Wednesday, January 28, 2009

New Ways To Save Money

As 2009 progresses and mass layoffs, retail giants closing their doors and government bailouts become everyday occurrences it is increasingly apparent that the average American needs to develop new skills in order to stretch their paycheck in today’s economy. Like Lloyd Banks said: “I’m here to cash checks/and make my cash stretch/longer than giraffe’s necks”...And aren’t we all? However, the old ways of saving money do not work for most Americans, the idea of depriving oneself of Starbucks (this “coffee” in most cases is actually more like a milkshake and only called “coffee” because the company doesn’t want to remind it’s customers what fat f**k’s they are by telling them they are actually having banana splits for breakfast), designer clothing that will be the butt of jokes in 2 year or obscene 1,000 channel cable packages that are designed to systematically lower our national IQ with shows like “Dancing with the Stars”, “My Name is Earl” and “Bromance” is as antiquated an idea to most of us as living without a cell phone or using a public library.

However, there is one surefire way to save money and still live comfortably that is often overlooked by most financial publications and websites: scamming your friends. There are many ways to do this that will save you money, but several will end in a trail of broken friendships, people hating on you behind your back and possibly violence. The most obvious and popular way to procure money from your acquaintances is to involve them in a pyramid scheme. While this sounds like a good idea at first (they alway do), you have to realize that in order to initiate your friend into the scheme, you had to be taken advantage of by someone else first, it’s like being jumped into a gang. Further, you are basically saying you never want to speak to this person again when you offer them this “exciting business opportunity” because it hard to hang out with somebody that convinced you to invest five grand in a complicated network of organic juice producers that has yielded zero residual income for either of you. Also, a new trend in pyramid schemes (I have no idea why I keep up to date on this topic) is online grocery shopping. While this seems like a solid idea, online food shopping is like volunteering at a homeless shelter: you know you can do it, you’re pretty sure other people do it, but there’s no effin’ way you would ever do it yourself.

The following are more socially acceptable ways to have your friends pay for your extravagant lifestyle completely free of repercussions. However, exercise caution with using the same techniques with the same group of friends too many times, faking a seizure with your “work people” will eventually get stale and they will stop feeling sorry for you and start saying things like “What’s Shakin’?” every time they see you because they are tired of buying your dinners when you are supposedly being rushed to the hospital. But feel free to use the same tactic with your “high school friends,” “family” or “gym people” because they will not be familiar with the rouse.

Pretending to lose your wallet/handbag

Nothing illicits sympathy from friends and family like somebody losing all their cash, credit cards and forms of identification. On a side note, if this actually happens you are forced to go to DMV and produce “6 Points of Identification”, which seems odd because if you had “6 Points of Identification” you wouldn’t be there. The fact that all of your “Points of Identification” has been lost or stolen is why you are there and it seems unreasonable for them to ask for 6 more “Points of Identification” then you have. They should probably set a more realistic goal like 2-3 points and a freestyle rap including your name, address, vehicle and a few outside interests.

Pulling off this hoax is not that difficult, just order whatever you want, enjoy your meal and when the check comes reach for your pants pocket, then pat yourself down and then look exasperated and exclaim “I can’t find my wallet.” There will be a few seconds where everyone will look around the table, but nobody in their right mind, or their wrong mind for that matter, will look where the wallet actually is: safely in your pocket. After a minute or two your friends will pay for your meal and when you call everybody the next day to say something to the effect of “the funny thing was it was in my car the whole time...hardy, har, har” nobody will ask to be repaid, they will feel like good samaritans, you got a free chicken caesar wrap and that’s a win-win.

There are a few minor complications in this scam that make it not applicable for all situations. Alcohol consumption is tough because even your best friends will find it hard to believe you somehow had your ID, but no money or credit cards, however this can be quickly remedied by carrying a money clip and talking about how you never keep your cash with your wallet because of an irrational fear of being stuck up in your palatial suburb, also if your people are pretty wasted, they won’t really care or remember too much about this whole ordeal. Secondly, this works best when you are going to several venues in a row and eating at the end because it affords the opportunity to have everybody retrace your steps in a futile effort to figure out where you left your stuff, an example being: “Well, you definitely had it in the bowling alley, but maybe you dropped it in the theatre when we were watching “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” I’ll bet one of those bastard ushers picked it up and are buying all of their delinquent friends crystal meth with your money” while you just smile smugly, knowing your money is safely tucked in your pocket.

Staging a fraudulent medical emergency

One of the best ways to get a free meal is the little used technique (outside of families of con-artists) of faking medical emergencies like heart attacks, epileptic seizures, choking or aneurisms when the bill comes. Any kind of calamity will work, however extreme caution should be used when faking a stroke because you will be forced to act like one side of your face is paralyzed every time you see that group of friends or dine at that restaurant again.

If faking a life-threatening emergency that will pull EMS and Hospital workers away from real emergencies is beyond your capabilities, either because you believe in karma or have some modicum of human decency, feel free to fake a less serious injury that the restaurant can be held liable for. A good example of this is tripping on something on your way to the rest room, to really make this work when you are laying on the ground, surrounded by restaurant employees you should exclaim the following: “Oh my god! I’ve never been hurt before and I don’t know what to do! I’ve never experienced physical discomfort in any capacity and I am totally confused by these sensations. For Christ’s sake I think I’m going into anaphylactic shock, get an eppy pen and notify the proper authorities!” This kind of reaction will make even the most stoic maitre’ d nervous as hell about being sued and at the very least your meal will be comped and you may possibly be given shares of stock in the establishment depending on how convincingly you sell your panic and litigiousness.

Planting broken glass in your plate after you’ve finished eating

Everybody knows there are only two possible scenarios when a patron claims to have a potentially dangerous foreign object on their plate:

Option 1 (Deal with the waiter)

Patron: I think this is broken glass under my baked potato.

Waiter: Sir, I apologize for our whole staff, dinner is on us and can we get you any dessert or drinks?

Option 2 (Bypass the waiter completely and speak to the manager)

Patron: I think this is broken glass, I’ve already spoken with my legal counsel and we are prepared to sue the establishment for $2.5 Million, but we can be persuaded to settle out of court.

Manager: Who should I write the check out to?

Get in a fight

The impending threat of physical violence arouses such an adrenaline rush in all those involved that if you can provoke another patron to attack you there is a pretty good chance the restaurant will be happy to have you leave regardless of whether you paid your bill or not. Some great ways to start a fight with other diners is to throw a napkin holder, bread & butter plate or specialty drink menu directly at some guy's face as he is about to take a bite of his Death by Chocolate cake, standing up in the middle of the lunch rush and yelling racial/religious slurs at the top of your lungs or constantly referring to your server as “Flap Jack,” “Cap,” or “Bub.”

Alcohol Poisoning/Stomach Pump

While clearly the most extreme technique to avoid a bill, this is also the most fun. Just get so loaded that you pass out and possibly convulse before it is time to pay so your friends feel the need to take you to the hospital because they fear you will pass out and choke on your own vomit (alcoholics often refer to this level of intoxication as “rock bottom”, however I will argue that choking on somebody else’s vomit is actually a much more unpleasant experience...or so I’ve heard). In order to get this drunk you have to start early (when everybody else is ordering Micheloeb Ultra’s with dinner you have to be on Mind Erasers) and continue drinking at a good clip all night (ordering multiple drinks on each trip to the bar, double-fisting and doing shots when no one is looking will all probably be required). By the time you wake up from your drunken stupor your friends will be so happy you are alive that none of them will have the gall to ask for your part of the bill.

There are two factors that make this method even more attractive. First, I recently read Koren Zailckas’ Smashed, in which she tells her personal tale of alcohol abuse and states that after your stomach is pumped and your body is intravenously re-hydrated you actually feel great with no sign of a hangover. Get Drunk/Don’t Pay/Feel Great The Next Day... how could you NOT to do this? Secondly, under President Obama’s universal healthcare plan, you will not even have to pay for this service because the government (aka taxpayers) will pay to make you well after you went out of your way to make yourself sick. I will openly admit that I don’t understand how this will work, but P. Diddy endorsed it in between commercials for Ciroc Vodka and rhyming off-beat over an Ace of Base sample, so who am I to argue?

Monday, January 26, 2009

Corrections, Omissions and Random Thoughts

I have been blogging pretty faithfully for the last 5 months and these are a few random thoughts I’ve had throughout the process:

Why does it take other people about 6 minutes to read 4 hours of my thoughts? 

I answered the hypothetical question “If I won a contest and the prize was 10 NFL jersey’s, which ones would I pick?” and my uncle bought me the first on the list (light blue Ladanian Tomlinson, which immediately became one of my best shirts, and considering how bananas I usually dress is really saying something). Then I stated my favorite breakfast food was “Super Gruel” my mom came through and sent me two boxes of dried gruel in the mail as a Christmas present (see photo).  If I would have had any idea that stating I wanted something on this blog would result in instantly receiving those items, I would have started exploiting this a lot sooner and posting things about Starter Jackets, Grant Hill Fila’s and Main Source not to breaking up, assuming, of course, I started the blog in the mid-90’s.   

In one of my music posts I showed love to Saigon and Joe Budden.  Now that they have been going back and forth for a minute, I’m happy to say I’m ridin’ with Budden, end of story.  And it’s not just ‘cause he’s from Jersey either! Saigon couldn’t turn a recurring role on one of the biggest shows on TV into a rap career and when Joey Jumpoff got at him he responded by saying Joe had bad breath and calling his toddler-aged son a homosexual (although I disagree with some of Eminem’s recent artistic choices, I still stand behind his statements about leaving people’s kids out of it).  

On top of all this Entourage is wack!  My man Don let me borrow the first couple seasons and those were cool, but now every episode seems to follow the same formula:

Act 1: Vince is going to do the movie

Act 2: Vince is not going to do the movie

Act 3: Vince is going to do the movie and everything is all good

Final Scene: E’s cell phone rings and there is a catastrophic problem

Credits: Ominous sounding hipster music to keep you reeled in for next week

I’m still looking forward to the Dr. Dre/Eminem/50 Cent albums, but “Crack a Bottle” sounds like they were having a cookout and went in the studio to screw around for a half-hour while Lloyd Banks and Stat Quo cleaned the pool and Bishop Lamont went on a beer run.  That being said, I’ll still be at Best Buy when it opens the day this comes out.

Why did the Jets higher a guy that looks like he belongs standing next to Alec Baldwin holding an obnoxiously large snifter of brandy and saying stuff like “Bill Brasky scissor kicked Angela Lansbury” as their head coach?  However, it cold be a good higher because he comes fro good stock, his father was a real OG (Original Gilbride-Puncher). I’ll admit I stole that from a caller on the Max Kellerman show, but it is some funny Sh*t.

Luckily for the people of Pennsylvania the Eagles did not make it to the Super Bowl, now instead of burning down South Street they can go back to eating 3,000 calorie cheese steaks, not grooming their mustaches and deciding whether they love or hate Donavan McNabb...effin awesome.  Go Cardinals!

NC State Women’s Basketball Coach Kay Yow passed away this Saturday and she was an inspiration to everyone she came into contact with, either personally or through her illustrious coaching career or tireless efforts to raise funds and awareness for cancer.   I consider myself lucky for having the opportunity to get to know her personally and for getting to see her this past December, and I wish her family and the NC State athletic department the best in the future.  

Monday, January 19, 2009

Movie Review: "Notorious"

This theatrical adaptation of the life and times of The Notorious B.I.G. was one of the most highly anticipated movies of 2009 (probably the most anticipated not based on a comic book), everyone from Hip-Hop heads to Hollywood executives and from longtime fans that followed Biggie since “Unsigned Hype” to casual listeners only familiar with “Juicy” and “Hypnotize” eagerly awaited to see how a movie studio would turn one the most triumphant and tragic stories of the 90’s into a blockbuster for mass consumption at multiplexes in the suburbs.    

Obviously, the blogging community will be inundated with posts either praising or condemning the movie’s portrayal of B.I.G., but to say the subject matter of “Notorious” is of special interest for me would be a huge understatement.  I have been a die-hard Biggie fan since he was extolling the virtues of both “Party & Bullsh*t” and I vividly remember where I was the first time I heard “Ready To Die,” “Life After Death” and when I got the tragic news that he was shot and killed.  I got the “Ready to Die” cassette tape on a friday during the fall of my junior year of high school and that night I blew off my boys (sorry, Iceberg) so I could sit in my bedroom and listen to the tape twice in it’s entirety with no break or intermission of any kind except to turn the tape over after “The What” to hear “Juicy.”  I remember being shocked by the ending of “Suicidal Thoughts” but acknowledging that the game changed drastically with that gun shot and Puffy’s exasperated “Aye, Yo, Big” and that a new level of artistry for rappers bearing their souls on wax had been reached.  I was way less apathetic and jaded when I was 17 and I have no problem admitting that this record blew my mind.   Strangely enough, I got the news of Biggie’s death from my college roommate after I had just returned from a Sunday morning run, during which I was listening to that same “Ready To Die” cassette in my yellow, Sony walkman (remember those?).  The bottom line is I have been a fan of B.I.G.’s since I was wearing a Starter jacket, Reebok Pumps and a hat with the tag on it, so I was as excited to see this movie as just about any film since I was in kindergarten and my mom took me to see how the Star Wars trilogy was resolved in “Return of the Jedi.”  Overall, it was an enjoyable film, but there were some issues that both casual and serious fans should be made aware. 

The pacing, cinematography and soundtrack make this one of the most entertaining movies I’ve seen in a while.  It is filmed like a two hour music video that works as a highlight reel of Biggie’s best (meeting Puffy, winning Source Awards, enjoying new found financial freedom) and worst (selling crack to a pregnant woman, a prison bid, a turbulent love life and his tragic murder) moments. If anybody falls asleep in the theatre they are either a narcoleptic or dead.  The movie packs so many high-octane scenes into two hours that those not familiar with the story will leave the theatre with their heads spinning, but for those familiar with Biggie’s saga it works to keep them enthralled in the rise and eventual fall of one of the most important musicians of the last two decades.  

All the actors do a respectable job portraying some of the biggest stars of the 90’s, but the problem for the audience is that most of these figures are still prominent in today’s entertainment industry.   It is hard to take actors playing musicians and celebrities that are still active in our collective consciousness seriously. Watching Derek Luke dance like Puff Daddy looks more like watching Chris Rock parody Puffy in his “Champagne” video (if you haven’t watched this in a while, youtube it, it’s still funny) and watching Papa Doc from “8 Mile” act like 2pac is just weird.  If these figures where not still dominating Hip-Hop, “Notorious” might be a classic, but because the viewer is constantly comparing the actors to their real life counterparts the movie remains somewhat of a curiosity with everything feeling just a little off.  The only glaring mistake in casting was using the kid that portrayed a young 50 Cent in “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” as Lil’ Cease, he was simply too young and too small to realistically portray one of Biggie’s best friends, the scenes of them performing together look like an 80’s baby trying to play with He-Man and Star Wars action figures together, you can do it for a while but eventually the charade gets old because they don’t look like they should even be in the same universe.

The coolest part of the movie for B.I.G. aficionados is the insane attention to detail to properly portray the era and the “Easter Eggs” hidden in various scenes. There are scenes of Suge Knight stuttering at The Source Awards, Faith Evans looking wasted in a photo with 2pac and numerous magazine covers recreated with actors that will be instantly recognizable to any true Hip-Hop head.  The filmmakers also go to great lengths to make many of Biggie’s rhymes come to life, from the Salt-n-Pepa and Heavy D posters in his room to the scene of him freestyling wearing a “red and black lumberjack with the hat to match” These are hidden throughout the film much the same way comic book movies feature addresses, restaurants and minor characters that will be recognizable to long time fans, but not disrupt the continuity of the movie for the uninitiated.  

While there are some great scenes in the movie, the scene with B.I.G. having sex with Lil’ Kim is about 4 min. too long, a little uncomfortable to watch and adds absolutely nothing to the movie, especially because most fans were well aware that the two hooked up when they walked into the theatre.  Also, depending on who you ask, there were some glaring omissions, I personally would have liked to have seen depictions of Easy Mo B and DJ Premier in the recording studio, his relationships with Jay-Z (he crowned him next to blow) and Nas (supposedly the target of “Kick In The Door”) and at least a mention of Charlie Baltimore.  However, to include all the events of this MC’s life would have turned “Notorious” into an epic mini-series, and in today’s age of attention spans shortened by MTV and video games this movie did a great job of packing a powerful punch in a relatively short period of time.  

Whether you can recite every Biggie song by heart, or just enjoy his verse on “Only You” when it comes on at the club, “Notorious” is a fascinatingly entertaining movie and should be experienced with the crowds, big screen and surround sound of a theatre before it takes it’s place in your DVD collection in a few months.  

Spoiler Alert: Contrary to rumors, if you wait until the end of the credits Jay-Z does not appear in Biggie’s condo and propose “The Commission” a la Samuel L. Jackson as Lt. Nick Fury in “Iron Man.”...just a heads up.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Phrases I Hate 3

Phrases I Hate: The Going Out Edition

“I like having a good time, but__________.” 

Regardless of if this statement is followed by “but, that’s too much” or “but, that guy’s a lunatic” or “but, there’s a line and he crossed it” it is still a completely useless saying because everybody likes to have a “good time.”  Some people consider a “good time” getting belligerent and pumping their fists in a guido club at four in the morning, some people consider a “good time” sitting quietly at home reading an interesting book, some people, like me, enjoy both and would classify either as a “good time.”  The bottom line is that EVERYBODY “Likes having a good time” regardless of what they consider a “good time.”  Nobody says, “I don’t like good times, I don’t want to let them roll, I wish the good times would stop and I could just get back to suffering, weeping to myself and dwelling on my failures.


(Capitol letters denote that this phrase is invariably yelled at the top of the drunk person’s lungs)

Why do people that spend time, effort and money in the pursuit of getting drunk get insanely angry when you point out that they are, in fact, drunk?  There are people that start talking about how ‘effed up they are going to get the morning proceeding the night they are going out, they send emails to their friends about “getting wasted” and “getting my drank on!,” they scour the internet for bars with drink specials and happy hours that will allow them to get the most intoxicated for the least amount of money and when people ask them what they are doing at night they respond “Getting bent!”   And then, a few hours later, when somebody suggests they shouldn’t drive, call an ex-girlfriend or bite the bouncer, they become indignant that anybody would have the gall to suggest they have consumed alcohol.  I am not anti-drinking, I like having a good time (damn, I hate when I do stuff that I hate), but don’t be mad at your boy because he pointed out that you are intoxicated! As long as you are in a bar/nightclub/party situation and you are not driving home or operating heavy machinery there is no reason to become angry with one of your boys for suggesting you should just chill for a minute and not remove your pants on the dance floor.  

NOTE: This applies to everybody but me and my friends, if you see us engaging in this type of behavior, just stand to the side and hold onto our shirts until closing time.  

“Do you want to get your a** kicked?”

NO! And neither does anybody else. This question is usually asked right before two grown men, that have both had a few cocktails, engage in fisticuffs to answer the following questions: Was Randall Cunningham better than Donavan McNab? Can you put the soccer match on this TV? and Can I borrow this extra chair? I understand that sometimes throwing hands is inevitable, I like to think I am socially evolved to the point where fighting is not part of my repertoire, however, if a perfect stranger bumps into me in an effort to get to the restroom or some dumb a** scuffs my Mars Blackmon Jordan IV’s (keep it real, if you wear sneakers that hot to a club you deserve to get your snot box rocked), then it’s on!  

But, this is a stupid question because nobody wants to get their a** kicked, unless they are some kind of masochist that goes to bars specifically to get beat down because they find that sort of thing fun and exciting, in that case you are risking your safety and clean record to make some fool you don’t know happy and you are the big loser.  

Phrases I Hate: Commercials

Cham-Wow! “The typical person spends $20 a month on paper towels”

Who the hell spends $20 a month on paper towels?  Mentally challenged people with deformed hands? People that use paper towels to dry themselves after a shower?    Considering a roll of paper towels costs about a dollar, that’s almost a roll a day (if you take the weekends off from making messes), who the ‘eff spills that much stuff?  If you are that much of a sloppy bastard (clearly, no one with both parents would spill things at this alarming rate) you don’t need a high-tech towel made of space-age polymers, you need improved motor control and hand-eye coordination and should look into the next class at Gymboree.  

ESPN Mobile: The “I watched sports on my phone instead of enjoying my honeymoon” Guy

First, if you are more interested in the Knicks vs. Raptors game the first week you are married to your wife, the marriage is doomed and you should start consulting with divorce lawyers that have their pictures posted on billboards on the NJ Turnpike as soon as possible in an effort to keep as much of your assets as possible. 

Second, if you would rather read the Calgary Flames injury report then tend to the needs (and I think you know what I mean) of your new wife, you are gay...end of story.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

A Guide to Better Parties

Good Idea: Ugly Christmas Sweater Party

The Ugly Christmas Sweater Party has really taken off in the last several years.  In this type of gathering everybody wears an “ugly” holiday sweater in an effort to have the “ugliest” sweater at the event.  The reason for the “quotation marks” is that “ugly” is a completely subjective term, sweaters I would not be caught dead in (embroidered Christmas trees with  actual, functioning, metal bells, a cardigan with a menorah split in half by the line of vertical buttons or a knit version of Santa’s sleigh with a blinking red light for Rudolph’s nose that is powered by a “AA” battery pack in the under-arm area) are actually acceptable in some social circles (secretaries, public school teachers, a few of my friends mothers, etc.).   Think about the awkwardness that would ensue if you showed up to one of these functions in a sweater you think is hilarious and your boss’ wife is wearing the same thing because she thinks it’s chic and fashionable...devastating for everyone involved.  Another issue with the “Ugly Sweater Party” is going out after the party, if the gathering ends early and everybody goes out to a bar, you are chopped and screwed because you are dressed like a buffoon with the only options being to go out in the middle of winter wearing only a T-Shirt or go clubbin’ shirtless (an activity I have engaged in several times, all completely unrelated to holiday-themed sweaters).  This kind of party falls into the same category as the Detroit Lions drafting another wide receiver, it looks good on paper, but fails miserably in practice.  

Better Idea: Closet Alcoholic/Drunk Uncles Party

This holiday party idea takes it’s inspiration from dysfunctional families everywhere and allows everybody to get sloppy drunk without the inconveniences of snide comments from family members or participating in some kind of “Secret Santa” foolishness.  Here’s the deal: The party starts at somebody’s house at 8pm, there is a nice spread of food, maybe some parlor games or football on TV, everybody is smartly dressed, and most importantly there is absolutely NO ALCOHOL served at the party.  This is where the fun starts, everybody has to sneak their own booze into the house anyway they can (traditional flasks filled with Everclear, drinking vanilla extract from the baking pantry, filling family heirlooms with bourbon and those sandals with flasks hidden in the soles are all good ideas to start, but the more creative the better).  The main idea is that no one can see any drinking, if anybody gets caught sippin’ they get kicked out, but everybody has to be loaded by midnight.  The host should then set up some taxis to take everyone to a local bar or nightclub where this group will surely be the life of the party and the person who was the best at the game (aka the drunkest) will probably not make it out due to excessive vomiting and possible unconsciousness.  

Good Idea: Pimps and Hoes Party

This is the party where men dress up as Pimps and women dress as “Escorts,” “Ladies of the Night,” or “Message Therapists.” And everybody has a great time celebrating the illegal sex-trade that produces STD’s, unwanted pregnancies and drug addiction in a vicious cycle that continues to plague inner cities, young people and most minority and lower income segments of our population...what a blast!

Better Idea: Teenage Runaway Party

If we are going to celebrate this lifestyle, let’s keep it real.  This party is held outside in the middle of winter, everybody comes naked and has to rummage through dumpsters to find outfits for the night, then they are assigned the task of attaining, by any means necessary (shoplifting, sticking somebody up, panhandling), party goods like drinks, chips, finger snacks, and the materials to make a sign saying “Homeless, Pregnant + Hungry.”  The person that gets all the stuff on the list first gets to sleep in their car with an extra pair of pants (provided by the host), everybody else has to huddle together and sleep under a highway overpass.  

Good Idea: Boyz N Da Hood Party

College students that have recently seen “Boyz N Da Hood” for the first time and are possibly familiar with “Friday,” but are usually completely oblivious to Ice Cube’s music career dress up like West Coast gang bangers, drink 40’s and punctuate their speech with more “What Up Dawg’s?” and “You’re my Beeotch!” as the night goes on and the Old English hits them harder.  The dress code usually includes hairnets, plaid shirts with only the top button closed, wife beaters and baggy jeans and the soundtrack for the evening is known to include such “Thugged Out” artists as Will Smith, Nelly and Montell Jordan.  

Better Idea: Cosby Kid Party

Everybody wears their best sweater, tailor-fitted slacks and  loafers and then stands around enjoying light appetizers, some merlot and discussing recently attended jazz festivals and how much they hate rappers.  Promptly at 10pm the cocktail tables are cleared and there is a step-show, the party winds down soon after because everyone has to get up early the next morning to go antiquing or attend a board of trustees meeting at their alma mater.  This party should be highly exclusive and held in a brownstone in Harlem and there should be password-only invitations, with the exchange going something like this:

Bouncer: What’s your favorite Miles Davis album?

Guest: “Kind Of Blue”

Bouncer: Good answer, if you would have said “Bitch’s Brew” I would have had to kick you out because we do not disrespect women here. 

Good Idea: Super Sweet 16

Anybody that has watched MTV in the last 5 years knows how this works: a wealthy teenager has a gala event involving banquet halls, luxury cars, musical performances and various costume changes to celebrate the fact that she has made it to the age of 16. Viewed in the context that the average American lives to be about 73 years old, this is not that big of an accomplishment.  

Better Idea: Mega 32 Party

Twice the years, twice the party! But here’s the deal, instead of making it 16 year-olds’ fantasy the party is going to be filled with 32 year old fantasies, such as:

A bar stocked with Gin, Scotch and other angry old man drinks,the dress code for the night is Dockers, tucked in polo shirts and braided leather belts and as a party favor everybody gets a 1.5% tax break.  And to top it all off,  at the end of the night instead of my parents giving me a Benz or a BMW, I’m  going to announce to everyone that I just leased myself a Nissan.  

And the crowd will go CRAZY like:

“I can’t believe he got himself the Maxima, I was expecting the Altima, but he went ahead and got the Maxima! This is the best night of my life!”

“Oh my god! He got he Special Edition with the sport floor mats, this is sick!  It’s gonna take me a week to recover from this party!”

Good Idea: Edward 40 Hands

People actually tape 40’s to both hands and can not remove them until they have drank all of the “beer” in both bottles.  This normally results in people vomiting, passing out, and feeling like they got hit by a truck the next morning because human beings are not supposed to consume 80 ounces of cheap malt liquor in one sitting.  If you presented this idea to a destitute homeless person I guarantee their response would be “Man, take it easy!”

Better Idea: Philly Sports Fan Party

The party starts at 8pm and for the first four hours everybody mopes around being overweight, having mustaches, wearing outdated Phillies and Eagles merchandise and  basically looking like they are a bar-back at the most downtrodden sports bar in the country while incessantly complaining about bad officiating, the unfairness of the salary cap and William Penn’s curse.  Then at mid-night everybody completely loses their sh*t!  People remove their shirts and rampage through their own neighborhood destroying personal property, flipping over cars, lighting municipal buildings on fire and attacking police officers for no apparent reason other than they are elated that the date has changed.  The next morning, instead of going to a quiet brunch and returning to their normal lives, these people should attend a ticker-tape parade held by the city to celebrate their animalistic behavior and encourage them to do it again next time they are at a social gathering and it turns midnight.  

As of this writing there is a very real possibility that the Philadelphia Eagles will play the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XLIII.  This epic clash between the blue-collar, hard- working, hard-nosed, smash-mouth and whatever other hyphenated adjectives Steelers fans use to describe themselves and the openly white-trash Eagle fans will create the most dangerous set of risk factors for extended rioting and real destruction that the US has seen in years, there is a chance the entire state of Pennsylvania will be wiped out for good.  I don’t want to see either team win the Super Bowl (or any game for that matter), but if it leads to the annihilation of Pennsylvania, a state so useless that the best things to come out of it (The Office, Rocky) are all fake, it is a price I am willing to pay.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

10 Most Underrated Rappers/Groups of All Time

The following list contains rappers and groups that had a huge impact on the game and/or have a tremendous body of work, but for some reason never got the credit they deserved.  This is not a list of underground rappers that should be “big time” but are too abstract/intelligent to ever crossover into the mainstream (pretty much everybody on Def Jux) or rappers with one great album that quickly faded out of our collective consciousness (Das Efx, The Pharcyde, Craig Mack), this is a list of rappers that have put in work and built careers but seem to get snubbed in conversations about the best to ever do it.  

This is my personal list of 10 rappers/groups that should be in your “Top 5 Dead or Alive” (I know that math doesn’t even come close to working out, but let’s roll with it for now).  


Onyx/Stickyfingaz: No group in the history of Hip-Hop conveyed anger, frustration and nihilism better than these 4 “crazy bald heads” from Queens. Their 1993 debut album “Bacdafucup” (I believe the first and only album to chart on Billboard with the “F-Word” in the badass is that?) was brutal and upon repeated listening was not a question of how much you liked it, but how much you could take.  The album sounded like an hour long beat down that was best listened to in small doses or when you were in a really bad mood, this was not party music, playing this CD in large group was the sonic equivalent of throwing gasoline on a fire.  I am fairly mild-mannered and was living in a palatial suburb when this was hot and if “Slam” came on in any kind of social setting I wanted to tear some sh*t up (needless to say I never caused any real damage).   

The “mad face invasion” continued two years later with “All We Got Iz Us” which overall was a bit of a letdown, but contained “Last Dayz,” arguably the groups best track ever (note: this beat is used for the second round of B-Rabbit’s final battle in “8 Mile”). As the 90’s progressed and everybody was wearing shiny suits and rapping about champagne over R&B samples, fans were not as open to guys yelling and screaming about death, beatings and robberies and their later albums were largely overlooked, however it is worth noting that “React” from 1998’s “Shut ‘Em Down” contained one of the first recorded verses from a young 50 Cent (pre-shooting and pre-drawl), showing the groups ability to spot young talent.

In 2001 Stickyfingaz released his criminally slept on solo debut “Black Trash: The Autobiography of Kirk Jones.”  This concept album tells the life story of a young man in NYC that changes from good guy to stick-up kid to inmate and how he reacts with the world around him, including his dealings with money, the law, his family, his girl, racism and god.  Sticky enlisted such A-listers as Eminem, Redman, Raekwon and Wyclef Jean to assist him in telling this epic story and the cameos work brilliantly to keep the listener enthralled in this gripping street tale told through songs (that also stand on their own) and short, but entertaining skits.  The format of this album clearly was not conducive to crossover appeal but real Hip-Hop heads should check this out, it’s truly a lost classic.  

This decade has not been nearly as kind to the group. Stickyfingaz and Fredro Starr have released several solo projects each that have been largely ignored (even by me, I am not really familiar with any of them), done a fair amount of acting and claimed to “Slam harder than Vince Carter” on a tepidly received 2003 reunion.  


Masta Ace: It’s hard to shine when your crew consists of Big Daddy Kane, Kool G Rap, Biz Markie, Roxanne Shante, Craig G, and Marly Marl, but Masta Ace was (and still is) a beast.  From his 1993 masterpiece “Slaughtahouse” (this guy must hate “-er” endings), to 2003’s “Disposable Arts” and his current work with Punch & Words, he never disappoints.  Many casual music fans first heard of Ace when Eminem thanked him for inspiration, along with a slew of other rappers, at a Grammy Awards ceremony, but Masta Ace’s career spans 3 decades and includes introducing the East Coast’s version of car culture to the rest of the world on “Let me Roll” (you wanted a Wrangler or Pathfinder with a system after hearing this, even if you were too young to drive).  


Naughty by Nature: Naughty get plenty of props for making bangin’ anthems that still ignite parties and clubs nearly twenty years after they were released.  What they don’t get enough respect for is KG’s groundbreaking production and Treach’s awe inspiring flow.  In the early 90’s everybody was sampling James Brown and Teddy Riley’s “New Jack Swing” movement had producers convinced that in order to make a club hit the beat had to be as “smoothed out on the R&B tip” as possible.  With the release of “O.P.P.” KG crushed that notion, he roughly sampled a piano loop from the Jackson 5 and made no effort to “Smooth It Out” even when Treach ordered him to do so.  This chopped style of sampling, which KG employed for the rest of Naughty’s impressive run,  directly influenced the production of The Rza (Wu-Tang), The Beat Miners (Boot Camp Clik) and countless others that dominated the rest of the ’90’s. 

Treach’s flow and delivery were impeccable, he would speed up and slow down individual syllables within a word to make it fit his rhyme scheme (“Nature/Baker/Hate You” are not supposed to rhyme).  This rhyme style resulted in intricate stories being told without the MC overshadowing the beat, which caused songs about infidelity, a rough upbringing in Illtown E.O. and unabashed love for Hip-Hop to become huge hits in the hood, the club and MTV.  Treach’s influence can be heard in almost every significant rapper to emerge since 1991 and is extremely prominent in superstars like Eminem, Kanye West and both members of Outkast.


Tha Dogg Pound: Similar to Masta Ace, Tha Dogg Pound suffered rather than benefitted from their high-profile collaborators.  After making significant contributions to “The Chronic,” “Doggystyle,” and the “Above the Rim” and “Murder Was The Case” sound tracks, the group released their debut album, “Dogg Food,” in the fall of 1995.  This album was overshadowed by other events at Death Row including, the arrival of a fresh-out-of-prison 2pac, the murder trial of Snoop Doggy Dogg (his name at the time), the impending departure of Dr. Dre and Suge Knight becoming a national celebrity.  To compound the drama, the album was hated on by most of the East Coast due to the single and video for “NY, NY” which included the group crushing buildings in the NYC skyline and guaranteed the album minimal airplay anywhere east of Chicago.  

While The Game gets credit for combining East Coast style lyricism with West Coast beats and aesthetics with his 2005 debut, “The Documentary”, Tha Dogg Pound accomplished a similar feat a decade earlier, but went largely unnoticed. Daz was a solid rapper (and an impressive producer) but Kurupt was an animal on the mic and was one of the first Cali MC’s that fans universally agreed could hold his own in a cypher from Compton to Harlem and anywhere in between.  

After “Dogg Food” the group released a string of solid solo projects, most notably Kurupt’s “Streetz Is A Mutha” in 1999, Kurupt married and divorced Foxy Brown and both have put out several group projects in the 2000’s.  It is currently rumored that Kurupt is working on a collaborative album with DJ Quik, if this actually comes out (most collabo albums don’t) it should be ‘effin ridiculous. 


Cypress Hill: Between the heavy metal imagery and the decidedly non-Hip-Hop business model of releasing LP’s every few years and  touring constantly, most Hip-Hop heads washed their hands of The Hill after 1993’s crossover smash “Black Sunday.”  However, this group was basically a full decade and a half ahead of the game and the rest of Hip-Hop has only recently caught up.  When you see Jim Jones and Lil’ Wayne dressed in skull & crossbones T-Shirts and tight jeans, Jay-Z or Lupe Fiasco performing with a live band or hear any rapper talk about being a “Rock Star” understand that Cypress Hill did that first and, in most cases, better.  They introduced the “Rock Star” aesthetic into Hip-Hop and endeared themselves to legions of non-traditional Hip-Hop fans (read: white and hispanic) in the process.  

Cypress Hill’s business model of avoiding countless mixtape and guest appearances in favor of a solid studio album every 2-3 years followed by hundreds of live shows a year is much more conducive to making money in today’s music industry where digital downloads have sucked most of the profit away from record sales.  Like B-Real said in a recent interview “you can’t bootleg a live experience” and because of that Cypress Hill has remained relevant longer and probably made more money than most of their peers that rely on record sales to pay for the items that will get them featured on MTV Cribs.  

On top of all this the group has consistently released quality music since 1992.  From the classic self-titled debut album to stoner anthems like “Hits From The Bong” and more recent party-starters like “(Rock/Rap) Superstar” and “What’s Your Number?” Cypress Hill continues to be relevant and have hits well into the second decade of their career.  Add in the facts that they introduced the world to House of Pain, DJ Muggs is an accomplished producer away from the group and the millions of rock fans that site Cypress Hill as the only Hip-Hop they can tolerate and you have one of the most slept on groups in history.  


DJ Quik: This Compton CA producer/rapper didn’t make beats as much as orchestrate sweeping soundscapes that completely enveloped the listener in his tales of life on the West Coast.  Debuting in the early 90’s, at the end of the first West Coast explosion (when NWA and Ice-T were kind of fading, but before “The Chronic”) with “Quik’s The Name” and continuing with “Way 2 Fonky” DJ Quick established a level of musicality not seen elsewhere in Hip-Hop.  It is fair to assume that these two albums influenced Dr. Dre in his transition from the high-energy, Public Enemy-inspired, chaotic production work on NWA’s albums, to the more accessible, laid back “G-Funk” of Death Row (a fact that is probably responsible for Quik’s brief affiliation with Death Row in the mid-90’s).  Quik’s artistry peaked on 1995’s “Safe + Sound” an album so musical and richly textured that it would be a decade until anyone (Kanye West) brought this level of production to traditional Hip-Hop.    

DJ Quik has been a prominent figure in Hip-Hop for close to 20 years, he has a string of successful solo albums, introduced the world to 2nd II None, AMG (“Bitch Betta Have My Money”), Suga Free and Mausberg (RIP) and has produced songs by all-time greats ranging from 2pac and Snoop Dogg to Jay-Z and Jadakiss.  


UGK: The word “underground” can be used in many contexts in Hip-Hop, but the fact that these guys debuted in 1992 and were largely unknown outside of the South until Jay-Z’s summer of 2000 anthem “Big Pimpin’” despite a string of classic albums and a rabidly loyal cult following, truly defines them as “Under Ground Kingz.” Throughout the 90’s the group released a series of albums that would influence the Dirty South aesthetic that dominates today’s commercial Hip-Hop scene, as much, if not more than their more well known peers like The Geto Boys, Outkast and 2 Live Crew.  The fact that they did this with almost no radio airplay, no nationally televised videos, limited magazine coverage and way before the internet allowed anyone with a dream and a webcam to be a “Rapper” and you have one of the most impressive stories in Hip-Hop history.  

On tracks like “Pocket Full Of Stones” (southern slang for crack), UGK defined the down south hustler/D-Boy mentality seen in today’s superstars like T.I., Young Jeezy, Rick Ross and the entire rosters of southern pioneers No Limit and Cash Money Records.  Also, this group could best be described as “your favorite rapper’s favorite rapper” as prominent groups like Three-Six Mafia (the absolutely bananas “Sippin’ On Some Syrup”) and the previously mentioned Jay-Z featured them on tracks before the rest of the word knew who they were.  

As the South rose to prominence in the 2000’s the group saw unprecedented success, UGK released several hit albums,both members released solo projects and the Houston Hip-Hop scene they pioneered exploded in 2005 with major label releases from Mike Jones, Slim Thug, Paul Wall and Chamillionaire.  The past few years have seen a gradual cooling of Houston's “chopped & screwed” style and the unfortunate incarceration and untimely death of UGK member Pimp C.  However, Bun B continues to release quality music on his own, record with artists as diverse as Sean Kingston and Dizzee Rascal and has recently become a player in the streetwear market, doing collaborative pieces with companies like ALife and The Hundreds.  


3rd Bass: With songs like “Steppin’ to the A.M.” “Brooklyn Queens” and “Portrait of the Artist As A Hood” that were slightly to the left of what their peers were doing and “The Gas Face” and “Pop Goes The Weasel” condemning their more pop-friendly counterparts, 3rd Bass drew up the blueprint for the NYC underground that spawned NYU’s WKCR and  the “white label” 12-in singles of the late 90’s, continued with Rawkus and Fondle ‘Em and is prominent today in indie labels like Def Jux and Fat Beats.  With the possible exceptions of the Utramagnetic MC’s and De La Soul, no group better defined the characteristics of “NYC Underground” than MC Serch, Prime Minister Pete Nice and DJ Daddy Rich.  “The Cactus Album” and “Derelicts of Dialect” were two early examples of albums that were dense and filled with content and inside jokes, but at the same time accessible enough to invite new fans. Also significant is that the group introduced KMD on 1989’s the Cactus Album, KMD went on to have moderate success, but a decade later Zev Love X put on a mask and changed his name to MF Doom to become one of the most universally respected MC’s in the underground.    These albums produced a string of hit singles and innovative videos that are still universally respected in Hip-Hop circles.  

In 1992 the group broke up and produced two reasonably successful solo albums, MC Serch’s “Return of the Product” was fairly well received, but most notably contained a verse from a young queens rapper named Nasty Nas (“Back To The Grill”) that further cemented Nas as “next to blow” after his stellar verse on Main Source’s (a group that just missed this list) “Live At The BBQ.”  This monumental track also contained verses from Chubb Rock (in my opinion the third greatest morbidly obese MC of all time after B.I.G. and Big Pun) and Red Hot Lover Tone, who would become one half of legendary production duo The Trackmasters (Poke & Tone).  The Trackmasters would go on to produce massive hits for Nas, LL Cool J, Jay-Z & R. Kelly and Jennifer Lopez among countless others.  MC Serch went on to executive produce the undisputed classic “Illmatic”, be a radio personality in Detroit and eventually transition to television via VH1’s “The White Rapper Show.” (while this failed to produce the next Eminem it was cool to see R.A. The Rugged Man, Kool Keith, La Coka Nostra and the Insane Clown Posse on TV).  

Pete Nice debuted with DJ Daddy Rich by his side in 1993 with “Dust to Dust.” In addition to several diss tracks aimed at his former partner, this album has the first recorded appearance by underground stalwart Cage.  While industry and personal factors would cause Cage to not release a solo album until 2002, the beginnings of “the illest 4-letter word” could clearly be heard in this early verse.  Today Pete Nice runs a baseball memorabilia shop in Cooperstown NY and to my knowledge is not involved in the music industry.  The group reconciled in 1994 and recorded several tracks that are now available only on iTunes, these songs are solid and will make fans wonder what could have been if these two could have stayed together and continued to release groundbreaking music.  

3rd Base set the standard for underground/experimental Hip-Hop and introduced the general population to Nas, MF Doom, Cage and The Trackmasters in the process, for these feats alone they should be at the top of everybody’s list of influential groups that forever changed the game.


Gangstarr: No group did more to define the New York sound of the ’90’s than Gangstarr (the fact that neither Guru or Premier were actually born in NYC is trivial compared to the impact they had on the music scene).  Gangstarr’s music sounded like New York, Premier’s  aggressive drum patterns and liberal use of jazz samples combined with Guru’s distinctive voice and straightforward yet sophisticated rhymes were the sound of taking the subway wearing  Air Max ’95’s, a Champion Hoodie and a Yankee fitted.  

Gangstarr’s career spanned six albums and produced undisputed classics like “Just To Get A Rep,” “Take It Personal,” “Ex-Girl To Next Girl,” “Who’s Gonna Take The Weight?” “The Militia,” and “DWYCK” to name a few.  While putting out the majority of these albums (4) between 1989 and 1994 the members found time to release numerous side projects like albums by Jeru The Damaja, The Group Home and Guru’s “Jazzmatazz Vol. 1” that combined his rhymes with live instrumentation by jazz legends and introduced a new generation of fans to one of the greatest American art forms of the last century.  On subsequent volumes of the series Guru continued to expand the scope of what a Hip-Hop record could be and introduced elements from various types of world music.  Guru is currently recording as a solo artist and continues to put out quality material.

While there is an undeniably dope quality to the Premier/Guru collaboration, DJ Premier further added to his legacy by producing some of the biggest “street records” of all time.  In 1997 when Jay-Z said “...and argue all day about who’s the best MC, Biggie, Jay-Z and Nas.” it was basically a question of who bodied their Primo track the best as the producer was instrumental in providing the sonic backdrop to the debut albums that turned the three into household names.  Premier had a way of bringing out the best in whoever he worked with, as can be heard in classics by Nas (“NY State Of Mind” and “Nas Is Like...”), Jay-Z (“Friend or Foe” and “D’Evils”), B.I.G. (“Unbelievable” and “Kick In The Door”) that can be rivaled only by Dr. Dre.  In the last several years, New York MC’s have turned away from Premier’s gritty sound in favor of accessible pop beats or down south bounce tracks to broaden their potential audience (basically, “Selling their soul to get Mass Appeal” as the 1994 Gangstarr classic predicted), Premier responded to this by working with Christina Aguilera to produce on of the best pop albums of the decade and getting platinum plaques and Grammy awards in the process.

Gangstarr defined the sound of New York City and contained arguably the best MC/DJ pairing in the history of Hip-Hop.  DJ Premier’s contribution to music should not be overlooked, if Dr. Dre is Tom Brady (and he rightfully gets credit for being the best), then Primo is Peyton Manning, he might not get the same coverage in the media, but he’s still does his thing at a higher level than anybody else in the game.   


EPMD: Most agree that Hip-Hop’s golden age was from 1988-1992, during this period competition to be heard was fierce as it seemed there was a classic LP dropping every other month and styles were changing and evolving at a breakneck pace.  In the span of these 4 years EPMD released 4 classic albums that still stand today as examples of consistency.  From 1988’s “Strictly Business” to 1992’s “Business Never Personal” the group put out an unrivaled catalog of material consisting of sampled funk that pre-dates the West Coast “G-Funk Era.”  These beats were so ahead of their time, that they have been used over a decade later and found new fans (Jay-Z & Foxy Brown’s  “Ain’t No...” released in 1996 used the same sample as  “It’s My Thang” and Ghostface Killah’s 2007 single “Killer Lipstick” is the same sample as “Please Listen To My Demo”).  

In 1992 the group decided to take the “Business” in their album titles literally and started  cultivating new talent under the “Hit Squad” umbrella.  The original incarnation included K-Solo, Das Efx and future superstar Redman culminating in the best posse cut of all time “Headbanger” (yes, I like it more than “The Symphony”).  Unfortunately the group broke up at the end of 1992 to pursue solo careers and fans were left wondering what could have been.  Parish continued to release solo material and retained the “Hit Squad” name to work with Das Efx and other up-and-coming groups on material that was fairly well received. 

Erick Sermon released several successful solo albums (“No Pressure,” “Double Or Nothin’”, and “Music”), executive produced multiple classic albums by Redman, presented Keith Murray to the masses and produced hits for numerous other artists.  Sermon also produced one of the most significant songs of the late ’90’s with LL Cool J’s “4,3,2,1” this song introduced DMX and Master P (on the remix once Canibus was kicked out) to larger audiences, cemented Method Man and Redman as two of the best in the game, and started the feud between LL and Canibus that would effectively end Canibus’ career and definitively put Uncle L in the “G.O.A.T.” conversations.

EPMD reconciled in 1997 and released new material that was a breath of fresh air to fans tired of shiny suits and “Bling, Bling,” the group released another solid album in 1999 and then took a long recording hiatus to produce other acts and tour.  In December 2008, the group released their seventh album, “We Mean Business” and has plans to release a sneaker/apparel line with skate company DC Shoes in the near future.  

Over the course of two decades EPMD have been the most consistent group in Hip-Hop and have introduced the world to some of the most talented MC’s ever, they should clearly be in the same category as Public Enemy, Wu-Tang Clan and Run-DMC, however if you disagree, as they say, you can “Get The Bozack!” 

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

2009: A Look Ahead

“People wonderin’ where the ‘eff I been, I’m at the VIP entrance, they won’t let me in”

-R.A. The Rugged Man

I know it’s been a minute since I updated this blog, and I want to apologize for keeping all the fans of the 5th Round Movement waiting, but most of you were probably too busy guzzling eggnog, hanging out with family and watching Brad Pitt age backwards to even notice I was gone.

I had a very eventful hiatus, since I lasted posted (27 days ago) I completed my MBA, had a car break down on a busy highway, bought a new car, had an altercation with a neighbor that almost ended in violence, lived through two pretty severe winter storms, traveled to the god forsaken hell hole of Philadelphia, the sun-kissed beaches of south Florida, the New England charm of Massachusetts, the unbridled mayhem of the Jersey Shore and the birthplace of Kentucky Fried Chicken and Papa John’s Pizza. I received Christmas presents that ranged from awesome (designer wallets & ties and Rocawear Cologne...I’m not saying this to brag, I’m just warning you that next time you see me in the streets, I’m going to smell GOOD) to mind boggling (a DVD of “Action Jackson” and two boxes of gruel). I rang in the New Year with friends and family and then celebrated the best way I know how...Naples Pizza and outlet shopping! Over the course of the last 27 days I also turned down numerous invitations to join a pyramid scheme, missed the release date for the final Air Jordan countdown pack (an event I literally looked forward to all year), had to administer ear drops to a grown man, attended several sporting events and holiday movies, watched the J-E-T-S implode and fire Man-Genius, read WATCHMEN again to prep for the movie and helped turn my 12 year-old cousin, Young Blowout, into a sneakerhead. Most importantly my good friend Brian Keeter was involved in a serious accident right before the holidays and he is currently still recovering in a Charlotte hospital. His sister is blogging his progress at: If you know Keeter, or are familiar with him from my stories or his days as an NC State basketball player please wish him the best and let him know you are thinking about him in the comments section.

I spent most of December reflecting on 2008 and now I want to look ahead to 2009. These are some things I am looking forward to in the upcoming 12 months:

Dr. Dre, Eminem and 50 Cent releasing albums: I know Detox will probably not come out, I know Eminem will continue to replace sick lyricism and social commentary with fart jokes and odes to his kids and I know “Before I Self Destruct” will not be as good as G-Unit Radio Volumes 1-19 (they got weak after Vol. 20). However, I am still pretty pumped about the idea of these giants all releasing new material. “The Chronic” and “2001” are two of the best albums ever made (regardless of genre), everything Slim Shady released between “My Name Is...” and “8 Mile” was brilliant and listening to “Get Rich or Die Trying” still arouses my sympathetic nervous system to the point where I acquire the mindset of a rabid junkyard dog. While it is doubtful (in my opinion...clearly that phrase is unnecessary in a blog) that Detox will actually be released or that Em and 50 will put out their best material, I know damn well where I will be whatever Tuesday these drop.

Cage’s “Depart From Me”: Following the release of 2005’s awesome “Hell’s Winter” Cage dropped a few guest vocals but largely stayed out of the limelight. His label, Def Jux continued to raise the bar for indie rap with classic releases from Aesop Rock and El-P and the first major US release from UK superstar Dizzee Rascal. According to his website, Cage had to halt production on the album for most of 2007-08 due to a bout with drugs, but from what I’ve heard on his myspace page he is about to release a collection of songs even more mature, layered and haunting than “Hell’s Winter.” My advice to you is find this record and then go see him live, if he only performs “Agent Orange” and then drops the mic and leaves it will be worth the price of admission.

Better Episodes of “The Office”: I am the biggest fan of The Office in this world and I laugh out loud at just about every episode (even the ones like “Beach Games” that I have watched close to 100 times), but the first half of Season 5 has left something to be desired. Between Andy becoming a complete buffoon, Dwight and Angela’s creepy affair, minimal involvement from Creed, Stanley or Daryl, flimsy plot developments like Ryan coming back and sending Pam to art school and weak episodes involving an auction, a Moroccan Christmas and Jan’s pregnancy, this season is by far the weakest. However, the weakest season of The Office is like “The Worst” Jay-Z album, it’s still pretty good, the scenes of Andy and Oscar getting sauced up on “bad decisions in a glass” in Winnipeg or Michael dragging Meredith to rehab are still better than the best episode of “My Name is Earl.” I hope they turn it around in the second half of the season and finish strong with a string of classics in 2009.

“Watchmen” in Imax: I have read the graphic novel twice and have been watching trailers online since I saw the extended preview shown with The Dark Knight in July (yeah, I’m that cool), and it’s almost here! For the most part, adult life is void of this kind of anticipation (I got a few boxes of dry slop for Christmas this year), however these kind of “Event” movies give us something to look forward to after we are too old to eagerly await the next episode of Saved By The Bell or getting a Game Boy for Christmas.

“Notorious”: This could either be amazing or a complete abomination. Either way, I’m going to see it and will probably blog my reaction by the end of opening weekend.

Summer 2009: It is only the first week in January and I am already looking forward to summer weekends “Down The Shore.” I can hardly wait until the weather gets warm, the miniature golf courses open up and The Bamboo lights the neon palm trees so I can again try to answer the age old questions: “How did I get soaking wet in a bar and where is my shirt?”