The Roots/Kanye West
Hip-Hop Albums of the Year
The Roots: How I Got Over (Def Jam)
It's not like hop-hop and anxiety are strangers. But usually that means the mortal fear epitomized by the Notorious B.I.G., or the rampaging neuroses dramatized by Eminem, or the hand-to-mouth worries some alt-rappers cop to. Here it's garden-variety upper-middle-class anxiety. What's next? Am I doing the right thing? Can I pass my accomplishments on to my kids? Is the economy about to go phlooey? Is God on my side? Is God on anyone's side? These are exactly the querulous feelings associated with the alt-rock famously present on the Roots' ninth album in the form of the Dirty Projectors, the Monsters of Folk, and the perfectly sampled Joanna Newsom. Difference is, complex-rhyming Black Thought and his many gifted guest MCs express them more directly, thoughtfully, eloquently, and entertainingly than any of those tyros. And then they up the ante and confront their anxieties with a fortitude and even optimism embodied by Kamal Gray's keyboards, never my idea of this band's strenth, and, especially, ?uestlove's drums. I love sampled beats. But 90 percent of the time I'd rather ride Ahmir Thompson's hand, feet, and brain. A
Kanye West: My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy (Roc-a-Fella)
Arrogance per se has never been Yeezy's problem‑-he has every right to think he's more talented than Nas, Taylor Swift, or me. His problem is that he has no gift for it. Not only is he radically insecure, he didn't come up on the get-it-while-you-can fatalism that armors gangstas street, showbiz, and in between. Cannily and candidly, he acknowledges this on "Monster," where he knows perfectly well that his "profit profit" bling-and-sex brag is about to get blown away by padrone Jay-Z's "All I see is these n****z I made millionaires/Millin' about" and pink-haired Nicki Minaj's "bitch from Sri Lanka"-"Willy Wonka"-"watch the queen conquer" trifecta. Cataloguing the perks of power he sounds as geeky as Mark Zuckerberg, and because grandiosity doesn't suit him deep down, the sonic luxuries of this world-beating return to form have no shot at the grace of The Collede Dropout or Late Registration. But because he's shrewd and large, he knows how to use his profits profits to induce Jay-Z, Pusha T, the RZA, Swizz Beats, and his boy Prince CyHi to admit and indeed complain that the whole deal is "f***in' ridiculous." "Power" doesn't establish his potency and "Gorgeous" isn't quite. But "Hell of a Life"? "I'm so gifted at finding what I don't like the most"? That's his heart, his message, the reason he's so major. It's also why he goes out on a righteous, wacked-out 90-second diatribe by a Gil Scott-Heron so young he hasn't gotten into cocaine‑-hasn't even signed to a major label. A
i really disliked kanye west's new album on the first listen
its like geting worse and worse,
the only time it lightened up is when nicki minaj came
out and shout somthing about "sri lanka" "willy wonka"and"****ing monster"
though i never gave up, i still hate it
maybe this would be one of the really good records i will never get.
Without a doubt, Kanye is the best artist of the past decade. From the moment "The Blueprint" dropped (Takeover, Izzo Hova), nothing has ever been the same since. Then "College Dropout" and "Late Registration"(both A+ records) set the new standards in hiphop, forever changing the landscape. Graduation and 808's are always open for debate; but both of those records paved the glossy-techno sound for MBDTF. It's not as soulful as Dropout or it doesnt have the pomp and circumstance of Late, but this record has what it takes "to turn athesist into believers". Its cold, its dark, its hell to listen to; a party record and a record to be taken seriously. Listen to this record; as Kanye takes the crown and becomes hiphop's new king.
What's interesting is how/why most media outlets, mainstream & underground, find Kanye's record one of the best of the year. It's such a bunch of sad nothing -- dull production and laughably, furiously immature content. This kind of contrived, cynical product -- which relates to nobody's life except K's media-spectacular one -- is laudable? That Jay-Z's verse is amusingly awful is totally unsurprising: he's become the Jack Nicholson of rap, hyper-irrelevant. The revelatory clincher: there's more on Taylor Swift than Donda. When King Crimson becomes your signature statement of angsty malaise, you KNOW the game is music critic pandering. This and Drake were the Vaporware Busts of the year. No wonder Rick Ross seems like a classic.
greetings from sweden sir christgau.
in the country of mine this was the first album by west to get rave reviews: the average grade was as high as 4,6/5, only surpassed by the - surprise! - Robyn-album.
my opinion of Dark Twisted fantasy was upon first listening kind of mixed. I loved the "title track" and getting chills out of "all of the lights", otherwise i felt the production was dry - like an early 70's/late 60's prog rock album. but just like his two first it has grown on me and now i believe it's just as good as Late Registration. But where this masterpiece (late...) was of sophistication, this one is raw and ear bumming, and there is just as much sadness and feelings of loss in "Runaway" (and especially the medley which bookends the album) as in "Gone" and "Roses".
One thing you're absolutely right about: "Gorgeous"; after the true classic, almost operatic "Dark fantasy" this tends to be sort an anticlimax, which of course is a shame.
regards from the swedes... who?
Great reviews, and I'm glad to see the consumer guide back!
I would like to get your take on Big Boi's relase Sir Lucious Left Foot. It's definitely an Outkast caliber album, and I'm shocked that it didn't get nominated for the Rap Album of the Year Grammy. The critical praise on this album is practically unanimous.
The Kweli album (filed under Reflection Eternal) is on Rhapsody (I know cuz that's how I heard it).
Brainy rapper gets plenty of help -- and needs it -- but doesn't score a knockout
Talib Kweli earns the respect he gets. He's got plenty of brains and enough flow, and though his attempts to make conscious rap commercial inspire purist sniping, he's balanced the two with integrity and grace. But four solo albums in, it can't be an accident that he's done his signature work with collaborators -- Mos Def (Black Star), Hi-Tek (Reflection Eternal) and many, many cameos (try the z "My Favorite Mutiny"). The man simply lacks spark. Kweli's Warner debut features yet more cameos -- Kanye! Norah Jones! UGK! -- and many, many producers. Though it's admirably consistent and pretty darn OK, it lacks a knockout track to counterbalance the complaints about the King James Bible and swine toothpaste. Closest is one to his kids, with Musiq Soulchild adding music and soul, child. Just after, "Listen!!!" establishes its right to bang on your title orifice. But then there's Justin Timberlake's bonus cut. JT -- eschew philosophy! You sing, therefore you are.
So that's pretty much what I think--an opinion I have a right to whether you share it or not. When the 2010 Reflection Eternal came out, Warner Bros. didn't send it. I get very little mainstream hip-hop service. Usually what I do is go to Rhapsody and stream or download to my Sansa player. If I like something a lot I might buy it, as I did with both the Roots and Kanye. But Rhapsody doesn't have this record for some reason. And guess what--I don't do unauthorized downloads except maybe once every year or two under extreme duress. Maybe I could have found it somewhere else. But given Kweli's track record with me, I said the hell with it. And unless that record gets some very convincing critics poll support at year's end, that will be that. No Honorable Mentions really frees me up that way.
I also deleted my previous comment. Poor reading on my part. I completely misinterpreted what Christgau was saying. My apologies.
And to the last poster, he's not reviewing everything. I believe he stated that most of the time he'll be reviewing two albums per post, and four albums per week. He may have listened to that and that album may turn up later, who knows.
W. T. F! The critic never listened to Talib Qweli/DJ Hi Tek: Reflection Eternals Revolutions Per Minute??? These critics kill me when they only listen to certain artist music and not others and swear these were the best of the year. Now I feel him with The Roots(Their best since Game Theory) and Kanyes new disc. Artisticly this is Yeezys best album. I love Late Registration and always believed it to be the best but Kanye came with everything that he had this time. The Roots is and should be number one though. Su****ect matter is a must to this old school hip hop head. But check out Reflection Eternals latest as well. Peace Hip Hop.
Simply, the man knows what he's talking about. The album will always be an A+ for me though. I enjoy it far too much to give it anything less.
Also, I haven't listened to the new Roots album. I really have to get on that. I have been indulging far too much on music from the 60s and 70s lately, so I really need to get back in the fold of listening to today's stuff. This year really seems to have been a great year for hip-hop though.
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.