447. ZZ Top’s ‘Eliminator’

11 months, and 148 records ago, I considered closing up shop here at Vinyl in Alphabetical because I wasn’t sure if I should spend time writing stuff about the records I just bought at the record store. I had completely caught up with my record collection, but ultimately, I decided to keep going, and being that I have a job with a bigger disposable income, I have somehow accrued nearly 150 records since then. I obviously found that I had things I could write about those albums; some more than others, obviously. But still; I was able to keep going for 11 months and 148 records.

As of this ZZ Top album, I have now, again, caught up with my record collection. I have nothing left to write about. Except for a quip about how the one guy in ZZ Top sans beard is named Frank Beard, and how ZZ Top fucking shred, I am not sure I even have much to write about here.

But! I am not quitting. I have plans to hit this incredible pawn store in the U.P. next week, a place that boasts literally 30,000 records for sale, and plan to walk out with arms full of shit. I am just going to take some time off from this blog. Maybe the rest of this month; I’m not really sure. I just realized I’ve written—or gotten my friends to help write—about 447 records in 23 months. That’s 19 a month. That’s too many.

See you in a bit. 

446. Wham!’s ‘Make It Big’ (Short Story By Ian Charles Garner)

Hey y’all: I have something special lined up here today, which has been cooking since about January. As you may or may not know, I used to be a part of The Continuing Tales Of… a thing where music writers wrote short stories “inspired” by songs on classic albums. Since then, I’ve really wanted a writer to write some short fiction “inspired” by an album in my collection, and when I got to thinking about WHO I wanted to write it, I had only one answer: Ian Charles Garner, known to the Internet as the always ribald Sweatpants Papi.

If you’ve ever read Ian’s Twitter feed—which you should, now—you know it’s one of the snappiest, funniest, toughest, places on all of Twitter, and it’s full of little details about Ian’s life: the men he’s chasing via Grindr, the bulge in the pants of the cashier at Starbucks, and the lunacy of whatever new thing he’s gotten himself embroiled in on Twitter. I had a feeling that if I gave Ian free rein to turn this into an erotica—and assigned him an album as weird as Wham!’s Make It Big—that he’d deliver something risque and totally perfect. And he did. It’s below.   

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444. Soulja Boy’s ‘Souljaboytellem.com’ (Written By Drew Millard)

Happy Independence Day, y’all. I hope everyone is doing Stone Cold Steve Austin impersonations over a pit of read meat while rap music plays loudly in your immediate vicinity. To celebrate America in the most perfect, this Tumblr-centric way I possibly could, I had my friend Drew Millard do a track-by-track deep dive into Souljaboytellem.com, the first album by American Patriot Soulja Boy. Drew has been my Internet friend since he was a college graduate trying to break into #viral #content, and now he’s a grown ass dude who works at Noisey and who writes shit that can send the NY Rap Community into fucking convulsions. I guess I’m saying Drew rules and you should follow him on Twitter.  

On October 2nd, 2007, the world was irrevocably changed. On that day, the President of South Korea walk across the DMZ into North Korea as a gesture of goodwill towards Kim Jong Il. And, uh, because MOTHERFUCKING SOULJA BOY PUT OUT HIS FIRST RECORD.

It is called souljaboytellem.com. Because the world is full of miracles, if you type “www.souljaboytellem.com” into your web browser, you will automatically be redirected to Soulja Boy’s twitter account. Because Soulja Boy is the best, Andrew asked me to write about his first album. Though it’s not his best album (that’d be the criminally unheralded The DeAndre Way), it is definitely his first. And, in case you were wondering, Soulja Boy has been a motherfucking innovator since day one. Let’s take a trip down souljaboytellem.com lane.

Intro

Soulja Boy and Mr. Collipark, the guy who produced a gazillion Ying Yang Twinz songs plus “Ms. New Booty,” rehash the introduction of Pinky and the Brain. “FROM THE INTERNET TO MAINSTREAM,” Soulja yells. But Soulja—the internet is mainstream. Time is a flat circle, Kermit meme, etc.

Crank Dat (Soulja Boy)

This song is basically “Y.M.C.A.” for our generation, except awesome. Soulja Boy is the true example of disruption in the tech sphere.

Sidekick

I never had a sidekick, but Mr. Collipark cooks up a Marsian snap beat to make me really fucking jealous I never had one. This might be an early example of #Branded #Content, or maybe Soulja Boy was just super amped he suddenly had money after coming from nothing and decided it was easier to articulate that feeling of intense, unknowable relief through defining himself by the products he was now capable of owning. Either way, this song slaps.

Snap and Roll

Pales in comparison to “Party Like a Rockstar” by Shop Boyz, but at least Soulja Boy is super open about the fact that he’s trying to create both a snap-rock song, as well as a dance for said snap-rock song.

Bapes

AT LAST, THE TRAGIC FIGURE THAT IS ARAB REARS HIS HEAD. Arab was Soulja Boy’s best friend, but then Arab got tired of being his friend and stopped rapping with him. This song is dope because it sounds like DJ Mustard will eventually rip the beat off.

Let Me Get ‘Em

Seriously, the beats on this record are fucking out of this world. If this had come out right now, people would be freaking the fuck out.

Donk

This is a song about butts.

Yahhh!

So, we must confront the glaringly obvious. “Yahhh!” has not aged well. On the other hand, it’s still really fun to wave your hands in someone’s face while screaming “YAHHH!!!!”, so what the fuck do I know.

Pass It to Arab

I want to move inside of this beat. I seriously forgot how incredible the productions on this were. This one has this weird little flute-whistle thing, an 808 drumbeat, and then the sort of bass that sounds like you’re just beating a trash can against the side of a tin building. You could argue that Soulja Boy should have tried harder at rapping on this, but you’d be missing the point and I’d have to wave my hands in your face and yell “YAHHH!” at you.

Soulja Girl

Sadly, not all songs on your debut album can be fun bangers about new dances you’ve invented. Article 1, Clause 17.5 of the Music Industry Handbook clearly states that you’ve got to have at least one song on your debut album explicitly for the ladies. Fortunately, this one’s pretty dank, and it’s the only time on the album Soulja Boy shows you he’s just as adept at rapping at whatever lyrically ass lyrical rapper you like, nerd.

Booty Meat

This is basically a 2 Live Crew song, and that is decidedly a good thing. I actually just went on Pirate Bay and downloaded this, because I’m DJing a party tomorrow night and I’m gonna play like five songs from this during my set.

Report Card

The most martial, menacing soundscape to ever start with, “Man I just got my report card today, mane. I looked at it, it had all F’s on it. I took it back to the teacher, told her, ‘Throw some D’s on it!’”

She Thirsty

Yet again, Soulja Boy innovates, this time by using the term “thirsty” in a rap song years before hipsters could use it on Twitter.

Don’t Get Mad

All good things, including souljaboytellem.com, must come to an end. Fortunately, Soulja Boy drops some lyrical miracles to remind you of all he’s accomplished. Probably the most honest line he’s ever written is, “It’s amazing what I did with a mic and the internet.”

The end. I’m gonna go cry now.

443. Kanye West and Jay-Z’s ‘Watch the Throne’ (Written by Trey Smith)

Hey y’all, I’ve got another guest writer on the blog. This week it’s Trey Smith, better known to Twitter users with good taste as Slimi Hendrix, covering Jay and Kanye’s maligned-for-the-wrong-reasons Watch the Throne. Like I said, if you’re not following Trey, why are you even on Twitter. He’s the visionary behind this incredible Tumblr, and one half of the Poor Home empire. Anyways, here’s Trey:

There are two types of people in the world:

1) Those who see Watch The Throne as a disgusting display of gluttony and excess.

2) Those who see Watch The Throne as motivation.

I remember there being a segment of the population that was unhappy about the album when it dropped. I get not liking the music or thinking they could’ve done better, and those are arguments I’ll listen to (won’t agree though). I’m talking more about the ones who saw some deep moral problems with the project. “They’re assholes for releasing this during an economic crisis.” “Kanye and Jay are praising false idols and setting a bad example.” “There’s Illuminati subliminal messaging in every other track that will make your pets try to fellate you while you sleep.”

It’s cool to think that way and all, if that’s what you want to do, but chill out and consider some stuff for a minute. These are two guys who decided to get together and celebrate the hard work they’ve been putting in for a combined number of years that’s possibly longer than you’ve been alive. They bragged about their material goods and accomplishments and snorting drugs off of other human beings, but they also reflected on where they came from and dreamed of a better future for themselves and others. Not exactly what I would consider vile and revolting, but to each his or her own.

“But why are they so special that I should even care?” Well, these are guys who’ve kept themselves not just relevant, but on top of the most competitive genre of music for some time. They’ve gone to war with Nas, 50 Cent, George Bush, and Taylor Swift and come out with undefeated records. You can’t even beat Flappy Bird, fuckboy/girl. (fuckperson?) They earned the right to put this album out. So if you’re in that first group from the original point, maybe take a deep breath and think about what’s really going on with your life where you’d try to paint the successes of others in a negative light. Jay and Kanye are showing you what hard work, good taste, and the right vision can lead to on Watch The Throne. Do yourself a favor and pay attention.

Few other related thoughts:

- They should play “Niggas In Paris” during every graduation ceremony. Especially kindergarten graduations. 

- I wish The Neptunes would spend the next half decade or so only making beats like that “Gotta Have It” one.

- For some reason “Made In America” and “Murder To Excellence” make me think Frederick Douglass would’ve been a good rapper.

- “I Can’t Stop” is perfect standing on furniture music.

- Kind of amazing that anybody will still let Swizz speak a word on songs after he said “My beats go hard like fuck you dicks” on that Good Friday track.

 - “Racks on racks on racks/Maybachs on bachs on bachs on bachs on bachs/Who in that?/Oh shit, it’s just blacks on blacks on blacks” is arguably the best thing to happen in a rap song in the 21st century. “Your weed purple, my money purple.” is a close second.

- “New Day” is an even better song if you imagine Kanye is talking about Chief Keef in his verse.

Trey Smith’s plug lives in Eskilstuna. He’s on Twitter—@slimihendrix

442. Kanye West’s ‘Yeezus’

1. It feels impossible that Yeezus has only been out for a year. It simultaneously feels like it’s been much longer and much shorter. I feel like I’ve listened to it 300 times, and have heard it for 5 years. 

2. I am still unsure why this thing is so divisive. No wait, I am: because rank and file Kanye fans are literally the worst. Their entire function is to hate everything he’s done since College Dropout. Which allows them to overlook the greatness that is staring right at them. They’re the reason J. Cole outsold Kanye. J. Cole is a sales juggernaut because the average hip-hop record buyer is the worst. 

3. I actually did a weird thing for Noisey where I proved people have hated every Kanye album, even if they wrote in their reviews of the first album that he was an affront to rap. Then they wanted the first album again. Then they wanted the second album again. And so on. It was a fun exercise, and also it makes you realize that real live lunatics review albums on Amazon. 

4. Last year, I wrote the review of Yeezus for Potholes in My Blog, and after that, it sort of derailed my album review career. I reviewed only 3 more albums last year, and haven’t done any since last December. Writing the Yeezus review made me realize I wouldn’t always have such meaty albums to chew on, music that made me want to write album reviews, music that felt Important. Basically, I realized that after 7 years of pretty continuously writing album reviews that I am more or less finished doing that week in, week out. I don’t have it in me to get it up to write about something unless I’m super passionate about it anymore. I have limited free time, and honestly, I have a better time listening to Florida Georgia Line right now than listening to new indie rock or whatever. I don’t miss reviewing at all; I’m focusing on writing articles for Noisey that make people go “Why are you covering this?” I live for that now.

5. Because I listened to Yeezus the first 20 times while driving around the Upper Peninsula, I actually associate a lot of it with being in the woods. “On Sight” is not a futuristic lazer stabbing to me now; it reminds me of driving 70 on the way to Laurium and passing old Copper stampers. “Bound 2” reminds me of driving through the Res while considering buying cheap fireworks.

6. Speaking of being on vacation in the UP: The last two years, two major albums have leaked right when before I go up there. Two years ago it was Channel Orange. Last year it was Yeezus. I am looking at the release calendar and disappointed that it doesn’t seem like anything comparable will happen this year.

7. Working with a bunch of college kids, it’s always hilarious when albums really take off with them way after the hype cycle on URL dies down. In this case, I remember spending a week in August doing a clothing inventory with Murphy, who had just discovered Yeezus. “Did you know how good this was,” she asked. I was like, “Uh, yeah.” And she rolled her eyes like always.

8. It pleases me to no end that the cover for this bootleg is just a low-grade pic of the CD in the case of the CD version.

9. I was one of three music critics to vote for “Send It Up” as one of the year’s best songs last year on Pazz & Jop, and the only one who thought it was the best song off Yeezus. I still stand by that, firmly. It’s the best song on the album, straight up. I also stand by picking M.O. as the 10th best album of 2013.  

10. I suppose since it’s a little past the year’s halfway point, and Yeezus was my favorite album last year, I’ll share my favorite albums of the year so far:

1. Riff Raff: Neon Icon

2. Future Islands: Singles

3. Future: Honest

4. Eric Church: The Outsiders

5. Shabazz Palaces: Lese Majesty

6. Kool A.D.: Word O.K.

7. 100s: IVRY

8. Chromeo: White Women

9. Miranda Lambert: Platinum

10. Pharrell: G I R L

11. YG: My Krazy Life

12. Dierks Bentley: Riser

13.  Migos: No Label II

14. St. Vincent: St. Vincent

15. Freddie Gibbs & Madlib: Piñata

16. Golden Donna: II

17. Tory Lanez: Chixtape 2

18. Popcaan: Where We Come From

19. Brantley Gilbert: Just As I Am

20. Lakutis: 3 Seashells

441. Outkast’s ‘Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik’ (Written By Luis Paez-Pumar)

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Busy week on the blog y’all. Here’s another guest writer: My man Luis Paez-Pumar came through with this piece about Outkast’s debut album, which is good timing, since Outkast are at every festival of note this summer. 

On June 6th, 2014, I was in attendance for an honest-to-goodness Outkast live show. Andre 3000 and Big Boi, reunited as they have been across a plethora of tour dates this year, blasted through 25 songs, spanning their entire career (“well, actually, they didn’t play anything off Idlewild,” says some asshole). It was, to me, a beautiful and communal experience, with my section of the massive concrete jungle that is the Governor’s Ball main stage bopping to every song, singing along as if we were back in 2004, when Outkast was the biggest thing in music. From “Hey Ya” to “SpottieOttieDopalicious”, I had no complaints about the level of enthusiasm from that slice of sweaty New York.  No complaints, that is, except for a 4-song chunk in the middle of the set. A chunk dedicated entirely to Outkast’s debut volley, the game-changing and booty-shaking Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik.

First with “Hootie Hoo” (recently referenced rather bizarrely, in the movie Neighbors), through “Crumblin’ Erb” and the title track, and finally with the sweet serenade of “Player’s Ball” (shout out to Sleepy Brown’s guest vocals, replicated in their entirety on stage, as the man wore the most luxurious of black and purple silk pajamas), it was as fantastic as the crowd was silent, and that hurt the most. It’s understandable that fans may pick up Outkast from ATLiens and go from there; it’s less understandable that the energy level dropped so precipitously. The debut album made it all happen; without the success of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, there’s no double-platinum. There’s no Grammy. There’s no “X album is good, but it’s not a classic like Aquemini (hi, Kendrick). That’s because on their first album, Dre and Big broke the rules of what rap could sound like and, at the same time, gave Atlanta a sound all of its own.

And really, that’s what makes the debut album such a special endeavor: the mastery that these two teenagers (teenagers! when I was 18, I was falling asleep on my friend’s couch while playing Guitar Hero) have over a city’s sound can’t be understated. Whereas every album since then has sounded otherworldly and forward-looking, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik is very much of the moment, where the heat rose from the streets and into the homes of mainstream White America. 

Millions of copies carrying the heartbeat of the South flew around the country like “Bombs Over Baghdad” before that song was even remotely possible. My friend Rembert said it best in his must-read Stankoff 2011 : “To quote another Outkast song, ‘I hope that you’re the one… If not, you are the prototype.’ ‘Southernplayalistic’ is actually the one and B.O.B. is the prototype.” By extension, the album that gets its name from that song is the foundation for a career that, while at times uneven and reckless, can’t be rivaled by anyone in terms of creativity and deftness. 

So, when this duo…these guys come out and perform “Hootie Hoo” or “Player’s Ball” to a crowd wanting more “Ms. Jackson”, it does hurt to see. Not because they’re not real fans or whatever bullshit fake-gatekeepers might throw out. No, it hurts because this is some of Outkast’s best work and, perhaps more importantly, some of their most essential tracks. It also is exhibits A through F for people who think Big Boi slouches and lacks talent in comparison to his stranger ATLien brethren; please, back all the way out of here with that nonsense. I’d venture so far as to say that General Patton outshines Three Stacks on this album, giving him a more comfortably and appropriate soundscape than he would ever have again. Big Boi, despite being from Savannah, is the Atlanta heart and soul of Outkast, full stop. And while Dre would help take them off into the cosmos, you can’t undervalue the human soul that runs through Big Boi’s verses.

One final thought: in this age of Spotify pick-and-choosing tracks, I still can’t help but listen to all of Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik in a row when I get the craving for it. As an album, it flows flawlessly, with no track seeming superfluous. In fact, I could deal with it being a touch longer, which is not a feeling I get for any other Outkast record (even my personal favorite, ATLiens, could lose about 10-15 minutes). I took a drive the last time I was back home in Miami and put on the whole record, and it brought me back to riding around in high school, breaking my car’s bass while shouting HOOTIE HOOOOOO. 

It may not have been a Cadillac (for the record, it was a maroon Grand Cherokee), but for about an hour, I felt like I was a few hundred miles north, in the real South, feeling the concrete heat and the booming beat wash over me. I was about as young as Outkast was when they recorded Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, and for that hour, they took me on a trip through a very different life. Vivid and enthralling, I could only keep on listening. 20 years later, we’re still listening.

Luis throws his hands in the air and waves them like he just don’t care. He’s on Twitter right here.

438. Kanye West’s ‘Graduation’ (Written by Alex Hancock)

Hey y’all, it’s me again. I’ve got another guest writer on the blog; Alex Hancock, who’s written for Mostly Junk Food and Noisey Canada, among other places. He’s one of the most consistently funny dudes in my Twitter feed, and I was totally unsurprised when he asked to write about a Kanye record. Here’s Alex on trying and failing to write about GRADUATION

When Andrew told me I could write for this blog, I immediately chose a Kanye album because I figured it would come naturally. I’ve listened to his music for 10 years. I’ve followed his life religiously for five years. He’s my favorite musician of all time. Easy, right?

Yet, it didn’t come naturally. He wasn’t easy to write about. The only subject I’m really good at writing about and I had nothing. It was frustrating, to say the least. What the fuck should I write about Kanye West?

When someone’s presence is influential in your life for a decade, it’s hard to pinpoint an exact moment to write about. It’s ethereal, all-encompassing, like trying to pick out one thing to tell a first date to describe who you are in your entirety. Should I just write about Graduation? Should I write fanfiction? Should I write about how a movie of Kanye watching Pacific Rim would be the best thing anyone would ever see?

No, those wouldn’t do it justice. So here I am, at the precipice of uncertainty, which is strangely what we’ve all grown to love about Kanye. His constant desire to create and change, his ability to be both captivating and polarizing, his creative genius. All of these things we’re uncertain of, we don’t really understand, but we trust him because he’s him. Nothing really makes sense, but he makes them make sense, if that makes sense.

Whether it’s mad corny or not – I really don’t care if it is – Kanye has been incredibly influential in my life. It’s true and it will always be true. At one point, I considered ripping my bottom teeth out and replacing them with diamonds and that’s a true story. He has an uncanny way of inspiring by just being himself. His music, his interviews, his old blog (R.I.P.), his love for Kim and Nori. Everything is a never-ending cycle of creative inspiration we could all learn from and become better people for it.

Whenever I feel bogged down by life, I’ll turn on My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy or one of the other six, classic albums he’s made. Or I’ll check out the conversation he had with Sway and watch him ascend above his body, nearing god levels. Or I’ll turn on his proposal to Kim. Or I’ll watch the Runaway short film. Or I’ll read the interview he did with Caramanica.

It doesn’t matter what it is. It’s like he said when he sat down with Zane Lowe, "Go listen to all my music. It’s the code to self-esteem. It’s the code of who you are. If you’re a Kanye West fan, you’re not a fan of me. You’re a fan of yourself. You will believe in yourself. I’m just the espresso. I’m just the shot in the morning to get you going to make you believe you can overcome that situation that you’re dealing with all the time." That’s the thing about Kanye West – he’s dope.

Oh yeah, Graduation is awesome and “Can’t Tell Me Nothing” is the greatest song of all time.

Also, Here is a picture of me rap squatting on top of my hotel in Chicago after the Yeezus Tour, paying tribute to our one true lord and savior, Kanye West. 

Alex Hancock likes Kanye West. Like, a lot. He’s on Twitter——@hancxck