Showing posts with label common. Show all posts
Showing posts with label common. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

video review: 'the hamilton mixtape' by lin-manuel miranda & various artists

I honestly thought this review would do a little better, given how dedicated the Hamilton fanbase is... eh, it happens, I guess, I'm guessing more people are looking forward to year-end lists or a J. Cole review.

In the mean time, though... Billboard BREAKDOWN up next, so stay tuned!

Monday, December 12, 2016

album review: 'the hamilton mixtape' by lin-manuel miranda & various artists

Let's talk about one of my biggest mistakes last year, or at least one that has weighed on me pretty heavily: I didn't talk about HamiltonOh, I considered it, a lot: I like hip-hop, I like musical theater, and I like Lin-Manuel Miranda. I might not have loved his debut In The Heights but it had a lot of charm and potential, so when he took the world by storm in 2015 with his musical chronicling the fascinating and tumultuous life of Alexander Hamilton... I didn't cover it. I don't really remember what my reasoning was for it either - the musical, while having its flaws in pacing and historical context, is indeed pretty awesome, with some of the most immediately catchy songs you'll ever hear. And hell, I even knew Daveed Diggs from clipping., I had an obvious inroad here!

And yet even with that Hamilton became the sort of Broadway crossover into popular culture that you so rarely see. Forget that it cleaned up at the Tony Awards, it was the sort of show where you'd probably have a better chance of winning the lottery than getting tickets. As such, the vast majority of us made do with the soundtrack, which wound up on a surprising number of year-end lists from professional music critics and as of now has crossed over a billion streams on Spotify, which does say a lot. Would it have landed on mine? Well, it would have had a shot, and that is saying a lot, especially given how strong 2015 was, especially for rap music.

And then we all got word about the mixtape... and if you've seen the list of huge names that have signed on for it, it's more than a little mindblowing! I would have gotten it for Usher covering 'Wait For It', but when you have Black Thought, Busta Rhymes, Joell Ortiz, and Nate Ruess doing 'My Shot', Kelly Clarkson doing 'It's Quiet Uptown', John Legend doing 'History Has Its Eyes On You', Chance The Rapper working on the reprise of 'Dear Theodosia', Regina Spektor and Ben Folds covering the regular 'Dear Theodosia', Ashanti doing 'Helpless' - which is such an obvious choice it's not even funny - Nas, Dave East, and Aloe Blacc working on 'Wrote My Way Out', Common and Ingrid Michaelson handling 'Who Tells Your Story' with The Roots - and The Roots are all over this project - and then add in a bonus track like 'Congratulations' with Dessa on it... at some point, you might as well give this project a spot on my year end list! I was primed to love this, and that meant I came in with the highest of expectations - were they paid off?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

video review: 'black america again' by common

Believe it or not, I cut a good two minutes of politics out of this review. They may come again, friendly warning, depending on what I cover over the next few years, but politics are a part of culture, and if punk and hip-hop react the way I think they will, we're going to hear something we haven't heard in a long time.

In the mean time, Tinashe and Czarface, so stay tuned!

album review: 'black america again' by common

It's easy for people like me to speak messages of encouragement and hope, given what has just happened in the United States. Hell, I'm in Canada, I'm further insulated from all of it. And what can I do with my platform and audience - who is primarily in the United States - that will make a difference, especially considering what is to come? Odds are over twenty million of people are going to lose their health insurance overnight, and providing Obama doesn't pull a fast one and somehow fill that Supreme Court vacancy, abortion and gay marriage rights will probably be going away too - look at that VP and tell me otherwise. The balance has once again shifted back to protect those who discriminate rather than those who are discriminated, punching down instead of punching up, and while I could blame the Democrats for a sloppily run campaign and third parties for asinine voter deflection and the FBI for violating the Hatch Act in the eleventh hour and Republicans for disseminating blatant lies and active voter suppression and the media for feeding into all of it, normalizing lunacy and abandoning any civic responsibility to the public... at the end of the day, America, particularly white America, brought this on herself. They bought into a con, and if there's any proof that 'greatest country in the world' label has been sorely tested indeed and will face even greater challenges in the years ahead, it's here. And given that the president-elect's policy challenges include revising trade deals that affect my home country and non-existent or outright fraudulent environmental policies that impact the planet, you can bet I'm can feel the urge to say or do something, in even the smallest way.

So of course I'm reviewing Common, what else could I do? Common, the conscious rapper who may not always have the most consistent discography but in modern years has seen a creative reawakening in some of the most political material he's ever created. His 2014 album Nobody's Smiling, while not at the level of his best material, was easily the best record he had made in a decade, and in this polarized, burned out shell of a year in 2016, you can bet I was looking to Black America Again to connect, to say something. It dropped before the election, so it was inevitable it wouldn't have the titanic revolutionary fury an album like Run The Jewels 3 was bound to have, but it would have to have something, right?

Friday, February 27, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 7, 2015 (VIDEO)

Another episode out of the way. Whew.

Okay, next up... see, I've got a few I'd like to talk about. Misterwives, The Mavericks, The Pop Group... lots of options. Stay tuned!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - march 7, 2015

At this point, I'm starting to wonder if I shouldn't have even covered that surprise Drake album - because if the radio is going to decide to play the entire record, I'm going to end up covering all the songs anyway. I would say that, except that none of the songs I actually thought were great from If You're Reading This It's Too Late have made the Hot 100. I will note this: for as much as many critics hypothesized that there didn't seem to be an easy radio hit off of Drake's new record, not since Taylor Swift have we seen this many album tracks crack the Hot 100. And speaking of her, she's got another single - and even though I reviewed her album, it's not one I've heard yet... interesting.

Friday, January 23, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 31, 2015 (VIDEO)

Overall, a pretty solid week - happy I was able to get this out before the convention kicked into high gear.

Okay, time to enjoy myself and maybe catch an album - or four - in between. Stay tuned!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

billboard BREAKDOWN - hot 100 - january 31, 2015

So this was a pretty simple week on the Billboard Hot 100 - in that there were movements and changes that you could easily predict. And yet it was almost a deceptive week on the charts, where it might seem a lot happened - we even got a new song debuting in the top ten, and trust me, we'll get to it - but it's not exactly disruptive to the status quo, and if anything, its success is all the more predictable.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

video review: 'nobody's smiling by common'

The video went up late last night, but it's here now, and honestly, I'm pretty pleased with how it came out. Just wish the record had been a little better.

Next up, Shabazz Palaces... but it'll be a review that'll come on either Friday or Saturday, because I'm seeing Jack White tonight in concert! Either way, stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

album review: 'nobody's smiling' by common

It's hard to tackle legends - especially when those legends easily made at least four albums I would consider bonafide classics. Especially when those legends aren't just significant to the music, but the culture that surrounds the music. Artists responsible for making some powerfully gripping and intelligent conscious hip-hop that also managed to be accessible to any audience willing to take the time to listen.

Yeah, I'm talking about Common, Chicago rapper known for his collaborations with No ID, The Roots, Erykah Badu, and Kanye West, who has earned a ton of critical acclaim for a succession of albums in the 90s and one in the mid 2000s that are damn close to masterpieces. The man is witty, intelligent, has a solid flow, and is incredibly charismatic, and he had the imagination and creativity to make some socially conscious and challenging records. Hell, while I won't say his 2002 effort Electric Circus works all the way through - it doesn't, mostly due to a broad lack of lyrical focus - it's certainly a fascinating listen with some genuinely inspired musical ideas.

But after his brilliant 2005 soulful success in Be, Common has struggled. Finding Forever felt like a less-inspired sequel to his last record and Universal Mind Control showed Common dumbing it down to disastrous results. And by the time Common released The Dreamer/The Believer in 2011, I was a little uncertain where Common seemed to be looking to go, especially as that album tried to toe the line between easy-going partying and the conscious rap for which he's most known. Granted, the album was pretty decent, but it was nowhere near his greats and did feel a little uninspired at points.

But with the escalating gang violence in Chicago which has only intensified over the past few years and the growing number of Chicago MCs either speaking against it or reveling in it, I knew it was only a matter of time before Common returned to his roots and spoke on this directly. And frankly, I was really interested: not only was one of the strongest MCs from Chicago going to address the critically ignored issue, he was going to speak to it with familiarity and a serious grit that was bound to draw serious interest. So I checked out Nobody's Smiling by Common - how was it?