Sunday, May 18, 2008


Quick aside: Clearly, I haven't been updating this thing as much as I envisioned. I no longer work at The Review, as it was time to hand it over to the young guns. I graduate in 13 days and head to Europe for three and a half weeks shortly after that. What I'm trying to say is don't expect many more updates (if any) after this one. I'm sure I'll be back at this blogging thing sooner than I should be, it just might not be here.

If there's a note to go out on, it's Kanye West's "Glow in the Dark" tour. I'm not going to overanalyze (what too many of us tend to do) the thing because it might lead to nitpicking (no "Drive Slow"?) or unnecessary realizations (including "Gold Digger" because Kanye "needs pussy"?). There is no need for either when discussing West's intergalactic, 20-song adventure. Excuse the hyperbole but after last night's show, I would be hard pressed to name a more important, and impressive, performer than West right now. The chipmunk-soul-beat geek has transformed into the most engaging and hard-working showman in rap history. But now, after "Glow in the Dark," Kanye has transcended genre barriers and has his eyes set on being the biggest name is music. Big Brother Hov should take notice - just because your catalog is deeper than most record collections doesn't mean concert creativity should not be explored. Love him or hate him, there is no denying that at last night's performance at the Susquehanna Bank Center in Camden, N.J., Kanye West made a serious argument as being "the brightest star in the universe."

Random thoughts:

- Chris Brown, who came out to dance during N.E.R.D.'s new track "Spaz," is really tall, especially next to Pharrell.
- Breezy did not come out to sing the "Umbrella" remix with rumored girlfriend Rihanna, whose set was OK. The girls standing around me were really into it.
- Sean Fennessey talked about this on his Vibe blog but songs from West's Graduation sounded the best, in particular "Flashing Lights" and my favorite, "I Wonder."
- Lupe Fiasco's flow is no joke.
- There is nothing like seeing thousands of people moving their hands up and down during the "La, la, la, la..." part of "Can't Tell Me Nothing."
- Yes, Kanye was wearing his Air Yeezys, and yes, they were dope.
- There was a teenage couple sitting in front of me who were more concerned with taking kissing photos than watching the artists rip it.
- The acts seemed confused in addressing the crowd as Philly or New Jersey. Pharrell handled it with the most honesty. "We're confused because our hotels are in Philly but the show is in Camden. Pause. So what's up Philly and New Jersey?!"
- Hearing "Spaceship," from The College Dropout, was a nice reminder of how angry Kanye used to be.
- I left the arena feeling fantastic.

Friday, April 18, 2008


Spotted this goofy picture over at The Fader...The first blog from the Fool's Gold Screaming Bloody Murder tour. Your boy got caught on film doing his two step. There even might be an art editor behind him. Dancing is fun!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


I took a few pictures from the recent Hot Chip and A-Trak/Steve Aoki shows. They were both booked by the consistent Philadelphia booking agency R5 Productions. I've been going to R5 shows for more than five years now and I'm thankful to have grown up near the Philly area. Fair prices, unique venues and strong buzz bands/acts.

The pictures are of the poorest quality, but I was able to get pretty close to both stages (Hot Chip played the Starlight Ballroom while A-Trak's "Screaming Bloody Murder" tour played the Barbary). If you're interested in purchasing a new phone, this is how the iPhone does it.

The crowd liked Hot Chip. The boys played "Wrestlers" really well that night.

A-Trak. 'Ye's DJ. Dates Kid Sister. Wears Jordan 4's.

Steve Aoki.

Friday, April 11, 2008


I swear I was going to write about this. But this pretty much sums up my feelings.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Look - a new feature! Trying out this Muxtape deal. For those unfamiliar with Muxtape, it's a Web site that allows users to upload mp3s to create a streaming playlist similar to - yes - a mixtape. Technology, man.

The songs are just random tracks I have and like. The site is extremely easy to use, so indulge. I'll make a new tracklist sometime in the near future.

(P.S.: Bonus beat at the end of this first edition. I was in a band in high school. That may or may not be a song we recorded for our first, and only, demo. I may or may not be playing guitar. I may or may not sing a few lines on it. The quality kind of sucks but I saw it in the vault and thought it'd be fun to post. We listened to Jimmy Eat World.)

(P.P.S.: The Review's art editor, Nick DiBerardinis, was inspired to make his own muxtape. Check out his Digital Hustlin' tape here.)


Alkaline Trio – Help Me
from the forthcoming Agony and Irony

The only band tattoo I ever considered getting was Alkaline Trio’s heart logo. It would have been morose but probably appropriate because the Chicago outfit is one band I still love listening to. It’s nice that I can comfortably consider myself a fan of every record they’ve released (some more than others, of course). And while I rarely listen to pop-punk nowadays - high school was a different story – I still keep tabs on Alkaline Trio because, frankly, the group knows how to change with the times without sacrificing artistic integrity.

It’s been almost 10 years since the band released its debut album Goddamnit. Since that decade, the group has seemingly perfected its upbeat yet dark three-chord onslaught. Alkaline Trio songs are typically fast (but have slowed down over the years), short-winded and feature lyrics like, “I wish you would take my radio to bathe with you / plugged in and ready to fall” (“Radio” from 2000’s Maybe I’ll Catch Fire). But look closer and there is growth. While the band first began writing songs about hating girls and drinking beer to forget those girls, Alkaline Trio slowly evolved its lyrics to reflect a more morbid tone. Although its approach was always far from peachy, the band transformed from emo punks to a group more influenced, especially aesthetically, by Bauhaus and Joy Division. The evolution was most apparent on 2005’s Crimson, which featured the excellent single “Time to Waste” – a sleek composition that proved Alkaline Trio was willing to mature but not change its melancholic tone.

Today, Alkaline Trio posted the song “Help Me” on its MySpace page. It is the first single from the band’s major-label debut Agony and Irony, due out July 1 on Epic Records. Unsurprisingly, it rocks. More importantly, it is purely Alkaline Trio – all distorted guitars, Matt Skiba’s vocals soar and, of course, those lyrics.

Did I find you in between
Heaven and Hell again?
Where nothing's what it seems,
it's just as well I plan
on giving me the creeps,
and a farewell to arms, and legs, and heads and all…

The song should appease both Epic and the band’s dedicated fan base (the Alkaline Trio fan club is called The Blood Pact). It proves the band can write catchy hooks but uphold its most identifiable aspects (guts, gore, sadness, the like). So often, bands make its desires for mainstream success painstakingly obvious (I see you, Pete Wentz). But in the case of Alkaline Trio and “Help Me,” the band members have somehow adapted to its major-label surroundings without alienating the people who got the group its new record deal in the first place. Integrity and responsibility? What concepts!

Friday, April 04, 2008


At least for this week. Spotted at the Smoking Section.

Thursday, April 03, 2008


Kanye West - Bring Me Down
from the live album, Late Orchestration

Did I speak too soon?

Very excited.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008


Lil Wayne - "Lollipop"
Lil Wayne - "A Millie"
from the forthcoming Tha Carter III

Call it inspiration, but I feel inclined to say a few things on Lil Wayne, the New Orleans rapper. His new album, Tha Carter III, will (supposedly) hit stores on Tuesday, May 13. It is one of, if not the, most anticipated albums of 2008, thus far. If you’re unfamiliar with the 25-year-old MC, then try this piece first. Or this one.

His buzz has been building for what seems like an eternity, and right on cue, the detractors have become just as loud as the fans. The haters have plenty of ammunition: Wayne loves drugs (weed and lean are obvious; cocaine and ecstasy seem like possibilities), recording songs (a few are perfect compositions, some are great, some are mediocre and others are head-scratchingly poor) and claiming he’s the best rapper alive.

I get where they’re coming from. New mixtape are made at an alarming rate (“The Drought is Over 5 (Grand Closing)” or “New Orleans Nightmare 8” or whatever it is this week) and the majority of the tracklists are recycled from other tapes or just not very good compared to Wayne’s standards.

And those standards are startlingly high. In the past couple years, Wayne has released some true gems – Dedications 1 and 2 with DJ Drama, Da Drought 3, Tha Carter III’s first “Leak” and the five-song EP titled The Leak EP are all imperative in understanding the rapper’s appeal, which there is an abundance.

I can’t keep my eyes or ears off of Lil Wayne. In terms of figures in music – not just Hip-hop – Dwayne Carter is the most compelling figure today (sorry Kanye, Boosie). Wayne stands alone in his scope: at his best, his wordplay, vocal inflections and metaphors create a rush that is intriguing, enthralling and fascinating all at the same time. His catalog is incredibly large, thus there’s always something to dig deeper into, even if the process takes time and work to produce results.

It is a legitimate argument that Wayne has yet to grasp the concept of quality control. In a recent interview, he said that he just records songs and sends them to his record company, Universal, to create Tha Carter III’s tracklist. That scares me – does he know the difference between a decent mixtape cut and a bonafide crossover smash? Is he too cocky, too arrogant or too high to know when a concept works or, more importantly, when it doesn’t? We will have to wait until May 13 to know, but I’d prefer Wayne to make the ultimate call of what makes the album and what doesn’t.

It’s the first of April and two tracks from Tha Carter III have been released. The first is the much-discussed “Lollipop,” Tha Carter III’s official single. From what I can tell, music journalists and fans are both split on it – some love it, some call it garbage. It’s not my favorite Wayne song, but I like it a lot. And I understand the apprehension – Wayne is an MC but he’s not rapping, the “lick the rapper/wrapper” pun is weak, it’s a play to mainstream success similar to 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop,” Wayne rips off T-Pain’s vocals, etc. – but the song, as a whole, just works for me. In Jeff Weiss’ Idolator piece, he writes that “Lollipop” is “a big, absolutely retarded pop song that you enjoy dancing to at clubs.” I haven’t been to a club in a while but I could imagine that pornographic beat would incite some serious grinding. And although Wayne doesn’t murder the track like he has so many others, his silliness still peaks through at times: while describing his sexual encounter, he sings, “And when I’m at the bottom, she’s Hillary Rodham” but pronounces it ride-him. Even Static, the now-deceased R&B singer, has fun with his slinky chorus, singing, “Shorty want a thug / Bottles in the club / Shorty want to hump / You know I like to touch your lovely lady lumps.” Trust me, it’s much better than Fergie singing it.

If “Lollipop” is Wayne’s attempt to garner more fans, then “A Millie,” the record’s street single, is the rapper hoping to keep the mixtape lovers happy. The song lacks a chorus and its beat consists of only a pounding 808 drum beat, simple snare blasts and a screwed-up repetition of “a millie, a millie, a millie…” Wayne goes in on the beat and does his best to drop jaws with his wordplay and vocal ticks. It works for the most part, especially when he spazzes:

Man I hate a shy chick,
Don’t you hate a shy chick?
I had a plate of shy chick
and she ain’t shy no more,
She changed her name to My Chick,
Yeah boy, that’s my girl
and she pops ex-cellent up in Wayne’s World
Totally dude,
You should see the faces when they see that this robot can move...

(I will concede that the song is inconsistent, though. “A Millie”-haters say the track is a confusing, drug-induced tangent, which might be true, but the execution is efficient until the end where Wayne’s finish is more huff-and-puff than an all-out sprint.)

So we have two songs and more than a month until the album is supposed to be released. My expectations of Tha Carter III fluctuate every day. Sometimes - usually when Wayne releases a strong remix or guest appearance – I put my faith in the fact that this dude can truly rap and create engrossing songs. And why not? He’s earned my trust – check out “Zoo,” “Something You Forgot,” “I’m Me,” “Kush,” “I Feel Like Dying” and I could keep going. But although I enjoy “Lollipop” and “A Millie,” I’d be lying if I put them on the same level as my favorite mixtape tracks. So now all I can do is wait. Impatiently.

Regardless of what happens, let’s attempt to put ourselves in Wayne’s shoes, just momentarily. His process of rapid-fire recording has transformed the way rap works in ’08 – no longer do you need the one hot single to build a fanbase; a steady outpouring of quality tracks (officially released or leaked to the Internet) will suffice – and now he has the weight of the world on his shoulders. He has yet to universally earn the crown of the best rapper alive but it’s clear he is on the brink of either mega-stardom or one of the biggest burn-outs in the history of music. Either way, I’m forever grateful that one man’s work is fascinating enough to spark so many different debates in an age where artistry takes a backseat to ringtone sales. You can love him or hate him, but there is no denying Lil Wayne is currently the heartbeat keeping Hip-hop not just alive, but relevant.

For those wondering where to start with Lil Wayne, the following is essential listening for comprehending all of the hoopla.

Essential Listening:

“Stuntin’ Like My Daddy” (feat. Birdman, from Like Father, Like Son)
“U Gon Luv Me” (from Dedication)
“Down and Out” (from Dedication)
“Go DJ” (from Tha Carter)
“I Miss My Dawgs” (from Tha Carter)
“Intro” (from Da Drought 3)
“Upgrade” (from Da Drought 3)
"Put Some Keys on That” (from Da Drought 3)
“Ride 4 My Niggas” (from Da Drought 3)
“Dought is What I Got” (from Da Drought 3)
“Promise” (from Da Drought 3)
“Live from 504” (from Da Drought 3)
“Dipset” (from Da Drought 3)
“Seat Down Low” (from Da Drought 3)
“Where The Cash At” (feat. Curren$y and Remy Ma, from Dedication 2)
“Georgia…Bush” (from Dedication 2)
“We Takin’ Over” (from DJ Khaled’s We the Best)
“What He Does” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“La La” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“Something You Forgot” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“Zoo” (feat. Mack Maine, from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“I Know the Future” (feat. Mack Maine, from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“Scarface” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“Time For Us to Fuck” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“Beat Without Bass” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“I Feel Like Dying” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“Prostitute Flange” (from The Leak: Tha Carter III)
“I’m Me” (from The Leak EP)
“Kush” (from The Leak EP)
“Gossip” (from The Leak EP)
“Viva La White Girl” (Gym Class Heroes remix, from Lil Wayne and Friends 2 mixtape)
“Famous” (from Lil Weezyana Vol. 1)
“Tha Mobb” (from Tha Carter II)
“Money on My Mind” (from Tha Carter II)
“Best Rapper Alive” (from Tha Carter II)
“Oh No” (from Tha Carter II)
“Mo Fire” (from Tha Carter II)
“Receipt” (from Tha Carter II)
“Hustler Muzik” (from Tha Carter II)
“Shooter” (from Tha Carter II)


Wilco - Hate It Here

It's Spring Break '08 for the University of Delaware (always weeks after everyone else, telling?) and your boy is going through a love/hate relationship with Newark. No class, a short break from the newspaper, a couple less roommates. But with the lack of responsibility comes a lack of direction - what am I supposed to be doing with my time?

I'll worry about it later. In the meantime, I'll let Jeff Tweedy sing his own blues. Enjoy the song.

P.S.: I know Pitchfork called Sky Blue Sky "dad-rock" but whatever. A good song is a good song.