It's been a long time coming but finally I have a cool blog that I can call my own. Most people reading will already know who I am. Discussions of hip hop and life will usually take place here when I have things to talk about.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Drake Dilemma

Is there room in this world to appreciate Drake for what he is? Is he good, ok, terrible...etc. I've heard many things to describe him from those attacking his street cred to his singing style to his rapping style, but I have also heard begrudged respect coming from all corners of the underground.

So is liking Drake a question of selling out or did something happening to the mainstream to move it closer to the underground. I don't know, all I know is that Drake released a pretty good album....or at the very least an interesting listen.

So what about this mainstream vs. underground mentality. Well the two exist on opposite ends of the spectrum. If a certain style of hip hop is common that generally means that another style is being marginalized and therefore "underground". The fact that the underground is a response to what is happening in the mainstream seals the deal. If singing/moody hip hop is mainstream then lyrically focused old school beats hip hop will be underground. If mainstream is about money and hoes, then the underground is about broke/no girls. I know this sounds pretty dumbed down and it is to a certain extent, but you get the idea i'm saying.

So does Drake suck because he is mainstream and as someone in the underground we are programmed to hate the mainstream, or does Drake suck simply because he sucks. One thing I know for sure....he's got a few underground heads thinking.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Ranking the U2 albums

Hard for me because I think all of them are great so don't get mad if your favourite is not ranked highly or whatever. It doesn't mean it sucks or anything.


Achtung Baby: Spin ranked this album #1 for best albums of the last 25 years over Nevermind and Ok Computer. At the time U2 was washed up, your older sibling's group. Then this drops with it's industrial edge and electronic tendancies and still holds up today. It has perhaps the greatest U2 anthem "One", grooviest single "Mysterious Ways", plus some killer album cuts "Acrobat" and "Ultraviolet".

The Unforgettable Fire: Like with Achtung Baby, U2 were looking for a new sound. Enter Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois who pushed U2 into making the moody ambient record that they had been trying for a while. It is for some the rough blueprint of what they would accomplish with Joshua Tree, but Unforgettable Fire has a more interesting feel and subdued. U2 after dark so to speak.

Boy: What a debut! For a band that could barely play their instruments at the time this album wails like the best punk rock records do, but there is definitely something more than 3 chords and the truth on here. U2 had this innate sense of the lound/quiet dynamic even at this early stage. "Out of Control" is an early highlight with "Twilight" dark and brooding. With all the hits of the following years to choose from, the fact that U2 still make a point of regularly playing stuff off this album is a testament to it's greatness.

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb: Vertigo was probably the best single they've put out in years and the whole album is finely crafted anthemic rock. Bono is definitely in save the world mode here, and the group proves that U2 isn't ready for the scrap heap yet.


Zooropa: Perhaps the most misunderstood U2 record, and not really pop material. Let's see, we have an almost 7 minute electro funk ode to a lemon, another electronic gospel hymn sung by the late Johnny Cash, and a lead single that doesn't feature Bono but rather the Edge in some weird hypnotic rap. It was so weird that when I first heard it I couldn't believe that it was U2 that had done it. U2 were really free to do as they pleased at the time and took Achtung Baby further and debunked the U2 myth. It seems like each one of the songs do a little bit at tearing down what U2 had done to date and in the end a subdued masterpice is born.

War: U2 really needed to come up big for this record. The first couple albums had done ok but there was crisis along the way. This was a band on the verge of breakup and in the end they were able to channel that energy into their first mainstream success. Many of the songs you know such as "New Years Day" and "Sunday Bloody Sunday" but the album's strength in in the fact that there is very little filler. U2 would follow this with the live at Red Rocks concert video where Bono really steps into his own as a frontman.

The Joshua Tree: It's been called many things but it is still their mainstream high point. Lot's of great songs on here and some that have been played so much you may never want to hear them again. Side A is the hits starting with "Street Have No Name" still U2's finest moment. "Bullet the Blue Sky" may be U2's heaviest number predating something that Rage Against the Machine would do years later. Side B has some nice songs and a few clunkers, not a perfect album, but you can't deny its legacy.

No Line on the Horizon: Their most recent album is a more expiremental affair similar to The Unforgettable Fire. It has great anthemic moments but in the end quiets down and becomes very inward looking. Brian Eno and Daniel Lanois are brought in a full time songwriters on this one and you can hear the results in something like Fez/New Born that had Eno stamped all over it.

For the Fans

Pop: U2 have admitted that they didn't have enough time with this record and went to the trouble of recording a number of the songs for the Best of the 90's compilation. That is the difference with Zooropa. Zooropa was a no pressure exercise in trying to create something...where as Pop had a booked tour waiting for them. Some great moments on this record but it is usually when U2 stray away from the electronic sounds and get back to just creating good songs.

October: Another hasty situation with a religious dynamic brought into the mix. Bono and company where heavily into evangelic christianity at the time which alienated non-christian bassist Adam Clayton and Manager Paul McGuiness. Add to it the old notion that you have all life to write your first record and two weeks for your second and this album falls a little short. Even the good songs are lacking something here. In the end it is U2's least accepted album and virtually hitless.

All That You Can't Leave Behind: A little bit of a mess of a record. I don't know, a lot of people like it I guess. Songs like "Walk On", "Elevation", and "New York" are strong. Heck I even like "Beautiful Day" but songs like "Grace", "Peace on Earth", and "Wild Honey" may be some of the worst songs they have ever done. The skip track quotient is high on this one.

Rattle and Hum: U2 got a little corny with this one, not intending to. It turns out everyone was laughing at them instead of with them because we all know the 80's U2 members never ever laughed. A hodgpodge of live tracks and studio recordings that total over 70 minutes leave a lot for the listener to get into, but not a lot really sticks. Most of the new studio songs are hit and miss, and the live songs have been done better. Two exceptions with the studio songs, the song Heartland which is lovely, and "All I Want is You" that closes the album on a high note. Of the live tracks "Silver and Gold" was a nice live rendering on a Joshua Tree B-side that prolly should have deserved better justice.

Other U2

Under a Blood Red Sky: A strong live mini-album that highlights the early material. Worth Checking out in the special edition pack with the "Live and Red Rocks" DVD.

Passengers: U2 and Eno and several others work together on several ambient instrumentals along with a few interesting songs. The best known track from here is Miss Sarajevo. Other songs are the wonderfully seductive "Your Blue Room" and the interesting Bono rap "Elvis ate America". When this album came out it wasn't advertised as U2 and hence has become their worst selling affiliated album. Definitely not for the average fan, but for the completist it is worth tracking down, though you can probably find a few in second hand record shops.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

You and U2

It seems things haven't been going particularly well these past few weeks for U2 despite the release of their commemorative 360 Degree Tour Concert Film. First up came the news that Bono hurt his back and U2 had to cancel their tour, then this past week came the news that U2 producer and collaborator Daniel Lanois was seriously hurt in a motorcycle crash (PS Get well soon). Then today Adam Clayton has sued U2's accountant for mishandling the group's funds. This might be reading into things a little bit but if this was a group problem then the group would deal with it. In the end it looks like Adam might be at odds with the rest of the group on this issue. Top off the "in development hell" spiderman musical and it has been a spring to forget for the world's biggest rock band.

The good news is the release of the concert filmed at the Rose Bowl in October. Now I actually haven't seen the film yet, but I did attend the Vancouver show and also saw the youtube broadcast of the Rose Bowl concert and it should be fabulous. If you saw the 360 tour then you know what i'm talking about, if you had tickets to the North American tour this summer it will tide you over till next year.

Also in the meantime we have been promised new music soon from the group. There is this little album called "Songs of Ascent" that has been in gestation for the past year. Perhaps this little touring setback will allow the boys to go into studio and finish up this record. Also, apparently there is another record out their of songs recorded with Rick Rubin, and the Spiderman soundtrack...whenever that comes out.

For a hint of things to come we have the officially released version of "Soon" that is familiar to fans that attended the 360 tour as the song they took the stage too. Here it is in all it's recorded beauty. It's short, much like an intro to another song but the ambience to it is awesome.

Friday, June 11, 2010

World Cup Soccer Time

or Football if you are outside North America.

It's one of those things where the world stops every four years and goes bonkers for the one truly international game in the world. One just has to look at the fifa soccer rankings to see how many countries, territories, and principalities have soccer federations. When the final game is played in a little more than a month, an estimated audience of 2-3 billion people will be watching. The opening match just ended with South Africa and Mexico playing to a 1-1 draw but the big story was the sound of the fans. You know those annoying plastic horns that inevitably someone has brought to a sporting event. Well try 60000 of those, a never stopping humming, like a swarm of bees ready to attack. It Must be nerveracking for any opposition. Anyway, I'm down for breaking the tournament down which I will attempt to do here. P.S. I am an England and Hollad fan if that means anything.

The Big Guns:
You know the ones, each of these teams have a legitimate chance every year and most have won it before. One thing to note about these big gun is that one will win it all and one will flame out in the first round (please let it be Italy).

Spain (Rank 2)
Spain is considered the best team in the world to never have won the world cup and have traditionally looked good only to break down at key moments in past tournaments. However, with a win in the 2008 Euro many people believe that Spain have the monkey off their backs and can finally shake the tag of best of the nevers.

Brazil (Rank 1)
Like Canada and hockey, the world cup for the past 50 years has traditionally been Brazil's to lose. Brazil is loaded with a creative offence and might just have the goaltending to do it as well this year. With appearances in 3 of the past 4 final games (and winning 2 of them), they look to be a lock to get there again.

Germany (Rank 6)
Like Brazil the German's have delivered on the biggest stage time and time again. Although they haven't won since 1990, they have frequently made it into the final 4 in both the Euro and World Cups since then. Look for them to get at least that far, after that it remains to be seen.

Holland (Rank 4)
The biggest knock on the Dutch is the level of talent vs. killer instinct. The Dutch have tons of swagger when it comes to style, but when push comes to shove time and time again they just can't deliver. Playing a good team game and cooling the egos that have been a problem for them in the past will go a long way in helping the Dutch out of the "Best Nevers" catagory.

France (Rank 10)
It's been 12 years since France won the world cup on home soil, and many of the stars of that team are retired or over the hill. Still, France surprised a few people when they made it all the way to the finals last time out. They can either fold over and choke or pull of a stunning run. You really can't tell with them.

Italy (Rank 5)
As much as I don't like Italian soccer, I recognise the success of the program. Four World Cup wins, second to Brazil is the proof of that. Also, they are the defending champions. While I don't think they can pull of the repeat, they do have the easiest draw out of all the top guns, so it is possible.

England (Rank 8)
England is home to perhaps the best league in the world, so you would think that they would do more at the national level. England does have a lot to prove having missed qualifying for the Euro in 2008, and their qualifying for this cup has seemed to address the urgency of performing well. The fans want nothing more than this team to succeed to put to bed the chants of 66 (the last time England won the world cup).

Argentina (Rank 7)
Home to perhaps the greatest soccer player right now (Messi), and another soccer god coaching (Maradona), Argentina always plays tough and does well. Will it be enough to get them over the top to their 3rd cup win? Well they have as good a shot as any.

Portugal (Rank 3)
Placed in the group of death with Brazil is not kind to the Portugese who have traditionally come close, but no cigar. Ronaldo is their difference maker, and maybe this is the year, but I kind of hope not.

The Teams in the Mix
These team are good, usually good enough to qualify into the round of 16 and further, but are just not quite there historically to go the distance.

USA (Rank 14)
It's still relatively early in the development of American soccer, really only coming to prominence since 1994. With the MLS taking on a legit soccer status, it remains to be seen how long it will be when the Americans will go all the way. It's only a matter of time and money. This year it's still a little too soon. A final 8 will be a good show for this squad.

Chile (Rank 15)
A lot of people have proclaimed Chile a dark horse in this tournament. A good junior squad years ago have graduated into the senior program that may surprise. Do they have the guns to win it all? Probably not, but they might take a few of the traditional powers down along the way to a final 8.

Uraguay (Rank 18)
Uraguay has won two cups, but really hasn't been a soccer power in well over 50 years. They still have some surprises, and continue to deliver, but a tough draw might leave them on the outside looking in when the final 16 comes around.

Mexico (Rank 17)
It seems that Mexico should be a lot better than they are, but for some reason they've never really delivered on the world stage. Placed in the same draw with Uraguay and France, they are gonna have to knock one of those two teams out to get to the final round of 16. With a 1-1 draw against 90th ranked South Africa, they didn't do themselves any favours.

Greece (Rank 12)
Greece came out of nowhere to win the 2004 Euro so they have the ability to surprise. Will they be able to put it together for another miracle run in 2010? Probably not and a draw with Argentina and Nigeria, not to mention 2002 semi finalists South Korea will make this a tough tournament for them.

Slovenia (Rank 23)
Solid enough to do well. I don't know a lot about them, but will battle with England and the USA in pool C. A final 16 is not likely, however you never know.

Nigeria (Rank 20)
Playing the tournament on your home continent has got to be a boost for all the african teams, who always seem to be there, but never much more than that. A good shot at sweet 16, but after that it is anyones guess.

Serbia (Rank 16)
In with Germany and Australia means that the serbians have a good shot of making it into the round of 16.

Cameroon (Rank 19)
Again having home continent advantage means that Cameroon should have a good tournament, and also have a pretty good draw to sneak into the round of 16.

Ivory Coast (Rank 27)
Ivory Coast has no luck whatsoever this time out. If losing your star player is not enough, getting place into a draw with Brazil and Portugal is almost impossible to overcome. If they can pull that off, look to them to do some damage.

Australia (Rank 21)
The Australians have never had the reputation of being a great soccer power, but there they are at 21 and a shot to get to the round of 16. Also of note, they gave Italy their most difficult game in their 2006 run.

The Aint's
The just happy to be here teams that will most likely be going home in two weeks. Although a special not, one of these teams usually pulls off some big cinderella run into the final 8 or even 4 like South Korea did in 2002.

South Africa (Rank 90)
A host country has never gone out in the first round and the South Africans certainly proved they could stay with Mexico today. Still the second lowest ranked team in the tournament means that the odds are stacked pretty heavily against them.

South Korea (Rank 47)
Could 2002 happen again? Well it might, but they will have to get over Argentina, Greece, and Nigeria to qualify into the round of 16.

Algeria (Rank 31)
I like the Algerians and i'm not sure why, but they might be the Cinderella team this year. Could they be a match for the Americans and the Serbians for number 2 in Pool C? I think so. Again the odds are stacked against them, but I like the draw.

Ghana (Rank 32)
Not a count out, but the road is step for them.

Denmark (Rank 35)
Usually the Danes have pretty good defence which may get them over into the round of 16. It'll come down to their match against Cameroon.

Japan (Rank 45)
Will be in tough in whatever they do. Did pull off a few surprises in 2002 as the co-host coutry, but those days are long gone.

Paraguay (Rank 30)
Actually has a good shot of making it into the round of 16 just on the fact that they only have Italy to contend with in that pool.

Slovakia (Rank 38)
As reasonably easy draw means that Italy will probably take #1 but #2 in pool F is wide open.

New Zealand (Rank 78)
Another longshot but also in Pool F which means anything is possible.

North Korea (Rank 106)
Never say never, but i'm saying it. The lowest ranked team in the tournament having to deal with Portugal, Brazil, and Ivory Coast. The odds are not whether they get through, but whether or not they score a goal.

Switzerland (Rank 25)
Can they go into the sweet 16? sure they can but they will have to take Spain or Chile down to do it which i'm thinking is not likely.

Honduras (Rank 40)
I don't think they have enough to do it, thanks for coming.