Monthly Archive for August, 2010

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Bobby Ray, Drake, and the Prescience of Hip Hop

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The synthesis of rapping and singing surely has its prehistory in church, and found precursors in such acts as the Last Poets, while on record it goes back to the early days of hip hop, when The Fatback Band invited Tim Washington onto their 1979 record for “King Tim III (Personality Jock)”, which was shortly followed by the game changing “Rapper’s Delight”, on which an ad hoc assembly of non-rappers killed it over Chic’s “Good Times.” Since then, the genres have continuously converged, while the rapper-singer has been a staple since at least The Sequence, and boasts a long history written by such diverse acts as UTFO, Queen Latifah, Teddy Riley, Bell Biv Devoe, Boyz II Men, Domino, Warren G, Fugees, Mikah Nine, The Roots, OutKast, Mos Def, Cee-Lo Green, N.E.R.D., and Kanye West.

drake-thank-me-later-album-cover_t.jpgToday, multi-talented vocalists who shift effortlessly between rapping and singing fetch top dollar at record companies looking for the next hit. Right now, this is evidenced by two young (early 20s) rapper-singers topping the charts: the 23-year old Canadian Drake just dropped his debut album Thank Me Later on Wayne and Birdman’s Young Money Records, while the North Carolinian Bobby Ray aka. B.o.B. has recently released his first longplayer B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray on Grand Hustle/Atlantic. Their superficial similarities elicit a comparison, which reveals real differences in concept, skill sets and, ultimately, quality.

Thank Me Later is a polished, autotuned catalogue of timely pop formulae. On the first single, “Over”, Drake asks himself, “what am I doing?”, answering his own question, “Oh yeah, that’s right, I’m doing me”. He doesn’t seem sure though, and one can see why: he comes across more like a product than an artist. Continue reading ‘Bobby Ray, Drake, and the Prescience of Hip Hop’

Picks of the Week

The picks of the week from around the web.

  • RSA Animate: David Harvey breaks down in simple terms the financial crisis from his perspective, accompanied by some great instructional white-board cartooning (above).
  • Amoeblog: Billyjam interviews hip hop legend Krs-One in depth, on the occasion of the release of his new book The Gospel of Hip Hop. As usual the Teacha’s all over the place and highly idiosyncratic, but it remains lovely to hear him speak about hip hop.
  • London Review of Books. Rebecca Solnit writes on the repercussions of the Gulf oil spill. A little wobbly, but with some interesting reporting from the ground.
  • Vanity Fair: Survey among 52 world-renowned architects and specialists on the most significant works of architecture since 1980. Of course this is just a best-of list, but it’s compiled from the responses of people who know what they’re talking about and serves to highlight many of the remarkable buildings of the last 30 years, with a great overview provided in a slideshow. I’m suprised Santiago Calatrava didn’t make the final 21, but that’s the nature of these things…