Amoeba Music Hollywood Hip-Hop Top Five: 04:10:09
1) DOOM Born Like This (Lex)
2) Flo Rida R.O.O.T.S. (Poe Boy/Atlantic)
3) UGK UGK 4 Life (Jive)
4) Jim Jones Pray IV Reign (Columbia)
5) Madlib Beat Konducta Vols 5 6 (Stones Throw)
Miami pop rap act Flo RIda is In the number two slot this week with his just released second album R.O.O.T.S. The record includes the already major hit "RIght Round" -- the unavoidably popular track that reworks Dead Or Alive's mid-eighties synth-pop hit “You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)” to which it owes its phenomenal success. Despite contributions from the likes of Ne-Yo, Akon, Wyclef Jean, Pleasure P, and Nelly Furtado, this sophomore album on Poe Boy/Atlantic, while better than Flo Rida's debut, comes off as hollow and ten years from now will most likely forgotten. The problem? Like most mainstream hip-hop, it doesn't sound like it is coming from the heart or soul but instead comes off as music manufactured out of a desire to score a quick pop hit.
Meanwhile, Harlem artist Jim Jones' delayed latest album, Pray IV Reign -- his first for Columbia -- is a superior record and sounds like it is made from the heart. But it too suffers from a common problem in rap these days, the derivative factor. In this case, the former hype-man is constantly channeling 2Pac, not only copping Shakur's whole rhyme flow and inflections, but going so far as to even loot some of his trademark phrases ("Keep your head up," he spits on the new album track "Let It Out").
And to make matters worse, emcee NOE, who collaborates on five of the new album's sixteen tracks, sounds like he's channelling Jay Z -- straight up. While NOE or his host may not be the first to respectively bite the highly influential Jay Z or Pac, to my hip-hop ears it just sounds like they are merely karaoke rappers doing spot on imitations of their hiphop heroes.
Which leads us to this week's number one, an album that is like a breath of fresh air in comparison: DOOM, who dropped the MF from his moniker for his new album Born Like This on Lex, exudes originality and excitement throughout this latest full-length. On this latest record, the raspy-voiced, metal-faced emcee spits engaging rhymes over a myriad of heavily chopped up samples and beats, and is joined by such guests as Wu-Tang's Ghostface and Raekwon.
Still, Born Like This is not perfect and not every song is a banger -- but at least it is all original music coming from the heart. Additionally, the J Dilla produced track "Lightworks" is so well-worn already (to Dilla fans at least) that it sounds like some recycled older track, while the song "Batty-Boys" unfortunately displays some homophobic undertones.
Speaking of homophobic lyrics, Buju Banton, who generated worldwide criticism many years back over the homophobic lyrics in his song "Boom Bye Bye," which were blamed for advocating violence against gay men, is back with a new album. Rasta Got Soul drops on April 21st and is a strong roots reggae album that displays the former dancehall artist's whole new persona since he converted to Rastafarii. Gone are the sexually explicit lyrics, and of course, long gone are any homophobic lyrics. In fact, a couple of years ago Banton was reported to have signed a pledge, the Reggae Compassionate Act, along with a number of other reggae artists, to refrain from performing homophobic songs or making homophobic statements.
Meanwhile, homo-hop is alive and well and coming into its own as a continually expanding sub-genre. Tomorrow, April 11th, at U.C. Berkeley, Diversifying Hip-Hop: Krip-Hop Homo-Hop will address issues such as homophobia in rap and discrimination against disabled artists. The free seven-hour event, the joint effort of Krip-Hop Nation and Art-In-Action along with the University of California, will be the first in what is hoped to be an annual event complete with panels and performances that highlight two underrepresented voices in hip-hop: krip-hop (hip-hop by artists with disabilities) and homo-hop (hip-hop by artists who are queer).
And a lot of dedicated folks, including many at UCB, are on board to ensure that it does become a successful annual event, including the Disability Studies Program; the Division of Arts and Humanities; the Departments of Art Practice; Theater Dance & Performance Studies; Katherine Sherwood's Art, Medicine & Disability class; African Diaspora Studies; and the Doreen Townsend Center Working Group for Hip-Hop Studies at the university. Another key organizer behind the scenes is Leroy Moore. I recommend you read his Amoeblog interview last year to gain better insight into the ever- growing krip-hop movement, especially. The event begins at 2PM (until 9PM) tomorrow, Saturday, at Worth Ryder Gallery, 116 Kroeber Hall, at U.C. Berkeley near the corner of Bancroft & College Ave. Free.