Friday, November 13, 2009

Beanie Sigel (and 50 Cent) vs. Jay-Z: What happens when you make a deal with the devil?

It is a turn of events no hip hop fan wants to see.

On October 30 2009, Beanie Sigel released “What You Talkin’ Bout,” a freestyle over the similarly titled, lead-off track from Jay-Z’s The Blueprint III. The song is a scathing, emotional tirade against Sigel’s former boss and mentor, in which he insinuates that many of the subliminal “get on my level”-esque boasts on Jay’s new album were directed at him. Obviously, Beans was none too pleased by this, and took to Philly radio station The Beat to further air out the situation, explaining that he felt he’d been under-utilized, underpaid and poorly marketed during his time with Roc-A-Fella Records. And though Beans sounded angry and genuinely hurt, it also seemed as though the situation could be hashed out privately.

But after Jay-Z responded, during a press conference, by (justifiably) criticizing Sigel’s spending habits and reminding everyone of the fact that Sigel had never even gone platinum, but was still given his own record label, group, clothing line and film(all entitled State Property), all bets were officially off.

Enter professional opportunist, 50 Cent, who is reportedly signing Beanie Sigel to G-Unit. Never one to stroll past a fire without adding fuel to it, 50 has taken things a step further, recording a song with Sigel in which both throw multiple jabs at Jay-Z. The song, entitled “I Go Off”, is available below, if you’re interested.

You know, I find it to be more than lame that every single time 50 Cent has an album to promote he initiates unprovoked, phony beef with whoever seems convenient at that time; examples include Ja Rule, Nas, Fat Joe, Jadakiss, Rick Ross, and now Jay-Z. Sadly enough, this time he’s taking advantage of Beanie Sigel, who has legitimate vitriol for Jay-Z, but could have worked the situation out quietly; instead of provoking a lyrical/financial giant like Jay-Z, who has enough money, power and fans to ruin Sigel’s career, whether that be with another “Takeover,” the fact that he owns Sigel’s publishing, or even through blackballing him out of the industry. Or maybe Jay-Z simply doesn’t respond at all (he definitely does not have to), leaving Sigel on the outs with the most successful rapper in the game right now, and instead aligned with the universally-hated sinking ship that is 50 Cent and G-Unit.

“I Go Off” is a great diss record, that’s for sure. But if you ask me, Beanie Sigel has made a deal with the devil. Bad choice Beans...

Beanie Sigel f/ 50 Cent - I Go Off

Courtney Love (FINALLY) Set To Release Long-Awaited "Nobody's Daughter" Album!


After multiple stints in rehab (in order to avoid jail time), a slew of shambolic, one-off performances, and botched release date after botched release date, Courtney Love will finally release her long-awaited “Nobody’s Daughter” album in January of next year.

Surprisingly, and perhaps refreshingly, the album will not be released under Love’s name, and will instead be considered a new album from Hole, making Nobody’s Daughter the follow-up to the band’s glammed-up 1998 release, “Celebrity Skin.”

Love began writing for Nobody’s Daughter way back in 2005, while taking part in court-mandated rehab at a facility in California, and soon afterwards began recording sessions with Billy Corgan and Linda Perry. She would eventually decide to scrap the product of those sessions, and had been working with producer Michael Beinhorn and a new band ever since.

According to Rolling Stone, who interviewed Love for its next issue, much of the album was inspired by David Bowie, Pink Floyd’s “The Wall” and 80’s goth, and will center around “greed, vengeance and feminism” thematically. Sounds like a plan to me!

Check out the classic Hole video for “Doll Parts” below, as well as an amazing track entitled “Never Go Hungry Again”, performed passionately by Courtney back in 2007. “Never Go Hungry Again” is rumored to be included on the upcoming Nobody’s Daughter release, but nothing has been confirmed as of yet.

I don’t know about you, but I’m excited.

Not getting my hopes up, but excited nonetheless....

Doll Parts

Never Go Hungry Again

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Slayer's "World Painted Blood": BLOODY SATISFYING!

Rating: 4/5

Listening to Slayer’s 1986 Thrash Metal classic “Reign In Blood” for the first time is like a baptism for metal fans (Well…a baptism in blood, of course). It’s a rite of passage for anyone and everyone that considers themselves to be a true metal head. If Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” is the Godfather Pt. II of Metal, Reign In Blood is Apocalypse Now; brutal, bloody and horrifying. Produced by the legendary Rick Rubin, Reign in Blood was truly one of a kind upon its release, faster, darker and uglier than anything metal had to offer before them, and basically gave birth to the genre of death metal.

Fast forward to 2009, and metal is quite a different genre. But while there may be bands out there faster and heavier than Slayer, nobody does dark, evil, blistering heavy metal insanity quite like Slayer. I guess it’s the difference between the teacher and the student. Other metal frontmen may have learned how to screech out an ear-shattering scream with ease, but Tom Araya really sounds like he’s singing while being burned alive in the pits of hell.

Slayer do an incredible job of creating the illusion that they aren’t faking it, even though they’re in their mid-40’s and probably take showers with water in the morning, rather than blood. Hard to believe, right? One might even assume that after over 25 years of singing about blood, murder, dismemberment, the evils of religion, and necrophilia, perhaps Slayer might want to branch out a bit, and maybe touch on a few fresh topics this time around. Well, how does snuff films, burying dead bodies, human sacrifice and American Imperialism sound?

It sounds fucking amazing, actually. Slayer’s new album, “World Painted Blood” begins with the title track, a song that absolutely shreds through anything anyone else is doing in heavy music right now. Everything is a ten, including the production, which puts everything right in your face (an acquired taste perhaps, but I’m digging it). The third track, gloriously titled “Snuff,” is what Slayer does best; pure sonic chaos and terror. The song surges forward from the very beginning; lightening fast drums, mindboggling guitar work from Jeff Hanneman and the great Kerry King, and evil vocal work from Mr. Araya, who at one point shouts maniacally “Action, torture misery/Endless suffering/Torment, agony/Captured for eternity/Action/You’re the main attraction!” And Slayer do a great job of incorporating elements of not only the lightening fast Reign in Blood, but many of their slower, wonderfully eerie moments, exemplified best on their other indisputable classic, “Seasons in the Abyss.” The masterful “Beauty Through Order” and the beyond creepy “Playing With Dolls,” even hint at out-and-out melody, before being swallowed whole by pummeling double bass and scorching guitar mayhem.

Seriously people, this is some of the best metal money can buy. If you like metal, and especially if you like Slayer, World Painted Blood is beyond satisfying; it’s better than their last two albums, and may even stand up with some of their best work. Sure Slayer’s been on this same shit for 25 years now, but who cares? The question is not when Slayer’s going to grow out of this nonsense; it’s when people like me will.

And the answer to that is definitely…NEVER.

Video of the Day: Marilyn Manson's "The Dope Show"

For some strange (yet completely justifiable) reason, everytime I watch anything from Lady Gaga I immediately think of Marilyn Manson.

For one thing, Gaga's postmodern concept of Fame (singing about fame and its perils, embodying fame through her clothing and imagery, etc.) is almost exactly what Marilyn Manson tried to do in the mid to late 1990's with his "Antichrist Superstar" and "Mehcanical Animals" albums. Just as Gaga is supposed to be a surreal, hyperbolic version of the idea of the "starlet" or glamourous pop superstar, Marilyn Manson was supposed to be the ultimate version of the malevolent, irresponsible, satanic rock star. It is literally all he sung about for years.

There's no doubt that Gaga has certainly been influenced by the work of Marilyn Manson, as both understand and execute the visual side of their work like no one else. Check out 1998's "The Dope Show" for example, and you're sure to find similarities to Gaga's new video "Bad Romance" in terms of the art direction, fashion design (all white body suites, for example?), the cinematography, and the bizarre, yet quite similar storylines in both videos.

If Manson was the King of Shock Rock, is Gaga the Queen of...Shock Pop?

Anyways, check out the video of the day, Marilyn Manson's classic 1998 clip, "The Dope Show"!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Them Crooked Vultures: The Supergroup Done RIGHT!

Rating: 4/5


*long sigh*

If “Supergroup” were a word in the dictionary, it would probably say something like “Supergroups are overhyped, dream collaborations, consisting of members of established, amazing bands, that inevitably amount to absolutely nothing special whatsoever and pale in comparison to said members’ previous bands.”

From Audioslave to Velvet Revolver, supergoups are usually like what happens when you take a bunch of really pretty watercolors and haphazardly mix them up, resulting in an ugly, shit-stain brown. You end up bored and disappointed, and the supergroup either gets bored as well (Audioslave), or their already too-big-to-fit-through-the-door egos clash and inevitably rip the band apart (Velvet Revolver). But every once in a while a Supergroup comes along that just sounds…right. Them Crooked Vultures is one such example of this; a supergroup that may not set the world on fire, but definitely will not suck. And how could it? You’ve got Dave Grohl on DRUMS(!) and Josh Homme handling guitar and vocals. The last time these guys collaborated on a full length, we wound up with “Songs for the Deaf”, the best hard rock album released this decade (according to this writer, at least), and a masterful homage to 70’s-inspired, Zeppelin-esque hard rock. So who better to handle bass than John Paul Jones himself, the legendary bassist for Led Zeppelin?

See what I mean? Them Crooked Vultures makes sense. But does the music?

Oh yes, the music makes sense alright; that badass, no frills, take-no-shit kind of sense. Them Crooked Vultures’ self-titled debut album is a complete success; quirky, heavy and fun as hell. Lead single “No Fang” is a pleasurable jam, and the infectious stomp of opening number “No One Loves Me and Neither Do I” gets things off to a great start. But midway through the album is where things start to kick into high gear, beginning with “Elephant,” most definitely the standout of the entire album. The band are obviously channeling Zeppelin throughout, but they do it with love and respect, and “Elephant” exemplifies this good-natured, we’re-just-having-a-good-time vibe of the record. The song is a beast, strutting along with confidence and vigor. You feel like this could have fit in great on Zeppelin II, but it doesn’t make you want to turn on “The Lemon Song” either. You’ll be totally into it, having a good time right along with them.

“Scumbag Blues” keeps the partying going, propelled by an airtight groove, courtesy of the band’s world-class rhythm section (We’re talking about Dave Grohl and John Paul Jones for god sakes!), and some pretty stellar guitar work from Josh Homme. Meanwhile, “Bandoliers” is probably the most Queens of the Stone Age-sounding song on the album, complete with a damn catchy main riff and amazing vocals from Homme. The albums is filled with highlights, and there’s quite a few surprises here too, especially a trippy, psychedelic tangent, lovingly entitled “Interlude with Ludes.”

Like I said, this album is a complete success. Sure, it sounds exactly the way you probably expected it to; but is that such a bad thing? We all thought a band with Rage Against The Machine’s fiery, funky hard rock as a backdrop for Chris Cornell’s jaw dropping, Robert Plant-styled vocals would be a perfect match. We knew how that was going to sound…and it sucked, big time.

At least these guys actually got it right.

Lady Gaga's Brilliant Video for "Bad Romance" Finally Unveiled!

The moment has finally arrived.

After weeks of crazy hype and anticipation, Lady Gaga's brand new video for "Bad Romance" has finally an anvil on your fucking house!

I honestly don't know where to begin here. Shall we start at the brilliant, Thriller-inspired choreography, the incredible fashion (and sly usage of many of her previous looks and motifs), or maybe the disturbing yet beautifully-conveyed "kidnapped by fame" storyline? There are far too many details to list, so I won't. But suffice it to say...if you thought her other videos were out there, you ain't seen nothing yet.

Watching this video, it's obvious that Gaga wants to give us the sense that something is ending, and something else is beginning. I guess that something else will be unveiled on The Fame Monster, scheduled for release on November 23rd, and also with her upcoming sold out, headlining tour this winter. Regardless, I can assure you that you have not seen a video like this in a long time. There's fire, there's nudity, there's people coming out of coffins; it's truly a feast for the eyes. Helmed by "I Am Legend" director Frances Lawrence, it lies somewhere in between Michael Jackson's "Scream" and Marilyn Manson's "Beautiful People." Gaga looks positively otherworldly, donning styles that allude to her previous looks throughout, before being reborn towards the end of the clip into a glammed up, hyper-surreal looking monster. Wait, could she be a...Fame Monster, perhaps?

Lady Gaga's meteoric rise to the top of the pop heap has been an incredible one, and with the video for "Bad Romance," something tells me we are about to see her take things into the stratosphere. Like Madonna circa "Like A Virgin" or Eminem circa "The Marshall Mathers LP", this may be the moment when an artist with loads of promise and potential, and just on the brink of world domination, somehow makes good on that promise, and does something revolutionary.

Welcome to the big leagues, Gaga!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Video of the Day: TLC "What About Your Friends"

So here's the deal...

Everyday I'm gonna brighten your day with a music video.

Now we ain't talkin bout just any video. This is the Video of the Day; nothing but throwbacks! You will never know what possesses me to choose the videos I choose, you will always be blindsighted by my choice, and you will never see the next one coming either.

First up...TLC. Words truly cannot express my love for TLC. Literally the first artist/group I ever liked, TLC could quite possibly be the greatest girl group ever.

Why, you ask?

From The Supremes to Destiny's Child, the one and only flaw that can always be found in girl groups, in spite of the sublime harmonies and wonderful, bad girl posturing, is the disposability of its "lesser known" members. Almost every girl group in history consisted of one main star, and then a couple of faceless, nameless backup singers, lovingly-placed about 5-10 feet behind the main star. Who are these main stars; these HBICs, you ask? How about Diana Ross, Beyonce, Ronnie Spector and Patti LaBelle, just to name a few. the top of your head, can you name the other members of Labelle, Patti's orinigal group? (Don't worry, I'll wait...)


But TLC were different. When we speak of TLC as a "group", we actually mean a group. Can you imagine TLC without the laid-back cool of T-Boz, or the bad ass craziness of Left Eye, or the sultry, sexy swag of Chili? I didn't think so. Each member brought something indispensible to the table, and it only made them better. They weren't the best singers and they weren't really the best dancers either. But it was this unique chemistry between TLC that made them the best (as well as the best selling) girl group of all time.

So I'm taking you back...waaaaaaay back to go ole' 1992. This is one of my all-time favorites, TLC's "What About Your Friends"


Nirvana's "Live at Reading" Rating: 5/5

Rating: 5/5

It’s been over 15 years since Kurt Cobain took his own life, and since then the legend of Nirvana continues to grow, alienating as much as it compels. In other words, it’s very easy to leave Nirvana off your list of favorite bands, or go a year or two without pulling up Nevermind on your iTunes. Kurt Cobain and Nirvana are so important and ubiquitous within the landscape of popular music that it may not even seem possible that there could ever have actually been a time when their brilliant Beatles meets Black Sabbath meets Sonic Youth sound was exciting, innovative and new. But there was…and this is it.

“Live at Reading” will undoubtedly go down as one of the greatest live albums ever released. Recorded on August 30th 1992 at the Reading Festival in the United Kingdom, this is Nirvana at the very peak of their popularity; you could probably argue that this performance is the climax of their career. Nevermind had hit number one on the Billboard 200 earlier that year. The album was a massive, entirely unexpected hit, heralded as the watershed moment alternative rock had been destined to have. Meanwhile, the rumors surrounding Nirvana, and particularly those concerning Cobain’s drug use and relationship with Courtney Love, were reaching a fever pitch, and his daughter, Frances Bean Cobain, had been born only 12 days prior to this concert. And somehow, all of this comes through on this incredible recording. You can practically feel the excitement and uncertainty in the band’s performance; these guys went from nobodies to superstars, scruffy, punk rock rejects (from Seattle, at that) to the spokesmen of a generation, in less than a year. Cobain’s performance is passionate and riotous, heartfelt and joyous. This was just before things went sour within the band, when the media attention, the drugs, and the feverish devotion of the fans (the very fans that can be heard literally drowning out Kurt’s voice during an astonishing performance of “Lithium” on this recording) ultimately imploded both Cobain’s personal and professional lives.

To me, this is what rock and roll is all about; their performance is combustible, defiiantly imperfect, beautiful and fun. Furious numbers like “Breed”, “School” and “Negative Creep” display the band’s relentless punk sound, while “Lithium” and “All Apologies” are sure to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up; you may even shed a tear. And forgive me for being cliché, but the real stunner here is “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” No one blames Kurt for inevitably wishing that this song would disappear from earth forever, but when the opening riff starts midway through this album, and you hear the massive audience erupt in giddy pleasure, you will too. There may never be a more perfect hard rock song, and everybody knew it; Kurt did too.

Hard Rock hasn’t been the same since this band ceased to exist, so I don’t blame anyone that ignores the most recent releases from the genre. But if you’re even a casual fan of Nirvana, you have no business not owning Live at Reading. As a matter of fact, if you only buy one rock album this year, do yourself a huge favor and make it this one.


50 Cent's "Before I Self Destruct": The Death of Mainstream Gangsta Rap?

Rating: 3/5

It could be said that 50 Cent is the last, great Gangsta Rapper.

Rising from an unknown Queens drug dealer to an underground hero/industry target…then from a bullet-ridden mixtape rapper without a deal to the most successful gangsta rapper of all time, 50 Cent’s career is absolutely fascinating. He makes enemies with practically everyone, he’s shamelessly lent his name to any endorsement deal with the right bottom line (and made millions and millions of dollars in the process), and since the release of his classic debut “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” 50 Cent seems to have completely forsaken any kind of artistic innovation, settling into the formulaic and radio-ready on 2005’s “The Massacre” and its disappointing follow-up, 2007’s “Curtis”. Yeah guys…he didn’t name the album (or the movie) “Get Critically-acclaimed or Die Trying,” you feel me?

But when Kanye West’s “Graduation” outsold Curtis in the first week of their simultaneous release and spawned multiple smash hits (while Curtis quickly fell from the charts), many, most definitely including 50 himself, began to wonder if the public had finally gotten over the hedonistic allure of gangsta rap in general and 50’s antics in particular. 50 had allowed himself to turn into some kind of real life, rapping Supervillian; wealthy and powerful, but unscrupulous, mean-spirited and wholly self-interested. So 50 retreated to the studio and made what he claims to be a return to the intoxicating brutality of his earlier work, and his best album ever, “Before I Self Destruct.” Well…he’s wrong. But get passed that little problem and you’ll probably be quite satisfied. The record is definitely somewhat darker than his previous album, and aside from the Neyo-assisted first single “Baby By Me”, one of the few moments here where 50 is obviously reaching for radio play, the album forgoes the mind-numbing pop collaborations that bogged down Curtis.

50’s definitely not trying to soften up his image. Over a formulaic but effective sample from Gladys Knight and the Pips’ “If I Was Your Woman”, 50 spews “I’m pretty like a Harlem nigga/A shooter like a Brooklyn nigga/I’m as hustler. It don’t get no bigger/Queens! Southside til they bury me.” On the ominous, Dr. Dre-produced “Death To My Enemies” 50 sends a few shots at Game and Lil Wayne, boasting “I bring money to my niggas that bring death to my enemies.” And 50 has no trouble keeping up with Eminem on “Psycho”, one of the album’s definite standouts. “Crime Wave” is where 50 Cent hits pay dirt however, adopting an at once both arrogant and menacing flow over a razor-sharp, hard-as-nails beat. The song works perfectly, as do many others on Before I Self Destruct. But it’s nothing new. Nothing you haven’t heard before.

Unfortunately, Before I Self Destruct’s true significance may be the way it highlights how stagnant, uninspired and boring mainstream gangsta rap has become.