Marc Cabrera has nothing better to do than watch a lot of movies and television, and listen to a lot of music. Luckily, he has a job that pays him to blog about local and national arts, entertainment and pop culture. He can be reached at email@example.com.
A buddy of mine was lamenting the availability of hip-hop albums that are leaked on the internet. "I feel guilty," he said. "And it's always hip-hop albums that get leaked."
True, the leaked album seems to be a hip-hop phenomenon, dating back to bootlegged cd's sold in advance of an album's release at local swap meets and flea markets, or by big city bootleggers on street corners. And honestly, it's unfair to the artists: their hard work sometimes compromised by greedy hangers-on or shady studio employees looking to make a quick buck.
But they are also a guilty pleasure of mine. I confessed in my last leak issue that I sometimes roam the internet late at night in search of album leaks. That was a bit of an exaggeration (my late night internet sessions are usually reserved for free video poker). In any event, I seem to stumble across leaks by accident. So I figure, I might as well share them with y'all.
Here are a few reviews of the latest bunch I've come across (and don't worry, I plan on buying each of these the first week they are out in stores, when record labels gauge most rap records marketability).
Gnarls Barkley - St. Elsewhere: Last Freak-a-Leak, I reviewed a nameless, seven-song leak 'Gnarls Barkley' (sic) that I felt particularly lucky to have scored. This time I scored the whole thing, and I got to say, it's just as good as I had anticipated.
So good, in fact, that I've decided not to listen to the whole thing, as not to completely spoil the anticipation of buying the album when it is release (May 9). But I have listened to the seven songs that were on the original leak, and they are definitely more polished (plus I have names to go with the tracks now).
My second favorite song on the leak, "Who Cares," sounds crisper, and with a different hook ("And I could go on and on and on/But Who Cares?"). It's a more complete song.
And the lead single, "Crazy," well, it's become a hit in the UK, which is promising. Cee-Lo's crooning is Al Green-esque (my sister said so), and Danger Mouse's production is a smash. I even had a friend e-mail me the other day trying to figure out the name of a song he had heard and couldn't get out of his head. The song was "Crazy." Nuff said.
Buy this album this week. Buy two copies, one for you and one for your moms on Mother's Day (I know she's a big Cee-Lo fan).
Lupe Fiasco - Food and Liquor: This is one of those tragicomic leaks. Lupe is a Kanye West protege, signed to Mike Shinoda's (of Linkin Park) record label, and his album was one of those hot, highly anticipated, critical darling-in-the-making type of debuts that was set to change the game and earn him a lot of groupies (male and female alike). Then, the bottom fell out a few weeks ago when his album leaked.
Lamenting the premature release on okayplayer.com, Lupe sounded sad but resigned: he was pissed that he would have to re-do the entire album, but at the same time he invited fans to give it a listen and let him know what they thought.
Well, you don't have to tell me twice. I found the sucker and boy, is it a banger. I know I usually give positive reviews of stuff on this here blog, but that's only because I only write about stuff I like (why waste time complaining about bullshit? I want to enjoy this stuff). That being said, this Lupe Fiasco is the ish.
It reminds me sort of Nas' debut, Illmatic, not because of the quality of the material (Illmatic is a certified classic, after all), but because it's pretty much just Lupe on his own, riding beats from some known and unknown producers. "You My" sounds like a Neptunes-produced, breezy punch to the ribs. I'm not sure if that's Pharrell doing the falsetto hook, but it works just as well as anything Skateboard P has freaked.
"Never Lies" is an emo-jam with Lupe spitting furious rhymes over a rock and roll rhythm. "Hustla's Song" is a stone cold groove that takes a refreshing, remorseful look at the coke rap craze hip-hop can't seem to get past. And of course, the single "Kick, Push" is a revelation: a song about a young, black skater in the ghetto dealing with the trials and tribs of young love, rebellion and identity. It's a simple song with a complex design, and Lupe rides the groove smoother than a Stevie Williams kick-flip ollie.
Q-Tip - Live at the Renaissance: Q-Tip and Andre 3000 collaborate on a song!
Do I need to continue? Okay, if you insist.
This leaked a couple of weeks ago, and it's supposed to be the new album from Q-Tip, post Kamaal The Abstract (the album he recorded some four years ago but was never released due to label drama/dissatisfaction). And Tip actually raps on this one, after Kamaal The Abstract reportedly had Tip singing.
As for the Tip/Dre collab, well, it's almost too sexy in an Antonio Banderas-keep-ya-shirt-on type of way (no homo). Andre 3000 sings the hook, and the bridge, doing his best to get his Prince on. Its a thorough funk jam, complete with sweaty R&B guitar skank, shakers, and a pulsating thump. I don't know if the boho ladies are ready for this one.
The rest of the disc is a jazzy, subtle cruise, with Tip displaying his player card for all to see. "Say Something For Me" is for the ladies, as is "Lisa," Feelings," and "I Believe," which features the estranged okayplayer D'Angelo singing a gospel hook.
But Tip also brings some boom-bap for the heads, in the form of the J-Dilla sounding production "Official" (Dilla's off-kilter scratch hooks and staticky but sharp percussion are in full effect), and on the incredible "I'm Not Gon Have It." On that song, Tip actually sounds hungry and aggressive, over a slow-rolling, distorted funk track. Tip boasting "I'm fiery, lucid and fast/ you can't dart me."
I don't know if this will ever see the light of day, but it's damn good, that's for sure. Q-Tip sounds refreshed, and considering A Tribe Called Quest is my second favorite hip-hop group of all time (behind only De La Soul), it's a relief to hear him back to his usual quality self. Now if we can only see an official release, I'll be happy.