Thursday, March 23, 2006


Ahhh, wonderful internet. The grand equalizer. Proprietor of myspace web pages, hardcore porn, and my personal fave, the album leak.

Part of record industry marketing strategy in recent years has been the internet leak, which has replaced the bootleg leak as a gauge of consumer response in the wake of an album release.

In hip-hop, it is ever-present: when Jay-Z's "Black Album" leaked two weeks before it's release in 2003, Roots drummer ?uestlove, a friend and sometime musical advisor for Jigga, urged his minions on to list their top three favorite songs in an effort to have some say in the release of Jay-Z's second single.

Adversely, when Talib Kweli's second solo album was leaked six months before its release on the same web site, it reflected horribly on the artist. The music was muddled and unmastered and, more pointedly, fans of the web site weren't feeling it. When Kweli posted a scathing response to the leak on the site a few days later, he alienated some folks, causing a back lash on the web site that is still felt to this day.

I am one of those who lurk the internet late at night in search of album leaks. It's fun, although sometimes time-consuming. I've had a tough make of it lately, since no longer allows its users post entire albums, but here are a few album leaks and mixtapes preceding album releases that I have had the pleasure of listening to:

Gnarls Barkley - 8-track album leak: This 8-song sampler was leaked a couple of months back, and the cruddy sound means the music probably hadn't been engineered when it was released. But it's a banger.

Gnarls Barkley is a collaboration between producer DangerMouse and Goodie Mob veterano Cee-Lo. It's an odd couple, for sure, but the music is a great mix of soulful crooning with space-age beats.

The version I got had no track listing, although I have been able to verify one album track, the first single "Crazy." The song has a chunky bass line with Cee-Lo harmonizing "I remember when, I remember when I lost my mind." The song's angelic hook taps Lo's gospel-esque vocal leanings.

My other favorite song is track 4, which I have not been able to identify (the tracklisting is on the net, but I havent' had the time to match up songs with titles). The lyrics are an exercise in irony: "Basically I'm complicated/ I have a hard time taking the easy way."

I will cop this album when it drops.

Ghostface - Fishscale album sampler: This isn't a leak per-say. This five-song sampler is in anticipation of "Fishscale," which will drop sometime at the end of the month (i'm also too lazy to bother with release dates right now).

The best song on here is the Pete Rock produced "Be Easy," a jittery, head-nodding banger that features funky tuba stabs and Ghost boasting "I'm like the Boogie Man, I'll get ya." This song has been on mixtapes for a year now, but its still fresh to death.

Ghost has a funny song with Def Jam wonderboy Ne-Yo called "Back Like That." The song features Ghost's signature soul sampled beats, and Ne-Yo crooning a sad song about a girl who gets back at her man by showing up on the block with the dude who wanted to kill him. It could be a single, but what do I know about those type of things?

Rhymfest - Blue Collar 8-song leak: This one I'm not too sure about. Rhymefest is an Indianapolis MC who is down with Kanye West ('Fest co-wrote 'Jesus Walks'). His album, "Blue Collar," is scheduled for release in July, and these songs are supposedly from that album.

One track, "Build Me Up," features the late ODB singing the the hook from the song "Build Me Up, Buttercup." Singing is a bit of an overstatement; he's more like straining. I will refrain from completely dissing the song because, well, ODB is dead.

Kanye shows up on "Brand New," and "More," songs that more than anything reveal that Kanye has borrowed a lot of his steez from a scribe called 'Fest.

The best song on this leak is the Just Blaze-produced "Dynomite." It's signature Just, with echoing siren horns, hard drums, and a scratch chorus to boot. 'Fest rhymes like an animal, claiming he's "Hot like Mexican meals" and ending each stanza with "Open my palm, bitch, I got the world in my hand," like he really means it.

Dr. Dre - Look Out for Detox mixtape: This is not a leak, but a mixtape billed as songs scrapped from Dre's supposed final album, the seven-years-in-the-making "Detox."

It sounds more like songs that were scrapped from Dre's last album, 1999's "The Chronic 2001."

Lots has been written about Detox: It was supposed to be a hip-hop opera, with Denzel Washington narrating. It was supposed to be Dre's last album, and a collaborative effort with all of the artists he's developed, from IceCube to Snoop to Eminem to The Game.

Well, hearing the songs that definitely won't make the album makes the listener fiend even more for a fix from the good Doctor. A lot of the production sounds like slightly tweaked updates of the beats Dre has been giving to G-Unit and The Game the past three years. "Here We Go Again" has The Game getting some subliminals over Dre's signature two-bar piano key melodies.

"Hard Liquor," another track featuring Game, has Dre employing sinister bar room piano notes while in-house hook singer KoKaine does his best George Clinton impression.

The best song is the King Tee featured "The Chron." King Tee, an old school LA rapper predating even NWA, sounds like a seasoned vet riding Dre's computer bleep guitar skank. The hook, "I got the Chron, talkin' bout the bomb," is a West Coast masterpiece.

Will somebody please lock Dre up in a studio with a pound of that West Coast stick-icky and force him at gunpoint to release a new album. That way, annoying writers like myself won't have to comb the far reaches of the 'net to get their prescription illegally.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice article. I have to admit i have downloaded over 200 whole albums in the past year. i have loaded my ipod with over 3k songs. I have respect for artist its just i'm too cheap to pay 10-15 bucks for a cd.

And i just downloaded ti's new album out in 2 weeks. its good btw.