Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A case for yellow line paper

Un mes, un deseo

Ladies and germs, the digital age is ruining true romance.

Forms of communication are much less intimate than they were for the generation that preceded us: we just rattle off whatever the hell we want, when we want via email, text, MySpace, blogs, etc., and just click the ‘send’ button – often recklessly and with little aforethought.

What we gain in convenience, I think we lose in intimacy.

I’m a writer by trade, and my ability to type several words a minute is a necessary skill. But I am of the old-school thought process that taking time to actually write things out on paper – particularly meaningful things – trumps typing any day.

I think sending very deep-seated, personal emails to loved ones should be limited, if not altogether ixnayed. Things get lost in translation, context is misappropriated and confusion is made even more profound….not to mention such forms of communication are often used as methods of cowardice from people who cant look others in the face. Next time you find yourself going nuts over email, consider actually driving to someone’s house to talk to them in person; if not, pick up the phone.

As for communications of unbridled love, writing a letter instead of an email signifies that you have taken the time and effort to pour your heart and emotions into a piece of paper instead of over the interminable information superhighway. Even a small note on a nightstand, written on a napkin, saying “I love you!” is far more likely to garner a smile than “from so-and-so@peckerhead.com; Subject: RE: I love you.”

If you pay close attention, you can see the fluctuations in handwriting that convey the emotion the author had when writing each word. Rushed heart? Cautious pragmatist? Empathetic? Apathetic? In certain occasions, I imagine, you can even see the dried-up teardrops on the page that let you know just how impactful writing the letter was.

The connection between you, the pen and the eyes of the recipient. Short of physical contact, how much more intimate can it get?

I’ve only written letters to women whom I truly, wholeheartedly care for. It means something for me to write page after page in handwriting which closely resembles a medical doctor off his Ritalin. Yellow line paper is my canvas of choice, because anything resembling the paper I wrote essays on in high school is not a good look.

My most valued possession is a letter my mother wrote me when I was about four years old and she and my father were going through a rough divorce/custody battle. I didn’t read it for the first time until I was in college and at a point emotionally where it was truly impactful.

So 25 years from now, if I wrote my son a similarly impassioned email that he just happened to save on his Crackberry, would it have a similar resounding emotional effect? I’m guessing not.

At least I hope not. It’d be a sad testament to the fact that the digital age has taken over shop.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Murs...the "Bad Man" or the savior?

I appreciate Murs. Not only is he a capable rapper, but I dig his refreshing playful, goofball emcee persona in a genre where stone-faced bellicosity is the modus operandi.

But he’s also one of few emcees for whom “keeping it real” most likely applies. He’s all about race and personal uplifting, and it’s pretty convincing considering he’s a struggling emcee not trying to bend to what the “kids” wanna hear. He’s the rapper Kanye could be if he got the fuck over himself and actually improved his mic skills.

His so-called “debut” album, Murs For President, is his first foray into major label territory, with production that isn’t limited to 9th Wonder. The title makes more sense after you listen to the record: he’s seriously on some “Captain Save-em” – type shit, “campaigning” to the listener to change our troubled lives and mentalities; which are often direct reflections of the genre of music he holds so dear. With lines like “Don’t ever let the fact that you can’t be perfect stop you from doing your best,” he does saccharine with the zeal of your average Christian rap band.

Only Murs also talks about crazy hoodrat dealings and busting nuts as well. An everyman’s rapper, if you will.

What surprised me most is the album’s production. For some reason, I wasn’t expecting to nod my head as much as I did to the upbeat samples and loops designed to fit the lyrical positivity of the record. I don’t have the full credits yet, but I know for sure 9th does make an appearance or three.

Apparently, Murs wants to blow up and go mainstream, because opening for Dead Prez probably doesn’t keep steaks in the fridge as often as it should. His goals are extremely reflected in his choice of guests like Snoop Dogg (whom I haven’t been interested in hearing on new material since the turn of the century) and will.i.am - the patron saint of rap sellouts - who shows up on “Lookin’ Fly,” incidentally one of the album’s worst cuts.

I think he’s one of those cats who could luck up on some commercial success with just the right song hitting the waves at just the right time…ala Kanye. And in a zeitgeist when his brand of positivity could be very refreshing to the masses, I am definitely in support of him blowing.

On an unrelated note, I feel pretty much the same way most folks do about the new Termanology album: a lackluster effort from a relatively talented cat who essentially blew it despite the best lineup of producers I’ve seen on a single album in the past decade. But my favorite cut on there, minus the ancient “Watch How it Go Down,” is album closer “The Chosen.”

It’s a Havoc beat that sounds straight from the Hell on Earth era, over which Term completely blacks out on the second verse. It’s one of those cuts that makes you wanna strap on your tan Timbs and XXL down coat and cut a mothafuckah’s throat from ear to ear with the ox.

Which, of course, I’m not advising. But check out the song anyway.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Among the many reasons why I hate 50 Cent


Rat bastard. This delusional clown clearly has a new album coming out soon.

Also, I am on Twitter now. Get at me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The 10 most underrated beautiful women according to me

Ever since I was a young buck, “the baddest babe ever” has been one of my favorite random topics of conversation. Discussing with friends and family the most delectable women of Hollywood and the music industry often reveals some of the same answers from all conversation participants (Halle Berry? Boring. Stacey Dash? Blah. Gabrielle Union? Ehh.).

There are those women, however, that I think have fallen through the cracks now and throughout the years; the ones that everyone will agree are fine but don’t remember to bring up in conversation.

Here are ten that I try not to forget, in no particular order:

1. Kerry Washington – She’s newer to the scene, and she’s kept a pretty steady flow of work, but she’s yet to truly blow up on some superstar-type ish. Every time she pops onscreen, she has my undivided attention. It’s that pout she has going on with those sexy soup-coolers and these dagger-ish eyes. She was absolute divinity via the female form in Chris Rock’s I Think I Love My Wife. She also comes off like she would cut you off at the grapes in an argument and put you square in your place should you ever get out of line. Gotta love that.
2. Paula Patton – The finest new actress in Hollywood right now, bar none. The Halle Berry 2.0. I’m pretty sure if she smiled in my face, she could get me to sign over my car, my cat and the rest of my existence. Idlewild be damned; watch her in regular-woman mode – minimal makeup and all – opposite Denzel Washington in Déjà Vu to feel where I’m coming from. That d-bag son of Alan Thicke’s is one lucky man, I gotta say…

3. Salli Richardson – The ultimate badass of yore and a personal favorite for over 14 years. Part black, part Cherokee and part God DAMN, she managed to make Jada Pinkett look like Beetlejuice in 1994’s A Low Down Dirty Shame. She also killed it in the Western schlockfest Posse. She still pops up every now and again, having had bit parts in Antwone Fisher, Biker Boyz (where she pulls off the dykish look with awesome panache) and at least one episode of “House.” She’s 40 years old and still one of the most beautiful women on earth. I mean honestly…who’s fucking with Pocahontas???

4. Roselyn Sanchez – Late last year, I was walking through my office and saw a Spanish-language magazine sitting around with Roselyn on the cover in a bikini. I think I literally lost my composure right then and there. She isn’t a great actress and her body of celluloid or television work won’t be remembered by many (Boat Trip, anyone? No? Didn’t think so.). But her actual body itself is bound to cause an automobile accident or three. I mean, just look at that core! No one does fiery Latina like Roselyn does fiery Latina. Imagine getting screamed at by her in Spanish. During sex. “Mas rapido!” “Mas duro!!” Whatever you say, Miss Sanchez.

5. N’Bushe Wright – N’Bushe will fuck you up. She will beat…your…funky…black…ass. If Dead Presidents was any indication, she’s the perfect black female anachronism; she’d fit just marvelously in the 1970s Blaxploitation era; with dual afro puffs, bellbottoms and the midriff-baring blouses tied up at the stomach; all the while loading a shotgun that she’s just going to end up busting you upside the head with anyway. I haven’t seen in her in much of anything since the first Blade movie in 1999, but I’d love it if this beautiful, chocolate babe popped up again.

6. Tracie Spencer – I can’t name or recite any Tracie Spencer songs anymore. It’s been that many years. But considering how fiery beautiful she was back in the early 1990s, I have no doubt that she is lingering somewhere in MILF status right now. Y’all remember that episode of Family Matters when Eddie finagled his way into her hotel room? I was, like, 12, and you can only imagine what was running through my horny little domepiece at the thought of what I’d (attempt to) do if I were in his place.

7. Cree Summer – So, Whitley was cute, Denise was annoying as shit and Jaleesa looked like a damn fullback. But Winifred? Bad, son. BAD. She did neo-soul before neo-soul was hot, and somehow managed to get sexier when she switched it up as the conservative lawyer type on later seasons of of A Different World. Sure, her voice sounded like a bag of kittens drowning in the Chicago River (which is probably why her singing career never went anywhere), but she was always something to look at. Yeah, she got all flower child-y and made questionable jewelry and tattoo decisions when she got older, but hey…the foundation is still there, from what I can surmise.

8. Karyn Parsons – I think just about every fine black actress of the 1990s that wasn’t named Halle or Jada made some form of appearance on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. But I don’t think any of them could contend with my girl Hillary. Even when Tatyana Ali started to come into her own as a looker herself, she couldn’t mess around with big sister. Unlike most of the women on my list, Karyn has seldom ever shown any real skin in her career, yet has managed to stay in the wet dreams of dirty old men like myself. I never bought into her being a true ditz, so when she went on to movies like Major Payne, even finer than she was on Fresh Prince, she pretty much cemented fantasy wifey status.

9. Bern Nadette Stanis – All TGIF-era-and-beyond TV cuties, pay homage to the original badass sitcom dime. Fine before my miserable behind ever fell out of my mother, I didnt appreciate her until I got much older; despite a nice, healthy diet of Good Times reruns as a child. Though she was forced to act next to a pre-pubescent Janet Jackson, I imagine I would have chosen posters of Thelma over Janet for my bedroom wall if given the option. I saw her on BET’s Comic View maybe eight years ago or so, and she was still pretty slammin’! I wonder if J.J. ever smashed in real life…

10. Emmanuelle Chriqui – Very attractive women are guaranteed to pop up frequently on the HBO show Entourage. But being as how it’s a show about the film industry in Los Angeles, shot in Los Angeles, it should come as no surprise that many of them are about, say, 30 percent actual human being and 70 percent plastic, makeup and extensions. Not one of them has ever made me stop and do double- and triple-takes like Ms. Chriqui did. She’s crotch-rackingly gorgeous, but she also comes off as real and unpretentious. Her hair, face and complexion are insane; thank her Israeli background for that. If she can stay clear of Adam Sandler bombs and demonstrate some passable amount of talent to go along with her looks, she could potentially end up being a more useful version of Jessica Alba.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Termanology and Heltah Skeltah: Two new joints

Tuesday night was pretty big for hip-hop and the nets: First leaked Heltah Skeltah’s D.I.R.T. (Da Incredible Rap Team), the loooooong awaited follow up to their 1998 album Magnum Force. And there’s Termanology’s Politics as Usual, his anticipated freshman album coming on the heels of 812645862148764 mixtape appearances.

Oh, and there’s also some mixtape from Crooked I that I could probably care a bit less about if I tried.

I can tell you right now I’m already feeling Term’s album more than Heltah Skeltah, if for no other reason than that the production lineup is fierce: what other album in the 21st Century does or will ever feature the lineup of DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, Hi-Tek and Havoc? When dude came out the gate about a year and a half or so ago with “Watch How It Go Down,” it was the best Primo/rapper collaboration since Royce’s “Boom,” and generated a lot of buzz for him. Thing is, Termanology is not consistent, and his uneven flow on this record – vacillating between speedy-dope and dumbed-down generic – proves that he’s yet to find an identity on the mic.

Ruck and Rock, though, maintain their adept lyrical pugilism. The Boot Camp Click mainstays' always-enjoyable court-jester-with-face-stomping-Timbs aesthetic has yet to grow old. Thing is, the production leaves a bit to be desired; Illmind and the almost always-reliable Khrysis just aren’t doing it for me.

This is all after one listen of each album during my bike ride to work. I’m gonna blaze through each again this afternoon.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A PSA on stupid sex

Why yes...I'll take a loveless marriage with a side of redneck!

My friend Lisa and I were recently discussing “stupid sex” following my trip to the doctor’s office - and subsequent STD testing - earlier that day.

She said she didnt believe there were "degrees" of stupid sex: "If you have it without a condom, it’s stupid." was her assertion. But I thought about all the gray areas that exist in sexuality that make you go, “Hmm…it wasn’t an outright stupid decision, but if I could go back, I wouldn’t do it again.”

I think that above scenario fits in the realm of most sexually active people who’ve had multiple partners in their history. Having questionable sex often fits into being immature and naïve, but sometimes people are just plain stupid with the risks they take.

I devised a list of eight categories that I believe encompass silly, dumb-ass sex. I'm sure I probably missed an item or two, so feel free to shoot me a comment or three.

1. You aren’t using a condom and don’t know your partner’s middle name – Of course the safest sex is to use some method of disease-protecting contraception, but getting involved in a condom-free sexual relationship with someone with whom you’re monogamous should be fine. What’s ig’nant is having unprotected sex with some mofo you met three hours ago at the club over SoCo and lime shots. The “good feeling” you had about that person means the fuck-all when you find yourself leaking feta cheese from your genitals because you had sex with the town rag who “charmed” your silly ass into a foreseeable future with antibiotics.

2. You find a kid growing inside you when you aren’t ready – If you find that you or your partner are pregnant, and your first thought is “holy balls…whatmIgonnadonow??”, you fucked up. This applies to single people, folks in relationships and even married people who weren’t trying to have kids. You were being careless somewhere down the line, so now your whole perspective on life has changed: your plans to travel, grow personally and become financially stable are now accelerated or halted altogether…all because you went in on some dumb shit. Here’s the good thing: you always have the option to hit the “abort” button. If you get pregnant when actually using condoms or birth control, you didn’t have stupid sex…you’re among the two percent of people for whom shit happens. Which leads me to another point:

3. You are sloppy with birth control – Birth control is a bitch. From my understanding, it’s expensive and difficult to take on time all the time. Women make mistakes and forget it. Life happens. But I learned a long time ago that people are still willing to go raw daddy when there’s a missed a pill or two. That’s dumb shit. Either use a condom or wait until your shit is back in line before boning. I don’t wanna take the time to look up to see how many doe-eyed little bastards came into this world because mommy and daddy were slipping on birth control, but I doubt not that the numbers are there.

4. You’re into extreme sadomasochism/dangerous sex – To me, this is like shooting heroin: it may feel good and it should be your prerogative to do what you want to your body, but that doesn’t necessarily make it a good idea. If you literally can’t sit down because you have bloody whip welts on your asscheeks, or you like to be choked to near-asphyxiation during sex, you’re playing a dangerous game the likes of which I can’t even get with. Imagine what it’ll read in your obituary when it goes wrong: “Here lies so-and-so, dead from bacterial meningitis after recreating Two Girls and a Cup.” Now imagine how proud your parents would be.

5. One or both of you is cheating – This is the only entry of this list governed by morality, but I’m so fervently opposed to infidelity that a woman cheating on me could potentially be more detrimental to her immediate health than any silly STD. If you need to rail someone else that bad, break up. Or beat off and revisit the situation.

6. She has a ‘1’ in front of her age and you don’t – Not just stupid, but illegal in most cases. Find a grown woman who actually knows her way around a penis to have sex with. If you have any doubts, do like a bouncer and check IDs, because if you get that wrong, your next stop will be state prison where you’ll have to contend with:

7. Anal sex, no lube – See #4. If you don’t get why this is a problem, maybe you shouldn’t be having sex at all.

8. You know something your partner doesn’t - I would imagine strange warts and leaky discharges qualify as things that don’t look well on a resume of someone you’re looking to hop in bed with. That’s why CraigsList forums exist with people who have STDs that can get together. What’s not copacetic is having sex while carrying a disease that your partner doesn’t know about. I don’t care if you’re wearing a hazmat suit on your dick; they deserve the right to make the choice as to whether to sleep with you anyway. Sleeping and infecting someone with a disease you know you have is not only illegal, but it might get you shot before the sickness does you in.

I thought back on any instances of “stupid sex” that I may have had, and I realized that a) It was earlier on in my sex life before I had today’s sense; and b) Even then, I had the good sense to not do anything egregiously reckless with Little Dustin.

That’s why my test results came back clean. I also have to thank my several doctor and nurse friends who’ve shared stories of patients wasting away in the hospital because they chose the wrong hole. Oddly enough though, I think my desire to actually enjoy the financial, personal and sexual freedom of my 20s without having to worry about another mouth to feed besides my cat’s has driven me more than anything not to make ridiculous bedroom decisions.

Maybe the fundamentally religious Bible bangers have something to the simplicity of saving oneself for marriage. But then, those are same folks that also believe the billions of the world’s animal species were herded on one boat two at time, so…

I do think sexuality should be explored and enjoyed, and I don’t think it takes too much to do so safely and intelligently. I mean, shit is real in the field…it really does only take that one damn time to flip your whole world upside down and sideways.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Ryan, Jason and Curtis: Why Detroit runs hip-hop

Oooh baybee! Betta DUCK, baybee!!!

In the 21st Century, we’ve become a culture of rap fans driven by production.

Sure, the beat has always been a critical aspect of hip-hop, but I think we’re muting emcees’ words and allowing production to guide our listening experiences more than ever. Next time you run into a 16-year-old girl playing Jay-Z in her iPod, ask her if she can recite the verse of the song she’s listening to.

As hip-hop evolves (devolves?), I don’t think we’ve had much of a choice. Our apathy for meaningful and/or well-delivered lyrics is the only way that we can live in a zeitgeist where popular music magazines support Lil’ Wayne’s self-aggrandizing-yet-painfully-off-base “Best Rapper Alive” title.

But every now and again, with the seeming frequency of Halley’s Comet, you get those rappers who are not just lyrical, but whose flow can stand alone. Cats who actually guide the beat instead of the other way around. Cats who can make a Tony Dofat track sound like a Pete Rock wet dream. Cats from whom you’d listen to 16 bars over no beat whatsoever.

If you’d have asked me a decade ago, I would have laughed if you told me that the game’s very best contemporary rappers would be dwelling right there in my struggling rust belt of a hometown in southeast Michigan. But right now, no other city has Detroit beat for good rap music, thanks to Elzhi, Royce Da 5’9” and Black Milk.

Ten years ago, when Eminem dropped his first major label album, The Slim Shady LP, my immediate favorite track was, “Bad Meets Evil,” a duet with Em and Royce, whom I’d never heard before. I was impressed by the white boy’s prowess back then, but his guest actually owned him on that cut, bar for bar.

I’ve followed Royce’s career ever since, and was always perplexed by the second-fiddle role to mentor Eminem that he allowed, despite his undeniable mastery of rhyme style and cadence. Royce was more listenable because he had Eminem’s raw skill on the mic and none of the pop culture histrionics that made the latter so popular.

But three mediocre Royce albums produced only one truly powerful, memorable cut: the DJ Premier-produced “Boom,” which is probably somewhere in my top 20 joints of all time. Following the dissolution of the relationship with his great white mentor and a brief jail stint, he came back with a vengeance last year: older, angrier and brimming to remind folks that he was, indeed, still on the motherfucking scene. The result was The Bar Exam; probably the best mixtape I’ve ever heard.

The first time I heard Elzhi was on J. Dilla’s 2001 Welcome 2 Detroit album. I heard his verses here and there and respected his transition into a Dilla-free Slum Village, but I didn’t really acknowledge him as a force to be reckoned with until the group’s self-titled 2005 album, on which he blacked out on damn near every verse. When Royce was off the scene in the middle of this decade, Elzhi stepped in for the D and basically annihilated every track he was on. All other rappers on a track with him fell in the shadow of his verses. I’ve literally been waiting years for a full-length Elzhi LP, so you can imagine how I felt this past July.

The Slum album was also the first that brought Black Milk on my radar. As one-half of production crew BR Gunna (with Young RJ), he made no secret about trying to emulate J. Dilla’s signature sound. Since Dilla left us at the beginning of ’06, Black has rightfully ascended to the throne – Detroit hip-hop’s panacea for the loss of its patriarch. Dude swung for the fences with the extremely capable Sound of the City, Vol. 1, and hit a home run with his freshman album Popular Demand, my personal favorite for album production in 2007.

MK’s the best producer on the scene right now, bar none. He can make just about any emcee more listenable than they were, and he’s reached that elusive DJ Premier status where I listen to every cut he produces, regardless of the waterhead rapping over it. What excites me more is the faith that he hasn’t even peaked yet, and that we have years and years of those drums that just don’t stop ahead of us.

Oh yeah…he’s a rapper too, but he should definitely expend more energy playing up his production capabilities, much like someone else we know.

I find myself troubled when trying to determine who, between Royce and Elzhi, I think is more skilled. What they have in common is purity on the microphone: they were both born to emcee. With Class-A lyrical exercise, they both have a tendency to completely black out on a verse; making you rewind the track on some “damn, did he just say that?!?!?”

The main difference between the two lies in their delivery: Elzhi sounds like he’s more meticulous and scrutinizing about the bars he puts on paper, while Royce demonstrates an unrestrained nihilism makes him literally scary. Elzhi strikes you as the dude who, despite his battle-happy words, would rather keep peace, while Royce has demonstrated time and again simply does not give a fuck…which could result in something epic very soon.

In a battle, I’d pick Royce all day over Elzhi and just about anyone else. He’s the type to make an opponent laugh through an examination of all the flaws being exposed about him. But Elzhi’s proven he’s actually adept at storytelling; I’ve never heard Royce paint a picture like Zhi does in Talkin’ in My Sleep.” Elzhi also sounds far more at home in the studio: The Preface, and the slightly-superior Europass LP, both take mango-sized dumps on any project Royce ever put out not called The Bar Exam.

None of these cats, Black MK included, embody cerebral hip-hop. All three are at home in their love for gun-clapping bravado and finding as many clever ways (successfully) to describe the use of a 9 mm. But if you look at the Notorious B.I.G.’s and the Big L’s and all these emcees we consider posthumous legends, most of their songs utilized clever, witty methods and wordplay to rap about much of nothing. This is simply expected in the genre, and it’s why most get a “spit that bullshit” pass.

The current representatives of the Detroit sound are throwbacks to the late 90’s era of hip-hop, when the boom-bap was still alive but on its way south. Popular hip-hop wouldn’t lick your lollipop you or lock your love down…it’d blow your fucking head off and piss on your open neck cavity. None of these cats will ever gain mainstream success – save maybe Milk, if the right cats get their hands on his beats – but that’s not the purpose they serve in the game. They are to keep content the nerds and quasi-purists like me hanging on for dear life to the days of old.

I’ll reiterate what the nets have pretty much unanimously agreed with: These three need to team up to do a full album together, as the results would be legendary. And if you don’t believe the hype, listen to them at work here.

Viva la Detroit.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Banned RedEye column: Memoirs of the lovelorn and unshorn

Meeheehee...I dont care, this shit is funny.

Tampons. SCUD Missiles. Prince's Super Bowl guitar. The Sears Tower.

The phallic symbol is alive and well, manifested in many things we come in contact with on a regular basis. As a result, it doesn't take long for a boy growing up in this country to understand that the ideal penis is nice, long and…skinless.

Just about every circumcised man I've spoken with would have their shaft no other way, and most women admit a sexual preference for a mushroom-esque Johnson.

I'm packing all the skin down below that I fell out of my mama with. And confident as I am in my sexual prowess, I do deal with it as a lingering hang-up.

Between the YMCA showers as a kid and trips to my old man's porn cabinet, I figured early on that I was different than most guys in that department, and I didn't understand it until age 12 when my stepmother explained circumcision.

I didn't dwell much on it until my sophomore year in college, when a young lady who might have otherwise jumped my bones saw Little Dustin accidentally pop out of his hole. She told me some weeks later, in a casual conversation, that she wouldn't "go for mine" because I'm uncut.

That was just the beginning. Between that, and an inordinate number of references in the media to uncircumcised penises resembling a Shar-Pei, I developed a mild insecurity. When I meet someone new whom I think I'll eventually knock boots with, I like to cavalierly mention it at some point in conversation so as to prevent the "shock and awe" factor when the drawers eventually drop. "Wow, that salad really looks nice!" "Yeah, and the lettuce is freshly cut, unlike my penis!"

I used to always complain to my dad for not getting me cut after birth, and he'd always tell me to get it done now if I feel that strongly about it. But it's a done deal because an adult circumcision is out of the question; the idea of collapsing in wincing pain for weeks after surgery every time Salma Hayek pops up half-naked on television doesn't bode well with me.

And since the extra skin makes us a bit more susceptible to disease and germs, we need to work harder to keep things cleaner. Guys, keep that in mind next time you sleep with a lady who takes a bucket of Ammonia in the shower to clean herself.

But there are certainly benefits to not getting the big slice as an adult. The diminished sensitivity makes many of us marathon men in the bedroom; and of course, you remove all chances of pesky bleeding and infection from the surgery.

As of late, I've learned that at least one group of people can put uncut penises to practical use. Uncircumcised gay male couples use a sexual technique called "docking."
Google search it…just not in your work place.

Alas, I intend to stay complete for life. Love me, love my penis. Whole cultures have and still do carry on without the surgery, and while I don't have a copy of Gray's Anatomy on my bookshelf, I've never heard of non-circumcision as grounds for a medical disaster. Now if I can just get the idea of that "perfect" penis out of ladies' heads, I'll fare better.

Besides…it's not the size or shape of the sword, but how you wield it, right?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

YOU MY BOY, BLU!!!!!!!

The double-edged sword that is the internet: A virtually bottomless supply of rappers and their music at your pirate-happy fingertips that allows every fuckass with a working vocal cords, an old Ice Cube album for inspiration and a delusion of talent to get on a microphone and cut a demo in their mama’s basement.

With that, I often really have no idea who to listen to and who to pass up. Sometimes I go by what cats on the boards are saying (which are, very often, opinions laced with horseshit), and sometimes I just try new music just to see what’s what. Blu (nee Johnson Barnes) is an example of one of those emcees I stumbled upon on the nets by happenstance one day who I could easily still be oblivious to. The San Pedro, California emcee is a perfect marriage of splendid, rapid-fire rhyme control; a great voice and relatable, self-deprecating lyrics. I’ve been following his career for about a year and some change now now.

Check out his new joint, Johnson & Jonson, a duet album with producer Mainframe. It’s a proper version of the Powders & Oils joint that dropped earlier this year; containing a few new, removed, remixed and remastered cuts. Mainframe’s dusty, Oldies-sampled production seems Madlib-inspired while maintaining its own identity. It’s good stuff, though it doesn’t serve Blu quite as well as producer Exile did on their epic, criminally underrated 2007 Below The Heavens album.

“Long Time Gone” and “Half a Knot” are worth downloading this alone, but the album’s true highlight is the Beatles-sampled “Hold On John,” which they left as an album-ending bonus cut for some strange reason.

Let me know what y’all think.

01. Johnson & Jonson - J & J 04:21
02. Johnson & Jonson - Up All Night 04:38
03. Johnson & Jonson - Half A’ Knot 02:25
04. Johnson & Jonson - Mama Told Me 02:30
05. Johnson & Jonson - The Gusto Room 03:22
06. Johnson & Jonson - Wow! 03:06
07. Johnson & Jonson - The Only Way 02:25
08. Johnson & Jonson - In The Building 01:51
09. Johnson & Jonson - Bout It, Bout It 01:55
10. Johnson & Jonson - Spell Check 03:39
11. Johnson & Jonson - Long Time Gone 02:46
12. Johnson & Jonson - Still Up All Night 01:24
13. Johnson & Jonson - A Perfect Picture 03:20
14. Johnson & Jonson - Anything Is Possible 02:20
15. Johnson & Jonson - The Oath 02:07
16. Johnson & Jonson - Hidden Bonus Track 03:13

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Happy Bar Exam 2uesday!!

Your favorite rapper's favorite rapper

I got a lot of work to do today, but I wanted to share with you all the much-anticipated Bar Exam 2 mixtape that dropped last night.

Bang this shit out. More on it later.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Heeeyyy Joe...

Somebody's watching meee....

Joe Budden is one of contemporary hip-hop’s most glaring cautionary tales. He’s proof that major label politricks and shady creative dealings can blackball an otherwise very promising hip-hop career before it ever has the chance to find its bearings. His eponymous 2003 debut album caught many heads’ attention; no small thanks to his Just Blaze-produced banger “Pump It Up” (which sampled to great effect one of my favorite Tribe Called Quest songs: the “Scenario” remix).

His second album never dropped, he severed ties with Def Jam, and now he’s basically Angry Rapper Who Never Blew Up #29163459162875. Since then, he’s been embroiled in useless rapper beefs that no one gives a bloody hemorrhoid about; all the while working the mixtape circuit and making the internet fiends lick their nerdy chops for the next iteration of “Mood Muzik.”

What separates Budden from (most) struggling east coast rappers is that he’s actually pretty listenable. He’s a mastery of his flow and voice, along with a pretty adept ear for beats. If you compare his mixtapes to his album, it’s evident that he’s just improving over time. I have a feeling that not enough people are up on this summer’s “Who,” a 15-plus-minute indictment of the entire rap industry over a sampling of Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues” that never tires over the course of the track. He released it in three parts over the course of a few weeks, but the whole version dropped sometime in July. I think anyone who knows anything about hip-hop before the turn of the millennium would appreciate this song in its entirety.

First off, your favorite rapper probably couldn’t put together 15 minutes worth of hook-free bars and make it sound credible, but Budden does so seamlessly. And the amount of asses he crawls in like an Alabama tick – everyone from Lil’ Wayne to Lupe Fiasco to VIBE Magazine – demonstrates that he’s not only a rapper, but also a true fan who, like many of us, has tired of the bastardization of the genre. He’s like me in that he’s frustrated that he can no longer walk to the corner record store once a week, spend a large chunk of his allowance on a new album he’s never heard anything from, and know that it’ll at least be decent. In this zeitgeist, any rapper who can demonstrate a true love and knowledge for the craft has my ear for at least a moment.

I could dissect so many lines from “Who,” but it’s best you listen for yourself.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Couple jammies for a Thursday evening

Right quick: This dizzy dame is bidding off her virginity to the highest bidder, via the Moonlight Bunny Ranch of HBO’s Cathouse fame. I highly doubt she's the first female to have ever pulled this being that it's 2008, but maybe she's the best-looking one. Word on the street is she's up to about $300,000 so far.

Either way, I'm sure her parents are elated. If you listen at about the 0:46 mark in the video, you should be amused by her reasoning for doing it. Classic.

Also, the studio CDQ version of Kanye’s “Love Lockdown” has leaked. It’s even more atrocious than the live version, if that’s possible.

Alright, off to get in some Metal Gear.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kanye goes wild, turkey-wing homo

What in the blue fuck???

Alright, you know what…?



I will always give Kanye West his props for successfully carving out a niche for himself as an emo-rapper in the gun clap-happy world of hip-hop. A healthy, if not obnoxious, coalescence of hubris, raw musical talent and spirited drive has helped him traverse the elusive mainstream/underground balance.

Though I probably wouldn’t go out and have a beer with the guy, I am one Kanye fan and apologist.

But he keeps pushing the envelope, seeing how far he can descend into his genre- (gender?) bending persona. The latest result is "Love Lockdown," the new single from his upcoming fourth album 808’s & Heartbreak, due out in December. I listened to the song performed at the 2008 MTV Video Music Awards, and all I could muster was a huge, audible groan.

You’ll hear that the song is entirely devoid of any real rapping – something ‘Ye has arguably not even mastered yet – and replaced by singing that is best described as a syphilitic rhesus monkey tossed in a blender. I’m not entirely sure where and when this trend of rappers singing came about, but it seems to be metastasizing into a full-blown virus reminiscent of the shiny-suit era: even Jay-Z is in on it.

Cats on the net are saying that 808’s & Heartbreak will be a heavily sung album; with Kanye utilizing that goddamn vocoder that everyone and their baby’s mama have co-opted since that talentless nadbag T-Pain revived it to fuel his useless career. Maybe the inspiration for the new album is derived from a combination of his mother’s widely publicized death and the breakup of his engagement, both which happened earlier this year.

Trust me…I know what it’s like to go bitch when times are hard, but the public to listen to this music as well. He’s got three solid projects in the can, and something tells me he might finally brick this one. But agonizingly enough, he’s got my attention.

Let’s see how the rest of the album pans out.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Porn Addiction and Me...

Earlier this year, I got into an email-based debate with a dude regarding a pro-pornography column I’d written.

His goal was to point out the detriment of pornography from a social standpoint. One of his arguments was that I was “addicted” to it, and - like all addictions – I had a personal obligation to try to nip it in the bud.

I think this cat was one of many with a tendency to misdiagnose addiction.

This CNN article examines the idea of sexual addiction, which obviously includes pornography. One graf reads: “Experts acknowledge that people who have affairs or use pornography are not necessarily sex addicts. Such pastimes form an addiction when they generate negative consequences for a person's relationships, take over free time and become impossible to quit.”

Now, I’ve been looking at porn for a good, long time; harkening back to my single-digit-age days when my erstwhile stepbrother and I would break into my dad’s chest full of Playboys, Penthouses, Hustlers and Players magazines. In high school, finding ever-so-inventive ways to rent movies and record them (over my parents’ VHS tapes) was my hidden little hobby. Now, with Netflix-esque DVD rental programs and computer burners, it’s easier than ever to stock a collection.

But never, in any point during my pre-sex teenage years or my adult years, did smut ever throw a wet blanket over my daily goings-on. Never, ever was porn any kind of substitute for substantive human contact, and – sweet fucking Jesus – NEVER have I thought to substitute porn for sex. Perish the thought into the cold, wet sand.

Dude also “diagnosed” my addiction by pointing out the fact that I have gotten increasingly bored with porn - a characteristic of any addict who is always looking for the next big "high." Though I enjoy wide assortments, and though the same fake-titted, bleached-blonde-who-can-fit-a-Cabernet-bottle-in-her-asspipe aesthetic has worn a bit thin, I don’t have a true compulsion toward it; which is to say that it doesn’t govern my existence, I don’t NEED it…I enjoy porn as I enjoy mainstream movies, good music and feeding that $30-a-week comic book habit I have.

As for internet porn - which is widely castigated as the bastion of porn addicts everywhere - not only am I not addicted to it, but I look at the shit as work: I have access to enough pay sites to fill up terabytes of hard drive space and every bit of free time that I could possibly muster, but I care little more about it than the precious few bucks I earn from reviewing them.

I’m a non-smoker, I don’t do drugs and I drink in moderation. I have no addictions or compulsions. I often joke and say that porn is my only vice, but of course I don’t truly believe it to be a vice.
Now comics, on the other hand...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Despues Hump Day...

All good things come to an end.

Even if those good things are actually mediocre.

It’s been about two-and-a-half weeks since I was unceremoniously deprived of my weekly RedEye column. I wrote that column for 15 months; having churned out roughly 60 to 65 pieces on my experiences and perspectives that reached the more than 330,000 daily readers of the RedEye. So yes indeed, I was sad as the fuck-all about the whole thing.

Analyzing that sadness and subsequent irritation with the whole thing, I realized it came as a result of three things:

1. Ego – I’m very humble when it comes to most everything in my world except my writing. Their reasoning for clipping me, in so many words, was that I’d said all I really needed to say and that they were looking for “fresh” voices. This from a paper with a history of keeping columnists on for many moons as they find new and inventive ways to write about the same shit. Not too toot my own trombone, but I was the most diverse columnist they had, bar none. I traversed the whole gamut of dating stuff; from religion’s role in sex to online dating to one-night stands to marriage in the black community, and never once did I think I was being stale…but then I’m naturally biased.

2. My existing issues with the RedEye - Remember that column I wrote about anal sex? What about the one on circumcision? How about the one on sexual assault? I’m damn sure you haven’t, because the powers that be voted those fuckers off the island before they ever got a chance to run. The conservative Tribune Company, in my opinion, has found itself time and again entrenched in the paradox of wanting to reach out to new readers while contemporaneously being “edgy” and “bold.” But their idea of bold is definitely not in sync with mine, as they frequently elided words, phrases, and in some instances whole columns, in the name of maintaining some puritanical standards.

I mean, how the fuck can one be expected to write a substantive sex column and not be allowed to use the word “clitoris?” Insane.

3. Cash rules – Goodbye, $3,900 a year. It wasn’t show-stopping paper, but damned if it didn’t cover my car note every month and THEN some.

As do many who mourn, I’m going through my stages. Sadness graduated to anger, anger graduated to acceptance, and now acceptance has graduated to proactiveness.

Steps three and four of the grieving process are going pretty well for me on a day-to-day basis…that is, until some stranger working behind a gas station counter gives me a candy bar gratis because he likes the column; or my dental hygienist says she loves reading it as she polishes my pearly whites, or complete strangers on MySpace message me asking what happened to it.

That doesn’t help the process all. Part of my identity as a Chicagoan is gone, and the void is rather gaping.

It’s the last step of the grieving process, however, that bore this blog; it’s something I’ve been talking about getting going for the longest, and was admittedly hesitant about going through while as a columnist in the public eye. The only similarities Eclectic Relaxation will have with Hump Day is that I’ll be writing about vagina, its ever-turbulent-yet-intriguing relationship with penis, and the wide umbrella that encapsulates that all. I’ll vacillate between that and writing about the goings-on in hip-hop music and culture. Because, oddly enough, I still give a shit.

I never felt more alive than I did when I wrote The Manifesto columns during my University of Michigan days, and never did I feel the sting of not being able to write with my patented élan than when I wrote my RedEye column. So, for those in the know, consider this blog a return to those days…with a little less wordy exposition and the tons more sense that has come with age.

Now, let’s see if I can keep this jumpoff updated on a regular basis, eh?