a tale of three albums

So, I’ve had a chance to review the Two Most Anticipated HipHop Albums of the Year (tm). Speaking, of course, of the great album-sales battle between Kanye West and 50 Cent that is constantly in the news despite the fact that as far as I can tell nobody really cares.

Well, anyways, a couple of weeks ago I finally got both albums. The verdict: 50 Cent? Worthless. Kanye’s new album is boring, but not terrible. You pop it in, and Champion and Stronger open the album as decent standout tracks. It kinda takes a dive after that – a good time to settle into a nap. Wake up to the pleasantly ethereal strings on Flashing Lights, and groove to the strings. Nice track. More napping, and then it’s over. “So, that was quick,”, you think, and you play it again. You play it a few times. You think that you sorta like it, but you aren’t sure you can put your finger on why. Your assessment may differ from mine, but basically: the songs I like, I like because of the samples. And they aren’t diced up and re-served, really, as far as I can tell.. just served up wholesale as a background for Kanye’s lilting pseudo-singing/rhyming. It’s not bad, but it’s just not … great.

And then there’s the whole “battle” with 50 Cent. What is this? 1995? My brother said he thought Kanye was better off with his jaw wired shut. I won’t go that far (though Through the Wire is dope), but you do have to wonder about the producer’s rapper that we came to love before he decided he was the king. I think College Dropout is sheer genius (I might be in the minority on that one), so I am not willing to write off Kanye West or anything.. I think of this as more of a sophomore slump. But this album, frankly, I can take or leave.

So. while these two goliaths battled it out, I was waiting for something else. David (if you will forgive a ridiculous metaphor) coming to knock them both out. That album, of course, was Talib Kweli’s new one, Ear Drum. This spring… and summer .. and fall, I had/have been borrowing my parents’ Miata a lot (thanks mom&dad! I’ll bring it back … some day!). One thing about their Miata is that it doesn’t play burned CDs at all. So I’ve had to listen to real CDs – like, CDs that I actually bought. In a store. Probably at Tower. (Teehee, remember them?) Anyways, it’s been a bit of a time-trip in the car, listening to music, since the last time I actually did that was probably roughly the year 2000. Which is why I have rediscovered Talib Kweli & Hi-Tek’s Train of Thought, which I listened to compulsively over and over for about two months. I think a lot of people took the Mos Def train after Black Star and sorta forgot about Talib. But this album, damn. “Too Late” might actually be the perfect song. Anyways, that’s a different album. But, long story short – I had been eagerly anticipating Talib’s new one.

And so, it arrived. And it is good. So good. I am no good at full recaps, but, best tracks: “Hostile Gospel”, “Say Something”, “In the Mood”, “Hell”, “Hot Thing”, “Listen”. I think “Country Cousins” is cute, and a nice sentiment, though I find the song itself sorta grating. Dirty south is best left to the dirty south, I think. I also think it’s funny that he gives a shoutout to Outkast in a song called “Country Cousins” (see Outkast, “West Savannah” re: Southern, Country for their opinions on this). Anyways, it’s a damn good album, and I can’t stop listening to it. Someone help me.