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Monthly Archives: September 2012

There’s a difficulty with Looper, the newest film from writer-director Rian Johnson, that matches the difficulty with time travel. It’s a messy and often convoluted difficulty, yet somehow, it works-both the science and the film. Looper stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe, the titular looper, a hitman in 2044 for the mob of 20 years further in the future where time travel has been created. Joe’s job consists of executing people who are sent back by the mob until he comes in contact with himself 30 years from now, played by Bruce Willis, on a mission to find a man known as the rainmaker. It’s messy and yet, like Johnson’s last Gordon-Levitt starring feature Brick, there’s a method and beauty to the mess. The film dabbles with the ultimate science fiction tool, time travel, and plays with it on unique levels. The film tackles the issue of what time travel means to the nature of things; the alternate realities you create and what happens when you ruin that cycle made out for life. Not to mention the subtler issues that start in the background then make their way into the foreground, like telekinesis and the cycle of troubled pasts found in the film through different characters. It’s a film that incites debate-from its plausibility to the timeline it sketches out. Plus, it’s pretty gutsy for an action movie like this to completely switch lanes and have the final hour mostly take place on a farm managed by a gun-toting and hard-shelled Emily Blunt, with her brilliant and disturbed child. Looper is dark, violent, frightening and, surprisingly, really funny-but above all this, it plays with your mind a little, leaving you unsure of what exactly happened. People will argue about it, for both good and bad reasons, and different theories can be made about what took place. That’s the beauty of it, it’s a rough film to digest but it is one that will leave you trying to piece it together. Comparisons to different sci-fi films are inevitable, but the first thing that pops to my mind when I watched it was the movie Inception, not because they’re that similar but because they both play with reality to a degree that leaves you unsure of whether or not you have the answers at all.

Overall Rating: A-

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Well, at least of sneaker wear. Tammy, the homie in DC, is a pro at nail art and over the past weekend she blessed some lucky ladies with her skills. Seeing as how this took place during the sneaker pimps tour, it was only right that the majority of the nails were based on favorite sneakers of the participants. You can follow Tammy on twitter here.  

 

The Sneaker Pimps tour-a showcase for talented street artists, up and coming brands, under the rader rappers and, of course, celebration of sneakers-made it’s way to the Fillmore in Silver Spring this weekend. Among getting caught up in the illest of sneakers and jumping into mosh pits during different sets, I managed to take a few pictures of the event. Enjoy.

All photos credited to Israel Daramola

 

 

At what point does rap music have to take responsibility for a destructive culture it’s helped to manifest?
Rap music has spent years taking listeners on a journey through a rough jungle of decadence, violence, history, philosophy and sex throughout its existence and, at times, it could be argued that it has gone too far at times. It’s at these times where the rap community (and it’s defendants) have come to its rescue —with the most readily available scapegoat being: “We’re speaking a truth about an environment we’re from”. By all accounts, this is pretty much true; rap and hip-hop culture spawned from the ugliness of living in poverty and violence. It was an escape from that place (whether mentally or physically through success), but more-so than that it was a testament and portrait of the other America, the place where the American dream doesn’t take place.

This argument can only go so far though, and after all steps need to be taken back, the scene needs to be purveyed and we need to evaluate whether we’re still telling a story or if we’re just nurturing a culture of violence. It’s hard to tell a kid living in abject poverty how to live a righteous life when he can’t put food in his stomach, it’s also hard to convince that same kid that crime doesn’t pay when all he has to do is turn on tv and become inundated with the message that it actually does pay. It’s a complex issue handling these types of situations, and naturally when something is too complex for us, instead of trying to deal with it we just sweep it under the rug as nothing more than a black and white issue that’s not our problem.

The truth is: all we have are the quandaries. A subject like this is such an enigma where every answer you can come up with leads to a dead end. Society is fucked; violence takes place because of the nature of living in turmoil, violence is celebrated in music, movies and television because that’s all we know and music is pushed to the masses because it’s profitable and—to paraphrase Breaking Bad—companies aren’t in the morality business, they’re in the empire business.

All we have our the moments where rational people can sit and discuss what is happening under our noses. The biggest issue with this though is that those same rational people aren’t taking part in saving these areas that they’re so torn up about. As someone who’s volunteered to at-risk youth, I know from experience that you should consider yourself lucky if you can save one; no matter how much time you spend with these kids, no matter what you try to tell them, when it’s all said and done you’ll leave and those kids will go back to that environment and culture of destruction that is sculpting their minds every day.

Violence is a natural function of life. It’s everywhere, always has been and always will be. Entire cultures and colonies were built on violence. (including this one.) We’re born violent; when we come out of the womb, we come out kicking and screaming. As we grow older society tells us our violent nature is wrong and tells us to stifle it. But stifling our nature doesn’t erase it, and the difference between areas with little to no violence and areas that are heavily violent is the rules we apply to ourselves. If you’re starving than you do whatever you need to just to eat, that’s just a given; there are neighborhoods are full of people starving and their pleas for food have gone ignored. Maybe there’s a chance that rap is just nurturing this mentality more than educating about it—it’s a high possibility; but, at the same time, no matter how much bloodshed has taken place in Chicago or New Orleans, it’s a helluva lot less than what’s taking place in countries all over the world. Not saying it because that makes the situation better, just saying it because it’s true. It’s a violent world. Just as societies have denigrated and destroyed themselves because of violence, no society has made any sort of “progression” without it.

The beauty and the shame that comes from gangster rap music is that it gives a microphone to America’s forgotten children. From N.W.A., blasting street knowledge about being poor, angry and black with the kind of reckless abandon that can only come with youth to Chief Keef conveying that same abandon, albeit in a different way entirely. T.I. referred to Chief Keef as the future, the sad thing is he might be right. I’m not going to talk shit about him because I like the kid, I just think he’s incredibly misguided and has no idea just how grand the ramifications of his actions are–and that’s what makes him the voice of this new generation. A generation of mentally unstable young kids with no direction and no guidance from anyone, taking their cues from a culture that tells them their worth is based on what’s in their pockets and has taken guerrilla-like machismo and stylized prostitution and labeled it swag. George Carlin has a great bit about why man is driven to violence, basically saying that our need as men to destroy everything can be deconstructed to be just one big, “who’s got the bigger dick” contest. It only makes sense that that a culture as degraded and jaded as the black culture participate so heavily in this act.
However when all this is said and done, I’m still speaking in generalities. Violence is everywhere and in every culture, long before there was any music. (Not to speak of rap.) There is no direct correlation between rap music and violence, but that doesn’t excuse it. It’s nice to think that if the music was positive or, at least, cautionary then maybe things would be better and lives would be saved. I’m sure a few would. The issue though, lies in every other factor that drives these kids to take a person’s life. When Lupe Fiasco went on record to say that chief Keef scares him, he’s not speaking on him personally he’s speaking on an environment that made him who he is. The greatest American catastrophe that’s taking place right now is happening in the development of our youth, and it just shouldn’t be that way. The children are our future and each day that passes the future becomes desolate, and all one can really do is hope that those roses that will grow from the concrete bloom bright enough to turn it around.

More than any other medium, books are a gateway to the ultimate fantasy world. More than TV, movies or even music. They require the imagination to to work overtime, even with comic books there to paint a picture for you. For those of you who haven’t caught on yet, I like to entertain the idea that I’m a real writer-you know, a guy who writes (or at least wants to write) professionally… for a career… to live off of. Foolish I know, but everyone has a dream. I’ve been reading books, mainly comics and graphic novels, since I learned to read. From Calvin & Hobbes to the batman detective comics to when I first discovered the dark knight returns and Watchmen, these were the books that shaped my world. Sure I took cues from fiction books and pop culture essays, I mean they’re the reason I write the way I do, but those comics formed the prisms of my imagination.
I’m in love with creating worlds in my mind; because why not? Real life is full of shit and daydreaming and fantasizing are the only things around to keep you sane. Disappearing into books and comics, or even films, assist with the process. Years have been spent hiding in secret forts, spaces in closets or within the confines of textbooks that you’re supposed to be reading. (And oh how you dreaded being called to read a chapter in class as a result.)
All of this hullabaloo is my way of talking myself into believing I can join this industry of people I’ve admired. It’s a tough world; you’re young and still full of hope, still believing you can write for that magazine you love or making that film that you’ve wracked your brain over day in, day out or even coming up with that graphic novel you’ve been thinking about for a long time. It’s definitely a weird time, life hasn’t made you completely bitter yet. (Yet.) That’s what keeps me moving I guess; not fame, money or glory but the undying hope that I can be an industry guy. The type of writer that all my favorite writers enjoy reading stuff from, that would be better than anything.

I’m not a fan of rap label compilations. There’s way too much going on and they really serve no purpose than as a marketing tool to advertise for the rappers on your label. However, because this was Yeezy and the G.O.O.D crew, I was willing to give it a shot and see if they could sell me on it. They couldn’t.

I have the same issue with Cruel Summer that I had with Watch The Throne, there’s no luster in it. It’s like these guys were on vacation and, I don’t know, I guess it rained one day so they were stuck in their  expensive ass hotel and thought, “Hey, fuck it, let’s make an album to kill time.” Frankly, by the time the record was done I was exhausted with it–also, I don’t have to remind you of my feelings on luxury rap.

The album starts off with R. Kelly doing that thing he does, only this time it’s not sexual. Essentially a pale imitation of “Lift Off” from WTT, it wasn’t exactly the strongest of openings. (Especially with ‘Ye phoning it in.) Luckily enough, after this is the album’s strongest streak of songs with the infectious bop of “Clique”–which features Jay-Z, Big Sean and Yeezy bragging about his girlfriend’s sextape that  doesn’t star him–to what was arguably the jam of the summer “Mercy” and the “church-in-the-ghetto meets a hip-hop dungeon”-like style of “New God Flow” (Now with Ghostface, being who he’s always been, the fucking best).

I wanna like songs like “The Morning”; it sounds good and the repetitiveness of the beat works in this kind of song, but it’s way too feature heavy for me to get into. Just as soon as I’m feeling a rapper’s verse, he’s gone. Also, Kid CuDi’s “verse” on this song is only slightly less lazy as the one he did for “All Of The Lights”. Also, as tempting as it is for me to want to like a song with Ma$e on it… I just can’t get with this “Higher” song, but we’ll always have Harlem World bruh. Honestly, the rest of the album is just a blur of features I can’t keep track of and mostly interchangeable beats. (Just thinking about it is tiring; the Kid CuDi one was good though.) Finally, the album ends with the remix to Chief Keef’s “Don’t Like” and I’m left wondering  a few things, namely: does this change my feelings for the G.O.O.D crew, and how is it Cyphi got to only be on two songs with like a half a verse on both,that seems like a pretty raw deal.

Like Watch The Throne, I feel like Cruel Summer is a decent mixtape pretending to be an album. It’s fun and sounds great, but that doesn’t mean it’s no less phoned in. That being said, it’ll probably sell well and I’ll hear it at the clubs when I’m drunk enough to enjoy it more.

After spending the past weekend totally legitimately sampling the soon-to-be released G.O.O.D music album “Cruel Summer”, (review of which will be up soon) I realized a few things. Other than the fact that I’m still not entirely sure what Cyphi Da Prince’s role in G.O.O.D is and the constant hope that ‘Ye fooled us all and the real album hasn’t been leaked yet, I have to admit that I just don’t particularly care for luxury rap.
For those of you not in the know, luxury rap is like a good deal of other rap records; in that they rap about having and buying things, only this time it’s about elegance with your decadence. So instead of laying down a 16 about white tees and fitted caps, you would rap about the fine wines, french designers and that hermes bag you just had to get. To quote Mr. West, it’s “sophisticated ignorance”; which is fine enough, I’m sure my high school self would approve of this. (Anything to get the other black kids to stop being assholes to him for not wearing baggy clothes.)
For me though, I’m not particularly enthralled by the whole thing. It’s essentially a sequel to the “shiny suit” era-only a helluva lot more expensive-which was fun at times and undermined the violence in the hip-hop scene, which was pertinent but it was all so empty and crass and was all about selling shit and turning yourself into a billboard.
I guess this is where my real issue with most popular rap music lies (well one of the problems): the constant brand abuse.
Rap music, more than any other, is pretty damn guilty of brand abuse. The abuse that shit like it’s nothing; to the point where brands should get their own Sarah Mcgloughlin-scored commercial. Chances are if your product holds any water, a rapper has rapped about having it. Now, for a lot of brands this isn’t a big deal, most of them welcome the attention. The thing about luxury rap is that it’s all about bragging about things that pride itself on exclusivity. When you brag about having polo sock, polo shirts and polo draws it devalues the brand because it inspires everyone to get the same thing and erases the exclusivity you wanted from it in the first place. (Mind you we could also discuss the bullshit in things being exclusive, but that’s a whole other issue.) By extension, too much branding also devalues yourself. When you walk along the streets of your city whereing that Givenchy shirt you saw Rick Ross where and decided to spend your whole paycheck on, are people who see it on you reacting to you or the shirt? Thus getting back to you just being a billboard instead of being stylish. I’ve often said that the hip-hop scene is full of kids who are trendy but not necessarily stylish. Anyone can wear what’s popular so where’s your identity? I do my best to dress in a way that let’s someone know that my style is my own–as best you can with only so many things to wear and ways to wear them. (No humblebrag.) But even I fall for the occasional Maison Martin Margiela shoes or HUF panel hat when I see someone rocking it well. I’m not about judging, I’m just about suggesting–suggesting that maybe we can cool it on turning ourselves into ad space and rapping about extravagant items purely for the sake of doing it. Then again, if I wasn’t a broke engineer-by-day, writer-by-night, I’d probably be all for it.

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