Tuesday, September 23, 2008

4 Hours Alone With My Thoughts

I recently enrolled in a four hour seminar that met several days in a row from 6 to 10 p.m. The content of this class is completely unimportant to this post, what matters is that these are the exact thoughts I had over the course of the four hour lecture.  

5:40: Sensible dinner consisting of rice, canned fish and one bottle of Snapple Iced Tea.  I am fairly accustomed to being forced to do unpleasant activities for long periods of time and  through an extensive process of trial and error I have found this to be the best “Pre-Game Meal.”  This provides protein, carbs and a little caffeine in just the right ratio to keep me awake for a few hours of something I hate.  The only other choice would be  a caramel-chai frappachino from Starbucks, but since I am not homosexual and have a lack of desire to buy $6 cups of coffee on a regular basis, this is not a viable option.  

5:58: “I can’t believe I’m really about to do this...again.”

6:00: “...and we’re off!”

6:02: Why can’t this guy just punch me in the face now, get it over with, and let me go home?  I would much rather be icing a bloody nose at my house than sitting here for another four hours.

6:08:  Who would I like to hook up with in this room?

6:09: Nobody!

6:10: This has got to be the least physically attractive group of people I have ever seen.  There’s not a single girl in this room I would take to a rock fight.  Actually, now that I think about it, what do these 5 items have in common?: a pencil sharpener, a toaster turned to high/dark, an electrical outlet, a paper shredder and a girl walking out of an AIDS clinic? I would make love to any of those items before one of these skanks...hahaha, sometimes I crack myself up!

6:30: I would rather be doing literally ANYTHING else.

6:45 to 7:30: Drift in and out of consciousness constantly messing up my notes by starting lines in clear, legible penmanship and ending them in unreadable squiggly lines.    None of these short “naps” are long enough to get any rest, but they are just long enough to cause my contacts to dry out and ensure the next several hours will be misery because my vision will be reduced to that of Kareem Abdul-Jabar without his rec-specs and my eyelids will be intermittently stuck together.  

7:30: Only a half hour to the break, I can do this!

8:00: Break Time! I walk out the front of the building, stand by myself and quickly consume a Wild Berry Power Bar.  I immediately regret my decision to eat my snack so quickly because now I have to find a way to kill the next 14 minutes. There are a group of smokers huddled together feverishly inhaling Marlboro's and Camel Lights.  They all seem to know each other from so many nights spent smoking outside bars, restaurants and other establishments where smoking is frowned upon and there is no way I can break into the conversation.  I wouldn’t even know how to start, “So, what to you guys think about Newport Menthols?”  Damn, sometimes I wished I smoked.  Ok, I’ll get through this, I’ll take out my phone, and pretend to text message.  I might even smile while I “read” the fake messages to really sell the fact that I am cool enough to get funny text messages.  If I am really lucky the smokers will think they are from women, I’m so good at pretending to be cool.

8:15: Back to one of my favorite activities: Sitting Quietly.

8:25: If I won some kind contest and the prize was any 10 NFL jerseys, who would I pick?

Ladainian Tomlinson HOME

Ladainain Tomlinson AWAY...that Chargers Jersey is HOT.

Matt Leinart HOME

Jerricho Cotchery HOME

Anybody on the Cleveland Browns 

Jamarcus Russell HOME

Vernon Gholston AWAY

Joe Flacco...whichever one is purple

Torry Holt AWAY

Barry Sanders HOME...it’s my fake contest and I’m including Throwbacks in the fake prize pack.

8:45: I want to physically harm this speaker, the bastard just will not shut up.  I want to raise my hand and bait him into saying “You can count on...” so I can cut him off and say  “And you can count on me waiting for you outside...” Then when everyone is shocked at that exchange I get up, grab the scissors off his desk and cut his tie so it looks like one of those short clown ties.  After I emasculate him by defacing his neckwear I beat the living sh*t out of him while the rest of the class cheers me on like the Cobra Kai when Johnny was whooping on Daniel LaRusso.  Needless to say, I do not act on this impulse, I simply sit there and begin a new page of notes.

9:03: What was the best mid-90’s Wu-Tang solo album (between 36 Chambers and Wu-Tang Forever)?  This is tough and pretty much takes all my mental capacity to drown out the power point presentation and come to the conclusion that GZA’s “Liquid Swords” may be my personal favorite, but Rae’s “Only Built For Cuban Linx” had a much bigger impact on the game. After some more deliberation I am still unable to come up with a satisfactory decision and resign to agree to disagree...with myself.  

9:30: Only 30 minutes left, which means I’m 50 minutes from being in my house.  When I get there I’m going to have a fruit cup, probably diced peaches in light syrup, but I may go for the mandarin oranges...another tough decision.  OK, peaches, done. 

9:55: How many Snyder’s Sour Dough Pretzel Nuggets can possibly be in that bag? That bastard in the sweater-vest has been eating them for like 2 hours!  Why is it so damn loud, is he eating pretzels or ‘effin rocks?

9:56: Almost there, if anybody as much as raises their hand to ask a question with 4 minutes left they are getting their snot-box rocked!

10:00: FREE!!!! Until tomorrow at 6, better make the most out of these next 20 hours.   

Friday, September 19, 2008

Orwell was talking about Hip Hop?

1991: Industry Rule #4080…Record Company People are Shady

2008: Industry Rule #4080…Hip-Hop Heads are Shady

In George Orwell’s literary classic Animal Farm animals take over a farm and banish humans in favor or running the farm themselves and directly benefiting from their labors. The idea of revolting against the humans occurs when the animals realize they are being exploited and are forced to engage in back breaking labor so that the humans can be sheltered, clothed and supplied with food and alcohol while the animals are worked nearly to death and not allowed to enjoy any of the fruits of their labor. Once the animals are in power they run the farm in a manner that is fair to all species and work is evenly divided amongst the various types of animals, however as it becomes clear that the pigs are the smartest species they slowly begin to take advantage of the less intelligent animals. The pigs begin wearing clothes, drinking alcohol, not participating in physical labor and eventually trading with humans from surrounding farms, violating the very principles on which the revolution was based. In the memorable last line of the book a pig and a human farmer are negotiating and it is impossible to decipher one from the other.

Orwell’s Animal Farm was written in the 1950’s as a critique of communism and the process of revolution happening and a new group attaining power until they eventually become corrupt and act just like the group they ousted. This cycle has been repeated many times throughout recorded history. While Orwell’s story is obviously applicable to many political situations in the world today, it is also very similar to what has happened in Hip-Hop over the last several years.

In the 70’s, 80’s and most of the 90’s it was clear that record company executives did not understand this new and exciting genre of music (hence the ATCQ lyric quoted above). This is evidenced by the vast number of one-hit wonders and songs and videos we all remember seeing and thinking, “What the hell is THIS?” (Rico Suave, PM Dawn, Vanilla Ice, etc.). However, as rappers themselves realized they were being exploited by the music industry they were able to take control of their own careers and eventually mentor younger artists coming into the game. This can be seen throughout the 90’s in groups like Wu-Tang and Naughty By Nature taking control of their merchandising and artists like Dr. Dre (Death Row) and Queen Latifah (Flavor Unit) forming labels and management companies. Also, during the 90’s the first wave of music industry executives that grew up on Hip-Hop had come of age and was getting their chance in positions of power within the industry. In fact, the success of companies like Bad Boy, Violator and Loud can largely be attributed to their founders having a deep understanding of the culture and a strong connection to the fans that allowed them to deliver the images, music and messages people wanted to hear.

The first several years of this business-minded spirit in Hip-Hop (basically the early to mid 90’s) were an exciting time filled with the promise of a utopian music community run by artists themselves or at least executives that were fans of the music. The idea that if you removed the “business” from “music business” (read: old white guys in suits) the overall quality of music would increase and the situation would be ideal for both artists and fans. And for a few years this was basically true, we saw established artists usher in new and exciting MC’s like Redman, Snoop Dogg, Naughty By Nature, Black Sheep, Das EFX, Big Pun and Nas. Fans also saw labels and management companies run by Hip-Hop Heads and not “Suits” introduce acts like The Notorious B.I.G., Mobb Deep, Wu-Tang Clan and Outkast. It should be noted that most of these artists are still in the game and produced albums and singles that are almost universally accepted as classics, a far cry from the ringtone-ready, disposable music the industry is filled with today.

However, this situation would not last long. As the 90’s came to a close and the 2000’s progressed, rappers in positions of power began to act a lot like the record industry people (read: old white guys in suits) that they took the power away from a decade earlier. Today most Rapper/CEO’s put out the most bland, repetitive, radio-friendly music possible for fear of alienating their audience with something new and exciting that will possibly be too progressive for fans or not fit the current radio format and risk losing the company money. While I understand that it’s the Music “Business” this aversion to taking risks can not be good for the progress of the culture.

Examples of this are abundant in today’s music scene where artists would rather sign an artist with a marketable look, catchy hook and silly dance that will sell a million ringtones than take a chance on establishing the career of a true musician that will have a long (and possibly more lucrative over time) career. This can best be seen in the executive moves of Jay-Z as president of Def Jam records. While he is inarguably one of the best MC’s of all time with more classic material than any other three great rappers combined, his decisions at Def Jam have not really advanced the art form of Hip-Hop. While none of the albums he has released have been bad, they have not been particularly ground breaking either (the southern drug rap of Rick Ross and Young Jeezy that has already been done to death, the safe R&B of Rhianna and Ne-yo and the extremely formulaic Fabulous album that is basically a cookie cutter version of how a New York MC attempts to get airplay in other markets and videos on 106 & Park). During this same period Def Jam released albums by Redman, Method Man and the Roots that were not sufficiently promoted because they did not fit the current state of crossover Hip-Hop. Perhaps more significantly, the label parted ways with Joe Budden, one of the most personal and intense MC’s of recent years, because they did not feel his brand of introspective Hip-Hop would find an audience with today’s youth who are busy Leaning, Rocking and Super Soaking Ho’s.

While Def Jam is a clear example of this phenomenon it is not by any means entirely to blame for this situation. Artist-Run Labels like Shady, G-Unit, So-So Def, Grand Hustle and Star Trac continue to put out records and new artists that bring very little to the game beyond a hot single, a new catch phrase and maybe a dance craze.

Possibly the most perplexing aspect of this situation is that the Artist/CEO’s in question often rose to success and stardom by making music that was innovative and NOT copying whatever was hot at the time. For example, TI has become a respected and commercially viable artist by focusing on lyrics and varied production to not become a typical “Southern/Crunk” artist. However, once Grand Hustle was formed he put out records by P$C and Young Dro that lacked all of the innovative production and lyrical dexterity that has made him one of the biggest Hip-Hop artists in recent years. Also, in the late 90’s Eminem’s deeply personal rhymes, every man personae and ruminations on being a white Hip-Hop kid were what set him apart from the super-grimy New York Hip-Hop of DMX and the glossy pop-rap of Bad Boy that ruled the era and allowed him to become one of the most respected and bankable artists in the industry. When he was given the chance to put out other artists through his Shady imprint he produced the prototypical New York “gangsta” that is not only openly more concerned with record sales and merchandising than quality of music but, has also recently collaborated with one of the boy band members his mentor became famous for dissing. It is hard to imagine these Rapper/CEO’s legitimately love the music their labels are producing and in some cases it is hard to picture them even being able to listen to it. (I can kind of picture TI doing the “Shoulder Lean”, but I can not think of one scenario where the man responsible for “Stan” actually likes “Ayo, Technology”).

What is also hard to understand is the complete ignorance of history most of these artists have when they pick new artists for their label endeavors. When an established artist has taken a chance on a truly innovative and creative protégé the results have been both creatively and financially staggering. Think about the repercussions in Hip-Hop if EPMD didn’t put out a blunted, funk-fanatic with a sense of humor from Jersey, if Dr. Dre decided not to work with that white boy or if Jay-Z didn’t sign the college dropout. Not only would Hip-Hop have lost some of its’ best and brightest stars, their mentor’s bank accounts would be severely diminished. Also of note is the fact that these decisions are not made by men who are desperate for money. This is not like a young mixtape rapper making a club song to get his foot in door of the industry (something Saigon, Pappose and Joell Ortiz, among others, will all inevitably do) and feed his family. These artists have all had extremely successful recording careers and have presumably amassed fortunes their great-grandchildren will be unable to spend. I do not understand why they are so unwilling to give back and help advance the culture that has made them rich beyond anyone’s wildest dreams and continue to put out formulaic artists and music that do not push the boundaries of the genre.

The scenario Orwell presents in Animal Farm has been observed many times throughout history and is quite applicable to the current state of artist-run labels in the Hip-Hop industry. Artists and people that have grown up Hip-Hop have made huge strides in curbing artist exploitation and have ascended to positions of great power within the industry, where they have an incredible impact on what music and messages make it to the masses, but this power is often wasted on “sure thing” artists with catchy singles that are nothing more than watered down versions of what is hot at the time. Next time you see your favorite rapper in a suit standing next to Jimmy Iovine, Clive Davis or Rupert Murdoch ask yourself if you can even tell the difference anymore.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

More things that are Under or Over Rated


Robert Downy Jr.: Drug problems aside, RBJ (as I call him) is awesome.  He was in Back to School, which is maybe the funniest movie of the last 25 years and he was in two of the best three movies this summer (Iron Man and Tropic Thunder).  If he could have gotten a cameo in The Dark Knight he could have hit for the cycle.

Doctored Up Pictures: From Sarah Palin wearing an American Flag bikini and holding an M-16 to Fat Joe with an eye jammy sitting court side at the Garden, PhotoShop is by far the most entertaining program available to PC users.  Think about it, when was the last time an Excel spreadsheet or Quick Books Register made you laugh as hard as those pictures of The Game in a G-String?

The Flash (TV Series): The fact that the seventh season of Smallville is now available on DVD and this epic series was canceled after 22 episodes is proof that there is no justice in this world. 

90’s Fashion: The 80’s are clearly back with skinny jeans, Max Headroom/Kanye West glasses and Vans.  However, I am eagerly awaiting the return of 90’s fashions like Oakley Razor Blades, Skidz overalls, Raiders hats, Starter Jackets, Reebok Pumps, (Rat) Tails, Grunge Flannel, Tight Rolled Cuffs and Jodeci’s head-to-toe leather outfits.  With the new 90210 series, constant retro-releases of 90’s sneakers and Oakley putting Frogskins back out, this can’t be too far away and when it hits I will be ready! 


In-N-Out Burger: People would have you believe these burgers taste like lobster tails dipped in Moet, then covered in Godiva chocolate and drizzled with rare truffle oil.  In reality they taste like...burgers.  Also, if you are excited enough about a hamburger to buy a T-Shirt or souvenir of any kind at a fast food restaurant you are destined for a life of obesity and will probably be getting cut out of your house by Oprah within the next 10 years.

Football Every Night: There should not be football games on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday.  The one thing that separates football from the other sports is that it happens once  a week and every game is important. Everybody knows how this works: High School on Friday, College on Saturday, NFL Sunday and two teams that suck on Monday Nights. Losing in September can cost an NFL team a playoff spot or a college team a bowl bid. That being said, there should not be games with BCS implications played on a Tuesday in mid-October.

Current Game Shows: I have not problem with the classics, watching a guy answer questions of ever increasing difficulty about medieval weaponry (What is the Catapult?) is pretty cool.  But watching people pick brief cases to be opened by moderately attractive models, run through obstacle courses or try to contort themselves into bizarre positions to fit through an oddly shaped hole in a wall that will push them into a swimming pool is just silly. 

Outlet Stores: Every single time I have walked into an outlet store (regardless of brand) I always have the same reaction: “This is ‘effin Awesome! There’s so much stuff in here I want I hope there is an ATM near by so I can get more cash. I’m gonna get at least 10 shirts, 5 pairs of pants and a vest, minimum!” (this sentiment is usually uttered internally, however in especially exciting outlets like Nike or The North Face I have been known to say it out loud).  Then I walk around and get steadily more disappointed as I look through rack after rack of XXXXL T-Shirts, slightly irregular (read: missing a waist band) jeans and shamrock green bubble goose jackets that are clearly here because they were unable to be sold in regular stores at MSRP.  Within 10 minutes I am angry with myself for believing the hype when I walked in and leave angry and empty handed so I can go to the next outlet store and repeat the exact same scenario. 

Friday, September 12, 2008

Overrated vs. Underrated

Some things that are Underrated: 

Ice Cream Socials

 I have been to every kind of open bar, mixer, bar crawl, reception, picnic, tailgate, cookout etc. known to man and they all pale in comparison to the level of interaction facilitated by the Ice Cream Social. The fact that it combines something everybody likes (the lactose intolerant and people with eating disorders aside) with a buffet setting provides endless opportunities to meet new people and form lasting friend ships.  I have countless friendships that started with “Hey, you’re having wet walnuts? So am I, we should exchange numbers.” 

The Ice Cream Social is also very underused in our society because our social gatherings are usually alcohol-based, but think about some settings that are perfectly suited for the Ice Cream Social: 

After a corporate merger or acquisition: “Hey is that caramel or butterscotch?  It doesn’t matter because you’re fired.” 

At a funeral: “Pour out a little hot fudge for all our dead homies.”

Wedding receptions: This would be the best way for the bride and groom’s family to meet each other.

Male Guest: “I’m Jim’s cousin Ray and I’m having Rum Raisin with strawberry compote and whipped topping, what are you having?”

Female Guest: “I’m Pam’s friend from college, Alice, and I’m having Rocky Road, but I can’t find that chocolate topping that turns into a hard shell when it hits the ice cream.”

Male Guest: “Oh, Jim would never go for that, he’s a cheap bastard.”

Female Guest: “Damn, you wanna ditch this reception and go to my hotel room.”

Male Guest: “As soon as I finish the Rum Raisin!”

The musical prowess of Shaquille O’Neal

“Hey Kobe, tell me how my ass tastes....I’m a horse/Kobe ratted on me, now I’m getting divorced...Kobe tell me how my ass tastes.”  Enough said.

Overly Emotional Rappers

Rappers shouldn’t cry...period. Not Game, not Wayne, not anybody!  I grew up on Wu-Tang, Biggie, and LL, I’m cut from that cloth and these guys didn’t cry...ever. 

Some things that are Overrated:

Looking forward to social events for over a week:

Whether it’s prom, New Year’s or Cinco De Mayo nothing you look forward to for a long time ever lives up to the hype, it’s just impossible.  The best nights happen when you are not even planning on going out and you get a call at the last minute and end up having the time of your life.

Musical Talent

Why do artists like T-Pain, Brittany Spears and the Pussycat Dolls continue to make songs that are awesome? Regardless of the fact that they lack “talent” these people and others make disposable pop music that leave you feeling like a jerk for liking it...and then rushing home to download it.

Drinking like a destitute homeless person

Having a few cocktails with friends is cool.  Drinking straight scotch until you vomit blood, put your hand through a department store window or urinate on a police car is not cool  There is a limit and that limit should be respected because there is nothing fun about being locked up in the county drunk tank with teenage hooligans that just jumped a kid for his Starter jacket. Also, taking off your shirt in a bar is perfectly acceptable, being unable to locate that shirt at last call is the sign of bigger problems. 

"Reality" Television

“Reality used to be a friend of mine”

-PM Dawn

“Reality Television” has ruined everything.  There are a million reasons for this: the fact that any 20-something willing to get drunk and behave recklessly can become a celebrity, the way the nation sits mesmerized by glorified karaoke contests while our nation continues to deteriorate in every way imaginable or the fact that real human beings select spouses by narrowing down a pool of potential mates that will do anything imaginable not to be kicked off the show.  Contrary to popular belief, the young are not solely to blame for this dumbing down of television, I know senior citizens that eagerly await each episode of “Dancing with the Stars” and educated grown men that think “John & Kate Plus 8” is an acceptable way to spend a week night.  So, while MTV may have pioneered this genre with “The Real World” (which was actually an interesting social experiment the first few seasons when there was some semblance of reality in the show), it is now the parents and grandparents of the original Real World fans that are keeping shows like “The Girls Next Door” and “America’s Got Talent” (a statement that is questionable at best) on the air.  And you can not tell me that a mother talking to her daughter about who Brett Michaels took to the hot tub night before is not bad for everybody involved. 

While anyone that is not dumb can see the negative effects of this constant stream of bafoonery paraded on every network has had on our society.  I want to take a second and look at how reality television has ruined a major component of the entertainment industry.  These shows have stripped away all the make-up artists, stylists, scripted interviews and images that these celebrities have spent years cultivating, in short they take the “Entertainment” out of “Entertainment Industry” by removing the very illusions that made these people compelling in the first place.  I don’t want to see Brittany Spears first thing in the morning, in my mind she wakes up looking like the “Oops! I did it again” video and carries on her daily affairs.  On a similar note, I have no desire to see rock stars and rappers degrade themselves for a pay check.  And let’s be clear, I like a good train wreck as much as the next guy, but there’s a limit.  I’ll watch Bobby and Whitney make mockeries of their entire lives and careers because R&B singers never really had that deep an effect on me, but watching a member of Public Enemy that has used drugs to the point of brain damage parade around a mansion full of loose women yelling formerly revolutionary phases that have now become comedic catchphrases is too much to handle, even for me.  

Out of this whole mess, these are the shows I find particularly offensive:

Luke’s Parental Advisory:  The man responsible for bringing strip club music to the masses should not have a family show...period.  I am not a big fan of strip clubs, I don’t understand the process of paying a marginally attractive crystal meth addict to act like she likes me, but I understand Luke’s impact on music (crunk and most of the dirty south, would not have happened without his influence), but this show is asinine and so is anyone that watches it. 

The Osbourne’s: Watch a heavy metal legend clean up dog Sh*t and curse at his kids...awesome.

Snoop Dogg’s Show on E!: I’m not even sure where to start with this one.  First, Mr. “Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks” has been with the same women for like 15 years...wtf!  Second, the guy that shot a guy to promote his first album is afraid to get blood drawn for a routine medical check-up...come on!  Third, this show is so obviously scripted they should call him “Snoop Masselli” (the way they only change Tony Danza’s last name in all his shows), hire some better writers and just make it a sitcom.  There is no shame in rappers doing sitcoms, the Fresh Prince did it and he segued into a a career making such classic hollywood movies as Wild Wild West, Pursuit of Happiness and Men in Black 2.    

Celebrity Fit Club: Watching people that you vaguely remember from sitcoms and early 90’s one-hit wonders work out because they are fat, drug addicted or emotionally damaged is dumb and if you watch it so are you.

Run’s House: Let me be clear, I am a massive fan of Run DMC’s music.  When I was 7 years old my older cousin left a cassette tape of their first album at my house by mistake and I listened to it on my tan-colored Fisher-Price tape player until I knew the entire album verbatim.  This was my first experience with hip-hop and it inarguably changed my life: over 20 years later I am still buying CD’s, going to shows and checking web sites daily for updates on my favorite artists (I’ll grow up eventually, right?).  Also, because I was so young when I was introduced to their music they were like superheroes in my mind. For me it was Batman, Spiderman and Run DMC, and not always in that order. 

Watching what this legend has become is bothersome for a variety of reasons.  First of all, I don’t want to see the man responsible for “Sucker MC’s” get yelled at by his  miserable, whiner of a wife and mocked by his unappreciative kids that have no problem spending his money but no concept of what he did to make Hip-Hop the multi-billion dollar global enterprise it is today.  In my mind, he wakes up dressed in all black with unlaced shell-toes next to a different girl every morning, and I fully want to continue that fantasy. 

I do not want to watch him write a book while laying in the bathtub, pull strings to get his daughters in Maxim or explain the value of teamwork to Russy and Diggy.  His kids are possibly the worst people in all of reality TV, they all claim to want clothing lines with no background in fashion, merchandising, production, marketing, finance or any of the other disciplines necessary to run a successful fashion business.  If they think it is easy they should call the people that started Cross Colors, FUBU, Z. Cavarichi, Skidz, BUM Equipment, Wu Wear, Naughty Gear or Hypercolor shirts and ask them how easy it is. 

Clearly, I do not enjoy reality television. In fact I would rather listen to PM Dawn albums from beginning to end (the album cuts, not just the singles that everybody likes but is embarrassed to admit) then be forced to watch this nonsense.  

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Picking Your Wedding Party

“Top 5 dead or alive, and that’s just off one LP”


Getting married is a huge decision, in some ways picking your bridal party is an even bigger decision. Choosing your husband or wife is only affecting your relationship with one person that can end the second one or both of you decide to file the necessary paperwork for a divorce, choosing your bridal party will drastically alter your relationship with just about everybody in your family and social circle and can never be undone by a lawyer that advertises on billboards on the turnpike.  The importance of this task can not be understated and the following guidelines should be followed to ensure a fun reception and nobody carrying a grudge that will last until your silver anniversary.  

THE CAP:  All wedding parties should be capped at 5 bridesmaids and 5 groomsmen.  There are no exceptions to this! It might seem like a good idea to put everyone you know in the party and have more people on the alter than in the pews, but it will not work out.  This is analogous to rappers bringing their whole crew onstage to the point where there are more people on the stage than in the seats, unless your family is the Wu-Tang Clan this approach will not work for you.  It is wise to take a cue from 50 Cent’s stage show here (no, not wearing bullet proof vests), but limiting who is allowed on stage to the hottest and most important people you know.  

There are two other stipulations to THE CAP: First, the groom is allowed to pick 5 MEN and the bride picks 5 WOMEN. If he has a female cousin he is really close with or she has 3 brothers...too bad!   Second, if either person has to break the cap for any reason they have to endure a penalty like the luxury tax in baseball.  This penalty is negotiable between the couple but possibilities include: the offending person is not allowed to eat or drink during the reception, the entire offending party can not dance or socialize with anyone during the entire event or they have to ride bikes from the church to the reception instead or riding in the limousine.  These penalties may seem harsh, but there has to be a reason to follow the rules and if you can’t get married with less than 5 people backing you up, you are probably marrying the wrong person.  

The 5 people in your party should be in the following format:

The Family Representative: You have to pick somebody in your family to keep everybody happy and ensure a substantial gift from them and their immediate family. Also, limiting it to one Family Representative will prevent animosity from other people that didn’t make the cut, because like Jay-Z said “There can only be one.” This person should have the same last name as you, but you can go to your mother’s side if it’s necessary without being penalized.  Good choices for this are cool cousins, older siblings or nieces and nephews you think have the potential to be cool in the near future. 

The High School Representative: This person should be someone that has been riding with you since like 15.  You should have a bunch of funny stories that involve almost getting in trouble, drinking in the woods and trouble with automobiles and still talk to this person on at least a monthly basis whether you still have anything in common or not. 

College/Post-Graduate/Trade School Representative: This will probably be your first friend away from home and somebody that you have maintained ties with for a few years.  It is not as important that you are close with this person as it is they are physically attractive because your “home friends” and family will not know them (except from a few stories you have told them and probably greatly embellished) and the main thing is for them to think you were cool when you were away at school.

Work/Neighborhood Representative: This is the political pick.  By selecting somebody  you work with (preferably a superior) you are ensuring a professional ally for life and by selecting someone you plan to live near you are ensuring a neighborhood friend for life.  Think about it, someone that was in your wedding will never tell the boss you spend all day looking for sneakers online or call the cops because your bbq gets too loud.  

Ethnic Minority Representative:  This selection lets everyone you know just how open-minded and forward thinking you are. You should go out of your way to pick someone that looks and possibly dresses nothing like the rest of the people you actually hang around with, a hispanic or Asian guy is a good pick, but somebody in a turban or buddhist robe is a phenomenal pick.  This will also allow you to pull out your wedding photos and tell everybody “I’m not racist, some of my best friends are ________” anytime you make an inappropriate comment for the rest of your life.  

That’s the Deal! Follow the rules and have a good wedding, violate THE CAP  and your ceremony will probably be marred in violence and your reception will resemble Woodstock ’99. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


“Hi, Hater”


The act of “hating” on people, places and things has been around since the beginning of time.  Although not documented, I am willing to bet when enterprising cave men were rubbing sticks together there were a few guys hanging out in the cave saying “What do they think is going to happen? Fire? You gotta be ‘effin kidding me!”  

Modern hating came into the spotlight largely through the efforts of Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs.  During his late-90’s heyday he made it clear that anyone that was less then complementary to his version of hip-hop was a “player hater” that was Jealous of his success and extravagant lifestyle.  It should be noted that to “hate” him for guiding The Notorious BIG to superstardom, starting one of the most financially successful entertainment brands of all time or branching out into other venues like clothing would be asinine and, you would in fact be a “player hater.”  However, “hating” on him because he has become a second-rate reality TV personality, sells T-Shirts with banal sayings like “Vote or Die” and “No Bitch-Ass-Ness”, has turned the label that put out classics like “Ready to Die” and “Life After Death” into a clearinghouse for soul-less, overly-produced pop acts, constantly makes uninformed political statements that Fox News uses as examples of how ignorant rappers are and actively promotes mid-grade vodka to a community that struggles with disproportionate levels of alcoholism and alcohol-related crimes, you would be perfectly justified.

“Hating” enjoyed a bit of a renaissance at the turn of the 21st century with Dave Chapelle featuring the time traveling “Player Hater’s Convention” on his wildly popular and hilarious sketch comedy show.  Also, New York disc jockey Star, had an entire morning drive radio show dedicated to “Objective Hate” and mocking the utter foolishness that is the entertainment industry. Unfortunately, for him and his fans, the show was moved from Hot 97 to rival NYC station Power 105 after a particularly heated hate session regarding deceased R&B singer Aaliah and the “Hater that don’t miss nothin’” was eventually kicked off the air when he extended his brand of hate beyond rival DJ’s and verbally attacked their wives and children.  Star serves as an example that “hating” can go too far and when not done at the right place or time and to the correct level can cause the “hater” a lot of pain and suffering.  As it is the “hater’s” duty to comment and enjoy the pain and suffering of others, he/she should avoid it themselves at all costs.  

A lot of people think they are “Haters,” but they are simply in a bad mood or going through a rough period.  What follows are the activities of “Real Haters.” If you do any of these activities you are most likely a hater, if you engage in all of them you are one miserable son of a bitch.

You spend your afternoons standing outside an orthodontist's office and yell at the patients “Look at your mashed up teeth!  It looks like the Battle of Gettysburg was fought in your mouth and Custer’s Last Stand was on your incisor! Be careful riding your bike, you don’t want to fall and mash up your teeth even more!”

You know someone that speaks with a lisp and whenever you are in a group you put them in situations where they are forced to say words that start with “S” and “Sh” sounds, causing everyone else to point and laugh at them.  

Every time somebody you know buys a new car your only response is “I hope you got collision, because it’s only a matter of time.”

You have season tickets to a sports team just to go to the games and root against them and chant “Pussy, Pussy, Pussy” every time a player is being evaluated for a serious injury.

You arrive at Best Buy at 10:00 am every Tuesday so you can buy all the latest music releases just so you can be the first to tell your friends: “____________is wack” or “__________ hasn’t made good music in close to a decade.”

 When you go to a crowded bar you purposely mumble your drink order and then threaten the bartender’s life when he brings you the wrong cocktail. 

 You sit in meetings for work and are so overcome with hate and rage that your co-workers mistake you for Annakin Skywalker turning into Darth Vader or Bruce Banner becoming the Incredible Hulk.

You spend an inordinate amount of time perfecting your myspace profile so you can meet people and as soon as the date ends you tell everyone in their Top 8 that they gave you a debilitating STD.

 The first time you heard Maino’s “Hi Hater” you immediately responded with “Hi, How are you doing?”

You go to your best friend’s wedding reception and pay the DJ to stop the dancing and party music to conduct a memorial to celebrities that recently passed away during the venetian hour.  Nothing will ruin a good tiramisu like being forced to look at a slide show of Big Pun and The Dunkin Donut’s guy while Boyz II Men’s “It’s so Hard to say Goodbye to Yesterday” plays in the background. 

Monday, September 1, 2008

5 Mic Formula

Although I have never made a rap album myself (a fact I am NOT proud of), I estimate I have listened to over a thousand and read reviews of countless others (I can substantiate this by my massive cassette/CD collection that is becoming more obsolete as I write this and the section of my parent’s attic filled with issues of The Source and XXL).  I am reasonably sure that after two decades as an avid listener there is a formula that absolutely must be followed in order to gain widespread acclaim and the “Bling Bling” associated with being in the rap game.  Deviation from this formula has only two possible results: you will be universally loved, selling millions of records and winning armloads of Grammy Awards (Outkast, Kanye West, Lauren Hill) or you will not be accepted by the mainstream, be completely ignored by the hip-hop community, and never get to appear on 106 & Park, in short you will be Joe Budden.  What follows is the irrefutable formula that must be followed in order to have an album that is accepted in Hip-Hop circles, the names and shout-outs can change, but the formula must remain the same.  


While the subject matter of the INTRO can vary a little from artist to artist, one thing is absolutely certain…the beat must sound like Armageddon is imminent.  This INTRO will be an adrenaline rush for the listener and get them all jacked up to hear what this rapper has prepared for his album.  These songs are usually so intense they can not be more than 2 min. long and the subject matter is as follows:

Established rapper whose last album was well received: He is always on top and will continue to stay there.  He may mention “longevity” and “time in the game” even if this is only his second album and his debut was less than 12 months ago.

Established rapper whose last album was not well received: He is “off that bullshit” and “focused.” This may be confusing for some because “that bullshit” is never clearly defined, but it can be assumed it is the celebrity lifestyle, his old crew or previous record label.

New rapper: The major label debut of this MC signifies the next sea change for humanity.  This album is going to alter the course of human history in much the same way as the discovery of the Americas, the lunar landing and the development of the internet.  Needless to say, most albums do not meet these expectations. 


This song has a beat that is hard and tailor made to the part of the country the MC represents.  If the guy is from New York there is about a 75% chance it will be produced by DJ Premier, if he’s southern there is a similar chance it will be produced by DJ Troomp.  There is usually no hook, a chorus replete with profanity and 3 verses proclaiming what a hard-ass the rapper is and how no level of fortune and fame will deter him from being “real heavy in the streets.” These boasts are harder to believe if the artist has been in the game for close to 2 decades (Fat Joe), has been a professional rapper since he was a pre-teen (Lil’ Wayne) or has made a string of family-friendly comedies (Ice Cube).  This song will inevitably get leaked to mixtapes and the internet months, and in some extreme cases years, before the album is actually released in stores.  Depending on how the album sells this will either be viewed by the artist as “some next level, punk/guerilla marketing shit” or a symbol of that label’s and all of corporate America’s inability to understand and sell street culture.  


This song is the first video and the first one to be on MTV, BET, (in some cases VH1) and daytime radio.  It almost always employs a chorus sung by soulless contemporary R&B singers that may be either male (T-Pain, Akon, R. Kelly) or female (Mya, Lil’ Mo, Monica ) that function to expand the rapper’s audience beyond the hood. This song is usually produced by a famous producer like Timbaland or The Neptunes and has a beat that is danceable and lyrics about how cool the rapper is and how he conducts his business in either the club or with females.  This is the first song from the album hip-hop fans become tired of because they listened to a leaked version on a website in November and now its summer and it’s on every radio station and video outlet.  When a song reaches this level of pervasiveness it is formally called “A Problem.”


Here the rapper collaborates with another established MC in an effort to make fans of the featured MC also buy this record.  The reasons this guest is selected can vary from being from the same area (Fat Joe and KRS-ONE), bringing an old school legend together with a new guy that has been referred to as “the next ________” (Nas and Kool G Rap) or just the fact that the featured MC is Lil’ Wayne.  In the best case scenario this results in a monster song of epic proportions that will be talked about for years to come (Jay-Z and Biggie on “Brooklyn’s Finest”).  At the other end of the spectrum the rapper is exposed for being inferior to the guest and “murdered on his own shit” (damn near any collaboration with Eminem from ’99 to ’02 excluding “Renegade”). 


 The rapper will espouse the virtues of substance abuse.  The substances in question can be marijuana, alcohol or cough syrup, that’s it, no other drugs can be mentioned regardless how obvious it is that the MC is using much harder substances (DMX or anyone that has ever associated with the Hot Boys).  The artist will explain in detail how much he likes the substance, how much he does (usually enough to kill 10 grown men) and how he will not stop abusing it regardless of societal norms or the consequences said abuse will cause him or his family.  


Over a porno-inspired beat the rapper explains in detail his sexual exploits with various groupies, hood rats, jump-offs, etc.  There is usually a mention of the Energizer Bunny and the size of the young women’s asses that are involved in these intense and barely legal trysts. 


About 5 or 6 songs into the album the rapper usually loses steam and takes up 4 or 5 songs with cheap beats by up-and-coming producers and guest verses by guys he grew up with.  Every once in a while there is a gem in here, but for the most part it is fast-forward material and most of the guests are never heard from again. One of the best features of digital music is the ability to never hear one of these half-assed efforts again.

THE “Back in the Day” SONG

Here the rapper will utilize an easily recognizable sample that will remind the listener of their own youth while he weaves tales of hanging with his crew, cutting school, selling low-level narcotics and other accounts of criminal mischief.  He will also try to convince his listeners that it was somehow better to be broke on the block than living the lavish hip-hop star lifestyle…the less intelligent members of his fan base will actually believe this.  


This will have a soulful beat and may or may not feature an R&B singer that is usually of better quality than the one used on the FIRST SINGLE/CLUB SONG (Mary J. Blige or Jaheim). The theme of this song is that even though this guy got busy with 100’s of women that all had enormous asses he is finally ready to settle down with one special lady.  Any “special lady” that believes this is dumb and clearly not marriage material. 


Towards the end of this masterpiece the rapper will most likely take back everything he said for the last 55 min. and end with a song that is either a look into his soul, an affirmation that the youth can do whatever they can dream or a lament about the sorry state of the world.  This will usually sample a recognizable R&B song and range from awesome (Jadakiss’s “Why?”) to laughable (CNN’s “Closer’).  This will also inevitably include the phrase “only god can judge me” to highlight the MC’s tortured soul and may utilize the voices of young children on the chorus, intro or outro to further tug on the heartstrings.  


Rappers use this made-up word to signify a minute or two at the end of the CD where he will remind you how great he is and remind you to keep an eye out for his clothing-line, reality show or next artist coming out on his label.


If the artist is lucky enough to have a song classified as “A Problem” before the album drops the label will throw together this collection of other MC’s on the beat and tack it onto the end of the album.  This will contain the original artist, Busta Rhymes and 3 other guys that are hot right now.  

Strict adherence to this formula will result in heavy rotation on Hot 97, an appearance on MTV Cribs and at least one night with Kim Kardashian.