Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt.

Hip Hop was, and still is a huge part of my life. The good rappers, the ones with something to say are poets. Some are more articulate than others. Some take you to that place they intended their music to take you. Some make you feel part of the nightmare that they are vocalising. I love words, and anyone who has a way with words will always claim a piece of my heart. I guess my love for words comes from wishing to have the ability to have a way with words. I’m one of those twerps who, getting information from- it’s like getting blood out of a stone. If you must find out how I feel about you, ask me to write you a poem or song. Some I have found the heart to actually say it to, in my own way. Hip Hop taught me how to be honest in a way that I didn’t know a person like me could. What kind of person am I? I ask myself that more than I should. So, Hip Hop became another outlet for me during secondary school.

I got into Jay-Z’s music two years after Reasonable Doubt came out. I think I was reading Vibe magazine (I had a subscription for it, I was cool!) I was just in awe of this article about him. I was drawn into everything he said. I felt connected to a person who I had never listened to- but it was enough. So, I saved up and bought Reasonable Doubt. Within the first few weeks of owning it, I ruined it. It got scratched because I played it to death. But I knew..I just knew that I was listening to one of the greatest records ever. It goes beyond being a brilliant debut record. It became the blueprint of how Hip Hop should be, at that time. I own every Jay record. He became a massive obsession, he still is. I can quote every song on Reasonable Doubt and The Blueprint. The Blueprint got me through hell and back. Song Cry broke my heart then, and it still does now. If I could list the people who influence me- Jay would be right up there. To make something out of nothing, I respect you with all I have. Do what you must, and stay true to your heart. To yourself.

I love Jay because regardless of race, religion, background, anything- you can relate to at least one of his songs. Reasonable Doubt just did something to me that maybe a teenager growing up on an Island in the middle of the Irish Sea wasn’t meant to relate to. But I could. It was the frustration and his way with words that just hit me right in the heart.

The samples used on this record are insane. It should be a crime to sample so good. My personal favourite sample has got to be The Look Of Love by Isaac Hayes on Can I Live, which is probably one of the stand-out tracks on the record, I mean check this out for a lyric:

“It gets tedious,
So I keep one eye open like, C-B-S.”

If you don’t know, the CBS logo is of one eye. Smart right? Of course. Jay doesn’t really jot down his lyrics, he memorisies them. He’s more than a rapper, more than a poet. The man is a bloody lyrical genius. Just when you think you’ve heard something stunning, he pulls out another line that just blows your mind. The songs on Reasonable Doubt cause you to pull a mental face and just nod your head to every single beat. You spot the samples, causing you to hear the original in a way that is different from to how you used to.

There’s so much honesty on this record. With the honesty comes life lessons (Regrets) and pain. This record can teach anyone all they need to know about life. From being slapped in the face with disappointment to how you deal with it. Foxy Brown and Biggie appear on this record. Big deal, right? Mary J Blige too. Going by this, there’s no way you can deny just how powerful this debut record was, and still is. It’s one that so many rappers still label as a huge influence. If Jay can do it, then anyone can? Well, maybe not. Has there really been anyone as big as him since? I’d put Mos Def, Talib Kweli and Common right up there as being as influential. But Jay..Jay took it to the mainstream. Showing that Hip Hop isn’t all a big show-off stunt, you know? Theres’s so much depth, so many layers to it. You cannot ignore a movement that is louder than a battle cry.

From a personal perspective, this record caused me to go way back with Hip Hop. It fueled my obsession with Eric B & Rakim, Big Daddy Kane and Kurtis Blow. I went back and listened to what influenced Jay, and just studied it all. When I wasn’t doing school-work, I was researching all I could about Hip Hop. I found it to just be so brutally fascinating. I was immersed in the culture of it, and what it was capable of. It was bringing people together from all walks of life- so how on earth could this genre be classed as a menace to society? It pained me to hear people disrespect this genre by saying it was all about degrading women and bragging about what you had, and how you got it. They were missing the point. The mainstream was parading Hip Hop about in a degrading way, totally missing the point and ignoring those that were being true to the genre.

I managed to sort of fix my copy of Reasonable Doubt, it still skips a few tracks at times. But it is still one of the most important records in my life. It just drove me to be obsessed with words. How they are written down and how you say them. Jay’s lyrics on Reasonable Doubt, well..I will always stand-by declaring it shows him at his best. Sure his records after have been incredible but there is something about Reasonable Doubt that just blows my mind harder than his other records. The production is out of this world, Jay’s lyrical delivery is stunning. I could praise this record until my mouth drys and I come close to running out of words.

If you’ve heard it/own a copy, then you know just how perfect it is. It is how a debut record should be: going against everything and being unlike anything you have ever heard before.

 

New York.

New York City. The birthplace of two genres of music that own my heart. Punk and Hip Hop. Oh, I can’t love the two? I can’t possibly love Hip Hop because my favourite band of all time is The Smiths? I can’t love Hip Hop because I think Warpaint are one of the best bands around right now? Oh okay then, I guess I’ll just start being small minded like the rest.

Or not.

New York City has given us some of the greatest musicians of all time. From Disco to Salsa- it all started in NYC. Going through most of the music I own, most of it comes from NYC. It’s something that I’ve recently picked up on and as a result, I am fascinated with all music that is created in this city. I hate flying. It shits me up a stupid amount. I have a brief panic attack whenever I fly to see my family on the Isle of Man and that’s only a 20 minute flight. However, if I had the money and a doctor gave me enough tablets to knock me out for the duration of the flight- I’d go to New York. I’d explore the birthplaces of the bands I love, the venues that they’ve played. I’d go to underground clubs and watch bands play that nobody has ever heard of. I’d wander round eating a bagel and explore the record shops. I’d take a virtually empty suitcase and bring back a load of records and books with me.

I’d take everything in and refuse to go back home. Knowing me, I’d probably take copies of my CV with me whilst there and give it to various record and book shops. That would be the best thing ever. Not only would I no longer be in England, but I’d be constantly surrounded by good music.

I can dream I suppose. Or, I make that dream a reality. I’m going for the latter.

So, New York City. The home of The Strokes, Ramones, Mos Def, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Liars. I could list them all.

It’s quite possibly the home to the greatest. I am tempted to say Manchester because of Morrissey- and of course, I regard this one person to be greater than thousands. Always.

The city has given us, within the last 10 years, bands such as The Pains of Being Pure At Heart, Battles, TV on The Radio and Brand New. All of which have their own distinctive sound.

I remember when I first listened to The Pains of Being Pure At Heart and thinking it was the early 90s and in hope that The Jesus And Mary Chain were still going, coming back to reality wasn’t nice.

The city has so much to offer for anyone. It doesn’t matter what your race, religion, sexuality- anything. None of it matters (it never should anyway) there’s just something for everyone. It’s just this ridiculously huge place that has everything.

When I listen to the Ramones, I always think what it must have been like to have been around in New York when the whole Punk scene started. Imagine going to CBGBs and seeing a band start out- years later, they become one of the most influential bands of all time.

Imagine being part of the Factory scene- being in awe of Edie Sedgwick’s beauty every single time she walked past. Or being around when the Velvet Underground first emerged.

New York City, responsible for so much- yet it doesn’t have to answer to anyone. Ever.

You cannot mention New York without naming one of the best bands to have come from the city- A Tribe Called Quest. They were one of the first hip hop groups I remember falling in love with. I remember watching the video to Scenario on MTV at a very very young age, and just being obsessed. I loved the way Q-Tip pronounced his words and the words he used. I just loved everything they did.

I loved Q-Tip’s solo work- anyone who doesn’t love Breathe & Stop is a twit. Seriously. I just couldn’t get enough of them. The Low End Theory is easily one of the greatest Hip Hop albums created. It mixes Jazz with Hip Hop in a way that has not been done since, if it has, it hasn’t been done as well. The production on the album is mind-blowing. The samples used on it are just insane. From start to finish, it is sheer perfection.

I remember in 2001 first hearing The Strokes. For the past 10 years they have got me through bad times and have been there through the good. Two years ago I had Is This It tattooed on me. The album is so personal to me. I obviously don’t need to tell you why, but it was a crutch for so much- it still is. It always will be. I fail to see why many overlook First Impressions of Earth- the bass on Juicebox is mental. Heart In A Cage is just perfect. Evening Sun is beautiful. All four of their albums mean a lot to me for various reasons. They have that same rawness that the Ramones had. They don’t have to explain or define what they do to anyone- that’s how it should always be.

Music from New York has this type of edge to it. I can’t think of a better word, so I’ll go with edge. It has a distinctive sound. When you listen to band from the city, you know they are from there. It’s this raw, powerful sound. The feel of Punk still lies within a lot of bands from New York- even if they don’t realise it. Punk wasn’t just a genre of music- it was a way of life, a state of mind, an attitude. It’s in bands such as The Stokes, Vivian Girls, Yeah Yeah Yeahs etc- the way they play and how they are on stage just shows this.

Some may regard Punk as a music genre as dead, and that is the case. But the true spirit of it is alive and well within certain bands from New York City.

When I think of the music that has come from New York, I think of all the cultural aspects that are with it too. It’s such a vibrant place. It is full of all forms of Art. Whether it’s break-dancing, graffiti, theatre, cinema, Salsa- it’s everything. It has everything.

So many songs have been written about New York. It’s the Hip Hop community that you feel can truly sum up what New York is, and what the place is to true New Yorkers.

Songs Of 2009.

Okay so I’ve done albums of the year, now I’m going to attempt doing the songs of the year. I’ll edit this at least 10 times before being content with my choices. No order, until the last 3…as usual!

Ou Est Le Swimming Pool-Dance The Way I Feel. I firmly believe that this song can make the most miserable person feel happy listening to this. They are a friggin’ brilliant live band and I hope next year sees them becoming massive.

Frankmusik-Better Off As Two. Best friend got me into Frankmusik. I love this song.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs-Zero. The video alone was good. I want Karen O’s jacket from this video. I think a sense of power or something would come from wearing it.

Ellie Goulding-Under The Sheets. She’ll be big next year, by rights.

Marina & The Diamonds-I Am Not A Robot. The lyrics tug at your heartstrongs and make you think it’s all going to be okay because let’s face it, it always is 🙂

La Roux-I’m Not Your Toy. I could’ve gone for Bulletproof, but I didn’t. I prefer this song to what’s been released so far. BUT, Quicksand will ALWAYS be a personal favourite.

Norah Jones-Chasing Pirates. I’m pretty much in love with her new album.

Lightspeed Champion-Marlene. I know this out next year but the video is already out so….fuck it! Besides, his new album will probably be one of the best albums out next year.

Girls-Lust For Life. I was very happy that this wasn’t an Iggy Pop cover. Nobody should cover Iggy Pop. EVER.

Camera Obscura-French Navy. Goosebumps everywhere when I first heard this. Still happens now.

Golden Silvers-True Romance.  A band that I’m so glad I saw live. This song has some good memories tied to it. The main one being seeing them support Florence, and Florence touching my shoulder saying “excuse me” to get past and dancing in front of me and my best mate to this.

The Saturdays-Forever Is Over. This has “FUCK YOU” written all over it, which is probably why I love it.

Lady GaGa-Bad Romance- RA RA AH AH…You know how it goes. I love this an unhealthy amount (some would say..I disagree) The reference to Hitchcock’s films and the video just make it even more amazing than it already is.

Jay-Z & Alicia Keys-Empire State Of Mind. Two of my favourite artists on the same record. Musical heaven. Reasonable Doubt will always be my favourite Jay album but this reminds me why I love him.

The Dead Weather-Treat Me Like Your Mother. The video is amazing and I love Alison. No more needs to be said really.

Julian Casablancas-11th Dimension. This was enough to make me forget that The Strokes haven’t put an album out since 2005.

Florence + The Machine- You’ve Got The Love. Seeing a few thousand people around you sing along to every word is probably the best thing I’ve seen this year. My favourite cover EVER.

Metric-Help I’m Alive. I hate the word epic but that’s the only word to use to describe this song.

The Raveonettes-Last Dance. Sweet, cute, perfect.

Spinnerette-Baptized By Fire. The lyrics alone are pretty friggin’ cool. I love Brody, who doesn’t?!

Bat For Lashes-Daniel. Natasha Khan possess one of the best voices in the world right now.

Bloc Party-One More Chance. Sounds like a 90s dance track and it’s Bloc Party. Perfect.

thecocknbullkid-I’m Not Sorry. This may have come out last year? But whatever, I still love it. Album next year. ‘BOUT TIME!

The Horrors-Sea Within A Sea. 7 minutes of musical genius. I remember waiting for the countdown to end on thier website and seeing this.

Doll & The Kicks-You Turn Up. Love this band to pieces and I think they need to be signed. NOW. Lovely people and amazing live.

The Chapman Family- Virgins. Kingsley Chapman is lovely. The Chapman Family also need to be signed ASAP.

White Lies-To Lose My Life. So dark and haunting.

TOP 5!!!

Fever Ray-If I Had A Heart. Strange and beautiful.

Morrissey- I’m Throwing My Arms Around Paris. Anything Moz does is genius, but this is easily my favourite single of his in a long time. The lyrics speak to me and probably most of Moz’s fans. It just reinforces our unconditional love for him.

The xx- Crystalised. Favourite new band of the year. Awesome live. The album is brilliant from start to finish.

Florence + The Machine- Dog Days Are Over. Pretty much the same as what I said about You’ve Got The Love. I love the video to this. Makes me want to run through a forest in a tux. I won’t though.

Florence + The Machine-Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up). I remember where I was when I first heard this and I remember crying because..it just like, hit me in the gut. Right in the gut and I got this feeling of “shit…everything is pretty fucked up right now but I’m going to be fine.” Lo and behold I am! Morbid story aside, this song is just brilliant. The live version of this with Isabella doing the 90s balaric keyboard solo makes me weak and fucking happy. You need to physically see it to understand. I don’t need to go into detail about the importance of this song to me. If I was writing about album tracks too, I’d put Blinding, Howl and Cosmic Love in the list.

Oprah Interviews Jay-Z.

There was a fair bit of controversy surrounding this. Something like, Beyonce wouldn’t go on Oprah’s show unless she agreed to have Jay on it. Regardless of  how this interview happened, it is a really cool interview. I’ve loved Jay since 96 when Reasonable Doubt came out, which I hold as one of my favourite albums of all time. One of my favourite hip hop records of all time, one of the best debut albums of all time and Jay’s best record.

I don’t need to tell you how sweet he seems, every interview he’s done shows that. It’s in 4 parts. The last part, Jay tries to get Oprah to rap!

Part 1.

Part 2.

Part 3.

Part 4.

Big L VS Jay-Z

To anyone who regards Soulja Boy or whoever as a good rapper, you should be ashamed.

I want you to listen to this 7 minute clip. It was like I found a load of gold when I found this on YouTube. It’s probably the best thing on YouTube. Anyway, Big L was/is/always will be one of the greatest rappers. Hip Hop will always be one of my biggest loves, and listening to Big L makes me realise why I love Hip Hop. Some of the greatest one liners ever written came from him. And you know what? It’s probably one of the best verses Jay-Z ever did too.

Big L VS Jay-Z