His Reasoning Is Askew

January 24th, 2012 Posted by david brothers

Joshua Hale Fialkov wrote an anti-piracy piece the other day. It’s interesting, but I disagree with most of it, if not all of it. It’s not that I don’t get his point (it’s basically “Times are hard, no one reads comics, and piracy sucks” from his POV), it’s that his reasoning feels suspect to me, a little Team Comics-y. Stuff like this:

The comic market consists of about 200,000 people, on the high end. Now, certainly, you’ll have your Justice Leagues and Batmans and Flash’s that do amazing sales and are generating profits. But almost every other book that isn’t up there in the top 25 or so titles is almost certainly losing money.

rings false to me. In the direct market, sure, that may be true, but Scholastic has printed ten million copies of Jeff Smith’s Bone, a comic for the children who do not read comics, since 2005. The anthology Flight went for eight volumes over the course of a few years, plus spinoffs. Robert Kirkman has his The Walking Dead, Felipe Smith is over in Japan making manga, and on and on. These may be outliers, but the comics culture, for lack of a pithier way to say “people who buy comics,” is much larger than 200,000 people. That’s probably even true of the Direct Market.

There’s also this:

So, while I’m telling you to stop being an asshole, I need you to do something for me. Be an asshole. You know how when someone you’re talking to makes a horrificly offensive racist comment and you immediately tell them to watch their mouth (or smack them or what have you…)? Well, I want you to do that about Piracy. Call them a fucking cockhead.

This is just silly. One, that’s not how anyone has ever been convinced of anything. Calling somebody a cockhead is probably what led to Lucifer and God falling out. Two, it doesn’t do anything but make both people into jerks and spark completely unproductive arguments. Three, I get his point, that we should take a stand against piracy amongst our peers, but seriously? This isn’t the way to do it. You’d be better off trying to actively guilt trip them, and that is the pass-aggest thing in the entire world.

But what I really wanted to talk about, what really crawled all the way under my skin, was this:

Tell them that they’re singly responsible for ruining the comic book industry (or the film industry or whatever.)

Folks, the ship is sinking and we all need to stand up and fight.

“Singly responsible.”

I like that, because it pushes all of the responsibility for lost money and a broken industry onto the consumer. “What’s wrong with this industry? You are, dear consumer. That will be $2.99 plus tax, enjoy your read.” That’s MPAA/RIAA talk right there, and it’s completely counterproductive and ridiculous. Fialkov seems like a smart dude, from what I’ve read of his interviews, so I’m actually surprised these words came out of his mouth.

But sure, let’s do this.

When I was a kid, I could buy comics for a dollar or two. It was the early ’90s and comics were a thing children did and parents tolerated in case it made money. I never had much of an allowance (Thanks, Mom), but I would get ten or twenty bucks for helping my aunt clean houses around town once I got old enough to push a mop, so I could finance my own entertainment.

I owned a Super Nintendo, but SNES tapes were like 70 bucks a piece, or something equally unreachable as a kid. I think I only ever owned Super Mario World, Star Fox, Mario Kart, and probably Street Fighter. I rented games from our local video store (either Blockbuster or Video Warehouse, though I don’t think it was called that then) for something like 2-5 bucks for 3 days.

Music was pretty expensive, too. 18 bucks at the mall for a CD, 12 at the BX. I didn’t buy my first CD until like 1998, with Heltah Skeltah’s (still great) Magnum Force, so it was the radio (free) or cassette tapes (ten bucks or less) for me.

From what I recall, my mom handled paying for theater movies, and I would rent them along with the video games. I had the option of playing outside, which I took fairly often, because the south has really nice weather, or working with my grandfather on his lawn, which I had no choice in at all and was basically free child labor. Oh, and I could go to the library if I could talk someone into driving me. Toward the late ’90s, we lived near a library, so I could bike there on a Saturday and bike back with half a dozen books to tear through.

That was it. That’s what I had to entertain myself from whenever I became conscious of money on through probably 1999.

Here’s what I’ve done so far today, over the past 12 or so hours:
-Went on went on Crunchyroll.com and tried to find some new anime to watch
-I added gdgd fairies to my list because a friend recommended it, along with a couple other shows that looked mildly interesting/not-moe
-I bought two albums from Amazon: Gangrene’s Vodka & Ayahuasca and The Suzan’s Golden Week For The Poco Poco Beat, both of which bang pretty hard
-I ordered Greneberg on vinyl because I like raw raps, and Mos Def’s The Ecstatic because I’ve been looking for it since I got a turntable
-I added several sample chapters to my Kindle and continued reading David Peace’s Tokyo Year Zero while they
-Spent three hours online doing research for a new work project. I’ve undoubtedly read the equivalent of several video game magazines worth of content across maybe a dozen different websites (a pox on Metacritic).
-Listened to both the albums I bought this morning via Google Music, made notes for songs to delete from Google Music because I’m perilously close to the limit
-Went to add something to my Netflix queue (I Saw The Devil) only to realize that it was already in my queue
-Made plans with a friend to watch a foreign movie on Blu-ray
-Watched a few trailers on Hulu (Get down with Madagascar or get laid down)
-Watched music videos on Youtube (you could do this in the past, but only on TV and you couldn’t pick what was what unless you had The Box)
-Posted some stuff on Tumblr

And some stuff I’m sure I’m forgetting, but let me get to my point. I’m not rich. I’ve got a job, which is a really nice thing to have, and it lets me buy nice things, but that’s about it. But besides the money, which really just lets me consume in a greater volume than I did as a child rather than breadth, the main difference between when comics made everybody a bunch of money and today is this:

We have options now, when it comes to what we choose to entertain us. You can drown in entertainment without putting forth really any effort at all today. It’s not like back then, when comics were a larger part of a smaller pie.

The internet didn’t exist (or “wasn’t a going concern” for the pedants who are sure to tell me about DARPA or ARPA or Al Gore or whatever) when I was a kid. Game consoles weren’t multimedia devices. Mobile phones were a joke. Cordless phones were the new hotness. Long distance calling was a special occasion. Etc etc woe is past me, blah blah blah.

To put forth the idea that piracy on the part of consumers is “singly responsible” for anything, especially when piracy by its very nature is impossible to nail down in terms of concrete numbers and cause & effect is dishonest. Bootlegs have always existed, whether in barbershops or art galleries. They’ve been here, and they aren’t going away. Do they cause harm? Any idiot knows the answer to that question is “yes.”

But for my money, the thing that killed comic books is “everything else.” We’re living in an all-new status quo, and I keep seeing people, especially comics people, acting like piracy is the sole cause of all their ills. When no, that isn’t true, and a half glance at the world will tell you so.

I don’t even have to leave my house to be flooded with things to do. I can have food delivered, songs and movies I buy (or download, whatever) appear on my hard drive or PlayStation like magic, video games can be bought and played without ever touching a physical disc… we’re living in the future, and that’s without even going outside. Outside, I can go to the movies, check out stand-up open mics, hang out with friends, drink Starbucks, eat donuts, play board games, go to bars…

There is so much to do, and when you tell me my choice is between (in this instance) a comic that averages out to being just okay and costs three to four dollars to read for five to ten minutes and doing anything else, I’m going to choose anything else, nine times out of ten, with exceptions made for creators I enjoy or books that might have a good hook that I’m curious about.

And I like comics. At this point, I’ve probably written a million words about them. I like supporting the people who make comics, whether with an email about how much I like their work, a Paypal donation, or just buying their books when they come out. My apartment is a mess because I like these stupid picture books so much.

It’s a new age. You either figure out how to progress along with time or you get washed away. Which is maybe “a fucking cockhead” thing to say, but that doesn’t make it any less true. 1996 rules don’t apply any more. You have to change for that new status quo.

I like this group named Pac Div a whole lot. It’s three cats (BeYoung, Like, and Mibbs) out of LA who can rap their butts off. They’ve got a style and subject matter that I’m into. They’ve gotten nine bucks out of me, because I bought The Div off Amazon. That album came out in 2011. I’ve been listening to the Div since 2009, and have enjoyed three of their full-length mixtapes, which are completely free. I don’t really go to concerts, so the only way I could support them was by buying that record when it came out. Their mixtapes are good enough that I would’ve paid for them out of pocket, so dropping ten dollars on The Div wasn’t even a question. I gladly throw money at them because I like what they do.

Their model, which is shared by a lot of rappers these days, doesn’t work for everyone, but they’re trying something that was unheard of back when the music industry was making money hand over fist. Pac Div knew that they weren’t going to come out of the gates and sell a million like it’s nothing, so they built a fanbase, toured the country (and eventually Europe, like they did in 2011 six months before their album dropped), and then released a tape at retail. Giving stuff away is no way to make a living, but they figured out how to monetize that model, and I assume it’s worked out pretty well for them. Hopefully, anyway–I’d like to see these guys succeed.

I don’t know what model is the future of comics. I do believe that it isn’t three and four dollar puzzle pieces, and it isn’t two dollar digital comics, either. Comics have a hard uphill climb, because the return on investment (to use a particularly odious phrase) just isn’t there for the reader. Four bucks for a comic featuring Wolverine that lasts ten minutes versus four bucks for a coffee with friends vs three bucks for a movie rental on Amazon vs five bucks for digital manga vs five bucks for an MP3 album on sale vs six bucks for a pre-noon movie on a lazy Saturday vs nine bucks for a Kindle book vs whatever else is out there. .99 for Angry Birds and Bejeweled 2. Not to mention drugs and romance, which is a whole other kettle of hopefully good-looking fish.

I paid twenty bucks for a season of Justified. That’s five comics. The difference in value there, assuming we aren’t talking about completely transcendant comics (which are few and far between), is harsh.

A lot of things have hurt comics. Needlessly conservative storytelling, crap coloring (maybe that’s just me and my art snob friends though), bad comics, rising prices, a lack of speculators, the Hollywood money being exponentially better, companies going for the short gain instead of the long-term gain (I’m looking at you, Humanoids, and your reprinting of comics classics in strictly deluxe formats that are too expensive for the casual reader who needs that stuff and you, Marvel, who can’t even keep a trade of a book that’s buzzing super hard in print, and you, comic shops, for banging your doofus drum every time somebody does something in digital comics you don’t like), and yes, piracy, have all hurt comics.

Tell them that they’re singly responsible for ruining the comic book industry (or the film industry or whatever.)

Folks, the ship is sinking and we all need to stand up and fight.

“Singly responsible” is an untruth, and to be honest, I’d be remarkably surprised if it was largely responsible for the current state of comics. Nobody even has actual, non-made up numbers on how piracy has personally affected them. They look at numbers on Demonoid or Rapidshare and go “See? I lost 3 dollars times thirty thousand downloads.” That’s fake reasoning. That’s assuming that everyone who got curious would have paid for your book, or that people aren’t backing up their legal copies, or half a dozen other situations. There are bots that seed torrent files just because they exist, users who download everything because they like having a large ratio, or because of some dumb OCD internet thing.

People were losing money on comics long before piracy was something that comics companies noticed. I get that piracy makes for a nice scapegoat, but the fall of comics, if it is in fact falling rather than changing into something else, is way bigger than piracy, no matter how hard people bang that drum and close their ears to dissent.

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“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.

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“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.

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“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.

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“new york is killing me”

July 7th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

The Damon Albarn Appreciation Society is an ongoing series of observations, conversations, and thoughts about music. Here’s the eighth, which I thought would be about the different ways people make songs about places, but instead changes tracks partway through. C’est la vie.

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

I took a trip back home in May, and a near-lethal dose of melancholy and shattered nostalgia left me thinking about how we relate to places, whether literally or figuratively. Where’s home? Where’s far? Is it a state of mind or familiar wallpaper? The usual rigmarole.

Listen to this while you read.

I listen to a lot of music that’s based around being from somewhere. Ages ago, Havoc of Mobb Deep said “Fuck where you’re at kid, it’s where you’re from/ ’cause where I’m from niggas pack nothing but the big guns/ Around my way, niggas don’t got no remorse for out of towners/Come through fronting and get stuffed with the 3 pounder.” The message is plain: where I’m from made me who I am, and all loud mouth foreigners need to remain strangers for their own sake. Where you’re from is part of your identity, right? That’s why there was inter-borough beef in NYC rap, and then bi-coastal beef, and then Andre said “The south got something to say” and bam, the Dirty South began vocally demanding attention.

There’s a couple different ways to make songs about places, near as I can tell. You can do the literal thing, where you explain what the place is all about, who lives there, or why people should care. The other option is to make a song about what it’s like to be from somewhere. You’ve got to put your soul on wax for that one, I think.

Though now that I write that out, those two things are the same thing, aren’t they? I’ve been mulling this piece over for a few days now, and was going to make that division the heart of the post. But nah, talking about a place has to involve what it’s like to be from that place, consciously or otherwise. Body language, word choice, even what you choose to describe and leave out all build a certain mental image, and it isn’t an unbiased one. I’d describe Georgia in terms I wouldn’t use for San Francisco, due to how I feel about the city and how I feel about back home.

This was going to be about music, not me. Switching gears.

The sound people choose to use when making songs about places is always interesting. “Amarillo,” off Gorillaz’ The Fall, is this slow, melancholy tune, with a rushing wind and hollow sound. It’s the music that plays when you’re driving alone down a highway in the dark, and the lyrics are about being alone and broken. It’s sad, and a very specific type of sad. I’ve never been to Amarillo, TX, but maybe that’s what life is like down there. I imagine that’s how Albarn felt, or maybe how it struck him, at least.

Gil Scott-Heron’s “New York Is Killing Me”–I wrote something on this for Tucker a while back, here’s a quote:

“New York is Killing Me” is everything and nothing all at once. The beat is sparse, with a deep drum coming in over some rapid fire snaps and a brief acoustic guitar, but it’s incredible. Gil Scott-Heron is from an older tradition than rap, but tell me that this beat doesn’t sound like a descendent of The Neptunes’ sublime “Grindin.” Throw Gil Scott’s gravelly, aged voice on top of it and you’ve got something that sits in the blues range. And when the backing vocals come in for “Lord have mercy on me,” and you’re looking at gospel. The positively mournful “I need to be back home” toward the end? That’s soul. Add in the entire point of the song, which is that the city is an unfriendly, cruel place and sometimes you’ve gotta return to the country, and you’ve got a song that’s black history spread over the course of four minutes and thirty seconds.

This is a funked out blues song, like the story you tell about a break-up to your friends with a smile on your face. It’s been long enough to be a story you can tell at a party without it being a whole thing, but not quite long enough. It wavers, the smile does. That moan at the bottom of certain lines, the “I need to be back home,” all of that is regret. You’ve got to leave where you’re from because it’s the healthy thing to do.

I like the differences between Atmosphere’s “Los Angeles” and Tupac’s “To Live and Die In LA.” Slug’s vision of LA is a brief burst of sights and sounds. His “I love it” at the end is true, but it sounds a little hollow, like when people say they love a restaurant with a sandwich they like or something. He likes it, but he’s not afraid to mock it. Tupac’s feels different. He has the advantage of a smooth track on par with “Summertime in the LBC” (another good song about a city, and perfect for cookouts) backing him, and he takes you on a tour of LA and everything he loves and hates about the city. I sorta feel like there’s two LAs. I know a gang of people who hate LA, but the ones that live there seem to like it well enough. It’s one of my favorite places, and I try to visit at least once a year to see friends. Atmosphere’s “Los Angeles” seems like it’s about the LA that’s known for scandal and artifice, while Pac’s is more personal, like an insider dropping knowledge on someone new.

Black Star’s “Respiration” is theoretically about New York (BROOKLYN!) and Chicago, but it’s universal. It’s what I think of when I think of what cities are like. They’re claustrophobic and alive, and there’s no place better on Earth.

Big Boi’s “West Savannah” and Scarface’s “On My Block” fill the same niche in my head. Both of them hit you with rapid-fire details. “West Savannah” may be more biography than travelogue, but the picture it paints is vivid enough to create a picture of a young Antwan Andre Patton chilling on street corners as a kid. He breaks down the music, the spectacle, the gold teeth, even how folks drive their cars. Face’s “On My Block” hammers you with details over his three verses, and I like that he’s using the first person plural. It’s a song about a group of people, the people Scarface came up with and live in his city, instead of one person’s point of view. (Big Boi’s line “You might call us country, but we’s only Southern” is killer. There’s so much personality in that, both Big’s and the city’s, and really, Georgia’s.)

Anthony Hamilton’s “Comin’ From Where I’m From” isn’t about a specific place, exactly, but it is about this nebulous idea of home. It’s a sad song about starting in last place, basically, and never managing to catch up. Like, the “where I’m from” that Hamilton is talking about has gravity, and that gravity is inescapable. His father bounced early, but haunts his life, get it? Home isn’t just four walls and a bed. It’s a period of time, or a foundation for the future.

Maybe I’m just talking out loud since what I thought was a good point deflated itself as soon as I crystalized it into words, but there’s something about songs about places and, more specifically, home that I can’t get out of my head.

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The Top 27 Original Weird Al Songs

June 18th, 2011 Posted by Gavok

David’s been doing his musical articles for a while and I figured it was about time I stepped up to the plate. Unfortunately, I’m not nearly as well-versed in music as he is. Then I realized that Alpocalypse, the new Weird Al Yankovic album, is coming out in a couple days. Hey, I know Weird Al pretty good!

Weird Al is someone I grew up listening to that I’m glad to see is still at it. I got into him at age 7 with Even Worse, which gave us the Michael Jackson “Bad” parody “Fat”. It took me years to even realize the joke about the album’s name. While I stuck with Weird Al for years (he used to come out with a new album every year or two back then), I don’t think I really got a lot of it. I only caught the absolute outer shell of his work and ignored the rest. I’d listen to his parodies, but fast forward through the originals.

As time went on, this changed. Like with watching Adam West Batman, the older I got, the more I got. The more I was able to see the actual talent and genius that my younger self didn’t notice. It became a thing where I’d come for the parodies but stay for the original music. Now we’ve reached a point where I look at the sources for the parodies on his new album’s track list and I don’t recognize a single one (I know “Born This Way” now, but only after the brief controversy with “Perform This Way” momentarily not being released). It doesn’t matter for me because even if I’m unfamiliar with a lot of it, I know I’ll still be fully entertained.

I wanted to pay a little tribute to Weird Al’s catalogue. I thought I’d cover only his original songs. No direct parodies (style parodies are more than fine), no polka medleys and no covers. Doing the research was a complete blast. I listened to favorites, old tunes I never gave the time of day to and even some older ones off albums I never heard before.

For the record, if I had been doing a list of his best parodies, “I Think I’m a Clone Now” would win.

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The Cipher 05/04/11: “A meeting in progress.”

May 4th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

(retooling this some.)


New rules for comic book movies! Watch people get mad at me for saying The Dark Knight is not perfect!

Five digital comics you should buy!

Dark Horse has a digital comics app and I take a look!

David Hine and Moritat make The Spirit good!


-Two things about Frank Miller’s work on Sin City: Family Values.

-This page is pretty nuts. A lot of what I read are mainstream comics, superhero or otherwise, which means that they’re colored, sometimes garishly (in both good and bad ways). Spotting blacks is something that feels pretty rare. I can’t remember the last time I looked at a page like, “Wow, look at all that black.”

-Miller’s pretty good at making black and white play well together, though, isn’t he? I love how he minimizes certain things (the barstools), suggests other things (Peggy’s legs), and then throws a bunch of detail onto the man’s pants and Peggy’s sweater. What’s really striking is how that big drop of black that’s Dwight’s chest really sets off his figure.

-I like the feathery fur on Peggy’s jacket, and the fuzz on Dwight’s coat. What material is that supposed to be? Like a light fur? Dwight’s really into his role. Shame about him sitting on his coat, though.

-There’s this piece Miller did of Miho for some magazine or another. It’s in The Art of Sin City, at any rate. It’s sparse, hardly any details but Miho’s face and pubic hair. It sounds perverted, but it really doesn’t come off like that way. It’s sexy, but not like… gross.

-I couldn’t find the image online. Found a whole bunch of other stuff, though. Here’s a slightly dirty Sergio Aragones Sin City illo, instead:

-Miho is probably my favorite character out of Sin City‘s cast. She’s sorta the height of Miller’s Elektric woman worshipping. She’s an invincible killing machine, stronger than everyone around her, and only subordinate to a man when she wants to be, which isn’t really submission at all, is it?

-Miller writes and draws her as a sort of ethereal, angelic figure. Her thoughts are closed to us, barring commentary from other characters, so we can only judge her actions.

-She’s entirely free of shadows in this tale. She’s the only pure character in the entire book. It’s an effective visual choice, because she either fades into the background, like a ghost, or really pops off the page.

-Miho spends all of her time in Family Values killing and maiming some thugs. It’s great.

-It’s great because Miller’s actually pretty good at action scenes. I like how casual this whole sequence is, how Miho’s just an efficient killing machine that catches everyone by surprise.

-The best bit, though, is that last page. Perfect picture of one moment in time, in that moment right before confusion turns into surprise.

-Has anyone ever looked at how Miller portrays people in mid-air? There’s this sublime bit in Elektra Lives Again where Matt Murdock just steps off a balcony and falls, before hitting a wire. Miller & Lynn Varley left the snow on the wire in place while the wire fell. There’s something about the way Miller shows people leaping and falling that’s different. I’d have to reread a whole lot more of his stuff specifically looking at that, though.

-Copped two new albums this week, both of which are actually old: Misnomer(S)’s American I(s) and Hard Nips second EP, I Shit U Not. One’s this sorta… punk-y thing, lots of heavy guitars. The other’s violin-inflected hip-hop.

-I really like the idea of violins and rap. There’s no real reason why one doesn’t belong with the other, and I’ve liked that mix since the intro on Hip Hop Respect (scroll down, hit listen). Misnomer(S) is two sisters, Knewdles and Sos. Knewdles kicks raps that feel sorta Native Tongues-y in terms of flow (I hear a lot of Queen Latifah in her voice, but she’s got De La’s playfulness) and Sos is the violinist half.

American I(s) is a pretty fun record, but that type of fun that flips between rapping about rapping to rapping about real life issues, like racism or broken relationships. I like the way it sounds, though I’ve only listened to it a couple of times thus far.

I Shit U Not… I like how this sounds. I don’t really know much about whatever microgenre this is probably supposed to be, but it’s good music to bike to. That mix of higher-pitched vocals and deep guitars (what’s the word for this type of guitar sound? somebody help me out) makes for an aural mix that’s new to me. The songs feel almost… abstracted, with the music and vocals playing basically the same role to my ears.

-Is that weird?

-I’m pleased with both albums, though. Hard Nips goes onto the workout mix, Misnomer(S) into boom-bap-rap.



David: Heroes for Hire 6
Esther: Yes: Superboy 7 Maybe: Secret Six 33
Gavin: Axe Cop Bad Guy Earth 3, Secret Six 33, Irredeemable 25, Avengers Academy 13, Deadpool Annual 1, Fear Itself 2, Herc 2, Heroes For Hire 6, Marvel Zombies Supreme 4, Ozma Of Oz 6, Uncanny X-Force 9

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The Cipher 04/13/11: “Golf Wang”

April 13th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

this is what the devil plays before he goes to sleep

created: I haven’t been sleeping well. My throat hurts, so every time I swallow, I wince. Apparently, every time I swallow in my sleep, I wake up. That’s right: I’m the guy who wakes up an hour after taking sleeping pills. It’s had the odd effect of increasing my productivity, though. I’ve been dashing out stuff at work and at home like mad. I’m this close to getting out in front of every deadline I have control over. Crazy.

-Got a lot of irons in the fire (two, in fact, with another probably coming tonight), but all that’s up now is a little bit about Stan Sakai

-and ten Marvel books for June

go to school with this

consumed: But forreal though WHY DOES MY THROAT STILL HURT!!!!!

-Have I linked this Charlie Huston piece at Mulholland Books yet? I like this cat a whole lot, and the conclusion he comes to is interesting. I like his commentary on the piece over here, too.

-You know what’s nice about comics? There’s so many good ones that I can be well-versed in the greats and have a fantastic library without having to give Will Eisner any props for The Spirit and Ebony White. “It was just the times! Ha ha! Not racist!” Nah son, that looks pretty racist, especially for 1972, but I guess ’cause Ebony was an Upstanding Honorable Guy Who Gets The Job Done it’s okay that he’s drawn like a pickaninny. Doing a smug strip like this is dumb, too. Why should I give you the time of day? Sheer skill only goes so far, man. Spotted at Diversions of the Groovy Kind.

-While I’m on the subject I guess:

Jonathan Hickman is the guest on the new Word Balloon podcast. Skip ahead to 1:13:00, when Hickman answers a question and goes into things he wouldn’t feel comfortable writing.

-I can respect Hickman’s point (glibly paraphrased: “I’m not completely comfortable writing black guys because I feel like a faker, and that’s not the kind of writer I want to be”), but at the same time… at a certain point, you gotta man up, man. I (inelegantly) talked about this a while back, but you can’t let the possible reception throw you off your game.

-What’s more, black people aren’t so different from other people. You know what black people hate? Taxes and nagging moms. You know what black people love? …if you do, let me know, ’cause I’m real uncomfortable with the concept the concept of love.

-But seriously, if you can write space aliens, secret histories of the world, and time travel, I’m pretty sure you can write a believable black guy. Just go for it, man. Do some reading. Take a look at some magazines. Flip through a history book. Research it like you would anything else. Run it by a friend. Some people will not like it, others will, so just soak up the feedback (“Oh, so I was a little wrong when I did ______”) and keep it moving. You’ll get better.

-Also, please add some more colored folks to SHIELD. The world’s a big place. Thanks in advance.

-Ellen Page is pretty interesting. I liked her AV Club interview, particularly the stuff on how she chooses to go about her career, and all of these sketches of her by dope artists is pretty cool. As far as Inception goes, her and Joseph Gordon-Levitt shared the only real moment of humanity in the entire movie (the stolen kiss) so I’m pro-Page.

-This is mind-boggling:

-If I tried to pull this as a kid (“Oh, that was a lie. I didn’t mean it, I just wanted to say something.”) my mom would’ve beaten me in the street and I would’ve deserved it. Jon Kyl is either a hero or scum. The country we live in, man. We keep electing creeps.

-Colbert cracks up during this bit, and I really can’t blame him:

-That’s really, really funny stuff, and it gets even funnier because of Colbert breaking character.

-Did anybody see Norm Macdonald’s new show last night? I missed it.

-Norm wasn’t funny to me at all when I was a kid, but he’s legendary these days. Me Doing Stand-Up was funny, and so is stuff like this:

-I pay three bucks a month for Yen Press’s Yen Plus. It’s pretty okay, but the highlight by far is still Kiyohiko Azuma’s Yotsuba&!. Funniest comic, man. I liked this bit from the new chapter. Read it right to left.

-So much of Yotsuba&!‘s humor revolves around being mean to Fuuka.

-Tyler, the Creator’s Bastard came up this morning while it was raining. It triggered a funny thought. I latched onto Jay-Z in a big way once he started talking about his experiences as the child of a single mother. “Where Have You Been?” was incredible to me. I was what, 16? 17? Whenever that Dynasty joint dropped. I was putting that on mix CDs like it was going out of style and at all appropriate to give to a girl you liked. I was that high on it.


Do you even remember the tender boy you turned into a cold young man?
with one goal and one plan: get mommy out of some jam
She was always in one
Always short with the income, always late with the rent
You said that you was comin through
I would stay in the hallway (waitin), always playin the bench (waitin)
And that day came and went
Fuck You! very much you showed me the worst kind of pain
but I’m stronger, and trust me I will never hurt again

-So tell me if this exceprt from Tyler’s Bastard” is all that different from “Where Have You Been?”:

My mother raised me a single parent so it’s apparent
That I got love for my mother, none of you other fuckers
Are much important, I’m getting angrier while recording
I’m feeling like the Bulls, I’ve got a Gang of Wolves
Odd Future is children that’s fucked up on they mental
Simple but probably not, fuck ’em

-Being able to relate to music in some way is vital for me, whether through the pleasure of living someone else’s life or affirming some aspect of my own, and Tyler’s rapping about the same stuff I’ve been struggling with for years. I think I would’ve been an Odd Future fan in high school.

-The beat on “Yonkers” is so hard. I bought it off iTunes a while back, just because.

-Video ain’t safe for work, I guess.

-Wolf Gang.

losers can never win me, you can never offend me

David: Uncanny X-Force 7
Esther: Yes: Batgirl 20 Maybe: Batman and Robin 22, Red Robin 22, Superboy 6 (would have been a yes, but ugh, crossover) New Artist and a Story About Huntress and Catman? Oh, HELL Yes: Birds of Prey 11
Gavin: Batman And Robin 22, Booster Gold 43, Justice League Generation Lost 23, Captain America Fighting Avenger 1, Carnage 4, Deadpool 35, Incredible Hulks 626, Iron Man 2.0 3, New Avengers 11, Punisher MAX 12, Secret Warriors 26, Ultimate Comics Avengers vs New Ultimates 3, Uncanny X-Force 7

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The Spider-Man Musical Review: Treat Or Menace?

March 23rd, 2011 Posted by Gavok

On Friday night, I journeyed into New York City to see the show that I was destined to see. Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark has been the butt of many jokes and it’s hard not to join in. David Uzumeri summed it up for me nicely with the term “spiderfreude”. The whole broadway show concept, the inflated budget, the head-scratching reviews and the laundry list of injuries and mishaps has made it a phenomenon for absurdity-loving comic fans such as myself. The whole thing is too strange to exist and I knew I had to get on the train before it crashes for good.

Lo and behold my amazing, spectacular Christmas gift of tickets to see the show.

And it’s a good thing, too! The show is being closed down in a few weeks for the sake of being retooled. Best case scenario, they’re going to change a lot of stuff and I got to see the rougher draft of the Broadway show. Worst case scenario, they’re going to deep six the entire production and I got to look into God’s eyes before it was too late.

It also makes me feel less bad about going into full spoiler mode. For those who don’t want to muck through the spoilers and want the gist of my experience, I didn’t think it was bad. There are parts that are pretty awful and kind of embarrassing, but it really starts to gain steam. The performances are really good, especially Patrick Page as the Green Goblin and the set designs are so extravagant that at no point do you wonder where all those millions of dollars went. The music… I’m not really qualified to comment on. I’m no theater expert and I’m sure if I listened to them in one more go I’d have more impressions, but my main reaction was mostly, “Yes, that is most certainly something inspired by Bono.”

I should also get the obvious out of the way. No, nobody died or got horribly injured from what I saw. The only mishaps were few:

1) One of the Spider-Man stuntman guys swung around over the crowd, bounced around and ended up on a high platform where the right side of the stage cuts off. Noticed by some, he could be seen momentarily strangled by his cables before getting free.

2) The obligatory “Spider-Man: NO MORE!” scene lost a little oomph when Peter’s tights bounced out of the garbage can and fell on the floor.

3) There was a part in the second act where the curtain wasn’t closed all the way and some could get a pretty good look at one of the actresses during a costume change. Actually, scratch everything I said. This show was awesome.

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“Y’all know the name” [Pharoahe Monch – We Are Renegades]

March 22nd, 2011 Posted by david brothers

You can stream Pharoahe’s new album here:

I don’t see the mp3s on Amazon, but it’s ten bucks on iTunes, so go ahead and cop that. I bought it this morning because I didn’t want to hold out hope that Amazon would get it in anything even resembling a timely manner.

Pharoahe is one of the nicest emcees ever. Compared to Pharoahe, your favorite rapper isn’t even nice. He’s just polite.

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