Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Tape Deck '09 Discussion: Volume #3

As far as these compilations go, The Tape Deck Volume #3 has plenty of political content. First off, it’s a no-brainer that I’d include a whole bunch of Obama/Inauguration-themed tracks. But sadly, with the prospects of a brighter tomorrow comes some bad news as well. The anger over the police shooting – go ahead, call it an execution – of Oscar Grant still rages on. Several emcees and political activists have already offered their insight and condolences. On top of that, 2009 has been bloodied even more by Israel’s assault on Gaza. To date, 410 children were killed in this massacre. Shameless. We did however celebrate Martin Luthe King, Jr. Day last week, so at least we can find some solace in the fact that we can dream – and work – towards a better day.

West Up

Volume #3 begins with the “My President Is Black” Inaugural DC Mix that I quickly mixed and shared with you last week. From that point on, the rest of the volume – with exception to the last three tracks – are all sequenced in alphabetical order by artist, as usual. “Vanity (Death of a Star)” by Blu features a mellow soul guitar sample as he continues to impress as one of the nicest new emcees from the west. Speaking of the west, I’ve also included a track by El Prez titled “Perfect Strangers”. You might recognize this Inglewood, CA emcee from a mixtape I shared with you back in September of ’06. The cover art was cooler, but the music was even better, so go cop if you missed out back when.

Knoc-Turn’al. Remember him? Well, apparently he’s back. With Scott Storch production! The homie from the left coast that brought you hits like “Muzik”, “The Way I Am” and “Super Ugly” with Dr. Dre has returned with “Ya Boy Is Back”. It’s a solid club track, but nothing beats “The Way I Am”… yet. I’m rootin’ for ya Knoc’! Speaking of Scott Storch, this volume’s got three new tracks by The Game, one of which is produced by the Tuff Jew himself. The Tuff Gong reference is especially relevant because the song – “Enemy” – features Mr. Jr. Gong himself: Damian Marley. Wyclef Jeans joins in too on this Kingston-influenced leftover from L.A.X. I can see why they didn’t include it on the album (it wouldn’t have really fit in), but I still like it. Add to that, “Hustler’s Dream” featuring Anthony Hamilton is a song that I’d been anticipating for… well, about a year. Crazy, right? It’s finally here.

R.I.P. Oscar Grant

The story has gotten worse over the weekend, as we’ve recently discovered that Oscar Grant was socked in the face by another BART cop before he was fatally shot at. Like I said before, hip hop artists have already begun to speak out. Emcee Novel vented his frustration over a remixed version of “Mad World” by Gary Jules. Fans of Donnie Darko know what’s up. It’s difficult to bop your head to the added break beat whilst knowing that the song itself is really depressing. Mistah F.A.B. put out an equally-emotive track titled “My Life (Oscar Grant Tribute)” featuring Jennifer Johns and Codany Holiday. It’s definitely got something of a “Changes”/“Keep Ya Head Up” on some 2Pac ish. Well done.

In the past, DJ Green Lantern has been known to get politically involved. A couple years back, he and Just Blaze put out “Impeach the President” featuring dead prez, Saigon & Immortal Technique. And let’s not forget the music he made for Technique last year! In light of the Oscar Grant murder, he assembled Avery Storm and Uncle Murda to do their thing on the mic. With anger, Murda writes: “it’s on Youtube, son”! And Jasiri X, an emcee outta Pennsylvania, was known for speaking out on the Jena 6, and the Oscar Grant case is no difference. His last words: “it’s time for the rebellion”.

Yell, Rebel Yell

The Saigon/Joe Budden “beef” seems to have died down (damn it Just!!!), but ‘giddy hasn’t stopped dropping tracks. “Trans-Atlantic Slave Deal” is an interesting retelling of his times on a certain record label, comparing the industry to, well, the slave trade. The song itself is riddled with nice quotables, but this one’s gotta be my favorite: “There’s no Lil Wayne or T-Pain in my vein/ No disrespect to no _____, my shit just isn’t the same/”.

Nas blesses us with two apparent throwaway joints from his Untitled LP: “Fear of Mandingo” (originally titled “Fear of the Black Man’s Dick”) and “Something Foul”. The latter samples the same soul gem as Busta Rhymes’ “New York Shit”, while the former… um… has some really direct lyrics. Let’s just say there’s not too much more I’ll discuss than the title itself! Meanwhile, the Raheem Devaughn track “Bulletproof”, which features ATLien Ludacris, is a simple, laid back rap/r&b collab. But here’s the line that caught my attention: “I’d rather die on my feet than to live on my knees/”. That’s a direct quotation from Ernesto “Che” Guevara. What’s next, Luda? Trotsky? I’m patiently waiting…

Lighter Listening

I’ve included a handful of carefree music in here as well: Lil Jon returns with “Roll Call” featuring Ciara & Lil Wayne. Nothing too special here, but I’m digging that guitar riff. Jim Jones’ “Blow the Bank”, off his new album (which has been certified a classic by Dame Dash… I’m not holding my breath), is no “We Fly High”, but it’s worth a few spins. Memphis Bleek, Maino, Kid Cudi, Jermaine Dupri, Young Buck, RZA, Kool G Rap, Ghostface, Rain, Chamillionaire and many more make some appearances as well with some non-political hip hop heat.

The End?

Michael Heart is a singer/songwriter is a fellow Los Angeleno whom I recently discovered while listening to KPFK. In the wake of Israel’s assault on Gaza, he penned a song titled “We Will Not Go Down (Song for Gaza)”. I got chills the first time I heard it. The chorus (“we will not go down, in the night without a fight”) immediately reminded me of the goosebumps I got when I watched Independence Day back when I was ’96 (I was 8). The speech by Bill Pullman (to the right) evokes a similar tone. But as Jay would say, this ain’t a movie, dog. “Song for Gaza” is poignant and real. I follow it up with a quick speech that Cornel West gave on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. West’s outlook is perhaps the fairest and most balanced of all perspectives I’ve ever heard. What do you think?

That’s all for now. Volume #4 is coming soon. Also, we’ll be putting out an instrumental volume in the near future, and we’re accepting beats from indie producers (only if they’re good). Peace, ya’ll… Turn it up!!