The past week has been quite eventful, full of little stories all over the Universe. First, the debt ceiling finally got raised, and then…our credit rating was downgraded by S&P from AAA to AA+. Not a big deal, until the Dow plummeted, signaling that I guess it was a big deal according to those Wall StrWeebs. I could really care less, sure, that’s our lowest credit rating since S&P has been around, but this is also the same S&P that gave a AAA rating to loads of sub prime credit default swaps. Now, if that sounds like a bunch of jibberish in that previous sentence, all you really need to know is that those credit default swaps served as the Darth Vader of our economy crisis, and S&P was essentially the Sith Lord, pumping Darth full of evil moral support in the form of AAA ratings for these walking debt builders.
The world of sports saw Tiger Woods dump his caddie, then saw said caddie turn around and win this past weekend’s World Golf Championship with his new beau, Adam Scott. Again, I could really care less. Caddies are important, and Stevie Williams (Woods’ ex-Caddie) is the best caddie there is. But, I’d say at best, a caddie has a 5% influence over a golfer’s performance, which is less than the 8-10% I give to NBA coaches. Simply, if Erik Spoelstra can coach a team to the NBA Finals, well, Woods can win again without Stevie Williams. Side note: Is it just me or does the name Stevie Williams not conjure up images of the slowest kid in your elementary school classes? Not the slow, separated from the rest of us kid, but the kid who, I don’t know, maybe never showered before coming to school. His hair was always fucked up, and he wore sweats tucked into his socks. Not the kid who shit his pants, but probably the next worst kid, the one who your parents never want you hanging with. Not because he’s setting fires, but, well “I don’t want that Stevie Williams coming over here, you know that. He’s just weird, and I don’t want him teaching you bad habits,”. Some of those bad habits include eating boogers, not wiping properly, not liking boobs, and…pissing off Tiger Woods.
The NFL saw the Eagles continuing to add to their Jew Hoard of talent; now with DeSean Jackson showing his face around camp. We also saw Tim Tebow create a controversy by doing his hardest not to create a controversy. Now, as the #2 QB (where he rightly belongs at this moment) Tebow can get back to worrying about pumping Baby Jesus and Jockey tees. In baseball we saw the Sox take 2 out of 3 from the Evil Empire over the weekend, Yesssir! But, the Phillies keep fucking ROLLING, and I think the Giants already regret dealing for Carlos Beltran.
And then…there is music. I talked briefly about the big release of this week, last week, and now I’m going to touch on it a little more as Kanye West & Jay-Z dropped their highly anticipated collaboration, Watch the Throne (WTT) on ITunes yesterday. I bought it, I will not lie. And, since I decided to buy the album, I fed right into the corporate mega-beast monopoly that the pair hoped to create upon release of this album. The music industry typically goes with a solid release date, usually on a Tuesday, when consumers can head to their local record shop and purchase a hard copy of the album on the first day it hits the shelves. At the same time it releases in stores, it is usually made available for download on ITunes (when ITunes was around, anyway). Well, the thing with getting the hard copies to the stores is that somewhere along that huge manufacturing line which goes: from studio, to label, to distributor, to brick and mortar store, to your hands; somebody snags a copy for themselves. Because the process from studio to store is so long, a lot of times record stores have the physical copies of an album several days before it is to be released, so you can see how somebody grabbing a copy say, in the warehouse where they make them, could cause problems. And, this usually leads to an album leaking out to the public in advance and making it a pirate’s dream.
Kanye & Jigga decided to get around that by changing the entire system. Kanye’s G.O.O.D. Music label is notoriously difficult to pirate no matter the release, so of course its president is going to make his albums THE hardest. Instead of opting for a traditional release, the pair went with an ITunes only release on August 8th, and the in-store release on August 12th. This lets them ship out the hard copies pretty much at the same time they release the digital copy. As a result of this, a couple of things will without a doubt happen.
First, album sales will shoot up. No more pirating will more than likely lead to better album sales, especially for the big names and especially for WTT. Second, expect this release method to become a trend. This will without a doubt become the standard method of delivery for any and all big name musical acts from here on out. It simply works too well in the anti-pirating category. Finally, it will shut down music stores…for good. By pushing back the hard copy release, musicians in effect give the digital market a serious head start on the consumer demand. Shit, WTT is already on track to sell 400-500K in its first week, according to Billboard, and record stores will only be able to get about 2 days worth of that week-long sales figure. This release method ultimately does one thing: it makes the rich, richer and the poor, obsolete. An already struggling record store industry will undoubtedly receive the finishing blow from a surging ITunes monster, and we can expect to see more boarded up retail spaces throughout our country.
But, after giving a listen to this album, that is just as Kanye & Jay seem to want it. Arguably, the two biggest/richest names in hip-hop got together to make a super album. It just seems like…well…the hip-hip got lost in translation. Kanye is easily one of my favorite hip-hop artists there is. His beats are beastly and his rhymes used to be more backpack than Kat Stacks. But, there’s something about this album that as a middle-class, college loan paying, 9-5 working American, pisses me the fuck off.
Excess. It’s all over this album. From the release method, to the hideous cover art I could have shit out but is “groundbreaking” because some dude named Tisci designed it, to the pillowy content: this album is exactly what hip-hop shouldn’t be. Every song is filled with references to blowing coke off model broads or having more power than Obama, but still I listen. It feels good, in my ears, the music is beautiful. The flow is remarkable, it has the makings of a classic. But, when I really listen, I’m hearing mid-90’s Puff Daddy shiny suit raps. Two MCs who have lyrical capability for DAYS fall short because they can’t walk away from all the things they have.
It’s sad, honestly, when the most introspective, real rhyme on the entire album is a blatant rip-off of the amazingly talented Andre 3000 when Jay spits on “Welcome to the Junle”: (I asked her where she wanna be when she 25/ She turned around and looked at me and said ‘alive’). Sorry, Jay, Andre already perfected that on Outkast’s “Da Art of Storytellin Pt.1” (Talkin bout what we wanna be when we grow up/ I said what you wanna be, she said ‘Alive’), and the HMMMMM that Andre adds to the end of that line is exactly what I’m thinking as I listen to this album, HMMMMM.
So, in the end, did I purchase this album? Yes. Did I throw it onto a CD, and do I now bump it in the whip? Yes. Did I feel a bit used as I bought this album for $14.99 on ITunes? Yes. Did I get an eerie sense of guilt as I paired this purchase with a simultaneous free download of 5 albums by the unsigned NYC MC Hoodie Allen (@HoodieAllen)? Yes. Do I feel like hip-hop is dead after this ordeal? No. Hip-hop is alive and well…you merely have to look for it…not on the radio, though. When it comes to the radio, it’s kinda like, when you stop looking you will find. You don’t go to the club to find a wife, and you don’t go to the radio to find hip-hop.