Songs of the Week: Jay-Z and Kanye Try a Little Tenderness
1. Jay-Z and Kanye West, “Otis”
This, the first “single” from Kanye and Jay’s Watch The Throne (single in quotes because Hov claimed there would be no official single from the album), dropped Wednesday night on Funkmaster Flex’s New York radio show (you should do yourself a favor and listen to Flex’s accompanying rant). The last time Kanye West flipped an Otis Redding sample he made the greatest song of his career (Late Registration‘s “Gone”). So stakes were high on this one. “Otis” doesn’t quit flip the Stax legend’s “Try A Little Tenderness” as much as it fluffs its hair and puts it front and center. But where the beat is a little underwhelming, the interplay between Jay and Kanye is stellar, as the two trade bars, and use the end of each other’s rhymes as jumping off points for their own. Jay-Z: “I got five passports, I’m never going to jail.” Kanye: “I made Jesus walk, I’m never going to hell.” Don’t sweat the technique.
2. Lil Wayne (feat. Lil B), “Grove Street Party”
I have heard tell around the campfire that the original, Waka Flocka version of this track is occasionally played at the Wells Fargo Center during Sixers games. I have not witnessed this myself, which is probably for the best, because if I did go to a Sixers game and they did play “Grove St. Party,” I’d probably run out to half-court, light a copy of The Notebook on fire in front of Evan Turner and repeatedly shout “FLOCKA!” while punching Hip Hop the mascot in the ear.
Oh yeah, this version is from Lil Wayne’s totally enjoyable Sorry 4 The Wait mixtape, features Weezy doing some good hashtag rap (“Swagger on steroids/Canseco/Jose”) and Lil B with some willfully offbeat, off-of-the-beat raps. I prefer the original but either way, it’s a party, it’s a party, it’s a party.
3. Freeway, “For The Paper”
My beautiful dark twisted Philadelphia neck-beard rap. If the beat ever dropped for real on this track — which is released in promotion of the A3C hip-hop festival — I feel like the core of the earth would dissolve. As it is, Freezer just raps with a chip on his shoulder about how “EARLY” he gets up over what sounds like a James Bond score played through broken amplifier. Just as well. Think of the environment.
4. Björk, “Cosmogony”
Björk’s new app-album, Biophillia is a heady mixture of music, technology, design, and science. I don’t think I could accurately explain the ideas behind it or what went into making it, so read her explanation in her interview with Stereogum here. What I can say is that whether she’s harmonizing with the sound of polar icecaps melting, performing with members of Lightning Bolt, or making Cuppertino Core, Björk remains one of the most interesting artists of her generation.
5. M83, “Midnight City”
BRB, I’m just gonna put my counterfeit money in the tumble dryer, throw on a really ill-fitting blazer with the sleeves rolled up and drive around a neon dystopia and seduce women in eccentric hats. This M83 track, taken from the French electro outfit’s upcoming Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, will definitely make you want to live and die or both in whatever city you reside in.
6. Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Adventures Of Rain Dance Maggie”
Don’t let the late-period Counting Crows song title scare you off. This first single from RHCP’s upcoming I’m With You is totally enjoyable, accentuating the rhythm section of Flea and Chad Smith in lieu of the departed John Frusciante. Keidis-isms like “Tick tock, I want to rock you like the eighties/Cock-blocking isn’t allowed” won’t make you reconsider your world view, but this is the guy who played “Tone” in Point Break so maybe we shouldn’t expect maybe Slavoj Žižek-level gems.
7. Blink-182, “Up All Night”
Eight years ago, Blink-182 had completed an incredible trajectory from pop-punk fart-jokers to one of the most reliably enjoyable big-draw rock bands working. Then the three members, arguably at the height of their creative powers, went their separate ways, making space-emo (Tom DeLonge), hosting TV shows (Mark Hoppus), and playing drums for rappers (Travis Barker). Now they’re back with “Up All Night,” a heavy song both in terms of dynamics and subject matter (it’s about demons). A little more Angels and Airwaves than “Feeling This.”
8. The Drums, “The Money”
You know what’s a fun little activity? Walking around pretending you are in the less volatile moments of the film Carlos. This of course involves chain-smoking, excessive drinking, and listening to Wire and the Feelies. But if you want a more modern soundtrack you can do a lot worse than the Drums. “The Money,” from their Portamento album, is a perfect mix of nervous energy and studied cool.
9. Radiohead, “Remixes”
Radiohead announced recently that they would be issuing a collection of remixes as a companion to their latest full-length King Of Limbs. I personally did not need King Of Limbs to sound any more opaque, but if you like your humidifier music to sound like it’s coming from another room, may I recommend the Nathan Fake remix of “Morning Mr. Magpie.”
10. Ryan Adams, “Mansard Rood/Oxford Comma” (Vampire Weekend covers)
Respect to Ryan Adams for not giving a flying used Whiskeytown CD about what people think. This dude could be out here on these Internets covering Adele like everyone else (no shots, Patti Smith), but instead he’s getting unplugged and covering recent-vintage Vampire Weekend tracks. Why? Because, according to Adams’ Facebook, “I am a superfan.” Your enjoyment of the songs will probably hinge on how much the spritely rhythms of the originals mattered to you. But they’re well worth a listen for fans of Adams, VW, and dark, lonely-looking bedrooms.