“show ya grill if you will, and you down with the trill”

November 2nd, 2011 Posted by david brothers

I watch a lot of music videos. I usually stream Google or Amazon music at work or whatever, but sometimes I think of a classic (note: lie) that I just have to hear and see at the same time. So off to Youtube I go, typing in phrases like “Ruff Ryders Drag-On” and “Made You Look official” and “Adina Howard” and “Trina Baddest Bitch” and “Curtis Mayfield live.” I’m not sure what my favorite is. Maybe Jay’s “Blue Magic” because the beat is so hard, it’s the last time Jay-Z was actually dope enough to get away with calling himself Hova, and my secret crush is off in there with an ill adidas jacket at (1:48, 1:57, more). NERD’s “Everyone Nose,” both remix and original. I like the original mainly cause Lindsay Lohan is in it and it’s the hardest coke anthem since… ever. Everyone else raps about selling it, not using it. Redman’s “I’ll Bee Dat” is up there. I dunno.

One of my favorite thing about music videos is how they heighten the song when done right. All those early Wu-Tang videos were perfect, “Shadowboxin’/4th Chamber” especially (“I judge wisely” and Method Man’s first verse, hmmmm!). Jay-Z’s “Hard Knock Life” is legendary. Tupac doesn’t have many great videos, surprisingly, but “California Love” is fire. A good video melds into the song and hooks you. It pulls you deeper. I like looking at what people try to use as hooks. Sometimes it’s with a bunch of stupid looking cats dancing in garbage bag suits. Sometimes it’s a chick hitting the back of a taxi in slow motion. Sometimes it’s just flossing in front of as many nearly naked, blurred out, glistening butts as you can. Sometimes it’s stupid. Sometimes it’s cool.

ASAP Rocky “Purple Swag” from Jason Ano on Vimeo.

I watched this A$ap Rocky video a while back. Somebody linked it somewhere or said I should or something, I dunno. It was for his song “Purple Swag.” The song’s aight. The beat is actually pretty tight, to be honest. It sounds like something screwed but not chopped, which I’m very down with. It probably sounds incredible when you’re overhigh, I dunno. It sounds like the type of song that would. And that part where the Akira bells come in is nuts. I’m pretty sure they’re the ones from “Tetsuo”.

Rocky ain’t much of a rapper though. If I wanted to hear that flow, I could just bump old Three-6 or 8Ball&MJG or UGK. In fact, that first verse has a whole lotta Pimp C in it. You can practically hear “Smokin’ out, throwin’ up/Keep a liter in my cup” in his first eight or so bars. Which I guess makes sense, cause of the beat, but whatever whatever.

(Drake was on that Texas steez for a minute, too, and the result was “November 18th,” the hardest song he ever did.)

The video isn’t much to write home about either. Real low budget, 2011 unsigned hype ish. Dudes chilling and lifting weights or drinking or lurking, the occasional girl in the background or somewhere, and some shots outside on a skateboard or bike or stoop or something. Mild house party swag, like an old Ruff Ryders video turned down to 1.

But I really do like one part of this video. Mixed into the chorus is footage of this All-American looking white chick. Pretty eyes, thick makeup, blonde hair, and big ol’ dangly earrings. And before you have a chance to go “aight, cool” the song kicks up and she’s not only rocking gold fronts. She’s lip-syncing the whole joint. Maybe this is internalized racism or something (“I’m a victim, brother. I’m a victim of 400 years of conditioning. My conditioning has been conditioned.”), but the juxtaposition between her appearance, the dragged out and slowed down song, and the chorus she syncs being screwed is crazy.

It’s a better image than the song deserves, I think. It’s not like white girls don’t like screw music (they do) or wear grills (they do that, too). But something about this one here really, really works. It’s like when Method Man showed up with the gross contacts and licked his lips like a lizard or Mary J is singing in the hallway in that “All I Need” video (3:10 and 2:53). I’ve never forgotten those images. And the Purple Swag chick has got so much attitude and energy, like this video is her one chance to get on and she’s not gonna waste it. Her mannerisms are perfect rap sass swag, and she bows out of the video with a nod and a smile like “Yeah, I kilt that.”

And she did.

(I got more thoughts on music videos and strong images, but I wrote this in twenty minutes [more, now that I’ve edited it for links and watched like ten youtubes] to get it out of my head. More later.)

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Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers): “Toad style is immensely strong, and immune to nearly any weapon.”

May 10th, 2011 Posted by david brothers

The Damon Albarn Appreciation Society is an ongoing series of observations, conversations, and thoughts about music. Here’s the sixth. Chris Sims wanted me to write about Wu-Tang Clan’s Enter The Wu-Tang in fifteen minutes. With the exception of the quoted bit from my tumblr (which was relevant, and which I still like), I kept to the rules. I started with “Bring Da Ruckus” because it seemed appropriate. As I finished, “Wu-Tang: 7th Chamber” was winding down and “Can It All Be So Simple” was spinning up. Maybe this was 16 minutes or so? Who knows/cares, I was in the middle of a thought I wanted to finish.

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”

So when the Wu were chanting “Tiger Style!” on “Wu-Tang Clan Ain’t Nothin To Fuck With,” it wasn’t just because it sounds good when you growl it. It’s because tigers were the top dog of all animals. Tiger Style, from what I’ve read, is all about offense and ending battles quickly, rather than evasion and misdirection. It’s direct, to the point, and deadly.

So “Tiger Style!” becomes a war chant and a warning. “The kings are here, everyone else fall back or catch a bad one.”

I love 36 Chambers.

It’s rough, and I think everyone that loves it recognizes that fact. Method Man hadn’t quite grown into his role as the Wu’s chief crossover king. Ghostface was just a regular rapper, with barely a hint of the style that made Supreme Clientele top 5. Rae wasn’t a kingpin yet, and RZA was just a voice, not a guru. GZA and Deck are more or less fully-formed here, with some incredible verses that stick to your ribs. U-God and Masta Killa are okay, but Ol Dirty Bastard was already settled into his role. It’s a matter of picking where to start.

Start with the first three tracks. “Bring Da Ruckus” starts off the album and sets the tone. “Ghostface! Catch the blast of a hype verse!” The next joint, “Shame on a Nigga,” begins, “Ol’ Dirty bastard, live and uncut/ Style’s unbreakable, shatterproof.” GZA on “Clan in da Front”: “The Wu is comin’ thru, the outcome is critical/ Fuckin’ wit my style, is sort of like a Miracle.”

This is what the Wu is: personality and skill. “This is me, and I’m about to rock you.” Rap is intensely personality driven, but the Wu managed to stand out even amongst their larger than life competition. Meth was playful and prone to smoking wet blunts. GZA is the scientist. ODB is wild, self-sabotage as lifestyle choice. RZA is the planner. Rae is Scarface, while Ghost is his abstract partner in crime. Every member has a role, and they all play it to the hilt.

All of that together is alchemical. The Wu is greater than the sum of its parts, and there’s still something magical about every time they get together. You want it to feel like this raw, poorly mastered release that got your blood pumping back in the day. This is Timberlands and camo jackets rap, almost actively anti-radio in sound and with a weird aesthetic. Kung fu movies? Where’d that come from?

But 36 Chambers, in spite of, or because of, its warts, is incredibly listenable. Every single song hits, and the album builds in emotional breaks between that raw rap. “Can It All Be So Simple” comes right after “7th Chamber,” and “TEARZ” comes right off the high-energy “Protect Ya Neck.” These are pauses for breath, something you have to do after chanting “WU! WU! WU! WU!” It brings you back down to earth, CNN of the streets style, and then you get built right back up.

“Da Mystery of Chessboxin” coming after “Can It Be” is incredible, because it’s just raw lyricism on display. The opening skit is pointed yet again, and sets up Toad Style as the style on display in the song. And everyone goes all the way in. U-God drops his first classic verse with his trademark growl (“Raw like cocaine straight from Bolivia” is hard body), Deck is typically clever, and while Rae isn’t using that juggernaut flow he perfected later, this shout-to-my-dawgs style is still compelling. And then Dirty comes in and crushes the building, coloring outside the lines and elevating the whole affair. Tony Starks brings some ultraviolence, and then Masta Killa’s first bar is insane.

The whole album–you can pull any song apart and look at its guts and be even more impressed. It sounds dirty and dusty, like some cats just got together with an old MPC and a rickety record player and put together an LP, but when you really listen to this album? When you look at the scaffolding that’s hidden behind the poorly mixed vocals, poorly acted skits (“fuck you mean is he fuckin dead”), random censoring, and scratchy kung fu samples?

It’s nigh-flawless. This whole thing, all 36 Chambers, they were constructed. It’s amazingly well put together.

The Wu’s a huge influence on my writing.

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Tokyo Tribes: From Shaolin to Tokyo

August 7th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

Well, here’s something I never knew about.

Santa Inoue’s Tokyo Tribes is in the same kind of lane as Samurai Champloo, though it’s a rap and Japanese culture mash-up that takes place in the modern day, rather than a hazy past. I picked up the first volume years ago and liked it well enough, but didn’t pick up the rest, for some reason. Lots of references to Anthony Hamilton in that book, too, which I dug. Inoue’s not hopping on a cheap bandwagon.

Anyway, DJ Muro produced the entirely too expensive import soundtrack CD, and this song here, which I’ve had on a Ghostface Killah compilation for a couple years but never listened to, is on that soundtrack. It was weird to hear Ghostface shouting out “Musashi no kuni” and Trife talking about Tokyo Tribes. But, you know, hip-hop is worldwide.

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4 Colors, 5 Mics: Rappers Reading Comics 05/26

May 26th, 2010 Posted by david brothers

rest in power ryan choi we gon neva forget u

It’s kinda hard with you not around, know you in heaven smiling down, watching us while we pray for you… Every day we pray for you…

Return of Bruce Wayne 01
words by grant morrison, art by chris sprouse/karl story/guy major/jared k fletcher, cover by andy kubert

Holocaust from the land of the lost, behold the pale horse, off course… off course.

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4l! is only built for cuban linx

September 9th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

This is a big week for rap. Jay-Z’s The Blueprint 3 drops this week, but the album of the week for me, the big deal, is Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx… Pt II.

The first Cuban Linx, the legendary Purple Tape, is one of the best albums to come out of the Wu-Tang Clan, and one of the best rap albums, period. It took crack rap and kicked it over onto its ear, redefining it for a generation. The Clipse, Young Jeezy, and even Jay-Z have been working from Raekwon’s blueprint, which is itself borrowed more from Godfather and Hong Kong action flicks than from Scarface.

Cuban Linx II leaked last week, as usual, and I copped it. For me, it’s album of the year contender. It’s only real competition, I’m thinking, is Mos Def’s The Ecstatic and maybe Heltah Skeltah’s D.I.R.T. (Da Incredible Rap Team), though that last one is purely personal taste. OBC4L2 is exactly what I’d been missing: hardbody New York rap of the grimiest variety. The producers come through with a lot of RZA-style, or maybe post-RZA, production, including J Dilla on the incredible House of Flying Daggers joint with Ghostface, Deck, and Meth. New Wu is a Rae/Ghost/Meth cut that bangs, too. It’s a classic Wu cut, like Ice Cream or 4th Chamber. We even get some Detox-era Dr. Dre on a Busta Rhymes feature, and every single guest star goes in. Ghostface is on seven of the twenty-two tracks, another nod to the classic Purple Tape. RAGU: Rae And Ghost United.

And really, that’s what this record is: it’s a Wu-Tang album. Not a collection of songs, not a gang of singles and a bunch of filler. It’s an album. There was thought put into the sequence. Opening the album with a Poppa Wu introduction and ending it with Kiss the Ring is the sort of thing that means something. Poppa Wu is classic, and Kiss the Ring is kind of like Jay-Z’s Blueprint 3: a victory lap.

The difference between Rae and Jay, though, is that Rae won the race. Jay’s just talking like he did.

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Ghostface Killah’s Cell Block Z

August 6th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

Well, hello, Tony Starks! Ghostface Killah – Cell Block Z.

To his fans, Cole Dennis is a heavyweight contender with a devastating right hook. To a city being held hostage to chaos and terror, Dennis has a grit and charisma that make him the shining hope for justice–until he is arrested for a brutal murder. Framed for a crime he did not commit, he finds himself captive in a foreboding high-tech superprison whose masters secretly conspire to turn inmates into tomorrow’s most terrifying bioweapons–with Cole Dennis as the intended prize specimen. But Dennis is nobody’s lab rat. Reborn as a towering engine of destruction, Dennis will prepare for the fight of his life. He will rename himself Ghostface Killah. And his cry of righteous rage will echo beyond the cold steel walls of Cell Block Z.

I need to get in touch with somebody at Hachette asap. This is right up my alley.


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Lone Wolf & Cub: A Bad Time For the Empire

May 10th, 2009 Posted by david brothers

When I was little… my father was famous. He was the greatest samurai in the empire, and he was the Shogun’s decapitator. He cut off the heads of a hundred and thirty-one lords.

It was a bad time for the empire.

The Shogun just stayed inside his castle and he never came out. People said his brain was infected by devils. My father would come home and he would forget about the killings. He wasn’t scared of the Shogun, but the Shogun was scared of him. Maybe that was the problem.

Then, one night, the Shogun sent his ninja spies to our house. They were supposed to kill my father… but they didn’t.

That was the night everything changed.

-GZA, “Liquid Swords” from the album “Liquid Swords

I didn’t come to Lone Wolf & Cub through the First Comics run, which had covers by Frank Miller. I never read the original manga, saw the subtitled films, or even saw Shogun Assassin. No, my introduction to Lone Wolf & Cub came via a series of skits on GZA’s classic rap album Liquid Swords.

The first track on the album began with the text quoted above, and it was one of the most amazing things I ever heard as a kid. My cousin Franchesca and I would play the tape over and over, but particularly that part. We even had the whole quote memorized, from the “sam-rai” to the “devils” to the screams of the mother between the last two lines. The tape may have popped at some point, I’m not sure. But we played it a lot.

There are a few other skits from the film scattered throughout the album. The most notable among them is the “Come boy… choose life or death” from the beginning of 4th Chamber, a Wu-Tang classic among classics. I don’t know if this is true for my cousin or not, but Liquid Swords was elevated above even the usual fantasizing that rap brings along with it. Yeah, being from a place called Shaolin would be awesome, and so would the kung fu aesthetic that the first few Wu albums were filtered through. The Lone Wolf & Cub, or Shogun Assassin, quotes took it to the next level. I knew nothing about LW&C but what this album said, which wasn’t a lot. It was just enough to catch my interest and force my imagination to fill in the blanks.

Years later, when I actually found out about Lone Wolf & Cub and watch Shogun Assassin, I was pleased to see that it wasn’t too different from what I’d imagined it was as a pre-teen. Sure, Ogami Itto looks pretty homeless and unkempt to be a formerly famous samurai, and Daigoro is barely a toddler rather than the young kid of about my age I’d imagined him to be, but the concept is strong and has legs.
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Percy “MF Grimm” Carey x GZA

September 24th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

Complex Blog » Percy Carey Talks Comics With GZA

Percy Carey: Any final thoughts about comics and the importance they hold?

GZA: Growing up, I read comics all the time. They’re great inspiration; they can show you the world is full of possibilities. Now, my son reads comics, and it’s something that we can share. It’s really a good feeling being able to share something like that with him, and now working on doing my own, it’s really cool to give back to that world.

Weekly column by MF Grimm!

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Ghost… Face… Killaaaaaaaaaaaaaah

August 15th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

I don’t even need to comment on this joint. Found via Nah Right.

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TSS Presents 15 Minutes With Method Man

July 30th, 2008 Posted by david brothers

TSS Presents 15 Minutes With Method Man | The Smoking Section

TSS: So what’s the word with this comic book you got coming out?

Method Man: Huh?

TSS: What’s the word with this comic book you got coming out?

Method Man: (Laughs) It’s funny getting asked that, that’s why I wanted to hear you say that again. It’s called Method Man of course, named after me. Except for Method Man is in a gang of murderers who are descendants of the first murderer, Cain. My character doesn’t want anything to do with that lifestyle anymore nut that’s the only life he knows. So, in the outside world, he becomes a private investigator. He just takes the cases nobody else will because basically they don’t think the cases are real because they deal with paranormal and occult things.

TSS: So what was your role in the book? Did you just do the concept? The writing?

Method Man: The concept. David Atchinson took the writing over and Sanford Greene did the artwork.

TSS: What made you want to do this comic book?

Method Man: I never really thought about it. But when the opportunity presented itself, I jumped at it because I’m a big comic book fan.

TSS: Yeah, I remember the Wu-Tang had a comic book a few years ago. I collect too and—

Method Man: Wack. That shit was wack. I ain’t understand that bullshit.

TSS: Who’s idea was it?

Method Man: I don’t know. I ain’t have nothing to do with that shit. There were a lot of things going on I ain’t have nothing to do with. Like that wack-ass video game. That video game was garbage.

TSS: Wait, which game was that?

Method Man: Shaolin Style or some shit like that.

TSS: Now, back to this comic, I hear you got 25,000 comics or something like that…

Method Man: Yeah, I got a gang of books.

TSS: What were your favorites and what really influenced this comic book?

Method Man: All of them, really. I basically stuck with Marvel. I like some of the independent titles. I read comics like Evil Ernie. Vampirella. Lady Death. All those outside independents and stuff like that. Dark Horse Comics and Image when it broke off and all those artists formed their own company. But mostly Marvel was my mainstay. And any X-Men.

TSS: So X-Men were the favorite?

Method Man: Yeah.

TSS: So what was your favorite character?

Method Man: All of’em really. I wasn’t that much of a geek where it’s like ’such and such is my favorite character because he does this, that and the third.’ But I just love the books. I like the teamwork.

Shaolin Style was awesome because it was a real deal four player fighting game with fatalities. It wasn’t really all that fun, though.

Method Man, from the Black Panel (full report coming soon), on his comic Method Man: “It’s pretty decent.”

I love his marketing. I should be getting a copy of the book in the mail soon, so I’ll definitely have to report back with that.

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