"The Shores" by The Sea of Cortez, first heard on Stereogum, struck a certain nerve - my coastal nerve. Listening to this song could whisk one away to their Pacific coast, or at least to a nearby dock to chill and crack a bottle. "The Shores" could definitely be a pivotal move for the band, as it is released at the perfect time. Really no matter what the season, there will always be a reason to enjoy this song.
The build-up is pretty cool, but a minute long stretches it thin. After the first 30 seconds, the bells and claps finally fade in, confusing and leaving people thinking "The Shores" isn't working. Luckily, the band pulls it around after the second verse, bursting through the seams of this track with "Bohemian Rhapsody"-like drumming and short, stiff guitar strumming. The great thing about this climax, is that The Sea of Cortez gave the pace of "The Shores" a whole new pulse and allowed the song to breathe as a total summer hit.
This song definitely gives the vibe of a surefire surfer tune (I know if I knew how to surf I would surf to this song), and as the song fades out with the lyrics "floating out here, floating out here on my own. I'll keep on drifting, making my way to the shore," The Sea of Cortez has made its mark with potential to blow beyond the shores.
The most room an artist will have is in the moment of being unsigned. Think about it: they get to be free with their creativity, no one will tell them no, and if they play their cards right, they'll have fans instantly. Jéan P is a prime example. The Athens-bred emcee stepped on the hiphop scene of Athens, OH last year at the hiphop shop first spitting poetry. Folks gravitated to his words at the drop of a hat. He was so smooth yet so straight-forward, it was hard to not listen to him. Since then, he has soared in that town, as well as the entire state of Ohio, doing shows in Akron, Canton, and so on. He has dropped several mixtapes circulating the web, and constantly promoting his work via twitter and facebook. His new album My Life As Jéan is no different, taking over with constant promotion from simple tweets (with links to the free download) to Youtube videos.
Instantly the album is very smooth, and almost too smooth, too slow. Very atypical sound for a conscious rapper, but his sound is not common for a conscious emcee. Instead of pushing an urgent message regarding social and political issues, Jéan P takes a more smoother route, alleviating pain at the sound of his voice. But in the alleviation of the pain, the message becomes ignored, making My Life As Jéan come off as something to sit and listen to, providing little inspiration to make changes.
Exploring his mind in this album is fairly easy, and understanding what kind of emcee he is overall is easy as well. His past works can easily categorize Jéan P as a backpack rapper, with his subtle social commentary and jokes toward mainstream-accepted musicians. Provided the majority of My Life As Jéan is about love, there's little emotion delivered to catch it. It's easy to hear lyrics of love, and easy to find with the beats, it's just difficult to grasp onto when the Jéan P sounds the same in the entire album.
His flow and rhyme, as smooth as it may be, hits a huge rough patch because it's almost simple. Yes, Jéan P has bars, don't get me wrong, but his delivery is rather stale. His punchlines were kept to small slaps because it lacks feeling. A conscious rapper shouldn't want to be an angry one, but doesn't want to seem meek either. However, lyrically he is a genius! He paints the freshest, most creative story-telling bars since Slick Rick. His ability to turn a story into a song is unique, sort of like he's writing a kid's book. And since he rhymes cuss-free, (which is cute if nothing else) he really could write a great kids book if he wanted to!
There are moments of ambiguity in this album. At first he tries to disassociate himself from other rappers like Drake and Lil' Wayne in "Words of Wisdom", claiming he just wants to be something different. A few tracks later, he's addressing "emcees taking a few shots" at him and claiming he "kill emcees, leaving no evidence," head-first. Then at the end of the album he has a hilarious skit making fun of hiphop's hot mess Lil' B and DJ Khaled. Not gonna lie, the impression of DJ Khaled is on point! Actually, the skits can throw the listener off really quick because there's a lot of inside jokes that they will NOT understand, along with some cussing (which I'm pretty sure may not match Je'an's Will Smith/positive, non-cussing raps).
My Life As Jéan has a lot of timeless, classic soul records being sampled in this album, including his outro which has an excerpt of a Marvin Gaye interview. The production behind My Life As Jéan all the while taking back Jéan P's firepower and delivery. How can an artist like Jéan P deliver content that's socially conscious with beats as lowkey as"Ya Don't Understand"? A strong message like in "Ya Don't Understand" was blanketed by the beat, and that's the worst thing to happen to great emcees. His track "Words of Wisdom" could easily be his best song on the album, but it's quite clear that it's too slow; his voice almost sound slurred throughout the short-lived song.
Speaking of his rhymes, Jéan's flow is pretty classical, like it's clear he has written all his rhymes. If not, then his tone and pitch needs to change in his flow ASAP. There's also a small amount of growth from his rhymes compared to his past albums and mixtapes. He strapped himself with better punchlines, like "you a liar liar, you got a Jim Carey flow", and improved greatly with his story-telling, but he still has the same flow as his debut album Thought Process.
The good news is he could take over in no time and there is major room for improvement. No one can deny his ability to spit uplifting rhymes and strong sense of telling stories, like "Ya Don't Understand" and "Rhyme 4 My Summer Love."
Overall, Jéan P has strong potential to break the mold of being an emcee in modern day times. The only thing holding him back is his fixed flow and his lack of growth, as is evident in My Life As Jéan. When an artist sounds the same in an entire album, let alone in his or her entire career, the artist will stay immobile. My Life As Jéan is an album that is hands-down above most underground emcees' albums and EPs, so for Jéan P, he has a strong head-start.
The Roots is a band that should get far more credit than it does in the hiphop community, let alone the stardom and acclaim it has received in the music business. The Roots is one of the best bands of this generation, and it is apparent in their new album!
Branching off of their previous album that took jabs at the Bush administration in 2008, The Roots return with their 11th album How I Got Over. According to the lead emcee Black Thought, this is the album that addresses feeling post-Bush administration and promotes a positive p.o.v during Obama's presidency. How cute!
*INSERTS SARCASM HERE*
Production-wise, How I Got Over flowed best among the rest of The Roots albums, another indication that this is one of their best works! This is one of the few albums released in this day and age that could be enjoyed on tape as much as an iPod. Starting with songs of depression and ending with songs of empowerment, the album goes from intro to outro, non-stop.
There's hardly any other equipment used except for the band's instruments, a few samples here and there, and their vocalists. The reinterpretations of "Peaches en Regalia" by Frank Zappa, "Again" by John Legend and "Serve This Royalty" by former band member Cody ChestnuTT were almost on-point, considering the hiphop twist the band speaks from. The band purposely decides to not use samples, but give their own type of cover of classic tracks, and (as it does with any great band) it works out in their favor! Actually, it's about time they have released a band-only, sample-less album. They are a group that needs nothing more than their instruments and their emcees.
Not to diss the featured artists, because they definitely complement the album, especially its sound. Hearing Blu (and also Phonte) with The Roots is a blessing to all, if nothing else, let alone a beautifully-carved production like How I Got Over! One thing people should appreciate, especially the Philly fans, is that The Roots has always had Philly-bred emcees. One thing ALL people should appreciate is how these emcees, Dice Raw and Truck North in particular, have developed through their association with The Roots. They have improved dramatically from earlier albums like Things Fall Apart to Rising Down to this album. Another Philly-fav to hear on another album of The Roots is Peedi Peedi (formerly Peedi Crack from Roc-A-Fella), who always rip The Roots's livest tracks on their albums. He too has received major props and improvement from working with The Roots.
The content of this album still carries over from a while ago, but it's supposedly a continuation of their last studio album Rising Down. Even with this double-album story, it IS disappointing to hear near-identical lyrics from their previous album in 2008. It's 2010, Black Thought! Shouldn't you be looking past the "computers taking over" and "high gas prices" and start talk about what needs to be done?? The theme is easy to SEE in this album, but it's so blue and gloomy it's difficult to understand. Nothing is blatant about this album, instead the lyrics are so vague it can be easily forgotten. How I Got Over speaks to what gets people under, but barely says how to get over. Influences from the Blues are easily seen as Black Thought only delivers nothing but sadness. Rarely are there uplifting tracks on this album. If you take away "Now or Never," "The Day" and "Hustla," then you have the saddest hiphop album of 2010! Ok, maybe that's a bit extreme, but this album definitely fails to be as uplifting as the title presents itself to be.
Overall, How I Got Over is a production gem for The Roots. But even through its beautifully laced artwork by the band comes depressing content, and it's content that, although relevant, is carried over from 2008. The string of guests in this album definitely accentuate the sound, and gives them more credibility than they already had. Through all of this, How I Got Over manages to fit in small doses of uplifting content, so it evens out to be an album that could send listeners on a fluctuating ride of emotion.
Well, it's been forever since I've touched this blog (last post was April 23rd to be exact), all in an effort to finish my studies at Ohio University (go me)!!!!
Since graduation (a whole five days), I have managed to snag a couple writing gigs with some awesome people as well as wait on a decision concerning a magazine internship in the Fall. I have a crazy summer lying ahead of me, and I'm ready to take it on!
So this blog is going to be under construction for the next couple of weeks being that I'm a big girl now. In the mean time, follow me on Tumblr, Twitter and Facebook if anything happens to this blog so you get the lowdown!
I'm out, for now.
UPDATE #1: Do you see how I changed the design of the blog?? Cool, isn't it?? Haha, I had to do it. It reflects my inner child and personality (things I refuse to let go). The name change was definitely because I'm tired of being "against the world" (and got bored).
I'm pretty much blogging through the Tumblr for now until I get all my cool ideas together to blog about. So far I got a couple albums to review, more commentary on the latest music news, and other updates about me!