Wednesday, July 28, 2010

My Thoughts on the Rick Ross "Teflon Don"

Rick Ross has certainly come a long way. The boss has always possessed an impeccable ear for beats and a booming vocal presence but his topics were trite, his flow was basic often drowned out totally by generic ad-libs and he was out-shined routinely on his albums by his features. Well he's still getting out-shined but at least his flow has dramatically improved now, to the point that they make of for his lack of variety in subject matter.

One thing I admire about Ross is that he has a highly accurate depiction of his artistic strengths and weaknesses; a valuable artistic gift that allows him to fill an album with complimentary guests that still outshine him in some cases and provide the lyrical variety that he lacks giving depth to his one-dimensional boasting. I've listened to "Teflon Don" a few times now and I've concluded it's his best as its has as much high points as "Deeper Than Rap" without the one or two filler songs towards the end. As usual heed the spoiler alert if you haven't heard the cd yet.

1) "I'm not a star" - Great intro. As usual he isn't saying anything deep or profound but his voice sounds great on the beat and his flow is nimble around the snares. Nice hype track(8/10).

2) "Free Mason feat Jayz" - Now much talk has been made about this song and on an unrelated note I want to say that I don't care about whether Jayz is a free mason or illuminati or whatever but I would like to hear him explain the "On To The Next One" video. In my opinion he didn't explain anything to me or change my opinions in any way. That aside, it's a pretty dope track with Ross sounding like he's saying something and Jay directly addressing the Free Mason 'rumours' in an expected but witty way. John Legend kills on the hook fitting the feel of the track perfectly. (8/10)

3) "Tears of Joy feat Cee-Lo" - This song is good in theory but I felt it didn't come together all that well. Seems disjointed but I give Ross kudos for trying some introspection. (7/10)

4) "Maybach Music III feat TI, Jadakiss and Erykah Badu" - With most sequels (Spiderman, Godfather etc) the third one falters and it seems so here but just by a little. Its bad still but somehow it doesn't seem the huge event that the others were despite the cast. (8/10)

5) "Live Fast, Die Young feat Kanye West" - This is my favourite track on the cd right now. Featuring a beat that sounds like a leftover from "College Dropout" (in a good way) and Ye spitting like he's still in that era... it's a win for me. Again, there isn't anything Ross says that resonates with me but he is able to gel his flow to the beat which is enough. (9/10)

6) "Super High feat Ne-Yo" - When this song dropped a month or so ago the beat stood out but by now it's a skip. Cliched vintage Ross lyrics plus an okay hook. (6.5/10)

7) "No.1 feat P. Diddy and Trey Songz" - This is a fun little nothing song that is only spoiled (a little) by the involvement of Diddy in it. It's positioning places it as a nice little intermission between the songs that preceded and the monsters that follow. (7.5/10)

8) "MC Hammer feat Gucci Mane" - This is a monster of a beat that Ross thrives on (think "Hustlin") and he absolutely destroys it based on delivery alone. The conceit is that he's living MC Hammer. It's a paper-thin concept that Ross lazily never bothers to expand much but it doesn't matter as his delivery alone makes the song. Gucci doesn't mess it up which is good for him. (9/10)

9) "B.M.F. (Blowin Money Fast) feat Styles P" - Lex Luger who produces "MC Hammer", also produces this song which give the illusion of a seamless move from track 8 to 9. Ross deals with this one as well but is showed up at the end by a grimey-sounding Styles P who boasts of having guns from the video game "Red Dead Redemption". Real bad. (9/10)

10) "Aston Martin Music feat Drake and Chrisette Michelle" - This is a nice laid back tune and sounds like something that belongs on Drake's album. Drake features here singing an extended part of the hook but isn't really needed and it seems like he was brought on for name recognition. Chrisette by herself kills on the hook and Ross holds his own by impressively fusing his delivery with the beat, which doesn't sound like anything he rapped on before. (9/10)

11) "All the money in the world feat Raphael Saadiq" - This song was kinda meh for me. It wasn't terrible but the beat is pretty generic-sounding especially following "Aston Martin Music". The hook is kinda meh too... I expected more from Saadiq. An ok closer I guess. (6/10)

And that's my rating. "Teflon Don" is a great album, one of the best for the year but not a classic. Let me hear what you think in the comments. Face out.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Street Style Saturdays (back again)

Street Style Saturdays is one of the few (and to my knowledge only) shows that displays underground talent. This is not the first time that I'm letting you know about SSS but they were on a little hiatus and have since picked back up around three months ago.

These days SSS takes place in Lion's Den and I suggest you join the fb group if you want to know when the next one is. I've been to both shows this year, was featured in the second, and had a time. The enjoyment comes from seeing artistes you've never heard of come with styles you've never seen and still rip the mic. There are some nifty little features that add even more to the experience like a session where they play music emailed in before and ask the crowd to rate as well as the freestyle session with all the artistes present that starts and closes off the show. Good stuff.

As I said previously, I've long since retired my Underground Trini Freestyles segment and I see this as its spiritual successor so I fully endorse it. They put up videos of performances periodically and I'll be posting them here so stay tuned. And check some of the vids that have been released so far. Face out.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Underground State of Mind

Most artistes start off as underground...except for probably Justin Beiber or something. You start off as a tolerated annoyance to friends and family via unforgivable crimes such as singing off-key loudly in the bathroom, rapping over hip hop beats at 10pm using the most spartan of microphones, hiding somewhere strumming a guitar when you're supposed to be washing dishes etc. After months (or years) of this you eventually should become good (or not so bad) to the point where suggestions are made that you get whatever you're attempting heard on some widely followed media, probably radio signalling the commencement of the real work. That's when you're officially an underground artiste.

Being underground is very educational. It allows you to pick apart the entire machine which by some carefully crafted illusion seems seamless on tv. A cd is no longer a cd but a cd cover, a case, maybe plastic covering and a blank disc which needs to be burned. A video is getting people to come your shoot, organizing them, paying a camera man, lights, video treatment and editing. And getting played on radio is impossible. Just joking of course, getting anything you create played is a process with a variable compendium of house rules.

When you understand the above you swiftly approach another dilemma. Stay underground or go mainstream? These days, you can make a living off both. The difference is just the size of the+ market. Even a small market can reward if you dominate it. Are you willing to pay $500TT for a beat or $10000TT? If you're like me you can probably get a $10000TT sounding beat for $500TT. Are you going to write the name of your album on your cd in marker or pay $10TT per cd to print it using spiffy colour graphics. My experience so far is that most buyers stopped caring ever since music became free but I'd be lying if I said none do. And are you willing to build your fan-base brick by brick or rent it from a radio station? Lower overheads means more profit while higher risk means larger payoff. It depends on your preference really.

Fans always want mainstream success for you and who doesn't love to see when an underground artiste they've supported makes it big and everyone finally appreciate their talent. I feel that way about Drake somewhat. However, most aren't willing to accept the compromises that come with such placement, spawning rampant accusations of falling off or selling out. So then you look at the money you've saved and wonder which way to go. Do I shoot three videos and grab fans virally or shoot one and wrangle with Synergy which can guarantee a certain level of notice? It's a decision no one can make for you but it will be made either way. Face out.

Monday, July 5, 2010

J Square gives his fans "One More Chance"

I like gospel, especially the Trini brand. There are quite a few local gospel acts I admire as they make some of the most creative music locally and achieve a very high quality of production both video and audio-wise with their projects. One of those that I admire a lot, not only because of the quality of his work but also because of the quality of his work-ethic and savvy is J Square. I really enjoyed his first album "Higher Ground" but it was his strategies like giving prizes for bringing fans to his fan page and his "May Madness" scheme where he would perform and minister at venues across the island for free that really intrigued me and made me check up on what he was working on periodically.

Right now Mr Square is preparing his second album which is launching in Naparima bowl on Thursday 15th July from 6:30pm to 10:30pm. I downloaded a mixtape last month from J Square which you should be able to access by giving him your email address and trust was realllll hard ("Christian Players" is my favourite). Is not no preachy gospel but real stuff, real advice advising people to focus on God and not on folly which is important in these times. So trust me when I say that Jay Square is one to support on Thursday 15th. And I've seen him live and Square does real move the crowd, is not no studio artiste ting at all.

So ppl I urge you to head down to the bowl and cop the album "One More Chance" from J Square and continue supporting local. Face out.