Sunday, January 6, 2013

PE Crazy, Crazy PE


Original Facebook post here.
Today's formative-album replay: It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. I've been a hip-hop outsider for most of my life--I've admired the beats, flow, vision, and humor of many a rapper but never taken their work to heart. This album and its follow-up, Fear of a Black Planet, are almost the only exceptions, not counting a Fugee here or a Beastie there. On revisiting it, I find some of its attitudes dated but none of its sounds; it's still an extraordinarily well-produced album, and when that tight production is backing songs with real narrative sinew and detail, like the prison-riot drama "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," it's as riveting as music gets.

But even when backing less hard-hitting material, the swirl and punch of this record is a musical marvel. As someone who listens and responds fundamentally as a songwriter, what sold me and still impresses me is that these are essentially expertly crafted pop songs: They're catchy, expansive, harmonically rich, hooky (and even when the hooks aren't borrowed). I've also always responded to the unmistakeable pitch and natural musicality of Chuck D's and Flavor Flav's two very different voices; it's not strictly harmonizing they do, but there is a kind of harmony of contrasts happening between them, one of them supplying the gravity, the other the gravel. Every time I go back to this record, I feel like I should branch out and catch up with other hip-hop giants; but grasping the genius of this one (and to a lesser extent, its follow-up) gives me plenty to savor.

Comments:
Chris Coffman Hell yeah, boyeeee!
Dennis Kim-Prieto when it first came out, a friend of mine commented, "it sounds like you're walking through new york city." it still does....

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