Cardboard King Push

Push doesn't mind his music sales being tracked.
Push doesn’t mind his music sales being tracked.

My mother is a battered and wise veteran substance-abuse counselor, with most of her career playing out during the crack boom on the south side of Chicago during the last three decades. Woman has seen a lot. But somehow, perhaps because she understands the deep seeds of human frailty, the codes written into some people’s genes, and the social or emotional circumstances leading to drug abuse, she is an empathetic, not a cynical or judgmental person. However, she leveled one judgment to me in her time; saying once, and only once, “I really hate drug dealers. Drug dealers are the scum of the earth.” I have the feeling she was not referring to your schlubby neighborhood dope dealer, but rather to those selling harder stuff to the poor and the wretched.

This moral judgment kept erupting in my mind as I disappointedly listened to “My Name is My Name,” the pretend debut of Pusha T’s solo career. Unlike Rick Ross and other phonies, Push really was a dealer (Re-Up Gang affiliates have been put away for decades for their involvement in a big wig drug ring), and consequently, his career in the game has featured one of the realest, grimmest takes on the economics of the drug trade, and its relative, evil. One friend once very eloquently summed it up by saying that Clipse had “a very intimate relationship with Satan.”

This complicated celebration of ill-gotten gains has been the defining thematic content of Clipse; the Neptunes’ minimal clickity clack beats on Clipse’s first two albums had a bleak, almost apocalyptic ghetto sound that was entirely their own; spliced into all of this were some of the best rhymes to come from any rappers ever, with the duo appreciating not just deep metaphor and word play, but the sounds of consonants stacked together, rhymes of such sonic and Biblical gravity that Dante, another poet of evil, would surely have died of envy.

But the Clipse disbanded. Malice took the road to righteousness; on “Freedom,” his conversion flows in celestial rays, illuminating the god/man divide he has encountered: “This is where the buck stop/ here where I draw the line/ I’ve touched the hem/ god’s work is so divine/ i’ve seen the error of my ways over time/ …/ Malicious has been refined.” Malice recently released a Christian rap album  under the name “No Malice.”

The only thing refined on MNIMN is, per usual, the quality of the brick, powder, snow, blow, arm & hammer, raw; the singular metaphor at the deepest level of Push: cocaine. Push’s godliness is in the guise of his earthly, material powers; he believes there’s a god above him, he’s just the god of everything else. He is a methodical thinker and dealer, “like Scarface, but it’s God’s face in that mirror/ we was made in his image, dialing and it’s much clearer/ scoring from the heights but I wanted mine purer,” But how pure, Push? “Aryan, blonde hair, blue-eyed like the Führer.” That line alone is so fucked. Diamonds and Aryans are what prop up on this album as objects of purity. I wish he’d go to church, and stop being so young, rich, and tasteless, yuck!

Anyway, Push’s fierceness remains one of the last genuine primordial forces in mainstream rap. At the same time, it’s an unchanging mask, projected to a larger commercial audience since people never got it the first 4-6 times he tried to tell you about him. This late in the day, long-time Pusha fans might feel tired. Tired of him holding on to his embittered, battle-hardened dealer identity. One wishes for a narrative turn, a denouement, or some sort of epiphany, anything, anything to mitigate the unrelenting trillest hustler business. His diamond, so pure when compared with everyone else’s, he claims, is at this point turning back into coal.

4 of MNIMN’s 12 songs were released before the album; of the singles, “Numbers on the Boards,” “Nosetalgia” and “Pain” all happen to be the best tracks; so when it finally was released, I felt robbed, with most of the remaining songs reminding me of paler versions of things I’d heard before. Much of the production on the album sounds is reminiscent of perhaps a lesser G.O.O.D. Music mixtape; “King Push,” produced by Kanye, is an odd intro to choose, as it could easily be a lost track from Yeezus; its spastic, trembling bass and the scarily chipmunked vocal sample are totally Satanic, but in a way that suits Kanye better. “Let Me Love You,” is a re-tread of “Dirty Money,” Clipse’s catchiest song to date, and features an enjoyable return of Pusha’s lazy, Spanglish-inflected drawl, a stoned and carefree flow he only busts out when he is reminding ladies of their complete irrelevance to him (Push has a special derision for women, even for hip-hop, calling HIS OWN MOTHER a “bitch” on 40 Acres). “Hold On,” at first sounded cheap to me, a phone-it-in Kanye-produced effort in which gospel chords accompany a catharic autotuned Ye melody. But the longer I listened, the more I felt the pathos, specifically thanks to the Kanye singing.

It’s unclear in any of this Kanye-world-making-detritus whether Push can ever musically truly be at home; the Kanye crew fits him a little like some Bottega Venetta sneakers, unfastened; they look good, they’re fancy, but there’s something unfinished about the whole fashion.

The only time on MNIMN that Push is heading towards any sort of development as a rapper or moral sentient being is in “Nosetalgia,” with Kendrick, a rapper much more concerned with interior worlds than with material success. The first two verses of Push’s are a bildungsroman of the young dealer: we see a young Push, with beepers and a two-tone Starter jacket hustling in his early days. Kendrick then chimes in about witnessing his aunt and father on crack, bringing the human element that is always lacking from Push’s stories to the center of the song in crystalline, nostalgic imagery; a synthesis unfolds between the dealer and the consequences of his selling; the facilitating dealer, the addict, and passive victim all orbiting around each other in the same tune, for once.

There is no argument that Pusha remains one of the best rappers alive, based solely on his poetic sensibilities, on his ways with words. But there remains a pit in the center of his cocaine myopia, preventing him from being one of the most fascinating rappers alive; without a breathing, changing persona, all we get is the mask, the tautology, the name that is his name. And it’s not enough.

Let Me Tell You ‘Bout This Country Shit

k.r.i.t. has practically been on my blog

Now granted, I of all people am not an authority on country shit. Sometimes I get confused and think my time in Southern Indiana gave me some sort of cred, as after four years in the area my Great Lakes accent faded and I stopped talking out of my nose 100% of the time, downgrading to about 90%. I occasionally said “pin” when I meant “pen” and “flowrs” instead of “flow-ers.”

My real country friends are quick to remind me that even my Hoosier cred is sorta in doubt; the main stealer-of-my-IN-cred is a friend named after a Bible personage and has a big, red, Amish lookin-beard. He grew up in a town where it wasn’t unusual to see dungareed men out with horse and buggy, and where the kids hung out at the gas station on Friday night, as it was the happenin’ place to be. Indeed, I don’t know nuthin’ about one gas station towns.

Anyway, someone who can tell u bout country shit is Mississippi producer Big K.R.I.T. About a week ago, everyone in the hip hop blogosphere went bat shit for his new album. Since I am a little slower to these things, it is only since yesterday that I have been bat shit for it. K.R.I.T. WUZ HERE (<—download from that link!!!) is an album of sweaty cruisin, bass thumpin, dirrrrty southern-ass beats. It’s laid back and breezy, and maybe a lil’ dank. Which is to say, it sounds like a day in Mississippi probably feels.

Everyone keeps heralding K.R.I.T. as Pimp C (of UGK) reincarnate, and that’s fine and all, but to me he sorta sounds like T.I., sans the fury. The tune “Country Shit,” a stuttering, bouncy, and at times, str8-up heroic declaration of what they got down thurrr in the South. He begins by inviting the listener into his narrative and elucidating some properties of country shit: “Let me tell ya bout this supah fly/dirty dirty/third(???) cold/muddy waters…” (I apologize for the question marks–sometimes this shit is so country, I can’t understand what is being said.) This is followed by an imperative: “Shorty, pop that pussy! If you wanna.” I appreciate  the ladies have a choice in the matter. Seriously.

Big K.R.I.T. is one of many Southern rappers who has immortalized his geography & lifestyle in a deeptrackkk. Other wonderful songs within this genre that come to mind are Outkast’s “ATLiens,” from the 1996 album of the same name. Obvs, ATLiens was an appropriate title for the ATL resident weirdos. Many hallmarks of Southern life are noted within this song, including an archetypal Southern meal: “If you like fish n’ grits, n’ all dat pimp shit, everybody let me hear you say oh yeah-yer.” Oh yeah-yer.

Clipse, ever despairing, have a down-trodden song dedicated to their home state: “Virginia.” It begins:  “I’m from Virginia, where there ain’t shit to do but cook.” Later, it is noted that “there ain’t shit to do but look.” In addition to cooking and looking, drug dealing and murder also happen in this song.

Overall, I’d much rather learn about country shit from K.R.I.T. or OutKast than from Clipse, but I guess it just depends on how fucking morbid and misanthropic your worldview is.

Anyway, wanna hear these songs? Here is a jank-ass myspace playlist of them.

Several Songs Daftpop Enjoys Right Now: The Series, Part II

Young Jeezy: Only like Malcolm X if his motto was "buy any jeans necessary"

Well gee, it’s been a minute since I wrote on this blog. I’ve been sitting, thumbs a-twiddle, waiting for bloggerly inspiration to come for weeks now. Finally I realized that I of all people should know that blogs need not be the medium for deep thoughts (for instance, my last post was about Clash of the Titans).

In accordance with my lack of inspiration, and perhaps my recent lack of sophistication, I will discuss some notable songs of the moment… Ahem.

Welcome to Several Songs Daftpop Enjoys Right Now, The Series! (It needs a better title, but I’m working on it. Woman can only do so much in between work deadlines, smoke breaks and caring for needy dogs.)

1. Jeezy feat. Clipse: “Illin

Jeezy’s got a new mixtape out, for anyone who cares. I don’t, but I stumbled upon this track, and was taken aback by its sonic otherness. “Illin” features an insanely warbled, gnarly violin sample; it’s something from your nightmares, or maybe a zombie debutante ball in Baton Rouge, 1914. Jeezy’s husky, lumbering flow rarely conveys much of anything; the content of his rhymes is often self-aggrandizing bullshit, sometimes heart attacks, and one time about black presidents and blue Italian sports cars. But here, Jeezy is forced to hustle a little due to the presence of his guests, the every-day-they’re-hustlin’ rappers of Clipse. Jeezy + Clipse makes for a visceral clash of personalities; Jeezy’s verse is essentially about how effortless being him/being rich is, while Malice and Pusha sound anguished and paranoid, per usual. If only Clipse could learn a little something from the dumb self-assuredness of Jeezy, and Jeezy could maybe get a little writerly ambition from Clipse… then everyone would win.

2. Freddie Gibbs: “Crushin’ Feelins

To some, Freddie Gibbs is some 2009 hype; to others, he is the future of hip hop. To make a long story short: Gibbs is from Gary, but currently lives in LA. He is something of a classicist gangsta rapper. His beats aren’t all that dope, but he can double-time it like Twista and spins the most eloquent of street elegies. And oh yeah, he’s performing at P4k this summer. Weird!!! It can be hard to know where to start with 3.0 rappers like Gibbs–dude has no proper studio album or radio singles, just some mixtapes, all of which are epic in length–so where to begin? Start here, with “Crushin’ Feelins.” In less than four minutes of breathless, glorious raps over the fucking smoothest guitar ever, Gibbs tells you everywhere he’s lived, states his life goals, talks up his skills, and most importantly, explains everything you need to know about him: that he can “easily bring you defeat with [his] vernacular” and is “too deep in the streets to be beefin’ with other rappers.”

3. Drake: “Over

I never thought I’d cop to liking a Drake song, but here I am. While I don’t relish the concept of “Over,” (which is yet another navel-gazing extravaganza and features several of his fucking imbecilic non sequitur couplets) the scuttle-shuttle of the beat that drops at 30 seconds is as beautiful a thang I’ve heard on the radio in a while.

4. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti: “Beverly Kills

Pop bliss! “Beverly Kills” is a scatterbrained but marvelously melodic ditty recalling psychedelic Californian summers, like an acid trip at someone’s 60’s hippie party in L.A. Or something. Anyway, AP’sHG might be poster-children of lofi-ness, but a friend recently commented to me that there is something very deliberate in their aesthetic; lofi for them is not tossed off or motivated by a sort of punk recklessness: it’s a production choice , a wonderful mindfulness of what is being evoked by certain sounds. This song is yet another good example of this phenom; plus, it’s just good, silly fun.

5. M.I.A.: “XXXO

I love M.I.A. so much that I get sort of befuddled when I have to talk about her. Ever a monitor of the postmodern condition, M.I.A. here comments on the identity-eroding properties of modern telecommunications. I am glad I received this warning from M.I.A.,  because I almost wrote this entire post in internet lingo and emoticons. JK! She sings in a lifeless monotone against a backdrop of menacing (if somewhat conventional) electropop. “XXXO,” both the song title and the clutch of letters meant to represent a kiss, are M.I.A.’s shorthand for the ways in which we are dehumanized by technology. The lyrics aren’t very cohesive, but the whole is suggestive: “you want me be someone who I’m really not,” “cuz everytime we try to get close/there’s always something I’m  thinking about,” “if you like what you see/you can download and store.” Seduction and the possibility of love have been reduced to a mechanization, a screen touch, a tapping away on T9.

6. Robyn “Dancing On My Own

Apart from being Swedish, looking sorta gay, and having hot shit producers, there is yet one other element that separates Robyn from the baser spectrum of pop. This is the vulnerable and self-aware emotional center of her lyrics. I suppose this center does not always hold, especially when you consider the embarrassing lyrical content and rapping affectations of “Konichiwa Bitches,” which would have benefited from some self-awareness. But in her best songs–“With Every Heartbeat,” “The Girl and The Robot,” and now “Dancing on My Own”–Robyn acknowledges, in uncomfortable detail, the desperation and various humiliations involved in being a lover scorned. She dances on her own in this ditty, whose narrative concerns going to the club in order to see her recent ex get busy with his new woman: “yeah, i know it’s stupid/but i just got to see it for myself.” She then gets shit faced and, after stumbling over some broken bottles in stilettos, the world starts spinning off its axis. By song end, it ain’t hard to imagine our song’s heroine falling flat on her lovely YET STILL REJECTED face. My suggestion is that Robyn get with also-frequently-embarrassedly-in-love/fellow Swede Jens Lekman, and then they can make sweet music together until they die.

Hypocrite Listener vs Daftpop Music Showdown

To Hypocrite Listener: Like all haterisms, hating hipsters sure gets old. I agree. What I’ve tried to convey is my boredom with the whole dismissive irony of some of the men making music in this genre. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the woman part of me feels left out from this entirely dude-ly genre. Trend-spotters have identified hipster style as gender-ambiguous, but I’d say it’s really more like women are dressing like men. I will be satisfied when men mix flannel with skirts and eyeliner. Anyway! Men are still the majority of music critics, the music makers, and the people at shows. And fo’ sho’, a majority of men present in a scene does not mean said scene is evil. But it does mean that I feel left out and will look elsewhere for a more colorful, various backdrop for my interests.

But, Anna! I can almost hear my detractors say: what about them women in the Dirty Projectors, what about Annie Clark and Natasha Khan? Yar, yar, yar: I agree and am very excited by the music they make. Also, for the record, I think the Dirty Projectors are totally, unequivocally awesome.

But besides the grievances I carry on behalf of my sex, Nige, I am probably more on your side than it seems. I get pissed too when people diss “hipsters” who live in our hoods. And I see that just by having a music blog, attending Pitchfork’s festival this summer, and owning a pair of black skinny jeans, I am clearly taking part in this massive subculture–as you pointed out, this subculture is a force that pretty much defines our generation. But I think it’s important to forever keep an eye on how this subculture bizness develops, what it includes, and what it leaves out. I think you’d agree with me on that.

But everything I’ve said so far makes it seem like taste is a conscious decision. In many ways, it is. But I’ve been bothered for a long time about the mystery of personal preference, especially when it comes to music taste. Can I tell you that you need to like T-Pain? Yes. But can I actually make you like him? No. Same goes for someone like Grizzly Bear. I can appreciate what the band is doing but still be totally bored by soft, mid-tempo acoustic songwriting. This might seem an evasive thing to say, because I am essentially acknowledging that even if we argue all day about the merits or demerits of T-Pain and Grizzly Bear, my ill-drawn pseudo-scientific theory about personal preference trumps all. Critics use ideas and objective material to discuss art; subjective likes and dislikes shouldn’t be an excuse. But at the same time, does not music possess mystical and intangible properties? We do our best to qualify all its empirical qualities, but still, the reason some songs sound awesome evades all logic. And besides, if all of art could be neatly codified into good and bad, wouldn’t it be something other than art?

Another note, for another blog post–I didn’t like 2009. It was a desert for good music no matter the genre. It was so bad, some people even postulated hip hop was dead. Maybe it’s all dying, or it’s just end-of-naughties fatigue.

Anyway, you may not prefer to listen to any of these songs, but perhaps you can appreciate them.

THE PLAYLIST IS LINKED HERE

Here they are, in no particular order:

–Beyonce: “Halo” and “Single Ladies”

There are few stars that I would indulge a double album showcasing the two sides of their persona. But Beyonce endlessly fascinates; she’s reserved, classy and a great old fashioned star, akin to Diana Ross, but with better pipes. Though I’ve seen her bare most body parts, B retains mystery and tact when overexposure is the norm. But more important than her persona is her voice. The brassy sass of “Single Ladies,” is all the more impressive heard in the context of “Halo.” Turns out, I need both sides of B’s coin. “Single Ladies,” which I have positively described elsewhere as a “robotic Motown stomp,” is alone in its aural universe; there’s really no other song like it. “Halo” is obviously one of millions of ballads, but Beyonce’s singing on that one sorta makes me cry.

–Big Boi feat. Gucci Mane: “Shine Blockas”

This is probably the most refreshing hip hop song of the year. Seriously, I was attentive to everything that came out. In the classics we had Ghostface, Mos Def and Raekwon. Commercial faves like Jay-Z, 50 Cent and to a much lesser extent Fabolous all released albums. There was a come back from Eminem. Clipse finally released their third album the other day. But you know somefink? Though some of that stuff was good, none of it was really new. (Although Clipse’s pandering to commercial hip hop was new, but that’s for another blog post.) Big Boi picked up hot-on-the-streets-today Gucci Mane and made a song that embodies a warm, breezy Georgia day, with slightly nostalgic and thankfully un-2009 instrumentation, and made an unassuming track that sounds like it’s been here for a while but will stick around forever.

–Most the-Dream songs, notably “Rockin’ That Thang,” “Walkin’ on the Moon,” even his collab with Fabo on “Throw It In the Bag,” and his production on Electrik Red’s album.

I object to the idea that most pop is “the set-it-and-forget-it trend of auto-tuned to death vocals over recycled beats and increasingly boring sampled material.” The-Dream and his buddy Tricky Stewart guarantee that a lot of the music on the radio sounds interesting. The warm, human option in a radioverse of T-Pain’s playful robotics, the-Dream is very like a chubby cherubim with a bewitchingly lovely voice. He also knows his way around the studio, channeling MJ on “Walkin’ on the Moon,” Prince on the Electrik Red song “Friend Lover,” R Kelly every which way, including a persona favorite, Electrik Red’s song “Freaky Freaky.” He’s not copping these masters, though, he’s paying a dutiful tribute while adding his own shit: speeding up the songs and adding like 16 tracks of bleeps, bops, strings, space sounds, etc: there’s literally never a dull moment on one of his songs. Pitchfork identified his style as rococo; indeed, the-Dreams interior design equivalent is probably this room. Did I mention the-Dream co-wrote “Umbrella” and “Single Ladies”? And that he is younger than you and me? ! ! !

–Ghostface: “Do Over”

Turns out Ghostdini didn’t have the lasting power I’d hoped for. Many long-time fans complained that Ghost didn’t bring it on this album as he had on his soul songs elsewhere. But I still think this song is a success.

–Pet Shop Boys: “All Over the World”

Okay, this song is totally ridiculous. It sounds like it was produced in 1996 and features gruesomely tacky faux-strings playing a famous ditty from Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker.” But whatever! This song is totally exhilarating; every time I hear the chorus, I imagine the aging Pet Shop Boys standing on top of a mountain with their arms majestically stretched out to the sky. As the feverish 90s-British-gay-club bass pounds, we see the snow-capped peaks around the P.S. Boys, and the expanse of this colorful world unfolds before our eyes.

–Bassment Jaxx: “Scars” & “Raindrops”

Sasha Frere Jones helpfully pointed this out earlier in the year:

Two dance acts emerged around the turn of the century, both of which had the visas to pass between the worlds of pop and dance. One was Daft Punk and the other was Basement Jaxx. Especially since Basement Jaxx used actual human vocals and wove a wide range of references into their music, I thought they would reach more people, and for longer. Quite the opposite.

Daft Punk offered the nexus of studied unhumanity, the final solution of Kraftwerk’s menschmachine universe. And yeah, I think DP is more accessible than BJ, because even though BJ offer uplifting melodies, they are often hidden in an unintelligible chaos. DP makes a squeaky clean sound, even when they’ve got a shit ton of distortion on. Anyway, Bassment Jaxx is becoming a much more compelling group than DP–they’re a lot more prolific, and their emotional register is wide and varied. “Scars” is an auditory thesis in desperation and darkness. (This song also puts Kelis’ at-times gruff alto to much better use than her new single “Acapella.”) “Raindrops” is the opposite, the refreshing washing away of darkness, like the last drizzle before a rainbow appears! Yay.

–MSTRKRFT: “Heartbreaker”

You’re probably mad at me because I am including a bunch of dance music in my list, and most fans of dance/electro/whatevs wear skinny jeans. But alas, it’s technically a different genre. I know most MSTRKRFT songs consist of Justice-esque power-punching distortion, (their 2009 album is called Fist of God, for heaven’s sake), but this walk on the sensitive side plucks my heart-strings every time. The piano is simple but more emotionally effective than the catharsis-mongering of, say, Alicia Keys. The lyrics are rather basic: “I feel like crying/just want to die.” But the spirit is similar to the substance of Kanye’s 808s, and who hasn’t felt that desperate?

–Raekwon + Ghostface: “Cold Outside”

Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II is so dense that I haven’t absorbed more than half of it. But this song stuck out during my first listens; it’s all street-elegy, a pointed picture of what sucks about being poor, cold and stuck in the hood. Kids are smoking weed, mothers can’t afford diapers and no one can afford Newports at $7.50 a pack. Mariachi horns blare in and out of tune in an endless loop, sounding a bit like the undying cycle of human misery.

–Keri Hilson, Ne-yo, Kanye, “Knock You Down.”

Sure did love this song.

–Lady Gaga, “Bad Romance”

I had to acknowledge this one-woman phenomenon in some way, and it is by honoring her with a place on my playlist. “Bad Romance” has just the right amount of Gaga affectation; “Poker Face” was as static as the visage it describes; “LoveGame” featured a hook so obnoxious that it lulled you into a state of catatonic braindeath; “Paparazzi” was effectively creepy, but less because it’s about a stalker and more because it sounds uncannily like Gwen Stefani.  But the way she pronounces the word “romance” in this new single is brilliant: she slips in and out of a linguistic anachronism like she slips in and out of pop star cliches and robot outfits.  I am still embarrassed every time she says, “I’m a free bitch, baby,” but then again, no Gaga song is complete without something stupid like a “disco stick” popping up. Beside that, this song is pretty cool in a farty, thumping, idiotic sort of way.

–Jay-Z: “Thank You”

As previously mentioned, this song ain’t nothin new. But it suits Jigga to a ‘t’–I can just see him in his $4,000 suit, shimmying up his Italian silk tie, nonchalantly thanking all of us for providing him with riches. The marching horns on this track are a more effective testament to his old school New York cred than they are on “D.O.A.,” and, despite the questionable analogy about “9-11″ing his enemies, this song is a relaxed and enjoyable example of the rapper comfortably gazing down on us from his pedestal.

–Cam’ron: “I Hate My Job”

If there was a theme song for enduring a job during the recession, it’d be this one. Obviously being unemployed is miserable, but being locked into a job with a shitty commute, shitty boss, shitty hours, and shitty wages can be just as demeaning and dehumanizing. The piano loop sounds more like a Billy Joel rag or a Kermit the Frog sing-along than a track for the rapper of Purple Haze infamy, but I guess that just shows us that Cam’ron’s got the flexibility and wherewithal required to survive hard times.

–Clipse + Kanye: “Kinda Like a Big Deal.”

I listened to this song about 5 billion times this year, and I can’t remember what I ever liked about it. However, from an objective stand-point, this song features Kanye’s best verse of the year, and the guitars on this song are a much better way to rock in rap, as opposed to, say, Lil Wayne’s idea of how to rock in rap.

Update: Kanye West in 2009

Shiny orbs reveal a contemplative Kanye

Last year this time I was sullenly nodding along to Kanye’s “808s and Heartbreak.” This year this time I am marveling at Kanye’s 2009 brand expansion. He didn’t put out an album, but he was all over everybody else’s, guesting, producing, sputtering, chuckling, but mostly, as some might say, spittin’ raw game.

Probably because everyone was so mad at him for making a depressing cd, Kanye made up for all that 2008 autotuning with some witty, sad, self-reflective, angry and haughty rhymes on his various guest appearances.

A playlist of Kanye’s 12–COUNT EM’–12 singles is available for your listening pleasure (or displeasure, depending on the song) here. The best of this crop is “Walkin’ on the Moon,” with the-Dream. I LOVE THAT SONG! But other artists with whom Kanye worked successfully include Rick Ross, Keri Hilson and Clipse. Least successful collabs were with the Teriyaki Boyz, as well as with everyone and their mom on “Forever,” which is an EPIC FAIL (to use internet speak) featuring the megastars Drake, Lil Wayne and Eminem. (I think it’s because I HATE DRAKE.)

Many of these songs feature similar themes and references to products. Below is a sort of index for Kanye’s songs of this last year. I was inspired by the index Slate compiled for Sarah Palin’s new book; the index topics revealed a lot about the book, so if you don’t have time to listen to Kanye, this list will fill you in on what you missed.

Brands (cars):

Mercedes Benz (Maybach Music 2, Poke Her Face, Whatever U Want)

Maybach (Maybach Music 2, obviously), also known as “May-what?” (Run This Town)

Lexus (Maybach Music 2, Whatever U Want)

Ferrari (Walkin’ On the Moon)

Volvo, did not buy for family a (Run This Town)

Rav 4, did not become a rapper to drive a (Run This Town)

Brands (not cars):

-Reebok, implying it is okay to wear a pair of (Knock You Down), scoffing that you still own pair of (Run This Town)

-Louis Vuitton, implying it is higher class to wear (Knock You Down),

-Dolce & Gabbana, in your closet, Kanye finds (The Big Screen)

-Grey Poupon, rhymes with poop (Mayback Music 2)

Women:

-dykes, at the club, men who are not Kanye get (Maybach Music 2)

-breasts, for women who want them, Kanye will purchase new (Whatever U Want)

-nipples, aka bee stings (Run This Town)

-Michelle Obama, just cuz (Forever)

-sororities, Kanye has seniority at (Poke Her Face)

Movies:

-Good Will Hunting, in a sea of ill-will, Kanye goes (Run This Town)

-Karate Kid, because Kanye is rhyming with Asians, he mentions (Teriyaking)

-Return of the Jedi, when Kanye returns from out of town, it is similar to (The Big Screen)

-Hollywood (The Big Screen, Forever)

Wine Varietals:

riesling, drank too much (Run This Town)

Champagne, drank a little (Poke Her Face)

Affecting Foreign Accents:

‘chahnce, ‘ British pronunciation of the word “chance” (Supernova)

‘ting,’ Jamaican pronunciation of the word “thing” (The Big Screen)

Technology:

Macbook Air, Digitial Girl in question watched on(Digital Girl)

Blackberry, please stop using your (Walkin’ On The Moon)

-Macberry, horrible pun referring to iPhone (Walkin’ On The Moon)

-OMG, Internet lingo (Knock You Down)

texting, drunk (Walkin’ on the Moon)

Biology/biological functions:

gonads, someone grabbed him by the (Teriyaking)

poop, used in extended metaphor about world as his commode (Maybach Music 2, Teriyaking)

dick,  to prove point to women, Kanye uses (all songs)

-Medulla Oblongata (Poke Her Face)

-scoliosis (Poke Her Face)

comatosis, rhymes with scoliosis (Poke Her Face)

-sex, in library (Poke Her Face), with mentally challenged girls (Kinda Like a Big Deal)

Musical References:

-Slick Rick, Kanye is the new (Knock You Down)

-Hey Young World, [Slick Rick reference] (Knock You Down)

-Michael Jackson, this is bad, real bad, similar to the album by (Knock You Down)

Joe Jackson, Kanye is mad, real mad, similar to the mood of (Knock You Down)

Emotional Themes:

-palpable regret (all songs, especially Kinda Like a Big Deal, Run This Town, Walkin on the Moon, Knock You Down)

-haughtiness (all songs, especially Mayback Music 2, Poke Her Face, Whatever U Want, Forever)

-combination regret & haughtiness (all songs)

But shiny bags can't take away the pain

Old School Trend Stops Here: Clipse, WHY?

I am a very loyal music fan. I went through an itunes induced mania in early college, and then music streaming websites (like imeem) further threatened to erode my musical attention span. Sixth to ninth grade I was perfectly content to listen about a dozen cds, late high school saw a time of horizon expansion, and by 19 I was consuming and disposing of music at faster rates than cash for clunkers went bust.

But now I’m getting back to my original formula, even if it means a few chafe marks from the high velocity world of music consumption. As this blog will attest, I kinda just get into one group/artiste and am fixated for a long time. CUZ like I said, I’m loyal.

Take Clipse. Maybe it’s because they themselves are bitter that they’ve never become megastars, or maybe its because they’re also an underdog in my friend group, but I feel obligated to defend Clipse till my casket drops.

What? You say their new single sucks? No way, man, I’m going to find a way to like it, even if it takes 10 listens and a close-reading of the lyrics to find one golden nugget. Fortunately, I normally don’t have to dig so hard to like Clipse jams. (Kinda Like a Big Deal is pretty good, and stuff.)

But for real: “All Eyes On Us?”  I can’t make myself like it. There is just something disingenuous about Pusha shouting like a Miami party boy: “Life as we know it begins on Friday night! Bright lights, big city!” Bright lights, big city? Seriously? I thought this album was called Till the Casket Drops! I was expecting some heavy shit, not party till we drop philosophizing. The song is rigidly formulaic and rhythmically uninteresting; there are no epic twists, no delightful turns of phrase. And they don’t even sound like they’re having fun buying Gucci Fendi Louis or having sex with prostitutes. Or cooking up that “slumdog millionaire.” (crack, i believe)

Pharrell adds a few Kraftwerkesque ascending water droplet arpeggios… or are they just 90s Timbaland sound effects? The track channels old schoolness/Run DMC with that blary sample. Also, Pusha and Malice slick-rick it in a flareless 4/4… or as though they are imitating their tour-mates, the Cool Kids. But rudimentary rhythm is just not their delivery style.

For the Lord’s sake, these guys are hard motherfuckers. Malice–well, his game name is MALICE–spits pretty vicious stuff. And Pusha-T gets his name from his crack dealing days. He also sounds pretty mad most of the time, or otherwise quite cynical and resigned to the ironies of fate. Though this song makes mention of drug deals and dirty money, it’s at best a revision-lite on the themes visited in Hell Hath No Fury’s “Dirty Money.”

Oh yeah, and Keri Hilson guests. Though “Knock You Down” and “Turnin’ Me On” were gigantic hits, a Keri Hilson on a track does not a megahit make.

In other words, where’s the gangsta lean? I will allow for one misfired pander to commercial hip hop, but that’s it.