Monday, June 29, 2009
However, the other truth of this is that I can’t remember Michael Jackson ever being a human being, either. By the time, I formed a true consciousness and began to form memories, Michael Jackson was already branded a freak. His face had already turned eerily white, his nose already mutilated, and his hair permed and straightened in attempt to hide the kinky Afro of his youth. I don’t remember when Michael Jackson had black skin let alone when he was fresh-faced pre-teen with a voice that most assuredly must have been stolen from an angel. He never seemed real to me. His uber-eccentric tabloid exploits and his vast personal troubles making him seem far more alien and untouchable than your typical celebrity.
And make no damn mistake, Michael Jackson was not your typical celebrity. Jackson was one of the rarefied celebrities that transcend the human condition and into precipice of living godhood. He did not belong to our kind. He belonged on Mount Olympus, or in Valhalla with the Norse Gods or on Jupiter frolicking with space aliens. Most celebrities society chooses to adorn with fame are often those who possess a talent or trait that we admire (unless, of course, they are reality t.v. stars or serial killers but even then society admires a skill they possess. It just happens to be unchecked sociopathy.) and we choose to elevate them above the rest of our kind because of it. However, most celebrities seem shockingly “human” and we revel in the schadenfreude of proving just that. They divorce. They battle alcoholism. They fuck on videotapes. Even their talents often seem as if fate had blessed the rest of us with incredible good looks or the ability to hit the high notes than we could be famous as well. Michael Jackson wasn’t like that. Michael Jackson’s talent dwarfed the ability of even are our most talented celebrities. No matter how well Justin Timberlake sings and dances, he’s not making an album as imminently flawless as “Thriller.” Its just not in him and that’s not a knock on the man. Its not in any of us. We are human. Michael Jackson was made of the celestial greatness that it is carved out of the Gods.
Michael Jackson paid for his talent as well. He lived the type of troubled and tortured lives that only afflict the genius. He spent his life being adored by nearly every human being on the entire planet but you get the sense that all he really wanted was to be secluded from the rest of the world to live and die in peace. In that sense, we should feel better that Michael Jackson’s pain is finally over. He is now in a better place. The true sadness is now that he has passed we have lost one of the last few beings of his kind. The ever expanding maw of the modern media has cheapened the concept of fame and there aren’t many beings that garner that level of worship on Earth left. Perhaps, Michael Jordan. Perhaps, Muhammad Ali. Madonna might qualify but she consciously chases that level of worship with a certain sense of superficiality as her eccentricities seem so calculated and packaged that she seems too overt for godhood. Everyone else doesn’t even come close.
Through all his trials and tribulations, we should remember that the talent the man possessed was the sort of talent that allows us to glimpse at divinity. “Thriller”, “Off The Wall”, “Bad”, these are records are not only flawless but allow us to touch something that is beyond us all even for a short moment. Hew was not among us. Do not cry for Michael Jackson. He has only returned home.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Yeah, this actually happened. Who knew that Shaq was such a big fan of the Gravediggaz? I think I like him just a bit more now. Whenever I get around to writing my book about shitty, shitty hip hop, Shaquille O'Neal is going to be prominently involved. I'm thinking multiple chapters. I can guarantee that.
Granted, this is the trade they should have made in February but I can't say I'm not excited right now. This will probably all end in tears but Shaq for the Corpse of Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic? You kidding me?!
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
His new album, "Dopium", is surprisingly dope, though. (Pun very intended.) It's nowhere near classic status but it follows the dogged Wu-Tang loyalist formula that Masta Killa, another Wu-Tang second-stringer, was able to ride "No Said Date" to minor classic status earlier this decade. U-God is finally smart enough to know that the only way that he's going to make any commercial noise in this climate is to drop any pretension of mainstream appeal and craft an album for Wu-Tang purists only. Most of the Clan show up to deliver a bunch of stellar guest verses and the production sounds like a reasonable enough facsimile of what RZA would produce if he hadn't gone bat-shit crazy hanging out with Quentin Tarantino and Dhani Harrison. It also features a song, "Magnum Force," featuring a trifecta of also-ran wackness when Jim Jones and Sheek Louch show up to discuss the finer art of holding the bag. It's suprisingly competent. I'm not even kidding. I listened to the record three times through today just to make sure I hadn't accidently caught a contact buzz on the way to work this morning.
And also to my extreme delight, the latter stages of the album suddenly turn into a glitch dance pop record out of fucking nowhere. Seriously. It turns into a fucking techno album. And it's not wack in the slightest. It's awesome. Seriously.
U-God - Train Trussle [Feat. Ghostface Killah & Scotty Wotty]
U-God - Magnum Force [Feat. Jim Jones & Sheek Louch]
U-God - Stomp The Roach (Remix) [Feat. GZA & Scotty Wotty]
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
"I'm comfortable enough in my (relative lack of) masculinity to admit that I'm a fan of this show"
One of the more awkward aspects about being a (not a) blogger writing about music (you know, aside from all of it…) is being asked by your friends to listen and post their band’s music for your site. As any person who adheres to the most basic of social conventions can tell you, peer-to-peer human bonding requires one to like (or at least, pretend to like) your friend’s shitty band even if you’d rather stick a corkscrew into aural cavity than listen to their music. Naturally, this can be problematic when one considers oneself to be an objective critic (and in my case, somebody with flawless taste) and you have to inform your friends through your (relative lack of…) social graces that you won’t be writing a fawning piece of their industrial sludge metal band on your blog because you don’t want to compromise your objective integrity (or rather because you simply have taste…) Fortunately, I have been blessed with friends that have musical talent and I’m proud to be able to post their stuff on my blog.
Over the course of my blogging career, I have befriended (and made enemies with) many of my fellow bloggers and musicians who frequent the same corner of the interwebs that I do. Through my travels, I somehow managed to befriend the infamous rapper Zilla Rocca of Clean Guns and producer/musician Douglas Martin of Fresh Cherries from Yakima through our correspondence and daily shit-talking we all do at Passion Of The Weiss and The What? message boards.
This album is no joke and is one of the best albums to be released recently in a year that many critics are calling a return to form for hip hop (if the form was like 2004 but still…). The Slow Twilight sounds like the artistic cousin of GZA’s “Liquid Swords” if it were mated with Edan’s “Beauty & The Beat” and channeled through a less needlessly unintelligible version of Aesop Rock (in a good way) humping a DVD of “Double Indemnity.”
Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line
Ra Ra Riot – The Rhumb Line
I have known the dudes (and chicks) from Ra Ra Riot in one shape or the other since my days happily drinking myself steadily into oblivion at
I’m not the world’s biggest indie rock fan (obviously) but I’ve always had a really good time at their shows and I purchased their debut CD when it was released last August. Ra Ra crafts sweet and peppy indie pop songs that work slightly better live than they do in recorded form. They are kind of hypnotic live due to a large part because of their high energy state shows (and the fact, their two female members are hot) as
Divine Minds – Divine Intervention/SoulKlap & Divine Minds – The Quan
Divine Minds, consisting of fellow Shaker Heights alums, rapper Jerrell Johnson (Black J) and producer Mike Amaddio, have been kicking in and out of my musical consciousness back since I was pretending to be a rapper myself (and no, you will die before you hear any of my old material.
Now, Jerrell and
Monday, June 22, 2009
Ask anybody who has spent a significant portion of time around me and they will inevitably tell you I'm one of the worst human beings alive to watch sports with. I'm easily angered, overly pessimistic and have a tendency to string together a veritable symphony of unspeakable expletives that will inevitably earn me a one way ticket to hell for breaking the Third Commandment (according to the one true Holy Bible, Wikipedia). I have a particularly nasty habit whenever a team that I'm rooting for inevitably starts to collapse in the third quarter of a tight game of throwing objects at-hand at high velocity at my television screen in disgust. Over the last couple of years, I have had to call Timer Warner Cable six or seven times (three alone in the Orlando series) to replace the remote control that I smashed against the wall as my teams blew a late lead.
Over the years, former Cavs basketball "great", Damon Jones has caused his fair share of household items to be destroyed in an uncontrollable rage. This is a shame because Damon Jones is also one of my favorite athletes of all-time. Damon Jones is an awesome basketball player, just not in the sense, that he's actually good at the game of basketball. He's actually pretty terrible at that. For a guy who claims to be "the Best Shooter On The Planet", he remarkably only shoots about 40 percent from three-point land which is just awful when you consider that his three-point shooting is his only on-court asset that is of any use to a team. However, what makes Damon Jones so undeniably awesome is his off-the-court antics and general tomfoolery which makes him one of the more entertaining human beings alive.
I have compiled some of the great moments from Damon Jones' career for the enjoyment of my readers. Bask in the awesomeness.
One of the key aspects of Jones' transcendence as a comedian is his ability to act like a preening jackass after the most mundane of accomplishments (like hitting an open jumper in the middle of a blowout loss) especially when it comes after missing five or six shots in a row. In this photo, Damon Jones celebrates a rebound of the open lay-up he missed on a fast break... against the Bobcats... in December... in a loss...
Damon is a master of the overly complicated handshake. It was reported that while he was performing his "duties" on the Cavs that he had a different handshake with each member of the team that he would perform before each and every game with them. It has also been reported this "influence" with Lebron James is part of the reason, the Cavs started performing their patented "pre-victory" skits before a 120-87 beat down of the Grizzlies this season (thus contributing to the ultimate demise of the Cavs this season. Son of a #%$@$ $#$%@%@$!!!!) Here we see Jones offer King James one of his patented "assists" coming out of timeout. This hand-shake proceeded to last the entirety of Mike Brown's "strategy" session.
In this photo, we witness Damon Jones' patented "let-my-assignment-blow-right-by-me" non-defense defense. We catch a small glimpse of why Damon Jones is the player he is.
Contrary to public opinion, weed carrying is an art. It requires that you put the needs of your weed owner ahead of your own. You have to be ready and willing to go the extra mile to get that high quality dank through airport security. In this photo, Damon Jones takes orders for how many blunts that Shaq and D-Wade require for their post-game smoke session.
A good weed carrier makes sure to take care of his old client's needs even after he's signed with a new owner. In this photo, Damon Jones discusses Shaq's weed requirements with the Corpse of Gary Payton, Shaq's new Secretary of Smoke.
One of the more entertaining aspects of Damon Jones' career is his tremendous sense of style. He is a man that not only knows how to sport a coat that would make Craig Sagers rock a-green-lime-suit with envy but he does it with the type of braggadocios flavor that can only come from a man who spent his career keeping Shaq and Lebron's bench warm and toasty. In this photo, DJ sports a dinner jacket from the 55-year old women's divorcée collection. Damon Jones is not afraid to look like some sort of cougar-pimp hybrid. Metallic leopard print in public? I think so.
Damon Jones knows the importance of being seen in public with athletes more talented and famous than him. He understands that, in order, to sleep with the same quality of groupies that you have to latch yourself onto a Shaq or Lebron or in this case, a Reggie Miller and a Shawn Marion. Witness how by subtly working himself into the center of the photo, he becomes a star and thus you are drawn to his charismatic magnetism and ignore the fact that he sucks at basketball. You want to be him even though you hate him with all your heart. Call him the DJ Khaled of basketball. Damon Jones is a visionary.
Being a style icon doesn't just happen overnight. You have to have role models, in order, to be able to properly dress like Hugh Hefner in public. Damon Jones knows this. In this photo, we witness Damon Jones interviewing legendarily bad dresser, Deion Sanders, on exactly how one wears a silver checkered sport suit, a pink dress shirt and a white fedora in public without looking like "Chocolate Lover"-era Big Daddy Kane in public. Clearly, Jones has taken the lessons "Prime Time" to heart.
Let's not forget his love for stupid haircuts as well.
Did you know Damon Jones signed an endorsement deal with a sportswear company in China to promote their basketball shoes simply because he was on the same team as Lebron James? Now you know and knowing is half the battle of going through the mental gymnastics that you have to make to reconcile that completely illogical thought in your head. Damon Jones endorses shoes in China.... Damon Jones endorses shoes in China!! DAMON EFFIN' JONES ENDORSES SHOES IN CHINA?!?!?!
Jones and LBJ... and the man love that dare not speak its name.
Damon Jones at his best.... Sitting on the bench... Holding Lebron's weed.... Acting Like A Clown... Not doing any harm on the basketball court... I will miss you, Damon Jones. Always and forever.
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I have found a new personal savior in the form of an anonymous student who had the balls (or ovaries) to tell the school how they really felt. I personally always wanted to do this while I was at that miserable place but unfortunately, I never had the opportunity (nor talent or balls) to do something that unspeakably awesome. Personally, if I had done it I would have refused to apologize to anybody on general principle because I don't apologize to people whose general stupidity trumps their will to live (or in this case run a high school) but otherwise, this is the greatest prank in the history of the school. I want to thank you for restoring my faith in humanity.
On a related note, the parents in this video are the exact reason, I hated growing up in that type of overly sensitive community. How do you not find that hilarious?
Friday, June 12, 2009
I Didn’t Need Jay-Z To Tell Me That T-Pain Sucks: Shawn Carter Has His Nas Moment – A Prayer For James Cameron
Personally, I blame Teddy Riley. If I were a Skynet-like supercomputer deliberating over who to send an immigrant Austrian bodybuilder (or a mimetic polyalloy Los Angeles police officer but definitely not and not limited to Kristianna Loken) back in time to terminate for their future high crimes and misdemeanors, I would undoubtedly select Edward Theodore Riley as my target. You see despite some of the genuine, thoroughbred awesomeness of Mr. Riley’s music, I hold the man most responsible for hip hop and R&B’s continued murder-suicide pact style devolution into mutual suckocity. If you want to place the ultimate embryonic blame on why hip hop has gotten so butter soft and lame (and it has nothing to do with the tightness of jeans, people) than there is no better choice than the man who brought us “new jack swing” because all that is lame and wack can be traced through his music genes to his devolutionary kin that wringing such havoc and destruction upon two of the world greatest musical genres.
Since the Great R&Bification of Hip Hop (and the Great Hip Hopification of R&B) that Mr. Riley spawned when he started lacing R&B singers with hip hop influenced beats in the late ‘80s, new jack swing has caused irreparable harm to both genres by allowing a slew of untalented hacks to irresponsibly try and mix hip hop elements with contemporary R&B elements to create an unholy Frankenstein-like creations designed to sell records to teenage girls. This has not been good to anyone. While Riley, himself, is not the biggest violator, it is undoubtedly those that followed down the dark path that he carved out for himself have done far worse than he could have possibly imagined. Much like Miles Bennett Dyson, had he known that his creation would cause such widespread destruction, he would have never combined R&B and rap music in the first place. Ultimately, I blame Teddy Riley because I blame him for T-Pain and I blame T-Pain for auto-tune…But I don’t need Jay-Z to tell me that T-Pain sucks. I figured that out on my own.
Jay-Z’s “D.O.A. (Death Of Auto-tune)”, the alleged street single, for his most assuredly ill-advised, upcoming album “The Blueprint 3”, is a “transformative” song for the artist. Granted, its song that transformative in the worst way possible but nevertheless it is a song that fundamentally changes Jay-Z as an artist but in ways that are harmful and destructive to the music. The greatest strength of Jay-Z has been his ability to adapt to the musical climate of the times. Unlike stick-in-the-mud true schoolers or his former nemesis, Nas, Jay-Z has consistently evolved and changed his sound from project to project in an attempt to stay relevant with the current musical times. Jay-Z had an uncanny knack for mining the talents of the hottest, most cutting edge producers before they became overpaid (and overrated) super producers and thus his music has been able to dominate the musical charts for going on thirteen plus years. He worked with Kanye before he was Kanye, Pharell before he was Pharell and Timbaland before he was Timbaland. The willingness to adapt and change his sound is undoubtedly the reason that he has enjoyed such longevity and acclaim compared with some of his mid-90s contemporaries. Why “D.O.A.” is such a frustrating and ultimately destructive track is that it ignores the primary idiom that has made Jay-Z so successful. He’s become a bitter hater. It is the moment that Jay-Z has gotten too old for this rap shit. It is not a good look on him.
“D.O.A.” is Hov’s old-man-yelling-at-the-young-kids-to-get-off-his-lawn moment as he lashes out against the tight jean-wearing atrocities of auto-tune (granted, something that needs to be said but not from Jay-Z) and those he sees having “ruined” hip hop with music that has a tragic lack of aggression in it’s content. Jay-Z has consciously crafted a record that is designed to be a rallying cry for hardcore hip hop that he sees to have faded from the mainstream of hip hop. This is a sentiment I can relate to, however, this record fails on pretty much all accounts.
First, musically, the record just sucks. The song uses a rather unspectacular No I.D. beat that sounds like it would be better served over Mos Def’s new record than it does for Jay-Z to be rhyming over in 2009. Granted, part of this is conceptual as Jay wants to rap over the type of backpack material that he presents as real hip hop over the overproduced tripe that is he going after over the record. Except Jay can’t rap anymore. On the record, Hov kicks this lazy, overly cocksure flow thats he’s been doing, at least, since Rick Ross’ “Hustlin’ (Remix)” and it just weak and unfocused. Lyrically, he’s treading the same sort of tired “rap sucks” waters that’s been passe’ for awhile now and coming from Jay-Z, it just sounds bitter. If you are going to tear into an entire genre of music for being wack, you’ve got to really bring it otherwise you end making yourself look worse than the music you are criticizing. This ain’t exactly “Stakes Is High,” people.
However, the primary reason why the record fails is conceptual. Why is Jay-Z making this record? He has spent his career chasing trends and staying on the cutting edge. Why is he suddenly having a problem with rappers singing in auto-tune over their records? Its not as if Jay hasn’t made some seemingly dubious record choices in the past. Let’s not forget his biggest record of all-time samples the soundtrack to “Annie,” a play that doesn’t exactly scream out bedrock hardcore gulliness. The song makes it seem as if Jay-Z is simply bitter the direction of hip hop has gone in. A notion that firmly places him into the “hip hop is dead” crowd that is populated by many a boom bapping backpacker and former rap luminaries that Jay has been chastising for years about not staying relevant including his greatest nemesis, Nas. Its hypocritical and its ugly of Jay to be making a record like this especially considering that as an executive over at Def Jam the last couple of years, he hasn’t been eager to stem the flow of this type of “soft” material. Kanye West, his most famous protege, has flourished under his watch while at Def Jam Records with music that nobody will confuse as hardcore gangsta rap anytime soon. Meanwhile, he alienated long-time Def Jam staples like LL Cool J, Method Man and Redman to the point that he actively loathe the man for his neglect to their careers. He hasn’t exactly been supporting true school hip hop while he was actually in a position to affect change. The very few critically lavished true school records that Def Jam released under his watch like Ghostface Killah’s “Fishscale” and the Roots’ “Game Theory” were basically buried and treated as tax write-offs at the expense of promoting poppy crack rap tripe like Young Jeezy and Rick Ross. Jay-Z bears huge responsibility in the way the scene has shaped itself, lately.
What ultimately makes this record so offensive is that it’s completely toothless. He spends the record lazily kicking hardcore cliches and criticizing soft, auto-tuning rappers but other than a half-hearted jab in T-Pain’s direction, he doesn’t call ANYBODY out for doing this. If Jay-Z really wants to make a statement, he would call out the artists he feels is ruining hip hop with their lack of aggression instead of making fun of their tight jeans and their brightly colored clothes. He even manages to make the song even less biting, after the fact, by giving interviews where he says that “D.O.A.” isn’t about artists like T-Pain, Kanye or Lil’ Wayne, the three biggest stars in the genre who are using auto-tune. He even spends a good portion of the song praising Kanye, DJ Khaled and Lil’ Wayne as if to mask any potential backlash the song might engender from his fellow artists. Who is this song going after then? Rob Browz? What is the point of making a record criticizing rappers for being soft and then not having the guts to call anybody out? This record just reeks of Nas-style pseudo-controversy baiting gimmickry designed to prolong your career because you can’t make hit records, anymore. The difference being that Nas has the authority and cache to pull stunts like this because of his position built as a scion of true school hip hop (that’s what recording the Bible will do for you) while Jay being considering the anti-Nas does not due to his endless chasing of the pop zeitgeist and the dollars that follow with it. It just comes across as the ultimate in hypocrisy. This is sub-50 Cent style stuff because at least, Curtis has the balls to call people out by name for material, he thinks is weak.
“D.O.A.” is the nadir in Hov’s career, a moment that is far lower and more embarrasing than any of his early career missteps like “(Always Be My) Sunshine” or “I Know What Girls Like.” This is Jay-Z’s “You Owe Me” moment. This is a song that fundamentally betrays his legacy as an artist and shifts his position from an artist that is consistently an advocate for the new and innovative in hip hop and places him firmly in the backpack territory. Congratulations, Jay-Z! You are finally rapping like Common Sense after all these years.
Friday, June 5, 2009
It totally would make sense that Dwayne Carter would be make a song in tribute to the most overrated player of his generation.* And yes, I realize that Lakers are about to sweep the Magic in four games (and at most, five games) but we already knew that.** This is the type of karmic symmetry that you can't make up. The two most overrated figures of their generation on one song of over hyped mediocrity. Brilliant.
* I base this conclusion, on the fact, that he's spent the better part of the decade being hailed as the second coming of Jordan and the best player alive and I just don't think that's EVER been true. I've always felt that Shaq and Tim Duncan were clearly better throughout the majority of his career (more dominant at their positions, more consistently great teams, better teammates etc.) but got inexplicably written off from best player discussions because they were centers (or faux-power forward in Duncan's case). And if anybody is still thinking that he's better than Kobe needs to consider what Lebron did last series even if the Cavaliers lost. Tou switch Lebron with Kobe and the Lakers might not lose a game... the whole season.
** While what the Magic were clearly a better than my Cavaliers last round, their dominance against them was. They shot damn near 50% from three point range, shot more free-throws than the Cavs (seriously, whiny Magic fans look it up), and had six of the seven best players (Howard, Lewis, Turkogulu, Pietrus, Skip To My Lou, and Courtney Lee) in the series and STILL the Magic were two defensive stops (Rashard's last second shots in Game 1 and Game 4) from losing that series, 4-1. They played perfectly and still might have lost to the Cavs who outside of Lebron played as abysmally as you can possibly play basketball without being WNBA players. The huge defensive mismatches that the Magic presented the Cavs will be negated by the size of the Lakers backcourt and the presence of Gasol, Bynum and Odom in their front court. The conference finals proved the Cavaliers were pretenders not that the Magic were contenders. The only way the Lakers lose this series is if Shane Battier and Ron Artest suit up for the Magic and the Lakers quit on themselves. Its seriously killing me that the least-deserving team in the playoffs (outside of Detroit) is going to win the NBA Finals relatively handily.
Excuse me while I throw up.