Tag Archives: Jay-Z

The Ten Most Important Artists Of The Last Decade (Full List)

This is technically a repost, but for those interested it’s all in one spot.

1.) The White Stripes

2.) Kanye West

3.) Jay-Z

4.) Britney Spears

5.) Danger Mouse

6.) The Strokes

7.) Radiohead

8.) Lil Wayne

9.) Green Day

10.) Death Cab For Cutie

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The Ten Most Important Artists Of The Last Decade – 3. Jay-Z

Last year, Jay-Z appeared on The Daily Show to promote his book Decoded.  Jay-Z has always come off as an intelligent dude, and the excerpts I’ve read from Decoded solidified this.  What really stood out from Jay-Z’s appearance on The Daily Show, was his humbleness.  As Jon Stewart asked the questions, Jay-Z seemed shy, awkward, and out of his element.  I’ve been a fan of Jay-Z for a while, but his demeanor made me like him even more.  It was direct contrast to his rap persona – bigger than life, and untouchable.  Jay-Z has always been larger than life.   And for those brief moments on The Daily Show, he seemed human.

Many rappers tend to boast – it’s part of hip-hop culture.  When Jay-Z declared himself the “8th Wonder of the World” in “Izzo”, it seemed ridiculous.  And it is.  But the crux of the line lies in the fact that Jay-Z views himself as simply great – not just the “greatest rapper alive” (which he is.)  It’s hard to accuse him of being arrogant, when it’s true.  It reminds me of Brian Wilson listing 8 Beach Boys songs as his Top 10 Songs of all time.  Are you really going to argue?

As a rapper, Jay-Z is instantly recognizable with that deep voice.  His flow is impeccable, and legend has it that he never writes down his lyrics, and if that is the case, it’s all the more impressive.  “Moment of Clarity” remains of one of his best songs – where he takes down his critics for going mainstream – “I dumb down for my audience/And double my dollars/They criticize me for it/Yet they all yell “Holla“.

Jay-Z has always been ahead of the game, and a trend-setter.   But with his 2001 release The Blueprint, he truly became a hip-hop titan.  His rhymes were tighter, and he tore down his rivals with such ease that almost every other rapper seemed small in comparison.  The Blueprint was also significant for bringing back sampling as a hip-hop tool, eschewing the keyboard heavy sound that was prominent at the time.   It was also one of the first albums to incorporate soul samples,which has now become something of a common practice in hip-hop.   His next release, The Black Album was a slight dip in quality (though not by much).  “99 Problems” is a fusion of rock and hip-hop where Jay-Z recalls his early days, as if it remind his audience that’s still the same guy he used to be.

To some, Jay-Z tirade against auto-tune  – “D.O.A.” – may have made him seem like a cranky old man who doesn’t understand the new trends.  But rather, it cemented the fact that he still be the greatest by existing in his own world.  And when he played Glastonbury a couple years back – to Noel Gallagher’s chagrin – Jay-Z proved that he wasn’t bound by the hip-hop world.  He could draw a crowd, and put on a show that everybody loved.

Over the past decade, Jay-Z has proved time and again that as a hip-hop artist you can be huge, and still create music that is intelligent, while still maintaining street-cred.

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The Absurd Review: Kanye West & Jay-Z: “H.A.M.”

“H.A.M.”, the first single from the Jay-Z and Kanye West collaboration Watch The Throne surfaced earlier today.  The idea of the two hip-hop giants making an album together sounds exciting, but if H.A.M. is any indication of what direction Watch The Throne will take count me out.  Both rappers sound uninspired, the beat is sub-par, and what’s with the weird 80s synth in the background?   The final half of the song contains violins, and a choir.  Kanye, dude you already did similar things with better results on “Power”.

What do you think of “H.A.M.”?

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Lil Wayne, MTV and Hypocrisy

Yesterday, after spending 8 months for gun charges at Rikers, Lil Wayne was released. The music industry is probably happy to have one of its biggest stars free, even though his latest album I Am Not Human released last month, is selling well.  MTV.com spent the day with round the clock news and updates about Wayne’s release.

Flashback to 2003 when Jay-Z released the “controversial” video for “99 Problems”.  In the video, Jay is shot to death (which was supposed to symbolize his “death” and retirement from rap.)  Before it was aired, MTV flashed PR videos about gun violence and John Norris went on to explain something about the “artistic merit” of the song and video, lest anyone get any ideas.

And here they are 7 years later, practically praising Lil Wayne for his stint in jail.  Once again, MTV is showing its hypocrisy.  The channel is notorious for its shows glamorizing sex (“Jersey Shore” in particular), and fights (“The Real World”, and once again “Jersey Shore”).  Yet, during an episode of Teen Mom they placed ad for Domestic Abuse Centers, and also have been advocating the anti-cyberbullying movement.  While I do agree with the message, you can’t tell me that the cast of “Jersey Shore” as they slam each other into walls, and Lil Wayne with his gun charge are getting the message that MTV so clearly wants its audience to hear.

(And for the record, I do like some of Wayne’s music, and I hope that he gets his act together after his sentence.  Unlike TI.)

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Best Cover Art

I’m attempting to work on a design for a potential job, so as part of my break I’ve decided to list a few of my favorite album designs.  Let me know what you think and what your favorite covers are.

U2 – Achtung Baby

Some unknown group

Bob Dylan – The Freewheeling Bob Dylan

David Bowie – Honky Dory

Pearl Jam – No Code

Bruuuuuuuuce – Born to Run

Jay-Z – The Blueprint

Mad Men – Season 3.  (Wait that’s a TV show.  How did that get there?)

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Charity Singles

Over the past week, most of the (major) music sites have been posting articles about the  “We Are The World” remake.  Sure it’s a good cause, and I suppose that most of the artists that are contributing are feeling good about their contribution.  I’m not that cynical that I believe most of these artists are in for publicity.  (I usually do believe that, but when it comes to tragic circumstances, not so much.)

My problem with the sudden over-flow of charity singles is that they all suck.  The original “We Are The World” wasn’t that good either.  It was a bloated mess full of musicians singing one line.  Before the remake has anyone really thought about that song in about 20 years?  Probably not.  It’s not the classic that lots of people think it is.  

MTV has a couple of articles about Lil Wayne taking over Bob Dylan’s “classic” line.  Honestly, as a huge Bob Dylan I forgot he even sang on that song.  Before I YouTubed the original video, the only things I remember about it was  Dan Ackyroyd hanging out in the back looking like he was important, and Springsteen singing earnestly in his jean-jacket.  So as you can see, the original had a huge impact on me.  But I really could care less about Lil Wayne singing Dylan’s line, because Dylan didn’t write the song so it’s not like he could claim the line as his own.  

Even worse than “We Are the World” remake was “Stranded” – the collaboration between U2’s Bono and Edge, Rihanna, and Jay-Z.  Apparently it was written in a couple of days, and recorded in a week.  And it felt like it too.  At much as I dislike both versions of “We Are The World” at least it was somewhat catchy.  I just listened to “Stranded” for the second time, and seconds later I forgot the melody.

If you think I’m being too cynical here, perhaps I am.  The idea of charity singles is great, but Quincy Jones was behind “Thriller” – a pop masterpiece.  Yet when it came time to create a song that actually meant something, he came up with something trite and bloated.  The same goes for Bono and The Edge.  They’ve written many great songs about the troubles in Ireland, and Africa.  And when a song actually has the potential to make an impact they create one of the worst songs they’ve contributed to since 1997’s Pop.  

It’s not Christmas anymore, but this gets my vote for best charity-single ever:

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U2 and Jay-Z Together

Happy Friday!  This is fucking awesome.  Seriously only U2 can perform with Mick Jagger, Bruce Springsteen and Jay-Z in the same week.  More later, but enjoy this for now.

 

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