Tag Archives: hip-hop

poet of the ordinary

16 Jun

Ok. I won’t lie. I was warned. Damon Albarn stated clearly that it’s the most pop record he’s ever made. Yes. Different music journalists quoted that statement. Yes. Somebody called it even a soundtrack to a cartoon. Yes. Yet, I decided to check the newest album of Gorillaz on my own. Mostly because I believe Albarn is one of the most interesting musicians in Great Britain. Also, cause I don’t trust newspapers and reviews until I try something on my own. Naaah, ok, let’s be honest – simply cause I like Gorillaz. And maybe I didn’t adore their previous albums, they didn’t change my life, my world, or whatever (no grand words, hush!) but they’re simply good, fresh and created by really good musicians, who, moreover, have a great sense of humor.

And I have to say that Plastic Beach is stunning. It’s not a record that will dominate all the other latest records. It’s not an album that I would consider a milestone in music, and, broader, in whole popular culture. But it’s amazing and it… kinda changed Gorillaz. At least my feeling is that this record, even though it’s more pop, is much more serious then the previous ones.

Musically you can feel the influence of the 1980’s in, for instance, Welcome to the World of Plastic Beach – especially early electro and synthpop, New Order, maybe a bit of Bowie or even Prince? This track is, by the way, featured by Snoop Dogg and the Hypnotic Brass Ensemble, so this information can give you the taste of what it is like.

Albarn is also known to be influenced by ethnic music, in this particular case Arabic, which is clearly the foundation for amazingly sweet White Flag – a delicate, pure track, featuring (among others) the Lebanese National Orchestra for Oriental Arabic Music – it starts from a definitely traditional Middle Eastern intro, however, when it becomes electro/hip-hop it’s still very frugal and therefore full of air and space. It’s like wind or spider web. Very consequently built, constructed on few, simple melodic lines and, perhaps therefore, bright and deeply touching.

Rhinestone Eyes reminds of the older songs of Gorillaz. It’s a little funky and a little gloomy, with a little bored voice of 2D (Albarn) and synthesizers.

Some of the songs are definitely highlights of this album. My favorite include Some Kind of Nature (featuring Lou Reed) and Plastic Beach (feat. Mick Jones). And it’s not because it includes legends of rock music. They’re just really good, professional tracks which intelligently mix the musical character and personality of both of these musicians with the style and moods so typical of Gorillaz.

What is, however, most interesting is that Gorillaz somehow lost their comedian touch. I listened to this record a couple of times, continuously and I couldn’t stop thinking of factories, plastic, chemistry and… ecology. Yes! Somehow I had a feeling this is a voice of a modern person. Totally lost in his/her world, being aware of the fact that our natural environment is being destroyed every single day. And, no, don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Greenpeace fanatic. I don’t chain myself to trees or plot against scientists who make experiments on living animals. Nor is Plastic Beach moralist. It’s not a fairy tale for grownups. It’s not a fiery speech condemning the industry that pollutes the planet. The strength of this album is that all of the lyrics are pretty clear when it comes to meaning, however, they are still highly poetic. Metaphors and imagery that is presented in these songs have little to do with pro-ecology propaganda. It’s more like a sigh of sadness of a modern human being who eats artificial food out of a can, drinking artificial coffee, driving to work in a subway compartment with its anonymity and loneliness, and then sits in an office and performs work which is completely irrelevant, abstract and mechanical. It’s like a journey of a soulless man. Albarn is absolutely brilliant with this – his lyrics are not pushy, it’s more like a collage of different emotions and everyday observations. And therefore, even though musically this record is not genius (although very good), I think it’s one of the most interesting releases of this year, or even past few years. Different bands, different lyricists explore human mind and human life, many of them focus on the anxiety and obsessions of a contemporary human being. But, Mr. Albarn, I gotta give you this – something like this, so much connected with the reality of our lives, the reality that we easily forget about (cause it’s so much easier to notice pathology, crime, child abuse etc.), this has not happened yet. And in this sense I am not afraid to use a grand word – Damon Albarn is a poet of the ordinary. Which, by itself, I believe, is a very big compliment.

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bring on boredom! (B.o.B)

28 May

Ok. Let’s say it clearly, I’m not a huge rap fan. I don’t know much about hip-hop. But I’ve always admired good music with a strong beat, something that puts a spell on the listener. And I really believe, maybe being naïve, that even if a song belongs to the genre that you do not really listen to, you can appreciate it, if it’s simply good. Personally, I don’t listen to pop or hip-hop but every now and then I get totally fascinated by the works of Madonna, Christina Aguillera, Missy Elliot etc. If the music is good and if, by any chance, the lyrics are intelligent, full of wit and maybe a bit of sarcasm – it’s really hard for me not to appreciate it.

So I borrowed the debut album of B.o.B who is also known as Bobby Ray. The reviews were mostly good and very favorable, there’s nothing like a good beat and nice rapping sometimes, so I was very eager to listen to the whole of it. And I did. Even twice! Just to check if I’m really that spoiled and maybe I’m just too nerdy to admire the hidden genius of Bobby Ray. Well … no, perhaps I am too nerdy but the hidden genius of Bobby Ray has not revealed itself to me yet.

Ok. Let’s get to the point. Talking about B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray. I mean… quoting Beavis and Butt-head: “WHAT THE HELL IS THIS CRAP?????” Ok, the rapping is pretty ok. He can rap really fast, with a great sense of rhythm and you can tell B.o.B feels the melody of the words he pronounces. True. Apart of that the album has nothing, literally NOTHING that would make it a pleasant experience for the listener. It’s repetitive, it’s horribly boring, it’s unimaginative. Much has been written about a brave mix of genres that characterizes B.o.B’s music. True, you can feel that it’s somewhere in the middle between hip-hop, rap, pop and rock. But let’s not exaggerate. There is no idea, no real concept behind it. I felt like it’s more a mess of genres than a mix of genres. Musically (except for the amazing and totally pioneer mix of genres :-P) there’s nothing fresh in it. Melodies are rather flat, monotonous and after listening to the whole album (TWICE!) you cannot really distinguish one song from the other. And that keeps me thinking – is it the problem of Bobby Ray or maybe he just had bad luck with really poor sound engineering? What was the cause for this ultimate disaster? Why a guy who is pretty talented when it comes to rapping (perhaps also when it comes to freestyle) is stuck with primitive melodies, the lack of intense rhythm and amazingly-absurd-hilariously-overwhelmingly-surrealistically STUPID LYRICS?

Want a sample? Here you go.

“And I’m terrified, like I’ve seen a UFO.
Cause everything ain’t what I used to know.
And I try to hide, but I just can’t hide no more.
There’s nothing worse than feeling like a ghost.
(I go)
(A UFO)
(And I’m so tired of hiding, I’ve been running, I’ve been trying, to get away, to get away)”

WTF??????????????
WTF??????????????
WTF??????????????

“I’m terrified, like I’ve seen a UFO”??????? WTF?
What happened to NAS? To Jay-Z’s The Black Album? Where are all the greatest rap & hip-hop stars which had intelligent, amazingly witty, sharp and insightful lyrics? I’m not even mentioning such experimental things as Saul Williams’ The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Turdust! Jeeez, where is Eminem,  his sense of humor and his word play? Where is the great art of the intelligent use of words that you can hear in the works of Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes or the early records of Black Eyed Peas? Are there really no role models, no classics that can influence Bobby Ray? Speaking of classics – where is Arrested Development, Public Enemy or De La Soul?

“beautiful girls all over the world
i could be chasing but my time would be wasted
they got nothin’ on you baby
nothin’ on you baby
they might say hi and i might say hey
but you shouldn’t worry about what they say
cause they got nothin’ on you baby
nothin’ on you baby”

OMG! This is worse than “Vanilla Ice Ice Baby”! X-D

The last thing I want to mention is that Bobby Ray… lisps. Ok, you can say that I’m just picky and I’m looking for every single thing just to prove that The Adventures of Bobby Ray is crap. But, man, did we really get so politically correct that we can accept a handless surgeon and a lisping rapper? I know I’m being harsh and ruthless right now but just… think about it. And it’s not that I accept it when it comes to the pronunciation of the legends of rock. Obviously, I am more into rock than rap/hip-hop but, damn, when I realized Rob Zombie lisps, I couldn’t listen to his music in a way I had done it earlier. Lisping made me angry and I couldn’t focus on the music as much as I had focused prior to my discovery. On the other hand, even if I still valued Rob Zombie, even though he would be lisping, rock is something different and it still allows me to appreciate Rob Zombie for other things. Rap is difficult because the art of word and the pronunciation is the core of it. I accept political correctness when it comes to some obvious things. If it’s against racism or sexism, fine – we can be politically correct. But, for Heaven’s sake, there are limits! Lisping and becoming a rapper is a really stupid choice and I would suggest Bobby Ray to become… I don’t know, an acknowledged hair stylist or a journalist but not somebody whose job is to speak!

Ok. Let’s end it here with the festival of cynicism. Basically the album is a huge disappointment. In terms of the genres – it’s a mess. In terms of music and melody – it’s boring, repetitive and shows total lack of musical imagination. In terms of the art of rap – it’s pretty good if somebody could “cut out” the lisping. In terms of the whole idea in general – it’s a disaster. And I really have no clue why so many journalists have rated this record so high.