Friday, August 14, 2009

Reviews August 2009

5: iPhone
4: Nintendo DS
3: Old School Game Boy
4: Pocket Simon
5: An Abacus

G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra


I had extremely low expectations for this summer blockbuster based on toys from the 80’s, especially after the epic disaster that was Transformers 2 however, I was pleasantly surprised by the best action movie of the summer. The story is pretty straight forward (the bad guys have warheads, the good guys want warheads and they are going to fight about it), the characters are all presented well and there’s a few surprises in the last 20 min. that will entertain adult viewers that may have been dragged to the theatre by a child.

While fans of the cartoon can argue for days about what characters should have been included (personally, I would have liked Shipwreck, Roadblock and Bazooka), the main ones you remember are all there and while the movie script may have taken some liberties with the original mythology from the cartoon, the story is so compelling, the action so relentless and the pacing so break-neck that only super hardcore G.I. Joe fans and obsessed action figure collectors could really complain.

In a pretty weak summer for movies, G.I. Joe provides a riveting and fun theatre-going experience for kids, adults, lifetime Joe fans, casual observers and anyone looking for that summer movie experience.

Slaughterhouse: Self Titled Album


If you regularly read you are fully aware that I often mock collaborative albums as pipe dreams that will never actually be released, so to my surprise Slaughterhouse released its debut album in stores and on itunes on August 11th, 2009. Internet heads have been aware of this epic “Super Group” since the early spring when Joe Budden enlisted fellow slept-on MC’s Joell Ortiz, Royce the 5’ 9” and Crooked I for the original “Onslaught.” The collective kept fans salivating throughout the spring and early summer with a string of blazing collaborative cuts, solo EP’s, appearances on the Rock The Bells/Paid Dues tour, an epic freestyle over Jay-Z’s “D.O.A” beat, and an on-again/off-again beef with the legendary Wu-Tang Clan that culminated in Budden getting punched in his eye on the internet (Personally, I am a huge fan of everybody involved in Slaughterhouse, but this beef seems ill-advised because most potential SH fans are/were fans of the Wu and asking them to take sides seems unfair. Realistically they are dividing a fanbase that should really be united and rallying against artists like Soulja Boy and Rick Ross. Further, even while I was giddy like a school girl at the prospect of a full-fledged Slaughterhouse LP, I could never bring myself to hate on Wu-Tang. I’ve been a Wu fan for 15 years, almost as long as I’ve liked the Jets and Yankees, I have too much history, too many CD’s and too much Wu-Wear in my closet to turn my back on them now).

The resulting LP lives up to most expectations and provides some of the best verses committed to wax in 2009. And while this collection of lyricists could have easily pulled from their expansive rhyme-books and simply tried to out punch-line each other for 15 tracks, they actually craft engaging songs with coherent concepts and experiment with innovative flows that will pleasantly surprise even their most avid fans. Stand out tracks include “Roll Call” where Royce compares the group to Voltron (yeah, Wu did it first, but it also works here) and each member starts his verse calmly but ends in a dizzying crescendo of wordplay that is truly something to behold, “Pray” and “Rain Drops” address serious life issues and the potential club banger “Not Tonight.”

The most interesting track on the LP is “Turn You Lose,” where each MC recounts his love of Hip-Hop and his disillusionment with the music industry. This song illustrates what is so amazing about Slaughterhouse as a collective: although supremely talented none of the members was able to establish himself as a star, however by joining forces they attain that elusive “second chance” in the music industry and have started a movement that is actually much bigger than the sum of its’ parts.

House of Pain: Truth Crushed to Earth Shall Rise Again


I found this on the used rack for $3.99 and since I’ve been listening to La Coka Nostra nonstop for the last month I couldn’t resist. This album was largely ignored when it was released in 1996 because most fans thought HOP was over, the East-West feud overshadowed almost everything else in Hip-Hop, Bad Boy’s rampant commercialism was starting to replace the hardcore/reality rap of the early 90’s and it struggled to find an audience in the same summer “Reasonable Doubt,” “It Was Written,” “Stakes is High,” “ATLiens” and “Legal Drug Money” were released. Hip-Hop heads that slept on this in the summer of ’96 dropped the ball. If House of Pain’s second album was called “Same As It Ever Was” this one should have been called “Better Than You Remember It Was!”

“Rise Again” was an overall improvement on the House of Pain formula established on the first two albums: DJ Lethal came into his own as a producer with a distinct style away from his early DJ Muggs- influenced beats, Everlast begins his transformation into the gravelly voiced singer that would have a massive hit with “What It’s Like” two years later (this can be seen in several reggae influenced cuts and the more emotional, boarder line growling, rhyme style heard on some cuts) and the inclusion of Divine Styler and Cockeny O’Dyer on several tracks adds to the expansion of the perceived HOP boundaries. Add in stellar guest appearances by Sadat X on the introspective “Heart Full of Sorrow” and an in-his-prime Guru on the remix “Fed Up” and you have one of the better LP’s of 90’s that has largely been lost in the shuffle.

Biz Markie: The Ultimate Diabolical


This greatest hits package contains 11 Biz classics and 5 of his best videos for one low price. The overall package is awesome and shows the Clown Prince of Hip-Hop at his hilarious best. The CD contains songs from his debut, comedic classics like “Just a Friend” and “Spring Again” and forgotten later cuts like “I’m The Biz Markie” and “Let Me Turn You On.” Put simply, if you don’t like these songs there is something wrong with you. I put Biz in the same category as Huey Lewis & The News and Gym Class Heroes as some of the “Funnest” entertainers ever and if you cannot get onboard for some unbridled silliness every once in a while, it’s YOUR fault.

No comments: