December 9, 2004

Street's Disciple
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

On Street's Disciple, Nas proves again that he has perfected the balance between popular and underground hip-hop. His lyrics are meaningful, but not overweight. His production is catchy, but not jiggy. His guest appearances are entertaining, but not relied upon. Nas sarcastically raps, 'it's trendy to be the conscious emcee," but for him it comes naturally.

Except for 2Pac and Outkast, rappers never actually have enough material to justify a double album. Nas' newest is filled with great tracks, but suffers from too much filler and sounds like a great watered down album.

John Legend at BC tonight
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Neo-soul singer John Legend is currently enjoying a hit single, "Used to Love U," on MTV and critical acclaim for his debut album Get Lifted.

On the cusp of super-stardom, Legend will be performing tonight at 9:30 p.m. at Boston College in the Rat, sponsored by the Black Student Forum. Tickets are $15.

Legend's album features stellar classic R&B piano ballads with a contemporary hip-hop edge. He has collaborated heavily with Kanye West, who co-produced much of Get Lifted.

Legend is also the first musician signed to Kanye's new label, GOOD Music. At this odd transitional phase of his career, Legend finds himself performing in a venue much smaller and less prestigious than he is used to when touring alongside Kanye, but Legend is now breaking into his own solo career.

Legend has worked alongside the Black Eyed Peas, Jay-Z, and Alicia Keyes, to whom he is often compared because of his amazing talent as a pianist. His style of sultry love songs are a wonderful blend of the best qualities of down-tempo hip-hop production and sultry old-school R&B (think Donny Hathaway, not R. Kelly).

Legend's most famous collaboration occurred with Lauryn Hill on "Everything is Everything" from her Grammy-gobbling solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

Though Legend might be a bit disappointed to find out where he's going to be performing, he will definitely be the only person disappointed at the show.
Will Noah take over Boston?
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Boston hip-hop has no king. Since 1991, when Ed O.G. released his hometown classic Life of a Kid in the Ghetto, no Boston rapper has put up a convincing fight for the title. On the verge of releasing his solo debut, Noah Dixon, CSOM '06, is very aware of the vacancy on the local throne.

Part of the reason for the strange, fragmented hip-hop scene in Boston is the city's college scene. Hip-hop has always had an uneasy relationship with institutions of higher learning - who can forget pastor Mase back in the day rapping about some guy flaunting his Ph.D. - his "player hatin' degree." Boston College certainly isn't the most likely place to find the next big thing in rap, but Noah is no native of Chestnut Hill. Long before I ever knew about Newton or Brighton, I heard stories about Noah's hometown from fellow Roxbury-native Ed O.G. Will Roxbury repeat?

Noah "Wait a Minute"
Be very careful not to get this song stuck in your head, or else you'll end up walking around all day humming "dut-dut-duhdut, dutdut-duh-dut." This track samples Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner," the simple, repetitive acapella pop song from 1987 that oddly resembles the I Dream of Genie theme song. Noah had to wait for the sample to clear before he was sure it could ever make it on the album.

In The Sopranos, Tony's daughter Meadow returns from her first year at Columbia as an intellectual-snob, obnoxiously over-using complicated words when not needed. Part of the problem with many college-educated rappers is that they write rhymes like research papers. Mr. Lif and Akrobtik are great Boston emcees, but their political themes and complicated vocabulary make them come off as nerd-rap to most. Noah is very clear about his style: "I make party music." This isn't to say his flow hasn't benefited from his education, but only to say school hasn't ruined his cool.

Noah "Get Back Yo"
The bonus track to the single features a short guitar lick over a fast, radio-friendly beat with a bit of Neptunes flavor - think of NERD's "She Moves" or Justin Timberlake's "Like I Love You." The speedy beat forces Noah to play catch-up and gives him the chance to show off his spitfire double-time rapping. Until Twista's recent commercial success, conventional wisdom said that lightning-fast raps should be limited to rare B-side occasions like Jay-Z's phenomenal verse on "Is That Your Chick?" As these two tracks show, Noah shares with newly-hired Def Jam CEO Jay-Z a flexible, dynamic rhyme style that can adapt to a wide array of beats.

Like most lead singles, "Get Back Yo" is more catchy than quality, but Noah promises that this is just the bait to lure fans into the more personal and introspective tracks on the album. Look out for The Conflict in late February as part of an on-going trinity to eventually include Revolutionand Change.