Monday, July 28, 2014


A few months ago, when Nicki Minaj decided to stop dressing like melted Neapolitan ice cream, people asked if I would finally stop giving her such a hard time.


And this is one of the reasons why:

Last week, Nicki released the album cover for her new single, "Anaconda."



In 2014, it's downright sad that female rappers STILL have to resort to this stuff for attention. As you'd expect, critics came out of the woodwork, slamming Nicki for such a lazy, hackneyed attempt for publicity.

But, to Nicki's credit, she fired back. From necolebitchie.com:

Last night, Nicki decided to snap back at her critics by posting up a number of photos of supermodels who have posed in thongs and booty-baring bikinis to her account while labeling them “Acceptable.” She then reposted her own image and marked it “Unacceptable.”

Visit the link to check the swimsuit pics Nicki used in her argument. I ain't posting them here - I don't need Google throwing my site into the NSFW realm of these here Internetz.

Nicki's point is that the outcry over her album cover is a racial double standard. After all, we live in a world that embraces underdressed white supermodels as classy while underdressed black women are nothing but filthy strippers. And she's exactly right, those double standards are deep-rooted. Black women have long been stigmatized as hypersexual and classless.

So what does Nicki do? Play RIGHT into the stigma that she rallies against.

Look, I'm not here to debate the merits of a women's right to be naked on a rap album or a magazine or whatever. That's a whole 'nother kettle of Old Bay fried fish. But Nicki's comparison between her album controversy and a swimsuit magazine is just absurd.

If Nicki caught heat for wearing a swimsuit in Sports Illustrated, she'd have a legit gripe. But that's not what happened.

Those flat-bootied white women she rallied against were part of Sports Illustrated's Swimsuit Issue. They wore swimsuits in a swimsuit magazine.

Nicki Minaj wore butt floss on a rap record cover.

A swimsuit magazine =/= rap record. It's that simple.

The most insulting part of Nicki's faux crusade is that she screams about inequality and stereotyping in one breath while setting black women back 20 years in another. What does it say to the young women she claims to fight for when the most prominent female rapper in the game right now (for better or worse) has to resort to twerk poses to sell rap records?

Nicki may have dressed like Rainbow Fright in her pop days but at least she was somewhat clothed. She rarely resorted to this level of desperation just to move units - and that's saying something.

The biggest problem with "Anaconda" isn't racial double standards, it's that it's telling rap fans that female MCs have to be on the Twerk Team to get attention in 2014.

It's funny, this lady never had to resort to that.


Nor her.


Nor her.


Nor her.


If Nicki wants to air her vagina on her album cover, that's her choice. But she needs to stop playing the victim, especially when she's the one doing the most damage to hip-hop culture.
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Friday, July 25, 2014

It's Friday, people! Celebrate!

Fire up your MP3s, I've got some good music for you today.


The Coup, Pick A Bigger Weapon (2006)

I think it's the perfect time for another Coup album. There is plenty of material these days to fuel their politically charged rhymes, and, in the realm of production, they've never been ones to follow trends. The game needs that type of forward-thinking music right now. While we await new material, revisit their 2006 release - their most personal and strongest to date.




Also check out:
"BabyLet'sHaveABabyBeforeBushDoSomethin'Crazy," featuring Sylk-E. Fyne
"Laugh/Love/F***"


Shawnna, Worth tha Weight (2004)

Remember the First Lady of DTP? Shawnna should have been a game changer. She was the total package of looks, street smarts and impeccable lyrical ability - all clearly showcased on her 2004 debut. Her rapid-fire double-time flow was just as potent as her slower, more seductive rhymes. It's about time for a comeback, Shawnna.




Also check out:
"Shake That Sh*t," featuring Ludacris
"What Can I Do," featuring Missy Elliott

Now, it’s your turn. Email soulinstereoblog@gmail.com  hit me up on Twitter @etbowser, or stop by the comments section and share your Flashback Friday album. Leave a couple of sentences describing what makes it so great. I’ll feature your album on the blog.
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Thursday, July 24, 2014


Love, marriage, divorce, man, we're covering all the bases this week.

Hit me up if you want me to weigh in on your love life! It won't cost you a thing, except a little pride if I start going off on y'all.

Send your inquiries to soulinstereoblog@gmail.com, or find me on Twitter @etbowser. Just provide your initials, or a fun nickname. 

Here's today's question:

Divorce parties are the new craze. Do you think they are appropriate and in good fun or sending the wrong message?

No More Vows
So let your boy get this straight.

Y'all are already spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on weddings, and now you're also spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on divorce parties too? I mean, it's not like divorces are cheap anyway.

Y'all must love living in debt.

For the uninformed, allow me to fill you in: Divorce parties are billed as a the celebration of a fresh start - something a simple as a cookout with friends or as ridiculously extravagant as a credit-card crushing binge in Las Vegas. As Vows mentioned, they're becoming much more common these days - no surprise when the American divorce rate was up to 2.4 million as of a couple of years ago.

In theory, I don't have a problem with divorce parties. A divorce is a very trying process, and if a few friends want to get their buddy out of the house and lift his/her spirits, that's cool. Divorce shouldn't mean you have to cry in your pillow every night.

However, I'm not here for the excessive extravagance of some of these parties, nor am I cool with the shaming of the ex. These parties shouldn't include a trip to the shooting range with the ex's photo as targets. Chill on the revenge plots, please.

If the divorce party simply exists to support a newly divorced friend during a tough transitional period, that's cool. But keep the hate crimes to a minimum.

And also, the term "divorce party" sounds mad corny. But that's just me.

Our girl KJ is next. She's always in a predicament: 

You approach a co-worker that you feel and is digging you and he tells you that he has his eye on someone else so you move on. Christmas comes and you all are Secret Santas with one another. You were told to give 3 things that you wanted that would be $20. He gets you a scarf, 3 CDs a DVD, perfumes and lip gloss. WITW? What do you think his issue is giving you “boo gifts” but he has his eye on someone else? Confused.

KJ

Good lord, that sounds like $150 worth of Secret Santa gifts! This brother is so thirsty that his eyeballs are drying up.

This is an easy one, playa - despite what he says, this guy still has you in his sights and even though he's allegedly pursuing other people, he wants to keep you at arm's length. These "boo gifts" are a covert way of showing he's interested, juuuuuuuust in case things don't work out with Current Boo. 

Now before y'all say, "he could be giving these gifts purely in the interest of friendship," be real. I've long said that men and women can maintain platonic relationships but unless your friend is Scrooge McDuck, he's not gonna arbitrarily drop THAT kind of cash on THAT many gifts without a specific purpose.

That purpose is keeping you happy and intrigued. Just in case.

Long story short, he wants to holla. Where you want to take that is up to you.

Just keep that in mind when you're applying that lip gloss.
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Friday, July 18, 2014


Common

Nobody's Smiling (to be released July 22, 2014)

For years, Common has reigned as hip-hop's unofficial poet laureate, the conscience of the streets.

On his 10th album, Com brings his brand of enlightenment back to his hometown of Chicago. Nobody's Smiling shines a light on the violence that has rocked Chicago streets - not only identifying the cause of strife but seeking solutions as well.

It's pretty heavy subject matter for a genre that seems to be dumbed down by the second. But with the help of longtime partner No I.D., Com attempts to raise the bar.

On the opening track "The Neighborhood," Common acknowledges the adverse affects of putting materialism over morals. The title track takes that concept further - "driving down Lakeshore, scheming how to make more," he spits. It's a mindset that isn't just crippling young males. On "Hustle Harder," Common tells the story of women who grind even harder than the guys, noting that these women may sell bootleg purses but "if she had kids, she'd mother/father them both."

The lines of morality are blurred when you're trying to survive.

Common turns to his faith for answers on the gospel-tinged "Kingdom," asking God for guidance but also remaining defensive. "You created me from dust, that's why I did dirt." Com speaks from the same hopelessness and regret as his Chicago brethren.

Much like the subject matter, the album's production is dark and heavy. Most times, it feels more like Kanye's Yeezus than Common's soulful 2005 banger Be. Still, it works - Common has plenty of space to rattle off punchlines on "Speak My Piece." The Biggie sample is a perfect fit for the cypher-like atmosphere.

Nobody's Smiling works well as a concept album, sort of a lyrical think-piece on the plight of Chicago. But as an album, it fails to connect with the listener on the same level as Common's best works, including his last album, The Dreamer/The Believer. While mostly everything is solid, minus Jhene Aiko's repetitive hook on "Blak Majik" and Big Sean sounding WAY out of his element on "Diamonds," the album's brief running time and laser-like focus on its subject matter don't provide much diversity.

In fact, the album may have worked better if it took a direction similar to Nas' The Lost Tapes compilation - a series of gritty, loosely connected tracks with a central theme, without a glut of guest stars to drag things down.

Still, don't discount the power of Common's message. "Rewind That," the album's most heartfelt track, is a tribute to both of Common's mentors, No ID and J. Dilla. It's proof that even in our darkest hours, we can still find something to smile about.

Best tracks: "Hustle Harder," "Speak My Piece," "Rewind That"

3.5 stars out of 5
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As y'all probably know, the wifey and I checked out Bey Z's On The Run tour in ATL earlier this week. Check out my review here.

In honor of that event, let's turn the clock back to 2002 and revisit some of Jay and Bey's cohorts.


State Property soundtrack (2002)

State Property is one of those movies that's so bad it's good - truly a hood classic. The same goes for its soundtrack, which put The Roc's young guns (no pun intended) in the spotlight. Nearly all of these guys are gracing the back of milk cartons these days but in '02 they ran the rap game.




Also check out:
"International Hustler," Freeway
"Hood I Know," Beanie Sigel, Freeway, Young Chris, Omillio Sparks & Oschino


Kelly Rowland, Simply Deep (2002)

Kelly Rowland's first solo was pretty successful, thanks to her collabo with Nelly that was INESCAPABLE in 2002. Add "Dilemma" to the list of songs that I'm still tired of more than a decade later. Don't discount the rest of her album, though. It was a nice mix of R&B, rock and pop.




Also check out:
"Stole"
"Can't Nobody"

Now, it’s your turn. Email soulinstereoblog@gmail.com  hit me up on Twitter @etbowser, or stop by the comments section and share your Flashback Friday album. Leave a couple of sentences describing what makes it so great. I’ll feature your album on the blog.
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Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Hip hop royalty at the Georgia Dome.
Beyonce has as weird hold over some of you ladies.

For example, when her On The Run tour with hubby Jay Z was announced, my wife (a hard core Beyhive dweller) made it her mission to be there.

That "mission" included pulling the okey-doke on your big homie.

The morning tickets went on sale for the show at Atlanta's Georgia Dome, she was up at the crack of dawn to cop good seats. Like most people with good sense, I was in still in the bed. Allegedly, that morning she crept by my bedside and asked if it was OK to spend the equivalent of the national debt on our tickets. My sleepy reply was something like "Mmmmhhhhuuurrrrggghhh," which apparently is a hearty "YES" in Beyhive World.

So when I awoke for real that morning, I learned on Facebook of all places that the Bowsers were going to meet the Carters - and we had VIP seats.

We also will be eating old packs of Chick-fil A Polynesian Sauce for dinner for the next six months.

Although those two seats cost more than what Memphis Bleek recouped off his 534 album, I've gotta admit that the On The Run experience was worth every dime we spent.

...Except for this wack VIP T-shirt we received upon arrival at the show. It looks like Blue Ivy designed them with her Alpha Bits.

Playa please.
I'm a huge music fan, but most of my concert experiences are limited to '90s artists singing their Clinton Administration hits in tiny venues.  The Dome was the very opposite of that, with more than 50,000 people crammed in the stadium. The wifey and I were on Row 11, and a few minutes before the show began, Xscape's Kandi Burruss joined us on our very row. Of course I had no idea who she was until the ratchet reality show fans started cheering.

Playa, even Kandi couldn't afford front row seats. I don't even wanna KNOW how much those cost.

Once Jay and Bey hit the stage though, even I forgot about my empty wallet, the sea of bootleg "I Woke Up Like This" and "Serfboart" T-shirts and the woman next to me who kept whipping her weave in my face.

Bey-Z are masters of their craft.

My biggest fear was that the concert would essentially be "BEYONCE!!!!! ... featuring her husband." I expected Jay to mumble a few verses from "'03 Bonnie & Clyde" and "Crazy In Love," perform a couple of those awful Blueprint 3-era tracks, then sit back while Beyonce twerks. I was wrong - Jay more than held up his end of the bargain. Jay performed just as many of his solo hits as did his wife.

While most rappers stand on stage with their hands in their pockets, Jay brought an infectious energy. Tracks like "On To The Next One" and "F*ckWithMeYouKnowIGotIt" typically bore me, but Jay's performances, complete with blinding light shows, were impossible to ignore. He even made sure to sprinkle in some gems for his hard core fans - I nearly elbowed the wifey in the face when the beat to "Jiggy My N*gga" dropped.

She woke up like dis.
Of course, no one is capable of upstaging Beyonce, who proved to me that she's the best performer of our generation. Bey's arena-rattling performance of feminist anthem "Flawless" nearly had the crowd in hysterics. Her ability to connect with fans up in the rafters is truly a sight to behold. Bey morphing from enigmatic specter on "Haunted" to acrobatic pin-up girl on "Partition" is one thing, but her true talent lies in her  immaculate vocals. She sounded studio perfect on every single song - never out of breath, never off key. It's mind-blowing that a woman who spent nearly three hours stomping around a stage and swinging from chairs could pull of the simmering ballad "Resentment" without a flaw.

She's not human.

The only shortcoming in her set was her performance of Lauryn Hill's "Ex-Factor." Again, every note was pitch-perfect but it lacked that soulful, guttural emotion of the original. It's the one time Bey's adherence to perfection betrayed her.

 Jay and Bey also showed surprising chemistry. Bey incorporated a few of Jay's hits into her own routines, remixing "Clique" and "Takeover" into "Diva" and "Ring the Alarm," respectively. They looked like they were having the time of their lives bouncing on stage like teenagers during "Drunk In Love" while, later, coming off like the mature married couple on "Young Forever." They didn't sound like two artists sharing a concert billing, they sounded like two lovers sharing their experiences with the world.

On The Run is truly a spectacle - and not just one meant for Beyonce Stans. It's easily the best-performed show I've ever attended. I can't say it's my favorite concert ever - I doubt anything will ever beat my experience in the spring of 2009 - but in terms of sheer spectacle, On The Run is in another lane.

It makes living in poverty for six months almost worth it.
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Friday, July 11, 2014

With a couple of exceptions, hip-hop rarely recognizes the contributions of talented white rappers. Instead of treating them as objects of scorn and ridicule, today we're saluting white artists who have blessed the game with great albums. You can't define talent by color.


Yelawolf, Radioactive (2011)

Yelawolf's 2011 debut was pretty overlooked at the time but it's a pretty solid outing. Yela made his mark with tales of rural life accented by his rapid-fire flow. If you missed this album the first time around, it's not too late to check it out.




Also check out:
"Get Away," featuring Shawty Fatt and Mystikal
"Whip It"



3rd Bass, The Cactus Album (1989)

The legendary Beastie Boys may have opened the door but give props to 3rd Bass for finding their own lane. The Cactus Album, aka The Cactus Cee/D, is just pure fun, an element hip-hop has been missing for almost decades now.




Also check out:
"Steppin to the AM"
"Product of the Environment"

Now, it’s your turn. Email soulinstereoblog@gmail.com  hit me up on Twitter @etbowser, or stop by the comments section and share your Flashback Friday album. Leave a couple of sentences describing what makes it so great. I’ll feature your album on the blog.
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