Dead Presidents

Historical facts, thoughts, ramblings and collections on the Presidency and about the Presidents of the United States.

By Anthony Bergen
Posts tagged "Music"
Asker hoolahay Asks:
Since you're a hip hop fan, do you have a favorite female rapper?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Of course. Now, I know that there’s a tendency in nearly all areas of entertainment to look at what is fresh and new and anoint it as what is best, but it is worth saying that I’ve been listening to hip-hop for as long as I’ve been able to turn the radio stations on my own and buy music and I strongly feel that Nicki Minaj is probably the best female MC of all-time if we’re ranking rappers separately by gender. If we don’t rank rappers by their gender, Nicki Minaj is still near the top of the list; she’s an incredible MC. 

Is she my favorite female rapper? She’s up there, but, no, not just yet. I think that my favorite is probably still Lauryn Hill. I don’t know if I am physically capable of hearing a Lauryn Hill track — whether it is solo (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is one of the greatest albums of all-time) or from the Fugees — and not listening to every word and every beat. I’m also a big fan of Missy Elliott (I can’t wait until she finally drops Block Party!), Eve, and, of course, the late, great Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes. And not only would I be remiss, but I’d be downright embarrassed if I didn’t mention the first-ballot Hall of Famers — pioneers like Roxanne Shante, Queen Latifah, Lady of Rage, Monie Love, and MC Lyte. Also, they didn’t last very long, but I’ve still got love for Infamous Syndicate.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
Whose better Kanye or Jay Z in terms of music? Jay Z is a better rapper, but Kanye is a good rapper and produced huge hits for himself and Jay Z.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Music is subjective, so a lot of this is a matter of personal opinion. I am a big fan of both Jay-Z (I understand that he dropped the dash, but I’m forever trapped in 1997) and Kanye West, but I think that Jay-Z is better. Now, that could all change someday and a lot of that is due to Jay’s longevity and the expanse of his overall discography. I’ll also acknowledge that if you look at each track that they’ve made individually, Kanye probably has a better overall batting average of hits (good or great songs in comparison to “eh” songs) than Jay does, but again, that’s also largely due to how many songs Jay-Z has made over the past 20+ years.

As an MC, I agree that Jay-Z is better, but I also think Kanye is underrated when it comes to his ability as an MC. Few people doubt Kanye’s talent and I doubt many hip-hop fans would disagree that he’s a nice rapper, but even with all of that I feel like his ability as an MC is often overlooked because of his personality and public image. Still, Jay-Z is one of the best ever, and even if some of his newer songs aren’t setting the world on fire (let’s go ahead and pretend that most of Magna Carta Holy Grail didn’t happen), he’s still at the top of his game as an MC. With both guys, few rappers can even approach them when it comes to content or delivery.

What I like best about Jay-Z and Kanye West is that they are the opposite of Lil’ Wayne in one crucial way. When Weezy drops a new album, I pick it up knowing that there are going to be ten tracks that I delete immediately, one that I play constantly for the next few weeks, and two or three that can go either way but which will usually need a half-dozen plays before I can make a decision on them. With Jay-Z and Kanye, I usually don’t delete anything because if the tracks don’t catch on immediately, I know I’ll soon catch myself repeating a hook or even randomly realizing, “Oh shit, that was a triple entendre!” If quality rap was just about flow, Tech N9ne would be selling records like Lil’ Wayne and if it was just about lyrical content so would Talib Kweli, but the very best, like Kanye and Jay-Z, have the total package. Jay-Z put it even better in Moment of Clarity: “If skills sold, truth be told/I’d probably be, lyrically, Talib Kweli/Truthfully, I wanna rhyme like Common Sense/But I did 5 mil’ — I ain’t been rhyming like Common since”.

That’s not to say that I don’t appreciate some of Lil’ Wayne’s stuff (some…I’m not a huge Weezy fan), Talib Kweli, or Common. In fact, Common is one of my favorite of all-time — I mean, if you only know Common from AMC’s Hell on Wheels (or, tragically, from Just Wright), do yourself a favor and go listen to the last verse from “Soul by the Pound” on Can I Borrow a Dollar?. Anyway, the point being that Jay-Z and Kayne are on a completely different level than almost every other rapper who has ever picked up a microphone, so it’s really difficult to choose between them, especially when I am a big fan of both, but I give Jay-Z the edge while not counting out the fact that Kanye may someday surpass him (but probably not). Most of all, I’m glad they work together so frequently.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
1990-1999 Top 5 Hip-Hop Albums. Go.
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:

Damn, picking just the top five off-the-top of my head is really difficult, but here we go:

1. 2Pac — All Eyez On Me
2. Dr. Dre — The Chronic
3. 4080 Magazine — Bay Area’s Greatest Hits, Volume 1
4. Wu-Tang Clan — Enter the Wu-Tang Clan: Return of the 36 Chambers
5.(tie) Wyclef Jean — The Carnival; Snoop Doggy Dogg — Doggystyle

I’m leaving out so many incredible albums that it hurts my heart to post this, but I feel okay with this list for now.

Kurt Cobain killed himself in Seattle 20 years ago, impacting a generation of fans who saw him as an anti-hero who they could relate to.

Check out my cover article for AND MAGAZINE looking back at Cobain’s life, death, and ultimate legacy, as well as the irony of someone who couldn’t bear to go on living somehow ending up immortalized by his death.

Actually, I think it’s been totally over-hyped and blown way out of proportion.  It’s certainly not a diss song.  2Pac’s "Hit ‘Em Up”, Jay-Z’s "Takeover" and “Supa Ugly”, Nas’s "Ether"those are diss songs.  K-Dot’s verse in “Control” is just him dropping some names and basically saying that he wants to be the best MC.  I mean, he even says “I got love for you” and one of the names he drops is Big Sean’s, who shares the track with him.  Maybe hip-hop is so desperate for a beef or an old-fashioned battle that this got folks excited, but it was a roll call, not a diss song.  Even 50 Cent’s "How To Rob" which was obviously done tongue-in-cheek was more vicious than Kendrick’s verse in “Control”.

Also — and maybe I’m just getting old and clinging to the same hip-hop that I’ve always loved — I think Kendrick Lamar is kind of overrated.  I have Section.80 and good kid, m.A.A.d city on my iPod and certainly think he’s better than Drake or Rick Ross, but I see lots of people saying he’s the best rapper around right now and there’s no way.  Even if you take some of the major stars who have been around for a while (Jay-Z, Eminem, Kanye, etc.) out of the equation and just look at young guys or people who are just breaking out on their own as solo acts, I would put B.o.B. and Pusha T way ahead of Kendrick.  And that’s coming from a hip-hop lover who is also unabashedly biased toward acts from the West Coast.  I don’t think Kendrick is terrible or anything, he is just overrated.  In my humble opinion.

Oops…my bad.  I’m sorry.  I should really start wearing my glasses when I answer these questions.  I forget that I am getting old.

Yes, there is plenty of other music I enjoy besides hip-hop.  I guess I can post some non hip-hop music every once in a while.

Asker Anonymous Asks:
i know its not about presidents but what are the top 25 most played songs on your itunes playlist?
deadpresidents deadpresidents Said:
229 plays
Coming To Save The World

The Secretions: Zombie Girl

Happy Halloween!

The Score is far better from beginning-to-end. The Carnival has a lot of filler with Wyclef’s courtroom interludes and the songs at the end in Haitian Creole are interesting, but not necessarily all that great.  So, The Score is a better album overall, but I like “Gone Till November”, “Apocalypse”, and “Guantanamera” from The Carnival better than any single song from The Score with the possible exception of “Ready or Not”.  

You can’t go wrong with either of the albums, though.  Or The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

349 plays

Just out of curiosity, does anybody else ever go to to download all the free public domain music from the 1910s and 1920s from people like Eddie Cantor, Al Jolson, and Billy Murray so that you can sit in your apartment and pretend that you’re living in an episode of Boardwalk Empire?

Whenever I listen to this music, I’m amazed at how happy it sounds and how easy it is to start tapping your toes along with it despite the fact most of the lyrics are super sexist and most of these singers regularly performed in incredibly racist blackface.  And, yet, I still can’t stop listening to it.  If any of you guys see me buying shoe polish and a straw hat, it might be time for an intervention.

359 plays
Don McLean


Don McLean: Vincent

For Tupac Shakur, on the 16th anniversary of his death.  Many are surprised to find that this was Tupac’s favorite song, but it’s the perfect illustration of that poetic soul I mentioned he possessed in my earlier post.  Tupac had a deep admiration for Vincent van Gogh, which he expressed in a poem of his own, published in his book of poetry The Rose That Grew From Concrete:

Starry Night
Dedicated in Memory of Vincent van Gogh

a creative heart, obsessed with satisfying
This dormant and uncaring society
u have given them the stars at night
and u have given them Bountiful Bouquets of Sunflowers
But 4 u there is only contempt
and though u pour yourself into that frame
and present it so proudly
this world could not accept your masterpieces
from the heart

So on that starry night
u gave 2 us and
u took away from us
The only thing we never acknowledged
    your life

1,169 plays

Tupac Amaru Shakur: June 16, 1971-September 13, 1996

(From my AND Magazine article on the 15th anniversary of Tupac’s death in 2011)

"When I was a little baby, I remember that one moment of calm peace, and three minutes after that, it was on.” — Tupac Shakur

Wait a second…I’m the guy who usually writes about Presidents, or reviews really stuffy political books.  What am I doing writing about music?

Well, I’m sure that some of you know that today is the anniversary of Tupac Shakur’s death.  I’m sure many of you have heard ‘Pac’s music and appreciate a few of his songs.

For me, however, Tupac Shakur was a big part of my adolescence.  I’d guess that many of my readers are either too old or too young, but Tupac was what I listened to throughout high school.  My younger readers just don’t understand and older readers just don’t get it — the East/West thing was huge when I was a teenager, and it was real.  I didn’t own a Jay-Z album until 2002.  I didn’t even buy Biggie’s albums until after he was killed.  My friends and I believed in the beef — as silly as it might sound now — and for impressionable teens growing up on the West Coast in some of the rougher neighborhoods in California, my friends and I were 100% in 2Pac’s corner.

Now, of course, we know that the whole West Coast vs. East Coast thing was silly, even dangerous.  The two best rappers of that time ended up murdered.  Nothing good came out of the rivalry besides some great records.  What’s most upsetting about the beef is all of the things we missed out on — Tupac and Biggie maturing, evolving, and becoming better at everything that they already did so well.

Why did I identify with Tupac?  I don’t know exactly, but I did.  I still do.  I still listen to All Eyez On Me constantly.  I still am mesmerized by his words.  There was poetry in everything that Tupac did.  Even when he was frustratingly stubborn and acting like a crazy man, there was always a twinkle in his eye that said, I know what I’m doing.

I don’t think ‘Pac was a gangsta.  I think he was an artist who went to extreme lengths to evoke an emotion from everyone.  Somewhere, in those last months of his life, the line became blurred.  I think Tupac had lost his way, and he was just about to find it when he was shot in Las Vegas.  I wish ‘Pac was still around.  I miss his music.  I miss the words that he was able to weave together in such a unique way.  Maybe 2Pac wasn’t the best rapper of all-time, but he was the best poet of my generation.

It’s strange — my generation was short-handed in heroes.  When we found people we looked up to, they either fell back to earth quickly, or they died.  I won’t go so far to say that Tupac was a hero to me, but his words helped guide me through some pretty rough formative years.  He made me realize that, even if I couldn’t get out of the place I was in, I could at least do something to fix the place.

Tupac Shakur was gifted and frustrating, and I guess I relate to that because that’s probably how my friends and family would describe me.  I am now seven years older than 2Pac was when he died on September 13, 1996.  I remember where I was when I heard he had been shot after the Mike Tyson fight in 1996, and I remember that I immediately thought what many of ‘Pac’s fans thought:  “He got shot again?  It’s ‘Pac…he’ll be fine.”  I remember being at a high school football game in Northern California on Friday the 13th when I found out that he wasn’t going to be fine — that he was dead.

Tupac Shakur was 25 years old when he died, and I wish he had as many years as I have had.  I wish a 40-year-old Tupac was making music, writing poetry, filming movies (remember, he was an amazing actor), and playing with the kids he never had.  I wish I could explain in a better or more eloquent manner why it matters to me that a rapped died sixteen years ago.  I guess it’s just this:  he wasn’t a rapper.  This wasn’t Lil’ Wayne or Drake or even Kanye West.  Tupac Shakur was a philosopher and he made my life better.  I wish his life had been longer, and since it wasn’t, I’ll play his music (as I normally do) and cap the day off with Tupac’s personal favorite — Don McLean’s “Vincent”, which is filled with lyrics that could have described ‘Pac himself:

Now, I understand, what you tried to say to me
And how you suffered for your sanity
And how you tried to set them free
They would not listen, they did not know now
Perhaps they’ll listen now

And, if you’re out and about tonight and want a drink, here’s what you should order:  one part Alizé, one part Hennessy — Thug Passion.  But don’t pour it out for ‘Pac; he wouldn’t want you to waste it.

199 plays

I meant to post this yesterday, which was the second anniversary of my dear friend Rich Cronin’s passing, but wasn’t around during the day.  It’s just one of those personal things that I always want to commemorate in order to keep memories alive and never forget to pay tribute to someone who made such a positive impact on my life in the short time that I was lucky enough to know him — 6’4” of Boston, music, and laughter that still makes me smile when I hear its echoes or when I see the name that I can’t bring myself to delete from my phone’s contacts.

From September 8, 2010:

When I was 19, I heard this damn song so many times on the radio that I wanted the people responsible for it to be deported and never allowed near a recording studio again.  Whenever it came on and my friends were around, I made the frustrated face and dramatically changed the station.  The fact, though, is that we all knew the words.  It’s a catchy song.  It really is.  I can’t lie.  I knew the words in 1999, too.  And when my friends weren’t around, I probably didn’t change the station when it came on, and when I wasn’t around, they probably didn’t either.

A few years ago, I met Rich Cronin (aka Rich Nice) as he had become a regular guest on my friend’s radio show in Philadelphia.  Rich was the lead singer of LFO.  He was the tall guy with the highlights and the goofy rhymes.  The guy who we thought took his shirt off too often and got too many compliments from girls we liked (like Jennifer Love Hewitt).  In 1999, Rich Cronin was the lead singer of LFO and on MTV’s TRL constantly.  In 2005, Rich was recovering from a bout with leukemia and he became my friend.

Rich was funny — genuinely, laugh-out-loud funny — and he had the greatest stories I’ve ever heard anyone tell.  He was candid on the radio and off-the-air.  He would talk about anything, and he wasn’t afraid to mention things that were embarrassing or risky.  Rich wasn’t afraid of anything.  He faced leukemia and made it through his first bout, weakened but resolute.  Rich could be silly and sing about Summer Girls or The Girl on TV, or he could talk about the brutal treatment he went through merely to survive.

Rich Cronin was a survivor.  He had some corny lyrics in silly soundtracks to our teenage summers, but he survived bad business deals, the terrible music industry, and the fact that boy bands eventually grow up and Manbands aren’t nearly as successful, as Rich’s VH1 television reality show proved. 

Rich Cronin died today.  Despite all of his strength, he couldn’t overcome leukemia in the end.  What he did in the past few years, however, was establish the Rich Cronin Hope Foundation.  What Rich did was work to ensure that, even if he lost his battle, he would create the opportunity for someone else to eventually win theirs.  Rich will always be a survivor.  Hopefully, his fight will allow more people to ultimately prevail.

Rest in peace, Rich.  You were a great friend, a great man, and a survivor.  Your strength in the face of leukemia even inspired me to forgive you for the lyric “When you take a sip you buzz like a hornet/Billy Shakespeare wrote a whole bunch of sonnets”.

Help fight leukemia today.