I have recently been thinking about artists that show potential but never reach it for whatever reason. This phenomenom tends to be of epidemic proportions in rap music and I am not sure why. It could be the culture in the record industry demanding quick turn over and a follow the leader approach to marketing the music. It could be that most rappers do not have the musical background to understand what it takes to make a strong record. it could be that there isnt a lot of guidance other than the “make sure you have the x, y and z” style songs on your album. Or it could just be that some rappers are either too self indulgent or lazy to ever get the best from them.
I started thinking about this because of the artist Mos Def. Obviously a talented rapper. His work in the late 90s with Black Star was brilliant. His first solo album Black on Both Side, though uneven showed immense promise. Sadly that promise was never reached. It was a combination of him being bored with rap, trying to do too much, acting, getting hammered by Christopher Hitchens on Bill Maher, etc.
The point is he was unable to keep focus for a full album and his works became increasingly, how can I say this without being insulting, shitty.
With Mos there are always amazing moments.
When he is on, it is exactly what I want to hear when I listen to rap music, but when he is off it is exactly everything I hate when I listen. So this got me thinking, what if some one like Mos, or The Roots, or Ras Kass had a strong personality with an ear for what makes a great record pushing them to do so? Would it work. Would we get what we always hoped for from them? Sadly we will never know because the music industry has pretty much eliminated the true A&R position for quick profits and disposable artists. So I decided to try on my A&R hat and see if I couldnt put together a great album from the material that is already out there. I set a few rules in place to avoid just turning this into a best off type deal:
1. The music can only come from the artist album catalogue, no collaborations, guest appearances or side projects.
2. The project must flow like an album, which means if the song doesnt fit, it doesnt get on, I dont care if it is their biggest hit or has a Jay-Z or Kanye guest appearance.
3. It must not be longer than 55 minutes and 14 songs, because no album ever should be.
So lets see how this little experiment worked out. Mos Def, you are about to be Laskified.
Mos Def – Laskified
1. Champion Requiem
2. Mr. Nigga
3. Murder of a Teenage Life
4. Ghetto Rock
5. Quiet Dog Bite Hard
7. White Drapes
8. Sex, Love, and Money
9. Napoleon Dynamite
10. Close Edge
11. Umi Says
12. History feat. Talib Kweli
Mos Def – Laskified