It’s been a long, strange road for Kanye West. After he dropped out of college to pursue his music career full time, he became a successful producer, making beats for high profile rappers like Jay-Z, Mos Def and Talib Kweli. However, despite being an in-demand producer, he struggled to be taken seriously as a rapper. Luckily, Jay-Z was willing to give him a chance and signed West to his label, Roc-A-Fella Records. West went on to release his debut album, The College Dropout, in 2004, and it instantly became a commercial and critical success. West was praised for his lyrical themes, which eschewed the gangster rap persona that was popular at the time in favor of more socially-conscious topics. Since then his career has been marked with plenty of ups and downs, but the recent success of Watch The Throne, his collaborative album with Jay-Z, has cemented his position as one of the strongest artists in hip hop. His rise to the top was due to dedication and perseverance, something OurStage rapper/producer Kenton Dunson has in spades.
Like Kanye West, Kenton Dunson is a talented producer as well as a rapper, producing all the beats that he raps over. You can hear some similarities in their production and rapping styles if you compare Dunson’s song “Beautiful Fight” with West’s song “Champion.” Both songs use a pairing of synthesizers and choppy vocal samples to create a unique sounding beat with a distinct rhythm. Like West, Dunson’s lyrics don’t deal with the typical fare of gangster rap, because he chooses to focus on more personal experiences. In this song, Dunson recounts the struggles he has gone through and continues to deal with in order to achieve success as an artist. He also shares Kanye West’s penchant for clever wordplay, with the line “they say that I’m sleepwalking, I’m living the dream” being one of the most notable here. “Take Off” is another of Dunson’s songs that bears some resemblence to Kanye’s music. Production wise, this song uses many of the techniques that helped make West famous, including looped vocal samples and backing string arrangements.
Once you’re a hugely successful musician, with lots of people telling you how awesome you are, making the leap into acting (or painting, or politics, or baseball, or aviation, or molecular biology) must seem like a piece of cake. There are so many object lessons to teach us how untrue that is (Britney Spears’ Crossroads, anyone?). But there are a few double-threats out there who have successfully made the leap.
10. Queen Latifah
It’s pretty aggravating to see a talented actor take an opportunity to do quality work, wipe their ass with that opportunity and flush it down the toilet. Queen Latifah has done this a couple of times. She could have had a solid career as a supporting actress after The Bone Collector and Bringing Out The Dead, but then she kicked America in the crotch by being part of The Country Bears, among other debacles. She was then lucky enough to be cast in Chicago, and it was inarguably a star-making performance. Finding herself in that enviable position, she accepted roles in a bunch of utter garbage, including Taxi and The Perfect Holiday. Sigh. But dammit, she’s always fun to watch on screen, whether it’s comedy or drama, and I suspect she’ll continue to appear in quality movies from time to time. Just don’t expect consistency.
Looks like more actors are making the jump from the silver screen to the mixtape. Who knew that Joaquin Phoenix was such a trend setter? Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly are probably going to be releasing a rap album sometime in the future. Details at the moment are hard to come by, with the official announcement coming from director Adam McKay via Twitter (where else?). McKay directed the pair in Step Brothers and works very closely with Ferrell at FunnyorDie.com.
From McKay’s feed: Are we currently working on a Step Bros rap album? Yup. McKay also makes mention of getting a hold of, a crazy big time producer and even invites Mos Def to drop a verse on the album. The news isn’t completely without precedent as Ferrell and Reilly have played rappers before; in Step Brothers they formed Huff N Doback and even made a video for their song, “Boats N Hoes“, beating The Lonely Island to be the first parody rap group to make a boat-themed song. No easy feat.
Already 2011 is shaping up to be an interesting year for rap. The real question is, which duo is going to produce the better collaboration, Kanye and Jay-Z or Ferrell and Reilly?
White Stripes release song from tour documentary
Stoking the fires of anticipation for the March release of the White Stripes tour documentary, Under Great White Northern Lights, the band has released one song, Let’s Shake Hands as well as a trailer for the film. If you like bowling and the elderly, you’ll love this. Take a look.
James Mercer and Danger Mouse get slightly less stealthy
As we recently told you, the new Danger Mouse/James Mercer project Broken Bells has become an epic game of cat and mouse for curious fans. This week the duo released snippets of their album’s first single, The High Road, allowing listeners to finally hear Mercer’s vocals. Click here to check it out.
Lady Gaga leaks
It’s the holidays and no one wants their Christmas spirit dampened by sad stories so let’s keep this section short. So we’ll just mention that this week another Lady Gaga single was leaked on the interwebs, accidentally or intentionally we’ll never know. Last week it was Reloaded, this week it’s Kandy Life. The track samples The Chordettes’ 1958 hit Lollipop. Is it delightfully sweet, or decidedly rotten? Decide for yourself.
Thom Yorke rants
Thom Yorke got himself a press pass and snuck into the United Nations Climate Change conference in Copenhagen. Now he’s taking world leaders to task on his band’s blog, Dead Air Space. Looks like the Radiohead front man is none too pleased with how they plan to leave Earth for future generations. (Insert Karma Police quip. Laugh track. End scene.)
¢ Ke$ha’s TiK ToK rises to top of Billboard Hot 100
¢ Kanye West debuts new Mos Def collaboration 24 Hour Karate School
¢ Beyoncé releases Black Culture
¢ Rivers Cuomo offers $208 for production assistance