Friday, July 30, 2010

Lindelof To Re-Write "Alien" Prequel

"Lost" co-producer Damon Lindelof is set to rewrite the "Alien" prequel for 20th Century Fox says Deadline.

Lindelof met with director Ridley Scott about the rewrite job on Jon Spaihts's script and the meeting led to a take that could become its ow free-standing science fiction film. A decision will be made when Lindelof turns in the script.

Scott Free is producing. Lindeloff is currently writing the "Star Trek" sequel with Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, the trio also penned next Summer's "Cowboys and Aliens" which is currently shooting.

Lindeloff is the man and anyone who watched "Lost" knows he's a genius. Great move by Ridley Scott.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Best Link in the Whole Wide World....Today

For all you Breezer's out there (all 6 of you--and that might be an over statement) here's a new thing from your friends here in Boca-land, The Best Link in the Whole Wide World....Today.

Throughout everyday in our Internet consumption we pour over articles, videos, links, blog goes on and on and on. What this will be is the thing that I found (on each particular day) to be the most interesting article or video or anything that I deem noteworthy.

Not that I am such a great critic that all in the world should listen, but I'll put it this way, I won't steer you into anything trashy. Sure it might be a waste of your time, but it'll be worth wasting that time.

Okay so here we go, here is the first ever, The Best Link in the Whole Wide World....Today.

The link is from our good friends over at Cinematical which is one of my favorite movie sites out there. The post has an AMAZING rendering of the explanation of the film "Inception" in diagram form. If you haven't seen the film, beware, but I honestly don't think you could decipher it anyway without prior knowledge of what's going on.

Either way I have been obsessed with the film since I saw it, and if you enjoyed it, you will enjoy this to.

Until tomorrow my friends. And as Buster Olney says, tomorrow will be better.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Classic Album Review: Public Enemy, “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back”

More is always better. Right? In theory, sequels are supposed to be better than the original, but that isn't always the case.

Of course for every sequel dud there is the fantastic "Terminator 2: Judgment Day" or "The Empire Strikes Back", or in this case, the influential hip-hop album "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back".

Public Enemy's debut album, "Yo! Bum Rush the Show" was a critical success, but for the most part failed to bring Public Enemy to the mainstream. But one thing the album did do was lay the groundwork for what the group would accomplish with their second and superior effort, "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back".

Released in 1988, the record rewrote the rules of what hip-hop could do and firmly supplanted Public enemy as one of the top hip-hop groups of all time. The group tackles some serious political and cultural issues on the album including racism, political exile, the media and even the industry itself.

The album is filled with great tracks from top to bottom, but "Bring the Noise", "Don't Believe the Hype", "Caught, Can We Get a Witness?", and "Rebel Without a Pause" stand out as the best of the bunch.

"Bring the Noise" is one of the best tracks on the album and features fantastic lyrics that are delivered rapid-fire style by Chuck D. Along with Flavor Flav, Chuck D raps about the superiority of Public Enemy and a bevy of shout outs to other artists including LL Cool J, Run DMC and Eric B.

You can hear the confidence and incredible talent as Chuck D raps: Once again back is the incredible/The thyme animal/The incredible D Public Enemy Number One
"Five O" said "Freeze!" and I got numb/Can I tell 'em that I really never had a gun?" Also oddly enough, "Bring the Noise" was included on the soundtrack of the 1987 film "Less Than Zero", helping to add to its popularity.

"Night of the Living Baseheads" is one of the most unique and serious tracks on the album. The lyrics deal with the effects of crack on African-Americans during the 1980s crack epidemic.

The song uses more samples than any other track on the album, including "Fame" by David Bowie, "I Can't Get Next to You" by The Temptations, and "Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved" by James Brown. The title, like a few of the tracks on the album, is a reference to a film, "Night of the Living Dead".

The lyrics compare people addicted to crack cocaine with zombies in a creative analogy that is both clever and significant. The lyrics are illustrative as the group raps: "This is the dope jam/But lets define the term called dope/And you think it mean funky now, no
Here is a true tale/Of the ones that deal/Are the ones that fail."

"Rebel Without A Pause" is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Like "Night of the Living Baseheads", the track is a play on a film, the 1955 landmark, "Rebel Without a Cause". The cultural reference is just one of many on the album.

The track was actually the first one that the group worked on for the album and it had Chuck D experimenting with the speed of beats. Going against the grain, he sped things up and the track, which turned out to be extremely popular. Music production would be influenced for years by these moves. The track sampled another James Brown song, "Funky Drummer" & "Get Up Offa That Thing" as well.

You can hear the lyrical precision as they open the track: "Yes - the rhythm, the rebel/Without a pause - I'm lowering my level/The hard rhymer - where you never been I'm in/You want stylin' - you know it's time again/D the enemy - tellin you to hear it/They praised the music - this time they play the lyrics."

Although twenty years is a long time, the influence of "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" can still be felt today. The album is distinctly from the eighties, yet when you listen to it, it sounds and feels timeless. It raised the bar extremely high back then, and it is still a capable barometer for what hip-hop is meant to be, and what artists always aspire to be.

"It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" is Public Enemy's defining work, and it is most definitely a classic.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Classic Album Review: Eric B. & Rakim, “Paid in Full”

When Eric B. and Rakim's first hooked up with famed producer Marley Mall to record their first single, "Eric B. Is President", I don't think either man knew what was about to come in regards to their music careers.

Sure, Marley Mall was a legend, but nothing in life is a sure thing. But after the single dropped, Eric B. and Rakim proved that they were just that, legends in the making. The landmark track is one of the best of all time, and Rakim's opening of "I came in the door/said it before" is one rap's most quoted ever.

Building on this, the duo decided to connect again with Mall, and recorded their debut album at his home studio (Power Play Studios) in New York City. When "Paid In Full" was released in the summer of 1987, the album ultimately ended rap’s status as novelty music and ushered in a new school of hip-hop.

Throughout the album Rakim showcases his adept lyrical skills by smoothly and confidently spitting complex verses that are full of literate and distinct imagery. Eric B.'s turntable fueled backgrounds and beats represented the beginning of heavy sampling on hip-hop records. The combination of these two truly meant a step forward into the modern era of hip-hop.

While the album has only 9 tracks, Eric B. and Rakim definitively prove that quality outweighs quantity. "Eric B. Is President" is obviously fantastic, but "Paid in Full", "Eric B. Is on the Cut", "I Know You Got Soul" and "I Ain’t No Joke" are all excellent tracks as well.

"I Know You Got Soul" is one of the best tracks on the album, and it pretty much started off the industry’s trend of sampling James Brown songs. The bass line and the beat on the track are just amazing, and Eric B. & Rakim show off the lyrical prowess that they posses so naturally with some flashy lyrics.

The track opens with one of the best verses on the album as they rap: “It's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you/Without a strong rhyme to step to/Think of how many weak shows you slept through/Time's up, I'm sorry I kept you/Thinking of this, you keep repeating you miss/The rhymes from the microphone soloist.”

“Eric B. Is President” was the debut single released by the duo, and is one of the most memorable songs in hip-hop history. This track also samples James Brown, but it’s the funky beat and the sample of “The Champ” by The Mohawks that really gets this track going.

Rakim’s opening lines have become one of the most quotable lyrics of all time, he is ferocious as he raps: “I came in the door, I said it before/I never let the mic magnatize me no more/But it's biting me, fighting me, inviting me to rhyme/I can't hold it back, I'm looking for the line.”

The title track, "Paid in Full", is one of my favorite on the album. Although the subject matter was serious in nature, the track had a sort of fun undercurrent to it. I love how the duo attempts to embrace their future prospects about getting paid, not from the corner or the daily grind, but from their own work in the studio. The beat is amazing, and any hip-hop fan knows that this track has been sampled more times than anyone can count.

As usual, the duo shows how intelligent and unique they are as Rakim raps: “A pen and a paper, a stereo, a tape of/Me and eric b, and a nice big plate of/Fish, which is my favorite dish/But without no money it’s still a wish/Cos I don’t like to dream about gettin paid/So I dig into the books of the rhymes that I made/To now test to see if I got pull/Hit the studio, cos I’m paid in full.”

“Paid in Full” is indispensable listening for anyone even remotely interested in hip-hop. This album pretty much set the example for what modern day hip-hop would become. Eric B. had reinstated the art of turntable mixing and soul-filled sampling became influential in future hip hop production.

“Paid in Full” helped change the landscape of hip-hop and without it, we might not have most of the great music in the industry we do today. The album is Eric B. and Rakim’s signature work, and is most definitely a classic hip-hop album.

Betty White Is “God," Literally

Uber-producer Jerry Weintraub has tried for a long time to mount a remake of the 1977 George Burns comedy "Oh God!," and it looks like it might finally happen. The reason why? Betty White.

According to Deadline, Weintraub just pitched the studio a new version of the film, with the currently red-hot White as the title character. Paul Rudd was pitched for the role of the hapless mortal John Denver played in the original.

Weintraub produced the original and has had experience on this front as he also produced both the original and the recent remake of "The Karate Kid." He has been trying for years to get it going, most recently with Ellen Degeneres attached for the lead.

There isn't a script for the project yet--just the pitch by Weintraub so far, but with all the success Betty White has been having this year, why not do it?

The deal for the film should be locked down in the coming weeks.

Brian Cox Set for "Rise of the Apes"

The newest incarnation of the "Planet of the Apes" franchise is really heating up. "Rise of the Apes" already has James Franco, Andy Serkis, "Slumdog Millionaire" beauty Freida Pinto, and John Lithgow locked in, and now it looks as if actor Brain Cox will join in as well.

According to The Wrap, Cox is in final negotiations to play the villain in "Rise of the Apes" for 20th Century Fox.

Set in present day San Francisco, the origin story focuses on a scientist (Franco) working on an Alzheimer's cure being tested on apes. The test subject named Caesar (Serkis) evolves rapidly, forcing the scientist to take him home and live with him to protect him from cruel doctors. Pinto plays a primatologist who helps Franco.

Cox would play the brutal and villainous owner of a primate sanctuary who runs the facility with no compassion for its animal inhabitants.

The film will also deal with the aftermath of man's experiments with genetic engineering that lead to the development of intelligence in apes and the onset of a war for supremacy.

Rupert Wyatt directs the project and previously worked with Cox on the prison drama "The Escapist." WETA digital is rendering photo-realistic apes for the first time in the franchise, as opposed to using costumed actors.

When I first heard about this new “Planet of the Apes” film, I was weary about it. All I could picture was Tim Burton’s awful last adaptation. But then Franco joined up along with the rest of the cast and with them in place, this remake, prequel, sequel or whatever you want to call it may actually be decent. And who doesn’t love to look at Freida Pinto anyway?

"Rise of the Apes" is scheduled to take over theaters on June 24, 2011.

Marc Forster To Burn Some "Heretics"

Marc Forster has always been a director who likes to take on projects about diverse subjects. He has directed serious dramas, like "Finding Neverland," great acting performances (Halle Berry in “Monster’s Ball") and has also helmed a big-budget action film, "Quantum of Solace," and now it looks as if he will take on religion for his next film.

According to Variety, Forster is being lined up as a potential director for the religious drama "Heretics" for Endgame Entertainment.

Based on an episode of "This American Life," "Heretics" centers on Carlton Pearson, a rising star among evangelicals until he was ostracized by his own church and declared a heretic after he started preaching that there is no Hell. Pearson began to do so after watching a program about conditions in war-torn Rwanda.

Marcus Hinchey ("All Good Things") is writing the screenplay. James D. Stern, Ira Glass, Alissa Shipp, Bradford Simpson and Forster will produce.

Forster is a skilled and adept director, and I think Glass’s “This American Life” is truly a great journalistic program. The combination of that along with the fact that this story is very interesting and controversial should make for a great project.

Looks for filming to begin later this year.

Warners Seizes "Occupied City"

David Peace’s Japanese crime thriller novel “Occupied City” will get the Hollywood treatment by way of Warner Bros. sometime in the near future.

According to Risky Biz, the company picked up the film rights to the novel, which is the second of a trilogy by Pearce set during the U.S. military occupation of Japan.

The story is a "Rashomon"-esque tale depicting the shifting perspectives of people involved in the real life Teikoku Bank incident of 1948.

That incident involved sixteen employees of a Tokyo bank being subjected to cyanide poisoning given to them by a man claiming to be an epidemiologist sent by U.S. occupation forces to inoculate the employees against dysentery.

When all were incapacitated, the man stole all the money he could find. Ten of the victims died at the scene, two died later in hospital. A man named Hirasawa Sadamichi was ultimately convicted of the murders and died over three decades later in prison, but is widely believed to have been innocent.

Peace suggests that the real murderer was connected with an underground biological weapons unit, and he uses multiple narrators living and dead, Japanese, American and Russian in a “Rashomon”-style retelling of those events.

Peace is no stranger to getting his books optioned and he has been on a bit of a Hollywood tear lately. His gritty “Red Riding Quartet” of novels was spun into a trio of TV films last year while Steve Zaillian is currently writing a new adaptation of the “Red Riding” novels for producer Ridley Scott and Columbia Pictures.

Also, scribe Peter Morgan adapted Peace’s 2006 soccer-based novel “The Damned Utd” into a film that Sony Pictures Classics released last fall, “The Damned United.”

“City” is the second in a planned trilogy of novels. The first, “Tokyo Year Zero,” was published in 2007, and the third is still in the works.

I think that the subject matter of this story is just utterly fascinating, and it is the perfect formula for a film. The “Rashomon” style of it is well placed, and if this project is handled the right way, it could end up being an awards contender sometime in the future.

Look for more on this project as things develop.

Haley Joel Osment Sees Something New--"Sex Ed"

While he once was seeing dead people, actor Haley Joel Osment ("The Sixth Sense," "A.I.: Artificial Intelligence") will be checking out something else for his next project.

Osment, according to the The Hollywood Reporter, has signed on the lead role in the comedy "Sex Ed" for MPCA and Aperture Entertainment.

The story follows a college graduate who dreams of teaching high school Algebra. Due to budget cuts, though, he ends up teaching sexual education--a bit of a problem as he's still a virgin. He soon befriends a mentor in a blues bar, a ruthless enemy in the local PTA, and a gorgeous Polish love interest for whom English is a distant second language.

Isaac Feder, who has helmed commercials as well as shorts, is directing the coming-of-age tale the script by Billy Kennedy.

Osment, who became a star with "The Sixth Sense," hasn't appeared in a film since 2007's "Home of the Giants."

Either way, I think this project has potential to be hilarious and Osment seems to be a nice fit for the part. Although he hasn't done much work at all since "The Sixth Sense," this could be his chance to show everyone that he is more than just a child success.

I think he will do well here--he has flashed some comedic chops in the past, but nothing of this caliber, but this could be the perfect was for Osment to break out of that “child actor” mold that so many people remember him by.

The project will film later this year.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Laurence Fishburne to join "Contagion"

Steven Soderbergh's pandemic thriller "Contagion" has just added yet another big name to its already excellent ensemble cast: Laurence Fishbourne.

Currently starring in "Predators," Fishburne will play a doctor according to Variety and will join the likes of Matt Damon, Kate Winslet, Gwyneth Paltrow, Marion Cotillard and Jude Law on the film.

"Contagion" is based on a script penned by Scott Z. Burns and revolves around the threat posed by a deadly disease, with multiple plotlines in the style of Soderbergh's "Traffic."

Soderbergh's developed the project with producing partner Gregory Jacobs while Participant Media is co-financing and producing along with Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher of Double Feature Films.

Fishbourne's schedule for "Contagion" had to be worked out to mesh with his commitments to the lead role in "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation." Either way, I'm glad it did because Fishbourne is a great actor, and adding him to the already stacked cast is only a positive move.

Soderbergh should have no trouble juggling multiple big name actors and storylines considering he has done that so many times in his career already. I have high hopes for this film--I think "Traffic" is one of the best films of the last decade and I hope that he can recreate a feel on this film as he did with that one.

"Contagion" is set for release on Oct. 21, 2011.

Eric Bana Reaches A Higher "Echelon"

In March of this year, it was announced by Variety that Hyde Park Entertainment had picked up the rights to Andy McNab’s 12-novel espionage series based around the character Nick Stone. It was only a matter of time before the company would cast its leading man.

According to Pajiba, Australian hunk Eric Bana will play the lead character of Stone in "Echelon," a film adaptation of McNab's espionage novel "Firewall."

The film will follow the ex-SAS grunt as he attempts to prevent a terrorist organization from accessing the world’s largest computer intelligence database.

In the book, the third of 12, Stone is hired to kidnap a Russian mafia warlord and deliver him to St. Petersburg. When he arrives, he soon finds himself raiding a house in the cold wastes of Estonia, where Russia has launched an online offensive to tap into the West's military secrets--secrets the Russians, the Americans, the Brits and rival mafia gangs all want to get their hands on.

The script comes from John Connor, who is also a producer on the project. Aside from creating an awesomely badass character in Nick Stone, author McNab is quite a fascinating character himself. He was (not surprisingly) an SAS officer himself and also was the weapons coordinator on Michael Mann's film "Heat."

Adding even more to his resume, McNab also was the most highly decorated British soldier of the Gulf War, after he commanded the Bravo Two Zero operation and was held and tortured by Iraqi soldiers for six weeks.

Oh, and by the way, adding even more bassassness (is that even a word?) to the author is that Andy McNab is not even his real name. For security reasons it had to be changed but that hasn't stopped him from turning his novels into a Hollywood franchise.

Ever since I saw Bana play a tough-as-nails soldier in "Black Hawk Down," I was a fan. I think he will be perfect in the role of Stone--he has the right pedigree, attitude and screen presence to take on the persona. Bana's upcoming slate is looking pretty good with the actor wrapping up Joe Wright's "Hanna" as well as the upcoming "The Emperor's Children."

There is no start date as of yet for "Echelon," but that could change soon once a director comes on board.

Ridley Scott Going To "Wall Street"

We're in a recession, but Wall Street seems to be on a hot streak.

Following Oliver Stone's "Wall Street 2: Money Never Sleeps," it looks as if we'll be getting another look at the world of stocks, this time with an adaptation of Jordan Belfort's '90s stock market memoir, "The Wolf of Wall Street."

At first looking to be another re-teaming of Leonardo DiCaprio and director Martin Scorsese, Deadline says it looks as if Ridley Scott is in early discussions to take the reins of the film.

The book follows the supervisor of a group of stockbrokers who live off the extravagant funds they scored from squeezing clients to buy stocks that pay off in the broker's favor. The federal authorities eventually brought down the shady brokers.

DiCaprio and Scorsese came close to doing the project two years ago but it stalled due to a dispute between Warner Bros. Pictures and Paramount Pictures, resulting in the duo collaborating on "Shutter Island." Now, the scenario is that Scorsese will produce the project alongside DiCaprio, who will star.

Scott loves the script adaptation by Terrance Winter ("The Sopranos," "Boardwalk Empire"), but the biggest obstacle this film has in its way is scheduling.

Between Scott's "Alien" prequel, Scorsese's "The Invention of Hugo Cabret" and DiCaprio's starring role in Clint Eastwood's "Hoover," finding time to actually make the movie might be difficult.

The script is reported to be funny, dramatic and fast paced, and manages to make something of a sympathetic character out of a stockbroker who squeezed clients to buy stocks that paid off for the brokers.

How that will fare in a post-Madoff era remains be seen, but with Scott, DiCaprio and Scorcese involved, I think it will turn out quite fine.

Look for more on this project in the coming months.

Three Locked For Tony Scott's "Potzdamer Platz"

While his brother Ridley preps his prequel to "Aliens," Tony Scott is keeping himself busy locking in the cast fir his upcoming film "Potzdamer Platz."

The Playlist reports that Christopher Walken and Johnny Hallyday have joined while Javier Bardem has been confirmed to be onboard the $38 million action thriller.

The drama follows two soldiers in a New Jersey-based crime family who try to expand internationally. Though the title refers to the famed public square in central Berlin, the action will be shifted to Puerto Rico and the title will likely change with it.

Mickey Rourke already has been confirmed to be involved. Jason Statham was said to be circling earlier this year while Scott was hoping to lure both Al Pacino and Gene Hackman for roles.

I love the cast of this film so far, and I think Tony Scott is an underrated director. While many of his recent movies have been uneven ("The Taking of Pelham 123", "Déjà Vu"), he also has directed three of my personal favorite movies in the past: "True Romance," "Enemy of the State" and "Spy Game." This movie definetly has potential to be one of the directors best works if things fall together in the right place.

David Scinto and Louis Mellis ("Sexy Beast") have re-written a script by Buddy Giovinazzo and shooting kicks off in January in Puerto Rico.

"Cold Case" Star Kathryn Morris Scores "Moneyball"

Former "Cold Case" lead Kathryn Morris is heating up since switching casting agencies this past April.

In her first move since signing with the Gersh Agency, the actress is in negotiations to star in baseball drama "Moneyball" for Sony Pictures, according to Risky Business.

Morris will play the second wife of the lead character, Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt). She loves baseball as much as her husband, so she understands and shares his passion for the game.

Bennett Miller directs the film, which stars Pitt, Robin Wright, Jonah Hill, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Stephen Bishop. The script was written by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin and will shoot some scenes at Oakland Colliseum over the summer.

Morris is a solid actress, and I think a role like this could be a breakout part for her. She was always great on "Cold Case" and she also has been solid in supporting roles in “Minority Report,” “Resurrecting the Champ” and “Paycheck.”

The book "Moneyball" by Michael Lewis was fascinating, even for people who aren't baseball fans. With such a great cast and excellent director like Miller in place, "Moneyball" is a project to look forward to.

Filming kicks off in Los Angeles next week.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Classic Album Review: Dr. Dre, “Chronic 2001”

What’s more important, quality or quantity? That question has been debated over and over for many years within music circles and after all this time, one thing is certain: when it comes to Dr. Dre, quantity doesn’t mean a thing.

Dre’s debut album, “The Chronic”, was released in 1992 is considered one of the best hip-hop albums of all time. When you debut with an album of that nature, fans want one thing and one thing only; another album.

Instead of quickly churning out a follow up, Dre made fans wait. And wait. And wait. During this time he worked on producing and discovered a rapper named Eminem. But finally, in 1999 he gave fans what they were waiting for: a new album.

Chronic 2001” was the long awaited follow up to Dr. Dre’s debut and it also helped revitalize the West coast hip-hop scene. They say sequels are never as good as the original, but this album puts that statement to shame. Fans were clamoring for another album, and Dre didn’t disappoint.

The album harps on the same topics Dre took on years ago, like gangs, violence, crime and marijuana, but this time around he digs deeper into those subjects (especially marijuana) and the beats are just unbelievable.

While other artists have produced way more albums, Dr. Dre is 2-2 in his career and batting a thousand. “Chronic 2001” is at 22 tracks long is stacked from top to bottom and includes a slew of guest stars including Nate Dogg, Eminem, Snoop Dogg and Mary J. Blige.

"Still D.R.E." and "Forgot About Dre" are probably the most popular songs on the album, but "What's the Difference", "Big Ego's", "Xxplosive" and "Bang Bang" are all excellent as well.

"Still D.R.E." was the first single off the album, and it is easily one of the best songs of all time. The track, which features Snoop Dogg, has one of the best beats I’ve ever heard and it marked Dre’s return to the hip-hop scene.

The chorus is one of the most memorable in hip-hop history, with Dre and Snoop rapping: “I'm representing for them gangsters all across the world/Still hitting them corners in them low low's girl/Still taking my time to perfect the beat/And I still got love for the streets, it's the D-R-E.”

You can hear how enthusiastic Dre is to be back in the game once again as he raps: “Still, I stay close to the heat/And even when I was close to defeat, I rose to my feet/My life is like a soundtrack I wrote to the beat/Treat rap like Cali weed, I smoke till I sleep/Wake up in the A.M., compose a beat/I bring the fire till you're soaking in your seat.”

“Bang, Bang” is one of the more underrated tracks on the album, and it has Dre spitting some of his cleverest lines. The track takes a fly on the wall look at crime on the streets. Dre raps about the violence that lurks around every corner and how things have gotten a bit out of hand since he last was in the game.

The constant ringing of gunshots throughout the beat fits in perfectly with Dre as he spits one of the best verses on the album. He puts is all in to perspective as he raps: “I think the attitudes are twice as worst/It takes half the time to get your life reversed/Always tryin to play Rambo with they ammo/Make a nigga wanna stay in family mode.”

“The Next Episode” was nominated for a Grammy award and is my personal favorite tracks on the album. The track features Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg, which gives an old school West coast feel to it. The entire track feels like it should be playing out of a low rider convertible riding along the California highway.

Dre is at his gansta high point as he raps: “It's California Love, this California bud got a nigga gang of pub/I'm on one, I might bail up in the Century Club, with my jeans on, and my team strong/Get my drink on, and my smoke on.”

Snoop just kills it on this track as he raps in his perfected, laid back style: “Top Dogg, bite 'em all, nigga burn the shit up/D-P-G-C my nigga turn that shit up/C-P-T, L-B-C, yeah we hookin' back up/And when they bang this in the club baby you got to get up.” Nate Dogg’s line at the end of the track: “Heeeeeeey……smoke weed every day,” is perfectly placed and extremely memorable to any hip-hop fan.

Dr. Dre made fans wait a long time for “Chronic 2001”, but it was completely worth it. The album was the perfect follow-up, with Dre expanding on everything he previously created and throwing the spotlight back on the West coast and gangsta rap.

It’s been over a decade since “Chronic 2001” was released, so only time will tell when Dre will release a third album (if he ever does). Either way, his second effort was a fantastic combination of amazing beats and clever rhymes and will go down as one of the best ever.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Classic Album Review, Dead Prez, "Let's Get Free"

As the hip-hop industry moved from the 90's to the new millennium, mainstream rap and the radio waves had become dominated by money driven, mediocre thug rap and was just waiting for an original group to stand up and take over.

While Dead Prez didn't substantially take over the hip-hop industry, the duo stood up firmly for what they believed in, and injected rap with some political flavor that it had sorely been missing.

Comprised of M-1 and SticMan, the group first met on the campus of FAMU (Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University), where M-1 was attending to school and SticMan liked to hang out. While the group had formed somewhat of an underground following, they didn't get their big break until they met (by chance) with Brand Nubian's Lord Jamar at a Brooklyn block party. Afterwards the duo signed a recording deal with Loud Records.

The group isn't shy about their beliefs and they won't hesitate to stand up and fight for them. Before the group became successful, M-1 took matters into his own hands and joined the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement in Chicago for three years and also found himself interested in the Black Panthers.

These experiences, along with the fact that the duo enjoyed talking about politics and other similar cultural topics, all contributed to the release of the group’s first album "Lets Get Free".

Released in February of 2000, "Lets Get Free" was an extremely politically charged debut, and was showered with critically acclaim by journalists and other artists alike. Dead Prez didn't shy away from any topic, taking on a slew of cultural touchstones including police, corporate control over the media, the music industry, education, the prison system, as well as religion and political repression.

The group also takes on some pressing issues, which pertain specifically to the black community, like the inadequacies of inner-city public schooling ("They Schools") and about the effect of socially repressive government ("Police State").

Along with these two there are a ton of other good tracks on this album, which has 18 in all. "Hip-Hop", "Animal in Man", "Be Healthy", "I'm a African" and "Behind Enemy Lines" are all excellent and each illustrate the type of group Dead Prez is, and the intelligence they contain. The group took social activism to new heights; proving that Dead Prez were the most revolutionary hip-hop group to emerge since Public Enemy fell off and N.W.A broke up.

"Hip Hop" was released as a single in 1999 and is probably the most well known track off the album. Dave Chappelle, showing off his fantastic taste in music, used the track as the intro to his super-popular "Chappelle's Show", and it also found its way into the soundtrack of a skating video game.

Either way, the track is one of Dead Prez's best and the beat (with Chappelle's help of course) is instantly recognizable to any hip-hop fan. On the track the group raps about the state of the modern music industry and the fact that its become over-commercialized.

While the line "It's bigger than hip hop, hip hop, hip hop," is the most significant on the track, the group spits some of their most intelligent lines in this one. Dead Prez shows that they look out for their own as M-1 raps: "Uh, who shot Biggie Smalls?/If we don't get them, they gonna get us all/I'm down for runnin' up on them crackers in they city hall/We ride for y'all, all my dogs stay real."

"Be Healthy" is one of the most original tracks on the album, and if you didn't know anything about Dead Prez you might think it's a joke. The group raps about eating healthy and having self-respect for one's body and mind. I think it's one of the group's most brilliant tracks, because you rarely would find a hip-hop group rapping about vegetables and eating the right way. There are so many good lines on "Be Healthy", but its the way it gets started that sets the stage for the rest of the track. It opens with the line "I don't eat no meat, no dairy, no sweets/only ripe vegetables, fresh fruit and whole wheat."

While that line is clever, the best verse comes later in the track. The group shows once again that they are like no other hip-hop duo around as they rap: "They say you are what you eat, so I strive to be healthy/my goal in life is not to be rich or wealthy/cause true wealth comes from good health, and wise ways/we got to start taking better care of ourselves, be healthy y'all." When else will you ever find rappers valuing veggies over dollars? That's the brilliance in the track. Funny enough the track has become extremely popular in the vegetarian and vegan communities.

"They Schools" is my favorite track on the album and is easily one of the best of all time. I still can remember the first time I heard the track, and while I was young I still felt I understood what Dead Prez was trying to convey. The group doesn't shy away from anything on the track, as they open up with the line: "I went to school with some redneck crackers/Right around the time 3rd Bass dropped the Cactus album/But I was reading Malcolm."

Education was (and still is) a huge problem in our country, and here Dead Prez takes it head on. SticMan raps with ferocity on this track and you can tell he is rapping from experience. You can hear the truthfulness in his voice as he spits: "I took a history class serious/Front row, every day of the week, 3rd period/Fuckin with the teachers had, callin em racist/I tried to show them crackers some light, they couldn`t face it."

"Lets Get Free" came along at a time when hip-hop needed a splash of originality. It needed Dead Prez.

While they never quite achieved the popularity of other mainstream artists of their time, the group will be remembered for far longer for what they contributed to the industry. Their intelligence is unmatched, and the group's topical diversity is equally inspiring; you'll be hard pressed to find another album that tackles both the penal system, oppressive government and vegetables.

Either way, "Lets Get Free" is one of the best political hip-hop albums of all time, and is definitely a classic.