Wednesday, September 28, 2005

are you deep enough to roll with the mobb?

In the winter of 1994, a duo from the Queensbridge projects in New York quickly went from riding the major label coattails of one their brethren, Nas, and single handedly released the dopest single of the year, "Shook Ones Part II." That duo, Mobb Deep, is easily one of the most likeable, dirty, and talented groups since the Beatnuts. Having been under the tutelage of producers such as Large Professor and Q-Tip, Havoc's sample heavy beats, combined with Prodigy's street savvy rhymes probably made them a little bit more likeable in the 'hood than Nas (i.e. dope beats + ignorant gun talk = ghetto hit). Throughout the last 10 years, we've seen the Mobb evolve from young thugs to older thugs, and though they've never had a hit as large as "Shook Ones," (save for maybe "Quiet Storm," but that's probably because Lil' Kim was the guest emcee) they've surely had their share of imitators.

Jamal (of Illegal)
a.k.a. Mally G
Evidence: Last Chance, No Breaks (Rowdy, 1995)
In the tradition of the Mobb as tough-talking midgets (big up to Gossiping Bitches), former kid rapper (a la Kris Kross), Jamal quit Illegal and went for self in 1995, hooking up with Erick Sermon and the Def Squad to pull together somewhat of a decent solo album. Though Illegal's debut "The Untold Story" came out in 1994, months after Havoc and Prodigy's "Juvenile Hell" record (the two albums ran similar subject matters in Illegal's "Head or Gut" and the Mobb's "Hit It From The Back), Jamal relentlessly rips off Prodigy's street swagger on his debut; the first track "Live Illegal" samples a line from "Shook Ones." Just really fucking blatant.

Da Youngstas/Illy Funkstas
Evidence: I'll Make U Famous (Pop Art, 1996)
Signed in the wake of Kris Kross, Philly's Da Youngstas put out three happy, Native Toungue-esque Posi-rap records. When that style started to die, they hooked up with Marley Marl and Havoc and got all thugged out.

Despite having a stupid name (just change the damn name, who cares if they don't remember Da Youngstas?!?), their album "I'll Make U Famous," which not only had production from Havoc, but also guested Mobb Deep as well as more vocal samples, wasn't half bad, making it one of the better forgotten records of '96.

Big Noyd
a.k.a. "Avoid The Noyd"
Evidence: Episodes Of A Hustla (Tommy Boy, 1996)
Big Noyd? Like the Noid? Like the Domino's Pizza villian? Were we really short on MC names in the mid-nineties? Anyway, preceeding Tony Yayo by nearly a decade, Noyd dropped a dope verse on the Mobb's "Give Up The Goods (Just Step)" and went to jail. Then he put out a series of crappy solo albums before being relegated to mixtape freestyles.

Capone N Noregea
a.k.a. CNN, that guy and N.O.R.E.
Evidence: The War Report (Tommy Boy, 1997)
Capone N Noregea took the East Coast thug image and made it their own. They referred to their respective projects and other boroughs by places in the Middle East (LeFrak, for example, became Iraq). They had Havoc do some production on their album, but rolled with Tragedy The Intellegent Hoodlum to juxtapose their ignant-ass lyrics with some kind of cred. Eventually that relationship gave way to beef, Capone went to the pokey, Noregea became a massive success with "Superthug" and then he went insane. If you can find his interview with Life Sucks Die, that pretty much says it all.

50 Cent (G-Unit)
a.k.a. Fiddy
Evidence: "How To Rob" (Columbia, 1999), Get Rich Or Die Tryin' (Shady/Aftermath, 2003)
His first taste of wax "How To Rob" is more or less a detailed version of "Survival Of The Fittest." Then Fiddy gets shot a couple times and has a hit with "Wanksta," which is his version of "Burn." Ultimately 50 Cent gets the upperhand over any of the other Mobb Deep imitators because he signed them to G-Unit. Gross.

Shook Ones
Evidence: Sixteen (Endwell Records, 2005)
Check the name, dorks!

Puff Daddy & The Family (The Lox, Mase, 112, everyone except Biggie)
Evidence: No Way Out (Bad Boy, 1997), Harlem World (Bad Boy, 1997), Money Power Respect (Bad Boy, 1998)
Basically between 1996-1999, Bad Boy was just Mobb Deep gone glam, complete with homoerotic shiny suits. Way to go, Diddy. Since then, The Lox broke up and now Jadakiss is getting potshots from Fiddy and G-Unit; Mase signed to G-Unit (ha!) and Diddy is a joke.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

nu-wave? dance-core? i (don't) love the '80s

[note: you may have noticed that i removed a bunch of posts. the reason behind this is that i've decided to make chasing coolness strictly for reviews and essays. if you want to know more about my personal life or what's going on my head, you probably know how to get ahold of me. or you could ask]

Nightmare Of You
"Nightmare Of You"
(Bevonshire/East West)

Panic! At The Disco
"A Fever You Can't Sweat Out"
(Decaydance/Fueled By Ramen)

A few months ago, I wrote this rabble rousing post about kids who are making sad attempts to rehash the '80s (even though that would've been cool, let alone acceptable, four years ago) and in the wake of all this madness you have Bloc Party, The Killers, and, um, Madness (kings of ska, riiight). Well get your Rave hairspray and your parachute pants ready because coming to a record store near you are some more awesome bands taking a bite out of the decade of coke, coke, and Reagan.

First we have Long Island, NY's Nightmare Of You, a band I've relentlessly championed for the last year and a half without having any personal stake in, other than being a fan. Their self-titled debut (on the '90s tour-de-force/previously defunct Warner Bros. East West imprint no less) plays like The Cure album that I wish they made last instead of that crappy album they put out.

Of all the bands doing this '80s thing, Nightmare is probably one of the better ones, if not the best. Taking cues from the Britpop scene, they deftly go through the album's 11 songs like it was breathing. Tunes such as the oversexed "Thumbelina" and "In The Bathroom Is Where I Want You" signify that frontman Brandon Reilly has gotten over the pop-punk brashness he had when he was in The Movielife (or maybe he didn't since dude was rocking a Smiths shirts in one of their videos ages before Aiden or Atreyu were rocking the SAME fucking shirt).

They even touch on politics; in album's closer, "Heaven Runs On Oil," Reilly sings "Say you love us, like I know you will/And our deaths won't be in vain/Or in the name of gasoline." An easy statement, but undeniably catchy. Even the "ironic" hip-anti-hipster song "Dear Scene, I Wish I Were Deaf" pokes fun at kids who are too cool for school, even though they may be the band's target audience: "You lazy hipsters make me sick/Don't clap your hands/Don't start to dance/Don't let them know that you're a fan."

One band that I was not a fan of was Nevada's Panic! At The Disco, who had the ability to sound like Fall Out Boy meets Nu-wave. Yeah, bros, that's a good idea. I tried listening to this album at work and two things happened: 1) I started laughing in an otherwise quiet room and I had to excuse myself, then 2) I started to get angry thinking that these douchebags got signed. People can't be serious about this band, there is absolutely nothing redeeming about this release. The "post-modern" artwork is something that the Blood Brothers did on "Burn, Piano Island Burn," and, shit, Gatsby's American Dream did the same thing on "Ribbons and Sugar" -- at least those bands are good enough to boast such hip artwork.

Unlike Nightmare Of You, P!ATD's (doesn't that look like ATID?) lyrics don't rely on politics (both scene and actual) as much as they do guessed it...relationships! If you simply read the lyrics, they're actually a collection of dopey rejects from Fall Out Boy and Bright Eyes, complete with ridiculously long song titles like "Lying Is The Most Fun A Girl Can Have Without Taking Her Clothes Off" and "I Write Sins, Not Tragedies."

Like a million other Purevolume bands, Panic! At The Disco's music and lyrics rely heavily on a Mad Libs-style of filling in the blanks with generic (and seemingly uninspired) inspirations. Like a real '80s band, however, it seems that they exist solely on getting some $$$$$$.

In closing, I highly recommend the poppy/occasionally condescending debut from Nightmare Of You, and I recommend that Panic! At The Disco break up and go back to parking cars at Circus Circus. If this is the end of the '80s trend, I can't wait for people to start ripping off EMF and Barenaked Ladies for the '90s trend that will no doubt happen.

Monday, September 19, 2005


Miri Ben-Ari
"The Hip-Hop Violinist"

Miri Ben-Ari's previous work included being a session violinist until Kanye West, Jay-Z, and Wyclef Jean shouted her out, therefore, she's taken it upon herself (as well as the good folks at Universal's urban department) to give us a full album of hip-hop violinin'.

Fortunately for us, this is a really good album. A very well constructed compilation record that features really enjoyable songs like "Sunshine To The Rain" (with Scarface, no less), "Fly Away," and "I've Been Waiting On You." Unfortunately for Ben-Ari, her violin skills take a back seat to a stellar cast of featured guest artists and strong club anthems ("Jump & Spread Out" is going to be the biggest club hit of the year, just wait and see).

Don't get me wrong. The violin is very prominent throughout the album, but at times you forget who the primary artist on the album is because you're just too busy grooving to a new Pharoahe Monch jam ("New World Symphony").

Still, "The Hip-Hop Violinist" is a worthwhile buy for a strong stable of supporting artists and songs and though it won't get you into Classical music anytime soon, it'll at least spice up your steady diet of Slim Thug and Common.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

jumping from the sinking ship to the life raft of hope

today's soundtrack:
at the drive-in "this station is non-operational"
the blackout pact "hello sailor"
these arms are snakes "this is meant to hurt you"
mos def "black on both sides"
mike jones "who is mike jones?"
freddie hubbard "get ready freddie"

Monday, September 12, 2005

oh how the mighty have fallen...

The War At Home
Starring: Michael Rappaport
(Fox; Sundays 8:30 p.m.)

I grew up watching movies like "Zebrahead," "Higher Learning," and "The Pallbearer" (don't ask) thinking "Wow, that Michael Rappaport is a pretty good actor." By all means, he's not a leading man, save "Zebrahead," I can't think of any role he could be a lead in, though he could always play second fiddle to Dennis Leary. So when commercials started flashing for his new sitcom "The War At Home" I thought I could try to give the man his props and I pumped the show to friends and family. Of course, no one except for one other person cared about the show.

When I actually sat down and watched the show...well, I'll be honest, I couldn't even sit down through the first 12 minutes. I found other exciting things to do like wash the dishes, answer the phone, build a model kit of an airplane.

It's not that "The War..." is a completely dull show, it's just stupid. It's the whole suburban/"It's All In the Family" themed shit. Rappaport plays Dave, an Archie Bunker-like dude who spouts off about his fears via monologue with the camera (thus breaking the 4th wall; though it should be mentioned that all the characters are able to do this as well). He shares all the same character traits as our beloved (or hated) Bunker: racist, sexist, homophobe, etc.

There's nothing that sets the show apart from some of its previous incarnations like "Married...With Children," "Grounded For Life," or "Unhappily Ever After." In fact, I would recommend those shows because they are way better (if not the apex of Eurocentric sitcoms).

Michael Rappaport stars in the biggest piece of shit sitcom since the American version of "Coupling" and it makes me cringe, and sometimes cry. Oh well, we'll always have that cameo in the Jay-Z video for "The City is Mine" eh, Mikey?

Saturday, September 03, 2005

the latest registration or how kanye cut fools down a notch

the word of kanye west going off the cuff in the nbc/red cross telecast spread like wildfire, no doubt marked with the now classic quote: "george bush doesn't care about black people." but i'm posting the link for posterity's sake. here.