Archive for November, 2011


This Week in Panels: Week 113

November 20th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Okay, going a little early on this one. In just a little bit, I’m off to Madison Square Garden to check out Survivor Series. If the entire arena is to be killed due to a cataclysm caused by Mark Henry’s immense rage, know that I wanted to go out this way.

I’m joined by Space Jawa and Was Taters. Taters supplied a panel for Nightwing that, according to her, best describes her feeling on the book as a major Dick Grayson fan.

While I don’t usually want to give out context, the panel right before the one I chose for Avengers Academy features Finesse breaking through a window while screaming, “LEAVE HIM ALONE!” and hitting Magneto in the face with a projectile escrima stick. Balls the size of Celestials.

Wait… does Red Hulk’s voice sound like Deadpool?

Avengers #19
Brian Michael Bendis and Daniel Acuna

Avengers Academy #22
Christos Gage and Sean Chen

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Marvel just kicked me out of Marvel

November 20th, 2011 Posted by Esther Inglis-Arkell

And I don’t mean that in a snarky way.  Marvel just cancelled the Marvel titles I read.  I say this not because there were a lot – there were just a couple, and the occasional books I picked up when I saw something interesting that tied in to the ones I regularly pick up.  Mostly I noticed it because they tended to cluster around certain weeks when my DC haul was low, and I’d be surprised to see that my Marvel occasionally equaled or outnumbered my DC titles.

It is a blow to see them gone like this, though.

The Daken: Dark Wolverine cancellation, I have to say, I saw coming for a long time.  I liked the character, in part because I was tickled by the weirdness of him, and in part because I think he represents a fantastic picture of the dark romantic hero.  (Don’t laugh.  A bunch of books and comics present certain characters as ‘dangerous’ – characters like The Punisher, or Wolverine, who are about as dangerous as ten week old staunchly loyal labrador puppies.  Everyone might say that they’re violent and cruel, but then unfailingly end up doing the right thing, and often the most noble thing.  Dangerous AntiHeroes With Dark Pasts Who You Shouldn’t Get Involved With pretty much always end up being the best people in any book.  Daken’s arcs followed the same pattern; people getting to like him, seeing his vulnerabilities, thinking they were the exception, and then unfailingly getting screwed over because that’s what darkly violent romantic heroes would actually do.  You don’t develop a bad reputation by doing the right thing all the time.)

Still, it was easy to see the concept was staggering from the beginning.  Daken was born in a tie-in, raised in massively-confusing event continuity, and his solo title launched in an incomprehensible crossover series.  That pretty much hobbled the guy.  Since then, various writers have been sending him around the globe trying to give him something to do.  “Look!  He’s in New York!  Milan!  Madripoor!  LA!  Something’s happening!  We’re almost sure of it!”  The book never settled down into telling a story.  It just sent him places.

PunisherMAX was a shock, though, especially since I like Aaron’s work so very much.  Not only does he slalom between genuinely horrific events and hilarious slapstick violence perfectly, he brings a new dimension to the Punisher.  I, being a wuss, have to mentally edit out the worst of it, but brainwashing myself is worth it for the story and the characters.  Anyone reading this is a comics fan, and so anyone reading this will definitely know how rare it is to see the big reveal on the last page of the issue and think, “Holy crap!  I did not see that coming!  I can’t wait to see what happens next.”  It’s rare to be surprised, and even more rare for that surprise to elicit more than an, “Oy.  This guy again.”  Aaron’s Punisher had me doing that every issue.

More importantly, it had me interested in the Punisher as a character.  Most Punisher comics don’t have the guy thinking more than a few words, and if they do, it’s usually words of blank contempt for the villains, the onlookers, or the world in general.  This Frank looks at himself, and his mistakes, explains why he does the things he does (More than just ‘I hate them,’ which was a cop-out.), and shows more variation of emotion.  Aaron gives the character feet of clay without surrendering an ounce of toughness or personal morality.  It’s a great look, and while I didn’t expect him to get Garth Ennis’ ten book run, I was hoping to settle in with this character being written by this author.

Oh, well.  I shall bid a fond farewell to both books, and secretly hope that Daken shows up on a team without too much tedious backstory and Jason Aaron writes a Punisher novel.  It could happen.  In theory.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 11

November 15th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

The New DC experiment continues with the second week of the third month. As it is right now, I’m reading 32 of their titles. Let’s see what I’m left holding onto after another go.

Batman and Robin by Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason is up first. I’m loving the relationship between Alfred and Damian. Even when you take away Alfred being slick with his chess and tracker skills, you get this feeling that he’s stealth-fathering Damian much in the same way he did Bruce. Only here, we’re able to see it happen more clearly. The villain has yet to do anything for me, but I enjoy the rift of disagreement he brings to Bruce and Damian. Damian feels underappreciated and underestimated, when Bruce is genuinely afraid for his wellbeing. The idea of Batman being so afraid for Robin hasn’t really been done all that much since he was babying Tim based on the death of Jason. There’s a strong desperation in his actions and a question of which Wayne is right in this situation.

Meanwhile, Gleason’s art is looking fine. I feel this comic is getting stronger by the issue. Definite stick.

Batwoman by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman continues to be an entertaining pile of barely-connected scenes featuring a bevy of subplots. I don’t care because I have no trouble following it and the art is fucking nice. The best part of it all is how all these different subplots are coming together more and more and the varying art styles are starting to interact. The realistic ghost, the well-shaded Batwoman, the Mike Allred-style Kate Kane, the noirish Chase, and almost comic strip-like Bette. A cool touch I really like is how the art starts to change in the characters. Now that Bette is Flamebird out of spite for Batwoman, she is shown to be in the same shaded and detailed style that Batwoman had before losing her mojo mid-issue. I mean, just look at the final page.

I barely even notice the “to be continued” and feel a groan come on when I turn to the next page. I’m in for the next go. Stick.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


This Week in Panels: Week 112

November 13th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

This week I’m joined only by Space Jawa. It’s a somber week of panels, as Darkwing Duck meets its end through the final issue. There are rumors that Disney is going to try to start an imprint within Marvel and I really, really hope it works out.

My comic shop got double copies of Point One, so they did the sensible thing and cut the price in half. Even then, I found I just didn’t care enough to pick it up. I heard the Nova stuff was terrible.

Also, remember, if you see a panel in a new comic and want to see it represented, by all means send me a line.

Avenging Spider-Man #1
Zeb Wells and Joe Madureira

Batman and Robin #3
Peter J. Tomasi and Patrick Gleason

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


CHIKARA’s High Noon: Sunday on iPPV

November 12th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

For the past four years, I’ve been hyping up the indy wrestling fed CHIKARA. Originally just a wrestling school run by Mike Quackenbush, it translated into its own fed for the sake of giving its students somewhere to compete and over a decade carved its own niche. It’s got just about everything a wrestling fan could want. Great characters, great wrestling, great comedy and some of the better storylines in the business while at the same time keeping it something all ages can enjoy.

Of course, my support of the company can only go so far. While they’re doing shows more spread across the country nowadays, they are centered around Philly and I can’t expect anyone reading to go and buy a ticket on my say. Their shows are all available on DVD, but I can see the hassle in that, especially not knowing where to start.

On the other hand, this Sunday is High Noon, the company’s very first iPPV and I highly, highly, HIGHLY suggest giving some thought in checking it out.

High Noon is the finale of CHIKARA’s tenth season. It’s a climactic, big profile show that you can watch live from the comfort of your own home. It’s $15 and you can order and stream it through GFL Combat Sports. It starts at 4pm and has its own 45-minute free preshow beforehand.

Here’s a look at the card and what the show has to offer.

The main story of the 10th season has been crowning the first ever CHIKARA Grand Champion. Although the company has had tag champs and a Young Lions Cup (a singles title for people 23 and younger), they’ve been able to write around the fact that they’ve never had a world heavyweight championship. Until now. Twelve wrestlers were selected to take part in a year-long round robin tournament called the 12 Large Summit (“12 Large” being a catchphrase of the late Larry Sweeney, who died early this year). With all the matches done, we’re down to our finals.

On one side, we have “Lightning” Mike Quackenbush, the squeaky-clean head trainer of CHIKARA who is an absolute genius at technical wrestling. On the other side is “The Last of a Dying Breed” Eddie Kingston. Eddie is a brawler, who tends to win the crowd over with his pure emotion and never-say-die attitude, along with an intensity reminiscent of Taz in ECW. Despite Kingston being a major name in the company for years, I can’t recall too many times that the two have crossed paths. Either way, this should be good and constitutes as a perfect money match for someone to be crowned the first champ.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


“i deal with the real” [The Roots – Things Fall Apart]

November 9th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

The Damon Albarn Appreciation Society is an ongoing series of observations, conversations, and thoughts about music. This is the thirteenth. I’ve had The Roots on my mind ever since their album undun was announced. I thought it would be interesting to try and take a look at where my relationship with the music of The Roots began. (This is an interesting exercise in avoiding typing “The Roots’s” as much as possible.)

Minutes from previous meetings of the Society: The Beatles – “Eleanor Rigby”, Tupac – Makaveli, Blur – 13 (with Graeme McMillan), Blur – Think Tank (with Graeme McMillan), Black Thought x Rakim: “Hip-Hop, you the love of my life”, Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), On why I buy vinyl sometimes, on songs about places, Mellowhype’s Blackendwhite, a general post on punk, a snapshot of what I’m listening to, on Black Thought blacking out on “75 Bars”

I first became conscious of The Roots around the time “You Got Me” dropped. 1998? 1999? Thinking back, I figure it was because my mom was heavy into Erykah Badu and liked the song, which was the lead single from Things Fall Apart. I thought that song was really good, because I also secretly liked Badu at the time, too. The video had a great concept at a point in time I remember as being pretty creatively bankrupt. You were either Hype Williams or jocking him. I think Little X might have been going then, I don’t remember. (After googling: He was active, and the video for “Neck Uv Da Woodz” shows a pretty okay sense of style with that Russian text, but he hadn’t yet reached the heights of Mystikal’s “Shake Ya Ass.” And man, I forgot how much Andre ran wild over “Neck Uv Da Woodz.” And in the “Shake It Fast” video, the girl with the Evil cropped tee? Yowza, no wonder I loved this video as a kid.) But the video, with the twist at the end and haunting imagery, made a melancholy song even more melancholy. It turned the song into the flip side of “Renee” by the Lost Boyz, only the guy dies at the end.

I started paying attention after that. I don’t remember if I got Things Fall Apart on tape or if we just spun the single for a while. I eventually got the album, and at some point, I saw the video for “The Next Movement.” (For some reason, every time I refer to this song, I call it “Adrenaline,” which is totally wrong. I didn’t even write the name right on here until I youtubed up the video.) Regardless, the video for “The Next Movement” was good. Great, even. I’d watch Rap City when I came home after school, and I feel like they gave it a lot of spins.

The video’s got a lot of flavor. It’s clever and funny, thanks to the gimmick of the band moving in space every time the showgirls close the curtains. and interesting enough to be worth watching. The part where they open the curtains too soon and you can see the production guys setting up–that’s good. It also does a great job of getting across exactly what the band is about. It’s live instruments, an emcee, and good tunes. Neo-soul swagger before it was properly termed neo-soul, even.

One thing that’s nice about The Roots is how well put-together their albums are. I didn’t feel particularly compared to seek out Ja Rule after his guest verse on “Can I Get A…” In fact, word around school was that he was Tupac’s cousin or DMX’s brother or something, so who cared? But on Things Fall Apart, I wanted more. More Eve, more Badu, more Common, more Jazzy Jeff… It’s all because The Roots are perfectionists. That may be an unfair term. It’s more that they care so much about what they do that they don’t bother phoning it in. If you’re on a Roots album, you don’t get to come wack. You black out or you go home.

Beanie Sigel was on “Adrenaline,” which might be the track that stands out the most on the album for me right now. It’s an essential part of The Roots’ catalog. I love the way the music warps around the words. I like hearing Malik B on tracks. Dice Raw’s first five bars go hard, and his last three are the perfect capstone.

Beans, though. Man. I remember reading in the liner notes that Beanie Mac’s verse (I think ?uest called it his “and ’em” flow? maybe “and them”) was originally fifty bars long and that Jay-Z signed him after hearing him freestyle once. There’s probably some exaggeration in there, but listening to this verse, I can tell why Jay was so hot on him. This verse is heat rocks. It’s half Beans shouting out people he knows and half telling you exactly what type of dude he is. For a debut verse, this is a pretty fantastic effort. I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened if Beans had stayed Roots-affiliated rather than signing to the Roc. He probably would’ve quit much sooner than he did, actually, which means no Freeway, which is wack.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but a lot of things I like I discovered via or alongside The Roots. It featured Eve and Beanie Sigel before they were really on. It was the first time I saw Jay Dee, later known as J Dilla, in the credits of an album. (By this point, I’d taken to obsessively reading liner notes to figure out who I needed to be listening to.) I spent a year or two on the Okayplayer boards a little later. Jill Scott’s named showed up in here, I think, and she was on the original version of “You Got Me.” Bilal is or was Roots-affiliated. I was introduced to Rahzel, who I thought was endlessly dope. I’m a sucker for beat boxers, and have been ever since Ready Rock C let the Fresh Prince play a game of Donkey Kong. I hadn’t heard Common before “Act Too (The Love Of My Life),” and this was one of the first times I heard Mos Def outside of Black Star. I think I maybe had that first Lyricist Lounge tape at the time, which Black Thought actually has a freestyle on. That timeline is a little fuzzy, and the narrative doesn’t really matter, anyway. At the time, though, Things Fall Apart was seismic. And that’s not even mentioning the black history implications of the title.

I was real surprised to see Jazzy Jeff on the album, honestly, because I’d assumed he retired. I don’t know if I’ve ever said so, but He’s the DJ, I’m The Rapper is one of my most favorite albums ever. To find out that he was involved with something as ill as Things Fall Apart after I thought he was finished with rap was a real nice realization. Which is really the perfect summary of Things Fall Apart. It was a nice thing to experience, something undeniably ill dropped dead in the center of a somewhat fallow period for rap music (unless my memory is way off), and one of my favorite albums to this day. Part of that is hindsight, sure, but then I listen to that sublime stereo blend on “Double Trouble” and remember that Things Fall Apart is just a good album, no qualifiers needed.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Avengers Academy: The Unusual Suspects

November 8th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

Last week started the new status quo for one of my favorite comics going on right now, and maybe my favorite comic coming out of the Big Two, Christos Gage’s Avengers Academy. In a time when new characters get shoved into cancelation only months into creation, it’s good to see that this series has lasted through 21 issues, a Point One, an appearance in Amazing Spider-Man, a giant-sized crossover with the ill-fated Young Allies, a crossover with Thunderbolts and some cameos in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Like with all good comics that don’t feature a marquee figure, there’s always that looming threat of it being canned, but with the new setting and storyline, now’s as good a time as any to get people to jump on.

I figured I’d take a look at our main cast and maybe inform someone out there enough that they’d give the series a try. In this series, it’s not the past that truly matters for the team of six, but the future. You see, this isn’t your regular young generation superhero team. Just because “Avengers” is in the title and our protagonists are teens doesn’t mean that this is your usual Teen Titans knockoff. It’s not so much a book about teenage Avengers as it’s basically the Teen Thunderbolts. Much like the Thunderbolts, the true hook of the series isn’t actually revealed until the very end of the first issue.

The hook? These are all kids who were controlled, captured, experimented on and/or tortured by Norman Osborn when he was in charge. Now that the good guys have the keys to the kingdom again, some of the mainstays from the ended Avengers Initiative take these kids in and offer to train them, insisting that they’ve got the most potential to do the most good. As the kids discover, this is a big lie. According to their psyche profiles, power sets and histories, they’re all most likely to become some of the world’s biggest supervillains. Hank Pym and the rest are using Avengers Academy as an over-elaborate way to nip their dark futures in the bud. It’s not about training the best of the best. It’s about predemption.

The comic becomes an exercise in looking at each member under a magnifying glass. Who is going to turn out good and who is going to fall from grace? At first it seems obvious. Half come off as truly decent folks while the other half seem like ticking time bombs. As it progresses, the lines begin to fade. We’re kept guessing on who’s going to crack and who’s going to stand tall. Over the last couple years, we’ve seen them clash with the faculty, make decisions that split the team down the middle, see their own possible futures, win battles, lose battles and be forced to take part in the Fear Itself war. And let it be said that Avengers Academy was one of the better tie-ins to that miniseries event.

As of #21, things have become very different. One of the members has quit and Pym has moved them all to the old headquarters of the West Coast Avengers. Now they allow more teen heroes to join, such as Power Man, Boulder, Spider-Girl and that kid with the pet Sentinel, among others. They’re all background, mainly, though Lightspeed and White Tiger have joined the main class with X-23 set to join in a couple issues. Hawkeye’s joined the faculty, showing that Wolverine and Spider-Man aren’t the only ones who can be on way too many teams. Most importantly, there’s been a bit of a murder.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


Brave New World; Bold New Direction: Week 9 and 10

November 8th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

With last week’s misadventure that prevented me from updating, I’m mixing the last round of #2s with the first round of #3s. I’m going to be quick on this one because I’m tired and the #2s aren’t as fresh in my mind.

Also, I’m kind of feeling as though this whole experiment has lost its luster. At least, in the writing part of it. Nothing especially earth-shattering is said and by this point it’s going to be more and more of the same. A lot of the good will continue to be good and it’s a stretch to keep coming up with paragraphs to remind everyone that after every month. I figure that I’m going to stop the regular updates by the end of this month, once all the #3s are out. Then maybe three months down the line, I’ll do a little retrospective to see where I stand and what went wrong with the ones I dropped.

First let’s get with Week 9.

All-Star Western by Justin Gray, Jimmy Palmiotti, Moritat and Jordi Bernet continues to kick a lot of ass, although the first segment makes Hex seem a little too good. Even Frank Castle wants to trade his plot armor for that shit. It’s not quite as good as the first issue, but at least the backup story is readable, unlike a certain book about men being of war. Stick.

Aquaman by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis does a better job holding onto the momentum of the first issue. The only problem is how short it feels, although Johns shows potential in getting me to care about Mera for the first time. Well, other than that time she vomited acid blood on a baby. Stick.

Flash by Francis Manapul and Brian Buccellato is solid enough, but the art only hides how it doesn’t feel like much has happened. Flash understands his powers a bit better and… stuff is brewing. Sticking, but my regard isn’t as high as the first issue.

Fury of the Firestorms: The Nuclear Men by Ethan Van Sciver, Gail Simone and Yildiray Cinar is something I gave a second chance to because the concept is so ridiculous it just might work. And you know what? I still think so. Just with another writing team. For a hero concept that’s supposed to be so upbeat, having to put up with our protagonists being labeled terrorists while surrounded by blood just doesn’t do it for me. Drop.

Read the rest of this entry �

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


“cold smooth like that dude sean connery was playing” [The Roots – 75 Bars]

November 7th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

The Damon Albarn Appreciation Society is an ongoing series of observations, conversations, and thoughts about music. This is the twelfth, and is all about “75 Bars (Black’s Reconstruction” by The Roots. It’s a growly, mean little song that I love very much.

Minutes from previous meetings of the Society: The Beatles – “Eleanor Rigby”, Tupac – Makaveli, Blur – 13 (with Graeme McMillan), Blur – Think Tank (with Graeme McMillan), Black Thought x Rakim: “Hip-Hop, you the love of my life”, Wu-Tang Clan – Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers), On why I buy vinyl sometimes, on songs about places, Mellowhype’s Blackendwhite, a general post on punk, a snapshot of what I’m listening to

“75 Bars (Black’s Reconstruction)” off Rising Down by The Roots is pretty incredible. It’s the peak of the album, I think. There’s a couple of bars that run through my head on a weekly basis, at the barest minimum:

I’m in the field with a shield and a spear, nigga
I’m in your girl with her heels in the air, nigga

It’s catchy. It’s that sorta snap where you pause and go “Ohhhhhhh!” The beat even drops as Thought kicks it, like it’s paying homage. (I at least mouth it every time I hear it, and I only realized this tonight on listen 15 or 20 of this song.) It’s a headshot when it comes to rap braggadocio, basically. I like how Thought emphasizes a couple of negative stereotypes or slurs and takes control of them. It sort of inverts their purpose. A spearchucker, in this context, isn’t a way to denigrate an entire continent and a people as being primitive savages. It’s a threat. It starts with him being outside with a shield and a spear. It ends with a spear through the chest. Get it? And as far as your girl goes… he’s doing what you can’t.

(There’s another aspect to these lines that’s harder to draw, but still there, however gossamer. “In the field” puts me in mind of slave times, and the shield and spear sounds like a black fantasy of a slave rebellion. The next line is interesting in that context, too.)

Thought’s a smart dude. He’s top five, dead or alive, and in the running for GOAT. Over the past twenty years, he’s dominated every other emcee that was dumb enough to hire him for a feature. Common, Big Pun, Mos Def, Talib Kweli, whoever. Thought comes in and does work and just bodies the track basically every time. He doesn’t really do wicked tongue twisters like Big Pun used to, but he more than makes up for it with an undeniable flow, like a rap juggernaut. His connections, wordplay, and flow are all crazy on point. It’s disgusting, really. He understands how to ride a track a lot better than his peers and he’s creative enough that I can’t really put him into any box other than “definitively ill.”

“75 Bars” is a good example of why. It’s three minutes and change long, and mixed so that Thought’s voice sounds raw and less mastered than usual. There’s no hook or gimmick. It’s just raw spitting. It’s a rapper doing what rappers do best. There’s not much that’s conscious on this song. It’s about how Thought is better than you at everything and the fact that he’s about his money.

The beat sounds sparse, like it’s just ?uestlove on drums, but there’s a pulsing melody that breaks in and out of the track as Thought goes off. It gives the track this weird feel. It’s not exactly what I think a song sounds like. It’s stripped down, like a demo, but not so stripped down that it’s just a guy kicking rhymes over an instrumental. It’s something in-between, something lo-fi but fully realized.

The first thing you’ll notice about “75 Bars” is how he uses “nigga” as punctuation. I think it’s real interesting, even if I’ve probably heard songs that use it more often than this one does. It’s emphasized here, and hammered into your head over and over. Even if you say nigga this and nigga that every single day, this song is gonna make you pause. It pulls the word from a basic part of speech, something you ignore or say unconsciously, into something you notice. And because you notice it, you start to pay attention. And since you’re paying attention, you’re stuck off Thought’s realness.

Other rappers use “nigga” or “fuck” as a cheap attention-getter or emphasis. Sprinkle them over a track and watch people get hype. I’m thinking of joints like Ludacris’s “Get the Fuck Back” right here, with it’s chorus of “Fuck that! Get the FUCK back! Luda make your skull crack” or Lil Jon’s “Knockin Heads Off” and “Don’t-like-them-niggas/Can’t-stand-that-bitch.” You want to sing along to that because it’s so aggressive. It’s like Waka Flocka’s music. The loud, dirty nature of it makes you want to yell it, and maybe a BAOW BAOW BAOW to go along with it.

The way Thought uses “nigga” here is different. It’s not just an outburst or lazy (but effective) rhyme scheme. Every single instance makes perfect sense in a sentence. Like this here: “Niggas make dead niggas and hate black niggas/ Brown niggas, high yellow niggas, and them red niggas.” It’s redundant, sure, but it sounds great on the track. The rapid-fire repetition worms its way into your head. “Niggas bleed just like us” doesn’t have that same power. It’s just a hook. OutKast’s “?” doesn’t, either. It’s too short. They don’t have that same power because they aren’t onslaughts of “niggas.” The only song I can think of that really stands up to it is Goodie MOb’s “The Experience,” which starts off “I thought you said you was the G-O-D, sound like another nigger to me!” “75 Bars” starts out immediately transgressive before desensitizing you. When he stops ending bars with “nigga” maybe 1/4 of the way through, you’re surprised, but already hooked.

I don’t know if I’m doing a good job of explaining why this song is so ill. It’s the nigga thing, sure. Thought flips it so often that it can’t help but be attractive. But really, it’s just Thought’s skill. He’s kicking fast raps, so fast that his pregnant pauses are barely a breath long, and the pace never lets up. The song’s a sprint, and once he gets his hooks into you, you’re along for the ride. It starts out with studio commentary and then cuts out immediately after Thought’s last bar. There’s no frills. There’s no nonsense.

There’s the opposite of nonsense, really. It’s dense. He’s packed his bars with content. Every single line kicks like a mule. The last fistful of bars:

My hustle is long, my muscle is strong
My man, put the paper in the duffle, I’m gone
Y’all still a light year from the level I’m on
Just a pawn stepping right into the head of the storm
You been warned, I will blow y’all niggas and disintegrate
I’m a rebel, renegade, must stay paid

Every line has a point. They’re complete statements. With a few exceptions, you don’t need the lines before and after to make sense of it. Thought’s rapping like he’s running out of time and trying to throw as many punches as he can. Over the course of his seventy-five bars, he stacks threat on crack on snap like the world’s fastest game of Jenga. It’s a style showcase. It’s not pointless like Canibus’s “100 Bars,” the point of which was Canibus telling you how dope he is. It’s about Thought showing you. He gives you the evidence and then you get to recognize.

You don’t need the lines before and after it, but when you include them, the song gets crazier. It builds a picture of Black Thought. Maybe that’s the reconstruction in the title, I don’t know. You get his rap persona, and you realize that he can really spit.

I love this video of Mos Def freaking out and kicking almost all of “75 Bars” and thought just being stunned and comparing ?uestlove/Black Thought to Lennon/McCartney. I feel like I’m doing a crap job of explaining why this song goes so hard, but Mos’s reaction here is like validation. Songs like “75 Bars” are the 16-panel grid of rapping. They’re a marathon, an iron man competition.

As a rap fan, this is what I live for. It’s everything that can be wonderful about rap, from an ill song to an emcee flipping something common into something extraordinary and back again. Hearing somebody completely black out on a track never gets old. This isn’t an accidental or calculated (but still ill, to be fair) blacking out like Nicki Minaj on “Monster.” It’s Kool G Rap on “Fast Life” putting the fear of God into Nas, UGK on “Big Pimpin’,” Andre 3000 on that “Throw Some Ds” remix or “Walk It Out,” Ghost’s verse on “Impossible,” or Big Daddy Kane on “A Day At the Races.” It’s somebody doing something incredible, and sounding effortless while they do it. It’s a welcome pummeling. It’s the type of song you gotta rewind when you first hear it.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon


“Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone” [The Roots – undun]

November 7th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

There’s a new album from The Roots coming out 12/6, undun. The first single for it is on Amazon, now. It’s “Make My” and features Big K.R.I.T., an ill producer/emcee out of Mississippi. I just found out his Return of 4eva got chopped and screwed while digging up his website. I don’t usually buy singles, and I didn’t buy this one, but I listened to the stream a few times. Unsurprisingly, I dig it. The Roots have been one of those groups I’ve liked since I was a kid. Ever since Things Fall Apart.

Here’s the concept for the new joint:

undun is an existential re-telling of the short life of one Redford Stephens (1974-1999). Through the use of emotives and Redford’s internal dialogues the album seeks to illustrate the intersection of free will and prescribed destiny as it plays out ‘on the corner’. Utilizing a reverse narrative arc, the album begins as the listener finds Redford disoriented–postmortem–and attempting to make sense of his former life. As he moves through its pivotal moments he begins to deconstruct all that has led to his (and our own) coming undun.

And here’s ?uesto’s comments on the concept:

“At this point in our career we’d like for our work to have a unifying theme, and an experiential quality. We’ve been intentionally making our albums shorter in length so that they can be experienced as a continuous work. The music is band-oriented with an eye on the moody cinematic. As a DJ, I am the King of playlists, but I don’t want our albums to feel like a playlist or a mixtape for that matter. We want to tell stories that work within the album format and we want the stories to be nuanced and useful to people. Undun is the story of this kid who becomes criminal, but he wasn’t born criminal. He’s not the nouveau exotic primitive bug-eyed gunrunner like Tupac’s character Bishop in Juice… he’s actually thoughtful and is neither victim nor hero. Just some kid who begins to order his world in a way that makes the most sense to him at a given moment… At the end of the day… isn’t that what we all do?”

And the album art, featuring photography by Jamel Shabazz:

That sounds good, right? Fate vs free will, getting by however you can, being trapped in an inescapable cycle… all of that stuff is right on target for me. I like how The Roots explore a specific theme over the course of their albums, too. Their last record, How I Got Over, was a raspy struggle album. It felt a lot like a gospel album. It was about survival, really. It was about what we have to do to survive (“Hustla”: “They say life’s a bitch, but it’s one life to live/I want my baby where that cake and the icing is/Out of them crisis-es, off of them vices-es”) and what living in the world is like. “Dear God 2.0” is practically a wail, yeah? “Uh huh, they said he’s busy, hold the line please/ Call me crazy, I thought maybe he could mind read” is pretty sad. It’s not a downer album, though. The record’s about triumph, though, “How I Got Over.” It’s just showing you how.

Wake Up! proved that the issues of yesterday still matter today. It’s an album of covers of political songs from the ’60s and ’70s, with John Legend on vocals. I’d heard a lot of these before. Maybe half, I’m not sure. But what killed me about this one was that it all seemed so on point for today. “I Can’t Write Left-Handed” is as great an anti-war anthem as any other song. Legend vamps a bit much for me on this record, but he’s overall quality. The songwriting is very strong, too, which helps a lot.

Rising Down was a blast of rage, “America, this is what you made me” battle raps and mean mugs. It was like they were getting their licks in now that George W Bush was on his way out, and the result was a tense, mean album. I don’t think it really hit a pop sound until the last song on the album, “Rising Up.” “Get Busy” is raw rappity-rapping, with a mean buzz, twang, and sharp drumming getting the point across. (Sidebar: I can’t tell you how much I love that “It’s like WEB DuBois meets Heavy D and the Boyz” line Dice Raw kicks. And Peedi Crakk’s whole verse.)

Killer Mike has this thing on the intro to I Pledge Allegiance to the Grind II that I like a lot. He says “We don’t have fans, we only have supporters… and I say we have supporters because it takes a lot to dig in your pocket or dig in your purse and break bread with fifteen or twenty dollars and buy a record. I believe when you buy a record you should leave that record with something more than a bullshit experience.” I completely agree, and that describes the MO of The Roots pretty well, too. There’s meat on their albums. They aren’t just collections of songs. They’re something way deeper than that. There’s a point beyond “it just sounded good,” which is already a good reason to make an album.

Here’s the video for “Make My.” It’s pretty good. Really looking forward to this album.

Post to Twitter Post to Facebook Post to Reddit Post to StumbleUpon