Album: Kaleidoscope Dream
Sounds Like: A CD produced using Incredibox and a Casio keyboard
I really didn’t want to write a bad review of this CD. I wanted to listen to it and be like hell yea! Everyone seems to think Miguel is the truth. My question is what truth, the truth that commercial R&B is going down the drain quickly?
Before I get into reviewing this CD I need to say something. Yesterday my dude Phenomblak from Where’s my 40 acres told me that folks are comparing Miguel to Prince.
See that right there lets me know that anyone comparing him to Prince does not know a damn thing about Prince. It is an insult to Prince and good music around the world! I could say more but Slaus would fire me for real because we’d probably lose advertisers.
Now that I have that out of the way let’s get to this CD.
When I first heard the lead single Adorn, which I can’t stand, I kept thinking it reminded me of something. Then it hit me, it sounds like a kid playing around on the Incredibox website. When I told Slaus that he said he didn’t know if it was in insult to Incredibox or Miguel, I’m leaning towards it being an insult to Incredibox but that’s just me.
Even with me hating that Adorn song I was still determined to give this CD an honest listen. I listened to every song in their entirety (things I do for OHN).
As I said the CD sounds like it was produced using Incredibox and a Casio keyboard, you know the kind we all had as kids. I will say that having a more electronic sound (not to be confused with electronica or techno) is OK if it’s done well. Unfortunately, I don’t think he pulled it off very well. It is very hit or miss musically. Some songs sound disjointed, as if he was trying to put in all the little beeps, clicks and laser sounds he could find. A couple of songs left me thinking ok what just happened here.
Personally, I don’t think Miguel can sing worth a damn. But that doesn’t mean anything, not every male R&B singer is going to be able to sing like Maxwell, Raheem and the like. On this CD you can tell on some songs he is just trying too dang hard to be a “sanger” (not to be confused with your everyday garden variety singer). Stay in your non-existent lane Miguel!
Anyway, the other thing that turned me off about this CD was the lyrics. Every time I thought oh this song isn’t that bad, I hear the lyrics. What in all the hell, Miguel?!
Let me give you a few examples of the lyrics:
Do you like drugs
As I kiss your third eye
Let me dig that out like a fossil
Those are just a few that I caught during my first listen. I’m almost certain there are more cringe-worthy lyrics on this CD.
At some point I need these up and coming R&B “singers” to realize that lyrics like this do not belong in real R&B, but anyway.
Overall this CD is very hit or miss. Does it have potential I think in some ways it does but overall it’s just rather blah to me. The CD left me wondering exactly what is Miguel trying to do musically.
Artist: Lupe Fiasco
Album: Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 2
Sounds Like: “Lasers 2: Electric Boogaloo” aka Message in Watered Down Music rap tactics (3 out of 5, worth copping the full album on sale or a few mp3s here and there)
Reviewer: DJ Fusion
Lupe Fiasco would like to think he’s a complicated mystery wrapped in an enigma of revolutionary fervor. But on so many levels, for good and for bad, he’s not.
The Chicago Hip-Hop MC is definitely talented, hitting the scene with a stream of solid major label releases like Food & Liquor and “The Cool”.
Balancing out average guy rap steeze with local and political commentary, he felt like a breath of fresh air in the mainstream Hip-Hop scene that seems to sometimes be entirely too comfortable floating on the inflatable rubber duckie at the shallow end of the content pool.
However, by the time his 3rd album, Lazers, dropped, folks started to look at the young upstart kind of sideways, and for good reason.
The strange album had mostly intelligent lyrics full of uplift & structured messages (regardless of whether you personally ascribe to Lupe’s political worldview or not), but paint by numbers Billboard Top 100 production that just didn’t fit in with his subject matter. It was like he was trying to sonically spoon feed fire to people by mixing in cheap artificial flavored ice cream with the medicine, ultimately diluting the message.
Also – let’s be real – Lupe Fiasco is a brat. He’s at that stage where he has to fly off the handle every time someone doesn’t think he’s Ebony Perfection Personified with his music, worldview, business choices, political decisions or style.*
Everyone can do or believe in whatever they want to. This is not that type of review or critique.
But if you’re going to try to use music to push out a message, you need to REALLY make quality music on all fronts – or at least have it not sound like most everything else out there on the airwaves & video shows today.
And Lupe Fiasco did not make that happen with “Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Pt. 2″.
People remember & support Hip-Hop folks like Public Enemy, Dead Prez, Immortal Technique, Mr. Lif and Brother Ali not just because of them doing “concious”/message rap but because they actually know how to make quality music PERIOD.
Like any other MCs in your personal Top 25 list, they know how to meld the beats and rhymes smoothly into songs that can both make you think PLUS head nod & stomp your feet.
Lupe Fiasco has the message part pretty clear (although sometimes it’s a tad bit too “college-area coffeehouse spoken word open mic preachy Revolution 101″ mentality at times), but needs a good amount of work along with an A&R that loves him in crafting songs that don’t either drag on too long (“Unforgivable Youth”, good Lord o_O) or just have extremely, EXTREMELY terrible hooks (like the 3/4s dope “ITAL”).
Lupe spits pretty cool and has pretty solid lyrical skills on display throughout the majority of the album, talking about everything from how Black People are portrayed in the media, violence from the homefront (his in Chicago and the U.S. as a whole) and beyond, the music industry and more.
The 15 track work has competent OK to good boom bap to rock-rap production on the boards (the essentially jacked Pete Rock “T.R.O.Y.” instrumental on “Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)” is the best sonic background on here), although it’s nothing to write home about.
While I know we’re currently in a desert of mainstream Hip-Hop here in the States where it seems that no one will take a stance on ANYTHING worth a damn due to trying to be good label “company men/women”, the rap audience can’t give a fellow like Lupe Fiasco a pass just because he actually says something.
The sheer mediocrity of the beats along with the too cool for school attitude of the Chi-town representative kind of makes “Food & Liquor Part II” vacuuming around the house music rather than something you blast away on a daily basis or play for someone who actually wants to learn something. Which is a damn shame.
Right now, his new age Lasers are dimming due to the cotton candy he’s using to try to sneak his message in the music. If he could get some real artistic development in his corner and actually accept that his craft on the mic needs some work, he could truly be one of the greats instead of just another MC who read a few books. It’s time for him to really go hard, go home or just accept that he’s just another guy on the Hip-Hop assembly line. Not complicated at all.
* See his Twitter feed on any given day and the amount of times he’s threatened to retire from rap.
Personal Favorite Tracks: ITAL (Roses), Bitch Bad, Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)
Music Video: Lupe Fiasco – Around My Way (Freedom Ain’t Free)
Music Video: Lupe Fiasco – Bitch Bad
I think I’ve said it before; I wasn’t always an Angie Stone fan. I’m not so sure if I’d call myself one now either.
I remember her first single No more Rain really irritated me. At the time I was on this “I hate anything that samples” kick. I was disappointed with anyone in R&B sampling music. That kind of set the tone for how I felt about Angie Stone.
I can honestly say I don’t own nor have I heard any of her earlier works. I was just not feelin’ her enough to purchase or even bootleg her earlier CDs.
When she moved over to legendary Stax Records something definitely changed with her sound. Her first CD on Stax Records, The Art of Love and War was a GREAT CD! I loved that CD it was in rotation for a long time. Matter of fact I need to put it back in rotation.
We now have her latest CD Rich Girl. I’m not sure how I feel about this CD. First listen I found myself wondering when it was going to end. It seemed like it was just one long song. I actually checked to see if I had my iTunes player on repeat by the time I got 5 or 6 songs into the CD.
It still has that “soul/neo-soul/slow to mid-tempo groove” you expect from Angie Stone. I think the biggest complaint is that it has too many songs on the CD. As I said as I went further into the CD it all started to sound the same. I think she should have cut it off at 11 tracks instead of extending it to 15 tracks.
It’s not a bad CD it’s just not something that stands out to me.
I’m not sure that Angie will ever “stand out”. I’m not saying that to be mean what I’m saying is her voice is so distinct that she pretty much has to stay in this soul/neo-soul vibe or it will just be all wrong.
If you are a fan of Angie Stone then I think you will like this CD. If you are on the fence like I am, then I suggest you just cop a few MP3s (as DJ would say) I wouldn’t recommend getting the entire CD as I think it runs a little to long for my liking.
Album: Push and Shove
Artist: No Doubt
Sounds like: A Gwen Stefani solo album (which isn’t necessarily a bad thing).
It really can’t be understated just how much of an influence Gwen Stefani has had on the business of modern pop music – even though a lot it might not have been intended.
There have always been toys for girls who wanted to be princesses or movie stars – but if you really start to look at it — the idea of a girl rock star as a theme for toys, clothes, folders for school, video games, and even the generic plots of after school shows on networks like Disney Channel and Nickelodeon has really exploded in the past few years.
I think the reason for this is that despite the fact that she’s a happily married mom of 2, Gwen Stefani has always been able to maintain an image of being “Just a Girl.”
There’s something very innocent and young about her beauty and style, and even if her own personal life has sometimes been tumultuous – neither No Doubt nor her solo albums have ever really been loaded with over-sexualized lyrics.
Even more, Gwen Stefani has always been able to exist as a bit of a musical and stylistic chameleon. Whether she’s a ska-punk rude girl with No Doubt, a hip-hop diva singing with Eve, or a Harajuku-influenced pop-star – she’s always been able to pull it off.
Gwen Stefani is like a paper doll that you can make up in all sorts of different ways, and none of them are especially slutty or strung out – and perhaps most importantly, all of them seem sorta temporary. In other words, she can be a punk or a goth or a diva all she wants at her day job — but at the end of the day Gwen Stefani is a wife and a mother at heart, and white people eat that s**t up.
Look, it’s cute when your daughter wants to dress up and pretend she’s a pop star — but we can’t have our baby turning into Miley, Britney, or Lindsey, can we?
Because when you really think about it the last thing uptight people want their daughter to be is some sort of band chick or groupie — but if there was maybe some way she could play dress-up as a sanitized version of one so that she could “get it out of her system” at a certain point –then hopefully she can get down to the real business of marrying some nice republican and making grandbabies for her parents to dote on.
Which made it extra interesting to see what it would sound like when No Doubt returned to the studio after almost 11 years of being away from the scene. Even if the group’s intentions were pure — now that the mold of this band had essentially become a corporate standard and their sound had be co-opted by so many others, would there really be room on the radio dial for them?
But perhaps more importantly, now that her life had settled down into more or less normalcy – what on earth was Gwen Stefani going to sing about? So much of No Doubts appeal had been in the surprising honesty of the lyrics, of the emotional openness Stefani showed in singing about the troubles with her past relationship with bassist Tony Kanal. Her marriage to British rocker Gavin Rossdale seems to be problem-free, so does this mean that we’re getting another Rock Steady?
The 11 tracks on Push and Shove are lyrically sorta flat. There are ballads about her happy marriage, and pop songs about looking good on the dance floor. Stefani’s voice sounds as good as ever, but there’s sort of a directionless feel to the album that reminds me of a girl flipping through different dresses and outfits in an overcrowded closet, trying to find the look that fits her best. She’s still charming as hell, but without the emotional food that made albums like Tragic Kingdom so easy to listen to over and over – Push and Shove comes away feeling more like a light snack.
But like so many snack foods out there – what it lacks in substance it makes up for in flavor. The rise of Gwen Stefani as a star has largely come at the cost of reducing the rest of No Doubt to little more than a backing band. Gone are the shifting influences of the various band members on the songwriting process, which results in an album that feels a lot more consistent from cover to cover – but not one that recalls the punk-rock chaos that made this band so much fun to me when I first heard them.
The distorted guitars and ska breaks are gone, replaced instead with a more modern spin on 80’s new wave and reggae rhythms.
And yet even with all these flaws Push and Shove is still a hell of a lot of fun.
Big drums, sweeping synths and snappy guitars swirl around Stefani’s multi-layered harmonies and sing-along choruses. It might be the lyrical equivalent of microwave popcorn, but how many bags of that can you eat when you’re in the mood for something light?
See what you think, here’s “Push and Shove”