CD Roundup — Deadmau5, T.I.

An electronic mouse and an incarcerated rapper. Somebody call ABC Family, we just wrote their next made-for-TV movie!

Conrad Schoenleber

Deadmau5

Album: âÄú4×4=12âÄù

Label: Ultra Records

The most visually stunning electronic superstar since Daft Punk donned techno spacesuits, Deadmau5 and his oversized mouse head sure have gotten around. This year alone, the Grammy nominee headlined Coachella, the Olympics and MTVâÄôs VMAs âÄî where he was the in-house DJ and even had a cameo in an episode of âÄúGossip GirlâÄú âÄî all very public appearances for a guy who claims to be more comfortable in the studio than the spotlight.

With his third full-length release, Deadmau5 (pronounced âÄúmouseâÄù) continues to produce high-intensity electronica for the tweak generation. While âÄú4×4=12âÄù is obviously the Mau5âÄôs attempt to mark himself as the king of electronic, something is missing. âÄú4×4=12âÄù fails to live up to the unwarranted hype surrounding it. Deadmau5 is arguably the biggest DJ in the world, but how much of that is due to the prop head? LEDs and trippy stage effects are one thing that the Mau5 has in folds; the problem is that âÄú4×4=12âÄù makes it obvious that he spends more time crafting visuals than music.

ItâÄôs an ambitious release, aiming to gain fans from many subgenres of the electro scene. The punchy progressive house song, âÄúSome Chords,âÄù kick starts the album with high energy, fit to open a set. ItâÄôs an expansive track that will be greatly appreciated by fans of his âÄúGhosts N StuffâÄù era. Track two âÄúSofi Needs a LadderâÄù introduces Sofia âÄúSofiâÄù Toufa, female singer/rapper who sounds like M.I.A. rolling on ecstasy. The white noise intro devolves into a sinister hook with chest-crushing bass, making this the best song on the album.

Things decline from here, with many of the remaining tracks sounding like filler. His venture into dubstep is a wobbly disappointment. Tracks like âÄúOne Trick PonyâÄù and âÄúRaise Your WeaponâÄú will not survive in an arena overflowing with talented producers. This mouse should stick to house.

The collaboration with DJ/producer Wolfgang Gartner, âÄúAnimal RightsâÄù is obviously an attempt to claim the electro-funk crown from Daft Punk, but lacks the punch of âÄúOne More Time.âÄù

Electronica has had a strong rebirth this year, which could largely be attributed to Deadmau5âÄôs contributions. Hopefully the next go round is more killer, less filler.

 

2/4 Stars

 

T.I.

Album: âÄúNo MercyâÄù

Label: Atlantic

 

T.I. is ending the year like he began it âÄî in lockdown. Like LilâÄô Wayne, heâÄôs released his latest album from behind bars.

This year has been bleak for the embattled rapper, who until now has released only a single mix tape of hurried material titled âÄúF–k a MixtapeâÄù (which Pitchfork lamely described as âÄúan hour of T.I. sounding cool as f–kâÄù). After being released from prison the first time, he was promptly locked up again on drug charges.

Much like KanyeâÄôs latest, âÄúNo MercyâÄù focuses on the publicâÄôs misconception of celebrity. The album does more than just attack the ideas of fortune and fame, but explores the mental workings of a seriously confused man. Throughout the album T.I. fervently claims that he has done more good than harm, and he has a point. Many of the tracks seem to beg the question: If T.I. wasnâÄôt black, a rapper, and in the spotlight, would he have received such a harsh sentencing? He cites his status for most of his hardships: âÄúYou can be for certain ainâÄôt nobody perfect / but when you rich nobodygive a s–t / No mercy.âÄù

In between songs about societal wrongdoing, T.I. describes a life of money, women and drugs. The juxtaposition of these two storylines illustrates a man consistently sabotaging himself while searching for redemption.

Fans and friends have stood by T.I., with âÄúNo MercyâÄù containing many powerful guest contributions. The opening track, âÄúWelcome to the World,âÄù features Kanye and Kid Cudi delivering impassioned verses in defense of T.I., indicting the public perception of fame as the cause of his problems. Drake, Eminem, The Dream, Pharrell, Trey Songz, The Neptunes, Jake One, Chris Brown and even Christina Aguilera all chime in at some point.

The sole track that doesnâÄôt deliver is the laughable, âÄúAmazing.âÄù The explicitly foul lyrics do nothing to save the terrible hook, âÄúWhatcha gonnâÄô do / when your face fall off.âÄù Think âÄúPants on the GroundâÄù and youâÄôll get the gist of this track.

âÄúNo MercyâÄù reflects T.I.âÄôs conflicted mental state, and much like KanyeâÄôs âÄúMy Beautiful Dark Twisted FantasyâÄú, it makes for entrancing listening.

 

3/4 Stars