I love rap music, but this wasn’t always the case. Growing up in the Northwest I was more privy to epic folk music (think of The Decemberists and Iron and Wine) and alternative, indie rock (I’m pretty sure almost all music is considered ‘indie’ rock now though, so this isn’t exactly a narrow scope of jamming). It wasn’t until living in the dirty south, ATL-Atlanta, that I grew to actually appreciate rap music and find value in it that was more significant than simply being something fun to dance and drive to. Yes, I’d listened to rap before and liked some artists of the genre quite a bit, but that was as far as my relationship to rap music went. Now though, as I’ve said, I love rap music. I certainly have a lot more self-schooling to do when it comes to my rap education, particularly of the founders, but rap is a genre that I consider to be very significant to our culture. Lately quite a few impressive albums have come out and the standouts for me have been two rap albums from two brilliant artists, Kanye West and Nicki Minaj. Here’s what I’ve been listening to:
1. Kanye West : : My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
This album is amazing. I’ve had MBDTF since it leaked in early November and I cannot stop listening to it: it’s addicting, fresh, clever, absolutely beautiful and heart wrenching both lyrically and musically. Pitchfork gave the album a 10 (the last album to receive a perfect score was Wilco’s 2002 release Yankee Hotel Foxtrot) and it is entirely deserving. Of all the outstanding tracks, I’m especially fond of “Dark Fantasy,” “Blame Game (feat. John Legend)” (and CHRIS ROCK!) and “All of the Lights.”
2. Nicki Minaj : : Pink Friday
I’m all about this chick; there are far too few female rappers in the game, particularly of her caliber. Her lyrics are witty, funny, empowering, flirtatious and often give that punch right below the belt that reminds everyone that she plays with the big boys and can dish it out just as well. After hearing her featured on innumerable tracks by just about everyone, I’d been anxiously waiting for her full length to come out and boy oh boy did it impress. Pink Friday goes beyond what I expected to hear from her. There are songs that are sweet, even romantic, soon-to-be pop hits immediately followed by her hard spitting, high force rap jams. On this record there are times where she is vulgar and vulnerable, honest and vindicated, silly and clearly having fun. It’s just a great album to listen to and if you’re not a rap fan, I can understand being uninterested in Nicki Minaj (you probably quit reading a while ago if this applies to you), but there are quite a few tracks on Pink Friday that I would argue easily appeal to the masses and are absolutely worth listening to (see “Right Thru Me,” “Save Me” and “Your Love”). In the words of Nicki, in her proud opening act “I’m the Best,” “I’m the best now/ anybody with some money should invest now”….no kidding.
Also worth mentioning:
Cee Lo Green : : The Lady Killer
Cee Lo’s third solo album is certainly a battered, romantic, lady killing set of songs. Obviously “Fuck You” is awesome, but I’m pretty wild about his cover of the Band of Horses track “No One’s Gonna Love You,” the soulful “Satisfied,” “Cry Baby” and “Wildflower.”
Four Tet : : There Is Love In You
Ohhhhh, this album is so good and not exactly new, but he’s playing in Seoul next week so I’ve been listening to this album quite a lot. This is the kind of music you listen to and you start staring at the ceiling for hours and kind of forget about everything. It’s really wonderful and mesmerizing and I cannot wait to see him.