beyonce-album-cover-2013“Honey,” asks America’s sweetheart, “what are you going to do with all this ass up in your face?”  

I’ve waited my whole life to hear Beyoncé say those words. Unfortunately, she isn’t saying them to me, and you’d be wrong to presume she’s singing this to her famous husband too. So, who is she singing about on “Rocket”?  Doesn’t matter.  The truly remarkable thing here is that I’m pretty sure it’s a song about  a special kind of female orgasm which typically requires a gentleman to change his bedding.  What makes it groundbreaking, is that it’s imagery so ingeniously veiled that it comes off as a perfectly acceptable anthem for middle-America to dance to.

Watch the video for “Rocket” here. 

That delightful tidbit aside, you might be wondering why the hell I’m writing this review now? Isn’t it about three weeks too late. Yes, now that you’ve mentioned it, I suppose it is. I also suppose you’ve already heard this record several dozen times and probably have your own opinions about what “Rocket” is really about.

(Of course you’d be wrong, but that’s neither here nor there)

All I know is, every time I’ve tried to sit down and write I’ve gotten mad distracted. It was no typical distraction either. The fact is, another record hijacked my life and over the past few weeks I found myself helpless to it’s charms.

beyonce 2013Nevertheless, I have persevered, for you: the good people who’ve been waiting with baited breathe for my precious opinions on the new Beyoncé.  It is for you that I say this: it rules. It’s easily the hardest thing she’s been involved with since Writing’s On The Wall (and if you’re unfamiliar with that record; I strongly suggest you find the time).  Beyoncé, is probably a modern R&B classic, though not as good as Voodoo, it’s still better than Channel Orange, and more fun than either of them.  The only real unfortunate moment on this thing is the obligatory Jay-Z cameo wherein he raps the following ode to his loving wife:  “Yo breast-iss-iz is my breakfast.”

Fuck you Jay-Z.  I hate you now.

In any case, Hov’s verse is mercifully brief and it’s on the album’s worst song – so you’d be skipping it anyway.  I should also mention that the subject matter brings up a lot of questions about female sexuality. You know, feminism shit that I neither know the first thing nor give one fuck about – but you might.

Now before you get your panties in a bunch.  The point I’m trying to make is, Beyoncé is an incredible record and frankly it’s too good for me.  A fact that became all to apparent each time I tried to reckon with it’s fearsome womanness.

Once you get past the overt sexulity of this record, you realize that Bey’s talking about some pretty complicated issues.  Much of it revolves around her personal life.  And you can imagine what that must be like.  She’s one of the most famous and fuckable people on the planet.  Is it any wonder why she married someone just like her?  Who else could possibly relate?  Of course, that decision came with it’s own set of problems – ones she addresses a bit too frequently here if you ask me.  The question of, “who is trying to fuck my husband today?” seems to be on her mind.  Her awareness that he’s probably going through the same thing doesn’t seem to ease the painful pathos in lines like, “I’m keeping my promise if you’re keeping yours.”

Camp LoThen again, being rich and attractive doesn’t sound like a real problem to me. Which brings me to why I was distracted in the first place. Try as I might, I couldn’t care less about Beyoncé’s problems. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy the record.  I did, very much.  I just found myself looking elsewhere for inspiration.  I found it in Camp Lo’s unfuckwithable 1997 classic, Uptown Saturday Night.  An album that acted as a foil to Beyoncé on many levels.  Uptown is a softer record; influenced heavily by bebop, it combatted Beyoncé’s heady feminism with easy grooves and some of the best rapping that’s ever been laid to tape.

I only discovered Camp Lo recently.  It’s understood to be an also-ran in hip hop’s golden era.  But it isn’t.  Not only is the music worth your while, these young men of muslim upbringing stood out in hip hop.  They never called women bitches.  Even today that’s a rarity.  Check out the video for their classic, “Luchini AKA This Is It” below, and marvel at their unbelievable smoothness:

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Then once your done with that check this out:
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then this:
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then this:
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Don’t get me wrong. Camp Lo isn’t without it’s problems. There is, of course, one or two homophobic slurs.  I have no defense for that, I only hope they’ve evolved in the years since.  Then again, homophobia and musical talent are no more mutually exclusive than musical talent and sexism are.  Just think, if either of those things were true, we wouldn’t have much great hip hop at all.  In short, I suppose all of this is a reminder that we’ve come a long way.  Thank God for the modern world.  Now we have Beyoncé, and she’s on the vanguard of feminist thought, so that’s something this generation can be proud of.  Or maybe it isn’t.  I honestly don’t know.  All I know is women are usually smarter and stronger than I am and both of these records make me happy.

Rating:  4.7/5