The Weeknd's "House of Balloons": THE REVIEW

You can tell a genre of music is dying when a) it gives too much of itself away to a radio-ready pop sound, and b) it becomes artistically stagnant, with too few of its practitioners willing (or able) to innovate and move the genre forward. With Usher’s lowest-common-denominator Pop&B, as well as Chris Brown’s douchbaggery and Trey Songz’s utter mediocrity dominating the charts, R&B music has certainly been sliding in that general direction over the past few years. These guys can dance and sing (or whine) with the best of them, but their music is just formulaic, thematically bland, and entirely missing any kind of edge whatsoever. Too much watered-down Michael Jackson and not nearly enough Prince, in a nutshell.

Maybe these R&B cats thought they were safe from the kind of utter embarrassment and panic OFWGKTA is inflicting on Hip Hop’s many phony, undercover pop stars. No such luck, sorry. Allow me to introduce you to The Weeknd’s House of Balloons.

Say hello to the dark, smoldering future of Rhythm and Blues.

9 Songs Every PRINCE Fan Should Know

Growing up in the digital age has completely changed our generation’s listening habits.

Instead of buying albums and experiencing a complete artistic statement, we download an artists most well-known tracks from iTunes and call it a day. It’s pathetic. How can you call yourself a Prince fan (for example) if you’ve only got “Raspberry Beret,” “Purple Rain,” and “1999” on your iPod shuffle? It’s just not enough.

The following is a list of what music nerds call “deep cuts,” or songs that either weren’t released as singles, or didn’t get a lot of mainstream attention upon their initial release. Obviously you won’t be a Prince historian after listening to these songs (the man has released over 35 albums); this is seriously the tip of the iceberg. But at least you’ll have gained a deeper insight into the many facets of his artistry; perhaps gaining a clearer picture of his genius.

These are the 9 songs every Prince fan should know.

ODD FUTURE WOLF GANG KILL THEM ALL: Why They Matter

“I created OF cause I feel we’re more talented

Than 40 year-old rappers talkin’ ‘bout Gucci

When they have kids they haven’t seen in years.

Impressing they peers.”

-Tyler, The Creator “Bastard”

A lot has been written about Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All. And if my intuition is correct, plenty more will be written in the coming months. Because Odd Future isn’t just going to become popular; Odd Future is revitalizing Hip Hop music. And more than anything else, the above quote perfectly encapsulates why.

THINGS FALL APART: What Happened To Hip Hop's Conscience?

Has anyone else been wondering what happened to the socially conscious voice in Hip Hop music?

Yes, I’m aware that there are plenty of emcees out there in the underground with tons of relevant shit to say. But what about the mainstream? There used to be some semblance of balance in Hip Hop. There was a time when a Neo Soul/alternative Hip Hop movement was a visual, popular alternative to the violence, misogyny, and materialism of mainstream Hip Hop. It was a time when that gorgeous and supernaturally gifted actress from Sister Act 2 became the de facto leader of that movement, and the spokeswoman for a generation.

This article is a love letter to that glorious movement, and an explanation as to why it faded away.

#WINNING?: The Unprecedented Meltdown Of Charlie Sheen

I’m sure this past week has been a busy one for all of us.

Maybe you were preoccupied with a preponderance of school work. Or perhaps it was that boring, borderline dehumanizing 9-to-5 that got you down. Or maybe you were meeting regularly with your overpriced legal team, striving desperately to devise a legal strategy that’ll keep you out of jail for stealing a necklace for which you had more than enough money to pay (if your name is Lindsay Lohan).

Me? I spent most of this past week trying to figure out what in the hell is going on in the mind of Charlie Sheen. And I’m ashamed to admit that it’s been pretty amazing.  

Was It OK For Beyonce, Usher, and Mariah Carey To Perform For The Qaddafi Family?

According to the New York Times, as well as documents obtained by Wikileaks, a slew of pop megastars have received massive paychecks from the dictatorial/psychotic Qaddafi family of Libya, in exchange for private concert performances.

While the people of their country were living in utter poverty and misery, and tortured and/or imprisoned if they ever dared to express dissent, General Qaddafi’s sons were throwing lavish parties in St. Bart’s, extending invitations to some very big names. A recent New Year’s Eve blowout featured back-to-back performances from Usher and Beyonce. The year prior, Mariah Carey rang in the New Year with the Qaddafi’s. All reportedly netted a whopping $1 million a piece for their services.

An Open Letter To Lil' Kim….

Dear Lil’ Kim,

I actually like you. Hard Core was dope. I even kinda liked La Bella Mafia, and I agree with The Source; The Naked Truth is classic material. I thought it was sad that you went to jail in order to protect so-called friends that wound up testifying against you in court to save their own asses. Hell, I wouldn’t even vilify you for being Biggie’s side jawn; I believe you when you say that what you and Biggie had was special. You probably didn’t deserve to be marginalized or portrayed unfairly in a certain biopic chronicling the Notorious one’s life either. You are undoubtedly one of the greatest and most influential female rappers of all time. You are a Hip Hop legend.

But enough is enough.

Your beef with Nicki Minaj is illegitimate on multiple levels, Kim. But you know what? So was LL Cool J’s tiff with Canibus. So was KRS-One’s legendary war with MC Shan. Hip Hop is littered with rap battles founded on shoddy evidence. The difference here is that your behavior over the past 6-8 months has come across as jealous, immature, and incredibly desperate. And you’ve taken it to another level of absurdity this week. Releasing a low-budget, entirely unnecessary Nicki Minaj diss fest of a mixtape called Black Friday, charging ten dollars for it, and then falsely claiming it sold 100,000 copies in 28 hours? Not a good look, Kim. In the words of Karen Civil, “If I wanted to buy a whole mixtape about Nicki Minaj I would just buy the Pink Friday LP again.” Such behavior is entirely unbecoming of a Hip Hop legend. And for the sake of your legacy, it really needs to stop.

Adele's "21"

Incredible debut albums are fun because they catch the music industry by surprise.

 Amy Winehouse’s Frank, D’Angelo’s Brown Sugar and Erykah Badu’s Baduizm are just a few examples. The brilliant debut album is truly a gem, exciting both in its musical achievements as well the ways in which it reflects a young artist’s potential for something even greater. But of course, it takes an artist’s entire life to write their debut album. The heavy lifting begins when that damn second album comes around. Rarely does a promising new artist release a sophomore album that actually lives up to this aforementioned potential. But when they do, the feat is all the more remarkable.

An outstanding second album reflects an unprecedented growth, depth and creativity that takes the artist’s music in a direction that feels both reassuringly natural yet thrillingly unexpected. Like Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black, D’Angelo’s Voodoo, and Erykah Badu’s Mama’s Gun, Adele has most certainly achieved this near impossible balancing act with her sophomore album, 21.

The Sweetest Thing

I cannot quit Lauryn Hill.

Several days ago, if you had asked me what I might entitle my post-Hill Chicago show blog, I would have said something like “Ex-Factor,” “Lost One,” or “Losing Lauryn.”  Instead, I sit here, after witnessing my first Lauryn Hill show in years, having named this entry after my favorite Lauryn Hill song.

Like many of you, I saw clips of Hill lecturing a Brooklyn crowd for their lack of Job-like patience, after they had waited hours for her to appear on stage.  Even Prince, rumor has it, left a show before the first notes of Hill’s set began.  So I was ready.  Ready to proclaim the end of my Hill fandom.  Ready to abandon a fierce loyalty for Hill that began the moment I saw the Fugees’ “Nappy Heads” video.  Ready to forget how geeked my sister and I were when we both recognized that “the chick from the Fugees” was one Rita Watson in Sister Act 2.  I had previously defended the three chords that make up the musical arrangement for Hill’s unplugged album.  But I wasn’t sure if I could rationalize Hill’s latest pre-show antics.  Sure, I could wait an hour or two–I had already been waiting several years–for Hill to bless me with her presence.  But four hours accompanied with a lecture about how much she had sacrificed for me, anonymous member in a crowd of her fans, punctuated with maternal-toned “you understands?” That was the stop where I got off.  Yes, I had fortified myself with pessimism.

Gucci Mane's Bizarre New Tattoo

Earlier this week, Gucci Mane unveiled what has to be the ugliest, most absurd tattoo of all time.

Amid his multiple arrests (and an extended stay in the psych ward), Gucci found the time to have a massive ice cream cone tattooed across the side of his face. Look closely and you’ll notice a small “Burrr” printed inside of the cone.

The obvious question arises: What the fuck is wrong with Gucci Mane?