Romeo is just not a good name for anyone not under 18 and about to commit suicide

well, it’s time for me to finally admit, despite the absolutely LACK of protesting to the contrary, that our continued stream of hip-hop-themed updates are going to have to end (at least temporarily) as i have run out of steam on that front. it was great while it lasted, or it wasn’t, but it was SOMETHING. things were occurring! things on the internet!

anyway, that’s a weird and pointless introduction, so let’s move past it and get right back to the meat of this website: finding some random, semi-recent stories on the internet and then providing some commentary (often aggravated) regarding them. without further ado:

a fox called ... (Hank Hill-style sigh) ... Romeo
well he certainly does seem goddamn ECSTATIC

fox found at top of UK’s tallest skyscraper captured

this title is immediately awesome because of how much difficulty it implies is involved. i have two immediate thoughts: how does a FOX get up into a skyscraper, and how hard can it be to catch them? granted, and i think i have discussed this before, i am aware that foxes are ridiculous wild animals with the ability to make insane, painful noise, but still. BUT STILL. anyway, there’s an article:

“A young fox who was discovered living at the top of the 288 metre (945 foot) Shard building in London was captured and released. The animal is believed to have gone up the stairwell at the Shard building, which is still under construction, and lived there for two weeks, surviving on food builders left for him.”

so this makes more sense: we’re not talking about a completed, closed building and, let’s be honest, random dog-like animals DO seem to like to go urban sometimes. i’m always hearing about periodic coyote excursions into our cities here in the US. however, i do have to wonder how an animal living off food people were LITERALLY giving him couldn’t be found and removed sooner. it’s not like he’s got a lot of options, right?

“The fox was called Romeo by council staff because he was captured shortly after Valentine’s Day. Metro reported that he Romeo was caught by Southwark Council pest control officers and taken to Riverside Animal Centre (which is part of the London Wildcare Trust) in Wallington. “We were delighted to be able to help Romeo, the fox trapped 72 storeys up in the new Shard building in central London,” stated a message of the centre’s website. “Romeo spent four days with us-“

okay, that’s enough. please stop calling this fox Romeo. it’s not an appropriate name for a fox. now, okay, getting worked up over what i deem to be “inappropriate names for animals” is sort of a pet peeve of mine (i’m looking at you, people who think you can call a cat “Billie Jean,” which is an absolutely AWFUL name for a cat), so this could be a case where i’m sitting here staring daggers- wait, scratch that, THINKING daggers at these British dudes (or ladies) while everyone else is thinking, “you know, i don’t see how this matters OR how the outrage is funny.” don’t judge me.

“They found Romeo to be in good health other than he hadn’t had quite enough to eat, and said that when he was released he glanced at the Shard and then trotted off in the other direction.”

you know, if you’re going to go with this “animals: they’re just like us” stuff and insist the fox was emotional about this, just go all the way and have the article declare the damn fox shot a wistful look at the building and wiped away a tear, because i would find that just as believable. also, it’s probably a given that a fox never has had quite enough to eat. wild animals never do!

“The Fox Website reports that urban foxes were first established in cities such as Bristol and London during the 1940s. They rarely cause problems, and are efficient are keeping the rodent population down.”

damn it, British people, why do you have to be so unflappable? “oh, yes, dear, urban foxes were established throughout Britain back in the 1940s. thought they’d be a good stop-gap against Hitler, you know. bit of a character that gentleman was. heard he was scared of foxes, you see.” i get it, you guys are unnaturally calm in the face of everything except poor breeding and someone talking reckless about your precious queen. quit rubbing it in.

MEND
let me be honest: i prefer my Nigerian criminals to be upfront about it and/or possibly possessing a legitimate grievance or two

man gave $200K to fake online girlfriend

this’ll be a quick one. so okay, i don’t really want to come off as too harsh in this case, because it doesn’t sound like the guy fell for the idiotic get-rich-quick promise of the usual 419-type scam. and without getting so serious that we kill the mood, once you realize that this isn’t some disgusting basement-located nerd who gave a pile of cash to a dude he thought was a HOT CHICK on some World Of Warcraft server, it becomes pretty clear we’re talking about a lonely, sad guy. i am not without sympathy for that dude. however … we’ve got to have a little comedy in life, so here’s the article:

“Police in Illinois said a man “was in disbelief” when officers told him the online girlfriend to whom he had given $200,000 was not a real person. Naperville police said the 48-year-old man called investigators Wednesday to say he believed the woman, with whom he had been involved in a 2 1/2-year online relationship, had been kidnapped in London, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Friday.

The man told police he had wired $200,000 to the woman during the relationship to different bank accounts in Nigeria, Malaysia, England and the United States. Investigators said the ID card the woman showed the man was a sample driver’s license from Florida. The man “was in disbelief” when officers told him the woman was not real, police said.”

told you it’d be a quick one. anyway, i don’t understand how anyone who’s not completely damaged in the head seems to think it’s reasonable to:
01. date a woman that you NEVER MEET for two-and-a-half years AND…
02. send this woman an astronomical sum of money (which, for a woman you’ve never meet, is anything over $25) AND…
03. send this money all over the globe.

because i read about all these internet scams, and these “i’ve been kidnapped” scams, and while not everyone has all their brain cells blazing furiously to defeat their enemies and not every scam is the absolutely bare minimum “I AM A NIGERIAN PRINCE WITH $10000000000000 IN AN ACCOUNT FOR YOU TO ACCESS” laziness … how do they not see what’s going on here when your “girlfriend” tells you, “hey, thanks for the money, but now my kidnappers need you to send ANOTHER $50000 to Malaysia?”

this is not going to be a good future we’re going to have here. and speaking of society being a continuing series of disappointments:

R&B Child Care
look, if nothing else, it’s conveniently located

state shuts down Homewood daycare after drug raid

so i’m trapped up in the great state of Pennsylvania and i’m sitting in an unnamed facility and the news comes on and drops this story on me:

“The Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare shut down a Homewood day care facility whose owner was arrested for selling drugs on Friday.”

now, that’s pretty bad, but i try to reason it out: either some dealers are paying a woman (one Reanell Booker) to store drugs for them in a daycare center on the assumption that the police won’t suspect it and raid it and all that, or the woman is shady enough/broke enough to have decided to supplement her daycare income by selling at least $6,000 worth of crack cocaine on the side. both are bad, sad, and what have you, but sadly logical, right? well, let’s see what they found:

“During the bust, agents found $6,000 worth of crack cocaine, several bags of sex toys and $4,000 cash. … Investigators said they found sex toys and pornography sitting around in the children’s playroom when they conducted their raid.”

oh. well. that’s certainly … not appropriate.

so i have no idea what the master plan here was beyond “just be a terrible person and have absolutely no boundaries in your personal or professional lives,” but luckily for Reanell, this would not actually be the most appalling part of the story, in my opinion:

“One parent who showed up to the daycare to learn that it was shut down said she doesn’t know where she’ll be sending her two young children. “I just think it’s crazy. I don’t know where I’m going to send my kids now. It was convenient for me,” said the mom.”

(sigh)

ma’am, love them or hate them, the police have just discovered that the “convenient” place where you sent your “two young children” prominent featured conveniently-located crack and sex toys. the fact that you are now inconvenienced, no matter how honest of a reaction it is (and believe me, i am sure it really is), is NOT the appropriate initial reaction to have to this story. it’s just not. but if you don’t believe me…

“Channel 11’s Julie Fine talked with a woman who recently took her son out of Booker’s daycare.
“I have seen quite a few people who were not attending the daycare in and out all day, said Khedijah Baskin. “There are no words to explain when you hear your son is going to a day care where drugs are being sold…sex toys…and there are children there all day,” she said. Baskin’s 4-year-old is now going to another daycare. “I took him somewhere else and he is very happy where he is,” Baskin said.”

shock… check. disgust… check. prompt removal of her child to another daycare as the primary response… check. nameless woman, please speak with Khedijah promptly, because THAT is the correct response.

so that happened a few days ago, and served as solid proof as to why i think it’s fair to say it’s just the beginning, the first inning, the battle for America’s soul, and the devil’s winning, but at least i’m thinking that it’s a fairly isolated concept and all and that i can probably check out the news without seeing such events, right?

woman accused of running meth lab in day-care center

…goddamn it. i’m going to go drink a little and get some sleep.

the one where i say “remember Papoose?” and no one does, which is possibly sad

REPEATED DISCLAIMER: you know, there’s two ways to look at this continued string of hip-hop themed posts. on the one hand, the fact that i am flouting the conventions of “normal HOH content” is very liberating; it’s a delicious combination of not forcing myself to attempt comedy and a childish declaration of “i do what i want!” on the other hand, i would have thought one of our devoted readers would have complained by now… but no, nothing. it makes the internet seem very cold and lonely, whether because there’s no one to appreciate my hilarity (i am still very pleased with #5 from last week) or because there’s no one that cares enough to bitch at me. but anyway… on with the hip-hop talk.

so there’s something that i have found beyond frustrating and/or confusing for years now, and that’s this: the continued shelving, delaying and dropping of artists by labels. now, to be honest, this is not exactly something that HAS to be localized to hip-hop: any musical artist(s) can find themselves in limbo with their label and not getting a proper release, or proper support, or any number of things. i can definitely recall a few circumstances where an artist or a band felt betrayed or not compelled to work, and countless artists have at LEAST had a record executive pushing them to be commercial (some even buying back their albums to release them on their own terms). but for some reason, this stands out more in regards to rap artists, possibly because i love hip-hop the most, but maybe not. so let’s discuss this topic in honor of a certain album finally dropping after a delay of, what, five years? six years? something like that.

Papoose
26 mixtapes, 0 albums released. does that make sense?

rappers who just never release an album

so every fan of rap music knows the drill: first, the label signs an artist with buzz (or maybe not, but usually so, since that’s why they care) and hypes up the signing. in the past, maybe there was some ridiculous contract thrown around (we can use the example of Papoose getting 1.5 million); nowadays, that might not be the case so much, although i think Shyne still got some absolutely idiotic contract from Def Jam. next… nothing seems to happen. the artist may have some singles, they may not, but eventually they are quietly or publicly released and go on to do whatever it is they do. this i do not understand. you’ve got this presumably talented artist AND they’ve already got some buzz AND you’ve increased that with the signing … so why not strike at LEAST once during that time? if the album sucks (or at least tanks), you now have proven justification for shelving or dropping them from there on out, right?

now granted, i get that there are a few arguments to be made for never releasing anything by that artist, but i do not see them as valid:

01. “the label doesn’t want to invest the money in putting out an album”: i actually understand the raw capitalism at work there, but it still seems a little foolish to me because these labels hang onto these artists PAST the buzz dying and THEN drop the act. it wouldn’t be better to drop some bargain-bin album or something reworking that artist’s pre-label work with minimal promotion and see what happens? doesn’t that at least give you the chance to see a single blow up or come closer to breaking even?

02. “the artist can’t actually complete an album to release”: this possible, i admit, since maybe this guy got signed off the buzz from a lucky song, but can’t produce much more. however, i have to wonder when record labels stopped releasing bad albums with one good song on them, because they’ve been shelving artists LONG before that. but, yeah, if they can’t make the album, they can’t make the album, although i would have to ask if it would have anything to do with…

03. “the artist can’t make the kind of album the studio WANTS to release”: this is a contentious point, and perhaps i’m biased because i lean towards that older-school NY brand of hip-hop that sells ZERO records, but here’s the thing: if you sign a gritty NY artist, or a mixtape artist or whatever, and you want them to make a pop-filled smash of a record, but they can’t … why are you fighting this? why not let them make the best album they can and promote it in the manner you deem necessary? doesn’t this not give us the POSSIBILITY of financial success?

and yes, i ultimately understand that the labels give out contracts that allow them to recoup whatever last dollars they can and that there’s a big difference between being a fan and being a record label … but come on, if you’re looking at this in the most shallow way possible, you should figure that an artist who you cannot sell an album by immediately OR mold into making the album you want immediately is a commodity that you can either strike quickly on (while their name means something) or do nothing BUT lose money on (when their name no longer does). and related to that is the notion of:

Saigon's original cover
adding insult to injury: that extreme delay cost us this far superior cover

rappers who keep getting their albums pushed back indefinitely

…which is even worse, because it’s such a fucking tease. it’s slightly different than the former category (although very similar) as in the hip-hop world there’s always a handful of unreleased albums floating around out there in various forms of completion as living proof that not only were these guys (or gals, to be fair) signed and forgotten or neglected or whatever … but they also put in the work to complete an album … and STILL saw nothing come of it. and these are presumably people who, again, had a buzz and a splash of being signed.

part of my problem may also be the fact that i cannot, off the top of my head, think of ANY artist who benefited from having their album pushed back. now it’s true that this happens in lots of cases where the album DOES eventually come out, and sometimes the artist’s album is pushed back because it wasn’t going to do phenomenally either way, but the additional week or so makes it not get KILLED. but i think everyone* knows that we’re really talking about the guy who has a release date in January… and then it becomes May… and then it becomes November… and then it becomes 2011… and then it becomes 2015… and then he’s dropped from the label and the album gets leaked SOMEHOW and no one makes a goddamn dollar.

this all springs to mind because recently, we saw the release of Saigon’s album the Greatest Story Never Told, which got delayed from something like 2005 or 2006 to the present. and along the way we had all this label drama, and now, five (or six) years later, the album is here. and who benefited? the label (Atlantic) maybe broke even or at least recouped some money when Saigon got released (who knows), but Atlantic still wasted something like 2-3 years and a few dollars to see no benefit. Saigon got to watch his buzz die/at least cool off AND lost his deal AND spent forever trying to get the album out. and fans are fickle when you’re giving them nothing. this whole mess is fucking ridiculous.

so record labels, here’s the deal: when you sign an artist, have them release an album within 12 months. seriously. i guarantee this will solve all of life’s problems.

now, okay, sometimes rappers bounce back from these things (i’m looking at you, Clipse and Royce), but at the same time, you can never shake the feeling that SOMEONE dropped the ball here and that such an event is making the worst of it for everyone involved. well, maybe you can, but i can’t. maybe i’ll just go listen to the Greatest Story Never Told again and think about this some more while you dudes out there in Radio Land stroke your beards and listen to rock music or whatever it is that you guys do.

*”everyone” as in “everyone that cares,” which is another way of saying “only janklow… only janklow.”

kanye west’s best production, volume two: now with 100% more over-the-top emotion

REPEATED DISCLAIMER: given the fact that we’re running a slight bit behind schedule these days, and the suspicion i have that there will be minimal negative feedback resulting from the decision i’m about to make, we’re going to continue with the theme of hip-hop music for this update. but feel free to prove me wrong, loyal readers, and complain away.

you may remember that last “week,” i vowed to cover a second list of my favorite Kanye West productions that were composed specifically for his own releases. now granted, it may have seemed entirely possible that i would get distracted by some other random topic or news stories, or maybe by playing several hours of a ridiculous old steampunk-meets-wizardry RPG, or just by something shiny that drifted by outside my window and DEMANDED that i chase it around in the yard, giggling and shouting. those all seem possible, right? however, despite the fact that i DID read some crazy-ass news stories and play some Arcanum and absolutely run around in a massive windstorm, we’re still going to press ahead with this meaningless ranking that no one asked for or wants to read. it is what it is!

janklow’s top 13 list-

you know what? scratch that “13” thing for this week, because i have some points i want to make. let’s take this thing all the way up to 20.

janklow’s (unprecedented) top 20 list of Kanye West productions for Kanye West that he thinks are the best

the College Dropout
i’ve really never understood how this bear could be so melancholy; it seems to be a mascot suit GUARANTEES you be excited and joyful

honorable mention: from the College Dropout, “All Falls Down,” “Get Em High, ” “Never Let Me Down,” and the second half of the little skit/song “Graduation Day”; from Late Registration, “Crack Music,” “Drive Slow” and “Gold Digger”; from Graduation, “Barry Bonds” and “Good Morning”; from 808s & Heartbreak, “Amazing” and “Love Lockdown”; and from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, every damn song i didn’t list below that’s NOT called “Devil In A New Dress,” which is literally the only song i don’t like on the album. also, a lot of people really love “We Major” … but let me be all the way honest with you, i don’t. that’s why it’s not an honorable mention. let’s keep it moving.

20. “Welcome To Heartbreak” (808s & Heartbreak)
let me clear: i don’t think 808s & Heartbreak is a bad album at all, but this is going to be the token track from that album because i simply think it pales in comparison to the rest of his work. it’s one of those records where, if you really like Kanye West, you listen to it politely and say, “okay, so, what do you have in the way of rap records?” actually, i probably enjoy “Amazing” more, as it’s the closest thing to a straight-up hip-hop track on the album, but if i’m honest, this is the better production. if nothing else, the experimentation on this album can be used to explain how excellent the following release turned out. but i digress.

19. “Who Will Survive In America” (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010)
so, basically, this is one of those tracks where Kanye does something ridiculous; in this case, we have some saucy production thrown behind a Gil Scott-Heron poem (in this case, “Comment No. 1”) and that’s the track. there’s no rapping, no singing, and really, no explanation as to why a bunch of kids in 2010 who i can only assume have NO IDEA who Gil Scott-Heron is are supposed to get down with this. and i really don’t have any answer for that. but i absolutely love how insane this concept is, you know?

18. “Dark Fantasy” (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010)
one thing that i may have made clear in the past is that i am a firm believer in the concept of opening your album with a strong track, not just some throwaway album track that people should listen to in order to get to the good stuff (this IS the age of mp3s, after all) or a skit-type intro. ideally, it should also let people know what kind of album this is going to be … and “Dark Fantasy” does that, roaming all over the place with raps to choral singing to ridiculous outbursts about a lack of Yeezy in one’s Serrato (and a random skit-type introduction, fine), all over some constantly-changing music. and this is exactly the kind of album he gave us with MBDTF. i love it.

17. “Keep The Receipt” (not officially released)
a lot of guys i know talk trash about the Ol’ Dirty Bastard; this tends to be because they’re either southerners with questionable taste in music or people who just don’t “get” ODB. what is there to get, you ask? well, his utter insanity masks the fact that he CAN spit a little bit, but also the fact that he remains one of those artists with a emotional, soulful voice that simply doesn’t sound very great (i’m also looking at you, Teddy Pendergrast). now, you can waste ODB on a track, or you can use him during his Roc period to give you a great hook on a song that never made it to any album. and if you don’t like it, go kill yourself! go kill yourself!

16. “So Appalled” (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010)
so when making MBDTF, Kanye West pulled in all kinds of classic producers (guys like DJ Premier, No I.D., Pete Rock, the RZA, and so on) in order to help him craft his sounds; some contributed ideas, some co-produced tracks, and the end result is, well, this great record wherein, when you add in bringing in all kinds of MCs, most of the tracks sound like really high-level posse cuts. anyway, the best way to describe this track’s awesomeness is to paraphrase a throwaway remark i once heard about it: “this track features the RZA, and all he does is yell “fucking ridiculous” for thirty seconds? fucking ridiculous!” to those of us to whom “ridiculous” is 50% of our catchphrases, this is awesome.

Late Registration
so this is definitely in the top-5-of-all-time creepy guy-in-bear-suit photos; i admit that’s a very specific top 5 list, but it is what it is

15. “Where You At?” (Boost Mobile commercial, 2006)
remember this commercial, where Kanye’s in his studio, and he’s got Ludacris and Game on his Boost Mobile phone, and they’re rapping about where they’re at? and Kanye’s keeping this beat for himself? no? well, i do. and if you track down the actual song (as it WAS an actual three-minute-or-so song), you might realize that it was actually a pretty cool track: choral shouting in the background, Ludacris proving he always comes with a sharp guest verse and … uh … well, Game is not my favorite dude, i admit, but i don’t think he’s ever RUINED a song. anyway, forget the fact that this is a commercial for Boost Mobile and check it out.

14. “Christian Dior Denim Flow” (G.O.O.D. Fridays, 2010)
a lot of the hottest and/or best tracks from Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Fridays concept (where he was dropping brand-new tracks on his website every Friday) got snatched up for MBDTF, which should actually make people realize that while Nicki Minaj may have “beaten” his album sales, she was also competing against an album that gave away 5 of its 13 tracks. and they were (largely) the STRONG five. anyway, one of them that didn’t make the album was this expansive track in which Kanye proves he can pronounce every model ever’s names (really) and rocks a really great string section. the only real blemish on it has to do with this “why is Ryan Leslie rapping” concept, but i can forgive some things.

13. “Gone” (Late Registration, 2005)
oh, i’ll always use this song as proof that Kanye really DID try to give Consequence some shine, as well as that Cam’ron can really ride a beat. but the reason why i love it so much has a lot to do with the beat/tempo changes that happen before Kanye’s second verse: i love the way the beat goes from this lighthearted meandering production that’s going nowhere fast to this serious “watch as Kanye gets focused on rapping” moment. honestly, this is probably a circumstance where everyone reads this and thinks “wow, this beat isn’t that great and he’s only ranking it this high because he’s weird.” well, the joke’s on YOU, because no one is reading this! ha! wait.

12. “Monster” (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010)
so most of the conversation about this song has to do with debating whether or not Nicki Minaj has the greatest guest verse ever (she doesn’t, although her verse IS awesome) or whether or not Jay-Z has a lame verse (i really don’t understand what’s so lame about it, seriously). what i would like to talk about, however, is the decision to open this song with a mere 4 (lazy) bars from Rick Ross, whose bars i shouldn’t imply are lazy on the grounds that i hate Rick Ross and thus must assume he DID work really hard to produce them, as that position is FAR more insulting. also, the line about “have you ever had sex with a pharaoh? i’ll put the pussy in a sarcophagus” makes me laugh and clap my hands like a kid.

11. “Stronger” (Graduation, 2007)
my two most favorite Daft Punk references are this track (which is awesome and makes me think of Kanye existing in robot form, doing … something, i’m not sure what) and that bit from Flight of the Conchords where they’re lamenting the fact that they didn’t get helmets like Daft Punk’s. i mean, hey, i’m not a great fan of Daft Punk; i’m sure they’re nice guys and all, but i’m not really into gobbling ecstasy and gyrating in a crowd full of sweaty men and loose women. so this would be one of those times where i think rap music really takes the music it’s sampling to the next level; i know this is not a popular position with people who hate rap, but fuck them.

Graduation
so i know Kanye identifies himself with the adventuring bear on his covers, but i think of him more as a space-monster-slash-university that expels bears, if that makes any sense

10. “Diamonds From Sierra Leone”/”Diamonds From Sierra Leone Remix” (Late Registration, 2005)
taking a James Bond theme and making it all modern and fast-paced and excellent is something that, let’s be honest here, i very much approve of. the Propellerheads did it, and Moby it, and now Kanye West does it even better by ALSO adding in rap music, which i am a huge fan of (obviously). we also get Kanye mocking himself for his poor awards-show-based behavior years before all that Taylor Swift drama, which really just forces me to ask people how they didn’t see that coming? he flat out acknowledges the honesty inherent in his poor behavior!

09. “Touch The Sky” (Late Registration, 2005)
some time back, i wrote an update wherein i talked about Curtis Mayfield’s “Move On Up,” which i ranked as the #1 song that always manages to cheer me up (at least slightly), and so i’ll just quote myself to make this point: “nothing can top this one; i’ve described this as the most cheerful song ever written, and it really, truly is. i don’t know if it’s the horns or the lyrics or what; all i know is that … it always makes me smile, even on my worst days … [and] even Kanye West’s “Touch The Sky” achieves almost the same degree of elation thanks to its liberal sampling of the aforementioned “Move On Up.” good times.” good times indeed.

08. “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” (Graduation, 2007)
chalk up another victory for a slow-paced beat that i really, really like; often this is not the case, but every so often, one of them really appeals to me (see also: “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang”). this song is also a great example of how great Young Jeezy’s completely random ad-libs are; “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” tosses them liberally around the track, and the effect is wonderful, even though i honestly can’t tell of Jeezy is co-signing Kanye’s excellence or willful ignorance (since Jeezy’s being sampled, not actually ad-libbing here). but i DO know is that that is a distinction that no one but me seems to care about at all.

07. “Runaway” (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010)
so before it made the album, “Runaway” was a G.O.O.D. Fridays track, and it keep getting released in various degrees of completeness: mastering varied, sampling varied, the music itself varied. now, this makes for an interesting look at Kanye polishing a song to completeness, but it also puts me in the position of having to note that i actually prefer pre-album versions of this song, from before he tossed on those “Expo 83” samples. now the album track is still a great song, and i love Kanye to death for bringing Pusha T over to G.O.O.D. Music and sprinkling him onto this album … but i’d be lying if i didn’t say i think this song took a slight downgrade when it made the album.

06. “All Of The Lights” (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010)
rather than talk about this song, which is currently getting a bunch of play as theme music for the NBA All-Star Weekend advertisements i keep seeing, let’s talk about the video that was recently released for it, for two reasons:
–the video chops out Fergie’s vocals, which seemed to be a particularly contentious part of the song (as in, some people REALLY hated them); i have no idea why this was done (for length, or for some economic reasons, or whatever), but it’s certainly interesting;
–apparently, either Kanye or Hype Williams is a Gaspar Noé (which, given Kanye’s insanity, is possible), or else one of them just felt like ripping off what Quentin Tarantino called the “greatest credits of all time,” those from Enter The Void. ultimately, while i don’t know the answer, it IS a fact that Noe DID create the greatest credits of all time.

808s & Heartbreak
the addition of the cartoon hands destroying this poor man’s (or bear’s) heart really make the cover, if you ask me

05. “the Glory” (Graduation, 2007)
“really,” you’d ask, “the Glory ranked this high? really?” really. i would declare that i was going to defend it with eight words: contains the most addictive drums of all time. then you’d start to dispute this somehow, and i would cut you off and declare “MOST ADDICTIVE DRUMS OF ALL TIME.” and every time you tried to speak after that, i’d yell “OF ALL TIME” until we were both frustrated with my childish behavior and walked away from the conversation. if you were my friend, you would be annoyed with me; if you were my girlfriend, you’d probably break up with me, and probably with an e-mail for fear that you’d call me, and i’d answer, and you’d say “look… we need to talk,” and i’d say “MOST ADDICTIVE DRUMS OF ALL TIME” and just hang up the phone. because you cannot break up with me if i don’t acknowledge it, and you can’t dispute the awesomeness of “the Glory” if i don’t let you. and after all this, i’d sit back in my chair and turn on this track and listen to it with my eyes closed until, sixteen seconds in, the drums kick in and i feel really ALIVE for the first time in a long time. actually, you know what song always cheers me up? “the Glory.” it should have been on that other list.

04. “Hell Of A Life” (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010)
i have been declaring my passion for this beat for a long time now, actively wishing that rappers notorious for killing other people’s productions would jump on it (i’m looking at you, Clipse and/or Royce). but what i mostly remember about it is the fact that my father and i got into a long-winded argument about it, with him arguing that it samples “Iron Man” and me arguing that it doesn’t, and him arguing “i can always detect Iron Man” and me arguing that since all he listens to is Kate Bush, there’s no way he could. this got pretty heated, so we dropped it. fast forward to now, when i checked the liner notes in order to write this and found out that, yes, this song samples “Iron Man.” but hey, if he wants me to acknowledge i was wrong, i guess he better read this update! also, the beat is great, so, there’s that as well.

03. “Jesus Walks” (the College Dropout, 2004)
so this is the single that MADE Kanye … although i guess, really, it was all those tracks he had on the Blueprint that MADE him, and this just confirmed his status as an artist in his own right. and then i guess that’s a little bit of a cheat, since Rhymefest wrote at LEAST half of these lyrics and got himself a secret Grammy. ANYWAY, its use in the trailers was probably the only good thing about Jarhead (well, that and Jamie Foxx’s performance in general) and it does always remind me that my absolute favorite expressions of theological belief are those found not in religious texts, but in popular culture. seriously. for example, i will get into a huge argument about how Blatty’s “the Exorcist” contains some really wonderful words on the topic of how one can be expected to act with love towards their fellow man. but this is not really the time or place for that!

02. “Power” (My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, 2010)
often when there’s a big single out, it gets dropped into all kinds of ads, no matter how it relates to the topic; it drives me CRAZY when i see ads selling “the Town” on DVD using that “Not Afraid” Eminem song, because i hate that song and it’s not in the movie at all. use Slaine’s “Run It,” damn it; the guy’s actually IN the movie! anyway, “Power” (or, if you prefer, “POWER”) is absolutely awesome and thus, even when i see it in a random ad, no matter what the ad’s for … i don’t mind. i just want to hear this song MORE. more of the background vocals, more of the sample, more of the weird breakdown, more of everything. so that’s just a little story about how i will listen to the same single fifty fucking times in a row.

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
seriously, look at this (banned) cover art and tell me that the album contained within could possibly NOT be awesome. you can’t, can you?

01. “Two Words” (the College Dropout, 2004)
things that i like: choruses as background vocals (in this case, the Harlem Boys Choir, and one of the best examples of this concept to date), Mos Def back when he was rapping his ass off and not insane yet, Freeway when he was hungry and/or ignorant as fuck, Kanye’s “chipmunk soul” samples stabbing into the song. these are things that i get on this song. i also love the fact that this song was one of the songs performed on the dearly-missed Chappelle Show. now, if closely examined, my Irish sidekick would claim i love this song because Freeway refers to himself as “Steven Seagal Free” at one point, and i wouldn’t even deny it because, hey, why not accept it? Marked For Death was great! and also, get ’em, Sticks! anyway, two words: the best.

oh, hey, remember those awesome credits i talked about? here you go!

kanye west’s best production, volume one: two consecutive weeks of talk about hip-hop

DISCLAIMER: given the fact that we’re running a slight bit behind schedule these days, and the suspicion i have that there will be minimal negative feedback resulting from the decision i’m about to make, we’re going to continue with the theme of hip-hop music for this update. but feel free to prove me wrong, loyal readers, and complain away.

there’s a dude that’s been around for some time in the realm of hip-hop by the name of Kanye West; you may remember him from such outbursts as the time he interrupted Michael Myers to complain about George Bush’s politics (or policies or whatever) on television, or the time that he interrupted Taylor Swift to voice his disapproval over the way Grammy awards are, uh, awarded. but what you might not also realize is that he’s not actually a professional asshole; he’s actually a musician, and a fairly good one.

but despite behind one of the rare producers who’s succeeded at being a performing artist, for me he’ll always be the kid who came out of nowhere about a decade ago (wow, do i feel old at realizing how much time has passed since we first heard “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)”) with a swarm of ridiculously awesome music. so what i wanted to do when his last album was released was to make a top 13 list of Kanye West production that i think is the best. it didn’t happen then (as i may have had actual TOPICAL topics), but i suppose there’s no reason we can’t do it now. however, what i would like to do is REALLY stretch this out, so i am going to make two lists here: one for his own albums, and one for those done for someone else. we’ll start with the latter, so let’s get right into it.

janklow’s top 13 list of Kanye West productions for other artists that he thinks are the best

honorable mention: there’s quite a few of these, for the obvious reason that he has a lot of good songs out there, so here’s a quick list of songs you won’t see on the list below, but which remain awesome: Common’s “the Corner” and “Southside”; Consequence’s “the Good, the Bad, the Ugly”; Jay-Z’s “Encore,” “Heart Of The City,” “Takeover”; Miri Ben-Ari’s “Fly Away”; Rhymefest’s “Brand New”; Scarface’s “In Cold Blood” and “Guess Who’s Back”; T.I.’s “Swagga Like Us” and “Welcome To The World”; and Talib Kweli’s “Good To You,” “Guerrilla Moonson Rap” and “I Try.” now that that’s out of the way…

Brooklyn Go Hard
man… i wish i had a picture of myself composed out of letters spelling out the location i represent

13. Jay-Z – “Brooklyn Go Hard” (Notorious soundtrack, 2009)
remember when Santogold (who appears on this track) was poised to be some kind of successful artist? i do, but that’s not the point here. for one, this is the start of the notion that Kanye does his best work alongside Jay-Z; for another, it highlighted for me how disappointing the Blueprint 3 was (i admit i expected stuff like this, not stuff like that fucking “Young Forever” song); finally, and most to the point, it’s one track that a bunch of artists (Raekwon, Crooked I, Joell Ortiz, Mos Def, Fabolous) actually got on, which sometimes fails to happen with beats i really enjoy. this, not “Empire State Of Mind,” should be Jay-Z’s New York anthem, although i guess it talks about crime too much for that.

12. Mos Def – “Sunshine” (the New Danger, 2004)
continuing my theme of not actually talking about the songs in question… it’s possible that this song is getting overrated by me slightly because the New Danger was SUCH a disappointing record; Black On Both Sides was phenomenal, and filled with great production, and then Mos Def gave us… this. the best two tracks on the album are this and “the Rape Over,” which was awkward as hell (and later pulled from the album) and which was just “Takeover’s” stellar beat getting rapped over by Mos. maybe i should have used this spot for “Takeover?” eh, too late now. “Sunshine,” however, is this little break in the clouds on tND where Mos Def is rapping like he gives a fuck. thanks for that, Kanye.

11. Lupe Fiasco – “the Cool” (Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor, 2006)
so Lupe Fiasco, who Kanye was giving a little shine to at the time, makes a song called “the Cool” … which is not on his later album called “the Cool.” Ghostface did something like this too, and he’s a perfect being composed of light, but it’s still weird to me. anyway, it’s not the best song on the album (that would be “American Terrorist”), but i love the fact that this beat has great, relentless energy on a song that’s about some kind of zombie, or maybe it’s not a zombie, but i know someone’s digging themselves out their grave on it. anyway, i choose to believe the beat itself causes these supernatural events, because that’s the kind of guy i am.

10. Consequence – “Grammy Family” (Don’t Quit Your Day Job!, 2007)
Consequence makes me sad because this album, which had a couple of great songs from Kanye and a couple of great songs from other dudes, sold about 13 copies, and yet everyone keeps trying to talk about how awesome he is. and he IS a very good rapper, so i can only imagine how depressing this is for him: major producers say he’s cool, give him great beats, show up on his albums … and yet there’s basically no result that comes out of this, not to mention the fact that other rappers say/do the same. maybe he’s got a cult following in New York; i certainly hope so. anyway, there’s this excellent bird noise on this track that i adore; maybe you just have to hear it to know what i mean, but if you HAVE heard it, well, okay, there we go.

Royce Da 5'9
Royce Da 5’9″: stealing Kanye’s beats since … oh, i kid, i kid, Royce is awesome and can do whatever he wants

09. Royce da 5’9″ “Heartbeat” – (Build & Destroy, 2003)
this was a weird album of odds and ends (including the scorching “Malcolm X” song where Royce gets all that bad blood with the post-2001 drama out of his system), and one of the weird ones is this Kanye song with a wonderful, slow-paced beat that i think Kanye still claims Royce stole from him (by not paying for it and yet still using it, i think). this is weird because Kanye CLEARLY has blessed some less-than-platinum talents, both in the financial sense and in the talent sense, with his work, so maybe the payment mix-up came following the Blueprint where Kanye finally hit it big and may have been looking for a big increase in pay. anyway, the result is that i laugh and wish for a properly mastered version of the song. it happens.

08. Ludacris – “Stand Up” (Chicken-N-Beer, 2003)
songs that i forget were produced by Kanye West: Ludacris’ “Stand Up,” which i think is cool as hell (“my diamonds are reckless/feels like a midget is hanging from my necklace” makes me crack up ever time i hear it, and “i’m young, wild and strapped like Chi Ali” is the best random rap artist reference of all time), but which doesn’t sound like a Kanye West song to me. maybe i got fooled by the internet? well, that’s clearly possible, but for now, we’ll presume that Kanye made the beat, which makes me wonder why we couldn’t have had a few more Luda-Kanye songs like this one here. honestly, one of my issues with some Southern rappers is that i don’t like their production that much, and Ludacris might just happen to be one of those dudes.

07. Jay-Z – “Lucifer” (the Black Album, 2003)
i love this Max Romeo sample to death. let me say it again: I LOVE THIS MAX ROMEO SAMPLE TO DEATH. it is the major reason this song makes this list (and this high), especially since “Encore” is the song that, because i heard that Jay-Z & Linkin Park version of it so much, i forget how much i like it, and really get fond of when i actually hear it again. anyway, we’re talking about “Lucifer,” which really is an example (in my opinion) of how important a sample really can be. yeah, i get it, old white dudes, these rap guys don’t MAKE MUSIC, but fuck it, you’re wrong and it’s perfectly acceptable to make music this way, okay? okay.

06. Miri Ben-Ari – “New World Symphony” (Hip-Hop Violinist, 2005)
so there’s this girl, Miri Ben-Ari, and she plays the violin and Kanye’s used her for strings for his work, and she decides to make a “hip-hop meets violin” album, and i pay good money for this. now, the lesson MIGHT be “wow, this was not a great idea and/or use of my money,” but actually, when it works, like on this song, man, is it fucking wonderful. actually, this song is so good i’m mad about it, because aside from this album disappointing me, this particular song features Pharoahe Monch killing it. and then his second album finally came out in 2007 after i had been waiting for it for eight years, and giving songs like this, it seemed ASSURED that it would be awesome. however, it remains an extreme case of, if you will forgive a vulgar expression, a musical dick-tease. anyway, anyway, this particular track sounds wonderful, so check it out.

Get By
“this morning, i woke up, feeling brand new, i jumped up…”

05. Mobb Deep – “Throw Your Hands (In The Air)” (Amerikaz Nightmare, 2004)
weird for several reasons: a) Mobb Deep is known for having a well-respected and successful producer as part of their act (Havoc), and yet he did not produce one of their best songs here; b) it’s from an album that most people i know either dislike or completely dismiss. granted, the Infamous remains their greatest work, so i get that this is years later and different in song … but there’s something about this track that, ever since i heard a snippet of it on some random mixtape, has stuck in my brain (seriously). if you’re going through it, but you won’t let it hold you down, well, this song might be for you, because that’s literally the most hopeful sentiment i have ever heard Mobb Deep express. have you ever HEARD the Infamous? bleak stuff.

04. Game – “Dreams” (the Documentary, 2005)
i was recently reading this Complex article about the making of this album, and i was reminded of two things: that Game remains crazy as hell (such a fact, you have no idea if you don’t follow rap music) and that i really, really dig the production on this song. beautiful Jerry Butler sample (see “Lucifer” above, but this sample is just so perfect here), wonderful little drums, just a great, dream-like, ethereal sound that Game rides well. honestly, Game brings this track down a little because his dreams are often about gangster stuff and fucking, and the beat promises so much more than that, but i forgive him due to the part about Jaymaster Jay. it’s a hard-knock life, and then you pass away.

03. Talib Kweli – “Get By” (Quality, 2002)
so this song got alluded to last week when i was talking about it being an awesome single and people proceeding to talk shit about it because it was an awesome single. sorry, guys. anyway, it’s true: it’s an awesome single and i still don’t understand how Quality didn’t blow up, something that i am going to blame label politics for. Kweli’s a great rapper, but he can be a little wordy and/or pick beats that rap nerds love, but that i don’t. hear, though, you have a chorus (a secret favorite thing of mine to find on rap songs) making the hooks sing (and threatening to sneak into the verses), a nice little Nina Simone sample and Kanye keeping Talib moving. “the Proud” makes me sad, this song does the opposite. actually, this song is so good that when Talib and Kanye made “I Try” on Kweli’s next album, people complained about it being a rip-off of “Get By.” uh, a second song that ALSO sounds awesome? count me in. quit bitching, rap nerds.

02. Jay-Z – “Izzo (H.O.V.A.)” (the Blueprint, 2001)
i don’t think this song as much as many songs lower on this list on a personal level, but it has to be ranked highly for the following reasons: it’s probably the reason you know who Kanye is (both in terms of an artist who got big and an artist that Jay-Z chose to take beats from), and it’s a classic example of him making this sample thing work. and it really is a cool song. it’s hard for me to get as excited about it as some other tracks, but i cannot sit here and deny how highly i should rank the track. but it cannot be number one, because that belongs to:

Cam'ron
Cameron “Cam’ron” Giles: keeping it ridiculous since 1976

01. Cam’ron – “Down And Out” (Purple Haze, 2004)
so let me explain this in anecdote form:
01. i have, on occasion, been on the phone with someone, heard this song come on, declared this song to be the greatest rap song OF ALL TIME, and then, when they loudly protested, turned the stereo up and jammed the phone against the speaker;
02. i was once talking to a friend, and the topic moved to “i didn’t realize janklow liked rap music that much.” it happens that i do, and so we start talking about loving rap. but you see, you can be academic about a topic, but it doesn’t seem like you mean it to opine that Rakim is the greatest of all lyricists because his polysyllabic rhymes were so ground-breaking. to make my point, though, i move to talking about “Down And Out” because i get so excited when i hear it. honestly, i can’t even relate this completely in text form, so i’ll just say, constant internet reader, that if you hear me describe this track, it’ll all make sense. yeah, i’m not wild about the chorus (“their coochie the juicest?”), but into every life a little rain must fall.

next “week,” we’ll cover Kanye West’s production for Kanye West. it’ll be … redundant? eh, get over it.