Archive for February, 2003

Imagine, if you will, you are Jay-Z. It’s early December (2001) and you are getting’ ready to celebrate your birthday with a large group of friends and family. Christmas is right around the corner, your multi-platinum album The Blueprint is still goin’ strong, and you have a highly anticipated “unplugged” album set to drop.

Ahh, all is well in Gotham. Then . . . WHAM! (the street release single “Stillmatic”), BAM! (“Got Urself A Gun”), BOOM! (“Ether”). You’re suddenly blind-sided by a series of napalm bombs, courtesy of one Nasir Jones. Jay Hova had been lyrically annihilated quicker than a Taliban Toyota pick-up caught in the crosshairs of a next generation smart bomb.

The obvious question arose. Would he rebound, would he seek revenge with a “Takeover, part deux” A-Bomb of his own? Everyone was waiting, but instead, Jay rushed his reply and came out with the infinitely weak, “Superugly”, an attempt at redemption ridiculed by everyone from Allen Iverson to Jay’s own mother.

Jay confirmed his defeat by appearing on the radio the next morning, sounding like a whining, broken individual. His voice cracked, he sounded hurt, scared, and shook up, talking about how the vulgarity of “Ether” was offensive to him as a man.

The King of New York had been knocked from his throne, but for how long? Well, if his recent release The Blueprint 2 is any kind of indication, it may be a while. And to make matters worse, and more to the point, Nas keeps putting out the hottest music in rap, as evidenced by both tracks like “Doo Rags”, “Purple”, and God’s Son‘s lead single “Made U Look”, as well as his guest appearances with Scarface, 2Pac, and J. Lo earlier this year.

God’s Son is monumental in terms of the current power struggle in hip-hop. Whether you like it or not, “Ether” did this. With God’s Son, Nas has the opportunity to cement his status as the King of N.Y., at least for another 3-4 year term, or he could prove that he is not the savior that hip-hop fans should be pinning their hopes on.

As if anticipating this, Nas comes out with all guns blazin’ on “Get Down”, where he provides the kind of mental imagery that only he can. Simply put, kid is sick and very few MCs on this earth can match him verse for verse.

One such master of the mic who could go tit for tat with the Queensbridge native is the man many right-wingers are calling evil incarnate these days, my melanin deficient brother Slim Shady. Em took a lil’ time out from promoting 8 Mile to provide the bumps for the hot little ditty “The Cross”.

Now before you start fantasizing about Marshall and Nas spittin’ back and forth at one another, go ahead and kill that thought. For reasons unknown, the virtuoso of venom does something more producers should take note of these days and lets the artist do their thing while he just mans the mixing board. Never the less, the track is dope.

The lead single, “Made U Look”, has been getting’ mad airplay for a while now and should make any rapper tryin’ to either establish, maintain, or elevate his/her status take notice. No Beyonce, no Bobby Brown, just some bangin’ ass lyrics. And that pattern continues on the cut “Last Real Nigga Alive”, where we find Nas discussing the complex inter-personal dynamics between NYC artists, ranging from himself to Jay-Z, Puff, the Wu, and Biggie.

On “I Can”, the listener finds a rather simple hook and an elementary beat wrapped around a noble message. A positive track encouraging kids to stay focused and never give up on their dreams, instilling the belief that anything is possible, it’s easy to overlook the cut’s production shortcomings.

Claudette Ortiz of City High and The Neptunes’ good pal Kelis, of ODB’s “Got Your Money” fame, drop in to sing the infectious hook on “Hey Nas”, a joint that makes me wanna dial up Nelly & Ja Rule to tell ’em how to make an R&B joint and still stay street. This jam and a re-working of the acoustic version of 2Pac’s “Thugz Mansion” only add to the album’s appeal.

The most introspective Nas track in years, “Dance”, has our man pleading for one last opportunity to express his gratitude towards his recently deceased mother Anne. One can feel the guy’s pain, giving us a glimpse of the kind of humanity rarely seen from someone in his profession.

While this album isn’t quite as good as the now legendary Stillmatic, it is one of the best hip-hop discs to drop in some time. A collection of volatile, insightful, thought-provoking lyrics set upon a variety of sonic backdrops, it’s a must have for anyone who dares to call themselves a connoisseur of hip-hop.

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Imagine, if you will, you are Jay-Z. It’s early December (2001) and you are getting’ ready to celebrate your birthday with a large group of friends and family. Christmas is right around the corner, your multi-platinum album The Blueprint is still goin’ strong, and you have a highly anticipated “unplugged” album set to drop.

Ahh, all is well in Gotham. Then . . . WHAM! (the street release single “Stillmatic”), BAM! (“Got Urself A Gun”), BOOM! (“Ether”). You’re suddenly blind-sided by a series of napalm bombs, courtesy of one Nasir Jones. Jay Hova had been lyrically annihilated quicker than a Taliban Toyota pick-up caught in the crosshairs of a next generation smart bomb.

The obvious question arose. Would he rebound, would he seek revenge with a “Takeover, part deux” A-Bomb of his own? Everyone was waiting, but instead, Jay rushed his reply and came out with the infinitely weak, “Superugly”, an attempt at redemption ridiculed by everyone from Allen Iverson to Jay’s own mother.

Jay confirmed his defeat by appearing on the radio the next morning, sounding like a whining, broken individual. His voice cracked, he sounded hurt, scared, and shook up, talking about how the vulgarity of “Ether” was offensive to him as a man.

The King of New York had been knocked from his throne, but for how long? Well, if his recent release The Blueprint 2 is any kind of indication, it may be a while. And to make matters worse, and more to the point, Nas keeps putting out the hottest music in rap, as evidenced by both tracks like “Doo Rags”, “Purple”, and God’s Son‘s lead single “Made U Look”, as well as his guest appearances with Scarface, 2Pac, and J. Lo earlier this year.

God’s Son is monumental in terms of the current power struggle in hip-hop. Whether you like it or not, “Ether” did this. With God’s Son, Nas has the opportunity to cement his status as the King of N.Y., at least for another 3-4 year term, or he could prove that he is not the savior that hip-hop fans should be pinning their hopes on.

As if anticipating this, Nas comes out with all guns blazin’ on “Get Down”, where he provides the kind of mental imagery that only he can. Simply put, kid is sick and very few MCs on this earth can match him verse for verse.

One such master of the mic who could go tit for tat with the Queensbridge native is the man many right-wingers are calling evil incarnate these days, my melanin deficient brother Slim Shady. Em took a lil’ time out from promoting 8 Mile to provide the bumps for the hot little ditty “The Cross”.

Now before you start fantasizing about Marshall and Nas spittin’ back and forth at one another, go ahead and kill that thought. For reasons unknown, the virtuoso of venom does something more producers should take note of these days and lets the artist do their thing while he just mans the mixing board. Never the less, the track is dope.

The lead single, “Made U Look”, has been getting’ mad airplay for a while now and should make any rapper tryin’ to either establish, maintain, or elevate his/her status take notice. No Beyonce, no Bobby Brown, just some bangin’ ass lyrics. And that pattern continues on the cut “Last Real Nigga Alive”, where we find Nas discussing the complex inter-personal dynamics between NYC artists, ranging from himself to Jay-Z, Puff, the Wu, and Biggie.

On “I Can”, the listener finds a rather simple hook and an elementary beat wrapped around a noble message. A positive track encouraging kids to stay focused and never give up on their dreams, instilling the belief that anything is possible, it’s easy to overlook the cut’s production shortcomings.

Claudette Ortiz of City High and The Neptunes’ good pal Kelis, of ODB’s “Got Your Money” fame, drop in to sing the infectious hook on “Hey Nas”, a joint that makes me wanna dial up Nelly & Ja Rule to tell ’em how to make an R&B joint and still stay street. This jam and a re-working of the acoustic version of 2Pac’s “Thugz Mansion” only add to the album’s appeal.

The most introspective Nas track in years, “Dance”, has our man pleading for one last opportunity to express his gratitude towards his recently deceased mother Anne. One can feel the guy’s pain, giving us a glimpse of the kind of humanity rarely seen from someone in his profession.

While this album isn’t quite as good as the now legendary Stillmatic, it is one of the best hip-hop discs to drop in some time. A collection of volatile, insightful, thought-provoking lyrics set upon a variety of sonic backdrops, it’s a must have for anyone who dares to call themselves a connoisseur of hip-hop.

With rumors circulating about a Jodeci reunion release dropping later this year about as rampant as alcohol/drug related arrests in the Bush family, you may be wondering why vocal duo K-Ci & Jo Jo would want to drop another project. It goes without question that, since Jodeci’s hiatus, these two have had some pretty impressive spin-off success with singles like “All My Life”, “Tell Me It’s Real”, and “Crazy”, but is it enough for yet another release?

Some seem to think so. In a world full of inconsistency, it appears that people are looking for comfort in reliability when it comes to music, which is something these fellas have been able to deliver. Their latest effort, Emotional, is full of what their fan base has grown accustomed to: old-school R&B and classic, soul-filled love songs with a “let’s take it back to church” twist.

The difference between the smooth, lovers’ R&B made by most vocal groups and that made by brothers Joel “JoJo” Hailey and Cedric “K-Ci” Hailey on Emotional is, surprisingly enough, soul.

They sing with the thunderous, lung-busting testimonial fervour you’d expect from guys raised in the Pentecostal church of North Carolina. Coupled with the chops worked out as half of Jodeci, it’s no wonder the duo’s aptly titled Emotional makes many other R&B records seem positively anemic by comparison even if K-Ci and JoJo mine the same lyrical turf.

Ergo, pronouncements of eternal devotion on songs such as “I Don’t Want” (anybody else but you) and “Down for Life” (ditto, though written and produced by Babyface) are propelled as much by K-Ci and JoJo’s dulcet tones as lush layers of strings and synth. If only that fickle beast called love was as consistently pleasing as these two crooners.

“This Very Moment” ( a song suited for marriage proposals), “Love Me Carefully” (produced by The Underdogs), “Goodbye”, and “How Can I Trust You” offer the painstaking love revelations that have become their signature on the air-waves, although “Special” may be one of the most radio-friendly songs offered this go round.

There are a couple of up-tempo tunes including “I Don’t Want”, on which the brothers Hailey profess to be one-woman men (“I don’t want anybody else / If I can’t be with you, I’d rather be by myself”) and the multi-tracked sound of Rodney Jerkins on “It’s Me”, a sure-fire club hit about a man finding out that his woman is really a gold digger.

There are even a couple of “Wait a minute, is that you, Dalvin and DeVante?” flashback tracks, including “Say Yes” and “So Emotional”, but after a few bars you know they are just teasers, possibly a taste of what’s to come.

Needless to say, there’s no hidden meaning in the album’s title. “We have a lot of songs dealing with a lot of emotions,” K-Ci explained of the duo’s fourth record, which dropped November 26th of last year. “K-Ci & JoJo do songs about what goes on in relationships, it don’t necessarily have to be about our personal experiences. We just want to write songs people can relate to.”

One subject that didn’t come up in writing material for the album is K-Ci’s arrest last year for indecent exposure. The singer said the incident was a misunderstanding and he hasn’t thought about it much since.

“What happened was, if you know K-Ci & JoJo, you know I love to go into the audience,” he explained. “And what happened was I jumped in and got back onstage, and without my knowledge they had ripped my belt off. My pants were soaking wet and falling down and I don’t know what happened, but I would never do anything like that. There wasn’t nothing but kids in the audience. I’m a proud father of two children and I would never disrespect someone else’s children.”

Other producers on Emotional include Mike “Smoove” Bell, Babyboy and Babyface, who collaborated on “Down for Life”. “Face respects our talent, that’s why I love working with him,” JoJo said. “He’ll put you on that street, but you need to know when to stop and when to go and how fast to drive. He lets you get involved and be yourself.”

K-Ci & JoJo will promote the follow-up to 2000’s X with a tour set to kick off next year with Gerald Levert and Dave Hollister. “We’re going to call it Ladies Night or Ladies Only,” JoJo said.

The duo, brothers Cedric and Joel Hailey, have also written more than 100 songs with Dalvin DeGrate and DeVante Swing for the first album from Jodeci in seven years, due next spring. “It’s going to sound like [classic] Jodeci,” K-Ci said. “We don’t want no outside producers, nothing but ourselves.”

And judging by the duo’s strict policy of adhering to “whatever worked the last time around” that means we R&B fans could be in for the mother-of-all-booty-gettin’ albums.