Shay-J – Lost in a Vast Abyss of Hip-Hop

2 03 2010

Today I’m talking about Gainesville, Florida, hip hop artist Shay-J. He’s got a lot of an Atlanta-type sound in his delivery. Shay-J released his album Lost in a Vast Abyss of Hip-Hop in like December, and I’m just now getting around to talking about it. Apologies to Shay for that. But, better late than never, right? Right.

So, a bit of background first. If you don’t know Shay-J, he’s a pretty phenomenal artist. When Common and Kid Cudi played at UF, Shay got to open for them, so if you went to that, you’ve heard him. Lost in a Vast Abyss of Hip-Hop promos were given out there, and practically everyone toward the front of the crowd got a promo. Over the past few weeks, Shay has been handing out copies of the album all around campus recently, so if you’re lucky enough to see him, ask for a copy. He’s been getting so much buzz in Gainesville, the Alligator even did a story on him.

As a matter of fact, the first night I met Shay-J, he ended up doing a recording of “Can I Kick It? (2009)”, which is one of the songs he performed when he opened the Common & Cudi show. As you can probably tell, Shay goes over the the “Can I Kick It?” instrumental, and needless to say, he owns it.

Look of Love” is a great track off the album. The beat is laid back, yet the subject matter and the delivery is pretty serious, leading to an interesting contrast. That’s really what I love about Shay’s tracks: the lyrical content. Every song means something. There aren’t any tracks that are just throwaway filler tracks, which is impressive, especially for a 19 track album.

Late Night Special (Apple Drank)” is probably my favorite track on the album. The way he talks to his producer at the beginning is a great addition, and I’m really glad they didn’t cut that out. It gives it a nice, little, ragged-edge type feel. The guitar bit about three minutes into the song is fucking dreamy, as is the horn solo that starts a little after four minutes in. And once again, the lyrics are creative, yet not overly complex, allowing the listener to just zone.

You can listen to the whole album online. Hit up Shay’s bandcamp page. There you can listen to every track for free, and if you feel like buying it, you can purchase it for five bucks or more. It’s a name your price sort of thing, except the minimum to pay is five dollars. But for 19 tracks, it’s more than worth it.





A Tribe Called Quest – People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm

13 07 2009

I was eating chicken chicken chicken. And then I decided to start writing this review. I’m listening to People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm, A Tribe Called Quest’s debut album, released in 1990. That makes this album almost 20 years old, yet the sound seems so much more evolved than the sound of today.

A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive... 1

Track 1: Push It Along

Good first song. What it sounded like was a sound rarely featured in hip-hop today. Many of those sounds… put together. There’s a crying baby, with bells and shit at the beginning, and right when you’re about to say “What is this noise”… the beat drops. The sound is very nice for most of the time, especially when you get the horns and the jazz influence, but eventually it just becomes mundane.

Track 2: Luck of Lucien

The one problem I saw with this song was that they took a concept – in this case Lucien, and the French stuff – and just kept it going too long. It kept getting more and more obnoxious, which eventually became overwhelming. The beat was great, but all the ad-libbing pretty much killed it to me. 3

Track 3: After Hours

Remember what I was talking about earlier with those crazy sounds? This song features frogs croaking, which I found weird. I don’t mean that in a bad way, either. There’s some scratching, which is a plus. For the last 5 seconds we get to experience the last 2 minutes of the first track, because we forgot how mundane it was. 4

Track 4: Footprints

In what I consider the best track on the first half of this album, there is so much going on, yet it all aligns perfectly. And the beat is consistent… consistently good. Q-tip’s delivery is really nice, as well. I mean, it’s just a really great track. Walk hard.

Track 5: I Left My Wallet in El Segundo

I don’t really know why this is the second most popular song off this album. I know most people will disagree, but I don’t really find anything great in this song. But some really nice guitars throughout the song, both at the beginning and at the end. Q-tip’s flow, while always interesting, isn’t always enjoyable, like in this song. Much better songs than this on this album, in my opinion. 3

Track 6: Pubic Enemy

Another brilliant song. The storytelling is done pretty flawlessly, which is especially surprising considering we just experienced some pretty bland storytelling on the prior track. And in this case, the flow is not only interesting, but it’s also mad enjoyable. The Propmaster part is ridiculous, but in a good way. 4

A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive... 2

Track 7: Bonita Applebum

This was the first single off this album (the second being I Left My Wallet in El Segundo), and with good reason. They do bring back that Push It Along beat back, but that’s a small blemish on an otherwise flawless song. It’s the perfect lead-in to a brilliant second half of the album. 5

Track 8: Can I Kick It?

This was the third single off the album, and in my opinion, the best. Again, the scratching is pretty phenomenal, helping give the album the generational feel. The call-and-response (can I kick it? / yes, you can) fits really nicely in this song. I really like Q-tip’s part in this track. I actually like it more than Phife’s. That says quiet a bit about the track in itself. 5

Track 9: Youthful Expression

What I really love about this track is that bass line. It’s so catchy. Q’s part about the politicians being magicians is also pretty clever. The message is really what’s the best part about this song to me. The youth about to come back.

Track 10: Rhythm (Devoted to the Art of Moving Butts)

When I first heard this album, this was immediately my favorite song on the album. This is because of the contrast that this beat has. There’re a few parts that just sound so different, but they still sound good, which is something you rarely hear. 5

A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive... 3

Track 11: Mr. Muhammad

This is the most disappointing track of the back half of the album to me. Ali Shaheed Muhammad definitely shows some great skills throughout this track, but even that isn’t enough to completely salvage this track. It does help though.

Track 12: Ham ‘n’ Eggs

Initially, I wasn’t crazy about this song, but it’s steadily grown on me. As a matter of fact, I’d probably put this in the top 5 tracks off this album. It’s incredible how they make me want to listen to such an absurd subject. Phife’s delivery (right after the sick bridge) is superb, but my favorite part is the “Chicken, Chicken, Chicken, I’m a fingerlicking winner” part. 5

Track 13: Go Ahead in the Rain

Another phenomenal track. The only problem is that Phife Dawg isn’t on it. The Jimi Hendrix sample is very well done, and the beat in general has a fairly gritty sound… or a rainy sound. I can’t really tell. Gritty rain. We’ll call it hail. A hailstorm of good sounds.

Track 14: Description of a Fool

I believe that this track is the most complete track on this album. The delivery is phenomenal, and the message is brilliant. The Rolling Stones shout-out is also nice (“What’s the matter with you, boy?”), and the ad-libbing in throughout the song is perfect. I also love the way this song ends… 3 minutes of the beat, no words over it. 5

A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive... 4

All in all, this was an effort with so much raw talent and potential, that it’s impossible to review negatively. One thing that makes this album so incredible is the fact that the members of the group were just 19 years old when they produced this album. Quite simply, this is an unrefined masterpiece.

Overall: 5/5

A Tribe Called Quest - People's Instinctive...Tracks

Listen to:

1) Footprints – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zqc1R1ggllo

2) Can I Kick It? – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7_lhFDSQbk

3) Ham ‘n’ Eggs – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-_PHQ8sSvA