I’ve been listening to a lot of St Vincent lately. I discovered her in 2012 and fell in love with her 3rd album entitled “Strange Mercy.’ Her real name is Annie Clark and she’s an excellent guitarist and a dope vocalist. I really dig her music, which can be classified as “indie pop” or “baroque pop.” She released her 4th album, ‘St Vincent‘ last year. It also goes hard, but of her four albums, I like ‘Strange Mercy’ the best. The lyrics to her songs are sometimes very dark but always unexpected. I really like ‘Strange Mercy’ because it has a very lush sound that captivates after the first listen.
Here’s a video of Annie in 2011 performing some songs from “Strange Mercy” and a few others from her albums ‘Marry Me’ and ‘Actor‘ at KCRW studios. This video is cool because you get to see her playing the guitar live. It’s obvious that she is a very skillful musician as well as a cool artist. She also sounds just like her tracks when she sings live. Enjoy!
Ghostface Killah is my favorite artist and rapper of all time, and in the wake of attending my 7th concert, I decided to take a trip down memory lane to reflect on and review his extensive discography.
First up is:
I was about 15 and not fully into rap when Ironman was released. I knew who Ghostface Killah was because I remember ripping a colorful wallaby-filled Ironman cover ad, out of Vibe magazine and taping it to the front of my Chemistry notebook in high school. “Cream” had been my first real introduction to the Wu-Tang Clan in 1994, one year after I’d moved to this country from the island of Jamaica. At the time, I was still heavily into R&B. A couple years later when my appetite for Hip Hop and Rap was at a high point, I begged my neighbor ‘B’ to borrow his Ironman CD. I’d heard the song “Camay” and fallen head over heels in love with it. To make a long story short, he never lent me the CD and for a few years Ghostface fell off my radar…but not forever. I officially purchased the album in 2008 and it blew me away. His rhyming style was unlike anything I’d ever heard. Each track was hella exciting, well produced, and not to mention, razor sharp! The album was also very cohesive with a strong unifying theme (I love that!) and it featured excerpts from cool movies and entertaining skits. There were no other albums like it when it was released. No other artists, except those in his own crew, were doing what Ghostface was doing. This album blazed a new trail and is one of my favorites today.
Supreme Clientele (2000)
Supreme Clientele was the next album that Ghostface released. I wrote about my initial reaction to it in this post. Once I heard this album, I was knocked out….completely! I couldn’t stop listening to it. This is without a doubt my favorite Ghostface album EVER. I can listen to it from beginning to end, without skipping one song. The theme is super creative and I love how all the tracks come together to paint a vivid picture. The production, is impeccable and Ghostface’s lyrics are savory and almost unearthly. It doesn’t even matter that you can’t understand what he’s saying. All that matters is how fantastic the tracks sound. They are so addictive that you can’t help but find yourself thinking about them when you’re not listening to them. And you can’t help but smile or chuckle when you think of the hilarious “Woodro the Basehead” skit. There are so many amazing moments on this album. Supreme Clientele is a triumph; a rare jewel, that should be regarded by all as one of the best rap albums of this decade.
Bullet Proof Wallets (2001)
Bullet Proof Wallets was the follow up to Supreme Clientele. This album came out while I was a student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. This was an exciting time in my life. I was so thrilled to hear this album that I walked up to the enormous HMV at 32nd and Broadway between classes to purchase a copy. I had a portable CD player then and I remember being so excited peeling the wrapping off the CD. I had high expectations for this album and I wasn’t disappointed at all. From the first track to the last track it was a solid album. “Maxine” and “The Forest” both tickled my fancy and I really connected with “Walking Through the Darkness”. Other standouts were “Strawberry”, which is undoubtedly the sexiest and smuttiest Ghostface song every written and “The Hilton” featuring Ghost’s right hand man Raekwon. This album also had a lot of radio friendly tracks on it like “Never Be The Same Again” featuring Carl Thomas and “Love Session” featuring Ruff Endz. I’m shocked it didn’t do better than it did and that to this day, it has not been certified Gold. I mean, damn… this was a decent album.
The Pretty Toney Album (2004)
For this album, Ghostface switched record labels. This was his first baby at his new home, Def Jam. The Pretty Toney Album deemed by many as more of a tragedy than a triumph, had both its good and bad moments. One of the lowest, worst, most horrible moments, was the Missy assisted “Tush”. I can’t begin to go into how awful this song was. Okay, I am over-exaggerating but I really think it slightly ruined the album. “Save Me Dear” is one of my favorites. It’s so bouncy and catchy you can’t help but sing along. But it is track 12 entitled, “Holla” that is the true gem of this album. Ghostface pours out everything he’s got on this 3 minute and 19 second opus. The skits on this album are markedly better too, namely “Kunta Fly Shit”. You almost wish they were songs instead of just short skits. The Pretty Toney Album gets a solid 8 out of a 10 from me.
Fishscale is probably theGhostface album that I enjoy listening to the most. I really connected with it very strongly. Unfortunately I haven’t seen Ghostface perform many songs from it during his live shows. I have no idea why because I think it is AMAZING. From “Shakey Dog” to “The Champ” to “RAGU” to “Big Girl”, all of the songs on this album awaken an emotion. I love the use of the Dell’s “I can sing a rainbow” on “Shakey Dog”. I am also enamored with the enchanting beat on “RAGU” and the amusing tale Ghost spins on that track. The J Dilla produced ‘Whip me with a strap” and “Beauty Jackson” add dimension to an already impressive album. I really think Ghost should be proudest of this album because it achieves the same thing Supreme Clientele did. It ushers in a new wave of exciting, cutting-edge sound while managing to stay coherent. It also went Platinum, so kudos to Ghostface for that. This is the Ghostface that I love the most; a seamless melding of grimy and gangster with a shot of introspection and spontaneity.
More Fish (2006)
Ghostface should have probably stopped the “Fish” theme right after Fishscale but he felt he had more jewels to share. Unfortunately not too many of them appear on More Fish. This album suffered from a lack of cohesiveness and too much Theodore Unit. Bogged down with horrible skits and too many throw away songs you almost wish Ghost hadn’t released it. Don’t get me wrong though. It wasn’t all bad. There are a few good songs like “Street Opera “featuring his son, Sun God, “Josephine”, “You know I’m no good” and “Alex (Stolen Script)”.
The Big Doe Rehab (2007)
This album heralded in a new Ghostface. The callous, hardcore, gun toting Ghostface that we only caught brief glimpses of on other albums was fully present on this go around. I was shocked when I heard “Walk Around”, an impressive little ditty about Ghostface shooting a man in the head at close range. The story telling on that track is amazing, as well as Ghost’s dialogue with himself. Also notable were “Yolanda’s house”. “Killa Lipstick” “Rec Room Therapy” and “Shakey Dog featuring Lolita.” I hadn’t expected this type of album from Ghostface. This was his darker alter ego and I really dug it. Ghostface is always evolving as an artist, which keeps the music fresh and his fans happy!
Ghostdini: The wizard of poetry in Emerald City (2009)
Honestly, I didn’t like Ghostdini:The Wizard of Poetry in Emerald City when I heard it the first time. I thought it was much too soft. I wasn’t feeling it at all because I thought it was obviously geared towards females. I still can’t fully say that I love it 100%, but I do like it a lot. I’m a big fan of the way the tension builds in “Guesthouse” (featuring Fabolous), and I’m always touched when I hear “Lonely”. It’s a strong album all in all and the only skippable track is the cringe worthy “Stapleton Sex”, because who wants to hear a song where Ghost raps about having sex in overly graphic detail more than once? There were some funny moments in that song..like at the end where he says he needs a cigarette, and his lover says, “you don’t smoke nigga”. Ghost nonchalantly answers, “Oh yeah, I forgot”.( LOL) “Do Over” is another treat as well as the radio single “Baby” and the rousing, “Stay”. “Forever” is my favorite track on the album. The beat is great and so is the message.
Apollo Kids (2009)
It took me a while to connect with Apollo Kids which was released in 2010. I felt like it was released with little fanfare and I don’t remember seeing a lot of promotion for it. I don’t believe it got much press either and I thought there was something kind of backwards about that. He named an album after one of the best tracks on Supreme Clientele, so naturally the expectation was that the album would have been bangin’ too. But I don’t think it lived up to the hype. I didn’t listen to it until late last year, and I wasn’t overly impressed. Don’t get me wrong though. There are some noteworthy tracks, namely “Purified Thoughts” and “Black Tequila” which features Cappadonna and Trife. I’m such a huge fan of Cappadonna. He bodies most of the tracks he appears on, and this was no exception. “Drama” featuring Joell Ortiz and The Game, was dope as well and the Pete Rock produced, “How you Like me Baby” is very satisfying and catchy. My final verdict on this album is that it deserves a 7 out of 10 but maybe that will change if I listen to it some more.
Twelve Reasons To Die, 2013
Twelve Reasons to Die is Ghostface Killah’s tenth studio album. I didn’t see this album coming at all. It kind of blindsided me to tell you the truth. I remember being on Twitter on the morning of April 16th, 2013 and seeing Ghostface tweet about his new album! I screamed, dropped whatever I was doing, and quickly signed on to Spotify so that I could listen to it. The first track, “Beware of the Stare” was jaw-dropping! I must have played it back to back 20 times before being able to move on to the next song. The concept of the album was so ill! “The album’s story is set in 1960s Italy and centers around the character of Tony Starks (Ghostface Killah). He is an enforcer for the DeLuca crime family, who is murdered by his former employers after striking out on his own and falling in love with the kingpin’s daughter. His remains are melted in vinyl and pressed into a dozen LPs that, when played, resurrect him as the Ghostface Killah, a force for revenge incarnate….”
The music on this album is UNBELIEVABLE mostly due to the production skills of Adrian Younge who crafted the sound for the majority of the project. My favorite tracks on the album are “I Declare War“, and “The Center of Attraction” featuring Cappadonna. The latter track stirs up something in me every time I hear it. Ghostface’s lyrics are stirringly heartfelt and unfiltered. He pours out his heart in an incredible fashion as he raps about his perfect girl. It makes me want to melt every time I hear it. I love the way the album is centered around the one theme, and how each track is like a piece to one of the best puzzles ever!
This was a dope album, even with the gritty, and sometimes gruesome murder-themed lyrics. I wouldn’t be mad if this is how Ghostface chose to go out. He’d be ending his career on a very high note. This album is again, unlike any other albums or anything his contemporaries are doing. And that is why I love Ghostface the way that I do. He’s always pushing the ticket creatively and will be my eternal favorite.
So that’s it. Those are my thoughts on the work of someone I deem the greatest. Let me know what you think, or leave a comment letting me know what was your first impressions of these albums. I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Action Bronson, you almost had me. I was on the brink of being lured in by your sounds. I was about to fall hard for you. But then I saw that disgusting “Brunch” video of yours on YouTube. You know the one where you hurl all sorts of profanities and insults at a dead girl and then dump her into the ocean after rolling her body into a rug. It was truly grotesque and removed any desire I may have had to get to know you better.
To be honest, I was looking to you to fill a void. My favorite rapper hasn’t released new music in a while and you sound eerily like him. But here’s what’s obvious; you will never be Ghostface. I don’t care how much you sound like him. He would never make a video disrespecting woman to the degree that you did. Not even at his lowest.
The “Brunch” video really rubbed me the wrong way. I don’t care if it was a metaphor or an over-exaggeration of a bad breakup, it was in poor taste.
Let me back up though. Let me not assume that everyone knows who Action Bronson is. Action Bronson is an American rapper from Flushing Queens who wasn’t really on my radar until now. My step brother was a big fan of his and shared some of his music with me last year, namely ‘Rare Chandeliers,’ produced by Alchemist and ‘Well Done,’ produced by Statik Selektah. For some reason, I wasn’t receptive to his music before. I recently thought I was ready to embrace it wholeheartedly, but the “Brunch” video has me thinking otherwise. I get the whole artistic expression thing, but sometimes you can take it a little too far. What’s unfortunate is that I was really starting to like his bold delivery and irreverent lyrics. I was even willing to look past the fact that lyrically he’s a Ghostface clone. And his voice was just starting to excite me. Not to mention I was also digging the way he handled himself on beats by Alchemist. ‘Rare Chandeliers’ is dope. I can’t front. Bronson rhymes the way I wish Ghostface still did. But… it’s too late. I’ll never look at him the same ever again. I have no desire to get into his music anymore. I’m moving on. I’ll stick with the original. The End.
I just made a dope little Spotify playlist from eight songs that appear on these two projects.
I hadn’t listened to them both until recently and I’m not really sure why it took me so long to hear them. Anyway, these tracks that I’ve mentioned below go VERY hard…
1) “Death Sentence” – Prodigy x Alchemist feat. Roc Marciano- from The Albert Einstein project
Prodigy’s deep-voiced cadences complement the understated Alchemist beat perfectly. An assist from Roc Marciano ups the dopeness factor and makes this song a bona fide standout.
2) “Dough Pildin” – Prodigy x Alchemist – from The Albert Einstein project
This track has the type of Alchemist beat that I live for; subtle and beautifully crafted. Prodigy spits his usual philosophical braggadocio making this another win win.
3) “Breeze” – Prodigy x Alchemist – from The Albert Einstein project
This is my favorite track on the ‘Albert Einstein’ project. The beat is impossibly smooth and P’s flow is incredible. He effortlessly rides the beat and unloads quotable after quotable. I can picture myself lying on a beach somewhere warm listening to this. This track is laid back perfection.
4) “Raw Forever” – Prodigy x Alchemist – from The Albert Einstein project
I chose this track because I like the way the beat constantly changes up. This is a classic feel good track that leaves me happy after every listen.
5) “Say My Name” – Prodigy x Alchemist – from The Albert Einstein project
This beat sounds so amazing to me. P’s lyrics are first rate as usual. This is the kind of sonic gem that I could memorize word for word.
6) “Triple Backflip” – Action Bronson – from ‘Saab Stories’ produced by Harry Fraud
This song was my first real introduction to Action Bronson and I gotta say, I really liked it after that first listen. Harry Fraud is obviously no slouch in the production department. The beat sounds very opulent and inviting.
7) “The Rockers” – Action Bronson feat. Wiz Khalifa – from ‘Saab Stories’ produced by Harry Fraud
I liked this beat as soon as I heard it. It sounds like it should be featured on a, “for the ladies” type of track but Action Bronson eschews the formulaic subject matter and raps about something entirely different. And it works.
8) “Seven Series Triplets” – Action Bronson feat. Prodigy and Raekwon – from ‘Saab Stories’ produced by Harry Fraud
The beat on this track reminds me of one Ghostface might have used on ‘Fishscale’ or ‘Bulletproof Wallets’. It has a somber, appealing quality to it and the guest rappers Prodigy and Raekwon, really bring out the beauty of the beat.
Phyllis Hyman was an incredible singer-songwriter who was the epitome of elegance, confidence and style while she was alive. One of my favorite recordings by her is “Complete Me” which appeared on her well received 1979 album, “You Know How to Love Me.” I purchased this album on a whim around 2000, and I’ve never once regretted it.
She was a wildly talented artist and possessed a captivating voice imbued with quiet sophistication and a unique richness. She also never sang without copious amounts of passion and emotion. She will forever be one of my favorite singers. Following are some of my all-time images of her, as well as a YouTube video of “Complete Me”.
This shot was the cover of the “You Know How to Love Me” album.
She had amazing style…
I’m reading again! When I was in school a month ago, it was difficult for me to read recreationally. But now that I’m out, it’s on! I’ve recently been reading several books about Hip-Hop. Since I love it so much, I figured I should know more about its history.
I started with Bakari Kitwana’s “The Hip Hop Generation”
It was a good read. Bakara Kitwana refers to the hip hop generation as those born between 1965 and 1984. It wasn’t much of a history of Hip Hop as I had hoped but in it, he makes clear arguments about what has affected Black youth over the last twenty years and offers up solutions. I had bought this book years ago (maybe in 2003 or so) intending to read it right away but never did. It felt good to finally finish it.
After reading that book, I decided I wanted to read a history of Hip Hop, so I started Jeff Chang’s “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop; A History of the Hip Hop Generation”.
I am really enjoying it so far. The author has a brilliant way with words and paints vivid pictures about Hip Hop’s humble beginnings leading up to today. It’s the kind of book you don’t want to put down because it is so riveting. I’m half way through it. I almost wish Kitwana had used the same language to write the “Hip Hop Generation” because I’m sure I would have enjoyed it more. But I guess the subject matter didn’t really lend to that.
Next, I read M. K. Asante’s “It’s Bigger than Hip Hop – The Rise of Post Hip Hop Generation”
I’d been reading all about the “Hip Hop Generation” and wanted to read about the “Post Hip Hop Generation” which follows as well. It was a decent book. The author is a young activist and is a professor at Morgan State. He “uses hip hop as a springboard for a larger discussion about the urgent social and political issues affecting the post-hip-hop generation, a new wave of youth searching for an understanding of itself outside the self-destructive, corporate hip-hop monopoly.” In it, he has an interview with Dead Prez. I’m supposing that he got the name of his book from their song. He also interviews Hip Hop itself. It was a well-written book and I’ll probably read it again.
And last but not least, I just finished John H McWhorter’s, “All About the Beat: Why Hip Hop Can’t Save Black America”
I happened to come across this book while browsing for other books about Hip Hop online. Written in 2008, McWhorter asserts in this book that Hip Hop doesn’t have the potential to foster a revolution of positive change in the lives of black people. I didn’t know how to feel when I read this, especially when I had held the belief that hip-hop was so great and powerful and such a strong, prevailing force in my life. McWhorter smashes the claims that hip-hop is politically valuable because it delivers the only “real” portrayal of black society. He points out that hip-hop is, at its core, simply music, and takes issue with those who celebrate hip-hop as the beginning of a new civil rights program and inflate the lyrics. While reading, I found myself jotting down notes and agreeing with quite a bit of what he wrote. Yes, sermonizing rather than working on the problems is not the answer. We really do need to “translate hipness into action and activism”. It was short, but sweet. And it was refreshing to read a book written by someone on the other side of the argument. McWhorter dislikes the term “Hip Hop Generation” and thinks history is not on the side of revolution now. Some key notes:
- “Snapping our necks to beats and rhymes will have no effect on what happens in the congressional chamber”
- “The seduction of rhythm is indeed much of why so many people entertain the prospect of a revolution based on rap music.”
- “Rhythm is deeply seductive. Even babies like it.”
-“Black people need to get beyond the idea that something is true because it is expressed in infectious rhythm.”
- “The idea that rhythm and inflection constitute coherent political insight worthy of extended attention is wrong.”
- “Words, sentences, logical connections, and constructive thought will be our salvation. Mysticism will not – even if it’s set to a great rhythm track.”
-“The beat is not truth”
-“In being art, especially popular art, hip-hop is automatically disqualified from being meaningfully political”
-“Anyone who says hip-hop is dead is being theatrical and seeking attention”
- “A revolution does not consist solely of howling grievances”
-“The fact that our ancestors were brought here as slaves and endured Jim Crow does not arouse people anymore.”
Now that I have a working knowledge of Hip Hop history, I think I’ll delve into Black history some more. There’s a book that I had to read for an African Studies class at Drexel called “Black Intellectuals” by William M Banks that I’ve always wanted to re-read. And there is one on the Civil Rights Movement called “Freedom Bound – A History of America’s Civil Rights Movement” by Robert Weisbrot that looks interesting as well. Following those, I will probably begin “We Are Not What We Seem: Black Nationalism and Class Struggle in the American Century” by Rod Bush. Reading is dope.
I came across this video today. Since I’ve started listening to Stalley recently, I thought it would be fitting to post this.
What if we all had a soundtrack to our lives, that always played, as if we were in a movie? Like say… if we got a promotion or met the man or woman of our dreams then a song on our soundtrack would play all by itself, making that moment that much more special? Yeah, that would be pretty nice.
Since I love music and I sometimes want to hear it 24 hours a day, I love the idea of having a perfect soundtrack to life.
Here is the 15 track soundtrack that I would want playing at special moments in the movie of my life . (I’ve selected classic R&B, hip hop and jazz songs so that I won’t get tired of them anytime soon.)
1) “Complete Me” - Phyllis Hyman
2) “Camay” - Ghostface Killah
3) “Freakin you Remix” - Jodeci featuring Raekwon, Cappadonna and Ghostface Listen
4) “What’s Beef” – Notorious B.I.G.
5) “Picture me Rollin” - Tupac Listen
6) “Regrets” - Jay-Z Listen
7) “You’re da Man” – NaS Listen
.8) “Going in Circles” – Isaac Hayes Listen
9) “Provider” - N*E*R*D Listen
10) “Can I Kick it” - A Tribe Called Quest Listen
11) “The Sweetest Thing” – Lauryn Hill
12) “Come Over” - Faith Evans Listen
13) “Ragu” – Ghostface Killah
14) “Blue in Green” - Miles Davis (For when a good jazz song is necessary) Listen
15) “No Detour” – Sarah Vaughan/Ella Fitzgerald Listen
This photo was taken today, March 9th, 2011, the anniversary of Biggie’s death. As we get closer and closer to the NCAA tournament and March Madness, my smile is going to get bigger and bigger.
Happy because it’s looking good for Uconn, and of course Duke. Going to fill out my brackets in the next few days. I can’t wait for the tournament to start!!!
Below is an image from the night I went up on stage while Ghostface Killah performed at BB Kings in October 2005. This moment in time is significant because I got to briefly dance with my favorite recording artist of all time!
There was a YouTube video of the moment floating around but the user has since made it private. It appears on the ‘Ghostface Live in New York’ DVD as well.
Oh what a night! I was ridiculously happy to dance with him because I love him and his music very, very much!
I like giving people the finger occasionally….
This was when I flipped off gumby at that Halloween party. I was tightly wound!
Take a look at my artistic side…
I can’t even get into how I feel about this.
“Ma..you make me feel good..”
My favorite song of all times.
And I’m completely serious.
“How can we make love if you don’t love me?”
Erykah at Orpheum (Boston) last June.
(my poor heart)
Brooklyn. Circa 2007.
This one is from 2 years ago. Bosh was still a Raptor then.
Probably the best picture I’ve ever taken.
I need to get my mojo back, and fast.
Ok, so let’s recap. We already know Nas, Big, Jay-Z and Ghostface top the Exceptional Story-teller list. (Well…….mine atleast) But what about Joe Budden? Can we add him to the list too?
I asked myself these questions upon revisiting a track on his Mood Muzik 2 mixtape entitled, “Three Sides to a Story“. On this particular track, Joe spins a riveting tale from three different perspectives.
In the first verse he describes the life of a young man, named Derek, whose life is riddled with drama. Derek is in and out of jail and lives a hard life and no matter what he does he always finds himself in a f*cked up situation. Derek’s sister Sally is the focus of the second verse. She is molested by her mother’s boyfriend but her big brother Derek is in jail, so he cannot help her. It is difficult to hear Joe recount her tale and even though it brings a bad feeling, you can’t help but continue to listen. He uses simple language to paint a vivid picture of anguish, horror and sexual molestation.You can imagine what this girl must have gone and envision the pain she must have felt. Joe uses just the right words to get his point across and transport you right to the scenes he so expertly describes. This is evidence of an extremely effective story-teller.
The third perspective is the culmination of this sad story. It is told from the stepfather “Bo”‘s perspective. I wont ruin it by telling you what happens but let’s just say that the ending is not a happy one.
With this track Joe Budden proves he can hang with the big dogs. I was always aware of his talent for grittier, more street infused rhymes but he also has a knack for the quieter, true-to-life soliloquies as well. With that said, I definitely feel that Joe Budden belongs up there with Nas, Jay, Big and Ghostface as a “Master story-teller”. And yes I’m basing that off just this one song, and I hope he makes many more like it.
If you haven’t heard the song, you can listen to it here on good old YouTube!
Know anymore Joe Budden songs that are a better example of his excellent story telling ability? leave a comment!
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