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Friday, May 22, 2009

New Tracks From Base Trip

Base Trip artists The Throwbacks and Rapper Steph have recorded new songs, and they've made a couple tracks available for free.

Get The Throwbacks new track "Cooties" here. And Rapper Steph's new track "Present State of Mind" here.

And if you like these tracks, check out their MySpaces and learn more about Base Trip. If you don't know about Base Trip Records, head over to our little profile and history of the label here.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Vibe Magazine Best Rapper Ever

About a month ago, I posted about Lupe Fiasco, and how I think he's the best rapper alive. While writing this, I found out that Vibe Magazine had done a bracket the previous summer trying to find the best rapper alive. Unfortunately, Eminem won. But, I just found out that Vibe has redone the bracket for this summer, but instead of best rapper alive, it's best rapper EVER. So, rappers like 2pac, Biggie, Big Pun, Eazy-E, and others are going to be on the list. Since this bracket clearly will include many more rappers than the previous bracket, each leg of the bracket is 32 rappers, for a total of 128. And to help you make your choices, Vibe lets you click each rappers name to find out more, and you can even listen to a sample of each's music by clicking the tiny red arrow beneath the names.

This year, the play-in spot, to compete against the overall #1 seed (Eminem) was another bracket in itself. Vibe basically took all the up and coming rappers like Drake, Wale, Kid Cudi, Charles Hamilton, Bobby Ray (B.o.B.), Asher Roth, Jay Electronica, and Blu and made them compete. Voting ended for this already, with Kid Cudi beating Wale for the play-in spot. Check out the bracket here. Still, I think all 8 of these rappers are better than Eminem, so...nonsense.
Check it out here. And download the bracket here.
Round one voting lasts until the 24th, and the bracket will go through 7 weeks.
Round 1
Bracket 1.
Bracket 2.
Bracket 3.
Bracket 4.

PS. If anyone noticed or cares, I changed the layout to the blog to make it wider since I was getting annoyed with all the video edges getting cut off.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Stringer Bell, the singer

If appearing in The Office wasn't enough, Stringer Bell (actually Idris Elba) of The Wire fame has decided to move into music. Yeah, I know. And you know what's scary, his first single "The Best I Can" isn't bad. In fact, it has a very Gnarls Barkley sound to it, despite the auto-tune and over-production. Check it out below:

Elba has decided to use the name "Driis" for his musical career (I don't know why Stringer Bell wasn't the obvious choice). Check out his MySpace. He actually released an EP back in 2006 entitled, "Big Man." After the 3rd season of The Wire, Elba released this freestyle about his character and his rumored return to the show, check it out:

He plans to release another single in July called "Please Be True," with an album by the end of the year. He describes his music as "a hybrid, everything from drum'n'bass to jazz." And now that his part on The Office is over, he can focus on music. He says, "My personal agenda has always been about musical ambitions. Music's a jealous bitch – I want to take time out [from acting] to finish the album." He's even planning to tour Europe and hit up the festival circuit in 2010 with his band the Trampions. There's more info in this months's NME.

PS. Dominic West (McNulty) actually appears on Eminem's new album Relapse as a crooked cop, surprising huh? Check out the intro skit "Dr. West," where McNulty advocates Eminem take more drugs and drink more. I can now see why Eminem chose McNulty for this part.

And according to NME, even Lt. Daniels, Namond, Michael, and Poot are into the music scene these days. Check out the link to NME's blog to find out more.

And don't forget about Cheese, I bet he has a music career in the works too.


Fox premiered the pilot for the show Glee last night, and having nothing better to do, I watched it. And though the show is a musical about a glee club, I actually really enjoyed the show. Honestly, I shouldn't have underestimated the show. It does come from Ryan Murphy, who created and produced Popular and Nip/Tuck, so I should have known that the show would be a hilarious critique of high school culture and would have great characters. But one of the main things I loved about the show was that it didn't contain any actual songs in its soundtrack. Instead, it had a capella, glee-club versions of both famous songs and the score. Strangely, this feature added to the humor of the show. The songs from each episode are also now available on iTunes thanks to a deal between Columbia Records, Fox, and Apple.

Here's an example of what I'm talking about, this is the a capella version of "Don't Stop Believing." And dare I say, of all the TV shows and movies this song has been in, including The Sopranos, this may be my favorite rendition:

Check out Ken Tucker's review from EW:

Has there ever been a TV show more aptly named than Glee? It both embodies and inspires exactly that quality. Yet if I tell you the show is about a high school glee club and features bursting-into-song musical numbers, you might react as I did initially: I wanted no part of that. I'm not a musicals kinda guy.

But this comedy from creator Ryan Murphy (Nip/Tuck) is so good — so funny, so bulging with vibrant characters — that it blasts past any defenses you might put up against it. Glee will not stop until it wins you over utterly. It's the story of Will (Matthew Morrison), a high school Spanish teacher who takes over a pathetic glee club filled with misfits.

Murphy takes what could have been moldy, cliché figures — such as Rachel, the persecuted girl (Lea Michele), Finn, the football hero who really wants to croon (Cory Monteith), and teachers like cheerleading coach Sue (the wonderful Jane Lynch) — and brings fresh details to them. Rachel asserts, ''Being anonymous is worse than being poor…. Fame is the most important thing in society.'' At first, you want to barf at a sentiment like that, but then Glee makes the battle to overcome anonymity seem like a higher calling.

That's surely the case for Will, who's trying to distance himself from his high-pressure, baby-craving young wife (Jessalyn Gilsig, wonderfully tightly wound). Will is inspired by recalling the one time he was truly happy — when he sang in his own high school glee club. In a healthy way, he's going to channel his nostalgia into making the club, called New Directions, glow: ''There’s no joy in these kids…. That’s why they all have a MySpace page,'' he says. Glee is all about sparking ambition, getting kids off the sofa and doing creative things. But it also has a healthy dose of sarcasm and skepticism to offset its peppy interpretations of Journey hits. The production numbers show the sweat and constructive criticism that goes into good performances.

The series is getting a big push from Fox, which is premiering the show in what would seem an ideal spot for its core audience, right after American Idol. But Glee is still the little musical-comedy-drama that could...bomb. As terrific as it is, it's a risk. Why? Because there’s nothing else like it on TV. Because regular episodes won't begin airing weekly until this fall. (Future musically adept guest stars will include Pushing Daisies' Kristin Chenoweth.) And because lots of folks may feel as I do, that Idol has pretty much ruined young-people-singing-passionately for me. But I was persuaded by Glee's cagey little mind as well as its big, throbbing heart. I think you will be too.

The show didn't get the best ratings last night, even though it followed uber-trash American Idol, but Fox has made the pilot available on hulu and fox.com for the entire summer, so that everyone can watch the show before it premieres in September. I've embedded it below, so check it out.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Cage, Chris Palko, Cage Kennylz

White rappers are quite plentiful these days, between Eminem, Asher Roth, the Beastie Boys, El-P, Aesop Rock, Bubba Sparxxx, Buck 65, and Classified. But another white rapper that tends to fly under the radar (until now) is Cage, signed to El-P's Def Jux label.

Most critics compare Cage to Eminem since both are sadistic, depressed (white) rappers with a penchant for violent and disturbing lyrics. This unfortunately led to a feud between the two back when Eminem released The Slim Shady LP. And while most young Americans know Eminem's story, through his autobiographical film 8 Mile or through his incredibly personal lyrics, few know Cage's even more frightening and horrific story. Def Jux calls Cage's story "one of the most insane, crazy, tortured and triumphant stories you could imagine."
Born Chris Palko in Würzburg, Germany, Cage was born to a father in the military. When Cage was four, his father was dishonorably discharged for selling and using heroin. The family returned to upstate New York, where Cage's father continued using heroin, even at times making his son pull the tourniquets around his arm as he shot up. When Cage was eight, his father was arrested during a police standoff. His father was threatening his family with a shotgun when the state troopers arrived. Eventually, Cage was kicked out of high school while living with his mother and abusive stepfather. His stepfather beat him repeatedly, so violently that he left a scar above Cage's eye. Like his father, Cage began using drugs, including LSD, mescaline, weed, and booze. His mother sent him back to Germany to live with his uncle, where he was often beaten.

Returning from Germany after only a year, Cage fell into trouble frequently, getting arrested multiple times for drug possession and violent altercations. By the age of 16, he found himself on probation. So, when he was arrested again, his mother argued that he was mentally unstable and had him sent to the Stony Lodge mental institution.
Cage stayed at the mental institution for a total of eighteen months, where he became a guinea pig for a drug that was eventually released as Prozac. As with many kids misdiagnosed with depression, Cage was put on Prozac and became suicidal. On multiple occasions, he attempted suicide, first by trying to hang himself by his shoelaces, and then by trying to overdose on his lithium medication. Due to his so-called mental instability, he was often confined to a straitjacket for up to 13 hours.

When he turned eighteen, Cage was released. However, due to the effects of all the medication and "treatments," Cage had developed into a bi-polar young man. Nonetheless, while at Stony Lodge, he became a fan and student of hip-hop. While locked up at "The Lodge," Cage focused inwardly on his storytelling and lyrical delivery. So, when he got out, he began rapping under the name "Alex," as in the character from A Clockwork Orange. This book, being so relevant to his life, goes on to be frequently referenced in his lyrics and artwork, especially in the track "Agent Orange." With his tortured imagination and grotesque imagery, Cage made a name for himself on the New York underground circuit. Through his contacts with Pete Nice (3rd Bass), Bobbito Garcia, and DJ Stretch Armstrong, Cage began performing at the late night mix shows. Around this time, Nice and Garcia were contracted with major-label Columbia Records and had an imprint, Hoppoh Records. Since they both respected and understood Cage's style and delivery, they were near signing him to their label. Unfortunately, every time Cage was set to record, he was too high to spit anything decent.

He lost the Columbia record deal and eventually moved back home and got deeper into drugs. He also found out that he was having a child. in 1997, after 3 years away from the game, Cage released a 12" of "Agent Orange" on Bobbito Garcia's newly formed Fondle 'Em Records. After a few more singles and a successful attempt at a hip-hop group (Smut Peddlers), Cage signed to Eastern Conference Records, the precursor to Def Jux. Soon, he releases his first solo LP, Movies for the Blind, which sold over 15,000 copies in the first two weeks. The world tours came soon after.
Teaming up with his fellow Eastern Conference rappers, Cage created the underground hip-hop collective known as the Weathermen. Camu Tao, El-P, Aesop Rock, Yak Ballz, Tame 1, Breeze of the Juggaknots, Vast Aire, and Cage all came together to create a collective supergroup and released a mixtape in 2003 entitled The Conspiracy. After leaving Eastern Conference over alleged non-payment, Cage joined El-P's recently launched Definitive Jux Records, where El-P helped Cage to create his even more personal and introspective album, Hell's Winter in 2005. While Movies for the Blind was essentially Cage playing the role of a drugged-out, bitter, misogynistic, vile character, Hell's Winter was devoid of drug references and the visceral imagery that made his first album such a cult classic. After losing all the major underground rappers to Def Jux, Eastern Conference Records has, for all intents and purposes, folded.

Recently, Cage has been working on his third solo album entitled Depart From Me, which should be released June 29th. In anticipation of this release, Cage offered a free EP today that contains five new tracks. You can pick that up here. Or download the tracks below (from MTV2). And honestly, I'm a fan of Cage's early work, but the new tracks are so much better. The development and movement away from his tortured soul has led to much more emotional and evocative tracks (see "I Never Knew You"). Also released today was the video for "I Never Knew You," which features cameos from Shia Labeouf, who directed the video, Aesop Rock, El-P, Yak Ballz, and artist Alex Pardee, who did the art for Cage's new album. In it you can truly see how deranged Cage actually is, yet also how far he's risen. He went from an abused child to one of hip-hop's most praised underground MCs, even being featuring on MTV2. But, in the video, Cage still appears to be a man defeated. Check it out below:

To summarize: a junkie father, violent standoffs, abuse, drugs, arrests, mental institutions, failed suicide attempts, drug testing, losing a major record deal, having a child...that's Cage. Spence D of IGN writes, "That Cage was able to turn an abusive childhood, not to mention time spent locked down in a mental facility, into a money making creative endeavor is a testament to his tenacity and will to survive." It makes for a much more compelling story than Eminem's life, which is why Cage's good friend Shia Labeouf (of Transformers fame) has claimed that he would like to star in and possibly direct a biopic of Cage's life. If Eminem got to make 8 Mile, then Cage deserves to make his movie too.

Recently, El-P, Cage, Yak Ballz, and Aesop Rock have been working on the first official Weathermen album. Keep an eye out for that by the end of the year or early next year. Also, Cage recently performed at SXSW and on the Paid Dues tour in late March.
I Never Knew You EP
1. I Never Knew You
2. Follow The Bleeder
3. Tongue In A Sharks Mouth
4. Hell Oh
5. It’s The 80’s Again
(via MTV2's Subterranean blog)

Sherlock Holmes Trailer

Since I posted several trailers the other day, I'd feel bad if I didn't post this exciting trailer from Guy Ritchie's new film Sherlock Holmes. With Robert Downey, Jr. in the eponymous role, Jude Law as his trusted sidekick Dr. Watson, and Rachel McAdams in some role that requires her to look attractive, this film looks like a winner. And with Guy Ritchie directing, you know there'll be plenty of humor and violence. From this trailer, it's evident that there'll be quite a bit of slow-motion fist fights, one of Ritchie's specialties (see Snatch.). And though this film looks like a typical summer blockbuster, Warner Bros. decided this season was too crowded and will release this film on Christmas.

After watching the trailer, it really just looks like Shanghai Knights without Jackie Chan. There seems to be way more fighting and swashbuckling than actual deductive reasoning and intellect. I just wish Holmes wore a deerstalker still instead of a fedora like Indiana Jones. Lame.

The Last Thing You Forget

Title Fight, pranksters and good friends of mine, from Kingston, PA combine classic pop punk with 90's emotional and melodic hardcore to create a refreshing take on the old formula. Just yesterday they posted a new song, "Symmetry", from their upcoming release, The Last Thing You Forget, which will drop June 13 on Run for Cover records. You can order the record and merch here.

Symmetry, for my money, is Title Fight at their best, with relentless energy alternating between the pensive draw of Jawbreaker and the blistering attack of Lifetime, with ease. Knockout guitar work and classically catchy vocal melodies, featuring a guest spot by Boe Joynton, frontman of Transit, are sure to be a hit with Title Fight fans and newcomers alike.

Although TLTYF is only 3 tracks, it will keep fans in check until their full length drops some time in early 2010. I suggest you check this band out this summer, they will be playing most of America so if you want to see a fun summer show and to chill with some fun happy dudes, look no further. TF in 09, WB takeover.

side note: Another favorite band of mine, Tiger's Jaw, just signed with Run for Cover records. They are an incredible band, and will be putting out some new stuff this summer. Until then you can also pick up their last LP from the Run for Cover webstore.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Trailers

I was just searching the Internet and stumbled onto quite a few new trailers for movies I'm pretty excited about. Check out the trailers below:

The Road
The first is for the next film based off of a Cormac McCarthy book. Two years ago, the Coen Brothers adapted No Country for Old Men to great reviews and many Academy Awards. So, it goes without saying that Hollywood now has a renewed interest in McCarthy's catalog. The next film on tap is an adaptation of the bleak, frightening The Road, which follows a father and son as they travel their way across the desolate wasteland of a post-apocalyptic world. Cannibals hunt them, yet through it all, the story focuses on fatherhood (though in the most extreme of circumstances). Nevertheless, from the trailer, it looks like they've taken some liberties with the story. For one, it seems like the mother character, played by Charlize Theron, will have a much larger role. I understand that you can't cast Theron in a film and not get her full worth. She's an incredible actress, so it's almost a waste to not take advantage of her skills. But I do get annoyed with films that adapt books and make unnecessary changes like that. The trailer also seems to have way more explosions and less cannibals, which is lame. McCarthy's books are overtly gruesome and frightening, so gruesome that many of the elements of his stories can't be portrayed on film. Imagine an adaption of Blood Meridian. Well, you don't have to because Hollywood has decided that will be the next Cormac McCarthy adaptation. I just wonder how Hollywood will make a film about scalp-hunters. The Road is directed by relative newcomer John Hillcoat, whose filmography includes music videos and the 2005 Australian western The Proposition. Oh, and Omar Little is in this film for all the fans of The Wire.

New York, I Love You
After watching Paris, Je T'aime on Netflix a couple years ago, I thought it'd be a cool idea to make the same films about other cities, like London or San Francisco. And now, they've made another one: New York, I Love You. Like the original, this film is a series of short vignettes that come together as a series of love letters to the city. Each short film features a different director, including the likes of Jian Wen, Mira Nair, Brett Ratner, Allen Hughes, Shekhar Khapur, Natalie Portman, Fatih Akin, Joshua Marston, and Randy Balsmyer. And with so many short films, there are also many famous actors in these films such as Bradley Cooper, Andy Garcia, Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson, Natalie Portman, Orlando Bloom, Christina Ricci, Maggie Q, Ethan Hawke, James Caan, Blake Lively, Drea de Matteo, John Hurt, Shia LaBeouf, Burt Young, Chris Cooper, Eli Wallach, and Cloris Leachman. As a sucker for travel films and romance type nonsense, I love films like these that incorporate the charm of the city into the love lives of the characters. Apparently, the next in the series will be Shanghai, I Love You and Jerusalem, I Love You.
Check out the trailer below:

Here's a film that got astounding reviews at Sundance and is currently competing at Cannes. It won the 2008 Audience Award Prize, which in past years has gone to great indie films such as Grace is Gone, Hustle & Flow, and The Wackness. This film focuses on a 16 year girl, who lives in an abusive house in Harlem. She's pregnant with her second child and still stuck in middle school. The film features some of the most powerful black backing and musicians. For instance, Tyler Perry and Oprah Winfrey are "presenting" this film, while Mariah Carey, Lenny Kravitz, and Mo'Nique all act in the film. Mo'Nique actually won a Special Jury Prize at Sundance for her role in this film. Furthermore, Lee Daniels, who directed Monster's Ball, directed this film.
Check out the trailer below:

This film comes from Rob Marshall, the guy who directed the Academy Award winning musical Chicago. Like that film, Nine is also a musical and also features an absolutely incredible cast. This film is something of a remake of Fellini's landmark film 8 1/2, but takes a musical approach to the film. Normally I wouldn't care about something like this, but when I found out that Daniel Day-Lewis was the star of this film, I started to care. The guy hasn't made a bad film, ever, so I doubt he starts here with Rob Marshall directing. The supporting cast includes: Marion Cottilard, Judi Dench, Nicole Kidman, Fergie, Penelope Cruz, Kate Hudson, and Sophia Loren.
Check it out below:

On a final note, it's rumored that a trailer for Toy Story 3 will play before Pixar's Up!, so look for that in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

100 Greatest Underground Hip-Hop Songs of the Last 15 Years

Twitter again has its benefits. I follow Aesop Rock's twitter, and he recently posted this link:

I don't know who James Gunn is, but this list is incredible. Can't argue much with it, especially with so much Rhymesayers, Def Jux, and Quannum on the list. I don't see how Massline artists get no respect though. The best part though is that there are a bunch of artists and songs I've never heard on the list, so it's time to get downloading!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Country Album I Enjoy

It should be needless to say that I am not a big country music fan. Unlike my roommate, whose favorite song is "Little Bitty" by Alan Jackson, I am much more fond of hip-hop and alternative rock. Nevertheless, I stumbled upon an album today that's classified as country, yet remains highly enjoyable--Steve Earle's Townes. Earle shares more with folk musicians than with typical country music (i.e. Garth Brooks, Big & Rich, that guy who married Renee Zellweger). He still relies heavily on the acoustic guitar and on some tracks, the banjo. And while any reference to the banjo deserves a mention of the frightening film Deliverance, I actually enjoy the banjo on some of the tracks.

Having never listened to much country or folk music, I didn't know what to expect when I picked this album up. Like most folk music, it's simple, relaxing music that's perfect for the beginning of summer. I especially like the track "Lungs," which features Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine fame. Additionally, the folk sound is reminiscent of the sound Tom Morello creates on his Nightwatchman albums. Other tracks on Townes reminds me of the O, Brother Where Art Thou? soundtrack, which clearly shows the extent of my country and folk music knowledge. And to further show how big of a loser I am, I am going to say this: several songs have similar sounds to those found in the score to Deadwood and Firefly, both of which are Western-style shows. Ironically, the show take place roughly 700 years apart, but that's for another post.

Still, the basic guitar strumming and life-lesson extolling lyrics come together to make beautiful songs that are much more meaningful and memorable than typical country tracks about Ford trucks and steak. I'll admit that that's an unfair, bad, and inaccurate generalization, but from my ignorant stance on country music, that's what I see, and I honestly don't care.

This album is interesting in that it's actually a series of covers of Townes Van Zandt songs. Earle, who was a disciple of Van Zandt's decided to honor his passing with this album. The songs chosen were favorites of Van Zandt's as well.
Some of you may recognize Earle not as a musician, but as an actor, especially if you are a fan of The Wire in which Earle played Walon, Bubbs' sponsor. He plays a large role in the fifth season, which is the same season on which he sings the title track "Way Down in the Hole." Another one of his songs, "I Feel Alright" was also featured that season.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Random Thoughts

So Decker and I have finally finished this, our sophomore, year in college, so the "I'm bored and don't want to study posts" will either disappear or increase exponentially. It depends on how summer goes.

In other news, Wale's latest mixtape, Back to the Feature, has again been delayed. It was meant to come out April 29th, then May 7th, and now...who knows. His debut LP is also supposed to be released soon, so maybe we'll get both albums around the same time.

Also, Wilco still sucks.

Monday, May 4, 2009

New Shows on NBC

So, the networks' upfronts are pretty soon, so that means most of the channels are putting out previews of their new shows for next fall. NBC recently said that they are only picking up 6 new shows, partially due to the economy and partially due to the fact that Jay Leno will take up 5 hours of primetime a week next year. Of the 4 dramas and 2 comedies, only 2 look good, so I embedded the below.

The first is a new comedy starring Joel McHale, who can honestly do now wrong in my book. It also stars Chevy Chase in a role that was probably meant for Jeffrey Tambor, and features the black guy from Derrick Comedy. The show, about students and tutors at a community college, will probably fit nicely in with The Office and Parks and Recreations. I'm really liking the trend of moving away from traditional sitcoms in favor of more single-camera comedies. Check out Community below:

The other show I thought has some potential is Parenthood. The show is getting a lot of good press, but that obviously doesn't mean much in terms of how a show performs (i.e. Studio 60). This show's got a great cast, including Peter Krause, Monica Potter, Erika Christensen, and Craig T. Nelson. The show is from the writer of Friday Night Lights and Ron Howard and Brian Grazer.

NBC also has two medical shows, which I bet do reasonably well now that ER is finally off TV. All I know is that Friday Night Lights is coming back, which is all that really matters.

Green Day

What happened to this band?

Let's say this, they definitely know their new demographic, but I just wish they hadn't changed their sound in order to appeal to tweens and pop-punk princesses. Green Day used to stand for something, maybe picking your nose and making farting noises, but at least they weren't pretentious and self-involved. Their original sound, which lasted (in my opinion) through 1997's Nimrod, was less Linkin Park angsty and more teenage rebellious. They were punk because they captured the emotions and humor of being young, now that they have matured, the band is so much more about faux-punk with their pseudo-riot instigating music. This is clearly exemplified in their totally manufactured/produced new image. When Dookie came out, the band wore whatever they found laying around their house, but now they wear matching black, faux-anarchist gear, almost a Sex Pistols-revival fashion. Guyliner, faux-hawks, matching black and red outfits with ties of course. They act like are incredibly depressed and oppressed by the man, but in reality, their new image and sound helped to propel American Idiot to over 5x platinum in the US. That album sold over 12 million copies worldwide, more than every album since Dookie combined. Talk about a reinvention. Back in the early 90's, the band looked so much like typical teenagers that during Woodstock 1994, a security guard confused bassist Mike Dirnt for a fan trying to get on stage and punched several of his teeth out. And speaking of Woodstock 1994, I present the infamous mud fight:

The band used to be obnoxious, now they are so completely mainstream. This is further exemplified by the band's hiring of legendary producer Butch Vig for their new album. For their previous 4 albums (not counting Warning), the band had worked with Rob Cavallo, but felt they needed a change that led them to work with the man who worked with Nirvana on Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins on Gish and Siamese Dream.
Billie Joe Armstrong declares, "This album is more... religious", and is influenced by Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, and The Beatles, to name a few. The previous work sounded much more like classic punk bands such as The Ramones, The Clash, the Sex Pistols, The Jam, and the Buzzcocks. Their early work had distorted guitar, fast, manic drums, and high-treble bass. They wrote short, fast-paced, humorous songs, now their songs come in multiple parts or are 9 minute rock operas like "Jesus of Suburbia."
They are trying too hard to become the next U2. When did a band that started out singing about the joys of squatting in a burned out house in West Oakland come to the conclusion that it was their job to save the world? U2 maintains its air of world savior, but does it knowingly. Green Day on the other hand, tries to act in a similar manner through the guise of being punk, anarchist, and counterculture rebels. Their angst-ridden lyrics amount to nothing more than preaching to teens who don't understand the intricacies of the world's problems. So, while Green Day's lyrics have escalated from being about nonsense to being about world problems, their target demographic remains ignorant teens who like to act like they know what's going on in the world, but get all their information from sources like The Daily Show and South Park. So when Armstrong sings, "Well, it’s enough to make you sick/To cast a stone and throw a brick," he's not appealing to people who really know what's going on, instead he's instigating a sort of anger in teens that only adds to their confusion. And worst of all, the band tries to act as if they aren't doing what they are doing, which contributes to all the criticism the band has begun receiving.

Jon Pareles of the New York Times has this to say about the band's new sound: At a time when younger punk-pop bands are singing about girl trouble and professional envy, Green Day has dared to offer something far denser and more demanding: a whirlwind of thoughts about activism, redemption and destruction. The rage and sorrows of “American Idiot” are pushed even further in “21st Century Breakdown,” in songs where idealism and the urge to annihilate are constantly grappling, never far apart.

Though the band has received quite a bit of acclaim for the later work, including multiple Grammy nominations, many in the punk scene and music industry see the band's later work as hypocritical and insincere (since ingenuine isn't a word).

Legendary Sex Pistols member Johnny Rottern had this to say about Green Day, "So there we are fending off all that and it pisses me off that years later a wank outfit like Green Day hop in and nick all that and attach it to themselves. They didn't earn their wings to do that and if they were true punk they wouldn't look anything like they do."

At the same time, The Killers' front man Brandon Flowers describes American Idiot as "calculated Anti-Americanism." He felt that the whole image and production that went into the album was a stunt. For instance, the live CD/DVD was recorded in the UK and Germany, rather than in the US. The concert DVD shows thousands of Europeans singing along to "American Idiot." Flowers said, "I just thought it was really cheap. To go to a place like England or Germany and sing that song - those kids aren't taking it the same way that he meant it. And [Billie Joe Armstrong] knew it."

The constant whine and depression that has become Green Day's sound is mirrored by their apocalyptic, graffiti-styled artwork. This only adds to their faux-punk image, which deters true punk fans.
Sure, there is something to be said for maturing musically, but I don't think the band has matured as much as they've turned away from their original fans in favor of the Hot Topic, suburban mall tween crowd. This band used to play 924 Gilman, now they cater to the same crowd as Paramore and Linkin Park. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just that the band has such lofty goals, but the reality of the situation is that they aren't actually leading the cause for any change in the world. I have nothing against them singing socially-conscious songs, but doing so with such an air of self-righteousness is appalling and depressing.

P.S. This was our 100th post. That's pretty cool.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Classified: Canadian Hip-Hop

I've decided that I'm going to write articles every so often about hip-hop collectives, artists, or labels that deserve more recognition. As such, these articles will focus mostly on underground and independent rappers rather than mainstream artists, but every so often, I may post about big name artists.
The first artist I'll post about will be Classified, the Canadian rapper from Halifax, Nova Scotia. The interesting thing about Classified is that despite being a white rapper from Nova Scotia, he's incredibly prolific and respected throughout Canada. Since 1995, Classified has put out 13 albums, the latest of which, Self-Explanatory, came out on April 7th, 2009. Not only that, but many of Classified's songs and albums reach the top Canada's music charts. As a white rapper, it's easy to compare Classified to Eminem, and in a way, he is Canada's Eminem. But Classified is so much more than Eminem. While Classified never turned his horrible upbringing into motivation for his music, he does still rap about what it's like living in Nova Scotia. Despite what people may think about Halifax and Eastern Canada, Classified tries to portray his hometown as a normal city, just further out and a bit colder. Check out his track "The Maritimes," which we've played on the show:

As with most other underground, independent hip-hop artists, Classified remains critical of traditional hip-hop music. In his song "The Final Time" off of Boy-Cott in the Industry, Classified has this to say about hip-hop:
There ain't no skill, ain't no wordplay, just mimics and clones
They all say they're keepin it real, but won't admit that they're wrong
And we got underground cats who are trying to be different...That's respectable
But it's a fine line between being different and good and different and pitiful
Your beats are made with pots'n pans and they don't hit
And if you can flow on a beat then please just leave and don't spit and that's it
Classified took the classic underground approach to hip-hop and started his own label, Half Life Records, in 1995 and put out his first 8 albums independently. His first album Times Up received quite a bit of acclaim from Halifax's underground scene. Then in 2003, he signed with the underground, Canadian label URBNET Records and has put out his latest albums through them. Interestingly, though Classified isn't that widely known in America, when he signed with URBNET, he began gaining more attention among American underground rappers and was able to get them to make appearances on his albums. For instance, Royce da 5'9", Busta Rhymes, and B.o.B. have all made made cameos on his later albums. Classified has also opened for artists such as Ludacris, Busta Rhymes and Blackmoon.

Still, as a larger name in the Canadian music scene, Classified tries to team up with other Canadian artists in order to promote the country's unique sound. Though relatively few Canadian rappers make it big (Kardinal Offishall and K'naan being the primary ones), Classified prefers remaining underground so he can have more control over his music and production. However, unlike in America, Canada offers grants to Canadian aritsts who seek to create an album. Not only does this subsidize the cost of creating music, but also allows for country-wide tours, which are rare in Canada. But it's not only the Canadian government that helps to endow the arts in Canada, it's also popular media companies such as MuchMusic, the equivalent of MTV up North. MuchMusic has created and offered many grants to Canadian artists in hopes of increasing the number and quality of the music and videos procuded. For the channel, a dearth of music and videos would limit the Canadian-ness of the channel and turn it into another MTV clone. So, with the grants, Canadian artists are able to get the funding they need to create their music. Additionally, Classified produces each of the songs on all 13 of his albums. This is most clearly shown in his track "Beatin' It," which we've also played on the show:

Though Classified may be one of the first rappers to come out Nova Scotia, many have followed including Buck 65, Sixtoo, Universal Soul, along with many up and coming DJs. In the end, the point to take away from all of this is that while the big-time rappers come out of Atlanta, LA, New York, and Chicago, a lot of the smaller artists do exist in places like DC, Minnesota, and Halifax. And that's a trend that you'll continue to see in many of the articles about underground hip-hop.

Here's one final video, it's Class's new single "Anybody Listening"

Yeah, that's a Genesis sample. And yeah, that's Banksy and Shepard Fairey. Dope.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Skinheads: History 101

SKINHEADS - To most people this word conjures images of insane Neo-Nazis committing horrendous crimes and persecuting peoples everywhere. Unfortunately, however, this image represents only the smallest and most violent wing of the "skinhead culture". So, let's take a look back at some history.

Flashback to London, it's the 1960's and increasing numbers of immigrants arriving from Britain's colonies and former colonies in the Caribbean, namely Jamaica. Jamaican immigrants bring their own brands of fashion and music, and fuse it with existing British styles, fueling a style known as Rude Boy. Rude Boy culture fused European and Caribbean sensibilities, bringing the sounds of ska, dancehall, and reggae to England.
Many immigrants assumed working class positions next to the native middle class of England, and, naturally, they exchanged styles. With new disposable incomes, Middle Class youths were able to experiment with their styles, incorporating many of the new elements they had seen in the Rude Boy movement. The cross of these styles created the traditional skinhead look: Ben Sherman, Fred Perry, suspenders (often called braces), aviator jackets, the ever present Doc Marten 20 eyelet boots, and, of course, shaved heads.
Eventually, however, some of the middle class roots of the culture turned violent, as some skinheads became more involved in gangs. More extreme skinheads even turned against the immigrants (Islanders, Middle Easterners, etc.) who had become very visible in London. They blamed immigrants for unemployment and the loss of traditional British values. The 2006 film, This is England, does a great job of chronicling the atmosphere of England at the time, as seen through the eyes of a young boy struggling to find his place without his father, who was killed in the 1982 Falklands War. In England, the skinhead movement splintered, and by the 1980's, had lost much of its popularity in England.

By the 80's, however, the style reached New York City, specifically the hardcore punk scene of the Lower East Side, centered at the famous club CBGB's. Bands such as Agnostic Front and Warzone promoted traditional skinhead styles and values, especially unity within the middle working class. At the same time, however, the NYC skinhead scene experienced many of the same trials as England, as some skins began to promote "traditional working class American" values, and brought a regrettably racist vibe to the culture. Often the tension between racist skins and SHARPs (SkinHeads Against Racial Prejudice) exploded into violence at shows. Many bands and fans of the era, however, continue to respect the style which was once very strong in New York's rich cultural landscape.

Today, skinhead culture still exists around the world, and has been making a comeback in England, due to the recent success of works, such as This is England, which relive the glory years of the culture. It is truly unfortunate that racist and violent elements corrupted what I think is a really cool and interesting style, which was born out of learning and cooperation between races and lifestyles.

To learn more, check out: This is England, Skins and Punks by Gavin Watson, and Radio Silence by Nathan Nedorostek & Anthony Pappalardo.

Base Trip Records

A couple weeks back, during Easter break, I visited some friends up in Boston at BU. Since all my friends are also really into music, especially my boy Garrett, with whom I was staying, a music swap occurred. As with every other music swap that's occurred, I give Garrett mostly hip-hop (you don't have any El-P?!), and he gives me mostly indie/alternative (The Smiths!). But this last time, Garrett gave me a track by the hip-hop group The Throwbacks, whom I had never heard of before. I really liked their sound, so I asked Garrett about them. He told me that they were local, maybe even students at BU. I sort of disregarded it and added the track "American Phenomenon" to my iTunes. Later that week, I did the BU High Fidelity radio show with Garrett. Towards the end of the show, a guy named Conor showed up. Cool guy, but I thought he was just another DJ.
The Throwbacks

Returning to Georgetown, I decided to play The Throwbacks on our show. Not knowing much about them, I did a quick Google search on these guys and found out that they are signed to the small, independent record-label Base Trip Records. Being the curious guy I am, I had to look Base Trip up as well. Heading to their website, I realized that the label was started out of a BU dorm room, akin to the way Def Jam was started by Rick Rubin out of his NYU dorm. Even more surprising was that the label was started by that guy I met at the WTBU station, Conor Loughman.

Check out Base Trip: Facebook. MySpace. Blog. Home Page. Flickr.

Though I was aware of businesses being started out of dorm rooms, I was absolutely amazed that, in this day and age with music piracy the way it is, a record label could be launched by a student. The label specializes in folk, acoustic artists as well as in hip-hop. I recommend checking out all their sites, especially their blog, which has recent news and press coverage. And listen to their music. A lot of their artists should be touring this summer around New England and the Mid-Atlantic, so if you are in the area, check them out.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Wale: King of the DMV

Living in DC (at least for another 9 days), I have a certain affinity for rapper Wale, who was born and raised in Washington and nearby Largo. And while DC has historically been very rich musically, not since the 80s DIY, hardcore punk scene that began with bands like Minor Threat, Bad Brains, S.O.A., and other bands that only Decker likes has DC had a legitimate musical act about which people cared. DC brought to the forefront Duke Ellington, Go-Go music in the 70s, hardcore punk in the 80s, and nothing since. Unless you count small time artists like Army of Me or Vertical Horizon (yay Georgetown!).

Like other rappers that have been getting a lot of press so far in 2009 such as Asher Roth, KiD CuDi, Charles Hamilton, and B.o.B., Wale was listed in XXL's Freshmen of '09. Having listed to all the guys chosen by XXL, I think Wale may be the best of the bunch, except for maybe CuDi. Though I am afraid that Kanye will take too much control of CuDi's album and force auto-tune down his throat. And though I previously said that the Silversun Pickups' new album Swoon is the best album so far, I have a sneakign suspicion that Wale's debut LP may usurp that position when it comes out.

Maybe that's why Wale's rise to fame has been such a big deal in DC. Like with most other rappers, Wale treats his birthplace as a source of pride and not as something over which he had no control. It's interesting that you hardly ever hear any other artists besides rappers singing about their hometowns. You never hear Nickelback singing about Canada, but honestly I wouldn't know if they did or not, I'm just assuming now. Anyways, Wale loves DC and frequently states in his mixtapes that it's his goal to "bring that Grammy back to DC." From what I can tell though, he's only played on radio stations in DC like 96.3 WHUR and 93.9 Kiss FM. He doesn't get the national recognition that artists like Jay-Z or even Asher Roth receive. Well, for one thing, it's probably because he has yet to put out an actual album yet, just a handful of singles such as W.A.L.E.D.A.N.C.E, which samples the Justice song, and Nike Boots, which has become his biggest hit so far. He recently put out a new single with Lady Gaga that we played on the show a few weeks back called "Chillin'."

Despite Wale's incredible lyrics (i.e. "I remain a Giant while you're Jeremy Shockey" and "No congressional reppers, no respectable rappers"), maybe that last one doesn't make any sense if you don't know about DC's political problems...despite Wale's increidble lyrics, I do get annoyed that many of his lines deal with shoes. I just don't understand rappers' predilection towards shoes, but I guess it is better than rapping about rims still. Nevertheless, in the song "Nike Boots," which actually not about shoes at all, Wale does get past his love for shoes and shows that he can rap about the meaningful. More often that not, he does rap about meaningful things such as the use of the word "nigga" in "The Kramer," and about the decline in the quality of rap in "Politx," and about the all the haters in "Nike Boots."

So, Wale is absolutely backpack, but that's the style of rap that's becoming more popular these days. Wale has released a total of 0 albums, but has put out 4 mixtapes (which you can pick up at datpiff.com). And amazingly, each of his mixtapes is better than the last, so with his 5th mixtape, Back to the Feature, produced by 9th Wonder, coming out May 7th, expectations are high. And about a month after that, his first album Attention: Deficit will be released on Mark Ronson's label. So, while most rappers get Steve Rifkin or Cool and Dre or The Neptunes or Timbaland to produce their albums, Wale got British artist Mark Ronson to do his debut album instead. Ronson is known much more for his pop and alternative production, as he works mostly with artists such as Lily Allen and the Kaiser Chiefs. But his work with Amy Winehouse on her album Back to Black made him a popular choice for artists who sought retro style of production. And with Wale being so influenced by DC's 1970's go-go scene, the possibilities here are endless. Though an actual release date hasn't been announced for the album, Wale did take the time to take this picture to announce his album's drop this summer. Twitter. Shoes.

The title Attention: Deficit refers to the "crumbling music industry that is producing whack, disposable tunes: 'nobody pays attention and I’m trying to change it.' "