May 4, 2004

Art For Awareness
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

When is art just art? When the Global Justice Project and UNICEF of Boston College sponsor a weekend of socially conscious art, poetry, and film in the Vanderslice Cabaret room to inspire and educate the community through artistic and verbal expression.

"Just Art was a small idea that was turned into an impressive reality last year," said Brigitte Hamadey, who organized Just Art with Gabriella Suau, UNICEF director. "This year we just tried to keep it going and make it better in order to give artists on campus a chance to share their talents."

The typically bare and sterile Cabaret room was transformed into an astonishingly beautiful gallery of painting and photography by BC undergraduate and graduate student artists. The artwork of student Eli Akerstein and alum Aimme Kallaugher were especially impressive and stood out in the multi-faceted art event, which lasted from April 22 until April 26.

Roberta Kaufman, BC '75, opened the weekend with a speech about her experience as a freelance photographer. Also performing on Friday was Long Division, a three-man Latin jazz band featuring Michael Collins, BC '07.

The highlight of the weekend was the open mic night sponsored by Naked Singularity. Spoken word poets Alixa Garcia and Naima Penniman gave inspired performances in addition to "Shades of Silence," a performance by internationally known spoken word artist and activist Carlos Gomez, sponsored by the Hip-Hop Culture Club. A member of Def Jam Poetry family, Gomez's poetry was entertaining and inspiring, and touched on issues of international injustice such as prostitution in third world countries, as well as personal issues regarding love and betrayal.

On Sunday, Just Art escaped from the confines of the Cabaret room and brought music to the courtyard of Lower Dining Hall. A celebratory drum circle, sponsored by the Music Guild, was followed by a live reggae band called Wildest

Drums brought hoards of students outside to escape from studying for finals. Soon jubilant dancers were bouncing around while others tapped away at drums. It was a rare site to see BC students break out of their shell and dance around with such excited abandon.

In addition to the music and art, there was a discussion on activism for social justice led by professor Charles Derber and a film festival featuring politically-themed movies like City of God, 1984, and Eyes on the Prize.

"Arts Festival is great, but it's only once a year," said Hamadey. "Just Art is a wonderful opportunity for all the hidden artists at BC to come out."

The weekend was in fact a great opportunity, not only for the artists, but for everyone who enjoyed the myriad beautiful and entertaining events.
Eminen shines, but his band bores
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Even Michael Jordan couldn't save the otherwise horrendous Washington Wizards, but at least he turned them into a decent team worth watching.

Similarly, even Eminem can't save the otherwise ignorable D12 album, D12 World, but at least you can skip around and listen to all the phenomenal verses from Eminem and decent production from Dr. Dre and Kanye West.

Part of Jordan's failure to bring the Wizards into the playoffs can be attributed to his old age and weak knees, but Eminem is obviously at the top of his game right now, so there is no one to blame but his teammates.

It's not that the other members of D12 are horrible rappers, but their generic content and delivery wither in the huge shadow of Eminem, the "lead singer of the band." The album opens with "Git Up" and an especially ridiculous verse from Eminem, who then unfortunately hands off the baton to his less-gifted crew.

Sometimes Eminem's verse is first and you can simply skip the rest of the song, but often a jewel is hidden in the heap of mediocrity, such as on "Get My Gun," in which Eminem's hilarious rap about a jammed gun is surrounded by the others' forgettable verses.

In terms of rapping, there isn't enough Eminem, but in terms of production, there's too much. Eminem has once again used D12 as a guinea pig for his continued experiments with production, but no one needs six songs produced by Slim Shady. Fellow D12 rapper Kon Artis, aka Denaun Porter, produces three tracks on the album; yet, his work for D12 never sounds as good as when he produces for 50 Cent ("Stunt 101" and "PIMP").

Kanye West offers an excellent beat for the title track, but the song ends forgettably without a verse from Eminem. Even Kanye's Middle Eastern violin melody outshines the bland rhymes from D12.

Unlike the hometown crews of Nelly or Cam'ron, most of D12 can actually rap surprisingly well, especially Proof. Their inability to shape interesting verses out of their natural talent proves that a nice delivery can't compensate for empty, repetitive subject matter.

Dr. Dre probably hates to waste one of his beats for D12, but he nevertheless obliged the requests from his white little brother and produced the ominous "American Psycho II," featuring B-Real from Cyprus Hill.

The surprise guest on the album is underground producer Hi-Tek. Best known for his classic collaboration with Talib Kweli, Reflection Eternal, Hi-Tek is instead paired with Bizarre, quite possibly the worst rapper of all time, for the album's only solo cut, "Just Like U."

It's always painful to hear a quality instrumental butchered by an ignorant, talentless emcee, but despite his utter lack of talent, Bizarre at least grabs the listener's attention.

It would be difficult to say whether it's because of his horribly disgusting and inappropriate subject matter (even compared to Eminem) or because of his laughable lack of skill, but Bizarre's verses are at least mentionable for the fact that they are difficult to ignore.

Unfortunately, that can't be said about the other, admittedly more talented members of D12. If you're the type of person who forgets someone's name 30 seconds after you've been introduced, then you have no chance of remembering the difference between a verse from Kuniva or Swifty.

For fans of Eminem, the D12 album is full of great verses from the best rapper alive, but it amounts to nothing more than a decent album with a catchy single to keep Eminem on the radio until his solo album comes out at the end of the year.
MixTape Friday: Spring Hope
By Canyon Cody
Originally Published in The Heights

Right when you think hip-hop finally sold the last of its soul, someone with soul to spare comes to save the day. The last few months have been full of decent but disappointing releases from Dilated Peoples, dead prez, and D12, but it now seems as though we are in a spring renaissance of quality hip-hop. While Usher soars in terms of sales, these artists are taking hip-hop to new heights in terms of quality. Backpackers rejoice! Could the second coming of hip-hop finally be upon us?

Talib Kweli - "Lonely People" The Beautiful Mix
Recently, an unfinished version of Talib Kweli's next album The Beautiful Struggle leaked on the Internet and got posted on Kweli was furious and replied with a post on the site to vent his anger. To the guy that posted the mp3s he wrote, "Are you that much of a loser that you gotta live off another man's work?" He continued, "I will find out who you are and you will be dealt with accordingly." As a result, the album's release date will probably get pushed back even further, but in order to please his fans in the interim, Kweli has released a mixtape called The Beautiful Mix hosted by "Rick James, bitch!" (aka Dave Chapelle).

The standout track is "Lonely People," produced by Kanye West, featuring a John Lennon sample from "Eleanor Rigby." I bet Grey Album producer DJ Danger Mouse could offer Kanye some advice about the impossibility of ever clearing the Beatles' sample, but that's the beauty of underground mixtapes.

Pete Rock - "Appreciate" Soul Survivor 2
In my opinion, Pete Rock is the best producer of all time, with DJ Premiere, Rick Rubin, and Dr. Dre as honorable mentions. His classic collaborations with CL Smooth produced two of my favorite old school albums (Good Life and Mecca and the Soul Brother), so when I heard that his soon to be released solo album Soul Surivor 2 featured Talib Kweli, dead prez, Rza, Pharoahe Monch, and Little Brother, I thought it was too good to be true. Though I shouldn't have been surprised, the best track on the album turned out to be Pete Rock's reunion with CL Smooth, "Appreciate." If you're not careful, the catchy chorus will get stuck in your head forever: "2, 4, 6, 8, who do we appreciate?" 9th Wonder and Kanye West are imitating today the smooth sample-based production origninally perfected by Pete Rock years ago.

Brother Ali - "Self-Taught" Champion EP
Don't sleep on Brother Ali! There isn't a more talented and less appreciated emcee in hip-hop than this Minnesota native. Like Eminem, you need to get over the fact that he's white before you can really appreciate him, but he's not just white; he's almost pink. The albino rapper addresses his uniqueness on "Forest Whitiker" from his Rhymesayers debut, Shadows on the Sun: "I'm albino man, I know I'm pink and pale/ And I'm hairy as hell, everywhere but fingernails."

Most importantly, Ali proves himself a truly talented emcee and not just a genetic gimmick, which makes the album one of the best in recent memory. Make sure to peep "Dorian" and "Blah, Blah, Blah" featuring Slug from Atmosphere. Just released was Brother Ali's new Champion EP with nine awesome tracks, including "Self Taught" where he explains "There's a thin line between anger and hunger/ and I ride a unicycle down the middle."

Danger Mouse and Gemini - "Ghetto Pop Life 2" The Twenty Six Inch EP
Ever since his Jay-Z remix project, The Grey Album, grabbed everyone's attention (including, unfortunately, the Beatles' lawyers), Danger Mouse has enjoyed more notoriety than sales. Fortunately for him, Danger Mouse's earlier album with emcee Gemini, Ghetto Pop Life, is finally getting the attention it originally deserved. Now Danger Mouse has the industry at his doorstep begging for a DM beat, but first he decided to release The Twenty-Six Inch EP with Gemini, featuring two new songs (including the sequel to his debut album's title track, "Ghetto Pop Life 2"), remixes of songs from their LP and guest appearances from Cee-lo and Sadat X.