Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Dart's Rant Of The Day: A Tale Of Two Albums (The Blueprint 3 & Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2)

This past week two highly anticipated releases both hit the 'net from two Hip Hop legends and veterans of the game that once vied for the title "King Of New York" back when it really meant something. The two artists being Jay-Z and Raekwon and their respective projects "The Blueprint 3" and "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2". Listeners have been comparing both albums for the better part of the past week now but to be totally honest it's not fair to do so for several reasons. I'll highlight some here in this blog "A Tale Of Two Albums".

Jay-Z first left the game after dropping his brilliant sub classic "The Black Album" back in 2003 where he used the hottest producers in the game at the time (namely Just Blaze, Kanye West, Timbaland, The Neptunes & 9th Wonder) to create the sound of his "final album". Lyrically, thematically and sonically "The Black Album" was easily one of Jay-Z's best projects as he swung for the fences on it. When Jay-Z took the job as the president of Def Jam and spent 3 years as an entrepreneur and NBA team owner. When he decided to return to recording his album "Kingdom Come" in 2006 he was not only met with hostility from rappers that were heated he returned and encroached on their space but fans angry at the themes and overall tone of "Kingdom Come". I guess they wanted another "Black Album"

In a different situation altogether is Raekwon, after making the classic album "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx" back in 1995 and it soon became his own personal "Thriller" album. His follow up "Immobiliarity"in 1999 was extremely disappointing to fans and while 2003's "The Lex Diamond Story" was a step in the right direction it lacked the high powered production needed to push it over the top. After a couple of years with the dark cloud hanging over his head that his first album was one of the greatest in Hip Hop history but his subsequent solo efforts failed to live up to his potential, Raekwon then decided to attempt to make another classic. Encouraged to do so by Busta Rhymes and later RZA & Ghostface Killah, Raekwon began crafting a sequel to his classic debut "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx..."

Jay-Z had a string of #1 albums, hits for days, a bunch of thriving businesses, he was now married to Beyonce Knowles, arguably the most famous and popular R&B star/actress on the planet. Jay-Z already has multiple classic albums and a gang of near misses that even he admits were due to him trying to make radio friendly music. Jay-Z can make a classic song or album almost as easily as he can draw a breath. However, Jay-Z isn't just a businessman, he's a business, man! He has audiences with heads of industry & state alike. He knows Barack Obama's BlackBerry PIN. Oprah loves him and she HATES Hip Hop. He headlined the Glastonbury Festival for God's sake! Do you muthafuckas realize whom Shawn Corey Carter really is?

He knows the game is to be sold, not to be told. Fans were angry at songs like "Do U Wanna Ride", "30 Something", "Anything", "Hollywood", "Beach Chair", "I Know", and the list goes on. Why? I'm not exactly sure. Jay-Z will become 40 on December 4th, he isn't the same cat he was 2003 in 2009. He isn't even the same guy he was back in 2006! He's trying to make an event album to open Roc Nation up, move units and have tracks get licensed & used in ads & commercial spots everywhere. Jay-Z isn't trying to make a classic album and spit the "Reasonable Doubt" era type rhymes you hope he will. He's done that already. Why would he hustle backwards? Now people say he should put his mic down. Really? After 3 years of being gone not one emcee occupied the spot he vacated between 2004, 2005 & 2006. Not one. Marinate on that! © Martin Lawrence

Raekwon's career was going the opposite direction. While he's never been wack and he managed to bring it consistently in verses over the years he's been trying to climb back to the elevated status he had during the early to late 90's again. The Wu Tang Clan albums have been met with lukewarm receptions from the Hip Hop world outside of diehard Wu heads and outside of RZA, Ghostface Killah and to lesser extent Method Man the relevance of the Wu Tang Clansmen has had a sort of resurgence in recent years. Once Raekwon announced that he was going back and making that shit the fans were clamoring for anticipation was high. It was at a fever pitch when Raekwon brought to project to Aftermath/Interscope and the 3 Vatican series mixtapes dropped. Then came the news that the project wouldn't drop on Aftermath. Were we really surprised?

It took 3 years of waiting, news leaks, mixtapes, rumors, numerous delays and a gang of interviews but it finally happened. Raekwon hooked up with an all star team of producers (Marley Marl, RZA, Dr. Dre, Pete Rock, J Dilla, Erick Sermon, The Alchemist & Scram Jones) and guest appearances that echoed that raw sound of classic material the fans have been fiending for Raekwon to return to since 1995. The sales numbers for this project aren't even important, purely the aesthetic of the finished project. There are people that haven't been excited about a new album since the 2nd Golden Era (1992-1996) ended or the Backpack Era died out (1997-2002) who will be at a record store on September 8th to cop "Only Built 4 Cuban Linx 2". I find that both admirable and extremely sad.

Jay-Z isn't concerned with recapturing his brilliance of days past. He has nothing to prove to himself or anyone else for that matter. He's concerned about conquering the corporate world with his business ventures much the way he conquered Hip Hop and the music world as a whole without the aid of Damon Dash. If Jay-Z made another "Reasonable Doubt" it would be like if Quentin Tarantino made another "Reservoir Dogs" instead of "climbing the mountain" and directing the "Inglourious Basterds" remake he's been planning for 5 years now. This event album will set up his new label/management venture with Roc Nation lovely. So what you want another "Friend Or Foe"? Go listen to "Friend Or Foe" and "Friend Or Foe 2" then. Jay's making "Ghetto Techno" now. Embrace the now or leave it alone.

Which album is "better" is strictly based on the individual listener. Either way, Jay-Z & Raekwon are legitimately satisfied with the finished products that'll hit stores next week. How far apart will their individual album appear on the Billboard charts or Soundscan is anyone's guess. Is that even important? Jay-Z has a lot riding on this album from a financial & marketing standpoint. Raekwon has a lot riding on this project from a personal & professional standpoint. He made a promise to his diehard fans back in 2006 that he was going to make up for the past plus decade with his upcoming album. The sales are all gravy and almost inconsequential in comparison to Rae living up to his word as a man. Look for my official reviews on Friday in "What's New In Dart's iPod #94 AKA Only Built 4 Hip Hop Fiendz..."



Anonymous said...

Props on this... it is a real way to look at things. Of course people were gonna compare, and I feel like a lot of it is steeped in stannery and haterism, sad to say. I can't even compare these two albums because they're two entirely different situations.

Jay def. has his fair share of stans who are gonna co-sign anything he does... but at the same time, he has some of the most angry niggas hatin' on his success it ain't funny. It's like they're almost mad at him because he's not rappin' about livin' in the projects anymore. But yet, if he did, everyone'd have a fit about that too cause they know it's not true.

On one hand, Rae has super Wu stans who probably love this album way more than they should just because it's called "Cuban Linx 2". But then, there's also those dudes who are just on some "Wu-Tang is old, they ain't got no swag" kick. It looks to me like both sides of that are overrating and underrating this album with no fair assessments whatsoever.

Hopefully somewhere along the lines, it evens out, and objectivity has the last word. But this is the internet, so who am I kidding? HA!


Sibusiso said...

Spot on commentary but then again, you think that with a new direction jiggaboo would bring out something stellar (to change the game and re-invent the sound hip hop should take) but on bp3 he just dropped the ball... if jigga is not interested in quality but rather where he wants to position himself for the last phase of his career then yes he has done just that... Cause I like the album but I cant rate it too highly.

But I aint gon shit on rae for bringing out a stellar album because I don’t care if he is rehashing a concept he has locked down before... Simple fact is that 0b4cl2 is > than bp3 as a body of work! Rae > jiggaboo lyrically on this offering. Production on ob4cl is apt while bp3 production is hit and miss.

@danjlovesthe90s, of course you can compare the two... its akin to someone saying you cant compare picasso to warhol just because they have different styles. bottom line they are both doing the same thing so at some point there is room for comparison. i am an art and design grad. and when the whole class was given a brief you telling me that my lecturer cudnt compare/grade our work cos he had 30 different works/styles to grade? come on danjlovesthe90s, dont be so simple.

by the way jiggaboo's career > 99% rappers careers rae included.

Anonymous said...

Yeah a lot of cats will put down an album simply because you can't compare it to their past work while there's those that'll call it a classic just based upon the artists names.

I listen to an album an my like/dislike of it is based upon if I enjoy the music. That's why I can still enjoy albums from artists who already made classics because I'm not looking for a recreation of the past. OB4CL2 did a good job of providing excellent music while not going out its way to bring back 1995. On the other hand BP3 didn't impress me (and I don't want another Reasonable Doubt or original Blueprint) due to the fact that I found the music boring. He'll probably come out with something I feel is a banger next time since that's usually how it works with guys like Jay (I didn't like Vol 2, BP2, Kingdom Come).

Knowledge said...

I gotta agree with Sibusiso. You can always compare art on some level, at least at the most basic level, ie I like this more than this.

The argument I'll always make against cats saying "fans want that classic album all over again, not realizing that the artist is a different person", is that we don't want the same album, just the same quality. Throughout his career Jay has made joints that I fucked with real heavy, but he makes some lazy trash sometimes too. Meanwhile Ghostface has reinvented himself multiple times, and I like most everything he's done. Jay can have new goals for every album he makes, but every goal better include quality music or I'ma keep talking shit

Small Pro said...

real rap

Anonymous said...

@ Sibusiso:

I'm not saying it like that... of course you can compare them based on whether you like one more than the other. But I tyhink sometimes, people tend to look for certain things in certain albums that just simply don't apply. In other words, I've seen some people comment that BP3 lacks some of the elements that CL2 has... but when has Jay ever been known to make music like Raekwon makes? You'd have to travel all the way back in '96 to REMOTELY link the two, and even then, those were two different lanes.

On the same token, some people in favor of BP3 are listening to Rae joint and expecting to hear some "hit song" material... that hasn't really ever been Raekwon's aim or style, so they're looking for things that aren't there.

AGAIN, not saying someone can't feel one is better than the other, but some of the criticism is simply strange in its reasoning.


Naturally Alise said...

I agree with your sentiment, I never really understood why people were comparing those 2 projects it was like comparing apples and collard greens...