Fantasy iTunes List – Thanksgiving/Keep Ya Head Up Edition

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I’m leaving for Saginaw tomorrow (or today, since it’s 12:30 AM EST) for Thanksgiving. All of the family is going to be there, and along with the relatives that I already don’t get along with, I’m already in failure mode because I didn’t get a job that I wanted. But music has always been my, well, muse: it got me through my mother’s death when I was younger, it’s gotten me through bullshit during school, and it’ll get me through this. I’ve got a starting line-up of five albums that each, in one way or another, are helping me deal with my rejection. Heartbreak happens, but we live. Come Monday, if not earlier, I’m back stronger than ever.

The point guard this weekend is my advance copy of Mae Day’s Cherish The Day mixtape (pictured above), courtesy of Ced Jigga. This project sees the best new female emcee in the biz (and maybe even the best out there period, with most of the other ladies everybody else either in prison, fallen off, retired, or just not making music anymore) teams up with The Sicknotes to remake a set of songs from legendary soulstress Sade. Off of one listen, this is amazing: the beats keep Sade’s essence without just reshashing the originals, and Mae Day’s spitting a good balance of old-fashioned braggadocio and conceptual gems (check “I Still Love H.I.M.,” on which she revamps Common’s original concept to be about Hip-hop In Michigan). I love it when artists – specifically, emcees – can cover legends’ music with a theme like this and still be able to make it their own, and seeing a youngster like this do her thing is exactly what I needed to realize that this is only the beginning for me. MC Lyte cosigned (and recorded with her), Mick Boogie’s hosting the tape, and she’s backed by some of the most talented producers in Detroit. She’s earned her keep this week.

Check under the cut for the rest of the starting line-up.

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SG: Kanye West, 808s & Heartbreak
– Kanye’s senior disc comes in at the shooting guard, moreso because of circumstance than my opinion of its talent. As we all know, the constantly-evolving Kanye strays even further from his previous formula here, abandoning his off-kilter rhyme style, whimsical boasts, and experimental production for auto-tune crooning, melancholy lyrics, and backdrops that vary between being just as wistful and being conversely uptempo. But as my sis said, the one thing that’s consistent with Kanye is his honesty. As offbase as some of his material here may be with the fans and critics who have supported him for so long, his expression here is crystal clear: the autotune is used to accentuate his pain instead of just making it catchier (a la T-Pain), and his lyrics are extremely emotive, if not deep (“my friend shows me pictures of his kids, and all I can show is pictures of my crib”). His mother died and he broke up with his fiance, and as someone who’s both dealt with and is dealing with loss, I can definitely identify with it. Reminds me of what Puff Daddy & The Family’s No Way Out did for me when my mother died. Not only do I respect his ambition here, but I respect it for its ability to identify with people.

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SF: Slim, Love’s Crazy
– The frontman of legendary group 112 ventures out onto the solo front with his debut, Love’s Crazy. He’s on the older side compared to competition like Ne-Yo and Chris Brown (trust, it shows when he doesn’t have his sunglasses on, lmao; I interviewed him on his tour bus in Lansing earlier this summer), but that’s not a bad thing. He uses his veteran knowledge (both of relationships and of music), natural talents and the industry-savvy senses of Famous Firm boss Sickamore (who A&R’d and branded the album) to make sturdy, genuine R&B that’s honest without being pretentious (or Ne-Yo, since it seems he’s one of the only decent writers now), romantic without being Pretty Rickey, and infectious without being T-Pain. Aside from the blemishing Yung Berg cameo, this one of the best R&B albums this year, and this’ll definitely get continuous burn. And love is crazy – whether it’s love in a relationship, or love for what you’re doing. Slim gets it, and so do I.

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PF: Big Walt & David Ether, Freedom Train
– Freedom Train is the debut from David Ether and my East Lansing homie Big Walt. Armed with incredible futuristic soul that many would associate with Flying Lotus, Walt talks about whatever he goes through – whether it’s beating kids up in his hometown of Dansville or being a child genius and graduating high school at age 15. Walt’s a really unique character. And that’s not just saying “unique” to hide an asshole description, that’s honestly the best adjective: he’s a dorky-looking white kid who’ll wear anything from gold rope chains and Hundreds fitteds to vintage kicks and plaid shirts, he’ll use varying relevant and archaic rap slang (“brap!” “hunnid!”), and he knows more about music, hip-hop and otherwise, than damn near anyone I know. He’s had people hate on his presentation – whether it’s people outside of his circle, or the board of directors at a radio station – but he sticks to who he is no matter what, and that K.O.S. (Knowledge of Self) is determination for me to continue to strive to do things my way, not just settle for what’s out there.

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C: Q-Tip, The Renaissance – Despite how eager I was to hear it initially, I’ve been sleeping on Q-Tip’s long-awaited new LP since it came out. So this weekend, I’m going to finally give it a spin. But critics and fans alike are applauding the album, saying that it somehow captures the best of all of his career’s work, from the Tribe Called Quest days to Amplified, to the unreleased Kamaal The Abstract, and everything in between. With Tip’s stylish lyricism and his great ear for beats, I’m looking forward to checking this out. As far as the connect between this album and my career? It’s The Renaissance; nuff said.

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6th Man: The Insomniaks, Who Sleeps Anymore? – I was introduced to this Sacramento, Calif. duo through The Famous Firm as well, when I was put on to write their bio. Don’t get it twisted – all of The Firm’s artists are talented, so it’s always an honor when I get to do one of their bios. But these two kids are special. As I said in the opener to their bio:

One of hip-hop’s most restricting elements is its extreme nature. Hood life is exaggerated and glorified more than it’s documented, and lyrical accounts of their sexcapades are less allegorical than they are attempts to impress. Too many artists who actually do value honesty aren’t talented enough to make their message engaging.

But Sacramento, Calif. duo The Insomniaks have mastered the formula of producing relevant, digestible rap that bangs.

You can download their album here, and trust me when I say it’s worth the download. Check out “In My Hood” for an account of street life that’s not just glorifying violence, “Moonpie” to hear them talk about late-night food and late-night poon (best song title ever), and check as they simultaneously poke fun at hipsters and show love to their fav brands on “Hypebeast.” They come in at the 6th Man position this week because I agree with their mantra: “Sleeping is for bitches.” I do most of my work at night, but even when the sun is out instead of the moon, my hustle is relentless; the minute I let up, I lose my ground.

  • Dub

    If I had to put 808 & Heartbreaks in a lineup, basketball wise, it’d be sitting next to Havoc – The Kush and behind Hi-Teknology 3 – ON THE BENCH. That album had all the hype and promise in the world, but came out flat like it’s basketball bench counterpart Mateen Cleaves. In fact, 808 & Heartbreaks = Mateen Cleaves (The Kush = Darko Milicic and Hi-Teknology 3 = Rodney White).

    Q-Tip’s album = Tayshaun Prince. Highly underrated, plays his role but is an unsung hero when you need him.

    Perhaps I’ll give Ye another chance though, after reading this blog… I still don’t think 808 & Heartbreaks will be anything more than Smush Parker or NBA Rafer Alston (not Skip-To-My-Lou) though, in my eyes.