Monday, July 18, 2011

Yo! That's a Mixtape: Stormy Knight and Graham Par "The Diversity"

EDITOR'S NOTE: You know how sometimes you visit your gramps at the nursing home and he’s generally miserable (aren’t we all, lol) but he still has some classic jokes that are kind of funny but way out of date. It’s like he was saving them until you came around and now that you’re with him all he wants to do is joke. That’s perfectly okay. But then if you visit gramps everyday his jokes start to repeat and also start turning into complaints, and if you visit him even more often you see that all the jokes and complaining are based in a real deep-seated anger at the nursing home staff and nursing home cooks and life itself and whatever else. The humor was all anger all along. Well, welcome to that stage with me. I like jokes and laffs, but it was all anger all along. I am now your bitter old grandpa who is out of touch with today’s youth and reality and who is also out of jokes. You may have noticed that my profile describes me as an “angry blogger”, well it’s true and I’m done hiding my anger (I never did, I was just in a better mood probably). I’ve had it. HAD IT! Listening to this mixtape did it for me. This goes for everyone: You fucks out there who think that you can rap without talent or hard work need to know this: if you are spittin without talent (that you’re born with) or spittin without careful thought and practice then you are a poser. A fake MC. Actin’ like something you're not. Frontin'. Tryin to be Biggie or Pac. I don’t care who inspires you, if you ain’t putting out quality lines then keep your weak ass tracks under wraps, bury that mess. Lock it down. Don’t put it online. Don’t show it to your friends. Don’t email it. Nothing. Go the fuck back to highschool and stay the fuck off the mic you pitiful losers. I don’t want to hear your sucker raps and neither does anyone else. Fuck off!

That being said here is my review of another mixtape from some privileged suburban assholes who think that anyone can rap (without hard work).

---Official Stats---
Artists: Stormy Knight and Graham Par
Album: The Diversity (Mixtape)
Uploaded to DatPiff: February 4, 2011
Listens: 244

Yes! So it turns out that the mixtape that we’ve been waiting for came out in 2009, and it’s by a couple of young rappers from Houston (I guess) called Stormy Knight and Graham Par. So, we’re looking at their only mixtape release ever, which is either called “The Diversity” or just "Diversity" and what can I say? Diversity! I love it. It’s like a corporate HR mandate. Actually, I hate it. HATE IT. What kind of stupid name is that? And that cover? What’s up with that? It looks like a new twist on an electric kiss, will they or won't they? (whatever that means) Are they rapping into each other's mouths? HEY SHARE THAT MIC KIDS. They must have had the art department at their university working weekends on that one.  From concept to prototype to final product…a real people pleaser. “Looks great” – nobody. "Eh, that's not what we wanted, but it'll do I guess" - Stormy Knight and Graham Par.

P.S. I completely understand that diversity is a core of hip hop, but for some reason this mixtape is already ringing hollow.

P.S.S. Spoiler Alert: I intended for this to be funny (as I usually do), but I hated this album so much that my review became 2,000 words of venom. Pure bile and anger. It's been edited like a thousand times. Please enjoy:

Okay. Since their bio’s are sparse (nonexistent) I guess we should just get to the jamz. Lookin' forward to it?

1. Let it Flow
So the first beat is good.  It’s clearly taken from somewhere and I’m not smart enough to figure out where right now, but I would even go so far as to say it’s great. Nice job kids. So right away we run into one of the most common problems I see with computers and amateur rappers: a great and clean sounding beat is littered with lazy raps and poor vocal production. This is because anyone can use a computer to take a great beat and change it up a little bit and then it can be mastered automatically to sound nice. But no matter how nice your computer is, or how sophisticated your software is lazy raps are still lazy. See, there are two kinds of rappers, those who are born with talent (very few) and those who are not (most). But don’t worry, if you’re born without talent you can still put in the work to step your rhyme game up. It takes a lot of work, but it can be done. Most cats you hear on the radio fall into the “put in work” category, but that requires work (and people hate work). Most people would rather just grab the mic and wing it, rapping is easy, right?

Wrong. The first thing that hits me here is that these guys are going for the conscious rapper angle. Good for them, I love conscious rap, but it’s a tough genre to get right, even for professionals, so…good luck, I guess. I only like conscious hip hop if it draws me in and makes a point strongly. If the point is made strongly and logically and I agree with it I am emboldened, if I disagree I can at least respect the emcee. Hip hop is great! The thing is that it takes courage to make strong points (see the Dead Prez) and if you're lacking courage (or repeating diversity catch phrases) then your tracks are going to be weak. Plus, for me, conscious rap works better if I know where the rappers are coming from. So we’ll try to take a look at that later.

As for the lyrical content, I am disgusted: most of the rhymes are awful. First they’re corny (or lazy, whatever). Second, these guys can't rap. I’m talking about the fundamental ability to identify words that sound the same and then say them with rhythm over a beat. These guys cannot do that. Sometimes the rhymes are so ill-conceived they trip up the rapper and disrupt the flow. And when these guys screw up a flow, it’s like the moon hitting the earth: the song stops dead. The thing is, these guys clearly wrote their lines ahead of time and worked to polish them at least a little, but because they are so inexperienced (or sucky) they actually wrote the flow disruptions into their lines and made some really bad raps. It’s like they were making an artistic decision to be bad.

Here is a good example of corny lyrics that vacantly promote oneness, brag about going to college and bein’ smart, all while the flow is overrun by shitty raps.  And, yes, I’m going to print the lyrics of almost an entire verse, so be warned:

“The chains and the names that change when they’re famous.
The games still the same so try and come play us /
Everyday we hear the same thing over and over,
we need to link our hands together and play some red rover /
If you need to lean on me, you always got a shoulder,
I was just little boy, now I’m just a little soldier /
A small warrior in the dorm-a-tory of,
A universe-sit-y studying what it really means
to think psychologically, psychics, astronomy /
Outstandingly, I plan to beat the economy,
So probably, I’ll keep with the beats and the melody /
Felonies bring out all the jealousies,
Still I see what it means to have all these specialties /
Open up my brain feel my dreams to be reality.”

That’s terrible. I mean awful. In fact it’s more than that: it’s insulting. It insults me that someone put this out there and expected people to listen to it and connect to it.  It’s weak. "The game," you say? Seriously? This is worse than a random high school kid who is trying to be like Nas and recording some raps, I get that. This is a major complaint aimed at a couple of conceited young adults thinking that they’re rappin’ big. This entire song represents a fundamental misunderstanding of what it means to be an emcee.  This is some disingenuous shit. Talkin’ shit like some kind of authority, or like someone who's been through a real struggle, with a fucked up flow.  Bullshit. Hey posers, do you think anyone wants to hear a couple of rich high school/college kids rap about holding hands? This is a great example of the wrong (but common) mindset that says that “anyone can rap”.  Add to that an even dumber “I can change the world without even trying” attitude and you’ve got a genuinely offensive song. Those lines make me sick. Seriously.

Did I mention that the vocal production is terrible? It is. Attention amateurs: vocal production is tricky.  If you don’t enhance the vocals with reverb or something they sound flat and hollow. If you overdo it, it sounds like European techno. Trust me nobody wants that (well, maybe Europeans). I do not.

2. Hell of a Life ft. Sonnie G, ValleyWoods and Chris Taylor

Well, I’m officially angry. This is a song about the year 2011. Cool (sarcastic). We’re introduced to the “beer pong champ” right away (good grief), and with that all the conscious rap fronting is out the window. In fact, when the second guy starts rapping about his love for drugs and his expertise in everything, this track basically becomes the opposite of conscious rap. Great job idiots.

So here are some lyrics from your G.O.A.T. pick, ValleyWoods:
“Got two dimes, one by my side and ones in the sky,
Hello twenty-eleven! Twenty-ten goobye /
I don’t expect nothing but my money to triple and nearly touch the sky,
This is that twenty-eleven viiiibbe /
We on in twenty-eleven live.”

2011! Right? Right. Just a great way to celebrate the year. Hell of a Life? Hell of a Song.

3. I Like it Right Here
BASS! “I like it right here. Li-li-like it right here. I like it right here I’m not going anywhere!” Cool!  At least you’re not going anywhere until you graduate and get that corporate level upper-crust job, amiright?

Sigh, so the lyrics. Yep, they still think people want to hear them rappin’ (we don’t). This time we’re hearing about how the guys aren’t spreading hate on the bulletin boards. Fine. Great.  Skip the hate, good choice. Hey, dudes, how about write some good raps? They also recommend, “Just try to be you, stop following the trends. You should try something new like makin’ new friends.” Now that you mention it, I will try that!  And hey, nice, the guys just gave me a Redbull! 

“Yeah, you can have my Redbull (Redbull). Yeah! Here you go sip that, kick-back, and relax” (actual lyric)

Well, okay. Thanks. These are some nice guys. But they rap all big about erase-the-hate and erase-the-greed, but then they talk about making big money! Wa-wa-wwhwhhhhhaaatttt?

Also, the boys threw in a duck-duck-goose reference, so that’s two children’s games so far.  Perrrfect.

4. Power to Seatle (SK)
Boy, I am beat.  And this beat is from Kanye West’s song “Power”, so at least you can jam that and try to ignore the fake-conscious-rap-from-entitled-college-or-high-school-kids-whatever-who-cares? I’m guessing that the (SK) at the end of the title is for Stormy Knight, so SOLO TRACK, maybe.

So, is this an example of Houston rappers reppin’ or dissin’ Seattle? Answer: it’s reppin’ and misspellin’. Actually, this song is a big shout out to the whole west coast, but specifically Seattle! Now, I can barely make out the lyrics. But trust me, they LVOE Seattle (see what I did there, as long as we’re misspelling things). They “love the city deep like our first and last name.” OH! That much deep! Also, “I have to admit, I love to take a dip down, into the Puget Sound, and take a look around.” Yep, people not from Seatle don’t even know (that’s a sentence written by me).  Puget Sound is next to Seattle so it’s a local shout out. Liberty Bell (Philly)!

But wait, it gets more depressing.  The love raps for Seatle are mixed with some clever marketing in that we also get this appeal to record companies: “Hand me the pen, and show me the line / I’ll give them my name because I’m ready to sign.” So, selling out then? Nope, he makes it clear that wants to sign for “the game” and not for money or fame or for disparaging women. Record companies pay attention: unsigned hype!

5. Kick Push Freestyle
This is the last thing I want to hear. Not before I die, like if I were on my deathbed and they asked me for my last wish I wouldn’t say “oh, the ‘Kick Push Freestyle’ by those Houston slash Seatle boys.” No way! It’s the last thing I want to hear like if I made a list of everything that makes sounds in existence, this would be the last thing on the list. Honestly. And you know what would be right before it on the list? The loudest sound ever so that I would be deafened before this track started. It is that bad. I like the beat and the original Lupe track just fine, I never jam it intentionally because, who knows, I just don’t like it that much. I’m aware that Lupe made this track, it exists, and I don’t dislike it, I just would rather listen to something else. But here is something I like a lot less: hearing pig amateurs rap over the beat, this kind of amateur: fake-conscious-raps-from-privileged-university-or-high-school-students.

So, these guys like skateboarding and doing skateboard tricks. Tre-flip! Kick-Flips! Microphone check. So neat, do those tricks in front of any girl and she’ll probably give you her number right away. Same goes for a record company, if they see a well executed ollie, they’ll just write the check. Neat hobby and definitely something you should rap about.  I’ve never heard anything like that before.

Now, I’m no skateboarder (obviously) but I understand that Lupe made the quintessential skateboarding rap song. That shit was clever. Everyone agrees everywhere. I don’t know how anyone could hear the original and be inspired to make a song like this though. You know, “I love that Lupe song so I’ll take the beat and just list some skateboarding tricks, everyone will want to hear it. Lookout YouTube.” 

So this is a terrible corruption of the original track that demonstrates that these guys (1) are talentless (2) have no idea what makes good hip hop good. These are just the type of guys who should not be making mixtapes.

Fuck me, they can’t be serious:

“Can’t explain how it feels. It feels so real. S-K-A-T-E. Let’s play a game of skate, yeah, just you and me. Cuz there isn’t a loser, and there is no winner. But if you happen to lose, you should pay for my dinner.”

Let’s repeat that in a bigger font:

“Can’t explain how it feels.  It feels so real. 
S-K-A-T-E.  Let’s play a game of skate, yeah, just you and me.
Cuz there isn’t a loser, and there is no winner.
But if you happen to lose, you should pay for my dinner.”

News flash, you are a loser. I am a loser for enduring this garbage rap. Oh my, it just goes on and on and on and on...

“I’ll never make it rain cuz you know I make it hail.
I’m parasailing over Sarah Palin, no bailin’,
But I’m feelin’ the feelin’ like I got no ceilings.
I’m revealing a new trick and I steal it when it sticks.
First one to land it, so the name I get to pick.
So hot like a lit wick on a candlestick,
I burn calories like I burn the competssssssssssssssssssssshion.  Yeah.”

On and on, something about jumping over the Grand Canyon. Skating with Lupe Fiasco-Fiesta (yep, that’s right, because they party ‘real late’).

Oh, and lastly morons: this is not a freestyle.  A freestyle is off the top of your head, not whatever this is. Get it right, posers.

- -

Sometimes after a major surgery, like a hip replacement or something, people realize that it wasn’t as bad as they thought it would be and they say something like “that wasn’t so bad”.  Well, I listened to this album and I can safely say “that was definitely so bad”.  It really was.  There were so many problems I don’t even know where to start summarizing them.  The beat selections were relatively good mixtape wise (although they were uninspired), but even with that going for them, they still screwed things up to the point where I’m depressed about how some people live their life. I mean it’s depressing that these guys think they’re good enough to be signed to a label. They can’t even decide if they’re conscious rappers or what. They can’t keep a steady flow. They have stupid rhymes. I don’t even know who would want to listen to this.  Not me, that’s for sure.

In the track “Hell of a Life” one of the inept rappers claims that “the best part of music is you can still be blind, listen to the beat and flow and still be fine.”  Nope, that’s not the best part of music.  Everyone involved with making this music possible is blind (and ignorant) (and arrogant). This music is absolutely terrible.  You can’t be a conscious rapper and then degrade women and brag about your college life of luxury, you simpletons. Wealth doesn’t unite anyone, but rich people sure seem to think that it’s possible to be friends with us lower class wretches.

I sincerely hope that no record label ever signs anyone associated with this group. Never. I hope that they give up on their dream of being the next Lupe Fiascos. I hope I never hear anything by either of them again, and I hope I’ve dissuaded you from listening to it.  Good night and STOP RAPPING.

SCORE: 0/10

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