I used to have hoop dreams. I’m not embarrassed to admit it. Back in seventh grade, I would bring my basketball to school, play full court games at recess, and then when I got off the school bus, I would shoot around at the school by my house until sunset. On nights that the Bulls weren’t playing, I would watch the And1 Mixtape Vol. 3 on the VHS player in my basement. My friend Chris and I were even lucky enough to witness the filming of part of the tape at the public court at Foster Ave. and Lake Shore. The reason I mention all of this is because I first heard today’s song of the day on the soundtrack of that And1 Mixtape. Invincible comes off of CNN’s second album, The Reunion, which went platinum. Capone and Nore have always been a bit overlooked and underrated, as they are rarely in the discussion with the most well-known New York City emcees. Nevertheless, CNN made four very solid albums together. DJ Premier, best known for being half of the legendary duo Gang Starr, and arguably the greatest hip hop producer of all time, also came through big time for CNN with this flawless instrumental. Give it a listen.
Bring your umbrella cause young fella it gets no weirder”
Toothpaste and toothbrush. Peanut butter and jelly. Andre 3000 and Big Boi. Some things were just meant to be together. Today’s song of the day comes courtesy of the greatest hip-hop duo of all time. Based out of Atlanta, Big Boi and Dre have released six albums together, including the two-disc set entitled Speakerboxxx/The Love Below. By spitting extremely conscientious and thought-provoking lyrics while maintaing a distinct “dirty south” style, Outkast has been able to almost singlehandedly bring southern rap to the forefront of the game. Chonkyfire is off of Kast’s third album Aquemini (a play on words incorporating each of the duo’s zodiac signs). It’s an overcast afternoon down here in New Orleans, and nothing feels more appropriate for today’s mood than this grimey, distorted – somewhat eerie track. Enjoy.
Today’s song of the day features a tag team between two of the hip-hop game’s most legendary emcees. Fried Chicken was released on Nas’ most recent album, which, after Def Jam disapproving of the proposed title of “Nigger,” is ironically entitled “Untitled.” The album as a whole employs a somewhat satirical approach to highlight the evident discrimination African Americans have faced since the conception of our nation. Fried Chicken is a truly genius track, as Nas and Busta use personification and exaggeration to enforce a widespread stereotype, rather than try to refute it. “Like Greek with his falafel, Italian with his tomato pasta, what roachie is to a Rasta.” Prejudice is nothing more than fear of differentiation – every culture has subtleties, it’s time to start embracing them! I could write an essay on this, but I’ll leave it at that. Enjoy the track.
Lupe Fiasco, the man who singlehandedly made my hour-long dates with my iPod on the train rides home from high school so memorable, is the type of talent that only comes around once every couple of decades. His gift as a “purveyor of talk, seller of words, merchant of speak” – a hustler in the most literal sense of the word – is undeniable. Lupe is truly one of a kind. His recent dilemma, however, is not.
Every hip-hop artist worth listening to faces, at some point in their career, the decision that can ultimately define who they are as a musician. Because of the way the music industry has evolved over the past few decades, there is now an undeniable tradeoff between achieving critical acclaim and staying true to one’s self. The rappers who have been able to rake in mass fortune while simultaneously retaining their core fan base can be counted on one hand. Jay-Z did it. Kanye has done it to some extent. Although Wayne, like Kanye, has strayed from his original sound, most fans who were with him back in the Dedication days can’t help at least giving his new tracks a listen.
All of that being said, Lupe messed up big time by signing with Atlantic, and he knows it. He was given free reign with the production of his first album on the new label, The Cool, but after listening to Lasers a few times through, it is evident the Lupe has become little more than a brand name used to maximize Atlantic’s profits. Lupe didn’t take up rapping as a kid with hopes of getting rich from it. It started as a simple idea – an innocent motivation to paint a vivid picture of his surroundings. The main ingredient in Lupe’s recipe for dopeness was an intrinsic passion that can’t be taught. “And He Gets the Girl,” one of my favorite Lupe tracks, details a high school interaction between a boy and a chick he is crushing on. “Kick, Push” is literally about a young boy’s love for skateboarding the streets of Chicago. These tracks are so raw and pure – they almost remind me of a kid telling his buddy a story.
But tracks like “The Show Goes On?” WTF? It’s as if Lupe is a mindless robot doing Atlantic’s chores. Like hey, Lupe, you’re good with this rapping stuff, make us a song about absolutely nothing, but make it catchy – we want this bumping in every suburb from the Valley to Long Island! Atlantic loosened their metaphorical chokehold on Lu at least somewhat by allowing tracks such as “Words I Never Said” and “All Black Everything” to be on Lasers. These two songs stay consistent with the underlying themes Lupe has been pushing his whole career – anti-government sentiment, pro-peace activism, etc. The bulk of the album, however, stands as a shocking display of the power a record label has over it’s artists. How is a rapper supposed to deliver quality tracks when he’s being force-fed the material? The following quote is from a recent interview by Complex magazine with Lupe Fiasco himself:
Chicago's Very Own
“When I think about everything that I went through on this record, I hate this album… As opposed something like The Cool, which is more of my own blood, sweat, and tears, and my own control. With this record, I’m little bit more neutral as to the love for the record.”
So, is Lasers a huge disappointment to both Lupe and his fans? Yes. Does it change the fact the he is one of the greatest lyricists ever to bless our ears with his verses? No. If there is one thing I am certain of, it is this: Lu knows he did not pull through for his fans with Lasers, and he wants nothing more than to bounce back and show that the industry hasn’t changed him. To put it simply, I am not as much disappointed with Lasers as I am straight up excited for what is coming next, because there is nothing more exciting than a dope emcee with something to prove.
Below is Lupe’s “Coulda Been” – a throwback (and a personal favorite of mine) for y’all to vibe with.
We are proud to announce a new contributor to the CSC, Adam Cohen. Although he’s a freshman at Tulane, we (Blake and I) both felt that he would really help us reach that next level. Plus, check out that SWAG!
This means we will each post a SOTD every three days. Pretty easy concept, lemme know if you need help understanding.