Jay Electronica Channels Biggie Smalls


If you’ve read a music magazine any time in the last two years, you’re probably aware that Drake is the hottest new rapper in the game right now.  If you’ve read a music blog any time in that period, you may also be aware that the man pictured above, the elusive Jay Electronica, is the hottest new emcee in the game, and depending on who you ask, he just might be the savior of hip-hop.

You can read about his curious methods on Wikipedia, but here’s a few key details.  He’s from New Orleans.  He likes to rap over movie scores.  He’s released most of his material via posts in random web forums and his mysteriously disappearing and reappearing MySpace and Twitter accounts.    He just had a baby with Erykah Badu.  He has produced for and toured with Nas.  There is intense speculation as to when, if ever, he will release a proper debut album.  And oh yeah, he can rap his ass off.

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The Best Album of the Year So Far

Beach House - Teen Dream Beach House
Teen Dream
(Sub Pop) 2010

Purchase: Amazon

Merriweather Post Pavilion was released on January 6, 2009.  The year wasn’t even a week old and people were already calling it the best album of 2009.  It seemed crazy, but sure enough, come December the bigger question was where to put it on your  Best of the Decade list.  January 2010 is a tad early to talk about Best of the Decade, but as we entered the New Year something seemed eerily familiar.  A highly anticipated January release, Teen Dream by Beach House, was already being projected as a potential album of the year.


Jimmy Morris is a fellow music blogger that I follow on Twitter (check out his excellent site Head Underwater) and his bite-sized review on the eve of the album’s official release directly addressed a question that, while premature, was definitely on my mind.  I didn’t hear the album until the next day, and I’m still not sure if I agree with his statement, but they are close enough in quality that I think it boils down to taste rather than superiority.  Pink Floyd has been my favorite band since grade school, and I’ve seen Phish more times than I care to admit in a public forum, so it’s safe to say that I’m pre-disposed to loving Animal Collective.

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Pavement Reunion, or Malkmus is God


Malkmus is God.

With all due respect to Clapton and Lemmy, it’s 2010 and bluesy guitar rock and speed metal aren’t exactly in vogue. Meanwhile, indie rock, if we can even call it that anymore, is the hottest thing on the interwebs since LOLcats, and men’s v-neck t-shirts are so ubiquitous that hipsters have replaced hippies as everyone’s favorite “dirty” target of derision. Which is ironic since Gen X, the definitively indie generation, hated Deadheads almost as much as they hated hair metal and loved grunge. And they really loved their grunge. At least until it got co-opted by all the wrong people, then they turned to their savior – the almighty Pavement! The indie-est of the indie.

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Supreme Clientele – 10 Years Later

Ghostface Killah - Supreme Clientele Ghostface Killah
Supreme Clientele
(Razor Sharp/Epic) 2000

Purchase: Lala | Amazon

Last month marked the tenth anniversary of Supreme Clientele by Ghostface Killah, a landmark hip-hop record and #5 on my list of the best albums from 2000-2009.

“I’m the inventor, ’86 rhyming at the center, debut, ’93 LP, told you to enter”

Arriving in stores on January 25, 2000, Supreme Clientele was Ghostface’s second album, and the seventh Wu-Tang related project released in as many months.   The majority of these albums were very weak, especially compared to earlier solo projects like Liquid Swords and Only Built 4 Cuban Linx, and the once untouchable Wu brand was starting to fade a bit.  But unlike the releases that preceded it, Supreme Clientele garnered universal acclaim, leading some to hail it as Wu-Tang’s “millennial rebirth.” It wouldn’t prove to be the return of the Wu though, but rather the arrival of Ghost as a brilliant solo artist with a voice all his own, who over the next decade would prove to be the Clan’s finest member and one of the great emcees of all time.

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A Thin Line Between MGMT and Hate

MGMT - Congratulations

The above image is the cover art for Congratulations, the new MGMT album due in stores on April 13th.  If you pre-order now you can get a limited edition CD or vinyl with a “scratch off front cover” and “custom metal coin.”  I’m not kidding.  As for a first single, the group said in a recent interview with NME that they’d prefer not to release any from the album, because they’d “rather have people hear the whole album as an album.”  We’ll see how Sony/Columbia feels about that.  In a year that has already seen new discs from Spoon and Vampire Weekend, and will include new offerings from LCD Soundsystem, and possibly even The Strokes, this new MGMT disc might still be considered the most heavily anticipated release.

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The Best Album of the Decade – Sound of Silver

James Murphy

Sometimes there’s a man… I won’t say a hero, ‘cause, what’s a hero? But sometimes, there’s a man. And I’m talking about the Murph here. Sometimes there’s a man, and well, he’s the man for his time and place. He fits right in there. And that’s James Murphy, in Williamsburg.

Sarcasm. Cynicism. Irony. Meta-humor. Anti-pretentiousness. Booze. Amphetamines. Lackadaisical lyricism. Dirty words. Dirtier beats. Guitars and turntables. Dance music and punk rock. Nothing captured the post-millennial Brooklyn zeitgeist quite like LCD Soundsystem. In the borough of cool, they were the coolest, and it seemed like they weren’t even trying.

It may have been evolution or perhaps it was an epiphany, but at some point after 2005, Murphy’s attitude towards writing changed. The icily distant demeanor born on “Losing My Edge” melted away, revealing a cranky and opinionated, but passionate and caring, human being with a lifetime of colorful experiences and complicated relationships to share. Exhibit A: “All My Friends”.  Exhibit B: “Someone Great”.  Two of the greatest songs of our young century, totally unlike anything heard in the previous. Upon first hearing them, it was immediately apparent that conventional ideas of what dance music was supposed to be no longer applied.

On Sound of Silver opener “Get Innocuous!” a precedent is set, a defining tableau. It starts with a simple, repetitive loop, then adds another, then another, the track slowly builds, picking up speed as new and exciting sounds enter the mix, the beat kicks into high gear, going faster and faster until… BAM! Dance party! Everything after that is pretty much a blur until you come to your senses 7 minutes later. You’re not quite sure of what just happened, but you definitely liked it.

You expect to overcome this attention deficit on repeated listens, but it’s harder than it seems. The beats pleasantly overwhelm, but the lyrics are even easier to get lost in. Vividly specific enough to elicit an emotional response, but still vague enough to be easily relatable, Murphy’s memories are a gateway drug to your own. This isn’t the thinking man’s electronic music; it’s existentialist party music, unafraid of dabbling in life’s big questions and the world’s major problems, but with the good sense to not provide any answers or solutions.

The album’s lead single, “North American Scum”, provides a perfect example of these conflicting elements that define LCD Soundsystem’s brilliance and relevance. The meaning of patriotism in post-9/11 America was a constant artistic theme throughout the presidency of George W. Bush, but this is a refreshingly original take on the concept. The liberal notion of being embarrassed to be American while traveling abroad is expressed with hilariously biting sarcasm. Mistakes are acknowledged and right-wing Christian ideals are rejected, but ultimately, the message is that North America in general (and New York City in particular) is still the greatest place in the world.

Murphy’s preoccupation with the haters was obviously deep rooted. He has even said in interviews that he self-identifies as a “lifetime failure.” While his twisted sense of humor and propensity for self-deprecation are still critical parts of the lyricism, it no longer defines his music, and he’s much better off for it, as are we. From their very first single, LCD Soundsystem sounded like the promise of a brave new world and 5 years later, Sound of Silver delivered. Who knew ambition could look so cool?

Click here to read the rest of my Top 50 Albums of the ’00s