Rapper Jay-Z Un-Retires Again Tuesday means new music releases, which in turn means that it's time for a look at albums from Jay-Z, Tokyo Police Club and Stevie Ray Vaughan. Plus, Paste magazine tries the Radiohead model.
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Rapper Jay-Z Un-Retires Again

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Rapper Jay-Z Un-Retires Again


Rapper Jay-Z Un-Retires Again

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(Soundbite of song "Glamorous")

FERGIE (Singer): (Singing) G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S, yeah. G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S. We're flying first class up in the sky. Poppin' champagne, livin' the life. In the fast lane, and I won't change by the glamorous…


I'm pretty sure that's on the royal iPod.


It better be.

STEWART: I'm almost positive.

BURBANK: Fergielish. Indeed.

STEWART: What else could go in that iPod? Well, on this new music Tuesday, we've got something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue -or at least blues. No stress. No Michael Bolton crooning some wedding songs.

The old and blues, some rare tracks from the late Stevie Ray Vaughan. The borrowed, Jay-Z takes an inspirational cue from a movie. The something new, an up and comer in Ontario - Tokyo Police Club release a sophomore effort. Andy Langer is the music critic for Esquire magazine and friend of THE BRYANT PARK PROJECT. Hi, Andy.

Mr. ANDY LANGER (Music Critic, Esquire Magazine): Good morning.

STEWART: So Jay-Z - sometimes he's retired. Sometimes he isn't - had kind of a comeback, sort of, with "Kingdom Come" last year, but now back with his 10th studio album, "American Gangster." Let's listen to a track.

(Soundbite of song, "The Roc Boys (And The Winner Is…)")

JAY-Z (Rapper): (Rapping) The Roc Boys in the building tonight. Oh, what a feeling, I'm feeling life. You don't even gotta bring your paper out. We the dope boys of the year, drinks is on the house. We in the house. The Roc Boys in the building tonight. Look at how I'm chillin', I'm killing this ice.

STEWART: It's called "Roc Boys." Andy, clear this up for us. This isn't the soundtrack to the movie "American Gangster?"

Mr. LANGER: No. It's inspired by the movie "American Gangster." You know, as Jay-Z tells it, he saw it a couple of months ago and immediately rushed into the studio. P. Diddy had some extra tracks in the '70s vein laying around, and that sort of got him started. And it's a '70s hustler record. It follows a narrative arc that's similar to the movie. And, in fact, it's such a concept record that he's not selling individual tracks online. He's only selling, online, the whole album. So, the idea here is you need to hear this thing from start to finish. And it's a concept record that works.

It's Jay-Z playing a character that he's played most of his career, and yet sounding inspired doing it. And recently, that hasn't been the case as he's, you know, like you said, been on and off again as trying to decide whether he's actually a record executive or a rapper. And in this case, he sounds inspired. He sounds like somebody who wants to be back in the game. And it's a huge comeback. It really is.

STEWART: Something I think is sort of interesting about Jay-Z - 38 years old. He's a CEO of Def Jam, right?

Mr. LANGER: Yes.

BURBANK: No Roc-A-Fella?

STEWART: I think it's Def Jam. I'm not sure.

Mr. LANGER: It was originally Roc-A-Fella.


Mr. LANGER: Now, it's Def Jam.


STEWART: So, he's the CEO. He's got this gorgeous girlfriend, Beyonce. He's rolling it in the clubs. Is the record about that kind of lifestyle, or does he try to front like he's something else?

Mr. LANGER: No. I mean, the record is about him coming up with the drug-dealing past, with the, you know, sort of questionable future, the same kind of material that, you know, is on "Reasonable Doubt," that's on some of the classic Jay-Z records. And it's him going backwards.

On the other hand, there is a track at the end that sort of leaves the character behind - the character that he's playing throughout the record - and ends up addressing the Imus situation, the Jena Six, Britney. I mean, you know, it's kind of random and tacked on the end, but it works.

BURBANK: I smell a feud.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BURBANK: Don't even get into that, Britney.

STEWART: Let's try something newish. The Tokyo Police Club, the album is called "Smith." Let's listen to a little bit of this guitar band from Ontario.

(Soundbite of song, "Box")

Mr. DAVE MONK (Vocalist, The Tokyo Police Club): (Singing) Because I am a fake, who sticks to his guns. It's what I know, son. And it comes easy to a liar like me.

STEWART: So what's the most interesting thing about this release, you think, Andy?

Mr. LANGER: Well, I mean, I think this is the band that a lot of people have always wanted the Strokes to be. And they're a real solid, real tuneful Canadian rock band who have developed on their own schedule. I mean, this is their second EP before a full length. So we still haven't heard what they're capable of on a full-length record. They're reportedly recording that now for release later on Saddle Creek, which is an indie, as opposed to making the jump for the major label.

They seem like a real smart band, a real hardworking band who tour constantly, and have just given us a little tastes. And those couple of EPs - and this being the second of those EPs - are real solid start to finish, you know, five, six songs and out.

And that's sort of the future of - well, I mean, it may just well wind up being the future of music, where, you know, if it's not singles-based, at least it's EP-based. And just a couple of songs, this is what we're doing right now, and then out. And they've been real smart about it and they're real good.

STEWART: We're talking to Andy Langer - who's the music critic from Esquire magazine - about some of the new releases today. Stevie Ray Vaughn's - it's called "Solos, Sessions and Encores." Where are these tracks from? Are they all from one period?

Mr. LANGER: Well, they're all from the period when he was on a major label, where he was recording for Sony, except for one song that goes back to the '70s. But the idea here is these are 14 tracks - seven of them are live, six of them are previously unreleased. And he's been dead since 1990, and very little has come out. I mean, you know, they've been real conservative with releases, the posthumous releases. And that's sort of protected his legacy. It's also made it so that fewer, you know, of the later-period fans or newer people know about Stevie Ray Vaughn.

STEWART: So if we're going to listen to a track featuring his brother, Jimmie Vaughn. It's called "Change It." What can you tell me about this track?

Mr. LANGER: Recorded on "Saturday Night Live," and that's what's cool is here's a "Saturday Night Live" performance that's, you know, that's surfacing now. And a lot of that "Saturday Night Live" stuff just, you know, artists in general that have played "Saturday Night Live," that stuff stays with NBC, stays, you know, unearthed. And here's a track that's made it on it's way to a record.

STEWART: Let's listen to this track from "Solos, Sessions, and Encores." It's "Change It" - Stevie Ray Vaughn with his brother, Jimmie Vaughn.

(Soundbite of song, "Change It")

Mr. STEVIE RAY VAUGHN (Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter): (Singing) You can't rearrange it. If time is all that we got, then baby let's take it.

STEWART: Do you have to be a Stevie Ray fan to want to get this release?

Mr. LANGER: I think you've got to be a fan of the blues, but, you know, at some point, this is a good source of discovery, too. I mean, like I said, there's so few posthumous Stevie releases, that either you're going back and you already own those records, or you're, you know, going to discover him through this. And there's some amazing guitar playing on this record, and it'll really change the way you look at modern blues.

BURBANK: There's an old episode of "Austin City Limits" with Stevie Ray Vaughn from, like, 15 years ago that just pops up on PBS randomly - I always watch it. It's so good.


Mr. LANGER: Yeah.

BURBANK: And I don't care that my girlfriend thinks I'm lame for liking Stevie Ray Vaughn. He's awesome.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: See, I'm - that's a whole other discussion about deciding whether people are lame by the music they like. Not cool. Not cool.

BURBANK: Take that, Vaness(ph).

STEWART: Hey, so Paste magazine - this is a music magazine, bills itself as the signs of life in music, film and culture. It's following the Radiohead model of pay what you wish, which we like to point out is the Public Radio model.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. LANGER: There you go.

STEWART: So, explain what's going on with Paste. What do I get if I decide to give them, oh, let's say, three bucks for the next year?

Mr. LANGER: Well, I mean, Paste is this really sort of high end, really smart music magazine that is what a lot of people wish Rolling Stone still was. And it's a magazine that, you know, unfortunately, I know a lot more publicists and musicians that read it than real people. And the people that read it love it. And the idea for the Paste folks is if they can establish those loyal readers by giving them what's essentially a free subscription, then they're hoping it'll pay off later with, you know, obviously, increased circulation. Then they can charge more to advertisers, and they'll have more of a base for the magazine.

And so what they've done is taken that Radiohead model and they've said, hey, you know, pay what you want. You want to pay a buck for a subscription? You want to pay 200 bucks for a subscription, we'll send it to you. And what they're really hoping is that a year from now when those subscriptions come due, you'll give them $19.99 and resubscribe again. It's an interesting experiment, and obviously inspired by both Public Radio and Radiohead, and we'll see how it goes for them.

STEWART: Yeah, because magazines really don't make their huge amount of money off of subscriptions. So there's really - it's actually a pretty - and all of the press it's been getting - you type in Paste into Google News, and this story comes up and up and up. But I'm wondering, as a music critic, as someone who reads a lot of music magazines and writes for a lot of them, why is Paste having trouble breaking through? Is it just that there's a crowded field?

Mr. LANGER: Well, I think that it's both a crowded field, and, you know, people are reading so much online about music. I mean, they're much more likely to go to Picthfork than they are to, you know, find Paste at their local newsstand. And so I think it's both a, you know, the age we're in makes it harder for these magazines to break through. And this is, you know, by being out of the gate first with let's adopt a Radiohead model, you're right. They're getting a lot of press. And hopefully, that's what puts them over the top.

STEWART: Andy Langer is a music critic for Esquire magazine, a magazine that does just a fine job.

BURBANK: Absolutely. Don't give that thing away.

(Soundbite of laughter)

STEWART: Andy, thanks a lot for walking us through Stevie Ray, Tokyo Police Club, and the new Jay-z record. Talk to you soon.

Mr. LANGER: Thank you.

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