Tha Carter III [Cash Money/Universal/Motown, 2008]From the start you know this is no mixtape because it's clearer and more forceful. Every track attends to detail, with fun tricks like the chipmunk-chorused "Mr. Carter"'s sudden descent into screwed-and-chopped before Jay-Z comes in. But from the start Wayne worries about his image like a pop star, swearing he got shot for two songs running as if 50 was still worth a few bucks. Soon come the auto-T-Pained "Lollipop" follow-up "Got Money" and the soft slow jam "Comfortable," as pro forma as his laziest thug jobs back when he was little. So it's call the doctor--"Dr. Carter" himself, a rap-ologist complete with post-Yiddish "acchh" who will soon lose two impatient patients to their fakeness and his own do-as-I-say malpractice, followed by the space-tripping "Phone Home" and the N.W.A.-copping cop love of "Mrs. Officer." On "Let the Beat Build," Kanye compensates for "Comfortable" with an off-the-cuff fusion of grandiose and primitive. Also mixtape-worthy is the bonus disc, previously known as the download-only The Leak EP. Like the man says in the self-explanatory "I'm Me": "I know the game is crazy, it's more crazy than it's ever been/I'm married to that crazy bitch, call me Kevin Federline." A-
No Ceilings [free download, 2010]"Mickey Mouse cheese, hip-hop Walt Disney [money-and-status, get it?], sheesh gosh Oshkosh B'Gosh [three kids under two, don't ask]/Smoking on that Bob Marley [gotta have kaya], listening to Peter Tosh [don't you watch his size, he's dangerous]." Pretty rich, yet far from the finest lines on his best mixtape since "The Carter III," and farther from the funniest. They're merely consecutive ones I could quote whole without distracting asterisks--the river of scat jokes, the garlands of garden tools, and the off-rhyme with "grandma's cookies" you'll have to transcribe on your own. Squinting at jail time and offering a welcome alternative to his underrated rock album, he recycles beats from Dirty South throwaways whose originals you need never think of again, shows Fabolous how fabulous the "Throw It in the Bag" remix might have been, holds his own with Jay-Z and the Black Eyed Peas, and eases the title onto every track. He believes you can fly. But not as much as he believes he can fly. If only he was right. A-
No Ceilings 2 [DatPiff download, 2015]Saith Big Ghost: "Ayo I aint got nothin against Wayne but his crew is some garbage niggaz nahmean. That aint a dynasty or nothin nahmean. Thats a crew wit like 10 Memphis Bleeks namsayin." ("My Name Is," "Big Wings") ***
Lil Wayne, an established rapper, started his standout career as a member of the band called Hot Boys, a short-lived, yet quite a memorable ensemble. He was born as Dwayne Michael Carter Jr. In New Orleans, Louisiana. As a teenager, he took up the Lil Wayne stage name and established nice connections in the show business circles, including the management of the Cash Money Records company. This very label released in 1997 Get It How U Live!, an album recorded by Hot Boys with the lineup uniting Juvenile, B.G., Turk, and Lil himself. At that time, the latter was only eighteen years old and appeared the youngest member of the group.
To recap for those who may have missed the big standoff at the turn of the century, the prevailing story: since 1999 the industry at large has been working to stop the flood started by Napster. Illegal downloading existentially threatened the music business. Labels and responsible consumers alike needed to fight it in all its forms. Downloaders stole from the artists you love and endangered the labels that release their music.
The immutable truth that piracy (specifically theft of intellectual property) is flatly bad forms the spine of the post-Napster narrative. Pirates are criminals. Piracy torpedoed the music industry we all knew and were told we loved. Later, Spotify cauterized old wounds (even as it cut new ones), but the apparently endless gulf between collapse and rebirth bred desperation. Never mind that Napster ushered in perhaps the greatest consumer revolution in the history of entertainment (a seed that would blossom into streaming). Kids with computers were sinking profits. They had to be stopped!
Thanks for reading (or at least clicking on) the first Applied Science of 2020. I\u2019m aiming to publish monthly this year; naturally, I\u2019m starting out on the right foot by skipping January. This edition dives into ways we\u2019ve been misled by the prevailing illegal downloading narrative, revealing missed potential inherent in some acts of music piracy. Before that, a related aside about my December.
For me, this narrative always begged the question: who\u2019s really being hurt and what does that hurt look like? We were told to be sympathetic to big corporations whose bottom line was being undercut; multi-national companies who goaded star artists to be the faces of legal battles against average people in the crusade against illegal downloading; major labels that cried foul about cratering profits, while scarcely acknowledging that many of the artists who generated those profits reaped decidedly little of the return (and sometimes none, depending on the fine print). Ultimately, the financial damage was undoubtable, if difficult to fully measure. The fog of war obscured piracy\u2019s possibilities for positively morphing the music business. Most of those beneficial prospects are yet unrealized and may never blossom, but still merit exploration.
As profits collapsed, labels hoped to protect their main cash cow: CD sales. In the process, they alienated consumers, painting average people as pilfering criminals. Labels\u2014never wholly in the good graces of artists or the public\u2014built on reputations as villainous mega-corporations by levying lawsuits against teenage downloaders. I remember sitting at home, praying my illegally downloaded copy of Jurassic 5\u2019s \u201CQuality Control\u201D wouldn\u2019t land me in court and bankrupt my parents (it did not, though it would definitely lead to relitigation of my pre-teen tastes when I hit adulthood). In spite of their efforts, labels hardly stemmed their own bleeding. iTunes provided a precarious band-aid before the streaming era arrived and restored prosperity.
Greg Kot\u2019s 2009 book Ripped gives numerous examples of enterprising artists (The Beastie Boys, Tom Petty, Radiohead, Prince, Wilco) harnessing the power of the internet. In many cases, this meant using free downloads (or inventive pay models, as Radiohead did in pre-figuring Bandcamp) to galvanize fan activity, press conversation, and, perhaps most importantly, economic activity in other verticals relating to an artist's public persona (ticket sales, merch sales, brand deals etc).
In Free, Witt\u2019s intercontinental story of industrial evolutions eventually lands at Oink\u2019s Pink Palace (or, more succinctly, OiNK), the utopian, invite-only torrenting site founded by young Brit Alan Ellis. It connected a relatively large, diffuse group of music obsessives, united in their quest to illegally download music in a \"safe\" manner. I want to hover on the edenic promise of OiNK.
OiNK commanded users to maintain a certain ratio of uploads to downloads. For every megabyte of data you downloaded, you were expected to upload an equal or greater number. A ratio below 1.00 meant you were parasitic; ratios above 1.00 signaled virtuosic users, fully committed to community standards, uploading as much or more than they downloaded. Those who maintained ratios above 1.00 for sustained periods or cultivated ratios far exceeding 1.00 unlocked privileges, starting with invites for new members, extending to enhanced download speeds, exclusive forums, and content, etc. Those who remained below 1.00 for too long risked suspension and expulsion. Hosted on a series of servers in Ellis\u2019 home in the British countryside, OiNK\u2019s model relied not only on the self-policing of a dispersed community, but also on the understanding that these ratio rules benefited all OiNK users. On a microcosmic scale with relatively low stakes, it is a socialized concept that also allows for a dose of exceptionalism: Do a great job and you\u2019re rewarded in kind, do the expected work of simply maintaining a healthy ratio and continue to reap the rewards of the wider community\u2019s work (and, furthermore, maintain the fabric of the community).
Of course, piracy feels bad and is, by definition, illegal. The term conjures pillage, rape, and violence. It immediately signals the primacy of copyright and the moral severity of violating intellectual property law\u2014tracing an invisible divide between the law-breaking pirate and the law-abiding citizen. Even in the example of OiNK, gray exists beyond the illicit nature of downloading: Ellis solicited donations from users to ostensibly cover server costs with little to no transparency on spending (to say nothing of a plan to redistribute overages to copyright holders, for example). 2b1af7f3a8