The Score, Fugees, 1996, 70 Minutes
The first thing that you realize when you’re listening to this is how immensely talented these three artists are/were. Lauryn Hill, Wyclef, and Pras. Lauryn Hill with the elite vocal talent, the elite rapping ability, the writing ability — Wyclef with the right mix of breadth, humor and composition — Pras with the juxtaposition of highly literate and political, concrete and concise rap.
What they rap about varies tremendously, here’s a list: the rap game, Rastafarianism, Judaism, New Jersey, The Government, paranoia, The Constitution, Haiti, The Star-Spangled Banner, taxes, mental illness, prostitution, drug abuse, Justice, crime, love, betrayal, chinese-food, gunplay, and panhandling.
And I could go on.
I suppose that they’re the mid-90’s species of cerebral, cynical, and hyperpolitical rap. And this is why everyone liked them. They have both unorthodox and orthodox rhymes. They use small words, they use huge words. Their beats are haunting and unique, and feel anything but recycled. All of this just comes together to as an extremely original.
Still even to listen to Lauryn Hill today is refreshing. It’s incredible what talent she had wrapped up all inside those fingers and brain of hers. It just occurred to me that she was in Sister Act. Just an intense white-hot burst of talent and energy. And then, sort of nothing. She left the scene. She got married, and had some kids.
Recently, I read some speculation/musings about where Lauryn Hill has gone (she hasn’t produced much of anything since 1998’s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill), and I don’t know. Three theories were posited: that it’s Wyclef Jean’s fault, that it’s religion’s fault, or that it’s a feud with the band that produced her 1998 solo album’s fault. I think it’s a mix of all three — because I think that she might be an alien from outer space.
Unimpeachable tracks: Killing Me Softly, Fug-ee-la, Ready or Not
Meh, but still ok: Cowboys
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Radio, LL Cool J, 1985, 47 minutes
This thing is cool, articulate acrobatic, and energetic rap.
I had written a longer piece before, but lost it in a hard drive malfunction.
I didn’t like Dear Yvette, the third track. It was a whole piece of slut-shaming that in 2012 rings incredibly strange. However, perhaps it was almost prescient in 1985 with a coming HIV/AIDS epidemic. I was recently having an argument with my brother who said it was a problem when a girl goes and sleeps around, and I can remember just being absolutely confused with his premise.
The beats are classic classic — skeletal and repetitive. Booming bass drum. Consistent drum machine. Not much live anything to be found, except for guitar, most notably on Rock The Bells, which sounds like the precursor to a Beastie Boys track in both rhythm and cadence. And that makes sense because Rick Rubin is heavily involved in this album. As he was with at least the first Beastie Boys album.
I Need a Beat is this album’s centerpiece. Near-constant bass drum and snare. Relentless energy. Braggadocio. If you were playing it in your car, you would find it difficult to not roll down your windows, speed, and hold an uzi out the window spraying bystanders. Perhaps I’ve said too much.
LL Cool J’s strength here is rhyming and his lyrics. From what I remember growing up, his strength shifted more to his hooks and his beats, but his career has been quite lengthy. And not just for any reason.
Best: I Need a Beat
Worst: Dear Ivette
Quite nice: Rock the Bells, Three the Hard Way
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars
I need to blow my nose. It’s not really need, but I want to, and I should.
I don’t like discussing needs vs. wants.
I’m in a spot.
There’s a nice breeze.
I Want to See the Bright Lights, Richard and Linda Thompson, 1974, 37 Minutes
This is American Road Trip Music by a British duo. The kind of shit that you play when you’re driving along a desert road, or through some mountains, and there’s a blue sky, and you put the windows down if it’s not too cold, and you take a sip of your water, and you think about your freedom — anything you want. Anything at all.
The album opens up with When I get to The Border, which is a rock song with twangy guitars and Richard’s vocals during the verses, joined by Linda in the chorus. He’s singing about leaving people behind by crossing some mythical or real border, I’m not sure. It could be just switching states, it could be just leaving the city limits of a certain city — yes.
There’s Calvary Cross next. It’s a piece about doing things for others. Dedicating your life to something besides oneself.
Withered and Died is about growing old, whether chronologically or by just experience. Linda T. is singing about getting involved with a badass from out west who people are afraid of — but so afraid that being with him destroys her dreams. It’s a slow quiet’s with hints of an . . . accordion? The country is also implicated as one of the reasons for the destruction of Linda’s dreams.
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight is next, and it’s a party song — it’s about having fun on the weekend after a long week of working. Going to the city and throwing your hands up and swaying your hips from side-to-side — people watching. IT’S A FUCKING PARTY!
Down Where the Drunkards Roll is about just some I guess sad song about going out in town trying to have fun, but being brought down by all of the misery that one can’t help but seeing, especially if it’s inherent in the urban environment. After the high-flying fun of Bright Lights I feel that this song is a little misplaced and a little too sad to have any fun while listen to this. And I am sure from here case of the swing music video that Mariah had to have shat herself (sorry just thinking of Always Bee Me Baby).
Sing Hallelujah is about people being really excited for very mundane things that occur in life, like being able to get out of work, being able to go home and cook for someone you love. Going to school as a little baby and getting the ability to go home and run around in circles and have lots of fun and being yourself. That’s what most people try to do to.
Has he got a Friend for Me. At the outset this seems like a vaguely unrequited love story. Well she has a friend, whose boyfriend is fucking amazing, and handsome. She’s envious of their relationship. She wants to know if the boyfriend has a friend for her. The second verse focuses on the friend’s boyfriend’s virtues, and is a bit self-deprecatory — in that the boyfriend would never notice her. It’s sort of like an OKCupid profile in the third verse.
The Little Beggar Girl is about someone who is going around being innocent — the song is peppered with these Celtic sounding staccatos and accordions. So the beggar girl, but she’s actually more savvy and shrewd, than she lets on. She relishes taking money. She soothes the alarm that charitable people would have from this song by asserting that “generosity is like a lucky charm.”
The End of the Rainbow is Richard T. back in play, singing about a child whose future is sort of gloomy, no matter how hard the mother tries. It’s a pessimistic description of what the child is going to face.
The Great Valerio is about a tightrope walker at first — and the features that a tightrope walker has to have to be successful. Confidence, steady, rock-solid. Then she goes on to describe the rest of us, the non-Valerios, how our lives feature tightrope-walks, in the form of love and relationships.
Who will help the tightrope walker,
When he tumbles to the net?
So come with me to see Valerio
As he dances through the air
I’m your friend until you use me
And then be sure I won’t be there.
The rest of the version of the album that I have are good live renditions.
Best song: I want to see the Bright Lights Tonight
Worst song: We Sing Hallelujah
Solids: The End of The Rainbow
3.5 out of 5 stars
What dreams are made of.
Found this gem in the Maryland Family Doctor, Spring 2012, by Cindy Stewart Murphy about William L. Stewart (1925-2011).
While dad was a medical student at Johns Hopkins, he was stumped by a question on an exam. He wrote on the examination paper, “If you can show me one practicing doctor in a thousand who can answer this question, I’ll show you a green horse.”
Dad’s medical buddies were sure he’d be thrown out of Hopkins for that remark. Instead, the professor wrote back, “Stewart – you’ve now shown us a horse’s ass.” Dad’s medical school friends got such a kick out of this that for the rest of his life, whenever one of them saw a green horse in a gift shop they’d buy it and send it to Dad! We even have a few green elephants and green dogs that were sent.
Dad kelt his green horses collection and I made sure that it went with him at the assisted facilities where he lived after developing Parkinson’s disease. The collection was (probably about 25 horses of all sizes and materials) was a great conversation starter and dad never tired of telling the story behind it.