I started a Tumblr, so I'll be dropping my wisdom-bombs over there these days. There's already half of a Quarterly Report up. Don't expect to see me back on Blogspot unless I get really sick of Tumblr or something, which is always on the table.
So I guess this is my grand farewell to Blogspot? This blog did a lot of things for me, stupid name or no. I feel kind of bad about leaving it, even if I'm just going to do the exact same thing elsewhere and even though I haven't updated this thing for shit lately.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
I started a Tumblr, so I'll be dropping my wisdom-bombs over there these days. There's already half of a Quarterly Report up. Don't expect to see me back on Blogspot unless I get really sick of Tumblr or something, which is always on the table.
Thursday, March 04, 2010
The Quarterly Report: Singles
Hey, I'm finally getting around to doing this! I didn't have to. Don't bitch. Next time I do one of these, I'll probably do it on the Tumblr that I've been meaning to start for a minute now. This is less long-winded than I usually run with this sort of thing, if only because I now have way less time to be long-winded. Oh, and because my ridiculously lax posting schedule makes things pretty fucking confusing, a clarification: These are my ten favorite songs of the last three months of 2009.
Holy shit, it's almost time to do another one of these.
1. Jay Electronica: "Exhibit C". It's hard to really articulate what makes "Exhibit C" so much better than every other piece of Illmatic revivalism in the past however many years. Brandon says it's the busy, coming-from-all-angles drums, and that's definitely part of it. But more generally, there's an energy and a sense of purpose here that's rare in any rap subgenre. "Exhibit C" is an instant classic on the level of, say, "What You Know", and just like with that song you can tell that everyone involved knew they had a monster on their hands at every single step of the process. Jay Elec's obviously a classically great rapper, and I love how he refuses to put songs in generic categories, just jumping into digressions and lingering over details instead. He makes it all tangible: sleeping in rain, shitting out chains, U-Haul truck robberies. Just Blaze's beat is the sort of big swollen destroyer that I thought he'd quit making. And I love the idea that Jay Elec could follow this up by releasing a straight-up classic album or just by fading back into obscurity. He's an open question, and when's the last time we had one of those?
2. G-Side: "Rising Sun [feat. Kristmas]". The moment on Huntsville International where it really, forcefully becomes apparent that you're hearing something special. The Block Beataz beat knocks the way all their beats knock, but it's also emotionally resonant, a slow-building stomach-punch that weaves in all these sad little shards of melody and builds them up slowly and intuitively. And G-Side's rapping just works perfectly with it. "Rising Sun" is a song about working hard, doing it legally if you've got half a chance: "I know dudes who know the work and still go to work", "You ain't a G; you a doo boy / I'm a W2 boy". I interviewed these guys a little while back, and somehow, learning that they had actual honest-to-god jobs (gas station, barbershop) made it land that much harder.
3. Vampire Weekend: "Cousins". Their Rancid cover was butt, but it's been fun seeing VW talk up the ska influence that was always there in interviews lately. (The hey-hey-heys in "A-Punk" were Op Ivy as fuck.) Relatedly but distinctly, there's also a certain basement-show hardcore influence at work, especially on this song. When they want to, they play fast, and "Cousins" is the moment where they fit all their tricky melodic sophistication into a song that just rockets so quickly that you barely get a chance to make up your mind about it. It takes confidence to try something like this, and panache to pull it off. Zach wrote that it was like the Monorchid covering Elvis Costello, which is as close to precise as you're going to get with something like this. The church-bells breakdown at the end is absolutely glorious, the sort of thing more actual hardcore bands might try if they (a) had money and (b) weren't afraid that all their friends would laugh at them. And this is also one of those situations where the video makes me like the song even more than I did already.
4. Kelis: "Acapella" I'm really hoping we get more stuff like this in the wake of "I Gotta Feeling": overblown Jersey Shore cheeseball-house sinking its teeth into commercial pop and R&B and all things both commercial-pop and R&B. And so now we get Kelis, out of nowhere, hooking up with cheeseball auteur David Guetta to make a completely delirious and ridiculously catchy house-diva wailer with none of the icy cool-kid restraint she brought to almost all her actual hits. More like this, please.
5. Gucci Mane: "Heavy". This isn't Gucci at his most quotable, and David Drake isn't going to post an entire transcribed verse on So Many Shrimp or anything, but holy shit this is catchy. Shawty Redd's berserk seesawing beat is exactly the kind of thing I'm going to miss if he disappears, and Gucci's chorus, about how he can't lift his neck because his chain's too heavy, is just stupidly brilliant. ("Brilliantly stupid" feels backhanded, and I have absolutely no shame in how much I love this record.) In all the bazillions of words written about Gucci on this here internet, one thing that can get lost is his energy; he's got the charisma and the carton conviction to make a ridiculous premise like this sing.
6-10. B.G.: "Niggas Owe Me Some Money [feat. Soulja Slim, C-Murder & Lil Boosie]", Portishead: "Chase the Tear", Snoop Dogg: "I Wanna Rock", LCD Soundsystem: "Bye Bye Bayou", Ludacris: "How Low"
Monday, January 11, 2010
The Quarterly Report: Albums
Hey, I'm not too terribly late this time! You guys know what it is. I was working on this around the same time as the Gucci Pitchfork review that ran today, so there's some recycled sentiment here. Apologies to Bear in Heaven, Young Money, Miranda Lambert, the Flaming Lips, and Fuck Buttons. Singles when I get to them.
1. G-Side: Huntsville International. It's tough to say just what, exactly, pushes G-Side so far beyond every other mixtape-rap entity currently clogging up my RSS. I mean, it's not hard to say why they're good. They have basically no weak spots. Both dudes rap their asses off, and they bring an emotional weight to everything they do, so there's an urgency there even when they're talking about doing interviews with bloggers, the sort of thing that's be wince-inducing from pretty much any other rapper. The Block Beataz tracks bring classic Southern-rap thump but add all these little stoned, spacey ideas that keep things interesting without compromising their force. G-Side and the Block Beataz both know their way around a hook. All that is pretty easy to describe, but none of it quite explains how compulsively I've had this thing on repeat since downloading it, how it unexpectedly barnstormed my Pazz & Jop ballot so completely that I didn't feel right putting it anywhere lower than #3 the day I turned it in. To get into that, I have to get real vague and talk about how the whole thing has this intuitive intensity-- dudes absolutely overwhelmed with what little success the internet has brought them, totally understanding what makes them great and amping up all those elements, not afraid to get real psychedelic with their beats. The closing one-two of "Rising Sun" and "So Wonderful" immolates me every single time.
2. Converge: Axe to Fall. Converge was always one of those bands I always liked but never loved, on record at least. Hugely important band, obviously, and they win points, I guess, for pushing hardcore from grunted-out thuggery to all-out nerve-wracked expressionism. But Converge songs would come up on shuffle, and I'd hear the screeches and berserk math guitars and everything piling on top of itself way too quickly, and I'd just instinctively hit skip. I don't do that with any of the songs from Axe to Fall. It's only really a toned-down record in that they've slowed down the riffage and added some builds and dynamics and choruses, and plus there's that weird song where the Rasputin guy from Neurosis pretends to be Tom Waits. But most of the tracks here aren't any less intense than anything on Jane Doe; the riffs just now have the space and structure they really need to wallop you in the eyeball. And good lord, that's just exactly what this band needed. Because everything about this band that was always good (Jake Bannon's death-roar, the serrated grandeur of the production, the band's commendable habit of tossing eight-minute slow-churn epics in with all the two-minute catharsis-blasts) is now great. I haven't spent enough time doing spin-kicks in sweaty Boston basements to call this one their best album with any authority, but I can sure call it my favorite.
3. Gucci Mane: Movie 3D: The Burrprint. I can't call this the moment it all came together for Gucci, since it came together over and over, all year. And this tape isn't even a perfect representation of his aesthetic, since its overall horror-movie heaviness misses some of the loony joy you hear on a track like "Lemonade". Still, this is my favorite Gucci mixtape to date, an end-to-end monster with no filler tracks, no real crossover attempts, barely any outside guests. It helps that all the So Icy guys come off way better than they usually do on the posse cuts, and it helps that the beats never depart much from the catchy/cheap Zaytoven model. But the real great thing is just how consistently on Gucci is throughout. The way he puts words together without falling off beat is probably the most consistent evergreen musical pleasure I had all year, and some of the extended punchline-heavy verses where he keeps the same rhyme scheme throughout can compete with anything Cam or Wayne did during their respective mid-decade peaks. "Poppin' Cris, think that I need Alcohol Anonymous / 45 in the club, I could kill a hippopotamus": I could listen to that shit all day, and some days I do.
4. The Mountain Goats: The Life of the World to Come. When you name all the songs on your album after Bible verses, you're pretty much guaranteed to evoke all sorts of gut-reaction weirdness in every recovering Catholic in your audience. That's what John Darnielle did with this one, and it sure worked; I spent a good afternoon frantically Googling every last one of those verses and trying to figure out how they interacted with the songs themselves. But even without that associative connect-the-dots game, this is probably my favorite Mountain Goats album since The Sunset Tree because it feels more personal. Personal to me, that is; not necessarily personal to Darnielle. The quick image of meeting your kid for the first time on "Genesis 30:3" tears me to pieces. I took my brother to see the band just after his dog died (and just before my dog died), and I just barely kept my composure through the extinct-animal song "Deutoronomy 2:10". Stuff like that. Point is: It's getting impossible for me to talk about Mountain Goats songs without dredging up all this messy emo personal stuff. That seems to be true of just about every Mountain Goats fan, and it's a pretty amazing thing to be able to make everyone who loves your music think about their lives (as opposed to your life) when you write these songs. Darnielle always does it. Dude's a beast.
5. Gucci Mane: The State vs. Radric Davis. Especially after the all-around tragedy that was "Spotlight", it didn't seem like there'd be any way the eventual Gucci album could fuck with all the mixtapes. But this one does a pretty good job reconciling Gucci's perma-blunted insanity with actual commercial expectations, resulting in the kind of thing we don't hear too often anymore: A compulsively listenable major-label rap album that fits the same structureless base-covering model of most major-label rap albums. Gucci's got this weird way of making all the Scott Storch and Jazze Pha beats sound like Zaytoven beats just by rapping on them (or maybe he just picked those guys' most Zaytoven-esque beats). Almost all the guests come hard. The opening seven-song run is hard as fuck. A few songs, like "Heavy" and "Gingerbread Man", are just ridiculously catchy. The mid-album stretch of R&B tracks fucks with the momentum considerably, but even some of those tracks are really good, "Bad Bad Bad" especially. The album isn't anywhere near as good as Tha Carter II, but it works along those same lines, giving focus and direction to Gucci's all-over-the-place brilliance. Too bad it sold jack shit.
6-10. The Very Best: Warm Heart of Africa, G Mane: Sunday on Da Porch, Lil Wayne: No Ceilings, Big K.R.I.T.: The Last King, Slayer: World Painted Blood
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Hey, two months late! That's a new record. But I said I was gonna finish this Quarterly Report shit, and here it is. Hopefully I'll get the fourth-quarter shit done quicker. And just because the whole chronology is so massively fucked up, I'll clarify: These are my favorite songs that came out between July and September. Some of them are old as hell.
The Quarterly Report - Singles
1. Thom Yorke: "All for the Best". This is from the tribute/benefit album thing for Mark Mulcahy, this old 80s/90s college rock guy whose wife recently died. Yorke is covering a song by Miracle Legion, one of Mulcahy's bands, and so he's singing someone else's lyrics, and they're not even remotely about corporations slowly taking over our universal consciousness or whatever. Instead, it's a bunch of telling, vivid details about being totally sad and totally devoted to someone, how those two feelings can feed off each other in ways that don't even come close to making sense. The melody is pretty simple, too. Yorke's got this insane compositional sense, and he knows when to phase in the big discordant guitar riff or the trash-can percussion or the electronic hums and beeps so they'll have maximum emotional impact. His voice is also obviously on some force-of-nature shit. And here he's devoting those gifts to a song that's pretty deceptively simple, and it keeps him grounded. He's also harmonizing with his brother, and so there's this warm intimacy to the whole thing that I really never hear on actual Radiohead songs. Point is: Everything about this song is totally devastatingly gorgeous. I'd love to see Yorke applying his gifts to really direct gutpunch songs like this, but I know it's not gonna happen, so I might as well just take full delight in it while I've got the chance.
2. Lil Cali: "Ric Flair [feat. Young Dro & Mouse]". I was talking to David Drake about this one. Drake mentioned how a friend of his predicted that the real Ric Flair would pull a Rosa Parks and sue over this one. I don't think Ric Flair will sue. I think that when Ric Flair hears this shit in the club, he screams "whooo!" a bunch of times until his face gets all red. Then he runs around chopping people's chests. Then he gets all dazed, takes a couple of steps forward, and flops on his face. That's what I would do if I was Ric Flair, anyway. Obviously awesome title aside, this is just perfectly executed deep-South bounce-rap with a particularly nasty Dro verse and a total MVP performance from Mouse. Right now, I wouldn't be mad if Mouse was house producer for the entire world instead of just Trill Ent. He's the most consistent non-Boosie rapper in Louisiana these days, his hooks stick in your head all day, and no producer anywhere else is better at uncomplicated dance-rap shit these days. I hope his car is entirely free of weed and guns; these Louisiana cops aren't playing these days.
3. Jeremih: "Imma Star". I didn't like "Birthday Sex" because you guys know how I feel about yippy/stuttery Dream-isms. But the follow-up is total simple, slithery, insinuating R&B strut, and it's great. Jeremih's basically just singing battle-rap lyrics here. Except they'd sound a whole lot more ridiculous if he rapped them, and somehow they come out simultaneously ridiculous and cool in his detached matter-of-fact croon. There's one part where I'm pretty sure he says, "Don't need Roger Ebert or the paparazzi," which is clearly ridiculous; everyone needs Roger Ebert. Also: "You a Scorpio? Girl, get over here / Ride me all night like you kin to Paul Revere."
4. Trick Daddy: "Ruby Red". If all those songs with kids' choruses proved anything, it's that Trick's most dubious impulses can sometimes turn out to be his best. So: a teary-eyed addiction confession over a bloopy Jim Jonsin plastic-pop beat with a chipmunked-out Southern rock chorus? Yeah, that'll work. Trick's built up ridiculous amounts of goodwill over the years, and this song uses all your built-in sympathies, almost preying on them, so that Trick can tell us about how his chest hurts when he wakes up in the morning. It's a simple song about the accumulated physical costs of a life lived hard, and it reminds me of something like Johnny Cash's "Sunday Morning Coming Down". It's not exactly a song about hard-earned wisdom; it's a song about hard-earned depression, about wishing you had the wisdom to prevent what you're feeling now.
5. Toby Keith: "American Ride". Keith's particular strain of asshole conservatism is one that I kind of like, even if I almost never agree with it. Keith doesn't get all furious or offended or bent out of shape; he's no self-righteous Fox News Bible thumper. Instead, he just lays back and makes fun of everything, trusting that everything's going wrong and every attempt to fix shit is doomed: "Plasma getting bigger, Jesus getting smaller / Spill a cup of coffee, make a million dollars." And then, on the chorus, he sings about how you have to love all this bullshit. It sure helps that he attaches these shithead sentiments to a monster of a three-minute Southern rock windows-down singalong, snarling out na-na-nas when he can't think of any other stuff to complain about.
6-10. Big Boi: "Fo Yo Sorrows [feat. George Clinton & Too Short]", Lil Boosie: "Top Notch [feat. Mouse & Lil Phat]", Still Going: "Spaghetti Circus", Tum Tum: "Don't Play No Games [feat. Baby C]", Florence & the Machine: "You've Got the Love (Jamie xx Rework)".
Friday, October 09, 2009
The Quarterly Report: Albums
You know what's getting hard? Finding time to do any sort of writing that I'm not getting paid for. I thought about just stopping doing these quarterly reports, but I guess I'm addicted to my own opinions or some shit. Apologies to M.O.P., Memory Tapes, KD, Baroness, Dizzee Rascal, and the TrapsNTrunks Huntsville tape. As always, singles when I get to them.
1. Girls: Album. I already reviewed the thing for Pitchfork and talked about it on this weird ABC thing, and every other writer out there seems to have an opinion on this one, so I don't know if there's too much to say about this one. But there's a line that got cut from my Pitchfork review, probably for good reason. I originally ended that review by saying that we should dive into this band right now because who knows if we're ever going to get a follow-up. And it's true: This is a whole album about fragility from a band led by a dude with some serious demons and filled with guys who like drugs. The fact that they ever became a functional band feels like a small miracle. But there's something else about this band and this album that I love. They take all their press photos and shoot all their videos with their their bigass mob of friends, and that sense of mutual support really creeps into the music. Like, that's how this album gets to be so fun: Everyone involved is propping everyone else up at all times, which is kind of a beautiful thing. A whole lot of people played on this album, and all the great little production flourishes help attest to that. But there's also this whirling bruised out-of-control quality that reminds me of every scary/sad/fun Baltimore cokehead party I ever went to. This is indie rock teetering on the precipice of something heavy, which is something indie never seems to do anymore. It's music with something at stake.
2. Raekwon: Only Built 4 Cuban Linx II. When I'm in the right mood, this one is #1. There's been a good amount of talk from folks like Brandon about how Cuban Linx II is straight-up regressive mid-90s revivalism, revivalism that doesn't even get the twisty mythology of that initial wave of Wu records right. Brandon's not exactly wrong there, but an album full of insular hardhead gangsta shit is pretty much the best possible thing Rae could be making right now. And more to the point, we're dealing with transcendent insular hardhead gangsta shit right here. Every one involved is rapping like this is their one shot to grab a big audience again, which it sort of is. Ghostface might be the guy with the least to prove here, but he still spazzes out on every track, bringing nauseating realism with intensity that's rare for even him. The beats are all drugged-up and heavy and evocative, which is so much better than the rote budget thud we get from so many of Rae's peers. And more to the point, this works as a subtle corrective to all the triumphal drug-dealer talk of someone like Jeezy. There's no glorification at work here. And while Rae talks about buying stuff, he's way more vivid talking about blood-spatters on sidewalks. I can't imagine anyone wanting to take part in something like "Sonny's Missing", and Beans' verse on "Have Mercy" is some seriously heartbreaking shit. In a way, then, this is humane gangsta music, or at least music that acknowledges the sickness of the life it describes. Amazing that Rae had something like this in him after all these years.
3. Freddie Gibbs: Midwestgangstaboxframecadillacmuzik. I've written about this guy a couple of times in the past few months, so I don't want to repeat myself too much, but the appeal here is pretty simple. This guy raps his ass off, picks great beats, and generally takes everything he does very seriously. His mixtapes, especially this one, sound like really good albums. He's got one of those all-time take-no-shit snarls, and because of that toughness, his beat-up emotional moments sound earned. The beats on "Murda on My Mind" and "How I Feel" and "Iodine Poison" are drunk feverish nightmare things, and he raps over them even though he'd still be great over workmanlike throwback tracks. Gibbs is a great rapper, but he's not so great that other people out there can't do what he does. And now it finally feels like we're coming out the other end of that weird blog-rap circus, reaching the point where rappers can generate buzz by rapping well over great beats instead of resorting to attention-grabbing gimmickry. Gibbs and Playboy Tre and Pill and KD and probably plenty of other people I haven't heard yet are showing that you really can do this, even now, and the proliferation of these guys kind of reminds me of the recent wave of great low-budget straight-to-video action movies like Blood and Bone and Undisputed 2, the stuff this guy talks about. When people remember how to do that simple, honest, unpretentious B-movie shit, good things happen.
4. The Big Pink: A Brief History of Love. Unapologetically epic festival-bait Britrock from two young dudes who completely get that "swagger" doesn't have to be a quality specific to rappers. The lyrics here are just droolingly dumb, to the point where it's not so much accidental as confrontational; the first song has a line about watching 10,000 naked chicks writhing. On the chorus. Musically, it ransacks shoegaze for all the car-crash noise-smears it can find. One of the two used to be in Alec Empire's band, which is kind of hilarious. But this is a band that understands how to use churning noise to its advantage, to sculpt skree into hooks that sound bigger because they sound less controlled. And when those two guys sing, they either sound like Richard Ashcroft knocking over old ladies in the "Bittersweet Sympony" video or Noel Gallagher snarling over careening breakbeats in "Setting Sun". (Or, you know, slightly whinier variations on those two, but still.) I haven't seen this band live yet, but I'm guessing they play really, really loud.
5. Beanie Sigel: The Broad Street Bully. This is lesser Beans, probably by design. No hype, unclearable samples (Queen!), released on a label that looks for all the world like some kind of janky money-laundering enterprise. Only guests are similarly embittered State Prop dudes. There's one song where Beanie uses Biblical imagery to obliquely go at Jay. There's another where he talks exclusively in cowboy-movie name-checks, which is about as goofy a song concept as you can hope for. And yet this is still a hell of an album because Beanie is just constitutionally unable to release something halfassed. (I didn't think much of The Solution when it came out, but even that sounds really good now.) His threats are genuinely scary, he puts words together beautifully, and the emotional stuff on here, like "The Ghetto", is just heartwrenching. Noz had an interesting riff on his Twitter a little while back about how the big divide between New York and Southern rappers was that NY guys hardly ever make music about the redemptive power of making music. I don't know if I entirely buy that, but it's good for making a distinction between State Prop and their NY counterparts. Because the State Prop guys, Beans in particular, almost always sound like they'll completely lose their shit if they're not rapping.
6-10. Lil Boosie: Superbad, the XX: The XX, Willie Isz: Georgiavania, Discovery: LP, the Dead Weather: Horehound.
Thursday, August 20, 2009
Hey, I still have a blog! I don't have to just post inane shit on Twitter all the time! I'd do well to remember this.
There's this one part in Tyson where he's giving a press conference the night he gets out of prison, and some onlooker yells that he should be in a straightjacket. Tyson looks out in the crowd, finds, the guy, and then just screams terrifying stuff at him for a couple of minutes. "You couldn't last two minutes in my world!" "I'll eat your asshole raw!" "I'll fuck you till you love me!" That kind of thing. I rewound that part a bunch of times, and I wish they could've found that heckler for a follow-up interview. Dude must've been convinced his life was about to end.
The weird thing about Tyson the movie is that it makes its subject both fucking demonically frightening (seriously: "I'll fuck you till you love me"?) and enormously sympathetic, even in that moment. Because when Tyson's talking about his time in prison, it's evident that he's totally convinced he didn't rape that one girl, though who knows what actually happened. So this guy just wants to get back to boxing and get on with his life after a nightmarish prison stint, and it makes sense that he'd be furious when some fucker won't leave him alone. I was on his side in that scene, insane as he was. That happened a lot in Tyson. It's a complicated movie, and how many complicated movies even get made anymore?
Also, Carmelo Anthony produced Tyson. Yet another reason why that guy rules.
EDIT: And here it is! Thanks, Rich!
Wednesday, August 05, 2009
Quarterly report: Singles
Well, here it is, what, five weeks late? Having an infant at home is time consuming! Just to be clear, the cutoff point here is the end of June; I've ignored everything new I've heard since then.
Anyway. Good songs coming out right now! really kills me that I couldn't find room for "You're a Jerk" or Gucci Mane's "Awesome" or Basement Jaxx's "Raindrops" or that "Who's Real" remix with the entire peak-era Ruff Ryders lineup.
1. Rancid: "Last One to Die". There's a moment in the "Last One" video, where Tim Armstrong, standing on a beach somewhere, slurs, "We knew from the very first show what it was all about" while he points at a couple of hefty, busted-up looking old punk dudes standing behind him. And I have to wonder: Are those the other two guys from Operation Ivy? Or are they just two dudes who were standing there? Kinda doesn't matter; either one is great. As a Rancid song, this shit is top-notch. Everything does its job: the kinda-pretty backing vocals, the galloping drums, the great half-surf riff, the soaring chorus. And all of this is pressed into service of a sentiment I can seriously get behind: We still exist, fuck you. "We got it right. You got it wrong. We're still around. Last one to die." If you're older than 25 and you can't relate to that shit, you're doing something wrong. Obstinate defiance is an honorable thing.
2. 8Ball: "America". This hits a lot of the same buttons for me that "Last One" does: Craggy old motherfucker who's seen it all and let it all creep into his voice, letting you know he can still tear shit apart when he feels like it. On the Memphis All Stars album, you had to wait through a five-minute sermon from some preacher before the song actually started, and I still played it more often than the rest of the album. But thank god Ball decided to rescue this one from its intro, making it a video and everything. I love how he switches it up here, kicking hard fuck-you-up shit for two verses before switching into some unbelievably bleak and depressing everything's-gone-wrong talk for the last verse, never really giving any outward indication that he's talking about different stuff. The beat just glimmers, too.
3. Gucci Mane: "Gorgeous". If Status Ain't Hood still existed in 2009, there would be at least 10 posts about Gucci. But Gucci seems fated to be sort of underrepresented on a list like this because his appeal isn't about a single track or even a mixtape; it's this full-immersion thing where you just know you'll get another track from him every time you finish clicking through your RSS feeds, that he'll come with another couple before you finished digesting the last one. That's how he's become the rap story of the year, as Brandon and Noz and (especially) David and Jordan have totally shown again and again in some ridiculously great pieces. One of the reasons I'm loving Gucci so much lately is that he's inadvertently helped prove that great criticism still exists. Can't remember the last time a single artist inspired so much good writing, but then that's what good writing does, and Gucci's a great writer. I'm sort of cheating in using "Gorgeous" to stand in for so many other songs, the ones named after single-word adjectives in particular. This one fits perfectly into Gucci's onslaught: cheap-as-hell minor-key Zaytoven beat, unbelievably sticky chorus, absurdly great ad-libs, and at least a few lines that I wish I'd written: "Your jeweler is a loser," "Watch like thunder, chain like lightning, my pinky game scary, my chain so frightening." And I love the idea why Gucci's so obsessed with jewelry is that he keeps on hearing voices telling him to ball. That's why he keeps on buying Porches. It's a funny line, but it lends this weirdly spooky force to everything else.
4. Black Eyed Peas: "I Gotta Feeling". Look. I know. I'm sorry, OK? I never meant for this to happen. But one of the prices of claiming you don't believe in guilty pleasures is that sometimes you have to rep for things that you know are just unbelievably lame in so many ways. The Black Eyed Peas have done so many things to annoy me in so many ways over the past five years (at least) that I had a hell of a time admitting to myself how I felt about this one. But there it is: Gigantically hooky jock-jam about getting ready to go out at night, with a perfectly executed techno-rock stomp and a riff the Killers would've killed for. And the way Will.I.Am and Fergie deliver their lines, every last line ends in an exclamation point, which is exactly the sort of dumb shit I love: "Fill up my cup! Mazeltov!" Those strings just kill me. This is big-money all-cylinders pop done just exactly right, and real talk, we should all be glad that this sort of thing is still allowed to exist. I hate to even bring the man into this, but it seems weirdly appropriate that this song managed to cling to iTunes top dog status even immediately after Michael Jackson's death; it's proof positive that the monoculture that Jackson came to represent for so many pundits still exists in some battered form. I don't know why I think that's a good thing, but I do.
<5>Mr. Hudson: "Supernova [feat. Kanye West]". Speaking of shameless! Kanye decides he's going to create his own Donnie Klang out of mid-air, so of course he grabs some British dude with a sci-fi dye-job who sounds exactly like Chris Martin. Then the two of them streamline Coldplay's already-streamlined uplift into straight-up synthpop, jacking a significant chunk of Madonna's "Ray of Light" chorus in the process. And then Kanye decides he's going to sing at least half the song himself, not only taking a full chorus for himself (pronouncing "chance" in a British accent for absolutely no reason), but actually allowing himself to sing runs all over the coda while the actual singer on the track gets relegated to backup status. You really just have to love that kind of audacity, and it sure helps that it's in the service of a great song and that Kanye's Autotune allows him to sing like an actual singer, sort of. So: a windows down dumb-as-fuck adult-contempo jam that's as much fun to think about as it is to bleat along to. I'll take that.
6-10. Gucci Mane: "Neva Too Much Remix [feat. Three 6 Mafia, Project Pat, Yung Joc & OJ Da Juiceman]", Killer Mike: "Man Up", Beyonce: "Ego Remix [feat. Kanye West]", Polvo: "Beggars Bowl", Simian Mobile Disco: "Audacity of Huge [feat. Chris Keating]"