Results for hip hop

interviews

Chuck D

In the wake of Don Imus‘ offensive comments about the Rutgers women’s basketball team a couple of months ago, there's been a lot of discussion about language, race and sexism that has spilled over to the hip hop realm. Black leaders such as Oprah Winfrey and Al Sharpton have been questioning the use of certain words and imagery in the hip hop lexicon, but perhaps the most significant statement was made by one of the architects of the music genre, Russell Simmons. The Def Jam Recordings founder and leader of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network released a statement that recommended members of the recording and broadcast industry self-censor their use of the words“bitch,”"ho" and the n-word.

Jim and Greg wanted to dedicate this segment of the show to asking the question: Do these words still have a place in hip hop? To get the answer they first invited on Public Enemy rapper and radio personality Chuck D Chuck explains he was on tour oversees when the Imus controversy went down, and it reminded him of how“funny”language can be in America. Chuck says that he wishes people like Russell Simmons had approached long-standing members of the hip hop community and tapped into grassroots movements before crafting his statement, but he agrees that not all words should be accessible to everyone all the time. Sometimes an artist does need to use strong language, but commerce shouldn't be built around it. And, because they craft words for a living, he expects that rappers in particular should be able to be more creative with language and not rely on the same set of words.

Go to episode 82

El-P

El-P, aka Jaime Meline, joins Jim and Greg in the Sound Opinions studio this week. Take a look at any of the underground hip-hop that came out of New York in late '90s, and chances are you'll find El-P somewhere in the background. As a rapper, producer, and head of the indie record label Definitive Jux, El-P has left an indelible mark on New York hip-hop. And he's not slowing up anytime soon. This year, El-P produced Killer Mike's R.A.P. Music and his own solo album, Cancer 4 Cure. El-P grew up in Brooklyn during hip-hop's golden age in the eighties. By 1993 he'd founded his own group, Company Flow. He tells Jim and Greg how creating the track "Last Good Sleep," for their sophomore album, Funcrusher Plus, transformed his approach to songwriting. The more specific and personal the story, El says, the more universal. Today, even El-P's“political”songs are more about internal struggles than external ones. In fact the title for his record, Cancer 4 Cure, is inspired by the idea that our bodies are constantly fighting off an illness latent inside us. Not to suggest that Cancer 4 Cure is a downer. There's hope, Jaime says, - though“not unbattered hope”- that the characters in his songs will come through.

Go to episode 356

Steve Earle

Steve Earle is Jim and Greg's guest this week. The singer/songwriter who can also add actor, novelist, radio show host and playwright to his credits visited the show with his duet partner, muse and seventh wife Allison Moorer. That's right: seven. But Steve is obviously not a man who is afraid of risks. After years living and working in Nashville, he moved to New York. And after years making rock music, he decided to incorporate hip hop beats and electronic elements on to his most recent record Washington Street Serenade. You can hear stripped down versions of the tracks, "Tennessee Blues," "Days Aren't Long Enough," and "Sparkle and Shine" during the show.

Go to episode 122

Lupe Fiasco

This week's guest is rapper, Chicago native, and now Grammy nominee Lupe Fiasco. Lupe, or Wasalu Muhammad Jaco to his parents, made a smash with last year's release, Food & Liquor. He may have even made a bigger smash with the internet leak of the album. And now the album and his hit single, "Kick Push" have been nominated for three Grammy Awards.“Kick Push”began as a track Lupe and producer Soundtrakk created for a Chicago skate shop. He was inspired by a Filipino jazz song and wanted to evoke the atmosphere and culture of skateboarding. Listen to Lupe's live performance of the song, as well as that of "American Terrorist" featuring Matthew Santos.

Our guest is something of an anomaly in hip hop today, in that he shies away from misogyny and profanity in his music. Lupe is also a religious Muslim. Greg asks Lupe about reconciling his values with his love of hip hop-something he raps about in the song, "Hurt Me Soul." Lupe explains that his first exposure to vulgar hip hop was through the N.W.A. records his father would play. Jim points out that even Lupe's parents would be interesting to interview. His mother was a chef, and his father was a Green Beret, martial arts master, engineer and active with the Black Panthers.

Go to episode 62

Bernard“Pretty”Purdie

Bernard Purdie

In the 1960s and '70s, Bernard“Pretty”Purdie was one of the most prolific session drummers out there, laying down the beat for Steely Dan, Aretha Franklin, James Brown, Al Kooper, Nina Simone, Hall & Oates, Miles Davis and hundreds more. His distinctive style, known as the“Purdie Shuffle,”has influenced generations of drummers, but has been frequently sampled in hip hop since the 1980s. Sound Opinions producer Ayana Contreras spoke with Purdie about his career and contributions to popular music.

Go to episode 652

Dessa

Try to put Minneapolis-based performer Dessa in a box and you quickly run into problems. She's a philosophy student turned slam poet, a member of Minneapolis's hip hop collective Doomtree, and a lecturer in hip hop poetics. In an environment where many rappers and rap fans are quick to dismiss hip hop that mixes rap and singing, Dessa's three solo albums combine rap, harmonies, and unusual instrumental backings. She and her band stopped by the studio to perform songs from her latest album, Castor, The Twin. Dessa describes finding inspiration for songs on the city bus, and explains why rap lyrics are not just poetry by another name. She even has some advice for first time performers: If your legs are going to shake, best not to wear shiny pants.

Go to episode 326

Van Hunt

Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Van Hunt grew up in funk-soaked Dayton, Ohio. Today he counts Frank Zappa and Ray Charles - not to mention Bach - among his influences. That musical adventurousness is just one reason Jim and Greg were drawn to his latest album, 2011's What Were You Hoping For? Van dropped by the studio to perform tracks from the record, and he let Jim and Greg in on the story behind his first independent release. Van got his start in the music biz a decade ago producing R&B and hip-hop tracks for the likes of Dionne Farris in Atlanta. When he went solo in 2004, it was on a major label. But the higher ups at Capitol weren't so thrilled when Van shunned the standard R&B format for a freewheeling mix of sounds that recalled the soul and funk of Sly Stone as much as it did the glam of David Bowie. In 2008, they shelved his third record Popular. Now that he's on his own, Van's free to indulge his genre-blending impulses.

Go to episode 344

Saul Williams

This week's guest has an incredible portfolio: poet, screenwriter, actor, activist, and, of course, musician. But, while we have many words to describe Saul Williams, it's hard to describe his music. Saul blends rock, funk, hip hop and electronica with political lyrics. This combo was most recently heard on an album Saul made with Nine Inch Nails' Trent Reznor. Last year they released The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust exclusively on the web. Now Saul is again getting attention through his involvement in a Nike ad campaign. The singer, and admitted activist, explains to Jim and Greg why he agreed to let the corporation use his song "List of Demands," in a recent commercial. He believes that the ad calls more attention to his song than it does the product, and therefore spreads the message of his music. You can hear that song performed live on the show, as well the Niggy Tardust tracks, "Banged and Blown Through" and "Convict Colony."

Go to episode 129

Nelson George

Music critic, author and screenwriter Nelson George joins Jim and Greg on the show this week. His many books have become cornerstones on American thinking about hip hop, soul and pop music. Now he has a new book out called City Kid: A Writer's Memoir of Ghetto Life and Post-Soul Success. After years of exploring the lives of others, including Chris Rock, James Brown and Russell Simmons, Nelson took himself on as a subject. He relays his experience growing up in Brownsville. Music and art gave him a way to experience the outside world and later became his ticket to success. He even made his way to Hollywood, writing and producing the hip hop parody film CB4.

Go to episode 182

Sir The Baptist

Sir The Baptist is an up-and-coming artist that blends hip hop swagger with his gospel roots. But, he doesn‘t turn a blind eye to what’s going on in the world around him. Not unlike The Staple Singers, Sir is an artist who believes in delivering a message in his songs, whether it's tackling domestic violence with "Deliver Me," or with violence in the streets with "Wake Up." He grew up in the church, in fact, his father was a preacher. That background is what keeps him committed to making music that helps to“change the world.” Sir and a 10 piece band joined Jim and Greg in the Jim and Kay Maybie Performance Studio to perform songs from his debut album, Saint or Sinner (one of Jim and Greg's Best Albums of 2017), and to talk about the message in his music.

Go to episode 638

Jamila Woods

In the midst of an accomplished career as a poet and educator, Jamila Woods launched onto the national music scene with heralded collaborations with Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment, and Macklemore. Last year, she released her debut solo album HEAVN, which was recently reissued by Jagjaguwar. That record, with its powerful lyrical examinations of black womanhood and police brutality, ended up on both Jim and Greg's Best of 2016 lists.

Jamila Woods and her band join Jim and Greg in the studio to play songs from the album. She discusses her eclectic blend of spoken word, gospel, and hip-hop, which samples lines from artists ranging from The Cure to Incubus to Paula Cole. She speaks about lessons learned from growing up in the church in Chicago's south side and her music's power to speak to people who don't share her experiences.

Go to episode 620

Common

This week on the show Jim and Greg meet with rapper Common, who happens to be visiting his hometown. Common is currently touring to promote his sixth (and, some would say, best) album, Be. Jim and Greg note that most hip-hop artists don‘t have his kind of longevity. In fact, Common is at an age where he has started to balance his career with fatherhood. Greg, who visited the set of Common’s sultry video shoot for the song "Go," asks him how he‘ll be able to present his more adult side to his daughter. Fans of Common’s videos should also check out his most recent, and most cinematic, "Testify."

Common actually performs "Testify" live for our hosts. This song was produced by longtime collaborator and fellow southsider Kanye West, and includes the producer's signature use of soul samples. For Be, Common also worked with ?uestlove of The Roots and rapper and producer J Dilla, who passed away just weeks before this interview. Dilla, or Jay Dee, has been a mainstay on the hip-hop scene, producing songs for De La Soul, Pharcyde, Janet Jackson, and D'Angelo. Dilla also worked with Common on Like Water For Chocolate, producing one of his biggest hits, "The Light." As Common explains, the loss of his friend and former roommate will be life-changing. And in his memory, the rapper does some freestyling over Dilla instrumentals — a first for Sound Opinions.

Go to episode 26

Jeff Chang

Jeff Chang, author of Can‘t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation, joins Jim and Greg in the studio this week. Jeff, who co-founded the Quannum Label in San Francisco, was on the show previously when his book first came out, and he and our hosts engaged in a discussion of hip-hop's history. Now that Jeff's book has come out on paperback, Jim and Greg welcome him back to the show to discuss where hip-hop is today and where it is going. In order to get a sense of hip-hop's diverse makeup, the three music journalists decide to embark on a geographical tour of the genre, beginning with Chicago and working their way through the United States, and even the U.K.

Go to episode 15

Tim Fite

When Jim and Greg were in Austin, TX for SXSW they met with music artist Tim Fite. In 2007, Fite made Over the Counter Culture, one of Jim and Greg's favorite albums of the year and released it for free. Now he's back with a new record called Fair Ain't Fair that he's releasing the old-fashioned way. But, the artist explains that the subject matter of this album isn‘t as political and anti-consumerist, and therefore would be appropriate for sale. Plus he’s happy to support a great record label like Anti. Fite's music is hard to classify, but you can hear the folk, hip-hop, rock, blues mix in the songs performed on the show, as well as in a special bonus track.

Go to episode 124

Deltron 3030

Welcome to the 31st Century: Earth is a wasteland ruled by roving gangs. Corporate greed, runaway technology and economic disparity have finally caught up with the planet. This dire, science fiction scenario is anything but ordinary hip-hop. And, that's not surprising considering how extra-ordinary Deltron 3030 is. This supergroup is made up of Dan“the Automator”Nakamura, the man behind sounds by Gorillaz and Dr. Octagonecologyst; Del the Funky Homosapien, an innovative Oakland MC who wrote lyrics for his cousin Ice Cube's group Da Lench Mob; and finally, turntable wizard Kid Koala. All three crossed paths during the making of other projects like Handsome Boy Modeling School and Gorillaz. And in 2000, with a futuristic comic-book inspiration, Deltron 3030 released its self-titled debut. The world has changed a lot since then, and the sequel, Event II, presents a new idea of the future (one that made Greg's Best of 2013 list) Del, Dan and Kid talk about their new, loftier goals for this album and how such dense, off-the-wall recordings get made. They also riff on everything from Transformers to David Byrne to 1984.

Go to episode 430

Ernie Isley

Few groups can claim the sustained success of The Isley Brothers, in no small part due to the contributions of our guest Ernie Isley. The Isley Brothers formed in the 1950s as a doo-wop vocal group in Cincinatti, scoring huge hits with the wedding staples "Shout" and "Twist and Shout." They managed to survive the British Invasion, assisted by the incredible playing of their young guitarist Jimi Hendrix. With the addition of two more brothers, Ernie and Marvin, the band started to branch out into funk, soul, psychedelia, rock, and disco. It's this willingness to defy categorization that's led to the Isleys' longevity – the band scored the rare feat of charting in six consecutive decades.

Ernie Isley picked up where Hendrix left off on guitar, creating an unmistakeable tone featured on hits like "That Lady" and "Summer Breeze." But his contributions as a songwriter were just as vital, including a pair of sociallly conscious anthems in 1975: "Harvest for the World" and "Fight the Power," which Ernie penned in the shower before a trip to Disneyland. The Isleys' influence continues to be heard today in the hip-hop realm. Artists from Ice Cube to Notorious B.I.G. to Kendrick Lamar have crafted iconic songs from Isley Brothers samples. The band is now being honored with a massive boxset called The RCA Victor & T-Neck Album Masters (1959-1983), and even that just scratches the surface of the Isleys' long career.

Go to episode 509

DJ Shadow

This week Jim and Greg are joined by John Davis, otherwise known as DJ Shadow. For listeners not familiar with DJ Shadow, he is an innovative and experimental hip-hop producer with an ability to infuse other music genres, sounds and samples into his work. For many, his album Entroducing is one of the landmark works of the last decade. His recent album The Outsider was not received as well. (Check out Jim and Greg's review). Our hosts ask Shadow about the scrutiny and why he chose to compose an album on his own instead of emphasizing samples. Fans, even those who were disheartened by The Outsider, will appreciate his desire to stretch himself and make something completely new.

As mentioned above, The Outsider put more of the focus on guest vocalists and rappers than on samples. But with the current state of the music industry, Sound Opinions can't blame him. Greg asks the DJ what it was like to make music in the post-Paul's Boutique era, when copyright laws are making life more difficult for sample-based musicians. DJ Shadow explains that for him, using other people's music is both a way to be nostalgic and a way to call attention to music that people wouldn't hear otherwise. For more insight into copyright and copyright culture, check out Jim and Greg's interview with legal expert Lawrence Lessig.

Go to episode 50

The Dismemberment Plan

Like its peers Death Cab for Cutie & The Shins the Washinton D.C. band The Dismemberment Plan was on its way to major success in the early part of the new millenium, and then in 2003, decided to pack it in. Bassist Eric Axelson, guitarist Jason Caddell, drummer Joe Easley and singer Travis Morrison went in different directions (Easly at N.A.S.A.!), but more than a decade later the D-Plan is back with Uncanny Valley. They talked with Greg about their multiple musical influences, including punk rock, hip-hop & D.C.'s Go-Go scene. Lead singer Travis Morrison says that ultimately the band is still figuring it out, much like Ferris Bueller did.

Go to episode 427
specials

The Business of Hip-Hop

Jay-z As Jim and Greg explain in the news segment, hip-hop continues to be the music industry's cash king. It's come a long way since starting as an underground street art, and tracing the development of the hip-hop economy can shed a lot of light on the workings of the music industry. As Jay-Z famously rapped,“I'm not a businessman, I'm a business, man.”Jim and Greg talk to Dan Charnas about this multi-billion economy. Dan is a music journalist who also spent many years working at rap labels. His new book is called The Big Payback: The History of the Business of Hip-Hop.

Go to episode 268
reviews
Shock Value (Instrumental Version)Shock Value available on iTunes

Timbaland Shock Value

Superstar producer Timbaland also has a new solo album called Timbaland Presents: Shock Value. Timbaland, otherwise known as Tim Mosley, has produced massive hits for pop and hip hop stars like Jay-Z, Missy Elliott, Nelly Furtado and Justin Timberlake. But, in addition to having a knack for making commercially successful tunes, Timbaland is also one of the most inventive, innovative and avant-garde producers of all time. This fact makes it all the more difficult for Jim and Greg to give their ratings of this album. Jim thinks the first half of the album is worth checking out for some solid production. But, he wishes Timbaland hadn‘t been so base and clichéd in his lyrics. He also questions the creativity involved in the album’s all-star collaborations. He gives Shock Value a Burn It. Greg can't even be that kind. He is completely disappointed by this album and is forced to give it a Trash It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 71
Man On the Moon: The End of Day (Deluxe Version)Man on the Moon: End of the Day available on iTunes

Kid Cudi Man on the Moon: End of the Day

Kid Cudi's debut record Man on the Moon: End of the Day rounds out the reviews this week. The up-and-coming hip hop artist shows a lot of musical ambition. Both Jim and Greg are put off by a lot of the lyrics, but hear great innovation in the production and instrumentation. They both give Man on the Moon a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 200
Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (5th Anniversary Edition)Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album available on iTunes

Lupe Fiasco Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album

Next up is rapper Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album . It wasn‘t too long ago in 2006 that Jim and Greg reviewed Lupe’s debut, the original Food & Liquor. It was a standout album in a wave of conscious hip-hop coming out of Chicago at the time. Now at age 30, Lupe is a veteran of the rap game. What does he have to offer on Food & Liquor II? According to Jim, plenty of food for thought. Lupe is rapping about issues like misogyny, economic exploitation of the poor, and native American rights that Jim says no one else in hip-hop is tackling. And if Lupe sometimes gets a little preachy, he also leavens his critiques with humor. Greg agrees, but he wishes the greatness of Lupe's lyrics were matched by consistently great production. Despite those production flaws, Food & Liquor II gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 358
ComptonCompton available on iTunes

Dr. Dre Compton

Dr. Dre's Compton is the hip hop legend's first album since 1999, released as a companion to Straight Outta Compton, the new biopic of his former group N.W.A. Dre has been one of the most influential figures in hip hop, equally due to his own albums, his production work for artists like Snoop Dogg, and his history of grooming new talent like Eminem and Kendrick Lamar. Jim always thought Dre was overrated as a producer and is disgusted by the misogny in much of Compton's lyrics, which takes away from some of the more interesting political tracks. For Jim, it's a clear Trash It. Greg, on the other hand, praises Dre's production work, noting that by collaborating with younger producers King Mez and Justus he is reentering the conversation as a relevant figure. But Greg agrees that some of the lyrical content is stomach churning. Still, there are enough brilliant tracks to earn it a Try It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 508
The AutobiographyThe Autobiography available on iTunes

Vic Mensa The Autobiography

This week, Jim and Greg review The Autobiography, the debut album by Chicago rapper Vic Mensa – a name already familiar around Chicago , with fans including Chance The Rapper and Kanye West. Mensa raps with a "genre-free approach to what hip hop is" while addressing his upbringing, his experiences with violence and drugs, and his own self-abuse - causing Greg to describe the record as brutally honest and“very emo.” Jim and Greg applaud producer No I.D. both for recognizing Mensa's artistic abilities and for producing a succinct album, rather than a bunch of singles. While Jim and Greg note that Mensa definitely tries too hard with some of the lyrics, both agree that the album is“really impressive…and moving”and give it a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 611
Show Your BonesShow Your Bones available on iTunes

Yeah Yeah Yeahs Show Your Bones

Next up is Yeah Yeah Yeahs. This Brooklyn trio has released Show Your Bones, the highly anticipated follow-up to their debut, Fever to Tell. That successful album produced a hit single, "Maps," and made the band one of the poster children for the new-garage (or new-new wave) scene in New York City. Jim is always skeptical of this scene and of hype in general, but really liked Show Your Bones. He's not sure what lead singer Karen O is singing about, but loves her energy, which channels a combination of Siouxsie Sioux and Chrissie Hynde. Guitar wizard Nick Zinner is also back in top form. Therefore it's a Buy It for Jim. Greg, however, can only give this disc, which was produced by hip hop producer Squeak-E-Clean, a Burn It rating. He thinks there are a number of great tracks, but the songwriting just isn't there.

JimGreg
Go to episode 20
FishscaleFishscale available on iTunes

Ghostface Killah Fishscale

Wu-Tang Clan member Ghostface Killah also has a new album out. Fishscale is the fifth solo record for this hip hop veteran, who joined the Wu-Tang Clan over a decade ago. Ghostface has always been known as a complicated, skilled lyricist, and he lives up to his reputation on this release. Fishscale, itself a slang term for uncut cocaine, gives a narrative of life on the streets in New York. These stories are paired with samples and beats from producers like Jay Dilla, Pete Rock and Just Blaze. Listen to the sample of a blaxsploitation-style education film in the track we play, "Kilo." Incidentally, this is the first Ghostface solo album without any production from fellow Clansman RZA. Whether or not that bodes in Ghostface's favor is up to our hosts. Jim believes gangsta rap and songs about drug dealing are pretty played out, but admits that Ghostface brings something completely new. He compares the rapper to writer Jim Thompson and gives Fishscale a Burn It. Greg has to go with a Buy It rating. He is compelled by the stories of Ghostface's childhood, the surreal rap tangents and the immense hooks. According to Greg, this record parallels early NWA records and is not only one of the best albums of Ghostface's career, but of 2006.

JimGreg
Go to episode 20
The Odd CoupleThe Odd Couple available on iTunes

Gnarls Barkley The Odd Couple

Next up is a review of an album that's sure to make news in 2008. Gnarls Barkley has released their highly anticipated second album The Odd Couple. This is the follow-up to 2006's successful release St. Elsewhere, which featured the hit single "Crazy." The genre-blending duo consisting of singer/songwriter Cee-Lo Green and DJ Danger Mouse went for an even darker mood on this album, and both Jim and Greg think it's a success. Jim loves the psychedelic universe Cee-Lo and Danger Mouse created-one that's part soul, part rock, part hip-hop. He admits that there are no "Crazy"-style singles, but gives The Odd Couple a big Buy It. Greg was impressed by how the two men take traditional pop genres like British invasion and Motown, and update them for the 21st century. And beneath the psychedelic swirl of sounds are great melodies and complicated lyrics. Greg seconds the Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 122
I'll Sleep When You're Dead

El-P I'll Sleep When You're Dead

Rapper and producer El-P's new album is I‘ll Sleep When You’re Dead. This is the second solo release for the Brooklyn artist, who made his dent as the founder of hip hop group Company Flow and indie label Definitive Jux. El-P prides himself on making hip hop that is in keeping with the genre's roots: two turntables and a microphone. But, rather than rely on beats and soul samples, El-P's collages are futuristic, and according to Greg,“skuzzy.”So much so, that he compares the rapper to Trent Reznor, who also makes an appearance on the record. As Jim explains, the dark, complicated soundscapes match the verses, which talk about violence and paranoia in the post-9/11 world. The songs are political, but not preachy, and Jim recommends them to anyone who is a fan of hip hop, or just a fan of interesting music. Greg praises El-P for being a classicist who can also look to the future. There's nothing stale or nostalgic here, but Greg warns that I‘ll Sleep When I’m Dead could be a little too challenging for some people's ears. With that small advisory, El-P gets two Buy Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 75
T.I. vs. T.I.P. (Instrumental)T.I. vs. T.I.P. available on iTunes

T.I. T.I. vs. T.I.P.

One of these new releases that is sure to be a big summer hit is T.I. vs. T.I.P. Rapper T.I., born Clifford Harris, was the top selling hip hop artist of 2006, so you're sure to hear some of his new singles on the radio. But, the question is whether or not the album is worth your money. After displaying his acting chops in ATL and the forthcoming American Gangster, it's not surprising that his new set of songs would take a dramatic turn. T.I. vs. T.I.P. is a concept album that pits the rapper's former thug self against his current mogul self. Jim finds this concept interesting, but a failed opportunity. He welcomes rappers who want to do something different, but T.I. uses the same old hip hop clichés that were discussed on the hip hop panel a few weeks ago. He doesn‘t hear a big difference between T.I.’s two personas, and while he enjoys some of the production elements, he has to give the album a Trash It. Greg agrees that the album is largely a failed experiment, and thinks the idea of alternate identities is a played out one in hip hop. He thinks T.I. is an interesting person and wishes he showed that more. Greg also instructs listeners to Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 84
The ArchAndroid (Deluxe)The ArchAndroid available on iTunes

Janelle Monáe The ArchAndroid

On the other end of the rock spectrum is Janelle Monáe. The alternative R&B singer's debut album is called The ArchAndroid. It's a dense science fiction concept record that incorporates hip hop, soul, funk, rock and big bandsounds. Jim hears the most ambition from an R&B singer in a long time. He loves Monáe's universe and gives The ArchAndroid a Buy It. Greg goes even further, calling this record the best he's heard this year. Spend time with it and you will love it. The ArchAndroid gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 234
Acousmatic SorceryAcousmatic Sorcery available on iTunes

Willis Earl Beal Acousmatic Sorcery

The story of Willis Earl Beal is unlike any other. The Chicago native only took to music to curb loneliness after moving to Albuquerque, N.M. He had no training, but a desire for emotional connection that eventually led to some press and an eventual signing to XL Recordings. Now he's got a new debut album out called Acousmatic Sorcery. Jim compares his sound to that of alternative hip hop artist Divine Styler. It's a kind of“Martian blues”with a lo-fi, folk edge. The production needs some work but Jim says Buy It. Greg admits Beal can‘t really play much, but his percussion, and especially his voice, are quite strong. This is the kind of stuff Alan Lomax would’ve dug. Greg doesn't know if Beal has another album in him, but he gives Acousmatic Sorcery a Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 332
NO ONE EVER REALLY DIESNo_One Ever Really Dies available on iTunes

N.E.R.D. No_One Ever Really Dies

After a seven year hiatus, N.E.R.D. (the Pharrell Williams/Neptunes side project) has returned with their fourth album No_One Ever Really Dies. As The Neptunes, Chad Hugo & Pharrell crafted synthy, quirky, poppy hip hop and R&B for the likes of Jay-Z and Kelis in the 1990s and early '00s. Then in 1999, they formed N.E.R.D. with Shay Haley. In the time since N.E.R.D.'s last album, 2010's Nothing, Pharrell Williams has made a name for himself as a solo artist. Most notably, he achieved mainstream success with the smash hit "Happy," all while maintaining his signature sense of quirk. Greg says it's that quirkiness, along with a knack for hooks that attracted him to their sound in the first place. He likes this effort for its“weird, buzzy tone”and its psychedelic energy. Greg gives it a Buy It. Jim calls N.E.R.D. an“experimental garage band.”He adds this project has an uneven success rate with its long list of collaborations, including tracks with Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, and Ed Sheeran. Jim gives it a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 632
As I AmAs I Am available on iTunes

Alicia Keys As I Am

Alicia Keys has a record out this week that's poised to be #1. Keys has been groomed by Clive Davis in the old school star-making machine, and has become one of the biggest recording artists of this decade. Jim has never been overly impressed by Keys' style which is part polished R&B, part gritty hip hop. But, As I Am is so campy and over the top, that he found himself enjoying the record…even the John Mayer duet. Like a bag of candy, Jim knows it's not good for him, but he gives the record a Buy It. Greg wants to like Keys a lot more; she's obviously got real talent. But, he thinks her lyrics are nothing but a string of clichés. He also wishes she wasn't so bogged down by the over-production. He gives As I Am a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 103
The Black and White AlbumThe Black and White Album available on iTunes

The Hives The Black and White Album

The second album up for review this week is The Black and White Album by Swedish rockers The Hives. The band had a hit in 2000 with "Hate to Say I Told You So," but have yet to really break through to mainstream audiences (despite obvious attempts by their record company). This album is a change of pace for the garage rockers and has more soul than listeners heard previously. They even teamed up with hip hop producer Pharrell Williams for a couple of tracks. The result works for Greg, though he wishes they'd edited down the number of tracks. Jim agrees that the merging of sounds is really successful. They have a credible groove. Both Jim and Greg give The Black and White Album a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 103
Doctor's AdvocateThe Documentary available on iTunes

The Game The Documentary

Another news-making release is West Coast rapper The Game's sophomore album, Doctor's Advocate. The“Doctor”referred to is none other than hip-hop producer Dr. Dre, who served as a mentor to The Game on his debut album, The Documentary. Though Dre did not work on this second release, he is certainly on The Game's mind. After engaging in some sibling rivalry with fellow Dre protégé 50 Cent, The Game was dropped by Daddy Dre and left to work with new producers like Scott Storch and Will.i.Am. Jim actually enjoyed the production on Doctor's Advocate, and for that reason alone gives the album a Burn It. For Greg, though, it's the lyrical content that he finds most fascinating… even troubling. The Game appears to have some major emotional issues tied to his relationship with Dr. Dre, and has written some of the saddest gangsta rap lyrics Greg has heard in a long time. He recommends listeners sample some of the bizarre antics on Doctor's Advocate and Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 51
Proof of YouthProof of Youth available on iTunes

The Go! Team Proof of Youth

Brighton, England sextet The Go! Team also released an album this month called Proof of Youth. Jim and Greg first became aware of the group after they performed at the Intonation Music Festival in 2005 and released their debut Thunder, Lightning, Strike. This sophomore effort follows the same exuberant formula, pairing cheerleading-style vocals with samples and horns. Greg thinks they borrow much of their aesthetic from Public Enemy, but the key difference is production. While the hip hop group provided great beats and a heavy bottom, the Go! Team album was very hard for Greg to listen to — very tinny, no bottom, and like a second rate Public Enemy recording. He gives it a Trash It. Jim couldn't disagree more. He finds their high-energy performance totally fresh and irresistible. Proof of Youth has been making Jim smile since the first time he listened to it, so he gives it a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 96
Vicious Lies and Dangerous RumorsVicious Lies & Dangerous Rumours available on iTunes

Big Boi Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumours

We may not have heard new Outkast since 2006's Idlewild, but one-half of that groundbreaking Atlanta hip hop duo has a new record out. Big Boi's first solo album, Sir Lucious Leftfoot…The Son of Chico Dusty, came out in 2010 to positive reviews. Now he's followed it up with Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumours. How does the new record stack up? Well Jim calls it“hip-hop at its best.”Big Boi's been playing the rock festival circuit and he's nothing if not ambitious with his collaborations on Vicious Lies. Everyone from indie band Wavves to more traditional hip-hop guest Kid Cudi makes an appearance on this record. For Jim, the songs succeed or fail on the strength of the guest, which makes this only a Try It album. Greg agrees. Big Boi's solo records mostly remind him of how much he misses Outkast. Can't those two guys get back together already? Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumours gets a double Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 371
Chance

Chance the Rapper Coloring Book

Chicago artist Chance the Rapper recently released his third mixtape, Coloring Book. And while he's at the forefront of the rap genre, he's never actually sold a single album. That's because all three of his mixtape releases, as well as two collaborative albums, can be downloaded for free from the Internet. On Coloring Book, Chance enlists a slew of popular guest stars, from fellow Chicagoan Kanye West to the man of the moment, Justin Bieber. Jim really enjoyed this record, especially Chance's use of gospel music to empower individuals and generate a sense of community in order to combat violence. While he doesn't think it is quite as good as his last release, Acid Rap, Jim strongly believes the music and lyrical insight on this album is equal parts impressive and inspiring. He gives it a Buy It. Greg agrees, saying that Coloring Book is one of the most ambitious records in hip hop right now. He even points out that West's recent album, The Life of Pablo, wouldn‘t be what it is without Chance’s gospel sound influence. Greg appreciates the larger themes of the album and how it connects so well to the music of the Civil Rights Movement. It's a Double Buy It for Coloring Book.

JimGreg
Go to episode 550
Jamila Woods

Jamila Woods HEAVN

In the last few years, Chicago poet and soul artist Jamila Woods has made memorable cameos on tracks by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Chance the Rapper, Donnie Trumpet, and more. Now, she's breaking out with her debut album HEAVN. Jim loves how Jamila effortlessly blends genres like soul, R&B, and hip hop. He also finds her lyrics to be powerful and effective in painting a picture of her life as a black woman. Jim thinks Woods is elevating the neo soul genre to the next level and gives HEAVN a Buy It. Greg wholeheartedly agrees, and thinks this album is another great release coming from the Chicago hip hop and R&B scene. He greatly respects Jamila's ability to poetically articulate her struggles against society's perceptions of black beauty and womanhood. Overall, Greg thinks this is one of the best albums of the year so far, and gives it an enthusiastic Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 558
The OutsiderThe Outsider available on iTunes

DJ Shadow The Outsider

DJ Shadow released a new album this week, The Outsider. The hip hop/electronica sound collagist, otherwise known as Josh Davis, has wowed critics and fans for years with albums like Endtroducing and The Private Press, but Sound Opinions hopes this latest effort doesn't force him into outsider status. DJ Shadow presents a somewhat different sound here, having composed many of the songs himself rather than using samples, and featuring vocals from guests like David Banner and Kasabian rather than his own production. He's also steeped himself in the hyphy sound, which, like Shadow himself, hails from the Bay Area. Jim and Greg appreciate Shadow's urge to stretch out, but neither thinks this album is a success. In fact, Greg calls The Outsider one of the biggest musical disappointments of the year. Jim agrees that the album is too jagged and pales in comparison to his previous work. Unfortunately, The Outsider gets two Trash Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 44
Pink Friday (Roman Reloaded) [Deluxe Edition]Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded available on iTunes

Nicki Minaj Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded

She may be hip hop's answer to Lady Gaga. Nicki Minaj has the hair and costumes, and now chart success to boot. Her new album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded has gone to #1, taking down fellow diva Madonna. It's a follow up to 2010's Pink Friday, which Jim thought had an interesting and unlikely combination of diverse elements including Missy Elliott's eccentricity and Lil Kim's provocation. But now she's added pop to the stew, and things aren't melding as well. Jim criticizes the sub-American Idol balladry and her awful singing. But most offensive is her harsh language about women. Greg agrees Minaj is a frustrating artist. He's fascinated by some of her work and her alter-ego Roman Zolanski, but she falls into some terrible clichés. Roman Reloaded gets a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 333
Ghost StoriesGhost Stories available on iTunes

Coldplay Ghost Stories

In 2011, not even Jim and Greg's disapproval could keep Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto from taking the band to new heights of arena rock success. Three years later, Chris Martin and his plaintive falsetto are back for more with Ghost Stories, the band's sixth studio album. Initially, Greg appreciated Ghost Stories's move away from the anthemic sing-alongs of Mylo Xyloto into a more sparse musical landscape, not unlike the band's melodic debut Parachutes. Ultimately, though, Ghost Stories never quite reaches the same heights as that album, with both critics put to sleep by Martin's (newfound) heartbreak-filled lyrics set to somber music that's molded in part by EDM producer Avicii and hip hop Timbaland. Jim and Greg both say Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 443
Lupe Fiasco's Food & Liquor (5th Anniversary Edition)Food and Liquor available on iTunes

Lupe Fiasco Food and Liquor

After being leaked and speculated about for months, the final version of Lupe Fiasco's debut solo album Food and Liquor was released this week. Lupe, or Wasalu Muhammed Jaco, has previously worked with fellow Chicagoan Kanye West, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z, who executive produced this album. The first single off the album, "Kick Push," is a modest hit, but both Jim and Greg think the song and the entire album deserve more attention. They love how Lupe weaves stories in such a unique way. He's a self-professed geek ("Kick Push" is about skateboarding and the album cover shows an image of the rapper floating through space with his trapper keeper) and you won't hear any typical hip-hop fare on this record. The music digs deep for its jazz and soul samples and doesn't depend on a plethora of cameo star producers. Both critics give Food and Liquor a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 43
Yell Fire!Yell Fire! available on iTunes

Michael Franti and Spearhead Yell Fire!

Politicially charged group Michael Franti and Spearhead has a new album out this week. Michael Franti's songwriting has ranged from R&B to funk to hip hop, and he's been a part of numerous groups including The Beatnigs and The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy. On this effort he expands his sound with the help of reggae greats Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare. Much of Yell Fire! was recorded in Kingston, Jamaica with the seminal Jamaican producers. While the album's sound is slightly different, the message is no less socially conscious. Franti recorded it after a trip to the Middle East in 2004, and has also released a documentary film based on his travels. Jim respects Franti's message, and strongly recommends people see the movie — but he thinks that the lyrics are weak and wishes Franti didn't sound like he was trying so hard with the reggae sound. His rating is on the cusp between Burn It and Trash It. Greg disagrees, and thinks the production and the dancehall beats were done well, but he has to agree with his co-host about many of the cheesier, U2-style ballads. It's a Burn It for Greg.

JimGreg
Go to episode 34
The Cherry ThingThe Cherry Thing available on iTunes

Neneh Cherry The Cherry Thing

For their final review, Jim and Greg turn to Neneh Cherry and her collaboration with Norwegian/Swedish jazz band The Thing. While Cherry's best known for her hip-hop inflected single "Buffalo Stance," jazz is in her musical DNA. Her stepfather, Don Cherry, was a renowned jazz trumpeter, and Neneh's first band, Rip Rig + Panic, attempted to merge free jazz with a punk sensibility. Still Greg admits, it was hard to imagine how Cherry's voice and Mats Gustafsson 's freewheeling sax could work together on her latest album, The Cherry Thing. He was pleasantly surprised. Cherry's voice is a versatile instrument. She samples hip-hop and trip hop styles and channels everyone from Billie Holiday to Yoko Ono. Still Jim says this album is unquestionably Cherry's, a feat even more impressive considering the material is almost all covers. This is a woman who can sing Iggy Stooge's“Dirt”and make it her own. Jim and Greg both say Buy It, making this an especially feel-good episode of Sound Opinions.

JimGreg
Go to episode 345
Hip Hop Is Dead (Bonus Track Version)Illmatic available on iTunes

Nas Illmatic

Rapper Nas had the number one album last week entitled Hip Hop is Dead. While Jim and Greg don‘t agree with that sentiment, there wasn’t much about the album that would prove otherwise. In fact, Jim muses that this record is "hip hop on life support." Nas first broke out with his album Illmatic when he was only 20 years old. He has only come close to topping that debut with singles like "Ether" that played on his rivalry with fellow New York rapper Jay-Z. Now, after what must have been epic peace accords, Nas has been signed to Jay-Z's Def Jam label. His new boss even appears on the track "Black Republicans." Both rappers have tremendous deft and flow, but Jay-Z has always been able to remain popular with songs of very little substance. Nas, by contrast, is better when he is using language to say something, not make party music. Both critics found Hip Hop is Dead empty, boring, and at times, a little schticky, and subsequently, it gets a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 58
Channel ORANGEchannel ORANGE available on iTunes

Frank Ocean channel ORANGE

Speaking of musicians who put their sexuality out there, rising R&B star Frank Ocean recently made the news when he wrote on his tumblr that he‘d fallen in love with a man when he was 19. That’s a bold statement coming from an artist linked to the outwardly homophobic hip-hop collective Odd Future. The buzz surrounding Ocean's major label debut channel ORANGEwas already intense given the success of his mixtape, last year's nostalgia, ULTRA. Does it live up to the hype? In short, yes. Jim thinks Ocean's a contender to be the next Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye. Not only is he bringing new sounds into R&B, but he's writing about money, sex, and class in a way that's honest and gimmick-free. What's getting him riled are those interstitial skits and snippets of conversation. They break the flow of the record and make channel ORANGE a Burn It for him. Greg echoes Jim's praise but isn't as bothered by the skits. For him this record is all about a singer telling emotion-packed stories. He gives channel ORANGE a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 347
Washington Square SerenadeWashington Square Serenade available on iTunes

Steve Earle Washington Square Serenade

The album up for review this week is Washington Square Serenade by veteran roots-rocker Steve Earle. This is Earle's 12th studio album, and was partly inspired by his 7th wife. The singer/songwriter has always combined rock, folk and country with strong political messages, but, now he's adding“happiness”to the mix. As you can hear in many of the album's songs, Earle is very much in love with new wife Allison Moorer, who also appears on the record. Another new person in Earle's life is Dust Brothers producer John King, who has previously crafted albums for Beck and the Beastie Boys. King brought in elements of hip hop and Latin music, and Jim loves the results. It took him longer to get into Washington Square Serenade, than any other Earle album, but with the exception of two bum tracks, he gives it a Try It. Greg is less pleased with the happy Steve Earle. He explains that with the new wife, producer and location, this effort has all the trappings of a“mid-life crisis”recording. Only some of it works for Greg, and he misses the political broadsides of previous albums. Greg also gives Washington Square Serenade a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 97
RelaxRelax available on iTunes

Das Racist Relax

Wesleyan University seems an unlikely springboard for a hip hop act, but Das Racist are anything but usual. The group gained a following after releasing some free mixtapes and appearing at this year's Pitchfork Music Festival. Now their full length debut is here. It's called Relax, and Greg explains that it's a fitting title. The two rappers, Heems and Kool A.D, appear to be very easy-going to those that aren't paying attention. But their songs are much more complicated. They combine humor with fantastic, dadaist references. Jim compares them to the Beastie Boys, or the Bomb Squad on drugs. Both hosts give Relax a Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 305
Rising Down (Bonus Version)Rising Down available on iTunes

The Roots Rising Down

Hip hop group The Roots released its 10th album this week, Rising Down. The band started out with a more neo-soul vibe, but as Greg points out, over the years The Roots have gotten a lot harder and edgier. Some of the album's songs are downright creepy, and Greg loves ?uestlove's drumming. But he can't go so far as to give it a Buy It. Jim has loved a number of Roots' albums, especially 1999's Things Fall Apart, but he finds their efforts inconsistent. This time around The Roots called in a number of guest stars, but Jim wishes they had stuck to their own members. Rising Down has some good moments, but both critics can only give it a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 127
TroubadourTroubadour available on iTunes

K'Naan Troubadour

Next up Jim and Greg review the second album from rapper K'Naan. In his songs K'Naan describes the tough streets he grew up on. And we believe him. Before settling in Ontario, K'Naan lived in Mogadishu. You can hear his African roots in the music, along with reggae and hip hop beats. Greg finds this hybrid really fresh. But, the record falls down when he tries to be too diverse. Greg gives Troubadour a Try It. Jim wonders if he's just in a better mood today. He agrees that some of the diverse cameos like Adam Levine and Kirk Hammett are totally unnecessary. But K'Naan has a strong voice and his songs have a strong sense of melody. The record gets a Buy It rating from Jim.

JimGreg
Go to episode 171
River: The Joni LettersRiver: The Joni Letters available on iTunes

Herbie Hancock River: The Joni Letters

So did Hancock deserve the award? Herbie Hancock is a critically acclaimed pianist who many listeners will remember for composing the 1983 jazz-hip hop fusion track "Rockit." But, according to Greg, this is a case of“right artist, wrong year.”Hancock's winning album River: The Joni Letters is by no means the musician's finest work. With the exception of the one track on which Joni Mitchell sings, most of the songs have unsuccessful vocals. Greg gives this“muzak”album a Burn It. Jim calls River a“stultifyingly mediocre record”that isn't a fair representation of the year in music. The Recording Academy might give the album an award, but he gives it a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 116
8-Bit Diagrams8 Diagrams available on iTunes

Wu-Tang Clan 8 Diagrams

It's been six years since pioneering hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan released an album, but now they're back with a new one called 8 Diagrams. Greg explains that you can‘t underestimate how groundbreaking and influential the group has been. They’re known for their spooky, layered sound, which often includes sci-fi and martial arts film clips, as well as their cryptic lyricism. There's not a whole lot of that on display on 8 Diagrams however. The group's central emcee, Ghostface Killah, appears to have put more effort into his solo album, The Big Doe Rehab. He's only on three of the Wu-Tang tracks, and has openly criticized the album. The one member who is fully invested in Wu-Tang is producer RZA. Both men could have benefited from some collaboration. Greg gives Wu-Tang's album a Burn It, and Ghostface's a Trash It. Jim appreciated the appearance of Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist John Frusciante, but he agrees with Greg 100%: Ghostface needs RZA, and RZA needs Ghostface.

JimGreg
Go to episode 106
Finding ForeverFinding Forever available on iTunes

Common Finding Forever

Chicago rapper Common has a new album out this week called Finding Forever. This is the former Sound Opinions guest's follow-up to his critically acclaimed 2005 release Be. Jim explains that this is a big year for Common. In addition to having a successful hat company, he‘ll appear in a number of movies this year. But, it’s music that is Common's priority, and Jim hopes that hip hop fans won't dismiss this effort as another conscious record from a“backpack rapper.”Common was schooled in traditional lyric writing, and he really demonstrates the power of words in these songs. On the Buy It, Try It, Trash It scale, Jim gives Finding Forever a Buy It. Greg also thinks this is a great record, but admits that it will pales in comparison to the groundbreaking Be. But, as Greg explains, more of a good thing is still a good thing. Common and Kanye West have continued their special collaboration which results in an old-fashioned, beginning-to-end album — something that is rare in contemporary hip hop. He also gives the new Common a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 88
Rebirth (Deluxe Version)Rebirth available on iTunes

Lil Wayne Rebirth

The final album this week is Rebirth, the highly anticipated rock record from Lil Wayne. The rapper has become one of the most important figures in hip hop, so people are anxious to hear how he sounds with a guitar. In fact, anxiety abounds with this release-even over the release date. To say that Jim and Greg were disappointed would be putting it mildly. Neither critic hears anything original on Rebirth and wonders why Lil Wayne would pick the worst elements of rock to use. It's a substandard, Neanderthal Linkin Park rip-off. In other words, it's a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 216
I'm New Here (Bonus Track Version)I'm New Here available on iTunes

Gil Scott-Heron I'm New Here

Gil Scott-Heron also has a new album out– his first in 16 years. The poet and protest singer helped to define hip hop today with his politically charged examinations of our culture. He's had a lot of trouble with drugs and the law in recent years, and these experiences have informed the new record, I'm New Here. Jim wishes Scott-Heron had looked out more than in. Not commenting on some of the changes in the world in the past decade seems like a missed opportunity. He also wishes the tracks hadn't been so overproduced. Jim gives I'm New Here a Trash It. Greg agrees that Scott-Heron's comments on recent events would‘ve been a welcome addition, but he gets the sense that the singer wasn’t present much in the last few years. It's sad for him to hear the patchwork songs, and he gives it a Burn It at best.

JimGreg
Go to episode 222
How I Got OverHow I Got Over available on iTunes

The Roots How I Got Over

If country music isn‘t your thing, maybe you’re a hip hop fan. The Roots have released a new album called How I Got Over. It's the Philly group's first record since becoming the house band for Late Night With Jimmy Fallon. The Roots have always had a great reputation as a live act, but Jim thinks that gives short shrift to their terrific recordings. This is a dark album, but also really inspirational, especially towards the end. Jim gives How I Got Over a Buy It rating. Greg agrees, adding that MC "Black Thought" and drummer "Questlove" are as strong as ever. The Roots get a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 241
Sir Lucious Left Foot... The Son of Chico Dusty (Deluxe Edition)Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty available on iTunes

Big Boi Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty

Outkast rapper Big Boi has released his first solo album called…wait for it… Sir Lucious Left Foot: The Son of Chico Dusty. Big Boi is often thought of as the more down to earth of the two Atlanta hip hop artists, but both Jim and Greg think the record is very inventive and ambitious. Greg does miss Andre 3000's presence, and thinks the two make each other better. But overall, Sir Lucious Left Foot is full of great beats and oddball touches and gets a Buy It rating. Jim agrees and was pleasantly surprised to hear these tracks, especially after all the torture that went into making it. It has a tad too many vulgar and juvenile lyrics, but he still thinks listeners should Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 242
Wake Up!Wake Up! available on iTunes

The Roots Wake Up!

During the Obama campaign R&B singer John Legend and hip hop group The Roots were inspired by the African-American community's rich tradition of socially conscious protest music. So they decided to put together an album of covers of these funk, soul and reggae gems called Wake Up! Legend and The Roots really show their encyclopedic knowledge of music with their choices, which, Greg notes, are not the big hits by artists like Donny Hathaway and Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes. He appreciates that scholarship and hopes this will turn a new generation on to these artists. But, his main issue is that they don't transcend the original. So he gives Wake Up! a Burn It rating. Jim has major problems with Legend's vocal performance, which doesn't match the emotional content of the songs. He wonders if he has a“tin ear”and gives the record a Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 251
ChallengersTwin Cinema available on iTunes

The New Pornographers Twin Cinema

The first album up for review this week is by the Canadian indie-pop supergroup The New Pornographers. Band leader A.C. Newman, along with Destroyer's Dan Bejar, Neko Case and a cast of other songwriters and musicians have recorded their fourth album together, Challengers. The album is another collection of melodic, hook-filled songs, but Greg admits that Bejar almost steals the record with his track, "Myriad Harbor," a power-pop meets hip-hop composition. He loves the tongue-in-cheek, carefree attitude of many of the songs, but doesn't think the album is as good as its predecessor, Twin Cinema. Because the energy level is uncharacteristically down for the band, Greg gives this New Pornographers effort a Try It. Jim was glad to hear the band went for something different. They did three albums of pure, effervescent pop, and now they've added orchestrations to the mix. He gives Challengers a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 90
The Healing ComponentThe Healing Component available on iTunes

Mick Jenkins The Healing Component

Mick Jenkins is a key player in the Chicago hip-hop scene Jim and Greg discussed earlier. After receiving national acclaim on his first mixtapes, the rapper has now released his first official album: The Healing Component. Jim picks up on a message of love flowing through the album. Jenkins calls for love as a solution to the problems of the black community, yet he's not simply being naive and sunny. He references Eric Garner's death and Black Lives Matter throughout, but ultimately is optimistic for the community. Jim says the album is brilliant and that Jenkins is an important new voice. Greg admires that Jenkins is not doing what everybody else is doing in hip-hop. Rather than work with big name producers, he's opted to create his own stoned, abstract jazzy sound. For Greg, this is what art is all about – the album is both community minded and pushing forward culturally. The Healing Component gets a double-Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 566
The Mountain Will FallThe Mountain Will Fall available on iTunes

DJ Shadow The Mountain Will Fall

DJ Shadow emerged in the early '90s as a major figure in the northern California underground hip-hop scene. His debut 1996 full-length Endtroducing….. was one of the earliest and greatest of sample-based albums. But when you make a masterpiece your first time out, where do you go from there? His latest album The Mountain Will Fall features fewer samples, more synths, and more collaborations – notably with rap luminaries Run the Jewels. Jim says the album is not an easy listen – there are tracks that seem frivolous or intentially grating. But after spending time with it, he finds the record a great soundtrack for ominous times and calls it a Buy It. Greg appreciates that DJ Shadow never repeats himself. Instead he's nodding to contemporary EDM, Italian classical music, and old school hip-hop and turntablism. Greg calls The Mountain Will Fall a fine record that isn't as cohesive as Endtroducing….., but still worthy of a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 554
Kingdom ComeKingdom Come available on iTunes

Jay-Z Kingdom Come

After a much-hyped“retirement,”Jay-Z has returned with a new album, Kingdom Come. While many folks take up pottery or flock to Florida during their retirement, the hip-hop star became a CEO, bought a basketball team, and made a number of cameos. Perhaps this life didn't satisfy J-Hova, because he was compelled to return to rapping after only three years. But, neither Jim nor Greg can understand the urgency. To them, he just sounds bored. This is not a new issue for Jay-Z — he's often been plagued with a great voice and very little to say. But Greg thinks Kingdom Come is his worst effort ever. The album gets two Trash Its.

JimGreg
Go to episode 52
Black America Again (feat. Stevie Wonder) - SingleBlack America Again available on iTunes

Common Black America Again

Common is one of the many hip-hop talents to come out of Chicago in the last 15 or so years. His masterful free-styling and charisma took him beyond music to an acting career that, at times, took away from his music career. Greg says his latest, Black America Again, is a return to the vitality of his early albums. He hears Common taking on the role of a“spiritual messenger”as he weaves together African-American history with music resulting in a concept album about the continuing struggle for full freedom for African-Americans. It is a Buy It for Greg. Jim wholeheartedly agrees, as Common's mastery of words mixes humor with super serious messages resulting in an honesty to his songs. Black America Again is a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 571
Run the Jewels 3Run the Jewels 3 available on iTunes

Run the Jewels Run the Jewels 3

Run the Jewels formed after Killer Mike enlisted El-P to produce his 2012 album R.A.P. Music and the two men immediately hit it off. Since then, the duo has released three albums, one cat remix record, and appeared on Sound Opinions. Greg says that RTJ has upped the intensity with each record, and the latest, Run the Jewels 3, is their finest yet. Greg finds both of them to be incredibly skilled emcees, providing dizzying momentum to their political calls to arms. Jim also admires their lyrics, but also notes the album's production. Musically, Run the Jewels creates an inventively dense sound collage, confirming for Jim that they are one of the most important duos in hip-hop today. Run the Jewels 3 gets a double-Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 581
DAMN.DAMN. available on iTunes

Kendrick Lamar DAMN.

Rapper Kendrick Lamar just released his latest album, DAMN. which follows his massive 2015 record To Pimp a Butterfly. Since his rise to prominence a few years ago, Lamar has become the standard to which other rappers and hip hop acts are measured. Jim finds DAMN. to be a“grower”that the listener appreciates with repeat listenings. While this record doesn‘t grab you in the same way as To Pimp a Butterfly, he loves Lamar’s latest effort. Between his enlightened lyrics and classic gangster rap sonics, Jim thinks this album is a Buy It. Greg agrees, as Kendrick shows a mastery of storytelling and flow with this record. And while the sound may be stripped down from previous albums, Kendrick is no less ambitious as he draws lines between street violence and American foreign policy. Greg says DAMN. is no less than a“masterpiece”making for a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 595
Nothing is Quick in The Desert

Public Enemy Nothing is Quick in the Desert

Earlier this month, Hip-hop stalwarts Public Enemy released their 14th album, Nothing is Quick in the Desert. The release was available as a free download for only a limited time; but can still be listened to on YouTube. Greg notes that the group has been around for thirty years, providing important, socially conscious rhymes on albums like 1988's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. This album attempts to continue that tradition. Jim can do without Flavor Flav, but Greg disagrees saying that the emcee adds“comic relief”and“flavor”to what can be an otherwise“heavy”group. However, Jim adds that Chuck D provides insightful, politically charged lyrics. Jim says that though half of the album is "as good as anything Public Enemy has given us", he can only give the record a Try It. If you are looking for the old Public Enemy, according to Greg your best bet is to seek out“old Public Enemy”music. But, the group is still an arena-rap draw, he says; and the material on the album will play better on the stage. In that context, Greg gives the album a Try It, as well.

JimGreg
Go to episode 608
American Gangster (Acappella)Kingdom Come available on iTunes

Jay Z Kingdom Come

This week Jay Z releases his tenth album, American Gangster. Inspired by the movie of the same name, the current king of hip hop (and possibly of all time), brings another dose of gangsta stories told with his trademark flow. In 2003, the rapper“retired,”and then un-retired. His return album, Kingdom Come, was a major disappointment to Jim and Greg, but Greg for one is pleased with what he's hearing on American Gangster. The stories are nothing new, but Greg loves the way Jay-Z crafts them. He is also returning to the '70s blaxploitation sound that infused one of his best albums, The Blueprint. While the mogul certainly doesn't need any cash, Greg gives this album a Buy It. Jim is less enthused. He loves the production, and was shocked to hear great beats from Sean“Diddy”Combs, but the lyrics are too much of a hurdle for him to get over. He wishes Jay Z's ideas were as complex and nuanced as those in the movie American Gangster and only gives the record a Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 102
Take Care (Deluxe Version)Take Care available on iTunes

Drake Take Care

Is the new album by rapper Drake another contender for the Turkey Shoot? According to Jim, yes. He really enjoyed the former Degrassi star's debut in 2010. But on Take Care, Jim just hears a young man whining about his wealth and fame. And worse, that whining stays in the same tempo for 17 tracks. Jim says Trash It. Greg had a completely different reaction. He thinks this sophomore effort is an improvement and doesn't hear whining as much as an honest depiction of what happens when fame shatters your moral compass. Greg also appreciates the way Drake blurs the lines between hip-hop and R&B. This host would encourage you to Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 312
Tha Carter IVTha Carter IV available on iTunes

Lil Wayne Tha Carter IV

Lil Wayne is fresh out of Rikers with the 4th album in his Tha Carter series, Tha Carter IV. But curiously, he doesn‘t give much time to his jail experience. For the past decade, he’s been one of the most successful rappers in the business, both with his releases and mixtapes, but also as an ever-present cameo fixture. Jim describes Weezy as an interesting producer, but he can't get over the hip-hop clich'es. Tell us about prison, he pleads. Without those insights, this is a Trash Italbum. Greg was surprised to find that the most interesting rapping on Tha Carter IV was not by Lil Wayne himself. Rather, guests like Andre 3000, Tech 9 and Busta Rhymes take the prize. So for those tracks alone, Greg says Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 301
Lasers (Deluxe Version)Lasers available on iTunes

Lupe Fiasco Lasers

Next up, Jim and Greg review the new album by Lupe Fiasco called Lasers. The Chicago hip-hop artist debuted in 2006 with Food and Liquor, showcasing a sensibility unique in rap. This third album was a labor, and not necessarily of love. Lupe has admitted to having real difficulties with his record company – difficulties that led to compromises on a lot of tracks. That said, Jim loves Lupe's lyrics and "1960s message." There are inflated choruses and too many guest stars, but his words trump it all. Jim says Buy It. Greg wishes he could agree, but it's too clear which tracks he was less involved in. He looks forward to the next effort, but for now says Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 276
Pick a Bigger WeaponPick a Bigger Weapon available on iTunes

The Coup Pick a Bigger Weapon

Switching gears, Jim and Greg next discuss Pick a Bigger Weapon, the fifth album from hip-hop group The Coup. They play a bit of "Laugh, Love, F@#*k" which sets the tone of the record according to Jim. The Coup is known for their lefist politics and electro-synth grooves, but this record was mostly recorded live. Rapper Boots Riley and DJ Pam the Funkstress are joined by Tom Morello, Dwayne Wiggins and members of Maze and The Gap Band for a funkier, psychedelic sound. Greg hears great grooves and enjoys how, like Desmond Dekker, The Coup combine politics with party music, but he can't really recommend most of Pick a Bigger Weapon. Jim believes he is being too kind. He explains that lyrically, many of the songs pander to the lowest common denominator, and he wishes that the grooves were tighter and more hypnotic. Therefore, this record gets a Burn It from Mr. Kot and a Trash It from Mr. DeRogatis.

JimGreg
Go to episode 27
In My MindIn My Mind available on iTunes

Pharrell In My Mind

The next album up for review is by superstar producer Pharrell. Pharrell Williams is best known as part of the production duo The Neptunes, who have crafted hits for everyone from Jay-Z to Justin Timberlake. He and partner Chad Hugo also recorded some of their own music as N.E.R.D. Now, Pharrell has branched out solo (or as solo as a hip-hop artist can be these days) with In My Mind. A quick glance at the number of hits credited to Pharrell might make this album seem like a no-brainer. But it festered without a release date for such a long time that it raised some eyebrows. And, after giving the record a listen, Jim and Greg can say that those suspicions were not unwarranted. Greg explains that for someone who makes his living creating innovative beats and catchy hooks, the lack of such a sound on this record was shocking. Jim agrees, and neither critic thinks that Williams has the chops or personality to be a solo star. Kanye West, a producer who actually managed this feat, collaborates with Pharrell on "Number One," but it's a dreadful showing from both artists. In My Mind gets a Trash It — and Sound Opinions wonders if Chad is the genius to look out for after all.

JimGreg
Go to episode 35
The Lady Killer (Deluxe Version)The Lady Killer available on iTunes

Cee Lo Green The Lady Killer

Cee Lo Green has evolved from hip hop front man to soul crooner to "Crazy" guy, and his latest solo effort is called The Lady Killer. Many listeners will already be familiar with his angry viral hit "F@*k You". And, the album is packed with even more oddball tracks. Jim loves the diversity of sounds and can‘t get enough of Cee Lo’s voice. Greg agrees, praising the more eccentric songs that don't follow the standard R&B formula. The Lady Killer gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 259
The Blueprint 3The Blueprint 3 available on iTunes

Jay-Z The Blueprint 3

Hip hop's top entrepreneur Jay-Z has a new album out called The Blueprint 3. It's the third in the rapper's Blueprint series. For the first he worked with then unknown producer Kanye West. Then for the second he invited a slew of big name guest stars. Now he splits the difference–West is back in the studio, as are guests like Timbaland. Greg finds the result split; half the tracks are good, half show the rapper on autopilot. Jim was also disappointed to hear that Jay-Z didn't really explore his life as a business man and celebrity husband in any unique way. But, the voice is still wonderful. It gets a double Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 198
Remind Me In 3 Days...Remind Me in 3 Days available on iTunes

The Knux Remind Me in 3 Days

The Knux is a hip-hop brother act originally from New Orleans. Their new album Remind Me in 3 Days follows the release of a successful MySpace hit "Cappuccino." Jim admits that they aren't the greatest of rappers, but he was blown away by their enthusiasm. That enthusiasm extends to the inventive production as well. Greg agrees, calling the duo“audacious.”But he notes that while they bring in lots of reference points, they are completely unpolished in a refreshing way. Both critics give The Knux debut a Buy It rating.

JimGreg
Go to episode 155
The RenaissanceThe Renaissance available on iTunes

Q-Tip The Renaissance

Q-Tip has released his first solo album in over a decade. The former A Tribe Called Quest member is hugely influential in the hip-hop world, so Jim and Greg were eager to hear The Renaissance. Jim thinks the rapper had a bit more to say back in the day, but finds his voice to still be great. Greg agrees and was happy to hear that there is nothing dated about the sound of the album compared to his last one. Both critics recommend fans Buy The Renaissance.

JimGreg
Go to episode 154
Sorry to Bother YouSorry to Bother You available on iTunes

The Coup Sorry to Bother You

Jim and Greg have their fingers crossed that Sorry to Bother You, the sixth album from Oakland-based hip-hop group The Coup, isn't a turkey. This band has been making consistently good agit-rap records since 1991, Greg says, but they remain best known for an unfortunate incident involving their cover art. Does the band deliver on Sorry to Bother You? Jim says yes. He wouldn't blame you for mistaking "The Magic Clap" for a new OutKast party anthem. The Coup has verged dangerously close to Rage Against the Machine self-righteousness in the past, he says, but on Sorry to Bother You, the band's got the“party to politics”ratio just right. Greg agrees and calls it the best Coup album yet. Sorry to Bother You gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 364
Imani, Vol. 1Imani Vol. 1 available on iTunes

Blackalicious Imani Vol. 1

Sacramento rap duo Blackalicious has had a huge influence on hip-hop over the past twenty years, crafting a more psychedelic Northern California sound than their LA counterparts. Imani Vol. 1 is their first album in a decade and, to Jim's ears, they haven't lost a step. Jim praises the complex, philosophical rhymes of Gift of Gab as he explores themes of perseverance and faith. Producer Chief Xcel continues to bring in sounds from across genres to create dense but accessible backgrounds. Greg appreciates that Blackalicious is picking up where they left off, not making a forced attempt at modernizing their sound. The record maintains the optimism and spirituality always present in their music, while also addressing the continuing struggles faced by African-Americans. Both critics are glad to have them back and give Imani Vol. 1 a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 512
Summertime '06Summertime ‘06 available on iTunes

Vince Staples Summertime ‘06

The year 2015 has been a prosperous time for rap and hip hop, with Fetty Wap, Wiz Khalifa, A.$.A.P. Rocky, and Silento dominating the charts. However, a new and different kind of artist has emerged with the debut album Summertime '06 from California rapper, Vince Staples. An ode to growing up in his native Long Beach, Greg finds Staples to be very talented in both writing and articulating his perspective. He compares Summertime '06 to early works by gangster rappers like N.W.A. and likes how he gives a lens into a culture that no one else is really talking about right now. It's a Buy It from Greg. Jim agrees and says that gangster rap can easily become misogynistic and pro-violence sounding, but that's not really what Staples is interested in doing. Jim compares him to artists like Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper, but wishes that Vince would write more about the sense of community and positivity in the neighborhoods like Kendrick and Chance do. However, he believes Staples is a very important voice and give Summertime '06 a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 505
To Pimp a ButterflyTo Pimp a Butterfly available on iTunes

Kendrick Lamar To Pimp a Butterfly

In terms of combined critical and commercial success, Kendrick Lamar may be the most important rapper to emerge this millenium since Kanye West. On To Pimp a Butterfly, the followup to his 2012 breakthrough Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, he's teamed up with high-profile producers like Pharrell Williams and Flying Lotus. Greg is floored by the album's macro-level themes, depicting the world as a kind of prison and engaging with racism, injustice, and black history in general. Equally stunning is the album's diverse musical range. Greg thinks Lamar is driving the sound of hip-hop forward while also looking back to the deepest roots of African-American music. Despite a few missteps, like a pretend interview with Tupac, Greg finds the ambition and execution flawless. Jim concurs. While he felt that Lamar didn't bring enough to the characters he played on his previous album, he now believes that Lamar is providing them with proper depth and context. He calls the record a musical smörgåsbord with its jazz underpinnings and its bevy of unexpected samples. To Pimp a Butterfly is a double-Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 487
Def Mask - SingleDef Mask available on iTunes

Divine Styler Def Mask

R&B singer D'Angelo wasn't the only artist to emerge from an extended hiatus last month. Brooklyn rapper Divine Styler also returned with a surprise album in December. Def Mask is his first new dose of radical hip-hop in almost 15 years. The album steers clear of Styler's previous pseudo-psychedelic rhymes and rhythms. Instead, it charts a course for the stars joining the ranks of prominent musical Afrofuturists like George Clinton and Janelle Monae in creating a dense, sci-fi-laden sound. Styler's impressive wordplay takes a leery look at today's technology obsessed culture, but despite its dark, neo-noir tone, the album is able to maintain a certain amount of optimism throughout. Def Mask is an ambitious undertaking that is at times both unsettling and uplifting and it marks a celebrated return for Divine Styler. Both Jim and Greg say Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 476
Port of MiamiPort of Miami available on iTunes

Rick Ross Port of Miami

Also making news this month is Miami rapper Rick Ross. Ross' single "Hustlin" has become the most downloaded ringtone of all time, and his new album Port of Miami, is proving to be one of the big hip-hop hits of the summer. Despite what the study above might have you believe, it is the“drugs”of“sex, drugs and rock and roll”that appear to be prevailing. Trap music is dominating the hip-hop charts, and the lyrics to "Hustlin," "Blow" and almost every other song on Port of Miami are about the joys of selling cocaine. Listening to the record was not such a joy for our hosts, however. While people like Ice-Tand Ghostface Killah have artfully written songs about the drug economy, Ross is not impressing Jim or Greg with anything new. Greg appreciates the bass-heavy production, but recommends listeners hear the music in a club setting, rather than in the confines of their own homes. this debut album gets a double Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 37
Because the InternetBecause the Internet available on iTunes

Childish Gambino Because the Internet

Next, Jim and Greg duke it out over Because the Internet, a new release from Childish Gambino, the hip-hop alias of comedian, writer, and "Community" star Donald Glover. Glover has been seen as a dabbler since he first entered the hip-hop scene back in 2008, but Jim thinks that this record cements his status as a bona fide rapper. Jim considers him a versatile lyricist, capable of waxing poetic on the digital era in one moment and spitting Borscht Belt one-liners the next. That makes Because the Internet“a fun ride,”and Jim would Buy It. Greg hears the versatility, but not the fun. The lyrics are clever, he admits, but Glover but comes off as mopey and emotionally uninvested, while saying nothing that hasn't already been said—a total Trash It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 421
Wise Up GhostWise Up Ghost available on iTunes

Elvis Costello & The Roots Wise Up Ghost

Some artist's choice of musical collaborators can either be a match made in heaven, or a deal made with the devil. English singer/songwriter Elvis Costello's lengthy career has got plenty of both. Jim thinks Costello's latest album, Wise Up Ghost, with legendary hip-hop group The Roots, is another miss—a clunky exercise in genre busting with Costello too far out of his element. Jim can hardly wait to Trash It. Greg is less annoyed with the looseness of the album, finding Costello and The Roots more or less in sync, and the songwriting strong enough in the first half of the album to keep the whole thing afloat. Greg says Burn It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 410
Game Theory (Bonus Track Version)Game Theory available on iTunes

The Roots Game Theory

Philadelphia hip-hop group The Roots have an album up for review entitled Game Theory. The rappers and musicians largely changed the way hip-hop was perceived by incorporating live instrumentation and rock-style jams into their recordings and performances. Greg has always been a fan, and loves songs like the dark track "In the Music," but doesn‘t think the record is consistent enough. There’s an entire eight minutes of music dedicated to the recently departed producer J Dilla that he can't really excuse—so he gives it a Burn It. Jim believes Game Theory is the best record the group has done since 1999's Things Fall Apart. He loves the dark tone of the record and emotional content of the lyrics, and doles out a Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 39
MosquitoMosquito available on iTunes

Yeah Yeah Yeahs Mosquito

During the 2000s, two bands forged a New York garage rock revival: The Strokes and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Two weeks ago, Jim and Greg eviscerated Comedown Machine, The Strokes' fifth studio effort. This week, they take on the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' latest, Mosquito. Is this yet another case of early promise and later disappointment? Jim says“no way.”The album art might turn his stomach, but he's digging Mosquito, which shows the band experimenting with musical styles from gospel to hip-hop. Unlike The Strokes' similar genre experiments, Jim says Mosquito sounds organic, not contrived. Greg agrees. He was a big fan of lead singer Karen O's 2003 song "Maps," so he's glad to hear more of her emotional vocals on this record. Mosquito gets a double Buy It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 385
Idlewild

Outkast Idlewild

In the news this week is the release of one of the most highly anticipated albums of the year: Outkast's Idlewild. This is the sixth album from André Benjamin (André 3000) and Antwan Patton (Big Boi), a hip-hop duo who have become major figures in pop music, as well as pop culture. 2003's double concept album Speakerboxx/The Love Below received huge amounts of critical acclaim, as well a Grammy Award for "Album of the Year," and singles like "Bombs Over Baghdad," "Rosa Parks," and "Hey Ya," will go down as some of music's best. So Jim and Greg anxiously awaited this release, which is paired with a film of the same name. Unfortunately, they both had to announce that this is one of the biggest disappointments of the year—and André may be to blame. The melding of his experimental style with Big Boi's more classic hip-hop sound is what made Outkast great, but he seems to have really left the building on this one. Jim and Greg wish the record was less about unnecessary guest stars, faux 1930s inspiration, and eccentricity for eccentricity's sake, and more about good songs. This double album gets a heartbreaking double Trash It. (Outkast fans would be better off checking out Big Boi's recent mixtape, Got Purp? Vol 2.)

JimGreg
Go to episode 38
YeezusYeezus available on iTunes

Kanye West Yeezus

For the past decade, Kanye West has been the dominant force in hip-hop - maybe even all of pop, Jim says. And this week he came out with album no. six, Yeezus. West's last solo record, 2010's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, featured rich, radio-friendly production. On Yeezus, West has scaled back the lushness, if not the egomania. Greg says he hears everything from Chicago drill music to industrial influences on this“brutally minimalist”record. Forget the radio audience - Yeezus is about Kanye and his anger. Thematically, that means lots of songs about freedom and control, Greg says, and West's perception that, for all his sucgicess, he is still being denied a place at the“big boy table”where his fellow business and media moguls sit. Potent stuff, but West's downfall, both Jim and Greg agree, is the sloppily racist and misogynistic lyrics he relies. On the basis of the music alone, Jim says, Yeezus is a Buy it, but the lyrics are trash. Yeezus gets a double Try It.

JimGreg
Go to episode 395
dijs

Jim

“Sour Times”Portishead

It's Jim's turn to select a song to take with him to the desert island this week. His DIJ pick was inspired by the two albums reviewed in the show. Amy Winehouse considers herself a modern day Nina Simone, and Timbaland uses a Nina Simone sample in his song "Oh Timbaland." Jim is in favor of referencing the past, but wanted to go back to a band that was able to bring a hip hop attitude to classic '60s soul and jazz much more successfully than Winehouse ever could. That band is Portishead. Portishead came out of England during the 1990s as part of the "trip-hop" movement. While their tenure was short (though word is they are making music again), Jim is still impressed by the group's ability to merge American hip hop with British psychedelia with early soul and R&B. The album he urges listeners to go back to is 1994's Dummy, and the track he wants to add to the Desert Island Jukebox is "Sour Times."

Go to episode 71

Jim

“Ladies First”Queen Latifah,Monie Love,Queen Latifah

Jim dropped a coin in the Desert Island Jukebox this week and, inspired by Cardi B, selected "Ladies First" by Queen Latifah featuring Monie Love. Jim says that "female empowerment in hip hop starts with this phenomenal single," which was released in 1989. He loves the way "these women say we can do this, [and] we are not going to listen to anyone who says we can't." He notes that many people think of Queen Latifah primarily as an actress today, but“when she was on her game in hip hop, nobody was better.”

Go to episode 647

Jim

“The Message”Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Sylvia Robinson passed away last week at the age of 75. One half of Mickey and Sylvia, Robinson earns her place in the music history books through her contributions as a businesswoman. She co-founded Sugar Hill Records, which pioneered early hip-hop. To honor Robinson, Jim decides to take one of Sugar Hill's most significant tracks to the Desert Island Jukebox: "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The track demonstrated that rap music could not only get people moving, but could inspire and spread a message.

Go to episode 306

Jim

“Whatta Man”Salt-N-Pepa,En Vogue,Linda Lyndell

Recently Jim's better half was watching VH1 promos of the new TLC biopic. It got him thinking about better R&B and hip hop groups from the '90s like Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue. The two came together in 1993 for "Whatta Man." To Jim, this is a girl group sound at its best—with En Vogue's“perfect”choruses and Salt-N-Pepa's witty verses over a sample of Linda Lyndell's original 1968 hit Jim wants this funky tribute to“a God-sent original, the man of my dreams”on his Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 416

Jim

“Someday”The Strokes

Just as Rhymefest was inspired by The Strokes' song "Someday," which he sampled in his track "Devil's Pie," Jim, too, was inspired to choose it as his Desert Island Jukebox song. While the Strokes don't have a typical hip-hop sound, Jim explains that their rhythms, which echo a New York subway train, have a very hip-hop beat and momentum. The man largely responsible for that sound is drummer Fabrizio Moretti, who Jim admires for being a masterful, simplistic drummer, if not for a few other reasons.

Go to episode 33

Greg

“Eggman”The Beastie Boys

Greg's DIJ selection this week was inspired by his discussion with Professor Lawrence Lessig. Thinking about fair use, free culture and digital copyright law got this rock critic downright nostalgic for the days when great art was made using other people's art. "Eggman" by The Beastie Boys is a perfect example of this. The song was released on Paul's Boutique, the hip hop trio's follow-up to their successful, albeit frat boy-ish, debut License to Ill. The group linked up with production team The Dust Brothers to create a sonic collage of samples, beats, loops and raps. In“Eggman”alone, astute listeners can hear parts of the songs "Superfly" and "Bring the Noise," bits of dialogue from Taxi Driver and E.T., as well as the film scores to Jaws and Psycho. Sadly, shortly following the release of Paul's Boutique, a series of lawsuits made sampling on this level too risky and too cost-prohibitive. Listening to“Eggman”is enough to send a music fan into mourning. Thankfully the Desert Island Jukebox will keep it safe for posterity.

Go to episode 134

Greg

“Egg Man”The Beastie Boys,The Beastie Boys

Greg's Desert Island Jukebox selection this week was inspired by his discussion with Professor Lawrence Lessig. Thinking about fair use, free culture and digital copyright law got this rock critic downright nostalgic for the days when great art was made using other people's art. "Egg Man" by The Beastie Boys is a perfect example of this. The song was released on Paul's Boutique, the follow-up to the hip hop trio's successful (albeit frat boy-ish) debut Licensed to Ill. The group linked up with production team The Dust Brothers to create a sonic collage of samples, beats, loops and raps. In "Egg Man" alone, astute listeners can hear parts of the songs "Superfly" and "Bring the Noise", bits of dialogue from Taxi Driver and E.T., as well as the film scores to Jaws and Psycho. Sadly, shortly following the release of Paul's Boutique, a series of lawsuits made sampling on this level too risky and too cost-prohibitive. Listening to "Eggman" is enough to send a music fan into mourning. Thankfully the Desert Island Jukebox will keep it safe for posterity.

Go to episode 12

Greg

“Work It”Missy Elliott

It is Greg's turn to pop a quarter into the Desert Island Jukebox, but this week he had a hard time choosing just one song. According to our host, hip hop star Missy Elliott is the top singles artist of the last 10 years. Along with producers like Timbaland, she makes truly avant-garde music, but does so in a really fun, accessible way. Therefore, it's no wonder that her songs are hits critically and commercially. For this week's show, Greg went with the song "Work It." The song demonstrates Missy's novel approach to sounds and words. It isn‘t really about anything new, but the lyrics, beats and sounds (note the elephant’s wail) couldn't sound fresher. In fact, only Missy Elliott could get away with having the hook to a Top 40 hit be sung backwards. So, you may not be able to sing along to this week's DIJ, but you'll certainly want to.

Go to episode 117

Greg

“Hole in the Bucket”Spearhead

After listening to K'Naan discuss the challenge of fitting into the record industry's boxes, Greg is reminded of another hard-to-define act-Michael Franti and Spearhead. They combined hip hop, funk and reggae in their 1994 debut Home. To Greg, Franti is one of the great political singers of all time, and he chooses to add the song "Hole in the Bucket," from Home to the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 231

Jim

Thundercat left a bad taste in Jim's mouth but it did get him thinking about other artists that could be considered alternative hip hop. And the band that came to his mind was one that has never been discussed on Sound Opinions: Arrested Development. The socially conscious hip hop collective garnered huge critical and commercial success with its first album 3 Years, 5 Months And 2 Days In The Life Of… but never captured that same praise again despite a long recording career. Jim says the message and the melody of the 1992 track Tennessee secures its slot in the Desert Island Jukebox.

Go to episode 589

Greg

“I used to love H.E.R.”Common

Bummed by what he sees as Common's recent descent into mediocrity, Greg charts a craft for the desert island. He takes us back to the Chicago rapper's glory days in the early nineties, when he released "I Used To Love H.E.R.". SHE - if you haven‘t already guessed it - isn’t a woman. She's a metaphor for the golden age of hip-hop (H.E.R. stands for Hearing Every Rhyme). Common loved that scrappy city kid who grew up to be a beautiful Afrocentric woman in New York City, and he's disappointed when she goes West Coast and gets corrupted by show biz. There's more than a bit of irony here. As Greg reminds us, Common's lament for classic hip-hop is a hip-hop classic.

Go to episode 295

Greg

“Work It”Missy Elliott

It is Greg's turn to pop a quarter into the Desert Island Jukebox, but this week he had a hard time choosing just one song. According to our host, hip-hop star Missy Elliott is the top singles artist of the last 10 years. Along with producers like Timbaland, she makes truly avant-garde music, but does so in a really fun, accessible way. Therefore, it's no wonder that her songs are critical and commercial hits. For this week's show, Greg went with the song "Work It." The song demonstrates Missy's novel approach to sounds and words. It isn‘t really about anything new, but the lyrics, beats and sounds (note the elephant’s wail) couldn't sound fresher. In fact, only Missy Elliott could get away with having the hook to a Top 40 hit be sung backwards. So, you may not be able to sing along to this week's DIJ, but you'll certainly want to.

Go to episode 25

Greg

“It's Like That”Kurtis Blow,Jimmy Spicer,Run-D.M.C.,Run-D.M.C.

Before getting any further into 2015, Greg wants to pay tribute to one last musical talent the world lost in 2014: Pioneering hip-hop producer Larry Smith. Often overshadowed in the history books by co-producer Russell Simmons, Smith played a vital role in shaping the early sound of hip-hop, both lyrically and sonically. Before producing the oft-sampled "Money (Dollar Bill Y'all)" by Jimmy Spicer, Smith co-wrote "The Breaks" with Kurtis Blow. Later, on Run-D.M.C.'s first album, Smith pushed for stripping down the production and bringing hard-hitting drums and lyrics to the fore with just a sprinkling of synthesizer. The epitome of this minimalist approach can be heard on Run-D.M.C.'s first single "It's Like That," which arguably laid the foundation for many of today's top hip-hop tracks and is Greg's Desert Island Jukebox pick of the week.

Go to episode 476

Greg

“Thin Line”Jurassic 5

While on a recent nostalgia trip through late 90's, early 2000's hip-hop, Greg spent some time on the West Coast, which at that time was experiencing an underground hip-hop renaissance led up by the likes of DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born and Jurassic 5. Greg especially loves L.A.'s Jurassic 5, as it was the antithesis to the better-known, yet simplistic, gangster rap coming out of the city. Throughout the group's four album run, its four MCs and one DJ (sometimes two) exercised a consistently complex musicality and often employed narrative lyrics that were at their most effective on a track like, "Thin Line." This thoughtful song about the pitfalls of a man-woman friendship turning into something more comes off the group's third album, Power in Numbers, and is Greg's Desert Island Jukebox pick of the week.

Go to episode 469
lists

Devil Songs for Halloween

Whether or not you agree rock ‘n’ roll is the devil's music, Lucifer sure is a major player in pop. From Robert Johnson to "Sympathy for the Devil," beelzebub gets name dropped as much as the latest hip-hop sensation. Here are Jim and Greg's favorites to get you in the Halloween mood:

Go to episode 517
rock doctors

Pat

In the HMO-free universe of the Rock Doctors, everyone is entitled to better musical health. This week's patient is Pat from Chicago, IL. Pat wrote to Sound Opinions H.Q. for advice on how to get better acquainted with hip hop, and we immediately set her up for an appointment with Drs. Kot and DeRogatis. Pat explains that she's generally fairly hip to music, preferring doses of Bob Dylan, Wilco and Galaxie 500. But when it comes to hip hop, she's clueless, and in an effort to expand her musical horizons and have some music in common with her rap-loving nephews, she asks for some guidance.

Greg gives the first prescription. He's not sure if his approach will be too radical, but judging from Pat's tastes, he decides to go out on a limb. He recommends the patient listen to Outkast's fourth album Stankonia. Greg admits to Pat that some moments might be slightly too "gangsta" or misogynistic for her, but he hopes that the first-rate songwriting and bold beats of tracks like "Ms. Jackson" will win her over.

Jim's prescription is 3 Feet High and Rising, the classic hip hop album by De La Soul. Jim thinks Pat will respond well to the creative stories being told by the three geeky hippies from Long Island. He also thinks she will appreciate some of the more recognizable samples, like Hall and Oates' song "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)."

A week later Pat finishes her treatment and reports back to the doctors. She starts off by breaking the bad news to Greg: Stankonia is not for her. She felt there were too many misogynistic moments like the song, "We Luv Deez Hoez," and wouldn‘t feel comfortable sharing this album with her nephews. But, on the brighter side, she really enjoyed the De La Soul album. It’s definitely something she could see herself listening to in the future, and she particularly liked the song, "Eye Know," which samples both Steely Dan and Otis Redding. So, while the treatment wasn't a total success, Pat is on the road to better musical health. And, more importantly, she now has more hip bragging rights with her friends.

Go to episode 90

Dan

Health care reform is a huge issue for every American - even rock fans. This week Jimand Greg again become Rock Doctors to help a listener with a musical-medical problem. Their patient: the newly 40-year-old Dan from Oakland, CA. Dan contacted Sound Opinions complaining of a musical midlife crisis. He spends most of his time listening to FM radio, which these days is dominated by commercial countryand hip-hop. What he likes about country music and hip-hop is the storytelling, so that is where Jim and Greg start with their prescriptions.

Dr. DeRogatis recommends former Grandaddy frontman Jason Lytle's debut solo record Yours Truly, the Commuter. Lytle isn‘t a country singer, but he weaves complicated tales in his music. And as Dan explains, just add a pickup truck and a bottle of beer to some of his stories, and you’re all set.

Dr. Kot prescribes Real Animal by Alejandro Escovedo. The rock veteran takes a musical tour of his life, referencing a number of artists that influenced him along the way. Dan was completely sucked in by this rock life story and will definitely take this medicine again.

Check out Jim and Greg's conversations with Jason Lytle and Alejandro Escovedo.

To apply for an appointment with the Rock Doctors or nominate someone in need of urgent assistance, send a message to interact@soundopinions.org.

Go to episode 193

Family Practice

Time now for The Rock Doctors to open up the clinic. Every so often Jim and Greg like to give back, so to speak, and help some listeners with an ailment of a musical variety. Whether someone is allergic to hip hop or addicted to jam bands, our hosts hope they can provide the right musical prescription. Heck, they've even taken an appointment with Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman.

Before they get to their main appointment of the episode, they run over to the emergency room to take a call from Anne in Philadelphia. Anne is getting married next month and has been racking her brain to come up with a good song for the“Father/Daughter”dance. Problem is, Dad is something of a music expert who likes to dig deep for his wedding selections. But songs like Leadbelly's "Ain't It A Shame" don‘t hit the right emotional chord (and aren’t exactly crowd pleasers).

So, Anne wants to know what Drs. Kot and DeRogatis would recommend? Greg goes first, suggesting "The Way You Look Tonight." Sure, this Oscar-winner could be an obvious choice, but it's the lesser-known version by The Jaguars that Greg prescribes. Jim takes a cue from one of rock's best Dads, Loudon Wainwright III (father to Martha and Rufus and Marshall). His song "Daughter" has the perfect mix of humor and sentimentality.

Jim and Greg call their next two patients in from the waiting room. Doug and Susan have been happily married for 18 years. But they've never been able to get along…musically. Doug is a Presbyterian minister with an indie rock past who remains as passionate as ever about music. He loves jangly pop and expansive Spector-esque production, but doesn't give a lick about lyrics. Susan, he tells our nurse, is stuck in "Classic Rock Hell and '70s Rock Purgatory." She still favors FM rock like Jimmy Buffett and Little Feat, and has little tolerance for Doug's“trash can music”and fondness for“whiny broads.”So the doctors are tasked with finding this couple something new they can listen to together.

Jim begins by recommending a dose of the California quartet Delta Spirit. He couldn‘t resist prescribing Susan a band that actually uses trash cans, but more he thinks the couple will appreciate the group’s emotional and spiritual lyrics. Greg prescribes Arrow by Heartless Bastards. On their 4th release the Ohio group finally has the songs to match the intensity of Erika Wennerstrom's vocals. And they reference much of the classic rock and soul that Susan favors.

So how did the medicine go down? Doug gives a Buy It to Delta Spirit, noting that Matthew Vasquez can really sing. Susan still just hears this as something up Doug's alley. Doug also appreciated Heartless Bastards, but despite Wennerstrom's singing style, not because of it. He's curious to see the band live, but didn‘t fall in love with the record. Susan liked the direction Greg went in more, but again, didn’t find a winner in Heartless Bastards. But both husband and wife enjoyed the process of listening to and critiquing music…and that's all the Doctors can really ask for!

Do you need to consult with the Rock Doctors? Or know someone who does? Fill out a patient form and send it to interact@soundopinions.org.

Go to episode 335
features

SXSW '06

This week on the show, Jim and Greg share their recent experiences at the SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. Our hosts joined over 10,000 other festival registrants to attend music industry panels, conduct interviews, and most importantly, see new bands. In the four days they were there, Jim and Greg heard a lot of music. They share some of the best with you.

  • First is The Dresden Dolls. Jim went to see the Boston group and fell in love with their blend of German cabaret performance style and '80s synth-pop melodies. You can hear a little bit of "Modern Moonlight" off their upcoming release, Yes Virginia.

  • Next up, Greg discusses one his finds: Art Brut. He enjoyed this British band's straightforward melodies, catchy choruses, and witty monologues so much that he saw them twice in Austin. This critic even scrawled“New Kings of Rock”in his notebook following one performance. Jim joined him to see the band at the Pitchfork/Windish party, where they shared a bill with RJD2, Spank Rock, and one of Greg's other discoveries, Swedish indie pop quintet Love is All. Art Brut, who just recently played a sold-out show at the Metro, entertained the entire staff so much that they were invited to appear on the show the week after the festival wrapped. Listen for that interview in the weeks to come.

Beastie Boys at SXSW 2006

  • In between running from show to show, Jim and Greg took a brief moment to sit down with The Beastie Boys. The hip-hop pioneers were down in Austin to promote their recent concert film, Awesome; I Fucking Shot That, and spoke to Jim and Greg about making the movie, sampling, copyright laws, and the longevity of their career.

  • Back to the rundown of our hosts‘ favorite Austin discoveries. Jim’s next pick, The Black Angels, actually hails from the Texas state capital. After reading Jim's book on psychedelic rock, members of the band contacted him and explained that they were right up his alley. They were right. Jim, who caught some of the dark, Velvet Underground-influenced music in the sterile environment of Austin Convention Center, was totally blown away. To describe the band, he quotes their website which begs the listener to "Picture a red moonlit night, deep in the heart of Texas, with the ghosts of Nico and Timothy Leary being called back from the dead to guide you on a journey through Heaven & Hell and back again." Whoa, man…

  • Greg loves coming to Austin to see bands that may not get to the States otherwise. One such band is Serena Maneesh. The Norwegian group is one of many contemporary bands compared to My Bloody Valentine. Often referred to as“shoegazers,”these musicians are often literally standing, staring at their shoes, while producing a heavy, overdriven, almost symphonic guitar sound. Serena Maneesh is certainly channeling this influence — however, as Greg explains, this band is also quite performative. Our host describes how the lead guitar player, theatrically dressed as a gypsy showman, was joined by an“Amazonian”bass player. Only during SXSW can you see this in Texas, notes Jim.

Tim Fite at SXSW 2006

  • We next hear some audio of Jim recorded down in Austin. He is describing one of his favorite acts: Tim Fite. Some may remember Fite's previous incarnation in Little T and One Track Mic and their one hit, "Shaniqua." But after getting signed to Atlantic and touring with Outkast, Little T went nowhere. Now, Fite has reinvented himself as a 1920s southern preacher/rapper who combines an O Brother, Where Art Thou? sound with irreverent lyrics and hip-hop. Gone Ain't Gone is forthcoming on Anti-/Epitaph, making Fite label mates with Neko Case and Blackalicious.

  • The Swedish band Love is All (mentioned above) is another of Greg's discoveries. This Swedish indie-pop group is one of many European bands who are rediscovering American music. This band is particularly influenced by musicians like James Chance and the Contortions and Lydia Lunch who fused both jazz and punk. Love is All became Greg's go-to CD while he was driving around the city of Austin.

  • Listeners can now hear what Jim and Greg really sound like at SXSW: definitely over-tired, and perhaps over-served. Our hosts caught up with Sound Opinions H.Q. immediately after going to see Rhys Chatham at Austin's Central Presbyterian Church, an experience they described as slightly mind-blowing. The avant-garde guitarist has basically been living in exile in Paris for the past decade, but emerged in Austin with a newly-formed guitar army: eight guitarists including Doug McCombs of Eleventh Dream Day and Tortoise, Ernie Brooks of The Modern Lovers and Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth. Jim reports that Chatham recently received a grant allowing him to realize his long-fantasized 100-member guitar ensemble.

  • One of the SXSW events Greg always tries to attend is Alejandro Escovedo's Sunday night show. This year Grady was one of the opening acts. Greg found their huge, overpowering sound on par with that of Chatham's guitar army. He also compares their sound to that of ZZ Top's early days. Listen for yourself as Greg plays a sample of their 2004 release Y.U. So Shady?

  • White Whale is Jim's final discovery. He caught the band at the Merge showcase, a label that usually delivers for this critic. He was again not disappointed. White Whale, whose members have been in a number of other indie rock bands including Butterglory, Three Higher Burning Fire and The Get Up Kids, impressed Jim with more than just its name. He found their sound to be a mix of Nick Drake and Pink Floyd, and also reminiscent of Elephant Six bands like Apples in Stereo and Neutral Milk Hotel. So far their music can only be heard on Myspace.com, but White Whale may turn out to be another SXSW success story.

  • Greg's final pick is a band called Katahdin's Edge. He caught the group after originally trying to see a Finnish band who couldn‘t make it into the country. He was blown away, and despite getting thousands of free CDs for his day job, Greg was compelled to put down his own money for a Katahdin’s Edge album. This trio from Providence is an example of how jazz and rock can fuse in a great way. Rather than take an academic approach to jazz, Katahdin's Edge had a rock and roll, party edge that Greg really appreciated.

  • Greg was also caught on tape before and after seeing the biggest hype of this year's festival: The Arctic Monkeys. This has been quite the year for the young British band. In January they broke records for first-week sales in the U.K. with their debut release Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not. In addition, they‘ve been proclaimed by many in the press as the greatest band to emerge from the U.K. in years. That’s a lot for a new band to live up to, but Greg was pleased with what he saw. While the Arctic Monkeys may not be what their hype claims, the music was well-rehearsed, packed with rhythm, and downright“ferocious”according to our host. Plus, the lead singer already seems to have the rock and roll attitude down.

Go to episode 18

Sample Platter: Kraftwerk

Often overlooked is Krautrock's influence on hip-hop. So and Jim and Greg present another installment of Sample Platter, where Jim and Greg take a look at chart toppers that prominently feature a unique sample. This week, they analyze how Krautrock has influenced hip-hop artists for decades. Jim and Greg discuss how artists from Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force to Kanye West have sampled Kraftwerk and Can to create new pieces of music that still evoke the industrial rhythm of the streets.

Go to episode 583

Sample Platter: James Brown's "Funky Drummer"

Stubblefield's drumming also formed the rhythmic basis of hip-hop, with his breaks being sampled hundreds of times. Most famously, a few bars of his playing on "Funky Drummer" from 1970 has become one of the most sampled pieces of music of all time. Jim and Greg do a Sample Platter, charting the track's use in dozens of rap and pop hits, from Public Enemy to LL Cool J to George Michael.

Go to episode 587

Rock & The Occult

occultcover Ozzy Osbourne famously serenaded "Mr. Crowley," in his 1980 track. But, poet, novelist and noted occultist Alesteir Crowley has been name-checked, celebrated and explored in hundreds of rock songs. And he's just one example of how the occult has influenced rock and roll, or how it saved it, according to author Peter Bebergal. He talks to Jim and Greg about his new book Season of the Witch: How the Occult Saved Rock and Roll on this Halloween edition of the show. First off, we're not talking about satanism here. There's no great definition of“occult,”because it carries so much baggage. But Bebergal explains that occult beliefs are a conglomerate of bits of mythology, religion and actual experience, which take the form of mystical or other states of altered consciousness. Despite darker connotations, occult beliefs attempt to understand reality in a way traditional religious practice cannot or chooses not to explore.

Then Jim and Greg get into the music. The occult has trickled into popular music since early blues recordings at the beginning of the last century. That evolved into the hoodoo-inspired sounds of Elvis Presley, the mystical references to the east in the music of The Beatles and Led Zeppelin and even the Illuminati imagery of modern hip-hop.

For more great occult tunes, check out Peter Bebergal's playlist by following us at Beats Music.

Go to episode 465
news

Music News

Last week the Atlanta Police Dept., in conjunction with the RIAA, raided the Aphilliates Music Group office in Atlanta. The result was the confiscation of 81,000 mixtape CDs and the arrest of DJ Drama. Drama is one of the top mixtape DJs working today, having created pre-release buzz for rappers like T.I., Young Jeezy and Lil' Wayne. 50 Cent, Lupe Fiasco and The Clipse can also credit mixtape CDs with laying the foundation for their careers, and many of the best hip hop tracks released each year are put out by these underground DJs and not by the major labels. The question is why some members of the record industry are now treating this useful form of publicity as contraband. Jim and Greg invite hip hop historian and journalist Jeff Chang to join them in a discussion of the role of mixtapes in hip hop and the effects of this recent raid on the rap industry.

Go to episode 61

Music News

First in the news, the state of Illinois may impose a tax on digital music and film downloads in order to help bail out its $13 billion deficit. If the legislature approves Governor Quinn's proposal, Illinois would join 19 other states that currently have such a tax and be able to get $10 million revenues annually. Per usual, this has prompted partisan debate, but Jim and Greg doubt either party is much concerned with the music fan's perspective.

One of rock's biggest stars, Paul McCartney, is going indie. The former Beatle has announced a plan to take his solo catalog from major label EMI and move it to the independent Concord label. McCartney previously worked with Concord as part of his now defunct Starbucks Hear Music deal. EMI is one of 4 big music companies dominating the industry these days, and as Jim and Greg explain, these labels depend on back catalog revenue. It takes little overhead to repackage an album from an artist like McCartney, and they can reissue it over and over again to new consumers.

Jim and Greg next discuss rapper Guru who died last week. The hip hop artist moved to New York City just in time for the genre's golden age. He developed alongside Public Enemy, Run DMC and Tribe Called Quest, to name a few. Guru joined up with DJ Premier to form Gang Starr, a duo with a revolutionary sound fusing rap with jazz. This, along with his fluid vocal style, made Gang Starr one of hip hop's most influential acts. To honor the late artist, Jim and Greg play "Jazz Thing," a track from the Mo' Better Blues soundtrack featuring jazz musician Branford Marsalis.

Go to episode 230

Music News

The list of possible inductees for next year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ceremony has been announced. Among the first-time nominees are Kiss, LL Cool J, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Genesis. But there are some old faces, too. ABBA, The Stooges, and Donna Summer have all been up for induction before. Jim and Greg think they deserve recognition, but also have a healthy dose of skepticism whenever they talk about the Hall of Fame. It's notoriously conservative and often overlooks more fringe genres. Plus, as Jim explains, winners always run the risk of being encased in glass and wax in Cleveland.

A heavy debate on piracy and the internet is brewing in Europe. First, the controversial“Three Strikes”law in France has passed in the French assembly. This means that if a French citizen is caught downloading illegally three times, he or she will lose internet access and be subject to fines up to $450,000. Their neighbors in the U.K. are also concerned about this issue. British pop stars like Radiohead, Annie Lennox, and Robbie Williams are members of the Featured Artists Coalition, which recently released a statement coming down firmly on the side of the consumer and defending internet file-sharing as a promotional tool for up-and-coming artists. But artists like Lily Allen and James Blunt have taken the other side. Jim and Greg find this to be a bit ironic considering Allen's use of MySpace early in her career.

Before they launch into reviews of new fall albums, Jim and Greg take a look at how things are going on the charts. The Beatles are still the big winners, selling more than 2 million albums worldwide in just five days. But, as Jim points out, this is a fraction of what they might have sold back in the CD heyday of 1992, and a fraction of what they might have sold digitally. Another big chart winner is Jay-Z, who sold almost 300,000 albums of The Blueprint 3. Hip hop still dominates the charts, with big-selling albums by Drake, Lil Boosie, and Kid Cudi, whom Jim and Greg discuss later in the show.

Go to episode 200

Music News

Last year, Apple purchased Beats headphones and its streaming service for $3 billion. This was an attempt to get away from the already antiquated iTunes method of paying to download a song. On June 8, Apple unveils what the new Beats will look like. The Wall Street Journal has reported a subscription will cost $10/month and there will be no free tier like on Spotify. Beats has also paid millions to Pharrell and Drake to be guest personality DJS (and to stay away from Jay Z's floundering TIDAL). Will it be the next big streaming service?

A$AP Rocky topped the Billboard Charts this week with his album At. Long. Last. ASAP. However he isn't the first hip hopartist to do so in 2015. Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Big Sean have all inhabited the number one spot. 2015 has had many different leaders as opposed to 2014, where the soundtrack to Disney's Frozen held top billing for much of the year. At 5th place comes a surprise: the religious band Hillsong United. Our hosts are curious to see how far their fame goes.

Go to episode 497

Music News

Dr. Dre announced a partnership with Best Buy. The rapper/producer will promote the new "Club Beats" area of the store featuring the latest audio and technology products, in addition to in-store appearances by Lady Gaga, Will.i.am and Dre himself. The big box retailer sees a growing market for DJ-oriented marketing, especially with the release of DJ Hero. So has this underground urban art form officially jumped the shark?

One of Dre's biggest hip hop productions was his 1993 track for Snoop Dogg, "Who Am I (What's My Name)." It featured a memorable sample of George Clinton's song "Atomic Dog." Most recently that song was at the center of a lawsuit between Clinton and his fellow songwriters and the R&B group Public Announcement. A federal jury agreed that Public Announcement infringed on the song's copyright by wrongfully using the lyric“bow wow wow, yippie yo, yippie yea.”But, most notably, the jury ruled that even the word“dog,”if used in an original or unusual way, can be protected by copyright.

Go to episode 207

Music News

Amazon recently announced its move into the publishing world. Authors like Laverne and Shirley's Penny Marshall have inked deals to have their books published and distributed by the online retailer. These kind of deals are similar to the exclusive releases sold by music retailers like Wal-Mart and Starbucks. So it begs the question: Is Amazon the music label next?

Longtime soul musician Syl Johnson's songs have been sampled by countless other artists. And consequently he's turned into a "serial litigator" according to Greg. The latest people to face his legal wrath: Kanye West and Jay-Z. The hip-hop stars used a sample of Johnson's track "Different Strokes" in their song "The Joy" from Watch the Throne. And now Johnson is seeking an injunction, damages and legal fees.

In other music news, Stone Roses fans will be happy to learn that the Manchester band will hit the stage for the first time in 15 years. Greg compares the group to the Oasis of its time, but wonders if they'll still have the chops. After all, The Stone Roses split after a disastrous show at the Reading Festival in 1996.

Go to episode 308

Music News

Jim and Greg discussed the great Kanye West/50 Cent sales battle a couple of weeks ago, and this week the results are in. Kanye took it in a landslide with a #1 spot on the Billboard charts and a whopping 957,000 copies sold. Kanye's album Graduation is the biggest selling album so far this year and is the 15th biggest sales frame since Nielsen SoundScan began tracking data in 1991. 50 Cent's album Curtis only sold 691,000 in the first week, though for a hip hop debut that's nothing to scoff at. As Jim and Greg note, no one should shed a tear for 50 Cent. On Forbes' list of the biggest earning hip hop stars, Fiddy holds the #2 spot behind mogul Jay-Z. So, despite this recent loss, 50 Cent is laughing "Straight to the Bank."

If you've been surfing YouTube recently, you may have noticed Trent Reznor's call for more stealing. The man behind Nine Inch Nails is fed up with his record company's decision to hike prices for his album Year Zero and he let his grievances be known at an Australian concert. While he doesn't legally have the authority to give his music away, he does have a point; HMV in Australia is selling Year Zero for AU $32.99, which converts to about $28 in the States. That's definitely more than a music fan should have to pay for an album, especially one that utilized a web-based marketing campaign.

And while one musician embraces the web, another does not. Pop icon Prince plans to sue YouTube and other major web sites for unauthorized use of his music in a bid to“reclaim his art on the Internet.”In a recent statement his representative wrote:“YouTube … are clearly able (to) filter porn and pedophile material but appear to choose not to filter out the unauthorized music and film content which is core to their business success.”Prince obviously doesn‘t need to use the web to build a fan base, but to Sound Opinions H.Q., he’s beginning to sound like a cranky old man.

Also in the news is the death of longtime James Brown collaborator Bobby Byrd at the age of 73. One of the chief architects of Brown's trademark sound, Byrd is often referred to as“The Godfather of Soul's Godfather.”You can hear his contribution in tons of early Brown tracks. In fact, the repeating phrase“Get on up,”on "Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine" was sung by Byrd. Byrd also had a successful solo career, and as Greg explains, his music can be heard sampled in countless late early hip hop songs. To pay honor to the soul/funk/R&B legend, Jim and Greg play his song, "I Know You Got Soul."

Jim and Greg speak with John Jurgensen, a reporter for the Wall Street Journal. John recently wrote an article about how US visa procedures are squelching a British pop invasion. Artists like Lily Allen, M.I.A. and recent Mercury Prize winners The Klaxons have had to cancel tour dates and postpone recording sessions due to difficulties obtaining visas. John explains that this is partly due to Homeland Security crackdowns, which now mandate that artists themselves have to go to an embassy in person for fingerprinting and a retinal scan. John also says that artists have to prove that that they are legitimate,“internationally recognizable”acts. Jim and Greg wonder just how much more legit you have to be if Mercury Prize winners are getting hassled. The three reporters understand that these procedures are in place not just to protect Americans from danger but also from a loss of jobs, but unlike in the agriculture and technology industries, you can't sub one musician for another. And a loss of jobs and tour dates for one singer means the loss of many for the hundreds and thousands of promoters, roadies, sound engineers and teamsters here in the States.

Go to episode 95

Music News

Music legend James Brown died earlier this week at the age of 73, so the first part of the show is spent paying homage to the“hardest working man in show business.”Jim and Greg discuss Brown's long-running career from the soul era up through today's hip hop music. In fact, Greg explains that Brown's track "King Heroin" is a rap tune that pre-dates hip hop. And, Brown is one of the most sampled musicians in rock history. To illustrate this fact, our hosts take the track "The Payback" and play some of the major hip hop songs that are built on it.

Go to episode 57

Music News

After the RIAA started to crackdown on the selling of mixtapes a few months ago, Universal Music has decided to sell legal, corporate sanctioned versions of the tradionally grassroots compilation. These "Lethal Squad Mixtapes," will sell for $5 to $6, but it's unclear whether there is a market for a series like this. Part of the appeal of mixtapes is that they are underground, and, as Greg notes, Universal is about as“street”as the next company they discuss in the news. Fellow corporate giant Walmart announced that it will sell DRM-free downloads at a lower price than competitor iTunes. Jim and Greg are surprised that the music industry would agree to sell their digital songs for lower prices, but Walmart is the world's largest retailer. Also, this fits into the big box store's M.O.: give consumers what they want at lower prices, even at the expense of other retailers.

Auto manufacturers such as Toyota's Scion brand, are planning on getting into the Internet radio business to provide special content to their drivers. Jim and Greg think this is an interesting move considering the recent hikes in webcasting royalty rates and their effect on small webcasters. And, this follows suit with Scion's attempt to establish a“cool”identity for itself. The Toyota brand was one of the few corporate sponsors of the Pitchfork Music Festival, and now they've tapped Vice Records and Ninja Tune Records to program their channel. But, despite this indie pedigree, Greg points out the reality: "You can't buy cool."

This summer's biggest blockbuster movie, Spiderman 3, racked up well over $300 million in the U.S. In fact, there were a number successful films that eclipsed the $300 million mark. The music industry, however, cannot boast such impressive figures. They were banking on big name releases from the likes of 50 Cent and Kelly Clarkson, but of those two, one got bumped, and the other tanked. The number one selling album of the year so far is from an American Idol rejectee Chris Daughtry, but that was actually a 2006 release. So, in light of these industry discrepancies, Jim and Greg wanted to invite New York Times music reporter Jeff Leeds on to the show to discuss the summer season. Jeff explains that movie studios have many sources of revenue from a film like Spiderman (DVDs, toys, etc), but record labels depend on a single revenue stream. Their only saving grace is concert sales; a live music experience, like a live movie screening, can't be replicated with a download. These three critics are curious to see what big fall releases have to offer.

Famed jazz percussionist Max Roach died last week at the age of 83. Roach was the last link to the Bebop era of jazz, but Jim and Greg explain that his love of music and his style of playing continually evolved. Greg explains that it's impossible to talk about rock drumming and hip hop without mentioning Roach. Unlike some jazz purists, the musician saw those contemporary forms as natural extensions of African music, like jazz. You can hear his unique style in the composition "Freedom Day," which also features vocals from his wife Abbey Lincoln.

Go to episode 91

Music News

Jim and Greg start the show by warning listeners that their tax-free downloading days might soon be over. With e-commerce sales exceeding $130 billion a year, and iTunes sales hitting $5 billion, it was only a matter of time before the states started to want a piece. This year nine states have considered digital download taxes, and five of those have already enacted them into law. Certain purchases will never be subject to tax if the vendor doesn‘t have a physical presence in that state, but the bigger issue is that whether it’s through taxes on sales, taxes on file-sharing, or taxes on internet usage, the government's going to get its piece of the pie.

Isaac Hayes died earlier this week at the age of 65. As Jim and Greg reveal, the self-taught musician started out as a songwriter at Stax Records in the early '60s. He became a“master arranger,”and his raps and braggadocio provided a prototype for modern hip hop. But, he is of course most well-known for his Oscar-winning song "Theme from Shaft," which was dramatic both musically and lyrically.

Go to episode 142

Music News

Web developers have finally created a way for iPhone and iPod Touch users to share files. Similar to the p2p file-sharing program Soulseek, iSlsk allows fans of the Apple phone to wirelessly swap music at fairly high speeds. This news comes just months prior to the release of the highly anticipated new 3G iPhone. While consumers are waiting, Steve Jobs is working to extend Apple's lead in online music sales to the mobile market. Jobs would like to get into the ringtones and ringbacks business, but in order to do so he may have to work out a deal with record labels. According to speculation, Jobs may agree to a variable pricing plan in exchange for mobile delivery. Now we'll have to see if digital music consumers are willing to give up low prices for convenience. We predict they will.

Boy band mogul Lou Pearlman was sentenced to 25 years in prison for swindling investors and major U.S. banks out of more than $300 million. Pearlman made his mark in the music industry after launching the careers of *N Sync and The Backstreet Boys. Pearlman's legal team was looking for more leniency, but Jim and Greg don't think the judge was harsh enough. Jim would tack on a few more years just for kicking off the boy band craze.

Earlier this year rapper Nas raised eyebrows after announcing plans to call his upcoming album "N*gger." He saw it as a way to re-appropriate the word in a positive way. But now, the hip hop artist has decided to remove the provocative word from his release. Nas has suggested that he received pressure from his label to give the album a more retail-friendly title, but both Jim and Greg smell a publicity stunt.

Go to episode 130

Music News

First up is the news that one of music's most successful major label artists is going indie. Jay-Z gave notice to Def Jam, the label for which he formerly served as president. He plans on being a“a completely independent artist.”But, given his 360 deal with Live Nation, Jim and Greg aren't sure this statement carries much weight.

In other hip hop news, rapper T.I. has headed off to jail this week. He‘ll be serving a one year and one day sentence on a weapon charge. While this is not the first time an esteemed musician has served prison time, it is unique that both T.I.’s albums and singles are thriving on the Billboard charts. So while the "King of the South" takes a time out, his career moves on full steam ahead.

After years of singing about darkness and pain, Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails is showing his softer side. He has helped a 27-year-old fan raise more than $800,000 for a life-saving heart transplant. By asking fans to pay $350 for pre-show access and $1000 for dinner with the band, he has been successfully helping Eric de la Cruz to reach his goal. In one day alone, Reznor took in $250,000, proving he really is the master of web marketing and distribution.

Music fans were sad to learn of the death of Jay Bennett this week. The multi-instrumentalist and former Wilco member died at the age of 45. While the cause of death is not known, what is known is Bennett's great talent. Many people take their image of him from the Wilco film I Am Trying to Break Your Heart, but Jim and Greg both believe Bennett will be sorely missed and stress the positive effect he had on the band's music. In honor of Jay Bennett, they play "Pieholden Suite," from Wilco's 1999 album Summerteeth.

Go to episode 183

Music News

First up in the news Jim and Greg discuss a recent TV commercial featuring music by The Beatles. The diaper company Luvs has taken the 1967 peace anthem "All You Need Is Love," and turned it into the jingle“All You Need is Luvs,”and some Beatles fans are worried that this soils the song's meaning. The Fab Four's songs have been used a few times in advertising, especially since the catalog has come under the joint control of Sony Corp. and pop singer Michael Jackson.

Also in the news is rapper 50 Cent's lawsuit against internet ad company Traffix Inc. The hip hop star is taking issue with Traffix Inc's recent ad campaign that features his cartoon image and encourages people to“shoot the rapper”and win $5,000 or five ringtones. While Jim and Greg agree this is pretty distasteful, they wonder if 50 Cent's real beef is that he didn't come up with the idea himself. The hip hop star has based his image on his own violent background, which includes being shot nine times.

Go to episode 87

Music News

After Don Imus' news-making couple of weeks, hip hop godfather Russell Simmons is also making headlines. In light of the former MSNBC broadcaster's racially insensitive comments about the Rutgers‘ women’s basketball team, Simmons has called for hip hop producers and rappers to remove the words“bitch,”"ho," and“nigger”from the clean versions of their songs. This is a surprising statement from the Def Jam founder who himself is responsible for some very edgy rap songs, but one that is perhaps being misunderstood by the media. Neither Jim nor Greg support all out racism or misogyny in any music, but they wonder why hip hop in particular is being called out, and whether or not censorship without taking into consideration the context of an individual song is really the answer.

Next up Jim and Greg speak with David Solheim, the Student Body President/Student Regent at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. UNL just received its third batch of threatening letters from the RIAA accusing students of music piracy. This makes the school outlaw #1, but no one seems to know why. Solheim admits that illegal downloading is commonplace among students, but is confident that this behavior is no different than at any other school in the country. What does distinguish the university from others is the administration's reaction. While they did comply with the RIAA's request to forward on the letters to individual students without waiting for a subpoena, they have asked to be compensated monetarily for their action.

Go to episode 74

Music News

These days national headlines coming out of Chicago are generally about one thing: gun violence on the south and west sides of the city. So far this year there have been more than 3,200 shootings, more than 530 of them fatal. At the same time the city is home to a vibrant and creative hip-hop movement that continues to grow. Greg recently attended two festivals that highlighted the creativity in Chicago while addressing the city's violence. Chance the Rapper hosted the Magnificent Coloring Day at US Cellular Field on the southside. The next day, Common hosted a festival on the westside. Greg says the two events were Chicago rappers addressing the city's violence while trying to do something positive about it.

Go to episode 566

Music News

phife A Tribe Called Quest founding member Phife Dawg has died at the young age of 45 from complications due to diabetes. Jim and Greg are still inspired by ATCQ's masterful early '90s rap recordings, which introduced a jazziness and Afrocentric positivity into hip-hop. Born in Jamaica, Queens, Phife had a distinctive high-pitched tone and some of the most nimble rhymes in rap history. In tribute to Phife, Jim and Greg play Tribe's biggest hit, "Can I Kick It," showcasing the humor that was his trademark.

Go to episode 539

Music News

"Hamilton" is making history this week, not only because it's the first hip-hop-driven Broadway musical recounting the life of our nation's original Treasury secretary, but because its album debuted at #12 on the Billboard 200. That is the highest a cast recording debut has seen since 1961. It sold 30,000 copies in its first week, so the playwright/performer Lin-Manuel Miranda is doing something right with this peculiar pairing of history and hip-hop.

Pandora Media, the biggest name in Internet radio, stepped into the ticketing business Wednesday after buying Ticketfly, a vendor that last year sold 16 million tickets worth $500 million. Pandora is known for gathering user data for targeting, and with this new purchase, venues and promoters can target cities and markets where concerts would be most successful. With an 80 million-strong audience, the Pandora-Ticketfly partnership will pose a challenge to major Ticketfly competitor, Ticketmaster.

Feline Internet sensation Lil Bub is making a name for herself in the music industry. Coming off a performance on a track in Run the Jewels' cat-ified album, Meow the Jewels, this cool cat is striking out on her own, announcing Wednesday that she will release a debut album called Science & Magic. According to her album co-producer Matt Tobey, Bub has a vision, and the result is sure to be meow-velous.

Go to episode 516

Music News

Go to episode 585

Music News

Greg begins this week's news segment by complimenting Jim's use of the word“Blitzkrieg”in reference to The Strokes' quick tour of North America. Our first news story deals with the top 20 grossing concerts of 2005. The saggy-butted Rolling Stones led the list with a gross total of $162 million, followed by Jim's favorite band, U2. Two "artists", Celine Dion and Barry Manilow, didn't even have to tour to make the list—they simply took residency in one of Las Vegas's gaudy venues and raked in the cash.

A favorite of Sound Opinions, Courtney Love, returned to the headlines recently in a New York Post story detailing her financial woes, and more importantly, contemplating the sale of the Nirvana catalogue. Jim believes this would be a disaster, akin to Michael Jackson bringing the Beatles to Nike.

A sad story rounds out our news segment: the death of legendary Chicago singer Lou Rawls. The velvety-voiced singer died of cancer in Los Angeles. Growing up on the south side of Chicago, he referred to the the cold Chicago wind as the“Hawk,”and introduced the monologue to music, leading the way for hip-hop as an art-form. He was neighbors with another Chicago legend, Sam Cooke, and traded lines with him in the soul classic "Bring it on Home". Lou's final public appearance was a stirring rendition of God Bless America during the World Series.

Go to episode 6

Music News

Fetty Wap tops the Billboard 200 chart with the release of his self-titled debut. The album release follows the drops of his three top-ten singles, "Trap Queen," "679," and "My Way." The rapper makes a splash as the first hip-hop artist in two years to land a premiere album in the #1 spot since A$AP Rocky's Long.Live.A$AP.

fettywap

The third time's the charm for The Beatles' 1 album, which you might remember from its original release in 2000 or its second remastered release in 2011. The new three-disc edition, out November 6, features promotional films and restored videos of the group. Greg wonders how many times the same album can be resold to the same audience. Despite the lack of any real change in content, Jim predicts,“It'll debut at #1.”

Thanks to a new interactive tool distributed by The Wall Street Journal, it is now possible to discover what's playing on jukeboxes across America, just by entering a zip code online. Data gathered from the jukebox vendor TouchTunes provide a look at more than 60,000 jukeboxes across the country and what music was played from September 2014 to August 2015. The map is broken up by zip code, displaying popular artists and genres in each area. Check out what tunes are gathering the most quarters here.

Go to episode 515

Music News

Chuck D is always“fighting the power.”This time around he's taking on Universal Music in a $100 class-action lawsuit, alleging that the label has short-changed its artists and producers in licensing deals for digital downloads and ringtones. The suit says that artists are entitled to 50% of profits from digital downloads, and that currently Universal is paying out as it would for physical product, giving a lower royalty rate and deducting for physical media charges like containers and packaging. The Public Enemy front man is just one of many artists to take to the courts during this digital music revolution. Eminem recently won a landmark case against Universal, and previously Cheap Trick and the Allman brothers settled a similar suit.

Members of the hip-hop community are mourning the death of rapper Heavy D this week. He died Tuesday at age 44. Jim describes the“Overweight Lover”as larger than life in every way. He wasn't a hardcore rapper, but was full of charm and humor. He also moved over to the film and television worlds, appearing in The Cider House Rules, Tower Heist and Boston Public. To say goodbye to Heavy D, Jim and Greg play his 1991 hit "Now That We Found Love." It was written by Gamble and Huff and recorded by The O'Jays and Third World, but it's Heavy's version we'll always remember.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNWmF3SYzZI&index=1&list=RDcNWmF3SYzZI

Go to episode 311

Music News

Greg calls Gil Scott-Heron one of the most profound artists of the last half-century, and last week he died at age 62. The man behind "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" began as a poet, but was attracted to the way music could reach a larger audience. However, even after signing with Clive Davis, he never abandoned his politics. Scott-Heron fused biting commentary with powerful beats and arrangements. It was a sound that inspired many hip-hop artists, though he rejected that association. To remember Gil Scott-Heron, Jim and Greg play one of his near-hits called "Johannesburg" from 1975.

Go to episode 288

Music News

Two names making a lot of news in recent weeks are Tyler the Creator and Odd Future. Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All is a hip-hop collective that has released a lot of mixtapes and free digital albums in the past few years, and they've been gaining quite a lot of attention and quite a reputation. Their style is characterized by skillful rapping, boundless energy and violent lyrics filled with rape and murder imagery. The central figure is Tyler the Creator, and his new album Goblin just made it to #5 on the Billboard chart. That's a feat for a group that usually releases free music and would turn the stomachs of most mainstream music fans. Jim and Greg are interested to see how big audiences respond as the group continues to tour. So far the shows have been chaotic to say the least. And they also wonder if Tyler and Odd Future can graduate from the shock tactics into something more meaningful.

Go to episode 286

Music News

In the news this week was Three Six Mafia's historic win for “Best Song” at the Academy Awards. Jordan "Juicy J" Houston and Paul "DJ Paul" Beauregard won for their song, "It's Hard Out There for a Pimp," from the movie Hustle and Flow, beating out songs from Crash and Transamerica. Three Six Mafia easily gave the most enthusiastic Oscar speech and reigned in the song's not-for-primetime lyrics for their live performance. While the song nicely follows last year's winner,“Lose Yourself”from 8 Mile, it's a far cry from the first original song winner:“The Continental”from The Gay Divorcee. (No Brokeback Mountain jokes, please.)

Next up is a discussion of a musical phenomenon even Jim and Greg can't explain: the recent success of Matisyahu. The Hasidic reggae performer is climbing the Billboard charts and selling out shows across the country, and he certainly doesn't follow any pop formula of which our hosts are aware. Born Matthew Miller in White Plains, NY, the singer started out as an average jam band follower before joining a Hasidic community in Brooklyn. His music, which infuses Jewish imagery and prayers with reggae beats and hip-hop rhymes, has attracted a cross-section of people. To get a better perspective on why Matisyahu is achieving such success, Jim and Greg speak to two fans—a Jewish community leader who appreciates the singer's faith and a non-Jewish reggae fan who was turned on to the music by his teenage son.

Go to episode 15

Music News

Former Death Row Records mogul Suge Knight is facing life in prison. He was arrested for murder and other charges in connection with a hit-and-run incident that left a man dead and another in critical condition. It's a Phil Spector-like fall from grace from someone who practically defined West Coast hip-hop in his heyday.

There were quite a few developments this week in the world of digital streaming. SoundExchange reported that it paid out $773 million in royalties in 2014 for digital performances. This suggests that streaming services and satellite radio may be closing in on old-fashioned terrestrial radio. Even Jay Z wants in on the action: he's reportedly bidding on the Swedish streaming company Aspiro. Meanwhile, Spotify has put the brakes on its planned expansion into Russia as the ruble tumbles and rumors spread that President Vladimir Putin is clamping down on media and social networking sites.

Go to episode 480

Music News

It's been a rough week for digital music. First Radiohead frontman Thom Yorke and producer Nigel Godrich openly criticize Spotify and boot Atoms for Peace songs from the streaming service. The, the Musicians' Union in the U.K. threaten a boycott if Spotify doesn't raise its royalty rates. And now Aimee Mann is suing MediaNet, which provides millions of songs to dozens of music services. She's seeking damages for "willful copyright infringement."

Sure, we could imagine Bono going for an “EGOT,” but "Commander"? The Irish rocker was recently awarded the country's highest cultural honor: Commander of Arts and Letters in recognition of his contributions to the arts and to charity. Rapper Nas was also given an unusual honor. Harvard University has established the Nasir Jones Hip-Hop Fellowship as part of its Hip-Hop Archive and W.E.B. Du Bois Institute.

Since its launch in 2008, Record Store Day has become something music fans eagerly anticipate. And now they'll also have…wait for it…Cassette Store Day! True, there aren't many stores that solely sell cassettes, but on September 7, a number of bands will release special cassettes and artists like The Flaming Lips, Deerhunter and At the Drive-In will reissue albums on cassettes. So breakout your Walkman and get ready.

Go to episode 400

Music News

It has been one year since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region. The music community has responded in a number of ways over the past 365 days. In fact, the response was quicker and more dramatic than that following the events of September 11, Jim and Greg note. The most high-profile Katrina project was the collaboration between Elvis Costello and Allen Toussaint. Toussaint is one of New Orleans‘ most noted producers and musicians, and, like many of the city’s citizens, he had to flee during the storm and has yet to be able to return. He and Costello wrote their album's title track, "The River in Reverse," just weeks after Katrina hit. Check out Jim and Greg's review of that album.

Other artists inspired by Hurricane Katrina include Paul Simon, Mos Def and Bruce Springsteen, who decided to add new hurricane-related lyrics to the song "How Can A Poor Man Stand Such Time and Live," during his live performances. Rapper Master P also just announced that he will be debuting a stage play, "Uncle Willy's Family," which he describes as a hip-hop gospel comedy play about Hurricane Katrina. It will star the rapper, as well as his son Lil Romeo, Silkk The Shockker, and Terry Miles. Now he can add playwright to his ever-expanding résumé. But the post-Katrina project that most moved Jim and Greg was the Dirty Dozen Brass Band's version of Marvin Gaye's 1971 concept album What's Going On. Gaye's songs were inspired by many of the country's problems at the time, including poverty, the environment, urban decay and race conflicts. It's interesting to see how applicable his words are today.

Go to episode 40

Music News

Guitarist and Ohio Players frontman Leroy“Sugarfoot”Bonner died of undisclosed causes this week at the age of 69. The group's string of '70s albums for Westbound and Mercury Records, driven by Bonner's lead vocals and electrifying double-neck guitar work, stands as one of the most impressive runs in funk history. Their distinct sound found new life in the in the late '80s and '90s as countless hip hop artists sampled the group's work (a Red Hot Chili Peppers cover of "Love Rollercoaster" on the soundtrack for Beavis and Butthead Do America didn't hurt either). Greg highlights "Skin Tight" as a prime example of Bonner's musical legacy.

Go to episode 375
world tours

Brazil

Os Mutantes

The excitement of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro will soon fade into memory, but the music coming out of Brazil has endured for centuries. Jim and Greg bring the Sound Opinions World Tour to Brazil and explore the country's rich musical heritage. Of course, Brazil is enormous and has produced more genres of music than we could even name. So Jim and Greg focus first on the pivotal period of 1958-1968, beginning with the rise of bossa nova. Our guide is Sérgio Mielniczenko, host of The Brazilian Hour radio show since 1978. He explains how the deceptively minimalistic yet harmonically complex music of João Gilberto, Antônio Carlos Jobim, Sérgio Mendes, and other bossa nova artists revolutionized music in Brazil and around the world.

But in 1964, just as "The Girl From Ipanema" was becoming a global hit, Brazil's government was overthrown in a military coup. Artists like Edu Lobo, Chico Buarque, and Geraldo Vandré turned to socially conscious protest songs in response. This post-bossa nova generation became known as música popular brasileira (Brazilian popular music) or MPB. Meanwhile, the Jovem Guarda (Young Guard) led by Roberto Carlos created an apolitical form of Brazilian rock ‘n’ roll. And in the late '60s, the Tropicália movement blended high art, lowbrow kitsch, traditional Brazilian rhythms, psychedelic rock, and electric instruments into an irreverent mix. Tropicalistas like Caetano Veloso, Gilberto Gil, Os Mutantes, Tom Zé, and Gal Costa were curtailed by the government crackdown of 1968, but their music has proved influential for decades.

Jim and Greg also want to acknowledge all of the great new music coming out of Brazil. Chris McGowan, author of The Brazilian Sound and The Brazilian Music Book, calls in from Rio and explains that Brazil is a large country and there are a huge variety of popular musical styles. He runs through some of the most popular genres of the moment, starting with sertanejo, Brazilian country music. They also talk about new avant-garde music, Brazilian hip hop, and electronic dance genres Axé and tecno brega.

Go to episode 560

Canada

Justin Bieber

Every once in a while, Jim and Greg embark on the Sound Opinions World Tour and explore the music of another country. This week felt like a fine time to turn to our neighbor to the north and look at the music coming out of Canada today. As their guide, they're joined by music critic Ben Rayner of the the Toronto Star. Ben takes them from Montreal's experimental/electronic scene to the noise-pop of Halifax to the country's growing hip-hop culture. He also explains how the government supports pop music via grants and the "Cancon" regulations requiring broadcasters to air a certain amount of Canadian music. Ben also recommends two up-and-coming Canadian artists: Inuk throat singer Tanya Tagaq and Acadian folk-rocker Lisa LeBlanc.

Jim and Greg also dig through the Sound Opinions archives and share their favorite performances and interviews from Canadian artists, including a stripped down song from Montreal's Arcade Fire, a conversation with Toronto's Feist from early in her career, and a performance from the Vancouver supergroup The New Pornographers. Plus, they revisit their conversation with the most Canadian of all bands: Rush.

Go to episode 572

New Zealand

The Clean

Lorde is just the biggest name in a long line of important musicians coming out of New Zealand. So this week, Jim and Greg fire up the jet to take the Sound Opinions World Tour to the other side of the world. As a guide, they're joined by Wellington-based critic Nick Bollinger, host of The Sampler on Radio New Zealand and author of several books including the recent memoir Goneville.

They focus on an influential era in kiwi rock emerging in the early 1980s known as the Dunedin Sound that's closely associated with the legendary New Zealand indie label Flying Nun Records. Based around the southern university city Dunedin, the Flying Nun bands drew upon early psychedelia, American garage rock, and The Velvet Underground to create a distinctive jangly guitar-based sound, much of it released on lo-fi 4-track recordings. But while the key bands like The Clean, The Chills, and The Verlaines shared an aesthetic, Nick argues that their musical approaches actually were varied. By the late ‘80s and early ’90s, the Dunedin Sound had fully evolved to incorporate the shoegaze of Bailter Space and even the dance beats of Headless Chickens.

A key part of New Zealand's culture is its indigenous population. Maori, Samoan, and other indigenous groups make up nearly 20% of the population and have had a major impact on the island nation's pop music. Nick traces the history of Maori music from the Hendrix-esque guitar styling of The Human Instinct to the reggae boom of the '70s to the embrace of hip-hop. He also makes recommendations for great contemporary kiwi artists, including singer-songwriter Aldous Harding, power-poppers Kane Strang, electro-soul artist Electric Wire Hustle, and the eclectic producer Lord Echo.

Go to episode 605

South Africa

The Sound Opinions World Tour has been to Sweden, Japan, and Mexico. This week, Jim and Greg finally touch down in the African Continent – South Africa to be exact. Their field guide is Andy Davis, editor of the South African music and culture website Mahala. Andy confesses that his first record was The Boss's Born in the U.S.A., but he says he quickly embraced the music of his homeland with a little help from Johnny Clegg and the Queen of Afropop, Brenda Fassie. Davis says what's special about South African music is its "hybridization": the way musicians combine traditional guitars, rhythms, and vocals with synths and global genres like hip-hop. The result is a music scene varied enough to include rap in Afrikaans and Xhosa, South African house, and folk-pop about the apartheid struggle.

To find out what it's like to be a band in South Africa post-apartheid, Jim and Greg speak to rising Cape Town act John Wizards. The two main men behind the band are John Withers, a white South African from Cape Town, and Emmanuel Nazaramba, a black Rwandan. The two men met outside a café in Cape Town, and despite their differing musical backgrounds, John says his tracks and Emmanuel's vocals clicked right away

Here's our South Africa playlist on Spotify.

Go to episode 405