Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Now ya see it, now ya don’t

The beginning of 007 has seen two magical disappearing acts from the artists formerly known as Black Star. First, Mos Def released True Magic at the end of December. It arrived in stores almost devoid of packaging, basically a CD in a plastic case with a web address for liner notes. Keeping in mind that the main reason why suckers fork out eighteen bucks for a cd these days is in fact the packaging, it seemed like kind of a dumb move. Basically released to finish his contract with Geffen, True Magic evidently sounded as half-assed as it looked. In fact, it was SO half-assed that Mos Def and Geffen decided to pull it, fix it up, and re release it later this year. So now there are a bunch of folks with copies of what isnow a rare, if sucky, disc.

Talib Kweli and Madlib released a 9 song album Liberation for download on the Stones Throw site (www.stonesthrow.com). I was quick enough to actually download it before the link went inactive. Now there is just a notice saying that one day they may release it again. I don’t quite understand the logic behind any of it – first of all, if two artists like madlib and kweli decide to work together, why the hell wouldn’t you charge folks for the output – Both are respected, popular musicians, but neither is exactly rolling in it. Also, while Liberation may not be the most amazing thirty minutes in music history, it’s certainly not a half-assed freebie. In fact, “Happy Home” has got to be one of the best tracks in a while – it’s a five minute geneology of Kweli’s family, including marriages, protests, births…yes, that’s right, it’s a hip-hop song about family that CELEBRATES family. That’s about as rare as punk songs about family that celebrate family. Production-wise it is mostly Madlib’s usual crate-diggin’, soul-centric beats, although he does break out some crazy synth riffs that could almost be drrty south.

I like Kweli, but usually in small doses, and this nine-song ep is the perfect amount. I hope that it gets re-released in an actual album form later this year. As much as I like the free downloads, it worries me to see artists themselves devalue their music. It’s one thing to have a friend burn a cd for you, but to have an artist burn their cd for you themselves? Probably not the best business plan.


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