Fresh off the heels of her brilliant My First Mixtape, Lily Allen released the appropriately-titled follow-up, My Second Mixtape. Compared to MFM, MSM is darker, heavier, more urban, more chaotic — like Day & Night. It’s unforgettable because from the mindset of a young artist facing the sophomore slump — an artist fed up with the scene, coming down from the freshman high, in search of a definitive, unique voice and place — comes the musical mosaic of an artist on the brink of senior status.
Whereas MFM was a UK millenial girl’s devil-may-care-but-i-care-greatly look at her persona in relation to music — all of it — MSM delves deeper to the core of her person in the midst of modern music. Like MFM, MSM has an infectious sound; it is a smattering of drum n bass, r&b, rap, psychedelic, etc. There’s dozens of themes and messages hidden within the lyrics, titles, and beats — again, Lily requires dissertations not reviews — but beyond the complexities is the simple fact that everything this girl produces, makes sense. More importantly, everything she produces makes sense of everything of which she is a product.
That said, Lily starts with her 50 Cent parody “Nan, You’re a Window Shopper,” (technically she starts with Hov repeating “Now tuned into the muhfuggin greatest”) before moving to The Game’s, “Put You On the Game.” Off the bat: parodying 50 Cent before moving into a former G-Unit member’s track that dons the line “50 Cent: NO.” Moreover, “Put You On,” opens with the line “This is the rebirth of LA, rebirth of hip-hop.” Wow. Second track on Lily Allen’s second mixtape features the line “Rebirth of LA,” the second track on a girl with an undeniably fresh take on modern music features the line “rebirth of hip-hop.” She may not be the rebirth of hip-hop, but she is a renaissance artist nonetheless. It. makes. sense.
Fast forward through “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” “Ready She Ready,” etc. we come to the crux of the mixtape: “Shake Your Money Maker,” “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” “Truth,” “Sweet Love (Drum n Bass remix),” “Soul Survivor (remix) ft. Shabba Ranks,” “Oh My God,” and “White Rabbit.” Point blank: this is it. Lily and the industry alike are immersed in the mantra:
… shake your money maker, the return of this is good; we’ll push straight for the sample, we’re in the neighborhood. Shake your money maker shake it straight and on my face; you’re a greedy motherf*cker now aren’t you, go bleed in a different place…
in a nutshell that is the making, breaking, and turning out of the industry and average artist. It’s a grimy world out there, lots of dirty money — and dirty shoulders: good thing she’s got mind enough to brush ’em off and move on.
“Truth” is a solid Lily track, essentially it’s about a liar who leaves Lily high and dry. Allen is never one to be down and out though,
I’m goin’ the place that we both knew once and the place that you don’t know now; it’s way back when you were someone else you’ve changed and I don’t know how. I won’t say please and I’m not on my knees if I was that would be uncool.
Again, coming off of “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” and “Money Maker,” I’m sensing it’s music — rather, the industry — that lost it’s way, and lost Lily too.
I’m goin’ to the place that we both knew once, and I know that I’m goin’ alone; While I’m there if I can I’ll look for your heart, if I find it I’ll send it back home. Believe me we could’ve been great; You think you’re a man, you’re not, you’re a boy and when you grow up it’ll be too late.
Wow. Music — the industry — really let Lily down, thank goodness for rebirths. It. makes. sense. Anita Baker’s “Sweet Love,” nice track. It’s about, well, undying sweet love: Lily loves music nonetheless, regardless of everything else.
“Soul Survivor,” if you don’t know Jeezy and Akon’s trap anthem by now, I suggest you stumble across another blog. That said, the song speaks for itself. The sophomore effort is a struggle for the legitimate artist. The industry will eat you alive – ask Britney – but fighting the machine and making a statement above and beyond bank statements is strictly grown man soul surviving business, aka Lily business.
At the end of the day, after hustling and being on the grind — “being straight with the block” a la Jay-Z, and being “on the block disobeying the law” a la Akon and Young Jeezy — you stop, look around, and it hits you: “Oh my G*d: I can’t believe it, I’ve never been this far away from home.” After tumbling down the rabbit-hole and venturing through the Wonderland that is celebrity, you may be worlds away from home, but if you want to find your way back just “remember what the door-mouse said: feed your head.” That’s just the first half… but we don’t have time for the second half; just know it maintains the methodical madness.
Such is the story of a true artist at the sophomore crossroads. It reminds me of Kanye: staggering sophomore album that breaks through the spectacle to the substance of music, production that reflects a purpose beyond profit, and an artist who came through the fire, wire, or firewire — in Lily’s case — stronger, not down and out. Of course, both Ye and Lily drive ’em all wild — lovers and loathers alike.
My Second Mixtape is brilliant. I say this because I remember listening to this CD for months, after getting my iPod stolen, in the dead of a New York winter, the bitterest, darkest, coldest season of my two decades and change — on subways, walking down the street, on my hustle (actual and homework hustle) — during my sophomore year of college, the year that so happened to be my crossroads. It just clicked with me, it was my soundtrack: as much as it was hers, as much as it was music’s at that time. It was dark, it came off of the first mixtape that ended with the line “felt that I was in this long dark tunnel,” and the second mixtape is the journey through that tunnel — the one that leads you to the light at the end where you look up at the sun in the sky, wonder why oh why you’d want to be anywhere else, because you see you’re alright still.
Lily — like Marshall — jokes in the booth when she says she’s the best, but a lot of truth is said in jest … from “Lily the Kid” to GQ “Lily Are You F*ckin’ Kidding Me?!” Woman of the Year in 4 years; with mixtapes illustrating the mindset of an insane genius: she makes moves. It. makes. sense.