February 18, 2018

Missy Elliott - Under Construction (November 12, 2002)

It’s been three fucking years since Missy “I Dropped the ‘Misdemeanor’ As It Wasn’t On-Brand Anymore” Elliott made her surprise appearance during Katy Perry’s halftime show at Super Bowl XLIX. At the time, you two likely saw one of two types of responses to her performance: “Holy shit, we need a new Missy Elliott album ASAP” (which was my reaction), or “Who is this?” (the more popular take, sadly). One thing you didn’t see is anyone claiming that she sucked: everyone likes at least three Missy Elliott songs, even if you’re too young to know who Missy Elliott is.

Sadly, the waves of press her cameo initiated didn’t translate into a new album, although it wasn't because of a lack of trying: Melissa dropped a handful of singles and cameo appearances. So we sit here, three years later, wondering just what went wrong. But we already know the answer: the musical landscape is far different today than it was back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, back when Missy and her partner-in-crime, producer Timbaland, changed the way radio sounded multiple times during the height of their respective careers. Regardless of how you personally feel about Missy and Timbaland as artists, you have to admit that is quite the feat: you can’t do what Missy and Timbo did multiple times and still have it be considered accidental.

February 17, 2018

My Gut Reaction: Earl Sweatshirt - I Don't Like Shit, I Don't Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt (March 23, 2015)

So did Thebe “Earl Sweatshirt” Kgositsile bail from Tyler, the Creator’s Odd Future movement or what? At the time of the release of the guy’s second full-length album, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside: An Album by Earl Sweatshirt, it sure seemed that way: upon its surprise announcement in March of 2015, many fans noted a significant lack of involvement from most of Earl’s Odd Future crew, a collective of rappers, producers, and singer-slash-rapper Frank Ocean from California that banded together in the face of the music industry and caused them to blink first. There’s never been a real answer given, but I don’t think it should matter: if we’re going to run with the “Odd Future is the new Wu-Tang Clan” comparison that everyone insists on using, that would make Tyler the leader, the RZA of the situation, and at this point in the careers of his charges, he was a lot more hands-off, so it makes sense that Earl Sweatshirt would venture out on his own without the safety net.

February 16, 2018

De La Soul - Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump (August 8, 2000)

Four years after the release of their fourth full-length album, Stakes Is High, the rap trio De La Soul, made up of Posdnuos, Dave, and Maseo, announced an ambitious follow-up project to be distributed by their label, Tommy Boy Records. It was to be a trilogy entitled Art Official Intelligence, and all three discs were to be released separately, but within the span of a year. Both De La and Tommy Boy were all-in on the concept: the group talked it up in the press, while the label even made plans to distribute a box-set version of the first entry in the series, Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump, with two additional, empty slots for fans to collect every disc into.

I’m writing this intro in 2018, and to date, part three still hasn’t seen a release of any sort, De La Soul is no longer signed to Tommy Boy Records, and Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump is generally considered to be a low point in the group’s career. This doesn’t mean it’ll never happen, of course, but it’s been eighteen goddamn years: at this point I fully expect for Pos, Dave, and Maseo to turn in the finale to whatever label they’re currently signed to, stare into the heavens with smiles on their faces, and quietly pass away, their souls finally freed from serving their sentence on Earth.

February 15, 2018

A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here... Thank You 4 Your Service (November 11, 2016)

On November 13, 2015, A Tribe Called Quest performed on television for the first time in many years. Although the crew had gotten together for a handful of stage shows to help support Kanye West's Yeezus tour a couple of years prior, their appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon wasn't considered to be anything resembling a reunion, as producer-slash-rapper Q-Tip was busy with his solo career, as was rapper Phife Dawg, producer Ali Shaheed Muhammad, and rapper-slash-chef Jarobi White.

Tribe’s performance aired the same evening as the attacks in Paris, France, where three suicide bombings killed one hundred and thirty people and injured over four hundred more. Taking this as a sign that the future isn’t promised for anyone, A Tribe Called Quest quietly reunited for real, and even decided to record an album in secret.

Unfortunately, Phife Dawg passed away from complications due to diabetes four months later.

February 14, 2018

Kanye West - The Life of Pablo (February 14, 2016)

Two years ago today, Kanye West released, after months of fanfare, rumors, and conjecture, The Life of Pablo, his seventh solo album for Def Jam Records. This doesn’t mean the album was ever completed, however: West considered the project to be "a living, breathing, changing, creative expression" and claimed it was a piece of contemporary art on Twitter (hey, if the Wu-Tang Clan can do it...), and he essentially ensured that his label, Def Jam Records, would never recoup their investment in the project by releasing it solely to TIDAL in 2016, and then altering that version multiple times, thereby causing cautious consumers to never bother purchasing the digital download (there never was a physical disc officially released, although other streaming services eventually acquired it, even after 'Ye infamously claimed it would never appear outside of TIDAL). It’s a weird story, one which we’ll skim the surface level of today, but The Life of Pablo definitely deserves some sort of making-of oral history or documentary, so if someone could get on that, I’ll act as a consultant, and I'll also take a producer credit for coming up with the idea, please and thank you.

I'm not kidding. 

February 13, 2018

My Gut Reaction: Busta Rhymes - It Ain't Safe No More... (November 26, 2002)

Trevor Smith’s career has been somewhat interesting to follow. The artist, who performs as Busta Rhymes because of a nickname given to him by Chuck D of Public Enemy, has been in this rap shit for seemingly one hundred and thirty years, evolving from a member of Leaders Of The New School to the dude who killed every guest appearance he made in the late 1990s to a solo artist to someone whose last full-length album was released exclusively on Google Play. He’s gone from being the closest our chosen genre has to a Tex Avery cartoon character to a roided-out drunk who assaults people that look at him funny. It’s a sad situation, one that hasn’t been rectified by his continued alliance with Q-Tip and A Tribe Called Quest (he made multiple appearances on their final album, We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service), and who the fuck knows when he’ll manage to convince whatever label he’s still on to release a new project. How did he get to this point?

After listening to his sixth album, It Ain’t Safe No More…, I have a theory.

February 12, 2018

J-Zone and Celph Titled are... The Bo$$ Hog Barbarian$ - Every Hog Has Its Day (March 14, 2006)

Today marks the eleven-year anniversary of the blog. I've missed a couple of these during my lengthy hiatus, so I wanted to make sure I acknowledged it this time around. Okay, that's over with, let's move on.

These days, producer-slash-sometimes rapper J-Zone is best known for successfully reinventing himself within not just our chosen genre, but transcending them, as well, having used his early experiences in the rap game, releasing critically-acclaimed but low-selling independent albums on his own label (Old Maid Entertainment) and touring with them to no avail, as inspiration for his autobiography, Root for the Villain: Rap, Bullshit, and a Celebration of Failure (released in 2011), which generated renewed interest in his music. Since then, he’s released two additional rap albums, but for the most part has moved on to other ventures, teaching himself to play the drums (he performed the drum work live on his last two albums), which has led to his current role as the drummer in his funk duo, The Du-Rites, alongside Pablo Martin of the Tom Tom Club.

Today’s post does not touch on the current J-Zone, however. There are no live drums or reflections on his past, aside from general complaints that his output doesn’t sound like his earlier work, something all rappers have dealt with at some point in their careers. No, the subject of today’s post is an album entitled Every Hog Has Its Day, and it’s a satirical take on the ignorant rap music that Zone and his partner-in-rhyme-for-this-one-project-only, underground stalwart Celph Titled, enjoy unironically.