When it comes to judging whether a new hip-hop CD is worth the 15 bucks you're going to waste on it, who better to set the bar than my grandma?
My hat goes off to any hip-hop act brilliant enough to use samples from The Point, Harry Nilsson's soundtrack to the ingenious animated kid's flick he wrote and produced in 1970. The bounce-along beat from "Me and My Arrow" is perfectly matched to the rubberband rocking horse of lyricist and emcee The Gift of Gab and his cocked political optimism.
Though the head-bob factor sadly declines through the course of the album, Blazing Arrow still soars miles above your average thug dreck. Gil Scott-Heron shows up for some scratchy cameo chorals on "First In Flight," and "Make You Feel That Way" makes you feel that way, but my attention span snapped through many lulls.
But forget about what I think; let's see what Grandma has to say: "Overall it got tiresome, but liked some of the songs where they show more blend of voices instead of a monotone."
I'm so tired of latter-day gangster gripes. Please stop yelling. The story's been told, and your beat's got mold.
Let's check in with Grandma: "If I had a kid who was playing this, I'd put him in the attic. ... I wouldn't want it floating downstairs."
Dallah'Man (aka Jimmy Da Gent)
Yat Jam Records
Black Sabbath bells and ambient lasers blips bring you futurist gothic-hop on "I'm Universal," the opening track from yet another Colorado Springsbased local surprise. Infectious old-school beats and posi-core lyrics dominate "Make It Happen." But wait, what happened to those spooky hooks? Production gets cheese-whiz uncle funk with way too much Casiotone. Best tracks are the intro "I'm Universal" and the outro: "Universal." What happened to everything in between?
Grandma differs with me on this one: "This one is probably better than a lot of them. It sounds legitimate. Is there such a thing?"
The Eminem Show
Gonna let Grandma fly solo on this one.
"Well, I have to say the music is good. So it's probably better that I don't understand the lyrics! And I have my hearing aid in too. But I guess it depends on how the hip-hop goes when they get into it. Some of it I could tolerate, but the music doesn't come through because the talking dominates. I wasn't crazy about it."
The Other Side of the Looking Glass
Me: Sometimes I get real tired of the preachin' not teachin' "I'm smarter than you" third-eye lecture circuit. And some of this CD just sounds like too much spoken-word spillover. But the frequently gorgeous postWu Tang minimalist beats redeem. Dose from cLOUDDEAD makes an appearance on "Opus Ashamed" (definitely the most interesting track), and much of the sound of this disc rides the wave of the new abstract lung lunging he's pioneered. If you like cLOUDDEAD and Aesop Rock, then these are the droids you're looking for.
Grandma: "Not as good as some of the Eminem's were. I like romantic music."