The way I heard it, Mr. Lif was gonna record and release one song a week leading up to Election Day 2008 and then release I Heard It Today on Inauguration Day. Which sounded pretty awesome to me, as an idea. I was looking forward to raps about how stupid Sarah Palin is and I was keenly interested in Mr. Lif’s reaction to Obama’s victory. I understand that too much of that would make the album instantly dated, but I guess I would prefer it to Lif’s apparent ignorance of American tax policy. On “Collapse the Walls,” he asks, “where’s the law that says if I make a buck/ you gotta get a cut?” Well, Mr. Lif, there’s that pesky-ass 16th Amendment to our Constitution. And I could debate the policy points of Lif’s album all day – but at the end of the day, it’s the music that matters and I Heard It Today is a one-dimensional drag, completely lacking the vitality and sense of humor that infused 2006’s Mo’ Mega.
Over 14 tracks, Lif utters the word “stress” roughly 400 times, makes vague references to the housing crisis (for which he correctly heaps plenty of scorn on big banks and subprime loans, but let’s face facts, fell0w-lefties: knowing when you can or can’t afford something isn’t a liberal or conservative issue. It’s common fucking sense. I can’t help but wonder how many people didn’t bother to read the fine print and ended up signing for something that they never should have agreed to) generally lets the people know that he still doesn’t trust the government or the police. All of which would, as I said, be fine if there was any variance in the delivery. “Collapse the Walls”, its ignorace of the Constitution notwithstanding, has one of the only really compelling beats on the whole album until the fairly pleasant final pairing of “The Sun” and “Dawn.” That’s a long time to wait for something interesting to happen. Frankly, Lif could be kicking pro-Bush rhymes and I’d still want the album if the music was good (plus the sheer novelty might be worth it – neocon hip-hop is a genre that I predict will never get off the ground). I Heard It Today is so generic that it ends up saying nothing at all (at one point – big shock – Lif points out that the financial meltdown happened on the Republicans’ watch and then expresses shock that people still voted for McCain).
There’s a comparison to be made here between our current president and Mr. Lif, if I may: when I heard that Lif was going for a week-by-week, ripped from the headlines approach to this album, I calibrated my expectations accordingly. If any rapper today could pull this off, it would be Lif (five years ago, it would’ve been Sage Francis, but he had to go crawl really far up his own ass) and I was genuinely excited about the results. Likewise, when Obama actually fucking won the election, I took stock of what I could reasonably expect from the guy. For the most part, I think Obama’s done a bang-up job in his first 5 months in office – he needs to get the Department of Justice to scrap their sovereign immunity policy, but I’m stoked that he wants to close Gitmo (and I think the Congressional Democrats who voted against giving him the money to do it are, to a one, fucking cowards), I think he can get some kind of healthcare reform going (one that may lead to a single-payer system eventually), and I’m pleased that he tends to view our economic problems, our need for alternative energy, and our need for education as inextricably linked. I view them the same way. Now, I don’t expect perfection from Barack Obama or Mr. Lif, but because I am aware of both men’s considerable abilities in their chosen fields, I reserve the right to hold them to a higher standard. For a Lif album to have only two decent tracks is not as disappointing to me as Obama’s apparent belief in sovereign immunity, namely because Lif’s bad music doesn’t put my civil liberties in jeopardy. Neither does my disappointment in some of Obama’s policy choices cause me to believe the man is utterly evil and devoid of any of the qualities that made me want to spend hours and hours volunteering for him. It’s the nature of life that people will let you down, and that’s magnified by a thousand times when those people are in the public eye. Your favorite bands will let you down (unless they’re The Hold Steady, apparently) and even the best politicians will lie and in both cases, it’s up to us little people to give voice to our disappointment, even it only reaches 6 to 10 readers (on average).