Thursday, December 13, 2007

A What’s New In Dart’s iPod Special Edition AKA The Last Of The Grandiose Muthafuckas

This particular blog is born from the ashes of another ambitious blog I was trying to write about the effects of the dumbing down of American culture as a whole on the art of Hip Hop and it’s subsequent albums. I then decided to scale that blog back and just make one about Hip Hop concept albums..that was until I ran into a problem I didn’t really expect while researching it. My brother once told me that having limited knowledge of something can make it easier to write about in certain instances and in respects to this subject, he was dead on.

While I was picking concept albums to write about I ran into a few problems as to which albums where concept albums and which ones weren’t. For instance, we know that Prince Paul’s “A Prince Among Thieves” is a concept album and Cunninglynguists “A Piece Of Strange” is a concept album and so are MF Grimm’s “The Downfall Of Iblyis: A Ghetto Opera”, Organized Konfuzion’s “Stress: The Extinction Agenda” and “The Equinox” but is Ice Cube’s “Death Certificate” one then? How about "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx"? Isn't Cannibal Ox's "The Cold Vein" one?

I know that Masta Ace’s “Sittin’ On Chrome”, “Disposable Arts” and “A Long Hot Summer” are all concept albums but how about “Slaughtahouse”? If De La Soul’s “De La Soul Is Dead” is considered a concept album then doesn’t that mean that “3 Feet High & Rising” and “Buhloone Mindstate” could be considered concept albums as well? Shit, even Sticky Fingaz made a classic concept album that never got released (his album is right next to Allen Iverson's in the label's vault). To make matters worse, I realized just how many goddamn“concept” albums had been made in Hip Hop history and I was swamped with possibilities (Deltron 3030, Quasimoto, The Leak Bros "Waterworld", "Night Hawks", etc).

I then realized that subject was more of a book subject than a blog one and looked for a more simple subject to write about given my limited writing window. All of that changed when I received the new Lupe Fiasco album slightly more than a week before it’s release...I had found a new subject to write about.

In my previous research for my scrapped blog about the deteriorating artistry in Hip Hop I realize that maybe I was wrong. We all know the saying “Perception becomes reality”, right? Well , when I went back and checked between the years of 1997-2007 and looked at the best albums released year by year I immediately referred back to the lists of the best and most influential Hip Hop albums year by year between 1991-1996 and I realized something. There were just as many (arguably more due to the increase of indie Hip Hop labels between 2002-2005) albums that were either classic material or damn near it produced after 1997 as there were during the 2nd Golden Age Of Hip Hop (1992-1996)!

The only difference being that previous to 1997, these albums were released on major labels and they had videos and occassionally got airplay on the radio. This means that Hip Hop has not died and is nowhere near dying after all regardless of how much we seem to bellyache and cry about it. Sure it means that a lot of great music isn’t getting the attention it deserves but since when has that ever been a new story? Next time someone complains to me about Hip Hop going to shit I’m just gonna smack ‘em in the face with a couple of these CD’s and tell them to shut the fuck up (This goes for all of you assholes that claim you “outgrew” Hip Hop, too).

I was also working on a blog that would list the top 20 albums of 2007. When I started getting down to make the list I realized I was gonna have to make it a top 25 list and once I started going back through my iTunes I said “Fuck it” and decided to make it a top 50 of 2007 list instead. It’s scary just how many excellent Hip Hop albums were released in 2007, especially considering that no one’s heard of at least 90% of them except for us Hip Hop bloggers. This is why "Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool" is such an anomaly, it’s the type of album that simply isn’t made by a major label Hip Hop artist anymore.

It’s not cool to go against the grain and try to make art in this era. You have the “grandiose muthafuckas” on one side making art that the general public doesn’t want to hear for the most part and the “real niggas” on the other side making the music that gets spins on the radio and burn on video stations (but doesn’t move any units either). Lupe Fiasco clearly belongs in the “grandiose muthafuckas” category along with the other dudes that don’t move units (check the latest Soundscans...that would include everyone except for the cast of High School Musical or Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus)

“Lupe Fiasco’s The Cool” follows the story of Michael Young History, a character whose story has apparently been told piece by piece over the course of Lupe’s career. I didn’t even realize that some of the songs that I heard on Lupe’s previous mixtape were actually about this character but according to the heads on this messageboard  the story of the album and the symbolism of the songs is a lot deeper than even I realized (either that or these cats and kittens are really reading way too much into this joint). I didn’t catch that “Superstar” is actually about Michael Young History being denied entrance into Heaven at first listen, either. I will tell you that after listening to the album all the way through for the first time it’s obvious that the album is going to fly over the heads of most of today’s listening audience.

As soon as they hear tracks like “Paris, Tokyo”, “Hello/Goodbye (Uncool)”, “Fighters” and “Go Baby” or hear the vocals on more than half of this album they’ve already given up on the album. Forget about digging for the deeper messages in the album tracks or poring over each verse for the double meanings, metaphors, similes and clever personification in tracks like “Streets On Fire”, “Gotta Eat” or “Put You On Game”. The tracks on “The Cool” that are central to the main story are “The Coolest”, “Superstar”, “Gold Watch”, “Intruder Alert”, “Streets On Fire”, “Hello/Goodbye (Uncool)”, “The Die”, “Put You On Game” and “Fighters”. The album is extremely well thought out and executed from beginning to end and I imagine that it’s going to come off as corny on some tracks.

Essentially, the metaphor is that the pursuit of achieving “The Cool” eventually leads to the downfall of many if they lose sight of what’s really important and get wrapped in the glamor and glitz of the game and fall victim to the lure of the streets. Once our protagonist falls in love with the Streets it’s only a matter of time before the Game ends his life and he’s left to ultimately spend eternity rotting away in his casket (until he emerges from his grave six months later missing the flesh from his right hand like he did on “The Cool” from Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor). This joint easily makes my Top 50 of 2007 list (which will be posted up next week). This album gets a mos def from me easily.

Below are the Best Buys and Late Passes from this week and the previous week as well.

Best Buys:

Late Passes:

Next week, I'll post up the Top 50 Hip Hop Albums Of 2007 (According To Dart Adams).



@slushygutter said...

Yo, Im feeling that One BeLo new ish. You're going 50 deep for 07? Damn, you puttin in mad work. Peace.

What It Is said...

Hope you're enjoying shoveling as much as I am!

Dart Adams said...

@ What It Is:

I live in a co-op in the South End so we have a team of guys that we've hired to dig us out complete with a couple of small trucks equipped with front shovels. I live on the first floor and I see them working hard as hell out of my window.

If I still had my managerial job @ CVS working overnight shifts I'd be a shovelin' bastard, though.