Tuesday, August 14, 2007

philly greez takes swizz wit

you know the process

Tip tapped, Reese reps and I realize, minus owning old-school flips, Peedi’s path might be built on the rat-a-tat and stuttering sharpness of Swizzy sessions.

Peedi, Cassidy (prod. Swizz Beats) – My Hood Is Greezy (Clean Version)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

make it reign

it ain't a game, ya dig?

Any other rap album leading with recent Oscar winners on production and guest verses by Outkast, would come off as a sell-out or cash-in move but when UGK does it you know the honor is being bestowed on the guests. And in the presence of The Underground Kings it’s no wonder that Andre 3000 becomes the more pimpishly monikered ThreeStacks and 3-6-Mafia lays down a classic uplifting soul break rather than their dark gothic crunk. “Underground Kingz” is a monument of the UGK aesthetic and throughout the long-players slightly excessive length Bun B and Pimp C maintain their Underground Kingdom with dedication and help from their loyal subjects: “pimpin and pandering,” candy slabs and wood wheels, and the hard hustle by even hardier hustlers.

One might guess that the pressures of a comeback (of sorts) for the duo might allow them to call in favors from hip-hop’s other reigning royalty particularly with designs on the charts or playlists. But the guest list is very selective. Less confident MCs might rely heavily on T.I., Rick Ross or Slim Thug verses but those more-than-respectable reppers of the current generation are shown their proper place at the table as Too Short, Scarface and Willie D seem to shine as brightly at least in the eyes of the two hosts. In fact the hosts seem to be bestowing an honor to all their guests. I wouldn’t guess there is huge market for fans of such MC diversity. Are Z-Ro, Dizzee Rascal, Talib Kweli and Kool G Rap really defining any demographic? Obviously UGK believes in a very personal ‘real recognize real’ rule of guest verses. It is the only way to explain the presence of Pimpin Ken.
The diversity of producers doesn’t stray to far from the UGK mold of soulful, funky, slow beats from the template set by Pimp C and perfected by 808 Boyz, from the predictable but funky guitar flourishes from Jazze Pha to the contemporary and dramatic long synth lines anchored by a heavy knock from The Runners on “Take Tha Hood Back”. Scarface honors Too Short by producing “Life Is 2009” and a portion of Goodie Mob’s “Free” is brought back by N.O. Joe. Scarface provides a reprise of his own “The Fix” on “Still Riding Dirty” and the video break for “The Symphony” is brought back by it’s creator Marley Marl. The biggest musical misstep is Lil Jon’s grating track for “Like That” but even those verses are somehow salvaged on the laid back remix by Below of 808 Boyz (tellingly showing up earlier on the album than the original).
And oh those verses…
You already know that Big Dick Cheney and Tony Snow hustled longer, stayed triller and pimped harder than the rest and you must also know that these Kings are not really focused on the glory of those successes. Although you can’t fault them for wanting candy chariots in their kingdom, UGK consistently brings a grown man’s perspective to their deeds however dirty. UGK’s mission: to challenge the new jacks to do better, not only as a taunt but also as a wish!

On “How Long Can It Last” Pimp prays for forgiveness for his survival choices. Bun’s percussive phrases ride the soulful and simple refrain explaining “people think hustlin is cool” but every hustler “wish they lived in the burbs, wished they didn’t have to hang” and more than likely “live with all of this anger and frustration inside.” On “Gravy” Bun gives gruff advice to young Gs to “play the hand that your dealt, that’s until it’s your turn to deal, otherwise you get it how you live, I could give a fuck how you feel”. Pimp’s solo effort on “Shattered Dreams” addresses young parents not quite hitting hard with the street hustle and suggests it’s “time to change somethin’”.
This sober talk wouldn’t be much without MC style, so although “Heaven” presents Bun thinking about the innocent kids, when he trades bars with Pimp in the last verse we remember why they are greater than just great reporters. “Quit Hatin’ The South” is a perfect example of Pimp C’s pinched, then stretched, then agitated delivery playing against Bun B’s steady assuredness and smooth but percussive flow (“You do what you can, I do what I feel, that there in itself the definition of trill”). It is a dynamic of contrast that great duos always have (Q-Tip and Phife, Dre and Snoop, Andre and Big Boi). It is tough to decide what makes a track so great? For example, on the titular cut, is it the simple but always original phrasing of Bun B (“Cross the line, nigga, push my button, and you gonna die in the very spot that you thought you wasn’t”) or the signature syllable drag that Pimp C exaggerates when he declares himself “Kaaayyng”?
The Bun B buzz over the last couple of years maybe hasn’t prepared new fans for the surprising stylistic dominance of Pimp C heard on this album. The slide he brings to last words in a line cuts through all the impressive play with rhythm that most of the other MCs bring to the cuts, including, amazingly, “Next Up” featuring Big Daddy Kane and Kool G Rap. Pimp actually steals the show with the last verse behind three of the greatest MCs…. ever. Three masterful bass rumbles somehow get faded by a high-pitched drag and drawl and double-ups on key words (“James!”, “Jones!”). On “Trill Niggas Don’t Die” Pimp C gives the killer flourish to a typical MC boast: “Pack the iii’hhn (iron) everytiiime and ain’t tryyyin’ diiiein’”
Of course Bun is just as brilliant but because of his ubiquity in the last few years, his skillz are maybe more expected. Very few MCs can deliver such force in even the silliest throwaway punchlines such as when he declares his car has “REAL magic, not like that motherfucker David Blaine!”

However limited their content, they deliver with panache. Put simply: I could listen to UGK talk about wood wheels from ’92 ‘til infinity…
It is not the number of subjects a King has but how he rules them.

UGK continue to survey and lead their kingdom however small, familiar or underground it is. On “Int’l Players Anthem” Andre ThreeStacks once again demonstrates compact rhymes that are loaded with meaning as he imagines what a Pimp/King might advise a young player at a crossroads in the game: “Keep your heart” and “Play your part”.

UGK, luckily, recognized their ruler role early and have maintained royal blood coursing in their flow ever since. They know exactly who they are and present that character on the best rap album of the year so far. “Underground Kingz” is T-R-I-double L… that’s with capital letters, man.

UGK - How Long Can It Last featuring Charlie Wilson

Thursday, May 24, 2007

linkin’ navigator

BTBS has structured the ‘Six Degrees’ game for a nice little hip-hop-nerd bar game…

Unfortunately my brain is more free-associative… y’know like:

Jordin minus Blake
Blake plus Doug E. Fresh
Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick
Slick Ricky Bobby Mixtape
--> Yelawolf - ‘Boyz In The Woods’

Boyz n tha Hood, NWA
--> NWH: “D.O.U.G.I.E Fresh!”

--> MJ: “Cruisin down the street in my 64…”

MJ - ‘Y’all Stuntin’
MJ, y’all stuntin’!
--> Jordin

Friday, May 11, 2007

toto-lly, dude

Party like A Rock and Roll Band...

Musab - Bang

Thursday, May 10, 2007

'the world is (y)ours'

gun control

Two Frenchmen, Mathieu Kassovitz and Nicolas Sarkozy, both sons to Hungarian immigrant fathers, recently reached milestones. Kassovitz' masterpiece 'La Haine' was re-released as part of The Criterion Collection, one of the highest ‘honors’ a re-released film can get. And it is one of the best ‘hip-hop’ movies ever made.

Kassovitz brilliantly reworks Scorsese’s ‘Mean Streets’ character-name-cards to present hip-hop’s essential flair with ‘the name’ (the jump cut to Said’s police-vehicle tag and the track into Vinz’ two finger ring…). Kassovitz channeled Spke Lee’s romantic vision of ‘She’s Gotta Have It’ into his feature debut ‘Café Au Lait / Metisse’ but ‘La Haine’ taps into the leisurely pace and brewing violence fueled by lingering injustice portrayed in ‘Do The Right Thing.’ The beautiful DJ and b-boy sequences of ‘La Haine’ provide the characters and audience moments to relax between tense encounters. The ethnic mix of the protagonist-trio is a matter-of-fact idealized, and specifically French, image of the hip-hop generation looking beyond the typical social divisions (Black Christian, White Jew, North-African Muslim) to unite in their own world (the Chanteloup banlieues / projects) and then brush up against the outside world (police, skinheads, gallery patrons!!!). [The use of a short camera lens and mono-sound recording in Paris contrasts to the long lens, stereo-sound, dollied, tracked and ‘helicoptered’ shots used in the banlieues.] [Kassovitz is particularly proud that Vinz was listed by The Source as one of the Top Ten “Goons” (his word) of all time.] Throughout the DVD extras, we learn about the class, racial and xenophobic tensions existing in France that ‘La Haine’ brought to light. Like Los Angeles in ‘Boyz N The Hood,’ this is a France that had not been seen in cinema before.

Kassovitz describes Nicolas Sarkozy's actions in 2005 (as the Minister Of the Interior) and how they related to the rioting of that year. Similar riots, that were a reaction to police brutality in 1993, are used as a prelude to the plot of 'La Haine.'

Kassovitz also mentions Sarkozy's desire to become the next president of France and, at the time of the DVD release a few weeks ago, the election had yet to take place. Kassovitz speaks to the viewer on the commentary track:
"You probably know if (Sarkozy) is the next president..."

Sarkozy’s main opponent Segolene Royal, in a moment of easy drama and probable desperation, accurately predicted results of a Sarkozy election:
"My responsibility today is to launch an alert about the risks of this candidacy and the violence and brutalities that will start in the country… everyone knows it but nobody says anything…''

Indeed, this past weekend, Sarkozy became the president of France… and, although he was favored to win, the protests have raged since election night. During these protests, Sarkozy has been celebrating his victory on a billionaire’s luxury yacht in the Mediterranean. There is nothing inherently wrong with his form of celebration but the contrast of images is telling.

The Criterion website describes an on-line exchange that Kassovitz and Sarkozy had on Kassovitz' blog in 2005:
"He used his first post to take right-wing minister of the interior Nicolas Sarkozy to task, specifically for his remark that the rioters were “scum” and that they should be blasted out of the banlieues “with a fire hose.”

The day after Sarkozy was elected Paris police used water cannon on protesters (mostly made up of ‘far-left activists’ and, it should be noted, not inhabitants of the banlieues).

The entire exchange can be read here but the following excerpt of Kasovitz’ post captures some of the anger that Sarkozy has contributed to.

"By acting like a warmonger, he has opened a breach that I hope will engulf him. Hate has kindled hate for centuries and yet Sarkozy still thinks that repression is the only way to prevent rebellion. History has proved to us that a lack of openness and philosophy between different communities engenders hate and confrontation. Sound and fury are the only means for many communities to make themselves heard. Sarkozy wants to become the president of our republic and nobody will get in his way, as he dramatically puts it. If this man does not fail at least once in his initiatives to win the presidency of this country, nothing indeed will get in his way, and his desire for absolute power will finally be fulfilled.

Does history repeat itself? Yes. It always has done. A desire for power and the egocentricity of those who think they hold the truth has always created dictators. Sarkozy is certainly a little Napoleon…”

To be fair, only a small portion of the 10,000 protesters committed destructive acts and that even in the banlieues there was immigrant support for Sarkozy, particularly relating to his support for affirmative action and his vision for a new French ‘work ethic.’

On the DVD commentary track Kassovitz says that some of the police he has spoken to, in the decade since the film was released, were actually inspired to become cops after seeing La Haine. He says they wanted to become GOOD COPS after seeing a film maligned as ‘anti-police.’

His reply to Sarkozy clarifies his view of law enforcement.
"I am not opposed to the police; on the contrary, I am in favor of a better-respected, better-educated, and more human police… A kind of police I can trust over my personal and my children’s security, regardless of social condition, skin color, age, or belief… When you mention a return to the Republican values, don’t forget that you have to command respect before you can expect it in return. Since the police has lost the respect it should command, then once again you should ask yourself what the real problems are. You claim to be turned towards the future, yet your methods are repressive and obsolete.”

Although ‘La Haine’ uses a found gun as an extraordinary catalyst for the ‘plot,’ Kassovitz explains that guns are, in general, unavailable to the frustrated youth of France. American youth, in similar situations, have demonstrated that guns provide an accessible direction for misguided frustrations.
Kassovitz notes that the French riots of 2005 occurred with no deaths.

Friday, May 04, 2007

'yay!' area

more than a lil' fame...

Come out and play!
I'm callin' ya! Huh? What you say?
All o’ ya! Lead the way!
I'm warning ya! Fuck it, todays the day!

Fuck a diploma, GAME OVER!

M.O.P. - Warriorz

Ya Boy - Holla At Ya Boy (Golden State Warriors Remix)

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

american buffalo soldiers?

more than three uses for a knife?

It's possible that the most bugged out martial-arts movie news you heard recently was NOT that Jackie Chan and Jet Li will be joining forces in 'Forbidden Kingdom,' a retelling of the Monkey King myth...

And you probably didn't even blink when you heard that Tarantino will be remaking 'Da Zui Xia' (because you're probably skeptical that he would direct a kung-fu re-do so soon after 'Kill Bill' and before his 'Spaghetti WWII' flick)

It's possible that you heard 'Redbelt' will be a contemporary take on samurai flicks starring "Chiwetel Ejiofor as a Jiu-Jitsu master who has eschewed prizefighting to operate a self-defense studio." And when you heard the plot ("he is conned by a cabal of movie stars and fight promoters... must enter the ring to fight in order to regain his honor") you probably thought it WAS the next Tarantino or Rodriguez project.

But your jaw hit the floor when you found out it will be penned by Pulitzer Prize winner David Mamet. (But the whole "conned by a cabal of movie stars does tie in with his 'Bambi vs Godzilla' meditation on Hollywood...)

Or maybe it was no surprise since you already read an interview in February on Suicide Girls:

DM: ...I’ve got this other project I may do about the martial arts community in LA.

What would that be about?

DM: There’s this subterranean community that’s cross-pollinated between cage fighters and cops and boxers and stuntmen and Navy Seals. It’s a really interesting community. It is sort of a samurai film. It is about a guy who’s the world’s greatest fighter but he doesn’t compete. He just trains people because he says, “I’ll train you to walk out of the alley alive but I won’t train you to get points from a referee.” The movie is about how he gets seduced away from his path and becomes commercialized.

Is that something you would write as well?

DM: I wrote it already...

But if you don't frequent the realm of Suicide Girls and cage-fighters you might have been sharp enough to piece the plot together by reading Mamet's answers in the 'far more respectable' world of Leonard Lopate's list of standard questions (dated 2/12/07):
LL: What's one thing you're a fan of that people might not expect?
Mamet: The Triangle, the Kimura, and the Oomaplata

You SHOULD look forward to Mamet revisiting samurai lore since he juiced up and stripped down the 'Ronin' screenplay as 'Richard Weisz' although you probably aren't convinced he can direct an action flick. (You're thinking he can't even direct a good car commercial... but those were based on someone else's 'fake-Mamet' dialogue... and didn't even have Kelis...)

But when you saw the trailer for Takeshi 'Beat' Kitano's new film (which looks like his homage to the history of Japanese cinema... from Kurosawa to Ozu to... Godzilla and anime!...) you remembered how impressed you were with Beat's personal take on samurai action and figured why not Mamet... even Jarmusch did one.
So Mamet doing a 'samurai fable' set in a mythical L.A. streetfighter world isn't as strange as a Japanese director doing the sequel to a super-powered soccer flick from Hong Kong and changing the sport to lacrosse... is it?