Unsolicited Endorsements XXXVII

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

Album: Black Up by Shabazz Palaces

Sitting across from Nicki Minaj at the opposite end of the hip-hop spectrum is this weaving, dark, low-key set of ten tracks from Seattle-based Shabazz Palaces. Think of Shabazz Palaces like a hip-hop version of Broken Social Scene: various voices and influences from around the indie world, cobbled together to create something that’s all over the map – pleasantly unsteady and off-kilter enough to stay interesting on repeated listens.

Black Up can be a bit dense at times, and by the final couple of tracks, you’re almost ready to move onto something a bit more buttoned-up. But then the last song hits and pulls it all back together with a big, booming groove of a beat that sounds like a delightful four-minute chorus.

Maybe there’s a lesson in the polarity and shared brilliance of Shabazz Palaces and Nicki Minaj. The allure of Minaj is derived from the fact she’s capable of dropping an incredible verse into a top 40 radio anthem at any time. Black Up wouldn’t be as enjoyable without the momentary lapses into something approaching the mainstream. – Asher Fusco

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Album: Nicki Minaj’s Roman Reloaded

I love Rome as much as the next guy (anyone who has seen my IPhone knows this), but I don’t get Nicki Minaj’s Roman fetish. Apparently her alter ego is Roman Zolanski, no relation to Roman Polanski. It leads to one of the worst introductory tracks of all time, titled “Roman Holiday.” Listeners can’t be blamed for turning off their IPod after this, and plenty of critics have hammered home this point. But I like Nicki Minaj, and after finally listening to Roman Reloaded, which I downloaded five months ago, I like her even more.

The criticism of Minaj follows as such: She’s a great rapper, evidenced by the verses she’s done with Lil’ Wayne and Kanye West among others, but she doesn’t actually rap on her albums. Instead they morph into pop songs with radio friendly, R&B hooks. Unlike on Pink Friday, her Grammy-nominated debut, Minaj doesn’t even hide this. The first half of the album consists of real rap music. The second half consists of dance tracks that range in style from teennie bopper pop (“Starships”) to near Euro-trance (“Whip It”).

There’s a reason for this. As Minaj boasts in “Monster,” her money is so tall she’s gotta climb it. Unless you’re a man, you don’t go about making a stack of money with such stature through hardcore rap. Ask Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim how easy it is for a hardcore female rapper to stay relevant. Minaj can continue providing guest verses for Drake and company to maintain her credibility and then pop it up on her own albums to make a career.

Don’t listen to this album the thinking you’re going to get the high end of pop music, i.e. something like the wonderful 2011 releases from Rihanna or Beyonce. Just enjoy the wide spectrum of beats, catchy hooks and at-times hilarious one-liners.

Best tracks: “Whip It,” “Beez In the Trap,” and “Automatic” — Mark Dent

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Nicki Minaj surrogate: Lady Leshurr

Did we just mention Nicki Minaj in three straight endorsements? Yes. Yes we did. In most circles, Lady Leshurr is an independent rapper from Birmingham, England, a speed freak with sublime skills. She played SXSW earlier this year. And she collaborated with English electro-masters “Orbital” on the track “Wonky” from earlier this year.

*I guess you could call this week’s endorsements a Minaj a trois.

But as you might expect, Leshurr has been cast as a Minaj clone. That’s probably unfair. If nothing else, enjoy the manic rhymes and a lady that can pull off these lyrics: “… they say im a heroine, flyer than the javelin.” — Rustin Dodd

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