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November 16, 1999 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1999-11-16

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10- The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, November 16, 1999


Folk feminist Difranco
expands with 'Teeth'

The Godfather of gangsta rap has returned, hop-
ing to re-establish his stature after a long absence.
The rap game has undergone many changes since
1992 when Dr. Dre dropped the most pivotal rap
album of this decade, "The Chronic." Since then
characters such as Puff Daddy, Master P, 2Pac,
DMX and the Cash Money crew have risen to the
top of the rap game.
Dr. Dre could care less about any of these rap-
pers though. Instead of paying attention to what is
currently popular, Dre has focused on evolving his
own original style. Similar to "The Chronic,"
"2001" is the carefully crafted work of an auteur
more interested in impressing his musical peers
than cashing in on the latest trends.
"2001" furthers Dre's past accomplishments in
terms of both ideology and musicianship. To start
with, the irrational violent behavior and sexism
that now makes Dre's work with NWA sound
ridiculous has been abandoned in favor of an hon-
est appreciation for life. Unlike the majority of
today's rap superstars, Dre still is able to capture
the essence of getting high, getting laid and
achieving high social status without sounding like
a naive, disillusioned adoles-
cent thug.
However, he has shed his
tough guy image from the
Dr. Dre past. Instead of rapping about
2001 how he "never hesitates to
Atermath put a nigga on his back," Dre
has changed his ways.
Reviewed by "Nigga if you wanna take it
Daily Arts Writer there we can/ just remember
Jason Birchmeier that you messin' with a fami-
ly man/ I got a lot more to
lose than you/ remember that, when you come to
fill these shoes," he now raps on "The Watcher."
Dre's musical soundscapes may also surprise
those accustomed to the G-Funk of "The Chronic"
and "Doggystyle." Really all Dre did on those
albums was sample some of the funkiest P-Funk

sounds George Clinton ever produced. For "2001"
Dre took a much more challenging approach,
bringing in studio musicians to play the music for
the album.
Nearly every one of the 22 songs on the album
features live guitar, bass and keyboards. One
might assume that this approach would decrease
the high level of funk that made "The Chronic"
such a masterpiece, but this is far from the case.
Not only are the beats funky, but they're fresh,
original and undoubtedly the album's strongest
Three rappers in particular stand out among the
many characters that appear on "2001." Snoop
Dogg guest stars on four tracks and sounds better
than he has since "Nuthin' But a 'G' Thang."
Something about Dr. Dre really brings the best out
of Snoop. "Still D.R.E" and "Bitch Niggaz" are
two of the best tracks on "2001 " that deserve to
get heavy rotation on MTV
Though Eminem only briefly appears on
"2001," he steals the spotlight whenever given the
chance. His psychotic rhymes sound a little out of

place when sandwiched between his west coast
peers, but his unique style and fresh approach
spice up the album, proving that Eminem is for
"2001" also makes it clear that Hittman is the
next young rapper Dre hopes to elevate to super-
star status. Appearing on nine tracks, Hittman gets
plenty of time to shine. Though his rhymes flow
smoothly with entertaining narrative content, he
doesn't have the unique vocal style that separated
Snoop, Eminem and Easy-E from their peers.
Dr. Dre's presence overshadows everyone else
on "2001." He raps with adequacy on nearly every
track, radiating self-confidence, dismissing critics
and flexing his many past accomplishments.
Thankfully, he doesn't disrespect anyone on
"2001" like he has done in the past, instead pay-
ing his respect to his past comrades such as Easy-
E that he once ridiculed.
Though the sincerity and adult characteristics
of "2001" may be too grown-up for the masses of
young rap fans, "2001" will be appreciated by
more seasoned rap listeners. It's a carefully con-
structed, high quality rap album that tries its best
to impress you. Dre takes his music seriously and
understands perhaps better than anyone how diffi-
cult it is to remain successful within the volatile
world of rap music.
"2001" is a better album overall than "The
Chronic." Dre makes a larger effort to instill a
sense of ideology to the album that goes beyond
just getting high and getting laid. It's a self-reflex-
ive album that comments not only on the rap game
but also on Dre himself. He understands his weak-
nesses as a rapper and sacrificing the spotlight in
favor of his beats and more talented rappers such
as Snoop.
In the end, "2001" perfectly blends Dre's ideol-
ogy with the flair of his large cast. This is all then
carefully flows like dialogue overtop of Dre's con-
tinuously flowing funk soundtrack. Rap music
doesn't get any better than this.

It is reassuring to know that fame and
success hasn't changed Ani Difranco at
all. She is still the same jaded, anti-
establishment feminist that she has
always been. Her new album's title
song, "To the Teeth " is a politically-dri-
ven folk ballad written as a reaction to
the recent epidemic of school house
shootings in the nation. In it, she calls
for radical measures, "Open fire on
Hollywood. Open fire on MTV Open
fire on the NRA"
But Ani isn't just about social angst
these days, nor is she solely about folk
anymore. The expansion of her musical
style that she began to experiment with
on "Little Plastic
Castle" is fur-
**** thered on "To the
Ani Difranco Teeth"
The folk-influ-
To the Teeth enced songs on
Righteous Babe the CD have rock
undertones to
Reviewed by them, powered by
Meghan Kennedy heavy acoustic
For the Daily guitar chords and
strong, emotion
filled vocals. She uses horns on several
songs, adding yet another twist to her
musical style.
Ani also experiments with the juxta-
position of musical genres that wouldn't
naturally be associated with folk. Jazz
saxophonist Maceo Parker joins her on
"Swing," a jazzy, hip-hop influenced
song. It's a very interesting fusion. For
"Providence;" Ani is joined by pop
superstar The Artist (formerly known as

She also incorporates underlying
techno beats on several tracks. "To the
Teeth" is the third record that the self-
dubbed workaholic has put out this year.
She has enlisted the help of several bane
members on a number of her songs, but
for the most part Ani does the work all
by herself. She plays the electric guitar,
bass, acoustic guitar, steel drum kit,
piano, organ and drums on her tracks,
not to mention the roles of singer, song-
writer, producer and mixer. Her lyrcs
on "To the Teeth" are up to par with her
usual poeticism. Whether she is singing
of guns in schools or a lover that has let
her down, Ani always finds the perfec
words to fit her powerful melodies.
Ani is unquestionably one ofthenost:
talented performers in the business. She
has taken a genre of music that has a
tendency to become whiny and monoto-
nous and exploited it. Never venturing
too far from folk's roots, Ani uses her
talent and resources to make it appeal-
ing to the masses.

Korn hits
" "
on 'Issues'
On its latest offering, "Issues," Kom
becomes to music what Bond movies are
to films - a predictable ride that either
depends on people who enjoy taking the
same trip again or first times who have
never experienced it before.
"Issues" finds the group treading
familiar territory. Very familiar territory.
Quiet moody intro noise, a loud hard
guitar riff', a quiet verse with odd guitar
sounds followed
by a loud chorus
with singer
Jonathan Davies
Korn delivering dark
lssues lyrics. The group
has perfected this
immortal/Epic format for its
Reviewed by songs: The prob-
Daily Arts Writer lem is that it has
Adlin Rosli done this on so
many numbers
across its four-album career.
Sadly, the group has done much bet-
ter utilizing its tried and tested formula
on past releases with older songs. This
time around, this formula just sounds
old and predictable. You can see the
punches way before they are hurled. If
you've experienced one Korn album
you know exactly what this album is
like, just like Bond movies.
The guitar work by guitar magazine
darlings, James "Munky" Schaefer and
Brian "Head" Welch, built upon odd
noises, simple chromatic progressions
and two part riffs seem to also lack any
fire to it. Indeed there are some strange

Tribe releases hits collection

noises on "Issues" but they just don't
really leave as much of an impression
as the performance the two have done
before. In fact it sounds like the two
may have just put on Korn's last three
albums and just tried to rip themselves
off actually. As far as Korn goes, it's
that dull.
The only noticeable difference this
time is that singer Davies is singing a lit-
tle more than just screaming. The lyrical
themes he deals with are precisely those
he has gone through before, depression,
hopelessness, child abuse and despair.
Grunge may be dead folks, but teenage
inspired angst will never die.
The man does actually have a pretty
strong set of vocal chords.
Unfortunately, Davies is guilty of
overusing a whiny sounding falsetto to
sound frail and vulnerable. His falsetto
was actually used very effectively on its
first album as it was used more often to
contmast his primal screaming. This time
however, he dwells more in just whining
that screaming which gets on the nerves
rather quickly.
Korn proudly proclaimed with last
year's release, "Follow The Leader,"
that it was the founder of a new music
"scene" and its title for that album was
in reference to its status at the head of
the game. With the new album, howev-
er, Korn have demonstrated that one of
the groups biggest "Issues" is that its
talent is quickly running dry and itsis
reduced to writing the same song over
and over again.

Great sadness marred late 1998 when one of hip-
hop's most preeminent acts, A Tribe Called Quest,
called it quits shortly after the release of their album
"The Love Movement" For nine years, A Tribe Called
Quest served as an alternative to the gangsta and "ghet-
to fabulous" rap that seemed to populate the music
rotations of urban radio stations. Their creative lyrics
delighted fans and their jazz-influenced samples intro-
duced their audience to a genre, jazz, that many had
never experienced before. "The
Anthology" demonstrates the
** evolution of the group and also
A Tribe Cagled reminds loyal fans why they
stayed in love with the group
Quest over their five albums.
The Anthology Featured on "The Anthology"
Jive Records are 16 tracks taken from previous
Reviewed by albums plus 3 tracks from other
W. Jacari Melton releases. Representing the Tribe
For the Daily of old are tracks such as "Bonita
Applebum" and "Scenario"
Using a Roy Ayers Music Project sample, group
member Q-Tip smooth rhyming speaks of his infatua-
tion for the elusive "Bonita Applebum." Hoping to gain
her attention, Tip urges her to "put him on" instead of

just ignoring him. In the minds of many fans, this is the
basis of the quintessential hip-hop love song.
On "Scenario," A Tribe Called Quest, along with
Busta Rhymes and his first group, Leaders of the
New School, flow in a five-man rhyme free-for-all
that served as a model for many crew tracks to come
in the future. On this track, Busta kicks his memo-
rable line about a chocolate chicken that gave people
a sneak preview of the craziness we would come to
see and expect from him in the years soon to follow.
Moving on, more recent tracks start to feature
exclusively the production crew of The Ummah,
which consists of Tribe members Q-Tip and Ali along
with Detroit-based producer JayDee. At this point,
disenchantment may set in because the lack luster
beats that seemed to haunt A Tribe Called Quest over
their last two albums are prominently featured. Tracks
like "Stressed Out" and "Find A Way" are decent but
seem mechanical when compared to the jazzy, free-
flowing feel that was common in previous efforts.
The newest track featured on the album is the heav-
ily played, radio friendly Q-Tip joint "VivrantThing."
Though a new track is welcomed on an album of
oldies, "Vivrant" seems like a contradiction to most
of the album's anti-hip pop feel. However, this disc is

more about the evolution of a group than stressing the
quality of the music in either the pre-Ummah or
Ummah phases of the group.
Although "The Anthology" is meant to serve A
closure for those mourning the loss of A Tribe Called
Quest, it does not. Itsis more likely to lead a listener
to wonder if Q-Tip, Phife, and Ali will ever reunite,
and bless us with new tracks comparable to their early
work. For the sake of hip-hop, let us hope.

The Artist diversifies with new genres on 'Joy Fantastic'

Renaming yourself"The Artist"is like
one of those moves all of us make every
now and then, such as putting hydraulics
on your car or
....' growing a goatee.
**j Yeah, we know, it
The Artist seemed like a
great idea at the
Rave Un2 the Joy time, but the nov-
elty wears thin and
Arista it's bound to
Reviewed by become more
aily Arts Writer trouble than it's
Jettoruchniak worth eventually.
The strain is
already starting to show on that disingen-
uous savant of the music world - you
know, the one Michael Jackson named
his kid after. (Cheap shot, maybe, but live
by the goony name gymnastics and pre-
pare to die by 'em.)The Purple Guy can't
help but feel pressured by his outrageous
new moniker - can't try to slide by as
just any Artist once you've thrown in that
"The" - and so he labors mightily on
"Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic" to be cut-
ting-edge, a labor that even extends to the
album title. But don't be fooled: If this is
a rave, then Hanson is the new P-Funk.
No less labor goes into broadcasting

bombastic poses like "Once again I don't
follow trends, they just follow me." It's
fine to brag, but it's preferable if you've
already convinced yourself
The man doesn't realize it needn't be
catastrophic that his days as the Next Big
Thing are over. There's actually a pretty
damn good old-school R&B album
trapped inside this mess. And clearly,
Formerly Known As knows it deep down,
or why else would he list Prince as the
producer of this album? Despite his for-
mer insistence on declaring his old iden-
tity deceased, Prince must realize you can
never really kiss your past goodbye.
But to release an album targeted only
at hard-core Prince devotees would be
throwing in the towel on his pretentions
to preeminence in the music business.
Unfortunately for Prince, only the true
believers are likely to buy "Rave" any-
way, because the man is still enough of
the real deal to be fail-safed against com-
pletely selling out.
He can't help himself: Even when he
tries to do a straight-up D'Angelo or R.
Kelly ripoff (like "Man O' War" or "The
Greatest Romance Ever Sold," the
record's futilely hyped single), something
makes him throw in enough mischie-

vously arty riffs and ironic touches as to
make the thing way too smart. Only now
he's managed to irritate the purple faith-
ful as well by denying his muse-a lose-
lose situation.
Even worse, with a pleasant toe-tapper
like "So Far, So Pleased," this temptation
to modernize and mainstreamhis product
leads Prince~across that fine line between
thoughtfully rethinking his earlier work
(in this case, "I Could Never Take the
Place of Your Man") and tediously recy-
cling it.
Prince has moments where he lets
down his guard. There's "Undisputed," a
menacing electro-grind with a killer

guest spot from Chuck D. There's t
truly bizarre funkification of Sherl
Crow's "Everday is a Winding Road."
There's "I Love U, But I Don't Trust U
Anymore,"a glitzy ballad that, because it
doesn't get defensive about resembling
"Nothing Compares 2 U" a little, is gen-.
uinely touching.
Prince is so prolific and ambitious,
even his misguided albums make it hard
to feel completely ripped off. The sheer
diversity and length of "Rave" som
times obscure its annoyances. Yes,
Prince horrifies listeners by attempting
once again to rap (he must know he's
awful, or he wouldn't sneak "Strange
But True" in near the end, right?). Yes,
his most nearly unforgivable gross-out
is his voiceover plug for his website and
merchandise hotline before the final,
hidden track.
"Rave's" one and only mandatory
booty-shaker, "Prettyman" is a perfect
mix of the old NPG swagger, the Bro
Jules' turntable and sax star Maceo
Parker's wickedly smooth riffs. It's per-
verse to bury a song this good where the
easily frustrated might never find it. It's
only too bad Prince's ego kept him from'
doing more of what he does best.

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