Monday, November 7, 2016

Reel Talk: Doctor Strange

Release Date: November 4th, 2016

Synopsis: A former neurosurgeon embarks on a journey of healing only to be drawn into the world of mystic arts.

Review:  By now, you should come to expect that Marvel Studios has a knack for taking obscure properties and transforming them into successful vehicles for mass consumption. Luckily for comic fanatics, and the like, Doctor Strange continues Marvel's winning streak. Staying faithful to Steve's Ditko's vision, the character's co creator and original artist, Dr. Strange provides moviegoers with some of the most dazzling and mind-bending set pieces and action sequences ever delivered in a comic book movie. However, CGI alone does not a successful adaptation make. At the heart of Marvel's latest film is the fantastic and accurate portrayal of the titular character brought to us by the talented Benedict Cumberbatch. With a cinematic universe already occupied by a number of snarky and tongue in cheek characters, Cumberbatch's Strange is able to exude a certain ethos that serves him well in separating himself from the other Marvel leads.Though this movie still fails at providing viewers with a villain as  memorable as Thomas Hiddelston's Loki, the threat is magnanimous enough to compensate for the story's lack of a truly three dimensional antagonist. Nevertheless, seeds are planted for this to be an issue of the past as it relates to this franchise.
Finally, Dr. Strange provides opens a gateway to a realm of the Marvel cinematic universe that is replete with outer worldly stories and characters. Thus, increasing the anticipation for its' sequel and the inevitable inclusion of such elements in future Marvel films. Of course, it wouldn't be a Marvel Studio's offering with out well placed humor, pop cultural references, and Easter Eggs so keep your eyes peeled and ears open to catch them all. I shouldn't have to remind you to do this but hey, Stranger things have happened, no? (A-) CgN


Monday, October 31, 2016

Reel Talk- Mr. Church

Director:Bruce Beresford

Release Date: September 16, 2016

Synopsis: The story of  a unique friendship that develops when a little girl and her dying mother retain the services of a talented cook.

Review: More befitting for the Hallmark channel than the silver screen, Mr. Church is the latest entry in "The Magical Negro" cannon that somehow manages to transform the charismatic Murphy into a stilted caricature which may result in the viewer chuckling at inapporiate times. Never the less, the movie does have its' heart in the right place and at times, succeeds in hitting some rather sentimental,albeit predictable, notes. Thus, allowing the film to pass off as suitable, family viewing.  (C+) - CgN

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Reel Talk: The Birth of a Nation

Director: Nate Parker

Release Date: October 7, 2016

Synopsis: The rousing story of one man's quest for justice and freedom in Southampton County Virginia.

Review: Whew! Such onomatopoeia is usually reserved for Facebook status updates and whimsical text messages . Nevertheless, it's quite appropriate when thinking of the sheer weight this movie holds, especially in these racially tumultuous times. "Whew" also seems appropriate when I, as a reviewer, have been positioned as the referee between my objective and subjective lenses. But since we are reviewing Nate Parker's The Birth of The Nation, a title that cleverly takes its' namesake from D.W Griffin's cinematically groundbreaking but shamefully racist  film released in 1915, let's go back  down memory lane. I was first introduced to the story of Nat Turner in my sophomore year of high school. Luckily, I attended an institution that had one of the few African American study courses in the state. Instantly , I became enamored with the story of this rebellious servant who went against the depiction of the docile  and subservient slave I had been force fed my entire life. Fast forward to my junior year in college, in which his story was expanded upon by the genius that is Dr. Gayle Tate, and I instantly had a hero that would be forever revered. The running joke amongst my small inner circle was that we would never, EVER, see two films come into fruition: A film about Black Wall Street and a film about Nat Turner! For years, our beliefs were stone cold facts. And though we would be patronized with hollow mockeries such as D'Jango Unhained and (Scratches head) D'jango Unchained, we were nowhere closer to the public being exposed to this polarizing figure. Now, this film steps out from behind the Oscar so White Curtain, to take center stage!

Though I initially chomped at the bit when it came to its' release, I remembered  that I was now a different individual then that sophomore in HS or that junior in college. I was now a thirty something year old who had witnessed a bevy of racial injustices and an all out assault or exploitation on the cultural sensibilities of African Americans. My hard exterior  had been dealt blows and I now bore the tattoos of experience that reminded me of the woes of a racist society. So yes,  as i walked into the theater, I was anxious and reserved, willing and tentative, and any other paradoxical combination you can think of. But what would be the result of my advance viewing?

Well, I witnessed the visceral,systemic breakdown of  a man whose own convictions and beliefs were used against him and his people. I saw a man being choked by the vines found in his own blissful paradise of ignorance but used those some constraints to break free and engage in an internal tug of war between his destiny and reality. I saw a warrior who was forged from fire and now ready to bring damnation upon the wicked. And yes, Nate Parker encapsulated all the characteristics, both in front and in back of the camera, that made Nat Turner a dynamic figure . Sure, there were some questionable editing and cuts that made the viewing a bit  more kinetic than needed but Parker soon reigned it in and allowed the viewer to focus on the delicate nature of relationships, draw one into a world of deceitful tranquility and  immediately thrust all into the darkest corridors of this country's most shameful act. All subsequent actions then lead to a fever pitch  that impatiently gnawed at the viewer's patience as everyone awaited the rebellion that bared temporal vindication, reveled in justified carnage and then escorted everyone from the theater into a state of solemn reflection. 

But it wasn't enough for me! Why? Had my expectations been built so high that anything less than a masterpiece would have been disappointing? Or was I so familiar with the historical context that I simply could not be satisfied with the notion that  "At least the movie got made?".And here lies the philosophical debate that will decide the level of satisfaction one would receive from this movie. As a film itself, the principal actors do a fine job, the scores were suitable, go Nina Simone, and the direction hit most of its' marks. But was it truly remarkable? No! We have seen this story before thanks in part to films such as 12 Years a Slave and the series Underground. Therefore, the fatigue of witnessing brutality against slaves, coupled with the reality that is faced today, left me in a fatigued state.Furthermore, without spoiling the film, the payoff seem truncated and the slight historical revisions left me unjustified.The selling point of this movie was the telling of a narrative that is often ignored in history :the slave rebellion. But I could not shake the feeling that this film had been neutered in a sense.  Simply put, no matter what is  "produced" the distribution companies have the final say in what is released. But I will give Mr. Parker a standing ovation for getting us this far. But once you raise your head and look down the path ahead, you'll realize that our ability to tell our stories with out mitigation or restraint is still off in the horizon.  (B) - CgN

Monday, October 3, 2016

Classic Corner- The Book of Luke

by  Da CogNegro

They could have taken the easy way out and relied on his seventies blaxploitation origin that was replete with stereotypical caricatures, broken language and ornate pageantry. They could have taken the easy way out and leaned on the  Brain Azarello's interpretation, under the Marvel Comics' Max banner, which portrayed the titular character as a gold teeth five finger ring wearing womanizer with a panache for profanity and thug tendencies (as if we needed more of these depictions that have already flooded our media and entertainment and have ultimately  tainted the perception of black males.) Outside of guest appearances in some Marvel licensed video games, the only other  adaptation of the Luke Cage character ,that I am aware of, was found on the animated series entitled Avengers Earth Mightiest Heroes where he was portrayed as a hot-headed and narrow minded individual who was more concerned with being paid for his services as oppose to doing heroic deeds. This was even made more apparent when compared to his partner: the noble and leveled Iron Fist. Fortunately, Marvel and Netflix did not take the easy way out. Instead, they provided us with a much long awaited hero whose role goes beyond the realm of satisfying comic book enthusiast and entertaining casual viewers!

Where do I start? How about the beginning! The opening hip-hop theme, that is drenched in bluesy sensibilities  and highlighted by a sun dew, Harlem backdrop,  merely teased our pallet in expectation for a feast of unapologetic cultural offerings. The Apollo Theater, Malcolm X Boulevard, yea, it was all there! The show did not shy away from its' African American history. In fact, it reveled in it .Thus , harkening back to a time where John Singleton  would drop "messages"of truth throughout his movies, or your favorite black sitcom would have its'characters overtly discuss black issues or subtly adorn the attire of HBCU(s). Whether it was Cage toting around a copy Ralph Ellision's Invisible Man,  the villainous Mariah Dillard (played exceptionally well by the seasoned veteran Alfre Woodard) name dropping Madam CJ Walker or even Cottonmouth's (one of Luke's nemesis  portrayed in a deviously effecting manner by Mahershala Ali ) henchmen schooling folks on Daniel Moynihan's theory of Benign Neglect,  Cheo Hodari Coker, the show's central writer,  was unabashed in his intentions to educate viewers on the black experience. I'm going to say that last one again, you had a HENCHMEN WHO WAS SPEAKING ABOUT  BENIGN NEGLECT...let that sink in !

However, Luke Cage doesn't just discuss matters of yesteryear. The show commences to tackle heavy subjects that are at the forefront of  today's black experience. The usage of the "n-word" comes to play during a scene in which a gun wielding youth proceeds to call Luke Cage said word thus sparking a discussion of  Crispus Attucks and how such a term is a not a fitting description of who he has come to be. Furthermore, another major theme that resonates in the latter part of the season is the tumultuous relationship between African Americans and the police. It was actually quite chilling to experience the parallels between the show's narrative and what we are currently facing in our country today, including the irony of our hero being "bullet proof".Other relevant topics that are touched upon  include gentrification, gang violence, PTSD and the privatization of prisons.Something else that was noteworthy was the fact that the drug epidemic was downplayed. Now some may see this as not painting an accurate picture of urban life. However, I see it as deciding not to seek the low hanging fruit that we have feasted upon for so long. Also, doing so avoided the trap of glamorizing such a lifestyle that is readily encouraged by today's entertainment outlets!

Now ,I would be neglectful if I failed to commentate on  the lifeblood of Luke Cage which is the music! How many of us were pleasantly stunned to see Raphael Saadiq and Jidenna grace the stage of Harlem's Paradise,  energetically nodded our heads to some of Wu Tang and Gang Starr's dopest joints, or did our best hard bottom twirl when the Delfonics hit the scene? Not only were we treated to familiar names, we also got the opportunity to be exposed to lesser known acts such as Charles Bradly and Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings.The music chosen and highlighted throughout the series showed how nuanced the developers were in sonically painting a vibrant picture, filled with a cavalcade of players, that only served to enhance the narrative of this Harlem Knight!
Charles Bradly

Not satisfied with being a side-note, distraction, or a damsel in distress,  Simone Missick, better known as Misty Knight,  was a shinning example of  an empowered woman of color. I for one have been a fan of Misty Knight  for quite sometime and though I  was bit disappointed that she didn't receive her bionic arm, everything else about her depiction was satisfying. Here, we had an intelligent, clairvoyant, and no non-sense woman who was determined to protect her city at all cost Even when her vulnerability was on display, it was tool that didn't exploit her weaknesses. Rather, it allowed us to empathize with her and avoid her becoming another one-note, stock character! And yea, she was super bad! (Those curls and that fro!!!!) To find out more about Misty Knight, and other black super-heroines, click here !


And how could we forget to speak on the man himself:Luke Cage! In an past entry entitled Unsung Hero, which you can read here, I spoke at length about the lack of proper representation when it comes to black heroes. Yes we've had our share of blaxploitation figures, comic relief super beings, and downright insulting depictions. But never have  we had a serious minded, intellectual man  of honor and conviction be so prominently projected to the mainstream .Now, is Luke Cage Marvel's best Netflix offering? No! I will not allow cultural bias to cloud my critical eye. There were times when Micheal Coulter (Luke Cage) could have been more convincing in evoking certain emotions, sorrow comes to mind, as well as other actors who may of had some wooden deliveries (although this has been a common Achilles heel throughout all of the Marvel/Netflix series). Furthermore, the final battle came off a bit "cartoonish" and somewhat diluted the gritty tone that the show had spent its' entire run cultivating. Nevertheless, these are minor gripes that in no way could discredit Marvel's most AMBITIOUS show to date and it feels damn good to finally  see someone who isn't a sidekick or a successor to another hero! It feels damn good that when America watches this show, they won't be looking through binoculars to experience another tour of the urban jungle. Rather  they will see a champion fighting to preserve the legacy of a city and people rich in culture. It feels damn good  to know that Marvel and Netflix allowed this character to evolve from a 2D relic of  a bygone era into a three dimensional celebration of black masculinity that is so needed in this time where black males are seen as nothing more than deviants and criminals worthy only of  imprisonment and death. And finally, it feels damn good for me to not have to wait until December to say that revered saying made famous by the man himself:  Sweet Christmas!!!CgN

Friday, September 23, 2016

Classic Corner: "That Looks Like a Bad Dude"

by Da CogNegro

Studies have shown that it takes approximately five seconds for a first impression to be created. Within that time frame, assumptions on a person's social status, intelligence, eating habits, as well as ambition can be constructed.These preconceived notions then dictate the type of interaction that will occur between the parties involved . Now, this internal, social mechanism is utilized by all on a daily basis. At times, it can serve as a protection. Thus, helping ones to evade unsavory individuals and situations. Other times though, it can highlight one's own prejudices that have resulted from previous experiences, or lack thereof, and may cause an adverse or dismissive reaction. Whatever the case may be, our judgments have the potential to be erroneous. Our propensity to give way to our tentative feelings USUALLY does not result in dire consequences. However, more and more incidents involving  the death  of men of color, by the hands of the authorities, is proving other wise.

This past Friday, in Tulsa Oklahoma, a familiar story made its' rounds across the country: Unarmed man gunned down by the police. Though this narrative is nothing new in recent times, the footage of the incident, which I usually avoid mine you, struck a chord with me. In the video, you can clearly hear one of the officers, who was viewing the incident from a helicopter, state "That looks like a bad dude". So, from the sky, literally, you were able to conclude that this unarmed pastor, who was walking "AWAY" from your fellow officers with his hands up, was, as you put it, a"Bad dude"? Well, let's dive into what  may constitute as a "Bad dude" shall we?

Let's  inspect the gentleman's attire. He seems to be wearing a t-shirt, a  t-shirt that you could probably  purchase from any local retailer. There doesn't seem to be any nefarious logos or gang insignia that may give off "Bad dude" vibes. I can understand if there was a weapon screen printed on the shirt or maybe a contentious slogan like "Have a Bad Day" or "The Roof is On Fire,Let It Burn" No, just a regular t-shirt. Now, let's take a gander at his pants. They seem to be brown in nature without any  patches or rips.You see,  rips and tears are clear indicators that the wearer may have engaged in some "Bad dude" activities. But again, nothing!   Now I can't make out his foot wear so maybe that is why the cops felt threatened?  "Bad dudes" have been know to wear suspicious shoes,sneakers,or sandals. How else could they keep their balance when committing all those illegal activities? But on closer inspection, their doesn't seem to be anything noteworthy about what he is wearing on his feet. He's also not wearing a hat or any other head covering . Well, I'm confused! There's noting outwardly glaring that would classify Mr. Terence Crutcher  as a"Bad dude". But yet, this officer was able to make this accurate assumption with out interacting with him . Now it may have taken five seconds for him to judge the character of this gentleman but it took a mere thirty seconds, after additional officers arrived on the scene, to fatally shoot this man. Go figure right?

You know what  I think? Come here, I'll tell you a secret. No matter what that gentleman was wearing, he was always viewed as a threat and worthy of death. There is no amount of training or body cameras that will eliminate the diseased mentality that festers in the minds of these individuals. The notion that an African American male is  suspicious or guilty until killed has been the foregone conclusion that has fueled the actions of these corrupt persons.It is  this mentality that has purposely been  created, and maintained, in order to justify the  dishing out  of harsh courses of actions without facing any reprisals!   Therefore, encouraging this type of behavior to the public abroad!

Am I surprised? Absolutely not! Especially since a 2006 FBI report stated that supremacist groups, such as the Klu Klux Klan, were increasingly seeking to infiltrate law enforcement. That same report also went into detail about an unsettling tactic utilized by  such groups called "Ghost Skins". The following quote explains further what the term denotes

"Since coming to law enforcement attention in late 2004, the term "ghost skins" has gained currency among white supremacists to describe those who avoid overt displays of their beliefs to blend into society and covertly advance white supremacist causes."

Another "Bad dude"

Furthermore, the fact that individuals are more passionate about lambasting an athlete, who by the way is exercising his constitutional right to speak out about such atrocities as these , then the execution of an innocent man ,caught on camera nonetheless, proves that this corrosive way of thought is not confined to your local precinct.   I can go on for pages, which I have already done, detailing the systematic demonetization of the black male  in America and how it serves multiple purposes from being the economic backbone to this country's prison system right on down to the destruction of his role in the black family due to his constant emasculation on various media platforms.  But alas, I feel  like scratched vinyl on a song that has been on repeat for so long. I'm not giving up, and nether should you, but I just need a rest ,to gather more energy, and push forward to hopefully move the needle - CgN 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Reel Talk: The Magnificent Seven

Director:  Antoine Fuqua

Release Date: September 23rd, 2016

Synopsis:  In the old west, seven gun men gradually come together to help a poor village against  savage thieves

Review: Trappings of typical western affairs are on full display in the remake of the 1960's film  The Magnificent Seven. With no shortage of extended shootouts, wry quips, and reactionary shots,Washington's and Fuqua's  latest team up  doesn't break any molds, as it relates to the genre, but the eclectic consortium of characters and the tried and true revenge plot does its' due diligence in being the type of action flick that you would watch alongside your grandfather while donning some drug store cowboy apparel, thus making the two gun kid  quite proud. Not to mention, that it's been a long time coming for  an African American cowboy to take center stage without it being a complete mockery! (I'm looking at you Boss N*****!!) (B-) 

Join me Friday as we talk in detail about the latest senseless shooting of an unarmed African American male in the entry entitled  "That Looks Like a Bad Dude" - CgN

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Guest, Who! : Law of Attraction vs. Timing (by Jihan "JiJi" Carmichael)

There should never be a monploy on expression. For this very reason, I have created  a monthly platform in which you, the reader, can express yourself . I present, Guest, Who!

When it comes to matters of the heart,the path to happiness and fulfillment can be quite the winding road Often, we may find ourselves looking for the proper navigation due to stumbling into uncharted territory. While others, wind up in a state of bewilderment as they repeatedly succumb to the same pitfalls that hinder their progress. Well fret no longer because I am quite aware that many of you have been... ahem all the wrong places! And  for that very reason, I have acquired the services of  Ms. Jihan "JiJi" Carmichael to assist you with all of your relationship woes. Ms. Carmichael is a dating and relationship Vlogger. She has been featured on OWN Network's Help Desk, with Iyanla Vanzant, BKS1 Radio's Two Guys Know Lies  and  the Southern Soulcast podcast. In other words, she knows her shhhhhhh

Her latest video deals with two contrasting theories as it relates to dating: The Laws of Attraction and Timing! If you are not familiar with these concepts, here's an analogy for you: remember when Forrest Gump told Jenny that he was struggling with the notion that we either (A.) all have a destiny like Lieutenant Dan or  (B.)  life was simply "Like a box of chocolates" because we never knew what we may get? No!? Well JiJi does a much better job of breaking down the intricacies of today's topic. Be sure to sound off in the comments section as well.- CgN


You can follow Ms.Jihan "JiJi" Carmichael at the following media outlets:

YouTube: The Ji SpotHere



Monday, August 15, 2016

Corner Spotlight: Nikki Jean - Million Star Hotel

Introduced to the  mainstream world on Lupe Fiasco's Hip Hop Saved My Life, Nikk Jean's Million Star Hotel sounds like it was ripped straight from an eighties rags to riches musical... and that's a good thing! The "dreamscape" that Nikki's vocals create is so lush you  may just want to make this temporary lodging your permanent residence. Not to mention, you'd be neighbors with Black Though and Lupe Fiasco as they lend their lyrical dexterity at this inn!

[Nikki Jean]
Lord knows I've been lower
Locked underneath the cellar door
I've been bent til I broke but never more
You might ask why I'm smiling
With filthy pockets can't you tell
Diamond shine in the midnight sky
And the world is my million star motel

[ Lupe Fiasco]
L-U-P I'm back where the beat at
Love always shines every time I see that
Hugging the track if you're under attack
And you're stuck, I'll be back in your arms like a relapse
Take you out the lobby, put you where a suite at
Sweet you ain't gotta check, gotta bring the key back
Keep that do not disturb on the door
This [?] where infidels creep at
In a room where the lovers don't cheat at
Concierges, room service
Complimenting mini-bar, you ain't reserve this
But you deserve this, and we all agree that
House-keep let you sleep where you dream at
And if you need new dreams we can bring that
This the W-O-R-L-D
Anytime, anything where Nikki Jean at

[Nikki Jean]
God bless not-believers
They teach the dreamers how to fly
Love and hate fuel the fire inside their eyes
The suits and the schemers
Can't see beyond what they can sell
Diamond shine in the midnight sky
Being kept by a million star motel

[Black Thought]
Checked into a room with a view
One brick wall, one portrait of you
Still feel like I was walking into
A place more blessed than the less fortunate do
But, it couldn't be more far from the truth
Spot look small, not far from the booth
And the basement not far from the roof
And the whole staff look way darker than blue
But, I'm not really wanting for too much
I could feel like a millionaire with a few bucks
Whether in black Chucks or a new tux
Some take note but never give two fucks
Whether Wu-Tang Clan or the Klu-Klux
Wonder how the world gon' handle the new stuff
Find true love, that's my new drug
Nikki Jean get the orchestra cued up

[ Nikki Jean]
You might ask why I'm smiling
With filthy pockets can't you tell
Diamond shine in the midnight sky
And the world is my million star motel

Monday, August 8, 2016

Reel Talk: Suicide Squad & ...

Being that Reel Talk will  only be featured once a month, I figured I would review more than one film per post. This month, we review the highly anticipated Suicide Squad, the much hyped DC animated adaption of Baman's The Killing Joke and the the mysterious follow up to 2008's Cloverfield: 10 Cloverfield Lane.

Director: David Ayer

Release Date: August 5th, 2016

Synopsis: Figuring thy are all expendable, a U.S. intelligence officer decides to assemble a team of dangerous, incarcerated Super Villains for a top-secret mission.

Review: Somewhere buried in DC's latest attempt at building a shared cinematic universe lies a great movie. However, despite Davis and Robbie on the nose depiction of their comic characters, Harley Quinn and Amanda Waller respectively, as well as some touching emotional moments,  Suicide Squad's uneven pacing and generic villains, hinders its' potential to be truly great. But it isn't the Joker or ______ that's the main antagonist to the Squad. No, it is the cliched script that is the force to be reckoned with. No one is expecting Oscar worthy lines from a comic book movie. However, when your dialogue is reminiscent of GI Joe PSA ads and fortune cookie fodder than it may mean that a couple of rewrites may be in order (Yes, we get it, you are "bad guys"! Thanks for the countless reminders Will Smith). But maybe rewrites and re-shoots aren't the solution. Perhaps, they are the problem! Due to the complaints of the dark nature of Batman V Superman, re-shoots and re-writes were done in order to "lighten" the tone of the movie. While some of the humor does hit, ultimately it comes off as a feeble attempt to emulate the formula that has made the Marvel brand so successful.  Was the original film more palatable or is this really a case of too many chefs in the kitchen? Down 0-2,  DC can only hope to get a point on the scoreboard with their next film Wonder Woman. (C)


Director: Sam Liu

Release Date: July 25, 2016 (Limited  Theater Engagement Prior to Home Release)

Synopsis: Batman must save Commissioner Gordon from the Joker's twisted quest to drive him insane

Review: DC's animated adaption of Batman The Killing Joke fails to live up to not only the incredible hype but more disappointingly, the iconic impact the story had on the Batman mythos. True, it was going to be a challenging adapting the source material into a full length film. However, the additions created ,specifically for movie, did little to enhance the story line. Rather, it proceeded to somewhat tarnish and unnecessarily trivialize the legacies of both Batman and Batgirl thus resulting in a very unsatisfactory entry in the animated world of DC Comics' movies. In addition, the retro animation is charming at first but soon grows rigid and fails to take full advantage of the excellent voice work of both Kevin Conroy (Batman) and Mark Hamill (Joker) (C-)


Director: Dan Trachtebberg   

Release Date: March 11th, 2016

Synopsis: ???????

Review; Abandoning the shaky, first person perspective of its' predecessor, 10 Cloverfield Lane succeeds as a taut thriller that takes advantage of its' ominous  and eerie tone as well as its' great performance from the seasoned veteran John Goodman .(B)


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Decoded- Lavish

Welcome to the first edition of Decoded. Inspired by Rap Genius, Decoded will be a feature that breaks down the written work of DS Williams. This month, DS' verse, off the the unreleased Mirrorz Edge song entitled Lavish, will be the subject of dissection. Let's get started!

(Verse 1)
Want to feel the rush without the formula.
Cruise minus risky behavior that brings coroners.
Earn heart, maybe I need to "recup"
But first let me spread my wings with my troop!
A two step in my socks in my living room.
Fresh to death  my attire should be a walking tomb.
Resurrected when the pen hits the parchment.
Hard to be beat when you walk around heartless !
Life's an "Eh"... I still want to impress her!
Chess capers in order for me to check her!
On board, unless I play my cards right.
Runner Runner, still moving in the moonlight!
Another deal shows fate ...just a gamble,
From boarded windows to swinging doors..I handle!
Snake Eyes, not your ordinary Joe.
So place all your bets on a sure fire flow!

And Now It's Time For Breakdown

"Want To Feel The Rush With out the Formula"

This first line begins an extended metaphor on travel and transportation. DS wants to "Feel the rush" or excitement, without the "formula"or artificial means (ie drugs and alcohol).  "Rush" and "Formula" also refer to Formula One racing. Rush  is also a movie that details the rivalry between two Formula One drivers: James Hunt and Niki Lauda!

Cruise Minus Risky Behavior That Brings Coroners

DS is reiterating that he just wants to move at a steady pace (cruise) to avoid reckless actions that may cause a premature end. Cruise is also a reference to  the actor Tom Cruise ,who was a race car driver in the movie Days of Thunder and also starred in the movie Risky Business. (Hence the term Risky Behavior)

Earn Heart, Maybe I Need to Recoup, but First Let Me Spread My Wings With My Troop

This line is filled with double entendres! But first, let's focus on the narrative. DS says that in order from him to continue on is path, he needs to "Earn heart" or become more courageous. In order to do that, he needs rest or take time to "recup", short for recuperate. "Earn heart" is also a play on words on the name of  famous race car driver Dale Earnhardt Jr (continuing the racing theme) ."Recup" can also be read as "recoup" meaning to get another automobile, being that a :Coupe" is a type of car and the prefix "re" means back or again.

But before DS can rest, he wants to travel with his friends (troop), by means of flying, to another location. Troop also refers to the 80s R&B group who were responsible for the song Spread My Wings.

A Two Step in My Socks in My Living Room

(Scene From Risky Business)

Fresh to death  my attire should be a walking tomb/ Resurrected when the pen hits the parchment

No matter how fly his attire may be, DS feels truly alive when he is writing.

Chess Capers in Order for me to Check Her

This line begins the second extended metaphor : games and gambling. Despite life being "Eh", DS still wants to do his best at it. Therefore, he will utilize strategy (Chess  moves) in order to conquer life or  "Check her". "Check her" also serves as a play on words on the game Checkers (of course)

On board, unless I play my cards right ,Runner Runner, still moving in the moonlight

DS will stay on the gambling boards (or continue to take risk for his art) unless he has a hot hand playing cards (most likely black jack  or poker) Runner Runner is a poker term that describes a player catching two running cards in order to make their hand. DS may also  be referring to traveling once more (running),thus returning back to the initial narrative and metaphor. And of course, Runner Runner is a film that stars Justin Timberlake . This film deals with the lies and scams in the world of on-line poker.

Snake Eyes, Not Your Ordinary Joe

In the game of craps, snake eyes is the outcome of rolling dice and getting only one pip on each die. Snake Eyes also refers to the mute ninja who is  a focal character  in the animated show G.I. Joe (Not your ordinary Joe)  

So place all bets on a sure fire flow
Ending the gambling metaphor, DS encourages the listener to "place bets" or have faith in his ability to be able to win or be successful in the rap/poetry game.

So what's your thoughts folks? Sound off in the comment section- CgN

Monday, July 25, 2016

Take Five: Hip Hop Albums

by Da CogNegro

Outside of Jazz,no genre of music has shaped my existence more than Hip-Hop.My way of dress, speech and even belief system was at one time or another dictated by this brand of music. That is why I am so protective of it. Especially if it falls into the wrong hands and used for nefarious purposes. Even if it never returns to its' days of glory , will always have these albums to provide me with  pats of nostalgia and jolts of inspiration!

Honorable Mention: Camp Lo Uptown Saturday Night

Release Year: 1997
High Point(s): Black Connection, Luchini, Sparkle
Low Point(s): B-Side to Hollywood (Some Rather Silly Lyrics)

Why it Almost Made the List: One of the most underrated albums, produced by one of the most underrated acts in hip hop, Camp Lo's Uptown Saturday Night was simply too ahead of its' time to be fully appreciated at the time of its' release. Geechi Seude's razor sharp delivery along with Sonny Cheeba's charmingly perplexing aura serve as a great introduction to one of hip hop's most unique parings. I was introduced to Camp Lo in college and to this day, at least a quarter of this album stays in heavy rotation.

5.Lupe Fiasco's Presents The Cool

Release Year:2007
High Point(s): Hip Hop Saved My Life, The Coolest,  The Game
Low Point(s): Gold Watch

Why it Made the ListSooooo I'm going to cheat and steal my commentary right from my Take Five: Lupe Fiasco's Albums entry, which can be found here. Shhhh, don't tell anyone; When the only flaw on your album is the pitch of a sample ( Gold Watch) then you really are looking at an unprecedented opus! Lupe demonstrated that he not just merely attempts a type of song, but  could also master it as well! You want a crossover hit that will be used in countless commercials? Well here's Superstar! Want a pulse pounding rock song? Enter: Hello Goodbye. How about a whimsical tale peppered with social commentary? Well I guess you Gotta Eat. A song that is too "gangsta" to show remorse? Boom, Put You on Game. And the list goes on and on! On top of that, this album  also contains a conceptual  narrative, one in which I won't spoil.  The Cool successfully weaves the abstract with the accessible. Are there some intricate moving parts here? Absolutely! But you  will realize that  finding the pathway to understanding isn't as murky as his latest album. Also, Lupe is able to evoke great emotion and empathy from the touching tale of Hip Hop Save My Life  to the cautionary anecdotes of Intruder Alert. The album accomplishes what every artist seeks to achieve: balance! Such a feat has positioned The Cool as not just the best Lupe Fiasco album, but the best hip hop album in the last fourteen years!

4. Nas- Stillmatic

Release Year: 2001
High Point(s): One Mic, You're The Man, Rewind
Low Point(s): Bravehart Party

Why it Made the List: Yes, I just heard a collective gasp from all you Hip-Hop purest out there. If a NAS album was to be apart of someone's top five, how could it not be Illmatic? Well, truth be told, I was only 10 when Illmatic came out and my limited rap references, at the time, were lmited to such such "safe" acts as Arrested Development and Kriss-Kross. By the time my ear was mature enough to grasp more complex, interwoven and profanity laced hip-hop, NAS was on the decline with such misses as I AM and Nastradamus. However, even though his material was not at the top of my playlist at the time, I knew that NAS was an MC that was resilient and could survive the onslaught that was known as Jay-Z's Takeover. And sure enough, despite the claims of all of my dorm mates and co., NAS not only survived but underwent a resurgence that is rare in the realm of Hip Hop! From that battle, we received Stllmatic. For the first time in years, NAS crafted an array of songs that covered a wide variety of topics. Not only did  it include the incendiary ETHER: a comeback diss record of epic proportions, but arguably one of NAS most powerful signature songs in One Mic. Tracks such as Rewind showed his knack of creatively telling a story while RULE and My Country proved that NAS was quite cognizant of world affairs. Since the release of this album, NAS has reclaimed his spot atop  Hip Hop's Mount Rushmore and continues to show that he's still Illmatic.

3.Eminem- The Marshall Mathers LP

Release Year: 2000
High Point(s): Stan, The Way I Am, B**** Please Pt 2
Low Point(s): Amityville- One word: Bizarre. Ugh! His attempts at shock value were appalling and anemic!

Why it Made the List :Junior year of high school was a pivotal turning point in my life. Often referred to as 'The End of Innocence, the staunch bubble that had protected me from the world's temptations and ills had been shattered with the knives of a 1,000 throwers. Anger, confusion, heartbreak, and hopelessness had taken over and no relief was in sight. Everything in my life I began to question and the beliefs that had been firmly planted into my solid ground had now been violently uprooted and dissected on the operating table belonging to internal bedlam. Who knew that a bleached blond white boy from Detroit would be my saving grace. The Marshall Mather's LP was  at times vile, unapologetic and shocking. Yet, the pain, angst and disregard that Eminem was projecting spoke to me like no other collection of work had done before . Listening to that album wasn't just a passive exercise, it was my auditory therapy session that allowed me to vicariously strike back at all that was battling me .  Underneath the vitriolic content lied a soul who had been tossed aside by society. Such emotion is clearly evident in tracks such as STAN and The Way I AM. Not only did this album provide a relief from a listening standpoint,but it also heavily influenced my writing and set into motion a transformation of what was once a frivolous  pastime  and allowed it to become  a component of my very being. In closing, progress without pain is often stagnate.

2.Mos Def Black on Both Sides

Release Year: 1999
High Point(s): Umi Says, Know That, Mr. Nigger
Low Point(s): Habitat. Not a bad song but it just comes off as repetitive after  the superior Brooklyn.

Why it Made the List: Somewhere between Puffy's shiny suit and the Ruff Ryders dirt and grim era, a small corner of hip hp was designated for the crown jewels that was produced from a the independent label called Rawkus Records. Rather than depend on bombastic production and gritty or braggadocios lyrics, the artist of Rawkus focused more on the craftsmanship of words and oftentimes, socially conscience material coupled with pulse pounding earthy production. One artist , and album, in particular was able to accomplish this more than others. Mos Def's Black on Both Sides is an achievement in music, not just hip hop.This album showed me how malleable this art-form could be. When I hear songs like Umi Says and Climb, it shows the versatility that Mos utilized to stretch the boundaries of this genre. And when it came to subject matter, sheesh!!  Everything from the true origins of rock and roll down  to the essence of love is covered.This guy even has a track about water... and it wasn't whack! I'll drink to that!

1.Jay-Z- Reasonable Doubt

Release Year: 1996
High Point(s)Dead Presidents II, Can I Live, Feelin It, 
Low Point(s)Ain't No N**** (At least it isn't Sunshine right?)

Despite the way I may feel about this current incarnation of Jay-Z, the introductory version of the self proclaimed God MC was him at his finest. Sure he has produced a bevy of instantly recognizable and classic songs but there was a polished rawness on this album that was undeniable. Not to mention, this offering  possessed some of the most crisp and infectious production ever gathered on one disc. Everyone had an adopted an Italian Mafioso persona during the mid nineties, we can give thanks to Kool G Rap for that, but Jay had perfected it on his first outing. He possessed a brash but crafted delivery and his presence demanded attention without being overbearing. Plus, the flashy and hedonistic tales coupled with stark and harsh realities made for one hell of a listening experience.I dare you not allow your mind to take you to another place when you here the piano keys of Dead Presidents II, or not brace yourself for something epic when Brooklyn's Finest makes it was to your ears. And the list goes on and on when it comes to the memorable tracks on Reasonable Doubt. Jay said that this album was his best because it's the one he had prepared all of his life for. I agree with him.  Yes,I agree with him ...without a reasonable doubt! -CgN

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Corner Spotlight: Pete Philly & Perquisite- Mellow (Featuring Senna)

Good morning to all of you out there in blog land! This is Junior Love Dad-E reporting semi-live from "Da Corner". Summer is here and it has set up shop on your front porch.The heat is on high so it feels like two days escorting you to your next destination. And being that the Love Dad-E believes in spreading his namesake, here's a track for all my love birds out there to help you flap your wings and take flight.Melodic vocals, blissful flutes, and whimsy snaps are just some of the pleasing components of Pete Philly  Perquisite's track Mellow. Trust me, the title of the song is quite appropriate. With that said, may all of your days be Sun-days and all your nights be out of sight. Just remember, you are a star no matter where you are! Love Dad-E out! -CgN