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September 18, 2012 - Image 6

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-09-18

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6 -- Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

6 - Tuesday, September18, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom


G.O.O.D. not good enough
Kanye West __

A closer look at

salvages label's
mediocre lineup
DailyArts Writer
Like bar mitzvahs and regis-
tering to vote, rappers owning
and operating their own labels is
a time-honored
rite of passage. **
However, (dis-
counting the G.O.O.D.
Jay-Z and P. .I
Diddy's of the usic
world) rarely is Cruel Summer
this a cocktail
that gets mixed G.O.O.D. Music/
correctly. Most Def Jam
of the time, the
only real money-spinners are the
rappers who start the label and
one or two successful proteges,
e.g. Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj and
Drake of Young Money, Rick Ross
of Maybach Music, 50 Cent of G
Unit. Which leads us to the for-
mation of rap's latest and great-
est - alabel so good, it could only
be called G.O.O.D.
It all started on the seventh
day, when the rap gods said, "Let
there be a vehicle through which
Kanye West can exhibit his cho-
sen ones to the world, even if
most of them are kind of medio-
cre." And so Cruel Summer was
Technically, CruelSummer is a
collaborative compilation album
by G.O.O.D. Music's slightly
above-average roster. In reality,
this is an impersonal Kanye West
album with acrap ton of features
and a little less haute couture
Decreased swagger aside,
everybody wins when an album
begins with R. Kelly singing,
"Deuces minus one, middle fin-
ger to the sky tonight / The whole
world is a couch / Bitch, I'm Rick
James tonight." And in perfect
pitch, no less. It's easy to forget
amongst all the closet adultery
and trial-winning that Kells
has pipes of gold. King of R&B,
indeed. "To the World" isonly
made more immortal by Kanye's
scene-stealing the campaign
rally: "Mitt Romney don't pay
no tax! Mitt Romney don't pay


"Does this suit make me look phat?"
no tax!" Safe to say Mitt Romney
does not approve this message.
But who cares if it ends up being
the most disgusting moment
of his possible presidency? The
world is a couch, and R. Kelly is
flipping off the world. It must be
Fortunately, West's sonic
genius makes this album sound
banging on any form of heavily
bass-equipped speakers. Unfor-
tunately, West's luminosity also
casts most of his counterparts
into the shadows. It may not be
surprising, but it is a tad con-
trary to the whole "collaboration"
aspect of the record. At G.O.O.D.
Music, there is an "I" in "Team,"
and it's spelled K-a-n-y-e W-e-s-t.
That's not to say there aren't
some contenders in the G.O.O.D
crew. Pusha T is still the dopest
dope dealer on the lineup (albe-
it the only one, but whatever).
Chief Keef is a Chicago wunder-
kind who provides a welcome
eye-of-the-tiger perspective on
the whole tired Watch the Throne
luxury rap shtick. And Teyana
Taylor sings,-so ... yeah.
West may only rap on eight
of the tracks, but Cruel Summer
has Kanye written all over it -

as it should. It's his label after
all. But you can't help wonder-
ing what would have become of
Cruel Summer if Old Uncle Yeezy
stopped craning over the shoul-
ders of legitimate talents like
Pusha T and Chief Keef. Now, not
to say Kanye's presence is over-
bearing - thereis no question he
is one of the best producers of the
last decade, and that this album
would have been pedestrian at
best without him.
'Ye continues to favor the
underlying operatic choir sam-
ples a la "H.A.M.," and hard,
streamlined variations of "Nig-
gas in Paris." It works, but
it doesn't evoke any sense of
real departure from Watch the
Throne. So Cruel Summer isn't
a masterpiece, which the world
has come to expect from Kanye
West. Talk about some lofty
expectations. Let's cut him a
break now, shall we? Step back:
Is it really realistic to come up
with a masterpiece if Big Sean is
within a forty-mile radius of the
recording booth?
Big Sean aside, there are some
bright moments - nearly one
half of the album is made up of
singles, after all. "I Don't Like"

is flawlessly remixed from the
original by Kanye, and Chief
Keef manages to compress
street-heavy themes into a single
chant turned ultimate war cry:
"That's that shit I don't like." Kid
Cudi shows up on "Creepers"
and does something above aver-
age for the first time since 2009.
"New God Flow" is a meaty, five-
minute leviathan in which every
verse is on point - aside from
the military call-and-response
ending. How come no one vetoed
the "Hey Mickey" ending? And
miraculously, "Clique" isn't even
ruined by Big Sean's unintention-
ally goofy presence.
And so the theory is relegated
to fact: Kanye's collaboration
albums are really just Kanye solo
albums done at sixty-five-perfect
potential. It does take signifi-
cant mental effort to remember
that Cruel Summer is not truly a
Kanye West album, despite the
number of features and Michael
Jackson references. Cruel Sum-
mer kinda proves that G.O.O.D.
Music has some stars in its cache,
but it mostly cements the already
immutable: Kanye West is better
than everyone else. And he knows

Riot movement
T here was a time when the If that sounds like some batshit
phrase "Free Pussy Riot" Singad-O'Connor-level antics,
was more likely to be an that's because it is. Think about
offer on Craigslist than a rallying it: What if Rise Against rolled
cry of political support. And once into your local church, synagogue
upon a time, or mosque and started rocking
musicians through "Help Is on the Way?"
were mak- And the group's outspoken
ing news by condemnation of Putin was a
committing large factor in the activists' treat-
crimes like ment. But here in the U.S. - a
impersonat- country practically founded on
ing an FBI protest movements - nobody
agent and would get away with such disre-
crashing a ELLIOT spect. There is a time and a place
drug-laden ALPERN for an effective, even extreme
car into JFK demonstration. But protesting
International in a house of worship is not okay
Airport (here's to DMX for the by most conventional standards,
most ridiculous string of crimes regardless of the cause.
in the same baffling incident). That beingusaid, there has
But these days, we seem to been a distinct flavor of injustice
live in a new Orwellian age. The throughout the entire proceed-
Russian punk band Pussy Riot ings, and the decision of the
was arrested for a litany of vague Russian court was almost surely
charges: "Hooliganism." "Under- influenced by politics. The coun-
mining the social order." And the try's increasing ties between
ever-misogynistic "Hysteria." government and religion have
A quick glance at the average probably also had some effect on
headline seemed to tell the story: the outcome.
Protest against the establishment Amnesty International seems
and Big Brother (incarnated as to be the most accurate in clas-
Vladimir Putin) locks you away. sifying them as "prisoners of con-
science," as they were imprisoned
based on political views. But to
In Soviet glorify the group's actions asa
righteous resistance movement is
Russia pussy embellishment.
And I hate to say it, but let's
riots you! talk about the rather crude ele-
phant in the room: Every chance
to talk about the band is a chance
to say the word "pussy" and get
Meanwhile, our masked, away with it. That may seem
guitar-shredding heroines have likea relatively inconsequential
been hailed as veritable pariahs aspect of the story, but consider
- especially in the face of a stark the following: Noted skeptic Penn
two-year prison sentence. More Jillette once attributed some
recently, the trio of prisoners of the popularity of the "Breast
was nominated for the Sakharov Cancer Awareness" movement as
Prize, one of the most prestigious an excuse to talk about breasts in
awards for the defense of human public. While that claim is essen-
rights. tially impossible to prove right or
Nelson Mandela, Mahatma wrong, it at least demontrates
Gandhi, Martin Luther King ... the various impulses that affect
Pussy Riot? Really? Are we ready the human psyche.
to go that far just yet? In fact, Let's re-tell the story of Pussy
does anyone really know the Riot, or at least atale of its musi-
whole story, beyond the cursory cians, prior to the band's arrest.
details? It seems all we've been The singer and guitarist of the
hearing is the Sparknotes ver- band is an outspoken proponent
sion: Female punk band protests of protest rights. This rebel musi-
overbearing government, and is cian frequently organizes exhi-
accordingly thrown in jail. Some- bitions and events inspired by
body tell Muse to write a song the government's oppression of
about it. human rights, and has even pub-
But it's not that simple. And, licly called out Putin's complete
unlike DMX, this wasn't your disregard of the country's consti-
classic "roll out of bed, decide to tution. Even though government
go ona crime spree" story. agents have shut down this per-
One wintry day in Moscow son's protest events, they plan to
(which is probably the beginning continue their efforts until there
to any story in Moscow), five of is a serious political change.
the rebel rockers walked into Sounds like someone worthy
the Russian Orthodox Church, of an award, right? Trick ques-
where they pulled on colorful tion - the person above is suc-
scarf/masks called balaclavas and cessful protest musician Vasily
began what they called a "punk Shumov of the Russian band Cen-
prayer." This evidently involved ter. You've never heard of him,
walking up to the altar, where though. Perhaps his band should
they bowed and crossed them- consider genitalia for a name.
selves repeatedly, and eventually
playing some of their patented Alpern is writing his history of
punk music. And yes, all of this Russia. To help him fact-check,
was while use. e-mail ealpern@umich.edu.

RELEASE DATE- Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Los Angeles Times Daily Crossword Puzzle
Edited by Rich Norris and Joyce Nichols Lewis
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