Thursday, March 10, 2005


Dr. Dre- The Chronic

“Yeah, haha! Ninety-two!”

Mentioning the year in which an album is recorded/comes out continues to be amusing on the surface. You know, you’re sitting around with your friends and you’re all like “Man, this record’s almost fifteen years old!” and then you talk about how you went to the senior prom with the tape in the limo or whatever. Beyond the nostalgia factor, though, there’s a certain element of risk involved. If the slab doesn’t stand up to the test of time, putting a lyrical timestamp inside your recording is only going to accelerate the gap between intentions and age. (I’m very interested to see how the Operation Ivy record sounds- they famously did that bit that goes “It’s nineteen eighty-nine, stand up and take a look around,” my first exposure to the phenomenon.)

Snoop’s declaration of year right at the beginning of ‘The Chronic’ is the archetypal example of how the whole timestamp thing is supposed to work. Here we are in 2005 (there’s one! Yeah, haha! What up, Ned!), and, since the album was recorded, things have advanced at an accelerated rate. ProTools has made it easier to perform studio trickery, iPods, Napster, blah blah blah. Still, though, despite all the new means, the new gimmickry, people simply aren’t making records like ‘The Chronic.’ It still sounds unbelievably fresh and vital, and set the standards for hip-hop albums in a lot of ways (including the standard of having bad skits. Ugh.) I associate this record with the pimped-out siren blarin’ west coast thing, just as I associate it with guest rappers, recorded shoutouts, and disses. There’s more venom and bile on this album than on a lot of the punk rock that I was listening to at the time. And yeah, I know I veil myself in stodgy academia, but despite that, I’ll come right out and say that the dick jokes and shit talk on this album are funny.

Dr. Octagon- Dr. Octagonecologyst

A concept record about being a gynecologist in space in the year 3000.

Read that last bit again.

Kool Keith (in all of his incarnations) is a rapper of mirth, apocrypha. Howzabout the story where he’s asked to headline Lollapalooza? The rumor goes like this: he’s given an advance- fifty grand- and then disappears. No one can find him for a week. When they do, it’s on a park bench in New York City, where he’s discovered passed out broke in a silk bathrobe, having spent all the money on drugs and porn. You listen to the record and believe it.

Sample lyric: “Theoretically, keeping puppies in a pedigree/small fetus brought Santa Claus to greet us./Rappers know I’m equipped with Clorox and chemicals that’ll burn off your lip./Intestines, investments/hide money in your stomach.”

The man is completely insane- the record is littered with space doodoo pistols, fax machines, purple light, Chewbacca uncurcumsised. Beats? DJ Q-Bert from the Invizibl Scratch Piklz and the Automator take care of those, providing dense, heavy textures for rhymes that don’t rhyme and manage to cram in an insane number of syllables per line. And check it out- the skits work more often than they don’t! It’s an equation that seems pretty basic in theory, but never actually gets applied: skits work when they’re short and funny.

Never before or since has Kool Keith approached the heights (and I do mean high) that this album hit- maybe it’d because he hasn’t had good production; maybe he used up all of the best ideas already. Whatever. If you don’t love this album, you’re either a square or a spy.

DJ Shadow- Preempitve Strike

I don’t have many DJ albums- maybe five or six, tops. The ones I do have get put on when I want to have music on in the background. A lot of ‘em sound good, but I don’t have any real idea how such albums are constructed/recordered/whatever, which seems to be an important part of the true appreciation of the medium (or at the very least, seems to me like it should be an important part.)

The songs on ‘Preemptive Strike,’ culled from Shadow’s pre-major singles, etc., sound pretty good. There’s a few (‘What Does Your Soul Look Like,’ all four parts of it) that meditate on the same few core elements- it’s interesting to listen to how things don’t/fit into the same basic framework time and again (though things do tend to blur a little bit by the end.) The winner for me has always been ‘High Noon,’ a song that samples guitar and splicing in a little bit of speaking from time to time. A strong enough album to make me go out and buy his later stuff.


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