This is probably the oddest post title on my site. For those who don’t know what it means, they are the names of the artists behind three of the best albums of the year. In a time where it seems really good music is hard to come by, I consider myself blessed to come across three awesome albums that all came out within just a few months of each other. I almost experienced music overload. What makes these albums even better is that they are nothing alike. For those who say all hip hop sounds the same, I challenge you to listen to these three albums and tell me that afterwards. There is something for everyone on this list. I’m not going to give detailed reviews of the albums, I just want to talk about why they are great and why you should buy them. First up is Kno’s Death is Silent.

For those unfamiliar with the name Kno, you might recognize him as the excellent producer behind the group CunninLynguists. Kno has largely stayed absent from the mic on the last couple CunninLynguists albums choosing to hone his production skills to near perfect quality. Death is Silent finds Kno’s trademarked sample-heavy production painting a dark backdrop over the best lyrics we’ve heard from him to date. The only problem with the album is that sometimes the rapping doesn’t live up to the excellent composition behind it. Also, this is a much darker album from what we’ve previously heard from CunninLynguists, so be prepared to get sucked in to a dark place (which isn’t a bad thing as you feel like you’re part of a really good story). I really can’t describe what this album is, other than close to being perfect. This is one of those albums that you can turn off the lights and listen from beginning to end over and over and over. Each time you listen you pick up on something new. It’s an experience that will never end. Make sure you pick up this album now.

The next album is from QN5 newcomer Kokayi. To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of Kokayi before his signing to QN5. He was nominated for Best Urban/Alternative Performance in the 51st Annual Grammys, but I’ve not watched the Grammys in years (and really don’t intend on starting again). He joined QN5 in April of 2009 and I’ve been waiting to hear something from him ever since. Was the wait worth it? Yes! Kokayi’s Robots & Dinosaurs is undeniably one of my favorite albums to come out in years. What sets it apart from other hip hop albums is that Kokayi is able to meld genres to make an amalgam of good music. He’s hip hop, he’s rock, he’s soul. This album contains something for everyone. If you are a fan of good music, you will love this album. Best of all, you can order a Paleo-Pack of his album that includes a bunch of goodies to go with the fantastic music or you can listen and purchase the digital album here.

The last album on my list is a side project from Substantial. The album is called Substantial & Marcus D are Bop Alloy. The album can easily be defined as Jazz Hop. It is a great album utilizing the smooth flows of Substantial on top of excellent Jazz production by Marcus D. This is one of those albums that you can sit back and listen and get lost in the music. You would think this duo would have been making music together for years, but that’s not true. This is their first album together and if all their music together is this good I hope there will be many more albums in the years to come. Not to say anything bad about Substantial’s previous works because they are all good, but I think this is his best to date. He has definitely evolved as an emcee and this album shows it. If you’re a fan of Jazz and a fan of hip hop, make sure you support the artists and buy their album.

After reading Owen’s post about Twitter Influence there was a brief discussion in the Habari IRC channel about who people follow and why. One part of the conversation was about celebrities. One person in the convo didn’t follow any celebrities. Owen follows just one. I, however, follow 50+. That got me thinking about why I follow these people and how I’m actually using Twitter.

First off, I want to point out that I am not a TMZ, Perez Hilton, US Weekly, People celebrity stalker. In fact, if you look at the celebrities I follow you would find a bunch of names that rarely, if ever, appear in that type of celebrity drivel. The celebrities I follow are people from TV show, music, and movies that I really enjoy. Their updates are usually really good and provide me with entertainment. Denis Leary always has great one-liners. Rob Lowe embraces his fans and frequently talks about his role on The West Wing. Nathan Fillion and Colin Ferguson are just regular guys that tweet just like anyone else. Roger Ebert provides thoughtful political and film essays. Louis CK posts clips from his very funny show and tour dates for his stand up.

The thing is, I get quality tweets from most of these people. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t follow them. Sure there might be a few on there that don’t update, but for the most part they all do and I enjoy most of their tweets. It’s gotten to a point where I enjoy their tweets more than most of the other non St. Louis people I follow. Twitter has evolved from a place where I can see what other people are currently doing to a place where I can get info on my favorite TV shows, movies, musicians, and actors. I still enjoy seeing what my fellow St. Louisans are doing, but that’s about it. I used to enjoy reading what other people were up to or things they found interesting, but that has definitely changed, and I can probably pinpoint two reasons why that has changed.

The first reason is I started following too many people. I follow a lot of people but the people I follow, I follow for a reason. This has disadvantages though. The people I tend to follow update more frequently. Follow a lot of heavy users and statuses begin to fly by one right after another. Even though I find what they have to say interesting, I can only read so many tweets before they are lost forever in a never-ending stream of unreadable text. After a while of not being able to catch up, these updates become noise and provide nothing meaningful. The second thing is what I’m going to refer to as static. These are tweets that interfere with an otherwise good signal and will often contribute to the first issue. These tweets can be anything from a Four Square check in or a re-tweet to get into a contest for an Apple product (which I swear no one ever wins). Then you have paid tweets. That one bugs me the most. With celebrities and other high profile users, it’s easier to get high quality content without a lot of noise. You know if there is an update it’s not going to be a Four Square check in, a RT for a contest, or what song they are currently listening to. It’s going to be something that I find meaningful.

So, have you changed the way you use Twitter over the years? Do you still find it as valuable as before? Do you use it to make personal connections or more broad connections for your interests?

Even though this is far from weekly, I’m going to post not one, not two, but three songs of the week. These songs aren’t exactly new. In fact, they are several years old. They are fantastic tracks though, all by the hip hop group Binary Star. Binary Star was an alternative hip hop group formed in 1998 that was composed of One Be Lo and Senim Silla. Unfortunately this duo no longer exists, but that doesn’t mean they didn’t put out some great songs during their short stint together. These three songs come from the album Masters of the Universe (or Waterworld for those familiar with their Binary Star history). This album is considered a classic by many underground fans and brings socially-concious rap with great beats.

The first track is called Slang Blade and is comprised almost entirely of different slang words and phrases. There’s some good word play in this track.
The next track is called New Hip Hop. Again, there’s some really great word play and metaphors throughout this track.
This last song, Honest Expression, is about honestly expressing yourself and criticizes pop rap and rappers that make music for money and not for the love of music.

All three of these tracks include some great lyrics and wordplay from the two MC’s. I’ve followed their solo careers since the breakup of the group, but nothing can compare to when they were together.

Okay, this doesn’t apply to just iTunes, but since it is the de facto application for downloading music, they have more of an impact on standardizing a naming convention. This would also apply to Amazon or any other digital music distributer. One of my biggest issues with finding an artist to listen to on my iPhone is the fact that many artists/labels will put the name of the guest artist in the Artist field, along with the actual artist’s name. Therefore, I will have Artist, Artist & Artist 2, Artist & Artist 2, Artist 3, etc. If I download an album by an artist but can’t remember the name of the album I will go to the artist. It makes it difficult to play the entire album because it is broken up among various artist listings (click image to see The Roots’ latest album as an example), so then, after I find out the album title, I have to go to ‘Albums’ and play the entire album from there. It shouldn’t be that difficult, especially on devices known for simplicity.

This needs to be standardized, for clean libraries, so that all featured artists will appear in the song title (again, click on the image to see the proper way on the CunninLynguists album Dirty Acres). So it would be something like Artist – Artist Song (ft. Artist 2). It really doesn’t help matters that some albums I buy feature the, in my opinion, improper naming conventions and some support the proper methods. That leave one giant clusterfuck of metadata. It needs to be standardized, and for the sake of my iPhone and iTunes library, it needs to cut guest artists from the Artist field completely. I really am surprised, with as controlling as Apple is, that this hasn’t been proposed or been standardized by now. Of course, I could go in and edit the metadata personally, but this is not something the end user should have to do.