Archive for the ‘Hip-Hop’ Tag

4 Bricks of 2010

Now that I’ve cleared the air about the top sleepers of 2010, let’s get wrist deep in the beloved past time of shit talkin’. Here are four albums of last year that really missed the mark.

As with my list of sleepers, this assortment of albums requires a few notes:

  • I’m using the criteria that the albums in question had high expectations from more than a handful of people. It’d be too difficult to pare this list down if albums that no one thought would be good were eligible.
  • Much like the first list, this scroll of bricks is hip-hop-heavy, even though I can more easily say with confidence rock bands like Kings of Leon put out crappy albums.

T.I.No Mercy: Is there a more talented mainstream rapper with more disappointing albums than T.I.? 2006’s King was supposed to be the first in a series of albums that solidified T.I.’s status as not just one of the best southern emcees, but one of rap’s most prolific artists. But nearly five years later, that LP remains an outlier among several disappointing or half-baked albums.

No Mercy was set to be Tip’s triumphant return from a prison stint that took him out of the public eye for nearly a year. Last spring’s “I’m Back” whetted our appetite for what was sure to be an album that righted T.I.’s ship and sent him down that path to rap greatness we thought he was taking five years ago.

Instead, the law intervened and sent T.I. back to the clink. The arrest clearly impacted No Mercy, which is a mish-mash of bravado and “whoa is me.” The production is also tepid outside of a surprising effort from the stale Neptunes with “So Amazing.” The weak production seems fitting, though, given the listlessness of the album’s lyrical content. T.I. may still show us wrong yet, but he’s running out of apologies.

Nicki MinajPink Friday: You know how people loved that Geico caveman ad campaign and then were disappointed when those characters got placed in a 30-minute situation comedy? I mean, I never liked the ads, but the point is, even the people who liked them thought the show sucked. Why? Some things are best in spurts. Nicki Minaj may still prove a capable solo artist, but Pink Friday suggests she’s not quite ready to step away from the guest status on other people’s songs.

In that capacity, Nicki is a show-stealer, coupling an eccentric energy with goofball rhyme schemes. Either she can’t spread that same pairing out over an LP or she intentionally played in safe for the benefit of studio heads that fear bizarre behavior that isn’t meticulously calculated. Regardless, Pink Friday doesn’t help Minaj’s case against detractors who have tied her appeal to its gimmicky qualities.

Gucci ManeThe Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted: I had a similar reaction to Gucci Mane’s rise in popularity that I did with Lil Wayne’s meteoric rise six years ago: Are you guys serious? I guess I just couldn’t forgive him for “Icy” or a namesake that reminds me of handbags. Be that as it is, Gucci’s steady work ethic on the mixtape circuit when he wasn’t in jail got him a nice little buzz going. And with 2009’s “Wasted,” he finally had that mainstream-radio-approved song to piggyback his way to more recognition than we ever thought was capable of the Icy guy.

But man, what a letdown The Appeal: Georgia’s Most Wanted was. It suffers from the same pratfalls as a lot of other rap duds: Too many songs, too many mediocre songs, and at least one visit from Swizz Beatz and The Neptunes. That last part may not be fair, since those cats are still hit-makers in the most technical sense. But how many beats from those guys in the last few years have you actually liked?

It’s a shame, because the first few cuts from the album give promise that we’re in store for an hour of bombastic beats and “oh, you’re so crazy, Gucci” lyrical goodness. Unfortunately, the aforementioned producers and mediocre songs appear midway through the album and it never really recovers. “Grown Man,” which polishes off the LP, is an exception and simultaneously one of Gucci’s most introspective and radio-accessible songs he’s done. But there’s just too much dead wood bogging down Most Wanted, especially from a guy who’s allegedly supposed to be one of the more prominent mainstream rappers (rap purists, shield your eyes!).

B.o.B.The Adventures of Bobby Ray: Oof. This is easily the most commercially successful album on this list and probably the one some people would take issue with being included here. After all, Bobby Ray gave the world two singles you couldn’t leave your house all spring without hearing (“Nothin’ on You” & “Airplanes”). So maybe this can just be considered a brick to those who fondly recall B.o.B when he had haters everywhere he went.

Bobby Ray has been messing with this dual-personality rapper/eccentric rocker thing for a minute now, so I guess it shouldn’t be a surprise that his debut LP cultivated the most pop aspects of those personalities. Unfortunately, the whole thing is so unabashedly pop that I think even Jimmy Ray would take issue with Bobby Ray’s work here. Maybe he really buys into that whole comparison of him to OutKast’s Andre 3000’s left-of-center musical approach. Whatever it is, The Adventures of Bobby Ray lost me with the only loose acknowledgment to rapping (especially since B.o.B IS a talented rapper) and went heavy on the guest spots from people like that guy from Weezer and that girl from Paramore.

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A Form of Intellect Lost

I doubt I could add anything to this that countless other blogs and Web sites haven’t already summed up. The world of hip-hop has lost another one of its trailblazers. In a genre notorious for violent overtones, the death of Keith “Guru” Elam came in a subdued manner. His lost battle to cancer has stripped East Coast hip-hop and hip-hop at large of one of its most formidable lyricists.

I’d be putting up a front if I acted as though I wasn’t a Johnny Comelately when it came to Guru or Gang Starr, Guru’s partnership with DJ Premier that makes up both artists’ most prolific work. I was four when their debut album dropped. I wasn’t out of middle school by time the duo had put forth its strongest LPs. And I was just barely into the genre when the group dissolved in 2003.

But like other forms of art that come from a bygone era, my absorption of Guru’s abilities on the microphone was still profound. For a guy who wasn’t even from New York, he epitomized what East Coast rap was all about. Dense, effortlessly woven lyrics laced over minimalistic beats.

There’s a letter Guru allegedly wrote prior to his death. Its authenticity has been questioned and perhaps rightfully so. A good chunk of it throws Primo under the bus while sounding vengeful and petty. Alas, there’s a fragment of the suspect letter I think projects the type of artist Guru was.

“As we fought for music and integrity at the cost of not earning millions and for this I will always be happy and proud…”

Legitimate or not, Guru’s creative output and career path supports the notion that for him, it really was about the music, even if most of his peers were doing it “All 4 tha Ca$h.”