Wednesday, June 24, 2009


The thing about being broke and an addict is that you have to be creative with the ways you get your vice. For my particular substance of choice, music, that means walking a very thin and controversial line between rabid fan-dom and outright crime.

If you think in dial-up, I'm referring to file sharing.

Now to me, file sharing falls into a legal gray area I like to refer to as "semi-legal" activities. (Weed's the only other real member of this group in my opinion.) This means that while under the letter of the law these actions are illegal, the reasons behind their legal status have as much to do with business as they do with public safety.
Family Guy aired an episode recently dealing with the issue of marijuana legalization. Sure, it dealt with the subject like Family Guy, but still...
Basically what Seth McFarlane was saying was that while weed ain't exactly the best substance to be on when, say, reporting the news, the reasons for it being illegal might have as much to do with the business as much as the social issues of the drug.

The same thing can be said for file sharing. In the late 90's, recording artists attacked Napster for allowing people to share songs freely without any consideration towards the artists. They claimed that this would cause the downfall of CD sales and bankrupt the music industry. Well of course, we now know that the industry didn't die; the times just changed. Some had a hard time reconciling with the way things were and how things are. So the industry is still attacking the can when the worms are already loose.

Just as recently as last week the RIAA was still in court trying to crack down on file sharing. Meanwhile SoundScan first week numbers for albums are in the six figures, and Weezy was the last dude to do a mil in the first week. ITunes is the new king of music distribution, and artist can get rich off one song rather than a whole record. So was the advent of file sharing really that bad?

Money aside, file sharing opened up the doors for Zune and iPod to be invented. Soulja Boy owes the dude who came up with Napster some residuals. Still, one could see how a dude with a record contract would be pissed off at the fact that they could be making money off of 1,000 downloads that no ones paying for.

Free Music.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Condition Critical

Something's been bugging me for a while now: how exactly do critics rate albums? Do they take into account all that goes into making a record, or do they base their reviews purely on the completed product? And if they use the former as a basis for review, where do mixtapes fall?

I personally enjoy the way XXL has set up their reviews because they break down how they review material. For me, it takes too much time to read an entire review only to be told that that critic doesn't like the album, but doesn't give any real reason. Mixtapes are an entirely different animal; they simply can't be reviewed like proper albums.

Here's how I personally rate albums:

  • Production (The beats and music have to be top - notch, but not necessarily complicated. They have to go with that artist and with the albums whole flow.)
  • Lyrics (The punchlines have to hit hard, and everthing has to engaging to the listener. Weezy's proved that not everything has to make sence if it sounds good, though. Telling a story, and telling it well, earns bonus points.)
  • Flow (Albums have to have a flow to them. Songs can't come from out of the blue when you're listening to a record. If the artist is going for a theme, they need to stick to that, and not deviate because they want to go platinum.)
  • Can I Sit Through It All The Way (Sometimes albums get tiring. This judges replay value.)
  • Hype*(This has more to do with major label releases. Can the project match or exceed its hype?)

It's a different story for mixtapes:

  • Mix (It doesn't matter if it's a mixtape; songs have to go together and not be just put someplace.)
  • Hosting (DJ Drama needs to be a feature, but he can't take over the tape.)
  • Editing (If you're trying to get put on using a mixtape, EQing doesn't hurt at all.)
  • Inventiveness* (A cool concept gets me everytime.)

Okay, I put up my two cents. Now all I need is a dollar and I can get an Arizona.


Monday, April 27, 2009

Off Inspiration and Finance

Last week I got $50 from my aunt. Today, I have $18 and change. I'm reluctant to ask for more money, because it's my own fault for spending it so quick. On the upside, I've laid down the lyrics for a good song.

I'm sure there's something to be said about personal strife inspiring an artist's best work, but I'm not sure "emotional" work and "superior" work are as synonymous as people think they are. A mediocore saxophonist can write a piece and dedicate it to his ill uncle, but if the piece doesn't sound good, then it really doesn't matter how emotional it is. (Oh, and I hear those shouts of Tupac and Kanye out there; I hear everything. So you think Tupac and Kanye are mediocore now?)
On the other hand, a exceptional artist can basically sleepwalk through a track and that track will be concidered a classic. (*cough, cough, A Milli, cough cough*).

Good is good; bad is bad; but when feelings get involved, we tend to let some stuff slide.

Music makes us empaths.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Lyricism over Popularity

There's a very sad truth concerning modern-day hip-hop that I feel compelled to reveal: The popularity of a rapper is often inversely related to that rapper's lyrical ability.

I know that statement might be debatable, but think about it for a bit. I mean really marinate on that statement. Think of every hip-hop song you've heard on the radio, in the club, on the Internet. Now think of the ones where the artists was really spitting acid on the track. Who comes to mind? Nas? Mos Def? Common? Slaughterhouse (Joell Ortiz, Joe Budden, Crooked I, Royce the 5'9")?
Now think of the song where the lyrics were terrible. Soulja Boy probably comes quickest to mind. (I personally don't think Lil Jon counts as bad lyricism because Lil Jon is more of an American toaster than an American rapper.) Later Lil Wayne might pop up in others' heads depending on what on considers good lyricism. Most of the dance tracks in the club might as well go in to the "bad lyrics" category.

Now, think of the Top 20 songs. Think of the albums that go gold or platinum. Think of the albums that are highly rated. Think of the ones that don't sell.

Lyrics used to mean so much more.