Monday, December 29, 2008
FACT: Real street niggas move in silence and under the radar to do dirt...they don't record ridiculous assaults and post them on the internet.
FACT: Showing up at an innocent man's doorstep unexpectedly with like 9 other motherfuckers and pretending like you're brolic for delivering an open-handed slap does not make you gangsta. It makes you a herb.
FACT: Talking about how you're gonna pay so-and-so a visit if they ever speak your name on wax is silly bitch shit.
FACT: Almost none of what rappers say is worth believing.
Remember KRS-One and MC Shan? Roxanne and Roxanne Shante? LL Cool J and Kool Moe Dee? Common and Ice Cube? Nas and Jay-Z? That was hip-hop beef. It was about territory, bragging rights and rhymes. You had a few verses, lots of shit-talking and the fans deciding the victor.
This shit right here? This isn't a true rap battle...it's ignorance personified. Joe Budden and Ransom, semi-successful and virtually unknown Jersey rappers respectively, have had something of a "beef" for a while now, but I couldn't tell you if or when either of these rat bastards actually put any verses out about it. But I can point to several videos in which BOTH rappers are talking copious amounts of trash and threatening one another with physical violence. Now while I'd be all about seeing rappers go at it in a fair battle of fisticuffs, there's nothing to gain aurally, and at the end of the day, this is the only relevant purpose rappers serve to me.
I just don't like this back-and-forth loser shit...especially what Ransom did by showing up to this guy's doorstep. You got beef with one man so you go out and attack his best friend, who had NOTHING to do with anything?!?!? This does not make you hardcore - anyone who knows anything about the laws of the street knows that this is not how real cats handle business.
Hip-hop is always kinda dead in the fourth quarter, so before I post my Best of 2008 blogs, this silliness should tide you over.
Tuesday, December 16, 2008
Some four years ago, my then-girlfriend Robin and I drove from Chicago to Ann Arbor to catch a football game at our alma mater. During a pre-game gathering of her sorority sisters at a residence close to the Big House, a raucous drunk cat walking up the street engaged us in smack talk that not only made them uncomfortable, but pissed them off as well.
As if through some weird twist of kismet, the dude ended up focusing much of his attention on Robin…of all the women there. And because I was basically the sole male representative there (There was another dude, but he was like 5’ 3” and I think he was gay. Not to say that short gay brothers can’t scrap, but…well…), surrounded by women who were yelling at him and basically provoking him, I was in the unenviable position of trying to diffuse the situation.
This cat ended up getting uncomfortably close to Robin with all his discursive bullshit, and though she was herself prepared to start throwing blows, he didn’t push any of us to the point where we had to lay our hands on him before he went about his business. He even got to the point where he was ready to square off directly with me, but I gave dude a lot of rope because he was drunk as fuck at two-something in the afternoon.
I haven’t been in a real fight in over a decade, and I do think that grown men fighting is a loser’s gambit. But that whole time the thought kept swirling in my head, “I’m really gonna have to earth this nigga!” If he’d laid so much as a thumbprint on Robin, for any reason, I would have done so with no compunction. Hell, she and I would have been pounding on him together.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the merits of the nonviolent mentality – the idea being that the total energy of the world is negatively affected for every person who commits themselves to even the desire of violence. The sheer number of people who carry around that baggage apparently help stimulate the abundance of conflict and human atrocity on the planet. (Yeah…blame this spiritual kick I’m on. Better yet, blame Thomas)
However, I think there’s something to be said for having it in you to be able to get down with your knuckles if necessary. However uncommon or unlikely it may be given one’s living situation, there could arise a need to defend at some point.
A fundamental tenet of martial arts is that one should only use their training if absolutely necessary. But the people that actually have said training sit a few echelons above the schlubs who would fold if they had to go head up and defend themselves or their loved ones.
I think one’s approach to fighting or conflict in general is a reflection of how they came up. Chances are, if you went to a nice artsy school in the suburbs where the students are on a first-name basis with the teachers and everyone participates in thrice-daily hand-holding “comfort circles,” you’ve never seen a fight in your life and wouldn’t know how to handle yourself if one came about.
I came up in Detroit, and went to public school K-12. I think my fellow natives of the D will agree that there’s a certain “edge” present in folks who grow up in or around the hood. I’m always tickled when I hear my city channeled as a noun of aggression: “I’m cool now, but they don’t wanna see me bring Detroit out!”
I grew up fighting, often because I had to. I was a short, skinny cat who would get trapped in school bathrooms by big motherfuckers who meant me harm, and I had to either throw them thangs (yes, I said thangs) or fall. Sometimes both happened. I won mine and I lost mine…but as an adult, I now know how to handle myself if someone decides to get brolic.
But that’s just one aspect of the whole violence piece: what about those situations where the average person would just feel inclined to commit violence as a result of the actions of others?
On occasion, I think about what it would take for me to truly harm another human being, and it always comes back to the rapists and murderers. If someone were to do something heinous enough like rape my hypothetical wife, daughter or another loved one, I would have a very, very hard time not going Samuel Jackson “A Time To Kill” on their ass instead of waiting for the law to take care of business.
I believe with every fiber of my being that the world is actually a better place if the truly malicious people aren’t allowed to continue living with the same privileges/faculties that they used to either violate or eliminate someone else’s life. Think about how many rapists have repeat victims because they were never reported – let alone punished – the first time around. Maybe if a sexual predator were violently castrated after his first victim, then he wouldn’t be able to potentially ruin other lives. I’m just saying…food for thought.
Many moons ago, I had a “requirement list” of things I expect from a woman I would wanna settle down with (I’ll post it someday if I can find it). While the very concept of the list is entirely obsolete, let alone the contents, I remember one of the requirements was a “ride-or-die chick:” a female who’s willing to battle – verbally and physically – for her man if necessary. A scrappy dame, if you will.
It’s not as prosaic as it reads, really: I feel more comfortable if I know a woman will be ready and willing to fight for both her life and the life of our children if need be. When the fit hits the shan, “survival of the fittest” doesn’t always allow for nonviolent conflict resolution. Unfortunately, that’s just not the fucking world we live in.
My questions to you all: is violence ever an answer? Should people have it in them to respond violently if NECESSARY, or is it better to grow up a complete pacifist? Is Dustin way off-base in his spiritual journey? Or is he justified? How would you respond if someone killed or heinously attacked a loved one? Would you just let the law take care of it or would you whip out the iron and go a-huntin’?
Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts…
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Early on in my college days, back when a pack of 10 74-minute blank CDs still cost damn near $20, I burned a compilation of music that I affectionately dubbed "Random Shit." If I remember correctly, the compilation included some old Craig Mack, Big Noyd and Brand Nubian stuff, as well as a random DMX mixtape track.
Throughout the decade I've made several "Random Ish" mixes that often consisted of several tracks from a single album, as well as other loose change that I'd pick up on sites like Napster and Audiogalaxy (don't y'all just miss Audiogalaxy?!?!?!?). Most of my earliest mixes fell victim to heavy scratching and chipping, with much of the source music from them contained on old computers that will never boot up again. I'd actually pay good money that I don't have to get some of those CDs back...mainly because there were some pretty obscure cuts on them that I can't just go buy from iTunes; and because it'd be a nice, nostalgic trip back to when life was hella simpler.
I haven't made a new one since early last summer, so I figure it was only apropos to share the newest collection - and all future editions - with you all. There's some fire on the 37th iteration of "Random Ish," if I do say so myself; take special note of a track from EPMD's new album (!) and this cat Son of Ran from California. I think he might actually be a Christian emcee, maybe, but it doesn't detract from the fact that his debut album Incoming Message is actually that lick.
Ask around: my compilations are the shit of legend.
1. "Disturbed" - Blame One & Exile (feat. Sean Price)
2. "Say You Will" - Kanye West
3. "My Theme Music" - Skyzoo
4. "For U" (M-Phazes Remix) - Buff 1
5. "Play Your Position" - Skyzoo (feat. Guilty Simpson)
6. "The Haters Wish" - Clipse
7. "Incoming Message" - Son of Ran and The Messangers
8. "Gladiator" - Common
9. "Runnin' Out of Time" - Nature
10. "The A" - Now On (feat. Buff 1)
11. "Bac Stabbers" - EPMD
12. "The Leak" - Slaughterhouse (Royce Da' 5'9", Joe Budden, Crooked I & Joell Ortiz)
13. "Heart Breakers" - Son of Ran and The Messangers
14. "Street Lights" - Kanye West
15. "Turn It Up" - Skyzoo
16. "Last of a Dying Breed" - Ludacris (feat. Lil' Wayne)
17. "Heartless" - Kanye West
Monday, December 8, 2008
Having made my unceremonious return to the gym-rat lifestyle, one of things that really caught my attention this time around is the rampant sexuality in the environment.
Not only are all the attractive ladies I see on the streets in my everyday life also in the gym, but they’re half-naked and contorted in all kinds of suggestive positions; often using those big rubber balls that started popping up in everyone’s living room a few years ago. Never before have I felt so envious of something created in a Taiwanese sweatshop.
You look on the TV monitors of the treadmills and stair machines, and most are tuned into music video channels featuring half-naked video yamps whose bodies undoubtedly serve as a motivating factor for patrons of either sex.
You can tell the difference between the cats on the freeweights who want their muscles ogled and those who are putting in an honest workout: the latter have on hoodies, and the former are wearing tank-tops that Carmen Electra would consider too small.
Even many of the gym’s staff members - especially the ones responsible for selling memberships for commission - are preternaturally attractive (Keep in mind I’m a member of a trendy new spot in Chicago, not a soccer mom-attracting YMCA in Hoboken, N.J.).
Admittedly, the whole aesthetic appeals to a longtime fetish of mine: women who are in the process of – or just completed – working out. It’s something about spandex, a sports bra and lots and lots of glistening sweat that revs the kid’s engine. Lots of women feel all gross and disgusting after working out, but I look at them and think to myself, “Let’s make babies!”
I wonder how many people are looking – consciously or not – to find their partners at the gym. It’s an environment in which people are already trying to improve themselves, so why not capitalize on that insane monthly membership and get the body and the booty in the same building?
I’m guessing it’s a glorified hookup environment, much in the same way that the undergrad library is at any major university. I bet many folks don’t just go to the gym to get right…they do it to see and be seen, with the hope of a denouement that involves them doing squat thrusts with someone else back at the cut.
And with the enticing visuals – the big, bulging muscles; bare, toned tummies and the aforementioned glisten – it seems like folks should be in a mindset where it shouldn’t be TOO hard to pull the math from the dime on the treadmill next to you. “Hi…can I wipe down your machine for you? What are you up to after this? Wanna go grab a wheat germ smoothie?”
Plus, if you see someone in the gym frequently, you know they’re dedicated to keeping their body right and are probably not as likely to pack on that spare tire or thunderous ass anytime in the near future. All the better for the resume.
For me, the sexy visuals are just a motivating factor, and you’re a damned liar if you say that all those pretty folks in there don’t motivate you to run a bit faster or lift a bit more. The reasoning is twofold: You don’t wanna look like a chump with the right set of eyes on you, and there’s the fantasy that the person attached to those eyes might be more obtainable to you once you actually get your frame right.
Ladies, think about it: who would better motivate you to turn that treadmill up a bit higher – an unattached Morris Chestnut or George Costanza from Seinfeld?
Thursday, December 4, 2008
About a month ago, I undertook a project to compile my very favorite Black Milk tracks onto one mp3 CD that I could pretty much bump on a whole road trip from Chicago to Detroit. The process was tedious but ultimately very rewarding.
The Perfect MK is a testament to the millennium's best new hip-hop artist. A labor of love, if you will. If you're a fan of boom-bap, you can't do much better in the 21st Century. If you're a hip-hop neophyte and need some relevant hot shit to get you jump-started, please don't start with Lil' Wayne, Gucci Mane or the throng of wack motherfuckers mass-producing assflakes and calling it music. Take the time to mine these 80 cuts and get back to me.
Merry Christmas, bitches.
Disc 1 - http://www.zshare.net/download/522296028eefc08b/
1. “Take it There” (feat. One Be Lo)
2. “Multiply” – Slum Village
3. “The Matrix” (feat. Sean Price and Pharoahe Monch)
4. “Action” (feat. Slum Village and Baatin)
5. Beat 1
6. “U’s a Freak Bitch”
7. “Ahead of the Basics” – Nametag
8. “Get Focus” – Black Milk & Fat Ray (feat. Phat Kat & Elzhi)
9. “So Gone”
10. Beat 2
12. “Motown 25” – Elzhi (feat. Royce Da 5’9”)
13. “Stern” – Illy Hutch & Black Milk
15. “Set It” – Slum Village
16. Beat 4
17. Purple Track #1
18. “Now We Gone” – Black Milk & Fat Ray
19. “Fire”(Solo mix) – Elzhi
20. “Play Your Position” – Skyzoo (feat. Guilty Simpson)
Disc 2 – http://www.zshare.net/download/5222998904ee7adc/
1. “Never Fall” – Buff 1 (feat. Black Milk)
2. “Watch Em” (feat. Que Diesel & Fat Ray)
3. “The Intro” – Nametag
4. “Lookout” – Fat Ray & Black Milk (feat. Nametag)
7. Sound of the City Intro
8. “Play the Keys”
9. “Marvelous” – Baatin
10. “Keep it Live” (feat. Mr. Porter)
11. “Brag Swag” – Elzhi
12. “Nothing to Hide” – Fat Ray & Black Milk
13. “Rhyme Royal” – Nametag
14. “Popular Demand”
16. “Bootleggers” – Slum Village
17. “Sound The Alarm” (feat. Guilty Simpson
18. “About Me”
19. “Anotha Club Hit” – Nametag
20. “Hold Tight” (Remix) (feat. Black Milk) - Skyzoo
Disc 3 - http://www.zshare.net/download/522304657053084f/
1. “That’s That One” – Elzhi
2. “Goatit” (feat. Phat Kat)
3. Beat 2
4. “Not U” – Fat Ray & Black Milk
5. “U” (feat. Ty & Kory)
6. “Long Story Short”
7. “Action Pack” – Nametag (feat. Useless Detroit Niggas)
9. “This That” (feat Marv Won)
10. “Reunion” – Slum Village
11. “Trinity” (interlude) – Slum Village
12. “Say Something” (feat. Nametag)
13. “Bond 4 Life” (feat. Melanie Rutherford)
14. “Tell ‘Em” (feat. Nametag)
15. “Ugly” – Fat Ray & Black Milk
16. “Danger” – Phat Kat (feat. T3 and Black Milk)
17. “Shut it Down”
18. “Guessing Game” – Elzhi
19. “Bang Dis Shit” (feat Nametag)
20. “Hold Tight” – Skyzoo
21. “Momentum Music” - Nametag
Disc 4 - http://www.zshare.net/download/5223089344a14e4d/
1. “Losing Out” (feat Royce Da 5’9”)
2. “Welcome to the District” – Fat Ray & Black Milk
4. “Middle of the Map, Part 1” – Kidz in the Hall
5. “Middle of the Map, Part 2” – Kidz in the Hall
6. “Bang That Shit Out” – Black Milk and Bishop Lamont (feat. Diverse)
7. “Give The Drummer Sum”
8. “Let’s Go” – Pharoahe Monch (feat. Mela Machinko)
10. “The Leak” - Elzhi (feat. Ayah)
11. “Sound the Alarm” (Remix) (feat. Royce Da 5’9” and Guilty Simpson)
12. “The Transitional Joint” – Elzhi
14. “Flawless” – Fat Ray & Black Milk
15. “Home of the Greats”
16. “Hear This” – Slum Village
17. “About You” – Nametag
18. “Get Up” – Fat Ray & Black Milk
19. “I’m Out”
Monday, December 1, 2008
Yeah I saw it coming. We all did. The nets predicted that Universal Mind Control would be every bit the train wreck that it is, but I'm gonna bitch about it anyway.
I've never seen such a cascade of change and experimentation dictate a rapper's career as I have Common's. I mean, the man is hip-hop's premier rolling stone. Despite the fact that he's never found a solid footing with any particular sound - opting instead to experiment with various different producers from album to album - more often than not he makes artistically sound decisions and his raw talent always shines through. Even as his flow has devolved over the past few albums, I always extended him a line of credit by virtue of the facts that he puts on an amazing live show and every album to date contains at least one heat rock symbiosis of beat and rhymes (yes, even Can I Borrow a Dollar?).
Yeah...he just put a squash on all that.
UMC's ten tracks are just not enough, by any definition. I have always been an apologist of the much-maligned Electric Circus, and this shit makes it come off like Illmatic in comparison. And it's not just the production (the Neptunes should be ashamed of themselves), but Common's lyrics and flow are prosaic and meant to invoke the Euro-synth-pop trash that he's aiming for with this record. I mean, "You call me Smoky and I'll call you the bear"? A song actually titled "Sex 4 Sugar"? Really, Com? What happened to that "Watermelon" flow? How 'bout that goosebump-inducing "Hungry" single verse?"
This album is just another in a litany of "experimental projects" from otherwise quality rapper/producers this year. The price that the Commons and the Phontes and the Kanye Wests pay is the virtual alienation of their original fanbase. But what do they gain from it? Excluding mainstream darling Kanye, I don't think that artists who are even flirting with the underground have much to gain from pushing it away. Jay-Z could come out with an album produced entirely by 9th Wonder, Jake One, Black Milk and Khrysis, and fans would embrace his "return" to the essence. But Com can't hop from underground to mainstream because he's catered to the boom-bap faithful for 16 FUCKING YEARS.
He's probably already reached his creative apogee. And frankly, I think his attempt to capture a new audience and reap the subsequent buckage will fail considering that this album was already pushed back several months because none of the singles caught fire.
Universal Mind Control is pretty much an epic fail all around and extremely disappointing considering who's behind it. This will be the first Common record in 14 years that I will leave on the shelf.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I'm still not exactly hype about Common's upcoming Universal Mind Control album, considering his inspiration for it and the leaked material to date. But this new joint, Gladiator, actually bangs pretty hard and inspired the beginning of my workout today. I know the album is gonna at least be mostly produced by the Neptunes, so if this beat belongs to Pharrell and Chad, my hats off; it's their hardest since Busta's "Call the Ambulance."
Still not that excited, but I know there'll at least be one dope cut.
I've learned the hard way that, even in an increasingly progressive, post-Obama-as-president society, publications still shy away from polarizing, controversial viewpoints so as to protect their image and/or their hard dollars. And sometimes, the wrong people associated with said publications just flatly disagree with the viewpoint.
Such has been the issue I've found with this editorial. I'm sure if I kept shopping it around a bit more, I'd find someone who would accept it, but the topic has grown somewhat cold. I did spend time writing this, so I want it to be read by someone, goddammit.
I’ve been pretty disappointed in black folks these past couple weeks.
The beauty and historical significance of Barack Obama’s election has, in my eyes, been dramatically undercut by the passing of Proposition 8 in California. The proposition was designed to amend the Constitution to state that true marriage is only between a man and a woman. Its passing sets the gay rights movement back heaven knows how many years, and will essentially serve to preserve their status as second-class citizens.
That this proposition was even on the ballot is troubling. That it was the most highly-funded state campaign in the country is baffling. But that black voters – who no doubt turned out in record numbers to elect our champion – played a pivotal role by being some 70 percent of people who voted for the proposition simply angers me and proves that we still have a long, long way to go.
Unfortunately, nothing about it surprises me; the 800-pound gorilla in the room here is definitely the church. Black folks are a spiritual people, and we’re rather steadfast in our ideas about the family structure. So because we interpreted the antiquated text of the Holy Bible as any and everything gay is “against God,” we leveraged that as an excuse to vote for the proposition…exercising a right we didn’t even have 140 years ago because they thought we were second class citizens.
If you have half a brain that isn’t slowly leaking out of your ass, it should be easy to come to the conclusion after very little invested thought that the civil rights of homosexuals are no intrusion on the rights straight people have to marry whomever they want of the opposite sex. It should be easy to deduce that using the term “marriage” to define existing gay civil unions isn’t going to make more people gay, corrupt our children or lead to plague, genocide and the collapse of American civilization as we know it.
People need to understand that legalization of gay marriage won’t require any church to marry who they don’t want to marry, just as no church or its pastor is required to marry a straight couple.
Gay marriage isn’t going to serve as a detriment to the existing shitty institution of marriage. Folks harp on about how straight marriage is a cornerstone of the traditional family; meanwhile, over half of them end in divorce and any pairing of straight people who’ve known each other for one evening and several Jagerbombs can jaunt down to any city hall with a few bucks and get married only to get that shit annulled the next day.
If anything, gay marriage may help boost the existing divorce rates given that they’ve fought so hard just to have the right.
I could go on and on and on with this topic...it runs that deep. In summation: Americans in general – and black folks specifically – need to pull their heads out of their collective ass and recognize the existence of prejudice in its purest, most malevolent form. I urge you to think long and hard about nature, the history of America, the essential tenets of your religion and the basic common sense that is all too often obfuscated by dogma.
If you still come to the conclusion that gay equals bad, then hopefully your god can help you…because I sure can’t.
Monday, November 24, 2008
I was not nearly as excited about 808s and Heartbreaks as I was his previous three albums, for obvious reasons. It's really difficult to stomach one of the best hip-hop artists of the new millennium singing for a whole album when he can't actually sing. On top of that, I think the Autotune craze that's perverted contemporary rap/R&B is worth burying deep below the Mariana Trench.
That said, I appreciate no more than three songs on this album from a production standpoint alone. Indeed, this is where 'Ye has always shined. "Street Lights" is dope and atmospheric, and "Say You Will" has an extra-dope piano.
So while this will be the first of his albums on which I will not shovel out any loot, a few of those songs will make it on my drive-to-Detroit compilation for tomorrow.
Peep the album here.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
To me, being in love…
…is a key to the crib.
…is a random email saying "I love you," at 3:47 p.m. on a Tuesday afternoon, just because.
…is goodness with the potential of greatness.
…is an Al Green song belting from your stereo.
…is "well…let me tell you all about her!"
…is the maturation of infatuation.
…is a shine that doesn't wear off.
…is that…that je ne sais quoi.
…is the sacrifice that reaps interminable dividends.
…is truth in position.
…is finding gray hairs on one another.
…is fingers on the keys of a piano.
…is knowing you have a confidant without prejudice.
…is saying "okay" to things you don't wish to do, just to see her smile.
…is Oslo omelettes and potatoes with Hollandaise sauce on a Sunday morning.
…is flashing a toothy grin for no good reason.
… is a weekend wasted away between the bedsheets.
…is an embrace so tight that she can come no closer.
…is uplifting when desired.
…is honesty when needed.
…is patience always.
…is a shared sense of humor.
…is a toothbrush in the bathroom and panties left on the bedroom floor.
…is sneaking a kiss when no one is looking. And sometimes even when they are.
…is the peace in a mind at war.
…is striving to do better.
…is a high that doesn't crash; a drunk that doesn't hang over.
…is dancing the entire night away.
…is an unchained melody.
…is the kindred spirit. The creation and sustenance of family.
…is the duality of joy and agony.
…is the juice that gets you out of bed on an early Monday morning.
…is "what the fuck is this I'm feeling?!?!?"
…is intimacy that disgusts everyone else.
…is a desire to put her comfort over your own.
…is an incomparable elation.
…is stealing food from her plate.
…is omnipresence of the light.
…is the most profound inspiration.
…is shared, knowing glances.
…is an agreement; a contract with no paper.
…is a letter written on yellow paper.
…is the excitement at what's to come.
…is a beautiful surrender.
…is a honeymoon phase that doesn't end.
…is showing your homies a part of you they've never seen.
…is a warm blanket, a couch and a DVD on a cold evening.
…is truly not mattering what anyone – ANYONE – thinks.
…is a restless heart.
…is folks telling you that you're "glowing."
…is reaction we don't always intend.
…is unprecedented exposure of vulnerability.
…is holding her face in your hand and locking her eyes with yours.
…is Sex 2.0: The Lovemaking Edition.
…is the best and worst of circumstances shared.
…is some of the only hard work worth working for.
…is left of center.
…is the essence of the mortal coil.
…is not being able to run away. And not wanting to.
…is many streaming tears.
…is many spent years.
…is waiting for her to return.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
My girl Lisa made a pretty good point: sitting at home all day allows for some interesting ruminations.
One topic occupied much of yesterday's thought processes: The meaning of "in love."
It made me curious about what other people think it means. Of course, I don't mean loving someone; like your mama, your child or your dog. I mean the true acknowledgment that you are all-consumingly in love, romantically, with one other person (or persons? Is this possible?).
I don't care if you come to this blog for the sex/relationship stuff, for the hip-hop or for both; please get at me with your three cents. It can be a word, a few words, a sentence or a whole damn essay if you please. Think about what being in love means to you, and drop me a line.
I look forward to reading what you have to say.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Travel back with me for a bit.
February 1999. State Theater; Detroit, Michigan. Every bit a 17-year-old, there wasn't much to my life besides school, a part-time job at Media Play and the interminable-yet-unsuccessful panty chase. Standing outside in the cold for a concert hours before doors opened so as to secure a spot front row, center-stage for a Roots concert was nothing. During that wait, I met a dope sister who, little did I know, would still be in my life nearly a decade later (One Love, Liz...I know you're reading, ma!).
As for the show itself, I wasn't ready. Little did I know that almost 10 years and many, many concerts later, it would remain the best live show I've ever attended.
That tour was to promote the release of Things Fall Apart, which was phenomenal in that zeitgeist but stands the test of time as the group's magnum opus and a true classic in hip-hop's canon.
The band - then Black Thought, ?uestlove, Kamal, Hub and Scratch - walked out single-file shaking tambourines before taking their positions on stage. And for the following two-and-a-half hours, they gave us more. Late in the show, Thought introduced to the stage a slovenly-dressed, shy young newcomer by the name of Jill Scott as the original songstress behind the "You Got Me" hook. Folks came up to me months later reminding me how she blew everyone away.
The Roots remain my favorite band of all time. Not only is their studio recording catalog stellar, but they singlehandedly set the gold standard of what I have come to expect from a hip-hop show. Such is why the news of their retirement from touring breaks my heart.
The group is transcendent not only in that it's the only hip-hop group I can think of that doesn't rely on machine-driven production or a DJ, but because you could get a different version of their show even if you went on every stop of a single tour. That alone trumps the prosaic nature of most other hip-hop artists who do the same shit with the same DJ every single show.
They don't just get on the stage and play: they have fun. From no other band will you see a nigga with a tuba do the Cupid Shuffle onstage with the bass guitar player. ?uest battling Knuckles in percussion has to be experienced. Scratch emanating noises from his mouth that no human should be able to is insane and eerie. And every time Thought and ?uest do "The Web", I get amped.
While the band's live recordings (which apparently will continue as long as they're under contract) did take a dip in quality for a spell (see: Phrenology and The Tipping Point), many of those songs are interpolated much better in concert.
I've seen them numerous times since that February: the legendary Okayplayer Tour; the stop at Congress Theater on the single hottest day of summer 2006 - after which Vernal and I were exhausted, drenched in sweat and completely satisfied; the stop at The Kaleidoscope last year during which Skillz and Dice Raw (successfully) filled in for an ailing Thought and ?uest and Thought ripping an afterparty at the Victor Hotel earlier this year during the first time I shared a live hip-hop experience with She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.
I do respect the difficulty that these cats have to endure living with each other on the road for all these years, and I'm not entirely surprised at this decision. Having a regular gig on a television show with Jimmy Fallon - the biggest tool on television since Carson Daly - will definitely stack the math. I just wonder where Thought will fit in, if at all, with a format that probably doesn't allow for an emcee in the mix.
I saw them here in Chicago last Thursday; the evening ?uest made the announcement posted after the jump. I suppose I'm glad I dragged my ass out the house for it; especially they and Cee-Lo straight bodied shit and showed us all what a free concert should be like.
If that really, truly was my swan song with the band, then it's been a fantastic 10 years. We'll always have Detroit.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
But I came across a video last night of MSNBC's Keith Olbermann (props, Steele) speaking on Proposition 8 that gave me sheer goosebumps. He demonstrated a disarming passion and perspicacious judgment the likes of which I don't hear or read nearly enough from the newsfolk.
And while I'm sure that many politicians and bureaucrats feel the same way Keith does - President-elect Obama included, i'll wager - not nearly enough of them speak with this level of passion for fear of losing their electorate's imprimatur.
Folks, I implore you to listen to all six-plus minutes of this video. I couldn't have voiced it better myself.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
It’s been kinda slow on the hip-hop tip these days….not much out there blowing up my skirt. But yesterday my travels took me to this audio of eternal G-Unit sycophant Tony Yayo talking on Shade 45 radio as reckless as I’ve heard any rapper speak. And that’s a tall motherfucking order.
The only two reasons I listened to him go on and on – barely letting the DJs get a word in edgewise – are because I was cooking dinner and because this train wreck of an "interview" was the most amusing shit I’ve heard in weeks. He dedicates at least 15 minutes talking trash about Young Buck and throwing all manner of rumors out there. He spends the rest of the time talking about other rappers like The Game, kowtowing to his boss 50 Cent and expounding on how he’s one of the realest niggas alive.
Seriously, there are so many quotables in this audio that you have to listen for yourself, even if it’s just background for whatever else you might be doing. This is the most I’ll probably EVER listen to Tony Yayo say anything anywhere – on- or off-wax.
Friday, November 7, 2008
This was deemed too "serious" by my editors. Plus, they weren't about to allow me to level my own personal indictment of R. Kelly given that he'd just been acquitted in a court of law. Politics, man.
I was raised, not surprisingly, with a male-centric perspective on sex: get laid if you can, as much as you can.
I think a by-product of that upbringing was a rather skewed perception of sexual assault: As a youngster, I used to think rapists were evil men with no moral code or redeeming social value who resembled guys like Ted Kaczynski and Charles Manson.
And when I did hear about rapes in the media, they were distant occurrences; acts toward women in rural areas that I didn’t regard nearly as much as I would the victim of any other violent crime.
Most unfortunately, I’d always cast a shadow of doubt over a victim’s truth-telling when she described her story of being raped.
But with age and experience came enlightenment on the realities of rape and sexual assault.
Offenders went from bearded freaks to famous people I respected, like Mike Tyson and Tupac Shakur. In adulthood they became even more mainstream characters like Michael Jackson, R. Kelly and the occasional Catholic priest.
The victims went from nameless faces on television to those close to me: Friends, girlfriends, relatives and so-forth. The first time I read the statistics - one in six American women will be sexually assaulted in their lifetime, according to Rainn.org - was a sobering moment.
With it came my “come to Jesus” moment: sexual assault is a bigger problem than many people realize or are willing to accept.
The issue typically evokes three emotions: anger, helplessness and self-reflection.
I’m angry because I want to commit unthinkable acts of violence against the people who‘ve hurt those I love. I feel helpless because I know I can’t.
I can’t do anything about the fact that women I care about have to carry that burden around with them for life. Every sexual experience, every partner, everything…is somehow connected to that negative experience, and I can’t change it.
I stand in self-reflection because I try to figure out in what ways I’ve contributed to what’s really a systemic problem. Obviously, I’m far removed from the idea of ever forcing myself upon someone, but I know that, at least in the past, I have done things to subconsciously contribute to the problem.
When I was in college, I stood outside of a friend’s dorm room, and said something to him along the lines of, “did that exam rape you yesterday?” A woman I knew came outside of her room and asked me not to use that verb in such a cavalier context.
At the time, I was pissed off that someone would try to censor me, but it dawned on me later that she had probably been a victim of sexual assault herself.
And no doubt she was at least close to someone who was assaulted. We all are.
I wonder about the adult material I consume: How much of it actually perpetuates a culture of sexual assault? I don’t personally care for porn that is violent or demeaning to women, but I’ve likely shelled out money for something that indirectly – or directly – supports or promotes sexual assault.
R. Kelly’s acquittal prompted this column: if his video, which clearly depicts an illegal sexual act (yes, I saw it years ago) is not sufficient for a conviction, it simply serves as a reminder that we have such a long way to go.
In the interim, I’m still working to figure out how I can further alter my mentality and behavior to not contribute to the problem.
I suppose I could continue by symbolically ditching my R. Kelly albums.
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
The world is quite literally at your fingertips. You’ve got countless subordinates and droves of followers. You have the military might to erase entire countries off the map, and you know that all world leaders will think long and hard before developing the grapes to fuck with you.
Through it all, you have a taut, attractive wife by your side who has bore your children, defended you against all detractors and stood by you through the best and worst.
What would your very first move be?
No question for me. I’m finding the closest bed behind four walls and I’m making love to her.
And not just any old love will do. It’s gotta be that toe-curling, pillow-biting, sheet-loosening, sweaty, liquid-y screaming and hollering, yelling-'till-God-tells-you-to-keep-that-shit-down sex. That sex that makes quadruplets. That sex she’ll tell all her friends about and make them look at their sorry-ass partners like “You limp-dick mothafuckah!!!”
Y’all already know how my mind works. For some reason I got to thinking last night about if and how either of the presidential candidates maintained a sex life with their wives during this arduous campaign trail. I mean, you still gotta keep the home fires burning on the road to the big seat, right?
Did they get it on in their respective airplanes? They send all the advisors to the front of the cabin and put a sock on the curtain? Is there some smashing in the makeup room after a debate well-done? Perhaps the occasional nooner before getting in the hot seat with Bill O’Reilly or Larry King? Did Cindy McCain take care of Little John after he got pwned on The View?
It only fits the aesthetic of the presidency that the man holding the post should be capable of doing equal damage with his actual phallus as he is with the phallic weapons he has control over. The feeling I got from meeting Barack in person several years ago is that he’s probably sporting a hang low that crashes to the floor when he drops trou and that Michelle gets it on the regular. It wouldn’t surprise me a tad if President-Elect beats it up all week and we see Cute Obama Daughter #3 pop out in the White House's West Wing sometime next summer.
The feeling that I (and anyone with a high-definition television should) get from McCain is that he hasn’t had a natural erection since Bush 41 was in office, and that it probably takes nothing short of a truck-mounted crane to get him at any kind of attention to please Cindy. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a scandal dropped in which Cindy – just a few years and a couple Botox injections past MILF status – is exposed to have participated in an extramarital affair sometime in the past decade.
Maybe he has a couple blue pills on standby in case the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse come trotting up the street and he actually takes this thing.
Not that I see that happening. If you haven’t voted yet, get your monkey ass to the polls now. Time’s still left to ensure that McCain doesn't get any victory cooze.
Monday, November 3, 2008
I will forever reflect upon 2008 for a great many reasons – not the least of which is a true awakening to the merits of alternative rock music. I’ve always listened to it to a small extent, but this year I’ve really opened up the genre for the first time; checking out all these bands’ entire catalogs for the first time and appreciating music I never thought would ever stimulate me.
It all snowballed from Coldplay. Before I even started touching other acts, I had the group’s whole damn catalog. Something about their lush instrumentation and Chris Martin’s bleeding heart falsetto reaches out to my emotional faculties on the strength.
I’ve learned that many, many rappers and rap fans also appreciate all things Coldplay, so it comes as no surprise that a DJ would eventually create something like Viva La Hova, on which the always-capable Mick Boogie partnered with Terry Urban to mesh the sounds of Coldplay with the lyrics of the Jiggaman.
Viva La Hova is worth a listen to anyone who likes hip-hop, but will be especially appreciated by enthusiasts of both artists. If you appreciate their proper pairing – Kingdom Come’s “Beach Chair” – then you’ll dig the blending and instrumentation on this compilation. Don’t come looking for new Hove verses – they’re all jacked from previous albums (probably a good thing).
I’m normally extremely averse to genre crossings, but cuts like “What If We Cry?” (a blend of “What If?” and “Song Cry”) and “Public Speeding” (“High Speed” and “Public Service Announcement”) make me wonder what other rock-hop pairings would sound like. Nas and Radiohead? Common and Death Cab for Cutie?
Hopefully this will start a trend. And hopefully the trend won’t suck donkey balls.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
Hip-hop isn't dead. This shit will be my election week theme song.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Your back is on the bed while your partner holds your arms and pins your legs down as if to say “I’m running shit here, and you can scream all you want, but no one is gonna hear you come!” And then it leads to that aggressive sex – the type where you look at each other the next morning like “what in the name of Jebediah’s balls possessed you last night?!?!”
If you haven’t, give it a shot. The transference of power from one partner to another in the bedroom – at least on occasion – is a boatload of fun. I personally love it when a woman exerts total dominance and assumes complete control of the goings-on in the sack.
My sex column-travels in Chicago have led me to personal acquaintances with many representatives of the city’s sexual “subculture” that often delve into BDSM (bondage and sadomasochism). I’ve found that it’s the everyday folks – the ones we pass on the street, squeeze fruit in the grocery store next to and cram in with on the train – that are completely into being physically restricted and restrained in the name of getting off.
Through them, I’ve also come to learn that my personal line is drawn when it comes to actual, hardcore bondage: the idea that I can’t physically remove myself from a sexual situation if I truly need to is enough to make Captain Winky take a powder.
I like my sex nice and airy – the opportunity to utilize my natural double-jointedness is essential to fluid bedroom fun. And what about all the little things that being restrained during sex will prevent? What if I accidentally cut one during the act (it’s happened) and I can’t pick my partner up and fling her to the other side of the bed/floor/table/couch to hide the smell? And do I have to suffer the indignity of explaining to my partner that she needs to do something to rectify an itch on my scrotum because I’m tied up?
Sure, I’ve watched plenty of bondage activity through porn and various trips to the “Late Night” category on Comcast On Demand, but it took seeing it live and in living color to realize that it wasn’t my cup of tea.
Early last spring, Julia and I attended an invite-only, private BDSM dungeon party in the West Loop. These parties, held once a month at various locations, are revealed through text message the day of and are completely no-holds-barred.
I remember not thinking too much of the couple that came in right behind us (other than the fact that the guy looked like Keith Richards) until I saw the woman chained to a ceiling apparatus wearing nothing but a corset. Random clips and clothing pins were attached to her nipples and clit throughout the evening, and her man spent hours spanking her all over her body with various devices.
It was interesting to see that she was moist and her nipples were hard from an activity that I got extra-creative to avoid as a young ‘un.
There was also this cat that looked like one of the Indian dudes from The 40-Year-Old Virgin. He was strapped to a vertical platform (as you can see, my BDSM argot isn’t exactly polished) and getting whipped so bad that his asscheeks were bleeding.
Now, I’m all about sexual felicity any way you can get it, but how the hell did he explain to his boss in whatever IT department he works in that he had to do Monday’s decryption exercises standing up?
Some might assume that my aversion to being tied up and whipped comes from the latent slavery issues that come from being a black man. A dubious theory at best; I simply view most things BDSM differently than those who appreciate it. They see a full pleather suit as a skin-tingling, erotic experience; I see it as a profound downside to my thimble-sized bladder. They see rope for genitalia as a way to stimulate orgasms; I see red, swollen balls the size of kiwifruit. They see handcuffs and get wet; I see them as objects that I’ve been fortunate enough to stay out of, in any context, for 27 years.
Picture me in a black leather Speedo with a zippered face mask and arms tied behind my back. My nuts are turning lavender because my partner won’t actually put hand, tongue or anything near them that actually feels good. And for some reason, she suffers a stroke and dies. No safe word will help me, and I’m left there to starve, pass away and rot because I can’t reach my iPhone. This is why I’ll never be the one.
That said, there is something inherently sexy about watching women in leather and bondage. I don’t even know if I’d feel good about being a dom myself…something about having a leash connected to my woman toys with my preference for relationship equality.
But I’ll always appreciate watching. Well, not lashed Indian man-ass, but you know…
Monday, October 27, 2008
"Boom-bap is a religion. MK is Jesus."
I’ve used this space recently to extol the virtues of Black Milk, so no need for a career retrospective.
This is about his sophomore album, Tronic, which drops tomorrow. It’s the follow-up to Popular Demand, with which Black beat out rather stiff competition in 2007 to win my Album of the Year award.
Popular Demand is probably the best debut hip-hop album since College Dropout; as it goes, when you come out the gate swinging for the fences, your next effort is just destined to be a letdown. While Tronic is very much so not a failure, I can’t say that I’m 100 percent in love with it.
When I saw it hit the net last Thursday night, I almost got into a damn car accident acting like a giddy bitch who just found a bag of coke and lots of money. All plans I had for that evening were put on hold as I hooked the computer up to the stereo and fired that fucker up. My reaction after listening to the first third of the album can best be described as ”…oh.”
You see, I’d already been listening to the album’s first two singles, “The Matrix” and “Losing Out”, pretty consistently. The latter, guest-starring the do-no-wrong Royce Da 5’9”, had just leaked a couple days before and got me amped as the fuck-all for the total project. It was an unpleasant surprise that I found myself wanting to skip blocks of three tracks at a time on Tronic.
Where I normally would have cherry-picked a few of the album’s tracks, put them on a CD-R with some other stuff and moved on, I knew I was dealing with my favorite producer of the new millennium (sorry, ‘Ye), and so I gave Tronic several consecutive listens. I pretty much spent all last Friday listening to the album, from the train to the office and back home again.
And wouldn’t you know – that bastard started growing on me like scabies. I spent the afternoon bouncing texts about it back and forth with my man Joey over at Straight Bangin, and I think we had aligned reactions to the record. I gave some tracks a more discriminate listen and reached the point where with some of the shit I gave the cliff face to on Thursday, I was rocking out to while waiting for the Blue Line train home Friday.
And then I remembered: Many of MK’s beats that didn't hit me immediately did grow on me before long. Sound of the City, Caltroit and much of his other material had something of a delayed response for me, but I ultimately came to adore them. So I found myself going back to the well to listen to some of my more beloved Black Milk goodies, like “Duck,” “Pressure,” and “Bang That Shit Out.”
After four days of listening to Tronic, I can say with certainty that it doesn’t have the staying power of Popular Demand, but it’s gonna be in rotation for much, much longer than most albums that have come out this year.
I don’t know what it is about Milk and those ridiculous drums (if you don’t wanna go to war after listening to “Long Story Short,” you’re light in the ass), but he has made it into the very exclusive cache of artists/producers who I will always, always check for…no matter the weather.
Don’t download this. Go cop it tomorrow.
Friday, October 24, 2008
So I’ve been running around busier than a recaptured slave, which is the reason I haven’t been heavy on the blogging this week.
Black Milk’s Tronic leaked to the nets yesterday, so I’ll be bloggin’ about that first thing Monday. But for the time being, I’ll default to the return of my Black Vibes column. For those of you who didn’t know, I had this column a few years ago and it was basically solely focused on hip-hop. But now I’ll be writing about all manner of things.
Ignore the banner picture…I’m about 15 pounds lighter and a lot less hirsute. No less angry, though. I need to get on top of switching that out.
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
I work for a public relations agency here in Chicago. A couple months ago, one of my coworkers asked me if I knew of anyone we could pay to write a rap. Disregarding my failed, dirty gerund-filled raps from high school that sounded as if they were influenced by the bastard protégé of Too Short and B.G., I agreed to write the rap myself.
You all might remember this lady, Ellen Dow, as the old dame who did “Rappers Delight” in the Adam Sandler movie The Wedding Singer. So the schtick is that both she and Life Savers Wint-o-Green – one of the products we work with – turned 90 this year. The rap is supposed to contain equal parts product branding and nonagenarian braggadocio.
I churned out 16 bars that I could imagine an old white lady kicking out with relative ease, and the above video is the end product. This thing is supposed to go viral, and rumblings around the office is that Leno or Letterman have reached out, so here’s to possible bootleg fame. You can view the whole hookup at www.sparking90.com.
The royalty checks aren’t gonna be rolling in for this one, but I’m sure I’m knocking on the door of ghostwriting for Hove or such someday.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
It was his tour to promote his recently released third studio album Now. Opening for him was an up-and-coming New York vocalist named Alicia Keys with minimal stage presence and a horrible, spastic 4-foot-11 hypeman in an orange jumpsuit. Mama and I were happy enough to see her complete her set.
At that point in my life, I was almost exclusively bumping hip-hop and didn't particularly care about singers. I’m a child of old-school soul and most contemporary R&B just bores me – in fact, if your name isn’t D'Angelo, Anthony Hamilton or Raphael Saadiq, there’s a good chance I haven’t checked for your R&B album in the past decade.
But something was different about Maxwell; Now is on the top of a very short list of contemporary R&B albums I can stick in and play from front to back. It is, quite simply, an amazing record.
But Now, as well as Urban Hang Suite and Embrya, have nothing on his live show. Now I’m straighter than a guitar string, but when he started singing “Whenever, Wherever, Whatever,” he almost got a face full of my dirty boxers.
Sunday night was a throwback to that show: Back to the Fox, with that same wonderful young lady by my side. We were delighted to see that, after a good seven damn years out of the spotlight, homeboy still got it.
As I sat there and listened to the collective soaking of panties all around me, I wondered how many R&B artists are still kicking who can evoke such a reaction from young and old alike. Like, no one over the age of 25 gives a shit about Ne-Yo; while Ronald Isley – whom I actually appreciate more than Maxwell – has an age demographic of about 55.
That show evoked strong reactions from a very diverse age group of women; evident in the fact that my mother was hopping out her seat screaming and hollering along with women my age.
Maxwell apparently has a three-part album in the works called Black Summer’s Night, to be released over the course of three years. During the show he performed a couple new joints, including “Pretty Wings,” which has only marginally sated the fans on the internet who’ve only heard half of the song.
He made a great point between songs: “I don’t even have an album out, and y’all coming out to see me like this. I don’t know what to say.” He knows damn well what to say: when a truly talented artist puts out some sheer heat and then goes hermetic for fucking years, they steadily build anticipation that results in fans coming out in droves to get a taste when they finally do reemerge.
Either Maxwell is fucking with us, or he’s a genius, and his next album is gonna go diamond. I think D’Angelo could revive his career the exact same way if he cleaned his life up and decided to go back on tour.
When the show ended and we sauntered back to my truck, I realized something: As I grow older and continue an ascent into so-called “manhood” that requires incrementally less maternal guidance, Maxwell will always be our thing. From the moment I put “This Woman’s Work” on a CD for her while in college, mama and I have shared in our love of his music and subsequent frustration in his failure to put out another album. (“What’s up with Maxwell?? Damn!” is a frequent refrain of ours).
Where our paths diverge is in my speculation of his sexuality. But since that’s her second man, I suppose the idea that he might be gay is difficult for her to accept. Frankly, dude could be into spooning warthogs for all I care; as long as Black is dope, whenever the hell he decides to drop it, that’s all that matters to me.
Friday, October 17, 2008
Statik Selektah did his damn thing.
In a week that saw two egregiously shitty album leaks from rappers who need to hang it up and should have never picked it up, the Lawrence, Massachusetts DJ/producer dropped a compilation album with an above-average amount of heat. Stick 2 The Script is by no means perfect, but there are at least six tracks worth bumping for various reasons. Here are a few:
- “To The Top” (Cassidy, Saigon, Termanology): but Sai and Term both bring it over a pretty jazzy smooth beat, though I’d never normally care to hear rap abortion Cassidy over anyone’s track,
- “For The City” (M.O.P., Jadakiss): Oh my Christ, that sample from New Jack City caught my attention before Fame, Billy Danze and ‘Kiss ever did. I suppose it’s good that these cats are still getting work. But seriously, how close are we to that plastic surgery operation, guys?
- “Talkin’ Bout You (Ladies)” (Skyzoo, Joell Ortiz, Talib Kweli) – An ode to Brooklyn chicks. I like this because I can actually visualize the type of woman they’re describing. It’s also kinda sad to me because eight years ago I would salivate anytime saw Kweli associated with any track. Now, I just don’t care that much.
- “On The Marquee” (Little Brother, Joe Scudda, Chaundon): A Little Brother track that sounds like a Little Brother track from the group’s glory days. I really, really wish someone would step on Joe Scudda’s larynx though. And not because he’s white, but because listening to him rap is the equivalent of watching three straight hours of C-Span.
- “Streets of M.A.” (Masspike Miles, Termanology, Reks & some other useless Boston mothafuckas): I’m sure someone somewhere still cares about Boston rap and is convinced that the hardest niggas alive inhabit that city and its whereabouts. Right. I like this joint because of the boom-bap beat and the fact that Reks leans into this bitch. The hook is homo-riffic, though.
- “Destined to Shine” (Torae, Sha Stimuli, Jon Hope): Ill, ill beat. Epic, just like I like ‘em. Torae is straight, but there are some otherwise seriously unimportant cats on here not worthy of this beat.
I was gonna link to each individual song, but ZShare is acting like a bitchmonger right now, so here’s the entire album.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
But when I’m in a fragile state – as I have been for the past couple weeks – I tend to partake in activities that exacerbate that. It’s my way of getting in touch with that which is troubling me.
Back to that later. There are very few movies that I avoid like the plague: English period films, gay porn and anything starring Queen Latifah are on the short list. One film I’ve especially avoided in the four years since it came out is The Notebook. If you’d have asked me two months ago, I would've confirmed that I'd never, ever subject myself to what I was certain was the celluloid version of receiving a colonic.
Well, not only did I watch it last night, but I watched it alone. No folks, not even the opposite sex had to coerce me into watching this estrogen fest. But I can find the merits in any movie, even if it’s not targeted toward my demographic. Frankly, The Notebook just wasn’t as stellar as everyone would have me believe.
It wasn’t a bad movie per se, and films don’t get much more plaintive. But I tend to bristle at movies whose principal agenda is to make you cry; when the music, the dialogue, the acting and storyline all take a backseat to attempts at emotional invocation. This is why I thought Million Dollar Baby was overrated. I mean (*spoiler alert!*), the Notebook couple dies at the same time, in the same bed?
Come the fuck on. I know the film is adapted from a book, but LIE to me, yo! Rewrite it with James Garner’s character getting his hands on a couple blue pills and rocking Gena Rowland’s wrinkly loins to the point where she’ll never forget his ass again! Happy ending!
I like sad movies that sustain you in a state of melancholy throughout their entirety instead of breaking out the violins and fucking with you near the end (see Fresh, Dolores Claiborne or House of Sand and Fog for good examples of the former). I prefer a level of emotional resonance in romantic films that’s less hamfisted and in-your-grill: they should ask you to embrace the humanity of the protagonists' relationship instead of focusing on its sappy aspects. Some might argue that true romantic movies can’t do that, but I disagree.
I think Ryan Gosling is a superb young actor, but he didn’t deliver to his capabilities in this film. And I sure as shit got tired of hearing Rachel McAdams squealing like a damn banshee with a thumb tack stuck in her left asscheek.
This movie didn’t earn any real tears from me, even in my state of mind (I've only released the waterworks for one film ever). But it did remind me of what it’s like to love someone even more than myself and to want to be around them at all times despite constant fighting and nitpicking.
And it also made me never wanna get old. Let me get to, say, 69, then push me onto the L tracks or something...just dont let me see it coming.
Tuesday, October 14, 2008
Okay…now how many of you were in high school last time he was relevant? Show of hands…
I’ve about had it with this reality television formula: Take one part aging, washed-up former A-list music artist; one part sagacious, centering wife; add several parts’ rowdy, defiant, image-annihilating children; shake up, and strain in a nice, big house with cameras.
Coolio is the latest artist, but not the last I’m sure, to subject himself to the platitudinous reality show circuit with “Coolio and the Gang,” as a single dad “raising” (read: exploiting) his six teenaged kids (Two bits to a bottle of piss says they aren’t all from the same woman). I’m assuming that those Dangerous Minds royalty checks are drying up, so of course this must be the only reasonable way to maintain the opulent rapper lifestyle.
The idea behind “Coolio and the Gang” is that he’s looking after these mini-Coolios (who we’ll call “Coolats”) while starting a clothing line and “maintaining” his rap career, which is akin to convincing Aaliyah to be in a relationship with me. And the show is gonna be on the Oxygen network, of all stations! How in the blue hell does an unattractive, black rap artist with cornrows whose spent his career romancing gang culture get an audience with the white, XX-chromosome-having target Oxygen viewers?!?!? Was VH1’s programming schedule already too full of emu shit?
I’m going to call this now: Coolio will never release another album that anyone will truly care about, and his clothing line might rock on the boys’ rack at TJ Maxx, but he won’t be giving Sean John or Roc-a-Wear a run for their loot.
I’m also gonna call that no one will give a damn about “Coolio and the Gang.” The last time I recited any Coolio lyrics, I was still able to count my pubes, and I’m guessing you couldn’t pick up the phone and call someone who's bumped any of his music in the past several years.
Besides, no one is looking for a replacement of “Run’s House.”
Monday, October 13, 2008
Guys, tell me this hasn’t happened to you before:
You’re laying on the couch with your sweetie, forced to dedicate your evening to an “America’s Next Top Model” marathon. Those Extreme Nachos with jalapenos you ate earlier make your stomach start rumbling.
You do your best to hold it in, but then you chuckle at something on the television, and before you know it: “BRRBBBFFFFTTT!!!”
You have just christened your girl to a fact your friends already knew about you: You’re a nasty bastard prone to clearing out rooms.
We have an idea on how we wish to conduct ourselves when we first start dating someone, and it’s seldom indicative of our true natures. In the words of Chris Rock, we put forth “representatives” of ourselves when dating.
“Representatives” don’t belch, have no need for tampons and won’t rattle couch cushions with powerful emanations.
But we all get to a point where our unsavory habits come out, and I think a lot of people look at that as an inevitable, irritating – if not often comical - aspect of every relationship.
I think that getting to the point in a relationship where one feels comfortable farting around their partner is a sign of progression. Smelly progression, but progression nonetheless.
Flatulence and other putrefaction can be interpreted as signs of intimacy. If, during the shooting of deuces, the bathroom door gradually becomes open wider and wider, and he becomes less and less concerned about leaving his skid mark-infused tightie-whities on the bathroom floor in plain sight, it means he’s extremely comfortable with you.
That disgustingness is not only a sign of growing fondness, but also of increased vulnerability. It’s on the level of a man sobbing in front of his woman, letting her know how much money he earns or (shudder) letting her drive his car.
Ripping farts and similar foul behavior is often considered juvenile in nature and typically associated with men. In my experience, that just isn’t the case.
Women like to let off those “silent murder” farts that you can’t hear, but find out about when it’s too late. Even as your nose hairs start falling out, she vehemently denies it’s her, even when it’s only the two of you in the room.
And as much as it still makes me bristle when I hear a woman speak – in detail - about her “monthly visitor,” I appreciate that no woman ever did it unless they were completely comfortable with me.
Interestingly, just about everyone I polled informally agreed with me: gas passing is an innocuous natural bodily function. Several said they don’t see a problem with enduring the filth from people with whom they have sex with and see at their most vulnerable.
Of course, you have to get to that point with people, so nasty behavior doesn’t often fly in early courtship. Be mindful not to make disgusting mistakes of an epic caliber, as I have:
Maybe two weeks into dating a new woman, I did the unthinkable and, umm, forgot to flush her toilet after copping a squat.
She told me about it weeks later. I wouldn’t have blamed her if she never wanted to see me again, but she didn’t think my leaving floaters in her toilet was a big deal.
I imagine things like that happen in relationships all the time, so if a woman can be that forgiving of that level of nastiness early on, it’s probably a good sign that longevity is in the cards.
Still, I wouldn’t do what I did so early on and expect a phone call back.
Friday, October 10, 2008
Some 11 years ago, a young, aspiring Chicago emcee named Lonnie Rashid Lynn, Jr. made one of the fiercest one-verse tracks the genre has ever seen. It's called “Hungry,” and it sits as the ninth track on his stellar One Day It’ll All Make Sense album. On that track he defiantly declared, “Skip ladies, this is ‘rip-a-mothaFUCKA night” - on some "come-and-get-me" type shit - over a fierce No I.D. loop.
Now, in 2008…he’s “rapping” lines like “This-is-that-automatic/I stay fresh like I’m wrapped in plastic” over some techno, Euro-synth-shitbag beat straight from the boards of Pharrell’s confused ass.
What the fuck happened? Common has been sitting comfortably in my “Top 10 Greatest Emcees of All Time” list for a decade, which is the main reason I’ve let him get away with more and more of his creative liberties as the years pass and I witness with consternation the devolution of the flow that still gives me goosebumps every time I listen to “Watermelon.”
I found merits in Electric Circus that most folks couldn’t. I thought Be was a fantastic album despite a clearly watered-down flow in comparison to just about anything on Resurrection. I even gave him a pass for the generally inferior Finding Forever (especially for that pedo look he shot us all on that homo-tastic album cover).
But there’s no forgiving “Universal Mind Control.” This shit is hot, liquid garbage that even Common purists will find it a tall order to justify. I could take a shit on a blank CD-R and come up with something better than this. And the knowledge that Pharrell has taken the bulk of the production credits on his upcoming album, also titled Universal Mind Control, leads me to believe that it will actually be WORSE than Electric Circus.
And this is what Common wants. I read an article a few months ago about how he wants to emulate the music that gets asses shaking in European nightclubs. Man, fuck all that; you’re a rapper…RAP. If I wanna hear shit like this, I'll go hang out in Wicker Park or tune into MTV2 at 3 a.m.
Common is a rapper constantly struggling for an identity under the facade of constantly “reinventing” himself. I like that he found a “home” with Kanye for a while, but I simply don’t think he really knows what or where home is. I fear that in figuring it out, he’s gonna alienate his fan base while maybe (maybe!) getting the mainstream success that’s basically eluded him his entire career.
First, The Foreign Exchange and now Common. *Sigh*.
Wednesday, October 8, 2008
Man, Mr. Skin ain’t got nathan on the kid.
I was in the sex-and-nudity movie clips game far before launched his website. The difference between him and me is that now he’s making a pretty robust living doing it on his website and I’m stuck in admiration and frustration that I didn’t come up with the idea first.
As with many hormonally insane young teenagers, I couldn’t easily get my mitts on hardcore porn, so I defaulted to cable television. Good thing I grew up in the 1990s Red Shoe Diaries era, when skin flicks and softcore premium TV shows reigned supreme. Thanks to a highly liberal father who didn’t care if I was watching loose titties so long as I wasn’t out doing dirt in the streets, my VCR was always programmed to record age-inappropriate material, like episodes of HBOs Real Sex, Luke’s Peep Show on Pay-Per-View, and movies like Showgirls where my childhood innocence was truly put to the test.
But I will always have a special place in my heart for the 1990s B-grade cinema that went out of its way to show as many long legs, taut tummies and ridiculously long, fake hair (and even faker boobs) in (and out of) lycra. These were the movies in which some 21-year-old first-year film school student probably hammered out scripts for a few hundred bucks a pop so there could be SOME dialogue between the naked shower montages.
Instead of searching for incrementally creative ways to tape all this filth-flarn-filth over my parents’ movies and TV shows, I undertook an amateur video editing operation called simply “The Tape:” I cut and spliced all of my favorite sex scenes and skin-revealing moments from everything ranging to Skinemax movies to random episodes of Beverly Hills 90210 (yes, Donna was that deal…don’t hate).
When you think about it, some of this stuff is better to watch at times than porn: Even though the action is simulated, a lot is left to the imagination...which can at times be a bit sexier than seeing that gyno closeup.
The Tape made it somewhere close to the four-hour mark before the project came to an end (read: I grew up). But here are five of my favorite movies that helped define that glorious project:
Body of Evidence (1993) – Damn what any of y’all have to say about it, but I had a massive crush on Madonna’s pasty behind in the 1990s. Essentially a ripoff of Basic Instinct, she plays a woman on trial for murder who ends up seducing her lawyer (a post-Mississippi Burning, pre-Inside Man, still fugly Willem Dafoe), who’s having trouble with the morality of it all. Made during Madonna's more sexually liberated (than usual) period, perhaps this movie is the most exhibitionistic thing she did. I mean, she goes apeshit in this bad boy. As with many of the movies of its ilk – and most on this list – you’re best off grabbing the unrated version for the extended scenes.
Favorite Scene: She masturbates in front of Dirty Dafoe before he ties her to the coffee table and takes her forcefully from behind. And Madonna is Madonna, so of course she enjoys it.
Poison Ivy 2: Lily (1999) – If you’re anywhere near my age and didn’t have a major crush on Alyssa Milano at some point in your life, you’re either gay or a castrati. She did a number of films during this time period of her early 20s where she worked very goddamn hard to break away from that squeaky-clean “Who’s The Boss” image, nipples-first. In a movie series that features the penis-numbingly overrated Drew Barrymore (who used body doubles) and that one chick from My Name Is Earl, Alyssa came right in and showed why she's the boss. (*crickets chirping*)
Favorite Scene: Milano gets seduced in a recliner by her much-older schoolteacher who looks like one of the Middle Eastern bad guys from True Lies.
Sex and the Single Alien (1993) – This film has always troubled me: for some reason, the scenes from it were erased from one of the original cuts of The Tape, and now I can’t find the film anywhere for the life of me. A touching story about a guy who is suddenly adorned by aliens with the power to make women orgasm just by looking at them, there is very little actual sex in this movie, but the tons of gorgeous wimins writhing and moaning to “climax” appeal to my female masturbation fetish. It’s not on video, it’s not on DVD and I haven’t seen it on television since I went through puberty. If anyone can hunt this bad boy down for me, and I have two dollars to my name, I’ll give you one.
Favorite Scene: Dude uses his talent on a woman in the backseat of a convertible broken down in the middle of nowhere. Seriously folks…find me this movie!
Bound (1996) – Gina Gershon, even in her forties, is one of the sexiest women breathing. Jennifer Tilly is also sweat-inducing, despite a voice that makes you wanna commit hari-kiri. Put them together in a lesbian-infidelity mob thriller and greatness is destined. Gina played the masculine half of the coupling, but her sheer gorgeousness shined through the baggy pants and no makeup. Unlike many of the movies on The Tape, this one is actually worth watching all the way through, if for no other reason than an always-exciting Joey Pants sighting.
Favorite Scene: There’s really only one clip in this movie that matters: their one and only lesbian love scene, in which Gina’s toes curl and make the mattress cover come off. It’s not very long, but it’s entirely impactful. Again, cop the unrated version.
Illegal in Blue (1995) – The ultimate B-Movie sex fest, and my personal favorite. A pre-Clueless-fame Stacey Dash and the peckerhead from Son In Law spend an entire movie frolicking around in the bedroom in some of the most extended sex scenes I’ve ever seen in mainstream cinema. The plot is definitely derivative of Basic Instinct and so many sex-kitten-with-a-lethal-secret movies like it, but the reason it works is because a) Stacey Dash was then, and still is, one of the most beautiful women in the world; and b) She really did look vicious in blue lingerie. This is another one that I really, truly wish someone would release on DVD. I mean, this film has a cult following from just about every pervert I know. Seriously. Can the mofuckas in charge of DVDs please get it in gear?!?!?
Favorite Scene: So many I cant even decide. The movie was like 45 minutes of fucking and 30 minutes of “plot.” If you are fortunate enough to come across this somewhere and it’s the R-rated version and not Unrated, please don’t bother. Keep looking. And then send me a copy.