I remember when Greg sat me down a few years ago and made me listen to the first track on Be and we both pretty much creamed our pants hearing the bassline and the synths leading into the track. That song is hands down one of my favorite songs ever, but Common and J Dilla’s work on Like Water For Chocolate is also excellent, so when I saw that this song had leaked, I was a little torn. This was apparently the original Dilla-produced intro to Be. It’s a great song and definitely hails back to the work the two had done previously, with a little bit harder sound than Be ended up having. I love Dilla’s scattershot drums and sirens, and Common spits well, but, in the end, I’m actually glad that the intro ended up being the track it was. Out of that context, this is an awesome song, and I’m still pretty excited about it.

Common – “Be (Original Version prod. J Dilla)”

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I have no idea what there is to say at this point. I’m waiting until the album drops to give my two cents.

But if you’re curious:

Kanye West feat. Lil’ Wayne – “Tell Everybody That You Know”

Kanye West feat. Young Jeezy – “Amazing”

Kanye West Def Jam Conference Call

I’m warning you, this may not be what you were hoping for.

(Post-it notes for Kanye’s studio):

Kanye West – “Love Lockdown (Remastered)”: All those people who bought this on iTunes are huge suckers. Remember like two months ago when this supposedly came out? And then a new version came out that was better? And then this version came out? Well, if rushing out an album in two weeks struck anyone as a bad idea, this is proof that sometimes it pays to tweak things until they are better. This song still isn’t going to win any awards (well, I mean, it probably is, but that’s not the point), but ramping up those tribal drums and the filling out the bassline and whatever else is different, was a really good call. Hey, there’s still a lot of post-election goodwill, maybe nobody will be upset if it takes a couple more weeks to fine-tune this album.

Kanye West – “Heartless (Remastered)”: I’m not exactly sure how this song was changed other than moving the bass on the equalizer up a little bit, but I don’t really have an ear for these things. I kind of liked the spareness on the original version, but this one was altered so slightly that it won’t make a huge difference. The video is really cool, even if animated Kanye is still a terrible actor. “Any Way” would have been a better single pick than this one, though.

Jay-Z – “History”: Oops, you mixed this wrong. This is an awesome beat, but seriously, despite the problem I mentioned on the “Heartless” note, within two seconds of this song starting I could tell the bass needed to be brought up and the vocals on the sample sounded tinny and high-pitched. I think I can fix this with the EQ dials on my car stereo, so it should be possible on ProTools too. It would be a shame to put this version on the album because this is an amazing song. In addition to the implications that this song has by being leaked the day after Election Day (the original leak version sounded a lot fuller, by the way – bring that back, that’s all), it sees Jay confronting his role as the preeminent figure in hip hop. There is obvious desire to read into the lyrics about making history and achieving victory as a commentary on Obama, but this is also about Jay’s career, and it’s deep stuff. With its personification (Victory, Defeat, Success, History, etc.) there is little subtlety, but it still is dipping into the literary concerns of poets like Spenser and Shakespeare. In his Amoretti Spenser claims “For I myself shall like to this decay/And eek my name be wiped out likewise./Not so, (quod I) let baser things devise/To die in dust, but you shall live by fame:” hoping that his poem will immortalize his love. This is not the kind of thing that it’s cool to rap about. The fact that I’m quoting a 16th century poet proves that. But consider Jay’s lyrics:

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Here’s a dope track from Brother Ali while the rest of America is busy dancing in the streets.

Brother Ali – “You’re The Man (Mr. President)”

“Today I’ve got my hand on my heart/I might go and plant a flag in my yard.”

Also, Kevin Nottingham threw together a mixtape for you to play at your ongoing Obama victory party. You can grab it here.

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Hello, Mr. President.

Well, this is clearly not mastered and it seems like it hasn’t even been properly mixed yet. But, uh, I don’t know what else to say. It’s pretty much like all the other songs, although this is kind of an upbeat/dance song that could have been on the Sega Genesis Sonic soundtrack. I’m not sure how Kanye is getting away with releasing this album, but apparently he’s on to something if people like it so much.

Actually, on second listen, it’s kind of a cool track. Reminds me a little of early MGMT. It’s so hard for me to listen to Kanye songs with poor production.

Kanye West — Anyway (feat. Kid Cudi) (via NahRight)

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We interrupt our usual programming to bring you this special Election Day bulletin: Vote. But don’t take my word for it, a lot of our favorite artists want you to as well:

Jay-Z:

Nas:

6th Sense:

(You can download an mp3 of this one here.)

Redman:

You may have noticed there’s a political bent to these. I’ll let them speak for themselves. You can vote for whomever, as long as you vote. Seriously, stop reading this right now, get in your car or bike or bus or whatever and go vote.

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In case you hadn’t heard, basically the biggest posse cut ever hit the internet this weekend. It was huge and awesome and overpowering. “Swagger Like Us Pt. 2 feat. Young Jeezy, Kanye, Jay-Z, Lil’ Wayne, T.I., Eminem, The Entire Wu-Tang Clan including ODB, and Biggie?” Nope. Close, though. “Onslaught” by the supergroup Slaughterhouse. Yeah, a track from heavyweights like Joe Budden, Royce da 5’9″, Crooked I, and Joell Ortiz. Big news, right?

I think it’s funny how this track got a pretty big reception on NahRight, etc. despite the fact that it has nobody who’s actually famous on it. These are all guys who owe their popularity to, in addition to the fact that they’re all very good rappers, the internet in 2008 (I feel like Crooked I and Royce da 5’9″ are probably more famous now than they were when they were vaguely associated other famous rappers’ crews). It’s interesting how the big rappers in 2008 are the ones who manage to stay on the front page of the major hip hop blogs day in and day out. No wonder we’re reaching a point of music saturation where everybody and their grandma is releasing tracks daily, or, at the very least, weekly. It is literally impossible to keep up with hip hop releases. Does anyone else realize how ridiculous it is that Charles Hamilton is dropping a mixtape every two weeks? Even Lil’ Wayne’s enormous mixtape blitz before Tha Carter III was only like five mixtapes in two years.

On the subject of “Onslaught,” though, despite the hype, I really like this song because it has the feel of such an epic posse cut. These guys roll onto this like they are on top of the world, and they all deliver solid verses over a huge beat. Maybe these rappers are only internet famous, but they make it an event to all be on this song, and it’s pretty fun. Y’all should all grab this track.

Slaughterhouse – “Onslaught”

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If there is a symbol of the mashup in mainstream music culture, it is undoubtedly Jay-Z, whose collaboration with Linkin Park was basically the record industry’s only stab at the genre, and whose presence on Danger Mouse’s Gray Album basically made Danger Mouse’s career. Yet while MTV will pretty willingly gush over Jay-Z mashups, the online music community generally ignores them, preferring instead to mashup things like Outkast and Of Montreal (zing!). As a result, with Entertainment Weekly and VH1 gushing over the latest big-name Hova mashup, Viva La Hova, it may be tempting to ignore this one too, especially when it involves as gauche a pairing as Coldplay.

Nonetheless, it comes from notable mixtape producers Terry Urban and Mick Boogie and features production from the likes of 9th Wonder and 6th Sense. And actually, it’s not really so much a mashup album as a Jay-Z remix album that only samples Coldplay. This may sound dumb in theory, but basically it’s a run through recent Jay classics (the verses are almost all from The Blueprint, The Black Album and American Gangster) over dense guitar samples, and it turns out great. It closely mirrors Viva La Vida’s aesthetic, which works well, and most of the producers do very cool things with these Coldplay songs. Until Mick Boogie totally bombs with “Lost Part 2,” every track is convincingly solid, and if this mixtape were only the first two thirds plus 6th Sense’s show-stealing “Falling In Shadows,” it would be basically perfect. As it is, it’s definitely one of the best mashups/mixtapes of the year, largely because it’s hard to go wrong when you throw twenty solid Jay verses on anything. Also, although Terry Urban and Mick Boogie are reasonably well-known names in the online hip hop circuit, I wouldn’t be surprised if their careers blow up after this (although the real stars are some of the low-profile producers who drop dope tracks here, especially nVMe).

You can get more information and download Viva La Hova at VivaLaHova.com.

When I tell Chinese people that Kanye West is one of my favorite musicians, they consistently have no idea whom I’m talking about. Considering that one of my preconceived notions about most conversations I have is that people know and ostensibly love Kanye, and therefore he is a safe subject to discuss (which I do, often), it’s always a blow to have this common ground taken away from me. Nonetheless, in addition to the swarms of ex-pats who rolled up to the biggest musical event in Beijing hip hop history last night (including a bunch of mysterious high-school age Americans – are there really that many embassy kids?), there were enough Chinese people to pack the Beijing Workers’ Gymnasium, which was conveniently small enough that my nosebleed seats were a lot better than my nosebleed seats from when I saw Kanye at the Target Center in Minneapolis.

In fact, the whole affair was decidedly Chinese. To get into the stadium we had to walk down an aisle lined on either side by soldiers, and the show itself had a bunch of weird regulations. By all appearances, they didn’t let the extremely limited number of people on the floor stand or dance at all until the last two songs, which both must have made those seats a ripoff and kind of killed the energy for everybody else. The most glaring issue, though, was that the sound was absurdly low. I could barely hear Kanye on many of the songs, and it often took me 20 or 30 seconds to even figure out what he was performing because the only audible part was the bass drums. Presumably there was some kind of government presence stepping in and making sure that it wasn’t too loud, since Glow In The Dark was one of the best-mixed concerts I’ve ever seen.

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