Paul Thompson reviews the Chicago legend’s tenth studio LP.
A rapper’s social responsibility is only discussed when it is on trial. When Rick Ross raps about surreptitiously doling out Molly or the street rapper of the moment fills another faceless adversary with lead, the same questions get trotted out. Is the music a reflection of the problem? A contributor to it? Is art—and this is the conversation stopper—immune from criticism, from blame?
It's been a great year for music, but an even better one for rap specifically. Below, Paul Thompson narrows down the field with the top 5 rap albums of the year.
By year’s end, the soft glow of nostalgia is going to smother us all. First, there was the months-long Illmatic campaign by Nas and his tax attorneys. By December, we will have trotted out the twenty-year parades for Ready to Die, Southernplayalisticadillacmuzik, Resurrection, Warren G’s debut, Organized Konfusion’s Stress: The Extinction Agenda, Scarface’s The Diary, and maybe a handful of others. (Word…Life retrospective, anyone?) Even if you halve the looking glass, a handful of beloved records see the decade mark come and go in 2014. The mid-2000s are not often held in high regard in rap circles—odds are at least ten of your Twitter followers bought Hip Hop Is Dead t-shirts—but 2004 was an exceptional year, giving us Madvillainy, The College Dropout, A Long Hot Summer, and a host of others. Naturally, a few gems are bound to go overlooked. Here’s a closer look at two: P.O.S’ ambitious debut, Ipecac Neat, and Joe Budden’s bitter lament from label hell, Mood Muzik 1: The Worst of Joe Budden.
My friends and I make fun of this song a lot. How couldn’t you? I mean, Jadakiss outruns two grown men in the video.
Future’s uneven sophomore effort fails to live up to its promise.
Twenty years ago today, Nas' Illmatic hit shelves at retail outlets around the country. It's really a soft anniversary--if you knew the right people or were particularly charming with retail workers, you might have had the album in some form for weeks. But Illmatic occupies a special place in the rap canon. Two decades later, it holds up as (at least) the plurality choice as the greatest hip-hop album ever made. To mark the occasion, our Paul Thompson
broke down the album's five best verses.
You have heard about the post-Taylor Swift Kanye West. He is an embattled man--a victim, to similar extents, of America's unspoken racial tensions and of his own id. During the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards in New York, West jumped on stage to rip the microphone out of Swift's hand. She had just been announced as the winner for Best Female Video, and West was incredulous. Beyonce, he explained to the stunned audience, had made "one of the best videos of all time", and the Chicago rapper/producer was seated too close to the stage to let such injustice proceed unchecked. The moment has been frozen in our collective unconscious: a speechless Swift clutching her trophy, a leather-clad West simply shrugging. The reaction came quickly and without mercy; West was a monster, and How Could He Do That and Who Does He Think He Is? It would be naive to ignore the politics of race in all of this, the angry black man stealing the spotlight from the innocent white girl. But West was a jerk, first and foremost, and he never did learn how to apologize.
hasn't been around for too long, but he's already compiled quite the discography. Paul Thompson
takes a look into it to find the real gems.
Paul Thompson reviews the week's best non-Disney album.
Paul Thompson reviews Freddie Gibbs’ and Madlib’s new masterpiece.
I’m not smart enough to understand time dilation, but Lil Boosie is.
Atmosphere’s best record isn’t what you think it is.
The College Dropout is a carefully built house of cards. Paul Thompson picks apart the jokers.
Paul Thompson examines four crucial songs on Atmosphere's God Loves Ugly that made the duo who they are.
Marciano is pulling the strings from behind the scenes, because he’s figured out exactly how to do it.
When you look back on 2013, these will not be the songs you remember. They may not be the songs you want to remember. But these three records say more about this year in rap than any others.
BEYONCÉ is the rare album that is forward-moving yet definitive, experimental yet comprehensive.
Donald Glover is funny. Sometimes.
Point Grey:Mayor Dinkins Never Loved UsWritten By:Paul Thompson
Paul Thompson revisits Kanye West’s finest work.
I’m from a stopgap generation. At least in rap terms, people born the same year as myself—1992—exist as a bridge between those who saw Straight Outta Compton take middle America by storm and those who grew up after a white rapper from Detroit had torn it up from the inside out. I came of age just as regional tension  was giving way to the mainstream-versus-underground dichotomy college radio helped create. Basically, what I’m saying is this: while I know both versions of “Children’s Story” by heart, when I hear that sample I’m one of the few people who starts rapping about Adidas, not pajamas. And I’m sure glad I do—the Mos Def version of the song is the greatest diss in rap history, and it also might be the darkest.
Minneapolis native Z is one of rap’s most exciting up-and-comers.
Ten years after its release, Paul Thompson looks back at Jay Z’s would-be swan song.
If you’ve been paying attention to the bylines, you know Paul Thompson is the resident rap critic here at Impression of Sound. He’s also the resident writer at 2dopeboyz and a contributor to several other outlets. Each week, he will be publishing a column titled Point Grey, named after his popular Tumblr. In this first entry, he challenges those clamoring for Jay Electronica’s debut album to give the rapper’s back catalog the attention it deserves.
Action Bronson is indeed a novelty, but he’s got the act down pat.
Paul Thompson revisits Eminem’s brief, brilliant introduction to the world.
Eminem is trying very hard.
Ten years after its release, Paul Thompson looks back at Atmosphere’s scattered, messy, and often brilliant album.
What first strikes you are the tics and eccentricities; what stays with you is the balance.
A year after its release, Paul Thompson looks back at Kendrick Lamar’s major label debut.
RACE MUSIC is a triumph in design, a record that works as well on a visceral level as it does intellectually.
While imperfect, Acid Rap is the work of a young talent too good to ignore.
On his most misunderstood project, Blu takes the familiar and hands back a record somehow both foreign and nostalgic.
Dessa's sophomore effort is an exceptional study in loss.
Rarely has there been a record as sonically and topically narrow that examines its world so thoroughly.
Three years in the making, My Name Is My Name is a bitterly uninspired affair.
What you’re seeing is a man finally confident enough to step out from behind the curtain.
For the most part, Bank$ seems more concerned with flexing than doing it in an interesting way.
Why do people have such a hard time grasping the future when Del already lives there?
Where Take Care saw Drake indulging a hyperactive creative mind, Nothing Was the Same marks an aggressive move toward the middle.
That trapped train passenger is exactly how Woods sees himself: unable to escape, fate sealed, and mad as hell.
West proves again that his aesthetic innovations are in service of a singular viewpoint—and this time, it’s a confused one.