Saturday, February 11, 2006

RIP Dilla

Somebody named James Yancey died yesterday.

If you are not a serious hip hop fan you have probably never heard of Yancey, who goes by the names Jay Dee and J Dilla in the rap world, but if you have even a casual interest in rap you have certainly heard his work. Jay Dee began his career as a vital member of A Tribe Called Quest's stellar production crew, The Ummah. He went on to help produce albums for some of raps brightest stars: Common, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Talib Kweli, and the list goes on and on. He also started his own group, Slum Village, and released a couple of solo albums. The latest, Donuts, just dropped last Tuesday. The title of the album is a good indicator of J Dilla's old school hip hop nature; he named it after his favorite food.

The music media will very likely brush Yancey's death aside, forgetting that in rap the producers are every bit as important as the emcees. But real rap fans should take a moment to remember the life and music of this icon.

RIP Dilla

Somebody named James Yancey died yesterday.

If you are not a serious hip hop fan you have probably never heard of Yancey, who goes by the names Jay Dee and J Dilla in the rap world, but if you have even a casual interest in rap you have certainly heard his work. Jay Dee began his career as a vital member of A Tribe Called Quest's stellar production crew, The Ummah. He went on to help produce albums for some of raps brightest stars: Common, De La Soul, Busta Rhymes, Talib Kweli, and the list goes on and on. He also started his own group, Slum Village, and released a couple of solo albums. The latest, Donuts, just dropped last Tuesday. The title of the album is a good indicator of J Dilla's old school hip hop nature; he named it after his favorite food.

The music media will very likely brush Yancey's death aside, forgetting that in rap the producers are every bit as important as the emcees. But real rap fans should take a moment to remember the life and music of this icon.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Grammys

The Grammys are billed as “Music’s Biggest Night,” and this just may be true. It’s the night when some of music’s most exciting and innovative artists (Common, Kanye, The Arcade Fire) show up to strut their stuff, promote their latest albums, and lose to dinosaur acts that were once just as interesting.
Once more Kanye West, who’s Late Registration, while not the best album released in 2005, was easily the cream of the nominated crop, was stiffed by the Academy. This time they ruled in favor of U2’s mediocre How to Dismantle and Atomic Bomb, proving once again that Bono and friends can do no wrong in their eyes. In fact, they head back to Dublin, or wherever they head back to these days, with five awards.
It’s almost as if the Grammys exist to rival the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Instead of honoring the best new music, the major awards simply pay tribute to legends. Furthermore, they avoid controversy at any cost; a policy that further screwed Kanye. Over the past ten years recipients of Album of the Year have included Ray Charles, Santana, U2, and Steely Dan, each for work that fell far short of their career best. These legends are certainly worthy of our respect, but that doesn’t mean they deserve the awards that should go to much more deserving acts.
For Kanye’s part, he did the best he could to assure the Academy they made the right decision. His remarkably egotistical performance of “Gold Digger”, complete with a marching band, cheerleaders, and the Broke Phi Broke boys, was a cacophony of chaos. Moments after its conclusion, a breathless West stood to the side of the stage, waiting anxiously to find out that the song lost in the Best Record category to Green Day’s “Boulevard of Broken Dreams.” (Did that song really come out in 2005?)
Aside from the typical kissing of U2’s collective ass, the show had some fairly enjoyable moments including, ironically, U2’s performance of “One” with Mary J. Blige. Unfortuanately they felt like they had to play “Vertigo” also. I’m pretty sure U2 would get an hour to play if they wanted it.
The Academy cannot be completely out of touch with the state of music. Gorillaz (including De La Soul) and Madonna delivered one of the most interesting and unique openings I recall seeing at any awards show.
John Legend’s stirring rendition of “Ordinary People” was a welcome departure from the usual overblown Grammy performances.
Sir Paul McCartney’s performance was a little boring…until “Helter Skelter.”
There were also some awkward moments.
I never thought I would live to see the day that Paul McCartney stood on stage singing “Yesterday” with Jay-Z and that guy from Linkin Park. And it wasn’t that bad.
Ludacris told everybody why David Bowie was receiving a lifetime achievement award (which is probably what they should call Album of the Year.) I wonder if Ludacris has ever listened to a David Bowie song in his life.
I was really thrilled to see Coldplay take the stage. I was really in need of a bathroom break at that point of the show.
The Sly and the Family Stone tribute was inspired, aside from Maroon 5, but Sly seemed extremely uncomfortable in his brief appearance.
That’s all I care to say for now. I may write something later about the overall disrespect for hip hop.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I haven't been keeping up with the blog lately and for this I apologize. I was out of town for a while and then I was working on some other projects. But enough of my excuses...

Today was a very exciting day because it was the first truly big album release date of the year. Especially for people associated with Rilo Kiley. Jenny Lewis and her heavenly voice released her debut solo album, while bandmate Blake Sennett's band, The Elected, also has a new one out. But both those records will have to wait since I am a little low on cash. The only thing I purchased today was Cat Power's newest, The Greatest. I've listened to it once...it's nice, and extremely listener friendly. Maybe I'll say more about it later. I also would like to purchase the Tortoise / Bonnie "Prince" Billy collaboration in the next few days.

I'll try to think of something interesting to blog about soon.
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Lists are still cool. And this one is a doozy. The Beast lists the "50 Most Loathsome People in America." I haven't read the whole thing because it's long and I need to blog. But you enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Radiohead in Chicago...

Chicagoans have made it known that they want more summer concerts on the lakefront; and a more diverse selection. But now, once again, music lovers are getting screwed out of a potentially epic summer show.

Chicago city officials vetoed Radiohead’s request to play the acoustically superb musical pavilion in Millennium Park. The reason? The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is scheduled to practice that night. That’s it. No performance. Practice.

Aside from dashing the hopes of Radiohead fans, you have to wonder what the city is thinking about from a business angle. The band was willing to pay $100,000 in rental fees, and the crowd generated by such a concert would be a huge boom to local businesses. Furthermore, a successful show from such a well-respected band would certainly open up the doors for world of other great shows from artists of all fields.

This isn’t the first time my city has slighted the rock world. Radiohead themselves went through quite an ordeal before being allowed to play at Hutchinson Field five years ago. The Smashing Pumpkins, a home-town favorite, and the Grateful Dead have both been denied requests to play free Grant Park shows. As a conspiracy theorist I can only assume that all this has something to do Mayor Daley’s fear of the hippies that tormented his father so badly. It looked like Chicago was making progress last year with Lollapalooza and a few other downtown shows but this is indeed a step back.

But there is good news: Radiohead is still planning a Chicago show. And while the location can’t beat Millennium Park, I’ll be there anyway.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Ghostface...

Here is a list of things we currently know about the new Ghostface album.
-It is titled Fish Scale.
-Fish Scale will be released on February 28.
-The first single, “Be Easy”, has reached number 100 on the US Hip Hop chart.
-Ghostface employs the following producers: MF Doom, Pete Rock, J Dilla, Madlib, and, of course, himself.
-Raekwon, Cappadonna, and someone named Ne-Yo make several appearances throughout the album.
-According to his press release, Ghostface has not gotten high for over two years.
-Ghostface will be at the House of Blues on March 10.
-You can stream one of the songs here.

This spring will also see the release of the Ghostface Killah action figure. Now that should be on any list of anticipated items.
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What Would Jesus Blog compiled several unfavorable listener reviews of albums that most people would consider indispensable (OK Computer, Doolittle, etc.). The best entry is the one that says Radiohead is not music, although I kind of have a hunch that one may be a joke.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Random Notes...

This is the best news I have heard all year: Wu Tang Clan is going on tour. As of yet there are no Chicago dates but, if all goes well, there will be an extended summer tour. And, yes, all 943 members will be performing. Even the ODB! No, not really. (P.S. John Gagnon: If you come to Chicago I will buy you a ticket to this show. Yo Yo Diggity Dogg!)
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I might as well just keep posting additions to my anticipated albums list. Grandaddy will be releasing Just Like the Fambly Cat on April 4. Tra la la. This is shaping up to be a hell of a year.
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Onyxmindwaves makes quite a convincing case for Andre Dawson. Maybe I will weigh in on this later. Maybe.
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Here is a nice website.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Simpsons v. Family Guy

Nathan Rabin blogged on the rivalry between The Simpsons and Family Guy at the A.V. Club. I think he is making too much of it. It seems like a friendly rivalry to me; I, for one, laughed my ass off when Sideshow Bob’s I Criminali Americani listed Peter Griffin as a plagiarist. While I remain a fan of both shows, I honestly look forward more to Family Guy.
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Last week I listed twelve anticipated albums of 2006. When I made this list I did not realize that Jurassic 5, the pro-black rap group that only white people listen to, is releasing a new album sometime in the next couple of months. I’m going to buy it…at the mall…with Jamaal.

RELEASE CALENDAR

ALBUMS
TOMORROW
Morningwood – Morningwood
We Are Scientists – With Love and Squalor

DVD
TOMORROW
The Constant Gardener
Hustle and Flow
Red Eye
Saraband


NEXT WEEK
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room
Junebug