May 4, 2004

MixTape Friday: Spring Hope
By Canyon Cody
Originally Published in The Heights

Right when you think hip-hop finally sold the last of its soul, someone with soul to spare comes to save the day. The last few months have been full of decent but disappointing releases from Dilated Peoples, dead prez, and D12, but it now seems as though we are in a spring renaissance of quality hip-hop. While Usher soars in terms of sales, these artists are taking hip-hop to new heights in terms of quality. Backpackers rejoice! Could the second coming of hip-hop finally be upon us?

Talib Kweli - "Lonely People" The Beautiful Mix
Recently, an unfinished version of Talib Kweli's next album The Beautiful Struggle leaked on the Internet and got posted on Kweli was furious and replied with a post on the site to vent his anger. To the guy that posted the mp3s he wrote, "Are you that much of a loser that you gotta live off another man's work?" He continued, "I will find out who you are and you will be dealt with accordingly." As a result, the album's release date will probably get pushed back even further, but in order to please his fans in the interim, Kweli has released a mixtape called The Beautiful Mix hosted by "Rick James, bitch!" (aka Dave Chapelle).

The standout track is "Lonely People," produced by Kanye West, featuring a John Lennon sample from "Eleanor Rigby." I bet Grey Album producer DJ Danger Mouse could offer Kanye some advice about the impossibility of ever clearing the Beatles' sample, but that's the beauty of underground mixtapes.

Pete Rock - "Appreciate" Soul Survivor 2
In my opinion, Pete Rock is the best producer of all time, with DJ Premiere, Rick Rubin, and Dr. Dre as honorable mentions. His classic collaborations with CL Smooth produced two of my favorite old school albums (Good Life and Mecca and the Soul Brother), so when I heard that his soon to be released solo album Soul Surivor 2 featured Talib Kweli, dead prez, Rza, Pharoahe Monch, and Little Brother, I thought it was too good to be true. Though I shouldn't have been surprised, the best track on the album turned out to be Pete Rock's reunion with CL Smooth, "Appreciate." If you're not careful, the catchy chorus will get stuck in your head forever: "2, 4, 6, 8, who do we appreciate?" 9th Wonder and Kanye West are imitating today the smooth sample-based production origninally perfected by Pete Rock years ago.

Brother Ali - "Self-Taught" Champion EP
Don't sleep on Brother Ali! There isn't a more talented and less appreciated emcee in hip-hop than this Minnesota native. Like Eminem, you need to get over the fact that he's white before you can really appreciate him, but he's not just white; he's almost pink. The albino rapper addresses his uniqueness on "Forest Whitiker" from his Rhymesayers debut, Shadows on the Sun: "I'm albino man, I know I'm pink and pale/ And I'm hairy as hell, everywhere but fingernails."

Most importantly, Ali proves himself a truly talented emcee and not just a genetic gimmick, which makes the album one of the best in recent memory. Make sure to peep "Dorian" and "Blah, Blah, Blah" featuring Slug from Atmosphere. Just released was Brother Ali's new Champion EP with nine awesome tracks, including "Self Taught" where he explains "There's a thin line between anger and hunger/ and I ride a unicycle down the middle."

Danger Mouse and Gemini - "Ghetto Pop Life 2" The Twenty Six Inch EP
Ever since his Jay-Z remix project, The Grey Album, grabbed everyone's attention (including, unfortunately, the Beatles' lawyers), Danger Mouse has enjoyed more notoriety than sales. Fortunately for him, Danger Mouse's earlier album with emcee Gemini, Ghetto Pop Life, is finally getting the attention it originally deserved. Now Danger Mouse has the industry at his doorstep begging for a DM beat, but first he decided to release The Twenty-Six Inch EP with Gemini, featuring two new songs (including the sequel to his debut album's title track, "Ghetto Pop Life 2"), remixes of songs from their LP and guest appearances from Cee-lo and Sadat X.

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