We all have them. That one album that many may consider a flop, the point when a band sold out or lost their sound, a musical experiment gone bad, or simply something so popular its now considered uncool to enjoy but we believe to be a masterpiece of some kind. 50 cent....wait, where are you going? I'm being honest here. A blog post about our own personal classic albums contains the words "50" and "cent" placed side by side. I know what you're thinking, he's the guy made one terrible game, one game that many consider fun for reasons other than being good, and popularized the phrase "G-g-g-g-g-g-g-Unit!!!" amongst suburban youth. But before his
failings and played out habits would come to light, 50 Cent rose from the underground rapping scene most notably famous for his track "How To Rob" to a world that embraced him the moment he dropped down from the ceiling in a fictional training room and announced it was in fact, all of our birthdays.
I had not yet gone through my "mainstream music sucks" phase that I am now ashamed to acknowledge these days, so it wasn't hard for me to latch onto such a catchy beat. It didn't hurt that Eminem and Dr. Dre played a vital role in the video as well, linking themselves to the soon to be mega star 50 cent. If two arguable rap legends put their own stamp of approval on someone, the hip-hop community listens. Well, at least back then they did. Afterward, you couldn't tune into a radio station that wasn't blasting out this newcomers single. It didn't have an important message or uplifting words for the listener. It was simple and pure in its one true goal, give the listener something to listen to on a dull drive to school/work or a night out at the club. Of course, so many artists these days successfully release a track only to disappear into the hungry, gaping jaws of the music industry a record later. 50 possessed something however that would separate him from the most. Something that was important back then for many self proclaimed "thug rappers." He had been shot. Not once, but nine times if stories were to be believed. Now I'd like to say I was able to look past something so juvenile to brag about, but it only raised my curiosity further. Not only did he survive 9 shootings but its affect on his voice gave him a delivery and cadence weren't used to. Many naysayers mocked it but it held my interest.
He would go on to release three more singles, but with the amount of leaking and hype around the release of his first album "Get Rich or Die Trying" and his NY roots, I couldn't walk the streets of Brooklyn without hearing more than three-quarters of his LP blasting through various car speakers and home stereos. Whether he was lamenting over death wishes with "Many Men" or seducing the female audience with "21 Questions," each track kept you hooked with a hard hitting beat from Dre, 50 Cent's soon to be overplayed mic presence, and simple lyrics that were easy to sing along to. He didn't have Common's message of hope or Jay-Z's classy gangsta approach, he just wanted to entertain and evidently, "Get Rich or Die Trying." That's right, if you haven't guessed it by now or left out of disgust or rage, Get Rich or Die Trying is my personal classic album. Back then, that wouldn't seem so hard to believe, but today in a world where 50 Cent could never realistically outsell Kanye West and whose sound and brand feel dated and tired, claiming that his first album was a classic is heresy to many. Yes, I'll admit that The Massacre fell flat in its attempt to recreate the magic of Get Rich and Carter was simply a mess of sound and bland beats but this is the man or rather the album that decimated Ja Rule's career. An album that contained shots at both Nas and Jay-Z and had the artist come out relatively unscathed...at least for the moment. To this day, I recall the words to most, if not, all of the tracks on this album. I may not like the artist 50 cent is today, but I still hold Get Rich or Die Trying highly amongst my all time favorites.
"He can't retire. Watch that dude come back like Jordan a few years later." "Hopefully, not as bad."
That was the basic gist of every conversation me, my friends, and classmates had as the news of Jay-Z's The Black Album being his last began to spread. I had been a Jay-Z fan ever since I heard Hard Knocks Life (I hadn't heard any of Reasonable Doubt till my late high school years), and the idea of one of my favorite artists no longer making any music seemed foreign to me. In my world of music, you didn't stop until you died. Hell, not even imprisonment stopped the rapper Shine for the first few years and Kanye rapped "Through The Wire." But it was "official," Jay-Z was moving on to bigger and better prospects in his quest to become the next generation's Diddy in terms of money, fame, and business. I'm not ashamed ot admit it, "Encore" got me a little choked up when I first heard it. I could remember drives home from school with Jay-Z playing through the van's speakers while everyone else who took the vans home sung along to whatever his next single was. "Girls, Girls, Girls," "Song Cry," and "Renegade" just to name a few.
But one video that sticks in my mind to this day during all the hoopla was Jay-Z's "99 Problems." I hadn't heard the song until this video had premiered and I had caught it simply by chance but it's depiction of Brooklyn, the city I grew up in and was currently residing in caught my attention from the moment the camera panned up those subway steps. The black and white tone, the gritty beat, and Jay-Z's signature "freestyle" sounding flow would be the image I thereafter attributed to Jay-Z whenever he came to mind. No one can forget the infamous scene of Jay-Z being gunned down, representing the death of Jay-Z as we knew it and the rebirth not as a business man but a business. Of course, he would come back a few years later, but we didn't know that at the time. So far as we knew, this was it and we had to get it while the getting was good. Sold out seats and concerts, friends bragging about seeing him play for the "last" time, and the plastic that just took way too long to unwrap from the album: these are memories that I won't forget and this video brings back this time in my life quicker than anything else.
To get this out of the way, this is another Hip-Hop focused blog from me so anyone wondering about the title and hip-hop isn't your cup of tea, you have been warned.
Now The Roots have been one of my all time favorite musical artists since I first heard "Don't Say Nuthin'" and the news that they would be performing as the House Band for Jimmy Fallon on late night was a proud moment on my part as a fan and though the show has not turned out as great as I had hoped, it does have its silly moments. What keeps me coming back is seeing The Roots in action, mostly because I had been under the false assumption that their gig on Late Night meant they would no longer be recording any official albums. This was all debunked last night when this performance ended Late Night.
Saying I'm excited would be an understatement. I shared in Questlove's sentiment that while I loved their latest two albums, they were extremely dark and brooding with very little uplifting songs peppered through the albums. This latest entry How I Got Over seems to be the very opposite of Rising Down and Game Theory and I'm excited to see where this album is going. If this song is any indication, it'll be one lively drive back home from my local music store once this album drops. 2 Comments
After watching this interview with Mos Def (no doubt part of a promotion for his new album The Ecstatic), a proposal at the end of the video had me thinking of my own feelings towards a dream team in terms of freestyling. Now this isn't in terms of making an actual record, granted you can post your own wishes below. What I had in mind however was a freestyle dream team. Something televised, recorded, or just broadcast over the internet would no doubt be epic in terms of the hip-hop community and would definitely inject some life into the music industry as a whole.
So what I had in question were a couple of things.
Who would make up your hip-hop (or just plain band/music) dream team?
Does the music industry need something like this to take place?
As far as my own dream team is concerned, Mos Def pretty much took my picks out of my mouth with one exception. Replace Electronica with Eyedeas for just a flat out outlandish duo of Doom and himself. How about you? And keep in mind, it doesn't have to be limited to Hip-Hop seeing as I am apparently in a minority when it comes to my love for the music in these forums. 2 Comments
With college finals finally over and the warm embrace of a two week summer break I decided to watch the tentative series finale of a show I had not watched for some time, Scrubs. I had given up on this show quite some time ago, particularly for its strange mix of comedy and "serious business." I never really latched onto the way I would be treated to a comedic scene of Turk and JD's bromance one minute and a suicide the next. Of course, this is a TV hospital and as such it is in the Universal Television Show Guide that hospitals must always have its own self reflective moments on life and death but I preferred a focus on either one or the other. However, I would never say the show was bad, it was a welcome and different style of show that isn't seen very often these days and so I decided to give it its proper send off by DVR'ing the finale and watching it almost a week later like a true American. It displayed a typical summary of characters met and experiences shared that while did not hit me so hard I imagine brought those who stuck with the show from beginning to end to some tears, or maybe just a caught throat.
Watching the series finale did bring me back to two finales in particular that had me searching for a Kleenex and a friend to hug. The first was, of course, The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, a show that needs no introductions, summaries, or explanations. Any man who owns a TV has seen this program and what I consider a sitcom masterpiece along with the likes of Seinfeld and Arrested Development. While this show also had its share of "serious business" moments, I suppose it was the fact that I had so much interest in these characters that I was able to not only deal with these moments but actually appreciate them. The father/son episode dealing with Will's dad especially comes to mind. So it was with watery eyes that I watched the once full and noisy mansion slowly empty out as the kids moved on with their lives and the parents moved on to retirement. To this day, I have no problem watching an episode of this show for the tenth time and still laugh just as hard at the jokes presented.
My final show is in fact an anime that I was brought onto by a friend back in New York. I remember him asking me if I was into anime at all and like the majority of guys my age might've answered, I told him Dragon Ball Z was perhaps the best (and only) anime I had ever seen. He smiled, invited me over to his house, and proceded to show me a variety of animes including Naruto, Death Note, and Full Metal Alchemist. One anime in particular stood out to me though. Maybe it was the hip-hop intro complete with vinyl displaying the anime's name and the amazing soundtrack that is engraved in my mind to this day. Maybe it was the break dance fighting style one of the characters used in the show. Maybe it was just as simple as the record scratch used to change scenes. Whatever it was, Samurai Champloo caught my attention and for the next week I watched every episode. Now I lied earlier when I said DBZ was the only show I had ever watched. I had in fact dabbled in other animes but was usally always turned off by either the characters or the premise. Samurai Champloo, however, had characters that I was able to latch onto from the start. A cold hearted samurai, a bandit samurai, and a 15 year old waitress made up the major cast of this show and while many animes would focus on over the top fight scenes and hammy love plots, Champloo concerned itself with developing characters that felt real and believable. Watching as Mugen struggled to read or Jin's falling in love with a geisha were episodes I will never forget. Therefore, I was more than shocked and sad to find out I had reached the shows series finale at a mere 26 episodes. I remember saying no out loud to my screen as they each reached their crossroads and a new and final track played over the credits, signifying the end to their journey.
But that's enough of me and my sad connection to fake chracters. What about you? What series finales stick out in your mind today? What makes a great series finale to you?
Now we all have listened to songs ever since birth whether it be lullabies or theme songs to children's shows but what song got you into what some would consider "serious" music? In other words, which song started your journey to following artists, purchasing albums, identifying your favorite genre and the like?
For me, it would have to be "Killing Me Softly" by The Fugees. I remember going over to a cousin's house for a party when I was in kindergarten and hearing Erykah Badu's voice coming from a speaker high atop a cabinet. I distinctly recall standing in front of it and just listening to it while asking a taller, older kid to put it on replay whenever it ended. Later that day, when I asked my aunt who sang that song, she told me they were The Fugees and didn't hesitate to include the fact that their lead male singer was Haitian, which is what I am as well. I immediately told all of my friends about them the following day and proudly exclaimed that they were Haitian, just like I was, instantly making them better in my young eyes.
I continued to visit my cousin's house and eventually exposed myself to the likes of other Hip-Hop artists such as Nas, The Notorious B.I.G., and Jay-Z with Street Fighter 2 playing in the background. You see, I didn't really have a radio back then and even if I did, I doubt my parents would have allowed me to listen to that type of music in the house, especially at my age. Funny enough though, I never really understood what the artists were talking about back then. I simply liked the beat and the flow of their delivery along with the few rhyming words I would catch though never understanding their meaning till years later.
To this day, Killing Me Softly never fails to pick me up on a down day and I'm kinda embarassed to add I had a crush on a woman whose voice I was more familiar with than her actual face back then as well. While The Fugees are certainly high up on my list of favorite artists today, they have moved down the list to be taken over by the likes of The Roots, Lupe Fiasco, Common, and many more, but I will always hold The Fugees and Killing Me Softly in a special place in my heart for getting me into Hip-Hop and music as a whole.
...and Street Fighter 4 is no different. I was never any good at Street Fighter before HD Remix came out and had it not been for this game I probably wouldn't have picked up Street Fighter 4 either but due to an impulse buy during Thanksgiving amongst the pleads of friends and family I learned not only that my finger twiddling skills had apparently gotten better with age but that I was pretty competent with one character in particular. No it wasn't Ken or Ryu but a charge character called DeeJay. At first I had only chosen him for the simple fact that he shared my name but after a few rounds online and winning my very first ranked match I found my main character. A few weeks later I was saddened to learn he would not be in the next installment that has apparently swept the gamer nation and was forced to test out characters who would make a reappearance, settling on Sagat.
Part of me still feels guilty for leaving DeeJay behind in my XBLA collection and with some Capcom empoyees claiming that new characters would be unlikely due to fears of unbalance I guess it won't really be alleviated. But that's not what the question was asking. As far as who I'd like to see added, it's DeeJay without question. Pulling off a double kick from a back charge just doesn't compare to Balrog's rushing punches or Bison's flipping kicks and head stomps (curse those head stomps straight to hell)! For now, I'm still doing fine with tiger uppercutting jump happy Ken's into 0 Battle Points and tiger kneeing a Giefer in the hairy chest. I just wish I could introduce them to the flashy leg work of a fighting DJ/recording artist with an affinity for maracas. Nothing like those Japanese.
Prince of Persia's a strange beast. On one hand, I'm cursing the game for its unsatisfying combat yet can't help but take a moment to witness the transformation of a once drab and decrepit land into a see of color. It's a beautiful game, there's no denying that, but it appears much more care was given to the characters and world than to the actual gameplay. One fact needs to be clarified. You can die in this game, but rather than an arbitrary game over and a slap to the face in the form of a manual restart, we are subject to a three second cinema that may have been meant to smooth the play session but instead resulted in angered and jaded gamers and some interesting podcast fodder. I enjoyed my stay but regardless of the news of recent DLC, I did not hesitate in slipping the disc back in it's Gamefly sleeve. They claimed single enemy encounters would encourage strategy over button mashing, I can say that I never had any sort of tactic going into these fights other than mash x and a with the occasional y when i wanted to keep my eyes open. I believe that's called "button mashing." Traversing the various wooden beams and golden rings had a certain lifelessness to it when coming to the game after a playthrough of Mirror's Edge. Instead of yelling at the screen due to missed jumps, I found myself yelling at the screen due to missed plates. Running on the walls against gravity with the help of vomit green plates was fun for the first 5 seconds. Then they introduced failure to the mechanic and explitives flew.
After making it halfway through a Fallout 3 spoiler podcast and hearing of alien weapons, prototype power armor, and side-side quests I loaded up a save earlier than the abysmal disaster they dared to call an ending and remembered why I loved the game so much. I fear the arbitrary level cap has taken some enjoyment out of my return visit though. Taking down a Super Mutant and picking locks just isn't the same without that satisfying "ching" to reinforce the fact that I'm making progress in some way, shape, or form.
Watching the Street Fighter IV Japanese Intro somehow got me even more pumped for the game than I thought possible. It wa hard getting through the obnoxious J-Pop blaring over an otherwise cool scene of familiar faces duking it out but once that warm and fuzzy theme kicked in, flashbacks of hours spent in friends houses trying to pull off hadouken's trumped my sparse wallet and bank account. Nostalgia is always worth it.
Well, after only a few hours of Blue Bombing the world of Dr. Wily, I have both accidentally and perhaps subconsciously purposefully spoiled the weaknesses of the second half of the games. This would come to be a big blow for me if not for the boss weaknesses being only a small fraction of what makes Mega Man 9 so damn hard. Interestingly, this is not the controller throwing difficulty I have come to know and love these past generations. This is good old cuss and yell difficulty coming straight at ya from the 1900's.
If you're wondering, I never actually played a Mega Man game till X and have never even gone back to the previous versions, yet some dormant side of me which may have caught a glimpse of the game some time ago is still turned on by this offering of retroness. For the most part though, this is just the view of a retro game from the eyes of a retro newbie. I have to say, it's pretty good. We'll see what I have to say about it once I reach the castle where all NES bosses seem to reside, but for now I can add this along with Bionic Commando to the short list of games I've never played as a kid yet enjoyed as a college faring student. I feel like the high school kid being told by his english teacher how great the next book to read is and becoming pleasantly surprised when it has in fact lived up to its name. Thank you Mr. Retro, I'll pass on the book report though.
Let me get this out of the way. I think Castle Crashers is awesome. While it may not be as rhetorically "deep" as Braid or have that distinct old school flavor that Bionic Commando has, it's still a blast to just pick up and play with a few friends. Unfortunately, that's where the ball's dropped. Seeing as many of my friends don't enjoy playing games as much as I do, I must resort to the wild and uncanny world of Xbox Live. By now, my ears have been immunized from the ramblings of 13 year olds and racist pigs, so that's obviously not the problem. The problem is finding a game. Or hosting one. Heck anything to do with Live, Castles, and Crashers is a mess. It's a shame since the few hours I did get to spend with a full four player party a day ago was a blast. I just hope that this upset won't diminish the popultion of crashers online once this situation is fixed (hopefully). I'd hate to find myself stuck in a snowy forest filled with hordes of enemies obviously scaled for four players. That and my other resort being to herd and fool a few of my friends into playing an xbox game for once that isn't named Halo 3.