Comments, Rotten Tomatoes and the like

There is always room for improvement; leave a comment tell me what you think. And please, be brutal. Nothing like being eviscerated by the general public (though in reality no one reads this so maybe not so general public).

08 9월, 2007

My Musings on Music, Hip Hop/Rap in Particular

For all you music buffs out there. I have to admit I have an uneasy relationship with hip hop. While I appreciate artists such as Talib Kweli and Common, to be honest I am quite unfamiliar with anything that is not on the radio. At the same time that I decry the violence, misogynism, greed and lack of talent I do not go out of the way to actually listen to anyone outside of the mainstream.

From my understanding hip hop started as a way to demonstrate to the world what life was like living on the outskirts of "normal" society. Not to glorify it, but to highlight the strife, poverty and desolation of such a life. It wasn't all pain don't get me wrong. Hip hop was also a lot about fun, but oft times in a witty, tongue-in-cheek manner. It provided a voice to those unseen, unheard masses that truly had something to tell the world. Artists were truly that. Nowadays the music scene seems to be dominated by less than stellar voices, speaking on less than noble themes. Can anyone say 50 cent?

I thought that Timbaland and Kanye West were the great hopes for the year. After a 2007 with an array of rather bland, sub par albums I was excited, thrilled even. Timbaland released Throw It On Me and The Way I Are, which to my untrained ears sounded fresh, new exciting, branching out from the tired old beats that we were all used to hearing. Kanyeezy, in turn, absolutely blew me away with Stronger. Co-produced with French electro-pop duo Daft Punk this track had to be the best that had been released all year, for me probably in the last 2. It seemed that hip hop was waking up and moving away from the creative rut it had sunk into, exploring new frontiers, breaking down barriers, saving the world!!! Yeah, not so much. I should put a note here that is not a commentary on lyrical content, which, depending on the track, I don't give a toss (club bangers) or get bored by because the beats don't engage me.

Okay, so I indulged in a bit of delerium there, but I had great hopes for Timbaland's Shock Value album and Kanye's Graduation but, sorry to say, I was highly disappointed. The tracks are solid but its seems they released the cream of the crop to lure us into a venus fly trap of sameness. Mr. West was especially disappointing. While there is a maturity to this album compared to The College Dropout it just didn't freak me like it does my brother.

What is all this doing on a blog supposedly dedicated towards Asian entertainment? Well M.I.A's album Kala dropped in August and I just got round to listening to it. For those of you who don't know, M.I.A is Sri Lankan by birth but grew up in the UK after fleeing with her mum as a refugee. The album had me from its hello, titled Bamboo Banga with its driving beat, and its rip of a Tamil movie hit. The production is just amazing. From what I can glean from album reviews, she had visa issues and could no longer work in the US. Instead she careened about the globe, working on the album at every port of call. The album is just chock-a-block of energy, with a fusion of sounds from West Africa, South Asia, even bird calls and gun shot sounds making appearances.

Her influences from Bollywood to The Clash resonate throughout, making it a thoroughly listenable & danceable release, a true pleasure. Indeed the weakest track on there is the one produced by the venerable Timbaland (who @ this point, coupled with Fiddy's Ayo Technology, is begining to piss me off. What with all this weak sh*t?). This to me is the best hip hop/fusion/alternative album of the year, putting this woman so far ahead of the curve i don't think her contemporaries can even see her dust. And, she is a woman with a cause, and makes sure that she's heard. This is where Missy Elliot was when her first couple albums dropped and this is what hip hop needs to be maintain its grip on the music industry.

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