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What makes a rap song outstanding?
What makes an album a masterpiece?
What’s more important—lyrics or production?
There are no right answers, but dammit three rap nerds are gonna try to find them in this podcast.
Original music by Red Walrus.
The Rap Lizards are: Ben, Dion and Gary.
What makes a rap song outstanding?
What makes an album a masterpiece?
What’s more important—lyrics or production?
There are no right answers, but dammit three rap nerds are gonna try to find them in this podcast.
Original music by Red Walrus.
The Rap Lizards are: Ben, Dion and Gary.
Welcome to Do It Yourself Music Appreciation. The show where three old buddies myself, Benny, my brother Dion, and my brother Gary, we get together, once a week we sit down, discuss, analyze, and appreciate a different album each week. You know, we switch off week to week whose pick it is. And this week, Dion had the pick of Kanye West's sophomore release called Late Registration. And Dion, if you want to take it away with an introduction. Good to see you guys.
Sup guys? Another week, another another week strong. How are we doing? How we doing? First of all.
Thank God, man, I really can't complain in this. There's always..., it could be a lot worse.
I never know how to answer that question. Dude, I'm hanging.
Yeah. So yeah, like Ben was saying, I chose Kanye West this week, Late Registration. I kind of I kind of did that on purpose because I know full disclosure here, I know for a fact that Ben isn't, uh, isn't the biggest Kanye West fan in general, understandably, for various reasons. But over the years, I've been been lamenting how much Late Registration is a great album. It was a big album for me in college. listened to it a bunch. Gary, I know you, you. You've had some experience with later registration, too. Right. Probably.
This has been part of the soundtrack to my life. Hell yea.
Um, and, yeah, so I mean, if unless you've been living under a rock, Kanye West is a Chicago artist. He started off as more of a producer, he is a producer. And whether you like them or not, you know, the pretty much a factor means that he is one of the top, you know, an incredible producer. What you say about his rap skills, and not that we'll get into a little bit but as far as producing, I mean, this guy's been around since he was a teenager doing stuff in Chicago, he did a good job on the late 90s.
And Kanye doesn't come from, he's not your typical rapper. And that, you know, kind of had something to do with why he, he didn't have a rapper at first why it started off with producing because, you know, his, his parents divorced at three. But his mom's an English professor. His dad was a photojournalist, you know, you don't I mean, like, he didn't, he didn't come from like the hood. And I think that's a big part a big reason why, you know, labels didn't want him rapping, they wanted to keep him as producer, and that's why he got his rapping start sort of late, you know, with, with Jay Z.
And of course, since he released his first album called Dropout, which was great, and then the sophomore released Late Registration, both hits. And, you know, since then his music is kind of, you know, it depends on what your opinion is. Some people may say, it got a lot better at age and some people say he sold out. I say it was a little bit of both. And then he kind of went a little bit crazy. And I think actually, a little sort of nugget that I have, I think that there is a strong strong hint in this album as to why he ended up sort of, you know, losing his sort of letting his mental state sort of, you know, sort of deteriorate later on in life.
And it's kind of it's kind of, you know, it's kind of sad, like a guy has talent again, like whether whether you love them or not, you have to admit that the dude has talent, and it's just like, it's kind of interesting seeing his life. I mean, despite the fact he's a billionaire, like that doesn't matter. Like clearly this guy's got got issues, however. Again, just bringing it back Late Registration, it's still one of my favorite albums. And yeah, I guess we'll start off with this.
Let's start with Gary since Gary's actually listened to it more or... Gary, what did you think of your Yeah, what what you did like your sort of deep dive....this time around.
Right on, it's been actually a while since I, since I opened up this album and listened to it straight through, right. It's been a while because this is an album that I listened to, and I play it and I think every like, most songs on this album are just fucking jams. I would just jam to these. I love these songs. They're so energetic, and they were just... for me, it was in the middle of when I was in college. And that was a time that we listen to a lot of Kanye West that was you know, following I think his first release was a year or two before this.
Yes, a couple of years. I think I think college dropout was '03 if I'm not mistaken.
Right. Right. Right. Right. right around the time we were like finishing high school
These were these were my jams. These are the jams in the background of every fun party. And you know, I would I would love driving to these. I would take long drives and listen to this album. So it's the first time getting back into it in a while. And my first reaction was like, Wow, I've played these songs 1000 times. They are so good. And then others you know, like like Gold Digger, etc right? These are songs that are you know, you could say this is a song that's been played, not played out, but played played enough, right? I don't need to hear a Gold Digger yet. Then there were songs on here that I loved getting back into. And we'll talk about, you know, individual songs later. But for example, you know, I loved the I loved......
Drive Slow, right that that is just an amazing song. Yeah, yeah. Anyway, so let's get into it. Let's get into the album a bit more but like, I loved it. I love this being the assignment for the week.
Yeah, and you know, it's funny, Gary. You had that....that thought like, wow, I have played these thousands of times. And just about every song on this album, again, I've never sat down and listened to this album. I've never chose chosen to, you know, put on a Kanye West album, admittedly, right? It's just not not my bag. But like, I've heard every one of these songs, you know what I mean? Like, even the deep cuts, the ones that aren't radio hits I've heard whether it be a Dion's house or someone's house. So I was just.....
I was just about to ask where you would have heard of it. Yeah, I guess that that does make sense. The two of us for example....
The truth of the matter about Kanye is that like, whatever, you know, whatever opinions I have, which will be expressed at some point during this, they're not all negative, but whatever. You know, whatever keeps me from being a fan, quite frankly, there's no denying that he had a seismic impact on... on the world.
Like on popular culture, people who never heard him, rap a lyric, know who he is and hate him, or know who he is, at least you know what I mean, there's like, there's a whole bunch of people in my neighborhood who you know, voted for certain someone who like used him as a poster child for someone to hate until he started supporting that person is like a very, he's like, one of the most famous human beings that ever existed. And, and his impact on society as a whole is immeasurable. You know what I mean? Like, so I heard his music my whole life, you know what I mean? I've just never chose to put it on.
And I'll tell you, my first....I listened to this the whole way through twice this week, you know, and then had it on in the background while I was working too, but not really paying attention. So you know, I got my notes in and, and my first thought of this album was, this is a production masterclass, like this is a
this is like, ummmm....
...the epitome and and like most professionally, like the equivalent of a Steely Dan record, which like sorry, Gary, but like Steely Dan is known to be the greatest studio band ever, or at least the most meticulous and, and their their dedication to the perfect recording. And like, over production of their albums is notorious. You know what I mean? They would work musicians into the ground anyway like...... This album kind of reminded me of like a slick, Steely Dan level of production quality. So and we'll go more into that I didn't realize that he had a collaborator throughout the whole album. In, what's his name? John Brion.
Yeah, the movie composer.
Yeah. And that, I mean, again, the other thought I quickly had was, man, like, I remember this, this, like a this is a significantly different sound than the Kanye West that most of the world is currently familiar with. Even though we're familiar with some mega hits from this album, that there's a sonic continuity throughout this album that truly lives in the early 2000s, right?
And it's a it's a sound that I, you know, made me go search the production credits, and I saw the name John Brion and I read a little further so that what I love most about the album is it's very variation in its beats. And I'm going to leave it at that, but because I want to keep going, and I'll get back into it later, but those those were, my biggest takeaway was how floored I was by the just the overall production quality and like attention to detail and care to the craft, which you don't, you know, especially these days with, I don't like trap music. I'll just admit it, you know, and there are a lot of it is like synth loops, which I just feel are so lazy, sorry to say, you know, and this is not a lazy album. This was an album that clearly took a lot of work, planning and dedication and talent and skill. So I was impressed. I'll put it that way. Yeah.
Yeah. All right. That's good. I did, ummmm, me and Ben chatted about something else earlier this week, and I'm just trying to get a gauge of just, you know, saying hey, what what'd you think so far? Is it better than you thought it was? And the time, his is answer was no. I think maybe you might have come around a little bit, I think.
A little bit. The Second listen kind of, you know, opened me up a little more. But, you know, just quick, you know, snapshot of that is.... I'm not..... I've...... it's going to come down to his rapping and I'll leave it at this. I don't want to spend the whole episode on it. Right. But, so I look at it... he raps like a producer who knows how to make a hit. Right, his topics short, his his topics that they span over a large range of, of, you know, political issues and, you know, family, or, you know, family appreciation, and to a lot of just flossing and telling the world how great you are.
But like, you know, which is part of rap DNA. And, you know, I've just never, he's never moved me. I appreciate how well he lands over the rhythm. He's never rapped sloppy, right? I've heard people who are super complex and lyrical that maybe don't hit the right pocket. And when I'm listening, I'm like, I don't know, like, this is like, a little too all over the place. You know what I mean? He's not.. he is.... he lands and rides the beat on every single track on this on this record on this album, he is very in tune with the quality of..... he's a songwriter, you know what I mean? He produces pop songs, whether or not the topic topics aren't necessarily pop all the time. They're pop songs, and he's very good at it. You know what I mean? There, he's very good at it.
But he just..... the raps never do it for me. You know, sometimes I even find myself cringing at some of the lines. Like, they seem lazy or like, you know what I mean? Like, there's very, I'm never impressed by his metaphors. You know, he doesn't really move me in that way, and that's what you know, when it comes down to rap music, when the rapper at hand isn't spitting something that inspires me, moves me or impresses me, then I don't usually gravitate towards it. And that's where I think, you know, removing all the drama, and I don't want to get into character assassination in this I don't know, serves a purpose. You know what I mean? Because I got a lot to say on that too. But it's who gives a shit what I think about.....
Honestly a lot a lot of is drama, the majority of his drama came well after....
Way later...I mean, he was already known as.... I mean, I know that he was known as a very pompous, self..... You know, the word the word that comes to my mind is ummm... hubris. Sure, you know what I mean? Just Just self.
Self involved, like just yeah.....
...and thinks of himself as a god, you know what I mean? And I don't want to get into the mental illness. I don't want to get into all the things I don't much care for. But I just don't gravitate to his music because he I don't find him to be a great lyricist. And I don't find his raps to be, I think if this album came out with one of the rappers who I thoroughly enjoy rapping over the beats, and making it their own songs, not his songs, I probably would like it a lot more.
Because I'll tell you, the beats are really great.
I love the soul samples. You know, he really, right there, you know, Ray Charles, on Gold Digger. And he his choice his his choice of samples is legendary. And his ability to flip samples into into pop music is legendary and John Brion's contributions are really where I really felt this this like so like, what.... I'll just get into it if you don't mind and then I'll turn it back over to you....
So what I what I loved, right, what really moved me in this album, which I didn't realize about until I actually sat down and actively listen to it was, I loved how he does something that most hip hop artists don't do, which is in the middle of the song switch up, like maybe add an arrangement.
...the last verse. So the last verse for for instance, on...
I think I have an idea of what you're gonna say
...hold on, hold on. I have it right here. The last verse on this song, a Gold Digger. The last verse has, he implements, like a synth. This I think was John. I think this is why he hired John Brion, cuz he's got this composer now doing synth and string arrangements. Right so like, there's like a horn synth sound only on the on the last verse. It's staccato, it's like bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump, bump.
I know what you're talking about. Yeah.
And it totally changes the sonic landscape in the song. Now that type of shit. That's stuff that my favorite bands in the world.... my favorite band, my favorite artists in the world, as you both know is God Street Wine. They do that in their songwriting, maybe like, you know, each verse, they'll add a new layer or two to the point you know what I mean? Like a new thing to switch up.
It's almost like a car driving along and like they're picking up new passengers like from the beginning of the song to the end of the song, and by the end of the song the cars full. And like..
Truth be told, that's, that's a rarity in hip hop. You know what I mean? In hip hop, you know, even my favorite boom bap era, you find the loop, you find the samples, maybe the chorus has some switches, but to have the the last verse have a new, a new texture, you know what I mean? And a totally new, you know, set of notes hitting you, on top of that, that was very impressive to me. And that really, I was like, Whoa, okay...
He does this couple of times in this album.
Yeah, he does. Definitely.
He does it in the song Gone.
Yes. Okay, I was gonna bring that up. Okay. Yeah, please, please, go for it...
I love that song. And that, you know, of many songs on this album, I'm nodding my head to head I'm in a trance, and it puts me into flow, but they don't move me this song moved me, right. The lyrics moved me. And part of it is what he's doing at the end of this song. So he switches up. It's almost, it's almost, because he's a producer, and he's thinking about the impact on the end user, so to speak, right on the listener, that he almost stops you from that feeling of flow in that last verse where he says "what's the summer of the Shai got to offer an 18 year old, sold drugs on the job got to play your role", but then he you know, at the end he makes a point that's actually a beautiful point. That's you know, still a self aggrandizing and all the rest but it's very beautifully said right? Says "hold on I'll handle it, don't start panic and stay calm, shorties at the door because they need more, right inspiration for their life their souls and their songs they say sorry, Mr. West is gone."
Yeah, and that's how the song ends
That's it. Right, cold ending or whatever you would call it, right?
To go off..... and we're hearing Gone right now, but gone is probably one of my favorite complete tracks on this album for piggybacking on what Gary's saying the the lyrics for one are, are great. I mean, they're sort of this sort of standout from the album. There's there's some other songs where Yay, and his uh, his collaborators just like spit fire. Not all of them obviously. This I think is one of them. And yo, Cons to the ....... yo Cons to the Quence bringing the heat. That verse was dope.
That was really good.
Oh, that's right, dude. Like I'm looking at Genius now. Yeah, yea yea.
That was one of the moments. I know that you, Dion you told me that Cons has a whole career now and again, I am admittedly right I'm a fan of what I'm a fan of. I don't listen to.....modern day.....
I don't either, I just learned I just know that because he's on this track. But yeah,
I heard him like on Hot 97 one time in the car with you and and I just know he's, he's moved on from the shadow of A Tribe Called Quest a long time ago, you know, but uh, he's improved as an MC tremendously since I always found that inclusion of consequence on Beats Ryhmes And Life is one of the weirder choices but probably because Phife was less involved at the time. I don't know you know, they needed another voice but uh, yeah. Anyway, at any rate, it was interesting to see Consequence on there. I you know, I don't know much of his output....
Like I said, I I don't either. So he could be a fire artists that just had a couple bad verses that we heard 20 years ago, like, making fun of.....
He was young at the time...
It could just be tha the was a harbinger of Doom.
Aye, you know what? Anything is possible.....
Listen. I and again, I don't mean that as an insult. Like, he's a talented rapper, you know, but it just, oh, the only impression I had of him was his appearances on that Tribe album and that one Tribe freestyle where he said Cons to the Quence 8 million times. But But the one thing about that we should we should admit about that. That was when people actually freestyled. So yes, that was all off the top.... He gets the pass.
Also you remember the name, Cons to the Quence.
Yeah. Like it's like Mike Jones.
Exactly, it's deliberate.
Funny, also in in Gone, just a little sidebar, he Kanye has a line where he goes "..and move to Oklahoma, just live in my aunt's house. Yeah, romance the thought of leaving it all behind." Whatever, it rhymes with the previous and the next line, whatever. But, um, he did move to Wyoming for a little bit couple years ago to sort of get away. So I just thought that was a little a little bit foreshadowing.
And there's actually there's another song that has some portrait foreshadowing too, but I'll get to that later on. But to piggyback on what Gary's saying, yeah. The I think it's after consequences. Verse. The beat sort of takes a sort of dark turn on like, like a movie score. And then, then I went back and if you listen to the song, like just, you know, listen to instrumentals, the instrumentals tell a story in its own like on its own.
It's like movements in a composition.
yeah, yeah, totally. And it goes with the lyrics, but also flows independent from the lyrics and like it does like that's why it's one of my favorite songs on the album because I know
Yeah, I know what you mean. And it's the strings. Right? So I think, yeah, like, getting back to that, I think that was such an awesome idea to like to welcome in a composer and a, you know, he's also a set, you know, he, he's a producer, this guy and another producers mind and another like session musician to like, here's the samples, make them make them bombastic. You know, like, like, make them dynamic. That's another that's the other word I could use to describe the music part of the album. Right? If not the lyrics, but the music is very dynamic.
It's the lows to highs, emotional shifts. And that I mean, again, that's a, this is a master class in like how to how to make an enter. What impresses me is like, I find I love producers that are wild, you know, we totally we did a, we did an episode about a Kool Keith album that had Dan the Automator, and he is another magnificent producer who switches up the sounds just like this, but he never made no pop music. Yeah, you know what I mean, to make music that's so readily accessible for the masses to just gobble up and digest and love that is also highly detailed, and highly polished and highly structured. That's impressive. Because the simple minds of the masses and I don't mean to be insulting, but most people who want to know, I know you're not Gary, but you know, most people who just, you know, hits become hits, because, you know, they get played enough and they you know, people, people get hypnotized by by, you know, simple simplicity. You know what I mean? Simplicity is inherent in pop music. So to make complex pop music successfully, is very impressive. And, you know, yeah, keep going. Sorry about that.
No, no, no, no, no, this is what you....
To me what that means Benny is like, and I'm going to speak from the perspective of like, I like, like, I like to say like, I'm a basic bitch, right? When it comes to some of this music, I speak from a lay person's perspective, because I don't record music. And I don't, I haven't gotten into a lot of the history like, you know, read I was I was looking, you know, looking at Genius for the first time, listening to this album this week, and learning a lot about Kanye West, I know about a lot of these things. But this album, I could listen to, and once I've listened to it several times, I could really start appreciating the production of the album the same way that I would some other albums that are my favorites of all times, like Sublime albums that were recorded in the studio.
After listening to a track 100 times over many years, I started listening and thinking, wow, somebody really cared about like, little details that I never noticed before. To me, it just sounded sounded great. Right before, but then, now I know why it sounds great. Because there are all these little details in it, that are not simple at all, and somebody had to be deliberate in putting in there, right to that's, I guess, that's what good production and wonderful good production is.
And I think he was kind of the the precursor to, to artists like Tyler the Creator. Honestly, who came around several years after after Kanye, but similar to Kanye, Tyler is also first of all, Tyler produces his own stuff, and and as a rapper. I mean, I think Tyler was a better rapper than, than Kanye. But, uh, both producer own rap themselves, they kind of have, you know, sort of different styles than like, quote unquote, traditional hip hop.
Both of them you know, and Ben, you you've called, you know, you call this album Late Registration, a pop album, I would tend to disagree called a hip hop album with with pop undertones. I think Tyler does sort of the same thing. And both of them like, you know, they're they're sort of like, you know, I guess Kanye is kind of like the, like the Pied Piper of a backpack. rappers, right. Like, like that, that sort of era of rappers...
What do you mean?
So like, you know, the the sort of the sort of nerdy, like, like.
Like the little bookbag...
... the Tyler outfit... Yeah, exact. He mentions in the beginning of this.
Yeah. So my take on that is, he did advertise himself at first. He would wear.... there's a Dave Chappelle episode, the Chappelle show and episode with him and Common, I believe it's Common or maybe maybe Talib Kweili...
The performance? Yeah, yeah.
Yeah, you know, he had the backpack on and he flexed, Yeah, he he flexed and advertised in that realm, but I I think it was brief. And I you know, backpack rap as, as I see, it is like, attention to lyricism and attention to you know, you know, like, again, as I you know, I said in the last episode, I think Doom was the, you know, poster child and Pied Piper
What's in the backpack?
So it means, like, you know, I'm always writing. I'm all you know, I'm more about... You know I'm more about the lyrics and more about substance than I am about flash, you know what I mean?
So you got you got some pens, maybe some markers, maybe it maybe some maybe some graffiti markers, maybe right if you're....
Maybe a sandwich man, you know.... it could be a sandwich, maybe a juice box.
Maybe an Arizona Ice Tea....
You know..... you know it's funny. I actually I didn't look at... maybe I'm mistaken. I always like looked at backpack rappers not like that. I looked at it as sort of like that that cultural rapper rapper that's like the sort of young, or not not young, they're all young but like the sort of nerdy like non traditional background kind of rap like, you know that this kid maybe like and this has to do with race or anything like that this could be Black, White, Asian, whatever, but this kid comes from like, more of like, a privileged background but like he but he, you know, he wears his glasses and his and his backpack, but yo, dude can run. You know, like, and again, I always bring in like, for example, artists like Earl and Tyler from Odd Future. I mean, J. Cole to a certain degree later on, like just the sort of Schoolboy Q, people like these like sort of newer artists but I could be wrong that's what I was doing it's backpack rap, but if I if I'm wrong then my theory about this is kind of out the window.
We'll have to revisit the definition of backpack rap in the next episode.
Either way, either way whether whether backpack or not, I still think that his style is is still was a precursor to Tyler and then the other thing I was gonna say is like they both... the point I saw starting to make with Ben was saying about this being sort of a pop pop ish album. Part of that is because like this there's some songs in this album that straight up have have no rap rapping on them. And it's and Tyler, Tyler does the same thing. I still think they're good. I really like it. Obviously, it's not for pure hip hop, but it's not you know, it's gonna change sort of the the vibe of the album. Um, but uh, yeah, I think....what's up?
On this album, Diamonds Are Forever is actually one of my favorites on the album.
The first one.
The one with Jay Z?
Yeah, I think Jays Jays first is really, really good. Yeah. And I and I think it's a very topical you know, Kanye is... I was most impressed with this first by Kanye because it's like, you know, the whole whole the whole thing he's going back and forth between the diamond of the Rockefeller logo and you know, kind of the the not the shame but the you know, the drama and the bad. I don't even know what the word I'm looking for the bad press that that uh, you know, blood diamonds get... conflict diamonds.
I think the word is horror.
The horror or the stigma whatever you want to call it, you know, and going back and forth between you know, what is it... what he is and isn't rapping about with with diamonds, metaphorically and not. But my only thought was... if he's still rocking diamonds after this, I don't know how much of these arguments he's making up too credible but um, you know, at any rate,
I mean, you know what it is? It's it's the way I look at that you obviously have a good point that he doesn't have a leg to stand on if he is waiting when diamonds will have to happen...
and I don't know I he very well, may have stopped wearing diamonds for all I know, I don't...
I don't think that's the case at all. Because again, like, whatever, I'll get into that in a bit, but I think is I think that's kind of the same way as like, you know, expecting a rapper who raps about shooting people or selling drugs to expect them to sell ......to sell crack, and and kill people. You don't expect them to actually do that. And the same like Kanye like it to me, it's like, it's subject matter in a song. I don't expect him to actually follow through that if he does, right. Yeah, whatever. Good. Good. More power to him but....
I was impressed with this one. And this was the least... one of the least Poppy. So the this is this is what I'll what I mean by pop music, okay. He, respectively right. A lot of his songs have chord progressions, right? And one of our favorite beats of all time we discussed already is a Busta Rhymes beat Bladow!!.... that's not a chord progression that is literally a loop. Like a probably, I don't know, a 15 second loop, or something, like just over, and over, and over throughout.
Like true boom bap
His songs go through chord changes, but those chord changes or chord changes you would find in a, in a, in a song that would be on pop radio most of the time. You know, on on that song gone on the song. The song about his mother.
Yeah. We'll get into that.
These are like these are these are the that's why I call it pop music because the musical landscape is like pop chord progressions and very accessible and very, like, like I consider the opposite of pop like it's obviously hip hop, right? But it's you listen to a Wu Tang, on the first, let's say two Wu Tang albums or any of the solo projects and those songs. You can't play those in it in it in a dance hall. You know what I mean? You can't, you can't expect someone to like you know, groove and boogie to those.
Good music to beat people up to.
Or to think about beating people up. I've done a lot of that.
But um, yeah, that's all. And it's not an insult pop, to me pop is not an insult. You know, some of my favorite albums are I would consider, like, certain Beatles albums pop music, you know what I mean? So.....whatever.
It's funny that, that you think that this is one of the least poppy songs of the album, because this or actually, the later one the non remix was actually the lead single for this album.
So it's really funny that you think about the most popular one. Um,
But you get where I'm coming from....
I'm not saying this is like, I'm not saying this is something you're going to hear on Z 100. Or I don't even know if that exists anymore. But like, whatever the pop radio is, yes. But the sonic qualities of it are they're pop songs.
Yo - Z 100 does exist, by the way. Somehow it stayed exactly the same as the way it was.
Wait. Are you saying they still play that song goes "Another night, another dream but always you. It's like a vision of...."
That's what... that's the song I think of when I think of Z 100.
Z 100 has stayed exactly the same. Which leads me to understand now...
they have the cure to Corona.
And....There is no and, that's it?
Or they're there, you know, a money laundering scheme or something. Like there's no reason for them to stay exactly the same.
Dion, I know that you, you always held this album in high regard. You always wanted me to listen to it. I appreciate it now. I like I listened to it. You know, I'm not saying I wouldn't listen to it again, it was more enjoyable than I thought it would be from my own prejudices. You know, so I'm glad you did that. But being that you were the you know, this was your pick, I would love to hear how it impacted you what, what moved you the most what you're what you're most impressed with your favorite parts.
So that, that was a good transition, cuz I want to sort of get into this there's something I didn't really notice the first several years I listened to this album that I was talking to Gary about on the site a little bit. But this album has a theme throughout the entire like the through the entire album, from the first track down to the last. I didn't realize what the theme was until I gave gave it this listen. And the theme is basically the sort of, essentially the life of a young black entertainer in this country from from the beginning.
So like the first album, I'm sorry, the first song Heard 'em Say, it's got like a sort of poppy sounding like uplifting sound, but listen to what he's talking about. He's talking about some real shit about like, you know, just living in poverty, in Chicago. Which again, he didn't. He didn't necessarily live in poverty, he grew up in basically a middle class household. But he's just talking about like, what it's like for, you know, just because you grew up in that environ... if not that environment, I mean, you can't speak on it, right?
And even starts like the very first like one of the first lines he talks about a conspiracy theory about the about the government in administering AIDS. And it's just like, it sounds ridiculous at first, but that conspiracy theory holds a lot of weight in the black community. Along with like, with the CIA inventing crack, which he also alludes to later on again. These sounds ridiculous, but it's like, you know, a little bit of math. It's like, it's not that crazy to us.
Like, it's on the level of, you know, the Chinese government, you know, sprung Coronavirus on the world, right? It's on that level, if when I hear that, it's like, that's plausible, right? There's possible, blah, blah, right. But it's like, that's highly unlikely. That's not the, you know, our occam's razor, f*cking .....
You know what it is? We're getting a little non musical here. But here's my sorry to cut you off, Dion. Here's my take on all of those, whether you know, that, and I don't judge anyone who believes it, because who knows what's true and what isn't? I'm honestly have the belief that we don't have a clue on what is true and what isn't. What actually went down and what what hasn't. I think like, we're all we're all blind to like the evils that big, big corporations that pay off government's like, actually, you know, what motivates it and what actually is happening?
I think that there's so much that goes into keeping us distracted with our iPhones and our social media to just blind us from atrocities that major governments, you know.... I'll go as far as probably some shadow organization running the world. I honestly believe that, you know, but...
Yeah. So like, I wouldn't like if it somehow was proven that the government created crack or that you know, that the American government invent, you know, put AIDS into the world like to as an oppression to, you know, to the black community. I wouldn't be surprised personally, but I also don't think there's any evidence that, of course, you know what I mean? Like, so like, I would believe it like f*ck it, we live in one of the most like, we have a horrible history, let's be honest.
That's what I was gonna allude to the reason why it's like, again, I'm not saying that these are believable, and and I know we're sort of getting off track with it but not really because it's exactly what he's talking about.
He's rapping about it.
And the it's the part of the reason why it's not as far fetched especially to black people is because not even 200 years ago, people thought of black people as three fifths of a human that had them as slaves. That wasn't even 200 years ago, so people are capable of doing that. You think they're not capable of administering a bio disease to wipe out like, you know, when you start to realize that it's like, oh, wait, yeah, right. Right. You know what I mean?
Like that's why it's like not so and that's why you always hear a lot of conspiracy theories in the in like the black and brown community because there's some crazy crazier shit than the things that are conspiracy theories. crazy shit that that has happened to us and, and to Jews and to like any marginalized group of people in this country and in this world, you know, it's bigger than I don't know.....
We should we should start a conspiracy theory podcast.
Let me tell you about 5g. Let me tell you about 5g death towers, bro....
Let me tell you about Consequence.
But going back to the song. It's a it's it's interesting how he like he sort of breaks you into the album with that with like, you know, talking about some real shit, but then the, you know, musically it's like pleasant or you hear Adam Levine from Maroon 5. Right? And he's the one that does the chorus like, you hear that? Like, it's a nice chorus. It's nice. It's Poppy.
That Ben, is definitely Poppy. That's... this is definitely one of your poppy like, yes, of course this is hundred percent pop at least as far as the chorus goes. But but what he's doing is he's sort of like introducing you like introducing a mainstream audience into this sort of world. It's like alright, here's the life of black entertainer. Here's how a lot of it starts in the hood where like shit is just fucking terrible.
The next alb... the next song is Touch The Kky where it's like now I'm finally getting like you know sort of you know reach reaching pinnacles whatever. It's samples of Curtis Mayfield song Move On Up, which is very very uplifting.
Yeah, that's a Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions
Not the impression.... was that the band's name?
Yeah, I think so. The Impressions
Hold on I'm Googling it....
Yeah and and yeah, so it goes into that and then of course the fall I'm not gonna go to track by track but just Yeah, like the next one is Gold Digger wearing okay, now I'm here and like, so now I got a little bit of success and now is where all the women come in they want they want like their their piece of me and everything so it goes it goes through that. The next the next track or the next track is a skits with the skits are fucking great.
Well, I have one thing to ask about the the skits. I want to get into that. Iwanted to know your your guy's opinion and interpretation of the skits because to me, I don't know if the skits act as satire because at the end, right so like, let's talk about it.
So the skits are that are like a troop and a crew of broke people who celebrate and march to the you know, almost like a pride, in that they are broke, they live broke that they don't eat, that they don't have nice things, and it's like almost like a source of like we stay broke we are broke we are broke people it's like almost like a like an army troop like motivating to stay broke.
It's not even an army troop, exactly what it's a fraternity.
It's a pledge class.
It's what's called a like, they like it's the way.... in skit 2, I think where they're doing like a lockstep kind of stepping that's that's probably part of what's called a probate, which is like the, the sort of the initiation for.....
I'm the only non non Greek person here
Honestly neither of us but but these are things that even even me and Gary don't know about. Neither me or Gary were in traditional black fraternities these are specific things to black fraternities and sororities.
Like uhhh, like the like the Kappas on....
Kappa Alpha Psis...
So running with that, I wanted to know your guy's opinion because I know at the end it gets, he like kind of flips it like they're like almost like a shaming Kanye for for flossing. You know what I mean? For like not being. Is this... are these skits of bad taste? And are they are they like insulting broke people? Are they saying like, yo, you it's you have a choice, you can you can make something better of yourself? Or are they saying like, I feel like they're making fun of broke people.
I don't look... Gary, what do you what do you think?
That was my first thought of like, man, like, this is in bad taste. Like, like, some people don't have the option and some people are just broke.
I have thoughts. I have thoughts. But....Gary, go ahead.
I got a couple of thoughts about this. The thing that struck me about these, these, these skits is not so much the theme of brokenness. It's more the theme of conformity. Right like whatever ridiculous thing that a you know, a fraternity or some sort of like a Greek organization will have a pledge class of people conform to and it's always ridiculous.
No matter what, yeah.
On my second, listen, I noticed that that that was the, like the theme of that in that conformity that you just mentioned, like almost like uhh, that he's kind of saying that the image of the up and coming rap artists needs to be that you were... you were hungry and you suffered and like, just because I didn't, I wasn't hungry. And I didn't suffer financially. You're saying I don't belong....
Yeah, right. Right. It's almost as if he you know, the theme is that if you don't go through this exact experience, you don't have a right to be successful. Right? That's the way I read that.
Yeah. No, no, I think you're absolutely right.
I'm sure that's only part of the picture. But that's, that's my takeaway. And that was the the piece of it that was relatable to me.
And it's funny, because the end of the last skit is the resolution to that where you do where you are kind of welcomed into, like what he's talking about here. But at first, right, the first few skits if you don't get to that last skit, it's kind of like... If that skit at the end, where he introduces, like, the the narrative that they're saying, we found out Kanye isn't broke. So we're not... he's not one of us. Yeah. If that didn't, you know, if he didn't get to that part, like I again, on my first listen, I was like, Whoa, like, he's really going at like, poverty.
You know, you know what it is too, honestly, it's, I feel like it's a it's like a thing in black culture that almost like make fun of each other for poverty, because there's so like, you know, it's like, especially again, let's say you're in the hood again, Gary, look, you lived in Canarsie, you probably have probably seen this, you probably had friends, where it's it's like, Look, we're all in this together. So we're gonna make fun of the fact that Yeah, we used to eat cereal with a fork....yo, that shit was funny, right?
Back in the day, you know, it's like, almost like a bonding thing. And that's how I sort of looked at the first two, where you're not it's not making fun. It's like, you're in on the joke, you know, what I mean? Like, as as like the, you know, what I mean? Does that make sense?
It's a it's a, it's a complicated, it's a complicated conversation, you know, everybody's going through some level of it, I guess, from my experience, at least everybody's going through some level of brokenness, right. And you do have something that's special. And that is like, flashy, or that's that other people want. It's like, oh, cool, like, yeah, that's, that's badass, right? Like, you could floss that. And also, it will elicit, you know, some jealousy, etc. But you're in the end, it's not like you made it out of the hood, right?
You're still hanging out with the same crew, people who are in the same economic situation, you're probably not in a very different economic situation, you're just spending your money iresponsibly, right? It's a complicated, it's a complicated thing.
And it is, and I don't have the right or the, enough of my own identification with it to you know, you know, to have too much of an opinion, it was just, my, my initial take was like, man, he's going at broke people. But then I came to understand that it was almost like, he's going at people who are going at him for not being broke enough.
And I don't know if that was a narrative that was taking place at the time because again, I didn't know who Kanye West was. Until Jesus walks from the first that when that dropped, I was like, that. That was when the impact was felt for me. And I know he was producing way before that.
Same here, I didn't know I didn't know him as a producer when I was like, you know, in the 90s, or whatever. I think I got introduced with Jesus. Well, actually, no, it still was really through The Wire. Was it was the first the first one, which I'll touch on that in one second. But, um, yeah, the well, the skits.
Yeah, it's, I remember when I when I first talked... when we first started talking about Kanye today, we did say he remember again, because he didn't grow up in that environment, I felt like that was always kind of like a chip on the shoulder. And it's the reason again, why you didn't hear about him as a rapper is because these labels that he had relationships with as producer as a producer, like they all knew him, but none of them really wants to take a chance on him as a rapper. Because he didn't come from that background. He didn't....
He wasn't street hardened.
He wasn't streed hardened. I think that's exactly why these skits are there. I think you're right. I think that's that so yes, it's not making fun of, it's more like, you know, this is like, it's metaphorically like this is where, like, you know, what, like, you know, where I'm coming from and where what people think of me...
And I guess you could say that that was an impact, you know, and you know, that was almost like a you know, he went to bat for all the talented people out there who weren't necessarily, didn't have a backstory worth, you know, rapping about eating for lack of a better way to put it. And, you know, I think that changed a lot in the 2000s. Where, now, where you come from matters very little, unless you're like, unless you're like rapping about how much drugs you sell. You know, then people will probably go at you if you never sold drugs, but....
Look at Tekashi that's exactly what happened to Tekashi.
Right, right, but I think a lot of people are finding success in you know, since this album and you know, the 2000s. And on that weren't, you know from from a struggle...
Exactly, you know, and then and uh... just finish up the skits. The third one was probably my favorite one because it's the first one, like the first two are like, you know, again that now that we've talked about it, you can listen to them again, you could look at it, they're humorous, they're funny, it's like, you know, they're broke, broke, broke or whatever, it's great.
The third one is what is the first one where it's like, it's sort of, it's still sort of humorous, but it's now has some jabbing lines. It's like, again, like, yeah, we remember, we used to eat the cereal with the fork, and they were mom use to be the Christmas tree. It's like, again, like, at first you think about these images? Like yeah, that's funny. But then you think about it. It's like, no, that's really f*cking sad. That like, you know, these these people come from this this environment where like, they not eating cereal from a fork, because it's fun. It's because they're trying to say fucking milk. Like, that's a real thing. And that's, that's really sad.
And it's like, it's, it's kind of started getting to us like, okay, that's where these guys are coming from. But then the fourth skit is like, alright, yeah, I mean, I get you, but yeah, I got these new shoes. I ain't with you guys, man. Like, I ain't with this, like you, you guys are broke, I'm gonna sell out and I'm gonna get this.
And he's very honest about it. I think I think that's just kind of being honest about where he's coming from. He's not trying to be, you know, a fake, you know, whatever. He's like, yo, this this means this my environment. This is who I am, and it's what I'm going to rap about.
Dion, it's funny. You're one of the only people I know and you know, that uses the term sell out in a way that isn't inherently negative. Can you elaborate on that?
Um, yeah, I I don't necessarily think selling out is a negative thing in general because it I mean, it depends on what, it depends on what your background is what, sorry. Not background, that's a wrong thing to say. It depends on what your situation is and how and why you sold out and how you sold out. Quote unquote. For example, like The Roots for example. It's pretty obvious if you look at where they are right now that a house band for the f*cking Tonight Show. One can say, sure they sold out. I look at it as Okay, yeah, maybe they sold out but you know what they also did? They secured a bag for like five years. You know?
No, more than five years.
But yeah, exact 10 year Yeah, exactly. Like they're like and they're still able to perform like they're not able to tour as much as they were so they had to sacrifice that but yeah, there's the house band on The Tonight Show. So yeah, look at them as they sold out a little bit. But do you bro, like whatever....
And, it's not it's not like they're gone and they're making a totally different kind of music, or they're not contributing, right? It's like the other night I was listening to you know, over Zoom watching Questlove do a set, because we're all home with Coronavirus. You know what I'm saying? And here he is. This is somebody who we've gone to concerts before. And it was a very different environment from the one that he's working in day to day now but he's still very much a part of my musical life and producing things that I love.
And not to get in too much of a debate. But on that note, Gary like you, you watched Questlove you watch him you know, flex on the wheels of steel, which is awesome. I've seen him do it at Brooklyn Bowl before which is incredible.
I never got the chance to go....
You know, I wouldn't even call it the roots did selling out because they never sacrificed the hip hop. They're still putting out incredible ambitious albums...
Ahh, they're not really putting out albums anymore though.
Well I mean, since they signed with Fallon they put out three albums. And Black Thought has released two incredible underground ...... That's what I mean, you know if you want to you know, I don't consider themselves because they just enhanced their financial situation and continued to put out hip hop right in a very raw hip hop form even though that you know, some of their newer albums were all over the place. They're not pop music they're now they're....
Actually I put I put one of theirs, we can talk about it.... One of their albums Undun and another one and it's called And Then You Shoot Your Cousin are both concept albums and fucking great.
They're incredible albums
but...... Go on Gary, what's up?
Can I say something else? It just occured to me as we were, as we continue to talk about it.
We went off into Roots land.
This specifically felt like you know, the insulting nature of what he was talking about., and the fact that it's like, actually horrifically offensive in some ways. It reminds me of Dozens, right Dozens like....
yeah, yea, yeah, playing The Dozens.,
.... each other comedy and how ugly you know, your face is or how ugly your mother is, like, incredibly, just like offensive right if taken at face value, but it's it's a it's a kind of endearing way to interact. Especially like as a juvenile right, is like, especially as a kid right? You talk about your mother's so you know, your mother's so cheap, you know, she squeezed the penny hard enough to give Lincoln a black eye or your mother is so fat she jumped up and never came down.
Far Side had a whole song about this.
Yea, Your Mamma
Yeah, no Gary. That's a really good point. Um, I didn't really think about that. But that that's exactly what you kind of did is you kind of sort of added to exactly the point that I was trying to make before where it's like, where Ben was looking at it sort of like insulting, it's like it's not insulting, it's more it is more endearing. And I mean...
Dude, some of my favorite hip hop lyrics in the world are incredibly insulting, like, and I recognize that it's part of the hip hop, you know, the vocabulary is to, to dis.
Yeah, let's just put it this way. No, no one. No one listening. No poor person listening to this album is getting offended by those skits. I guarantee...
Well, I mean, who knows? Maybe I mean, look.....
This day and age?
This day and age there's a lot of people that get offended about it. Sure, sure. But you know what I mean, like, in general, like people think they get it, they get it, they should get it. Um, so yeah, so just it weaves in and out. It's let's see, like the what was the next one? Yeah, Drive Slow, My Way Home, like all these had like Crack Music is actually a great song
Oh, I have a note on on the the two songs you just mentioned. So so drive slow, which is what's playing in the background, right?
Yeah, so drive slow is interesting. It's, I heard the sample and I'm like, wow, clearly like that. The only song I immediately recognized was an Eminem song from the from the Slim Shady EP, before he before he blew up, he released an EP in Detroit and it's a song called No One's Iller, which is great, a great underground song and it's pretty crazy to think about because it's basically the same sample but flipped a little differently and the difference in like this, this sounds like such a clean and and slickly produced major label commercial hip hop song, whereas the same sample flipped in a similar manner with different lyrics and different subject matters and different styles of rapping.
It's like Eminem and Bizarre and like other members with D12. And it's like, very hardcore, underground. But, you know, well before Eminem became a pop star, you know, really...It's interesting how the same sample can be used in completely different contexts. And then I went deeper and I realized that this song was sampled on 33 different songs. Clearly, it's a great you know, starting point to build build a beat.
What was your favorite of that 33?
Honestly, No One's Iller. I love.... I am.... love the first few years of Eminem's career, you know, his stuff back then was really incredible. Yeah, but ....
yeah. Anyway, so that was my note on Drive Slow
Yo, Dion. What was your favorite usage of that same beat?
I you know, I didn't.... I actually didn't see the list yet. I saw that there was a...
There's a 2Pac there's a 2Pac....
2Pac Shorty Wannabee a Thug is a great one..
right. Yeah, that's a great one....
"Was young middle class". Oh my god. Just just amazing. It was .....that song, really. That was a touching song.
But I with Drive Slow..... I did like a couple things that sort of surprised.... but the one thing that surprised me was Paul Wall. I don't know much about him. I know he's like in a dirty South rapper, Houston whatever, known for his grills and everything like that. But uh his first was not bad actually in this...
Wasn't as as bad as like what the stigma his name carries.
Yeah, exactly. Yeah the line it goes "A young Houston hard hitter, all about the skriller, riding something candy coated crawling like a caterpillar". That's a dope f*cking line, that's sick. Like he's actually like he surprised me that like Bravo Paul Wall. But they also um, it was interesting on this track because if you guys you guys remember the Chopped and Screwed era? Remember that shit? It was around this time where it's about like I want to say like from like '03 to '06. It was like a Dirty South thing where all they would do is just take songs and slow the f*ck out of them. Including like the beat and the the vocals. And this song ends with with it being chopped and screwed and then I think that was kind of homage.
So he brought Paul.... I think this song was basically like his homage to the south. It's like Yo, I got Paul Wall here I got you know like OG Paul Wall was on the track. I'm gonna chop and screw it at the end. I'm gonna do like.... it's it's it was kind of dope. It's not it's not like exactly the rap for me chop the screw, because it's like... but it'd be... the purpose of it isn't to you know to show lyrics or anything like that it's just like yooo.... I'm gonna slow thi shit up. Let's let's go like deep south side like we could we slow like molasses like that's that's like, that's like style. So I kind of think that it was a it's kind of cool to be paid homage to that.
And also one more thing about Drive Slow, in it continuing the theme that I was talking about, the previous track was was a skit, but then before that was Gold Digger and I think maybe the song is kind of like saying it's like, maybe you're going a little bit fast he got gold diggers going after you maybe he's trying to say just..... slow down, enjoy life a little bit like you get you get a little and then the next track is My Way Home where it's very like woke kind of you know....
It's funny that he made the song and then he went on to be Kanye West.
I admittedly also, and I'll let you keep going Dion, I just wanted a quick note on that is that this is my favorite of his output that I've heard. Again, I haven't sat down and really listened.... because I don't choose to it's just never moved me in that way. But this this is like rooted in samples and in a, in a in a style of hip hop that I could at least I could I could groove to you know what I mean? Like, there's thing there's choices he made or, you know, out, you know, pieces of music that he put out in recent years that I'm like.... Well, I'm never gonna listen to that out. You know?
You should give College Dropout a listen. If you like this, College Dropout is even.....
I've heard that one. Friend of mine from camp used to... there was one summer where he played it non stop, so I'm more familiar with that one than I was this one.
Actually real quick, and I know you have a note about crack music, Ben. I'll get to that in a second. I'll bridge with them my way home real quick. But before even that, Interesting to know about Kanye, remember like, I think it was last week or the week before we started talking about umm, 50 cent and he got shot nine times and that kind of like jump started his career. And then it's like the rumors that like he did it himself or whatever. But that's, that's actually irelevant for the point I'm about to make.
Kanye kind of had a similar thing that sort of.... was the crash. Exactly. And then, yeah, Gary, you know about this, right?
Yeah. Through The Wire.
Through The Wire. Exactly. And and so that that was kind of his thing that was on on on college dropout. So I just I find it funny. Not funny. But it's interesting that Yeah, he couldn't break into the rap scene. It took him getting into a car crash and have his jaw wired shut, ironically, to jumpstart the rap portion of his career. And I thought that was incredible.
Also, that album, college dropout with Through The Wire. Another thing I'm very impressed about is, he took an album, that album sounds nothing like this.
And I'm always I'll always give credit and be impressed by an artist who can literally create individual pieces of music that don't share a common thread. And he does that. He reinvents himself a lot. And this was this was a reinvention from first album, to sophomore album.
In quick succession too.
And the second the next one too the Graduation is also is very different. It's a little bit more similar to this than this is to College Dropout, you know, but it also it's still.... It's its own thing, cuz then he starts getting to like electronic shit in Graduation. A little bit a little bit. It works. But then and then the following album. It's like all electronic and that should actually, I'm not..... the 8 0 8s....
That one's rough. Anything. I've heard off that one. It's pretty rough.
It's the only kind of album that admittedly, I've never listened to start to finish because I just can't get through it. But um, but anyway, so My Way Home, Um.....
There's actually no kind of vocals on this. It's all Common.
Yeah, and I love it. I'm sorry. That was a that was bad. The reason I'm..... Common's verse is f*cking.... is awesome. That's another thing, dude. Again, his features kind of outshine him on it in my opinion, like, like, like NAS, NAS Jay Z, Common. They're gonna rap better than him. And that's what I mean. Like, like, like, I just never got into him because it is, I don't know, his raps never never did it for me. But for whatever reason, you know....
This .......This song was actually supposed to be a Common song, produced by by Kanye, but what was the reason? I think.... I forget I forget what the reason was why they included here. I think is because it just didn't fit in Common's album, and then they had - I think they had John Brion. Yeah, Brion, do a little bit to this, and it included here. Um, but uh, it's I think it's, uh, I don't know it's like Kanye is... He's obviously not the first woke artist. But uh, he introduced wokeness I think to a wider audience and he has...
Totally, so like, the last time that that a popular... by popular I mean spun on the radio regularly... a rapper was going that route was Public Enemy. You know what I mean? Like Public Enemy, you never heard a Public Enemy song that didn't actively promote you know, black empowerment and and point out the racism and, you know, the horrible nature that it was very political. Were... and I wouldn't call kind of a political rapper.
But he welcomes a lot of political and woke ish themes into his songs and he's not afraid. He definitely never had fear. That's one thing. Yeah. He's fearless
a kook with open arms.
And and and this this track especially, I mean, who who better to have I mean, technically two features on this... you have Common who was, you know, a Chicago predecessor of your woke rapping. And then here's a sample from Gil Scott Heron who was like the godfather of wokeness in America. You know, he's famous for sort of 60s. Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Yeah. So yes, I love, I love this track, because it was a it was like a poem interlude.
Can can we... can we talk in part to inform me about, you know, the difference between what Public Enemy would produce and create, and we hear on the radio and some of the, you know, some of the ideas here, you know. I think that Kanye takes it to a place where he's talking about these things, and it it as he puts it back into the public consciousness, which is important, because we should think about all these issues, but like, his, the opinion that he seems to hold is the, like, kind of extreme, hard to believe opinion, right.
And, like, I think the thing with the point that you were making earlier that like, you know, this is something to be to be thinking about, and even something that's smart, you know, to be paranoid about that maybe the government is so organized in its, you know, putting down of the of minorities, that, you know, they would introduce crack as a pandemic, into the, into the country itself.
It, you know, that might have happened, but like, that's it, that seems like an extreme point of view, whereas, you know, FIGHT the power and like songs by Public Enemy, that we're just making a very straightforward, reasonable point that everybody should and could get behind. That's a different, I don't know...it's a different approach.
It's also 15 years prior. Maybe you look at that as like, the sort of like, this is how, like, we're gonna get in, like, you know, start introducing little ideas. And then 15 years later, by the time you get to Kanye, it's like, alright, well, the flood doors are a little bit more, so I can sort of get a little bit further and you know,
Well, I think the main difference between the two and they're very, like, besides the fact that they mentioned political subject matter in their raps, they're completely different article.
Public Enemy, it's almost like they were a call a, not a call to arms, but a call to action. And this was, this music isn't intended to motivate you to make a change.
Well, I don't I don't see that in any of......
It's like Rage, actually.
What are you going to about the fact that like, you know, maybe space aliens did this, or maybe, you know, some insane thing happened. That's like, maybe the government is like, super organized with the primary goal of putting down minority populations like, like, there's nothing you could really do about that. You're helpless in that in that reality.
Whereas the other message is much more. It's much, it's much more powerful.
Easier to swallow?
It's much more action oriented man, you know, it's like, that's the shit. That's the kind of thing that during a, during a political march, people can talk about in a way that is actionable, right? That could lead to real change, whereas the the point that Kanye is making....
There will never be evidence, right? Even if it happened. And I'm not saying it's not possible. I'm saying it's very possible. But even if any of these, these things happened, there will never ever, ever be evidence yet. Ever.
Even as even as a person, right? Like, what can you do politically? What can you do with your vote? What can you do with organizing and making real change in the world in a natural, practical way? That can stop some crazy conspiracy theory like that from from happening? You really can't, right? It's like a really.....
People go insane doing this. Pepole go insane and get arrested and like ruin their lives and their family's lives going after those unattainable, you know...
Basically, Gary, what you're saying is that it just makes more sense to like, it's not it's not necessarily that it's as ridiculous as it seems, but it's just like, sort of focus your attention on things that are more realistic to change, for example, like, up until 10 years ago, we're from New York so I would, I would assume that you guys have been aware of this, but the rest of the country have only recently been aware that police have been killing and beating up black people for decades. Your from New York, so you got you guys already new this shit...
If smartphones were never invented, the Black Lives Matter movement would never have existed.
And one could say that was a conspiracy theory, like 15 years ago, people weren't believing but it's like, no, guys. This shit happens.
But um, but no, that's that's a good point, Gary. Yeah, I see what you mean. But I think to counter that like, he doesn't really dwell on any of these things on the album. He like mentions them and that's part of the point. Which by the way....
Totally. It's part of like, so it's part of his his thing. He's never saying we need to go change this. He's just saying, man, I'm bitter about this.
Like by the way, he did this in life when the Katrina. When he sat next to Mike Myers. Where he just goes... he goes George, George Bush don't care about black people.
Which is shocking to see where he ended up in life. Who he's backing now....
I know. I know. I know....
I know. I said I wouldn't talk about it.
Ben, you said you have some notes about Crack Music, right?
Yes. So this.... this song is for me, right? When you have a hot drum sample like that could totally make or break you know, that like changes the course of your song right? So it's, it's, I could consider most of this album boom bap centric meaning that it chops up old r&b and jazz drum samples, makes and makes like a you know from a break beat if you will.
This break beat, this drum sample is extremely complex. It's like a it's like almost like a funk professors 4-4 beat. It's not a sample [sings]. It's not that.... you know what I mean? It is a, it's almost like a like a fusion jazz funk 4-4 beat where it's, it's staggered, and it's extremely.... it's like what like if you were gonna go see like a funk fusion band, what a drummer might do. So I love that and and it gives this... it gives a feeling of like a frenetic energy to the to the song that wouldn't be there if it was just a straightforward 4-4 beat. I think it's funny that uh, that the game is....
just in the chorus?
They say featuring The Game... I'm like oh, wow, The Game has a verse... That's one of my pet peeves in hip hop in general is when they say featuring an artist, and they say they just say a sentence and like that's your feature? Like Come on, man. Is that even featuring The Game?
The Game is dope.
The only thing I don't like more than that is when they say featuring and it's an artist that passed away years before that the song was recorded. That song ain't featuring anyone.
That's funny. That's funny. Um, yeah, it's funny that first of all, yeah, it's it's one of the top three, top four beats on the album. I agree this this beat is ridiculous. I focus on the lyrics a little bit too. I was comparing. I mean, basically is comparing crack to hip hop like you saying, I get this this like New Wave hip hop. And it's like.....Yeah, exactly. Exactly. He's like modern hip hop is basically saturated with bullshit. And there's so much product in the market. Yeah, it's hard to tell what's initially wack and what's and what's not just like crack. It's like, but it doesn't matter......Because at that point, you're addicted. So here take it.....
And I think his argument is that like, the, like the real crack music, like when someone like it's a common thread in hip hop, you know, when when something's "crack music" and means it's something that's so good that people fiend for it like more and more. And that's I think the metaphor he's gone with.
I like this song. I like this beat.
Also this. There's a line in here. That is a... yeah, this is one of the other sort of foreshadowing lines. It's interesting. He got he's talk..... All right. So he's talking about Jay Z. He goes because dreams of being hova went from being broke down for bringing a broke man to being an adult man to being the president. Look, look, this hope man. He's talking about Jay Z being the president of Rockefeller, and he was a drug VM. All right, but, but and this is crazy.
I'm not saying he actually did this because no one's an actual Nostradamus, that can predict the future. But those lines could also easily be attributed to Obama, you know. Went from being a broke man, not that Obama was ever like in the slums, but he didn't grow up a wealthy person at all. To be to be an adult man. He didn't sell crack, but he did he smoke weed. He's public in the fact that he smoked weed. To be in the president. Look, there's hope, man....Hope was his tagline. So I just again....
You might say this inspired Obama.
I love that. I like I like when Professor Dion shows his..... I like that, man.
It's f*cking eerie.
Oh, that's good.
Yeah, anything else on Crack Music?
No, um, Nope. No. Because I think that, you know, those were those were my takes from this album. That's what I you know, I wrote, that's the extent of my notes. And listen, I could have listened to this another four times, you'd probably come up with more to say. I was mostly moved by the production. I think it's sound... it doesn't...I.... before I realized that there was another man on this. Like another main contributor to the arrangements and the production. I thought, Man, like, I can't believe Kanye did this on his own.
Like, that was my first like, I can't believe like this, that that like, how did he sample those strings? But then I realized someone arranged.... that there was string arrangements put in, you know what I mean? And I think that's what makes this album pretty special to me. It's a dynamic and pretty involved. achievement. And that, you know, I'll probably come back to it for for the sonic value.
And appreciation. Yeah.
The only other deep thing I wanted to get into I might have teased earlier.... That uh, there's a big hint on this album as to why Kanye sort of, you know, loste his mind later on, and that hint is in the song Hey Mama.
So it's obviously it's a it's one of the two I feel like this this album has two sort of like beautiful songs to them right that are their their their hip hop but they're like, you know it has more melody that the message is more like sort of soft and they're like it's almost they're more than art pieces it's this and Roses.
Roses is like it's it's it starts off as like you know kind of a depressing song but I could realistic it's realistic take. Like the line that always got me was the last the last line of the first verse where it's like he's gonna ..... And in the doctor's room or I'm sorry, hospital room with his aunt that's dying. And the nurse is coming up to him asking for autographs... this T shirt it's like.... it's like a reality of being a celebrity, right?
It's like you don't realize that...yo, you don't see that we're f*cking about the mourn our aunt? You're gonna ask me for autographs right now? Interesting shit... but like that the whole the.... the song ends on a positive note that the grandma recovers and everything like that, but Hey Mama is the other one where I think it's a very beautiful song. Homage to his mom obviously. And I think it also, it pretty obviously pays homage to Dear Mama by but by Tupac. Um, and before I get into to how it affected him later, in continuing with the theme of the song, I think this is.....and why this song is toward the end of the album, he's sort of looking at his like rap heroes like Tupac and NAS. NAS also had a song about his mom called Dance.
And I feel like this is like in his mentality. Like now I'm at the pinnacle of where I want to be. Like, now I'm exactly where my my heroes are like, I'm gonna make a song now about my mom. Cause NAS did when he was on top. Tupac did when he was on top, and.....
Do you know when that NAS song dropped?
I'm thinking about it .....as I've been talking. I'm thinking....wasn't it dropped after this? It might have been after this.
I thought..... I'm not sure. I'm not sure what is it from.......doesn't matter doesn't matter.......regadless.
But yeah, but the song in general. It's crucial. It's crucial because, you know, it shows his his love for his mom, right? Like he even though his parents divorced, he still had a relationship and has a relationship with his father. So it's not like a dead beat dad or anything like that, but he's a mama's boy, right?
He lived his mom since he was.... since they divorced when he was three years old. Mom's very smart woman to care for him provided all that stuff. When he made this song, he actually debuted it on The Oprah Winfrey Show with his mom right there. So he played it for her like she she loved it so much right away. She made it her ringtone... you know, like.... so clearly they, you know, they he was very, very close with his mom.
This is the song was made in 2005. Kanye's mom passed away two years later, in 2007, in a freak plastic surgery accident. She had a heart attack in while she was having plastic surgery. So very, very, very tragic. Like really, really sad.
Um, I always said that, that his mom's death was the catalyst for his behavior later on in life because I think he was so close to his mom, when he lost that rock..... and on top of that, you know, who knows? Like she, yeah, she was a professor, but it's not like she was like, rich, like, she probably wouldn't got a plastic surgery if her son wasn't successful, right? So he's probably looking at his head like, Oh, fuck, like, my, my success is the reason that my mom got the plastic surgery. And so and she and her death was a result of the plastic surgery.
I think....and I've had people that that sort of agree with me on this. I think his mom's death f*cked him up. And I think I think he sort of partially blamed himself for for his mom's death. And if you look at like, where he started acting sort of erratic, it was exactly after 2007 it was right when his mom died.
So the reason I say that this song is a hint is because it really goes through like before any of that....like it. You know, before before the mom died, he has a dedication to his mom's just to show like, yo, I'm so close to this woman, I'm gonna put her I'm gonna put a track dedicate, like almost almost in my sophomore album that's going to be a hit, and have a track solely dedicated to her.... debut on Oprah...... I love this woman, blah, blah, blah, she's my rock. And then two years later, she you know, she's, she's, she's gone.
It's a it's an interesting.... not argument, but you know, like assessment, and, hey, it could be true. My only take or comment is, you know, I don't know if he had a history of mental illness before. I don't know what the extent and truth is behind his current mental illness, but you know, you know, and I just.... all I know, is what I see. I can only speak on what I see. And what I see is a man who took every advantage of this. And like, I think I like if you think his..... the fact that he's in headlines for his erratic behavior isn't his choice.
And isn't his decision to to like, exploit or not exploit but to...... it was planned, I it just everything feels so about the headline, that like people could go could slip into mental illness in a very private way, even at his level of fame. They can just choose to be quiet about it, whereas he wanted the whole world to see him that way. And it was dollar motivated, in my opinion.
You.....just thinking about how the situation we're all in right now. Right? We're recording this in the middle of Coronavirus.... locked down, right? Or I don't know if we're in the middle, but it feels like it's been going on forever. And one of the.... one of the impacts a lot of people are feeling..... I certainly am is just a lack of like, feedback from society. Is my behavior absolutely nuts, right? Am I being extreme?
I don't know, I have a feeling that because of how talented he is, you know, and it kind of disconnects him a little bit. And maybe if his mother didn't pass away, he wouldn't be making, you know, sneakers that look like a crumpled up piece of paper, you know, or wearing, you know, Trump gear, you know, going to the White House praising meeting with this guy or whatever. But, yeah, to Ben's point, I think she would be doing scandalous things anyway, because that's his approach to fame. And that's, that's, that's why he's so relevant in.....
It feels very calculated. Even even if he has mental illness, it feels... it feels everything we hear about feels like he really wants us to hear about it so that the next album drop is as successful as possible.
This isn't meant to sound like a cop out, but
......even the Trump stuff, honestly.
Fair, fair, but
Definitely the trump stuf....
All I'll say is like.... can't can it be both?
It could totally be both, you know, but that's what I'm saying the choice of what to do with mental illness. I don't know I I'm coming off. And I know I sound this way as a bitter, judgmental hater. And I have with when it comes to Kanye West, admittedly, I have drank the haterade I've got you know, I've died and gone to Hatees. And it's just my own trip that I'm on, you know.
So everything you have to realize to anyone listening, everything that I'm saying is layered with my own judgment and my own shortcomings of like, not much caring for, you know, the whole Kanye narrative. So, like, my apologies to anyone, I don't want to sound so bitter. I'm trying....
Benny, ca I make a counter to your to your haterade?
Because, like, I see those points directly. I and I, and I think they're good points. And I feel that you know, but there is something outstanding, this is somebody... Kanye West is somebody who's like, touched, right? Like some of the other people that you know, some of the other artists that we've talked about, about their work.... guys touched, you know, like, watch a.... I've watched videos of him that he you know, that he put out deliberately sure, but like of him, improvising his way with his church group to making music..... and the guy is so so so talented, what he creates. I mean, the guy.
Totally right. It's, it's it's such a rare talent that he has developed and perfected in some ways, right? That continues to evolve, it makes, it makes, just makes him one of the most talented people in the world, in my eyes.
Extremely gifted, an enormous, I agree. Just an enormous talent and a songwriter too. That's what separates him, I'd say from a multitude of other rap stars is that he has the songwriters gene. Whereas a lot of rap people link up with a hot producer. They know how to kick game and you know, maybe the stars aligned for them and they get radio play, whereas... there was no stopping the world from knowing who Kanye West was. He is an immense, naturally gifted songwriter. So no doubt.
And I guess, before I get absolutely.... I will sort of wind down and close out but a couple of really quick notes before we do that.... we didn't touch him on the NAS song. We didn't need to go in details. It's a really good song. Great, great person...NAS. But ummm.... interesting that Jay Z and NAS were still beefing at the time.
Was this before not signed to Def Jam?
Yes. In fact, Jay Z had no idea that
that not only was Kanye putting a NAS song on this album. But that it would follow the song The Jay Z's on.... [laugh]
it's the next fucking track. Jay Z had no idea....
I had every assumption just listening to this, that this was post Ether. I mean, obviously post Ether, but like post them reconciling because I know that Jay Z appeared on Black Republicans, which is a great song on Hip hop is Dead, the NAS album .
And what..... so like, I didn't realize that this was before that.
I think this is I think this song was like, sort of the catalyst that got Jay Z to sort of stop or to get the two of them to stop, stop the beef. I believe that Jay Z... Yeah, once he heard it, I don't think he was pissed or anything. He actually publicly praised the verse.
And I think that was the first time in there like, you know, beefing that he actually said something positive about NAS and I think that was sort of like they got their relationship going to them. Yes, cause Hip Hop is Dead came out in '06.
So yeah, this was the thing that got NAS and Jay Z's relationship repaired.
I didn't realize that. That is balls on Kanye's part.
And then the other thing this is as pointed, but just funny that on the song, Bring Me Down with Brandy. Brandy's brother, of course, is the one that helped make Kanye's future wife famous. Because....
That is crazy. So Rayjay....
So Rayjay and Kim, Kim Kardashian are the ones that have the sex tape. That's what made Kim Kardashian famous. Kanye is now married to Kim Kardashian. But in 2005....
Do you think he has any regrets of who he featured on this on this album?
Say what you want about the man but he's got to have some element of pride or that like looks back and goes oh my god.....
wish I could have got a different r&b chick.....
But yeah, ultimately, yeah, I think we we basically said it all I mean, .....first and foremost, I'm actually really happy that Ben had a little bit more respect for this album than he did going into it. It was exactly all I wanted.
I didn't expect you to love this album. I didn't even really expect you to like it. I just wanted you to hear it. Just so you can hear what I've been hearing all these years. Just say hey, at least this is a this is a better album than I expected. The beats are great. And I respect it.
On that note, this will be my closing statement ....Well, I don't think I'm going to really bump this all the time. Right. Like there have been albums by some of my favorite artists that maybe I like more and I'll listen to more that I wasn't like, wow. And I said wow, to myself several times during the two times I listened to this album and so like just the ability to to impress me on that level. You know, it's an impressive and like, undeniably... complete and actualized vision you know, so I really was thoroughly impressed and I'm glad I'm this is this was like a growing experience for me, Dion.
That's all I wanted, man.
I grew a little...
Gary got any final thoughts?
No, said it all.
But, I wanted to get into the into the album for next week. Yes. Yeah, and before we so we might I'm gonna ask that we that we that we pause the recording for a second cut this out later because we gotta have a pow-wow.
I can't I can't tyrant so hard and spring this on you, right. Justin Bieber.....no. I can't. I can't spring this on you without first discussing it. Okay. Now, you know, I think of.... remember that de, you know, that De la Sol album that Benny, you gave me and I bootlegged onto onto a CD when we were in high school....
Stakes is High?
Stakes is High.....with all the like weird with the weird like static at the end of each track because I screwed up burning it?
That I thought was part of the album.....for the longest time....
That's right. That's right.
36 chambers for years. The only copy I had.... each track ended with the with the skips, I thought it was part of the album too...
Yea, this is an interesting feature of the album......
I've since purchased the De la Soul's music and etc...
Wait, wait, wait.... This is great. So where are you going with this?
Where I'm going with this is the opening of that album. When I first heard.....
That's right. That's right.
You're going to do Criminal Minded?
I was gonna go to Criminal Minded.
Yeah. F*ck yea....
This is gonna be great.
So yeah, here's why I wanted to ask you guys. Because Criminal Minded.... I don't know how hard you've bumped that album. Or if you have it all, because it's very specific to a point in time in the 80s....
And it's super raw. And they're out there just so much music that KRS One made later that we could talk about like....
If we're going to talk KRS One then it should be Criminal Minded.
Yeah? All right. Yo, if you guys are dealt with Criminal Minded, I want to talk I want to talk about Criminal Minded.
Looking forward to it. This is gonna be a really good one. Thank you, Gary. And thanks for reminding me how terrible my CD burner was. I remember thinking that like, like the first time... Dion, the first time I heard 36 chambers was a burned copy...
I think it was Philly Blunt's burnt copy....
Philly Blunt's burnt copy....After every track is skipped. I'm like, hmmm...this is interesting.
Then when I listened to that Stakes is High, and it was skipping at the end of that I'm like, man, was this a theme in the 90s? But then I realized, I'm a bum....
Criminal Minded, it is more you know, it's the opposite of this of the album that we just went through, which is why it appeals to me as the next choice, right?
Yeah, very, it's elemental.
Very nice juxtaposition.
I love it.
All right, guys. You've been listening to Do it Yourself Music Appreciation. Hope you enjoyed it. If you want to listen to Criminal Minded before our next episode, feel free.
Let's you know, join us for the ride. We'll see you then. Bye bye.