Posts Tagged ‘ LA ’


Photo via Hypetrak

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on Grammy night 2014

Irony was a big theme for the Grammy’s this year. Every year someone somewhere feels like they got snubbed, but this year’s biggest snub to me was Kendrick Lamar losing out to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis for best Rap Album. It is truly irony at it’s finest. If there is one thing I love more than or as much as I love sports, it’s music. All kinds of music, no matter what it is. If it’s good I’ll probably like it – although the “good” argument is a whole other story. Hip-Hop in particular has a special place in my heart though. I still remember being wowed by Slick Rick’s (possibly my favorite rapper of all-time) ability to create a vivid picture in my mind on Children’s Story. When I was five years old I was rapping Wu-Tang’s C.R.E.A.M with my Dad and my brothers. I rode shotgun through the streets of Brooklyn with Jay-Z’s Reasonable Doubt, In My Lifetime and Vol. 2: Hard Knock Life as soundtracks. Hip-Hop is different from a lot of other genres of music in certain ways; no better, no worse just different. The quality of a rap artist’s lyrics are held to a higher standard, because a rap song is judged based on the ability of the MC to keep the listener engaged with their wordplay, flow, subject matter etc.

Nobody did that better on an entire album this year than Kendrick Lamar, and that includes the artists he looks up to: Jay-Z, Kanye West and Eminem. His album, Good Kid, M.A.A.D City, chronicled his transformation from a naive teenager, in the volatile and unforgiving streets of Compton, California, to a young man. Over 12 tracks he becomes aware of how bad his situation is and that he needs to be a part of the change that his city needs. The album’s crowning achievement in my opinion was “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”. It perfectly chronicles two damaging, but prevalent lifestyles (gang life and prostitution) that are apparent in his neighborhood and typically lead to untimely deaths. He raps about the different effects both of these had on him and ends hoping that once he is dead and gone someone will be inspired by whatever life he manages to live. As an artist Kendrick is extremely knowledgeable and present with issues that are very real without condoning or condemning them. His music speaks to people like him using what has happened  in his life and shows the consequences of those things. Very rarely can a artist make a song like Swimming Pools, that eloquently tells the listener about the dangers of binge drinking then turn around and have that song be a radio/club smash. The irony of that song’s message and resulting popularity and impact is proof that Kendrick is a different and gifted artist.

This album highlighted all of his talents. Storytelling (So now I’m down Rosecrans in a Caravan/Passing Alameda, my gas meter in need of a pump/I got enough to get me through the traffic jam/At least I hope cause my pockets broke as a promise man), wordplay (Hotboxing like George Foreman grilling the masses/Of the working world, we pulled up on a bunch of working girls/And asked them what they working with) and maybe most importantly the ability to tackle subjects about social issues (And you ask, “Lift up your shirt” cause you wonder if a tattoo/Of affiliation can make it a pleasure to put me through/Gang files, but that don’t matter because the matter is racial profile/I heard them chatter: “He’s probably young but I know that he’s down”). He also tried new things and experimented with different sounds. Possibly the most popular song, Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe, has a hook that makes him sound almost alien-like at times. The second half of the song M.A.A.D City you hear his voice go through a range of “the voice you use when you’re calling the cops for ransom” to “I just swallowed an abnormal amount of helium.” But it works to make you feel like you just smoked a joint laced with angel dust, which is the point he’s trying to make. In a word, Good Kid M.A.A.D City is effective. It paints a picture of his life then and why he is here now.

Photo via Celeb n music 247 website

Kendrick Lamar’s GQ shoot

Now with all that said I’m not suggesting that Macklemore and Ryan Lewis aren’t great artist or that they didn’t make an effective album. Those two managed to hit the top of the charts independently which is an amazing feat and their music is also very good. They have no intention of being anyone else but themselves. They tackled the huge social issue of equality, particularly gay and lesbian rights, on the song Same Love. But having three top-10 songs on Billboard and making the best rap album are two different things. Macklemore himself even said he felt Kendrick had the better album and blamed the voting process as to why he won. Ironic though that the album entitled The Heist stole an award away from someone. I mean seriously, you just can’t write that kind of thing. Kendrick got snubbed no doubt, but he seemed to handle it pretty gracefully. His Grammy mash-up with Imagine Dragons was dope on multiple levels and woke the show up after it got very boring – then they went to an acoustic country performance by Kacey I said irony was a theme. He’s also had an awesome year as far as his career success goes – cover of GQ kind of puts you on the map if you weren’t already. At the end of the day winning a Grammy won’t validate how good he is or how great classic his album is. The Grammy’s will continue to snub artists and whole genres, as long as people keep watching (this year was the second-highest rated show in 21 years). Ironically Kendrick predicted this would happen in his song Good Kid (He don’t mind, he know we’ll never respect, the good kid, m.A.A.d. city).