Song of the Day

November 26, 2013

What’s today’s mathematics? I can’t call it, because it doesn’t take a golden calculator to divide the lack of effort Rick Ross has committed to Stalley’s promotion. Aside from Ross’ mathematical approach to rhyming (car reference plus bad foreign bitch reference plus gold bottles reference plus lemon pepper wings) the MMG team is strong. Even though Meek Mill designed his whole flow pattern around the thematic basis of The Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” he can get busy on the mic sometimes. Still, one of the biggest assets on MMG is being criminally underused. Ross doesn’t forgive, but God does, so hopefully He’ll forgive me for reversing my entire opinion and playing devil’s advocate for just a second. I know we all tend to blame the HNIC when proteges fail to push their music into the spotlight, but maybe more blame should fall on the artists for not hustlin’ their own material enough. Stalley did get a guest spot on ESPN’s First Take theme song and some quality burn on the Self Made albums. But nah homie, the numbers don’t add up in this case. As Stalley’s steady social media marketing attests to, Stalley isn’t Jay Electronica, taking 20 years in between track releases. What am I missing here? Stalley has released two phenomenal mixtapes (Lincoln Way Heights and Savage Journey To The American Dream) and with Honest Cowboy, the latest EP, it’s about damn time Stalley get an official release date for an official studio album. Listen Ross, I get it, you got a lot of things on your plate right now, but word to DMX, how much can a nigga eat? On the real, where’s Stalley’s lobster, where’s his sea bass? “Swangin,” featuring Scarface, was one of the hottest joints released this year and I’m jus’ bein’ honest. But sadly, the emcee has really has nothing to show for it except for a couple of radio spins and Youtube views. Listen, I know artists don’t strike fire overnight, and this game does have it’s valleys and peaks, expectations for dips and what not, but can Stalley live? One thing tracks featured on Honest Cowboy like “Cup Inside a Cup” and “Spaceships and Woodgrain” have made firm in my mind is that Stalley’s game is grown, and I think he’d prefer Ross call him William. We know damn well Officer Ricky isn’t capable of moving coke across the ATlantic, but the self-made biggest boss you’ve seen thus far should face no metaphorical embargoes halting him from taking a gifted emcee with crossover appeal to industry heights much higher than Lincoln Way. And on that note, I’m gonna cut this Ye-esque rant and zone out to “The Highest” from Honest Cowboy, as you should.

Stalley- Cup Inside A Cup

November 24, 2013

Look, I like Lady Gaga son. I don’t qualify as one of her little monsters or whatever the hell, but I do enjoy her music at times. When the Gaga blizzard first hit in ’08, I was right there for the ride, jamming out to “Telephone” as I drove along the freeway. But Born This Way tamed by love for the fame monster, especially the overproduced title track. I seem to recall a follow-up single that also sucked. So on Thursday night as I heard “Applause” blasting from loud speakers, I immediately felt my fervor for Gaga return. That song is dope as hell, and so is “Dope,” the other single from her latest album, ARTPOP. The thing I love most about Gaga is how much she caters to vanity. She is blonde-haired embodiment of narcissism, materialism, and conceit. “Applause” is a symbolic representation of the age in which we live, where the populace is desperate for adoration, selling their souls just to get ‘likes’ on Facebook. It’s also a cool song to dance to at 2 am when you’re feeling “a little buzzed.”

Apparently Gaga is not the undisputed white-girl-pop-gangsta of pop music now. With 258,000 records sold, her fellow peers beat her in first week numbers (Katy Perry’s PRISM sold 286,000 copies, and Miley’s Bangerz sold 270,000 copies). 258,000 albums sold in the first week is an incredible statistic for 99% of the music industry, especially when we live in an age where no effort at all is required to get access to free music, but Born This Way sold approximately 1,108,000 copies it’s first week. I’ve never excelled in the field of mathematics, but I can tell you without a doubt in my mind that’s a huge drop-off. Rumor has it that a lot of people were shown the exit door after the disappointing sales.

Aside from all that depressing shit about people losing their livelihood, Gaga and I are reunited and it feels so hood.

Lady Gaga- Applause

November 13, 2013

I’ve recently been reading Prodigy’s autobiography, My Infamous Life. Prodigy is one half of the legendary hip-hop group Mobb Deep, if you didn’t know. When I first learned that Prodigy was penning a book, my initial thought was nobody could pay me to read it. Most books about hip-hop aren’t worth a damn unfortunately, with Jay-Z’s Decoded and a few others as exceptions to the rule. But the bulk of my hesitation revolved around my belief that Prodigy couldn’t be trusted to tell a truthful account of his life experiences. Coming from a rapper who heavily relies on street cred, I expected nothing but unequivocal braggadocio. Not to mention, although Mobb Deep is one of my favorite groups, they have been shitted on by a plethora rappers throughout their lengthy career. Just to name a few off the top of my head…

Jay-Z (“The Takeover”)
“When I was pushin’ weight, back in ’88
You was a ballerina, I got the pictures, I seen ya
Then you dropped “Shook Ones,” switched your demeanor, well
We don’t believe you! You need more people”

Nas (“Destroy and Rebuild)
“Askin’ a Braveheart to come get back your jewlry
You ain’t from my hood, don’t even rep QB”

And last but not least…

2pac (“Hit Em Up”)
“Oh yeah, Mobb Deep, you wanna fuck with us? You little young ass motherfuckas don’t one of you niggas got sickle-cell or somethin?”

And the list goes on. I expected the entire 200+ pages to be nothing but Prodigy talking shit about all of them and making up lies about his personal life. Surprisingly, Prodigy is pretty upfront in the book, even speaking frankly about the sickle-cell disease that has plagued him since birth. One of the most shocking things I learned was that Prodigy is the actual prodigy of one of The Crystals. The fuck? You mean to tell me one of the singers who made “Then He Kissed Me” birthed one of the most hardcore gangsta rappers of all time? (And before you start questioning my cred, I only know about that song because of that amazing steadicam shot in Goodfellas where Henry is walking Karen through the restaurant). Prodigy even explains the infamous “ballerina” pics, talking about how his grandma was an esteemed dance teacher who owned a famous studio. I plan on writing an extended article on the subject of Mobb Deep after I finish reading, so I’m going to keep this post short, sweet, and ultimately pointless. So for now, peace to the one of the greatest groups. Sorry P, here’s to me getting things twisted.

Mobb Deep- Got It Twisted

September 10, 2013

There’s no question that music is an important component of good movies, and when used correctly, songs have the effect of making cinema more cinematic. Who can forget Clint Mansell’s “Lux Aeterna” from Requiem For A Dream for instance? I thought Adele’s “Skyfall” was incorporated brilliantly in the opening credits of the latest Bond movie. But there is another instance of amazing soundtracks that may top them all in my opinion.

I’m a huge fan of ESPN’s acclaimed 30 for 30 documentary series. Each of the documentaries are filmed by different directors, and they all focus on some aspect of sports history or mythology. To date, I haven’t seen one that I disliked, and given the odds, this seems impossible. I’m just waiting for a 30 for 30 about the booger in Babe Ruth’s nose during a game in 1916 or something instantly unlikable. One documentary entitled June 17, 1994 temporarily threatened to obliterate the perfect track record the series has with me based on the premise alone…until I watched it. Before the documentary aired, director Brett Morgen stated that the entire documentary would consist of footage. There would be no talking heads sitting in chairs, discussing the events in hindsight. No, just a mash-up of footage. I almost turned the channel right at that moment.

The date in which the documentary is named after is memorable in sports history because of many, many things: the FIFA World Cup went underway that day, golf legend and tea-lemonade aficionado Arnold Palmer played an extremely emotional “farewell” U.S. Open retirement game, the New York Rangers celebrated a Stanley Cup victory after years of coming up short, the New York Knicks battled the Houston Rockets in the ’94 championship series…but most memorably, one of the nation’s most beloved NFL superstars/entertainers led scores of policemen on a slow, drawn-out car chase. As the director intended, the narrative speaks for itself, astoundingly so, and the events of that day are truly jarring due to the juxtaposition of emotional highs and lows. For instance, on the one hand you have footage of people cheering wildly in the streets after the Rangers win, and on the other hand you have most of the country trying to process the insane idea of OJ Simpson sitting back-seat while his good friend AG Cowlings drives a white Ford Bronco through Southern California. You see scores of people cheering OJ on as the former running back metaphorically runs his last play, and hear LAPD detective Tom Lange on the phone desperately urge a seemingly suicidal OJ to throw his gun out of the car window. Most of the dialogue in the documentary comes from the media, and as Morgen conveys, there was a general feeling of “wtf” not only in newsrooms across the country that day, but everywhere. Whether they were booing Patrick Ewing during the championship game, or cheering on Arnold Palmer during his last round of golf, or trying to process the OJ chaos, the entire world seemed to be united by sports that day, in some form or another. June 17, 1994 had me glued to the screen.

By the documentary’s end, the director has successfully conveyed the complete pandemonium of the day, without having anyone saying so in retrospect. The song that begins to play as all the different narrative strands come to an end is Talking Heads’ “Heaven,” featured on their critically acclaimed Fear of Music album. The inclusion of the song is interesting, not partly because of the band’s name and the absence of no so-called “talking heads” in the documentary. However, the real reason this song is perfect within the context of June 17, 1994, is the interesting take on heaven described in David Byrne’s lyrics, which seem idyllic in the backdrop of the extremely tumultuous events of that day.

“Heaven is a place
A place where nothing
Nothing ever happens”

Talking Heads- Heaven

September 3, 2013

I just finished listening to much-hyped, somewhat disappointing Dedication 5 mixtape. Although I’ll concede it’s annoying to hear people talk about how Lil Wayne is “wack” now, they aren’t necessarily wrong. I won’t say he’s wack, but he’s just a shadow of his former self to be sure. The Dedication mixtape series changed the way people recorded mixtapes. The first two tapes were so damn good that artists starting making their mixtapes in the same way as Wayne did, and now more times than not a rapper’s debut mixtape is the best thing he will ever release. But it’s disappointing to hear Wayne rap now, he doesn’t seem all that interested anymore. It would be an understatement to say he’s not hungry. Wayne still is a better lyricist than more than half of today’s rappers, even when he’s uninspired and clearly just rhyming words together. I think he lost his spirit during the prison stint, even though Sorry 4 Tha Wait isn’t that bad at all. Aside from 2 or 3 songs, Tha Carter 4 is terrible, despite what your friend who just started listening to hip-hop music 3 years ago will tell you. I’m gonna stop myself before this turns into a rant. Let the song of the day be a throwback to the night I first listened to the 1st Dedication and lost my mind. After listening to this song in particular, I remember sitting up in bed around 2 AM and saying aloud, “Holy s@%t!.”

This is a dedication… to the Wayne we once knew.

Lil Wayne- Stilletos

August 31, 2013

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported earlier today that Tim Tebow has been cut by The New England Patriots. Bittersweet news. Back in 2009, I was a strong supporter of Tebow, hoping that his incredible college football career could somehow repeat itself in the NFL with a little bit of fine-tuning. But in 2013, Tebow-mania is more a nuisance than anything. I’m not sure if there has ever been a more polarizing NFL player– particularly one that has assumed back-up duties for most of his professional career. Tebow himself is not the problem, but rather the media circus that documents his every move as some sort of long-running docu-drama. ESPN is rapidly losing credibility with me, as far too much of their reportage revolves around Tebow in some fashion. FirstTake used to be my favorite show, but ever since they started dedicating multiple segments to Tebow-topics, I’m at my wits end. Enough is enough. My hope is that some team (Jacksonville?) will pull the trigger on Tebow, giving him a starting job, so that once and for all, the world can see just how goo…bad he truly is. But correct me if I’m wrong, Tebow has had plenty of chances to prove his worth right, with three separate NFL teams? In his collective preseason performance as Patriot, Tebow was pretty awful, finishing with a QBR of 47.2 and only completing 36.7% of his passes. Disregard those two touchdowns he threw– Tebow can’t throw. Period. Still, Tebow-mania has been such a force the last 4 years it would be kind of sad to see it go completely. We could very well be witnessing Tebow’s last rendezvous with the NFL. Dang. I wish him all the best.

Sleigh Bells- End of the Line

August 29, 2013

I know the president is planning to launch an attack against Syria and all that, but it’s rare that our little state makes national headlines. Back in March, an ExxonMobil pipeline burst, unleashing some 5,000 barrels of crude oil in the small city of Mayflower, Arkansas. Gathered from an article posted to the Huff Post Blog, Sherry Appleman, a resident, has a few frank words for the energy giant: “I’m still having problems breathing. Our health conditions have gotten worse, people with cancer have gotten worse instead of getting better…the local health department says everything’s normal, but they’re just saying what Exxon wants them to say.” Appleman believes that her husband’s recent death by cancer was expedited by the toxic chemicals plaguing the city’s natural water resources. Appleman is just one of many unfortunate victims. Needless to say, the citizens of Mayflower are outraged, which is why Attorney General Dustin McDaniel and U.S. Attorney Christopher Thyer filed a motion to bring the energy conglomerate to justice. June 16, 2014 is the trial date set for Arkansas v. ExxonMobil, and the lawsuit claims that the company clearly violated the laws under the Clean Water Act. Fox 16 outlined the details of the claims of wrongful negligence in full detail: “a segment of the Pegasus Pipeline ruptured in a residential neighborhood in the town of Mayflower. The pipe was buried approximately two feet below the ground at that location. The oil spilled directly into the neighborhood and then into nearby waterways, including a creek, wetlands, and Lake Conway. Residents were forced to evacuate their homes due to the hazardous conditions in the neighborhood resulting from the spill. The oil has contaminated land and waterways and impacted human health and welfare, wildlife, and habitat. Cleanup efforts are still ongoing, and many residents still have not been able to return home.”

Back when the ish hit the fan, or the waterways to be exact, ExxonMobil attempted to do the right thing by offering temporary housing assistance to those members that were affected by this ecological disaster. But earlier this month Exxon announced that they would cut off assistance for the Mayflower residents. On her show, Rachel Maddow put things into perspective for me– as she always seems to do. ExxonMobil is the most profitable business of all time according to CNN Money, securing an excess of over 40 billion in earnings in both 2011 and 2012. Perspective came in two different enlightening waves. First, I thought, I need to get an executive position with ExxonMobil– immediately. Second, I wondered, how can such a profitable company not afford to continually assist people fully recover from a disaster they were 100% responsible for in the first place?

When I first heard the news about the trial date being set, I immediately thought of this video/song in a weird case of my mind making subconscious connections. At around the 2:05 mark, Phair says coyly, “And don’t look at my hands in my pockets, baby/ I ain’t done anything wrong” right as she tilts her head back while singing in a large mass of water. Hmmm…

Liz Phair- Never Said

August 28, 2013

It’s only natural to have a strong sense of paranoia these days. To rock dwellers, a man by the name of Edward Snowden has been making the media rounds the last few months. Snowden, a former member of the CIA and NSA, literally leaked tons of top-secret, classified, Burn-After-Reading material to the public. According to Snowden, he only wanted “to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” Of course, Snowden had enough sense to get the hell out of the country after committing high treason and espionage, attempting to seek political asylum in countries like Hong Kong and Moscow. The entire Snowden issue is polarizing, with some calling him a hero an others a traitor. In an interview with CNN, Jimmy Carter, the man from plains, defended Snowden’s actions: “He’s obviously violated the laws of America, for which he’s responsible, but I think the invasion of human rights and American privacy has gone too far.” This is exactly why Jimmy Carter wasn’t elected for a second term; he was way too sympathetic to the needs of the people. In order to secure a second term as an incumbent in this day and age, you must make your distaste of the American people clear, like initiating programs for universal health care.

I digress. I’m mixed about my opinion on Snowden, because, albeit nonsensical, I’m a firm believer in the what-you-don’t-know-won’t-hurt-you philosophy. But nevermind that. The true issue is that there is no privacy in the world anymore. In a comical display of flip-floppery, both President Obama and the NSA backtracked on revealing to the public exactly what the agency is able to inspect…finally settling on the fact that the government can literally view everything. Writing for CNET, Steven Musil wrote about an audit of NSA activities which occurred in 2012: “The audit…uncovered 2,776 incidents in the preceding 12 months of unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications, the Post reported. One of those cases involved the unauthorized use of data on 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.”

The word “privacy” has virtually no meaning for my my my generation, like the word “8-track” or “Matlock.” 1% of me thinks the idea of the government spying on me is sorta-kinda cool, like I’m a major mafia boss like Tony Soprano. The other 99% of me is repulsed by the idea. When Facebook launched its “brilliant” new plan to upload past feeds for every year, I was mercilessly subjected to looking at all the stupid things I did and said over the years. But now that I know that the government has everything… who has time to care about a few silly comments left on girls’ profiles my freshman year of college? I just pray that when I’m on my deathbed, the government will hand over a gold-binded book of all the embarrassing moments of my life. It will make for a good read.

New rules must constantly be adopted to cope with this sometimes exciting, sometimes terrifying Information Age. No feasible way to fight or rage against the machine on this. One can only make dam…darn sure to keep calm, carry on, and most importantly, be fresh as h-e-double hockey sticks if the feds watching.

2 Chainz- Feds Watching

August 27, 2013

Last week, MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow dedicated an entire show to a disturbing issue involving voting legislation in North Carolina. Not only has Governor Pat McCrory (R) recently signed a bill that suppresses voter rights by greatly diminishing the opportunities for early voting, he has essentially taken measures so that certain citizens will not have the opportunity to vote at all. Boone County consists of three precincts, and the Governor along with the Republican-controlled board of elections plans to eliminate two of them. Why? Because in the 2012 presidential elections, the precincts voted strongly for President Obama. What’s most troubling is that the bill will prohibit many students from voting at their universities– a practice that offers convenience for students where a mix of factors (lack of transportation, work, class schedules, etc.) makes it difficult to travel from Boone County to the Boone-docks in order to fulfill one of their unalienable rights.

A fight for voter rights in 2013 is upsetting, given the fact that I still believe most Americans are progressive-minded individuals. But the discord in North Carolina serves as sobering proof that prejudices and archaic views are deeply rooted in the fabric of American culture, and will not be neatly swept away any time soon. Although Gov. McCrory is blatantly attempting to suppress the minority vote in order to weaken turnout for the donkey party, this should not be viewed as a partisan issue. Whether you vote for the Democratic Party, Republican Party, Tea Party, Green Party, or Black and Blue With White Polka-Dots Party, you should be able to vote. Even former Secretary of Defense and long-time Republican Colin Powell has spoken out: “I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote.” Amen Colin. Luckily, NC citizens like 92-year old Rosanell Eaton have filed highly-publicized lawsuits against the state legislature, demanding that their voting rights be restored.

Hopefully more North Carolinians will follow suit (or file suit), raise up, and put more spotlight on this clear manipulation of justice.

Petey Pablo- Raise Up

August 26, 2013

In 2007 I got my first student article published in a University newspaper for UCR. The title was “Lock and load, just not at school” (I didn’t pick the title). I remember being so happy that I grabbed about 20 copies of the printed edition, and mailed 15 of them to my family. More importantly though, the article was about Shirley Katz, a high school English teacher, and her belief that within the jurisdiction of Oregon state law, she was allowed to carry a 9mm pistol to class with her every morning without catching flack– legal or editorial. Writing for the “Opinions” page, I argued that despite being within her legal rights, Katz and others in her position should avoid advocating the use of weapons in the classroom, as such a hostile environment could have detrimental psychological effects for children: “If such a precedent is set, there will be no restrictions against any form of maniacs or lunatic teachers with proper concealment permits to walk on school grounds with the ability to cause harm to the students there.” Mind you, this was years before Sandy Hook, which changed my perspective on things…until now. A woman by the name of Antoinette Tuff is making headlines recently after she successfully pacified a situation in which an armed, psychologically unstable intruder entered an Atlanta elementary school intent on causing severe damage. After a lengthy dialogue with a 911 dispatcher, Tuff’s calm and soothing demeanor resulted amazingly in the man surrendering to the police without a single injury or death. Michael Brandon Hill, the intruder, was loaded with an AK 47 style rifle equipped with close to 500 rounds of ammunition, enough to wipe out the school.

In “I Gave You Power,” Nas personifies himself as a gun, alluding to the fact that regular joe-schmoes can become powerful when they have a gun in hand. But Tuff’s story reverses this logic, because somehow a school bookeeper was able to prevent hundreds of fatalities with her powerful voice. I usually look back on the things I did when I was 18 as foolish, but it appears I may have been smarter than I thought.

Nas- I Gave You Power

August 25, 2013

Lately, I’ve been initiating a massive overhaul project on this site with the idea of remolding into more of a webzine than blog. Let’s face it; print media is a dying art form, an extinct dinosaur unable to keep up with the rapid nature of the web. Even though I miss the days when a fresh copy of Rolling Stone would arrive in my mailbox every month, the information age has made paper just as imaginary as Dunder-Mifflin. Our infrastructure bares little resemblance to epochs of the past, and I’ve come to embrace it with open arms. As Dwayne Carter once advised: “If you ain’t runnin’ wit’ it run from it motherfucka.” Still, there is still a tad bit of anxiety accompanying these societal changes on my end. Nothing encapsulates this feeling of transformation than Radiohead’s chaotic “The National Anthem,” which, like our post-modern world, bares no resemblance to the sweet melodic song you used to sing in elementary school.

Radiohead- The National Anthem

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