Monday, December 29, 2008

Rappers are fucking idiots

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'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

"YES they deserved to die, and I hope they burn in hell!!!"

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

Random Ish 37: The Bailout Edition

You gotsta chiilll.....

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

Sexuality in the gym

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

The Perfect MK

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 -

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
11. “Superman”
12. “Motown 25” – Elzhi (feat. Royce Da 5’9”)
13. “Stern” – Illy Hutch & Black Milk
14. “Duck”
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 –

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)
5. “Try”
6. “Pressure”
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”
15. “Bounce”
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 -

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)
8. “Insane”
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 -

1. “Losing Out” (feat Royce Da 5’9”)
2. “Welcome to the District” – Fat Ray & Black Milk
3. “Applause”
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)
9. “Three+Sum”
10. “The Leak” - Elzhi (feat. Ayah)
11. “Sound the Alarm” (Remix) (feat. Royce Da 5’9” and Guilty Simpson)
12. “The Transitional Joint” – Elzhi
13. “Overdose”
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

Sure enough...

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.