Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jay-Z Brings Out Kanye West at Isle of Wight Festival

Jay-Z headlined the Isle of Wight Festival in the UK last weekend. During his set he brought out a special guest - Kanye West. West has slowly but surely been easing his way back into the spotlight. Two weeks ago he released his the first single titled, "Power" off of his upcoming album Good Ass Job due out in September. He's also performing at the BET Awards on June 27. Watch as Mr. West shocks the crowd and prove that the best way to be forgiven is to rock a show.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The Infamous (and awkward) Kobe Bryant Press Confrence

You're sure sportswriters everywhere just love to interview Kobe Bryant, right? Wrong. The best player in the NBA is also the worst interview in the NBA - in press conferences anyway. A journalism friend of mine sent me a link to this video full of Kobe's press conference highlights. The Lakers star has it down to a science. Simply, give a series of one-word answers, cliches, sarcastic laughs, and rub your face when annoyed and wallah! You've successfully mastered the worst press conference interview ever.

I know Kobe does speak more in some interviews, but his lack of printable answers in press conferences is ridiculous at times. My dad thinks he speaks less in pressers because he doesn't want to give any bulletin board material. That may be true, but I think Kobe's easily bothered by lots of questions. As a former athlete, I know the feeling (although nowhere near to the same extent). If the Lakers win Game 7 of the NBA Finals against the Celtics tomorrow night, I'm sure Kobe will have plenty more to say... I hope.

Album Review: Drake - Thank Me Later

Grade: A-

My Three Favorite Tracks: "Light Up", "Fireworks", "Over"

What does it mean to keep it real? In hip-hop keeping it real has often meant keeping your eye to the streets or “the game” from which you come from - to display a reality to many who know nothing of the sort.

Drake redefines what it means to keep it real. On his debut album Thank Me Later the Canadian actor turned rap phenom doesn’t rap about the streets, clubbing, or thug life. He raps about emotion and proves that a rapper doesn’t have to be hard all the time to keep it real. Like his famed mixtape So Far Gone, he’s vulnerable, meditative, and honest. He shifts hip-hop from the streets to modern introspection for everyone to hear and even relate to. A concept first explored in 2008 by Kanye West’s 808’s and Heartbreak, and later followed by Kid Cudi’s Man on the Moon, Drake consistently displays the ability to make you feel something.

Part of what separates Drake from others is, despite his subsistent fame, his style makes him touchable. In contrast, listen to Jay-Z or his mentor, Lil’ Wayne. They’re lyrics, style, and personas make them untouchable and difficult to relate to. Drake speaks to most. He’s afraid, still seeks fame, and is humbled by it. He hurts, feels, and reflects in a refreshing way that’s further enhanced by his solid, nasally tone and tight flow.

The album’s first single, “Over” hits you with a surprising hook that speaks to young people wanting to live the life and be successful. It’s a triumphant opening single, solidifying his ascendance to hip-hop celebrity status. The second single, “Find Your Love” is closer to the rest of the album, which is a distant, misty fog full of harmonious tones and wavy synthesizers, and a trance of 808 drums. Even up-tempo tracks “Fancy”, “Unforgettable”, and “Miss Me” fade into a foggy coda.

The subdued Drake shines as it is in those moments when we are invited into the depths of Drake’s mind and flow. Few artists are able to display such a sense of restraint while giving you so much. Drake consistently takes strong chances with long verses, shocking beats, unique jerky hooks, and personal lyrics. His trademark variations in vocal levels create a different feel to every verse, which is something rarely heard. Songs like “Fireworks” and “Shut It Down” linger but their melodic tones capture you like an arresting symphony.

Thank Me Later features cameos from heavy-hitters Alicia Keys, T.I., Swizz Beats, The Dream, Young Jeezy, Nicki Minaj, and Jay-Z. However, the only truly memorable verse was delivered by Jay-Z on “Light Up”. Drake succeeds in not being outdone on his own album.

Many will call Drake’s debut average partially due to its hype, but upon a further look, Thank Me Later is complete - meant to be heard from start to finish. It has no wasted tracks and each song complements the other. It reads like a story book, ending with “Thank Me Now” – a triumphant, boastful finale with an infectious beat. Drake pulls off being himself and telling his stories. They’re stories better than most our own. They’re stories that make keeping it real realer than you knew it could get.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Song of the Day: Common ft. Lily Allen - "Drivin' Me Wild"

I bought my first Common CD last week, which is inexcusable. He is one of the best rappers to ever touch a mic and his political and societal-conscious lyrics are second to none. For some reason I never bought his CD's. My official intro into the Common world was serviced by his Finding Forever CD, released in July of 2007. I've been a fan of Common ever since he released his single "Retrospect For Life" featuring Lauryn Hill back in the early '90's. Now, I'm on a mission to get every CD he's released. His latest release was the techno-funk inspired Universal Mind Control released in December 2008. And word is he's currently working on his next one possibly due out later this year or early next.

The video below is "Drivin' Me Wild" featuring English pop star Lily Allen. It's a single off of Finding Forever and is one of my favorite Common tracks. Enjoy.