Jay-Z: Reasonable Doubt (Roc-A-Fella/Priority '96)
Designed for the hip-hop cognoscenti and street aesthetes who still swear he never topped it, his self-financed debut album is richer than any outsider could have known, and benefits from everything we've since learned about the minor crack baron who put his money where his mouth was. You can hear him marshalling a discipline known to few rappers and many crack barons, and that asceticism undercuts the intrinsic delight of his rhymes‑-not once does he let go like Biggie spitting his viciously funny little "Shoot your daughter in the calf muscle." He's so set on proving how hard he is that his idea of a hook is the piano loop Premier runs behind the magnificent "D'Evils." Once he became a rap baron he could afford less austere producers. A MINUS
Jay-Z: The Black Album (Roc-A-Fella '03)
History has vindicated this album. On a meticulously hyped valedictory no one believed would be his actual farewell, the fanfares, ovations, maternal reminiscences, and vamp-till-ready shout-outs were overblown at best. But on an album where the biggest rapper of all time announces that he's the biggest rapper of all time, they're prophetic. Bitch about Kingdom Come and American Gangster if you must, but not The Blueprint 3 or Watch the Throne, and not his label presidency, amassed fortune, or close personal relationship with Warren Buffett. He's got a right to celebrate his autobiography in rhyme because he's on track to become a personage who dwarfs any mere rapper, and not only can he hire the best help dark green can buy, he can make it sing. Tracks four through nine enlist Kanye West, the Neptunes, Timbaland, 9th Wonder, Eminem, and Rick Rubin. Each one sounds different, each one means different, and each one kills. I'm also touched when "Justify My Thug" tag-teams Madonna and Run-D.M.C. Hova if you hear me. A
Speaking of Illmatic, I listened to the Wild Style soundtrack for the first time for the '83 poll. Historically fascinating, though I don't yet have much of an idea how good it is. Is the movie worth seeing?Absolutely yes. It's one of my very favorite films. Sincerely.
I played She's So Unusual today. If we were voting on best sides of the year, I would give Side 1 30 points.I would say the same thing about the first side of You Shouldn't-Nuf Bit Fish, the best side of music with George Clinton's name attached to it in any permutation.
Not the best done video (the volume variations are maddening), but it's an interesting ride. And yeah, the world really DID end in 1965.
I spent a lot of time this weekend revisiting 1983 and it is quite apparent that only one, maybe two of the albums that I actually played in 1983 have a chance at making the list in 2011.
I spent a lot of time this weekend revisiting 1983 and it is quite apparent that only one, maybe two of the albums that I actually played in 1983 have a chance at making the list in 2011. So, in the interest of transparency, below are the best albums of 1983 as would have been compiled by a 15 year old me from a small Ontario town who was armed with an AM radio, a mono cassette player, the family record player and one record store.
1- Lets Dance - Bowie
2 - Speaking In Tongues - Talking Heads
3 - Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) - Eurythmics
4 - Plays Live - Peter Gabriel
5 - Synchronicity - The Police
6 - Genesis - S/T - the one with the yellow blocks on the cover
7 - Beauty Stab - ABC
8 - Dazzle Ships - OMD
9 - No Parlez - Paul Young
10 - Colour By Numbers - Culture Club
yeah, I know...it's quite the list....LOL. Bowie's Serious Moonlight Tour was my first concert. My other favourite record was a Bowie compilation called Golden Years. I saw Eurythmics in 84 on the Touch tour opened by Howard Jones. I abandoned Culture Club when my younger sister purloined my albums and played them incessantly. She also had an album by this Lauper thing whose voice I couldn't stand...oops...can't win 'em all.
What's also interesting is that it appears to be out of print in CD form. The MP3 is available, but Amazon does not have it for purchase.
(also, several of the ballots so far are from people who did not take part in the 2009 poll - can we make it to 50 voters this time around?)
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.