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MUSIC WORLD: Celebrating “The Black Album” 10 Years Later

10 years ago, Jay-Z proclaimed that he was retiring from rap. He did so via his magnum opus The Black Album. Jay-Z ushered in an era of button ups and dismissed the era of tall tees and oversized throwbacks – pre “Suit & Tie.” This album contained excerpts from Shawn’s mom detailing his birth and upbringing, President Obama brushed dirt off his shoulders because of this album, and a well-received The Grey Album all came from this body of work.

My mother bought me the limited edition release of The Black Album. The entire case, CD (front and back), and packaging was blacked out. It was all black everything before Jay-Z proclaimed he “might wear black for a year straight.” My car got stolen (and returned) in  college and so did that CD. I guess the thieves knew the value of that album, to me and to hip-hop. If you don’t own the documentary detailing what Jay-Z thought would be his final solo album and it’s subsequent concert dates, I feel bad for you son. Fade to Black is easily one of the best concert films I’ve ever seen and I still find myself watching it on a lazy Saturday. Catch one of my favorite clips featuring Kanye, below.

The Black Album was equally traditional and groundbreaking. It had pop singles that got radio spins [Change Clothes, 99 Problems] without sacrificing lyricism. Jay-Z has navigated that lane better than any other modern rap artist.After eight studio albums, the best rapper of the past decade told us all he was throwing in the towel. So we scooped up the album, went to see him on tour, and purchased the documentary. We all know now he would go on to release 5 more albums including a collaborative album with Kanye West. But it’s okay, because at that time, we all believed and wanted to believe that this was his final piece of work. I was left wondering how I would function when my favorite rapper “no longer exists.” This album was stadium music before rappers were making stadium music. So press play and fall in love again, or for the first time.

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MUSIC WORLD: Kanye Sits Down with BBC

Kanye West still has his Kardashian voice on while sitting down with Zane Low for a one-on-one for BBC 1Xtra. Check part one of the interview where he discusses radio, Yeezus,  reactions to his art, and production. Check it below.

It’s an interesting interview and part 1 of four. I’ll update as the rest of the videos are released. Thoughts?

TV WORLD: Kanye Disses Ray J on Jimmy Fallon

Kanye West made a rare TV appearance on Jimmy Fallon last night. He used the opportunity to utilize The Roots band, Charlie Wilson’s buttery vocals, and to diss Ray J. It’s funny. And a good performance of “Bound 2.” Check it below.

“Brandy’s little sister lame and he know it now/When a real nigga hold you down you supposed to drown…”

Ha! It’s a little late, but it works. This performance served as promo for Kanye‘s new Yeezus Tour featuring Kendrick Lamar as the opening act.

MUSIC WORLD: Drake Brings Out EVERYONE at OVO Fest

Drake held his fourth annual OVO Fest in Toronto ensuring that he continues to put on for his city. Just about everyone made an appearance including Diddy & Ma$e, Kanye West, Wale, J. Cole, Big Sean, The Weeknd, French Montana, AND TLC... Sheesh! Check the performance videos below.

I was just glad Lil Mama didn’t show up to perform with TLC. Thank you baby geezus.

TAKE IT BACK TUESDAY: Keri Hilson x Kanye West x Ne-Yo “Knock You Down”

This isn’t exactly throwback, but it can qualify since this is my sh!t. Remember when Keri Hilson was dropping hit singles left and right? I was one of her biggest and earliest fans. She’s been noticeably absent from the music scene, but I still enjoy revisiting some of her earlier hits. One of my favorites is “Knock You Down” featuring Kanye West and Ne-Yo. It may or may not have been the anthem for me and one of my exes. Check the video below.

Kanye is barely collaborating with anyone outside of Roc Nation these days. Ne-Yo is still making hits. And Keri is busy making love in the club with her boo. Maybe we’ll hear some new music soon.

VIDEO WORLD: Kanye West “Black Skinheads”

After proclaiming that the second verse in “Black Skinheads” is the best rap verse of all time, of ALL TIME, Kanye West has officially released the video. It’s best watched on his website, for the full effects. It’s interactive, so get your mouses ready.

Watch the trippy ass video HERE.

Still one of my favorite songs from his album Yeezus. Thoughts?

*editor’s note* am I tweaking or is the mouse on his website a hand with the middle finger up?

MUSIC WORLD: My Review of Kanye West’s “Yeezus”

The anticipation for Yeezus mirrored that of any other Kanye West release. Kanye conducted a mostly viral marketing campaign consisting of surprise listening parties, public video projections, and no real single release. Articles were written about how Rick Rubin was called in to help Kanye strip the sound down. Kanye ranted about how he transcended a genre of music. Ahead of the release, we were treated to “New Slaves,” “Black Skinhead,” and “I Am A God.” And then the album leaked. Check my full review below.

Let me begin by stating the obvious. The “singles” we received ahead of the official leak release are misleading. They in no way represent the whole sound of the album. Honestly, if the album sounded like “New Slaves” or even “Black Skinhead,” I would’ve felt like Kanye was trying something truly innovate and interesting. Almost like a punk-rap genre of music. But instead, we get an album with a background echo, autotune, and a random Buju Banton clone shouting incomprehensible Patois.

The album opens with no warning. The first track, “On Sight” almost sounds like a radio-rip. But I guess this is what Rick Rubin was referencing when he said that Kanye wanted a stripped down sound and they actually ended up “un-producing” a lot of tracks. Kanye premiered a rousing performance of “Black Skinhead” and it still stands out as one of my favorite tracks from the album. The energy of that entire song is captivating. And in the grand scheme of the album, it shines.

After listening to the entire album a few times, I’m still surprised by the amount of autotune that Kanye (and Chief Keef) utilize. It removes the potential freshness of the album. In fact, “Bound 2” sounds like a track that could’ve easily fit into Late Registration. Not because of autotune, but because of the soul sample backtrack. Not quite the progression I was seeking after hearing the lead “singles” from Yeezus.

My favorite tracks from this short project are those that don’t sound like anything that anyone else in hip-hop could or would do right now. “I’m In It” is an early favorite because of the sound and feel of the track. The content is typical comical Kanye West, but the way this track makes me feel is EVERYTHING. I feel the same way about the production on “Blood on the Leaves.” Kanye sampling C-Murder’s “Down 4 My Niggas?” Love it! It’s almost subtle but so recognizable. And to layer that with a sample of Nina Simone’s “Strange Fruit,” who else would do that or think of that? Only Yeezus.

Kanye comes off as a true Gemini. He doesn’t know what he wants to express and as such, this album is all over the damn place. We’re new slaves but he then goes on to mention putting his fist in a woman like it’s Civil Rights. I just can’t. I wish he would’ve let this album cook a little more or came with more tracks reminiscent of the first 4. Album about nothing? Kinda. I struggled to write this review because after listening to this entire album 8+ times, I’m still not sure how I feel overall about the project. There are tracks that I absolutely love (see below), there’s sounds that I wish were more prominent, but as a whole, this album feels so disjointed. Take a few tracks and make that super forward punk rap album. Then take a few others and make a trap album. And then put “Bound 2” on Late Registration. What do you think? Help me out here!

Standout Tracks: Black Skinhead, New Slaves, I’m In It, Blood on the Leaves