This week I?m being spoiled. Over a course of four days?tonight being the fourth?punk rock veterans and one of my favorite bands ever, the Bouncing Souls, will be playing their entire album catalog (two albums per night) at the Highline Ballroom in New York City.
If you?re not familiar with the Jersey punks, here?s a quick history:
The Bouncing Souls formed in 1987 and built an underground following by playing punk rock music infused with a humorous pop sensibility. In the mid-90?s, when punk bands like Green Day and Blink-182 were inking major label record deals, the Bouncing Souls decided to stay independent, even banning themselves from MTV.
Over 20 years later, the Bouncing Souls?who don?t look much different than they did when I first saw them perform live?are usually out on tour, playing packed-beyond-capacity venues around the world.
Here are three things a younger band could learn from the Bouncing Souls:
Jay-Z And Kanye’s Friends Get To Hear Watch The Throne
Apparently tired of the false rumors surrounding their forthcoming collaboration Watch the Throne, which, it turns out, is completed, Jay-Z and Kanye West have begun previewing the record for friends in the industry, so as to correct the record without leaking the, um, record. MTV News has a roundup of who’s heard it and what they’ve said.
When Monica and Rick Ross talked to MTV a year ago about collaborating, their mutual admiration society vibe didn’t exactly lend credence to the possibility. Yet here we are! Missy Elliott, reinvigorated after being away from the game to attend to her health issues, flips another Notorious B.I.G. track, and once again, Lil’ Kim is also on board. (In 2007, it was a “Juicy” sample for Keyshia Cole‘s “Let It Go”; this time around Missy reworks “Who Shot Ya.”)
? Welcome to VH1′s new monthly series, Album-Versaries, in which we share fresh stories with you about the creation and lasting impact of some of the most important and influential albums in music history on their milestone anniversaries. Our first installment will focus on Jay-Z’s 1996 LP Reasonable Doubt, which just celebrated its 15th anniversary. This is Part I of a two-part series; Part II can be found by clicking here.
With worldwide record sales of over 30 million units, multiple successful business ventures that have lined his pockets with hundreds of millions of dollars, a best-selling book, and a happy marriage to the “hottest chick in the game,” there are seemingly few mountains for Jay-Z left to climb. However, just like any other self-made man, Jay-Z didn’t start out at the top. It’s hard to remember a time when he wasn’t an all-American, endorsement-toting, “Run This Town” business man, but the truth of the matter is that during the early nineties, Jay was running with a wild crew and involved in more than his fair share of illegal activities. Fifteen years ago, Jay-Z the Icon, Jay-Z the Business Man, and Jay-Z the “Best Rapper Alive” didn’t exist; at that time, he was simply Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, a crack cocaine dealer turned rapper that, according to hip hop mogul Russell Simmons, “came from Damon [Dash]?s imagination.”
Then, on June 25, 1996, Reasonable Doubt dropped. Although it didn’t exactly fly off the shelves or spawn any Top 10 singles right off the bat, the LP now stands amongst the most highly regarded in hip-hop history and, in the timeline of Jay’s existence, symbolizes the pivotal point when his life could have conceivably gone in two wholly different directions. On the fifteenth anniversary of the album’s release, we exclusively spoke to producers Ski and Clark Kent, as well as the album’s co-executive producer and co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records, Damon Dash, about their recollections of the recording process. Dash and Jay-Z have had a well-documented falling out in recent years, but that didn’t stop Dame from sharing some phenomenal stories with us about the brotherhood he and Hov shared during this crucial period in both of their lives, what it was like seeing Jay and the Notorious B.I.G. record their legendary track “Brooklyn’s Finest,” what he thinks of the gritty, unethical themes of Reasonable Doubt now that he’s got fifteen years worth of hindsight, and much more.
? JAY-Z: THE WORST RAPPER ALIVE?
“He was one foot out the door to the street life,” recalls hip-hop producer Irv Gotti in VH1′s Classic Albums special on Jay-Z’s debut LP. Like many great artists across various mediums, Jay’s first work wasn’t initially met with universally glowing reviews out of the gate (although it would eventually earn them with the passing of time). Critical of the rapper’s flamboyant mafioso persona, a pattern of feedback emerged, praising the emcee for his articulate command of the language and conversational lyrical ability, but totally dismissing the album for its crime-ridden stories as having a “we’ve seen this before” quality to them: “Jay-Z’s street-savvy raps may seem like nothing new, but there’s a reason the Brooklyn native is topping the charts,” wrote Entertainment Weekly’sDimitri Ehrlich in August of 1996, and the Los Angeles Daily News was cited as saying that his ?sassy way with a lyric transcends the material.? Even The Source magazine’s hip-hop braintrust gave the album only four mics in their review (later changed to a “classic” rating of five mics).
? To hear Damon Dash tell it, Jay-Z’s record industry prospects prior to the album’s release were going even worse for him than the media’s reception to his work. “I said he will be the greatest rapper of all-time at a time when everyone told me he was the worst rapper,” he explained to us about his conversations with the suits who run the record labels. “You understand? I had been shopping him, and everyone told me ‘He raps too fast.’” Feedback like this wasn’t about to dissuade the pair (alongside silent partner Kareem “Biggs” Burke), though, and they headed into studio feeling confident that they could birth the kind of record that would make their hustle’s potential turn to alchemical reality.
“Because we believed in it so much, you couldn’t even tell me that it wasn’t going to be the best album that was ever made,” Dash gushed. “And it’s funny because it became that.”
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Foster the People scored an unlikely chart victory this week, enjoying a fifth-week sales bump for their debut album Torches, which rose from 48 to 46 on the Billboard 200 this week. It probably helps that “Pumped Up Kicks” hit #1 on the Alternative Songs chart after slipping to #2 last week. Now remixers and mashup DJs The Hood Internet have premiered an “official” (their scarequotes) remix, featuring a slightly chopped-up take on the song and a verse from Hollywood Holt. Our favorite part is actually just after the MC finishes, when the vocals are layered, out-of-sync but on-beat, to harmonize with themselves.
Have you heard the latest Lady Gaga rumor? It’s a doozy. Investigative journalist and author Ian Halperin tells Star that “Gaga barely ate for weeks at a time to fit into her costume,” that “Part of the reason she wears wigs and makeup is because her hair is falling out and she’s covered in red blotches, both side effects of [lupus],” and that “she has done every drug conceivable,” all according to her friends and his other sources. “She’s morphed into this caricature called Lady Gaga, who isn’t even a real person. The girl known as Stefi to her friends and family has all but disappeared.” Gasp! These are serious allegations!
Wait a second. This sounds like the same combination of actual fact stretched to the edge of glory believability, carefully-phrased but non-libelous implications, and juicy but impossible-to-disprove conjecture that characterized the Sandra Bullock-Jesse James sex-tape rumor, or that poorly-sourced book that insisted that Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie were on the verge of breaking up. Who wrote those again? Oh yeah?investigative journalist and author Ian Halperin.
We have to say, Halperin’s rumor-mongering is extraordinarily skillful. He may even be our generation’s Robert Harrison. He lays out a diagnosis of anorexia, leaving readers to draw the conclusion. He springboards off Gaga’s revelation a year ago that she’s genetically predisposed to lupus to fashion a fable about her costumes. He uses variety of drug use to imply regularity of drug use. And certainly no one can deny his claim that “she’s morphed into this caricature called Lady Gaga, who isn’t even a real person.”
So while we’re extremely skeptical of Halperin’s claims, we do have to admit he can spin a good yarn. And while nothing can top his claiming, after the death of Michael Jackson, to have predicted the death of Michael Jackson, this Gaga tell-all may be his next-best work.
An unreleased Nicki Minaj track called “We Miss You” surfaced last night thanks to Funkmaster Flex, and with its memorial lyrics like “Why?d you have to leave in July on a peaceful and serene summer night?” and “You said that you would leave these streets, and I know you did not mean in a bodybag,” many marveled at what sounded like references to the murder of her older cousin Nicholas Telemaque on Sunday night in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, on a song that probably could not have been recorded and released in such a short period while Minaj was on tour with Britney Spears.
Minaj cleared up the confusion earlier today on Twitter. “Tho the lyrics of ‘We Miss You’ eerily depict the circumstances surrounding my cousin’s death, I wrote & recorded that song on 5/24/2010. It was sent to Mariah Carey & Keyshia Cole over a year ago for a possible feature. It didn’t make Pink Friday due to clearance issues. It’s an unauthorized leak. Thank u ALL for your kind words and well wishes.”
If there is an actual subject of the song, it’s likely the man mentioned in Nicki’s verse over French Montana‘s “New York Minute” on the Young Money Menage mixtape. In one of the rare mentions of New York as her hometown, she eulogizes, in order, rapper Stack Bundles, “my man, down before he even got a cap and a damn gown,” and Sean Bell.
It’s been over five years since the Red Hot Chili Peppers released Stadium Arcadium, their last (double) album of original material. In the intervening years, the band has undergone some very turbulent times, times which saw guitarist John Frusciante –who many consider to be the band’s “secret sauce”– leave the group and bassist Flea seriously consider doing the same. However, the bond between Anthony Kiedis, Flea and drummer Chad Smith ended up prevailing and the guys, along with new guitarist Josh Klinghoffer, will be releasing their new LP, I’m With You, this August.
Yesterday afternoon, the band released the album’s cover, designed by bad boy British artist Damien Hirst. It’s an oddly conceptual choice and supremely “arty” choice by the Chili Peppers, whose previous album covers have generally either been fairly literal in their interpretations of the album’s themes (see: Californication, Stadium Arcadium) or designed to reinforce the public perception of the band as embracers of hedonism (see: Mother’s Milk, Blood Sugar Sex Magik). It’s also supremely sterile for a band that’s known for having a funky, slinky, sexy sound that’s anything but sterile.
When pressed for comment on it, Kiedis told Classic Rock magazine that, “It’s an image. Its art. Iconic. We didn?t give it it?s meaning but it?s clearly open to interpretation.” So then, what’s YOUR interpretation of it? Is it a bold statement about Big Pharma? Did the Chili Peppers want to memorialize an old lady who recently swallowed a fly (that perhaps died)? If you have any theories, we’d love to hear ‘em.
The July/August 2011 issue of XXL comes out next week, but some newsstands have broken street date, giving us a peek at the Lil Wayne cover story by Shaheim Reid. In the magazine’s own preview of the story last month, Lil Wayne quipped that without an external deadline, his albums would never be done: “When [manager Cortez Bryant] call me and tell me and say, ‘You got such and such date is your deadline to stop,’ I be like, ‘Aight.’ ‘Cause I never stop recording, obviously. So it?s just on him to say, ‘Okay, stop. We?re gonna pick these songs, and that?s the album.’ That?s how we do it.”
A quote that surfaced today clarifies the issue:Tha Carter IV is being held up not by Weezy’s lack of a deadline, but by quality control. “I just don?t have the record. These n****s’ beats been sucking. I?m putting it out there: you producing, what y’all doing? Get right, man. Step it up. This is coming from a rapper. One of the best rappers. I ain?t saying I’m the best no more; because these n****s is too good these days. I got old. But damn, y’all n****s’ beats is terrible! [Chad Ochocinco walks into the room] These n****s’ beats sound like Ochocinco made them.”
As you may have noticed, Jason Derulo is our Posted artist for July. He’s currently on a whirlwind promotional tour in Europe for “Don’t Wanna Go Home,” the Song Of The Summer contender and lead single off his forthcoming sophomore LP Future History. The song is burning up the charts worldwide, and hit #1 in the UK, so Derulo has been doing a lot of press. You can see as much on his Posted page, where his Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of references to 4:30am calls (and let’s not forget the jet lag from the time difference). But we’ll let Derulo himself tell you about it. Take it away, Jason!