Monday, January 30, 2012

Drive-By Album Review: Nu MAGIK - The Vintage LP

This album is my introduction to Nu MAGIK. According to Nu MAGIK's label, HiPNOTT Records, "Nu MAGIK, comprised of Chicago-based emcee Draz and Los Angeles-based producer Duece Maxwell, have joined HiPNOTT Records to re-release their 2009 debut album, The Vintage LP. The free re-release will serve as a precursor to the duo’s upcoming HiPNOTT debut, V2 to be released early 2012. This special edition re-release of The Vintage LP IS available on compact disc for the first time ever and features two bonus remixes produced by UK producers, Jazz Spastiks. Features on the album include Raphael Saadiq, JusBrea of Deep Rooted, Blu Smith, Phoebe Mac & Khan, Royale Krown, Pucali Raw and Smoke E. Digglera."

So here's my candid thoughts on the album:

Intro track hot.  One thing I require of any dope hip hop album is a bangin' scratch break.  And this album leads off with a pretty sweet one.  Unfortunately, the album that backs up the dope intro is nothing like the intro.  "Yeah", the album's 4th track was the first non-intro track that I liked.  I found myself thinking about some '90s AZ.  I was definitely digging on the bass guitar in the background.  All three verses were nice.  The song has an uplifting, soulful message.  It's not "Juicy" in terms of uplifting (really, what is) but its nice and along that line.  "Summer Magik" is totally meh (see video below)

"Much too late", I struggled to make it to the first hook.  Nexxxt.  Hey, "Just Another Rapper" had a scratch break!  But the song's title kinda describes Nu MAGIK in my opinion...just another rapper.  Aside from the sparse scratch breaks, the production did not move me.

"Home Sweet Home" features Raphael Saadiq on the hook.  You know he's nice.  But alas, the verses are average at best.  

The album also includes a tribute song to Nu MAGIK's grandma called, "A Song for You".  I think it is a very nice idea, but to me, nothing about my grandma says, "hip hop tribute".

"Yeah (Jazz Spastiks Remix)" is, like the original version, nice.  The Jazz Spastiks beat is good and jazzy.

There is nothing I'm hearing in this album that makes it stand out.  The album is not terrible, but in all honesty, I'm glad I had the opportunity to cop this album for free.  I'm not sure I would've paid for it.  Lord knows there's already a queue of dope albums I need to plunk down on.  I will definitely make sure I give their next album a preview before committing to the purchase.    Again, this is a re-release of their 2009 debut.  It's now 2012, and perhaps things done changed.

Album in a nutshell in my opinion - Lacks sufficient scratch breaks, but the ones that were there were nice.  R&B hooks. Clean (as in not vulgar) lyrics.  Lyrically average.  Word play, which I kinda like, is absent for the most part.  Slow flow.  Were there not so many amazing acts popping up over the last few years, I'd probably have dug this more.

2 out of 5 Juiceboxes.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Dude, Where's My MegaUpload

So, PIPA is being delayed for the time being until the Senate can work through all the blowback they received in conjunction with the recent blackout of many major websites this week. 

In related news, the file-sharing website MegaUpload was shut down.  USA Today reports that a five-count indictment was handed down alleging copyright infringement, money laundering and racketeering (which reminds me, I really need to get to the tennis courts soon.) 

Speaking for myself, I can say that I have frequented this site, and others like it A LOT!  Many of the independent artists that I follow utilize this site, and others like it (like Z-Share, Hulkshare, etc.) to promote their music.  And it's all legit.  The copyright holder is the one uploading the mixtapes or EP's or album previews or what have you.

I certainly have no insight into Justice's case or evidence, but I think it is messed up that they just shut the whole shit down.  I understand that the Motion Picture Association is quite upset about the illegal sharing of copyrighted movies, but this response seems disproportionate to the offense.

Before MegaUpload was shut down, it released the following statement (according to the USA Today story)

"The fact is that the vast majority of Mega's Internet traffic is legitimate, and we are here to stay. If the content industry would like to take advantage of our popularity, we are happy to enter into a dialogue. We have some good ideas. Please get in touch,"

You know, my personal opinion is that this seems to be a move by industries who are unwilling to modify their business models to an ever-evolving environment.  No one's going to the movies anymore because they have theaters in their homes.  No one's buying full albums anymore (well many do not) because they can download just the tracks they like.  People are ditching cable (myself included) because the cost is simply not worth it anymore.  Content providers need to wisen up and become leaders in change, and stop trying to piss on folks who are bringing innovation to content distribution.

Virginia Congressman Accepts Buffetts' Challenge

 Congressman Scott Rigell, Republican Congressman representing Virginia's 2nd District (Virginia Beach/Hampton area) was the first to accept Warren Buffett's challenge to the GOP that he would match all GOP congressional contributions to Treasury to pay down the debt

In a letter to Buffett, Rigell tells Buffett of his decision to take 15 percent of his Congressional salary for years 2011 and 2012 and send it to the Treasury in service of our national debt.  Rigell's contribution totals approximately $49,000.  In response, an impressed Buffet wrote, "I will be delighted to match both your 2011 and 2012 contributions."

Further, Buffet commented:

"This would be a form of competition between the two parties that the American public would applaud.  'Rivalry' in this matter might possibly lead to better cooperation between the two parties and it also might be helpful in restoring the faith of the American people in Congress.  This is much needed and even small steps are important."

I happen to agree with Buffett on this one.  Anyone who takes this challenge to put their money where their mouths are (hell, I find it much easier to spend other people's than my own,) ought to be commended.  I also agree that, albeit symbolic, that this is a small step (the combined $98,000 contributions doesn't even put a dent in the $15,000,000,000,000 national debt.)

I am very interested to see how this plays out.  Buffett said he will wait until April 20th (4/20) to stroke his check to see who all else opts to accept the challenge.

I certainly plan to provide updates on this story.

In the meantime, here is a recent interview with Rigell on Bloomberg regarding his accepting Buffett's challenge:

Monday, January 16, 2012

Drive-by Album Review: Tanya Morgan - You and What Army

In honor of all the hard work MLK put into the civil rights cause, I will get some shit done around the house today.  Thought I'd review Tanya Morgan's latest album, You and What Army while I run some laundry and take down the Christmas tree.  You and What Army came out in November 2011, so it's still possible you haven't heard this yet.

Tanya Morgan is a hip hop duo consisting of Downwill and Von Pea, from Cincinnati and Brooklyn respectively.  Although their first EP, Sunset, dropped in 2005, your boy over here didn't hear of them until I copped their 2009 album, Brooklynati, in 2010.  In general, I really like their tone, their flow, their lyrical abilities.  And for the most part, I dig their beats.

My first impression is that this album has similar energy as early Black Eyed Pea albums (before they took on Fergie and completed their crossover to pop.)  When BEP was nice.  And to me, this is a major compliment.

The first track, Do It Tanya, along with a strong-ass coffee has me wanting to dance as I'm moving my first load of laundry into the dryer.  Whatever That's Mine (video below)  is a fine example of lyrical positivity.  Has a similar effect as Outkast's Git Up, Get Out (although nothing alike in sound,) in that there is an overcoming negativity with positivity quality to it, but not quite to the extent of Outkast/Goodie Mob's first-time hall-of-fame ballot inductee into the hip hop hall of fame.

Gotta Get Over It really has a 90s-style R&B-laced hip hop joint with its R. Kelly-esque hook.  A few songs in between that didn't inspire me to stop working.  Then, "We Rollin'" comes up.  Up-tempo, with fluid delivery, and fun.  I'll remember to bring this in the sporty convertible I don't  own when I head out for a drive in said unowned car.

Drive-by initial reaction: The 9-track, just-over-a-half-hour-in-length album, has just over half of the album of good music.  More good than average.  But just barely.  Perhaps it's because I have very high expectations of Tanya Morgan.  To me, they are one of my favorite hip hop acts of today.  There are definitely tracks worth putting in the mix.  Overall, I give it 3.5 juiceboxes (out of a possible 5.)  For the money (oh, did I forget to mention the digital album is FREE,) it is a must have for anyone's collection.  I'm very interested to see what 2012 holds for Tanya.

Now I 'bout to get, WHATEVER THAT'S MINE!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Warren Buffett Wins Yet Another Pissing Contest Against Republicans

Warren Buffett, uncharacteristically cool mo-fo for a guy of his stature (not that I've met him or anything,) has put his money where his mouth is with regard to his discontent with our current tax policy. 

Last summer, he wrote an op-ed prior to the convening of the "Supercommittee" (what a waste of time and money) in which he stated that he and the uber-rich friends he has who "make money with money" have a much lower tax burden than people who "earn money from a job".  Now ain't that some shit?

So, naturally, he suggests that the net tax rates for wealthy Americans should be higher than for those of us in the working class.  In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) essentially told Buffett that he was more than welcome to stroke a check to the Treasury to help pay down the national debt, if he felt so inclined.  Wow, really, so now the two options available to us (based on Republican preferences) is to either cut spending, or to allow the wealthiest to decide if they want to pay as much in taxes as working folk?  Clearly, I'm missing something here.  Ohhhhh, right, I forgot we have to have the working class subsidize the "job creators".  Because lord knows, if taxes went up on the wealthiest Americans, well, they would all stop growing their businesses.  Because at anything higher than 35% for income and 15% for capital gains, rich entrepreneurs will lose interest in making more money.  They'll stop wanting to work hard and gain market share.  At least that's what economist/comedian Arthur Laffer would have you believe.

Gladly, I caught the PBS News Hour last night where his assumptions were (to put it nicely) called into question.  He convincingly (that is, for non-inquiring minds) claims that if the marginal tax rates for the wealthiest were increased anything above the current 35 percent, that tax receipts would actually decline.  Arthur, to use your own curve, what you claim could be true, if there was some evidence that 35 percent yields optimal tax receipts.  But you don't have this evidence.

I digress.  In the past few days, Buffett upped his game and said he would match the entirety of contributions made by Republican lawmakers toward the debt, one-for-one.  Now that's what the fuck I'm talkin' about!  Now we'll see which of the deficit hawks are willing to play with the big boys.  And because McConnell pulled such a dick-move by telling Buffett he could send in a check, Buffett said he'd match McConnell's contributions 3-to-1. 

In sum, this exchange of ideas just "futhah" let's me know that the Republicans in office right now have no problem with the richest of us (which includes pretty much all of them) paying significantly less of their "earnings" to pay for our debts than folks like me.  We'll see how that works for them come election time. 

Nothing like climbing the ladder and then pulling it up behind you!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Gods'Illa video for, "Sal's Pizzeria"

Gods'Illa, one of my favorite hip hop acts out of the DMV (DC, Maryland, and Virginia, if you didn't already know,) just released a video for, Sal's Pizzeria,which is one of the dopest tracks on their latest album.  It is clear to me that these guys really think about what they put down on paper.  I love when hungry emcees with skills put down a track that calls out the homogeneity of the mainstream emcee.  Especially when they call them, "robots."  Because they are! 

I randomly came across Gods'Illa one night listening to Ill Street Grooves one Monday night on 89.3FM, WPFW - Washington, DC on a night in Summer 2011 when Gods'Illa was in the studio promoting their latest project, The CPR Blendtape,  which features several cameos from on Ms. Erykah Badu (under the pseudonym, Ms. Downtown Loretta Brown).  The show got me hooked.  I downloaded the mixtape straight away, and if an mp3 could "pop", it would've. 

Fast forward a few months to October when I was down in Atlanta for the A3C Hip Hop Festival.  An amazing array of up-an-coming hip hop acts from across the country and the world.  It was one of those shows with a million acts, most of which played 10-20 minutes.  I was watching The Bodega Brovas with one of my buddies, and leaned over to him and told him the group I came to see was, Gods'Illa.  Wouldn't you know they were standing right aside us and overheard my comment.  Needless to say, I immediately introduced myself as a fan of their work and we shot the shit everytime we crossed paths over the next 3 days.  Their set was one of the best at A3C, and even included a feature with Boot Camp Clik member, Sean Price. 

All that to say, check out the video!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Hip Hop Album of the Year

So after listening to many new albums this year (boy, was this a good year for hip hop,) I have finally come to the decision that yU's (as in why you?) album, The Earn, takes top billing as my best hip hop album of 2011.  Keep in mind, I'm a 36-year-old white guy who no longer listens to garbage about ho's and guns.  That being said, The Earn is for grown folk.  yU, of DC's talented hip hop trio Diamond District, delivers real talk over tight, jazzy beats.  This is a great album to marinate on after a long day's work.  In fact, the video for the track, Write On, (below) provided me the motivation to create this blog.  I never thought yU could deliver in his second album the total package he presented in his solo debut, Before Taxes.  Alas I was right...this album is even better.  Forget about a sophmore jinx and cop this album.

Honorable mentions include the following albums:

DTMD: Makin' Dollas
Actual Proof: Still Hotter Than July
Median: The Sender
Gods'Illa - CPR Blendtape

Stay tuned for more as 2012 is already shaping up to pick up right where 2011 left off.  Already slated is an album from master emcee O.C. with production by Detroit's own Apollo Brown.