October 1, 2007

Dirty South Meets Meaningful Lyrics

Posted in Critique, Entertainment tagged , , at 2:46 pm by Cruthers

Chamillionaire - Ultimate VictoryStill floating high from the massive hit that was the 2006 Riddin’, Chamillionaire (or Hakeem Seriki) could have went the way of many of his hip-hop compatriots and let the gravy train roll in while producing increasingly inferior albums. However thankfully I believe that Ultimate Victory proves that while Chamillionaire’s southern style of “snap rap” is subject to simple beats and non-sense lyrics, he attempts to rise above the stereotype and do his own thing in a creative and thoughtful manner.

I have thoroughly enjoyed Ultimate Victory for the past couple of weeks, listening to it between classes and in my car with the bass turned up. What I think really hooked me in was seeing the music video on BET and later searching for the long version of Hip-Hop Police/The Evening News on youtube.com. In the video and in a fair percentage of Chamillionaire’s rhymes, Chamillionaire criticizes the modern media and the lack of balance present today. As a journalist this speaks to me. The discontent present reverberates throughout the album and through a good pair of speakers. However I don’t agree with all of his accusations such as that 9/11 was a timed attack and that white kids anticipating rap albums is a degrading thing (white people make up around 75 percent of the US market, get over it). But I do agree that “Bill O’Reilly somewhere is hating” and ironic lyrics like,

No time to trip don’t be confused, cause this type of news depends on interviews
Got no time for no interviews (got-got no time for no interviews)

Sadly and somewhat expectantly, the album has faults with a few duds such as Rock Star, which features the simply awful rapper Lil Wayne who seems to be inexplicably popular and featured as a guest on many top albums these days. Also the track, The Ultimate Vacation feels too mellow and out of place.

Thankfully the majority of the album is great and thus the bad aspects are more forgivable. Starting with the media and government critical track The Morning News, you know that this isn’t just another party disc but that Chamillionaire actually has something going on upstairs. Followed by the albums single, Hip-Hop Police is a story of injustice and misdirected blame on the rap community for all the worlds’ woes. Next up is Won’t Let You Down, a slow mournful track with great bass. Industry Groupie’s 80’s sport movie music sample is fun though the track is no more than an elongated shout out. Possibly the best track on the album is Bill Collecta featuring Krayzie Bone from Bone Thugs-N-Harmony. The song subject matter doesn’t break ground but the preceding skit and the raspy whispery voice of Krayzie Bone simply nails it and will make you fear the “bill collecta”. For a song with more interesting subject matter and a contender for best track turn to I Think I Love You in which Chamillionaire anthropomorphizes money as a woman, musing about the joy and seemingly fated heartache she causes. The Evening News repeats the first tracks message and style but is different enough to still enjoy. Now while Stuck in The Ghetto may be labeled a skit, I personally think it’s strong enough to be labeled an actual song if it was longer. When I first heard the track I knew I had to learn how to play it, so eventually I came across this video of Tony Henry playing it live and copied the chord progression from watching him. Great song. Finally we come to Chamillionaire’s outro The Ultimate Victory in which he thanks everyone for helping him to achieve all that he has and hopefully will keep achieving.

If it seems like I just listed the entire album, you’re close to the truth. The album is chocked full of hits, great production and refreshing attitude that begs to be bumped at parties and in cars. If you like southern rap or good hip-hop in general, go buy this album I assure you won’t regret it.

September 30, 2007

Is this what’s best?

Posted in Critique, Entertainment tagged at 11:59 am by Cruthers

Every couple of days or so I make it down to the local post office to check my mail and to scrounge through the freebies pile. In the pile is a wide range of shopping catalog’s, old ESPN magazines and a variety of others. Recently I scored a copy of Best Life magazine. The magazine’s tag line is “What Matters To Men”. Honestly though, its cut from the same cloth as any women’s advertisement driven fashion magazine (no surprise as it’s from the creator’s of Men’s Health) but it holds under the guise of upper class male reading material. The saving factor of this rag however is the quality of some of its articles.

Articles such as “Multitasking at Mach 2” which follows the physical training of an F-22 Raptor fighter pilot and the massive stresses they choose/have to endure. Or “Sounding Out Prostate Cancer” which explores a new method of treating prostate cancer that appears to be safer, more effective, greatly reduces rates of impotence and surprise surprise isn’t approved by the FDA. Each article is well written but won’t win any awards anytime soon. Interestingly enough in order to justify the title of “Best Life” the magazine attempts to show how these articles relate to the reader by creating how-to’s on the same page such as; how to eat for reducing cancer and how to work out like a fighter pilot.

While the articles are relatively good the magazine stinks (literally as it contains cologne samples) of disconnected rich upper class values or perceived values. Values where environmentalism is no more than a fashion (a section entitled The Green Zone containing more advertisement than substance) and movie stars are celebrated as heroes (an article entitled “The Wild Promise of Eddie Burns).

Ed Burns

The photography reflects this as well. Shot in variety of black and white, color and sometimes silently out of focus the subjects are often seen in industrial locations and aggressive stances that seem to say “I’m better than you and I know it”. Ironically this stance of “I’m Better” is used to sell clothing that the subjects wear, in the hope’s of subjugating the reader with envy and want.

Best LifeKurt Markus

So I say if you every want to know the worth of a periodical, you can’t judge a book by its cover but you can judge a magazine by its smell.

September 24, 2007

Nancy Dis’Grace

Posted in Critique, News Media tagged , at 1:02 pm by Cruthers

So lately I’ve taken to flipping through the tv channels when I manage to squeeze time between classes, my social life and real life obligations. During my surfing sessions I’ve found wonderfully entertaining programs like; Ninja Warrior, Hogan Knows Best and most of the Discovery Channel line up (i.e. Survivor Man and Dirty Jobs).

However during my flipping I occasionally stop at one of the two CNN news broadcast offered here. One is normally up to date news and the other is complete crap. For example I point to Nancy Grace.

Nancy Grace

This woman (of which I have plenty of other choice words to describe her as) is no more than a self important middle age fascist. If you don’t agree with her then your wrong.

Case in point, today there was a young black man attempting to discuss and explain his position on the Free the Jena 6 issue. Well, during his calm and obviously thought out argument he let slip the term “hard-on”. As in, ‘the court system has no more than a “hard-on” to convict some of the accused members with elevated sentences.’ While this may be an innocent slip of what I perceive as non-offensive terminology, Ms. Grace does not.

Grace upon hearing such deemed offensive language proceeded to interrupt and berate the young man saying, “Excuse me! But “hard-on” is not recognized legal terminology!”

As if she was the guys mother scorning him for saying a dirty word. Oh! And we know she’s utterly legally correct in her language all the time.

The young man obviously confused at the fact that this “news anchor” was worried about his “dirty mouth” instead of the actual news they where supposed to be discussing, apologized and said that he would try to keep his colloquialisms in check. To which Ms. Grace rudely said “yeah!” and rolled her eyes.

This is but a surface skim of the terribly poor and offensive interviewing practices I’ve seen on her show. However the saddest thing is that the majority of the preceding and following “news”-like programs on CNN follow her statute of being really loud, using flashy gimmicks and conveying very little useful information that will effect the common man’s life(i.e. celebrities and buzz topics).

In addition I can only hope she doesn’t find her long lost twin brother Bill O’Reilly, consummate and birth the apocalypses.

September 23, 2007

Dusty but Still Kickin’

Posted in Critique, News Media, Science tagged at 5:11 am by Cruthers

Mars Rovers Survive Severe Dust Storms, Ready For Next Objectives

I still find it amazing that the two Mars Rovers, Spirit (landed January 4, 2004) and Opportunity (landed January 25, 2004) are still up and running and sending valuable after 13 times their primary mission length (90 days sol).

How this story is being treated as same old same old confounds me. Yes it’s a bit soft but surely this feat of engineering deserves more notice than the recent OJ debacle. Ah but maybe the latest GQ article The Brain Dead Mega Phone (which strangely I couldn’t find on the GQ website, however I’m not surprised, a lot of magazine have yet to catch up with the web) is right. The article plays with analogies to illustrate the lack of depth in todays news and the reasons why this has come about. I find his analysis a bit pessimistic but then again maybe I’m just wishful that people can’t and won’t sustain themselves on nothing but junk food information indefinitely.

September 17, 2007

Role Playing and Role Models

Posted in Critique, Entertainment at 9:39 am by Cruthers

Children log onto corporate websites for socializing and gaming.

While this activity may sound harmless and presumably safe, it’s in fact something I believe every parent should be concerned about. I mean sure it’s a big corporation, and kids are assumed to be safe from sexual predators, but what about the capitalist predator controlling the children’s playing environment?

Is no one concerned about what messages are being conveyed? Is the Pokemon slogan “Gotta catch(i.e buy) ’em all” going unnoticed and accepted or even dare I say embraced as a modern value? The social network websites purported in this story appear to be really no more than a grounds to encourage materialism.

“Broadly speaking, sites like Club Penguin allow kids to pick out an avatar that they guide through activities. As far as I could tell, this consists mostly of shopping and decorating.”

What is this? The 1980’s with a modern tech twist? Are we going to see Madonna and Prince try and make a comeback?

…….. oh I see, well lets bust out our Flock of Seagulls and Breakfast Club albums we’ve all been hiding and call it a day.

September 15, 2007

Wow

Posted in Politics, Science at 10:40 pm by Cruthers

A politicians son actually goes to war? The move is obviously symbolic and I’m sure Governor Palin is sure to capitalize upon it, but with good justification, who here wouldn’t? However once you get past the political and symbolic reasons, it still makes you say wow.

Also, interesting that a counterintelligence agent would be found dead and very little information is available since the discovery. The earliest post I could find was from the 6th of September and no new information has been released yet.

Finally, stories of the excavation of the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley and searching for a lost fleet of whaling ships in the same week? Kind of makes you want to become an underwater archaeologist aye?

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