Henry: It’s tough working with a dead person’s art. How can we know if we’ve stayed true to their vision? The obvious answer is that, well, we can’t. Posthumous releases will necessarily be a projection of what we thought the artist would have wanted, and the degree of the projection depends on the completeness of the work as it has been left to us, and the extent to which the creator gave instructions for how they wanted their legacy to be fulfilled.
Talking to Matt Takiff, you get the feeling that every word he says is true, or is a truth, or is not a lie, even if he made it up. The difference between those three things is subtle, but that difference lies at the heart of good songwriting, which could also be called something like emotional honesty.
Henry: There’s a distinct personality in the tone of every great horn player, a character that comes not from the instrument but from the sheer physicality of the embouchure, the strength of the lungs and the lips and the patterns that the fingers come to know. Timbre is derived in a very literal way from the body, such that when played correctly, the horn transcends its status as instrument to become voice itself.
Micah: No one could start a verse life Phife. His charisma, off-kilter lyricism and delivery are often the first thing to stick with me when I get into a new Tribe song. It’s tragic to hear that the Five Foot Assassin has departed, leaving A Tribe Called Quest permanently unwhole for the first time. He will be missed, but we still have his music. Thank you Phife. Rest in peace.
Henry: Phife Dawg was one of the first rappers I ever heard to unabashedly rap about whatever happened to be on his mind. In a genre so often caught up in beefs and battles and debates over who is the GOAT, it’s easy to take oneself too seriously, to try too hard and end up forcing it. Phife never did, and that’s what makes A Tribe Called Quest the most listenable rap group of all time. His style finds a universality in its easy humor, always putting smiles on faces, never losing sight of just how much fun it is to rhyme.
I run the simulator. That’s my job and pretty much my life’s work. I had one job before this one. I used to work at the Pudgy Burger. I made the fries. I hated it because I’d always get burned by the grease, and Randy the manager said I was too slow. I’ve never been very strong or quick of a person, but I have a good mind for things. That’s what my uncle used to say. I told Randy that I wanted a different job but he told me to stop being such a baby and just fry the fucking fries. When I finally quit there, he said it was about time, and called me a weird little pussy.
Micah: Kendrick officially entered my personal top 5 emcees of all time with his last release. I know he’s still very new compared to the greats, but his progression and domination of the culture are undeniable, and barring an unexpected misstep, Kendrick might be the greatest to ever do it. The one-two-three punch of his first albums is not only comparable to Kanye’s first trilogy, but arguably better. Kendrick has shown drastic artistic growth along with a doubling down on his integrity. If you haven’t gotten on the bandwagon already, it’s time. This mix begins a bit dense, but gives you an idea of what kind of experience you can expect from Kendrick. If you want the lighter stuff, start around track four.
Henry: What he said. Just listen to the music.
Micah: Out of nowhere, Kendrick Lamar dropped a collection of tracks that fell to the cutting room floor while work was being done on To Pimp a Butterfly. Allegedly Lebron James had something to do with motivating Top Dawg to put this out. If that is the case, then I cannot thank Lebron enough. Kendrick is arguably the best rapper doing it right now and anything he releases deserves a listen. Let’s go.
Henry: The fact that this collection of outtakes plays better than most rappers feature LPs speaks to Kendrick’s talents as a musician, but even more to his talents as an editor. Making the decision to cut these admittedly good songs from the final album in the interests of creating a tighter, more narratively cohesive piece is impressive, and indicates a level of intentionality that is seems to get overlooked all too often.
Micah: BJ The Chicago Kid has been on my radar for a while now, and I have been eagerly awaiting this release. It’s not often that you seen a modern artist releasing under the Motown label and collaborating with the likes of Kendrick, Anderson .Paak and Bilal. I don’t know what it is about 2016, but everybody is feeling the gospel spirit, and I’m so into it. Please keep it coming.
Henry: Agreed. I love just about every feature I’ve ever heard BJ do, and I liked Pineapple Now and Laters quite a bit. In My Mind seems like more of a throwback, perhaps inspired by the recent work of some of the collaborators you mentioned. Let’s get into the album.
Henry: This one is for all you salty heads like me who just want the old days back. Micah dug up some classic Kanye joints just for you. We’ve got spotify playlists and some good old fashioned youtube links for a few of the deeper cuts. However you feel about Yeezy now, you gotta admit, he’s come a long way.
Micah: To go along with the release of The Life of Pablo, here is a collection of my favorite old-school Kanye songs. The first disc features Kanye’s early beatwork for other artists and the second contains some of his best vocal cuts released under his own name.
Micah: There’s a lot being said about this album and the marketing surrounding it. Let’s just focus on the music.
Henry: I agree, although part of Ye’s aesthetic is, I think, that he demands us to consider his entire persona as a sort of addendum to his music, which is somewhere between a theme and a marketing strategy that has become more pronounced with each successive album. I’ll also say that I’ve liked each successive album less than the last one, until now. But enough generalizing. let’s get into it.