I will be getting with Dave to create a list of the greatest albums of this first decade of the 2000s. Other than that, let’s go in:
Jay-Z – The Blueprint 3
Hmm…well…what is there to really say. I don’t want this to get into some long diatribe, so I’ll attempt to keep it brief. Off the bat – I will say that this isn’t Hov’s best album. It just isn’t. I know he (and others) like to push the “it’s time to talk about different shit” card, which I dig. The man probably hasn’t moved a kilo in like 10-15 years. He’s beginning to reach a point to where soon he will have been a superstar rapper longer than anything he was prior, and might technically already be there. You just can’t talk about hustling in the streets forever – nor SHOULD he have to.
My gripe is the musical quality compared to his other albums, or lack thereof. Plain and simple, it’s just not that strong. Is it better than 95% of the releases of 2009. Yes….an emphatic one. However, right or wrong, I hold Hov to a higher standard (a lot of people do, and should). I expect him to literally piss greatness – and BP3 is not great on any level except the lyrics, which are top notch as usual. And I think I know the problem – there was a point where Jay would break new, up and coming beatsmiths. You have to remember – Just Blaze and The Kanye were just rookies in the game back in the day, before Jay featured them major on La Roc Familia album, and especially The Blueprint. Even The Black Album had Hov taking chances on a new guys, notably 9th Wonder, who at that point was still part of Little Brother. My point is that Blueprint 3 doesn’t sound fresh. It sounds like work from a no longer hungry set of the usual suspects. I guess he’s a busy man – he just doesn’t have the time to search out and listen to beat tapes all day. He should start paying someone to do so – there’s a lot of talent out there to find. I could actually do a character study on rap, Jay-Z, and music using his albums for the progression pieces…..hmmm…..
Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx…Pt. II
My favorite rap release (top 5 overall) of 2009 – along side K-Os’ release. Let’s see: the lyrics – check. Rae has always been a dope lyricist, and the delivery is always on point. But he sounds particularly refreshed on this go ’round. Ghost is Ghost – there really isn’t much more you need to say about him…how many superlatives do you need? My two lyrical surprises are Inspectah Deck and Method Man. Deck has been dope, if underrated. But the dude drops the very first verse on this album. Think about that – Rae is supremely confident that A. He knows he will still shine, and B. Deck is so dope, you don’t feel bad putting him one first verse on your own album. This is the same with Meth, except on the back end of songs. Rae recognized that Method is dopest as the anchor on track meet, where usually the main artist would like to shine. Again, Rae is confident in his abilities, but isn’t too selfish as to make sure his man shines. There are other dope spots too, from Jada and Styles P, Slick Rick aka The Ruler (who sounds primed for his own comeback album) and Masta Killa, who also came pretty ill on this. The Dre spot is basic, but the Dre people love: pianos and that slow G-ride bounce, which Rae and Bus-a-bus slay..would’ve loved to have heard U-God (MIA?) on this. Speaking of beats – RZA is back at it again, doing his usual thing.
Overall, this is isn’t the first Cuban Linx album, that classic stands alone in time with the mafioso rap period. This album is a tad too long, but it’s a banger and Wu lovers’ dream – the majority of the beats are literally fucking nuts. I’m all about hearing new voices, like the Cudis and Drakes, etc. But it’s nice to hear a familiar voice that’s still capable of dropping oh-so-near classics.
Couple extras: I read that Nas was basically too busy to get on the album – wtf. How does Ruler make the album, but Nas doesn’t? Eh..woulda been nice, but no biggie. Dre REALLY should’ve let this album come out on Aftermath….how does he put something like this on the backburner. Rae is basically going to come out a huge winner – especially with the BP3 letdown. If you consider the factors, it’s an amazing comeback.
Hudson Mohawke – Polyfolk Dance EP
Beats, beats, and more beats for the people. Hudson is on some polybeat type shit – sounds like a couple beats are playing at the same time, but together, if that makes sense. I love the future funk feel with this guy, on some Year 2124, Playstation 13 shit. If you’re a beat maniac like myself, you’ll get a kick out of this EP. “Overnight” is the superstar here – very strong.
Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear (Deluxe Edition)
If you don’t know the story about this double album, here’s a quick run down: Marvin and his future ex-wife Anna Gordy, Berry’s sister, were in the process of a divorce. As a resolution to the divorce settlement, Marvin’s lawyer suggested that Marvin do an album, in which almost all of the proceeds, including the advance went to Anna. (Note: Marvin was already into his lavish lifestyle and drug use – which was eating up his cash flow. His live-in relationship with his soon to be new wife Janis was also kind of a big deal, especially since he held an open relationship with her DURING his marriage – and he actually dedicated the PREVIOUS album to this homewrecker. Yikes – more later.) Marvin was going to turn in a shit album, but decided at the last minute to turn in the 2nd greatest divorce/breakup album ever (behind Dylan’s Blood On The Tracks.) Amazing album.
Marvin Gaye – I Want You
The album Marvin dedicated to the then-teenaged Janis Hunter – probably one the greatest, sensual love/sex albums ever, if not #1. Now…this album was actually not Marvin’s. Leon Ware, another hugely talented and underrated Motown artist, wrote and produced this album – all of it. Marvin was looking for help for his next project, and heard Leon’s work, loved the downtempo funk sound and wanted to put his layered vocals on it. Berry Gordy and Marvin basically asked Leon to surrender the entire album to Marvin, with Marvin getting some co-writing credit. Make no mistake – I LOVE Marvin – but this is Leon’s album, from front to back. The cover was genius.
Leon Ware – Musical Massage
The album Marvin wanted as a follow-up to I Want You, an offer to which Leon decided to refuse. It was built as a continuation to I Want You, so that you could play the albums together or back to back. It’s a little harder on the breaks during the choruses, and the basslines are a little bit thicker. Ware’s voice does not disappoint – I won’t say he’s equal to Marvin, because he’s not….but it’s a lot more than adequate. (I’m actually surprised he didn’t become a huge name himself.) It’s at the very least equal to its predecessor. Gotta love the cover….the back matches the front too.