Defend Your Ballot: Dan Weiss, Pazz and Jop 2012 Contributor
Expand on that a bit. Let's make the Rap Internet mad.
Oh, I'd love to. I mean, the only rap album I voted for was Big K.R.I.T.'s barely-noticed 4Eva N a Day mixtape, which plays as smooth as fucking Aquemini. I think K.R.I.T.'s boring, but his voice has soul and he put together this wondrously lush patchwork of just music-as-music. And some of the raps are good too, I think it's sweet when he says his girl helps him sleep. The rap world is always searching for meaning, they claim to not want the same thing over and over. But they do. They want a movie, and they want it to have guns. The Kendrick album is smart as hell, but if it didn't have guns, most people wouldn't have bothered.
That's a pretty bold statement.
I challenge people to challenge it. There's two strains of critically acclaimed rap right now. There's post-Kanye Auto-Tune emo-syrup, with Future (who I like, don't love) and Drake (who I find boring) and then there's Rick Ross, Waka, Chief Keef, Gunplay, guns, guns, guns. Crime. Bow bow bow. Kendrick combines the latter with the introspection of the former. Ta-da, "masterpiece". And again, I still think the album's really good.
That seems problematic, though, to pigeon hole it in that way. Couldn't you argue that someone like Kendrick has broken out of those two molds, and that's why it's the "masterpiece"?
Well there's a lot more going on with the record itself, I'm just saying that's my belief why people paid so much attention to it. There's a lot of great rap records that match its intelligence and ambition that they didn't. I wasn't blown away by his Lonely Island verse. I think his personality's still forming. I think the album's musically lacking in sweet spots, particularly toward the long songs at the end. Kanye, Ghostface, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z and Outkast masterpieces have more melody and hooks and yeah, variety. But again, I think under the limitations of being a new original rapper who's thoughtful and makes Compton his subject again, it exceeded expectations.
So if we removed Compton from the record, do you think it'd have the same impact?
Well, it's funny you mention that. I think his character sketches are great too, but as I said in a Salon essay last year, someone like Serengeti who doesn't rap about guns, does it just as appealingly, and I don't think Kendrick's particularly more pop-friendly. Maybe "Swimming Pools" and a couple stray hooks.
Serengeti is this guy who does these alternate personas, raps as this suburban dad named Kenny Dennis, he's done all kinds of concept records with the character. He's on Anticon right now, he's crazy prolific, he's already got at least two records slated for 2013. A little obscure, but that's a pop audience problem, deeply embedded rap critics should have him on their radar. Mind you, the next Kendrick album could be in my Pazz ballot. I've Pazzed so many people I never in a million years thought I'd ever enjoy, including K.R.I.T. and Dirty Projectors. I hated Dirty Projectors. Then they made the closest thing to a rock album that I was completely blown away by every song last year. So I think a big part of being a critic means allowing your biases to get turned upside-down. Like with Carly and Owl City's "Good Time," I'd love to talk shit on it, because you can detail everything that sucks about it on paper. But I had to scrap that whole mentality because I want to hear it all the time. And even though I pazzed Frank Ocean's last album at #2, nothing on Channel Orange had that effect for me. Oh well.
That's pretty surprising. Well, Dan Weiss, what do you see happening in Pazz & Jop 2013?
Oh Jesus, so many big albums were just announced. Do I think a Yeah Yeah Yeahs album called Mosquito with an R.L. Stine cover is gonna do well? On pure visuals I think that might be their Centipede Hz dropoff. Vampire Weekend, Flaming Lips... All I can say is that people try to pin a predictable trajectory on this stuff, and you never can. Look at tUnE-yArDs.
Very few people in my top ten were people I thought I would vote for someday. And I think Miguel, Kendrick and Frank were all people that were well-liked and hoped-for, but no one had any idea just how big they'd be. I still assumed the xx or Grizzly Bear would slaughter them. I like the xx but I'm glad shit changes. I bet the next Robyn album blows everyone apart though.
I'd be 100 percent okay with Robyn dancing all over everyone.
Thanks for defending your ballot, Dan! Good luck with the Rap Internet.
I'll liveblog any death threats.