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(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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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’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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It was on Nah Right like a month ago, but oh well. If you haven’t heard it, you really should.

Skyzoo — I got it Covered (produced by Kanye)

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I’m excited. Too bad Timbo’s not doing any production though. Just in case you forgot what we’re looking forward to: Jockin’ Jay-Z (live at MSG, from Kanye’s last US date on the Glow in the Dark Tour, as previously posted).

Also, Maino slapped Yung Berg? One inconsequential rapper slapped another one? Although I have to admit, I like all of their singles more than I should.

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But I mean, this is pretty good.

Kanye West’s “Touch the Sky” vs. Justice’s remix of MGMT’s “Electric Feel”

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Oh wait, Mos’s rap isn’t a freestyle. It’s off of True Magic, that apparently awful album he did recently. I’m not at all embarrassed that I never listened to it, and you shouldn’t be either.

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The story

The video

On a lighter note, did you notice what he was wearing? I guess if Kanye was ever going to get arrested, he was going to do it in custom Louis V.

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And literally nothing about it is good.

Damnit Ye. First the medicore “Good Morning” music video, then your terrible verse and production on “Swagger Like Us,” then that really stupid “Love Lockdown” song, and now you’re not even go to call your next album A Good Ass Job like you’ve been saying for years?

We might see the day where I, of all people, don’t get a Kanye West album. The mixtape better be good, whenever it drops.

And seriously, what is with that picture? Kanye should probably stop hanging out with tremendous douchebags.

On a side note: sorry I again disappeared without a trace. The last week and a half, I was camping in the Okavango Delta in Botswana with some people. Then we went up to Zambia and Zimbabwe to see Victoria Falls, go whitewater rafting and swimming in the Zambezi River, pet lions, and do this. It was amazing, and I’ll write about it on my other blog soon. You can look at pictures from Botswana here.

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I forgot to tell you guys that I was leaving. On Saturday I left with my family to go to Kruger National Park. Needless to say, it was amazing. The highlight was being 50 feet away from a mother rhino with its baby–when we were on foot. I’ll put up the links to pictures later if you’re interested.

Anyway, Q-Tip just said that A Tribe Called Quest will never make another album. While statements like this can never be taken 100% seriously, I’m glad they don’t plan on making another album. As much as I love ACTQ, like Q-Tip said, so many bands make shitty or mediocre reunion albums that shouldn’t exist.

ATCQ in particular has a sound that is strongly characteristic of the era in which their music was made. It would be almost impossible for them to make a relevant album in 2008, let alone a really good one that could stand next to the rest of their discography.

I mean, this guy is one of the only musicians I can think of who successfully came out with great albums in completely different eras that were not only relevant but pioneering. And even he made some bad albums at the end of his career.

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