Thursday, November 08, 2007

Notes: T.I. - T.I. vs. T.I.P.

Maybe it made sense that my cultural rut would keep me from listening to this album for so long. Mr. Harris might be headed for the land of "Premature Ejaculation." Just as an eagerly anticipated movie in which he participated is about to be released, he gets arrested buying machine guns and silencers. After a year that included Grammy wins, hit collaborations, and his second consecutive #1 album, he ends it with this dumb move. What would push a man from Chevrolet commercials to the depths of stupidity?

This album might have been foreshadowing. He split himself into his dueling personas. T.i. represents the streetsmart businessman. T.I.P. is his more grizzled street persona, the trap loyalist he could not let go. The fact that he made a concept album where songs were done embodied in those personas was indicative of the thoughts of a troubled man.

Broken down in acts, T.I.P gets first crack. When I listened, I wondered why people thought this album wasn't that good. He dives into the lead single "Big Sh*t Poppin'" and the energy never lets up. Even on the repetitive "Dopeman", he still manages to engage. Jay-Z offers a rhyme and Busta Rhymes continues his streak of excellent guest appearances on two separate tracks that continue the fury T.I.P. offers as an argument.

But when T.I. gets his turn, he mainly fizzles. It starts off well enough with a Hammond touched beat by Just Blaze. Even here, he doesn't sound all that compelling. The rest really isn't much better. Wyclef labors over a track and Nelly (where has he been exactly?) offers explicit uninteresting tripe on another. The savior (as usual) is an appearance from Eminem on "Touchdown." He manages some sort of energy before the final act, which is the confrontation between the two.

T.I.P.'s reappearance is welcome, but it's not enough. By this time, it's all just a bit too tiring and not worth the effort. But still, in light of his recent actions, it makes sense that his T.I.P. leanings were the more inspired offerings. The intro track leads off with a string of soundbites about his life over the past year. The accolades are mentioned but quickly turn into a string of his misfortunes including his partner's miscarriage and his close friend's murder. At the end, we hear T.I. that he doesn't care about the business side any more. It all sounds like a silly tirade that even includes the names of label executives. But maybe it was all a bit too honest.

Too bad it might be a while till we hear the answer.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Sliver: Joe - All The Things

There are some things that are not as good as they used to be. One of those is the well done syrupy R & B ballad, the ones that populate late night television commercials (and maybe the Soul Food reruns). The best embodied a couple of common threads. For one, there was a seductive voice that led you through the proceedings, which had to include loads of melismas. The music then had to have a soulful feel, even if it was electronic. It just needed to have some real earth to it. Finally, it had to have a certain lyrical element, one that vibed with even the lowest common denominator, but was still charmingly cheesy. Promises are made literally and figuratively, sometimes lewd, sometimes insane. But when all the gears are clicking, there is nothing more seductive. During this type of song, any lovemaking would be accentuated.

Joe plays the role of Lothario on this track, a classic from the 1990's that has all the parts. As he steers his tenor from quiet passion to smoldering rage, Joe hits all the points necessary. He derides the partner of the serenaded all while promising to "light up all the candles all around." He then proceeds to ask directions to Pleasure Town: "show me to the subway, I'll go down". Did I mention that he "heard he's got you on lockdown, but I got the master key"? And though I might not have included the cheesiest part, Joe sells it all. It may be his pure conviction. Maybe the bed of steady bass with occasional splatterings of acoustic guitar hypnotize into just wanting to be immersed in sexual satisfaction. Whatever. The appeal lies in the fact that sex is as basic as you can get. It might be complicated leading up to it, but the actual act is quite plain and straightforward. This song is stripped down to its basics.

Nowadays, the songs are either to explicit or they feel cold and soulless. Often they are both. But sometimes they succeed just because they speak the common vernacular. The classics were a bit more playful. I might miss the romanticism of those mainstays.

The song is good. You should take a listen.