As I bounced around town this evening trying to find a suitable place to study for class, I became overwhelmed by the massive ambiguity surrounding my future. I almost never write personal blogs (especially not on The Haymaker), but this does relate to music and…well…it’s what most deserves textuality right now. I’ll spare the details on my personal fight for a future and a place in the world. The point is that I was fighting the mind battles of that fight, and I was losing.

I had been listening to Gnarls Barkley’s new album fairly non-stop in my car lately. So when I got into the car and turned on my cd player, I was surprised to here Fugees coming through the speakers. I had forgotten switching up the repertoire, but I was glad to hear the old school sounds blasting. I cranked the volume up as loud as I could handle it and rolled the windows down.

The interesting thing about Fugees’ album “The Score” to me is that the lyrical content and motive of the album is hard, but the music is like honey going down. The album exhibits very few moments of abrasiveness and yet loses none of its lyrical potency. As for tonight, this was just what the doctor ordered.

I felt the strength behind lines like, “boy on the side of Babylon tryin’ to front like he down with Mount Zion,” and, “Ready or not, here I come, you can’t hide, gonna find you, and make you want me…” Many of the lines are comforting, despite the fact that I did not grow up on the streets of Brooklyn. The fact that Fugees’ music and lyrics are foreign to probably 70 to 80 percent of my university is analogous to the distance I feel from everyone around me. People don’t get me. I’m too diverse, too undefinable, too hopeful, too nice. They’ll tell you they like diversity, individuality, and hope, but when it comes down to brass tax, no one knows what to do with someone they can’t box into a category, stereotype, or genre. This separation is why I identify with the revolutionaries (or at least the truly forward thinkers).

As I sit here and type the final words of this post, I realize that you probably won’t truly get this. And that’s ok. There’s always hope to fall back on. And hope is not hope if you can see it.

Emcees of Note (Part 2)

April 4, 2008

Alright, I’ve got more butter to turn into cream. If you haven’t checked out the first list of haymaker-worthy emcees, check em out near the bottom of the site…

Buff1 (www.myspace.com/buff1der)
Hailing from Ann Arbor, this emcee is maintaining the magic in smooth flowing hip-hop. As a member of the Athletic Mic League, Buff1 is notable for his honest lyrics and straight catchy hooks…oh yea, and this dude spits educated rhymes, unlike the junk “hip-hop” on the radio. His beats and rhythms hang in the pocket like few in the game currently. But I don’t need to spend too much time trying to convince you. His work speaks for itself. Check it out.buff1press1zg2.jpg

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Like clockwork (and just in the nick of time), Cee-lo Green and DJ Dangermouse have stepped back onto the scene. And their newest release, “The Odd Couple,” is a breath of fresh air during a stifled era of popular music. Gnarls Barkley’s 13 track record was scheduled to be released worldwide on April 8th, but at the last minute the date was bumped to March 18th (it was released exclusively through iTunes on this date). Regardless of what led to the premature leak (it was potentially due to The Raconteurs’ own trend setting premature release date) the album is just what the doctor ordered.

The success of “Crazy” seems to have placed a subconscious (or, in some cases, blatantly conscious) expectation on the group from fans. But “The Odd Couple” doesn’t want to conform to those presuppositions. This album is it’s own beast. The lyrical content on the is dark. The second track, entitled “Who’s Gonna Save My Soul,” features Cee-lo’s soulful voice singing “Got some bad news this morning, which in turn made my day…how could this be, all this time I’ve lived vicariously, who’s gonna save my soul now?” The group’s single “Run” suggests a sense of frustration and toil with the lyrics “hurry little children, run this way, I have got a beast at bay.” One of the dominant themes of the album is loneliness, and it’s repeated often. But accompanying these honest themes lies an unparalleled musical creativity. Some of the tracks veer toward the Motown and soulful tendencies of the previous album while incorporating electronic and varied instrumentation. Other tracks are much more risky. My personal favorite on the album is “Open Book,” which plays with tribal elements and a powerful chorus.

In a music culture overrun with cliched rap songs with Akon-like hooks, exhaustingly predictable rock songs, a flood of unmemorable indie artists, self important and absorbed artists like Kanye West, and whatever other crap the record industry wants to force on listeners, Gnarls Barkley is the answer. While their latest release may not feature the next record breaking single to hit the UK album charts, “The Odd Couple” proves that there is hope amid the darkness. Creativity is not dead.