Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Rap Up 2008

I'm still on pseudo-vacation mode (interviewing roommates and such) but I had to come out of low-content mode for this. One of my favorite parts of looking forward to NYE for the last few years is Skillz's The Rap Up series, and I'm glad he's kept his year-in-review going this long. This year's edition is quality, probably due to the supreme amount of material he had to work with. There's plenty of quotables (my favorites: "It's time for a change/So don't go tryin' to turn inauguration into an All-Star game," and pretty much every line where he folded in soundbytes, like the R. Kelly joint), so enjoy.

Skillz - 2008 Rap Up

Be safe out there this evening, and I'll see y'all next year. Thanks for following me so far, and I'll have bigger and better stuff for you in the new year.

Bonus: The Rap Up (got its name from the series, natch) linked up 2002-2006 last year when 2007 came out. Peep it here. 2002 is soooo classic.

Updated: Just as I was trying to find my copies of '02 and '04 so I could zip up the lot and give 'em to you, Rizoh came through with it here.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Eve Throwback

Since the Holidays fall on this week I'm going to be light on posting unless something that I just can't resist pops up, so I'm going to leave you with a couple of Christmas themed Hip Hop joints.

Run-DMC - Christmas in Hollis: I HAD to post this one. It doesn't feel like Christmas if I don't hear this at least once.

Kurtis Blow - Christmas Rappin' (Live @ Top of the Pops)

Finally, even though it's not strictly Hip Hop, I had to let this one breath. Since Chanukah is this week as well, I dug up one of my favorite Beck joints for the season, his Chanukah flipped version of the Little Drummer Boy, "Little Drum Machine Boy":

Have a happy and safe Holiday, everybody.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Ed Brubaker and his Angel of Death

Recently one of the scribes over at The Smoking Section wrote a piece expressing his love for the Bendis/Maleev run of Daredevil (as collected in the Bendis Omnibus available at this link) and I chimed in at the comment section, basically saying that the follow up run by Ed Brubaker was no joke. That led to me going back and re-reading all his stuff that I have. Brubaker's work, from Sleeper, to his work on Captain America is infused with a pulpy crime-fiction sensibility that aids the storytelling instead of seeming tacked on. Rather than shoehorning superheroes into a grim and gritty setting where they don't belong, his writing creates a space where these superheroes and the rest of the world's reactions to them are believable. He allows his influences to come out full bore with his incredible crime fiction series Criminal, where each issue is like watching a good piece of film noir (not a coincidence, considering that the backmatter for the issues consists of essays about film noir, crime novels and other influences to the series). Given how much his work is influenced by film noir and crime fiction, I'd always thought it'd be great to see him either adapt his work for the screen or write something completely original as a movie. Presenting: Angel of Death.

I'd heard about this project back during San Diego's Comic-Con in an article from Comic Book Resources and have been intrigued ever since. Starring Zoƫ Bell as a hitwoman who takes revenge for her various victims after a dramatic head injury, it seemed right up my alley, and the trailer's got me even more excited. Peep it:

I usually have trouble keeping up with web series (or TV series at all, word to the season's worth of The Middleman unwatched on my DVR), but I'm definitely going to be keeping eyes peeled for this joint when it drops in February.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Friday Night Films - Frank Miller, RZA and Stephen Chow

It's that time again, people. I put you up on movie news, you enjoy it. Or not. Anyhow, here they is!

First up, Frank Miller's about ready to release his version of The Spirit upon the populous. I'm not psyched because it's gone from looking like Sin City 2 to just plain bad. Not that I didn't enjoy Sin City, but if you know your history, it ain't The Spirit. Nevertheless, the man who thought that a modern day propaganda comic with Batman taking on Al-Qaeda was a good idea soldiers on, this time with his sites set on Buck Rogers. Perhaps if this deal goes through he'll finally start making films with a rich color palette, and actually take the source material into account when adapting something that is not is own. I doubt it, but one can dream.

In news to get excited about (maybe), after years of scoring films the RZA's going to step behind the camera. He's written and is going to direct his debut, a Kung Fu flick entitled The Man With the Iron Fist, according to The news is bit old, but aside from the standard facts (Eli Roth producing, RZA requiring the blessing from Tarantino to give directing a try) it reveals a tiny plot detail that the action will take place in place called Jungle Village where each member has the name of an animal. Also a while back Eli Roth confirmed that the movie's going to be R-rated, so it seems like this is going to be an amalgamation of old school Kung Fu flick and stylized efforts like Afro Samurai. Of course this is just me making guesses. In any case, I'll be keeping a watch out for info on this one.

Apparently Stephen Chow of Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer fame is out of the director's chair for the upcoming Seth Rogen scripted Green Hornet flick, according to Twitch. They're guessing that "creative differences" translates to Chow's ego not being kept in check. With rumors about rifts with Sammo Hung and his frequent co-star Ng Man Tat (who ultimately stopped collaborating with Chow after Shaolin Soccer), I wouldn't doubt that to be the case. In this interview excerpt from last year he said he wouldn't direct anything he hadn't written himself, so it stands to reason there were things he wanted to change about the script that Rogen and company weren't keen on. He's still going to be playing Kato, but there's no word of who will be taking up the directing duties just yet.

I'll close up with some trailers that caught my eye last week. To start, here's the teaser for Vanitas by Jesus Orellana. This whole thing was done by Orellana himself, no assistants at all. The feature length film doesn't exist yet and this was done to drum up interest that would help him create the film. It's dope all on its own, but to realize that one guy did it makes it that much more amazing.

Another animated feature to look forward to is Miyamoto Musashi, produced by the Production I.G. studio who're responsible for anime classics like Blood: The Last Vampire, Ghost in the Shell, and the animated sequence in Tarantino's Kill Bill. The upcoming film is penned by Mamoru Oshii, the man behind the aforementioned Ghost in the Shell films and many others.

Finally, this isn't a video but it's necessary viewing. A few stills have trickled out from Tarantino's upcoming WWII flick Inglourious Basterds, and a new one surfaced this week of Melanie Laurent as the film's heroine Shoshanna Dreyfus. I was already excited that this movie was actually getting made after years of Tarantino talking about it, but for some reason this image (you can peep the others here) speaks to me.

It is likely that my penchant for women doing violence with bladed weapons has caught me once again. Well, I'm off to work at my Oneechanbara fanfiction. Have a good weekend everybody!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Throwback Thursday: Rappers Are Nerds Too

Yesterday I talked about how I brought Hip Hop to my nerdy past time of gaming. For this week's Throwback, turnabout is fair play, and I'll prove that these rappers are just as nerdy as me. We'll begin with Jeru The Damaja's "Ya Playin' Yaself" from 1996's Wrath of the Math. Even without the advent of the Wu, a whole lot of NY rappers grew up watching Shaw Brothers flicks, and Jeru decided to make his own for this video.

Speaking of the Wu, I'd be remiss if they didn't get included in the Nerdy Rapper edition of the Throwback. They're the crew that made it cool to be a nerd in this Hip Hop shit, considering they dropped references to Kung Fu flicks, Anime, and comics in their rhymes and MC personas. One of my favorite videos from the clan, Ghostface's "Daytona 500" from Ironman doesn't actually feature any of the members. Instead, it's edited footage of the old Speed Racer cartoon with Ghost, Rae and Cappadonna's vocals being spit by a different character in the show. Quite possibly one of the first Anime Music Videos ever created.

Who could do a whole video inspired by The Wiz/The Wizard of Oz in Hip Hop and not get clowned? De La Soul, that's who. Here's "Oooh" from Art Official Intelligence: Mosaic Thump, with Redman on the hook (and playing the Wizard). Peep Rah Digga as Dorothy and a cameo from Dave Chapelle.

Finally, while it's not quite a Throwback, I do have to give mention to the MC that's possibly the nerdiest of them all, MF Doom. Before he was pissing off his fans (myself included) by sending impersonators to do his shows for him, he endeared both nerds and Hip Hop heads with his monotone stream-of-consciousness rhymestyle. His verses tend to be like watching an episode of MST3k, you might not catch every reference he makes, but there are so many of them you're bound to laugh at something. He met his match in the dusty blunted production style of Madlib and together they cooked up the classic Madvillainy (linked to the hard copy so you can get the lyrics). Here's the Golden Age comic book inspired video, "All Caps."

Know of any other nerdy Hip Hop videos? Post 'em up in the comments section.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Nerd Life: Music and Gaming

I have tons of interests, most of them nerdy and the common thread is that I try to involve music in every single one of them. As a writer I tend to create to certain pieces of music, even going so far as to match scenes to single songs (I had to turn off Last.Fm for a couple of days last week, on account of the replay of a particular Queens of the Stone Age track).

When I played video games back in the day, I used to make my own soundtracks for them. The first couple of Tony Hawk games were pretty decent, but when I got tired of the in-game music I put together my own playlist full of Hieroglyphics, El-P, and The Clash. Nowadays I tend to gravitate toward games that already have pretty dope soundtracks built in, or that cater to the music nerd (see: GTA, Rock Band).

Some of my favorite comics have a relationship with music whether it's direct (Jim Mahfood's Grrl Scouts mentions a lot of music, and Mahfood himself did the comic book companion to Murs and Slug's 2nd outing as Felt.), conceptual (Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan's Demo reads like a mixtape, and I'd be shocked if that was coincidental) or a combination of the two (the outstanding Phonogram by Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie takes place in a world where music is magic. They're currently continuing the awesomeness in a second series entitled The Singles Club. Click the link for a preview.

My love for all sorts of different music really comes out where you let me loose in one of my favorite nerdy pursuits, role-playing games. That's right. Dungeons & Dragons, polyhedral dice, bunch of geeks in a basement eatin' snacks and playing pretend. I been that. In fact I still be that, so to speak. My initial involvement with this sort of gaming came through White Wolf's World of Darkness series, mainly because their liberal use of music as inspirational material for all their games. From that introduction, music's always been apart of the proceedings. I've set games to mood music, played characters that're musicians and even written articles on how to best integrate Hip Hop into games ('cause once nu-metal started to get popular with the World of Darkness crowd, I needed something as an antidote). Music's always been apart of my gaming, and whenever I'm about to start a game that I'm playing in, I try to make a mixtape to go along with the character I've created for the game.

Which brings us to the point of tonight's post. In January I'll be playing in a Dungeons and Dragons game, and like usual I made a mixtape for the character. Without getting into all the messy technical details about what the character is, he's a young man who is abducted by a violent group of cultists. After being captive for a while and subjected to all kinds of wild torture, one of his captors develop a bit of Lima Syndrome. Eventually, he gets his Stockholm on. This does not end well. Once we start the game, I'll be picking up with the character once he's freed from captivity.

Here's the tape, entitled A Declaration of Declaration. It features Portishead, Blueprint, DJ Signify, Blonde Redhead and others. It's essentially the soundtrack of his backstory. Enjoy it as a testament to my geekiness, or if nothing else a collection of dope tunes.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Super Rumble Mixshow

So a while back I posted up a video from Aaron MacGruder's Partner Rumble productions. Since then they've been going at a steady pace with The Super Rumble Mixshow, something to tide folks over before the third season of The Boondocks animated series. Here are a few of my favorites:

Negrology: The Noble Nergo

Black Jesus: Steve Jobs

Tubesteak Brings the Pain to T-Pain

Peep out more Black Jesus, Tubesteak and the Negro News Brief and more at Boondocks Bootleg!

Tomorrow, I'm going to be a bit more nerdy than usual in order to pay penance for missing the Monday post. To tease, it shall be where my music nerdiness and my gamer nerdiness meet. If I have any regular readers, I apologize in advance.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Friday Night Films - Early Christmas Presents

Knee deep in a personal writing project, so unlike the week before last where I said it was going to be skimpy on movie news and then lied, I'm actually going to keep it pretty low-key.

Twitch has been on a tear recently, dropping off news on lot of dope looking movies: The Russian/Japanese animated feature First Squad, the gorgeous looking Goemon, and the twisted (and aptly named) Sick Girl.

They're crowning things off with a weekend showing of Robert Pratten’s Mindflesh. Described body-horror in the vein of The Fly, Videodrome, and Scanners, it certainly won't be for everybody, but if it sounds like your cup of tea, peep out the entire feature film at Twitch from now until December the 14th.

New Wallace and Gromit. New Wallace and Gromit. New Wallace and Gromit! You lucky bastards in the UK get to see the new joint A Matter of Loaf or Death on Christmas Day on BBC One with a DVD release in March. No clue on when us folks in the States will have this gem dropped on us.

I'll leave y'all a PSA from Sick Girl on keeping quiet in movie theaters. I can relate to this, trust. Not safe for work, so be warned. Enjoy the weekend!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Throwback Thursday: One Day It'll All Make Sense

Once again, everyone's piling hate onto Common. Apparently Universal Mind Control is an abomination the likes of which Common has not committed on the (non)record buying populous since Electric Circus, according to the internets. Barring the fact that I actually like EC and think the backlash heaped on that record stems from old-fashioned Hip Hop head stubbornness (they wanted another Resurrection) and woman-hating (blaming Erykah Badu for putting a spell on rappers is a long running Hip Hop in-joke I've never found very funny), some of the tracks I've heard from the new joint do make me long for better days.

I'm not one to cry a river when artists want to go in a different direction with their sound and try new things. One of the major problems with Hip Hop is that the fanbase tends to abhor change of any kind, confusing experimentation with selling-out or going soft. I've often taken offense at the charge that some artists have made that Hip Hop as a musical genre is too stifling, but perhaps they aren't entirely wrong, just directing their angst at the medium instead of the fickle listeners. In the case of Universal Mind Control though, there is something to be said of remembering the foundation of one's career.

So for Throwback Thursday I decided to post up one of the ways I first became acquainted with the brother formerly known as Common Sense, "Invocation", from his 1997 album One Day It'll All Make Sense.

This actually ran as a split video back in the day but I couldn't find a good copy of it anywhere, so I'll just post the entire video for the second half of the split, "Hungry."

Rumor has it that Com's next album is going to be produced entirely by No I.D. (the producer behind One Day... and his two previous albums) and Kanye West (responsible for Com's last two albums). While I tend to think of Kanye's work with him as a little flat because it's trying too hard to sound like what heads think a Common album needs to sound like, I'm holding out hope that they can come up with a record that successfully marries Com's drive to experiment with the solid music we came to him for in the first place.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

New Music (Plus Other Stuff): Aesop Rock and Jeremy Fish

So you were either nowhere near San Fran, or you just plain couldn't make it to Jeremy Fish's art show Ghosts of the Barbary Coast and are bummed that you couldn't get that new Aesop Rock single they were handing out to go along with peeping all the artwork? Don't sweat it, DJ Regular and Definitive Jux love you. Take a listen to "Tomorrow Morning."

Aesop Rock - Tomorrow Morning

Head on over to Definitive Jux to get a full package of material including "Tomorrow Morning", the instrumental, lyrics, and a Ouicktime slideshow of all the pieces from the show. You have to sign up for an account with Def Jux's storefront, but it gives you access to a slew of other free songs and albums and there's no unwanted emails to worry about.

As for the artwork, I'm personally a fan of Jeremy's stuff and his description of the Ghosts show was particularly interesting: "The artwork in this show is my personal interpretation of some of San Francisco’s more colorful founding folklore. The goal for this show is to gain a better understanding of San Francisco’s formative heroes, and honor them in my drawings, paintings, and sculpture." If you aren't familiar with him already, here's the video for "Pigs" with Jeremy doing a piece.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Stuff I Slept On: Little Dragon

I was a fan of the electronic/jazz outfit Koop ever since I heard their album Waltz For Koop back when I was in college. That album had me well ensnared, particularly the contributions of Yukimi Nagano, vocalist on among other songs, "Summer Sun."

Koop - Summer Sun

So a couple of days ago I felt ashamed of myself when I'd only just then found that she gotten together with a new outfit in her native Sweden called Little Dragon. Nagano and her bandmates (three of her high-school friends) fuse together their various influences (electronic, jazz, folk, R&B, among others) to create a sound that is hard to categorize and even harder to deny. Here's a video for "Twice" from their self-titled debut, which I don't think has an American edition for sale, but Amazon has the import for a price that is more than reasonable.

As a bonus, have a couple more tracks, including one that only made the Japanese release of the album, "Fortune"

Little Dragon - Fortune

Little Dragon - Constant Surprises

Monday, December 8, 2008

Murs for a Monday

Everyone needs some Murs, right? The homey Murs is going to be doing a live performance on KCRW's Morning Becomes Eclectic tomorrow morning at 11:15am (yes, you can podcast it if you're workin' or sleepin', check the link). Joints from his new album Murs For President I'm sure, which you if you don't have you should cop immediately. Here's a video from the new joint, "Can It Be."

As a bonus, have one of my favorite joints from Murs off of 2003's The End of the Beginning, "God's Work."

Update: If you're in L.A., Murs is going to be playing El Rey Theater on the 11th. For every canned good donation you make at the door, you get an entry into the "Feed the People" contest. You can win Murs gear, a limited edition vinyl "Can It Be" single, and the album on on vinyl along with the CD/DVD. How can you say Murs isn't for the people?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Throwback Thursday: The Bay Area Edition

Real life has a brother locked down somethin' terrible, but I've got a 'Favorite Voices/Flows' post coming to you real soon. In the meantime, I thought I'd treat you to some Bay Area dopeness. First up, '93 'Til Infinity, by Souls of Mischief. I attribute this video to me moving out here, as I was under the impression that all that was going on out here was does running around the great outdoors, making ill Hip Hop tunes.

Next up, Lyrics Born, Balcony Beach. This isn't the whole joint, but the video reinforces the "dope Hip Hop in nature" vibe that the SoM video kicked off. I was a huge stan for anything Quannum related, and to some degree I still am. Check out that new project from The Mighty Underdogs (featuring Lyrics Born's partner-in-rhyme from Latyrx, Lateef as well as The Gift of Gab from Blackalicious, and producer Headnodic).

Bonus: Latyrx - Balcony Beach | The Mighty Underdogs - The Anthem

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

New Music: Jessica Tonder

Still in low content mode (got a post on deck involving my favorite voices/cadences in Hip Hop), but I've got some new music for you. Joint called Art of War by Jessica Tonder that I scooped up from the fine folks at Trees For Breakfast. Listen, and keep a look out for her upcoming collaborative project with Derrick "Drop" Braxton (the joint on his MySpace is crazy as well).

Jessica Tonder - Art of War

Monday, December 1, 2008

No time for post, Dr. Jones.

Maybe a little later this evening, but if I end up not having the time, here's the video for a song I can't get out of my head today, Respiration by Black Star feat. Common:

Friday, November 28, 2008

No film news tonight.

Gonna take some time to work on some writing, maybe go through the backlog of DVDs I haven't had a chance to watch yet. I won't leave you totally high and dry though, so here's a video. It's a short compilation of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 Turkey Day bumpers. Up until Comedy Central stopped the marathon, I spent a lot of my Thanksgivings bouncing between family and the TV to catch as much of the 30 hours of MST3k episodes as I could. I owe a lot of my love of b-cinema to this series, and I still watch it pretty regularly. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Things I'm Thankful for this Holiday

Been a pretty rough year for the kid, but I've still got quite a lot to be thankful for. If you'll indulge me, I'm going to forgo the Throwback this week and just list some of 'em.:

I am thankful for Rock Band, as it is the only place I am allowed to sing Master Exploder out loud, in public and be praised rather than mocked.

I am thankful for my mama, and her sweet potato pie recipe...that in all likelihood is not hers, but she won't break her neck trying to correct me.

I am thankful for Questlove's recollection of dearly departed friends that just happen to be legendary beatmakers.

I am thankful that the aforementioned legendary beatmaker left behind so much classic material.

I am thankful for my friends and family. Particularly friends that send me things like this video to provide me with cheer/boundless rage (to the dearest Laurie, the two are apparently interchangeable).

I'm thankful mostly that despite everything that's gone on, I'm alive and well to celebrate another Thanksgiving. Hopefully yours was as enjoyable as mine, and if you didn't tell somebody how thankful you are for their presence in your lives, remember that you don't need a particular day to do so.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The South needs something else to say.

The latest news out of Atlanta involves the fracas that Shawty Lo's crew got into with Grand Hustle artist Alfamega at the 2008 Dirty Awards (The Dirty Awards? Seriously folks?). While I can't help but get some enjoyment out of all the ignorance that's come out of the reports (the Hip Hop community has its new version of Chuck Norris, or rather Josh Homme, with twice the fearsomeness and not an inkling of the talent), I can't help but feel a little sad for the South's music scene, as least as far as Hip Hop is concerned.

In 1995, Outkast stood up to accept their Best New Artist award at the Source Awards in front of a hostile crowd that was already keyed up from mounting tension between the Death Row and Bad Boy Records camps. They were booed on their way to the podium. Salt-N-Pepa were the presenters for the award and they even announced the name of the winners with obvious disappointment in their voices. There was no love in that room for the South at all, it seemed. Then, in a move that would make me proud to be a Hip Hop head from the South from that day forward, Dre (no 3000, Three Stacks, or anything back then) proclaimed without fear that "...the South got something to say." Outkast used this soundbyte in the song "Chonkyfire" to close the album Aquemini:

The album ended up taking The Source's coveted Five Mic rating, a perfect score. Now, much like The Source has fallen into a state of irrelevant disarray, the South is the same mess of bickering, in-fighting and lackluster music as everywhere else. I'm still a proud Southerner, no doubt. As time goes on though, I'm having to reach further and further back to explain why.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Free Stuff: Fokis' A Walk Through MySpace Vol. 1

I told you guys about this project last week and now it's here.

Click on the picture to go to his site where you can get a download link for the LP if you give up your email address. No spam, I promise, you'll just get occasional emails on Fokis' projects, and be the first to peep videos and tracks from him.

Kanye's New LP: Convince me to drink the Kool-Aid

808s & Heartbreak drops today, and after months of leaks and opinions flying back and forth I'm still firmly in the not excited camp. I think my main problem is that the folks who are hopping on the bandwagon are citing reasons that don't jibe with what I've been hearing.

There are those who say that the album's different and innovative. Now, keep in mind that I haven't heard the record in its entirety so my opinions are just going off of the songs that've been floating around the internets (Welcome to Heartbreak, Robocop, Love Lockdown, and Street Lights are all I've heard at this point), but I will concede that the album is different. Innovative? I'm not too sure. To my ears it sounds like a New Wave or Indie Dance/Pop record and given the popularity of artists like Santogold, M.I.A., and J.U.S.T.I.C.E in recent years (particularly amongst the Hip Hop community) it doesn't sound like he's trumping those folks aside from the fact that he's Kanye. The name recognition gets more people looking and in turn more people analyzing the work (just like me, natch). It's different because it's different than the rest of his catalog. The album being different isn't so much a problem, as I feel like Hip Hop fans are being pushed to really champion this album as a work of Hip Hop when the guy who created doesn't even consider it as such.

There's also the matter of Kanye embracing the much-maligned autotune vocal effect. The very fact that it's been used and abused this year by nearly every popular R&B and Hip Hop artist of dubious vocal ability is troubling enough. You've got a guy who's supposed to be setting trends when he comes out. With his previous albums, so many producers and artists copied after him it was ridiculous. What started with an autotune laden feature on Young Jeezy's single "Put On" exploded into an album full of the crutch that T-Pain hath wrought. Now unlike T-Pain and the host of other people that use this thing, I honestly believe Kanye has something different in mind than simply covering the fact that he doesn't have the greatest singing voice in the world. Perhaps, given the themes of heartbreak and loneliness that run through the album, the cold mechanical nature of the vocal effect is suppose to juxtapose with the raw emotion that Kanye is putting out there for the listener. That's a fresh use of the autotune if that's the case. Still doesn't mean it's exactly a treat to listen to.

Which brings me to the idea that the album should be respected simply because Kanye's being emotionally vulnerable in a way that's unheard of for a Hip Hop artist. Without bothering to go back to the argument that this isn't a Hip Hop record, I'll concede that Kanye should certainly be commended for being brave enough to channel what has to be a helluva hard time into music, and going with what he feels his heart pushed him toward. All that said, it's not the first time that Hip Hop's had artists who put their hearts on their sleeves in such a way. There's examples from the underground, sure: Slug from Atmosphere built his career off of baring emotion from the Lucy Ford EP onward. Jean Grae's laid it all out there for her listeners, not only in song (the painfully raw My Story from Jeanius details her personal experience with abortion), but as a person as well. Admittedly, mainstream Hip Hop isn't exactly awash with folks willing to bare their soul on record, but not too long ago one-half of one of the most heralded Hip Hop groups of all time released a concept album based around the ups-and-down of his own love life. Andre 3000 took a lot more Ls back when Speakerboxx/The Love Below came out than Kanye has over 808s, but they're both personal pieces of music where the artist uncompromisingly follows what it is they want to do.

Which is why I still respect Kanye as an artist. Despite any shade that might get thrown at him from folks like me, he chooses to push ahead with his vision. For that reason alone his music will always get my attention, if not my outright adulation. Hopefully once I actually sit down with a purchased copy of 808s & Heatbreak being able to hear it as a complete work will change my mind. For now though, I'll be in the corner with the haters, wishing T-Pain had never decided to turn into a "sanger."

Monday, November 24, 2008

Free Stuff: Illogic's EP One Bar Left

I brought you the title track from this EP on Wednesday, and now the whole thing is out.

Illogic - One Bar Left EP Produced entirely by Ill Poetic

Haven't had a chance to listen to it yet, but I've certainly missed hearing Illogic since the amazing Celestial Clockwork so it's bound to be a treat (You should cop it at that link if you don't already have it). Diabolical Fun coming this Spring from Weightless!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Friday Night Films

Gonna be pretty lazy with the film news this week, so pardon the kid. Some follow-up about the Oldboy remake that Stephen Spielberg and Will Smith are looking to put together. One of the writers from I Am Legend, Mark Protosevitch, has signed on to pen the film, and in the cop out portion of the news, Will Smith told Film School Rejects that the rights that Spielberg acquired were for the original Oldboy manga and not the Chan Wook Park film. So no need to worry about Smith and Spielberg having to go anyplace outside of their respective comfort zones, but it's a cop out as most people who know about the manga (and I'm willing to bet this includes Smith and Spielberg) were brought to it from the movie. So you know the movie's going to be in mind when they undertake this.

The Playlist (a really cool blog where they focus on movies from a music standpoint, particularly the involvement of music supervisors on a film) reports that X-Men: First Class is going ahead, written by Josh Schwartz, a writer responsible for Gossip Girl and The O.C.. Ladies and gentlemen, I can't and I won't stand for this. I'm not a huge stan for the X-Men, as a fictional universe it's got plenty of problems, and if this were called X-Men: Year One, Young X-Men or something else original, I wouldn't bat an eye. The problem is that they're taking the name for the movie from one of the comic books that actually get the X-Men concept right.

Written by Jeff Parker, the stories all center around all the OG members of the X-Men in their first years as a team. It cuts out all of the fat out, the super complicated plotlines, the contrived angst and just concentrates on fun stories. Gets the whole growing up different thing down, with a lot of classic comic book action (in a good way). I know it's early, but I have a feeling we're going get a lot crappy music, pretty white kids with problems and lukewarm super-power effects. Kinda like a movie that's dropping this weekend that I'll get into in a second. Anyhow, go cop the First Class books at your earliest convenience, 'cause not only do you get great stories up front, you also get adorable backup features by folks like Colleen Coover. As an example, here's Marvel Girl dealing with some baby ducks:
Click for full size.

If the movie contains this, I take back everything I said.

If you haven't already seen them, there's some nice trailers out this week: The Wrestler, Coraline to name a couple. Two more caught my eye this week: The Wilson Yip helmed Ip Man a bio-pic about the man that trained Bruce Lee in Wing Chun. Donnie Yen stars in the lead.

The second is for a Blaxploitation homage/spoof called Black Dynamite. There's really nothing I can say that the trailer doesn't do perfectly. Go here to peep the NSFW trailer, and to learn more about the film. The one-sheets in particular are pitch perfect.

Huh. Not quite as lazy as I'd planned. Well, now I'll leave you with what is the first installment in a series: Why 'Let the Right One In' kicks 'Twilight' in the Teeth.

When sunlight hits vampires in Twilight, this happens.

When sunglight hits vampires in Let The Right One In, this happens.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Throwback Thursday

I'm feeling a little homesick today, so for the Throwback this week I'm taking it to my old neck of the woods with the classic Soul Food by Goodie Mob. It's always good to hear Cee-Lo rhyming, and the rest of the Mob for that matter. Big Gipp was always a favorite of mine, especially his first verse on this one. I'm also reminded of laughing with my highschool buddy Josh whenever T-Mo's verse toward the end comes in. His admonishment of Chris Darden and Marsha Clark fell right in line with what we saw as a talent for kinda throwing off the vibe of whatever Goodie Mob song he happened to be on.

I think I'm going to just drop two videos each week, 'cause every time I go looking for one to post I end up with a handful to pick from. This is Goodie Mob's collaboration with Esthero (definitely not a team-up I was expecting back when this came out), a reworking of the song Country Livin' from her debut album. This version was done for the Slam movie soundtrack, which explains the jailhouse scenes and Saul Williams cameos:

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Music: Illogic and Fokis

A couple of new joints for today, one from a cat that I hadn't heard from in quite a while and one from an MC I learned about this year.

Illogic's always been one of my favorite MCs, from Columbus' Weightless Recordings crew, but he's been out of the limelight for a minute. Fortunately he's back again with a free EP dropping on November 25th called One Bar Left as a prelude to his new full length joint called Diabolical Fun this Spring. Here's the title track from the EP:

Illogic - One Bar Left
Get more familiar at Illogic's Myspace or at Weightless Recordings.

I got hip to Fokis earlier this year from his project 20/20, an EP with himself on rhymes and Aftermath producer Focus on the beats (download it at the link provided). His upcoming full-length is called A Walk Through MySpace Vol. 1, due to him working exclusively with MCs and producers that he met online. Here's the title track, which features a posse of MCs that Fokis is nice enough to provide introductions for throughout the song:

Fokis - A Walk Through MySpace

Peep a video about the project at YouTube.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Methinks the goon doth protest too much.

In my travels with this thing called Hip Hop I've listened to a lot of different kinds of the music that comes from the culture. You might not know it by what I tend to post up, but I'm a bit of a purveyor of thug rap. Gun rap. Goon music. Shit that makes you wanna punch somebody in the face. I'm done with defending my love of it, but honestly if you don't get it and you've enjoyed stories about gangsters or action flicks, you're missing the point. Ultimately, I make no apologies for it because just like movies about people getting popped in the dome, it's just entertainment. I do like taking the opportunity to get at those who take it too seriously.

Today's subject is Trick Trick, infamous Detroit figure, known by most for being a heavy dude in the streets who just happens to mess around with the music industry and his association with Eminem. He had recently been in the news for returning Yung Berg's chain after the young rapper caught a two-piece with an Ante Up special for talking reckless about Detroit before going to one of their more hospitable nightclubs with no personal security. Berg's problems are another blog post in themselves, but I digress. Trick Trick's recently garnered some attention for his opinions on gay folks. In short, they're not good. In an interview with, he recently said the following: "Homosexuals are probably not gonna like this album. I don't want your f**got money any goddamn way."

That wasn't the only thing said during the interview, and the word 'tirade' could be applied to it appropriately. Outside of the fact that gay people (or, truthfully, Hip Hop fans in general) weren't exactly chomping at the bit to cop Trick's latest opus, it's always funny to me when rappers like him get super homophobic. Why's that? Because thug rap tends to have some of the more suspiciously homoerotic lines pop up in songs. Consider this little gem from We Deep, a track from the Royce Da 5'9" mixtape, The Bar Exam 2:

Just in case you didn't quite get that, I'll type it out:
"The godfather and the king of the D, leavin' these niggas slept butt-ass naked like they was sleepin' with me."

Courtesy of The Villain himself, Trick Trick. Considering his actual presence in the streets, it's lucky I'm neither a) a prominent Hip Hop blogger or b) planning on going to Detroit anytime soon, but I gotta call it like I sees it.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Monday: Escape from the Doldruming

So another Monday, and malaise has once again set in over Camp What's Good, but I refuse to give in. While I make preparations with some associates to go in on a 'Reasons Why Eli from Let the Right One In could obliterate the whole of the Twilight universe' post, have some music that's helping me through today.

Jazzanova's a German (ah, the homeland...sorta) production outfit that specializes in chilled out and for lack of a better term, jazzy music. They've got a diverse array of remixes to their credit (The Free Design, Ursula Rucker and 4hero have all gotten the touch from J-Nova), and do a helluva job on the solo tip. Today one of the joints from their latest album Of All The Things has been in constant rotation, and it features Phonte from Little Brother singing the hook and rhyming over the track.

Jazzanova feat. Phonte - So Far From Home

As a bonus, here's one of my favorite remixes from Jazznova, a reworking of folk group The Free Design's Lullaby. Throw it on when you're laying down for the evening.

The Free Design - Lullaby (J-Nova Remix)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Friday Night Films

So I had a longer post planned, what with all the new trailers and news that came out this week. There's the new Watchmen trailer, the second part of John Woo's epic period piece (and possible return to form after a largely lackluster American outing) The Battle of Red Cliff, and a new promo reel for Ong-Bak 2. But I thought it was important to bring another film that will be coming to a theater near you next week if it's not already there. It's adapted from a popular novel about a young person who, after feeling out of place and bullied by their peers, befriends another young person that turns out to be a vampire:

If you though I was going to recommend Twilight to you, I refer you to this comic. For a full list of when and where Let The Right One In will be playing near you, click here. Hopefully I'll be checking it out this weekend at The Bridge in San Fran, and I'll hit you off with more info once I do. Enjoy your weekend everybody!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Throwback Thursday: The BET Edition

Since I hated on BET earlier this week I figured it'd only be right to make amends. I actually recall watching the video for Company Flow's End to End Burners on Rap City back in the day. I'm not sure if that speaks to the power of Rawkus' marketing plan at the time (for the screw job that they put on many of their artists, they did put that marketing money to work) or Rap City's old program directors but if you suggested to the average viewer that BET used to play stuff like this, you'd probably get a hearty GTFOH.

In some positive BET news that actually occurs in the present, tonight at 8 o'clock EST/PST they're going to air the award-winning documentary Wu - The Story of the Wu-Tang Clan before the DVD goes on sale November 18th. I was going to toss up the trailer, but since there doesn't seem to be an embeddable version of it anywhere, you get a two-fer on your Throwback Thursday videos. Da Mystery of Chessboxin' from the classic Enter the Wu-Tang:

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Free Stuff: Outasight's album Radio New York

Got this cat's album in the email a few days ago and just now had a chance to listen it. Usually blending singing with rapping is something that is either reserved for those that have the cred that allows them to "go to the left" without getting roasted for it by heads (see Q-Tip, Andre 3000), or for folks that are only dipping one foot into Hip Hop while they're a bit more firmly entrenched in other forms of music. Outasight hasn't been around quite long enough to fit in the former category, but he's certainly not the latter, making the balance between singing and rapper work for him over soulful production that firmly establishes that his heart is definitely with Hip Hop. There were a couple of occasions where I wished he'd just spit some bars (like his album closing revamp of the Stan Getz sampling Pharcyde joint Runnin', or the motivational/braggadocio track The Get Up), but for the most part I dug it, so give it a shot.

Outasight - Lights, Camera, Action

Outasight - Radio New York | Hit up his MySpace page for more news, and to purchase a physical copy of the album with a free poster.

As a bonus, he's a video for his single Good Evening that just recently won MTVu's The Freshmen competition to get added to its regular rotation:

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

One out of three means...tolerable?

Djimon Hounsou's going to be the voice of T'Challa, otherwise known as the Black Panther in BET's upcoming animated series of the same name, based on the Marvel Comics character. That's cool. There's still two pretty big problems with it though:

1) It's on BET.

2) The show's based on Reginald Hudlin's run, who brought all the respect and entertainment to title that he regularly does to the airwaves in his role as President of Entertainment for BET. Go ahead and flip over to BET for a second to see what I mean. I'll wait for you.

Ah well. Hopefully I'll be proved wrong about it, and it'll be great but you know the drill. Us geeks'll watch just so we can sound smarter about it when we trash it:
Djimon Hounsou Roars as the Black Panther

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wondering where Aaron MacGruder's been?

I know I have. Well here's at least one thing he's been up to in the interim. Ladies and gentlemen, Black Jesus:

Word to him name checking my tipple of choice.

Monday: The Doldruming

Not having a job for an extended period after holding down a stressful gig for a couple of years is not providing the perspective that I thought it might. Instead of being able to relax or ponder the possibility of my next job being better than the one I left, I continually picture a life stuck as an office jockey where I've grown too tired and complacent to devote any energy to creative projects.

This doesn't help much when you're attempting to do something creative in-between fits of job searching. But on I rush headlong into work drone oblivion, hurriedly in fact (just got a few rejections last week, applied for two new gigs earlier today) so I'm not sure what that says about me.

Hip Hop, as always, is with me. Here's some joints for you if you're stuck at a job you hate, not working and you hate it, or if you're just a touch bemused that your current situation hasn't shaped up to your liking.

Murs - God's Work

Aesop Rock feat. Breeze Brewin and Cage - Getaway Car

Iller Than Theirs feat. Cool Calm Pete - It Is What It Is

Pigeon John - Crazy

Junk Science - Hey!

Friday, November 7, 2008

Friday Night Films

It's all about film news and drops today. I'll start with the bad news and roll on into the good.

You've all seen Oldboy, right? If you haven't, I would recommend getting with it, tootsweet. It hit the U.S. when we had a pretty heavy deluge of revenge films and turned the concept on its ear. Equal parts violent and poetic, it (along with the other films in Park Chan-wook's vengeance trilogy, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance) is less about taking revenge, but more about how useless and ugly the act is. Hollywood's been talking about doing a remake for a while now, initially with Justin Lin attached to direct. This didn't seem like a terribly good idea because aside from the fact that the movie doesn't really need to be remade, Lin didn't really seem like he had the means to do it right.

Now, today, Variety is reporting that Steven Spielberg and Will Smith are in talks to work together on their own version of Oldboy. From a technical standpoint, if this goes through I have no doubt that the movie will be very well put together. Given both of the principals having a reluctance or outright inability to go as dark as a proper retelling of Oldboy would need them to, though, I don't really forsee it being faithful in tone and meaning to the original. Ultimately though, it could lead to more people checking out the original so it ain't all bad.

The next bit of bad news doesn't really have much of a upside for those of you out there who are comic readers. One of my favorite series from DC's Vertigo line was The Losers by Andy Diggle and Jock. It told the story of a group of special forces operatives that are out for revenge against the CIA when they're betrayed and left for dead by their handler. It was like a great, smart action movie. Gritty, full of snappy dialogue and just a damned fun read. Since Hollywood's just as eager to snap up comic book properties as they are to remake Asian films, a film version's been in talks for a while now. Originally it had Peter Berg attached and he seemed to have a flair for enjoyable action movies (The Rundown wasn't life-changing, but it was fun, and I've heard good things about The Kingdom). Now he's off and the new director does not inspire confidence. Slyvain White's previous credits include Stomp the Yard, a lot DTV and music video work and CHUD is reporting that he's in the directing chair for The Losers. This is pretty much the exact reason why a lot of comic book, video game and other adaptations of nerdy stuff to motion pictures don't work. Hollywood tends to grab someone that's great at getting a product out there, workman directors that are clutch players for getting a movie done on time and under budget. I'm sure White's a champ as far as that's concerned, but I seriously doubt he's going to be able to get the energy of the books right. Honestly, if you've got a jones for a good action flick, just cop the trades. I even provided you a link to get the first book for the low-low at In Stock Trades. I'm nice like that.

Yeesh. So this isn't a complete downer, a couple of pieces of good news. First up, anybody who's a anime fan and an 80s baby will remember the anthology film Robot Carnival, a joint I recall staying up to watch late nights on TBS when I should've had my ass in bed. Genius Party and its sequel Genius Party Beyond instantly reminded me of that. Top notch directors and character designers in the world of Anime (you've seen their work in Cowboy Bebop, Macross, and the animated sequence in Kill Bill Vol. 1 among other places) putting it down on short films. Genius Party just had a showing at the 2008 New York-Tokyo Film Grand Prix and you can read a report from the festival by Khalid Strickland at The Smoking Section where he speaks on it a bunch of other dope flicks. The trailers for the original and the sequel (which was released in Japan in October) have me incredibly interested:

Genius Party

Genius Party Beyond

Finally, I don't go as crazy for Pixar as some of my nerd brethren do. I definitely respect and admire what they do, but I'm not apt to rush out on opening night to see their films. That said, I've been looking forward to their next joint Up ever since I saw a hi-def still back in April (ask me nice and I'll slang you the full sized joint). Disney just released a new teaser for it and man...just go peep it at /Film. I need it in my life, like yesterday.

Enjoy the weekend, y'all.

Now for a REAL throwback...

Know how I know Wu-Tang is for the children?

That's how. Nothing says for the kids like Frankie Beverly and Maze. Snagged from one of my favorite blogs, The Smoking Section.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Throwback Thursday

Because everybody likes videos, right? I'll try and do a drop of one of my favorites every Thursday and since Q-Tip's album The Renaissance (you should cop it immediately) finally dropped this week, I'll devote this one to Tribe:

A Tribe Called Quest - Jazz(We've Got)/Buggin' Out from The Low End Theory

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Joints for the Day After

It'll be a bit before this place will start to look like I own it, but I suppose an introduction is due. As DJ Regular I ran the Hip Hop format of SIUC's student-run radio station WIDB. Had a show on Friday evenings for about two years called What's Good (shouts out to my co-host Lil' Constant, wherever she might be) where I played dope Hip Hop from all over. A lot times the shows had a theme, or special guests would drop by, but mostly we just kept it funky and had fun on the air. This blog's going to attempt to capture the feel of the old show, but with a broader scope. I'll talk about everything I'm interested in: music, movies, politics, games, writing. The unifying element is that it'll all be from the viewpoint of a cat that fancied himself the Hip Hop Bob Costas...until he realized that Jay Smooth existed, and decided to settled for being a plain ol' Hip Hop head that likes talkin'.

Now that the intro's outta the way it's time to get to the real point of this drop, music. With a monumental election night behind us, most folks that weren't rendered comatose by the shock of America waking up after 8 eights years got up and seized the day. Safe to say we're all feeling a myriad of emotions today, and mine had a soundtrack.

Arguably the most obvious to spot, even you cats workin' the most straight-laced gig on the planet had a little bop in your step today if you were supporting change.

Brother Ali - Mr. President (You're the Man)

Statik Selektah feat. The Justus League - On the Marquee

What I'm worried some of you out there aren't feeling is something that's been in my heart pretty heavy. We definitely proved that we can promote a we need to keep doing it. A lot of promise were made and we've got to make sure that the man we elected keeps his promises to us, and we need to live up to the feat we managed last night. We can't afford to pat ourselves on the back 'cause we're going to need those hands for the heavy lifting.

Invicible feat. Finale - Don't Sleep

Talib Kweli - This Means You feat. Mos Def

As a young black man, I grew up indoctrinated with stories about friends and family that went through the Civil Rights movement first hand, grew up in the Jim Crow era South, and struggled for all of us. I won't lie, in recent years I've often wondered if my generation was worth the trouble. Just last week we had one of the most popular (among kids, which makes this even worse) rappers of the day give props to the slave masters that brought us here. And that's not even the worst of the coonery I've seen from my people as of late. I'd always been told we were a people full of promise and immense strength. Well racism's far from over, and we've still got a lot of work ahead of us within our own community, but last night was the culmination of work that began many years ago. Proof that we actually can live up to what the older generations did for us. My only regret is that some of them, like my Grandma Henrietta, couldn't be here to see it.

Sam Cooke - A Change Is Gonna Come

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Ready to work.

So initially I had the idea to finally start my blog tonight, no matter what happened with the election. The post was going to be something along the lines of 'I voted for change' and that was going to connect to how not only so many people my age were ready for a change, but how I was ready for a change in my own life, etc. The turmoil the country's gone through the past few years mirrored the ups and downs I've gone through personally, etc. But when I got home from putting in my ballot I started to work on it...and it came off mad corny. So I just sat. Watched the results. Called my mom. Waited. And waited. Then once my roommate got home from work, the networks were calling it for Obama and McCain was getting ready to deliver his concession speech. So I wrote:

The body is weak
Atrophy threatens to settle in,
But even as the death knell did sound
And last rites were whispered
With reverence, and bowed head,
The chest heaved.
Veins pulsed.
Lungs rattled to life,
And we breathed.
With a shaky hand,
We reached out to our administrator
And requested:
“Pray not that I am prepared for the final journey, Father
Instead, pray for the strength needed
For the work yet to come.”

That's what I wanted to say. That I've felt like my country's been damn near on its last legs for a while. That I've felt like I've been on my last legs for a while. But tonight proved to me that we're not. We're still full of life and we've still got it in us to do something extraordinary.

I'm ready for the work that's yet to come.

On the headphones: Q-Tip feat. President Barack Obama - Shaka