dre) // 8. Eazy-er Said than Dunn // 9. Radio // 10. No More ?’s // 11.  I’mma Break It Down // 12. Eazy Chapter 8 Verse 10

Eazy-Duz-It is the first album by retired crack dealer turned Ruthless label boss/rapper Eric “Eazy-E” Wright, as well as the first N.W.A offshoot. Eazy-E’s debut album follows Straight Outta Compton a month after its release.  By the logic of the music industry Eazy-Duz-It should’ve been pushed far into 1989 as to not hurt Straight Outta Compton‘s record sales. But  on the always unconventional Ruthless Records no such consideration seems to have been made here.

On with the review, Dre and Yella’s beats are dense, dusty and funky as they were the last time around and Eazy recites Cube, Ren and D.O.C.’s writings over them with the mischievous joy of a street-smart man-child. His high-pitched wine is best described as a thugged-out version of Sam Cooke and the mixture of boasting and threatning is over-the-top enough for anyone but the C. Delores Tuckers and the Bill O’Reilly’s of the world (or however may have filled his shoes back in ’88) to get the joke, or at the very least get that there’s a joke being made. As usual; Joke’s on Bill.

A major difference between Straight Outta Compton and Eazy-Duz-It is that since technically Eazy is the worst rapper in the world’s most dangerous group, but also the biggest character; he does best setting the mood rather than discussing serious shit, and that’s probably why are no profound statements being made such as on Fuck the Police or Express Yourself. Basically Eazy-Duz-It is Eric Wright taking no shit but talking a lot himself for twelve tracks long and it’s all the better for it.

There’s party-starters such as We Want EazyEazy-Er Said than Dunn, there’s conceptual raps No More ?’s which takes place in an interview-setting, and Nobody Move which is about performing stick-ups. There’s even a profanity-free song for the radio titled Radio (One thing you can’t accuse N.W.A of is hiding their intentions or mislabeling their songs.) And it all forms an exciting, never boring and well-rounded album.

Finally Eazy-Duz-It makes N.W.A and the Posse completely obsolete by taking the one song that actually sounded good that wasn’t on Straight Outta Compton already. That would be Boyz In da Hood.

Eazy-Duz-It isn’t for the faint-hearted, drugs, misogyny, guns and other street shit is being glorified and Eazy is willfully immoral throughout, but if you don’t take this album too seriously you can have a lot of fun with it. What keeps these staple-subjects of hip-hop interesting is Eazy’s undeniable charisma and his distictive delivery. It’s a shame he wouldn’t put out another full-length solo-album before his untimely death in 1995.

Best tracks
Nobody Move
Boyz-n-the-Hood [Remix]
We Want Eazy
Eazy-Er Said than Dunn
Radio
No More ?’s

Recommendations
Buy this album.


N.W.A – Straight Outta Compton

N.W.A
Straight Outta Compton
August 8, 1988
Ruthless Records/Priority Records/ EMI
090/100

N.W.A - Straight Outta Compton

1. Straight Outta Compton // 2. Fuck the Police (feat. the D.O.C.) // 3. Gangsta, Gangsta // 4. If It Ain’t Ruff // 5. Parental Discretion iz Advised (feat. the D.O.C.) // 6. 8 Ball [Remix] // 7. Something Like That // 8. Express Yourself // 9. Compton’s N the House [Remix] // 10. I Ain’t tha 1 // 11. Dope Man [Remix] // 12. Quiet on tha Set // 13. Something 2 Dance 2 (feat. Arabian Prince)

N.W.A and the Posse may not be a very good album, but its selling of 500 thousand+ copies made it known to record labels that there was an audience for Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren, Dr. Dre and DJ Yella, even though their lyrics contained more than a bit of profanity. What it didn’t do however, was prepare the world for gangsta rap crossing over to the mainstream.

Which is exactly what happened following the release of N.W.A’s real debut album: Straight outta Compton.

Funky and mischievous, well produced and accessible yet uncompromising in its creators’ beliefs and opinions N.W.A’s true debut Straight Outta Compton is gangsta rap at its very best.

With wall-to-wall production by Dr. Dre, aided by DJ Yella and with raps written by Ice Cube, MC Ren and the D.O.C. and performed by Cube, Ren, Dre and the alpha male in a group that consists of nothing but alpha males; Eazy-E, Straight Outta Compton may not have been gangsta rap’s starting point (at least Schooly D and Ice T and perhaps more rappers preceeded it)  but it is the album that singlehandedly brought the rap subgenre to the masses without the aid of Radio/MTV airplay (Raegan era media weren’t to keen on airing  cursing and references to sex, drugs and violence), as white suburban kids found it perfect for pissing off their parents.

That’s not to say controversy is all it has going for it. Far from it, Dre and Yella’s dense funky beats never fail to make one’s foot tap and are the perfect backdrops for Eazy, Cube, Ren and Dre to go rampant over. Although it’s dated because of how goddamn monumental it is, today, 24+ years after its august ’88 release it still sounds completely fresh.

Off course not everything has aged equally well. Fuck the Police is still a fine rap song as ever and the subject of corrupt racist pighead policemen is current still, but the controversy it stirred up upon release, the motherfucking FBI even sent this rap group a letter requesting them to tone it down, is hard to imagine today, taking away at least some of the impact this once had.

Other subjects than bad experiences with racist police include, but aren’t limited to representing your hometown (the title track and Compton’s N The House), the poor quality of the recording output of unnamed rivaling hip-hop groups (Something Like That), free speech (Express Yourself) and Eazy-E’s favourite beverage (8-Ball).

Unlike on follow-up albums the vibe is rowdy but good-natured throughout because although a shitload of threats and bragging get put to wax, it is all nonspecific enough to not dis any of the listeners personally. (Well maybe except for cops listening to Fuck the Police.)

Eazy’s high-pitched whine is irresistable as ever throughout, Ice Cube records one of the first Gold Digger songs ever and Ren proves he is a criminally underrated rapper on his solo-shot If It Ain’t Ruff.

This album beats the life out of N.W.A and the Posse, shits on it and runs off with its valuables 8ball and Dope Man, after which Eazy-E’s solo debut follows suit and cleans up by including Boys in da Hood.

The only track that doesn’t work is the Panic Zone reprise late ’80s electro-funk-rap Something 2 Dance 2, which isn’t because it sucks completely, but rather because it sounds completely out-of-place.

Straight Outta Compton is some really great stuff for those who like unadultered rap music which likes to pretend the radio doesn’t exist.

Best tracks
Straight Outta Compton
Fuck the Police
8 Ball [Remix]
Dope Man [Remix]

But the rest doesn’t fall far behind. Straight Outta Compton is rather consistent.

Recommendations
Buy this album, even if you aren’t inclined to like rap music, chances are you will like this album.


Lykke Li – Youth Novels

Lykke Li
Youth Novels
30 January, 2008
LL Recordings/Warner Bros. RecordsWMG
090/100
Lykke Li - Youth Novels

1.Melodies&Desires // 2.Dance, Dance, Dance // 3.I’m Good I ‘m Gone // 4.Let It Fall // 5.My Love // 6.Tonight // 7.Little Bit // 8.Hanging High // 9.This Trumpet In My Head // 10.Complaint Department // 11.Breaking It Up // 12.Everybody But Me // 13.Time Flies // 14.Window Blues

2008 is the year of this album. Before Lykke Li Zachrisson became popular she was already busy in the early 2k years on Myspace. Björn Yttling also producer of Peter, Bjorn and John started working with Lykke Li and her songs combined with Björn’s quirky dance sound found ears on Swedish MTV. In 2007 the LP Little Bit gained popularity and after TV-appearances on MTV her first album saw the light. Sales figures? I don’t know but but apparently they were good enough for a second album to be released in 2011. The live footage of her acoustic performances is enough of an indication of her success for me…

The first track is a spoken word composition with melody driven sounds. There is a romantic influence which reminds me of Yann Tiersen and Eric Satie. I will not explain too much given the title says it all, Melodies & Desires. Dance, Dance, Dance picks up the pace gently with a quirky song about, how obvious, dancing. The context of the lyrics though is more playful than the title indicates. I’m Good I’m Gone is one of the best Pop tracks I have heard in ages. The arrangements are poppy but the vocals and lyrics sound very original. This track in particular brings me back to the better stand-up-for-yourself-Soul.

Let It Fall is slower and more stripped of instruments and a girlish song about expressing oneself. From tears to love My Love makes its entrance and more frail and girlish vocals enter my ears. The song is quite lovely and the lyrics tell about a girl waiting for her love. Tonight is a childishly romantic guilty pleasure that can be explained by this line: “Don’t you let me go, let me go tonight…” The instrumentals, stripped yet clear are very effective.

Little Bit picks up the pace again. The electronic groove is more present. This song is a little gem with lyrics about ‘little’ relations. Girlish vocals with mature lyrics. Hanging High sounds like a sweet cross-breed between Pop and Country with a slow pace and a present piano. Lyrically it is about needing comfort in a manner vague and clear at the same time . This Trumpet In My Head is a short intermezzo starting with an acoustic guitar ending with a trumpet in your head making way for Complaint Department. The song is about disappointment with a darker electronic undertone yet the effective arrangements still sound bare. Basically a “shit happens” song and quite a good one at that.

Breaking It Up starts noisy and continues as an Indie Pop song with bare arrangements and the frail and girlish vocals. I almost get the sense that here vocals reach a limit here but it works for the song. Even the back-up choir sound stressed to the limit. Everybody But Me is a slower song, more electronic about not feeling at ease and not wanting anything. Time Flies follows and lets you hear Lykke Li on the tops of her voice with predominantly the piano to guide the song. The frailty of her voice and the romantic lyrics combined are very effective. Window Blues closes the album. It is a bluesy song about keeping your loved one close. The undertone is heavy, melancholic and the vocals sound more nasal yet determined. The Youth Novels end here…

Youth Novels takes you down a trip of love affairs, life and disappoint to come back at the bluesy side of it. The instrumentals rarely sound too loud and the bare compositions don’t give me the feeling I am missing out on anything. The vocals are remarkably effective and work with the album even if Lykke Li doesn’t have the reach of Alicia Keys. Besides that the lyrics are sometimes so well thought out that I can only admire the song craft of this album.

Best Tracks
Dance, Dance, Dance
I’m Good I’m Gone
Little Bit
Complaint Department
Window Blues

Recommendations
This album has become a favourite of mine. In my opinion there is no real filler on this album, just good music for people who want to try something different which is still within the pop-genre. I recommend this album, which is particularly pleasant to listen to on a good sound system. The musical arrangements are a pleasure…

My regards,

Rura88