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Album Reviews Featured

Wale releases “Attention Deficit”

Attention DeficitWale, the widely-acclaimed D.C. rapper, has finally dropped his debut album, Attention Deficit.  The darling of the indie hip-hop crowd (are they still called backpackers?), Wale has spent the past two or three years meticulously engineering a reputation as a talented lyricist and astute pop culture scrutineer.  From “doing justice to Justice,” to dropping a Mixtape About Nothing, to rising up with The Roots, Wall to the A (whose real name is Olubowale Akintimehin) has mastered the art of raising expectations; to say that his first major label attempt was highly anticipated would be an understatement.

Clocking in at 14 songs, Attention Deficit has an expansiveness that belies its modest track list.  Wale, trying to refute recent accusations that he lacks personality, touches on a surprising range of topics, jumping almost at random from “persona to persona.”  Meditations on “insecurity, bulimia, infidelity, intra-racial discrimination, self-loathing and coked out, aspirational celebrities” form the basis for an ambitious, almost experimental, record.

The results, I think, are mixed.  On “Shades” and “Diary” (featuring Marsha Ambrosius doing her best Michael Jackson impersonation), Wale’s remarkably candid thoughts on race and relationships are sincere and profound.  I was initially disappointed by “TV in the Radio,” on which K’Naan at first seems to absolutely steal the show, but after repeated listens, Wale’s clever punch-line laden verse (on whack emcees: “It’s utterly baloney / so I’m Muslim to these rappers”) is growing on me.

Less impressive are “Let it Loose” and “Chillin,” the Lady Gaga collaboration Wale made to appease his label:

Attention Deficit’s beats are similarly varied.  Spanning saccharine commercialism (“90210”), grimy funk (the excellent “Mirrors” featuring Bun B) and an homage to go-go (the irresistible “Pretty Girls”), the album is nothing if not sonically diverse.  The beats are also more complex and polished than most of the beats on Wale’s mixtapes – an obvious benefit, I suppose, of having money to spend on big-name producers like Mark Ronson, The Neptunes and Cool and Dre.

Reaction to Attention Deficit has been generally favourable so far.  Metacritic, for example, has it pegged at 77 based on 11 reviews.  I tend to agree: the album is certainly no classic, but its successes outweigh its failures, and it boasts enough solid hip-hop tunes to ensure multiple listens.  Wale’s creativity and willingness to branch out are a welcomed and refreshing break from the predictability of the hip-hop mainstream.  Ultimately, Attention Deficit is a flawed but promising debut, its occasional poor decisions tempered by flashes of raw talent and potential, and it mostly lives up to Wale’s carefully-cultivated reputation.

Buy Attention Deficit on Amazon or iTunes.

Listen to: “TV in the Radio” featuring K’Naan (courtesy of Surviving the Golden Age), “Mirrors” featuring Bun B and “Diary” featuring Marsha Ambrosius (courtesy of Culture Bully).


Low turnout at Rock The Bells in WA

Well, it’s never fun to say I told you so, but it looks like Guerilla Union‘s decision to move the Vancouver stop of this year’s Rock The Bells tour to the middle of now… er, the Gorge Amphitheatre, has backfired.  According to this article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, the concert suffered from “poor turnout,” a “delayed start” and a few “forgettable acts” (including Jedi Mind Tricks and, suprisingly, Mos Def).  

The article’s author attributes the poor attendance on concert fatigue, noting that “this summer [the Gorge] has already seen a number of stellar festivals including Sub Pop’s 20th anniversary, the Capitol Hill Block Party, Sasquatch! and others.”

To be honest, while I’m still bitter about Guerilla Union’s decision to change the venue of this leg of the tour, it’s definitely not cool that turnout was low.  If anything, my hope was that the response would be overwhelming, and that Tribe would be convinced to return to the Northwest at a time and place I could actually attend. 

Ah well, at least the people who did show up were, aside from the aforementioned exceptions, treated to a good show.  As the Seattle PI article puts it, “good music prevailed and made Rock The Bells a great way to ring out the Gorge’s season.”

Image yanked from: http://flickr.com/photos/15431728@N00/2713822454

Show Reviews

Show Review: Cunninlynguists @ Barcode 19.04.08

Cunninlynguists, often falsley identified by ignorant heads as the only dope group from the Dirty South, performed in Victoria Saturday night before a packed house at Barcode nightclub. Despite the unfortunate absence of rapper Natti (who was denied entry at the Canadian border because of a past criminal conviction), the group soldiered on, announcing from the outset their intention to put on a good show.  

Taking the stage after an impressive set by opening act Substantial (check this dude out for sure), Cunninlynguists’ Deacon the Villain and Kno whipped the crowd into a frenzy with a few tracks from their new album, Dirty Acres. The duo, backed by DJ FlipFlop on the ones and twos, then segued nicely into some of their older classics, including “Lynguistics” and a dope rendition of “HalfAnimal, Halfman” that was cut painfully short after Deacon’s verse.  

The crowd – many of whom had obviously been following Cunninlynguists since their first album Will Rap For Food – lapped it up, jumping and pumping their fists during the up-tempo joints, waving lighters and cell phones during the slower moments and generally showing Cunninlynguists mad amounts of love. FlipFlop did an admirable job throughout and displayed impressive skills on the wheels of steel during the show’s obligatory dj solo.

However, the show’s best moment occured just before the encore, when Kno addressed the crowd about what it means to be a southern rapper. “The next time someone says ‘I hate that southern shit,'” Kno declared, “burn them a cd of Cunninlynguists, and put some UGK, Outkast and Geto Boys on there.” Damn straight.