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House Party 2

tn_houseparty2kidnplayHOUSE PARTY 2 has that typical sequel problem: holy shit, the first time we were just doing what we wanted to do, now we gotta live up to people’s expectations. So in the beginning they kinda redo the beginning of the first one. It’s another fog machined dream of people dancing, but this time they got recent Academy Award winner Whoopi Goldberg to do a cameo as an evil professor. And there’s lightning and stuff. Spooky.

They also had a less typical sequel problem: holy shit, the best part of part 1 died right after it came out. So they dedicate the movie to Robin Harris, have Kid say a little prayer to Pop, have photos of him around that sometimes come to life in brief clips from part 1. At the very beginning of the movie Kid says, “About that party – you were right to whoop my ass,” referring to the beating he was about to get as the credits rolled. Weird that that’s what his mind jumps to when he remembers his dad. Only way I can explain it is either Kid knows he’s in a movie about that house party, or Pop died while administering that beating.

mp_houseparty2To the movie’s credit it does advance the story and the characters. It starts on Kid’s first day of college. He’s now steady with Sidney (still Tisha Campbell) and they’re both going to college. Play is staying behind, managing a record store, and trying to convince Kid not to go so they can pursue a record contract. But also he’s using his beloved car “Forplay” to help Kid move into a dorm, much as he helped Bilal bring his DJ equipment to the party. Continuity, you see. He’s the guy with the car.

Also I think Kid’s fade has matured by maybe 2 inches in height and definitely increased in girth.

Kid is able to go to college because of a scholarship fund set up by his church. They’re all counting on him to make his dead parents proud, and they give him a leather portfolio with his “scholarship check” which instead of depositing in a bank he is bringing to the school. But he forgets it in the trunk of Forplay, and then Play stupidly hands it over to the scam artist he thinks is gonna sign him for a solo album (Iman). I feel that this is not an accurate depiction of how money can be exchanged.

But that’s the conflict here, he needs money or he’s gonna get kicked out of school, so he gets into a work-study program where he works in a kitchen (he has to wear a little plastic hairnet on top of his fade, ha ha). But Play feels bad so him and Bilal show up at the school to organize a huge clandestine dance party. Since it will take place in a school building it’s not technically a house party, but they distract us from this fact by making it a “Pajama Jammie Jam.” This is supposed to be awesome because it means there will be women in negligees, and the plan seems to work. I didn’t see anybody in one of those long ass Garfield nightshirts or anything like that. Unfortunately the use of pajamas does take away opportunities for ridiculous clothes that were considered cool at the time.

To make up for it the record store is a very good snapshot of what music was out at the time. There’s a big wall showing album covers for MC Hammer, Eric B & Rakim, ABC, the New Jack City soundtrack and a couple other things. Inside there’s alot of advertising for Son of Bazerk and Johnny Gill.

By the way, Stab, Pee-Wee and Zilla are back. Their mom tries to get them a job at the record store, then they become campus security officers instead, so they’re able to continue harassing Kid ‘n Play. In my opinion this is kind of stretching credibility, like when Bobcat Goldthwait became a good guy in the POLICE ACADEMYs or Ogre in the REVENGE OF THE NERDSes.

Here’s how you know this movie came out in 1991: Queen Latifah, wearing those Cleopatra-inspired clothes and hats she used to wear back then, plays Sidney’s roommate Zora, who preaches Afrocentrism, makes her feel bad about having a boyfriend and guilts her into taking feminist studies. Zora proudly refers to herself as “politically correct,” which is a misunderstanding of how anybody ever used that phrase. But despite her unfair interference in Sid ‘n Kid’s relationship she’s portrayed as a respectable person, and there are other politically active characters in the movie such as Kid’s teacher Professor Sinclair (Georg Stanford Brown, who was in BULLITT). Also when it goes into the musical numbers later on Kid is rapping about education and enlightenment and shit. Even Play, who’s supposed to be kinda ignorant, wears a red black and green shirt. Afrocentrism was considered cool back then. I mean, this is HOUSE PARTY 2, but it ends with a James Baldwin quote, and Dr. Betty Shabazz is thanked on the credits. (Okay, probly just because she gave permission to use Malcolm X’s image. But still. I doubt she was thanked on BIG MOMMA’S HOUSE 2.)

This is not what I would consider a good movie, but I do think it’s genuinely interesting as a time capsule. It says alot about the differences between pop culture of 20 years ago and now, especially when it comes to hip hop and images of black Americans. I’m not saying there aren’t positive images of black people in modern movies, or attempts to encourage education or enlightenment. But it’s hard to imagine a movie like this being made now: a mainstream teen comedy sequel where the kid goes to college and wants to learn about Malcolm X and excitedly and unironically says to his girlfriend, “Just imagine it – you and I exploring the roots of blackness together.”

I never was a fan of Kid ‘n Play’s music, and I don’t think it holds up particularly well. (Although better than some.) So I’m not saying these are good songs, and the lyrics are definitely simplistic and corny. But I think it’s interesting how popular it was back then to try to “drop science” and use lyrics to glorify education and political activism. Today’s mainstream rappers, at least the ones from the East Coast like Jay-Z and Kanye West, have lyrics that I think are much more sophisticated both in structure and content than what rappers were doing back then for the most part. But I think way, way more often than not they’re talking about materialism and being awesome, and not really getting across the idea that they’re cool because they’re intelligent.

On the other hand I could make an argument for Jay-Z “dropping science” in the same exact way that Public Enemy did. In PE’s lyrics you would hear them talking about Joanne Chesimard or somebody, you would eventually get curious what they were talking about and go to the library and look it up (this was before the internet – if you don’t know what a library is, look it up on the internet). Jay-Z did the same thing for me in the song “Say Hello to the Bad Guy” on his underrated American Gangster album. He has a line where he says, “When Jena 6 don’t exist tell them that’s when I’ll stop sayin ‘bitch,’ bitch.” And I didn’t know what that meant until somebody explained it to me. Or I could’ve looked it up at a library or wikipedia.

So I appreciate that, but I do think it’s different because when people looked up to Public Enemy they thought Man, I want to be strong and defiant and know my shit and create the greatest music ever like those guys, but I think when alot of people look up to Jay-Z they’re sometimes thinking about his lyricism and more often about his money and business, being a CEO and wearing expensive clothes and having “the flyest girl in the game wearing my chain” and all that. They would show up to see Jay-Z but I’m not sure how they would feel about marching behind him with signs like in the “Fight the Power” video. I can’t picture that happening today.

But everybody would’ve done it in the days of HOUSE PARTY 2. When Kid first arrives at his dorm he sees a Malcolm X poster on the wall, and a bunch of Black Panther paraphernalia and stuff, and then his roommate Jamal turns around and he’s a white guy (played by Kamron from the never-did-catch-on rap group Young Black Teenagers). In 2010 if you have a white guy (or a robot) who “wants to be black,” that means he’s wearing sports jerseys and jewelry, carrying guns, using stupid slang, maybe wearing gold teeth. He’s not wearing an Africa medallion or trying to be part of the Black Power movement.

Also Jamal is really into bean pies. There were alot of Muslim/bean pie jokes back then. What the fuck is a bean pie? Are they good?

Anyway, like I was saying, things are different now. And yeah, we have a black president, but he grew up during times when there were popular black political movements. I’ve said it before, but he and Michelle’s first date was to see DO THE RIGHT THING. They came of age in a post-Fight the Power, pre-Flavor of Love world.

It was the times that made it possible, but I think credit for the content of HOUSE PARTY 2 probly also goes to co-writer Rusty Cundieff. He’s the guy who wrote and directed FEAR OF A BLACK HAT and TALES FROM THE HOOD. He was also a correspondent on Michael Moore’s show TV Nation. As an actor he appeared in HOLLYWOOD SHUFFLE and SCHOOL DAZE. (His script for HOUSE PARTY 2 was re-written by Daryl G. Nickens, a mostly-TV writer from Benson, Webster, A Different World and 227.)

Since it’s part 2 there had to be two directors. Really, how is one man gonna truly understand what it’s like to be 2 hype? No, you gotta have a team. George Jackson and Doug McHenry had produced KRUSH GROOVE, DISORDERLIES, NEW JACK CITY and of course STALINGRAD, but they’d never directed before this. And I’m surprised either of them bothered to direct again after this, because what more is there to say? They got African studies, they got pajamas, this movie covers it all.

,,,,,,,,,,,,,
HOUSE PARTY 2 was George Jackson’s only directorial work. He and co-director Doug McHenry went on to produce JASON’S LYRIC, A THIN LINE BETWEEN LOVE AND HATE (starring Martin Lawrence) and the TV show Malcolm & Eddie before Jackson died of a stroke in 2000. McHenry directed JASON’S LYRIC and KINGDOM COME and is trying to produce a Pablo Escobar movie with Antoine Fuqua. Rusty Cundieff (co-writer) has become mostly a TV director, doing episodes of The Bernie Mac Show, Chappelle’s Show, Human Giant and The Wanda Sykes Show. FEAR OF A BLACK HAT is his best movie. Daryl G. Nickens (co-writer) went on to write for TV shows like Timon and Pumbaa, Viper and The Parkers. Iman (“Sheila Landreux”) appeared in STAR TREK IV and played the queen in Michael Jackson’s “Remember the Time” video. Queen Latifah (“Zora”) had only been in one movie before (JUNGLE FEVER), but has done 50 movies and TV shows since, and been nominated for an Oscar, and isn’t not generally known as a rapper anymore. Helen Martin (“Mrs. Deevers”) had been in movies since THE PHENIX CITY STORY in ’55, but was mainly known from 227 in the ’80s. After HOUSE PARTY 2 she played similar roles as grandmas in BEVERLY HILLS COP III, DON’T BE A MENACE TO SOUTH CENTRAL WHILE DRINKING YOUR GIN AND JUICE IN THE HOOD, I’M BOUT IT and I GOT THE HOOK UP. She died of a heart attack in 2000. D. Christopher Judge (“Miles”) has become a prolific voice for animation and video games, and plays a character on a bunch of STARGATE TV shows.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, December 14th, 2010 at 12:46 am and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

69 Responses to “House Party 2”

  1. I liked TALES FROM THE HOOD. Best episode probably had to be the Rodney King-influenced corrupt cops segment. Good shit.

  2. caruso_stalker217

    December 14th, 2010 at 2:02 am

    Actually, Vern, uh… Iman was in STAR TREK VI. Not IV. The one where Kurtwood Smith was the president, not the one about the whales.

    Just saying as a casual observer of Star Trek and shit.

  3. “This movie is gonna make House Party look like House Party 2.”
    “Or House Party 3.”
    “Shut the fuck up!”

    Sorry, been waiting a long time to quote it somewhere.

  4. I always felt Jay Z thought his vast wealth equated to his level of intelligence.

  5. Jay Z is from New York, guys.

  6. Right on. I suspect they were influenced by SCHOOL DAYS, and HP2 is a helluva lot better movie about the black college experience then HIGHER LEARNING.

    I have been told that in his Intro to African American Studies class at Harvard last year, Henry Louis Gates made a House Party 2 reference at one point, although I have not been able to confirm this.

    And I think it’s high time we had a series examining Forgotten Films From 88 to 92. We’ve had House Party, House Party 2 and Stone Cold: I suggest officially continuing with Tin Men, Welcome Home Roxy Carmicheal (awful movie), Tales From The Darkside: The Movie, and Cool World.

  7. pass on this one

  8. I know it was a different time and all, but. . . Goddamn there was some wack shit they called music/fashion/hairstyles back then.

    I generally don’t much care for post-1995 rap that tries to be about issues. Post-Public Enemy political/educational-y rap is wack; it’s strained. Even rap songs that try to be dramatic & super-personal usually annoy me too. That’s why I dislike, for example, “SongCry” and “Never Change,” even though I love Blueprint. I’m most impressed with Jay-Z when he dominates & injects wit into party/dance songs:

    I came back and it’s plain, /
    Y’all n*ggaz ain’t rappin the same. /
    Fuck the flow; y’all jackin’ our slang. /
    I seen the same shit happen to Kane: /
    Three cuts in your eyebrow, tryin’ to wild out. /
    The game is ours. We’ll never foul out. /
    Y’all just better hope we gracefully bow out. /
    Throw your hands up

    That’s what I’d play at my house party.
    And dude went being partners with Jaz (YouTube The Originators or Hawaiian Sophie for a good laugh & some decent rhymes.) to being more than partners with Beyonce, so I guess Jigga survived the Kid n Play era and turned out ok.

  9. Yeah, but that joint he did with Original Flavor is still the shit.

  10. Ace,

    re: Jay Z. I’ve enjoyed a number of his albums, but he can be insufferable. I think the worst are those moments when he says stuff like “If skills sold/Truth be told/I’d probably be/Lyrically,Talib Kweli.” So, admitting that you’re a sellout somehow makes you deep again? And you’d be one of the greatest rappers ever, except you’d rather make money? Besides making you sound artisitically bankrupt, I don’t think that works that way. That sounds suspiciously like the little kid who claims he can do a backflip, but when pressed to show everyone, says “I don’t feel like it.”

  11. Also, re: TALES FROM THE HOOD, I’m going to have to say that the story with the kid with the abusive father is the best story. The special effect of David Alan Grier being twisted up like a rubber band is awesome and hilarious.

  12. Recently I tried to tell a young fellow that these Situation type guys that he emulates are going to be as embarrassing in 20 years as “Achy Breaky Heart” is now. He told me to go fuck myself.

    But that’s okay. I took his picture and plan on checking in on him in 2030.

  13. I just don’t feel the love from Jay Z now he is his own corporate super power. Its like Dick Jones or the Old Man rapping in Robocop.

    Although Cohaagen Said some funny shit about cornflakes in Total Recall (don’t know if it was a rap or not).

  14. Nabroleon_Dynamite

    December 14th, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Kid and Play’s best… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PQEg7o3p4Uw

    Jamal’s best… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FKq28_ZChg

    Queen Latifah’s best… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wI9OkO-rMns

    Disagree at your own peril!!!

  15. Nabroleon_Dynamite

    December 14th, 2010 at 10:33 am

    Vern,

    A bean pie is the official dessert of the Nation Of Islam. They are tasty as fuck!! Catch a brother on the block selling a Final Call newspaper and ask for the best bean pie in town and have $5 ready! You’ll thank me later…

  16. Five bucks for a bean pie? Does that include the newspaper?

  17. How big is a bean pie?

  18. The ones I’ve seen in the bodega are pretty small, but maybe these afrocentric ones are bigger.

  19. Dan Prestwich – I understand what you mean about Jay-Z, but I don’t think your analogy is correct. To me he seems more like the little kid constantly doing cartwheels and front flips saying he can do a backflip, but only if you pay him $10 to see it. He’s shown enough gymnastics ability that I’m pretty sure he could stick a backflip. Verbally, of course. I doubt he could land a real backflip, but I would pay $10 to see him try that.

    And I have to disagree with Vern about Kid ‘n Play’s music not holding up. I listened to 2 Hype not too long ago for the first time in years and thought it was really good. Yes, it is more simplistic and corny than a lot of modern rap but that is part of the charm. I don’t really understand why these kinds of “lightweight” groups like Kid ‘n Play and DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince always tend to get disrespected for being upbeat and non-threatening, as if all hip-hop needs to be message music or gangsta rap. I also don’t get why people give a pass to other groups with simplistic or corny lyrics like Sugarhill Gang or Run DMC. Is it just a reaction to them being pop music rather than “true” hip hop? I don’t get it.

  20. I think Jay-Z is just being honest. He doesn’t sell drugs or shoot people anymore. He makes billion-dollar deals and fucks famous pop stars. That’s his life, so that’s what he talks about. It might not be as interesting as, say, “Friend Or Foe,” but at least he’s not desperately clinging to an old persona that doesn’t fit him anymore.

    Jake: I often lament how much “hardcore” rap has taken over every facet of the genre, even the mainstream stuff that’s supposed to be played at parties. It sure doesn’t sound like anybody’s having any fun. They’re too busy being tough to express the joy I think good pop music needs. I miss when rap used to be made by geeks who liked dancing, making up funny names for themselves, and listening to old records in the basement. Now it’s all aggressive capitalists looking for a cologne deal. No fun at all.

  21. Jake & Majestyk,

    I enjoy Jay Z for the most part (Reasonable Doubt, Black Album and American Gangster in particular), but it’s the willful ignorance/shallowness of it that sometimes irks me. Jake, I like your metaphor, except it’s more like we pay him $10 to do the backflip, but then he keeps doing cartwheels while insisting that some day he might do the backflip if we keep paying him.

    What bugs me about the particular lyric that I cited isn’t that isn’t talking about gangsta shit (I agree that he should stick to what he knows) but rather:

    1) He makes a lot of crass, wealth obsessed, consumerism-is-good nonsense

    2) He then implies that he has deeper, more meaningful, more complex music in him, but that he refrains from making it because it doesn’t sell

    3) He thinks that acknowledging this thus makes his music deeper, more meaningful, more complex

    He wants the status of great artist but hasn’t actually made the great art yet. And he figured out a way to shortcut this by pointing out that he hasn’t made great art, as if that insight turns it into art. It seems like a con to me.

    It kind of reminds me when I hear a rap song with the thesis that the rapper is the best rapper alive, is a true original, better than the rest, etc etc. Except, you know, every shitty rapper writes a song like that, to the point that it’s a cliche. Stop talking about how great you are and instead prove it by doing something great.

  22. Here’s a rap I wrote about college.

    Cause this ain’t shock rock it’s straight rap blasphemy
    Like a villain twirling his moustache dastardly
    You ain’t got no skill, so, you just Rap faster, G
    But if you had to freestyle it would be a catastrophe
    So run along in back as I blast my mastery
    Of lyrical confessions of a Blackout plastered me
    Who runs around the city in a black ski mask and lee’s
    Jeans up in the morning then I ask quite naturally
    What would be to happen if I breathed my last this eve?
    all my drunken friends they just turn and laugh with glee
    because my face is painted like a public bathroom seat

  23. Oh, and The Blueprint. That actually might be my favorite of his. Not sure how I managed to forget that one.

  24. Dan Prestwich> I’m in agreement. And don’t get me started on P Diddy.

  25. Okay, I read that Jena 6 link, and I still don’t see what it has to do with Jay Z saying “bitch”. Racism breeds misogyny?

  26. Ace,

    Please, by all means. Get started on P Diddy. I don’t think you’re going to find any defenders here.

  27. Well, Vern seems to enjoy his side hustle as an in-demand character actor. Lord knows he’s done a good job of acting like a rapper all these years.

  28. One of my favorite Jay-Z verses from a random collabo Rehab remix with Amy Winehouse is definitely worth a listen.

    *** More money, more checks, I’m addicted to fresh
    6 pair of kicks is my definition of 12 steps
    Kick back in the back, get the phantom to drop
    Bass blaring outta my system, that’s how I detox
    O when will he stop, he still pumping that real shit
    My flow so dumb, my face is numb, nigga, I don’t feel shit
    Where’s a therapist? Yeah, I’m outta control
    They tryna make me go to rehab, I won’t go, no
    And so I’m addicted, I’m Britney, Whitney, and Bobby
    Betty Ford ain’t ready for us, ain’t nothing can stop me
    Oh look he’s collapsing, just look how he’s rapping
    Everytime I try to get out it pulls me back in
    Amy should have rehabed him,’stead she doubled his ration
    Can you blame me for being a slave to my passion?
    My heroine flows more deeper than Marilyn’s nose
    I’ma O.D. ’til I’m in peace like Anna Nicole, Hov! ***

    Cool concept, good execution, nice flow, strange beat, good Winehouse vocals, great verse — dope song.

    And if you doubt his ability to be a poet, to cover some non-materialistic or non-egotistical subject matter, listen to his trippy verse on “Hypnotic,” from a shitty Memphis Bleek album. It’s worth a listen, but it might suffer slightly if you read the printed lyrics. Just listen. There’s your fuckin backflip.

  29. Stu – Well, you have to hear the whole song to understand the context, but that particular part of the song is about people/politicians criticizing lyrics while failing to solve the actual problems in the world. There are a couple parts in the song that make me cringe (there’s a line about “celebutantes showin they kitten” as if Paris Hilton not wearing underwear is one of the important problems to deal with) but overall it’s a good song.

    As for Puff Diddy, I do think he’s been funny in some movies, but his music is terrible, unless you count executive producing Ready To Die. There’s a Busta Rhymes song that kind of blows my mind, I forget the title but it’s on When Disaster Strikes I think. Puffy and Mase are the guests and they do their typical marble mouthed monotone boredom rap, then Mr. Rhymes does his verse and it’s this incredibly complex weaving in and out of the beat that seems almost impossible. It’s the greatest example ever of a rapper using guest stars to make himself look good.

  30. Mouth,

    I think Jay Z is talented and I consider myself a fan. That includes a lot of his asinine materialist stuff (I love Poppin’ Tags, for instance), but I agree that he sometimes does dig deeper and make more interesting music. Still, he makes a lot of Big Pimpin’ style bullshit, I have to call out his gambit that if he acknowledges that he’s a sellout, then it makes him less of a sellout. It’s an argument that a lot of shitty artists try to pull (I recall, for instance, Kid Rock saying similar things in an interview about his music), and it’s beneath Jay Z to say it.

    I kind of reminds me in some movies or TV show comedies, when they’ll have product placement and then try to make a joke about how obvious the product placement is. It can be funny (sometimes, if done right) and it confuses the audience and makes them forget that it’s product placement. Only, you know, pointing out that product placement is kinda lame doesn’t actually make it less lame when you do it. I feel like Jay Z is attempting this same ruse, and I don’t care for it.

  31. I live across the street from a black muslim church or whatever ya call it, and there’s two bowtie guys selling bean pies out there every weekend. I haven’t tried one yet.

  32. Well, I liked Diddy’s “Lectro Black” mixtape from last year. Although…in fact it was made by Felix Da Housecat and Diddy only MCed over it and to be honest, that was my least favourite element of it. So no, I can’t and won’t defend him either.

  33. Also, why no Vern review of Fear Of A Black Hat? Funniest rap mockumentary ever, although I guess the only competition is the terrible CB4. Or Bamboozled if you wanna count that (it’s actually pretty funny in parts).

  34. As for the sellout thing…I think Nicki Minaj takes the cake in that field. On her first album, her very first album, she has a track called, “Dear Old Nicki” where she sings/raps about how much of a sellout she is and how bad it makes her feel, but damn it feels good to be rich. Hear it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5cVgB7RSwto&feature=related

  35. What about when Diddy announced his name change in a song then for some reason intentionally misspelled it?
    “#The D, The I, The D, The D, The Y, The D, The I, The D, It’s Diddy”

  36. That was his new name: Diddydid. It’s like Katydid, but gayer.

  37. That was his new name, but its changed again since. What a strange little man.

  38. Raylan! Come back! Thank God.

  39. Mr. Majestyk – Exactly! I like the hardcore stuff but I’d prefer the genre was a little more diverse. When O’Reilly laughably referred to Ludacris as a gangsta rapper it was ridiculous but Ludacris does have some of that gangster posturing that most mainstream rap seems to have nowadays. I think. I haven’t been listening to as much rap as I used to.

    Dan Prestwich – I think I’d need some more evidence that Jay-Z thinks that just acknowledging his mercenary motives makes him deeper or less mercenary. And not as Majestyk suggests that he is just being honest about it. Though now that he has more money than he will ever need it would be cool to see him try something different.

    I’m ambivalent about the “I’m the greatest rapper alive” cliche you mention myself. I kind of like it partly because it is has been so historically tied up with the genre. So there is some nostalgia there. Plus I just tend to like that kind of over the top bombast in music. I like Queen and Muse for similar reasons. And it is cool when someone subverts it a bit, like that one song where Eminem lists the rappers that are better than him and suggests that he is only the 9th greatest rapper ever. But I do agree that cliche can get kind of old. Though I also got a little bored with all the underground rappers rapping about mainstream sellouts until that too became a cliche. I do wish more rappers would try talking about something other than money, weed, women or how much mainstream rap sucks. Fingers crossed that one day Kanye finally snaps and makes something really weird. Some Ziggy Stardust-style sci-fi rap opera or something.

  40. Jake,

    Fair enough. I have a horrible memory for lyrics, and although I’m pretty sure he’s addressed the topic on several songs, I’d have to listen through my collection to find them. I seem top recall it being something of a theme on the Black Album, and the song I’m referencing (I think Moment of Clarity?) goes even further, talking about how he “dumbed down” his lyrics for a mass audience to get rich. But then he spends much of the rest of the album calling himself the “best rapper alive.” I mean, which is it dude? Did you sellout or did you make great music? I don’t think you get both.

    I agree that the rapper braggadocio can be great when done right, and the Eminem example is a good one. But too often it’s a stale cliche, and a claim that they don’t even make good on. I remember years back I had this friend who kept talking up Tonedef and how Archetype was one of the best rap albums he had ever heard. And it was hard to take him seriously because, sure enough, the first track was just a cliched number where Tonedeff brags about how unique he is, which make it such an astounding contradiction. And it was hard to take the rest of the album seriously after that.

  41. Bragging is an essential part of rap. Remove it and you have excised its heart, its very reason to exist. Of course everyone says that they’re the best. That’s par for the course. But you prove it by saying it in the most interesting and imaginative way possible. It’s like Vern’s theory of slasher movies being like a blues song. It ain’t what you say but how you say it.

  42. I don’t know, I’d be happier if they left the bragging as subtext, i.e. by just being a great rapper and letting us come to the conclusion of their greatness ourselves.

    I get that it’s interwoven into the fabric of the genre. I love Gang Starr to death, but it seems like every 3rd or 4th song is just Guru reasserting that he’s better than other MCs. Which I wholeheartedly agree with, but I didn’t need him to tell me because I already knew.

    Obviously there’s a lot of great rap that’s about the bragging, just like there’s a lot of great rap about shallow materialism. Problem for me is, those two topic too often lead to lots of generality in the lyrics, and I prefer a rapper to give a specific, personal point of view.

  43. Nabroleon_Dynamite

    December 14th, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    @Mr.Majestyk.

    I dont even get down with those mini bean pies you’re talking about. Gotta have a pie sized pie, and those jawns are usually $5. Some shady brothers will try to get $10 if they think you’re lame, but like Rakim said “No tricks in ’86, it’s time to build.” or “Roll up, say this a hold up aint nothing funny, stop smiling, be still, nothing moves but the…(bean pie)”

    Either way I’m eating son!!

  44. Or like Ice Cube said: “Comin’ up short of the green guys / And I might start slangin’ bean pies.” These bean pies are apparently a very lucrative business. I might need to branch out from selling awesomely obscure DVDs for five bucks each. Click on my name for the full list! Do it! You know you want it!

  45. Mr. Majestyk – Please let us know when you have put up the list of out-of-print, hard to find bean pies you are selling. I would definitely order one of them.

  46. If anyone (including you Vern) is looking for good hiphop, some stuff I have been enjoying of various vintage:

    MF Doom
    Viktor Vaughn
    Cannibal Ox
    RJD2 (beats/instrumental)
    Vast Aire
    Freestyle Fellowship
    Lyrics Born
    Aesop Rock (saw this dude on a plane a few weeks ago, weird)
    MC Frontalot (white nerd rapper)

  47. Aren’t MF Doom and Viktor Vaughn the same person?

  48. And yeah, if you don’t like bragging in hiphop, what else is there? That’s why it exists. Like Vern pointed out, it’s not fun to listen to a guy go off about politics (unless it’s Chuck D or Paris) or what brand of shoes he buys or whatever. Let him brag and do it the funniest most entertaining way possible. It’s about wordplay, not ideaplay. Nobody complains that Motley Crue’s albums are all about nailing chicks and partying instead of, I dunno, the environment or some shit?

    I’m like a sniper, rhymes will strike ya when I’m rockin…

  49. And yeah Doom == Viktor Vaughn, just wanted to mention both in case he only could find mp3s labelled as one or the other. Oh, and Lootpack/Quasimoto/Madlib same deal (I think?)…

  50. Yeah, Poppin Tags is phenomenal.  

    Jigga likes to say he “changed the game.”  This phrase has several meanings: His rap is transformative; he went from drug dealing to rhyming; he goes from street rap to sex appeal rap; he is the savior, so that before him there were many & after him there will be none; he refined the hustle on the streets across the east coast just as he has refined the hustle of album sales; changing the Nets’ venue to Brooklyn (fingers crossed, right Mr. Majestyk?); etc..  

    I’m following all your points, Dan, but I can’t call him a sellout when he’s primarily (using the chronological sense of the base word “primary” here) guilty of graduating from crimes to rhymes in my assessment of your accusation of his so-called selling out.  When we judge the kids who are slinging crack rock versus the kids who have a wicked jump shot, we don’t say that the good ballers who make it out of the hood are sellouts.  

    Now, you’re probably looking primarily (using the word as a synonym for “chiefly” here) at Jay-Z’s career since Reasonable Doubt, on which he told us “can’t knock the way a nigga eatin’.”  More recenty he’s told us that he’s “feelin’ like a black Republican.”  Yup, them’s sellout words.  Well, he’s obviously never apologized for his crimes, contradictions, or quandaries of conscience.  His self-assuredness & playful tinkering with his own celebrity has always been successful and never formulaic, so it’s not gotten old yet to my ears.  I don’t blame him for what he hasn’t done.  I follow Jay-Z, but, like Jay-Z, I’m on that next shit.  

    A sellout would piss me off; other than when he married my crush, my fantasy girl, my princess-to-be, Jay-Z has never pissed me off.  

    Now, that Kanye is an interesting contrast.  He was never a good rapper to start with, and I hate hearing about how he deserves praise because he’s supposedly the best at using celebrity in some loopy pop culture self-perpetuating self-awareness egofest.  That sounds like a rationale for naming Paris Hilton Best Actress for her role in The Hotty & the Notty or whatever.  His bullshit strikes me as a form of smoky-mirrory selling out, and the fact that his music is all so blah to me only lowers my opinion of him further.  He’s got very very little talent, in my opinion, to back up anyone’s hyperbolic proclamations about him.  

    To paraphrase one more of the rap greats, Kanye’s a butterknife; Jay-Z’s a machete.  

  51. I disagree that it is not fun to hear someone rap about his shoes:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA8DsUN6g_k

    and

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7LF2K8u4xZg

    I’d also say Dead Prez is extremely enjoyable to listen to, thanks in part to their politics.

  52. Nabroleon_Dynamite

    December 14th, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Here are the 2 best non-cliche Hip-Hop songs of 2010. The 1st one name drops “Lloyd Christmas” and the 2nd one has a “DOLEMITE” sample because Kid grew up on DOLEMITE.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a2QP3auNXmQ

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3_6vfQHTeo

  53. I like Muse, too, probably for the same reasons Jake mentioned. For some reason the internet does not find this acceptable. Other commenters tell me I’m supposed to be embarrassed for liking Muse. Then fuck you, jack.

  54. Nabroleon_Dynamite

    December 14th, 2010 at 5:50 pm

    @Mr.Majestyk. I’m looking at number 42 on your for sale list. $5 easy or plus tax? Have your products been VERN ENDORSED???

  55. Mouth,

    We’re probably just arguing over the semantics of what “Sellout” means. Maybe I’m using it unfairly, and maybe it’s also true that he could never truly sell out because he was always about making money. I guess what I’m saying is that (by his own admission) he’s made more than his share of dumbed down nonsense that I don’t care for, and I don’t accept his justification that he’s just trying to make money. I hear that argument from time to time about musicians, that its okay if they are crassly consumerist so long as they acknowledge it. I don’t agree. In Jay-Z’s case, his good stuff is so good that it disappoints me when he slaps together an album like Kingdom Come, with its often superficial lyrics and overabundance of guest stars.

  56. Nabrolean: MASSACRE AT CENTRAL HIGH. Excellent choice. No tax, but I gotta hit you up for three bucks shipping. Order more and I’ll cut you a deal on the S&H. Perhaps 3:15: THE MOMENT OF TRUTH to maintain the juvenile delinquent theme? Hit me up at the email I listed on my page and we’ll talk business.

  57. Mouth, I don’t know man, I agree that Kanye is overrated in the Entertainment Weekly and what not, but before you say he’s not talented you better go through the credits on those Jay-Z albums, especially The Blueprint. The Takeover, Izzo, Heart of the City. I actually do think he’s interesting, he actually is really thoughtful and self aware in a good way in some of his songs but then he has such a big ego he can’t help but be a jackass. (He got called a jackass by Obama!)

    I kind of like his new album. Like every fucking thing now there’s too much wack singing and robots and shit but alot of the beats are great and I like how overboard he goes with the production, bringing in string sections and guitars, going off on long instrumental breaks and crazy distorted vocoder solos and stuff. There’s this one song that would be so great if he merely excised the corny robot chorus to the tune of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.”

    But anyway, Kid ‘n Play retrospective continues

  58. As a producer, dude’s straight. Jay likes him, uses his services, game recognize game, cool.

    As a rapper, Kanye’s garbage. In my opinion.

    Best albums of the year, anyone? I’ve been out of town & away from FM radio a lot, but:

    1. Raheem Devaughn THE LOVE & WAR MASTERPEACE
    2. Sufjan Stevens THE AGE OF ADZ
    3. Cloud Cult LIGHT CHASERS
    4. Jay-Z BLUEPRINT 3
    5. various STEP-UP 3D soundtrack
    And I enjoyed Lil Wayne’s I AM NOT A HUMAN BEING and Eminem’s RECOVERY or re-whateveritwasthistime, but they don’t have staying power, I fear.

  59. 5. Foxy Shazam – Self Titled. It’s an unbelievably fun record full of top notch pop rock and great Meat Loaf style lyrics (so Loaf-esque that the lead singer actually wrote 2 songs for the singer’s lastest album with the lead singer of The Darkness)

    4. Cee-Lo Green – The Lady Killer. Great, inventive Neo-Gospel that easily matches the best songs of Gnarls Barkley.

    3. Girl Talk – All Day. Not as good as Feed the Animals, but since that album was my favorite in recent memory, it’s high bar to match. Not deep. Not meaningful. But delightful, brainteasing meta-pop.

    2. Kanye West – My Beautiful, Dark, Twisted Fantasy. I know that plenty of ya’ll hate Kanye, but I find that I anticipate every new project he embarks on. After the major misstep of 808s and Heart Breaks, Kanye’s back to being interesting. Even though he still has more than his fair share of cringe inducing lyrics, “I put the pussy in a sarcophagus / ohh, she says I bruised her esophagus” the whole is razor sharp and witty. And really, even the bad lines seem to fit thematically because they offer a sort of go for broke rawness. a great did he really just say that? factor (“I call it malibu-ya!” comes to mind) and other than including the excretory Rick Ross on not one but two tracks, one of which makes a chorus out of a teeth grinding mispronunciation of the word “ridiculous” there isn’t a single track on the album I wouldn’t consider putting on a mixtape. Kanye uses a big pallet and aims to produce Thriller with every track. Even if you hate the ego, you gotta admire the ambition.

    1. Gaslight Anthem – American Slang. Great punk rock energy and a bluesman’s woe. They’ll give you a lump in your throat with every track. Not as incendiary as 59 Sound, but a definite evolution.

  60. Hunter, I’m totally with you on the new Gaslight. When I first got it I listened to it beginning to end basically nonstop for like two weeks. I never do that. It’s just got the right ratio of rocking to melancholy that pushes my buttons. Easily my favorite album of the year.

  61. Okay Mouth, here are mine. It’s been an excellent year for music; there’s still a bunch of stuff that I haven’t had the chance to listen to. It’s probably important to note here that I never got into hip hop but I breathe indie…

    5. Twin Shadow, FORGET
    4. The National, HIGH VIOLET
    3. Sufjan Stevens, THE AGE OF ADZ
    2. Arcade Fire, THE SUBURBS
    1. Janelle Monae, THE ARCHANDROID

  62. Man, I remember going down to the library as a teenager, searching in vain for books about Huey P Newton or Bobby Seale (apparently local libraries in super-white Orange County, CA didn’t think the Black Panthers merited any shelfspace; I had to wait until college to figure out who they were). I would NEVER have heard those names — or known anything about J Edgar Hoover’s shenanigans, either — if not for Public Enemy.

    Vern, you know you’ve got a great hip-hop book in you, right? I mean, if you really want to stay purely on the movie thing, you could do a “Hip-Hop in Film” book. But seriously — now that Lethem’s stolen your thunder on the “They Live” book, it seems like a no-brainer.

  63. Why the hell did I think I had to point out Jay-z was from New York? Was there something in the comments that got deleted…?

  64. The “DIDDY” song ha ha ha I had forgotten about his shitty attempt to emulate BDP’s JIMMY chorus. Except KRS-ONE has more talent in one pinky than POOF DIDDY has in his entire body. I can’t get into Kanye West either. I tried I listened to his first 3 albums and it’s pretty horrible shit rapping wise. Very standard crap. Yeah he’s an above average rap producer but that’s where it stops. Maybe growing up on the Common’s (he was good once), Slick Rick’s, Nas’ and Ice Cube’s (the best once) spoiled me but I can’t take the dude’s rap seriously. The only Chicago rapper in his 20’s signed to a major that I feel is worth listening to in 2010 is Lupe Fiasco. However even he I don’t think has lived up to his full potential at all. His albums contain a couple of great songs but they’re never cohesive. As a whole they’re rather dull. I don’t know if he quite has an “IT TAKES A NATION…” or “LIQUID SWORDS” in him.

  65. Oh and Jay-Z circa 2010 is a complete joke. I will never listen to any new music by the guy again after the insufferable mess that was Blueprint 3. I used it as a weedplate for a while and then it ended it’s life as a frisbee for my girl’s dog. American Gangster was good cause it felt like “Jigga” the dude from Reasonable Doubt and Vol. 1 just new and improved. Not this “HOVA” character that popped up on the Streets is Watching soundtrack (not a bad release though) and remained all throughout his lackluster albums like Vol. 2, Vol. 3 and Dynasty. Blueprint was good too and so was Black Album but as a whole I think he’s got more misses than hits in his catalogue.

  66. Broddie, I think “Forever Young,” the last track on BLUEPRINT 3, is my most listened-to song of 2010, so just that one track is a good enough reason to listen to Jay-Z this year. It’s fucking hypnotic.

    I have to amend my rankings, by the way, now that R. Kelly has blessed us with LOVE LETTER. It definitely shoots to the very top of 2010 releases.

    ***************************************
    CC, maybe you were about to link to newly imprisoned Ja Rule’s video for “[I’m From ]New York, New York,” featuring Jadakiss, etc.. It has good verses & it’s topical!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5H7dxtPXLSQ

  67. I think I forgot to mention that BLUEPRINT 3 of course came out in 2009, but that I didn’t have a chance to hear it til 2010 b/c I was too busy with overseas shit. Someone here might’ve been confused.

  68. That is interesting ’cause I didn’t like that song at all lol. It was a poor attempt at recreating the feel of the now classic Jay-Z song Beach Chair. On top of that I never liked the song it sampled anyway. I liked Thank You, Already Home and that song with Young Jeezy. The rest of it was just average to horrible. If this is the direction he’s taking then no thanks I have a bunch of other artists to listen to instead.

  69. I haven’t seen this in a long time, and I remember thinking it was pretty lame back to back with part one, but there is one scene that sticks out in my mind a lot. Throughout the movie Martin Lawrence is going to the record store Play works at, buys one LP and takes ten (or something. Like I say, its been a while). Then later on in the movie he goes in and significantly overpays for what he wants, and when Play asks why he tells him “Sometimes you gotta pay what you owe.” This surprisingly has popped into my head over the years, as some analog to this scenario has played out in real life for me a few times, on both ends. Good scene, whatever movie

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