Tuesday, December 30, 2008

"Notorious" Movie Trailers

I'm expecting a really great movie. I don't know why, though.

I've seen the other Hiphop movies, and for the most part they've all been lackluster, to put it mildly. Krush Groove and Beat Street are classics regardless of the acting talent, and both installments of Breakin' are still highly revered amongst the culture's purists.

Then we have a whole separate genre of film -- movies starring rappers. And the stars of these movies, with the exception of 2Pac and Ice-T, are more times than not relegated to stereotypical and demaning portrayals of Black life. Belly had its high points, and DMX made some decent action flicks, but the rest of the lot is sheer buffoonery.

But I'm holding out hope for "Notorious," despite these disastrously amateur-looking trailers that have been released to the public. You be the judge.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

N*E*R*D & NaS at Smirnoff Global Experience: New York

Last night in NYC NaS & N*E*R*D performed at the Smirnoff Global Experience, which is described on its Web site as being "a global series of events celebrating the brands eclectic taste in music."

I guess I showed up too late since the line was around the block, but video footage of the event has emerged online.

Aside from N*E*R*D reportedly satisfying the crowd with a number of their hits, NaS also rocked the house. But not before responding to the alleged claims of his wife starring in a sex tape (without him) that is currently selling for $150,000.

The event's press conference, as shown in the photo to the left, can be seen in video form here.

Below is footage of all of the above.

Pharrell's "I'm a PC" Commercial

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Video: Reks -- Money on the Ave. Featuring Skyzoo

Reks is decent but I predicted a while ago that Skyzoo was the truth and would enjoy much success in the music industry.

Sky has been making more and more guest appearances across the board in preparation for the release of his as yet untitled upcoming album.

The bidding wars among the majors will commence once Sky drops that album.

By the way, like I said, Reks's is decent but his album, "Grey Hairs," released last month, is very good. So good, in fact, that the Boston emcee is reportedly about to release "More Grey Hairs" soon.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Just when I was beginning accept the fact that no real, quality Hiphop music would surface in the month of August, here comes an new and unexpected Mos Def song to save us all from a sub par past 30 days.

His new song, called "The Glow," is a chill yet slightly uptempo boom bap banger, complemented with shrill strings and plus piano, and it rocks!

Why can't we have more Hiphop music that sounds like this?

It's just one long verse, but the beat is so inspiring and and Mos sounds so good, so natural on the track.

Scared of what?
Me and Mines ain't scared of much.
We get it down, push high
Keep the standards up.
Hand-to-hand on the mic,
Call it pass the dutch.
Ghetto people
Put your eras, hands and cameras up.
Flash Gordon:
Code name for my dogs that's passed forward.
I make you put the disc on play and repeat
I got the crowd sweating like a pig waving the heat.
And I stay on beat,
And I stay on grind.
From the black spades here
To the project hallways,
Black Star team Kweli Green and Dante.
Code name: All Day
Operation: All Good.
Balance throughout all times
Current status: All Grind.
Clearer than a chalk line
Traced around a cold body.
First text with no copy,
I don't rhyme like nobody.
Rockin' for the dope bodies
Waking up in nowhere.
Trying to get some place
Forward motion unsafe.
This is for the warrior,
This is for the renegade,
This is for the battle cry,
Early morning serenade.
This is for the ghetto block
Where darkness don't never fade.
Where police on the grind
To make the masses separate.
Depression and circumstance
Will make a family separate.
Black beauty in the dance,
Come together, separate.
Hopefully the release of this song is an indication that he has a new album on the way after the debacle with his last album, which was actually very good.

Here is Mos Def at his best, rhyming in the hallway with Kanye. Kanye's rhymes are nice but he keeps on stuttering while Mos's rhymes are just as smooth and fluid as can be.

And here is Mos rhyming in Vegas earlier this month.

Asher Roth -- Eminem's Replacement?

I tried to ignore this guy but I see day after day he gets more and more co-signs from credible figures in the Hiphop world.

But when I try to give the suburban Pennsylvania rapper an honest listen, all I can hear is an imitation Eminem.

And, as has been the case with all white rappers, when one dies down as Eminem has, the powers that be always find themselves a new one to promote as the next big sensation in rap.

Now, I'm not trying to say this guy Asher Roth is talentless, because his lyrics and rhymes are definitely clever and witty and punny and all that. BUT, I can name about 50 rappers from the hood who are all black with better rapping skills than Asher Roth. Why are those guys not getting any pres or being signed like Asher is or being embraced by big name rappers like Mos Def and Beanie Sigel and DJ Drama etc?

Yes, that was a rhetorical question.

This is far from a racist rant because, as cliche as it may sound, some of my favorite rappers are of the non-black variety. But this dude has to go!

It's just amazing to me how an original art form and culture founded and developed by black and brown folks can be infested with with racism and racist ideologies.

This guy sounds exactly like Eminem, from the nasally vocal inflections to the themes of his songs, and he's even gone on the record as saying he thinks Eminem is the best rapper of all time. But don't we already have an Eminem? Do we really need another one?

In some ways I guess this is similar to all the Jay-Z stans who do nothing but imitate Jay's flow, but still to me that seems different.

For one, Jay is and has been reigning on top of the rap world since he dropped Hard Knock Life in 1998. Eminem may have had the crown for a brief moment, but in the long run it's belonged to Jay for the past ten summers. So I understand all the fake Jays trying to sound like him.

But Eminem hasn't been hitting for at least the past five years. So why is it that this guy Asher Roth is trying to sound just like him? Can't he create his own lane? Why should we, the listeners, give this dude a listen when the real thing is already in existence, and has existed since Eminem dropped "My Name Is"?

Here's some video footage of both Asher Roth showcasing his rapping ability along side established rappers who appear to be co-signing the rapper's efforts.

Asher Roth and Beanie from Little Tank on Vimeo.

And let's not forget Asher's remake of Jay-Z's "Roc Boys," "Roth Boys":

Can anybody say gimmick?

This dude is about to get rich in a hurry unless Em comes out of his retirement and embarrasses this impostor for Hiphop's sake.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Daddy Yankee Endorses John McCain?!

In one of the most head-scratching moves during this wild election campaign season, reggaton pioneer Daddy Yankee on Monday formally endorsed Senator John McCain for President of the United States.

Interestingly enough The Washington Post is implying that Daddy Yankee only endorsed McCain out of spite for the Obama camp, who apparently turned down Yankee's initial attempt at endorsing their candidate because of the singer's questionable lyrics that can some times promote a promiscuous lifestyle and drug use.

Which is all the more reason why Democrats should be attacking McCain about accepting Daddy Yankee's endorsement -- the same way we all know that the Republicans would be killing Barack Obama had he accepted the endorsement.

Going by the current political standards set in place, John McCain's values and integrity should be questioned for his willing association with a recording artist who has made a lucrative living out of exploiting violence, sex and drugs in his music.

Obama would have faced the same type of scrutiny had he not rejected an attempt at an endorsement from Ludacris.

Never mind the fact that Daddy Yankee, a native Puerto Rican, can't cast a ballot in the election because he is from a U.S. territory and not a state.

Video footage of the awkward endorsement follows below.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

DMX Denied Bail, Kept in Miami Jail for Another Month

DMX got denied bail by Miami Judge Lawrence Schwartz, who was not very impressed with DMX's reaction. Ouch.

This man was on top of the world 11 short years ago and is still the only person to have ever released two albums to debut at #1 during the same year. Just say no.

Dr. Dre's Son and Namesake Found Dead

News outlets are reporting that the son of Dr. Dre, arguably the greatest rap producer of all time, was found dead in his home this past Saturday.

Andre Young, Jr. was 20 years old.

The spitting image of his father, Andre Jr. had reportedly arrived home at 5:30 a.m. from a night out partying and was discovered by his mother later that day. She found him unresponsive and called 911, who pronounced him dead on the scene.

The cause of death is pending an autopsy but this situation sounds eerily similar to that of Houston's DJ Screw and Port Arthur, Texas rapper Pimp C, who were both found to have overdosed from ingesting a mixture of cough syrup, cognac and Jolly Ranchers candy, otherwise known as sizzyrup.

The potent concoction was celebrated in Three 6 Mafia's hit song called "Sippin' on Some Syrup," released in 2000. Ironically the song featured Pimp C.

Prior to that the lethal elixir was not well known outside of the Texas and southern regions but has since been embraced as a means for relaxation despite the obvious side effects that can cause an overdose and lead to death. Popular rapper Lil' Wayne is rarely seen without his Styrofoam cup of syrup, for example.

If the autopsy does indicate an overdose of any substance, it will be interesting to see whether Dre actually releases his upcoming album, "Detox," considering all the innuendo that album's title will arouse.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Yung Berg Gets Stomped Out and Robbed in Detroit

The latest rapper to adopt the "Yung" moniker and achieve success in rap was this past weekend beaten up in a night club and robbed of his gaudy chain that was styled after the Transformers logo.

Chicago rapper Yung berg was in Detroit gearing up for his headlining appearance at a local radio station's concert which was scheduled for the following day.

But as part of his contract he was to make an appearance at a local nightclub, which just happened to be co-owned by none other than Detroit rapper Trick Trick, who is notorious for participating in felonious activities.

The word is that as soon as Berg stepped in the spot a bunch of dudes pounced on him, leaving Berg with bruises galore. But when the dust settled and Berg found himself with a lighter neck and wrists (aka no jewels...), it is debatable which was bruised more -- his face or his ego.

Regardless, Berg had to take a major loss and cancel his performance for the following day because he didn't want to be seen in public with a bruised face. Kind of like Q-Tip while filming the Hot Sex video, except Tip just put on a mask and kept it moving.

Apparently Berg had made some disparaging remarks about Detroit and dudes in the D don't react favorably when you talk slick about their home town.

When I first heard about this I was hoping that some dark skinned girls ran up on him because of some other disparaging remarks Berg made in the past...

As you can see above, someone is already taking credit for the robbery by posing with that Transformers chain on.

And now Berg finds himself in a dicey predicament -- does he go to the police and report the crime (thus making him a snitch, an unforgivable crime in rap), or does he just take it as a loss?

My bet is on the latter, but I'm hoping he does the former so that he meets his end in the music industry sooner rather than later.

Faith: "I Cheated on Big But Not With 2Pac"

In her ever growing overall irrelevancy, Faith Evans -- widow of the Notorious B.I.G. and heavily rumored sex slave of 2Pac -- cashed in on exploiting the legacy of two of Hiphop's most revered figures when she agreed to pen her memoirs, a prospect that probably won't inspire the type of 'line around the block' hysteria she and her publisher no doubt envision.

I'm guessing it was either her coke habit or her lack of income (most likely a combination of both factors) that ultimately convinced her to "write" this book.

But my Spidey senses tell me that the release of this book so close to the release of "Notorious," a movie based on the life of B.I.G. due out in about six months, is not a coincidence.

Pages of her book, "Keep the Faith," have leaked online, and in them Faith portrays both B.I.G. and Pac as insecure, abusive hot heads. In one excerpt we find our heroine in 2Pac's hotel room attempting to collect her payment for being featured on one of his songs:

"Look, 'Pac. I just need to get my check and then I have to go..."

"The situation with the money is like this," he said. "If I give it to you, then you my b*tch."


"You told me it wouldn't be a problem," I said. "The only reason why I came up here is because you said--"

"So you not trying to suck my d*ck?"

"What!" I screamed. "What are you talking about?"

Tupac raised his voice. "You know you want to suck my d*ck, b*tch! Don't f*cking lie." I burst into tears and grabbed my purse. "I have to get out of here."
Then, she turns her attention to B.I.G., who has just heard the rumor that 2Pac had sex with his wife:

Within hours, he called my hotel room. "What the f*ck is going on?" he screamed.

"Listen, I don't know what you heard but--"

"You f*cking with Tupac?"

"Hell no," I yelled. "I told you I did a song with him."

"And then what happened? he asked.

"Nothing! I swear to God nothing happened."


Big hung up on me. I paced the hotel room for a while, trying to gather my thoughts. I had to think of how I would reassure Big that nothing happened with 'Pac. I hadn't been completely innocent. While I was in Los Angeles, I'd had sex occasionally with Terry Dollars. And I'd even seen Roger, the NBA player, a few times when he was in town. So technically, I had cheated on Big. But not with Tupac.
The chapter goes on to describe how BIG kicked in the door (unfortunately not waving the 4-4) and snatched up Faith and pushed her to the ground, screaming and cursing at her.

2Pac's group "The Outlaws" issued their own response to finding out about the book:

Let me start off by saying that this is not an attempt to fight Tupac’s battles. Over the past twelve years there have been numerous articles, books, DVD’s, movies, interviews, etc about Pac and his life. We normally do not speak nor comment on shit because it’s really not worth it and we all have better things to do than argue with idiots.

But recently I heard about a book by Faith Evans and there is an excerpt released to the media in which she portrays Tupac as some sort of sick gorilla pimp or sex offender. Of course Ms. Evans wants you, the reader, to see her as the victim, even though she admits to cheating on her husband with not one but two different men at the same time; but Tupac wasn’t one of them? Of course!

Look none of us was there when it happened but I know what Pac told us and Pac was a lot of things, but a liar he was not.

I am sure the publishers would not have cut her the check if my homies’ name was not in the book, so I understand her dilemma. But it is cowardice to make such an allegation when he isn’t even here to defend himself.

Would she be saying this if Pac or Biggie was alive? Too bad we’ll never know. What we do know is that times must be hard for the former “First Lady of BadBoy” if she has to stoop to these levels to sell books.

And while I am in no way a fan of 2Pac the rapper, and while I do always refer to the fact that Pac died a convicted sex offender, I must say that I don't believe that Pac, while he was famous, ever had to force any woman into any sexual situation of any kind.

I guarantee that Faith will announce plans for a new album soon after the release of this book on Friday.

The publicity stunts in the Hiphop and R&B worlds need to stop because they are pitiful and embarrassing to everybody involved.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Album Review: GZA/Genius - Pro Tools

The GZA/Genius, the head on the Wu-Tang Clan's Voltron formation, kind of sneaked up on us with the release of "Pro Tools," his fifth solo album.

The title is a play on the popular computer program many rap producers rely upon for their sounds; it is also a reflection of the type of supreme, metaphoric wordplay listeners have become accustomed to getting from GZA, who never fails to deliver with incredible lyrical technique.

This album is nothing different in the lyrics department. Considering GZA's past albums, though, the music -- crafted by a range of beat makers from Wu-Tang mainstays to Detroit's budding super producer Black Milk -- leaves something to be desired.

Normally, GZA doesn't stray from his formula: hard-hitting beats with sophisticated, righteous lyrics layered with a number of meanings. The same is true for how "Pro Tools" starts off with "Pencil," a classic Wu-Tang sounding track produced by Mathematics, and features Masta Killa and RZA trading verses peppered with familiar references to chess and martial arts, admonishing amateur rappers for engaging in a profession clearly not meant for them.

GZA again displays enviable lyrical skills on the next song, "Alphabets," where the hook is comprised of words that begin with each letter of the alphabet -- in order. No easy feat.

On "Groundbreaking," one of two duets with GZA's son Justice Kareem, the two rappers literally finish each other's lines, successfully showing and proving that there are still a plethora of new styles of rhyme that have yet to be explored.

"0% Finance" is a perfect example of this album's stale production, featuring a beat that is an exact replica of his song "Stay in Line" from his last album, "Legend of the Liquid Sword," which was released six years ago. Not to mention it remains way too reminiscent of Method Man's song "Release Yo Delf". But with the emergence of so many 

The same can be said for a number of the songs on "Pro Tools" -- they are all disappointingly similar to past GZA and/or Wu-Tang songs. We all know and love that Wu-Tang sound, but even RZA updated his sound on his latest album.

And while there are more than a few questions real Hiphop heads have about 50 Cent's popularity and success, "Paper Plate," a dis track aimed straight at 50's head, comes off more as a publicity stunt designed to being attention to "Pro Tools" rather than actual verbal sparring. We all know GZA is lyrically superior to most -- especially 50 -- but this song, which had the potential to be amazing and perhaps even start the end to 50's career, is a disappointment on so many levels. 

All the aforementioned songs are sure to still please GZA's unconditional fans, but one song all Hiphop fans should enjoy is "Short Race," an ill story told in GZA's signature monotone over crisp, hard-hitting drums and simple, sparse strings. The song works so well you find yourself wondering (again) why the album's executive producer couldn't select better beats.

"Firehouse," curiously featuring Mobb Deep affiliate Big Twinz (who has improved exponentially, especially as of late) spitting a tough rhyme, is an old-school sounding track that would probably be better suited for the likes of Ghostface, who regularly thrives over this type of production. GZA conspicuously is only found on the hook, but Big Twinz shines and holds his own.

Finally, RZA the producer comes through with "Life is a Movie," an incredible beat with an even crazier RZA verse that provides a pulse (however brief) for an otherwise mostly flatlined sound scape.

I can't say it enough -- the one problem with this album is its production. While the beats used on "Pro Tools" would probably successfully launch any new jack's career, we the listeners hold GZA to a way higher standard than MC Johnny Come Lately.

Also, GZA doesn't necessarily show any growth, instead preferring to stick to the same themes found on most, if not all of his albums. He very rarely strays from his comfort zone, and when he does -- as evidenced on "Cinema" -- it comes off as a weird, forced misstep.

While I'm grateful for any new music I can get from one-ninth of the almighty, incomparable Wu-Tang Clan, the group's members must always remember we expect greatness and accept nothing less. It's the gift and the curse of delivering a classic album on the first try. 

"Pro Tools" falls pretty short of greatness, but it still blows most of the competition out of the water, an indication that Hiphop is still for the most part stuck in a seemingly never ending creative rut. Maybe I'm expecting too much, but is that really a bad thing?

Below is some video footage that may better explain GZA's beef with 50.

Slim Thug the Boss Hogg Outlaw

Houston rapper Slim Thug was not very happy with how "Already Platinum," his 2005 major label debut on Star Trak/Interscope Records, was received by the masses.

He was even more upset with the album's lack of marketing and promotion, which is understandable considering a few things:

He was able to sell exponentially more regionally as an independent artist compared to what he sold nationally as a major label artist; he recorded two versions of "Already Platinum" (the original version was shelved and he was ordered by the label to record new songs), indicating he worked hard on that album; and he had zero creative control.

All three were foreign concepts to him.

His die hard fans chastised his new, glossy sound which, compared to his original traditional down south sound, didn't appeal to his core fan base.

Because of all this Slim Thugga has severed his ties with both Star Trak and Interscope (Interscope is undergoing a reorganization of sorts so many of their artists are looking to leave), and signed with indy label of the moment Koch Records. 

He is currently readying his next album, "The Boss of All Bosses," but will first release the second album from his crew Boss Hogg Outlawz, titled "Back By Blockular Demand (Serve & Collect 2)".

And to top it off, he has a new song produced by Dr. Dre that in part chronicles his experience with a major label. Here are some excerpts from the song, defiantly called "B*tch, I'm Back":

"A born boss, got nothing to lose,
Still shining in the game, I got nothing to prove.
Got rich independent, didn't need no deal.
Had paper 'fore I signed, didn't need no meal.
Got hustles on the side,
I ain't got to rap.
And if all else fails, I still got the trap.
I don't f*ck with you rappers,
Y'all fake to me.
I don't fuck with you majors,
Y'all snakes to me. ..."


"I dropped Already Platinum but it only sold gold,
And n*ggas looking at me like I sold my soul.
'Cause I'm rapping with P and not Mr. Lee,
But when you're on your grind some times you can't see."


"Just stay true, my n*gga, and do you,
And fuck what another's trying to tell you to do."

I think from those lines alone it is painfully obvious that Slim Thug blames Pharrell and Interscope for what he considers a failure of an album (but by today's standards is considered a successfully-selling album).

To demonstrate the greatness that is Slim Thug + The Neptunes, here is a song from the shelved version of "Already Platinum" that showcases Slim Thug's rapping ability (where ironically he raps, referring to the beat, "you done let Pharrell bring out the beast in me" -- isn't that a good thing?) over an upbeat Neptunes track, which in my opinion illustrates Slim's versatility instead of always rapping over those slow, methodical similar-sounding beats that re normally embraced by Hiphop fans in the southern regions.

And here is the newest video from The Boss Hogg Outlawz, featuring Ray J.

"I Went Hard Like Medusa Staring At Me ..."

John Legend - Green Light Feat. Andre 3000 (Video)

I know this blog is devoted to Hiphop, and technically this is all the way Hiphop, but because it is performed by an R&B singer and only featuring a Hiphop icon, I figured this post needed an adequate disclaimer before I proceed to sweat this track.

First off, this sounds like a bonus track from Andre 3000's incredible and classic "Love Below" CD a few years back. The production, of course handled by Three Stacks himself, is stellar to say the least, and has the power to make anybody get up and dance upon hearing the first few notes.

This song has been out for a while but the video just came out, so enjoy it.

This video, by the way, features the most incredible eye candy perhaps ever assembled on a music video set. Ever. That is impressive all on its own, but then it's only accentuated by the great party feeling of the song.

If John Legend's new album (Evolver, in stores October 28) has more songs that sound like this on his new album -- which it is rumored to have -- then you are reading the words of the newest member of the John Legend fan club. Now if only he can manage a Neptunes collaboration with Pharrell singing the hook...

Friday, August 22, 2008

Da Brat Gets Three Years for Assault

Pioneering rapper Da Brat was today sentenced to three years in prison after being convicted of an 2007 assault on another woman.

Brat's weapon of choice was a bottle of rum (not sure if it was full, partially full, or empty, which left permanent scarring on the victim's face.

Brat entered a guilty plea so as to avoid the maximum sentencing. In addition to the three years, Brat must serve a mandatory seven years on probation and 200 hours of community service upon release.

Her 1994 debut album "Funkdafied" sold over a million copies, making her the first female rapper to ever go platinum.

If I was Da Brat I would have snitched on somebody to avoid jail time, a la T.I., the rapper who, despite having a prior felony conviction on his record, was able to get out of serving a single day in prison after being busted by Federal authorities for buying and possessing illegal weapons, including machine guns, silencers, and bulletproof vests (bulletproof vests are also illegal to possess if you have ever been convicted of a felony, like T.I. has).

Ironically both Brat and T.I. share the same age and surname while their courtroom outcomes differed drastically.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Skyzoo Named Best Underground Lyricist for 2008

The unheralded soldiers of the rap ranks were given some long overdue shine at last week's 6th Annual Underground Music Awards.

Rappers who otherwise receive very little publicity outside of self-generated Internet content were nominated and recognized in a variety of categories, ranging from best producer to best Web site.

In my opinion, the most prestigious of the awards given out that night was for best lyricist, and I think it's pretty telling that the winner of the "Male Artist of the Year" award wasn't nominated for that category, and vice versa.

If you're named best lyricist of the year -- considering what the foundation of rapping truly is -- you should automatically be nominated for artist if the year just out of the virtue that one shouldn't go without the other.

Here's a brief example of the type of lyrical wizardry that earned him the award that he is holding in the above photo:

"And what I write
Sits right in the right light
And the light that I write
Might be brighter than light, hype.
Top ten alive,
15 magazines.
The album is top five and I'm only half complete."
Sky, always the humble one, recorded and released a personal thank you video for all his fans who voted for him.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Everything Was All Good Just a Week Ago...

The AP is reporting that one time baller and now perennial faller Dame Dash can't make his mortgage payments on two of his and his wife's luxury Manhattan apartments.

They owe more than $7 million to their lenders.

Apparently they have other properties in the city so they're not worried about homelessness, but wow, where are Dame's big time Hiphop and movie producer buddies now?

The sad thing is that Jay was just last week named the second-highest Hiphop money earner at more than $100 million in the past year, so we know Jay is laid up somewhere shaking his head at Dame's misfortune (no pun intended).

Here lies the problem with Hiphoppers and the large amounts of money they make.

Before getting on in the industry, they routinely front about their wealth. Then, as they steadily blow up, they begin earning the type of money they once dreamed of and are able to live the lifestyle they've portrayed.

But when things die down and the money slows up, they still feel an urge to maintain that same lifestyle, and in about a year or so we read stories like this.

Even if Jay snaked Dame with the Roc, Dame and Jay still parted with millions from the Roc's sale, with half going to Dame. And Dame already should have stacked enough paper to have been straight for the rest of his life.

But regardless, just two months ago Dame and his wife signed some deal for a fashion line worth up to $4 billion. So why can't they pay the measly $7.3 million?

And what about Dame's social networking site? I'm guessing that hasn't taken off the way he would have liked.

I feel bad for Dame. I liked him as a Hiphop personality. But there is no excuse for this type of blatant mismanagement of funds.

First his fiancee dies, then the Roc breaks up, then Dame gets beaten up by some angry Parisian pimps, then his movie producing career fizzles, and now this! When it rains it, it pours...

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Album Review: The Game L.A.X.

Before I get started here, let me just say that west coast gangsta rapper The Game is one of my favorite rappers. I don't know if I'm more enchanted with the story from which he rose to fame or with his verbal linguistics -- or a combination of both -- but this guy is talented.

So imagine my glee when months ago he dropped "Big Dreams," the grand-sounding, thumping track with requisite braggadocio lyrics that normally comprise lead singles on rap albums. The anticipation factor for his third album, "L.A.X.," due out in a week, was at an all-time high. 

Starting off with a triumphant declaration -- "I'm free as a muthaf*ckin' bird, I swear!" -- I just knew that L.A.X. was going to continue where 2006's "The Doctor's Advocate" great music left off.

But I was again surprised when last month the new album's track listing leaked online with "Big Dreams" mysteriously missing from the list of songs. 

And then I heard a slew of other songs that were rumored to be on the new album, none of which I was truly impressed with, and I began to dismiss on the album before even listening to it in its entirety.

So even when I sat down yesterday to listen to the album, I was already approaching it with a sour mind state, expecting The Game to become the latest casualty in the war against inconsistent emcees who just can't seem to sustain a career in rap.

Starting off with a prayer insisting to the devil that "we rebuke you in the name of Jesus" -- ironically preached by DMX, the same person who's life seems to have been overtaken by the devil -- my hopes of hearing a good album were slowly but surely fading away.

The intro is followed by "LAX Files," a slow, piano-heavy homage to his hometown. And while the lyrics are interesting, the man who wails on the sleepy-sounding hook did his darndest to make my eyelids heavier and heavier.

And since the word on the street is that Ice Cube has recruited Game to be the newest member of Westside Connection after Mack-10 got evicted from the group, it is only right for Game to feature Cube on the album. Right? Well, at least in theory, since the song, "State of Emergency," which is not very moving at all and chock full of an annoying funky worm, sounds better suited for a mixtape.

Then is the obligatory east coast collaboration with the once-classic and now under achieving and near irrelevant Raekwon, which sounds very forced and lacks chemistry, not to mention not very easy on the ears. Game and Rae trade unbelievable gangsta tales to no avail, and my finger is dangerously close to my iTunes eject button.

Of course this album is littered with Game's penchant for name-dropping, but as a friend told me last week, every good rapper has his or her own trademark, and name-dropping just happens to be Game's. If we're not over the name-dropping by now, we never will be. So we may as well just enjoy the rapper and his music for what they are. 

But then the album's latest single, "My Life," featuring Lil' Wayne, cues up, and it's obvious this is the real starting point for the album. Weezy does his best T-Pain impression on the hook while Game devotes three verses to the trials and tribulations of life.

But with all the Hiphop album cliches out of the way (big name and opposite coast collaborations), the rest of the album plays much more like what I expected -- a west coast opus celebrating his hometown, complete with witty and sometimes even poignant lyrics (I'm in my drop top Phantom on Wilshire Boulevard/ We can't find Biggie's killers so we gave Puffy a star"), complemented with quality music courtesy of mainly Cool & Dre, Nottz, DJ Toomp, J.R. Rotem and Scott Storch.

"Ya Heard" is a genius west coast version/reworking of Nucleus's "Jam On It," and features a rejuvenated-sounding Ludacris, who trades in the movie set for the more familiar surroundings of the recording studio.

But the album's crowning moment comes on "House of Pain," a sinister-sounding beat over which Game welcomes his listeners to Compton, Calif., Game's place of origin: "My pops wasn't around, so this bastard bleeds California from the cradle to the casket/And I won't stop riding for my coast, n*ggas keep talkin bout my bread, we gon' make toast."  

Even the album's commercial efforts work well and don't come off as forced, thanks in part to the Dr. Dre-inspired production (especially apparent on the Ne-Yo-assisted "Gentleman's Affair"), over which Game has always thrived.

Other noteworthy tracks include "Let Us Live" and "Letter to the King," Game and NaS's quasi-dedication to the Black leaders whose sacrifices so often go forgotten, and includes the memorable line: "The word nigger, is nothing like 'n*gga'/ Don't sound sh*t alike, like Game, like Jigga/ one came before the other, like aim, like the trigger. ... If Dr. King marched today would Bill Gates march? I know Obama would but would Hillary take part? Great minds think great thoughts/ The pictures I paint make the Mona Lisa look like fake art."

The album wraps up with the head-scratching continuation of DMX's sermon that began the album, taking away from the good note that this album otherwise musically ends on.

This album deserves way more than just a quick listen, as it gradually gets better and better as it progresses, an appropriate metaphor for Game's career. He keeps threatening retirement, but if this album is all well-received as his other two were, expect more growth and an even better album next time around.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Game Disses Jay-Z

Well, after throwing subliminal jabs at the Jiggaman for more than a few years, rapper The Game has finally come out and refernced Jay's name in a disrespectful fashion during an interview on a California radio station.

Perfect timing considering Game's new album is due out in a couple of weeks. Game is trying his best to bait Jay into a back and forth diss war that will only help his album sell, and since we all know how much smarter Jay is than these average rap cats, I'm pretty positive Jay will have nothing to say to Game until Jay's album is scheduled to be released.

But still, Game went all out on the interview when asked about Jay:

"I’m too disrespectful for Jay-Z, I go to hard. His beef is mediocre beef, it’s more swag and less hardcore. Me, I go in on your grandma, your kids and your girl.it will get ugly and I don’t mind. I have a whole coast to back me. My coast will turn their backs on whoever I beef with. So basically, let me commit suicide because I’m the only cat to commit suicide and resurrect every time. So for Jay to say that about me, that’s cool man because that’s Jay-Z and I’m just lil ol Game. But if you fuck with me I’ll turn to a beast, and ill rip ya head off..bust ya lipsturn the Roc-A-Fella sign, into a pee stain.

I can be a fan of Jay and still rip him limb from limb and still be a fan. After I finish him off, I’m still going to listen to Reasonable Doubt afterwards. I’ll kiss Jay goodbye with his own lips. I’m going to make him mad enough to where he has to say something."

The thing is I actually semi-side with Game on this one.

Jay doesn't really rhyme about guns or hardcore street life anymore, whereas that is right up Game's alley. The last time Jay got really gully in a diss song he went too far talking about leaving used condoms in NaS's baby seat after he banged Carmen, NaS's baby's mother. And he lost a lot of respect for that rhyme too.

Not to mention I think Jay has lost it. Just a bit, but it's noticeable. Or maybe he needs to start writing his rhymes again and stop going off the top of the head in the booth.

Whatever the deal is, Jay didn't sound very fluid on Jeezy's "Put On" remix, and his new song "Jockin Jay-Z" suffers from the same malady, among others.

I have a feeling Game noticed the same thing and decided now was the right time to stage his preemptive strike, however passive aggressive it really is -- don't you love how he said he'd turn the Roc-a-Fella chain into a pee stain and then in the very next breath said he'll always be a fan of Jay? Classic hypocritical rapper.

Meanwhile several songs from Game's new album have leaked, and none are really all that appealing. So I guess I can't blame Game for trying to rummage up all the support and attention he can before the entire album leaks and it is no longer a secret how bad his album is.

Here's a video of Game talking about his new album followed by a live performance.

Who is the Real MF Doom?

The veteran rapper formerly known as Zev Love X -- the front man for defunct 90s rap group KMD -- has been accused repeatedly of using impostors to perform in his stead as the rapping entity known as MF Doom.

MF Doom, who's image is modeled after Marvel Comics villain Dr. Doom, is a 30-something year old rapper from Long Island who, since 1997, has been recording and performing music in disguise, with the disguise consisting of the metal mask.

In the beginning it was weird, but after Doom went on a eight year tear of releasing and producing incredible music for everyone from Nigerian singer Wale Oyejide to Ghostface, no one cared what he looked like anymore. It was all about the music.

Until the summer of 2007, that is, when Doom was part of the Rock the Bells tour and the first accusations surfaced of him not being the person who was performing on stage.

Of course the person performing was wearing a mask, so nothing was ever confirmed, and eventually the the rumors somewhat faded away.

But now, just about a year after the first rumors circulated through the Hiphop community, they seem to have made quite a triumphant return. In this case, at another Rock the Bells show, this one in San Bernardino, Calif.

The following videos show Doom (or his impostor) at the show in question strutting around and posturing on stage, but the fans get hip to the game real quick and call him out in the form of boos and throwing objects at whoever is on stage. You can even hear an angry fan saying "I didn't pay for this sh*t!"

Because of the high quality of his music I couldn't believe the rumors when I first heard them. Hell, when I saw Doom at the 930 Club in DC in 2005 I was convinced it was really him.

But that was before the rumors.

Whoever was on stage and rapping sounded just like Doom, and it was obvious the person was rapping live. And, since I remember what Zev Love X looked like, I tried my best to peek through the small cracks in the metal mask, eventually deciding it was indeed the real MF Doom.

But when my homeboy in San Fran -- who discovered Doom just around the same time as I, and who has been heavily into Hiphop since the early 80s -- called me after an MF Doom show there and said that his opinion was that it was not Doom who performed at his show, I finally lent some credence to the possibility that Doom could indeed be duping us all.

Granted, the music is the most important thing, and it is not being compromised at all if the rumor is true. But for an independent artist, it does beg the question why he wouldn't want to go out on tour himself and earn 100% of the payment for performance. I am assuming, of course, that Doom's impostor took home a share of Doom's payment.

Regardless, like I said it's all about the music. He hasn't put any new music out in a while; since the accusations of fraud, not ironically.

I say we just enjoy Doom for the music and if we see he's on the bill for a local show, don't go. If no one shows up to his shows he will eventually stop getting booked and get back in the studio.

Until that happens, enjoy some more footage of Doom performing live.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Max B Has the Song of the Summer!

Have you ever been a fan of someone's music for no good reason at all? Do you have a problem putting your finger on the pulse of what the appeal is? When all you believe in musically and sonically is compromised in the worst way, making you feel guilty for even extracting any pleasure at all from what you would normally categorize as an atrocity?

Well I happen suffer from all of the above, an affliction that I have been self-diagnosed with ever since I was introduced to Max B, a rapper/singer/songwriter from Harlem who first gained notoriety from his many collaborations with Jim Jones.

Just off his appearance alone, I hated him instantly. A vertically- and physically-challenged light-skinned man with long, straight hair, my gaydar's silent alarm could remain mum no longer. (Think Real from I Love Money.)

But then I saw the video for "Baby Girl/G's Up," singles from Jim's album, "Harlem: Diary of a Summer," and Max's incomparable talent was immediately apparent.

Max has a performance style all of his own; one that at times combines singing and rapping, and at other times separates the two, but always having a melodic feel without sounding like a soft, cookie-cutter wannabe pop star.

Back in those days Max maintained a low profile, writing lyrics for Jim and being the driving, creative force behind Jones' last two albums and many mixtapes. Add to that his innate ability to pen catchy, radio-friendly hooks that are 50 Cent-esque -- ever heard of a little song called by Jim Jones called "We Fly High (Ballin')"? You don't think Jim came up with that song up all on his own, do you?

Even without an album, Max's talent and popularity ended up exceeding Jim's wildest expectations, becoming a bit more than what Jones had anticipated, so because of jealousy and selfishness, Jones severed all tied with Max by way of random diss tracks discrediting Max's contributions to Jones' once dormant but now highly successful career.

But instead of falling back and licking his wounds, bounced back like Juvy, reinvented himself as Biggavelli (yep, you guessed it - he likens himself to Biggie Smalls and 2Pac aka Makaveli, combining the best of what they each had to offer...) and started his own offensive versus Jim Jones in the form of a series of well-received mixtapes, which ultimately got him signed to Amalgam Digital.

So after months of steadily releasing new singles and mixtapes, Max has unleashed the unofficial song of the summer with "Where Do I Go? (BBQ Music)," a breezy, cooled-out track rumored to be the fist single from his upcoming full length debut album.

Remember how after The Chronic came out everybody trying to score a hit in rap jacked Dre's G-Funk sound, almost to the point of nausea? Everybody had a fake Dre beat. Even producers who had previously created their own recognizable sound opted to bite Dre's sound.

Well this song brings back the feeling of those good old days, sitting around with your friends, sipping 40s, playing Dominos or spades, inhaling the smoky smell of grilled chicken and burgers (and Swishers).

Max both croons the hook and the first verse before he trades in the singing for rapping, maintaining a nice, chill flow that incorporates the standard self-aggrandizing lyrics. But because of the mush-mouth style in which Max can some times have a tendency to deliver his rapping lyrics in, I am unable to transcribe them here.

What's funny is that ever since Jim and Max went their separate ways, Max's career is thriving while Jim's seems to be stuck on stupid. What's even funnier is that if it featured a verse by Jim a la Jim's verse from Cheris Dennis's song "I Love You" (another great summer song) this song, if promoted right, could possibly climb the charts all the way to the top.

But Jim didn't want to share the spotlight, and now his 15 minutes are just about up. Max's 15 are just getting started.

Max B - Where Do I Go (BBQ Music)

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Greatest Hiphop Remixes of All Time

I was reading an article the other day that boasted their version of the all-time top 10 remixes to rap songs.

With the exception of one, I disagree on all of their choices.

I know they were only limited to ten choices, but since they are a magazine and they must cater to the consumer, there were some pretty cookie-cutter and PC selections made. I guess they didn't want to ruffle their readers' feathers.

Even though it all comes down to opinion, some opinions are held in higher esteem than others simply off the basis of breadth of knowledge. And XXL's opinion -- in my opinion -- is a weak cop-out of an attempt to please all parties.

Furthermore, if DJ Premier and Pete Rock do not make up most of your list, then there is a serious problem.

If we're talking about straight up Hiphop music and not all this other madness masquerading as authentic representation of the culture, then 2Pac's "California Love" remix honestly has no place on this list.

Not to mention XXL's criteria for the list is limited to "songs that were remixed with new beats." So why, pray tell, is Eric B. & Rakim's "Paid in Full" remix on that list? It has the exact same beat as the original except that it is about 3 minutes longer than the original and features an Indian woman's vocals.

And while I'm a Wu-Tang head till the end, and even though I loved Raekwon's "Rainy Dayz" remix, if we're talking about the top ten remixes of all time, how could this song be on there? It was a great song, no doubt, but top ten?

And for as many songs as DJ Premier has remixed, how is the only one on XXL's list Big L's "Ebonics" remix? I love Big L and consider him one of the greatest rappers ever, but Premier is a remixing machine and to be 100% truthful, the "Ebonics" remix was not even close to one of his greatest efforts. It's still Primo so of course the track is dope, but it's like comparing an iPod shuffle to an 80 gig iPod -- both are great, but one clearly stands out more than the other.

The only songs on XXL's list that I doff my cap to are Tribe's "Scenario" remix, PE's Shut Em Down Pete Rock remix, and The Fugees' "Nappy Heads" remix. The rest are highly questionable.

Below are some very viable options to replace most of the choices on XXL's list (in alphabetical order):

Gang Starr - The Militia Feat. Big Shug Pete Rock Remix
A Tribe Called Quest - Oh My God Remix
De La Soul - Buddy Native Tongues Remix
Chi-Ali Funky Lemonade Pete Rock Remix
Das EFX - Jussamen Pete Rock Remix
Blackstar - Respiration Pete Rock Remix
Jeru the Damaja - You Can't Stop the Prophet Pete Rock Remix
Gang Starr - Gotta Get Over (Taking Loot) Large Professor Remix
Jungle Brothers - J-Beez Comin' Thru Remix
Common - Resurrection Large Professor Remix
House of Pain - Jump Around Pete Rock Remix
Brand Nubian - Punks Jump Up Diamond D Remix
LL Cool J - Pink Cookies in a Plastic Bag Remix
Fat Joe - The Sh*t Is Real DJ Premier Remix
Jeru the Damaja - Me or the Papes (Me Not the Papes) DJ Premier Remix
Showbiz & AG - Next Level DJ Premier Remix
A Tribe Called Quest - Can I Kick It Remix
Ultramagnetic MC's - Poppa Large East Coast Remix
And these choices are just the tip of the iceberg. This is all I could think of in five minutes, but I know there are better, more significant remixes that have left undeniable impacts on their listeners. And NaS's "Street Dreams" Trackmasters remix with R Kelly is just not one of them.

If you think I've left off any remix that is crucial to real Hiphop please drop a note in the comments section and I'll add it.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Nelly is a Simp, Not a Pimp

Photos have emerged online of a drunken-looking Nelly cozying up to an ugly stripper in Atlanta while he was there attending Jermaine Dupri's annual So So Def Celebrity Weekend of festivities.

SOHH is reporting that Nelly is supposed to be mad that someone snapped the photos and he's worried what Ashanti will say when she sees them.


An SOHH gossip columnist says the following:

According to my source the potentially damaging images caused Nelly to lash out at certain bloggers at an Atlanta area bowling alley last night who were coming to the defense of said photographer. Nelly was seen by many cussing and screaming at one blogger for even bringing the issue to his attention. Apparently he’s very upset because he gave every photographer specific instructions to NOT photograph him in any compromising positions. Since landing his new deal with Sean John it’s been said that it’s important that Nelly represent himself and the Sean John brand appropriately.

The new pictures are adding further fuel to the fire about that rumored child he fathered with a stripper.

A few quick and obvious questions: doesn't this guy Nelly describe himself as a pimp? Doesn't he sell some energy elixir called "Pimp Juice"? What is he afraid of?

It's not like Ashanti is on Beyonce's level, or even Ciara's for that matter.

Ashanti, like her man, is on the verge of falling off beyond the point of no return. Nelly has nothing to lose if she leaves him and he can always find a much better-looking (those damned sideburns!) and probably more talented (her singing is atrocious) replacement for Ashanti. But instead, Mr Pimp Juice is afraid of what her reaction will be (or already is...).

I hate frauds, and to me this is worse than the silly Rick Ross debacle.

Because any semi-educated, casual listener of Hiphop music can discern between reality and fantasy. I don't think anybody ever believed that Rick Ross was an actual drug kingpin with ties to Manuel Noriega and Pablo Escobar.

However, with Nelly's riches, youth and one-time extreme popularity, there is no doubt in my mind that he literally could have been with a new woman each night of the year. And he made this known in his lyrics.

Especially on the song "Play It Off," in which he "em-singed" about playing off any accusations of cheating his girl would levy against him, indicating that a cavalier lie to his girl would allay any of her concerns. I wonder if he's considering using that tactic this time around...

I love witnessing every aspect of Nelly's demise. I wish him all the worst for all the near irreparable damage he's inflicted on modern rap music, and pop music as a whole. It is only a matter of a few weeks before his new album is scheduled to drop, at which point I expect/hope for a prompt flop accompanied by a swift exit from the rap music industry.