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: