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JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Album of the Day 11/15/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Monday’s album is #806:

Mos Def and Talib Kweli Are Black Star

Like an album by John Coltrane and McCoy Tyner, this is a meeting between two giants of their field early in their careers. Mos Def and Talib Kweli were already stars of the hip-hop underground when they put out this rich and surprisingly subtle lyrical masterpiece in 1998. Released just at the point where major-label rap was getting the substance corporatized out of it, the rhymes here are self-aware without being mawkish, socially aware without being politically correct. It’s got the deep-space, pro-black metaphors of Astronomy (8th Light); Definition, an anti-violence shout-out to Biggie and 2Pac, and many ingenious levels of meaning on Children’s Story. Brown Skin Lady ominously samples Gil Scott-Heron’s nuclear apocalypse narrative We Almost Lost Detroit; Hater Players sends a casually fervent shout-out to their fellow underground MCs. There’s also the in-your-face K.O.S. (Determination) and the eerie, hypnotic Twice inna Lifetime. The centerpiece here is Thieves in the Night, a brilliantly insightful reminder that truth only reveals itself after the brainwashing is erased: “We live the truest lie, wonder why we fight the war of the bluest eye…while we find the beauty in the hideous.” The reverberating, electric piano-drenched samples are surprisingly psychedelic and interesting. Here’s a random torrent.

November 15, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rap music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 11/3/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Wednesday’s album is #818:

2Pac – 2Pacalypse Now

2Pac’s 1992 debut album was not a commercial success, in fact, it would be another couple of years before he’d release another one. This one’s aged awfully well. He wasn’t yet the effortless lyrical stylist he’d become by the time Strictly 4 My Niggaz hit in 1994, but he also wasn’t slinging ganja-fueled nonsense like he did on the Makavalli albums and all the outtakes that were released posthumously. The bare-bones production puts his wrathful rhymes here front and center. Tupac Shakur may have presented a goofball personality offstage, but in front of the mic, or on a movie set, he was dead serious, fearless, unrepentant and mad as hell. The jokes are grim, the humor is black, and the disses are murderous. The titles are pretty much dead giveaways: socially provocative stuff like Young Black Male, Trapped, and Soulja’s Story; the high point of the album, I Don’t Give a Fuck, the original of the bitterly prophetic Brenda’s Got a Baby and gangsta stuff like The Lunatic. Like two of his lyricist colleagues from back in the day, Ice Cube and Ice-T, his rapping started to take a back seat to his film career; too bad we’ll never know what else this multi-talented guy could have done. RIP. Here’s a random torrent.

November 2, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rap music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Album of the Day 10/9/10

Every day our 1000 best albums of all time countdown continues all the way to #1. Saturday’s album is #843:

Gang Starr – Daily Operation

By teens standards, this 1992 golden-age hip-hop classic is almost quaint. Gang Starr frontman Guru (Gifted Unlimited Rhymes Universal, a.k.a. Keith Elam) described himself as an anti-gun, anti-violence weedhead. He only directed his hostilities at wannabe MCs, pop acts and racists, but when he went after them, he was ruthless. And he did it with a calm, seemingly effortless precision: on this album, he doesn’t even swear much. As hilarious as many of his rhymes are, it’s stunning just how seriously he approached his art. This is a mix of straight-up I’m-in-charge joints like Take It Personal and The Illest Brother, along with the confidently matter-of-fact No Shame in My Game and Ex-Girl to the Next Girl and the album’s best cut, the coldly withering Conspiracy. The funniest track here is Take Two and Pass, where Guru’s generosity with his blunt turns out to be a little disingenuous – if you listen closely, it turns out that DJ Premier also has one, and each guy plans on smoking a whole one. Primo’s production is characteristically terse and minimalist: he keep the beats and his signature backward-masked samples simple, vocals front and center. Just the way they ought to be. Here’s a random torrent.

October 9, 2010 Posted by | lists, Music, music, concert, rap music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment