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I understand it’s completely blasphemous to suggest that Illmatic isn’t Nas’s best album. But that’s not really my argument anyway–I’m not going to contest that The Lost Tapes is better than Illmatic, because it may well not be. Illmatic is definitely one of the most influential albums in the history of hip hop, and probably the most masterfully constructed.

But I still find myself listening to The Lost Tapes five times for every time I listen to Illmatic. Mostly because where Illmatic is carefully and thoughtfully constructed, The Lost Tapes is personal and emotional. It’s almost as well thought-out, but it feels less filtered and more authentic. It’s so much easier for me to connect to autobiographical, emoting The Lost Tapes Nas than it is to connect to Illmatic Nas.

I mean, look at these lyrics from “Doo Rags:”

The styles come from prison, they used potatoes making liquor
Just to prove we some creative n****s
Turning nothing into something, is God’s work
And you get nothing without struggle and hard work

Honestly, that may be the single most beautiful hip hop lyric I’ve ever heard. I think it’s fair to say that most people see the idea of prisoners making alcohol out of potatoes as either depressing or immoral; at best people might see it as neutral.

Nas succinctly points out an incredible positivity in it that I never would have seen otherwise. That’s beautiful. That’s art. That’s God’s work.

Plus, I have to appreciate it when a song (“Nothing Lasts Forever”) starts with a brief monologue like this:

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In case you haven’t noticed this blog’s auxiliary purpose of posting political satires of pop songs, I’m about to throw another one at you. But that’s how it is here, the music blog with the most persistent vapid political commentary.Anyway, this is a group of middle schoolers from Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta knocking off T.I.’s “Whatever You Like.” I’m actually just going to embed the short version with the interview because it’s more interesting and it has better sound quality. You can see the full version here.

Anyway, here’s “You Can Vote However You Like:”

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Get it? You’re done waiting for us to post something new, and I’m about to write about this EP called Done Waiting. It’s from this band from Chapel Hill called I Was Totally Destroying It. More specifically, it’s from this band who has a couple members I knew in high school. To be particularly direct, my junior prom date is the lead singer. But I don’t have any vested interest in promoting their music, so don’t worry. I’ll objectively say that if you like power pop a la New Pornographers or early Death Cab for Cutie you’ll probably enjoy picking up some music from IWTDI, although it definitely does not rock as hard as the New Pornos, since IWTDI, rather than layering on guitars, likes to play with 80s-style synths. A better comparison might be Mates of State. So if you like that kind of stuff, you probably should head over to ReverbNation where I Was Totally Destroying It just dropped their free EP, Done Waiting.

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Vertical bed

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I’m pretty happy I found this. He was 17 years old on this recording. It is things like this this that truly make me love hip hop: It’s amazing how much an artist like Jay can evolve throughout his lifetime.

That’s the cover. At least according to Amazon and a bunch of blogs. I may not totally agree with the musical direction that Kanye’s taking, but I like the minimalist aesthetic of his album covers (I’m including the Love Lockdown and Heartless covers here) quite a bit. I still love the bears, but since this album looks basically like a one-off from the overall Kanye suite, it makes sense to deviate from that look.

Enough on album covers, though. There are some new tracks out there: the full quality version of “Coldest Winter” and a new one called “Robocop.”

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(via Stereogum.) I’ll go see that movie.

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Because it’s finals week here in the southern semester. But I decided to take a break to let you guys know (if you didn’t already) that this is a really good David Bowie song.

“Always Crashing in the Same Car” (from his criminally underexposed 1977 album Low)

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I don’t know what to think. I don’t even know what that means. Re-release an album with different songs? Can you even do that? Is it the same album anymore? What happens to what used to be C3 (which, by the way, I liked a lot)?

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We’ve now heard three tracks from 808s and Heartbreak, and they share a distinct style, so we can guess that the rest of the album will sound similar. I didn’t want to judge the tracks too quickly, because I had no reference point to compare the tracks to. But my kneejerk reaction was negative, and justifiably so–Kanye is unarguably out of his element on all of these tracks.

Kanye is not a talented singer, and the unbelievably sparse backing tracks contrast sharply with his production throughout his rap career. In the past, Kanye has rarely been content to leave his sample-based beats unadorned with additional instrumentation, whether a single synthesizer or an ensemble of horn players, featured rappers, a singer and two professional keyboard players.

Even the production is amateurish at best. Kanye’s goofy, cartoonish synthesizers on all of these tracks, particularly “Heartless” (I’m pretty convinced that the synth in the verses is the default flute tone on a $100 Casio keyboard somewhere), is particularly surprising in contrast to his consistently adept use of synthesizers in the past.

FADER, in their review of the listening party for 808s and Heartbreak, similarly struggled for a point of reference, and came up with The Eraser, Thom Yorke’s solo album.  The comparison is tempting because (a) both albums feature emotional, gloomy singing over electronic tracks and (b) both musicians are considered pretty cool in music circles, despite (or in addition to) their tremendous mainstream success. But the comparison falls flat because (a) Thom Yorke can sing, (b) The Eraser is well-produced in the conventional sense, and (c) Thom Yorke draws upon alternative and indie rock influences, whereas Kanye is clearly drawing upon R&B, hip hop, and even the blues.

Of course, the whole reason I wrote this is because I finally came up with a good comparison for 808s and Heartbreak. It’s Cody Chesnutt (the guy at the top of this post).

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