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Step Up 2 the Streets

tn_stepup2STEP UP 2 THE STREETS is one of those impressive sequels that re-invents the whole thing and gives it new life. Because the main character is a girl, instead of a guy. Totally different.

No, seriously though, first time director Jon M. Chu had to deal with an all new set of characters except for a torch-passing guest appearance by Channing Tatum, hooking up a Maryland School of the Arts audition for his old family friend Andie (Briana Evigan [daughter of the guy from My Two Dads that’s not Paul Reiser]) to avoid her frustrated legal guardian (Sonja Sohn from SLAM and some TV show) sending her to live in Texas, where fewer people step up. When she gets to the school she has to put together a REVENGE OF THE NERDS super team of the school’s most talented outcasts. They’re frowned upon because they have big teeth or don’t speak very much English or are weirdos but they have unique styles that haven’t been properly displayed to the world. Together they just might be able to win the legendary underground (somehow illegal) dance competition called, uh, “The Streets.” Yeah, I think the title came before the screenplay on this one. But it was worth it.

That’s her new crew. Her old one was “the 410.” In the opening scene they do a flash mob type performance on a subway, disguising themselves as unaffiliated commuters ranging in class from Business Man to Homeless Guy Wrapped in Filthy Blanket. Then, one by one, they put on masks and dance around inside the subway cars.

Chu portrays the dance as threatening. Before it starts an old white man watches a black dancer nervously, as if he expects a mugging. Afterwards police chase them. The news reports it as an “attack” and says the 410 “claimed responsibility.” That may sound silly but keep in mind the murder rate in Baltimore has gone way down since it was first called the Murder Capitol. So these dancing incidents are a big deal. That’s what got Sonja Sohn so concerned.

mp_stepup2But then she gets kicked out of the 410 because she’s missing rehearsals, spending too much time at “your little fancy new school.” It’s kind of a funny reversal because it’s Tuck (Black Thomas), the guy from the fun after school activity, who’s being a hardass, not a teacher or a coach. And he’s disappointed in her for going to school. He becomes the villain ’cause he’s an asshole who tells her her crew sucks and tries to keep them from being allowed to enter The Streets.

I like that this is more openly absurd than part 1. It has a bunch of gimmicks to make the dancing more exciting, for example when Andie and Tyler battle, the floor of the club opens up to reveal trampolines for them to use in their routines. It’s like the dance movie equivalent of Jean-Claude dipping his forearms in resin and broken glass in KICKBOXER. The cleverest part of the movie is when they have to make a video and they decide to secretly film Tuck in public while they do dance routines behind him, unseen. Then they dance inside his room while he’s gone and put a rotten fish in his vent.

Without Channing Tatum in the lead it’s less macho than part 1. Andie is the main focus and her love interest (Robert Hoffman) is a hip hop loving ballet dancer with blond tips who looks way older than the other high school kids (and is – he was 28 at the time). He kept reminding me of Jay Mohr. He’s supposed to be the popular kid, but the rest of them are geeks. They’re not concerned about manliness or sexuality like Tyler was.

But I think you could also argue that this movie is more hip hop. It opens with archival footage of legendary breakdancers like the Rock Steady Crew (footage taken from THE FRESHEST KIDS, according to the credits) and has way more of a breakdancing influence on the choreography throughout the movie. I noticed Andie has Run DMC, Public Enemy and Wu-Tang Clan posters in her room. This is kind of like in GET RICH OR DIE TRYING, 50 Cent’s character had a Public Enemy poster in his room and I thought that was supposed to be a symbol for “he has more of a brain than he demonstrates in his words or actions.” In this case it’s not a period piece so maybe it represents that she has an appreciation for the classics. Or that the set dressers just can’t bring themselves to put a bunch of modern bullshit on the walls.

I pretty much hate most of the music on the soundtrack, though. I mean, I’m just old. It’s that fuckin jiggly laser sounds and robots singing while some dirty south dude chants a bunch of fuckin nonsense, I got no idea what the fuck that shit is. There is one particularly horrible piece of sonic garbage that they play a couple times, sounded real familiar and then I figured out it’s because it’s the song that fat suit Tom Cruise dances to at the end of TROPIC THUNDER. It’s a song about how there was a girl at the club that had a giant ass and it was awesome and he had Hennesy and cola also which was something that he enjoyed. Just a great story to share with everybody. Kinda inconsistent in the imagery though ’cause first she’s wearing “them apple bottom jeans, boots with the fur,” then 2 seconds later it’s “them baggy sweat pants and the Reeboks with the straps.” Maybe Flo-rida is presenting some sort of a fractured reality or multiple timelines or something, I don’t know. Then at some point he’s just going on and on about how much money he spent at a strip club. That guy’s gonna need a Public Enemy poster on his wall too I think ’cause his lyrics are making him look like a fuckin nitwit.

One thing that was original about the first STEP UP was that the school was a good place, there was no uptight faculty trying to stop kids from expressing themselves. This one goes the opposite route, putting a snooty male ballet dancer in charge, with a prejudice against Andie and a mission to stop students from entering The Streets. Andie only gets into the school because her future boyfriend is on the jury. We know he’s the only one who’s down because he wears a cap and hoodie. They do explain the shift from part 1 with a couple people mentioning some unpopular “changes at MSA.”

I like the dancing in this one better than the first one. Part 1 was about preparing the choreography for one big performance, this one has a couple different battles and a ton of outtakes on the end credits. They find an excuse to have the characters salsa at a party and the climactic dance is done outside in pouring rain so they can splash all over the place.

Although Andie and her boy are good looking Hollywood type people the rest of the cast seem to be chosen because they were dancers, which is kinda cool. Most of the MSA crew have limited dialogue except for this guy Moose, a skinny mop-headed kid with a geeky, awkward sort of charm. He’s not at the school for dancing but when he does some Michael Jackson moves to make Andie laugh she recruits him for their crew.

The subtext of the movie is kind of funny. It’s basically about how the kids from the private school shouldn’t be excluded by the kids from the ghetto. Oh boo hoo. It’s kind of funny to see the white girl standing up and making an inspiring speech about how just because they’re not from the streets doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be able to co-opt The Streets.

But that’s not really fair. We know from part 1 that they’re not all rich kids, most of them are on scholarships, and Andie is an orphan. We also know from the director’s cut of the “Bad” video that some kids gotta take a really long subway ride to their private school and then when they finally get home Wesley Snipes gives them a bunch of shit about it. Furthermore, De La Soul were from the suburbs but were clearly way better than most of the more “keepin it real” rappers of their era. Besides, what the hell is an art-school cat supposed to look like? Miles Davis, Tupac, Mobb Deep – those cats went to art school.

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, September 20th, 2011 at 1:59 am and is filed under Drama, 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.

75 Responses to “Step Up 2 the Streets”

  1. that’s what all hip hop is about these days sadly, it’s all about hot chicks, big asses and getting laid

    what’s that? social justice? politics? wuzzat?

    of course not that there’s anything inherently wrong with hot chicks, big asses and getting laid, but it gets old after a while

  2. also if you’ll excuse me for going off topic again in a Step Up comments thread (this will be it though) tonight I watched Animal House and It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World on blu ray

    Animal House is of course a classic, it’s been a very long time since I’ve seen it and re-watching it I was struck by how episodic the movie is, it’s essentially a collection of vignettes loosely strung together with an overarching story (with a great payoff), it’s almost Tarantino-esque really, plus I found it interesting how John Belushi doesn’t say all that much most of his comedy comes from his facial expressions

    It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad World was great, old school comedies like that don’t necessarily make me laugh my ass off (it’s a generational thing I think), but I really enjoyed the high energy, slapstick style regardless, plus it looked fantastic on blu ray, nice bright colors, just the right amount of film grain and great scenery

    also, it’s weird watching a comedy with such an epic length, but it works

  3. Oh yeah IT’S A MAD…WORLD. The movie with the most frustrating cameo in the history of cameos. (I’m talking of course about the Three Stooges.)

  4. Griff – I watch Animal House several times a year, especially when I’m feeling a bit shit as it never fails to cheer me up, and it just gets better and better for me. You’re right about it essentially being a series of sketches loosely linked together – with some being long (the dead with Fawn’s friends) and some tiny (“Thanks, I needed that”), but without a single duff moment or performance in the whole movie. How Tim Matheson never became huge is a crime to cinema, that is one charismatic as hell performance (and he still rocks it in Burn Notice). In fact, I think Bruce McGill (D-Day) became the most successful beside some young tyke called Kevin Bacon “please Sir may I have another”. I’m chuckling as I write this, time to go to youtube for some Otis Day and The Knights methinks.

    Sorry to be off topic people.

  5. CJ – no doubt about it, it’s weird how the Three Stooges appear for all of 5 seconds, I kept expecting them to pop back up

  6. So based on this one do you think Chu is the right guy to make a G.I. Joe sequel? It might be cool if he has Duke do a little dance to show his connection to the Step Up franchise. And since Chu knows Justin Bieber, maybe he could play the villain. I think he’d make a great Serpentor.

  7. Moose was the standout for me, I just loved the way he moved for such a geeky looking kid, and it was refreshing to have someone who actually looked age appropriate.
    Also, “I like your smile.”
    “Thank-you, I like your accent.”
    “What accent?”
    Makes me laugh.

  8. Ditto — Moose stole the show.

  9. Yo, Vern’s finally Stepping Up. This is my shit right here. Dudes are gonna enjoy this journey into The Chu Zone, I’ve been telling you for a year now.

    Channing Tatum literally jumps out of his shirt. Dude dances so good that he jumps out of his shirt. This is not a hyperbolic turn of phrase.

    You can’t help but love the ridiculous alterweirdoworld of the Step-Ups. The first one, I think maybe the filmatists just didn’t have the budget or the attention span to work into the plot any serious violence & accompanying police officers — like that would’ve just messed up the whole vibe of the movie with unnecessary filler/complications, so they just said fuck it I guess the Step-Up world has different ideas about consequences and how people deal with shit, all dance all the time, and now we’re taking it to… to The Streets! PG-13 streets, yo!

    I love that. Back when I was a teenager, I would’ve hated it, would’ve been insulted. But now I have both an ironic appreciation for the absurdity and a genuine appreciation for the sheer talent on display, wearing fly kicks and making the hot girl’s lungs pump with the power of a badass dance in the rain.

    That last “breathing” move is extremely well done, and it has a helluva buildup, even if the music is only meh (to borrow Vern’s favorite internet word) and even if it looks like the dancers have their backs to most of their outdoor audience most of the time. That move is like a more minor but just as spectacular version of the REDBELT up-the-wall-backflip, the Luke Skywalker learning to use the force, the Prince Akeem renouncing his throne on the subway, the Daniel-san crane kick, the Gordon Liu playing dead at the end of HEROES OF THE EAST. It made me want to applaud, made me a fan, and my reward for my fandom became STEP-UP 3D.

  10. I remember when I started noticing that poster around town. All I could think was “But I never even heard of STEP THE STREETS UP 1.”

    I may be old.

  11. Wait, what now? ” Her love interest is a hip hop loving ballet dancer with blond tips … He’s supposed to be the popular kid”

    I’m not sure the ballet dancing dude has ever, in history been the popular kid.

    Should have seen the warning signs with the phrase “first time director” Jon M Chu. How could they trust a franchise of this complexity and nuance to a first timer?

  12. The ballet dancing dude in Center Stage was the popular kid and also the “bad boy”, but i guess everyone in that movie’s a ballet dancer, so it might not count.

  13. Channing Tatum may jump out of his shirt, but Donnie Yen can dance into his pants.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2jd3ncfHh08

    (from Mismatched Couples)

  14. Caoimhín, that YouTube clip is so epically awesome it deserves its own review. Or at least a spot atop Potpourri IV: A NEW HOPE.

  15. I’m voting for POTPOURRI IV: THE REVENGE.

    Just when you thought it was safe to discuss viking movies…

    This time, it’s personal.

  16. First off, it’s “Star Dorks IV: A New Potp.”

    Also, I can attest that you can be a cool, popular male ballet dancer. I once went on a road trip to Texas, completely on a whim, with the most manly, rugged, heterosexual, texan male ballet dancer imaginable.

    We had a shitty old sports car with a sun roof that didn’t close, a radio that didn’t work, a trunk that didn’t open, and a speedometer that didn’t measure. At one point, he fixed the car with some duct tape at a gas station.

    It was literally the best time I’ve ever had. We broke about 12 laws in 8 days, smoked 24 packs of cigarettes, got blind drunk every night, I had a serious and meaningful conversation with my 92-year old grandfather, saw ballet for the first time (and loved it), had Ethiopian food for the first time, stumbled into an orgy, got offered cocaine in public, partied at ASU and UofA, visited Austin, learned to drive stick (kinda) and spent a total of 400 bucks, including my plane ride home.

  17. My vote is for POTPOURRI 4: THE CRACKDOWN. This time it’s war!

  18. I vote for POTPOURRI IV: THE POTPOURRINING

  19. All this talk of ballet and no mention of JCVD?

  20. Speaking of crappy modern electronic music, I present a defense of the whole genre: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qU4NNwrRbMI literally better than the original. And that’s a live track too. No editing or studio tricks. I’ve been listening to it on repeat for days.

  21. Really nice Greg Evigan reference Vern. Man, I bet he wished Deepstar Six did better business.

    On the subject of Griff’s comment about hip hop. There has been some great hip hop this year… Kendrick Lamar, Apathy, Danny Brown, Shabazz Palaces (although a bit weird that one), DJ Quik and, at a push, the Beastie Boys.

    Some of my fave albums of 2011.

    Even the Jay-Z/Kanye and Cool Kids albums were pretty good and Talib Kweli’s had it’s moments too.

  22. Childish Gambino is the most exciting new voice in Hip-Hop since Danger Mouse first hit, imo.

  23. I also like Childish Gambino. You know why? Simple answer: sense of humor. You look back at the greats, they all had a certain irreverence and wit that made them more charming than the bludgeonous thugs we get nowadays. The exception was Rakim, who was serious as cancer, but that was his thing. That was what made him fresh. Now everybody wants to be Rakim, when we could stand to have a few more Biz Markies.

  24. It seemed like there was a point in the 90’s when it became no longer cool to smile in Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop needs to lighten up and not take itself so serious.

  25. The funny thing is, the music itself has never been more lightweight and meaningless, but the people who make it act like they’re curing muscular dystrophy or something.

  26. Agreed, as a nearly lifelong hip hop fan it is sad to see the state of the artform these days. I was talking with a good friend of mine and fellow hip hop fan the other day about how when I look at hip hop in 2011 it looks like the black republican party. There is such a premium put on wealth, materialism, and consumerism without concern for how soulless and hollow that message is or how it impacts others. To me when you glamorize drug dealing and gang violence our rampant consumerism at the cost of your community you are putting profits above people, and how is that any different than a giant corporation that is willing to damage the environment for the sake of profits or the con artists on Wall street. Hip Hop used to be the voice of the voiceless, but now it feels like a bunch of clowns performing violent and/or misogynistic jingles designed to sell alcohol, cars and clothes to people to people that don’t realize that most these so called artist can afford more than half the shit the rap about and are not the gangsters they portray themselves to be.

  27. Honestly? I could give a shit about what they’re talking about nine times out of ten. It’s not like the Geto Boys were trying to uplift the community. The thing that I can’t abide is that the music is fucking BORING. Hip-hop used to be this cannibal artform that absorbed a million different sources so you never knew what kind of weird Frankenstein monster you were going to get. You could make a rap beat out of jazz, rock, funk, electro, country, classical, showtunes, or even a fucking dial tone if you just thought outside the box a little. Now it’s just lame pop music made with the same computer programs they make Britney Spears albums on. This is not what I signed on for.

  28. I agree with you, and the death of sampling has hurt hip hop, but even artists like the Ghetto Boys explored the dark side of the lifestyle they glamorized to give it some balance. Today it is the balance that is missing, and to your point most of it is pretty boring.

  29. Maybe the Trigger-Happy Motherfuckin’ Geto Boys were a bad example. They were clearly trying to shock and appall with over-the-top tales of sex and violence starring a manic-depressive dwarf, not brag about how fucking awesome they were because they wore a certain amount of shiny metal on their person at all times.

  30. Still I get your point. Regardless of what they are saying the music is pretty creatively bankrupt at this point. However, I think if more hip hop artists had something to say and gave a shit about their music the product would be more diverse and interesting, but as it stands now everything sounds the same and the end result is like a photo copy of a photo copy. The quality just continues to diminish. I am tired of the busy over produced digital beats that dominate hip hop.

  31. For the record, post-mental breakdown Britney Spears is fucking awesome. “3” is one of the best broad pop songs of the last decade. Not only is it fun to listen to and totally dancable, it’s way more kinky than it sounds at first. Initially, you think it’s a typical faux-lesbian jam about kissing a girl (and liking it), but it’s actually about Britney going to the club and picking up two dudes and getting them to rail her at the same time. Plus, the mock sincerity of the breakdown acts as a brilliant counterpoint to her Disney Channel roots.

    Seriously, that song is all kinds of genius in concept and execution. Plus, it broaches a subject for you and can lead to very memorable evenings…

  32. Once you guys accept the fact that hip hop is now pretty much “pop” music you’ll rest easier. The days of hip hop artists inflitrating the mainstream music scene are over. Hip hop is now the mainstream music scene. There was a time when Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Jay Z, etc., were young up and comers, telling it like it is, and going multiplatinum in spite of all the roadblocks set up to make them fail (speaking about ghetto culture, low budget albums, criminal backgrounds, they’re a racial minority). They were young, exciting, fresh, and scary, but its been 15- 20 years since that time and the genre has morphed itself into an extension of pop music. Dre is hocking Dr. Pepper, Snoop is guest starring on Katy Perry songs, Ice Cube is making kids films, and Jay Z is more famous for banging Beyonce these days than rapping. Any successful genre ends up cannibalizing itself (Punk, horror movies, Boy Bands, etc.) before there is an inevitable rebirth.

    I see no difference between Flo Rida and say, Paula Abdul or Dead or Alive from the 80’s. Its just snappy music that you can tap your toe to or dance to at a party. I accepted that a long time ago and can now enjoy it on that level. It’s really just a bunch of words and sounds put together to make you feel good. What irks me is when these rappers come out with a song that tries to “remind” everyone where they came from and how hard life is. Don’t rap about making it rain in the club and then come at me with a song that tries to say something because it completely rings hollow.

  33. I know it’s pop. That’s the problem. It’s not just that pop ruined hip-hop, it’s that hip-hop ruined pop. They’re two great tastes that taste disgusting together. Pop should be happy bubblegum shit you can’t get out of your head sung by smiling people with sweet voices and no brains. Hip-hop should be weird low-budget under-the-radar sonic experimentation and offbeat wordplay. Neither should be plodding date-rape anthems that take themselves really fucking seriously and don’t even have enough energy to make you want to dance. Calling this shit pop is an insult to pop. I’ll take Paula Abdul any day of the week.

  34. Really? Because which one of these songs and videos sounds better and more interesting to you?

    http://www.youtube.com/user/BritneySpearsVEVO#p/u/31/CduA0TULnow

    or

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aEnnH6t8Ts

    I’d say that the hip-hop influence made mainstream pop music a whole lot more interesting and bizarre.

  35. Boy, you guys sound like a group of old men. And the worst part is, I agree with you. I think it’s been definitively established that I neither know nor care anything about rap music as a genre. But…

    – I’m just about old enough to remember when dance music was about nineties hippies sharing beats in order to “stick it to the man”, in this case eighties corporate yuppies who wanted to control every space for their own personal profit and not leave things “natural”. Look what it’s become now.

    – Hip-hop used to be Public Enemy, now it’s Flo Rida.

    – Metal used to mean Rage Against the Machine. Now it means Andrew WK and Slipknot (or maybe I’m a generation behind there as well. Jeez, I’m old.)

    Aww, what the fuck, at least I know Beyonce is bullshit.

    BUT – and I must emphasize that’s a big “but”, and it doesn’t belong to J-Lo – the whole point of culture is, and has always been, that if you want the really good stuff, you have to go find it. That’s the case with music, literature, films, pretty much anything; you don’t get beluga caviar from Tesco (or Wal-Mart, or whatever our international readers’ respective equivalents are). Heck, to see “Kill List”, I had to drive an hour and ten minutes to an arts cinema in the next city – there’s zero chance of it ever coming to a multiplex.

    Sure, I don’t like “populist” hip-hop, but I don’t make the mistake of saying that there’s not good stuff out there. It’s just not made by Beyonce or Kanye (seriously, if I hear that “Diamonds are Forever” cover one more time, I’m putting that dude on MY personal “Kill List”. He’d better watch the fuck out: straight after I’ve taken out Bruno Mars, I’m coming for him.) If you’re interested in the good stuff, you can search for it. There’s this little thing called “The Internet” that gives a rough guide to what’s good and where it can be found; I’ve occasionally found it useful.

    But going back to the point about Kanye: why do I bitch about him? Why do people bitch about bad music at all, certainly more than they do bad films or novels? I think it’s because it’s so ubiquitous. After all, if you don’t like the endless stream of disposible Hollywood blockbusters, you can just avoid them. But nowadays you get fuckawful covers of the Eagles’ “Hotel California” every time you pick up the phone, walk into a store, or sit behind some fucking douchebag** with an i-pod and speakers on the bus. You can get away from bad literature or bad films, but getting away from bad music is a lot harder. (This is also why advertising execs are justifiably the most evil and reviled people on the planet.)

    **Please also let it be noted that if you bring mp3-player speakers into any public place, you are a fucking douchebag by default, and I don’t care how good you think your taste in music is.

  36. Tawdry – I actually kind of agree with your point. But not with your example: you had (the last time I checked) two albums full of Britney’s hip-hop-influenced songs to demonstrate that point, and THAT’S the one you chose? I thought you were gonna quote “Slave 4 U” or something.

    Aw, what do I know, I’m the guy who can’t resist bopping his head to “Sk8r Boi”. But still… I think you actually managed to choose one of the few songs, to me, that sounded LESS interesting than “Oops I did it again” as a comparison. (Which is actually kind of impressive in itself.) Modern pop artist with less-than-positive public perception answers critics with accusations of jealousy/infatuation/prejudice? I think I MIGHT, if pressed, be able to find one or two other examples of that particular phenomena.

  37. A few things:

    Andrew WK is AMAZING. He’s joy, dipped in happiness and wrapped in bacon.

    Slipknot hasn’t been relevant in years. I think they broke up?

    Kanye’s “My Dark Twisted Fantasy” is one of the best produced hip-hop albums I have ever heard.

    “Diamonds of Sierra Leon” is from 3 albums ago, so I donno where they’re playing that all the time near you…

    Beyonce is totally boring.

    Flo-Rida might be hip-hop, but he’s second tier at best. He’s not a ‘name’ by any means.

  38. I agree with you on that Majestyk. You used to know what you were getting when you sat down to listen to a song and now who knows when T-Pain or Ludacris is going to show up talking about platinum chains and bitches’ asses. Its like all the genres, not just hip hop, kind of fused together into one giant pop genre. Even country has a pop-lite feel to it nowadays. Keep in mind, pop music is made for teenagers mostly and teenagers give less than a shit about genre fusing, sampling, or how much the musical landscape has changed (though many of them have an appreciation for 80’s music surprisingly).

    Since I never listen to top 40 radio these days, every now and then I’ll check out the billboard charts and listen to the top 5 songs of that week just to see what the kids are listening to these days. Surprisngly, most of the time i’m not that horrified. Don’t get me wrong, most of the stuff is pretty bad and can’t hold a candle to pop songs made even 10 years ago, but I can enjoy a dumb Ke$ha featuring Akon (or whoever) song on the level of enjoyable noise. It’s biggest culprit is its lack of heart. Pop music, until about the end of the 90’s, was genuine and had heart. The Backstreet Boys sang sappy love songs or songs about “getting the party started” and thats exactly what I would want from them if I listened to one of their songs. Now you have “pop” artists talking about shooting people and stuffing money into strippers g-strings. I’m still dumbfounded that a song like “I Wanna F*ck You” or “Laffy Taffy” could possibly go to #1 on the charts. I guess a catchy beat is all that matters?

  39. Charles, you seem to be implying jingles designed to sell alcohol are a bad thing. Check this shit out, St. Ides ads from back in the day, nearly every motherfucker who even thought about rapping in the early 90s is on this, Wu Tang. This shit is better than 99% of most actual rap albums.

    http://illogicalcontraption.blogspot.com/2008/12/various-artists-dj-dranks-greatest-malt.html

  40. The industry changed, for the better in my opinion, because of internet piracy. You need something really ridiculous or edgy to break through. A Backstreet Boys song wouldn’t stand a chance today because A&R can’t spend 7 figures to launch a song. Instead you need to shock or surprise. You need to be utterly unforgettable from minute one.

    Now, once you’ve established a following, you can sometimes back down from the more baroque stuff, but personally, I like novelty and shock value.

  41. Also, Slave 4 U came out pre-mental breakdown. As a result, I have no interest in it. In fact, I’d wager it might be the worst ‘hit’ the Neptunes ever engineered. Good song to fuck to, but not a great song to dance to. Weirdly, those are different things.

  42. Tawdry, we definitely agree on one thing: Andrew W.K. is the fucking tits. Sometimes I imagine an alternate universe where he became a pop idol somewhere around 2002 and suddenly all the songs on the radio had chantalong choruses and guitar solos and thundering piano rolls extolling the glories of unbridled joy and the joys of unbridled glory.

  43. Those St. Ives commercials make me very sad… but it is kinda cool how I can hear loops they later used in 100 Miles and Running and I think Amerikkka’s Most Wanted in the mix.

  44. I’m not with you on those two Britney songs, though. They’re both garbage but I still remember all the words to the chorus of “Oops, I Did It Again” more than a decade later, whereas I listened to that other song a minute and a half ago and I’ve forgotten everything about it.

  45. Caoimhín, Those St. Ides adds where the shit back in the day, but they where commercials. That was before you had artists like Nelly making songs like “Air Force 1’s”, and now most mainstream hip hop sounds like a commercial.

    Also, to Mr. M’s point in the 90’s hip hop became commercially viable and big business. It crossed over into mainstream music and started to become pop, and pop music started to become more hip hop. These days the lines are blurred and you can’t differentiate between the two.

  46. I found out about that Wu-Tang one when I was trying to figure out what was playing from a car in a skit on Only Built 4 Cuban Linx. I know it’s a commercial and Chuck D would be mad but it’s so fuckin good! Better than the product in my opinion.

  47. Speaking of hip hop commercials and St Ides, I highly recommend checking this out.

    http://www.grantland.com/story/_/id/6863498/drankoff-2011

  48. I know it’s a commercial and shit but that Rakim joint is some kind of lost classic. He didn’t even have any official product out during that period so that’s basically the only taste of the God you get from a pretty amazing period in hip-hop that wouldn’t have happened without his influence. It’s like discovering a Dashiell Hammett short story he wrote in prison after the McCarthy trials.

    That pretty much made my day. Thanks, Caoimhín.

  49. Mr. M, that Rakim add is great, and the video for it and all the other St Ides commercials are featured in the Drankoff I posted the link to. The Wu one is awesome for how Ghostface seems to shoot lasers out of his hands at the end. Also, I highly recommended the Sprite Voltron commercials featuring Afrika Bambataa, Common, Goodie Modd, Mac 10, and Fat Joe. The final one in the series (there are 5 of them) is featured in the article, but if you watch it at the end they have quick links to the other ones.

  50. Man Caoimhin, thanks for posting that link. I knew the Wu-Tang one but I’m listening to this now and it’s blowing me away. It’s such a perfect illustration of the old man talk we got going here. Here are the popular rappers from the era most of us prefer. They’re not only commercial, they are literally commercials, and for a pretty despicable product. But I would so much rather listen this than most of the hip hop I’ve heard that’s been made in the last 10 years. In personality, in style, in craft it’s just so much more appealing to me than even the albums that I hear are supposed to be good like Li’l Wayne and all that shit.

    In unrelated news, I saw a kid on the bus wearing an oversized shirt with a giant portrait of Li’l Wayne standing with John Wayne.

  51. Those commericals make me very, VERY sad. All I can think about is that scene in Boyz N the Hood where Morpheus gives the speech about malt liquor on the street corner. I actually lost respect for a lot of emcees I admired greatly until about 2 hours ago. I mean, sure, Biggie sold crack to a pregnant woman, so I can get why he’d be down, and in spite of being in BNH, Ice Cube pretty much represented that same aesthetic. But Rakim? Seriously? SERIOUSLY? Where’s the self respect in that? And the obvious pandering to children in some of those ads, it’s more disgusting than Bitches Ain’t Shit.

    That said, the way the adverts almost seem like they’re trying to start a rap battle with 8 Ball (which I honestly didn’t know was alcohol, I thought it was always a coke reference), is pretty funny.

  52. Real G’s move in silence like lasagna. — That’s some genius shit right there.

    Wayne takes some getting used to, but his music is actually really exhilarating. Try “No Ceilings”, it’s one of his lesser works, but it’s a good point of entry for a new listener. I used to HATE weezy, but then my freshman year roommate was playing some of his stuff one day and I started to get it. He’s some kind of savant, because when he talks, he sounds like the dumbest mother fucker alive, but when he raps, it’s like a pseudo-gangsta E.E. Cummings or James Joyce.

  53. I’m telling you guys that good stuff is out there. My golden age is 80’s early ’90’s era of hip hop which seems to be in synch with most here.

    One thing’s for sure, you’ve never really heard great hip hop listening to the charts only and (judging from the comments here) a lot here seem to be looking to pop music for their hip hop fix then complaining about lack of substance.

    Section.80 – Kendrick Lamarr, XXX – Danny Brown, DJ Quik – The Book of David, Apathy – Honkey Kong are 4 albums from this year only that stand up alongside some of my favourite 90’s rap/hip hop.

  54. Dammit guys – really should proofread more before I click Submit. Apologies.

  55. “I’m telling you guys that good stuff is out there. My golden age is 80’s early ’90’s era of hip hop which seems to be in synch with most here.

    One thing’s for sure, you’ve never really heard great hip hop listening to the charts only and (judging from the comments here) a lot here seem to be looking to pop music for their hip hop fix then complaining about lack of substance. ”

    Thank you LennyS. I agree with YOU (or rather, you agree with me.) Getting the good stuff has always taken more effort than the disposible fluff.

  56. Thanks for the recommendations, Lemmy. I’ll admit I don’t spend much time digging in the crates anymore since most of the underground or at least less commercial stuff I’ve heard the past few years has been fairly underwhelming. There are always a few good albums every year but they mostly seem to come from veterans who are just as sick of the current status quo as I am. The young bucks just seem to be on some completely different shit than me.

  57. Lenny, I mean. Though Lemmy is a pretty awesome name, you should think about making a switch.

  58. LennyS, there are still hip hop artists out there making good music, but the difference is in the 90’s good hip hop like the Wu, Mobb Deep, and Biggie were also commercially viable. I have said it before, but the 90’s is to hip hop as the 70’s was to cinema. They were times in their respective art forms when the best art was also the most commercially successful. These days it is garbage like Black Eyed Peas & TRANSFORMERS 3.

    Tawdry, Wayne is a beast on the mic, and he can rap his ass off, but I don’t think he is much of a song writer. You can give him any beat and he will spaz on it, but it is all raw and unrefined. Because of this he has some memorable punch lines like the one you mentioned but most of his songs are forgettable. Also, I don’t have much respect for Wayne because he talked about how he got shot twice on a record, but what he failed to mention was one of those times his dumb ass shot himself.

    Also, I want to take a second to clarify something. Yes, these artist we like and respect from the 80’s and 90’s made commercials and sometimes it was for poison like St Ides malt liquor, but their music offered content to counter balance that. These days most of these artists make records that sound like commercials and they are not even getting paid to do it. They just think it is cool to shout out name brands in their songs. The music itself has become commercial.

  59. Nice one guys, I’d consider Lemmy.. haha.

    Zombie Paul… I just re-read your wise words and yeah, I’m singing from the same hymn sheet. I try to make a point of reading the entire thread before posting but I do this surprisingly often considering how little I actually post.

    With regard to my recommendations… There’s a heavy sentiment in the Apathy album that rappers need to get over themselves which I love. This is accompanied by some very good production and hooks that take me back to the Bizarre Ride II the Pharcyde etc. DJ Quik is indeed a veteran… from the early early days. Kendrick Lamar is brand new I think but has depth and can be funny (with the exception of one track on his album that sticks out like a sore thumb to me). Danny Brown is doing a nasally Funkdoobiest thing at first (a little bratty but he’s clearly playing a character) but his rapping style changes considerably in the later tracks where it becomes more reflective. It’s an interesting idea.

    It’s likely just a good year however, If this discussion had have happened 12 months ago I would have been more agreeable.

  60. LennyS, I like Apathy, the king of Connecticut always holds it down. I would also recommend. Random Axe, it is similar to Slaughterhouse in that it is a group made up of solo artists, it features Sean Price (one of my all-time favorites), Black Milk, and Guilty Simpson.

  61. Charles, I must have been replying at the same time and missed your comment. It’s a good point about good hip hop being more commercially viable in the 90’s… you actually could hear great stuff in the mainstream with some kind of regularity.

    I was banging the drum for good recent hip hop too.

  62. and thanks for your recommendation… I’ll look into them.

  63. Lenny, now you’re speaking my language. Any comparison to Bizarre Ride, one of the most distinctive and dynamic hip-hop albums of all time, is going to get my attention.

    I’m surprised to hear that DJ Quik is still alive and kicking. I was never that big a fan but he had a few songs I liked over the years. His production always sounded too plastic for me back in the day but in comparison to the shit that’s out now he probably sounds like Digable Planets.

    Also, Funkdoobiest’s second album is criminally slept on. Much like Digable Planets’ second album, now that you mention it.

  64. I always liked DJ Quik, Safe And Sound is a really funky album, but a couple of guys I went to high school with were signed to Dreamworks Records for a moment at the same time Quik was and the label wanted Quik to work with them to produce their album and they said Quik was miserable to work with. He had a shity attitude, and was doing coke and getting high more than working when they were in the studio with him.

  65. That’s great to hear, I myself am happy to hear some love for Bizarre Ride… it’s pretty much unrecognised in my experiences and is a stone cold classic. Brothas Doobie is also overlooked.

    I fear your thoughts on Quik’s production won’t be swayed but he’s went for a more modern sound here and it probably sounds more in tune. His rapping is surprisingly cerebral and playful… rhyming “orange” with “door hinge” for example. For an old timer he still sounds fresh which means something.

    I can’t remember his name but one of the Digible Planets guys had a project out this year caled Shabazz Palaces. It’s different haha

    Apathys new album took me back to Bizarre but you’re not gonna find a ‘Passin Me By’, ‘Otha Fish’ or ‘Soulflower’ on there. You get an ‘Officer’ ot two and an ‘On the DL’ though. There’s a pretty funny Wu Tang skit about ‘Gummi Berry Juice’ that had me laughing too.

  66. Quik always sounded like a less charismatic Too Short to me but I’ve sort of mellowed on him over the years. It’s funny how stuff I thought was the nadir of the genre at the time has by comparison become not half bad. In a few years Puffy’s early solo shit is gonna start sounding like FEAR OF A BLACK PLANET.

    The only new non-Beastie Boys (who don’t really factor into this discussion in my opinion) hip-hop album I’ve gotten this year that wasn’t some kind of weird mashup (Wugazi, Jaydiohead) is that Pete Rock/Smif-N-Wessun collabo. Which was solid, unsurprisingly, but hardly a game-changer.

  67. Wayne is a great rapper, but a terrible songwriter. That’s why his mixtapes are so often better than his albums. In fact, he doesn’t write songs. Dude doesn’t use a pen. And actually, I’ve been cultivating that same skill set. I don’t rap, I do slam poetry, but I’ve found that my material has improved 10 fold since I stopped writing it down. I often walk about two hours home from my bus stop late at night. During that time I can often come up with a pretty good 16-32 bars. Over the course of a few trips I managed to write an epic 1500 word poem, and memorize it.

    The advantage to this style is that since you’re writing it all in your head, line by line, you repeat it from the beginning of the poem, or at least the beginning of the stanza every time you write a new line. By the time you finish a 32 bar, you’ve done at least 32 drafts and refined the lines to their core.

    After I memorize the poem, I put it down on paper and count out syllables and all of that, but usually, it turns out that my internal sense of rhythm does just fine. Even if I end up writing 6 line stanzas with 21 syllables each and the first half of each line in iambs and the second half using assonance. That’s actually how like half of my poems end up, without realizing it.

    Anyway, I really started this post to say that Brother Ali is amazing. You should listen to him. Brilliant, lucid storytelling and uplifting messages while sounding badass.

  68. I’ll check out the Pete Rock one, cheers.

    I thought the Beastie Album was great fun but you’re right, they aren’t really part of this conversation. New Nas album still to come this year too, his guest spot on Hot Sauce was aces.

    Think i heard a bit Brother Ali but I’ll have a listen there too.

    Thanks guys.

  69. Monumental the Pete Rock/Smif-N-Wessun album is good stuff. I especially like the track prevail featuring Raekwon. That and the Random Axe album I mentioned earlier are both Duck Down Records releases. I have always loved Black Moon and the rest of the Boot Camp Clik (Smif-N-Wessun, Heltah Skeltah, & The O.G.C.), and I am glad that despite the decline in hip hop Duck Down still exists and it one of the best independent hip hop labels out there. They still feature all the BCC, but they also now have a roster of talented hip hop artist that had success before signing with the label like Pharoahe Monch, Talib Kweli, B-Real.

  70. Tawdry, I know Wayne does not write, but neither does Jay-Z and he may be the greatest song writer of the modern era. I know that may be an unfair comparison because Hov is head and shoulders better than most of his contemporaries, but maybe if Wayne wrote he would have more classic songs instead of just classic mixtapes highlighting his freestyle prowess.

  71. Pete Rock is also reportedly producing an album for Camp Lo. I’ll always prefer albums with a single producer because it gives it a unified sound (especially when that producer is a legend like Pete), as opposed to a bunch of random beats purchased from a wide spectrum of producers in a desperate bid to cover all the trends that are big at the moment. Premo used to be the king of this. I’m sure I’m not the only one who bought every album he produced as a matter of routine.

  72. Pete Rock has already put out a mixtape/street album with Camp Lo (actually he might have done 2). They make a good paring. I agree about Premo, and it does enhance an album to have 1 producer oversee the project. The early Wu stuff was way better because the RZA oversaw the majority of it, but as the Wu grew and he became less involved with each individual project there was a real decline in quality. As a fan of DJ Premier, If you have not checked them out already I would recommend the last two Royce Da 5’9” albums Street Hop & Death Is Certain as well as the Bar Exam mixtape series they did together. Premo didn’t do all of the production like he did on the Gangstarr albums, but he did oversee the projects and handled the bulk of the production. Street Hop has some great Premo bangers on it.

  73. Charles:

    I didn’t know that Jay-Z’s real name was Saul Williams/Amanda Palmer/Bruce Springsteen/Max Beamis.

  74. Tawdry, The Boss is a great song writer but I would consider him part of the generation before Jay-Z, and Saul Williams come on. I am not saying Saul is not talented, but you can’t seriously try and compare his body of work to Jay-Z. I am not really familiar with Amanda Palmer or Max Beamis and I am not questioning their talent, but I looked them up their bodies of work are miniscule in comparison to Jay-Z’s. Over the past 20 years there is no one with a comparable body of work. Hov’s catalog is stunningly prolific when considering the level of quality & quantity.

  75. Anyone what is title song chase for solo dance in studio msa and club …
    Please help ….

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