Recap: G.O.O.D Music Fridays, Part 1 (???) UPDATE

Let's explain G.O.O.D Friday -

Every Friday, Kanye would release a song that was free for everyone to download that may or may not be on his upcoming album Dark Twisted Fantasy, which is set to drop November 23rd. These were new songs featuring a slew of top tier hiphop artists and full of Kanye being Kanye, with elements seen as far back as College Dropout.

Unfortunately, all G.O.O.D things must come to an end. He went on a twitter rant today claiming "it would have seemed like since I give free music every week that even the lowest form of human being would respect that enough not to leak unfinished songs" More below:

This is why I don't do leaks! Bloggers need to respect at least the legal wishes of musicians and not pirate music, especially if no one adds insight to what is being presented. Most of these blogs are just "here's the new Rah Digga CD," for example, and don't give any sort of preview or review of how good or bad it is. Hell, some of these sites will post up stuff they know is garbage, all in an effort to get more viewers.

That's not me. Bubble Gum Pop Rap is here to inform you, and at some times influence you, and your consciousness to think about what goes on your iPod or what you are bumping in your car.

Oh well, rant's over because he just brought it back. Read more on that here.

Here's a recap of G.O.O.D Friday:

Friday, August 20th: Power Remix featuring Jay-Z, Swizz Beatz and John Legend (maybe)

The original version of this summer hit was meganormously (yeah, I made that up out of not wanting to say greatly or some other dull adjective) dope. Although I had my own personal tiffs, I will admit that from the introductory clap to the Dwele vocals at the end, "Power" had all types of insane energy. Kanye's lyricism was alright for the most part, setting his cockiness aside, but in the remix version he definitely had the matching delivery and a few good punchlines. In addition to the remix, Jay-Z did great continuing his "I am not in the Illuminati" Illuminati rap/campaign, and Swizz Beatz did a wonderful job giving the beat a remix-kind of tweak. The highlight of this joint was most certainly the "I've Got The Power"-sampled beat drop at the end, packed with a strong finish from Mr. West.

Friday, August 27th: Monster featuring Jay-Z, Rick Ross, Bon Iver, Charlie Wilson and Nicki Minaj

"Monster" had a highly interesting introduction from Bon Iver and Rick Ross - creative, eerie and everything else that is creatively Kanye. His flow however was not. The beat (which has like hella samples and probably nothing original in it; ok, maybe the bass), was the greatest thing about this G.O.O.D Friday. A close second, which whom I hardly ever give props to, was Nicki Minaj (but doesn't really attest to her at all). Her lyricism is untouchable among the rest of the rappers on here, but her delivery just throws it all away. Minaj comes off as fake in this song, and many other songs, with all the extra personalities and accents. I understand there is an element of acting in emceeing, BUT it isn't to the extent that the Harajuku Barbie tries to create and call it hiphop. The ending, with a surprise appearance from Charlie Wilson, was dope. If only this song wasn't six minutes long!!!!!!!

Friday, September 3rd: Devil in A New Dress

In this single, Kanye takes a more mellow approach as opposed to his grand repertoire in the past G.O.O.D Fridays. Although this song sounds unfinished, and very repetitive, the beat is probably the greatest to come out of these Fridays that he blessed us with G.O.O.D gifts. I truly am a sap for broken streams of consciousness, so the following statement may be slightly biased... but this is MY blog, sooo... This is the second best song of the Friday collection! Instead of talking about himself, Kanye spits a story about a materialistic chick that is always scheming to get to the top. The moments between, where he drops the hook, is pretty strange, like he's reverting to the only thing he knows and the only thing that will be familiar to the listeners ("Put your hands to the constellations"). However, the hook can come off as a play on church talk, as  after every verse about the conniving and deception he repeats the hook. If, and only if, this is true, then this makes "Devil in a New Dress" the most creative song out of G.O.O.D Friday.

Friday, September 10th: Good Friday featuring Common, Kid CuDi, Big Sean, Pusha T and Charlie Wilson

A feel good song that takes Kanye fans back to College Dropout? Ok. If only he stopped getting outdone by his guest artists, like he did on College Dropout, then it would be a total thumbs up. Fortunately, this song has all the family fun and barbecue playlist vibes, so no need to complain, right? Nope. Not at all. The chorus is cool, until Cudi starts smacking between his hook. Doesn't that end after the voice lessons? Sheesh. Next to the excessively light-weight (oxymoron intended) misogyny from Big Sean and typical drug rap from Pusha T, this song has the potential to be a perfect hood anthem.

Friday, September 17th: Lord, Lord, Lord featuring Mos Def, Charlie Wilson, Raekwon and Swizz Beatz

Another mellow Friday, but this takes a more depressing mood than "Devil in a New Dress." Alongside the vocals from Charlie Wilson, the smooth rawness from Raekwon the Chef and Mos Def, it is apparent that the intent has little to do with the lyrics (which aren't in sync with the four emcees at all) and everything to do with the aura, the vibe, and everything BUT the lyrical content. I, just as any hiphop head, would hope that a collaboration with Mos Def and Raekwon would be epic and of huge proportions. Instead, it's just entirely played as low-key, as if it just happened. And after several other tracks with Kanye and Swizz Beatz, hearing him rhyme makes him annoying. He's becoming the fly that you've been swat away, but won't die and continues to return. Enduring his part, the six-minute joint is a masterpiece at capturing the emotion appropriate for the song. The dark and moody, late-night beat, the tone that everyone had (including Swizz Beatz ol' goofy self), and the overall sense of tending to a "Drive Slow" atmosphere gives Kanye a creative force for  everyone to enjoy.

Friday, September 24th: So Appalled featuring RZA, Jay-Z, Pusha T, Swizz Beatz and Cyhi the Prince

Yay, another Kanye/Swizz collabo!!! *sigh* Moving on, this song surprisingly carries a concept. Although it's an overused concept (The fame/hate is ridiculous), the stories told by these rappers manage to be creative. Jay-Z somehow takes a shot at Hammer (oh, that's why Hammer mad!?!?!) saying "Hammer went broke, so you know I'm more focused / I lost 30 mill so I spent another 30 / 'cause unlike Hammer 30 million can't hurt me." He did bite the mess out of Drake's flow, so his appearance becomes unimportant. Lyrically, Pusha T was the best out of all G.O.O.D Friday artists! He kept to the concept, threw in some smart punchlines and gave the most effort amongst the rest of the guest artists. Can't say he gave a better effort than 'Ye because 'Ye gave all he had in his lyrical arsenal, which isn't much, and I want to be nice about his lyricism since as an rapper dude came from nothing but beat-making and jacking some of the most prominent figures in poetry, but that's another story.

Honorable Mentions:

Theses are songs that didn't make a Friday, but did make a lot of noise when it leaked.
Runaway featuring Pusha T - only because he made a hook of the year, "Let's have a toast for the douchebags / Let's have a toast for the assholes / Let's have a toast for the scumbags / Every one of them I know"
Runaway Love (Justin Bieber featuring Raekwon and Kanye West) - People can no longer act like the Biebs is going away anytime soon....... Ok, maybe when he graduates from high school, but not in the next few years. Plus, it felt great to hear Raekwon hop on a track highly reminiscent of moments where the Wu gave the hottest 90s songs a Shaolin twist.

Overall, the Fridays were indeed exciting to look forward to, like if he's finally going to drop something off his highly anticipated album or if he got something that is close to the prime of the Kanye we fell for in College Dropout, which I see some elements, but he's too far away from that hunger now. Kanye West is on another level, artistically and financially, so he seems to be waiting on us to finally get over 808s and Heartbreaks.

Album Review: How to Dress Well - Love Remains

Wonderful, creative, extreme, I love it!!! Love Remains is arguably THE MOST creative album of the year brought to you by Tom Krell's How to Dress Well.

It is extremely difficult to classify this artist, if you are unaware of the culture of noise music (don't sleep on Wikipedia!!!). I went to a noise concert back in my college days (like that was a long time ago, but anyways) up in good ol' Athens, Ohio. I must say it forces you to open your mind of how technical difficulties merge well with unexpressed feelings. And often times it's the deep, dark feelings that don't want to have the same energy or delivery as other deep, dark music (i.e. heavy metal, metal core, etc). How to Dress Well is often put into this category because by nature the ears will call it noise, but they bring a-whole-nother aspect to original noise and lo-fi (even no-fi) music, which is blues.

So How to Dress Well’s official debut album Love Remains is an album packed full of emotions that are easy to express if sung on an R&B record or blues or even hiphop. Unfortunately, he is not an R&B, blues or hiphop artist. He doesn't have that talent, per se, but he wants that same emotion. So instead of going auto-tune to make an R&B album, they take what they do best and add those sounds to their record. And he becomes successful at doing it!

Blending the noise, lo-fi sound with a blues ballad, some R&B and hiphop tracks, and a mean falsetto makes this album one that has been totally slept on for the entire year! For example, "Ready for the World" capture one of the most exciting moments whenever an R&B artist performs their music. He cries out towards the end of the song, after many dings and distorted loops, "let me hear you say 'yeahhh'" with a call-and-respond effort that is commonly seen in urban music, but not in the noise culture. Another aspect he brings is their heavy sampling of R&B songs, and it's not like he's sampling the usual James Brown records that many artists from all genres try to cover. Krell tells Pitchfork in a Q&A "I really love 90s R&B. It's not a joke to me. "Twisted" by Keith Sweat is a fucking masterpiece." Although I didn't catch a direct Keith Sweat sample, I did peep the "Candy Rain" instrumental loop in Endless Rain.

Beyond all of the copy-catting in this album, the lyrical content in Love Remains is phenomenal. If How to Dress Well wanted to bring out a blues-esque emotion, he most certainly did with his constant falsetto-like vocalism. Plus, making his voice evaporate by the distortion causes an unforeseen emotion that most people can't catch in R&B, and it's a technical one. With turning up the bass and turning down the treble (or whichever way it's supposed to go), his vocals give a sound of struggle, like he's crying and sad, but also appearing to have trouble singing the song. To some that may seem annoying or irritating, but it's an emotion that needs to be expressed too.

At one point How to Dress Well tries to make a fast-paced, perhaps a club banger, but it just bangs. The distortion is nothing somebody wants to dance to, or even think of bumping at a party. Although the stomping noise as the bass is very creative in "Walking This Dumb," the up-tempo it creates for the hand claps and the mumbling-bumbling he does just doesn't blend well. At all.

So when it comes to this album, imagine cloudy and distorted Maxwell (circa late 90s, early 00s) vocals blended with the fainting sound of a guitar and piano mashed together at the hands of a noise artist. As effed up as it may sound (like a lot of noise) he gets his point across of what the title of the album means, making him one creative being. He successfully creates a piece that crosses genres, and ultimately bends genres, in a quest to seek out the emotion of one specific genre. That calls for talent! How to Dress Well may not hold much weight, but his talent is unmatched in the entire music industry.

Star's Grade: A+


Album Review: Bilal - Airtight's Revenge

Bilal has seem to risen into mainstream life from out of nowhere. This album drop is like running into your long lost high school friend you used to clown with in American Literature back in high school. You're like "aw man, I can't believe it's you! It's so good to see you!" But in the back of your mind you're thinking "wow, he's changed. A LOT!" Well, this is Bilal in a nutshell. Much of his creations have changed since his debut album First Born Second in 2001. Those who are expecting to hear another "Soul Sista" track should probably step away from this album in the record store (or Best Buy, Walmart, Amazon or where ever you shop for music). This is nothing like the guy we used to know.

This has to be the greatest album of 2010, arguably this decade, that expresses the mind of a musician. Aside from adding his anti-crooned out, all naturale vocals to love ballads, Bilal composes songs that are thought-provoking, deep-thinkers that just might hurt the average consumer's noggin. Airtight's Revenge goes an extra emotional step that most singers and songwriters choose to leave alone in their quest to the top of the music business.

A few of the songs on this album were remakes of previous Bilal brainchildren, but given a twist to fit Airtight's Revenge's sound. "All Matter" went from a jazz stream of consciousness to an adventurous, lesson-teaching track, but it lost its sincerity in the process. The blame for this falls on the production behind this, as well as the majority of the album. The band seemed so focused on sounding untouchable they forgot the emotional aspect of music.

These are songs that go deep, really deep, into subject matter Bilal fans - those who responded to the unreleased, the real, sophomore album Love for Sale well - will appreciate. The only thing that hinders them from enjoying it is how difficult it is to follow his change from his last album from nine years ago (which for anyone would seem easy to do, as old "fans" may not even remember it).

He tackles issues that most R&B crooners forget to cover - religion, parenthood, poverty and other socially conscious topics. "Little One," the most straightforward track on this album, is a song to his children about wanting to always be there, even when he's not. He says "I can help you walk, but can't make you stand" to illustrate that his presence should be felt whether or not he's there. Though the band keeps the track mellow and borderline boring - and could very well put your kids to sleep if you play it for them, it is probably the best lullaby (besides "Rock-a-Bye Baby" of course) you could play for your child.

The best head-nodder on this album is definitely "Flying." A song about the downside to drug abuse, as if no one knows of them, the song is near flawless. With elements of hiphop, soul and folk, Bilal tells a dark story of a travelling girl who lost her mom and dad during a drug bust, became a prostitute and a crackhead, pill-popping stripper, using drugs to ignore her surrounding though it is the cause of her tragedy. Raw in nature, his delivery is grand - like, he shits on every single R&B artist in this song by being as liberal as possible: using his entire vocal range, writing the most vulgar lyrics and dialect, and keeping the band as dark and soul-stirring as possible. It feels like a resurrection of Donny Hathaway on this song!

He reaches a level of boldness, according to how to be successful in 2010, in his songwriting through tackling these issues as well. In "Think It Over," instead of just humming a tune like "look, I'm sorry I left you" Bilal drops line that combine changing history with matters of the heart. He puts himself and his lover in the shoes of Martin and Coretta King by saying "I needed air / I stepped out / on the balcony / and the world took me out." I really enjoy how he calls out Obama in "Robots," as his presidency is in no way stopping "the machine" that is out to control us all!

Throughout Airtight's Revenge, Bilal showed signs of sarcasm in his voice. In "Who Are You," he tells tales about religion being a non-factor in how people should judge one another, but uses an old, old, traditional style of lyricism for this particular track with his usual vocalism. It goes from being innovative based on the lyrics alone to layers and layers of how expansive music is and how religion is incorporated into it. The song starts like a tale fresh out of Aesop's Fable but ends like a track a Rastafarian would enjoy rolling a fat one to.

Overall, Airtight's Revenge exemplified a deep-thinking progressive artist like Bilal. Although the album is a bit difficult to understand, it does carry itself freely from beginning to end. All elements of songwriting came out of this project, something that is well worth the wait. Not to mention Bilal's singing, though it hasn't changed much, is still untouchable. Some songs could have had less going on, production-wise, but it came off as necessary, especially considering its purpose - exploring the mind of Bilal.

Star's Grade: A-

Some Personal/Professional Updates...

I've been making a lot of cool moves this past week!

1) I am working for Lee Bailey (famous announcer dude from RadioScope... you know? The guy with the sick, sick announcer voice) as the web intern for his website Electronic Urban Report (EUR) Network.

Check out the site at

2) I am an Examiner! Yeah, although the many classified ad postings on Monster, HotJobs, and CareerBuilder (or any other job posting site) looks extremely shady, it's not that bad of a place to work for! Not to mention it is a "paying" job, so I'm not mad at all.

Anywho, I cover the Little Five Points music scene. In other words, I cover everything music-wise that goes on in the bars, coffeehouse, and other wicked places in the awesome Little Five Points area in Atlanta.

If you live in the ATL (or around it), check out my site to get all the happenings in Little Five Points, one of the most diverse and coolest areas in all of Atlanta!

The more readers I get, the more money I get, so please check out my Examiner page!

Read here!

I also got some other updates, but I'll save them for the right time...

A Rant on Lauryn Hill

This rant is brought to you by Fusetv and the video I posted on Tumblr. One of my favorite music journalist Toure got to sit down with Lauryn Hill, talking about her absence and her return to the industry.

And the rant begins...

I look up to this woman for reasons other than her music - it's because she is the perfect example of a strong, Black woman, and she showed that in her absence. When Questlove said in My Mic Sounds Nice that her 10-year absence is the movements tsunami, and Russell Simmons started a statement with "the tragedy of Lauryn Hill began when...", I was heated because that was just so stingy for them to say that (which also goes without saying that hiphop is indeed a stingy culture), and no one really cared to say what she did was probably the best thing for hiphop. Think about it - she blew the hell up! Fast! And we all know what happens to artists who are instantly enveloped in the spotlight (i.e. Kanye West, Destiny's Child/Beyonce, etc), they turn into pop and can no longer find themselves or their true sound. Better stated - their sound is dictated by the dollar. I personally was glad that she left because (this is me being honest) she felt uncomfortable with the music she was putting out, and didn't want to do it, so she left. Good for her.

Whether or not her craft touched you in a way that made you upset she left, don't forget she's a human being too and has needs that will go before your needs because she's that amazing (POW!). Why is she amazing? Because she started a whole other movement just by being herself, and didn't even know it (because she was definitely the anchor and pioneer for the neo-soul movement).

Also, and I will NEVER consider this a crutch or really want to validate this as a reason, but she's a woman/mother. She got knocked up so she had to take care of them. Why on earth should the world ridicule her for that? Why should hiphop, of all maternally-oriented cultures, ridicule her for that?

I care about the person first, then the artist, then their music (in that order), just as everyone else should. And the fact that she has evolved and is doing HER OWN THING makes me even more proud of her. I hope her next album will represent her, I no longer care if it "sounds good"!

If I went to Rock The Bells (which I didn't have to because half of the footage is uploaded on everyone's site who did attend the concerts), I would have applauded Lauryn for her additions and changes to her famous hits. Now, although it is a tour that is designed to be reminiscent of hiphop's past, one can't just discount an artist for putting their own spin on their music to better express themselves on stage. So what she put a higher tempo on her songs off Miseducation? She was experimenting, that shouldn't put her on everyone's shit list!

Speaking of her artistry, people who had a problem with her Unplugged sessions need to take a seat! Those numbers, if you heard them correctly, were symbolic of things she was going through. Why belittle her for that? If you were pissed about the misinterpretations of your miseducation, then you would respond in the same way. Unfortunately, the world we live in would react in the same fashion most of you guys did to her. Go us! (I guess)

I hope she releases an album that makes everyone eat their words. Literally. New York Times would eat their paper, people who tweeted hateful things about her would eat their computers or BlackBerrys, and the folks who talked trash about her return will receive the "I told you so" song and dance.

I feel the need to celebrate early, excuse me:

Rant over.

Questions for Dilla

For those that don't know, I am a journalist first, blogger second. Don't be mad at me, that's just the way it is! However, I do feel the need to let you in on what it's like to be a journalist, especially a music journalist, and into the mind (well, at least mine) of a music journalist. I'm pretty sure anybody who loves hiphop and REAL music in general knows who J Dilla is. Or was. In case you don't know, HE'S ONE OF THE GREATEST HIPHOP PRODUCERS OF ALL TIME!!! Ever since I heard Janet Jackson's "Got 'Til It's Gone", I was mesmerized by how he flipped Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" and transformed the idea of such a folk, country record into straight up neo-soul. Little did I know how many "Dilla (Dilla) beats (beats)" I wasn't aware of, from De La Soul to Pharcyde, dude was all over the place. Since hearing that record, I made it a purpose that year (in '97) to find any and every record Dilla made. I wanted to get into the his mind, like "How and why did you do that?" because that's just the person I am, and he's just the kind of person that will give you all type of insight on things you don't know. Unfortunately, I could never do it, but I'll post the questions anyway as if he's still alive because it's essential to see who he was through what I want to know...

1) Usually this is a question for singers and band members, but I find it fitting to ask you this anyway - describe to me your sound and what makes a Dilla beat.

2) When did you first start making music? How do you think it developed over the years?

3) Although you are a world-renowned producer, you also have another title as an emcee. When did you first start rapping? What inspired you to rhyme?

4) What emcees out there would you like to rap with that you haven't yet?

5) Give me your top 5 emcees out right now. How would you produce their album, if you haven't already?

6) Give me your least favorite rapper out now and how you would produce his or her album, given that you had to?

7) How do you go about producing songs? When an artist calls you up like "yo, can you make this song for me?" and you decide to go with it, how do you put that track together?

8) Out of curiosity, how many records do you own? How do you even find the tracks you use for production?

9) What's your favorite record store for crate digging?

10) What is your ultimate purpose as a musician? How do you plan on evolving your sound?

11) What is your opinion about the art of production nowadays?

12) Where do you see hiphop music in the next 10 years?

R.I.P J Dilla