Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Notes: Smirnoff Signature Mix Series

Every once in a while, I happen to pick up a Vibe or Black Enterprise and see some profile of some up and coming young entrepreneur. And quite often, they are the owners of a marketing or consulting firm that seems to dabble in some sort of brand name specialization. So then I think how many of these companies can prosper? At some point, won't Corporate America realize that one of the best ways to appeal to urban America is to make it seem that you had no intent for them to enjoy the product at all?

Still though, companies pay these individuals to come up with ideas to market to the community. The usual results are creative ways to merge the product with that particular person's taste or what they perceive to be popular. The Smirnoff Signature Mix Series is one of the latest incarnations. But luckily whoever the executive this time around probably got high in a Northeast college dorm room on at least one occasion. Maybe Mid-Atlantic.

Anyway, three legendary MCs get paired with three legendary producers to rework previous classics to have an '08 feel. On paper it is one of those dreamy situations that could be nightmarish. But luckily we got one of those really smart executives who pairs the MCs and producers quite well. Of course the drinks that they are paired with are questionable

First up is KRS-ONE and DJ Premier whose offering is simply "Criminal Minded '08". This is the easiest one to predict. These two have worked together for years. But as usual, Premier works more magic somehow staying fresh while revisiting something grounded in the past. But isn't that what he always does. KRS continues to sound rejuvenated, just like he did on the "Classic" track that was the product of another marketing experiment (Nike Air Force One 25th Anniversary - but that's an obvious hip-hop link). Maybe his next album should just be sponsored by the next company. KRS-ONE - Save The Rhinos presented by Ecko.

Next up is a more unconventional pairing as Common and Just Blaze find each other to update "The Light". While they haven't worked together, this makes sense. Just Blaze is a child of early 90s hip-hop. He sampled a piece of A Tribe Called Quest's "Scenario (Remix)" to make the "Pump It Up" beat for Joe Budden, and seminally ripped by everybody else on mixtapes. And Just produces one of his more musically expansive tracks assisted with Marsha Ambrosius of Floetry on the hook. When he has artists he respects and has time to create, Just Blaze has time to create these aural soundscapes that are truly captivating. They might not be amazing works of new genius, but they are usually exceptionally good and always interesting to listen to. This is Common's signature song, yet he manages to draw elements from the original but not upstage it. Its a very good homage song. And Common kind of mails in his lyrics but he's still introspective and looking for something new, which is appreciated.

The last coupling, perhaps the most intriguing, is Q-Tip & Cool and Dre who update "Midnight" off of Midnight Marauders. The match is already interesting just because of the people involved. Cool and Dre are not commonly thought of in the KRS-ONE, Common, Q-Tip universe. Plus the track they revisit wasn't even released as a single. This one is the track that is the most inspired choice cause they had to dig to figure out the best one to match the styles. But honestly its the one I enjoy the most. It might be the fact that for long stretches Q-Tip just recites lines from the original and the nostalgic element pulls me back. But really Cool and Dre do something with their beat. Its still their style. If I close my eyes hard enough, I can hear Fat Joe or Rick Ross on the track. But for some reason it parallels the original Tribe song. The spirit of the tale of a frantic night out is evident in this edition as well, complete with the Hype Williams disciple directed video.

So thank you Smirnoff (or should I say Diageo and Cornerstone) for the tracks. They were decent diversions.
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As for the drinks, they might want to rethink those. The Cypha is raspberry vodka and pineapple juice. How is that criminally minded? The Southside is green apple vodka and cranberry juice. Yeah that screams Cabrini Green. And finally The Blueberry Abstract is blueberry vodka and lemonade. Isn't that something loads of college girls are getting wasted on right now on Gulf of Mexico beaches?
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Now playing: Musiq - Womanopoly