RAVEN MACK is a mystic poet-philosopher-artist of the Greater Appalachian unorthodox tradition who publishes zines & physical books & electronic books & music & photography & digital art & just generally whatever feels necessary to survive this deluded earth thru Rojonekku Word Fighting Arts survival systems (Version 69, establish 14 Feb 1973). Comments encouraged.

Monday, February 20

[HH3os] A Purple Grand Don't Document Hazy Free trio

(1st round match-up 1 of 27)

The Streets – A Grand Don’t Come for Free
(released May 17, 2004; #3 on 2004 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
The Streets is NPR-ready as fuck, as white British rapper speaking upon the horrible mundane daily existence in our 21st Century world is perfect for NPR’s neo-liberal ongoing existential crisis that capitalism lacks spirit at heart (and in heart, or perhaps heart itself, idk) no matter how good it gets. The Streets is talking about life where no outright atrocities are necessarily happening that are gonna get hashtags into the streets (no big pun intended), but the slow death by a thousand cuts speaks to that neo-liberal world, where one can relate and thus considered themselves oppressed as well. (Make no mistake, we are all oppressed, just some are pressed down on way harder than others, but we’re all up under that shit.)
I like The Streets, I do, but first-time through this I found some of it too mundane, too boring, and not content-wise but in delivery. Some of the hooks were too Anglicanized R&B-ish, and his rhyming style is painstakingly slow at times, like he’s wasting all these spaces for syllables and it drives me crazy, because it doesn’t sound like an effort to be effortless, but like maybe he’s not all that great? Not bad, but not great.
Second-time through it all worked better, but I think I was more into the middle of my own mundane work week, and likely had listened literally to NPR to lolol in horror at El Presidente Trump’s latest assaults on status quo convention. And when he The Streets hits, as happens on that long ass “Empty Cans” song at the end of this album, the shit hits. It doesn’t hit like “fuck yeah, it’s Friday, let’s burn up the world, get high, and not give a fuck!” so much as it hits like “well, I was able to juggle shit to make both my electric cut-off and the minimum payment on that medical care credit card bill from that x-ray two years ago, and I got money enough left for a full tank of gas which is gonna go at least two days past payday in four days, so fuck yeah!” but there’s no exclamation really involved, just quiet mundane resignation that we are doomed but there is no alternative so fuck it, let’s just keep pretending until we die, and then our kids can inherit the debt.
THREE STARS (but it’s overcast as fuck, so they hard to see)

Cam’ron – Purple Haze
(released December 7, 2004; #9 on 2005 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
First wave hipsters loved Dipset, and that was some early ass “not intelligent in traditional sense of intelligent” hip hop that crossed over to that group of people, although is there really any such thing as “first wave hipsters” or even “hipsters” as that shit’s been with us since the beginning of markets. There were hipsters at the confluence of the Tigris and Euphrates. But nonetheless, I’m trying to keep this related to internet gentrification (roughly) as a theme, and Brooklyn in infant gentrification blossom seemed to be a place where the Internet came to be full-on IRL, all around. It’s like that everywhere now, where you go to a protest and people basically put tweets on posterboard, and motherfuckers try to live memes (cosplay?). I don’t know… I ain’t trying to be all old man shaking his fist about the shit, because ultimately I don’t give a fuck what people do to make life enjoyable (so long as it doesn’t infringe upon others) but shit seems so inorganic and manufactured a lot of times. I don’t like manufactured; I like trees and crows and rust and concrete blocks and shit like that.
I guess the “so long as it doesn’t infringe upon others” part gets sketchy and blurred when you think about gentrification uprooting people who can no longer afford somewhere, or when digital voices become extremely marginalized (which they remain to be, and always will be, because though mainstream’s course shifts, it always skips a ton of motherfuckers by).
But I digress, as this is about how well this Cam’ron album still flows. Guess what? It flows well enough. It has that slight-interconnection-by-skit-theme thing going on (aka The De La), and Cam is just out of control with his style at this point, sounding lazy as fuck (“I get computers ‘puting” for example) but not lazy because you know his mind is working tight as fuck, just not thinking all consciously about everything. It’s weird this came out in December, because this is first warm spring weekend of year as fuck music, with your fresh earned income credit tattoo all healed up, rocking the bootleg Hardwood Classics jersey (embroidered & stitched, always… fuck that screenprint shit), and just vibe the fuck out.
There’s also something to be said for crews being where all your features come from, because philosophically, Dipset is right there with Cam (in fact, following his lead one would guess), and all those features help cleanse the palate to continuously be refreshed with Cam’s lazy ass near perfect cadences. 40 minutes straight of Cam might wear on you, but click in those sixteen bars of Jim Jones ass, it’s like hitting the refresh button on that twitter timeline (internet gentrification subtweet).
Also of note is some of these beats very obviously are Kanye beats, and sometimes man it’s so great to hear the right flow on a heralded beat style. I’m not the biggest fan of Kanye (in fact throughout this dumbass project, I’m sure will involve me wrestling with my conflicted feelings about Kanye) but when you get Cam’s flow over a Kanye beat? That shit’s about as perfect as mid-2000s will get (the aughts decade, not the whole century, because I’m sure other shit will be perfect in 25 years).
CLEAR AS FUCK THREE STARS (plus it’s like the night before full moon so essentially it full moon, and warm)

The Game – The Documentary
(released January 18, 2005; #35 on 2005 Pitchfork Albums of the Year list)
Listening to The Game is kinda depressing, because the dude tries so hard, name-dropping everybody on Earth, swearing he’s the new N.W.A or new Compton or new this or that. It’s actually kinda pathetic, and at first I was annoyed by it and straight hating on his ass, assuming he just sat there reading copies of The Source obsessively. But ultimately I felt sorry for the dude, because he’s trying so hard to be seen as a great, to be accepted, and there has to be some underlying personal issues behind that. I hope since this time The Game has gotten some therapy.
The music is Dre at peak Aftermath pop hip hop manufactory mode, where the beats lack urgency but hit all the appropriate high hats and bass kicks that test well in marketing. There’s plenty of sing-song 50 Cent hooks which lack any real punch but sound like corn syrup for the radio, and help saturate The Game’s songs into your goddamn sub-conscious. Even features with Eminem are pure pop double-tracked (to give false impression of thickness) vocals that sound like they are obliterating the mic but ultimately ain’t said a single goddamned thing that stays with you two days later. It’s pure manufactured hip hop, much like fast food, in that it appears to be food, and tastes like food, and fits the definition of food, but ultimately lacks sustenance and your ass remains hungry, but they don’t care because they just manufactured some other weak ass shit like this to feed your always hungry ass.
TWO STARS (but only because I ain’t doing no partial star bullshit since I don’t see partial stars in the actual sky, and I don’t have the heart to give a sad dude a single star for what’s widely considered his greatest work in life)


THE WINNER: Cam’ron, and it wasn’t even close, though maybe with a third listen, the Streets might’ve sparked my ingrained whiteness and made a comeback attempt, like an Ivy League school trying to upset Kansas in the NCAA tournament. But as it stands, Cam advances to 2nd round of this bullshit.

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