Kickoff/My Favorite Album From Last Year

So I didn’t really get this thing started when I’d wanted to.  Oh well.  I thought I’d try to get an actual start to this blog by talking about a few of the albums I liked from last year.  It may be already too late for anyone to care about records from last year, but it seems like as good a thing to talk about as anything else.  It’s also not a very comprehensive list for a variety of reasons–I was out of the country for half of the year, and broke for most of the rest, so my new music consumption was a lot less avid than usual.

All that said, I do have what I think is a pretty definitive album of the year: Young Jeezy’s The Recession.  I feel kind of funny naming it the album of the year, because I don’t really think it’s  better or even much than his last album (which I liked a lot) in any sort of objective way.  I guess it’s a little tighter, more consistent, but I don’t think anyone listens to Jeezy albums for consistency anyway.  The reason that I got into The Recession so much more than The Inspiration is just that it fit into 2008 way better for me than The Inspiration did for 2006.  To be fair, I think it’s more a case of everybody catching up to Jeezy than the other way around, because, like I said, he didn’t really change anything.  And it’s not the whole “it’s a recession and my album’s called The Recession” angle, which was kind of dumb, but rather the more subtle contrast Jeezy creates between his “uplifting” get-money persona and the bleak and depressing character of the beats and pretty much everything on the album.

I remember that when I first started hearing Jeezy I thought he was kind of cool but wasn’t really feeling his whole “motivational” persona.  I really hated the song “My Hood” when it came out, and still think it’s pretty weak, precisely because it is built only around the motivational bit.  What I realized when his second album came out is that by his beat selection and the relentlessness with which he sticks to his subject matter, he’s totally undercutting all the supposedly triumphant things he’s rapping about.  I can’t imagine that anyone who listens to him very carefully thinks he’s actually glamorizing drug dealing.  Does The Recession make it sound fun to sell crack?  I don’t think so.

What I like most about this contrast is that he never explicitly calls attention to it (he’s “way too intelligent to play up [his] intelligence”).  Kanye (who I like a lot regardless), for example, will just hit you over the head with how “contradictory” his character is, reminding you constantly that he has both a Benz AND a backpack.  Jeezy never makes it that big a deal he just layers his weird brand of money talk over really visceral bits about the recession and monstrous beats.

The reason that this stuff hits so hard right now is that I think it totally reflects the political climate. You’ve got basically everyone acknowledging just how messed up everything is–the economy, international politics, etc.–but you’ve got a charismatic guy who seems to be super-competent (and Jeezy definitely presents himself as a competent businessman/hustler if not a very distinguished rapper) taking over and somehow, that makes a lot of people pretty optimistic.  So The Recession is my album of the year because in ten years when I want to remember what 2008 was like, this will be the record I put on.  Plus the beats are great.

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