» Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King's new novella questions mankind's ability to trust others.
[02.21.2011 by Bridget Doyle]


 » The Top 30 Albums of 2010 - Fashionably, fabulously late, our favorite music (and believe me, there was a LOT) of 2010, the year that some have called the best year for music ever. And only some of those fools work here. Plenty of usual suspects, lots of ties and a few surprises that I won't spoil, including our unexpected #1.
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 » Live: Surfer Blood/The Drums at Lincoln Hall, Chicago, IL - Remember when Weezer used to put together records that you could sing along to and rock out to? That's what Surfer Blood's show was like!
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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Danger Mouse & Jemini
Ghetto Pop Life
Lex Records

Rating: 7.5/10 ?

October 1, 2004
No one uses the word "auteur" much anymore. Maybe it's because of the recent backlash against things sounding French... or, maybe it's just that "auteur" is a rather pretentious word to use, and in this Bush-inspired age of "plain-spoken is best," pretentious just doesn't fly. Whatever the reason, it's a descriptor you just don't hear. Certainly, no one is using it in the context of a hip-hop album.

But why not? Hip-hop is getting to an age where an auteur could certainly exist. It certainly isn't a term that fits the street origins and gritty imagery so prevalent in hip-hop, but that doesn't mean the word doesn't apply. This is especially in the case of the DJs and producers who in essence are creating the soundscapes and musical experience of the whole record, regardless of who the MC is rapping over the beats.

That said, it does probably mean that it's left for white music writers to first use "auteur" in a hip-hop record review. And if I, said white music writer, was going to write out a hip-hop auteur list - which I will - then it would include people like the RZA, Prince Paul, El-P, and maybe even Timbaland, if I was so pushed. After listening to Ghetto Pop Life, the list would also now have to include Danger Mouse.

We all remember Danger Mouse from the big splash he made with The Grey Album, that notoriously illegal clash of Jay-Z's Black Album and the Beatles' White Album. After that kind of high-profile and critically adored project, everyone was anxiously waiting to see what he would do next. Ghetto Pop Life, teaming Danger Mouse with New York rapper Jemini the Gifted One, certainly does not disappoint.

For the 16 tracks here, there isn't one that you feel you have to skip because the beats are too weak. In fact, Danger Mouse manages to reference the best of Prince Paul and some of the greats of early-90s hip-hop without at all sounding like a copycat. It's more of a continuation in a great tradition of excellence, which tracks like "Omega Supreme" or "Don't Do Drugs" amply demonstrate.

Unfortunately, Danger Mouse's beats have to occasionally cover up for some very mediocre, clichéd lyrics from Jemini. His flow is very crisp and his delivery very smooth, but there are a few too many obvious rhymes and over-used typical hip-hop references to "bitches and money." There aren't many memorable or quotable lines, either, even despite one interesting foray into the world of politics in "Bush Boys." One could only imagine what a stronger MC could have done with beats of this quality - and one does get to imagine it on the two spot-on guest tracks with Tha Liks and the Pharcyde, which only highlight further the rather pedestrian quality of Jemini's style.

Most of the tracks have a great party-rap feel to them, though, and since the beats are so nice, you can easily ignore most of the corniest lines. This, when it comes down to it, is really the mark of a hip-hop auteur - one can still feel compelled to listen to the album many times without really digging the MC very much. Even if Danger Mouse would be loathe to admit it himself, that is what he is - an auteur. And, as with any auteur, we celebrate some of his best work here and we now look forward with great anticipation to what he will do next.

Reviewed by Dan Filowitz
Dan Filowitz is Toronto-born, New-Jersey-raised, Indiana-University-educated, and Chicago-residing. In addition to his Lost At Sea contributions, Dan is a senior staff writer for political humor site TalkStation.com and the president of ChicagoImprovAnarchy (The CIA) a Chicago-based improv theatre company. We are not mentioning the 9-5 corporate job. Apparently, Dan does not sleep much. Dan Filowitz is the perfect dinner party guest - fun, witty, intelligent, with wide-ranging interests, ecclectic tastes and a winning smile. Just make sure you have coffee available.

See other reviews by Dan Filowitz



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