Music In The News: Lady Gaga, Drake, James Blunt

The Roots of the classics 

New York University music students are in for a treat this spring as musical Renaissance man and The Roots drummer Questlove is reportedly on board to teach a course entitled Classic Albums. The idea for the course was partly inspired by an NPR intern’s lackluster review of Public Enemy’s seminal It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back. The NPR interns were asked to review classic albums they’d never heard before, and after writing that, given the choice, he’d rather “blast Drake’s infectiously triumphant mp3s every time,” Questlove responded saying it was his job to find out why an album is considered a classic. “He’s one of the smartest people in music, besides being a fantastic musician,” said associate professor of Recorded Music Jason King. “We thought [this class] would speak to his strengths.” The two-credit class will reportedly cover such notable albums as Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Led Zeppelin’s IV, Aretha Franklin’s Lady Soul and Beastie Boys’ Paul’s Boutique, among others.


Gaga’s La Vie en Toes

Lady Gaga’s long-time interest in French singer Edith Piaf has taken a turn for the bizarre, as she is reportedly in talks to buy a number of items once owned by the star, such as clothes, shoes, perfume bottles, private letters and even her toenail clippings. Gaga’s people are also looking into buying footage of Piaf’s first filmed performance, as well as licensing some of her songs from EMI. The “Just Dance” singer’s love for the French star has been apparent of late; she’s been playing the icon’s music as an entrance theme at parties and has even requested a party be held at Piaf’s hometown during Paris Fashion week.


Didn’t he graduate from Degrassi?

Ontarian rapper Drake announced his latest accomplishment via twitter last Wednesday; he finally made it through high school. “97% on my final exam. 88% in the course. One of the greatest feelings in my entire life. As of tonight I have graduated high school!” Drake, 25, dropped out of high school to pursue his acting career on Degrassi: The Next Generation, but says an invite to be a guest coach for the University of Kentucky inspired him to get his diploma. “I never really got like a great school experience. And when [University of Kentucky’s] Coach Cal asked me to come here for the first Midnight Madness it just really gave me a sense of school, a sense of love, a sense of belonging to something,” said the new graduate, adding that he felt he belonged to the U of Kentucky family and was “inspired by UK, inspired by these boys right here.”


Goodbye my lover

Ladies, get your hankies. If you haven’t yet caught this English crooner’s live rendition of “You’re Beautiful,” you may have missed your chance. James Blunt revealed to a reporter at The Daily Mail over the weekend that he is officially calling it quits on the music industry. “I just want to take some time out for myself. I haven’t got any plans to do more songwriting,” said Blunt. “I have been chilling out since I finished my world tour and I’ve spent a lot of time in Ibiza, where I have a villa.” Twitter had a field day with the announcement, even Blunt joined in tweeting “I’m pretty sure Adele and James Blunt were dumped by the same man.”


Top 10 hip hop albums of the ‘90s

Hip hop has drastically evolved as a genre over the years. It rose to mainstream prominence during the 1990s, an era that many people consider hip hop’s golden age. Here is a list of the top 10 most important hip hop releases of the 1990s, in no particular order.

10. Outkast – Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik:  Outkast’s debut album put southern hip hop on the map. At the time, the American east and west coasts were the most prominent scenes for the genre, but rappers Andre 3000 and Big Boi let the world know that the south was not to be ignored. The dynamic duo mixed intricate rhyme schemes with a laid back ‘70s southern funk and gave birth to a classic.

9. Dr. Dre – The Chronic: Dr. Dre’s debut album, The Chronic, is a household name in hip hop. It established Dre as one of hip hop’s most important producers and paved the way for other, now legendary MCs, such as Snoop Dogg and Kurupt. The Doctor’s combination of funky bass lines and heavy synth revolutionized rap and created a staple sound for west coast hip hop.

8. Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu Tang (36 Chambers): No list would be complete without this album. 36 Chambers served as a launching pad for Wu-Tang’s members, many of whom went on to record platinum-selling solo albums. RZA’s unparalleled beat-making skills, mixed with standout performances from all of Wu-Tang’s nine rapping members, make this record a tour de force.

7. A Tribe Called Quest – The Low End Theory: ATCQ are known for their jazzy hip-hop sounds. The Low End Theory provides listeners with mellow, progressive sounds and street-conscious lyricism. The album merged two forms of revolutionary black music and created a timeless record.

6. El-P – Fantastic Damage: Brooklyn-born rapper and producer El-P redefined alternative hip hop with his debut album. Fantastic Damage is filled with esoteric lyrics over spacey, psychedelic beats. With song titles like “Dr. Hell No vs. the Praying Mantus,” El-P gained recognition as one of the first white rappers, and proved his worth on both the beats and microphone.

5. Nas – Illmatic: Considered by many as the “Hip-Hop Bible,” Nas produced in one album what most rappers try to achieve in a lifetime. The album includes production by legendary beat makers DJ Premier, Pete Rock and Large Professor, lending every song a completely different feel. Nas’ masterful lyricism made his debut album a force to be reckoned with.

4.  The Notorious B.I.G. – Ready To Die: Regarded as one of the best to ever hold the microphone, Biggie Smalls’ debut album was an instant classic. His unique ability to merge comedy with serious, real-life experiences on the street made him a favourite among fans. Standout tracks include “Juicy,” “ Big Poppa” and “Who Shot Ya?”

3. Tupac Shakur – All Eyez on Me: Along with Biggie Smalls, Tupac is considered one of the most influential MCs of all time. His fourth studio album All Eyez on Me is thick with collaboration, but Tupac’s vicious, militant flow and lyricism stand out as usual. An absolute must have for any hip-hop head.

2. The Roots – Do You Want More?!!!??!: The Roots are one of the most diverse acts in hip hop. Rapper Black Thought demonstrates some of the most impeccable flows on this record. The use of live instruments from drummer Questlove and now former Roots bassist Leonard Hubbard produced a completely new hip-hop sound.

1.  Rakim – The 18th Letter:  Back in ‘87, Eric B. & Rakim released Paid In Full. Rakim’s lyrical mastery set the standard for hip hop at the time, leading many critics and fans to crown Rakim as one of the best. When the duo broke up, Rakim released his first solo album The 18th Letter, which was a sprawling, brilliant comeback that affirmed his ability to hold the crown.

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