Is Ludacris the Rev. Jeremiah Wright of hip-hop? In the recently released song, titled â€œPolitics as Usual,â€ the Atlanta rhymester calls Hillary Clinton a â€œb*tch,â€ says the Republican nominee, John McCain, should be paralyzed in a wheelchair, and President Bush is â€œmentally handicap.â€ Two out of three ainâ€™t bad (even for us, the McCain remark is just wrong). You decideâ€”soothsayer or straight hater? Either way, musicians are becoming too involved in politics. They should stick to what they do best: sappy love songs, hipster dance moves, misogynistic rhymes and mindless rock & roll. Anybody want to take a guess at who Ludacris is voting for?
Itâ€™s a good thing Nas decided to change the title of his album. Imagine all of the dirty looks, fights and stabbings that would have occurred at record stores across the nation as white kids walked up to the register saying â€œlet me get that N***er!â€ Not a good look. On the other hand, what are a few stabbings and battery charges if it brings more attention to this wonderful album? I wouldnâ€™t mind and Iâ€™m pretty sure Nas wouldnâ€™t either. Aside from a Chris Brown collaboration thatâ€™s more out of place than a Klan member at a Black Panther rally, Nigâ€”ummâ€¦Untitled is a true masterpiece.
– A. Hugh Leonard
Million Dollar Backpack
How bored do you have to be to sit down at write an annual rap poking fun at everything that has happened over the last 365 days in music? Just ask Skillz because that is the only thing heâ€™s done worth acknowledging over the past 10+ years. Known best (or not known, depending on how you look at it) for his ghostwriting, Skillz has decided to go for self on his latest album, Million Dollar Backpack. Not only should one be amazed that a 47-year old man still carries a backpack, but also the fact that he flaunts its hefty price tag. What ever happened to Jansport? Even if the price of his book bag is 100â€™s of times more than the number of records heâ€™ll sell, Skillz at least has a solid album to hang his hat on.
– A. Hugh Leonard
The Hold Steady
The Hold Steady does not sound like Eminem. Craig Finn sings like he’s yelling poetry at you, but aside from his beat poet delivery, the band has nothing in common with rappers. Except that Eminem’s opening verse in “Shake That” could nearly sum up the entirety of the Hold Steady catalogue. Except instead of “Get buzzed, get drunk, get crunked, get fucked up,” Finn uses “get bruised,” “get hammered,” “got pinned down,” “was keyed up,” and so on. It’s pretty much the same thing; he just does it like a shouting beat poet instead of a white rapper.
– Kevin Doran
Danger Mouse is too goddamn busy these days. He’s already produced four albums out this year. This is the best of them. Beck’s always been called a “slacker” or a “prankster” or a “loser” (HA!). But he’s made for a sobering listen on at least four of his eight albums since he called himself a “loser.” Danger Mouse drops the danceability of most of his work for some creepy-ass Western flick background effects. Beck’s not as fun as he used to be, but he’s better. Funny what happens when you stop being a slacker, prankster and loser.
– Kevin Doran
So it seems the â€œGarden Stateâ€ has more to offer than a homosexual governor and an underappreciated rapper (we see you Joe!). Enter S.O.U.L. Purpose. Backed by solid production and unabashed candor, The Construction is more than a work in progress. Devoid of typical mainstream folly, the young emcee proves that lyricsâ€”with purposeâ€”still mean something in a genre where catchy hooks and â€œlilâ€ rappers reign supreme. And they say hip-hop is dead.
– Jason Parham