Monday, December 21, 2009

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Top 10 Hip Hop Albums Of The Decade. #1 Speakerboxxx/The Love Below (2003) - Outkast

It’s one thing to attempt to do something different, it’s another thing to succeed wildly at it. From the moment I first heard “Hey Ya” I knew we were in for a roller coaster ride. Andre 3000 crooning’ and playing guitar? Crazy right? For the rest of his side of the album, Andre kept pushing further and further off the deep end, channeling Prince, Cameo and Rick James, and pursuing whatever inspiration that hit him at the moment. He did all of this while having a blast, rarely rapping but never losing his profound sense of rhythm. It was a complicated balancing act to say the least. But Andre threaded the needle brilliantly.

While Andre was emerging as the Golden Boy -- collecting glamorous friends, winning “best dressed awards” and generally staking his claim to the moniker of “coolest person on the planet” -- Big Boi was serving up his usual offering of top-shelf, dirty south crunk music. While he couldn’t outdo Andre, he certainly outdid himself. He doubled down on the stankiness on his way towards stringing together the most badass tracks of his career, none better than the lead single to contrast with “Hey Ya”, the seductive “The Way You Move”.

Everything about this 29 song, 102 minute opus was left of center, including the fact that the dynamic duo did not really collaborate very much. It was basically a collection of solo singles from two artists headed in two different directions. Conventional wisdom would flag that as a recipe for disaster, but the 11 million copies sold suggests otherwise.

The Top 10 Hip Hop Albums Of The Decade. #2 Graduation (2007) - Kanye West

I have a lot of patience for talent and talent is something Kanye West has a lot of. For “Graduation”, it’s critical to strip away the artist in order to appreciate the artistry. Nobody composes big, celebratory hip hop tracks like Kanye. And on “Graduation” he was firing on all cylinders, improving on his impressive first two albums with inventive samples, lush instrumentation and pulsating drum patterns. Listen to the run of amazing tracks. “Stronger”, “Flashing Lights”, “Homecoming”, “Good Life”, “Can’t Tell Me Nothing”; these records weren’t just good, they were special. Give them another spin right now and they'll sound better than they did two years ago. That's the hallmark of a true classic. Say what you want about what a jackass he is, but no artist did more to write the soundtrack of our lives in the 2000’s than Mr. West and “Graduation” was his greatest triumph. Being the best in the world at what you do is no excuse for bad behavior but that shouldn’t stop us from honoring a pitch perfect rap album.

The Top 10 Hip Hop Albums Of The Decade. #3 Get Rich Or Die Tryin' (2003) - 50 Cent

The 50 Cent character we know today, the part-time rapper, full-time brand manager, hawking everything from Vitamin Water to cologne, is nothing like the guy from 2003’s “Get Rich Or Die Tryin’”. That 50 Cent delivered one of the greatest pieces of gangsta pop music you’re ever going to hear. “Get Rich” was a brilliant collection of menacing club tracks, laced with sweet hooks and phat baselines. Dr. Dre’s impeccable production work, dark, ominous and synthesized into eerie perfection, provided a perfect canvas for 50 to unleash hell on an unsuspecting public.

He started modestly with “Wanksta”, a nifty little put down on wannabe neighborhood big shots. Then he exploded with “In Da Club”, a song with a groove so deep and punch lines so crisp that hearing it a million and one times couldn’t diminish its appeal. What made the album truly special however was the fact that 50 Cent was never overshadowed by all those astounding beats. As a front man he proved to be charismatic and engaging, illuminating his colorful back story with wit and humor. His hunger for rap superstardom fueled every verse, you could hear it in his voice and feel it in his often surprisingly poignant lyrics. “If David could go against Goliath with a stone, I can go at Nas and Jigga both for the throne” he rapped on “High All The Time”, stating his intentions in no uncertain terms.

The Top 10 Hip Hop Albums Of The Decade. #4 The Black Album (2003) - Jay-Z

When Jay-Z announced that “The Black Album” would be his last he put self-imposed pressure on himself to deliver something over-the-top for his grand finale. I don’t know if it was the renewed sense of urgency or the rush of attempting the impossible, but it’s obvious the incentive worked. Hov delivered in spades, “The Black Album” was indeed a tour de force. It helped that Jay-Z was able to demand the best production work imaginable from the world’s most worthy producers. His assembled team of luminaries, including Kanye, Timbaland, The Neptunes, Just Blaze, and Rick Rubin, all contributed stellar tracks.

But Jay-Z never let you forget that he was the true star of the show. For the entire album, he was transcendent. His gifts for bedazzling word play, finger-on-the-pulse culture references and showmanship were all on display. Appropriately however, this was one of the few times where he decided to temper his legendary boasting to offer more introspection, reflecting on a career in the spotlight and offering pieces of himself to his adoring public for his swan song. It was like he channeled everything he’d learned about his craft into delivering his greatest performance during his final hour. From the back-and-forth with himself verses on “99 Problems”, to the frustrated musings on “What More Can I Say” to the sheer audacity of “Interlude”, never has Jay-Z’s star shined so brightly on the strength of such a magnificent display lyrical prowess. “The Black Album” is where Shawn Carter earned my vote as The Greatest Of All Time.

The Top 10 Hip Hop Albums Of The Decade. #5 Tha Carter III (2008) - Lil Wayne

For some Lil Wayne is the second coming. For others his madcap rhymes are nothing more than a garbled mess, cleverly packaged as new millennial avant-garde hip hop. For Me “Tha Carter III” was validation of something I already knew but didn’t want to admit. Wayne was a thrilling emcee whose talents could no longer be denied or contained.

“Tha Carter III” was the culmination of a five year run that saw Wayne transform from also-ran Hot Boy to pop music icon. The statement was bold, fearless and indelible. “Lollipop” was the album’s fire starter, a jittery, Auto-Tuned, fantastic voyage of a record that found its way into every crevice of our collective existence. Then came the succession of world-beating singles that set the summer of ‘08 ablaze. There was “Get Money” for the clubs, “A Milli” for the streets, “Mrs. Officer” for the radio and “Mr. Carter” for the non-believers. Wayne was everywhere. At the height of his ubiquity he seemed to be the only MC available for hire. You might still be a skeptic, but you’ve got to respect the fact that for one moment in time, Wayne and his daring imagination stood above all.

The Top 10 Hip Hop Albums Of The Decade. #6 The Eminem Show (2002) - Eminem

“The Eminem Show”, the third album from Eminem’s remarkable trilogy, was to me his finest. At 8x platinum, it was definitely his most successful. Much more than commercial accolades however, Em wanted respect; recognition from hip hop aficionados that he deserved to be mentioned on rap’s short list of elites. The record was his all-out attempt to leave his mark on the genre. I’d say: mission accomplished. Compared to “Slim Shady” and “Marshall Mathers” this record was much more understated, Em dialed down his desire for shock value in search of flawless song crafting and intense soul searching. On tracks like “Sing For the Moment” and “Till I Collapse” he rapped with unabashed earnestness. He even broke into song on several occasions, wailing convincingly on “Hailey’s Song” and “Cleaning Out My Closet”.

Throughout the entire, largely self-produced effort his lyrics were razor sharp. The head-spinningly complex rhymes were by now taken for granted (re-listen to “Business” and “Square Dance” to remind yourself just how good this guy is). But what most people missed was his unique ability to manipulate his voice -- pitch, speed, rhythm, etc. -- to convey desired emotions, from frustration to anger to twisted humor. If this record didn’t provide enough evidence to add Eminem to your G.O.A.T. list then nothing he ever does ever will.

The Top 10 Hip Hop Albums Of The Decade

#7 Food And Liquor (2006) - Lupe Fiasco

From the start it was apparent that Lupe was not going to be your average knucklehead rapper. “Kick Push”, his effervescent debut single was the tip off that he was seeking higher ground. The sublime shout out to skate culture was contagious, coasting along on a jazzy mid-tempo groove and sweeping horns. For the full-length album, Lupe proved he had much more in store. Across a diverse set of intellectually demanding tracks, Lupe demonstrated a remarkably high degree of bookish creativity. Pushing boundaries musically and thinking outside of the box conceptually. It was a thoroughly refreshing take on what contemporary hip hop could sound like in the hands of an artist hell-bent on elevating the art form regardless of the commercial implications.

From “Daydreaming”, a subtle indictment on those who perpetuate hip hop stereotypes to “He Say She Say”, his lament on absentee fathers, Lupe was enthralling. And his politically charged tracks like “American Terrorist” and “Hurt Me Soul” could make Chuck D proud. But beyond the attention to detail and verbal sophistication, Lupe showed that he had the gift of flow. His voice was remarkably musical, his verses soothingly fluid. He could rap passages from War And Peace and it would still sound good. Not since Nas’s “Illmatic” had a debut artist delivered a record so mesmerizing. Lupe is indeed a throwback to the days of the true school MC’s. A rapper with a lot to say, the skill to articulate his ideas and the will to follow his own path.

The Top 10 Hip Hop Albums Of The Decade

#8 The Fix (2002) - Scarface

We all knew from his Geto Boys days that Scarface was a standout rhyme slayer. The cagey veteran has seen a few things in his day. Plus with a voice fantastically suited for gritty storytelling, he’s always been capable of spinning a compelling narrative. But few of us knew that he had “The Fix” in him so deep into his critically acclaimed yet modest solo career. What we got with this album was a first-rate collection of his most absorbing tales, dripping with street wisdom and astute observations; a dead-on survival guide for life in the urban jungle. Rather than feeling like manufactured menace, Scarface’s rhymes rung true. He didn’t have to remind us that he was “keeping it real”; we believed it based on his past deeds and current choices.

There’s also a wonderful thread of spirituality and grace that runs through the album. And Scarface goes out of his way to remind us that while life in the ghetto can be bleak, there is much joy in coming of age there as well -- friendship, family, and the collective striving of a people seeking hard won success. My favorite track on the album, “My Block”, best captures this sentiment. Few hip hop records have ever made me feel so downright proud to be from the hood; feeling fortunate to have escaped but nostalgic nevertheless for the time spent there. In Scarface’s words, "I wouldn’t trade it for the world ‘cause I love these ghetto boys and girls”.

The Top 10 Hip Hop Albums Of The Decade

#9 Phrenology (2002) - The Roots

Still waiting for the great Roots album? The signature effort that defines their careers and solidifies their legacy? Clearly you missed “Phrenology”. If The Roots had disappeared after “Phrenology”, I’d still count Black Thought, Questlove and the crew among my favorite all time groups. “Things Fall Apart” and “Do You Want More” may have had more highlights, but none of their previous albums were as consistently excellent. “Phrenology” achieved a harmonious blend of divergent influences. There was the rock tinged “Rock You” and “The Seed 2.0”, the butter smooth R&B flavors of “Sacrifice” and “Break You Off” and the straight-up break beats and battle rhymes of “Rolling With Heat” and “Thought At Work”. If you’re a fan of hip hop or appreciate the precision of seasoned musicians and superb vocalists regardless of genre, then it’s a good bet that Phrenology had something for you to love.

The Top 10 Hip Hop Albums Of The Decade

#10 Stillmatic (2001) - Nas

After giving us the best album of the 90’s with “Illmatic” Nas’s career was derailed by a series of luke warm follow up efforts. Then, just when we were about to write Nas off, Jay-Z picked a fight with him and the rest is history. Nas responded with “Ether” the lead single from “Stllmatic” that blistered Jay with sharp-tongued jabs to his ego and instantly returned Nas to the forefront of rap royalty. While “Ether” was a boomshot, “One Mic” was a masterstroke. Regarded as one of the greatest lyrical performances in rap history, it cemented Nas’s legend, certifying him as hip hop’s poet laureate and a first ballot hall of famer. The great producers dominated hip hop in the 2000s. It’s mostly their work that will fill the charts of the decade’s “Best Of” lists. But with Nas it’s always been about world-class lyricism and never was that more evident than on “Stillmatic”.

The Top 10 Hip Hop Albums Of The Decade - #11-25

The Rest Of The Top 25

The Blueprint – Jay-Z – So many hits, so many extraordinary verses, so much classic material. Jay could have ended it here and still been considered The G.O.A.T.

Stankonia – Outkast – This one softened the world up for “Speakerboxx”. It was every bit as good really, just shorter.

St. Elsewhere – Gnarls Barkley – Hip hop loosely defined and brilliantly rendered.

Watermelon, Chicken & Gritz – The Nappy Roots – The Po Folks anthem. A little Grand Mariner only enhanced the listening pleasure.

Trap Muzik – T.I. – Tip stood out amongst the glut of southern rappers thanks to his whip smart rhymes, liquid flow and infinite swagger.

Be – Common – Common hooked up with Kanye and finally made the album that lived up to our expectations.

AOI: Bionix – De La Soul – If you’re one of those who think De La stopped making music after “De La Soul Is Dead”, then you’ve missed out on one of hip hop’s most prolific groups. If you only cop one album from their unbroken string of gems since then, make it “Bionix”.

The Chronic 2001 – Dr. Dre – It took him a while but Dre came back with a vengance. He got a lot of help from his friends, including Snoop, rescued from No Limit and sounding rejuvenated.

All Of The Above – J-Live – Heady, gimmick-free back-pack rap from a True School legend. Still criminally obscure.

Blazing Arrow – Blackalicious - The Bay Area indie rap darlings earned their rep with this mellow, unassuming treasure.

The College Dropout – Kanye West - Not as focused as the next two albums, but still a game-changing debut from Kanye.

Supreme Clientele – Ghostface Killah - This is where Ghostface established himself as the most outstanding Wu Tang soloist.

Reflection Eternal – Talib Kweli & Hi Tek - The combination of Talib's exquisite mic skills and Hi Tek's masterful board work was unstoppable.

The Marshall Mathers LP - Eminem - Eminem emerged as quite likely the best rapper alive at the time with this avalanche of scathingly insightful, utterly stupendous rhymes.

The Minstrel Show – Little Brother - Based on the poor sales of this fantastic record, I can only assume that it was a little too intelligent for the general population.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Is Tiger Woods An Idiot?

Is Tiger Woods an idiot? The answer to this question is critical for shaping my worldview. In general, when famous, powerful men have been caught cheating on their wives, my knee jerk reaction has been to sneer and cry out: “what an idiot”. Mark Sanford, Elliot Spitzer, Steve McNair, the list goes on. All of these men took foolish chances, made sloppy errors in their cover up attempts and paid the price. But does this assessment really apply in the case of Tiger? I mean Tiger is way too smart for that right? He must understand that he is one of the most famous men in the world, that every move he makes is being zealously recorded. Surely he understands that he lives in the age of insatiable and abundantly available media. And someone must have told him that every phone call, email and text message he sends will leave a digital footprint that will go on his permanent record.

So why take the chance then Tiger? Why jeopardize the $100 million salary, the beautiful wife and family and the masterfully crafted image? I can only surmise that Tiger Woods can’t be that stupid. Nor was Bill Clinton or Kobe Bryant or Michael Jordan or any of the others on my list of knuckleheads.

I now have to concede, as my wife has reminded me each time, that there is something else going on here. Something more innate, something dark lurking in the souls of men. Maybe he, maybe they all, do indeed think that they are above the law. That the rules of commitment and trustworthiness don’t really apply to them. Maybe they just think they are too smart to get caught or so rich that they can buy their way out of any situation. Or maybe the rush of power chemically alters men’s brains, affecting them in ways us mere mortals can’t understand? The God Complex manifested perhaps.

For sure mere mortals also cheat. Everyday nitwits who don’t deserve their wives still somehow figure it’s ok for them to seek a little action on the side. But while no less shameful, the everyday Joes have so much less to lose. They don’t in fact have it all, not even close. Sure they should resist the temptation, if not because it’s their Christian duty, then because they should be deathly afraid of getting caught, of seeing their lives go to shambles…the divorce, the loss of their children, the golden years spent growing old alone in a dingy apartment, eating take out food in their boxer shorts. But Tiger Friggin’ Woods? $1 Billion dollars in career earnings? That’s a lot to bet on a cocktail waitress. Stupidity and arrogance are just not worthy enough to sufficiently categorize such an epic blunder.

So what have I learned? I now know that I can no longer dismiss these “transgressions” as the folly of egomaniacs who are a little too dim witted to realize that they are digging their own graves. There is a larger psychosis going on here that I can never truly understand. Power corrupts? The price of fame is an empty soul? Money can’t buy happiness? I don’t know. The truth is, I don’t know jack. I have questions but no answers.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

DJ Hero puts a spin on music gaming - The Boston Globe

Mixed reviews for DJ Hero. It's tempting, but I can't see myself dropping $120 for it.

Posted via web from lswittenberg's posterous

Friday, October 09, 2009

Our Favorite Little Luxuries: Finally Boat Shoes For Fall « Luminosity Marketing

by Lamont Swittenberg

Anyone who knows me, knows I hate cold weather. I’ve never understood why people get excited about fall just because they get to wear sweaters. Doesn’t that mean it’s gotten too cold to go out without covering up? How could that be a good thing? No, I prefer warm weather and its associated apparel: tee shirts, cargo shorts and my all time favorite…boat shoes.

That’s right, nothing beats a pair of well-worn boat shoes. They’re the height of summer chic as far as I’m concerned. Timeless, yet effortlessly of-the-moment. Rock them with shorts or a suit to improve your look and your mood. No one is happier than me that they’ve made a massive resurgence over the past few years. I’ve seen them all over the streets of NYC this summer, being worn by everyone from celebrities, to hipsters to slackers. And yeah, rich prep school boys still wear them as well. Even the hip hop crowd has gotten into the act, with Jay-Z name dropping boat shoes in his rhymes, while Kanye sports them on his frequent appearances on the Ellen Degeneres show. I never thought I’d say it, but boat shoes are on fire.

Alas, one of my biggest disappointments about winter is that it forces me to put away my rather impressive collection of Sperry Topsiders. No matter how tempting, I just can’t bring myself to throw on a pair of socks with my Sperry’s while traipsing off to work on a brisk October day. Socks with boat shoes is a look that even the most badass hipsters can’t pull off, no matter how ironic their facial hair. So, from October to April, boat shoes are generally relegated to the bench.

That is, until now. This season designers have finally figured out that boat shoes are far too cool to spend 6 months of the year languishing in the back of the closet. They’ve come up with boat shoes that actually work year-round. John Varvatos, always the innovator, is leading the pack with a killer pair of suede ones in a color called “Night Sky” (i.e., black) that he describes as “a unique concept of a high-top boat shoe”. Whatever, they’re smokin’. Timberland has also joined the parade, bringing to the forefront their Classic Handsewn Boat Shoe (the one with the lug sole that we all sported back in the 80’s). In an ambitious attempt to jump on two trends at once, they’ve even added a new wrinkle; the classic is now customizable at Timberland’s DIY store on its website.

For its part, Sperry Topsider is not sitting idly by, waiting for spring. They’re hyping their own high-tops (the Original Authentic Chukka Boot) on their site. They’ve also formed a partnership with J-Crew, offering an exclusive pair of “Sperry Chukka’s” on My favorite offering however, is a line they’ve come up with that is designed by hipster legends, Band Of Outsiders. These kicks offer a subversive and thoroughly modern take on the Topsider aesthetic. A broad range of colors is available, from a sublime blue/red suede pair to a slick black leather offering. In any form, they’re swell and they make me long for fall more than any cardigan ever could.

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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Top 10 Rap Songs About New York City

Jay-Z's "Empire State Of Mind", featuring the vocal stylings of Alicia Keys is a big wet kiss shout out to New York City. Extolling all that is righteous about New York, Jay's occasionally clever punchlines save the track from itself when it threatens to go from anthemic to sappy. Seeing Jay-Z perform this song several times over the past few weeks got me to thinking about the many other rap songs that have been dedicated to rappers' love of the big city. Ever since the dawn of hip hop, MC's have felt the need to confess their love for the city that invented the art form. Jay-Z himself has dedicated a half-dozen or so songs and countless verses to his beloved Brooklyn.

Verbally representing one's borough has become so ingrained in rap vernacular that we no longer even notice this peculiar form of civic pride. Why are all these rappers trying to one-up the next man on how oppressive and bleak their home towns are? Is this really something to be proud of?

Indeed, this need to claim respect for one's town, block, projects, hood and/or suburb has spread well beyond New York to every corner of the hip hop universe; spanning from The Trap to South Central to The Nolia to my hometown of Bad Newz VA. Even though I've never visited most of these places, I feel like I know them intimately thanks to my favorite rappers endlessly droning on about their hard-rock, hard-luck upbringings. It's gotten to the point where I treat these locales like tourist destinations whenever I visit a new city: "Hey kids, stand over there by those thugs so I can get picture of you in front of the Queens Bridge Housing Projects".

Below is a list of my favorite full-length rap songs dedicated to celebrating New York in all its glory. I hope it makes for a nice playlist to entertain you on your next subway ride uptown or trek to the LES. Enjoy.


1. New York State Of Mind - Nas - The gold standard. All other records about NYC will forever aspire to be this good. Nas at the top of his game is a force of nature. Add DJ Premier to the mix and the result is perfection.

2. South Bronx - Boogie Down Productions - KRS would later concede that this song was nothing more than a PR tactic. A made up beef with a cross-town rival; battle rap as a way of getting his foot in the door and drawing attention to himself. We might've been mad at him for such blatant trickery if the record weren't so damn fresh.

3. No Sleep 'Til Brooklyn - The Beastie Boys - If your pulse doesn't skip ahead a beat or two when you hear this simplistic opening guitar riff then you need to see a doctor. Play it loud, play it often.

4. Pacifics - Digable Planets - Digable dedicated their entire (and sadly too short) careers to giving props to the bohemian side of the Brooklyn . This is their most beautiful BK love song. I remember zoning out in my North Carolina apartment while listening to the record repeatedly back in 1993 and making up my mind that I was someday going to move to Brooklyn.

5. Streets Of New York - Kool G Rap & DJ Polo - G Rap takes time out for a melancholy lament about New York's hard times and harsh realities without ever sacrificing his high standards for degree-of-difficulty when it comes to rhyme complexity.

6. New York, New York - Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five - Given all the nostalgia we carry around for Grandmaster Flash and crew, it's easy to forget that Melle Mel had mad skills. By any standard, he could really bring it. On this follow-up to "The Message" his storytelling prowess shines through. And his gift for writing unforgettable hooks like this one "New York, New York big city of dreams / but everything in New York ain't always what it seems..." is beyond reproach.

7. New York Sh*t - Busta Rhymes - "If you from New York stand up right now!" Busta and Swizz Beats craft a contagious anthem. This one makes me want throw on my "timbs & hoodie" look and go out walking around the city looking for trouble.

8. New York (Ya Out There) - Rakim - Within Rakim's catalog, I'm not sure this song gets the respect it deserves. As a piece of flawless rhythm and poetry, this has to be one of his finest efforts. Against a scintillating track from DJ Premier, Ra rips off three vivid, head-spinning verses that concisely sum up the essential ingredients that make NYC the greatest city on earth.

9. Welcome To New York City - Cam'ron - Back in the quaint days of 2002 when Cam and Jay-Z were still on speaking terms they delivered this playful track encouraging NYC to get its mojo back after the fall of the twin towers had nearly drained away all of its swagger.

10. Strong Island - JVC Force - One-hit-wonders JVC force made the most of its 15 minutes with this classic. A dorm room staple for me and a major source of pride for Long Islanders back in '87.

15 Others That Came To Mind
11. Where I'm From - Digable Planets
12. Brooklyn Zoo - Ol' Dirty Bastard
13. The Bridge - MC Shan
14. Queens - Pharoahe Monch
15. Where It All Started - Hi Tek
16. Hello Brooklyn - Jay-Z
17. An Open Letter To NYC - The Beastie Boys
18. Brooklyn - Mos Def
19. New York - KRS One
20. Where I'm From - Jay-Z
21. Crooklyn - Crooklyn Dodgers
22. Lighters Up - Lil Kim
23. Brooklyn (Go Hard) - Jay-Z
24. New York - Fat Joe, Ja Rule & Jadakiss
25. Queens Day - Run-DMC ft. Nas & Mobb Deep

Monday, September 21, 2009

Summer 2009: The Pictures

Summer 09 was short but fun. Let's see what fall has in store.

Posted via web from lswittenberg's posterous

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Ten Rappers With College Degrees

To offset the devastating news that Roxanne Shante made up the whole story about her having a PHD from Cornell I offer you this list of 10 Rappers whom I'm pretty sure are on the level. There are plenty of rappers who attended college but never graduated, including Diddy, Ludacris, Plies, and a ton of others. But I think this is a list of actual degree holders. Since this is the internet, I don't really have to check my sources or anything so I could be totally wrong here. There are a lot of rumors out there when it comes to rappers and college so don't hold me to this. If you can confirm any others, please do so. Enjoy.

  1. David Banner (I was as surprised as anybody. Dude also attended Grad School at UMD College Park) - Southern University
  2. J-Live  - (One of the smartest rappers out there so this is quite believable) - SUNY New York
  3. Pete Nice (Of 80's group 3rd Base, I used to point this bit of trivia out to people way back in the day)  - Columbia University
  4. Kidz In The Hall (they kinda seem like Ivy League lads) - University of Pennsylvania
  5. Young MC - (One-hit wonder did indeed have something to fall back on) - University of Southern California
  6. Phonte (Of Little Brother. Like Kidz in the Hall they got their start kicking it in the dorms) - North Carolina Central University
  7. Guru (Of Gang Starr. His mom, dad and two siblings are all college grads) - Morehouse College
  8. Scott La Rock (Of Boogie Down Productions. "DJ Scott La Rock sports a college degree..." enough said) - Castleton State College
  9. Tajai (Of Souls Of Mischief. This is consistent with his erudite flow) - Stanford
  10. Chuck D (Of Public Enemy. I certainly learned a lot from listening to him) - Adelphi University

"I don't wear it for Pharrell / I wear it 'cause I'm for real" Babe Pirate Store starts tomorrow.

A Bathing Ape Pirate Store
Starts Thursday, 12pm; 286 Lafayette st, btw Prince and Houston; SoHo
Starting tomorrow, the silverbacks of Japanese street wear are setting up shop for just five days, bringing with 'em discounts of 50-70% on select archived & factory second helpings of their frequently colorful polos, tees, buttondowns, jackets, and highly sought-after, oft-laminated leather kicks, though if your chums are all in this year's line of eye-catching Japanese threads, well then won't you feel like the monkey.

Posted via web from lswittenberg's posterous

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Jay-Z announces benefit concert at Madison Square Garden

Jay-Z announces benefit concert at Madison Square Garden

August 24, 2009  

Jay-Z announced plans Monday to unroll his "Blueprint 3" album with a special concert at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 11 to benefit the New York Police and Fire Widows' and Children's Benefit Fund.

The concert - on the same day as Jay's album, featuring the current single "Run This Town" with Kanye West and Rihanna, hits stores - will be broadcast live on Fuse as part of a special "Fuse Presents JAY-Z Live from Madison Square Garden: Answer the Call."

Ticket prices and on-sale information haven't been set yet, but Citi's Private Pass members will be able to purchase tickets first.

"This charity and concert encompass the true spirit of New York City," Jay-Z said in a statement. "We are asking everyone to 'answer the call' and support and honor the families of those that lost their lives in the line of duty. There was true camaraderie and resiliency that this city showed the world in 2001, and we continue that today by taking care of our own."

All Top Jobs


I'm gonna need to get a ticket for this.

Posted via web from lswittenberg's posterous

Friday, August 14, 2009

Music - When Rappers Collide - Joe Budden vs. Raekwon, in Cyberspace and Elsewhere

It was curious, the sling encasing Joe Budden’s right arm on Wednesday night at the Canal Room — curious and uncommented upon. For a rapper so given to transmitting even the mundane details of his life to fans, the omission was notable.

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Less than a week earlier Mr. Budden had posted a video online in which he held a compress to his right temple. “My eye’s swollen,” he noted, and he complained about pain in his shoulder. The reason? He had just been attacked by Raekwon and his entourage, he said, the latest in a string of incidents in what had been until that point a war of words with various members of the Wu-Tang Clan.

On Wednesday night both Mr. Budden and Raekwon performed in New York — Raekwon in a Staten Island park and Mr. Budden with his group, Slaughterhouse, at the Canal Room — and for the most part kept the tensions at arm’s length. But the battle between them, and the larger one from which it stems, has revealed a clash not only of egos but also of generations and technologies.

In May Vibe magazine presented a fan-voted online bracket to determine “The Best Rapper Ever,” the sort of content intended to stir debate. Mr. Budden, speaking in a video posted online, made some disparaging comments about Method Man, who was ranked above him, leading to a flurry of recriminations in radio interviews and YouTube videos. Eventually the two men appeared to reconcile.

Nevertheless, members of the notoriously scattered Wu-Tang Clan, icons of 1990s hip-hop, have rallied. Inspectah Deck released a song in retaliation, and now Raekwon seems to have taken up the battle.

The supposed attack took place backstage at the Los Angeles date of the Rock the Bells tour, at which both Raekwon and Slaughterhouse were performing. According to Mr. Budden and Mickey Factz, another rapper in the room at the time, the incident was being filmed by a member of Raekwon’s camp, presumably so that Mr. Budden’s primary tool, the Internet, could later be used against him.

If so, it was a mark of modern savvy on the part of Raekwon, a product of the 1990s, an era in which hip-hop beefs were just as likely to play out behind closed doors as on records. And even though Raekwon has been steadily releasing music since his breakthrough 1995 album, “Only Built 4 Cuban Linx ... ” (Loud), he remains a classicist. In going online with his gripes about the Vibe list, Mr. Budden was working from an updated playbook, one that most likely caught Raekwon and Method Man, used to the unchallenged public respect of their successors, off guard.

More than almost any other rapper, Mr. Budden has taken to the Internet with ease; he is an active video blogger and Twitter user. In his postings he is alternately comic, irascible, self-deprecating and sharp-tongued. In short, a quintessential Internet celebrity.

Mr. Budden’s online presence has also helped sustain his career since he parted ways with his former label, Def Jam, following one album. Slaughterhouse, his new group, is a quartet of hip-hop formalists — Mr. Budden, Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, Royce da 5’9” — of the sort prized by bloggers. Its strong self-titled debut album, on E1, almost feels as if it had been willed into existence by Internet chatter.

At the Canal Room, in a showcase presented by the radio station Hot 97 (WQHT-FM), Slaughterhouse performed a handful of songs from that album, which was released Tuesday. It was a spirited show, with each rapper standing in awe of the others and then trying to out-rap them. When Mr. Budden demurred from performing “Pump It Up,” his biggest hit, Mr. Ortiz stepped in and did it for him. (Mr. Budden later joined in.)

Just before that Mr. Budden had said, in mock exasperation: “I got a bad arm. My shoulder’s bad.” It was the only reference, albeit an oblique one, that he made to the Raekwon incident during this show; he wisely let the flames die down, at least for one night. (After the show, his manager, Crystal Isaacs, insisted that the sling was needed after Mr. Budden dislocated his shoulder earlier on Wednesday, not in the attack.)

Perhaps, though, Raekwon has learned a few tricks by studying his adversary. He too has an album to promote: “Only Built for Cuban Linx ... Pt. II” (IceH2O/EMI), due next month. And for an artist of the old guard of the street-team era, he’s done an impressive job of transitioning his marketing strategy online.

He still raises real-world concern, though, as evinced Wednesday evening when he performed at Mahoney Playground, in the New Brighton section of Staten Island. The show was part of the CityParks Concerts series, organized in partnership with the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. But with a few dozen police officers securing the premises (including some on the roof of the nearby housing project), this show barely had the feel of a concert.

It was a setup clearly anticipating something far more sinister than the few hundred peaceable fans who turned out to see Raekwon, a local kid turned folk hero. With hundreds of barricades arranged in draconian warrens, the closest fans were left some 20 feet from the stage. “Is it a way for the people to come a little bit closer?” Raekwon asked after his first couple of songs. “I need them a little bit closer, y’all.”

Realizing that the fans couldn’t come to him, at the opening notes of “Daytona 500” he climbed down from the stage and made his way to them, a swarm of police officers and park security in his wake. (Notably, there was a far smaller police presence at the Slaughterhouse concert.)

A few minutes later, having made his point, he returned to the stage, then offered something of an olive branch. “We love Joe,” he said, either in jest or out of deference to the moment. “Tell Joe we love him.”

And by the end of his brief set he had turned reflective. “This is a big privilege for Staten Island. This is something we got to take advantage of,” he said of the park show, which was free to the public. “Enough is enough. All the negativity got to turn to positivity.” Then he thanked the local precinct, the 120th, adding: “Please let us have this. We’ll keep it under control.”

More Articles in Arts » A version of this article appeared in print on August 14, 2009, on page C3 of the New York edition.

I generally turn a deaf ear towards rap beefs these days. It's not because I am taking a stand against violence or negativity. It's just that they all seem so disingenuous. Breaking out only when there is an album to promote. But this thing with Raekwon and Joe Budden has gotten my attention. It seems deeper, more personal and more of a true sea change between the old and the new. Here the Times does a nice job sizing up the conflict, the stakes and the implications.

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Thursday, August 13, 2009

Loso's Way by Fabolous (lswittenberg Music Review)

Loso's Way by Fabolous Review

lswittenberg wasn't impressed on August 13th :

Rap's Chris Weber shows flashes of genius but again disappoints. Here Fab's superb flow is stifled by bland production and lukewarm cameos.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009

50 Cent And Joe Budden Lead Your Hottest MCs In The Game Votes

Further evidence that hip hop is dead. 50 Cent and Joe Budden? Seriously people?

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Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Top Fast Food Reviews by Chefs - Esquire

In-N-Out Burger voted best fast food in America by guys who should know...chefs. I have to question the merits of any list like this that doesn't include Chick-fil-A.

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Pixton™ - Create web comic strips online

Fun way to create comics if you have good writing but lack design skills.

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Friday, June 26, 2009

The Top 10 Rap Songs That Sample Michael Jackson

Some mourn in silence, some celebrate by dancing to classic tunes. I write rap lists. Here is my List of the 10 Best Rap Songs to sample Michael Jackson. Enjoy.


Lamont's Lists
June 2009
The Top 10 Rap Songs That Sample Michael Jackson

1. Izzo - Jay-Z (From "I Want You Back" / Produced by Kanye West) - This is the song that ignited Kanye's career, setting off a string of hits where he would leverage sped up soul classics to great effect. Jay-Z matched Kanye's clever idea by bringing forth some of his most captivating rhymes: some outlandish ("Can't leave rap alone the game needs me"), some humble ("I do this for my culture") and surely his most unforgettable hook ever ("H to the Izzo").

2. It Ain't Hard To Tell - Nas (From "Human Nature" / Produced by The Large Professor) - Nas got his start from a cameo appearance on "Live at the BBQ" from a Main Source album. So it's only fitting that the lead single from his remarkable debut album would be produced by the Large Professor. Nas is magnetic, clearly destined for greatness. A young prodigy not unlike MJ himself.

3. O.P.P. - Naughty By Nature (From "ABC" / Produced by Naughty By Nature) - As big a pop smash as any rap song song ever. O.P.P. was simply contagious, thanks in no small part to the killer Motown hit-making machine that wrote "ABC", used liberally here to give O.P.P. its infectious bounce.

4. Breakadawn - De La Soul (From "I Can't Help It" / Produced By Prince Paul) - One of my favorite De La tracks ever, from the highly slept upon classic album "Buhloone Mind State". How appropriate that it comes from one of my favorite sleeper cuts from MJ's "Off The Wall".

5. Got Your Money - Ol' Dirty Bastard (From "Billie Jean" / Produced by The Neptunes) - The Neptunes incorporated the famous opening "Billie Jean" down beat at the Start of "Got Your Money", setting the tone for a catchy little tune from ODB. Kelis's sweet hook almost made you forget ODB's filthy ramblings.

6. Letter To My Unborn Child - Tupac (From "Liberian Girl" / Produced by ?) - Pac at his eerie, poignant best. The "Liberian Girl" sample contributes to the somber mood.

7. You Ain't A Killer - Big Pun (From "With A Child's Heart" / Produced by Young Lord) - Producer Young Lord lifts a nasty baseline from an unsung 1973 Michael Jackson track. Big Pun then does what he always did...spits fire.

8. Good Life - Kanye West (From "P.Y.T. (Pretty Young Thing)") / Produced by Kanye West) - Kanye's celebratory hit is propelled by a delicious sample of PYT. To say that it works brilliantly is an understatement.

9. Hey Lover - LL Cool J (From "The Lady In My Life" / Produced by Trackmasters) - The undisputed king of rap ballads scored a Grammy by stacking the deck for this one, enlisting Boys II Men and borrowing some flavor from MJ's opus "The Lady In My Life".

10. All That I Got Is You - Ghostface Killah (From "Maybe Tomorrow" / Produced by Rza) - Ghostface taps Mary J to repurpose the melody from "Maybe Tomorrow". He then pours out his soul and nearly moves us all to tears.