November 17, 2005

Hell hath no fury like a rapper scorned
By Canyon Cody
Originally published in The Heights

After Immortal Technique released Revolutionary Warfare, Vol.1 in August 2001, the United States government responded by passing The Patriot Act just two months later. If you thought The Patriot Act and the war in Iraq was about fighting terrorism, then let Immortal Technique drop some gnawledge for you:

"A fake church called the prophet Muhammad a terrorist / Forgetting God is not a religion, but a spiritual bond / And Jesus is the most quoted prophet in the Qu'ran / They bombed innocent people, tryin' to murder Saddam / When you gave him those chemical weapons to go to war with Iran," he raps on "The 4th Branch."

Tech isn't your typical "socially-conscious" rapper with polite rhymes about peace and love. His style is belligerent, his verses are vulgar, and his gnawledge is raw, the sort of stuff you need to chew on a minute. For fans of intelligent, revolutionary, hardcore hip-hop, there hasn't been a better rapper since 2Pac went to Cuba.

Immortal Technique will be performing at the Middle East on Sunday and granted a rare interview with The Heights to talk about his history, his upcoming album, and his controversial political views.

They say hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, but Tech raps with the fury of five centuries of women, men, and children scorned by colonialism and capitalism.

Born in a military hospital in Peru, raised in Harlem, and imprisoned in Pennsylvania before emerging as the most feared battle rapper in New York, Immortal Technique has some serious grievances with the American government.

Kanye recently caused a media frenzy by saying, "Bush doesn't care about black people." Tech's been screaming that for years, with a much more articulate voice and a lot more supporting evidence.

Though he's often compared to rappers like Chuck D, dead prez, and KRS-One, Tech said his real influences are W.E.B. Du Bois, Jose Carlos Mariategui, Malcolm X, Che Guevara, Augusto Sandino, Harriet Tubman, and Marcus Garvey.

Like Ras Kass before him, Immortal Technique doesn't just rap about living in the hood - he understands the larger historic and economic forces that perpetuate poverty and racism. As a result, Tech doesn't peddle petty beefs with other rappers. Eminem raps about having "so much anger aimed in no particular direction," while Immortal Technique points the crosshairs of his scope directly at the heart of the beast: the U.S. government and the corporations that he says control it.

"You might have some house n- fooled, but I understand / Colonialism is sponsored by corporations / That's why Halliburton gets paid to rebuild nations," he raps on "Cause of Death."

But Tech's anger wasn't always focused in the right direction. "In high school I was always doing stupid shit snatchin' nigga's chains, gettin' into fights. I look back and I wonder how I could even live like that, but I brought that attitude with me from the streets to Penn State," he said.

While still in college, he was involved in an altercation sparked by a racist comment that led to a broken jaw for a white student and a year in prison for Immortal Technique.

"When I came home from prison, I was living with my parents. I was on parole and I couldn't get a job. It's a very humbling experience getting out of jail," he said.

Tech started going to battles to earn some money, but ended up also earning a reputation for being a ruthless MC. "I wanted to make sure that people knew that I wasn't just one of these little backpacking fucks who rhymed in a circle," he said in a previous interview. "I never got destroyed or roasted by anyone, period. Anyone who says different is getting their father slapped up and their mother thrown down a flight of fucking stairs just for lying."

"Finally I decided to take all the songs I wrote in prison, with that young angry pissed off voice and release an album. Because even if I sold five a day, that's $50, I could buy groceries with that, you know, I could eat," he said.

The result was Revolutionary Warfare, Vol. 1, which eventually earned him a place in The Source's "Unsigned Hype" column in November 2003. He started getting offers from major labels, but decided to remain independent after reading up on the exploitation of artists in the music business. As a result, he released Vol. 2 independently, which means he owns all of his own masters and pocketed all the profits from the 75,000 copies sold.

Tech's career has been the ideal model for the do-it-yourself underground hip-hop MC. Tech decided against signing to a label because they wanted him to change his style, to downplay his politics, and ignore his black and hispanic heritage.

"That's the difference between the Civil Rights movement and the Black Panther / Hip-hop Generation. In the beginning we wanted to be down with America, not as second class citizens, but really to become full American citizens. We wanted to be down with America so bad that we were willing to fight and die in America's wars. And when we got back, we still weren't allowed to be full American citizens.

"America told us that we were basically here to work and die, kinda like how America treats Mexicans today. We tried that. So now then the hip-hop generation is sayin, 'Fuck waiting for America to accept us. We'll build our own America inside of you.'"

Two years ago, he bragged that, "My grind right now is unsurpassed. I have no booking agent. I have no manager, so it all relies on me. My manager is my voicemail, cell phone, and my e-mail."

He's now vice president of his own label, Viper Records, with plans to release his next album The Middle Passage, in mid-2006. By now I figured he would have hired a publicist who would reply to my interview request, but to my surprise an unknown number from a 212-area code popped up on my cell phone:

"What up nigga? This is Immortal Technique!"

November 10, 2005

Interview with Gift of Gab
By Canyon Cody
Originally published in The Heights

Never take advice from a rapper. If you don't see me back on campus next semester, blame Gift of Gab from Blackalicious.

While interviewing him over the phone, Gab's advice to me was, "Take the cash from your student loans and start a record company. That's what we did." I explained to him that Boston College doesn't have much of a hip-hop scene and he laughed.

"Neither did UC Davis," he said, "but that's where we all met. Me, DJ Shadow, Lyrics Born, Lateef, Xcel - we all met at the college radio station."

With misappropriated tuition money, the crew started SoleSides Records in 1992, later to become Quannum Projects. The independent label released Blackalicious' first two EPs, Melodica and A2G, and its full-length debut Nia. The duo finally signed to a major label in 2000 and unleashed Blazing Arrow, one of the most sublime hip-hop albums ever released.

Blackalicious - "Powers"

The new Blackalicious album, The Craft, sounds surprisingly little like its predecessor. Instead of chopping up samples, Blackalicious producer Chief Xcel put together an all-star band featuring Spearhead bassist Carl Young and Beastie Boys percussionist Alfredo Ortiz to create the lush instrumental sound heard on tracks like the lead single "Powers," "Supreme People," and "Lotus Flower," featuring George Clinton.

"What I love about this album is that you can't tell what's a sample and what's a live performance," said Gab. "Xcel originally made the beats on the MPC, but then stripped them down.

"Then we went into the studio with the band and they just jammed on top of his beats for like eight hours a day, three days in a row. It was like a Miles Davis session. Then we took the best parts of the jam session and Xcel's original beats and put them together."


Blackalicious - "Rhythm Sticks"

While Xcel drives the beat, Gab rides the groove with his signature lyrical gymnastics. Keep your finger near the rewind button because Gab's got the sort of ridiculous flow that demands a double take. Gab is probably too hooked on phonetics, rehashing his infamous exercise in extended alliteration reminiscent of "Alphabet Aerobics."

Blackalicious - "The Fall & Rise Elliot Brown"

"I've been rapping since I was 12, just battling kids in the neighborhood, so for this album I wanted to do something more. I wanted to tell stories that created visuals for the listener," he said. The album is a cinematic experience that reinforces Gab's reputation as a socially conscious emcee who manages to avoid the temptation of hippie-dippy proselytizing.

"I don't consider myself a political person. I just use common sense. I'm an observer. If I see something happening over and over again in my community, then I make the connection and I comment on it."

May 2, 2005

A good time had around the Galaxy
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

What is the meaning of life? The nebulous answer is 42, according to A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but like an interstellar game of Jeopardy, the tricky part is finding the right question.

The film adaptation of Douglas Adams's classic sci-fi novel begins with a bang, but loses momentum as its superb cast aimlessly bounces around the galaxy.

The initial bang is the Earth's destruction, vaporized by the alien Vogons in order to build an intergalactic freeway. Fortunately for Arthur Dent, played by Martin Freeman from the BBC's The Office, he is saved by Ford Prefect, an alien disguised as a human in order to do research on Earth for additional entries in the interplanetary best seller A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Mos Def proves himself a phenomenal actor starring as Prefect, with subtle wit, quirky facial expressions, and impeccable timing. The first 20 minutes of the film, in which Dent and Prefect escape impending doom by hitching a ride with one of the spaceships that just destroyed Earth, are exciting, engaging, and hilarious. From here the film falls a bit flat, wandering around the galaxy in pursuit of plot lines.

The story is saved by an eclectic cast of quirky characters from around the universe. John Malkovich makes a quick appearance as preacher Humma Kavula. Sam Rockwell (Confessions of a Dangerous Mind) gives a hilarious performance as galaxy president Zaphod Beeblebrox, with two heads and half a brain.

Beeblebrox's smug smirk, country drawl, and dim wits might remind viewers of a certain real-life president, but Beeblebrox doesn't wield any real power. He's just a political diversion for the expansionist, bureaucratic Vogons, who actually run the universe.

The film's humorous banter is enough to keep the movie fun as the hitchhikers jump from ship to ship in pursuit of a supercomputer (voiced by Helen Mirren) built by the ancient Magratheans that has spent the last 7.5 million years coming up with the answer that explains "life, the universe, and everything." To everyone's frustration, it finally offers "42" as the answer, leaving the hitchhikers back on the road again in pursuit of the question.

It's hard to say who will enjoy Hitchhiker more, the die-hard fan or the first-time hitchhiker. Those who read Adams's 1979 novel and its four sequels, listened to the late '70s radio series, watched the 1981 BBC miniseries, played the 1984 videogame, or read the early-'90s DC comics, will inevitably appreciate subtle references but complain about various inaccuracies.

The film is probably easier to enjoy for those outside the cult, because the film's real charm isn't the quasi-philosophy of the books, but the eccentric acting and wonderful visual effects.

Director Garth Jennings and screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick, who revised the script that Adams nearly completed before his death in 2001, deserve praise for resisting the temptation to turn the film into an orgy of special effects.

Instead, Jennings hired Jim Henson to do the pupeteering for the Vogons, and Marvin the Paranoid Android actually has Warwick Davis inside the robot costume. The simple visual effects complement the quirky humor of the cast.

The most important thing for any hitchhiker to remember, according to the cover of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, is "Don't Panic!"

There are parts of the film that will tempt viewers to wish they had left the book as it was, but don't panic, because the superb acting and visual fun make for a great ride.

April 28, 2005

Mixtape Friday: Dorm Room Griots' Flow From Above
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

For my little brother's 10th birthday, I sent him The Giver by Lois Lowry. The story follows Jonas through his apprenticeship under the Giver, an old man who serves as his community's Receiver of Memories.

Like the Giver, West African griots have served for centuries as keepers of memories. Griots are oral storytellers who use poetry and music to teach their village about its history. In America, griots became rappers, but somewhere between Senegal and the South Bronx, these rappers forgot the history they were entrusted to protect.

Today, the village of hip-hop suffers from a serious ignorance of its own past, which extends past New York in the 1970s. Modern-day spoken word poets like Saul Williams are hip-hop's true storytellers, but griots are not supposed to be celebrities; they're supposed to be functioning members of every village.


Myran Hunter "We Have Forgotten"

At Boston College, a group of poets called the Dorm Room Griots have recorded Flow From Above, an album of spoken word poetry. They will be performing with musicians and DJs at the record release party on Friday at 9 p.m. at The Perch in McElroy.

On "We Have Forgotten," Myran Hunter, BC '07, speaks about the African musical and social history that hip-hop has sold out. "You can purchase an alternate ego, a lavish lifestyle, worldwide recognition, or even a whole new identity. All of this can be yours for three easy payments of your past, your present, and your future," Hunter says.

Noah "The Conflict"

"We are the BC '06, on this track from his upcoming rap album. Noah brings variety to the poetry album, rapping about the inherent conflicts involved in struggling to succeed in a country that was built on slavery.


Martine Russell "Moonbeams"
Griots are both men and women, but hip-hop refuses to pass the mic to females. On "Moonbeams," Martine Russell, BC '06, sings her ode to the urban village, the "birth-mother to b-boys and b-girls." Her poem celebrates the persistence of a battered, but not beaten, metropolis, "survivor of Nixon and drug wars / all the while she continues to smile."

Sean Dwyer "Woodrow Wilson"
Time for some American history. "It's no wonder to which demographic democracy reaches / it's been since Woodrow Wilson when a president wrote his own speeches," raps Sean Dwyer BC '04.

More than guns or drugs, hip-hop promotes consumerism. Rappers are like commercials, encouraging listeners to buy, buy, buy. On his track, Dwyer explores how blind consumerism leads to global injustice: "I need to purchase more dead weight, my clothes have more pockets / Am I purchasing death? Wait, how'd they pay for those rockets?"

April 21, 2005

k-os interview
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

With a traditional drummer, a hand percussionist, and a DJ tapping beats on his MPC, rhythm filled the Paradise on Tuesday, with Canadian rapper k-os leading the crowd through a powerful, but disappointingly brief set while opening for Handsome Boy Modeling School (HBMS).

It was no easy task recreating the diverse instrumentation on k-os' two phenomenal albums, 2002's Exit and 2004's Joyful Rebellion. Instead of bringing a brass section on the tour bus, k-os delegated the responsibility to his guitarist, who proved his Spanish flamenco skills with blurred hands.

K-os' music has a natural energy to it that makes it sound more alive than the majority of over-produced commercial rap. During our interview, k-os talked about his musical roots in Trinidad, where he lived before moving to Canada when he was 12.

"Watching my uncle in Trindad making steel drums at home from scraps of metal that he found, that really gave me a grass roots understanding about music and how you should make it," he said.

K-os enjoys considerably better success in Canada, where any of his five music videos are regularly played on Canadian television. His first single, "Crabbuckit," won him Single of the Year at the Canadian Juno awards.

When he performed his hit single, the electric standup bass player strummed the song's infectious baseline, which it borrows from The Cure's "Love Cats." Instead of referencing The Cure, the more obvious earlier owner, k-os led the crowd into its original owner, "Hit The Road Jack."

For k-os, touring in America is always a strange experience, one that he admits he doesn't especially enjoy. He has toured Europe with The Roots, but looks forward more than anything to performing back home in Trinidad. K-os said he's not surprised that he doesn't get as much exposure in America.

"America blasts its music all over the world, and it makes it seem like the only way to be black is to be American black.

"Especially with hip-hop, Americans totally ignore black people in Canada, or in the Caribbean, or in Africa. That's why I was so into Bob Marley, because he was this black guy who was totally not American and America couldn't ignore him," he said.

HBMS headlined the concert, but disappointed with an inevitably unsatisfying perormance. The recent HBMS album, White People, is a beautiful collaboration between two producers, Dan the Automator from Gorillaz and Prince Paul from De La Soul, featuring guest appearances from Del tha Funkee Homosapien, Barrington Levy, Cat Power, and Jack Johnson.

Of course, none of these people were on tour with HBMS, just waiting backstage all night to perform their one contribution. Instead, HBMS decided to simply play their beats with cartoons of the guests projected on a screen behind them.

HBMS tried to compensate for the absent performers by incorporating skit comedy in its show. After k-os, the crowd seemed amused, but mostly disappointed.

Photo by Anna Schindelar
Mixtape Friday: Is there hip-hop in heaven?
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

"Pope," an old Prince song, features The Artist singing, "You can be the president, I'd rather be the pope."

He was prioritizing his post-game perks, because St. Peter definitely made sure Pope John Paul II skipped to the head of the line to the pearly gates. Because of the foreign policies of our recent presidents, Clinton, Reagan, and Bush will "have some 'splaining to do," as Ricky Ricardo used to say, on their judgment day. Hip-hop will probably not pay much attention to John Paul II's death. Hip-hop's interest in religion, embodied by Kanye West, is more concerned with diamond-encrusted Jesus pendants.

On his first posthumous album, released two months after his death in 1997, 2Pac sings, "Should we cry when the pope die? My request/ we should cry if they cried when we buried Malcolm X."


Richie Rich - "Do Gs Get To Go To Heaven?"
Though hip-hop tends to focus on Earthly pleasures and rewards, every once in a while rappers consider the thereafter.
Dedicated to 2Pac, this track features Richie Rich praying that his friend made it to heaven, which then leads him to consider his own sins. He asks God, "And if I took a life or perhaps sold some dope/ would you discriminate upon my entry to the gate?" It's not quite repentance, but it is confession.

Ice Cube - "When I Get To Heaven"
On a smooth beat with a chorus of Marvin Gaye singing, "This ain't living" from "Inner City Blues," Ice Cube attacks racist Christians who held the Bible with one hand and whipped slaves with the other. He raps, "400 years of gettin' our ass kicked/ by so-called Christians and Catholics, but I'ma watch 'em burn in the fire." Ice Cube looks forward to an eternal life in heaven better than mortal life on Earth: "They won't call me a nigga, when I get to heaven."


2Pac - "I Wonder if Heaven Got a Ghetto"
More than any other rapper, 2Pac reflected and obsessed over his own inevitable death, which naturally led him to consider if there was a place in heaven for him.
"Let the lord judge the criminals," he raps, expecting God to understand that his sins were the products of the sinful, racist world he grew up in. 2Pac wondered if his prayers were heard, worrying that he's probably already dead in hell, wasting his prayers with the other condemned.

Common "Geto-Heaven, Pt. 2" [ft. D'Angelo]
Common reflects on earthly temptation and eternal redemption: "Young girls is thick, righteousness is narrow." This track isn't really about the afterlife, but about finding heaven wherever you are right now. D'Angelo provides cherub-sweet vocals for Common's search for heaven on Earth. He raps, "Can't imagine goin' through it, without soul music"

April 14, 2005

Mixtape Friday: I'm too sexy for my shirt
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

I pray every night before I go to bed: "O Lord I pray to Thee, please bless us with another D'Angelo album. Amen." In an open letter to D'Angelo printed in Esquire, John Mayer wrote, "I'm writing to ask you to put out a follow-up to one of the few records to change my life forever, Voodoo." Our grandchildren probably won't know a thing about Jay-Z or Nas, but backseat lovers in 2083 will still be making nookie with D'Angelo playing in the background.

Unfortunately my prayers have gone unanswered, leaving me with nothing but music from his two albums, 1995's Brown Sugar and 2000's Voodoo, and a random assortment of guest appearances, remixes, b-sides, and rarities. With such a small selection, I cherish every D'Angelo appearance, especially on Method Man's "Break Ups 2 Make Ups" and Common's "Geto Heaven Part Two."


D'Angelo - "Devil's Pie" (Mark Ronson Remix)
In my mixtape column from Jan. 20, 2004, I wrote "The eight second breakbeat at 1:41 into [The Strokes'] 'Someday' begs for a b-boy with two turntables and a mixer to loop the drum solo into a hip-hop beat."

Apparently, New York DJ Mark Ronson reads my column, because a year later we get this phenomenal remix mash-up featuring the vocals from D'Angelo's "Devil's Pie" and a funky beat that samples The Strokes' "Someday."

Lauryn Hill - "Nothing Even Matters" [ft. D'Angelo]
D'Angelo makes no secret of the fact that he's a big Star Wars dork. He once said, "The way I see it the radio stations and the media is like the Death Star, and I'm gonna be Luke Skywalker." This was the revolution that was going to save music and Lauryn Hill was his Princess Leia. This track from Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was the most soulful male/female duet since Donny Hathaway and Roberta Flack.


D'Angelo - Untitled (How Does It Feel)
The song's uber-sexual video featured D'Angelo completely naked, his body chiseled like Michaelanglo's David. It turned D'Angelo into a sex icon, a role he was never comfortable with.

The Roots' ?uestlove, who served as musical director for Voodoo, described D'Angelo as amazingly insecure about his body: "Some nights on tour he'd look in the mirror and say, 'I don't look like the video. It was totally in his mind, on some Kate Moss shit.' So, he'd say, 'Lemme do 200 more stomach crunches.' He'd literally hold the show up for half an hour just to do crunches."

During his concerts, women in the crowd would start chanting "Take it off!" He hated being objectified and felt unappreciated as a musician. D'Angelo was too sexy for his shirt, but so sexy it hurt. He ended up canceling most of the tour and hasn't released anything since. ?uestlove's explanation: "What he wants is to do is get fat."

April 7, 2005

Mixtape Friday: Kweli makes friends with Day
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

It gives me the giggles to think about how awkward it's going to be backstage at tomorrow night's spring concert at Boston College.

What will Talib Kweli, Howie Day, and Robert Randolph chat about before the show? Where will the UGBC put them? In the guys' locker room, sitting on the benches like it was halftime with the basketball team waiting for a pep talk from Al Skinner?

I don't know how this happens, but the UGBC consistently brings quality underground hip-hop to Boston College. There is definitely a supply and demand problem here, because I know not everyone at BC was as excited as I was to see The Roots, Common, and Nappy Roots.

We even had Vanilla Ice in the Rat, which was to this day, the most hilarious concert I've ever been to. "Go ninja, go ninja, go!"


Talib Kweli - "Put It In The Air"
Kweli complains on this track that "half these motherfuckas can't pronounce my name." At BC, Kweli will likely find that more than half the students don't even know his name, but one can hope he'll earn new fans with a good live performance.

Kweli made his debut with Mos Def on Black Star, their classic collaboration from Ruckus Records in 1998. Every hip-hop fan has this album, and everyone else should at least download "Re: DEFinition" and "K.O.S. (Determination)."

From there Kweli collaborated with DJ Hi-Tek for 2000's Reflection Eternal, featuring "The Blast" and "Down for the Count." In 2002 Kweli finally released Quality, his aptly titled debut solo album, which features a hilarious introduction from Dave Chappele. With "Get By" Kweli enjoyed his first major mainstream hit single, with a little help from the production of Kanye West and a soulful sample from Nina Simone's "Sinnerman."


Robert Randolph "Tears of Joy"
Pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph and his Family Band know how to throw a party. It's easier to find recordings of his live shows than it is to find his studio albums, which tells you something about Randolph as a performer. Randolph plays the dirty blues like Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix, but there isn't a good word to describe his sound, so I'll invent one: funkbluesadelic.

Howie Day - "?"
Howie Day is ... umm? Honestly I don't know anything about Day beyond what I might guess from looking at his picture: Pretty boy with sweet, sometimes sad songs about sensitive issues. Rolling Stone describes him as "emotionally naked." I don't know how I feel about that, but I look forward to becoming a fan of his, because live shows are the best way to fall in love with a new musician. Hopefully BC students will come with an open mind and learn to like the performers they don't know yet.
Don't call it a comeback, Jeffreys' been in Europe for years
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

When Garland Jeffreys decided to take some time off from his epic music career during the '90s, it was for all the right reasons: He was staying at home to help raise his young daughter with his wife. Now he's ready for a comeback and the music world needs him more than ever.

In fact, maybe it's just America that needs him, because the rest of the world has been enjoying Jeffreys' eclectic mix of rock, reggae, and soul for decades. Though he remains popular in Europe, most in America don't know his name.

There are a few exceptions - Bruce Springstein and Lou Reed are fans, friends, and occasional collaborators of Jeffreys. His music began with a distinct New York classic rock sound in the '70s and incorporated more soul, reggae and Latin music in the middle of his career.

For Jeffreys, these styles didn't come from outside influences, but from incorporating his own history into his music. Jeffreys is as diverse as his sound, growing up in a multi-racial family, part black, part white, part Puerto Rican, and part Native American. His lyrical content, like his musical style, reflects his diverse background.

Maybe now, 33 years after his self-titled debut album and 13 years since his last American release, Jeffreys is finally about to get the exposure his music deserves since recently signing with Universal.

Jeffreys, a true Rock 'n' Roll Adult (to use the title of his 1982 album) is busier than ever. He's out on a celebratory tour, which brings him back to Boston for the first time in 15 years. Jeffreys will perform in Somerville tomorrow night at Johnny D's Uptown with his full eight-piece band, The Coney Island Playboys.

Unfortunately, none of Jeffreys music from the '70s and '80s has been reissued on CD, other than his Wild in the Streets: Best of 1977-1983. This compilation features his reggae groove on "I May Not Be Your Kind," his exploration of interracial relationships.

Now 61 years old, but well-rested from his recent sabbatical, Jeffreys is ready to make a splash in a music scene long after most of his peers - Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Graham Parker, Paul Simon, Lou Reed, and James Taylor - are getting ready for retirement.

Before it became a gimmick for Jay-Z and Linkin Park, mixing styles came naturally for Jeffreys. His body of work is diverse and expansive enough that any music fan will find something to fit their taste and his live show tomorrow promises to be a blast.

Don't miss Jeffreys tomorrow night or you might have to wait another 15 years for the next show.

March 31, 2005

Mixtape Friday: P2P brings power to the people
By Canyon Cody
Originally published in The Heights

     I am a copyright anarchist. I support willy-nilly downloading and refuse to be guilt-tripped by millionaire rock stars for stealing their $16. My momma taught me to share, so despite the RIAA, I proudly duplicate music and share it with my friends.
The Supreme Court is currently hearing a copyright infringement case against Grokster, a file-sharing program similar to KaZaA. Lower courts have upheld Grokster's innocence based on the Supreme Court's 1984 decision that absolved Sony of copyright liability for illegal uses that consumers might make with their VCRs.
      At you can legally download brief 15-second clips of the songs featured on the mixtape. If you want the full versions, you'll have to be sneaky - these songs were never released commercially because they are filled with uncleared samples and egregious copyright violations.

Double Dee & Steinski - "Lesson 1 (The Payoff Mix)"

      In 1983, Tommy Boy sponsored a DJ remix contest for Globe & Whiz Kid's "Play That Beat Mr. DJ." The winning entry came from DJ duo Double Dee & Steinksi, an impressive musical collage featuring 24 diverse vocal and musical "quotations" from disco, funk, rock, movies, television, and everywhere else. Unfortunately, it was a legal nightmare for Tommy Boy's lawyers, who advised against releasing it because it would be impossible to clear all the samples, leaving Double Dee and Steinski without a penny and banishing the song to bootlegdom.

      For Double Dee & Steinski, the grass is always greener on the other side of the bridge. Instead of using just one musical bridge, they jump back and forth through a collage of 10 second rhythm samples from Herbie Hancock's "Rockit," The Supremes' "Stop in the Name of Love," and the Incredible Bongo Band's classic breakbeat "Apache."

Double Dee & Steinski - "Lesson 2 (The James Brown Mix)"
      James Brown has been sampled in hundreds of rap songs, but never before has a track combined five different James Brown songs at the same time. I won't ruin the surprise about which songs they use - the most enjoyable part of listening to these songs is trying to figure out the samples, but here's a hint: Clint Eastwood and Bugs Bunny are in there too.

Double Dee & Steinski - "Lesson 3 (The History of Hip-Hop Mix)"
     This became the most famous of the trilogy, based around Herman Kelly and Life's "Dance To The Drummer's Beat." It begins with a warning from Otis Redding, "We gonna do a song that you never heard before," leading into JFK announcing that "the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans," and just for fun, they throw in a Groucho Marx joke. For more info about Double Dee & Steinski, check out 2001's phenomenal DJ documentary Scratch.

Steinski "The Motorcade Sped On"

     After an amicable split from Double Dee, Steiski again grabbed attention with his mix featuring samples from media coverage, mostly Walter Cronkite, of the JFK assassination. But CBS, fearing "trivialization" of Cronkite's legacy, refused clearance on Cronkite words, leaving Steinski again with no way to capitalize on his creation.

March 17, 2005

Mixtape Friday: It's Rex Manning Day!
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

I get sick of songs pretty quickly, especially when my roommate plays his new favorite tune every five minutes. Imagine how sick you are of U2's "Vertigo" after watching the iPod commercial a million times. Now imagine how sick of it Bono must be, and yet he still has to perform it at every stop on tour.Musicians usually resort to playing covers for two reasons: Either they don't have enough original material or they're sick of playing their own songs. When Jack Johnson appeared in concert on March 3 at the Virgin Megastore, he played a number of covers for a different reason: he couldn't remember the lyrics or the chords to his own songs.

Bay Area DJs Sway and King Tech host a radio show where they put famous rappers on the spot and test their memory of the lyrics to their own songs. It's hilarious to listen to Ice Cube struggle to remember the words to his own classics from years ago.


Led Zeppelin "Stairway to Heaven"
The first 250 fans who purchased Johnson's new album In Between Dreams were rewarded with a special yellow bracelet that allowed us to see Johnson perform. Instead of letting us wait inside, the sadists at Virgin forced us to wait outside in the bitter cold. At one point it appeared like Johnson had finally arrived, but to everyone's surprise, Paul Peirce from the Celtics emerged instead from a black Escalade to buy 50 Cent's new album, which was released on the same day. Finally at 12:30 p.m., an identical Escalade rolled up and Johnson popped out, smiling and tan.

He took requests from the crowd, but apologized when he couldn't remember the words to some of his older songs. Someone in the crowd jokingly suggested "Stairway to Heaven" and Johnson tried to humor him, but only managed to remember the first few chords. Johnson didn't seem bothered when he couldn't remember his own songs, but he was clearly frustrated that he forgot how to play the Zeppelin classic.


Charles Wright "Express Yourself"
This funky track from 1969 by Charles Wright, was later made famous when sampled/covered by Dr. Dre as a member of N.W.A. The uplifting song doesn't really fit on Staight Outta Compton, an otherwise nihilist gangsta rap album, but fit perfectly as a transition between Johnson's happy-go-lucky songs.

Ernie Mars "Plastic Jesus"
One fan nonchalantly set up a microphone to record the concert, which Johnson not only tolerates but encourages. His Web site even offers a place for fans to trade bootlegs of his live shows. Over the years these have included covers of "Rudolph the Rednose Reindeer," Robert Johnson's "Dust My Broom," Jimmy Buffet's "Pirate Looks at Forty," Bob Marley's "Trenchtown Rock," and Sublime's "Garden Grove." The only true cover he sang at this show was Ernie Mars' "Plastic Jesus," with its famous lyrics, "I don't mind if it rains or freezes/ Long as I have my plastic Jesus/ Riding on the dashboard of my car."

Dedicated Citizen Cope fans wait outside in the cold
By Canyon Cody

Published in The Heights
Photo by Anna Schindelar

Singer-songwriter Citizen Cope passed through Boston during spring break at a moment of transition in his career. He is not yet popular enough to fill larger venues, but apparently too popular to fit all his fans into the small Paradise Lounge.

Many were unable to get tickets before they sold out and instead decided to stand outside in the freezing cold and enjoy the concert by peering through the bar's windows.

Citizen Cope deserves to be playing at major venues and will most likely never return to a stage in Boston as small as the Paradise Lounge, the small bar next to the Paradise Rock Club.

It was a special treat for his fans in the crowd who knew all the words and sang along, only to be tricked when Cope would slightly deviate from the lyrics on his album just to make sure everyone was still paying attention.

Cope performed songs from his phenomenal new album The Clarence Greenwood Recordings and his self-titled debut. He was backed by an exciting band that featured an organ player and a hyperactive drummer whose kinetic energy on tracks like "Son's Gonna Rise" contrasted Cope's mellow, almost sedate stage presence.

Citizen Cope's voice was full of passion and pathos, but his facial expressions hardly revealed a light in the attic. Cope's eyes remained thee-quarters closed through the entire show and he somehow managed to belt and wail without opening his mouth more than a sliver.

Cope did a great job of adapting his songs for the stage and avoided simply playing the songs as they sound on his album. For his encore, Cope returned with only his acoustic guitar, giving his band a well-deserved break.

His only cover of the night, Bob Dylan's "Simple Twist of Fate," came during the encore. He said he was never into singing covers, but Dylan's lyrics touched him, so he learned the words. "Now that I've learned the words, I might as well play the song," Cope joked in one of his brief interactions with the crowd.

His voice resonated in the small venue and his Bob Dylan-esque growl imbued his lyrics with genuine emotion. Cope's non-singing stage presence, however, was disappointing for he hardly engaged the crowd while onstage. The singer made up for it by hanging around after the show and signing autographs for his fans who had pillaged the Paradise for Citizen Cope promotional posters. As a musician, Cope is an impressive performer, but as an entertainer he lacks a certain showmanship that would distinguish his live shows.

March 3, 2005

Infectious joy from Jack Johnson
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

While the sun struggles to break through the blizzard in Boston, Jack Johnson's new album In Between Dreams brings much appreciated warmth to an otherwise dreary winter of bland, gray music. It's a bit more upbeat and multi-layered with various instruments than his previous albums, but it's still filled with Johnson's characteristic relaxed vibe and subtle, poignant lyrics.

Johnson's music will make you feel good on the inside. The timbre of his voice and the simple plucking of his acoustic guitar convey a contagious joy in life. Johnson seems so content with life that his melodic smile might seem exaggerated, until you remember this guy spends most of his time surfing and playing guitar on the North Shore of Oahu.

In fact, Johnson's life at the beach was so good that he was initially reluctant to pursue a music career at all. Johnson decided against signing to a major label and dealing with record companies and all those "mediocre bad guys" he sang about on his last album, On and On.

Instead Johnson started his own label, Brushfire Records, with his wife and friends, releasing his phenomenonal surf movies, September Sessions and Thicker Than Water, and their equally great soundtracks.

The only person happier than Johnson might be his wife. Many of the best songs on In Between Dreams are love songs dedicated to her, including "Do You Remember?" on which Johnson sings about first meeting his future wife: "I was crazy about you then and now/ but the craziest thing of all/ over 10 years have gone by/ and you're still mine."

On "Banana Pancakes" Johnson sings about staying inside and making banana pancakes with his wife and kids on a rainy day. While some might envy the lavish Cribs on MTV, Johnson paints a much more attractive picture of his domestic life: "We could close the curtains and pretend there's no world outside."

Johnson supports hiding from the outside world sometimes. On "Good People" he sings, "Where did all the good people go? I been changing channels/ I don't see them on the TV shows."

Since his first album Johnson has been an outspoken opponent of television and its effect on our culture. On iTunes Originals, an album he released last year, he explains the inspiration for his songs: "Sometimes I get embarrassed when I turn on the TV, you know? Cuz' we're all the same thing and when I see some other humans acting so silly on some reality TV show, just to sensationalize, it just kinda makes me feel stupid."

"Staple It Together," "Never Know," and single, "Sitting, Waiting, Wishing," are Johnson's most upbeat songs to date, with funky reggae rhythms and occasional jazzy piano. Johnson adjusts his flow for these songs, nearly rapping his way through his verses. While most rappers brag about their bling, all that Johnson can do is "tell you that my metaphor is better than yours."

Some people like their musicians bigger than life, but I prefer mine full of life. Johnson overflows with soul, in a quiet sort of way.

In order to promotes his new album, Johnson signing autographs at Virgin Records on Newbury Street today at 1 p.m. He will also perform songs from In Between Dreams, but you will need to show your purchased copy of the album in order to get into the concert.
Mixtape Friday: Leaky faucet plagues industry
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

There's nothing more distracting than a leaky faucet. I don't know why record companies can't hire some beefy security guard to protect albums from leaking before they come out, but once they hit the Internet, these songs spread faster than nude pictures of Paris Hilton.

The unfortunate consequence is that the rest of the album often disappoints after a great lead single. 50 Cent's "Disco Inferno" leaked months ago, but it's infinitely better than the rest of his new album, The Massacre. After Dr. Dre's beat from "Disco Inferno" whetted our appetite, all we get for a main course is a truly atrocious album with a homoerotic picture of 50 Cent on the cover.

But we keep our hopes up - here are two upcoming albums with leaked tracks that point towards greatness, but don't get your hopes up too high, or else the let down will hurt.


Beck "Go It Alone"
Following the heartwrenching breakup that inspired his last album, the dreary but beautiful Sea Change, Beck is ready to strut his way back into bachelordom on "Got It Alone." An unfinished version of Beck's new album, erroneously titled Ubiquitous, recently found its way onto the Internet. The real album, Guero(which is Mexican slang for a blonde, fair-skinned white boy), was produced by Odelay and Midnite Vultures collaborators the Dust Brothers and will be released on March 29.

Beck "Girl"
The new album returns to the goofy hip-hop funk of Beck's previous albums, but you can't undo his musical maturation since "Loser." This song is a similar up-tempo jam, but every sound seems to be in the right place, rather than the sloppy fun of his older albums. The breezy "Oohs" and "Aahs" in the background make a soft bed for Beck's dilly falsetto and bluesy guitar riffs.


Common "Corners"
At last year's Mod parking lot concert, Common told me that his new album, BE, would be released within a few months. Almost a year later and there's no album, but at least we got two leaked singles.

Fellow Chi-town native Kanye West produced "Corners," which features one of the most impressive guest appearances in years from The Last Poets, a collective of revolutionary black poets from the Civil Rights era.

Common "Food"
Ever since Common and Kanye appeared together to perform "Food" on Chappelle's Show, hip-hop heads have been hungry for this album. Common promises that it will represent a return to his old-school style, which will be appreciated after his last album, The Electric Circus.

According to Common, his new album will be his "best work ever." Though I know better, I can't help but get my hopes up.

Interview with Citizen Cope
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Rarely will I do this, but I'm going to spare the reader a long-winded introduction and just come out and say it: You need to stop reading this and go buy Citizen Cope's new album, The Clarence Greenwood Recordings.

If you don't like it and later regret your purchase, I will personally refund your money. That's how good this album is.

There's nothing especially unique about what Citizen Cope does - he's a singer-songwriter in the tradition of Woody Guthrie, John Steinbeck, and Bob Dylan, but Cope incorporates subtle hip-hop rhythms to accompany his gritty, woeful wail and acoustic guitar. Beck is the closest thing around today to Citizen Cope's hybrid of folk, funk, and hip-hop.

But while Beck busies himself with experimental meanderings, Cope gives listeners what they want, proving that it's better to be good than unique. There's no need to reinvent the wheel, as long as you roll with style.

Nowadays, singer-songwriters tend to be pretty boys with pretty songs, but Citizen Cope sings about his reality, which hasn't always been pretty.

"I sing about the people around me, the people I've met in D.C. and all over the place, but they're not always normal, model citizens," said Citizen Cope during our recent interview.

Listening to Citizen Cope is like reading a Jack Kerouac story filled with lovers and lunatics. On "Pablo Picasso," Cope sings from the perspective of a deranged man in love with a woman painted on a wall mural. Even when he sings about someone estranged from reality, it is obvious that Cope sings with sympathy.

"I try to put myself into the reality of the character, no matter how crazy he is," he said.

Citizen Cope, aka Clarence Greenwood, released his self-titled debut in 2002, but soon after left his record label, Dreamworks, because they weren't sufficiently promoting his album. He bought himself out of his contract using the advance from his next album and then signed to Arista, recording The Clarence Greenwood Project in the interim time.

The album's lead single, "Bullet and a Target" features Citizen Cope at his best. Cope layers piano and strings over the best beat you'll ever hear on a singer-songwriter's album.

The rhythm and percussion stands out throughout the album, integrating hip-hop breakbeats and live drums.

"When I was growing up, I tried to learn the guitar and the trumpet, but I couldn't play at first, so I started making beats, messing with drum machines and samplers," said Cope.

Before he was Citizen Cope, Greenwood was the DJ for a funky, laid back Washington, D.C. hip-hop crew called Basehead.

"Hip-hop taught me a lot about song structure, about the idea of measures and choruses," said Cope.

Cope's previous dabbling with hip-hop shaped his cadence, rhyme scheme, and narrative structure, but in contrast to Everlast or Wyclef Jean, Cope's hip-hop influence is subtle and well integrated.

In Citizen Cope's music you can hear bits of Bob Marley, bits of Ben Harper, and bits of Al Green, but Citizen Cope is no carbon-copy imitator.

His music is deeply personal and there's an audible honesty in his words. Citizen Cope's songs reflect the natural genesis of his musical talent.

"I couldn't afford all these expensive drum machines and samplers, so I just picked up the guitar and started plucking at it one string at a time, getting to know each string with my heart, instead of trying to understand it with my head," said Cope.

The album features a guest appearance from Carlos Santana on "Son's Gonna Rise," a hectic tale about racing to the hospital with his pregnant wife going into labor in the backseat.

Me'shell Ndegeocello plays bass on "Sideways," a beautiful song full of pathos and regret about lost love, where Cope laments, "These feelings won't go away."

Soon everybody will know about Citizen Cope, but before then you can take advantage of his relative obscurity by seeing him perform at the intimate Paradise Lounge on Wednesday.

February 24, 2005

Police shut down BU porn magazine release party
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

"I expected more nudity," complained one Boston University student at the release party for BU's new porn magazine Boink.

Compared to the full-frontal male and female nudity inside the new magazine, the release party at the Roxy on Thursday was quite tame. Large ice luges in the shape of male and female genitalia were the only open demonstration of private parts at the club, other than the pictures featured in the 96 page inaugural issue.

The party at the Roxy was billed as an adult-themed night and the invitations specifically stated that all attendees must be over 18 years of age. Unfortunately, that's not adult enough to legally drink in the state of Massachusetts, and as a result of underage drinking, the whole club was shut down at 12:30 a.m. by police and officials from Alcohol Beverage Control.

Until that point, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves on the dance floor and it took the police quite some time to get everyone to actually leave. Most people stuck around to get a free copy of Boink before they left.

Boink is similar to the new sex-themed Harvard magazine H-Bomb, except Boink is unabashed porn, featuring BU students as models, writers, and photographers. The undergraduate models featured nude in the magazine, both male and female, were all in attendance at the release party.

During out interview, Alecia Oleyourryk, a BU senior from upstate New York and the creator of Boink, said that the magazine is an accurate reflection of the interests of normal college students and reminded everyone that the magazine also includes articles concerning college sex life.

Subscriptions to the magazine are available from its Web site ( and single issues will be sold at Newbury Comics. According to Boink's Web site, "the title was selected because it's dynamic and fun, like the sex act to which it refers."

Boink will be sponsoring sex-themed discussions at BU beginning on March 3, when the magazine will host a talk at BU with Jen Sincero, author of The Straight Girl's Guide to Sleeping with Chicks.
Mixtape Friday: RIP Hunter S. Thompson
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

If it wasn't for Hunter S. Thompson, "I" wouldn't be here. The father of gonzo journalism was the first to bring himself into the story, refusing or unable to remain inconspicuous and unobtrusive. After 67 years, Thompson recently took his own life, delivering a blow to counterculture at a time when crazy eccentrics are hard to find.

Thompson didn't just write, he ranted and raged. He broke all the old rules of journalism about objectivity and sobriety. His life of drugs, guns, and motorcycles produced the fantastic stories found in his semi-autobiographical books, including Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and Hell's Angels.

I'm sure Thompson will continue to cause trouble wherever he ends up, especially now that he's reunited with his old friend and fellow merry prankster Ken Kesey, who died in 2001, and kindred spirit Ol' Dirty Bastard, who died in 2004.


Bill Withers "Ain't No Sunshine"
As a writer for Rolling Stone and later ESPN, Thompson could write about anything under the sun. For the counterculture movement, there ain't no sunshine with Thompson gone.

The original and still best version of "Ain't No Sunshine" appears on Bill Withers' first album, 1971's Just As I Am. At only two minutes, Withers' brief original has spawned hours of imitation, but nothing compares to the original heartwrenching breakup song.

D'Angelo "Ain't No Sunshine"
Even Withers himself would acknowledge D'Angelo as a legitimate disciple. D'Angelo knows, he knows, he knows (26 times he knows) that he should leave his lover, but a world without her is too dark to tolerate. This song is really the inverse of the chipper "You Are My Sunshine," sung instead from the dark side of the moon after a painful breakup.


Michael Jackson "Ain't No Sunshine"

Only one year after the original, Michael Jackson covered "Ain't No Sunshine" as the first track on his first solo album, Got To Be There. With skin so white, there clearly ain't no sunshine in Jackson's life. He opens the song with a spoken intro: "You ever want something that you know you shouldn't have? The more you know you shouldn't have it, the more you want it." I'm not in the business of kicking a man while he's down, so you'll have to insert your own joke here about Jackson's forbidden desires.

DMX "Ain't No Sunshine"
Hip-hop has poor self-control. It doesn't know when to leave an old song alone. DMX turns a beautiful song about lost love into a gritty song about robbing someone for money. The song fits well on his debut, It's Dark and Hell Is Hot, and features DMX at his best, but it lacks the vulnerable soul that made the original great. Recently, rapper Akon again turned the tune into another rap song, with better success.

February 17, 2005

Mixtape Friday: A Stereo Held Above My Head
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

Ask Lloyd Dobler: When you're in love, it can be hard to find just the right words. John Cusack's character from Say Anything overcomes his stumbling tongue by simply holding his stereo above his head and letting Peter Gabriel sing what Dobler couldn't articulate himself.

Poet Rainer Maria Rilke had some advice for young lovers: Do not write love poems. "They are the most difficult," he writes, "for it takes a great, fully matured power to give something of your own where good and even excellent traditions come to mind in quantity."

The point is that very few of us are blessed with a gift for romantic words, and Lloyd Dobler and I are not two of them. For Valentine's Day we have to rely on "In Your Eyes" to whisper in her ear the words we couldn't find ourselves.


Bob Marley "Is This Love" (Horns Mix)
Simple love is the most attractive. Marley can't offer her the world, but he can promise her, "We'll be together, with a roof right over our head." On-campus Boston College couples will relate to Marley's tale of tiny dorm beds: "We'll share the shelter of my single bed." Instead of the overplayed original on Legends, check out the version on Marley's four-disc boxed set. The remix is similar enough to remain familiar, but new enough to be exciting again, like hooking up with your girlfriend's sister.

Van Morrison "Crazy Love" [ft. Bob Dylan]
Better than the original, even though mumbly Bob Dylan clearly does not know all the words.

Citizen Cope "Sideways"
Breaking up with your girl is an inevitably regrettable decision. Freedom never tastes as good as she did, and eventually you find yourself feeling like Citizen Cope: "I keep thinking that time will take them away, but these feelings won't go away." Valentine's Day is perfect for reconciliation and there's nothing better than make-up sex.


Jack Johnson "Tomorrow Morning"
50 Cent might consider himself quite the P.I.M.P., but Jack Johnson proves that he's the true Don Juan. On an amazing album released exclusively through iTunes, appropriately titled iTunes Originals, Johnson sits in the studio strumming his guitar, singing bits of tracks from On and On and explaining where the inspiration for his songs come from.

"Tomorrow Morning" began as a message he left for his wife while out on tour and unable to reach her. On the answering machine he sang, "What would you do if I wrote you a song? Would you give me some loving when I get home? Would you be mad at me if I had a hard time getting ahold of you, but baby I try all the time." Johnson explains, "That was the end of the message, and that was all I wrote it for, to try and get my wife to laugh instead of being mad at me for being so bad at getting a hold of her."

I still have a lot to learn about what women like, but I'm going to guess that she was pleased.

February 10, 2005

Birthday blues and booze
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

"Your 21st birthday is a night your friends will never let you remember," wailed Jose Ramos, lead singer of the blues band playing on Monday at Wally's, a small 50-person capacity jazz and blues bar in the South End.

After about 12:45 a.m. Ramos was right: I can't remember a thing, except for the music. I remember perfecting the rhythms coming from the slick, quiet bassist, the grinning, hyperactive drummer, the showboating guitarist, and the funky alto sax, pumping away in a packed bar where the members of the band flirted with the customers' girlfriends, drank like they didn't have to work in the morning, and played like they were throwing a party in their own living room.
Not even tequila can erase the memory of listening to live music, sitting so close to the drummer that you can feel the snare rattle your ribs.


Nas "Half-time"
At 21, I can't help but reflect on what I've achieved in the last year. For me, 20 was not as productive as it could have been. Certainly not as productive as Nasir Jones, who at only 20 years of age released his classic debut Illmatic. Nas dropped out of school in the eighth grade, eventually making a show-stealing appearance on Main Source's "Live at the Barbeque" when he was only 18. Then, instead of wasting his time in college like me, Nas spent the next two years working on his debut.
Lil' Romeo "My Baby"

But Nas certainly wasn't the youngest rapper, because 11-year-old Lil' Romeo made history when this No Limit mini-soldier became the youngest recording artist to top the Billboard singles chart, breaking Michael Jackson's record. Jackson's first No. 1 hit came when he was 14 with "Ben," a touching ballad sung by a young boy - and I'm not making this up - to his pet rat named Ben.


Fabolous "I Can't Deny It" [ft. Nate Dogg]
But Lil' Romeo didn't have to earn it like medium-sized Fabolous did, because spelling-extraordinaire "ef ay be oh el oh you es" isn't the lucky son of No Limit CEO Master P. Instead he was the lucky friend of DJ Clue, who decided to build his Desert Storm franchise around a lazy-tongued Brooklynite. A catchy summer lead single with Nate Dogg led the 20-year-old Fabolous into his ill-timed debut Street Dreams, released on Sept. 11, 2001.

Dr. Dre "Nutin' but a G-Thang" [ft. Snoop Dogg]
When he was rapping on Dr. Dre's The Chronic, Snoop Doggy Dogg still couldn't legally enjoy gin with his juice. At only 20 years old, Snoop was already performing at the MTV Music Awards. Unfortunately he was also arrested that same night for suspected murder. His 21st birthday, only one month later, must have been somber, despite his Doggystyle, the first debut album ever to debut at No. 1, coming out only one more month later.

Kobe Bryant "K.O.B.E." [ft Tyra Banks]

It's a lot easier to be a great athlete at 20 than to be a great poet at the same age, but Kobe nonetheless declared himself "Thug Poet" on his lead single. His album was never released because it was apparently unsalvageable. To put in perspective how bad this album must have been, remember that big brother Shaq's rhyme skills were sufficient enough to release five rap albums. Instead of trying to partner Kobe up with a talented musician to help him along, the guys at Columbia decided to let Tyra Banks sing a duet with him. Interestingly, it was at the video shoot with Banks that Kobe met his future wife Vanessa.

February 3, 2005

Kill Bill soundtracks remixed
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

The soundtracks to Kill Bill, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 were mixtape masterpieces put together by Quentin Tarantino and Wu-Tang Clan leader The Rza. The Rza was chosen to score the kung-fu epics as a result of his ethnic credibility after being officially drafted by the Asian Delegation during the Racial Draft on Chappelle's Show.

Most of the songs on the soundtracks are either covers of long forgotten originals or cult movie theme songs. Only a few of the tracks are individually remarkable, but the combination of hipster songs from every era and corner of the globe makes a fine mix.

Taking Tarantino's theme of juxtaposition a step further, a group of DJ's have released a remix mashup album called Hanzo Steel, one of the most innovative mash-ups since Danger Mouse's Grey Album.


Billions McMillions - "Ironside Jumpoff"
When Uma Thurman, aka "The Bride" aka "Black Mamba," gets angry, whether in a knife fight in a suburban kitchen or at the hospital with a necrophiliac trucker, dizzying horns foreshadow the impending rampage. The sound effect comes from the theme song from the old TV show Ironside, composed by Quincy Jones (who, incidentally, is an alumnus of Boston's Berklee School of Music).

Tomoyasu Hotei - "Battle Without Honor or Humanity" (Nas Remix)
Nineteen seconds into this song, the beat drops so hard, it'll break your big toe. Unfortunately the cheesy 80s electric guitar solo ruins the song. Blackstone and Atari, who apparently also sensed the hair band vibe in this Japanese pop-rock song, put the vocals from "Shout" by Tears for Fears over the beat. An uncredited remix floating around the Internet featuring Nas' gritty lyrics from "Made Your Look" is a better match.

Nancy Sinatra - "Bang Bang" (Remix)
Frank's better half sings a quiet tale of revenge that perfectly fits the Kill Bill story, with lyrics originally penned by Sonny Bono: "Bang bang, my baby shot me down." This remix pairs Sinatra's sultry voice with the hard drums and squeaky London accent of Dizzee Rascal's "Fix Up, Look Sharp" [aka "The Big Beat"].

Billions McMillions - "Missted Nerve"
Nurse Daryl Hannah whistles an eerie, gleeful tune as she heads down the hallway in the hospital towards an unconscious Uma Thurman. The whistle appears on the soundtrack to Vol. 1 as Bernard Herrmann's "Twisted Nerve," but DJ Billions McMillions throws some meat on the simple tune to make a funky treat. Instead of just mashing two songs together, Billions McMillions bakes a three-layer cake with the original whistle, the syncopated Lain hand claps from the flamenco disco track "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood" by Santa Esmeralda (also from Vol. 1), and the bouncy beat from Missy Elliot's "Pass the Dutch."

January 27, 2005

Timbo does it for the nookie
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

What are you gonna produce today, Timbaland? "Whatever I feel like doing! Gosh!"

Super-duper beat producer Tim Mosley makes hits for anyone with $275,000 to spare, which means he's worked with everyone from Britney to Snoop. Timbaland is responsible for some of the bounciest beats in hip-hop history, including Jay-Z's "Big Pimpin," Jadakiss' "They Ain't Ready," and Cee-lo's "I'll Be Around."

Though Timbaland could work with any rapper he wants, he tends to prefer to work with R&B singers. If it wasn't for his sexy production on Genuwine's "Pony," millions of horny junior high school kids would be left without a beat for their awkward, freaky dancing. Despite his six-figure price tag, Timbaland really does it for the nookie. His best beats were made for a slew of sexy, svelte black girls with beautiful voices. And then there's Missy Elliot, too.


Aaliyah - "If Your Girl Only Knew"
Aaliyah was Timbaland's first muse. Here Aaliyah relishes her role as home-wrecker, taunting the unsuspecting girlfriend of her most recent sexual conquest. When listening to any of Timbaland's beats, wait for the breakdown near the end, when he cuts away the fat and leaves nothing but the phat.

Missy Elliot - "4 My People" (ft. Eve)
Timbaland and Missy go together like Ella and Louis. Over the years Timbaland has bequeathed more hit beats to Missy Elliot than anyone else. Though popular culture tends to prefer skinny girls, Timbaland always knew Missy had soul to spare, regardless of whether she has to shop at Lane Bryant. "4 My People" is an uncharacteristically rapid club beat for the dynamic duo with a spitfire verse from Eve.

Tweet - "Oops (Oh My)"

Accidents happen. Oops, I slipped in the snow. Oops, I spilled my milk. Oops, my skirt fell down and my shirt came off too. Enough with the excuses, Tweet. You hardly seem to mind your "accidental" nudity: "I was looking so good, I couldn't reject myself. I was feeling so good I had to touch myself." Missy Elliot jumps into the masturbation fantasy: "I was eyein' my thighs, butter pecan brown." That's Missy Elliot for you, always thinking about food.

Aaliyah - "Are You That Somebody?"
Is that a frickin' baby wailing in the background? Is Timbaland making random clickity sounds with his mouth? Back when this song came out, it was a strange concoction, but in retrospect, it's just classic Tim.

Alicia Keys - "Heartburn"
Timbaland's beats are generally instantly recognizable, with stuttering synths and a heavy bounce, but this one's different, sounding more like a theme song to a 1970s blaxpoitation film.

January 20, 2005

With Dre & Co. on the beats, let The Game Begin
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

The hype surrounding The Game made him seem more like a marketing gimmick than a rapper. Dr. Dre signed him to Aftermath because he was from Compton, home of gangsta rap pioneers NWA. 50 Cent made him a member of G-Unit because he also got shot during a botched drug deal.

No one knew whether he could actually rap, but The Game could definitely star as a video game character in Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

His debut album, The Documentary, proves The Game is more than a cheap publicity stunt and might re-establish the otherwise lifeless West Coast hip-hop scene.

The Game's lyrical content won't send listeners reaching for the rewind button with astonishment, but the album's superb production and The Game's decent flow guarantees listeners won't need to skip any tracks either.

The production roster on The Documentary is absolutely preposterous for a debut album. Jay-Z had to release ten albums before he got this sort of all-star line-up to produce The Black Album.

Timbaland, Kanye West, Just Blaze, Eminem, and Hi-Tek each bless The Game's grimy growl with fresh beats. But lest we forget the lessons of the 2004 Yankees, a superstar line-up doesn't automatically guarantee a championship.

Fortunately, Dr. Dre serves as sonic director, lending a cohesiveness to The Documentary that's rare on albums with so many producers. Dre put more effort into The Game than he has with any of his Aftermath projects since 50 Cent's debut. Surprisingly, the five tracks Dre produced, including the old-school g-funk in "How We Do," aren't the best beats on the album.

Just Blaze produced the hottest track on The Black Album ("Public Service Announcement") and now brings his infamous horns to two of the best beats on The Documentary, "Church for Thugs" and "No More Fun and Games."

Apparantly, Kanye West has recently discovered the 33 RPM button on his turntable and his offering, "Dreams," is a nice departure from his typical violin solos and sped-up samples.

The Game is outshined by both 50 Cent and Dungeon Family producers Cool and Dre on the album's best track, "Hate It or Love It." 50 Cent's mellifluous flow glides effortlessly, whether it's from verse to hook or from rapping to singing.

Here and throughout the album, The Game raps barely well enough to justify the beat. Every once in a while he will utter a mildly clever line, but he mainly spends his verses reminiscing about NWA, 2Pac, and the good ol' days of West Coast hip-hop. Just in case anyone was not aware of his affiliation with Dre, The Game references the doctor 35 times in 70 minutes.

There's really nothing mentionable about The Game as a rapper, but The Documentary bangs from beginning to the end, perfect for driving fast with the speakers blasting.
2004's worth remembering
By Canyon Cody
Published in The Heights

There were a lot of rap songs I liked in 2004 that I would prefer to never hear again. The shelf life of radio-friendly hip-hop is extremely brief, after which the initially catchy beat gets stale and goes bad.

Music shouldn't be reviewed immediately after it's released, as first impressions can be deceiving. The funky synth on J-Kwon's "Tipsy" was delicious upon its first taste, but six months later the beat sounds like a cheap, silly version of Queen's "We Will Rock You."

Now that we have some distance between us and 2004, it's time to look back at what is worth remembering from the year passed. There were plenty of pleasant songs on the radio this year, but only a few had anything more going for them than a novelty of newness. The following songs are the ones that will last:


Nas "Bridging the Gap" [ft. Olu Dara]
Nas and his pops collaborate to bridge the unnecessary gap between hip-hop and music. Jazz legend Olu Dara struts and swaggers his way through a thumping beat, telling stories about his music career and raising the young Nasir Jones.

Jay-Z "99 Problems"
Rick Rubin emerged from his hip-hop hibernation to craft the heaviest rock/rap beat since "Fight for Your Right." The wee Beastie Boys could never handle a beat this thick, but Jay-Z does justice to the bearded guru's offering. Hopefully, we won't be forced to wait another ten years for the next Rubin beat like we did for this one.

Cee-lo "I'll Be Around"
How could Cee-lo possibly be inconspicuous when his flow is so doggone ridiculous? He might be the soul machine, but Timbaland's bouncing, twittering trumpets provide Cee-lo with his fuel.


Franz Ferdinand "Take Me Out"
There's beauty in the breakdown. Somewhere between 54 and 55 seconds into the song, the whole track falls apart and reemerges anew with a different beat. The transition begs for listeners' accompaniment on the air drums, with full headbanging action.

Eminem "Rain Man"
On an otherwise mediocre album, "Rain Man" was a hilarious throwback to what made Eminem great in the first place. You might think Eminem must have been tripping on mushrooms to write such a strange, abstract song. Eminem is famous for his irreverence for authority and celebrity, but never before has he been so indifferent to the rules of song structure. After a few minutes of ambiguously gay miniature golf and accidentally killing Christopher Reeve, Eminem brags, "I ain't even gotta make any goddamn sense, I just did a whole song and didn't say shit."