I use hands to help my fellow man / I use hands to help with what I can / But when I face an unjust injury / Then I change my hand into FIST OF FURY

Top Five

tn_topfiveI usually have a hard time writing about comedies, but TOP FIVE is a moment worth commemorating: the point when Chris Rock finally became the filmmaker he always seemed like he wanted to be.

Not that he really needed that. The man has come a long way since having to play Luther Campbell on Saturday Night Live because he’s the only black guy. He’s reached the heights of standup, done some smart television, hosted the Oscars, produced GOOD HAIR and POOTIE TANG*, and yes, been funny in movies. But to me it seemed like his movies were always compromised in some way. Can you point to the one (or more) great Chris Rock vehicle? CB4 maybe?

I remember when he directed HEAD OF STATE I had high hopes. That’s about all I remember. Well, the one thing that made an impression was that it had narration sung by Nate Dogg.

TOP FIVE finally feels like that pure personal expression he’s been on the verge of. Not because he plays a comedian trying to be taken more seriously, but because his talents and passions are all over this. It’s a conversation movie. His character, comedian-turned-movie-star-tired-of-comedy Andre Allen, is being profiled by New York Times writer Chelsea Brown (Rosario Dawson) on the eve of his movie about the Haitian Revolution and his Bravo-sponsored wedding to a reality show star (Gabrielle Union).

A few times it flashes back to illustrate stories they tell each other, but mostly they hang out and talk as he does his radio station visits, goes back to the old neighborhood, does an appearance with his cast, goes to his bachelor party, etc. And within this interview there’s lots of room for other conversations about all kinds of issues, including the titleistical topic of top five rappers or MCs or something of all time (it comes up several times, but the exact topic and rules are never discussed). Rock put a ton of his funny friends in the movie and I believe he let them do their real lists. So shout out to Saturday Night Live’s Leslie Jones, who not only steals the movie a couple times but is the first to list a west coast MC (she puts Ice-T at #1 and doesn’t give a fuck what you think about it).

mp_topfiveI love the scenes in the apartment with his old friends. They’re all cracking on each other and poor Tracy Morgan looks like he takes it personally every time. And there’s a scene with Ben Vereen as an old timer who calls Andre “Hollywood” and flips him a bunch of shit that’s funny and uncomfortable, and then sad when you find out what’s going on.

I’m so glad he put J.B. Smoove in here as Andre’s old friend and bodyguard Silk. That guy can go on about anything and it’s gonna be funny, even if it’s technically street harassment. Even if it’s how much he likes peanuts. He reminds me of a crazy dude I once had to 86 from a place of business. He called me “peckerwood” and claimed he killed a family in Vietnam. But Smoove is more lovable.

Rock as director gives a ton of people room to be funny without much screen time. Some play themselves, others play characters. Cedric the Entertainer’s sizzurp sipping promoter is the best one of those. If you’ve seen it please don’t give away in the comments which former Seagal co-star shows up late in the game. I wish I hadn’t seen him in an ad. He shares his wisdom with Andre, who wisely ignores it.

Of course this is a romantic comedy, and it’s easy to buy that he’d fall for Dawson. She’s not only hot but smart and confident and easily holds her own in their conversation, which is a feat. At first he’s pretty cold and rude to her, not wanting to do the interview, not taking off his sunglasses. But he keeps underestimating her and she keeps putting him in his place for it and she earns his respect.

These aren’t cartoon characters, they’re all very human. Chelsea is a dream girl, but she’s also a little crazy. There’s a story she tells him that gives him a big laugh, but should probly give him pause about her. His fiancee seems like a superficial fame worshipper, but when she pours her heart out to him you can’t help but feel for her. And Andre may be smart and good at arguing his provocative opinions, but he doesn’t have all his shit together either. His Serious Movie is well meaning but looks ridiculous. And the lie he’s telling himself about not being interested in comedy anymore is keeping him from being happy.

It works as a love story, but it’s also about his love for his chosen art form. There’s a scene that does an amazing job of communicating to us outsiders the exhilaration of performing. And how could he not fall for the woman who brings him back to that high? Especially when she’s Rosario Dawson with a cool shaved-on-one-side hairdo?

I got nothing against those ex-SNL guys, but most of the movies they make are a little on the cheesy side. This one looks and feels more classy, more slickly put together. ?uestlove from The Roots is the music supervisor and did a great job. He uses some classic hip hop instrumentals (“Rebirth of Slick” by Digable Planets), sources of famous samples (the David Axelrod song sampled in Dre’s “The Next Episode”) but also there’s some jazz and I noticed a Betty Davis song. Not bad. Pretty eclectic. I wish there was a real soundtrack, but the one they made seems to just be songs from artists mentioned on people’s lists. (And for some reason it includes the great Ghostface Killah song “The Champ,” even though I’m pretty sure no Wu-Tang members are mentioned at all.)

* * *

Okay, you know I can’t review this without trying to do my own top 5, but I always have a hard time with this because it really depends on the definition. When Andre does his it seems like he’s doing top MCs of all time, which to me denotes an emphasis on vocal and lyrical skills over body of work. Being a great technician over having a classic album.

In that case I have to have Rakim in there, an obvious choice. And I personally would have Ghostface on there. I know nobody else does, but this is me. He’s had more great albums than most and mostly decent ones in between. He has uniquely poetical lyrics and emotional vocal styles. He can rap like he’s coming at you or like he’s about to cry describing his friend getting shot. He’s incredible live. He raps over an entire Delfonics song and makes it work. He’s the champ.

I would have to have Eminem on there too. I know he has all kinds of lyrics and songs that make me cringe (he gets hung up on easy targets like pop stars and won’t let go of the homophobic language) and also I feel weird about picking the white guy, but I also believe honestly his complex and varied rhyme schemes, his diversity of styles (speed-rapping, taking on different voices, screaming), storytelling, word play and ability to convey raw emotion in his lyrics put him in the pantheon.

A more unusual choice: Busta Rhymes. I think because he’s kinda funny-crazy people underrate him, they think he’s a novelty. But he has such a unique style and energy, the ability to sound wild and out of control while being laser-precise in his flow. Even on his early albums he was doing styles that to this day no other rapper can hope to touch. He’s incredible.

And then… I think I should say Ice Cube. The more popular answer of Biggie is tempting. His flow is so compelling and I love when he does a more storytelling type of song, with the little details (the time on the clock when he woke up) and dialogue (doing both sides of a phone conversation). But he only did two albums and the second one isn’t as good as the first. Meanwhile Ice Cube has changed hip hop with Straight Outta Compton, Amerikkka’s Most Wanted, Death Certificate and The Predator, and plenty of other good stuff. And there’s nobody like him either. The smoothest yelling rapper. I think I gotta go with him.

And on some days I’d be tempted to replace somebody with Kool Keith.

But you know what man, I would rather go by Rosario rules. She lists her favorite groups. That I can do pretty easy.

1. Public Enemy (indisputable)
2. Wu-Tang Clan
3. Beastie Boys (See, I would never choose them as “all time top MCs,” but if I’m going by the greatness of their albums there’s no question about it)
4. A Tribe Called Quest (3 and 4 could possibly switch)
5. Run DMC

I have a natural instinct to say N.W.A., but when I think about it they really only have Straight Outta Compton to go by. The second album is pretty good but doesn’t have Cube, and I don’ think it would be fair to consider Dre and Cube’s careers (and Eazy’s first solo album) as part of N.W.A.

Also, De La Soul is worth considering, especially if you look at longevity and the fact that they’re still amazing now if you see them live. They might deserve a spot on that list. But Run DMC is so iconic to me. One time I heard “Walk This Way” at a club and I said “This song kinda sucks. But it changed my life.”

See, there’s alot of angles to a Top Five, and that’s why it’s fun to discuss. And why I hope the blu-ray has endless deleted conversations about it.

 

*I was as surprised as you are to find out I did a poorly written review of POOTIE TANG back in 2001 where I correctly predicted its future as a cult classic. Too bad I didn’t mention the director’s name at all.

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 23rd, 2014 at 12:37 pm and is filed under Comedy/Laffs, Reviews, Romance. 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.

119 Responses to “Top Five”

  1. J.B. Smoove is on an episode (webisode?) of Jerry Seinfeld’s COMEDIANS IN CARS GETTING COFFEE where he told a story about riding the bus in NYC that had me rolling. He doesn’t have his own episode; he’s in Colin Quinn’s, if anyone wants to look it up. Chris Rock’s episode was pretty good, too. It almost seems like it had to be planned that they got pulled over by a cop, but it was still funny. Most of those episodes are pretty funny. Not all of them, but most of them.

    I almost saw TOP FIVE last weekend, but the timing didn’t work out and I saw THE HOBBIT PART 27: IS IT REALLY OVER? instead. Man, I really wish I had seen this instead. Can’t say I enjoyed THE HOBBIT much.

  2. Shit, fuck, it’s Mario Joyner in that Jerry Seinfeld episode, not J.B. Smoove. Now don’t I feel like a cracker asshole who can’t tell black people apart? Don’t mind me while I go hide under the covers for awhile.

  3. Seeing this in a couple days. Excited. Here’s my semi-random response to the title concept-prompt:

  4. Makes sense since Mario Joyner and Jerry Seinfeld have always been good friends. Mario Joyner even made cameo appearances on Seinfeld’s sitcom.

    as for the movie Vern just reviewed I always supported Chris Rock as a director. I even watched I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE at the flicks back when it came out. I like the cast of this movie too so I’ll definitely check it out when I can.

  5. Nobody got no love for Big Daddy Kane or Kool G Rap?

  6. This question is too hard. What do you go by? Most classic albums? Strongest flow? Best songwriting? Longevity? Influence? Content? Consistency? There are too many factors here, and many greats only qualify in a few categories. Rakim is of course incredibly influential, but the dude’s dropped like eight verses in the past 20 years so maybe that should take him down a notch. I love Redman’s unorthodox flow and bizarre storytelling but I’ll admit that he can’t really keep it up for a whole album (debut LP excepting). Same thing with Busta, who’s an incredible vocal technician but has such garbage taste in production that his discography is very inconsistent. Then there’s KRS-ONE, who will still demolish any rapper alive in a battle but is kind of limited in subject matter these days. Tupac had the emotional immediacy to sell the hell out of a song but his flow was incredibly repetitive. Jay-Z and Snoop have a natural gift for effortless delivery that they insist on squandering on trend-chasing pop, and Biggie dropped some of the greatest verses ever recorded but his time with us was too short to know how he’d develop over a full career. Eminem has great technical proficiency and lyrical imagination but makes shitty songs about idiotic topics far beneath his talents. There’s Ice-T, who was never a great technician but wrote great songs with drama, dynamics, character arcs, points of view, and a wide array of topics, but, being generous, hasn’t dropped a decent 16 in two decades. Ice Cube was a monster in his day with an inimitable flow and personality but he retired young, right when we needed him. Then there are rappers who made great music in the context of a group but it was more of a team effort, like Guru, Q-Tip, or Chuck D, so it’s hard to separate out their contributions, or MCs with great lyrical talent who faded away too soon, like Chubb Rock or Jeru tha Damaja (who’ve both delivered lines that I’ve had stuck in my head for more than half my life at this point). The only rapper in history who qualifies for all categories is Ghostface, who over the past 20 years has been quietly building the most impressive body of work of any rapper who ever lived and shows no sign of slowing down.

    Aw, fuck it. Here’s the list, subject to change at any time:

    1. Ghostface
    2. KRS-ONE
    3. Ice Cube
    4. Q-Tip
    5. Redman

    I already regret posting this.

  7. I feel you Vern, Eminem’s a great example in that he’s clearly one of the most skilled microphonists of all time but hasn’t put out a single album that I don’t kinda hate. On the other hand yeah, you wouldn’t accuse Ad-Rock of being a top tier MC but nobody denies Paul’s Boutique.

    Have you heard the new Ghostface album?

  8. I do love me some Kane and G Rap (the latter particularly only seems to get more ferocious and inventive as he ages) but having never really connected to any of their albums, I can’t put them in my Top Five. But they should be in the conversation, absolutely.

  9. Dammit, Fred. Do not even ALLUDE to the K-word in the context of this conversation. This is grown folks talking.

  10. Stand up:
    1. Jerry Seinfeld
    2. Larry Miller
    3. Chris Rock
    4. Rachel Feinstein
    5. Daniel Tosh

    Dave Chappelle is disqualified for being kinda retired and cranky. (Still love him, though.)

    The brilliant Steven Wright works better as an album voice than a stage presence.

    US cities
    1. San Francisco
    2. Manhattan
    3. Las Vegas
    4. Brooklyn
    5. Hilton Head, SC

    Foreign:
    1. Seoul, South Korea
    2. Antibes, France
    3. Canada Hill, Costa Rica
    4. Cockburn Town, Turks & Caicos
    5. Dubai, UAE

    Films of Cinema:
    1. PATHS OF GLORY
    2. LAST OF THE MOHICANS
    3. DIE HARD
    4. HEDWIG & THE ANGRY INCH
    5. a NIKETOWN adaptation of the mind

    TV shows of television:
    1. The Simpsons
    2. The Colbert Report
    3. ElimiDATE
    4. Seinfeld
    5. Buffy the Vampire

    Jeopardy! is superb, of course, the but I concede it is more a trivia delivery vehicle than actual tv-entertainment production. And it has way too many commercials.

    Film Crit:
    1. Vern
    2. Mouth’s girlfriend
    3. Stephanie Zacharek
    4. Mr. Majestyk
    5. neal2zod

    opera:
    1. Don Giovanni
    2. Jesus Christ Superstar
    3. La Traviata
    4. Hedwig & The Angry Inch
    5. Cosí fan tutte

    Cocktail:
    1. L’Orange Grey Goose + soda water
    2. Blueberry Stolichnaya + soda water
    3. straight premium tequila
    4. Bombay Sapphire gin + pineapple juice
    5. sobriety

  11. My Top Five of 2014

    Movies
    1. GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
    2. GONE GIRL
    3. INTERSTELLAR
    4. NIGHTCRAWLER
    5. UNDER THE SKIN

    TV
    1. HANNIBAL
    2. FARGO
    3. HOUSE OF CARDS
    4. BOJACK HORSEMAN
    5. JUSTIFIED

    Music
    1. Pink Floyd – THE ENDLESS RIVER
    2. Tim Bowness – ABANDONED DANCEHALL DREAMS
    3. David Crosby – CROZ
    4. Opeth – PALE COMMUNION
    5. Anathema – DISTANT SATELLITES

  12. Now I feel dumb for not even thinking of Snoop. But I feel gratified that Majestyk rates Ghostface even higher than I do.

    I agree with you on Kanye, Majestyk, but be warned that people in the movie do name him, I think even Chris Rock. He’s also a producer of the movie (with Jay-Z) but I think people really hold him in that high of regard. My feelings on him are complicated though. If you include his work as producer-only it definitely makes sense, but I think they’re talking strictly about his MC skills, which I don’t agree with.

  13. 1. Rowdy Roddy Piper
    2. Jake the Snake Roberts
    3. Million Dollar Man Ted Dibiase
    4. Andy Kaufman
    5. Andre the Giant

  14. Faarrkk….

    Okay, here goes….

    Chocolate Bars
    1 Picnic
    2 Old Gold (with almonds)
    3 Peppermint Aero
    4 Peppermint Crisp
    5 Nougat Honey Log

    No Homo Man Crushes
    1 Brando in STREETCAR
    2 William Holden in PICNIC (no relation to the chocolate bar)
    3 Nic Cage in general
    4 that’s all I got
    5 seriously, I mean it

    Film Characters Who Embody The Warrior Spirit Of Man
    1 William Wallace – BRAVEHEART
    2 Hawkeye – THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS
    3 Nathan Algren – THE LAST SAMURAI
    4 Rocky Balboa – ROCKY
    5 Jaguar Paw – APOCALYPTO

    Runners up
    Dennis Quaid – IN GOOD COMPANY (the domestic warrior)
    Noah – NOAH (via a redemptive arc)

  15. Top five prog rock albums

    1. Pink Floyd – WISH YOU WERE HERE (my no.1 of all time, really)
    2. Genesis – THE LAMB LIES DOWN ON BROADWAY/A TRICK OF THE TAIL
    4. Yes – CLOSE TO THE EDGE/GOING FOR THE ONE

    Jazz fusion

    1. Miles Davis – IN A SILENT WAY/BITCHES BREW/A TRIBUTE TO JACK JOHNSON
    2. Mahavishnu Orchestra – BIRDS OF FIRE/APOCALYPSE

    Film scores

    1. Ennio Morricone – ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST
    2. Thomas Newman – THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTIOn
    3. Cliff Martinez – DRIVE
    4. Vangelis – BLADE RUNNER
    5. Trent Reznor And Atticus Ross – GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO

    5 favorite Michael Mann films

    1. HEAT (also all-time favorite)
    2. THE INSIDER
    3. COLLATERAL
    4. MANHUNTER
    5. ALI

    5 favorite Martin Sheen roles

    1. APOCALYPSE NOW/BADLANDS
    3. WEST WING
    4. WALL STREET
    5. THE DEPARTED

    Candy

    1. Peanut Butter Twix (with the cookie crust, not that chocolate crap they use now)
    2. Altoids Sours (also discontinued, but damn good. I guess they don’t like making money)
    3. Jelly Belly sours
    4. White chocolate Hersheys Bars
    5. Jolly Ranchers (any variety)

  16. I was going through that list shaking my head the whole time. “Where’s Kool Keith?”

    Ah, then the disclaimer. Really solid list, but, c’mon? I’d have Kool Keith on any top five list for Dr. Octagonacolagist alone, but then all the rest of his work?

  17. Is it weird that I, as a guy who loves to make lists, can’t come up with anything interesting to list?

  18. Every regular around here can at least participate in this one:

    1. DOMINO
    2. GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN’
    3. THE FOUNTAINHEAD
    4. THE SECRET
    5. SALT

    I’d do links, but, eh, you know how to sift through the archives. Seems that I gravitate to ones heavy on personal anecdotes/beliefs that are parrying–even inversely proportional–to the quality of the film under discussion. Some that come to mind that don’t necessarily do that, but are lurking outside the top 5 (because they made me laugh so much, maybe?): SPIDER-MAN, THE GODFATHER, THE READER, ONG-BAK, THE HOLY MOUNTAIN.

  19. I don’t like it but that song is all over the movie and I can’t get it out of my head since I saw it!

  20. Okay, my list of best MCs:

    Macklemore
    Will I. Am
    Vanilla Ice
    Lil’ WaOUCH! STOP IT! I WAS JUST KIDDING! I SWEAR!

  21. Aw hell, how could I resist?

    Top 5 MCs

    1. Biggie
    2. Ghostface
    3. Nas (prob the best skills)
    4. Snoop
    5. Travis Morrison (lyrics)

    Happy holidays everybody.

  22. And I will defend Kanye till the day I die. Vern once accused him of being unrelatable, but I think that it’s his strength – he’s a millionaire pop-culture behemoth icon – his point of view is unique and worth sharing. He rapped about working shitty jobs when he was working shitty jobs, now he seems kinda concerned how assholish and un-human he got after he became disgustingly rich and he raps about that. Also his mix of Michael Jackson naivete and absolute mercilessness when talking about himself is one-of-a-kind and it’s glorious. Shitty skills though.

  23. This is where the new generation and I differ. I read reviews of contemporary hip-hop and everybody only discusses what the rapper is talking about in his lyrics, as if merely mentioning important or even merely personal shit matters when the rapper has no fuckin’ flow at all. I don’t care what his topics are if he can’t express them with a dope rhyme. Back in my day, rappers had one topic: “I am better than you in the following ways.” The way you proved that was by saying it in the most distinctive, most clever, or most outrageous way possible. HOW you said it was as important as WHAT you said. You had to have style. Kanye can be a great producer but he’s an adequate MC at best, and no amount of personal insight in his lyrics is going to make his style sound decent to my ears. Unfortunately, the standards for MCing have dropped so low after the past 15 years or so of these marble-mouth Dirty South rappers with their boring, Fisher-Price flows that nobody seems to notice anymore. The shit rappers are doing nowadays is basic beyond belief. My standard for what makes a good rapper is, “If he could be magically transported to a cypher in Queensbridge in 1994, would he have to run for his life when it’s over?” Kanye would be running, and so would most of the current graduating class of rappers.

  24. Top Five Director’s Commentaries:

    1. HEAT – Michael Mann
    2. THE LIMEY – Steven Soderbergh & Lem Dobbs
    3. CONAN THE BARBARIAN – John Milius & Arnold Schwarzenegger
    4. SOLARIS – Steven Soderbergh & James Cameron
    5. TRUE ROMANCE – Quentin Tarantino

    Okay, here’s some more: Hunter S. Thompson’s crazy commentary for FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS VEGAS, Trey Parker and Matt Stone drunk commentary for CANNIBAL! THE MUSICAL, Soderbergh and John Boorman’s awesome commentary for POINT BLANK, John Favreau and Vince Vaughn’s “action commentary” for MADE, Roger Ebert’s commentary for CITIZEN KANE and also just about every John Carpenter commentary ever recorded.

  25. kevin swords: I somehow missed the last line of your comment. I wasn’t specifically talking to you anyway but it’s clear now that you get what I’m talking about.

  26. Majestyk – I mostly agree, but at least Kanye is a huge upgrade in MCing from Puffy, who most of his shtick is adapted from. He’s not one of the greats on the microphone but he’s better than some. (How did I end up defending him?)

  27. @Mr. Majestyk
    Well, I’m neither a part of “new generation” and don’t sympathize with its need to contextualize everything to oblivion.
    My point is: why hip hop can’t be about many things? Yes, Kanye is a weak rapper, but his beats are fantastic and lyrics almost never lack depth. Why should I think of him less because in 1/3 he’s an average musician?
    But I get you.

  28. Nabroleon Dynamite

    December 24th, 2014 at 9:19 am

    Personal Hip Hop Top 5 List

    1. Nasir Jones

    2. Posdnuos (de la soul)

    3. billy woods (you must always spell his name in lower case)

    4. MF DOOM (all caps when you spell the name)

    5. The Kool Genuis Of Rap

  29. kevin: I can definitely get down with a lot of Kanye’s beats, in spite of my distaste for his persona and mic skills, but we’re talking top five rappers here. Calling Kanye a great rapper for his overall musicianship is like calling James Hetfield a great singer because Metallica has great riffs. I think we get each other, though. Sorry for insinuating that you were a young’un. I hope you can forgive me.

    Vern: Agreed. I firmly believe that Puffy being allowed to have a successful solo album was the end of rap’s golden age. The bar for acceptable lyrical ability dropped so low that basically anybody with a tongue and a lung could get over it.

  30. Mr. Majestyk: He’s not in my Top 5 (not even Top 50), I was just trying to adress this Kanye-bashing thing that’s going on in this fine community. I think of him as of Alex Proyas movie – most people won’t get him, but HERE he just might be recognized for how weird and sincere and insane he is.
    One love.

  31. @Knox

    Fight Club
    Ichi the Killer
    All the LOTR trilogy (cheat)
    Re-Animator
    John Carpenter’s Vampires

  32. 1. I take 7 MCs put em in a line, add 7 more brothers who think they can rhyme, it’ll take 7 more before I go for mine, now that’s 21 MCs ate up at the same time.

    2. God’ll probly have me on some real strict shit, no sleepin all day, no gettin my dick licked.

    3. Police roll by and I have to pause, 40 ounce in my lap and its freezin my balls.

    4. I like my beats hard like two day old shit, steady eatin booty MCs like cheese whip.

    5. No hocus pocus, you simple suckas deserve the notice. Top of the morning, my fist to your face is fuckin foldgers.

  33. I’m not a list person at all I also don’t listen to modern mainstream hip hop (talk to me about Cunninlynguists on the other hand…) or music in general so I’ll avoid the majority of the conversation in this thread.

    However I had to post to give props to Jay Stone soon for recognizing the genius of the Juice Crew. Even as Kane and G rap both fell off in their latter days. Meaning that they didn’t age as gracefully as their fellow crew member Masta Ace did in his latter days both still have four of the most influential albums on my life on their resumes. WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE, LIVE AND LET DIE, LONG LIVE THE KANE & IT’S A BIG DADDY THING respectively. I’ll take any of those over any Eminem album any day of the week with no hesitation. To hell with so called perceived relevancy.

    Then again Eminem lost me as a fan of his music a very long time ago. I will take them over any Kanye West album as well. Then again I’ve never liked his wack ass music anyway his albums were always boring as fuck to me when I tried to listen to them and I could never make it through all the way.

    He certainly is not Too Short, DJ Quik or Scarface when it comes to rapper/producers who control their own sonic landscape. Definitely not as inventive and far more generic. I always think about a friend of mine who said that Kanye West makes rap music for people who don’t like rap music. So they’re easily more impressed when he does things like copy the native tongue formula (album 1 and 2) or Afrika Bambaataa and Mantronix formula (album 3 & the last one) and calls it his own original creation.

  34. No lists from me, just wanna chime in on what a pleasant surprise this turned out to be. Incredibly, Rock almost outdoes Richard Linklater in the “walking and talking” genre. Vern’s comment on how Chelsea is a dream girl but also a little crazy pretty much describes Julie Delpy’s character from the BEFORE trilogy, Delpy of course being Rock’s co-star in 2 DAYS IN NEW YORK.

    Shout-out to Mouth’s mention of Stephanie Zacharek from the Village Voice! Love her writing; she was the reviewer who convinced me to see this movie.

  35. Kool Keith’s album Black Elvis will always have heavy rotation amongst my varied collection of music. Pootie Tang has always entertained me. I saw it in the theater, and that whole bit where he “sings” that song made me love that movie forever.

    Aaaand, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, Vern. Looking forward to next year’s reviews. Especially FURY ROAD.

  36. Nabroleon Dynamite

    December 24th, 2014 at 6:25 pm

    @Broddie.

    Kno & MarQ Spekt “Machete Vision”

    What ya know about it?

  37. Movies To Watch At Christmas
    1 BAD SANTA
    2 KISS KISS BANG BANG
    3 DIE HARD
    4 DIE HARD 2
    5 FACE/OFF (just because)

  38. I agree with Chris about LL Cool J as my six. Those first three albums man….

  39. Yeah, I was gonna say, it was weird in the movie how everybody reacted to him saying LL like it was a crazy choice. Maybe they just had to fake it to set up the “before the show!” line. I thought everybody knew LL was one of the greats. Or the GOAT he would say.

    1. I bomb atomically, Socrates philosophies and hypotheses
    2. The track renders helpless and suffers from multiple stab wounds
    3. As the world turns, I spread like germs
    4. War of the masters, the outcome disastrous
    5. March of the wooden soldiers

  40. 1. Jenna Jameson
    2. Ashlyn Gere
    3. Janine
    4. Asia Carrera
    5. Christy Canyon

  41. More Movies To Watch At Christmas
    1 THE LONG KISS GOODNIGHT
    2 THE SILENT PARTNER
    3 JINGLE ALL THE WAY
    4 SCROOGED
    5 IRON MAN 3

  42. Van Morrison Songs
    1 THE BRIGHT SIDE OF THE ROAD
    2 TUPELO HONEY
    3 BROWN EYED GIRL
    4 INTO THE MYSTIC
    5 WONDERFUL REMARK

  43. No Missy Elliot in anyone’s Top Five? No MC Lyte?

    You know that record Kanye West did with the Gold Digger song on it? A guy I know played that album repeatedly one summer. I don’t know if thats considered West’s better work or not, but it’s some of the lamest shit I’ve ever heard, even weaker than that fuckin’ Hard Knock Life song by Jay Z. Makes the 2 Live Crew sound like Captain Beefheart.

    Anyway, I don’t like lists in general, but maybe one solution to the issues raised throughout the review and comments is to make a list of your favorite rap songs. Seems to me you can then incorporate more of the recent stuff, more female rappers, more experimental fringe stuff and more international rappers without short changing the tired old war horses. Granted, rap doesn’t lend itself to memorable singles as well as pop, so a lot of talented people are going to suffer when using this metric. But a lot of wackos will sneak in, which will result in a list that smells less like your dad’s old copies of Rolling Stone magazine.

    Majestyk: What do you think of the Jungle Brothers? Ever heard a Japanese rapper named Rino?

  44. Nabroleon Dynamite

    December 25th, 2014 at 10:19 am

    Female MC’s

    1. Jean Grae

    2. Rah Digga

    3. Invincible

    4. Lauren Hill

    5. Remy Ma

  45. Nabroleon Dynamite

    December 25th, 2014 at 10:22 am

    White MC’s

    1. Ill Bill

    2. Aesop Rock

    3. Eminem

    4. Apathy

    5. Cage

  46. Nabroleon Dynamite

    December 25th, 2014 at 10:41 am

    1. Facing existential threats? My advice is kill them dead with no regrets, the devil’s rejects writ large.

    2. Even your girl can catch the capsule, I love pussy but never the bitch that it’s attached to.

    3. I hit you motherfuckers in the head leaving bruises, and if the Tea Party wins then America loses.

    4. I’m stress out. Watching hairs fall out my head. Plus having nightmares, I catch myself falling out the bed.

    5. God is an atheist, Satan is a business. I don’t trust religion, fuck the system. Peace to non-phixion. Kill a politician.

  47. Nabroleon Dynamite

    December 25th, 2014 at 10:52 am

    Top 5 Joints I’d Like To See Vern Review…

    1. The Last Circus

    2. Mysterious Skin

    3. Bedevilled

    4. Red, White, And Blue

    5. Blue Collar

  48. Top 5 Vern reviews I’d like to see

    1. The Michael Mann retrospective he talked about briefly (specifically THIEF, MANHUNTER and HEAT)
    2. THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU (the most quirky example of badass filmatism I can think of)
    3. Some TV if possible.
    4. Rock films like THE WALL, QUADROPHENIA and of course PURPLE RAIN
    5. A few Terrence Malick films, hopefully BADLANDS or THE THIN RED LINE

  49. Excuses To Avoid Visiting Certain Relatives At Christmas
    1 My dog died (even though I don’t have a dog)
    2 I need to wash my underwear
    3 I contracted lice from a homeless person while helping out at the local shelter, and I’d hate to infect the rest of the family
    4 My dog ran away, and I’m really depressed
    5 Terrorists have taken over Nakatomi Plaza, and I have to save my wife (even though I don’t have a wife)

  50. Nabroleon Dynamite – that was one of the albums i bumped most since about 2 years ago. What you know about Death is Silent?

    I know I said I’m not a list person before but I just thought of a list that would only make sense on Christmas Day

    TOP 5 CHRISTMAS MOVIES YOU SHOULDN’T WATCH ON CHRISTMAS DAY OR ANY OTHER DAY

    1. NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION 2: COUSIN EDDIE’S ISLAND ADVENTURE

    2. Any 1990’s movie called JACK FROST

    3. A CHRISTMAS STORY 2

    4. JINGLE ALL THE WAY 2

    5. SANTA CLAUSE: THE MOVIE

  51. 5 was a combination of THE SANTA CLAUSE & SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE because either one is just as awful.

  52. Movies I’m Glad I Saw This Year
    1 JOE
    2 TOKAREV
    3 SABOTAGE (saw it twice)
    4 UNDER THE SKIN
    5 EDGE OF TOMORROW

  53. Man, this thread just reminds me how much I miss Eazy E

  54. Top Five Socks

    1. White Anklets

    2. Black Anklets

    3. Dressy Ones With Green Robots I got for Christmas last year

    4. Some Alpaca ones I got at a hippie convention

    5. Some thick tan ones my stupid ex-wife gave me once

  55. The Original Paul

    December 27th, 2014 at 2:10 pm

    Well my last few posts don’t seem to be, well, posting. Hopefully this works.

    The ironic thing is I was going to “do” DE LA SOUL as the third part of my rap retrospective, but have been putting it off because I couldn’t find a way to bring them up without it sounding like a total joke. Now I find out that people here like ’em too. Dayum I love this community.

    A few top fives…
    CURSED
    CHAOS
    WAKING LIFE
    UNIVERSAL SOLDIER: REGENERATION
    THE SUPER KUMITE

    REEF – CONSIDERATION
    PINK FLOYD – SHEEP
    SCISSOR SISTERS – RETURN TO OZ
    RADIOHEAD – LUCKY
    DAVID BOWIE – BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

    LOST IN TRANSLATION
    WALL-E
    ENTER THE DRAGON
    INTO THE ABYSS
    BODYSNATCHERS: THE INVASION CONTINUES (yeah, I’m putting the Abel Ferrara version over the Phillip Kaufman one. And over Carpenter’s THE THING. That might change in time, but right now it’s how I’m feeling.)

    And finally, just to add some spice to the sugar, how about this: the top five films to watch during the holidays (if you hate both films and holidays):
    APRIL FOOL’S DAY (remake)
    FRIDAY THE 13TH (remake)
    BLACK CHRISTMAS (remake)
    PROM NIGHT (remake)
    And of course ROB ZOMBIE’S HALLOWEEN.

    I would’ve put TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (remake) on that last list, but I think it’s only a minority of people like us, on sites like this, who regard the Texas Chainsaw Massacre as a “holiday”.

  56. Vern, what is your problem with comedies? You have a pretty good sense of humor yourself and I’ve not had any issue with ones you’ve wrote about before. I’d think it be more of a fit with you since people say that the action and comedy genres are so similar.

  57. 5. Maximum Destruction
    4. Medusa
    3. Sudden Impact
    2. Grave Digger
    1. Big Foot

  58. onthewall – I love watching comedies, I just think most of them are hard to review, at least for me. I find myself listing which parts I thought were funny and then trying to figure out how to debate the people who will tell me that no, those parts are not funny at all. It’s torturous. But sometimes there’s enough other stuff going on in the movie besides jokes that I can do okay, like this one, I hope.

  59. Did you like McGruber? I thought you mentioned once that you did. I hope so, it was great.

    1. Sage Francis
    2. Slug
    3. Yoni Wolf
    4. Aesop Rock
    5. El-P

    … man i gotta listen to more hip-hop.

  60. Tugboat: Yeah, I liked McGruber and I think I considered reviewing it from an action fan perspective, but decided instead to just make a brief comment recommending it or something.

  61. Top 5 MCs not yet mentioned:

    Andre 3000
    Pusha T
    Black Thought
    Kendrick Lamar
    Lupe Fiasco

  62. I took the Top 5 thing to be a subtle discussion of intergenerational change. The greats of each era are forgotten by the next… unless they have consistency.

    In that spirit, here is my personal list. It’s heavier on modern artists that most and based entirely on personal preference, rather than politics. In no order, by the by.

    My Top 5ive:

    Brother Ali – A truly inspiring figure who helped introduce me to both hip-hop and a slew of political issues of figures.

    Lil Wayne – His verbal productivity is off the charts. The man can turn a phrase like no one else. He’s a *rapper* first and foremost. He doesn’t write hooks, he doesn’t write choruses, but he writes couples, quads and 16s like nobody’s business.

    Ice Cube – Both for his lyrical contributions and for his film work ranging from Boyz N The Hood, through Friday(s), up through becoming an honest-to-god movie star with Barbershop, Are We There Yet? and Ride Along.

    Saul Williams – For bridging the gap between rap and poetry in a way that expanded both media in my mind. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kRsgavuG4sg)

    Biggie – Ready to Die has more emotional expansiveness and thematic variation that any other gangsta rap I have ever heard.

    6th Man award goes to:

    Kendrick Lamar – just listen to Good Kid MAAd city: A Short Film by Kendrick Lamar. You owe it to yourself.

  63. Boy it is hard to make a top 5 MC’s list. What is the criteria? Are we focusing on just lyrics or the ability to write good songs? For example I think Wayne and Em can wrap with the best of them and are super talented MC’s and I respect their music but I don’t like the music they make as much as the music Kanye makes even if he is not as skilled a lyricist. Another example would be Kendrick Lamar, I think he is an amazing MC but I prefer Schoolboy Q’s music. I am not saying Q is more talented as an MC I just prefer his music. Here are my top 5 hip hop acts in no particular order.

    Jay-Z
    Biggie
    Redman
    Outkast
    Tribe

  64. I don’t know what Rock says in the film but on the Juan Ep podcast I listened to with him and Questlove on it promoting this film he is adamant that he thinks Kanye is a better MC then Eminem and that he feels Kanye is one of the best of all time if not the greatest.

  65. Tawdry: Big ups for the Saul Williams shoutout. Please check out the similarly thoughtful Mike Ladd for more politically aware blending of poetry / spoken word / hip hop

  66. I like both Saul Williams and Mike Ladd, but i kind of feel that Williams’ spoken word influence lets him off the hook as far as actually having to have a flow goes, while Ladd’s rapping is easily the worst part of his music. They’re interesting artists who definitely make more ambitious and heartfelt music than some of my picks, but I think if we’re talking top five MCs then we should stick to their actual vocals and not the overall sound of their music.

  67. But hey, different strokes. I’ll fully admit I’m a classicist when it comes to MCing.

  68. Charles – I forgot about that, I listened to that before seeing the movie. That was a great episode, and perplexing that he honestly believes My Dark Beautiful etc. etc. is the best album of all time, including Thriller and Purple Rain (yes, he specifies those). There is some good stuff on that album but jesus, I cannot understand how a guy like him could really believe that. But I like that he’s willing to say and try to back up some crazy shit like that.

    Also it’s funny how ?uest calmly encourages him to elaborate.

  69. Yeah, Chris is clearly passionate about it. I was also surprised and interested in the reveal from the podcast how much he has been a part of hip hop history.

  70. animalramirez1976

    December 31st, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    Just saw this. Really liked the part in the ex-wife’s apartment with Tracy Morgan et al. Glad that Vern mentioned Leslie Jones, although I had no idea who she was before this. She was great. Might even have to watch SNL for the first time in 20 years.

    The Cedric The Entertainer part was really good, although I was super-aware that this was a guy playing a funny character, not really an actor. I mentally re-cast the role as the guy who played Fat Joe on the Wire and that ruined it for me a little. I think that Cedric is like another Jackie Gleason, by the way, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen him in something that was up to his level of talent. Personally I think that comics need more direction in films but the norm seems to be to tell them “Go out and do your thing”. Winging it doesn’t usually have optimal results, in my opinion.

    Other than that, nothing in this movie stuck out for me.

    So that’s your daily dose of Debbie downerism from the animal.

    Top Five, in no order or subject matter:
    1. Royce Gracie
    2. Popeye
    3. Preston Sturges
    4. L. Frank Baum
    5. Sgt. Arthur Dietrich

  71. animalramirez1976

    December 31st, 2014 at 8:24 pm

    Sixth Man: Sandra Bernhard

  72. This is one of the better comedies I have seen in awhile. Rock proves to be solid and confident as a first time director, but TOP 5 also might be some of Rock’s best work as a comedian and his funniest work since his BRING THE PAIN special form back in the day.

  73. So are we ready to talk about the new Dre album or is the trauma too fresh?

  74. What is a Dre?

  75. How could you forget? He specifically told you not to!

  76. I mean, the last decade of Dre’s career seems like a weird social experiment attempting to see how long he can still be revered as a genius while openly not even trying. The result? Turns out financial rewards are exactly inversely tied to amount of effort exerted, a rule which he has proved again and again since the millennium. So why would he start trying now?

  77. I thought everybody liked it? I don’t know, I have only listened to it once so far. I think it sounds really good but yeah, I was pretty bummed to realize he was making his better version of the type of music everybody makes now, instead of continuing or re-inventing one of his old styles. Too much singing, too much sing-songy rapping, too many songs that sound like the downbeat last song that you turn off. Eminem’s verse is impressive, but why do we get bummer Eminem on a Dre album, why not mischievous Slim Shady? And I would prefer more of Xzibit and less of most of those other guys.

    On the positive side Snoop’s first song is great and I like Kendrick’s songs although overall the album sounds more like his style than Dre’s style to me, and I don’t see why an old man genius has to work in the young people’s styles. You don’t see Neil Young or somebody doing that.

    But we’ll see if more listening makes it grow on me or makes me bored of it.

    Subtlety, I don’t think financial rewards are a factor in Dre’s music. If they were he would’ve released Detox. He’s a billionaire or something from those headphones and having a stake in Apple, he doesn’t need to make music for money. He says he’s donating all (not some) of the profits from Compton to a performing arts center they’re building in Compton. And since he’s part of Apple and it’s an iTunes exclusive and it’s a fucking file with no disc or liner notes (I’m an old man, I’m not used to this) I’m sure that’s a large amount of money.

  78. I don’t think lack of effort is the problem here. It’s a lack of taste. This album has been produced within an inch of its life and beyond to make it every bit as cluttered, somnambulant, and trend-chasing as it could possibly be. It took thousands of man-hours to make it as desperately horrible as it is. If he’d just tossed it off, it might have been interesting.

    That one track where Snoop tries out a completely different flow damn near twenty-five years into the game is pretty dope, though. I don’t mind the next one with Game, either. Other than that there are some scattered islands of listenability in a sea of droning, synthetic cough-syrup R&B.

  79. And oh man, I was kind of offended that he put somebody singing right after using Eazy’s voice from beyond the grave. I mean, I shouldn’t have an opinion on it, because he was his personal friend and I’m just a fan. But I can’t picture an Eazy E that doesn’t think music like that is wack.

    “I cause a fright / Like I’m the ghost of Eric Wright” –King Tee

  80. I’m not saying that I think this album was about the money (as you said, he’s donating it) but I think he’s completely forgotten why he ever cared about this stuff in the first place, and the overproduced but empty result is a good example of a long, slow decline in actual passion.

  81. For guys at Dre’s level, album sales aren’t about money, they’re about status. You wish artists like him, Jay Z, etc, would use their financial security as a chance to make personal statements that don’t need to move units because the lights are staying on no matter what. But if they thought that way, they wouldn’t be where they are in the first place. These guys need to be number one or they feel like they’re irrelevant, and if that means making a bunch of electro dirges because that’s what’s in this year, then so be it. It’s got nothing to do with music at all.

    Vern: To be honest, I didn’t even make it to Em’s verse. I’m a firm believer that if a hip hop beat doesn’t bang in the first 10 seconds, it will never bang. That beat failed to bang and I moved on.

    I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. THE CHRONIC 2000 had almost the exact same problem: a bunch of nobodies rhyming perfunctorily over plodding production and canned soul singing, with a few decent tracks in there almost by accident. That one was mired in the tinny Fisher-Price My First Beat Machine production of its era, while this one is positively drowned in the canned atmospherics that have taken the place of dynamic rhythms and percussion in the hip-hop landscape. I’ve described it as rap’s heroin era, and I can’t wait for it to end.

  82. Dammit, I used “canned” twice. I meant to say “storebought atmospherics.”

    Being this pretentious is hard work you guys.

  83. I still do not know who Dre is. Hipppity hop is a strange world to me. I mean I liked Wu Tangs OST to THE MAN WITH THE IRON FIST. As an xtreme white boy I thought I was in The Game. Yu Know. Like legit. Fo Sho. Can yu dig It?

  84. Ma man

  85. Bone crushing, smooth kicks, blades choppin’ through bricks
    Masters of the weaponry, sells to both cliques
    Blacksmith, with the iron fist

    I . am. In.The.Game

  86. Perhaps you have heard of a minor recording artist/headphones manufacturer by the name of Dr. Dre. He was in a little group called N.W.A. with some nobody called Ice Cube, discovered a couple of novelty acts named Snoop Dogg and Eminem, became one of the top five most influential music-makers of the past quarter-century, is Dr. Dre for christ’s sake, etc. You know, that guy.

  87. I came here to post “That shit cray” but it won’t let me because I already said it. That shit cray.

  88. It is not cray, Franchise Fred. It is the opposite of cray.

  89. I’m surprised people are actually still excited about a Dr. Dre album in 2015.

  90. I don’t think I’m nearly as negative on it as you. I like alot of the music. There are some excellent beats and I like his cinematic soundscapes. I just don’t like the modern styles of rapping and singing. I think Dre could always be described as “overproduced” for his era, that’s part of his style. Straight Outta Compton and Efil 4 Zaggin were more complicated than anything anybody was doing at the time outside of the Bomb Squad, who he was inspired by. The Chronic and Doggystyle added live instruments into the mix and more traditional studio techniques. Chronic 2001 went way more complicated. I think that’s why he’s the doctor, he’s in the lab plugging in a bunch of wires and tinkering with things all night. That’s his thing. He also had all the immersive sound effects and dialogue and stuff (see “Stan” or the interludes on The Chronic and Doggystyle)

    But all those aforementioned albums alternated so well between “left-right-left-right you’re toothless” in-your-face aggression and laid back funk, both of which Compton could use way more of. 2001 is a big mess but come on… “The Watcher,” “Still D.R.E.,” “What’s the Difference,” “Forgot About Dre” and especially “The Next Episode”…

    I never believed the “rap is a fad” people in the ’80s and ’90s, but I also never foresaw being an old man that doesn’t understand the new rappers. I wish I could like some new stuff but it’s so hard. I do like the second Kendrick Lamar album, which kind of reminds me of the artier side of The Roots, and he has some unique styles and some ambition to do something different. But it’s so frustrating when the best I can do is sit and try to intellectually understand what it is that makes these rappers popular, both the pop ones and the critically acclaimed ones. It’s so rare that I can actually feel it like when you first heard Snoop or Nas or Cypress Hill or somebody and said “oh shit, what is this?”

    That’s where I’ve been at since some time before Li’l Wayne was everybody’s favorite. Not enough head nodding, too much head scratching while I sit there trying to be open-minded.

    By far my favorite hip hop album of recent years is by some old guys, it’s Run the Jewels 2. Especially the song “Close Your Eyes and Count to Fuck.”

  91. I hear where you’re coming from, Vern. I try to keep an open mind, but like you, I end up spending more time trying to figure out why I’m supposed to enjoy this new hip-hop than I do actually enjoying it. Not finding a reason to hate something is not the same thing as loving it. For every Kendrick Lamar song I like, there are six mumbly-ass slogs that seem more designed to inspire think-pieces than to get heads bobbing. I feel like there’s this visceral reaction that’s supposed to happen when hip-hop is doing what it’s supposed to be doing. I don’t get it from any of the people the internet thinks are the superstars of today, except for Run the Jewels. What I don’t understand is how the same people who love them can listen to this other crap and not hear how boring it is in comparison. I appreciate how the soundscapes are more inventive than they were ten years ago, and occasionally there’s a one-off song that I think pulls off the approach they’re going for, but most of the time, it’s just atmospherics without any forward momentum. I don’t get why that’s what people want out of hip-hop. It’s supposed to be street CNN, not street The Weather Channel.

    I do agree that overproducing is Dre’s thing, but it’s never sounded so desperate before. On other albums, he’d go through dozens of potential overdubs and then strip them down to the cleanest possible sound. His beats were dynamic but never busy. This new shit is just a wash of noise in the contemporary fashion. I never thought Dre would be playing catch-up with fucking Future and Childish Gambino. It’s absurd that this is where we’re at.

    I also agree that those are all the good songs on 2001, and they are very good indeed. It’s an album with more than twenty tracks, though, so I think my overall point stands. You have to sift through a lot of bullshit to get to the gems. The bullshit just gets deeper and thicker on COMPTON.

    In other words:

  92. Tim Dog - Fuck Compton

    Music video by Tim Dog performing Fuck Compton. (C) 1991 Ruffhouse Records LP

  93. I think rap and hip hop music in general is at the greatest point it’s been at creatively and sonically since I got into it way back in 1988.

    The difference is the majority of that shit is underground. If you stick to the mainstream then I totally get why there is a huge disconnect. I personally haven’t bothered with most mainstream shit since Jeezy came up and “Trap beats” became the norm 10 years back. Then 5 years later we got the “Drake sound” with some atmospheric and over layered wannabe psychedelic tracks that sound more like garbage pail funk and I was really fully through.

    Personally the last time Dr. Dre produced anything that caught my ear was Eminem’s RELAPSE album but that was almost a decade ago as of today.

  94. Yeah, I find stuff I like all the time, but it’s usually on the mixtape circuit or from old dudes who don’t give a fuck about staying relevant and just want to sell records to other old dudes. But I do like to try and understand how shit that’s popular and acclaimed got that way, and a lot of that stuff just doesn’t make any sense to me. I can only assume that the new generation of fans and rappers are too young to have ever even heard classic hip-hop, so they lack the basis for comparison. I remember how my heart broke when I read an interview with Soulja Boy when he was big and he said that he’d just heard Biggie for the first time. And this was like eight, nine years ago.

  95. The Original Paul

    August 9th, 2015 at 9:00 am

    Well I can’t comment on the new Dre album because I haven’t heard the new Dre album, and also because I’d still be commenting from a position of ignorance (despite my efforts to listen to more rap music, I’m still plainly very, very far from being as knowledgeable as you guys). Heck, Majestyk, I understand what you are saying and I appreciate your passion on the subject, but the kinds of distinctions between different styles of rap that you talk about… I simply haven’t heard enough rap music to make those kinds of distinctions myself.

    I enjoy reading the comments though, and this one from Vern kinda blew my mind:

    “That’s where I’ve been at since some time before Li’l Wayne was everybody’s favorite.”

    So I’ve heard some of the album “I am not a human being” (I think #2? It’s the one with the song “Love Me” on it) as well as some of his other singles, and all I can say is that this is one of the artists that makes me think I’m “out of touch” with modern rap music. I don’t get why people like this guy.

    Lemme make a comparison here… Another rapper who’s attracted a lot of criticism here is 50 Cent. Criticism I fully agree with, by the way – I mean, just compare READY TO DIE with GET RICH OR DIE TRYING. You don’t have to be an expert on the genre of rap to understand why the first of those two albums is generally considered a masterpiece while the second is popular but forgettable pop. But having said that… and as much as I agree with everything that’s been said about 50 Cent’s “mumbling”, his insincerity, and everything else I’ve read in these parts about him years ago… I understand why GET RICH was popular. It’s the rap equivalent of a Big Mac. The slick production on songs like “In da club” helps cover up the lack of lyrical substance and 50 Cent’s mumbling. It’s been over-produced to the point where, even though there’s zero nutrition to this thing, it still tastes good. I can listen to “in da club” and tap my feet along to the beat.

    I have never got that from any of Lil Wayne’s songs that I’ve heard. Again, that’s been mostly one album and a few singles, but still… I don’t get why he’s popular. I couldn’t hum you a single line of any of his songs. I don’t find them the kind of thing that stick in your head, or that you can tap your feet along to. His persona seems to be that of a macho preening misogynist asshole, and I genuinely have no idea how sincere it’s supposed to be. (Again in contrast to 50 Cent, where I think he has a particular brand of insincerity that’s all his. I don’t expect truth in art from him, but I know how to take what I’m getting.) Is Lil Wayne really the obnoxious character that he portrays? Is it all a clever satire? Is there any irony involved here? How sincere is this guy? I have no idea. For me his songs don’t work as art, and they don’t work as pop either.

    And the thing is, this is totally subjective. Disagree with me on film all you want, but I can usually at least give you reasons for why I think what I think about a particular film, often tied into comparisons with other films. I can’t do that here. My rap knowledge comes exclusively from either all-time classic albums (THE CHRONIC, READY TO DIE, IT TAKES A NATION OF MILLIONS, etc), recommendations from forums, or the crap they play to fill air-time on the radio. I genuinely have no clue as to whether or not Lil Wayne is actually any good, objectively speaking. I have no point of comparison to make that judgement. I guess I can say with certainty that what I’ve heard isn’t as good as the classics that I mentioned, but in comparison to his peers? I have no idea. All I know is that his music has never appealed to me, and unlike some other artists, I don’t see why it appeals to anybody else.

  96. Guys, I tried listening to it again and it got even shittier. That Eminem track might be the worst song I’ve ever heard. I can’t even make it halfway through.

    But you know what? I just put together a mix of new rap I’ve picked up in the past few months, and it’s like thirty songs long without repeating any artists. So I don’t know what I’m complaining about. So people enjoy something I think is crap. Big deal. Nobody’s taking my good rap away from me. They’re just sending it deeper and deeper underground, thus making it even cooler. I should really thank the current generation of individuals with horrible taste for boosting my indie cred.

  97. Honestly, I’m kinda surprised that nobody on here mentioned the new Public Enemy album, that came out a few weeks ago, but I can see that a new Dre album is definitely the bigger event.

  98. “Public Enema? what the hell is a Public Enema anyway?!?”

  99. Anybody else feel bad about mostly despising the new De La Soul album?

  100. Didn’t have the chance to listen to it yet. Only to the first single (forgot its name) and I liked it. It seemed to me that the reception of that album was all in all very positive, so maybe you SHOULD feel bad? (Again: Can’t comment on it yet, hence the question mark.)

  101. I don’t know. Most music reviews nowadays feel like Patrick Bateman talking about Phil Collins. It’s like, yeah, you make good points about the album as a cerebral piece of artistic expression, but at what point did you fail to notice that the songs are fucking wack? Half this shit sounds like a failed Arcade Fire mashup.

  102. At least you don’t call for a shutdown of Rotten Tomatoes.

  103. (Sorry, but “all critics are wrong” became some kind of trigger in the last few weeks. And please keep discussing the new De La Soul album, folks, and don’t derail this topic into a discussion about critics, because I mentioned it.)

  104. I don’t even give a shit about not agreeing with the reviewers. I just feel bad that De La went out on a limb and took some chances with their music, and here I am wishing they just made a regular fucking hip-hop album without all these lame-ass guest stars making it feel like that Carlos Santana album with Rob Thomas on it. I want to support them in following their weird muse but there’s only so far I can go before I’m like, “Yeah, this isn’t what I ordered.”

  105. I have no idea what this is about.

  106. There is a group called De La Soul. They put out an eagerly awaited new album. It is not good, in my opinion, which is contrary to popular sentiment. I feel bad about this. The End.

  107. I thought you guys loved ambitious artistic things that ultimately aren’t very good.

  108. So nobody actually wants to contribute today, huh?

  109. It’s possible that nobody has heard the new album yet that has seen your post.

  110. Yet everybody decided to chime in anyway.

    Eh, forget it. I’m just cranky. I’ve been looking forward to this album for like two years now, since I contributed on the very first day of the Kickstarter campaign, and then it finally comes out and I seem to be the only person on God’s green earth who hates it. It’s bumming me out. I don’t begrudge anyone their enjoyment, but I’d like to feel like I’m not all alone in my curmudgeonliness.

  111. I’ve only listened to the album once, so take what I have to say with a grain of salt. (Also, I only occasionally listen to hip-hop, so there’s that). But the album seems to be going in a million different directions at once. I would never in a million years have expected De La Soul to team up with the dude from The Darkness (which I didn’t even realize was still a band). I definitely don’t hate the album, and I find a lot to like, but I can see being disappointed if you’ve waited over a decade for De La Soul to release an album.

  112. We like to chime in for the simple reason of being jerks.

  113. I definitely don’t despise it, but also it has not lit my fire at all. I put it on my iPod and have been listening to it in hopes that it has to grow on you. But if there is much dopeness on it it’s a slow burn or deceptive dopeness, which may or may not be something that exists.

  114. I really like the song called “CBGBs” though. It takes the experimental instrumentation of the rest of the album and builds a dope hip-hop song out of it. Too bad it’s only 80 seconds long, Kinda shows where hip-hop was on their list of priorities this time out.

    Like you, Vern, I keep listening to it in hopes that one of these times it will gel, but I have a real hard time getting through a lot of these tracks. There’s a lot of interesting stuff on there that I appreciate on an intellectual level, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into actual enjoyment. Have you tried listening to the instrumental version? It sounds like the soundtrack to a fairly cool and dramatic movie. But then you try to perform hip-hop over most of it and it just doesn’t fit. The beats seem to fight with the rhymes (which is what I mean when I say a lot of it sounds like a failed mashup) and the choruses are either boring R&B (despite the group’s earlier promises to not include that particular form of music in their songs) or completely jarring indie rock mumbling. Theoretically, this approach is something I could get down with, as it’s not appreciably different from what Gorillaz or Handsome Boy Modeling School have done in the past, but I just don’t think it works. The album is made of interesting parts, but the whole is worth way less than the sum of them.

  115. Listening to the album for the first time. I really want to argue there’s more dopeness on here than is being given credit for, but there’s so much bizarre juxtapositions and fits and starts that you can’t really ride it. Although as I listen to it more, and refine this post before submitting it, my patience wears more and more thin.

    Honestly for me this is par for the course for a great deal of hip hop, which has always suffered from over bloated albums. For every to-the-point Illmatic or Paid in Full you’ve got your Wu Tang Forevers and Life After Deaths.

    And maybe “suffered” is the wrong word because it’s no problem to just skip to the next song, and my 10 tracks I like off a 22 track album will be different from yours, so why not accommodate both?

    But that’s not what’s going on here. Consider the Byrne collabo, it’s as if the David Byrne part of the song and the De La Soul part were composed with little reference to one another other than a common tempo.

    You basically DO just get these 80-second blocks of what you want to hear, and then you get to sit patiently through some stuff that ranges from pretty nice (the Little Dragon track is better than anything of their (LD’s) previous album) to …. well let me just say “Lord Intended” did not need to be 7 minutes long.

    My point is you can’t even skip over the boring tracks, which is no issue for me, you would have to actually edit parts of the songs. You would need to make a director’s cut of the album.

    And plus, De La Soul were one of the few groups that COULD put out 20+ track albums that brilliant all the way through.

    Sorry to say that I agree with Majestyk and Vern’s lack of enthusiasm. I can’t even get behind it as a brave experiment gone awry … Latyrx’s Second Album a couple years ago fucking went for it and regardless of how successful it is, does shit hip hop has never done before (just what you want from a group that did the same thing, with equal inconsistency, 2 decades ago). This feels like De La Soul handing off creative duties to a bunch of artists less in the spirit of collaboration and more just to outsource the workload.

    In other knews, just remembered Sadat X came out with a record last month and I need to go and not be disappointed by it.

  116. Good lord, sorry for the endless, typo-ridden post.

    The new Sadat X has a lot more rapping on it than the new De La Soul, that much I can tell you despite being on track 5.

  117. We're Still Here (now)... a documentary about nobody

    De La Soul's new album 'and the Anonymous Nobody...’ OUT NOW! Order Here: https://delasoul.lnk.to/andtheanonymo... Vinyl also available: http://smarturl.it/d...

  118. New Kool Keith! Despite being so feature-heavy it’s one of his best releases in ages.

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