Clearing out favorite bookmarks is about a tedious task as trying to clean up your e-mail (especially when your inbox basically permanently says 1000+ new messages), but sometimes you stumble across gems you forgot you favorited 2 years ago.
Re-stumbling across a review of one of my long-time favorite rappers (at least when we was underground) Wiz Khalifa‘s third studio album, first major-label EP Rolling Papers, which released to mixed reviews in 2011. While technically more than competent, the content and lyrics of the album were a departure from Wiz’s original style he expressed in his earlier mixtapes, like Kush & OJ, the legendaryP.O.T.C. tapes or even B.A.R. (Burn After Rolling).
My initial reaction to the Spin review of the album was that the author was over-hyping this musical “fail” and stuck on the ability of a big budget to make a rapper’s album sound polished and “professional.” However, when he had brought up longtime favorites that really weren’t too bad, in fact Wiz had some sleeper hits on there as well, a few I agree with the author such as with “Rooftops” featuring Curren$y, “The Race,” one of the top tracks of the album, or Roll Up (the most mainstream but catchiest single by far. There were a few other songs I give 5 stars in my iTunes here: “Top Floor” with an addictive very-experimental beat, “Hopes and Dreams,” my personal favorite of the album, and “wake Up” all do more than enough justice to Wiz’s earlier works.
The remaining tracks, while not necessarily terrible, were not anything great either. I completely disagree with the SPIN article’s author opinion of “Fly Solo,” that song. was. just.terrible. Which is why today’s highlight will highlight “Hopes and Dreams” from Pittsburgh’s own. “Star of the Show” with fellow Taylor Gang label-mate Chevy Woods is also a standout, with that “chill” vibe Wiz is known for.
The Throwback Session [Real Hip-Hop:] For our next throwback segment we go to spacey moon-man, psychedelic funk master, borderline bipolar rapper and rock-starKiD CuDi. Cudi’s musical genius and prowess shouldn’t ever be slept on. Kicking dope rhymes since 2007 the differenter rapper has been hot long before Day ‘N Nite. On “Cudi Get” Cudi kicks it old school with a relaxed, catchy head-bobbing beat. The sample here could not have fit better. Cudi uses no other than the legend J Dilla’s “Wild” as a sample. This masterpiece itself is originally sampled from version of the classic rock song “Cum On Feel the Noize” by Neil Innes & Son.
The result is an interesting flip on the “we get wild/wild/wild” chorus of the original that matches the laidback hip-hop beat. For some reason this song really reminds me of a winter wonderland or something…
Maybe it’s the kid at the end yelling “And that’s the end of my sleighing song!”
Though some may say Cudi may be more “mainstream” these days, who isn’t? I’ve got nothing but love for the Moon Man, he has made some of the most inspiring music that I have heard and felt a connection to…ever. Cudi throughout his career has touched many chords with people like me for being that “different, weird” guy, the “smart, dorky” rapper, the outer-space head, stoner and briefly, coco-indulger. Mr. Rager‘s struggles with life, his family, kid, friends, drugs, past loves, depression and medications are laid out on the table in a way not pitying, but more relatable and as something to learn from. This is in stark contrast to say, Joe Budden whose works (at least around 2008-2009) were much more “I’m whining because I’m depressed!! Aaaah I’m depressed cause I’m not good enough…blah..blah..blah” He had some banging beats but no lyrics that people wanted to hear. If you’re gonna rap about being depressed or down and out, at least make it interesting or funny… not just…sad.
One of the best tracks off of Wiz’s self-released EP: Deal or No Deal
I went out and bought Wiz’sDeal or No Deal, and still have no regrets. It felt good to support an artist I knew was going to make it big once enough people heard his sound. Most of his fans today are preoccupied with Wiz’s new songs, or only know his radio bangers (a la Black & Yellow; We Dem Boyz), but Wiz has been churning hits and industry shaking releases since around 2005. Deal or No Dealwas his first independently-released album, meaning Wiz had a lot of control over the album and you can really hear it in its sound.
It’s smooth, it’s polished, its got that laid-back stoner vibe Wiz was originally known for and wasn’t anything too flashy. Compare to his following EPRolling Papers, an album that while good, had more than a few songs the label probably forced Wiz to do and just had more songs that did not match his previous style. Wiz later commented in an interview, after the interviewer commented Wiz had said “[he had] wrote a couple lines about [Rolling Papers] in which you[Wiz] said, ‘maybe [if I had more control], [I] would have done things differently [with the album].” Leading Wiz to explain to the interviewer that his true fans would stick with him and should know that album was like an “experiment” and that his long-term success could not be predicted from a single album (and his first on a major label). Wiz predicted his future right as shortly after Rolling Papers he began to soar in popularity: Papers‘ “Roll Up” was a mainstream-hit, “Rooftops” with Curren$y became a rap classic, and “On My Level” featuring Too $hort became a party-favorite. This interview was later sampled in one of Wiz’s mixtape songs as an outro.
He was a Pittsburgh treasure/secret, and peeping his early mixtapes (How Fly, Show and Prove, etc.) showed me that Wiz would be an artist to watch. Like Kid Cudi and Dot Da Genius, Wiz also had a very creative synergismwith his main producer and others of his crew, like Chevy Woods,Sledgren and Jeremy “I.D. Labs.” Though I am no where near the fan of Wiz as I was back in 2008, after watching him show up on radio, then TV, then the numerous concerts around Atlanta (he performed at The Masquerade a ways back and a few years later performed with Young Jeezy at Emory University. I snuck into that show and ultimately my favorite performance of his before I considered him as the superstar he is now. Kush & Orange Juice launched his career and his performance with Juicy J [at Atanta’s Masquerade] proved that “bands” willmake her dance! (Below is another one of Wiz’s hit “indie” songs before he blew up) “In the Cut” sampling Frou Frou‘s “Let Go”.
Cudi has been just about everywhere a musical artist could go. He started indie. The lone black guy trying to come up in the independent rap game, rapping over tracks sampling electronic music akin to the likes of Frou Frou (worth nothing, Wiz later did the same sampling Frou Frou on “In the Cut” from his legendary mixtape release Kush & OJ).
Cudi, the ‘duder’ himself a.k.a. Mr. Rager, and Mr. Moon Man, has come a long way from his days of rapping over spacey, trippy, completely mind blowing beats. Cudi really has 10 x Deep, Plain Pat and a host of other supporters to thank for his jettison into the mainstream. They helped him release his first mixtape Man on the Moon which became one of the most iconic mixtapes of the 2007-2009 era. Smooth vocals over the heavenly ethereal Nosaj Thing sample in “Man on the Moon” is a life-changing song (especially after seeing it live).
Cudi’s rap albums did not disappoint either, though became less and less original than the last. I supported his first full length CD which had some decent new songs, but many from his mixtape. Nonetheless Cudi was fresh, new and looking to be the light of hip-hop. Until he began to start doing more features than actual music (*ahem Kanye, 88 Keys *ahem) and by the time CuDi got back to where and when he could focus on his self, he would release WZRD. An ultimately forgettable mix of “cuder music” with pop/alternative rock, which received very mixed reviews. Kid Cudi’s latest album (reviewed here) was not as bad but still doesn’t live up to the initial hype and promise we were given for a completely different rapper, black man even, one from outer space, who doesn’t mind rapping over a Led Zeppelin sample or focusing on atmospheric sounds over driving EDM beats or common street rap hits and hi-hats.