#250 – Jay-Z – Reasonable Doubt

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Our friend Jay-Z’s third and final appearance on this list is his debut album.  The 1996 release featured some big name guest stars such as Memphis Bleek, Mary J. Blige, and fellow lister Notorious B.I.G.  The album debuted at #23 on the Billboard 200, and spawned 4 singles.

Sara

Before we get started, I’d just like to get something off my chest.  I’ve noticed in the past 250 albums that, in addition to blatant exclusion of women and minorities on this list, certain under-represented genres also seem to appear in clusters.  Does Jay-Z really have the 252nd and 250th best albums of all-time, or were his best two albums just plopped here in the middle so a noteworthy hip-hop artist could be checked off the ‘make sure we don’t forget them or we’ll catch some fresh hell’ list by the makers?  I know, conspiracy theorists are annoying, but those of you following along here (only two people) should really look at the list itself and I think you’ll have some ‘reasonable doubt’ as to the legitimacy of some of this.  On the bright side, awesome to listen to what Jay Z refers to as his best album (and I agree) all the way through for the first time.

 

I gained a new favorite on this one, “Brooklyn’s Finest.”  I it hard to believe that I haven’t heard this before, but I can’t recall already knowing it and it’s an awesome song. A collaboration with Notorious BIG, this awesome tune was intended as a friendly battle between the two heavyweights, with Jay Z asserting that he’s on Biggie’s level talent-wise, and Biggie shrugging it off.

 
Brooklyn represent y’all, hit you fold
You crazy, think your little bit of rhymes can play me?
I’m from Marcy, I’m varsity, chump, you’re JV
(Jigga) Jay-Z

[Notorious B.I.G.]
.. and Bigga baby!
My Bed-Stuy flow’s malicious, delicious
Fuck three wishes, made my road to riches
from 62’s, gem stars, my moms dishes
Gram choppin, police van dockin
D’s at my doors knockin

[Jay-Z]
What? Keep rockin
No more, Mister, Nice Guy, I twist your shit 
the fuck back with them pistols, blazin
Hot like cajun
Hotter than even holdin work at the Days Inn
with New York plates outside
Get up outta there, fuck your ride

[Notorious B.I.G.]
Keep your hands high, shit gets steeper
Here comes the Grim Reaper, Frank Wright
Leave the keys to your In-tegra (That’s right)
Chill homie, the bitch in the Shoney’s told me
You’re holdin more drugs than a pharmacy, you ain’t harmin me
So pardon me, pass the safe, before I blaze the place 
and here’s six shots just in case
 

Also LOVE ‘The Twos,’ mainly because the chorus is that of Tribe Called Quest’s timeless monster “Can I Kick It?” OK, well truthfully the chorus is sort of the only part of the song I like besides the beat, as the lyrics contain way too many n-words and gay slurs and references for me to give it a thumbs up. If he put some remotely appropriate rhymes over it, this one would be top 10 Jay Z songs in my book. This was recorded in 1996 and, in terms of social acceptability of gay slurs we were in a different stratosphere, and it shows several times throughout the album.  It’s also relevant to note that, like Nas’ Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt is unquestionably almost entirely comprised of tales of drugs and crime by the young songwriter. So, the language, though disturbing, is pretty on par with the life Jay Z was living at the time.

Awesome album. Love Jay Z. Yeah, he’s all over the map personally, but just to wilder extremes than most of us.  My take is that he’s a guy who’s made a lot of mistakes, knows he’s very lucky to be in the spot he’s in, especially considering said mistakes, and is trying to use his platform to make a positive impact on the world. Am I being to forgiving? Possibly.  But the dude is super talented and I’m a fan. If he EVER hurts Beyonce again I take it all back.

Steve

This is a phenomenal album that I have been listening to for years.  I’m going to have to thank my friend Tommy Mastrogiovanni next time I see him, because he definitely got me onto this album.  Well since you are one of our two readers Heather, let him know for me.

This album starts with “Can’t Knock the Hustle.”  This is amazing to me.  My all time favorite Jay-Z song is the first track on his first album.  Talk about starting off on the right foot.  The song is practically perfect, from Pain in da Ass’s opening monologue to Mary J. Blige singing the chorus.

I’m making short term goals, wonder whether foes
just put away the leathers and put ice on the gold
chilly with enough bail money to free a big Willy
high stakes, I got more at stake than Philly
shopping sprees, coping three, deuce fever I guess its fully loaded,
ah yes,
bouncing in the lex luger, tires smoke like Buddha
50 g’s to the crap shooter,
niggas can’t fade me
chrome socks beaming, through my peripheral I see ya scheming
stop dreamin’, I leave ya body steaming
niggas is feening, what’s the meaning
I’m leaning on any nigga intervening with the sound of my money machine-in
my cuff running over with hundreds
I’m one of the best niggas that done it
six digits and running,
y’all niggas don’t want it
I got the godfather flow, the don Juan Demarco
swear to god, don’t get it fucked up

[Chorus – Mary J. Blige]
taking out this time
to give you a piece of my mind
(cause you can’t knock the hustle)
but though you think you are
baby one day you’ll be a star

last seen out of state where I drop my slang
I’m deep in the south kicking up top game
bouncing on the highway switching 4 lanes
screaming through the sun roof money ain’t a thang
your worst fear confirmed,
me and my fam roll tight like the firm
getting down for life, that’s right, you better learn
why play with fire, burn
we get together like a choir
to acquire what we desire
we do dirt like worms
produce g’s like sperm
’til legs spread like germs
I got extensive hoes, with expensive clothes
and I sip wine, and spit vintage flows
but y’all don’t know……
yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah,
cause you can’t knock the hustle

[Mary J. Blige:]
but until that day then
I’m the one whose crazy
cause that’s the way ya making me feel
(cause you can’t knock the hustle)
I’m just trying to get mine,
I don’t have the time
to knock the hustle for real

y’all niggas lunching, punching a clock
my function is lo make much ‘n’ lay back munching
sipping Remy on rocks, my crew
something to watch nothing to stop
un…
…stoppable
scheme on the ice, I gotta hide your crew
I gotta
let you niggas know the time like movado
my motto,
stack rocks like Colorado
bottle off the champagne, crystals by the bottle
it’s a damn shame what you’re not though (who?) me slick like a GATO fuckin’ Jay-Z
pops knew exactly what he did when he made me
tried to get a nut and he got a nut and what
straight banana’s
can a nigga, see me
got the US Open, advantage jigga
serve like sampras, play fake a rappers like a campus Le Tigre,
son you’re too eager
you ain’t having it? good, me either
lets get together and make this whole world believers
at my arraignment, screaming
all these blacks got is sports and entertainment, until we even
thieving, as long as I’m breathing
can’t knock the way a nigga eating
fuck you even

[Mary J. Blige:]
taking out this time
to give you a piece of my mind
but though you think you are
baby one day you’ll be a star
but until that day then
I’m the one whose crazy
cause that’s the way ya making me feel,
I’m just trying to get mine, I don’t have the time
to knock the hustle for real

I’m going to go in order, because track 2 is another long time favorite song of mine, “Politics as Usual.”  The first two tracks on this album are among the best openings on any of the albums on this list.  The song is about not getting sidetracked by success and just living your life.

You know how we do, Roc-a-Fella… forever… You can catch me
skatin through your town puttin it down y’all relatin
No waitin I’ll make your block infrared hot I’m like Satan
Y’all feel a nigga’s struggle, y’all think a nigga love to
hustle behind the wheel, tryin to escape my trouble
kids stop they greetin me, I’m talkin sweet to keys
Cursin the very God, that bought this wreath to be
My life is, based on sacrifices, jewels like ices
and fools that think I slip, you fuck around
you get your guys hit, they built me to be filthy
on some I-do-or-die shit, for real
The price of leather’s got me, deeper than ever and
just think, with this here, I’m tryin to feel made nig-ga

Politics as us-ual… I took my
Frito to Tito in the district, blessed me with some
VS somethins I can live with, stop frontin
And for the dough I raise, gotta get shit appraised
No disrespect to you, make sure you word is true
I’m takin wages down in Vegas just in case Tyson
have a major night off, that’s clean money, the tax write-off
You ain’t seen money in your life, when it
comes to this cheese y’all like Three Blind Mice
A smokin bro, who pump Willie Ike spokes
The furthest you Chiles been is the Pocanos
My portfolio reads: leads to Don Corleone, nigga please
Ten year feleon, heavy on the wrist, our face used
with the diamond blooded Jesus and blind your face
youse for life… sharight, Jigga, I keep it tight nig-ga

Politics as us-ual…
You feel my triumph never, feel my pain I’m lyin
Low in the leather Zion, the best that’s ever came
The game changes like, my mind just ain’t right
We ‘gwan get this dough, I guess it ain’t your night
Suckin me in like a vacumn, I remember
tellin my family I’ll be back soon, that was December
Eighty-five and, Jay-Z rise ten years later
got me wise still can’t break my underworld ties
I wear black a lot, in the Ac’, act a lot
Got matchin VCR’s, a huge Magnavox
to nitch, green like spinach pop wines that’s vintage
It’s a lot of big money in my sentence
Hittin towards a mil’, lip a, written I kill like that
chick faked me one-two cat, yeah, I do dat
Ain’t no stoppin the champagne from poppin
the drawers from droppin, the law from watchin, I hate em

Politics as us-ual

I can’t not mention “Can I Live.”  The beat gets you pumped, and Jay-Z’s flow is so god-damned smooth.  I actually found an essay about why this indisputably the greatest rap song of all time when I was researching this album.  While I don’t know about that, I think it definitely belongs in the discussion.

Yeah, hah, yeah Roc-A-Fella
We invite you to, somethin epic y’all know?
Where we hustle out of a sense of hopelessness
Sort of a desperation
Through that desperation, we ‘come addicted
Sorta like the fiends we accustomed to servin
But we feel we have nothin to lose
So we offer you, well, we offer our lives,
What do you bring to the table?

While I’m watchin every nigga watchin me closely
My shit is butter for the bread they wanna toast me
I keep my head, both of them where they supposed to be
Hoes’ll get you sidetracked then clapped from close feet
I don’t sleep, I’m tired, I feel wired like codeine, these days
A brother gotta admire me from four fiends away
My pain wish it was quick to see, from sellin ‘caine
Til brains was fried to a fricaisse, can’t lie
At the time it never bothered me, at the bar
Gettin my thug on properly, my squad and me
Lack of respect for authority, laughin hard
Happy to be escapin poverty, however brief
I know this game got valleys and peaks, expectation
For dips, for precipitation we stack chips, hardly
The youth I used to be, soon to see a mill’ in
No more, Big Willie my game has grown prefer you call me William
Illin for revenues, Rayful Edmonds like
Channel 7 news, round seven jewels, hand gettin the mic
Forgettin all I ever knew, convenient amnesia
I suggest you call my lawyer, I know the procedure
Lock my body can’t trap my mind, easily
Explain why we adapt to crime
I’d rather die enormous than live dormant that’s how we on it
Live at the main event, I bet a trip to Maui on it
Presidential suites my residential for the weekend
Confidentially speakin in codes since I sense you peekin
The NSX rental, don’t be fooled my game is mental
We both ride our town dog, what you tryin to get into?
Viva, Las Vegas, see ya, later at the crap tables
Meet me by the one that starts a G up
This way no fraud Willie’s present gambling they re-up
And we can have a pleasant time, sippin margaritas
Ge-ge-geyeahhh, can I live?
Can I live?

My mind is infested, with sick thoughts that circle
Like a Lexus, if driven wrong it’s sure to hurt you
Dual level like duplexes, in unity, my crew and me
Commit atrocities like we got immunity
You guessed it, manifest it intangible goods
Platinum Rolexed it, we don’t lease
We buy the whole car, as you should
My confederation, dead a nation, EXPLODE
On detonation, overload the mind of a said patient
When it boils to steam, it comes to it
We all fiends gotta do it, even righteous minds go through this
True this, the streets school us to spend our money foolish
Bond with jewelers and, watch for intruders
I stepped it up another level, meditated like a buddhist
Recruited lieutenants with ludicrous, dreams of
Gettin cream let’s do this, it gets te-di-ous
So I keep one eye open like, C-B-S, ya see me
Stressed right? Can I live?
Can I live?
Can I live?
Can I live?
Ha-hah, Roc-A-Fella y’all

I could go on about every track on this album.  What a great way to start the second half of this list, especially considering how poorly the first half ended.  In my opinion this album should be MUCH higher on this list, Sean Carter kind of got shafted here.

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#251 – David Bowie – Low

HALFWAY STAT REPORT

We have not been as dedicated lately as when we started, but we have reached the halfway point!  Hopefully we can try to get a little more on track and bang out the second half of this list.  So far we have listened to 250 albums, made up of 3403 tracks.  This has taken us 208 hours, 37 minutes, and 21 seconds.  That is almost 9 full days of music.  I would like to say that this has all been an amazing musical experience, but there are some really questionable albums included on this list.  On the other hand, I have definitely learned a lot about music, both the good and the bad.

 

Anyways, on to the album!

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Low is the third of David Bowie’s five listed albums.  The 1977 release was Bowie’s eleventh studio album.  After a period of drug addiction, Bowie moved to West Berlin and recorded this album with the help of producer Tony Visconti, and our old friend Brian Eno.

Sara

It’s moments like this that I’m glad no one reads our posts.  I keep trying to like David Bowie but it just doesn’t get to that level for me. This one’s a resounding ‘meh.’  (I know, I’m sorry, I suck at liking David Bowie) I liked the other two Bowie albums we’ve heard so far MUCH better. Maybe I need to give it another whirl.  Will do after I listen to the following 250 albums.

 

Steve

This was a really odd album.  I like David Bowie, and I just couldn’t get into it.  I tried to force mysef to like it.  I listened to the damn thing three times, and it just did not click for me.

I’m not gonna waste a lot of time on it, we have seen better Bowie before this, and there is better Bowie to follow.

#252 – Jay-Z – The Blueprint

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The second of three albums from rapper Jay-Z is his sixth studio album.  The album was released on 9-11-2001, sharing its fateful release date with Bob Dylan’s Love and Theft.  The album received rave reviews, and is considered by many to be one of the greatest rap albums ever released.

Sara

Oh yes, sir. I’ve been waiting for this one. As mentioned earlier, this is one of a few amazing albums that happened to be released on Sept 11, 2001. At the time, Jay was awaiting trials for gun possession and assault and he was also in the midst of feuds with Nas, Prodigy and others. A lot has changed on the personal front for Hova, as it would for a lot of people in 16 years 

Kanye’s influence is strong on this one, with him producing 5 tracks and co-writing 4. This album was a turning point for Kanye, as he transitioned from producer to performer.  He transitioned from performer to giant douche shortly thereafter, and is now transitioning into full-blown lunatic.

 
I love girls, girls, girls, girls
Girls, I do adore
Yo put your number on this paper cause I would love to date ya
Holla at ya when I come off tour, yeah
I got this Spanish chica, she don’t like me to roam
So she call me cabron plus marricon
Said she likes to cook rice so she likes me home
I’m like, “Un momento” mami, slow up your tempo
I got this black chick, she don’t know how to act
Always talkin’ out her neck, makin’ her fingers snap
She like, “Listen Jigga Man, I don’t care if you rap
 

One non-girl who benefited from ‘Girls, Girls, Girls’ is Redskins legend Sammy Baugh. Baugh was quarterback for the Redskins from 1937 to 1952 and led the NFL in passer rating a record of six times. Since I care very little about the Redskins, I found that a much cooler and cuter part of Baugh’s history was that he married his high school sweetheart Edmonia and they enjoyed a 52 year marriage before Edmonia’s passing in 1990.  Baugh was known to have said that he enjoyed ranching more than football and, although he enjoyed the game, he wouldn’t have played sports at all if he had it to do over again. Anyhoo, Jay Z wore a Baugh throwback jersey in the video and it created a renewed interest in Sammy Baugh and his legend. The Oprah Effect is real, but let us not forget the Jay Z Effect. 

I’m a big Eminem fan, so the Em collaboration “Renegade” is another favorite of mine.  Nas thought Eminem was so good on this that he outperformed Jay himself, saying in his diss album Ether that “Eminem murdered you on your own sh@t.” The dual meanings of the song are the coolest element. Jay Z’s perspective is that critics don’t understand that his music is truly derived from a very rough upbringing, and that this is the audience he reaches. He says that growing up fatherless, poor, and forced into selling drugs by a desire to help his mother financially means critics shouldn’t dare lump him in with rappers whose songs are just about ‘jewels.’ Eminem’s lyrics are all about how the public responds to his lyrics. Always controversial in his lyrical choices, Eminem has historically become somewhat of a whipping boy publicly, often being denounced and blamed as a contributor to any number of societal problems.  He sees this as deeply hypocritical, and asserts that the media uses him as a scapegoat so people can ignore their own culpability as parents, etc. Awesome song:

I had to hustle
My back to the wall
Ashy knuckles
Pockets filled with
A lot of lint, not a cent
Gotta vent
Lot of innocent of lives
Lost on the project bench
Whatchu hollerin’?
Gotta pay rent
Bring dollars in
By the bodega
Iron under my coat
Feelin’ braver
Doo-rag
Wrappin’ my waves up
Pockets full of hope
Do not step to me
I’m awkward
I box leftier often
My pops left me an orphan
My momma wasn’t home
Could not stress to me
I wasn’t grown
‘Specially on nights
I brought somethin’ home
To quiet the
Stomach rumblings
My demeanor
Thirty years my senior
My childhood
Didn’t mean much
Only raisin’ green up
Raisin’ my fingers to critics
Raisin’ my head to the sky
Big I did it
Multi before I die (nigga)
No lie, just know
I chose my own fate
I drove by the
Fork in the road
And went straight
 
See I’m a poet to some
A regular
Modern day Shakespeare
Jesus Christ the
King of these
Latter Day Saints here
To shatter the picture
In which of that
As they paint me
As a monger of hate and
Satan a scatter-brained atheist
But that ain’t the case
See it’s a matter of taste
We as a people decide
If Shady’s as bad
As they say he is
Or is he the latter
A gateway to escape?
Media scapegoat
Who they can
Be mad at today
See it’s easy as cake
Simple as whistlin’ Dixie
While I’m wavin’ the pistol
At sixty Christians against me
Go to war with the Mormons
Take a bath with the Catholics
In holy water
No wonder they try
To hold me under longer
I’m a motherfuckin’ spiteful
Delightful eyeful
The new Ice Cube
Motherfuckers hate to like you
What did I do?
(Huh?)
I’m just a kid
From the gutter
Makin’ this butter
Off these bloodsuckers
Cause I’m a muh’fuckin’
 

Freaking awesome album. I’ll always be back for more Jay Z. It’s rare that the world gets an artist as talented as Mr. Carter.

Steve

This is one hell of a great album.  I like Jay-Z, and while my favorite of his albums is coming up (at #251), this was a real treat to hear again.  While this may not be my favorie example of Jay-Z’s lyrics, this is probably one of the best produced rap albums I have ever heard.  As much as I hate Kanye, the guy has some serious talent, and his work on this album is some of his finest.

Easily my favorite song on the album, and one of my favorite Jay-Z songs in general is “Izzo (H.O.V.A.).”  You would be hard pressed to find someone that DIDN’T know this track.  It’s chorus is catchy as hell, and Jay-Z kills it.  Also… it’s a Kanye produced track.

Ladies and gentlemen, put our hands together for the astonishing…
[girls singing]
H to the izz-O…V to the izz-A…

Welcome ladies and gentlemen to the 8th wonder of the world
The flow o’ the century…oh it’s timeless…HOVE!
Thanks for comin’ out tonight
You coulda been anywhere in the world, but you’re here with me
I appreciate that…uuunnnh…

H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
Fo’ shizzle my nizzle used to dribble down in VA
Was herbin’ em in the home of the Terrapins
Got it dirt cheap for them
Plus if they was short wit’ cheese I would work wit’ them
Boy and we…got rid of that dirt for them
Wasn’t born hustlers I was burpin’ em
H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
Fo’ sheezy my neezy keep my arms so breezy
Can’t leave rap alone the game needs me
Haters want me clapped and chromed it ain’t easy
Cops wanna knock me, D.A. wanna box me in
But somehow, I beat them charges like Rocky
H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
Not guilty, he who does not feel me is not real to me
Therefore he doesn’t exist
So poof…vamoose son of a bitch

[CHORUS]
H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
Fo’ shizzle my nizzle used to dribble down in VA
H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
That’s the anthem get’cha damn hands up
H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
Not guilty ya’ll got-ta feel me
H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
That’s the anthem get’cha damn hands UP!

Holla at me…
I do this for my culture
To let ’em know what a nigga look like…when a nigga in a roaster
Show ’em how to move in a room full ‘o vultures
Industry shady it need to be taken over
Label owners hate me I’m raisin’ the status quo up
I’m overchargin’ niggaz for what they did to the Cold Crush
Pay us like you owe us for all the years that you hold us
We can talk, but money talks so talk mo’ bucks

[CHORUS]

Yeah…
Hove is back, life stories told through rap
Niggaz actin’ like I sold you crack
Like I told you sell drugs…no…
Hove did that so hopefully you won’t have to go through that
I was raised in the pro-jects, roaches and rats
Smokers out back, sellin’ they mama’s sofa
Lookouts on the corner, focused on the ave
Ladies in the window, focused on the kinfolk
Me under a lamp post, why I got my hand closed?
Cracks in my palm, watchin’ the long arm o’ the law
So you know I seen it all before
I seen hoop dreams deflate like a true fiend’s weight
To try and to fail, the two things I hate
Succeed in this rap game, the two things is great
H to the izz-O, V to the izz-A
What else can I say about dude, I gets bizzay

“Heart of the City (Ain’t No Love)” is another Kanye produced track, and another track I really enjoy.  It is basically a big rant about people hating Jay-Z’s success.  It wasn’t a single, and honestly not even a song I remembered from hearing this album so many years ago, but it got stuck in my head this time around.

Uh, uh, listen
First the Fat Boys break up, now every day I wake up
Somebody got a problem with Hov’
What’s up you all niggas all fed up ’cause I got a little cheddar
and my records moving out the store?
Young fucks spitting at me, young rappers getting at me
My nigga Big predicted the shit exactly
“More money, more problems” – gotta move carefully
’cause faggots hate when you getting money like athletes
Yung’uns ice-grilling me, oh – you’re not feeling me?
Fine; it cost you nothing – pay me no mind
Look, I’m on my grind cousin, ain’t got time for fronting
Sensitive thugs, you all need hugs
Damn though mans I’m just trying do me
If the record’s two mill I’m just trying move three
Get a couple of chicks, get ’em to try to do E
Hopefully they’ll menage before I reach my garage
I don’t want much, fuck I drove every car
Some nice cooked food, some nice clean drawers
Bird-ass niggas I don’t mean to ruffle you all
I know you’re waiting in the wing but I’m doing my thing
Where’s the love?

“Ain’t no love, in the heart of the city..”
I said where’s the love?
“Ain’t no love, in the heart of town..”
Yeah..

And then the Fugee’s gonna break up, now everyday I wake up
Somebody got something to say
What’s all the fucking fussing for? Because I’m grubbing more
and I pack heat like I’m the oven door?
Niggas pray and pray on my downfall
But everytime I hit the ground I bounce up like roundball
Now I don’t wanna have to kill southpaw
Don’t wanna have to cock back the four pound bar
Look scrapper I got nephews to look after
I’m not looking at you dudes, I’m looking past you
I thought I told you characters I’m not a rapper
Can I live? I told you in ninety-six
that I came to take this shit and I did, handle my biz
I scramble like Randall with his
Cunningham but the only thing running is numbers fam
Jigga held you down six summers; damn, where’s the love?

“Ain’t no love, in the heart of the city..”
Niggas, where’s the love?
“Ain’t no love, in the heart of town..”
Holla at me!!
“Ain’t no love” (take ’em to church) “in the heart of the city..”
Uh, uh, uh – my nigga where’s the love?
“Ain’t no love, in the heart of town..”
Fuck

Then Richard Pryor go and burn up, and Ike and Tina Turner break up
Then I wake up to more bullshit
You knew me before records, you never disrespected me
Now that I’m successful you’ll pull this shit
Nigga I’ll step on your porch, step to your boss
Let’s end the speculation, I’m talking to all you
Males shouldn’t be jealous that’s a female trait
Watch you mad ’cause you push dimes and he sell weight?
You all don’t know my expenses, I gotta buy a bigger place
Hehehe, and more baggies, why you all aggie?
Nigga respect the game, that should be it
What you eat don’t make me shit – where’s the love?

Where’s the love?

“Ain’t no love, in the heart of the city..”
“Ain’t no love, in the heart of town..”
“Ain’t no love, in the heart of the city..”
“Ain’t no love, in the heart of town..”
“Ain’t no love, in the heart of the city..”
“Ain’t no love, in the heart of town..”

“Ain’t no love..”

Goodbye for now Mr. Carter, see you in a few days.

#253 – Bruce Springsteen – The River

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The third of eight listed albums from Jersey boy Bruce Springsteen is his fifth studio album.  The 1980 release was The Boss’s first album to reach #1 on the Billboard charts, and spent four weeks on top.  The album is Springsteen’s only double album, and while only producing three singles in the US, in the UK an additional four singles were released.

Sara

Double albums are a tricky business because if they aren’t total winners they become quite burdensome to listen to all the way through. Unlike Steve, who may be crazy, I like and respect The Boss, which is what makes it particularly difficult to say I’m glad this is his only double album. 

Now, I freaking LOVE ‘Hungry Heart.’ It’s one of my favorite Bruce songs. And there’s really no reason because it’s kind of a corny song and it’s also one of his easiest to perform.  Although it was very popular in the live show in the early 90s, it became increasingly rare in performances as Bruce and E Street evolved into avoiding many of the predictable radio hits. When he did perform it, it was often with a guest singer accompanying because of it being an easy song to perform.

Now, you’re probably wondering if Minnie Driver has covered ‘Hungry Heart,’ and I’m happy to report that she has. I wasn’t aware the Minnie had a singing career in addition to an acting one. I just sort of picture her eating a bunch of caramels somewhere with Will Hunting. But no, here she is too. I listened to a couple of other songs of hers—definitely glad she stuck to acting, but she’s a decent singer.

 
I met her in a Kingstown bar
We fell in love I knew it had to end
We took what we had and we ripped it apart
Now here I am down in Kingstown again
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody needs a place to rest
Everybody wants to have a home
Don’t make no difference what nobody says
Ain’t nobody like to be alone
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
Lay down your money and you play your part
Everybody’s got a hungry heart
 
 

The rest of this album dragged hard.   I got pretty bored and there wasn’t anything too good that jumped out, to the point that I’m just moving on from this one.  Maybe 400s, Bruce, but not higher.  400s would have been generous.

Steve

Sigh, more Bruce Springsteen.  Whatever, I’ll get through it.  I feel like if you make a double album, and it only produces three singles, it may not have been the best decision.  Upon actually listening to it, I think my feeling was correct.  A lot of this is just meh.

I did enjoy “Fade Away” one of the singles from the album.  The song reached #20 on the US Billboard charts.  It is quite possibly one of Springsteen’s most depressing songs, about love lost.

I don’t wanna fade away 
Oh I don’t wanna fade away 
Tell me what can I do what can I say 
Cause darlin’ I don’t wanna fade away 

Well now you say that you’ve made up your mind 
it’s been such a long, long time since it’s been good with us 
And that somewhere back along the line you lost your love and I lost your trust 
Now rooms that once were so bright are filled with the coming night, darlin’ 

[Chorus]

You say it’s not easy for you 
And that you’ve been so lonely 
While other girls go out doing what they want to do 
You say that you miss the nights when we’d go out dancing 
The days when you and I walked as two 
Well girl I miss them too 
Oh I swear that I do 
Oh girl 

Now baby I don’t wanna be just another useless memory holding you tight 
Or just some other ghost out on the street to whom you stop and politely speak 
when you pass on by vanishing into the night 
left to vanish into the night 
No baby 

Nothing on this album really grabbed me, and I agree with Sara; this album is far too high on this list.

 

#254 – Otis Redding – Complete and Unbelievable: The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul

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The first of three listed albums from American soul legend Otis Redding is his fifth studio album.  The 1966 release was Redding’s last solo album before his death in December of 1967.  The album peaked at #73 on the Billboard 200 chart, and reached #5 on the R&B LP charts.

Sara

There really are few vocals out there as soulful as those of Otis Redding, and for this reason I was super pumped to listen to his last solo album. Let’s start with the good.  ‘Try A Little Tenderness’ is the absolute cat’s pajamas.  I LOVE that song so hard and Otis Redding’s version is incomparable, despite Three Dog Night’s best efforts. Jay Z and Kanye sample it in their song ‘Otis’ off ‘Watch The Throne’ and it’s on a number of ‘best songs of all-time’ lists.  You just can’t not love it. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if not liking it was linked to being a sociopath.  The way it builds combined with Redding’s vocal talent just make it a force to be reckoned with.

I don’t want to slight the album because Otis Redding is amazing, but the thing that I want to note is that the songs he didn’t write are the highlights. This album’s covers are the better songs, with his own works being good but not totally life-changing for me.  This one may be my fault for setting the bar too high, to be honest, as I was expecting it to revolutionize my brain.

I’d absolutely listen to this again, and will be incorporating ‘Try a Little Tenderness’ into my regular hitlist.

Steve

Having listened to the other two Otis Redding albums that are included on this list, this one dumbfounds me a little bit.  It is good, but it is not even close to being in the same world of talent that Redding shows off in the other two albums.  I feel that there are several albums that got snubbed that could have taken this album’s place.  So I am going to sneak in a surprise:

SNUB 003 – Alice in Chains – Dirt

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The fact that Alice in Chains was not included on this list is ridiculous.  They are on of the most influential bands of the modern rock era.  Dirt is one of my favorite albums of all time, but every album they produced has been fantastic.  Hell, they have the first EP EVER to top the Billboard 200 album charts, in Jar of Flies.

Dirt is the second studio album from Alice in Chains.  The 1992 release hit #6 on the Billboard 200 album charts, and is the band’s highest selling album to date.  This is also the last album to feature all four of the band’s original members.

One of my favorite songs of all time is “Down in a Hole.”  In general I tend to prefer the Jerry Cantrell written songs to the Layne Staley ones.  In fact only one of the five singles from this album was written by Layne Staley, the others are all Cantrell.  Still, without Staley’s voice, the band just wouldn’t be the same.

“Down in a Hole” is a song about love and addiction, which for the purposes of this one are interchangeable.  Specifically the feeling of being so lost in someone or something that you have lost yourself.

Bury me softly in this womb
I give this part of me for you
Sand rains down and here I sit
Holding rare flowers
In a tomb… in bloom

Down in a hole and I don’t know if I can be saved
See my heart I decorate it like a grave
Oh, you don’t understand who they thought I was supposed to be
Look at me now I’m a man who won’t let himself be

Down in a hole, feeling so small
Down in a hole, losing my soul
I’d like to fly,
But my wings have been so denied

Down in a hole and they’ve put all the stones in their place
I’ve eaten the sun so my tongue has been burned of the taste
I have been guilty of kicking myself in the teeth
I will speak no more of my feelings beneath

Down in a hole, feeling so small
Down in a hole, losing my soul
I’d like to fly
But my wings have been so denied

Bury me softly in this womb
Oh I want to be inside of you
I give this part of me for you
Oh I want to be inside of you
Sand rains down and here I sit
Holding rare flowers
Oh I want to be inside of you
In a tomb… in bloom
Oh I want to be inside…

Down in a hole, feeling so small
Down in a hole, losing my soul
Down in a hole, feeling so small
Down in a hole, out of control
I’d like to fly
But my wings have been so denied

One of the best examples of an off-time song is this album’s “Them Bones.”  The song is played in a 7/8 tempo, except for the chorus which is 4/4.  As Cantrell himself puts it:

“I really don’t know where that comes from; it just comes naturally to me. I could sit down and figure it out, but what’s the use? Off-time stuff is just more exciting — it takes people by surprise when you shift gears like that before they even know what the hell hit ’em. It’s also effective when you slow something down and then slam ’em into the dash.”

There is no great deep meaning to the track.  It is about our mortality, not a new theme by any means.  It is just a musically excellent reminder that at some point we are all just going to be bones.

I believe them bones are me
Some say we’re born into the grave

I feel so alone, gonna end up a
Big ole pile of them bones

Aaah! Aaah! Aaaaaaaaah!

Dust rise right on over my time
Empty fossil of the new scene

I feel so alone, gonna end up a
Big ole pile of them bones

Toll due bad dream come true
I lie dead gone under red sky

I feel so alone, gonna end up a
Big ole pile of them…
I feel so alone, gonna end up a
Big ole pile of them…
I feel so alone, gonna end up a
Big ole pile of them bones

I am just shocked that I had to use a snub on Alice in Chains.  If you don’t consider them one of the most influential and important bands of the 1990’s; you are crazy.  I personally think they are insane for not including the Mad Season album Above, one of my all time favorite albums.  However, I get it, it is not as well known or influential as far as music goes.  If you’ve never heard of them, check it out.  It is a Seattle supergroup (Layne Staley of Alice in Chains, Mike McCready of Pearl Jam, and Barrett Martin of The Screaming Trees).

#255 – Metallica – Metallica (The Black Album)

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The first of two Metallica albums on this list is the band’s fifth studio album.  The 1991 release is the band’s highest selling album and spent 363 weeks on the Billboard charts, making it one of the ten longest charted albums ever.

Sara

Talk about a powerhouse. This album is a force to be reckoned with. I have listened to it a bit over the years and knew it was awesome, but I never owned it or sat through the whole thing. I think this is the third or fourth time on this project that I’ve played an album again immediately after it ended. In fact, I listened to this on a Sunday morning with the plan of getting through several albums that day, but ended up listening to Metallica the entire day.

The start of the album is arguably the most legendary introduction in the history of heavy metal, “Enter Sandman.” It’s one of Metallica’s less complex tunes, and it works in this sense because the simplicity of the riff is just mesmerizing. For me, it naturally brings to mind Mariano Rivera coming on to the field at Yankee Stadium to close out a game in the way that only Mo could. For Iraqi prisoners, this song probably doesn’t bring back such happy memories, as it was often used by American interrogators to break prisoners’ resistance.  Lars Ulrich had this to say about using Metallica’s music to offend such prisoners culturally for this reason: “If there are people that are dumb enough to use Metallica to interrogate prisoners, you’re forgetting about all the music that’s to the left of us. I can name, you know, 30 Norwegian death metal bands that would make Metallica sound like Simon & Garfunkel”.  The music video  is also off-the-chain creepy and awesome.

As covers are usually a way of paying homage to an artist, one may assume the fact that names such as Reel Big Fish, Weird Al, and Sum 41 are among the most notable who’ve covered this is kind of a crappy tribute list. I see it the other way, though. I think Metallica is just too awesome for a great band to cover this song. A better version, or even a respectable version, is unlikely or impossible.  I think the greats have avoided covering it for this reason, leaving it to the Sum 41s of the world.

I thought all of this until I came across a cover of ‘Enter Sandman’ by a band called The Warning.  The Warning is comprised of three sisters, Daniela, Paulina and Alejandra. The girls are teenagers in Mexico and their father manages them. You may recognize them from their performance of “Crazy Train” on Ellen. Their performance of ‘Enter Sandman’ is INCREDIBLE. These girls are a trip.  Check them out on YouTube.

 

My other favorite song on this album is now a critical part of the live show and often fades into ‘Enter Sandman,’ ‘Nothing Else Matters.’ The band dedicates it to their fans and it’s a very genuine song.  The message is awesome too.  We often get lost in the little things (I do , at least), and there’s a lot to be said for pausing to think about what actually matters. In my life, there are a few major things that matter and these lyrics are a great reminder not to get caught up in unimportant things that ultimately do not matter

 

So close, no matter how far

Couldn’t be much more from the heart

Forever trusting who we are

And nothing else matters

Never opened myself this way

Life is ours, we live it our way

All these words I don’t just say

And nothing else matters

Trust I seek and I find in you

Every day for us something new

Open mind for a different view

And nothing else matters

Never cared for what they do

Never cared for what they know

But I know

 

 

I don’t know if we’ve had a great heavy metal album on this list yet, and if we haven’t this is it.  Freaking awesome and I can hardly tear myself away from it. I went online to see if M was touring but they’re only playing on the west coast. Hippies.

 

Steve

Well now, here is one I am familiar with.  This album is easily one of the best albums from the 1990’s.  Metallica put themselves on the map with this one, and it is excellent.  In my opinion they have not come close to this quality of music since this album.  I actually tend to prefer Master of Puppets, which we will see down the road a ways, but this one is a damn close second.

One of my favorite Metallica songs has long been “Don’t Tread on Me.”  The song was not released as an official single, but has seen significant radio play over the years.  The snake from the famous Gadsden flag featuring the title of this song was included on the album’s cover.  The song was never performed live until the band’s 2012 European Black Album 20th Anniversary tour.

Liberty or death, what we so proudly hail
Once you provoke her, rattling of her tail
Never begins it, never, but once engaged…
Never surrenders, showing the fangs of rage

Don’t tread on me

So be it
Threaten no more
To secure peace is to prepare for war
So be it
Settle the score
Touch me again for the words that you’ll hear evermore…

Don’t tread on me

Love it or leave it, she with the deadly bite
Quick is the blue tongue, forked as the lightning strike
Shining with brightness, always on surveillance
The eyes, they never close, emblem of vigilance

Don’t tread on me

So be it
Threaten no more
To secure peace is to prepare for war
So be it
Settle the score
Touch me again for the words that you’ll hear evermore…

Don’t tread on me

So be it
Threaten no more
To secure peace is to prepare for war

Liberty or death, what we so proudly hail
Once you provoke her, rattling of her tail

So be it
Threaten no more
To secure peace is to prepare for war
So be it
Settle the score
Touch me again for the words that you’ll hear evermore…

Don’t tread on me

 

Another song I have always enjoyed is the second single from the album, “The Unforgiven.”  The song is the second single from The Black Album and was simultaneously slower and more heavy than the rest of the album.  This song spawned not just one, but two sequels.  I am not sure why a song really needs a sequel, but I also don’t understand 95% of the sequels Hollywood produces, so I am probably not the target audience anyways.

New blood joins this earth,
And quickly he’s subdued.
Through constant pained disgrace
The young boy learns their rules.

With time the child draws in.
This whipping boy done wrong.
Deprived of all his thoughts
The young man struggles on and on he’s known
A vow unto his own,
That never from this day
His will they’ll take away.

What I’ve felt,
What I’ve known
Never shined through in what I’ve shown.
Never be.
Never see.
Won’t see what might have been.

What I’ve felt,
What I’ve known
Never shined through in what I’ve shown.
Never free.
Never me.
So I dub thee unforgiven.

They dedicate their lives
To running all of his.
He tries to please them all –
This bitter man he is.

Throughout his life the same –
He’s battled constantly.
This fight he cannot win –
A tired man they see no longer cares.

The old man then prepares
To die regretfully –
That old man here is me.

What I’ve felt,
What I’ve known
Never shined through in what I’ve shown.
Never be.
Never see.
Won’t see what might have been.

What I’ve felt,
What I’ve known
Never shined through in what I’ve shown.
Never free.
Never me.
So I dub thee unforgiven.

As I said, I prefer Master of Puppets but this was still a really solid listen that  brought me back a ways.  This almost makes me want to forget that Metallica killed Napster.

#256 – Kraftwerk – Trans-Europe Express

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The first and only listed album from German Electronic band Kraftwerk is their sixth studio album.  The 1977 release was not a huge success in the US only reaching #119 on the American Billboard charts.  It was #30 on our old friend The Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics poll.

Sara

One minute into this my wife thought something was wrong with my computer because it was basically just beep-bop-booping.  To me, the nagging, monotonous repetitive intro to the first song sounded like something that would be playing in a slow-motion movie scene showing a track and field race.  I can see our main character quite a ways behind third, rounding the final turn, and just beginning to edge out competitors one by one until, at the finish line, he just inches past the leader to win the race.  Good soundtrack for that 30 second imagined scene. For all other circumstances this is so difficult to listen to that my fingers are shaking with anger as I type. 

In 2014, the LA Times said this album was ‘the most important album of the last 40 years.’ Fake News! SAD!!!  This is so terrible I don’t even know what to do with myself.  I think it’s even making my dog mad. 

I got through this the only way I know how—completely tuned out writing something else. I swear these guys are chanting ‘trans Europe Express’ throughout every song. I don’t even understand what is happening. The last song is called “Endless Endless” and this album will never end and nothing will end it and please end it end it end it I can’t go on……………

This sucked. Synthesizer hell. I never want to talk or think about this again. “I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.”

 

Steve

What list of greatest music of all time would be complete without a some German Electric music!  Actually, I am not sure why this is on here.  The best I can say about it is that it is certainly interesting.  The most important lesson I learned from this album is that my daughter may have horrible taste in music.

Maddie has actually asked to listen to this several times since she heard it for the first time.  She calls it creepy Halloween music, and really enjoys it.  I am sure most of you can hear the exasperated sigh every time she asks.  I’d almost rather listen to The Trolls movie soundtrack for the millionth time.

For what it’s worth her favorite song is “Showroom Dummies,” which happens to be one of the two singles released from this one.  The German title is “Schaufensterpuppen” which is going to be the name of my band if I ever start one.  Not likely since all I can do is play bass badly, however, listening to some of these albums, I still have hope I can start a musical career without any talent.  I’m going with the German lyrics since they really don’t matter anyways:

Eins, zwei, drei, vier

Wir steh’n herum
Und stellen uns aus
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen

Wir werden beobachtet
Und wir spüren unsern Puls
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen

Wir blicken uns um
Und wechseln die Pose
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen

Wir bewegen uns
Und wir brechen das Glas
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen

Wir treten heraus
Und streifen durch die Stadt
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen

Wir gehen in den Club
Und wir fangen an zu Tanzen
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen

Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen
Wir sind Schaufensterpuppen

One of the things I have learned through this experience is that I seldom agree with music critics.  This album for instance was not one I hated, but it was definitely something that I forced myself to get through.  Then I find out that in 2014, the LA Times called this “the most important pop album of the last 40 years.”  I’m so confused!  That sounds like something that would be in Weekly World News.  “Most Important Pop Album Ever Found Living in Dusseldorf!”