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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Top ten: Dirty words and dirty minds

This month's focus: Jazzbos and their descendants.

1. Nas, "N.I.*.*.E.R. (The Slave and the Master)" and "Hero" (ft. Keri Hilson): Nas's albums, like those of all the usual current and former best rapper alive candidates besides Chuck D, have been frustratingly inconsistent. But this time, finally, one of his concepts has sufficient upside to let you overlook the dumb shit about aliens. "Hero" is the #97 single, with radio-friendly Polow production, a hook from next month's big thing Keri Hilson, and Nas implying they'd never stop Dylan from naming his album Kike, which of course Dylan would never do. "N.I.*.*.E.R" is the centrepiece, with a blistering first verse that begins "We trust no black leaders" (though he'll vote for Obama) and parlays poverty into a statement of African pride and thus a justification of bling. Nas isn't as scholarly as Randall Kennedy, but, on this subject, he's deeper.

2. Lloyd ft. Lil Wayne, "Girls Around the World": Weezy has nothing left to do besides cut the usual current and former best rapper alive candidates. Here, he cops Rakim's "Thinkin' of a master plan", and follows that up with his funniest line ever (which, caveat, the video wrecks). Plz do "99 Problems" next. Oh yeah, Lloyd, I like Lloyd.
3. William Parker, "Morning Mantra", "Lights of Lake George" and "Neptune's Mirror": So maybe it's more like my 20th favourite jazz album since 1970, competing with Scrapbook to be my #2 Parker record. Whatever, it's brilliant: I even enjoy Sangeeta Bandyopadhyay's vocals, despite their (Indian) classicalness. "Morning Mantra" is my pick of the bunch for its concision, but maybe except for the 37-second "O'Neal's Bridge", the entire package is intergalactic planetary.
4. Missy Elliott, "Shake Your Pom Pom": Missy and Timbaland have never been afraid of the literal; here, the shaking noises make the song. Another Missy exclusive, another classic, another top ten... Wait, number 95? Hey record-buying public, what's wrong you?

5. Fieldwork, "Ghost Time": Vijay Iyer, Steve Lehman and Tyshawn Sorey drive around in a van solving mysteries. This one they solve halfway through the song, giving them enough time for a game of hide-and-seek.
6. Silvia Blanco, "BarĂ¼bana Yagien": Mother and daughter Sonia and Silvia Blanco are the stars among stars on the Ivan Duran-produced Umamali album, on which Garifuna women sing over world pop arrangements. Silvia has the sweetness of youth on her side, while inheriting a hint of her mum's grit.
7. Mystery Jets, "Two Doors Down": At last, some white boys, and boy, are they white!

8. Wire, "One of Us": The grand old wavers decompress sonically, while remaining urgent lyrically, the wordy chorus hook turning iambs into trochees.

9. Fats Waller, "Star Dust": Yeah, I knew that "Honeysuckle Rose" and "Ain't Misbehavin'" were great, and that he was often hilarious, so the revelation of the If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It box has been that he played a pretty piano. Of course, it helps that you're playing the prettiest melody ever.
10. Tyshawn Sorey, "Permutations for Solo Piano": Chord. Chord. Chord. Chord. Chord. Chord. ARPEGGIO!!!!11 Chord. Chord. Chord. Chord. Und so weiter for 43 minutes.

Fifteen more: Sofia Blanco, "Nibari (My Daughter)"; Collins Oke Elaiho & His Odoligie Nobles Dance Band, "Simini-yaya"; Fieldwork, "Rai" and "Of"; Al Green, "Just for Me"; K'naan, "Wash It Down"; Seun Kuti + Fela's Egypt 80, "Don't Give That Shit to Me" and "Fire Dance"; Lil Wayne, "A Milli"; Charles Mingus, "Take the 'A' Train" (Cornell 1964); Old 97's, "No Baby I"; Sonny Rollins, "Park Palace Parade"; Bobby Valentino, "Anonymous"; Cassandra Wilson, "Wouldn't It Be Loverly"; Young Jeezy ft. Kanye West, "Put On".

Good but not that good: Abbey Lincoln, "Blue Monk"; Menya, "Ripe"; Lil Wayne, "Prostitute Fling"; M.I.A. ft. Bun B & Rich Boy, "Paper Planes (Diplo Street remix)" The Whitest Boy Alive, "Golden Cage".

Top ten albums of the moment:
1. Fats Waller, If You Got to Ask, You Ain't Got It
2. William Parker, Double Sunrise Over Neptune
3. Nas, Untitled
4. Fieldwork, Door
5. K'naan, The Dusty Foot Philosopher
6. Seun Kuti + Fela's Egypt 80
7. Sonny Rollins, Sonny, Please
8. Cassandra Wilson, Loverly
9. MI3, Free Advice
10. Umalali: The Garifuna Women's Project

Nope, I don't get them: Trio Beyond.



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