Showing posts with label Yelawolf. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Yelawolf. Show all posts

Dec 28, 2011

Most Disappointing Albums of 2011

I've gotten to the point in my life that I just don't listen to bad albums. That's why you probably won't get a "Worst Albums of (whatever year)" list from me anytime soon. If I listen to a few songs and I hate them, I'm not going to waste my time hoping those were anomalies. These are 2011 releases that I had high hopes for but was let down.

Yelawolf - Radioactive
My initial semi-praise of this album seems overstated now. I've hardly played the album since the week after its release. It's not so much Yelawolf that's the problem here… it's the fact that there's so little recognizable as the Yelawolf I'd come to know and enjoy on his previous releases and mixtapes. I wanted southern culture on the skids (not the band, the thematic element). I wanted hard edges; damn the mainstream, make the mainstream come to you. Instead I got an inconsistent mishmash of sappy crossover hooks and "hard" love songs with a couple of nods to the past mixed in. Can an artist sell out on their first real album?

Reckless Kelly - Good Luck and True Love
Dumb lyrics sink this ship, period. Sure, these guys have never been Townes Van Zandt with electric guitars, but still. At least work on the words long enough that they aren't noticeable. I'm trying to come up with a comparison to an NBA ref… you don't even notice the good ones…. but that's not quite right; lyrics are important and most times I believe they should stand on their own… strip the music away and they're still enthralling. If you can't do that, at least run them by a Nashville song committee and let them blandify the lyrics so they fade into the background. These guys sound tired, and this was the year little brother (Micky and the Motorcars) finally beat up big brother.

Drive-by Truckers - Go-Go Boots
This album isn't that bad in the grand scheme of things, I'm just sick of the sad old man music. I'm sick of being lulled to sleep by one of the most badass rock bands in America. You've got those guitars in your hands and that whiskey in your glasses… put 'em to better use! Don't get me wrong, there are some great tunes on here (Used to Be a Cop, Mercy Buckets), but if I want almost entirely slow, depressing story-songs, I'll listen to Gordon Lightfoot. Pick up the pace!

Roger Clyne & the Peacemakers - Unida Cantina
They phoned this one in. Yawner of the first degree. RCPM is one of my go-to bands for comfortable heartland by way of the southwest rock music. Comfort is good, drudgery is not. I'm not sure what they were shooting for with the dopey album-opener "All Over the Radio." It sounds like they were going for a pop radio crossover when there's no bridge available for bands of this ilk to even cross. The lyrics aren't up to the standards set by previous releases (pre-No More Beautiful World) and most of the album sounds uninspired. "Empty Highway" is the only song that stuck with me.

The Jayhawks - Mockingbird Time
Again, not actually bad… but with the reunion of the original vocalists, I was expecting a homerun. The swelling melodies I'd hoped for are restrained. The big hooks I love are nowhere to be heard. Can they not hit the high notes anymore? I doubt it, and when you've got long range assault rifles in the arsenal, why just fire the pellet guns?

Lil Wayne - Tha Carter IV
Wayne still has a way with the one-liner, but this album just feels like a long string of puns. The beats are boring and the songs just don't hold together. A couple of old-school feeling tracks were winners (Blunt Blowin', 6 Foot 7 Foot) but the rest was difficult to listen to more than a couple times. For as much hype as this album had coming in, it has to be considered the biggest failure of the year.

Red Hot Chili Peppers - I'm With You
RHCP has enough cred in the bank that I'm going to check out anything they release, despite recent sparse and dull output. So, how was this one? Sparse and dull. You've got two of the most exciting artists of the past few decades (Flea and Anthony Kiedis) still in the fold and this is the result? As Andrew from put it: "Five years of waiting, and they release an album that sounds like the B-sides of Stadium Arcadium (which was also disappointing)." Amen.

Note - The only truly awful album I listened to from start to finish this year was Justin Moore's Outlaws Like Me, which (as I said yesterday) is basically just a long string of "how damn country I am" tunes with lyrics a teenager could slap together.

Dec 21, 2011

If ____ Wrote a Christmas Song: 2011 Edition

If Yelawolf wrote a Christmas song
Catfish Billy gettin' ready
Delivering gifts in a big box Chevy
Got meth and speed and Oxycontin
Everything the girls and boys are wantin'
If you on the naughty list, get shotgun pellets

If Hank3 wrote a Christmas song
I been drinkin' and druggin' underneath the mistletoe
I'm a crazed Christmas rebel from long ago
Always courtin' trouble and I'm always on the run
Got a hooker named Noel, snorting blow off her buns

If Lil Wayne wrote a Christmas song
I got the toys like Geoffry giraffe
And you're Dane Cook, can't make me laugh
Ain't got the gifts the ho ho ho's need
Joy to the *&^@#$ (*@#$ @!###$ let's smoke weed

If Toby Keith wrote a Christmas song
I love you, red Santa hat
On a old man who's fat
It's made in 'merica!
It's made in 'merica!

If Miranda Lambert wrote a Christmas song
Silver bells, shotgun shells
It's Christmas in Tishomingo
Aim your shot, see 'em drop
Soon Rudolph will be filleted

If Willie Nelson wrote a Christmas song
I'm dreaming of a green Christmas
That's how I celebrate the yule
Where the smoke is funky
And I got munchies
Let's stop for ribs and biofuel

If Brantley Gilbert wrote a Christmas song
Cut off jeans and country boy's kiss
That's what's on her Christmas list
Santa's ridin' down an old dirt road
Sippin' spiked eggnog from the console
Johnny Paycheck was an outlaw
I wish you Merry Christmas, y'all

Nov 21, 2011

Yelawolf - Radioactive

Yelawolf's major label debut, Radioactive, is out today. FTM's a big fan of Yela's rural southern angle on hip-hop. His previous releases were full of classic rock and country influence with lyrics about the darker side of southern living. Think Drive-by Truckers for the rap set.

When he signed with Eminem's Shady Records in 2010, I was pretty excited for him. Of course I was a little apprehensive as well, concerned that his signature sound might get swallowed up by the corporate machine. I erred on the side of anxiousness though, knowing Yelawolf's talent and story (he's a half-white, half-Native American former professional skateboarder from the deep south) will make for a groundswell of support and bring true talent back to mainstream rap.

I'd be lying if I said Radioactive lived up to my expectations. I was naively hoping for something groundbreaking - a Nevermind of rap maybe - bringing his small town gutter sound to the mainstream. Unfortunately, it sounds more like the mainstream was brought to him.

Radioactive is still a very strong album with a few great and mostly good tunes. All the rap skills are there. The lyrics are generally excellent. The beats are solid and the production isn't overdone ….for the most part.

When the album sticks to Yelawolf's strengths it's at its best. "Grownin' up in the Gutter" is an angry rocked up rant which argues that hard times are everywhere, not just the ghetto. "Let's Roll," mines Yela's classic rock influences with an unabashedly catchy arena anthem, with a strong chorus from Kid Rock.

Where the record drops off is when Yela gets away from his meat and potatoes. The tracks that echo B.O.B. are definitely skippers. "Good Girl" is one "for the ladies," but I'm not sure even they will enjoy the annoying chorus and mixed messages. "Made in the USA" is a fairly well-written protest track completely torpedoed by a Debbie Boone meets Lee Greenwood hook. It's so sappy, it destroys whatever message Yelawolf wanted to impart.

Drop a little of this pop filler (which in fact isn't filler - I'm sure "Good Girl" will be released as a single to move a few units) and replace it with a couple more classic rock influenced bangers and Radioactive would be a little closer to that classic I wanted. Still, Yela's way above most of the rest of rap right now. He actually writes songs, not just barking out brags around a chorus. Let's hope his next album gives more of his unique southern perspective.

Mar 15, 2011

SXSW Day: Parody Album Covers

Today, Farce the Music parodies album covers from a few bands who'll be playing at SxSw in coming days. Wish I was there!

Feb 20, 2011

Sackpunch #14

Any Person Who Says Hip-Hop Isn't Music Deserves a Sackpunch

I'm probably going to step on the toes of a lot of friends and readers with this one, but it's got to be said. Rap, hip-hop, whatever you want to call it, is an entirely valid and artful genre of music. Yes, music. Read this definition carefully.
music |ˈmyoōzik|
1 the art or science of combining vocal or instrumental sounds (or both) to produce beauty of form, harmony, and expression of emotion : he devoted his life to music.
Obviously, hip-hop combines vocals and instrumentals. "Beauty" is subjective, but rap definitely has form. In fact, most rap songs conform to a more stringent form than other genres – 16 bar verses, anyone? Harmony? Rap songs often have background singers or rappers weaving their own vocals around and with the main vocalist. Expression of emotion goes without saying. I could end this piece here. The dictionary entry alone proves my point. Some of you need a little more convincing though (not that the most persuasive argument ever written could change some minds).

I'm not somebody who ever plays the race card, but there's an undeniable racial component to some people's aversion to hip-hop. Black people came up with the first rap songs. So what? Black people came up with the first blues songs and the first rock n' roll songs. They also had a hand in inspiring the earliest country music. Another culture may have created the vehicle, but it's an art form that can translate across bodies of water and colors of skin. The most popular (and arguable most talented) rapper is white.

Beyond race, people have other reasons…

They're just talking, you say. Wrong. They are talking in rhythm, with carefully considered syllables and rhyme. They're talking in a way that fits the tone of the lyric. They're talking in a way that mirrors the background instrumentals. They're talking with well considered word choice, using metaphors and similes. They're using cadence to draw you in and emphasis to denote the important points and emotions. If they're just talking – most people can do so – you try it. Let me know how that turns out.

But they just use canned beats and samples, you say. Wrong. Okay, partially wrong. Many rappers these days are working with bands and musicians live and on record. Have you ever seen a hip-hop artist on Saturday Night Live just standing on the stage with a mic and some speakers? Even the most studio-produced music these days includes guitars or other instruments alongside the beats, scratches and whatnot. And who's to say canned beats aren't music? It takes a lot of musical skill to blend the right tracks together to come up with an ear-pleasing arrangement of drums and accompaniment.

Rap songs all sound alike. Nope. That's a cop-out. Country songs all sound the same to non-fans. To be fair, the most commercial music does tend to run together in a sea of familiarity and milquetoast, but that's true in any genre. Hip-hop runs the gambit, sound and content-wise.

K'naan blends pop and rock into his brand of hip-hop, and raps about love, politics and the problems of his home country, Somalia. He even has some singsongy tracks that most wouldn't even call rap. I dare you to listen to Wavin' Flag or Fatima and not nod your head.

Alabama's Yelawolf, newly signed to Eminem's record label, has a country and classic rock bent. Not hick-hop, mind you, straight up hip-hop that sounds authentically countrified. He talks about the problems of the rural south, broken relationships and economic hardships. Gone will grab your ear from the start.

Cypress Hill, still around, mixes Latino and rock music into their signature sound. Crime and drugs are the focus of their lyrics, but usually in a personal and often humorous manner.

Notice I didn't say any of these artists rapped about bling and booty. Sure, they all get into sex and materialism, but they don't linger on these cliched subjects, like the most visible and commercially viable rappers tend to do.

Like any style of music, you've got to dig around a little to find the best and most creative of the bunch, but it's always worth the effort. Surface is surface. The deeper artists are below the water level.

Yeah, I get that hip-hop just isn't for everybody. That's understandable; everybody's got their own preferences in life and music. But if you're an open-minded fan of art and music, there is some hip-hop that will appeal to you.

For those with a realized or subconscious racial reasoning behind their dislike of rap, or those who won't even give it a chance or those who still say it's not music… you should pull up your Dickies and get ready. My fingers are clinched, my knuckles are white (my soul is colorblind), and a house of pain is coming your way… boom, sackpunch!


Related Posts with Thumbnails