Friday, September 12, 2008

The Streets - Everything Is Borrowed

This just in! Mike Skinner is back! The Streets penultimate album is unlike most anything he's ever produced. For those of you unaware, or confused by the previous statements, let me rewind a bit. I just listened to Everything Is Borrowed by The Streets which is being released in the U.K. on September 15. The Streets is the alias of British MC Mike Skinner. With three previous albums in the books, this fourth one is a new chapter in a five record arc for the artist. Until recently, I was blissfully unaware that Skinner intended to hang up the mic after the fifth album. More details can be found in this BBC News article. Basically, Skinner goes on to say he signed a five record deal, and always thought that each album would be an installment in a five-disc box set, per se. Either way, his last album The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living was generally considered to be a misstep. It was his shortest effort at ~37 minutes, and even Skinner remarked it was a "guilt-ridden indulgence." Thankfully, The Streets are back with a new album with a totally different vibe, lyrical content, and overall feel that is refreshingly different.

Everything Is Borrowed is just short of 39 minutes with 11 tracks ranging from 2:46 to 5:16 in length. Immediately, you know something is different just from the album artwork. The past two albums have featured Skinner standing in a bus shelter and leaning against a car. This is the first album since his debut that has gone without him on the cover. As I was saying, the album has a different feel. The actual beats/production are quite upbeat which stand in contrast to much of the lyrical content that is rather melancholy, somber, and reflective. For example, in "On The Edge Of A Cliff" Skinner rhymes about standing ready to jump over the edge, until an old man tells an anecdote about how he was once there himself and someone said to him, "For billions of years since the outset of time / Every singles on of your ancestors survived / Every single person on your mom and dad's side / successfully looked after and passed onto you life / What are the chances of that, like?" Needless to say it's a pretty weighty issue (thoughts of suicide) to be tackling, which is juxtaposed with horns and a backing chorus. The effect is bringing a sense of hope and positive reflection to a scary situation. Another favorite lyric is the chorus for "Heaven For The Weather" which is: "I want to go to Heaven for the weather / but Hell for the company. / I want to go to Heaven for the weather / but Hell seems like fun to me." All the lyrics on the new album are devoid of a topic Skinner usually loves to play with: pop culture/technology. Basically, Skinner forced himself to stop talking about cell phones and texting. After a couple spins of the album it's pretty solid. There are only a couple tracks that I'm kinda indifferent about. But the overall jazzy feeling is interesting with guitars, horns, chorus, and funky bass lines against the produced drums and beats. "The Strongest Person I Know" has the same feeling as the previous hit "Dry Your Eyes" but without the killer chorus. The song I've chosen isn't the strongest track, but it's one that hasn't been floating around for a while either. The first single is going to be "Everything Is Borrowed," and "The Escapist" (my fav track) was available online a while ago. Enjoy.

"The Way Of The Dodo"

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Asher Roth - The GreenHouse Effect, Vol. 1


Looks like Hip-Hop Week was derailed. I'm terribly sorry about the delay. Hopefully, I'll be back to regular posting in the coming days. Thankfully, with the help of a couple sources the music to be reviewed is still pretty fresh. The first example is one I'm really excited about. Asher Roth is not a household name...yet, but he will be soon enough. In the words of Asher Paul Roth's homepage here's what you need to know: "To answer your questions, yes I'm skinny, yes I rapped 150 bars to Jay-Z in his office on the spot, yes I have porn on my computer, yes Scooter Braun found me rapping in my dorm room and signed me off of myspace, yes I throw keg parties every Sunday, and yes Steve Rifkind (Wu-tang, Akon, David Banner, Big Pun, Loud Records, SRC, etc. etc.) calls me the 'best lyricist he has heard in the last 10 years.'" So, there you go. White, skinny, Jewish rapper from Pennsylvania. It all makes sense now, right? Probably not. You may be thinking this is just the next commercial white rapper to cash in on the coattails of Eminem. While their voices are similar, Roth's voice is less gruff and his flow is more laid back and less in your face. Another huge difference is the lyrical content. Eminem caused huge amounts of controversy for his slurs against gays and awful things he'd say about his ex-wife. Roth (thankfully) doesn't have that pent up rage, most likely because he's from the suburbs of Philly and not the rough streets of Detroit. Roth likes to focus on pop culture, boobs/hot girls/sex, and weed. How can anyone get upset with those hobbies?

I'm not typically a fan of the hip-hop mixtape fad mainly because there is almost always a DJ shouting over the song every 10 seconds so you can't actually listen to the song. I understand the appeal of a mixtape though. A rapper gets to rhyme over the hottest beats that are out right then and there. It's fresh, it creates hype for a forthcoming release, and it's a great marketing tool. Also, there are usually a ton of tracks that are essentially half-baked thoughts/ideas and it's not thought of as a real album so there's not a ton of cohesion between the tracks. Thankfully, Asher Roth's The GreenHouse Effect, Vol. 1 kind of breaks this mold. Yes there are a lot of tracks, yes some tracks have the DJ announcing on top of the track so you can't hear the track. But after listening to the mixtape multiple times, I'd say I'm hooked. The mixtape starts off well enough but really gets better as the tracks flip over. One of the best things about a mixtape is hearing an "obscure" beat and a totally different approach to rhyming on top of it. For example, Clipse had a hit with "Mr. Me Too". Asher takes that beat and almost makes it his own. Overall, this mixtape is one of the best I've listened to. All the hype surrounding Asher Roth is the real deal. God willing he'll have some really great producers making hot beats for his debut release because his skills deserve to be showcased in the best possible way. I'm sure he could still make a mediocre beat work with his flow. Until the album drops, peep this ("MOM" WARNING - EXPLICIT CONTENT):

"Morning Do"