Sunday, December 26, 2004


franz vs. kanye?

I've got laser-surgery sharp hindsight but my foresight is terrible. Nonetheless, with the 2004 (or is it '05?) Pazz and Jop poll looming, I wanted to see if wiser prognosticators had their own thoughts and guesses as to what's finishing at the top this year.

For those not familiar with Pazz and Jop, it's the Village Voice's annual poll that collects ballots from over a hundred music critics from across America. As such, Pazz and Jop tends not to resemble other polls you might find from any single publication. In general, P&J doesn't track that populist - they're not anti-commercial per se, but it's rare that you'd look at Soundscan's top 10 for the year and see the P&J reflected there, or vice versa.

There's a fair amount of personal strategy involved in turning in a ballot: you have to decide how heavily you want to weight certain albums, and for some people, they might overstate a preference because they think it needs a boost. Last year's poll ended up like this:
    Rank Artist Album # of votes (# of 1st place votes)

    1 OutKast Speakerboxxx/The Love Below 3554(305)
    2 The White Stripes Elephant 2411(212)
    3 Fountains of Wayne Welcome Interstate Managers 1314(117)
    4 Radiohead Hail to the Thief 1244(115)
    5 Yeah Yeah Yeahs Fever to Tell 1018(96)
    6 The Shins Chutes Too Narrow 917(91)
    7 New Pornographers Electric Version 881(87)
    8 Basement Jaxx Kish Kash 785(72)
    9 Drive-By Truckers Decoration Day 735(67)
    10 Dizzee Rascal Boy in Da Corner 665(61)

Just to point out how out of step I am with the critical consensus, I hadn't even heard 7 out of the 10 albums on that list.

Anyways, what my question to the musical oracles is: what do you think are going to place high in this upcoming year's P&J? I'm less interested in hearing what people think should be the top LPs and more curious to know what people think will end up topping the P&J. Make sense? Let's begin.

  • Triumph of the College Dropout? I'm fairly certain Kanye West's College Dropout will end up high, almost certainly as the highest ranking rap album...but I'm not as sure if it's going to be #1. Outkast has been #1 in two different years and Lauryn Hill won for her debut, but Kanye doesn't, to me at least, seem to have the crossover appeal these other LPs do. That said, I think this will finish in the Top 3.

  • Is the Grey Album a Dark Horse? I was fascinated to see that EW's David Browne put Danger Mouse's Grey Album at his #1 for the year. I think this will do amazing well for what amounts to an illegal bootleg...I can't see it being #1 or even #5 on P&J but if it made the Top 10, I wouldn't be surprised.

  • What other hip-hop? Last time around, both the The Streets and Dizzee Rascal had strong outings. I'm more certain that The Streets might return to the Top 10 vs. Dizzee. As for the other contenders, I don't anticipate seeing Nas, De La Soul or Ghostface showing up to play. And you can absolutely count on the fact that past favorites like the Beastie Boys, Roots and Eminem are going to be low-ranking. And duh, one reader reminds me: Madvillainy. Don't know how I forgot that (except that I found the CD to be overrated).

  • Yeah? I personally didn't think Usher's Confessions was as good as his singles but you can't deny that Usher had one killer year. Top 10? Sure.

  • Smile! Personally, just because I think P&J has a rockist bent (uh oh, did I just set it off?), I'm expecting Brian Wilson's Smile to be in the top 10 but this album wasn't as well-received as I would have imagined. In comparsion, I definitely expect to see Franz Ferdinand in the top 3, probably duking it out with Kanye for position. I'm curious to see how high U2 polls - they did well last time, but I haven't seen a consensus rolling behind this album.

  • A little bit country, a little rock n' roll: I see Loretta Lynn's collabo with Jack White on Van Lear Rose scoring in the top 10. Gretchen Wilson's too hard for me to call - she's the populist favorite but would critics boost her up the poll?

    Next time: singles!


  • Hashim at Hip Hop Blogs poses this question: "Which hip-hop journalist had the better year? Ta-Nehisi Coates of the Village Voice or Kelefa Sanneh of the NY Times?

    Ain't it crazy that the best hip-hop critisism is NOT in Vibe, XXL, or the Source?"

    I appreciate the spirit of Hashim's question and both K and Ta-Nehisi have had excellent years but I'd have to ask back the following:

    1) When was the last time "the best hip-hop criticism," was in Vibe or The Source? Both magazines saw their best years come in their first five but since then, they've evolved (or in the case of The Source, devolved) away from the kind of incisive criticism and journalism of their early years. For XXL, I actually think they've been doing a great job ever since the Ego Trip crew began to take over. It's still a "glossy," but article for article, that mag has produced some excellent features over the last few years. That said, I'm not sure if the mag's criticism has been as solid as their journalism. In other words, if I had to put their album review section up against the Voice's, I'd likely nod to the latter but that's a difference in editorial style as much as anything.

    2) This comment isn't meant as a reflection on K or Ta's writing abilities - both are exceptional talents in that regard - but if either writer was on staff at a more conventional "rap magazine," would their byline stand out as prominent in our memory? Isn't part of why we pay attention to them, apart from their abilities, because they're writing for leading, culture-defining institutions, and in the case of K, being one of the few people who really speak to our musical/cultural truths and realities within those institutions?

    For example, I don't think Sasha Frere-Jones became a better writer since joining The New Yorker - if you read his older stuff at Slate or The New York Times, you already knew how good he was. You need to flip the relationship around: Sasha made The New Yorker better by finally giving the magazine a pop music credibility that it needed.

    I guess, in that respect, K had a better year because now people actually pick up the Times with some reasonable expectation that there might be some good hip-hop criticism inside. (After all, the Voice has been respectable for about 15 years now on that tip - hello, Joan Morgan? Nelson George? Greg Tate?)

    My question: what were the best pieces of hip-hop journalism/criticism in 2004?


    My man Serg @ Beer and Rap (as well as We Eat So Many Shrimp), drops the precision-bomb hate when he wants to (which is often). This time, he's hating on mixtape DJs whose hip-hop collection doesn't seem to age past 1994 (has he been peaking at my crates? Hmm...). "F*** Your Early '90s HipHop Mix."

    Speaking of hate, Noz @ Cocaine Blunts, hates on random rap fiends jumping on the DJ Ivory train. I feel him on this - I've started to make jokes actually using the word "Pelon," e.g. "yeah, that new Killa mixtape cut is hot but dude, it's not Pelon hot or anything." Yes, very nerded out, I know.

    David @ I'm So Sincurr is filled with hate too, singling out Five albums he finds completely overrated and unworthy. Great reading...and did he just compare Nellie McKay with Lil Jon? Crunktastic!
      David also gets props for directing me to this editorial by Josh Love, an excellent dissection of how Kobe's rape case played out in the hip-hop world.

    Ok, and this isn't exactly hate (or maybe it is), but one of my oldest friends is an attorney on Modesto, CA and on his blog, he argues over why Scott Peterson should not have gotten the death penalty. Elsewhere, Nebur also has a very good list of places to get fat in Las Vegas. He'd know. Believe that.

    Last, but never least, Kris Ex is on fire. Read the latest from the War Scribe and prepare for the coming storm.