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Listening

The December 2007 Leak Report

This week, a new monthly feature in the Mp3 Digest, provided the RIAA’s black ops don’t take me under cover of night to an undisclosed location for all sorts of beastly torture. We’ve scoured the corners of the internet to bring you songs leaked from the coming month’s most anticipated releases.

Roc-A-Fella’s Beanie Sigel’s fourth album The Solution drops on Dec. 11. This Philly native has made a moderately successful career for himself largely via the diss. He’s traded trash talk with DMX and Jadakiss, and earlier this year he not only said that Kanye and Pharrell don’t dress “cool,” but implied that they are also gay. This has been a big year for hyping up rap album sales with false feuds, so I wouldn’t put much stock in it.

The album isn’t that great, though. There’s nothing much new here, no incredible beats, a slew of boring label-mate appearances, etc. Though the album is mainly an example of why mainstream hip hop is stagnating, there are a couple of standout tracks. “Gutted,” featuring a solid guest spot from Jay-Z, has a simple, illuminating message: You’re poor. There’s not much else to recommend the following track “All of the Above” except to say that R. Kelly is on it, and I like making people listen to R. Kelly.

» Listen to “Gutted” Feat. Jay-Z
» Listen to “All of the Above” Feat. R. Kelly

By stark contrast, Lupe Fiasco’s followup to last year’s superb Food & Liquor stands to make just as positive an impact in the rap game. Expanding on the concepts and characters originating in that album’s “The Cool,” The Cool continues his experimentation and easy lyrical flow, but goes in a darker, more serious direction because, as Fiasco says, “[part of the] inspiration for The Cool actually was Cornel West,” who told him that, “if you really want to effect social change in the world, you have to make those things which are uncool, cool.” The first track listed here, “The Coolest,” holds to that ethos with melancholy backing vocals, strings, and a dark look at the price of fame. “Superstar,” however, uses a laid-back beat and guest vocal by Matthew Santos to play up the fun side of fame, but not without its irony. This one’s gonna be great.

» Listen to “The Coolest”
» Listen to “Superstar” Feat. Matthew Santos

The Wu Tang Clan is more or less an institution by now, but the past six years have been the longest album-less stretch since their sensational debut. It’s hard to say if this month’s 8 Diagrams will make up for the lost time, or if it will be able to compete with their first three releases, but their distinctive collaborative style, production, and genre-defining sounds are always welcome with me. Sub-par Wu is better than no Wu.

“The Heart Gently Weeps” is not a cover so much as a new interpretation of the Beatles’ classic “While My Guitar Gently Weeps.” It doesn’t use a sample from the original, but instead features John Frusciante and George Harrison’s son Dhani recording new music. Erykah Badu’s breathy vocals shore things up from there. The track ends with the requisite sound bites from an unknown kung-fu movie that in this country can probably only be found in a safe at the back of Kim’s Video, which leads into the next track, “Wolves,” featuring godfather-of-Funk George Clinton holding forth on the difference between dogs and wolves. I can’t make sense of anything he says, but I love to listen to him say it.

» Listen to “The Heart Gently Weeps” Feat. Erykah Badu, Dhani Harrison, and John Frusciante
» Listen to “Wolves” Feat. George Clinton

While a sixth studio album is currently in the works for power-pop champs Weezer, frontman Rivers Cuomo has compiled a CD of material recorded before, during, and after other Weezer endeavors. Named a little too appropriately, Alone: the Home Recordings of Rivers Cuomo will feature a slew of covers, demos, and other previously abandoned errata, including some songs from a concept album called Songs From the Black Hole which never saw the light of day. Considering Cuomo has pretty much always been in creative control of Weezer, it should come as no surprise that his solo material sounds like more of the same. The following link has a few of the songs posted which (possibly re-worked) will appear on Alone.

» Listen to Songs From the Black Hole at Twelve Major Chords

Less than a week ago, Radiohead’s bonus CD meant to accompany their recently amazing In Rainbows was leaked as, quite by accident, one fan received his box set early. The songs sound very much of the same recording sessions, but none of it really leaps out at me. As well known as they are for abstract studio excursions, they’re also usually known for pushing at least a few clear winners into the mix. It’s not that this bonus CD is bad exactly, because I still feel it’s wrong to question Radiohead or to really pass any kind of judgment on them that is not praise. I will say that if I’d paid $80 to get their box set just for this bonus disc I’d be pretty upset right now. I mean, I guess “Up On The Ladder” is good.

» Listen to “Up on the Ladder”

biopic

TMN Editor Erik Bryan is living the dream. He grew up in Florida, but he’s from all over. He likes playing chess, making cocktails, smarting off, and not freezing to death in Brooklyn, where he currently resides. More by Erik Bryan

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