Welcome to the South Easy
A couple of months back, the week I set about writing columns for The273, I had a conversation about it with a friend who knows nothing about rap music. “Weekly?” she asked “Is there enough material for you to do a column every week? Aren’t you worried there might be some weeks when nothing happens?” I laughed out loud, literally. I’d never thought of that one. Cos there’s loads of problems with writing a weekly column, but as regular readers may have heard me complain before, lack of material is never one of them. Indeed, the biggest problem with writing a weekly column is the opposite: too much material (and often not enough time to sift through it).
I’m not gonna bore you with every detail of the convoluted thought processes that go into deciding what to feature but I will share one interesting dilemma, that of what to do when a big ‘event’ release comes around. Y’know, the ones that everyone else is talking about. My first instinct is to ignore them altogether. With so much great music going unheard it seems criminal prepping yet another think piece about Jay-Z. Besides, my favourite columns are always the ones where I’ve dug out some hidden gem and manage to express exactly why it’s so good and why it deserves your attention. The truth is I haven’t done one of those for a while, I really ought to get round to it some time soon. But therein lies the rub. Those kind of columns take a lot of effort and often seem pointless cos no-one clicks on them. I’m not privvy to the traffic figures on this site (thankfully) and it’s not an issue Koaste has ever seemed bothered about, but let’s be honest here. If you’re putting your writing on the web there’s at least a part of you that wants to see it rack up big hits. If you’re running a website, you want to see people paying attention to it. This week the best way to do that is to stick Jay-Z’s name in there, even if you’re not writing about Jay-Z.
So. I knew exactly what I was going to write about when I started this weeks column. Anything but Jay-Z.
Stuff that isn’t Jay-Z
• I still haven’t heard the Jay-Z album anyway. I downloaded it. Then I deleted it. Then I downloaded it again. Now it’s sat on my hard-drive. At one point I was going to do a whole column comparing it with the new Cappo album G3TOUT, which I haven’t listened to yet either. I was going to document my first reactions to both albums. It’s not a fair comparison, I’ve been known to blag a guest-list spot from Cappo, don’t think I’m ever going to be due such an indulgence from Jay, but I know what I’m expecting from these two albums and in both cases I fear being right. Jay is getting old and complacent. He was never someone I could relate to — that doesn’t always have to be an issue — but now he’s someone I don’t even want to relate to. Cappo is a few years younger but qualifies as part of the same generation even if he’s from Nottingham rather than Brooklyn. He’s had a few acclaimed albums but somehow has never quite reached the commercial heights of Jay. Most likely still has a day job. Like Jay, he’s recently become a father and that’s started to inform his work. Maybe the key difference is Cappo’s rhyming about providing for his family from a far less secure position, his hunger has gifted him a second wind. That scares me as well, given the vast chasm between his masterful confidence and the pitiful levels of acclaim he’s received. What if this album’s just as good as the last two and gets slept on just as hard? Both of these guys are about hard work, about visualising success to achieve it, only one of them’s headlining Glastonbury. Why? Okay, most of the answers to that are obvious but the kind of sacrifices and compromises Jay-Z’s made to get where he is are worth re-evaluating every now and then. Were they worth it? Maybe I’ll write that column after all. One day soon.
• While I’m wondering, Doc Zeus at Passion Of The Weiss has spent his time listening to Magna Carta Holy Grail and articulated why it’s a repulsive piece of shit. In short: Jay is out of touch and sleepwalking through a bunch of raps that condescend to those still in the streets where his earlier work attempted to uplift. Having read Zeus’ piece I’m not sure I actually need to listen to the album any more. Certainly don’t need to read any more bloody reviews.
• There’s a whole heap more I don’t need, either. The slow leak. The drip drip drip of information like I’ve got so much free time I’m going to waste it all studying pages of lyrics with all the juicy words scuffed out. The sixty second branded promotional clips, enough to make me want to smash every piece of Samsung electronic equipment I own. And the commentary. The bullshit. That dude who calls himself Gotty at The Smoking Section opining that “As time passes, I think we’ll look back on the whole push behind Magna Carta as a landmark moment not only in the marketing and promotion of albums but also in Hov’s progression as an artist”. I’m inclined to agree, except maybe not in the sense Gotty intended. That there splash you hear is the sound of an almighty shark being jumped.
• One last Jay-Z link. Promise. Robbie of Unkut isn’t someone I always agree with, quite often he’s just a wee bit too much of a cynical old man. But I respect him enough to check the latest edition of his ‘No Country For Old Rap Men’ column for Acclaim and find he’s not a fan of the album either. It’s his reasoning that intrigues me. Get past the moans about marketing and he lets slip that “Heaven is the only song with an actual hip-hop beat. The rest of it is music to shop at Armani Exchange while wearing Crocs and licking a froyo cone.” Okay, I’ve no idea what a froyo cone is and this is coming from a guy who’s part of something called the ‘Conservative Rap Coalition’ so I should be careful in taking his comments at face value. I doubt whether he’d join me in acclaiming Yeezus as the album of the year, for example, but hell…it’s not the fact he’s dissing it but the way he does. His description’s got me thinking it’ll turn out to be an of unholy cross between (pre-drugs) Mac Miller, Childish Gambino and Pharell at his drippiest. Damn.
• Did I say that was the last Jay-Z link I was going to post? Hang on, one more just popped up in my feed reader and I had to glance. This ones’s interesting cos it’s got an opening paragraph so clueless I know not to bother with the rest. It’s by Tom Lea at FACT. He opens up by saying “Jay-Z’s released a fair amount of average material in his time” and, yeah, that’s not an opinion at this point, it’s a truism. But then the examples he chooses to illustrate it with show how poor Lea’s taste is. He attempts to gloss over the way all of Jay’s weaker material is recent by citing The Dynasty, an earlier album which wasn’t even conceived as a Jay-Z solo project. In establishing that even Jay’s weaker albums have great moments he cites I Just Wanna Love You from The Dynasty. Fair enough, he could have chosen any of the opening five tracks from The Dynasty but whatever. Then he totally blows his cool by suggesting Run This Town and Empire State Of Mind were similar high points on Blueprint 3. Really, Tom? That’s the kind of cluelessness which makes the points he does get right ring hollow, like he didn’t work this shit out for himself but is just about hip enough to follow the right blogs and understand a fraction of what they say. When Tom says Magna Carta is “one of the most vacuous big name records I’ve heard in a long time” it makes me want to dig deep for reasons to love it. Next week, maybe.
• Ringo P