Unsolicited Endorsements IXXX

Because sometimes you just want friends to tell you about cool things… the Brew House team offers up its weekly mix of author-supported goodness.

Song: Nas – “Life’s A Bitch”

Growing up as a guitarist and a huge fan of rock and metal, I would routinely listen to songs just to get to that one epic guitar solo, riff or breakdown that immediately triggered the air guitar instinct. In fact, I’d usually rewind to the start of the particularly epic* passage a few times out of sheer reverence. “Life’s A Bitch” is one of the songs that – as a 25-year-old fan of wordplay and hip-hop – I always have to stop to rewind. Each individual section of the track is just that good.

First, the beat: It’s the standout instrumental track on one of hip-hop’s most treasured albums,Illmatic. Despite its lo-fi feel, the GAP Band-sampling beat sounds pillow-soft and airy, with just enough kick behind its major chords to make you nod your head.

Second, AZ’s verse: Nas lets fellow New Yorker AZ handle the first verse, and he gets things rolling with a series of rapid-fire bars that stack up against anything Nas himself puts down on the entire Illmatic album:

 “Visualizing the realism of life and actuality /

Fuck who’s the baddest, a person’s status depends on salary /

And my mentality is money-orientated /

I’m destined to live the dream for all my peeps who never made it”

Third, Nas’ verse: After a short chorus, Nas delivers one of the album’s most impressive sections.

I woke up early on my born day, I’m 20, it’s a blessing /

The essence of adolescence leaves my body, now I’m fresh and /

My physical frame is celebrated ‘cause I made it /

One quarter through life some Godly-like thing created /

Got rhymes 365 days annual plus some /

Load up the mic and bust one, cuss while I puffs from /

My skull, ‘cause it’s pain in my brain, vein, money maintain /

Don’t go against the grain, simple and plain

Last, the trumpet solo: Rather than let the song die after Nas’ extended verse, the track rides out with the same easy grace with which it entered – with one notable addition. A silky, muted solo that slinks around the corners of the beat, it’s the perfect end to the perfect song. Also, it was performed by Nas’ father, and that’s fairly epic. – Asher Fusco

*The preferred term of mid-aught teenagers looking for a cool way to express awe.

Radio station: B94.5 in State College

I’m an unapologetic listener of hit radio stations. As one who wildly proclaims my allegiance to these factories, I occasionally hear complaints along the lines of, “ZOMG! They play the same song over and over, I hear Britney Spears every hour, etc., etc.” These are reasonable grievances.

Though I enjoy hit radio stations, they rely too much on the hit music of the moment. They don’t tap into their archives. They don’t play old hits. I understand that “old hits” is a misnomer of sorts. I understand that these stations want to be current, and the pop music industry likely commands it, but I think songs that were once hits but are now forgotten would still be worthy of a listen.

B94.5 proves this. It plays plenty of current pop songs, but on almost every run of music it unearths an anthem we forgot long ago. Yesterday, I heard Lady Gaga’s “Alejandro.” I heard Akon’s “Right Now.” Hell, last week I heard the song “Real Close” by Next. I hadn’t heard that song in five years, MINIMUM. – Mark Dent

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