September 26, 2008

T.I. - Paper Trail: Album Review

On Tuesday Sept. 30, T.I. will release his sixth studio album “Paper Trail”. Now before I get into critiquing the brotha’s album, I want to make it clear that I listened to a bootleg version for this review but will be purchasing the actual CD to support a fellow artist. Plus, the album is good enough to get bought anyway.

1. 56 Barz – The intro to the album, this song is clearly a lyrical warm-up jog for the versatile MC. The anti-climactic beat puts listeners in position to expect more from the next 17 cuts, and he makes sure we know what other rappers are in his league. (3/5)

2. I’m Illy – No, not “A Millie”. DJ Toomp gives you something to make trunks thump from ATL to NYC, while T.I. lets us know how fresh he is in every aspect of his career. He even challenges us to re-evaluate his position as a Hip-hop heavyweight by declaring he’s “the hottest n*gga rappin’ since Tupac”. (4/5)

3. Ready For Whatever – Since he has a 1 year bid to serve for purchasing machine guns as an ex-felon, it’s of no surprise that he’d dedicate a track to getting his thoughts off his mind about the situation. He explains his situation with a sense of understanding and humility, which is refreshing to see out of a rapper these days. (5/5)

4. On Top Of The World (feat. Ludacris & B.o.B.) – Hotlanta definitely gets some good representation in this song. DJ Toomp is a maestro on the beats once again, recent Grand Hustle signee B.o.B. handles the hook like a seasoned pro, and Ludacris takes some shots back at Samuel L. Jackson for saying rappers couldn’t act. There’s so much goin on T.I. almost gets overshadowed on this song… almost. (4/5)

5. Live Your Life (feat. Rihanna) – When I first heard this song at the MTV Awards, I thought it was a good commercial move by sampling the “Numa Numa Song” and getting Rihanna to switch up the lyrics, but now it’s getting just as annoying as the original. Fun while it lasted tho. (3.5/5)

6. Whatever You Like – T.I. always has one or two songs for the folks who are tryna get their grown & sexy on. Jim Jonsin keeps listeners mesmerized by the synthesizer soundscape and T.I.’s hook tugs on ladies’ heartstrings, while giving the fellas something to whisper in her ear. (4.5/5)

7. No Matter What – On this song, he really shows the world Cliff Harris. Coming at the haters & naysayers, putting Shawty Lo in his place, and letting us know the strength of his faith. If anything happens to him in prison, this album will really be his paper trail. Props to Danja on the beat. (5/5)

8. My Life, Your Entertainment – ATL reppin’ once again, this time bringing in R&B sensation Usher. For a minute I thought getting Usher on a track might be a played out move, but the minute I listened I regretted thinking that. Drumma Boy is really establishing himself as a producer-to-be-reckoned-with and T.I. & Usher get the chance to come back at all the gossip outlets and rumor mill stories about them. (4/5)

9. Porn Star – Another song for those folks getting their grown & sexy on… or just getting their sex on for that matter. “Porn Star” delves deep into the sexual escapades that T.I. wants to take a lucky lady on. Decent production, generic topic, but good wordplay. (3/5)

10. Swing Ya Rag (feat. Swizz Beatz) – I swear, Swizz Beatz is one of the best producers in the game at making you want to stand on your desk at the office and tear your shirt off on some ol’ wild out sh*t. It kinda reminds me of that Petey Pablo song, but definitely revamped for 2K8. (3.5/5)

11. What Up, What’s Haapnin’ – This song is the “Ether” to Shawty Lo’s flimsy career. Classic. (5/5)

12. Every Chance I Get – Back to ballin’. T.I. takes up the generic “I’m gonna ball” theme for this track. He still manages to do it better than a lot of other rappers, but at this point I want to hear some other topics. Decent effort. (3/5)

13. Swagger Like Us (feat. Kanye West, Jay-Z, & Lil’ Wayne) – Probably the song of the season. The four biggest heavyweights in Hip-hop collab for this effort. Kanye is a genius for finding that M.I.A. sample for the hook, and every single MC murders their verse. I swear they all co-ghostwrote Diddy’s version of this track too. (5/5)

14. Slide Show (feat. John Legend) – T.I. gets reminiscent again, this time running through memories of his past and how he visualizes them as pictures in a slideshow. His impending prison sentence is really bringing a side out of him that I don’t think has been revealed much on any of his other albums. Kanye helmed the boards for this song too. (4/5)

15. You Ain’t Missin’ Nothin’ – This song is soaked full of emotion, letting his fallen comrades know that even though they are gone they’re in a better place. He’s really been through a lot, and once again isn’t afraid to show it. DJ Toomp gets more soulful with the beat and it matches the verses perfectly. (5/5)

16. Dead and Gone (feat. Justin Timberlake) – It seems JT is really learning from Timbaland, cuz at first I thought it was Timbo on the beat and sure enough it was Justin. If that wasn’t impressive enough, T.I. brings back his classic flow and rounds out the album with a very solid single. (5/5)

Overall Rating: (4/5)
If T.I. can keep his head on his shoulders while in prison, and comes out a more focused and determined agent of positivity, I think his next album will be even more impressive and personal than this one. At first listen, the album didn’t live up to his best in my opinion (“King”), but the more I hear its songs over & over the more I have grown to appreciate it. It’s definitely worth picking up when it drops next Tuesday, so enjoy.

September 17, 2008

T-Pain, Kanye, Lil’ Wayne & The Vocoder

Everyone’s either hating or loving the fact that T-Pain and the folks at AutoTune have brought back that classic vocoder sound. At first I thought it was just to compensate for lack of singing skills. I felt it was annoying and took away from the musicians that have real talent yet don’t get exposure. Especially when the man using it was only talking about being “In Love With A Stripper”. Soon enough I heard it spreading around to other R&B artists like Chris Brown, and knew it wasn’t going to end from there.

Now we have Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West using AutoTune unapologetically in every one of their latest releases. Even when they perform live, somehow the technicians are able to put the AutoTune effect through their microphones. When Lil’ Wayne performed on SNL the other weekend I thought he did a great job but, personally, would have rather heard him do it without any vocal manipulation. Kanye’s newest song “Love Lockdown” also features him utilizing the AutoTune effects in order to express his deepest pains about love.

Now, even though I’m 23 I have a vivid memory of first hearing the vocoder used by Stevie Wonder on his “Music Of My Mind” album. I thought it was such a cool idea as a child and never saw it resurface until years later when the “California Love” video came out with Roger Troutman using the Talk Box to achieve the same sound. The more I hear it used by rappers and R&B singers the more I’m starting to think that if they’re going to use it, then they better be good. Sometimes Kanye is too over the top with it, same with Wayne, but other times it doesn’t sound that bad. I think that for now, it should remain with T-Pain and maybe Chris Brown and everyone else should probably just let it go. But who am I to say what any other artist should do with their music?

- Steve Tyson Jr.

September 08, 2008

Hip-Hop's 100 Albums Worth Honorable Mention

Last week I compiled my Top 25 Hip-Hop Albums and I appreciate everyone who commented (or will comment) with their opinions. What y’all had to say really got me thinking about all of the music I’ve appreciated in the last 23 years, so I’ve decided to compile a list of 100 Hip-Hop albums that I think deserve “Honorable Mention” status. I threw in some new and old classics that paved (and are paving) the way for future Hip-Hop generations. As always, let me know what you think.

Hip-Hop’s 100 Albums Worth Honorable Mention:

N.W.A. – Straight Outta Compton
Kanye West – The College Dropout
Busta Rhymes – E.L.E. (Extinction Level Event)
Snoop Doggy Dogg – Doggystyle
2Pac – Me Against The World
Eric B. & Rakim – Paid In Full
Raekwon – Only Built 4 Cuban Linx
Run-DMC – King Of Rock
Method Man – Tical 2000: Judgement Day
Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot – Supa Dupa Fly
DMX – Flesh Of My Flesh, Blood Of My Blood
Jadakiss – Kiss Tha Game Goodbye
Styles P. – A Gangsta & A Gentleman
Ludacris – Back 4 Tha First Time
Ludacris – Word Of Mouf
Jay-Z – The Black Album
Q-Tip – Amplified
Big Punisher – Yeeeah Baby
Beatie Boys – Licensed To Ill
Jay-Z – Vol. 2… Hard Knock Life
Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter III
Hot Boyz – Guerilla Warfare
2Pac – Makaveli: The 7 Day Theory
Blackstar – Blackstar
Talib Kweli – Quality
Talb Kweli & Hi-Tek – Train Of Thought
Ice Cube – Amerikkka’s Most Wanted
Puff Daddy & The Family – No Way Out
Wu-Tang Clan – Wu-Tang Forever
Dead Prez – Let’s Get Free
Eminem – The Slim Shady LP
Eminem – The Eminem Show
Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill
The Fugees – The Score
50 Cent – Get Rich Or Die Tryin’
Outkast – Speakerboxxx/The Love Below
The Roots – Things Fall Apart
The Roots – Illadelph Halflife
A Tribe Called Quest – Midnight Marauders
Afrika Bambaataa – Planet Rock
The Roots – Game Theory
N.E.R.D. – In Search Of…
Common – Be
Wyclef Jean – The Carnival
Common – Finding Forever
J Dilla – Donuts
Mobb Deep – The Infamous…
A Tribe Called Quest - Low End Theory
Slick Rick – The Great Adventures of Slick Rick
EPMD – Strictly Business
LL Cool J – Bad
Digable Planets - Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space)
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony – E.1999 Eternal
Big L – Lifestyles Of Da Poor & Dangerous
MC Hammer – Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘Em
Juvenile – 400 Degreez
2Pac – 2Pacalypse Now
Nas – It Was Written
Scarface – The Fix
Geto Boyz – We Can’t Be Stopped
Jurassic 5 – Quality Control
Fat Joe – Jealous One’s Envy
Cam’Ron – Come Home With Me
Arrested Development – 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of...
Lupe Fiasco – Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor
Lupe Fiasco – The Cool
Busta Rhymes – The Coming
Kool G Rap – 4, 5, 6
Atmosphere – Godlovesugly
Kurtis Blow – Kurtis Blow
Ice-T – Power
The Game – L.A.X.
Jurassic 5 – Power In Numbers
Kool Moe Dee – How Ya Like Me Now?
Outkast – Stankonia
Pharoah Monche – Internal Affairs
UGK – Ridin’ Dirty
AZ – Pieces Of A Man
Beanie Sigel – The Truth
Da Brat – Funkdafied
Beanie Sigel – The B.Coming
Memphis Bleek – The Understanding
Goodie Mob – Still Standing
Heiroglyphics – 3rd Eye Vision
Kanye West – Late Registration
The Coup – Steal This Album
The Coup – Pick A Bigger Weapon
T.I. – King
Twista – Adrenaline Rush
Trick Daddy –
Lil’ Wayne – Tha Carter II
Foxy Brown – Ill Na Na
MC Lyte – Lyte As A Rock
Salt ‘N’ Pepa – Very Necessary
Murs – Murray’s Revenge
Nas – It Was Written
Jay-Z – American Gangster
Guru – Jazzmatazz
Jedi Mind Tricks – Servants In Heaven, Kings In Hell
Kid ‘N Play – 2 Hype

Took a few hours to really narrow it down, and I know the first thing everyone might be thinking is “How did someone like The Game’s album get there when it’s not even been out for a week?”. It’s because The Game spits some real talk on that album, just like a lot of other MC’s on this list. If you’ve never heard of some of these albums, don’t hesitate to give them a listen. They just might end up as one of your favorites too.

Peace, Love, Unity, & Have Fun y’all.

- Steve Tyson Jr.

September 03, 2008

Tyson's Top 25 Hip-Hop Albums EVER!

Recently, hip-hop website “” compiled a list of their 20 Greatest Hip-Hop albums of all-time. Now, I took a look at the albums they picked and I’d agree with several of their choices but not necessarily the order. So I took some time out of my day and compiled my Top 25 choices for Greatest Hip-Hop album of all time. By all means, let me know what you guys think.

Tyson’s Top 25

25. DMX – It’s Dark And Hell Is Hot
24. Boogie Down Productions – By All Means Necessary
23. The Notorious B.I.G. – Life After Death
22. De La Soul – 3 Feet High & Rising
21. Dr. Dre – 2001
20. Run DMC – Tougher Than Leather
19. Big Daddy Kane – Long Live The Kane
18. Gangstarr – Step In The Arena
17. Outkast – Aquemini
16. Public Enemy – Fear Of A Black Planet
15. Redman – Doc’s Da Name: 2000
14. Nas – Untitled
13. Boogie Down Productions – Ghetto Music: The Blueprint Of Hip-Hop
12. Ghostface Killah – Supreme Clientele
11. Eminem – The Marshall Mathers LP
10. Jay-Z – The Blueprint
9. Boogie Down Productions – Criminal Minded
8. Big Punisher – Capitol Punishment
7. Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt
6. Dr. Dre – The Chronic
5. Public Enemy – It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back
4. Nas – Illmatic
3. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers
2. The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready To Die
1. 2Pac – All Eyez On Me

Took a while, and I know I omitted some classic artists like A Tribe Called Quest, Eric B. & Rakim, EPMD, Scarface, Goodie Mob, and more… but hey, it’s just Tyson’s take. What do y’all think?

- Steve Tyson Jr.