Sunday, October 31, 2004

718 stand up, Talib Kweli BK MC

some songs on Beautiful Struggle that I hadn't already heard and/or written about before it dropped

"Back Up Offa Me"
The best of the 3 Hi Tek productions on the album. I'm still kind of surprised about Hi Tek becoming a go-to producer for G-Unit (although I guess that goes way back to 50 using the "Round And Round" beat for "Surrounded By Hoes"), but it makes total sense when I hear beats like this, which Lloyd or Game would sound perfect on. I was glad when Kweli stopped working exclusively with Hi Tek but if they did another whole album together now it would probably be pretty good with how their respective newer styles click.

"Broken Glass"
Everyone was kind of taken aback by this, '04 Neptunes in non-shitty beat shocker! I know I got on a rant a while back about my hatred for slightly offbeat cowbell parts in beats, but that doesn't ruin this. The best part is the guitar riff that doesn't even show up until halfway through the 2nd verse, I wish they held back on tricks like that more often.

"A Game"
A game as in B game, C game, etc. "Geffen don't fuck this shit up, shit, ship it gold so I could sell like the whole Jigga back catalog." The kind of squeaky synthy beat that never goes out of style on the west coast. Great start/stop bits on the hook.

"We Got The Beat" f/ Res
Starts out with a cool electro beat like "A Game" but then the chorus comes in with generic live drums/rock guitar thing and they never really pull off the retro "Planet Rock" thing they're going for. The bridge is silly and Kweli goes "zuh zuh zuh" and I have no idea what it means when he says "you just a clone like KFC", but it reminds me of how sometimes in the hood you'll see a place called Kennedy Fried Chicken that has the same red/white color scheme and a similiar logo as the real KFC, there's one in Baltimore on Greenmount.

"Black Girl Pain" f/ Jean Grae
Easily the best thing MIDI Mafia have ever done, backwards-sounding samples and weird little girl voices talking and singing and awesome bassline, it's all so creepy and beautiful. Lyrically it reminds me of "For Women", the hidden track at the end of the Reflection Eternal album, which is like my most favorite Kweli song ever. Liquorporn was telling me about how the original version that was on the early leak of the album is called "Hold Your Hands Up High" and it's way better and that this version is too 'overproduced', so I wanna hear that but I think this is pretty great as is.

"Never Been In Love"
I was hoping the Just Blaze track would be one of his hyper bangers but instead he pulls out the pretty midtempo "Song Cry"/"Can't Let You Go" style he hasn't done a lot of lately with sampled "oooh"'s. You'd think that Kweli's too verbose and boring to really pull off the love joints convincingly but he puts this tenderness in his voice and always makes them work, even if they're a little too nu-soul sometimes ("Talk To You" off Quality is a great super-gentle love rap, it's like one of the only hip hop songs I've ever put on a mixtape for my girlfriend).

It's weird that Beautiful Struggle seems to be getting more Okayplayer hating and 'sell out' type comments than Quality did, since that was way more of a departure from his image than this is. If anything, I'm disappointed that he didn't go all the way with it. I mean, the Beautiful Mixtape had a bunch of non-backpacker-friendly guests (Fab, Styles, Busta, etc), but on the album the only guest MCs are Jean Grae and Common, plus a bunch of R&B singers. He should've packed it with big guests to get the average rap head excited. I mean, Jay and 50 give him props, the least he can do is get some second string Roc/G-Unit guys on there. Plus it's the first time he's done an album without any Dave Chappelle skits on it, Chappelle even hosted the Beautiful Mixtape (and the first appearance of his Rick James impression was on "Touch You" on the Reflection Eternal album!). I mean I could give a damn if he has skits on the album or not but he could've got him back on there to get some extra attention. And at least when Quality had a weak first single, "Get By" was sitting there just waiting to be a hit. I'm curious what the 2nd single off Beautiful Struggle will be because nothing is leaping out as really obvious, except maybe the corny Police jack. But fuck the haters anyway.

I found this album virtually unlisteneable - the beats tended towards really saccharine and there was nothing nearly as good as "Good to You" or "Get By" or "The Blast" or what have you. The okayplayerhaters are hating because his album went "commercial" but they should hate because it's boring.
Also I hope you aren't one of those ppl who think the Neptunes beat on the Snoop song was wack - I dropped that at a party and reaction was great. Plus its got those awesome 80s synth keyboards.
yeah, the bottom line is that the album isn't that good, but I still don't think it deserves all the hate. i like at least 5 songs (all the ones i mentioned minus "We Got The Beat"), which is not a bad number these days.

"Drop It Like It's Hot" is okay. Breihan's review on Pitchfork summed up my feelings about it pretty well; it's more weird than it is good, and that it's catchy and enjoyable feels like kind of a fluke given their recent track record.
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