Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Real men ride slow and low

The key to a good night sleep is going to YouTube.com and searching "taser," "tased" or "tasing," watch three videos and drink a 20 oz bottle of water. I'm convinced this the trick. Try it and tell me it ain't the best way to end the day. I challenge you.

My beloved Sox are officially now out of playoff contention. They made it easy this year, they just quit. Oh well. The other day when I was home sick (not "homesick") I watched game four from the 2004 ALCS--I think that DVD set will see me through the playoffs...thanks Chrissy.

That's right, I got sick. Sucks. I never get sick because I have an immune system of the toughest iron and any family member can attest to the marvelous immune setup that those of our geneology are equipped with. Honestly, sometimes it still amazes me, but this time a stupid little cold laid me out. Lucky to only miss about 7 hours of work. Too busy to get sick.

The other night I pledged to give $10 to a police organization--the state troopers. I really feel it's noble of me considering I don't really like cops. That's not really true. I respect them. I suppose you can respect but not like. Kinda like a boss, disease and grizzly bears. My wife's giving me hell, calling me a "sucker." I got a sticker for my back bumper that reads pretty simply "DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE." Maybe I'll put it on after I get ripped this weekend. Kidding, folks.

Really on a TV on the Radio kick lately. Geez, they rock so freakin hard. Amazing stuff. I really encourage all of you to go out and buy Desperate Youth, Blood Thirsty Babes. Incredible work.

Make sure you get your spinach.

Went to sing karaoke last weekend. Forgot how fun it is except for punk ass DJ's who play favorites. So long as you keep the beers coming, it makes it a little more tolerable watching white trash who couldn't carry a tune if it came in duffle bag. And there's always some guy who attempts to "rap"--yeah, homeboy, a little harder than you originally thought, huh? Sticking to singing George Strait, it's not only in your range as a singer, but the tempo's a little easier to hang with.

I love my dog for many reasons. Mainly because he's a super beagle and there's only a few of his type, size and temper in this world. The other reason is the other day when we were at PetSmart, he took the biggest crap in the aisle like a col' pimp. We were just walking around, sniffing every item on the shelf and the leftover urine from other dogs and he goes into his squat and just kills it. I suppose some dogs mark their territory with urine, but Jax doesn't play around. He craps on it. He left a pile about six inches tall and walked off like, "Whaddup, now?" Yes, I cleaned it up. Nothing gets the party going like a heaping warm handful of poo.

Pink Floyd's "Fearless" has got to be one of the greatest songs ever recorded.

Speaking of music, I caught a little flack on the Top 20 List. Some people contested that Fear of a Black Planet was not PE's best record. Others slammed me on not including Nas. Some thought the omission of Biggie, Tupac and Boogie Down Productions indicated holes in the list. Here's the deal: I rank albums, not rappers. Nas is a great rapper, but I fail to see the genius in Illmatic. It's one of those albums that, in most cases, is guaranteed a position. I don't believe in that. First off, albums have both historical and personal attachments--artists don't. Q-Tip and Phife are not the greatest rappers ever, but they made a great album. In fact, B-Real and Cypress Hill would never be mentioned amongst the greatest, but Black Sunday or their self-titled record (Angry Tim) would. Pharaohe Monch is a great emcee, but the dude has one mediocre album under his belt (not counting Organized Konfusion). I like Ludacris, but I can't listen to one full album. KMD's Mr. Hood is listenable from beginning to end. I like albums. We can come up with a greatest emcee list some other time. And I won't ever take back putting Black Planet on top. Listen to it again--you'll hear what I mean. And, dude, a huge gas face goes to All Music Guide for giving Mr. Hood two stars--a huge shot to their credibility there. To call it an oversight would be too forgiving. Never buy another All Music Guide again. They ain't knowing what they're talking about.

Wondering if I'm going to make my triumphant return to SXSW this year. I might. Depends on who is lined up to appear. I gotta have hip hop. Those smelly, skinny indie rock bands just don't cut it. Give me a getdown and I'm there.

Whoa--watched a great movie this weekend (thanks to Jacko). The Devil and Daniel Johnston...never knew too much about the guy, but the documentary is phenomenal. You don't have to be a fan of his music or music in general to appreciate it. j3 approved. Pick it up at your local rental facility.

Bill Clinton has a mean streak, huh? Wow. Most saxaphonists have short tempers. I'm surprised it didn't rear its ugly head during his presidency. Maybe that's because he wasn't doing much except for hitting on interns.

Still waiting on clarification of what the state department is. Please, someone help me out.

Haven't given blood in a while. I'm not sure why that occurs to me right now. Maybe because I'm feeling a little bloated. I don't approve blood donation as a valid form of dieting. The system will only allow you to donate once every 60 days so that's about three pounds every 60 days. You'd fair better with crystal meth.

Danny (City Fence) recorded another track. That's right, dude's a rapper. I gave him some honest opinions and have yet to hear back from him. Must have pissed him off. That certainly wasn't my intention. Danny, holla atcha boy.

Speaking of rappers, ya'll need to get with Jean Grae. She's the truth and she wrecks it on the mic. Girl got signed to Atlantic and their sitting on her album for some odd reason. Release it already. She ain't gonna get any more exposure sitting on a shelf. Stop killin careers of talented artists while your promising soundscan. She just needs to be heard. Stop shooting for radio, late night talk show appearances. She spits fire and all you need to do is get it out there and move onto the next James Blunt record. You almost wrecked Apathy's career and got disappointed with Little Brother's sales. If you want to pick up unheard-of artists, don't expect a number one record.

Jean Grae kills it.

Alright, it's about Taser Time. You all be good. About to land a new house, but we'll wait until it's written in blood. Folks, that's your Tuesday night update. I'm j3 and I'm out like Lance Bass. Wait a sec, uh, I'm going to bed.

Thursday, September 21, 2006



When hip hop does, in fact, implode under the prolonged stress created by the relentless pop monster. When hip hop becomes a series of stories we tell our grandkids at bedtime. When music as a whole has been reduced/condensed to the smallest, most microscopic common denominator and crowds of thousands can dance almost endlessly to the sound of a single sustained tone. When albums are locked behind three feet of glass in some gallery in France and all of our music can be either drunk in a 5-gig soda pop or mixed into soups as a 256 per tablespoon oregano-ish seasoning. When it's all over, long gone, nevermore.

When that happens, there will be one album that will survive because it's constructed with not only edges and sides capable of withstanding point blank atomic blasts, but it's also equipped with the strength and resistance to deflect the negativity of a million distraught music critics. It is my number one record, the biggie: Public Enemy's Fear of a Black Planet.

If you don't own it. Stop here. I'll be more than happy to wait for you to return.

Okay, now that you have it, please begin listening immediately. All this will make much more sense now that actually bought it with your hard-earned cashola and have it blasting with enough volume to give the next zip code headaches.

Black Planet is a unique recording, indeed, because it takes both the musical and lyrical blueprint outlined in both Yo! Bum Rush the Show and It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (popularly held as the definitive P.E. record), and it multiplies that intensity, that aggression, that frightening militancy that almost suffocates the listener as the album marches to the drums of the Bomb Squad and salutes to the words the great Chuck D.

It's an assault--an absolute beating. If there was ever a hip hop equivalent to a black metal record, it's Black Planet. It's a whirling, spinning and sometimes nauseating experience as the beats are programmed to loop at twice the normal speed under layers and layers of samples from anything: George Clinton, Leon Haywood, Prince, Slayer, Eddie Murphy, Sly and, of course, the backbone of the entire record, James Brown. Musically, the Shocklees launch themselves to the very forefront of hip hop production, blazing a trail that many have failed to replicate (and it ain't like no one tried). Their ability to piece together a gnarly spectrum of noises, horns, whistles, yells, drum fills and guitar licks into a coherent and arresting record is beyond phenomenal--it's simply unexplainable. At the end, if you share any sort of appreciation for the artform, you should be left speechless for weeks.

If you're looking for an example of such wonderment, I would encourage multiple listens to "Who Stole the Soul?", "Fear of a Black Planet" and "Revolutionary Generation"--perhaps the most feared three-song sequence in the history of hip hop. For early 90's hip hop, the drum patterns border on bizarre, but are glued together by the defiant hollers of a hungry and nasty Chuck D.

Although many will disagree, Chuck has never sounded as good as he did on this record. He takes to every line on this record like not only his career's on the line, but his life's on the line. The deafening boom of Chuck's vocals rattles cages and shatters windows as he delivers the line from "Who Stole the Soul?":

"Paid enough in this bitch, that's why I dissed them,
I learned we earned, got no concern
Instead we burned so where the hell is our return?
Plain and simp the system's a pimp,
But I refuse to be a ho.
Who stole the soul?"

And Flavor (before he was a star) is the "spoonful of sugar" as he mushmouths his way through every verse and follows every Chuck verse with a "yeah" or "that's right!" But Flavor, no matter how much people might want to discredit or discount his contributions to not only Public Enemy, but hip hop as a whole, he rocked this record like a champ.

By the time you make it "B Side Wins Again," you're gasping for air as your lungs so compressed under the stress of the first sixteen tracks, but P.E. allows for no rest as the record continue to wildly press on. Followed by "War at 33 1/3," once again P.E. and the Bomb Squad accomplish the musical equivalent of a sonic boom in a collision of drums, bass, vocals and speed. Incredible. Insane.

I first happened along P.E. when I was a mere 13 years old. My eyes peeled open to the visions of the Security of the First World running along the beach in the video to "Brothers' Gonna Work It Out." Chuck with his standard black jacket and Flavor in a tuxedo with a baby's bottle in his mouth--the imagery was so defined, the impact was immediate. I didn't know what I happened along, but I knew it was going to change my life in some way. In those early listens, I was left very confused. Racial equality and social awareness was a little over my head, but insistant on what I had found, I listened to it regardless until it made sense. But I remember being absolutely floored by the sound of this record. To this day, nothing's changed. I've listened to this record countless times from beginning to end. I never leave town without it--taking it with me on almost every road trip without fail. In fact, Angry Tim has named me Mr. Can Never Have Too Many Copies of Fear of a Black Planet. He's right.

You just can't own enough copies. And you can't have mine. Buy your own. It's gonna be cheap because the catalog division of a very powerful music distributor has marked it down to midline pricing. Buy up. It's a lot cheaper than paying a buck a song on iTunes. Not only that, the booklet still comes with complete lyrics.

Don't be a fool. Buy this record immediately.

Album Highlights:
"Brothers Gonna Work It Out"
"Revolutionary Generation"
"B Side Wins Again"
"Fear of a Black Planet"
"Who Stole the Soul?"
"Fight the Power"
"War at 33 1/3"
"Welcome to the Terrordome"
"Burn Hollywood Burn"


Here we see everyone's friendly neighborhood 'roid lab rat going in with a hard high five in which he would leave Pay-Rod with bruises to the face and rip the ligaments in his wrist like wet tissue paper.

Poor guy doesn't know his own strength. In fact, he's so roided out, he no longer knows himself. The tale of the season is the Bankees clinched with a Red Sox loss. They lost and still clinched which is proof that the Bankees only win if the Sox lose. Imagine if they clinched with a win. Giambi might have been looking for his arm in Eastchester Bay.

Go team playing the Bankees!


Because there were a couple of kind folk that were wanting #2-#20 for quick reference, here it is. Collect 'em all, sucka.

20--Cypress Hill's Black Sunday
19--Edan's Beauty and the Beat
18--Souls of Mischief's 93 Til Infinity
17--Cannibal Ox's The Cold Vein
16--Atmosphere's Lucy Ford
15--Jeru the Damaja's Sun Rises in the East
14--X-Clan's Xodus
13--Digable Planets' Reachin'
12--Black Moon's Enta Da Stage
11--Ice Cube's Amerikkka's Most Wanted
10--Del the Funky Homosapien's I Wish My Brother George Was Here
09--Black Sheep's A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing
08--KMD's Mr. Hood
07--Run DMC's Raising Hell
06--Company Flow's Funcrusher Plus
05--Wu Tang Clan's Enter the 36 Chambers
04--Beastie Boys' Paul's Boutique
03--De La Soul's De La Soul is Dead
02--A Tribe Called Quest's The Low End Theory

#1 is one you'll have to wait for. Just a little bit, though. If you know me, it's a no-brainer.

Chuckheads (The Roundhouse) got the one-and-done treatment tonight with an early exit in the tournament. I'm with Holcomb, it was bonus because we thought we wouldn't even make it to the tourney. But, damn it, we ain't gotta play like it. I think we didn't know the game was even going until the third inning. It's alright. We'll have a few months off to think about it and come back out like a rhino on roids. I couldn't have put together a better lineup though--all the core players were there, but we just couldn't make it happen. Oh well. In the game of life, some people just drink beer and watch the action. We would've been better of doing just that.

That's a little unfair, I suppose. We put together a hell of a run with seven minutes left coming back from a six-run deficit to lead 21-19. But that's like showing up late for dinner. Don't complain if all the pot roast is gone.

Oh well, the beer was cold. Unfortunately, we were too.



Another album from 1991, the fifth on this list--all in the top 10.

Like De La Soul is Dead, another sophomore record from 1991 by a trio.

One album that should really come of no surprise at all, The Low End Theory is a record that managed to quietly sneak itself to the tops of multiple and varied lists in the early 90's. Low End has the broad appeal of a pop record, but when you listen to it, you feel like you're the only one who has ever heard it. It's that balance that makes it such a brilliant recording. It's a quiet, humble hip hop record for the most part, but don't get it twisted, it can col' rock a party with the best of them.

Starting out with the ghostly "Excursions" and ending with the explosive "Scenario," beginning to end, you won't find a more listenable hip hop record, in my humblest. Everything is in the right place, at the right levels, the right tempo and the right mood. It takes influences to innovations as it pulls from the old dusty sounds of jazz greats Art Blakey, Grant Green, Freddie Hubbard, Grover Washington, Jr., Ron Carter and Weather Report and seamlessly marries them with snare cracks and bass kicks--turning water into wine, yet doing so reverently.

As emcees, Q-Tip and Phife are at their best which, in the bigger picture, is still not good enough to land them on any Top Emcee lists. I've never found either to be amongst the best, but their contributions to Low End are more as performers than prophets. Their conversational chemistry is relaxed not forced and the stark differences between their delivery, the smooth whispers of a Q-Tip verse against the Phife's hoarse and high-pitched tone, make them a perfect match of opposites.

The album, as a whole, represents the very best of what a hip hop record can be, but rarely is--almost standing as a blueprint. It's relatively free of cameos and guest spots (except for, of course, the obligatory posse cut "Scenario" and a well placed Brand Nubian spot), it's varied tempos and volume levels from song to song sell Tribe's ability as true musicians, the music itself acts as the transitionary element and not skits and interludes and it times in just under 50 minutes--the sweet spot, the perfect length.

And, if it wasn't for Low End, no one would know Industry Rule #4080.

Debate as you will where this stands amongst your Ready to Die's, your Illmatic's or Reasonable Doubt's, but Low End, for me, was the breakthrough moment. It didn't introduce me to hip hop, but it made me believe hip hop. It gave it credibility. Worth having two of every format--including cassette.

Album Highlights:
"Buggin' Out"
"Show Business"
"Check the Rhime"
"Jazz (We've Got)"

There's only one more album to go, folks, and this marathon will finally come to a close. A few people have correctly guessed the number one. But there's only one record left so if you see five that you feel are missing from the list, safe to say four ain't gonna make it--maybe all five. If you disagree, then write your own stinky list. Happy Thursday, people. Weekend's almost here. The Roundhouse begins playoffs tonight at 6:30. How we made it, I'm not sure.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Coming to the Getdown on November 29th. Oh yeah...I'm going.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


It's less a baseball story and more a human interest piece so don't skip it yet. Just slow your scroll, man.

You might recall last September 7th, my brother drove up to Oakland to see the A's battle the Mariners in a divisional matchup with playoff implications. The A's scored 5 runs in the bottom of the ninth to win it on a bases loaded walk with former Red Sock Jay Payton scoring the winning run. It was the most 9th inning runs scored by an A's team to win it since 1954.

Last night, Bro Bro went to the Dodgers game at the Ravine where they squared up against division rivals, the San Diego Padres--again, with playoff implications. Dodgers are down 5-9 in the bottom of the ninth. Trevor Hoffman, who holds a current streak of 24 consecutive games saved against the Dodgers, comes in to shut them down. Hoffman throws only eight pitches and gives up four solo homers, tying the game at nine each. That would be the first time in over 40 years that has happened--the last time being 1963--and only the fourth time that four consecutive players have hit homers in baseball history. Insanity.

But it's not over.

Padres go up by one in the top of the tenth inning and who would come around in the lineup in the bottom of the frame with one on and a chance to win it?


Former Red Sox shortstop who was traded the year we went and won it all. And what does Nomar do? He cranks a two-run homer to win it. Game over. Nomar, in heroic fashion, lifts his team to victory, possibly to the playoffs just nights after the Red Sox were unofficially eliminated from playoff contention.

It's poetic.

And Bro Bro got to see it all go down. Wyricks are among the few that believe a game ain't over when you're down four runs in the ninth. You don't leave. Now, I could see in those stands that most fans did--lots of yellow showing at Dodger stadium--but Bro Bro wouldn't have it. Now, that's incredible.

Oh and at one point in the game, some monks er something came out and did a martial arts exhibition and some fella shattered a bamboo shoot when his buddy swung it violently down in the middle of his wide open legs. Now, that's Los Angeles.

Monday, September 18, 2006



Hip hop has always required some sort of gimmick, some form of exaggeration on reality:
the dookie-fat gold chains, capped teeth, the cars, the clothes, the cribs, the women. For Amityville's very own De La Soul, they carved their sound and image out of the bohemian, friendly sorts of the hippie age coining the "Daisy Age" on their groundbreaker 3 Feet High and Rising. The album was draped heavily in praise from critics and listeners as it offered an alternative to the heavy sounds of the Left Coast and the emerging rough, rugged and raw imagery of their East Coast counterparts. The sleeve boasted the gaudy colors of a black light painting--neons and juvenile sketches. However, two years after debuting (an entire career in the earlier Golden Age boom), the goofball gimmick had worn thin and De La was on the verge of disappearing into pop music oblivion. Yeah, believe it.

The second record is the most important record for establishing a career--it determines your path and how long it will be. Like Paul's Boutique, It Takes a Nation of Millions, and even The Marshall Mathers LP, the sophomore effort is almost always the pivotal point in the artist's career. For De La, it was especially difficult because they pigeon-holed themselves so deep in their persona when they originally broke. They needed to reinvent themselves. It was the appropriately titled De La Soul is Dead that would do the job.

Dead, with the obvious symbolism--a drab illustration of a turned-over and cracked pot of three dying daisies--was De La cleaning the slate and starting over. Knowing they would never fully cleanse themselves of their prior work, through skits, interludes and even a comic book, they dwell on denouncing it rather than ignoring it altogether and asking the listener to, as well.

The outcome is nothing short of a hip hop masterpiece--once again, for the second time in their career, raising the bar for hip hop--creatively, lyrically and musically. Dead finds producer Prince Paul at his absolute peak as he manages to, like in 3 Feet, take the listener on a dizzying musical ride of both juvenile hilarity with the poise of a hip hop veteran. His mastery of the boards and floor-up creation remain largely unmatched here 15 years later and Dead is still, to this date, his paramount.

Emcees Pos, Trugoy and Maseo blazed the trail on their first record but refined and refurbished it on Dead where they expanded on their previous unconventional, nursery-rhyme delivery and flow with the stutterspeak of "Pease Porridge" and the infinitely looping of "Oodles of O's." De La's ability, as exhibited so eloquently on Dead, to work on a concept within a song as well as between multiple songs is a talent hip hop has rarely seen--setting De La apart as the arguably the most conceptually-minded forces in the artform.

First time I heard Dead, I was floored. Speechless. I bought the used tape at Ralph's Records and Tapes on University back in the Hub. Once I popped it in my WalkMan, my life was over...and it had just begun. The experience of listening to it again reminds me of moments where I would interrupt my friends with headphones blaring in my hands begging them, "Yo, you gotta listen to this." Still largely, I'm one of few dudes that I know of that give this album a monthly (sometimes more often) listening. It's almost habitual not yet ritual.

De La continues on their path although they only remain relavant to older heads like myself. Tragically, when hip hop grew old, so did De La. There's still a close following--people who will recognize them checking into the La Quinta just before that night's show. Dead stands as a testament to their unequalled contribution to hip hop. It's a beautifully crafted and infinitely dope capsule of which I will always match albums. Again, it's habitual.

"Eh, it's no De La Soul is Dead."

And remember, if it weren't for Dead, De La would only be mentioned in the same conversation of PM Dawn, Kid N Play and Candyman. Recognize, folks. To deny the greatness of this album is to almost deny the existance of hip hop as a whole. You playin' yoself. Go to your local Hastings, special order it, buy it and listen to it until you go deaf. At least, you'll be able to say the last sounds you heard was the third best album in hip hop history according to j3.

Speaking of, I need a replacement because mine skips on the last 12 songs. Guess that's what you get with monthly listens. Play it til it plays no more.

Album Highlights:
"Oodles of O's"
"Pease Porridge"
"Bitties in the BK Lounge"
"Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa"
"Pass the Plugs"
"Ring Ring Ring (Ha Ha Hey)"
"A Roller Skating Jam Named 'Saturdays'"

Thursday, September 14, 2006


What a weird phenomenon these places are. Seriously, where else can you find half-authentic chinese food, salad with ranch dressing, enchiladas (at least in Texas), chicken-fried steak and shrimp all in the same buffet? I mean, really folks, Golden Corral ain't got nothing on these places. But it's so bizarre to me--for a few reasons.


Ever notice that, it doesn't matter when you go, they're always about 7% capacity? Yet, for some odd reason all the food's fresh-ish and there's like 50 employees scattered around doing something. I don't get it. They gotta have mob ties. The other day we were in one here in the Yellow and I must've counted about 10 people in this place yet that buffet was piping hot and ready to eat. How can they afford to operate on such inefficiencies? They got a parking lot the size of a football field and, get this, truck parking in the back, but there are tables that have about an inch of dust on them because they haven't been occupied in maybe two months.


It dawned on me the other day that, to ensure a somewhat authentic Asian cuisine experience, you'll need someone Asian to greet you at the door, an Asian behind the counter running the register and usually a very quiet, studious Asian floor manager walking the floor. Yet, when you sit down at the table, some trailer trash with only two teeth and double wide to her name is taking your drink orders. I'm not trying to make a race issue, but it is a little peculiar asking for subgum egg foo young from a woman named Florence. That's all I'm saying.


There's usually a huge hole in the ceiling with a gargantuous lighting fixture that looks like a million crystals lit by the rays of the sun. There's also normally very intricate and ornate dragons and swords throughout. Neon lighting is a must around the buffet as seen above and, of course, the very elegant tables with inlayed mother-of-pearl.


And the topping selection is, without fail, always M&Ms, Oreos, chopped peanuts, strawberry sauce, fudge sauce, sprinkles and, if it's really special, toffee chips. Some of the nicer buffets have the chocolate and vanilla mix. It's my favorite. Because after packing in as much chinese food as possible, the first thing that sounds really nice is about two bowls of free ice cream. Free, unlimited dessert makes any silly American go bonkers. I might even pay just ten dollars just to eat dessert all night.


Apparently, it's like a food enhancer. It makes it taste better. I thought it was like napalm. Maybe I need to read up. But apparently it's something worth mentioning when you don't include it in the food because you'll see it somewhere on a sign, piece of paper or menu. I suppose it's like artificial sweeteners--it causes blindness. Don't believe that. I don't know that.


Nothing really to note here other than they didn't ship them in. It's some guy who got fired from Hallmark and lives in Aurora, Illinois.


I don't use them anyway, but I've never seen anyone use chopsticks in these places. It's people using forks that have just a very slight bend in them and can warped as easy as foil if you get too excited. I guess the point is that Americans eat a lot of food and like to eat fast so the fork is the preferred method. Some people find it easier to just tip the plate over their mouths. These people typically hang out at buffets of any sort.


You name it, it's there. You can never complain about not liking Chinese food before going to one of these places because, in reality, they're never serving it. Enchilidas, jalepeno poppers, chocolate chip cookies, spaghetti, fried shrimp, pizza, steamed cabbage, chocolate cake, chili, french fries, onion rings, mac and cheese--you'll find something you can eat on.


"You feel like Chinese tonight?" "Sure." "Let's go to that buffet up on the interstate." "You got it." It's a trap. You'll go back.

It's a very unique cultural experience because every culture's represented. It makes me wonder if the Asian population, as a whole, resent these places--like they're a disgrace to their culture. I wonder if by owning one, it's like you've disowned your entire race and culture. Maybe not. I just know if you say you had Chinese at any place with "express" or "super" in the name, chances are you didn't have Chinese. It'd be like considering Taco Bell "mexican." But that Mongolian beef sure hits the spot. Watch your soy sauce intake--it's pure sodium and dehydrates five times faster than soft drinks. Get plenty of water during the meal or you're gonna be hurting later.

Still in search of Chinese in the Yellow. Good night.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I know it's been hip hop heavy lately, but folks, it's called The Root Down. Whaddya expect, fools? But there's much more going on than listening to hip hop and gettin in touch with my tougher, rougher, rawer side.

Yeah, we're house shopping. I'm not really at liberty to go into it too deeply, but it's something else how my lovely wife works. One day she says, "I really like that house." Next thing you know, you're pulling into the driveway and there's a FOR SALE sign in your yard. So ya boy might be on the move, but one address won't change. That's http://therootdown.blogspot.com-- tell ya friends, spread the word.

Work's busy as hell. You go and go, sit in meetings, go and go, sit in meetings, then go and go home. The headaches from previous months have subsided and things are on the up, but you never get used to the pace...you just learn to keep up. I have, however, discovered that I will be sidetracked an average of 79 times a day and it usually only takes 10-12 seconds to occur. Again, it's an approximation, but, what am I saying?

Sox are way out of playoff contention. To hell with it. We had a pitcher who was diagnosed with some spinal disorder, another young flamethrower that blew his arm out, two veteran starters who are out with a back injury and a shoulder injury. Manny was sitting on bum knee, Papi went out with an irregular heartbeat. Trot's knees held him out of the lineup for a few weeks. Wily Mo did something to some body part. Man, you can't keep up. Basically, we're out of it. Maybe next year. Until then, I have all 2004 playoff games on DVD so I'll be enjoying those through the playoffs--I mean, after I watch the Yankees go belly up again against the Twinkees.

So that leaves me near-homeless and teamless. There's always college football and my alma mama, Texas Tech, are looking quite nice in their first two games. Yeah, boy, I loves me some college football.

September 11th found me going back and watching YouTube videos from that day. Haunting stuff. I thought the shock and terror had worn off, but if you go back and watch some of that footage, it'll leave you a wreck. I was in Tyler when it happened and didn't think too much of the first plane, but I remember watching when the second aircraft hit. Time heals the wounds, but it'll still leave a mark. And I don't know what to think of the war anymore. I suppose I lean to the "you start it, you end it" terms.

I like Shiner Light--tis a fine beer. And I'm enjoying one right now. I wish Shiner would make ice cream because I'd eat it every night.

Everyone betta buy their family members music for Christmas. The industry needs you. And I know of a place that's going to have some incredible deals on your favorite artists, your favorite music for Christmas. I'll give you one guess and if you don't get it, I'll ban you from visiting The Root Down.

Ann Richards died of cancer. Just read that.

My back's been aching lately. Like badly. Typically, I ask that my lovely wife drive her knees into my lower back and that seems to work, however, every morning I have to go through a routine of stretches and wiggles to loosen it up. My lovely wife says it's how I sit in my chair up at work. Some would agree. My grandmother would say that my posture has always been poor. I think it's because I'm so tall, I'm in a constant state of duck.

You know, back to house hunting real quick. It sucks. I just don't like it so much really. And I don't like putting my own house for sale, but my lovely wife is much more saavy about these sort of things. Put the lid down, dishes in the dishwasher, light a candle, mow the yard. I'm such a slow mover when it comes to life, I'd probably be living in the same house until they moved me into a nursing home. Lucky I got my lovely wife. I really don't like putting the house on display. So much, I feel like taking out that aggression on other sellers. Just drive down the street, pull up to a house with a sale sign in front and if you can catch the home owner out front, even better. Just pull up real slow, roll down the window, look at their house, pout and say, "Yeah, honey, this house is about the ugliest house I've ever seen." Then drive off. It's like the garage sale thing--when you're out there and people don't even feel your valuables are worth a stop. "Honey, just drive slow. I don't want to get out because then they'll hassle me into buying something. Okay, uh, I don't see anything. Let's keep going." Yeah, I guess my cheap crap is not as good as someone else's cheap crap. I should've just started confronting cars that were driving by slow--run out to them and yell, "What, a five dollar blender that's been used only two times ain't good enough for you?!"

Okay, back to the list. I've been working hard on it. Hopefully you all have enjoyed the first 17 reviews. Maybe even some of you have actually gone and purchased something. It's the most I could hope for. If nothing else, it's given me a chance to go back and listen to some of these old records with more attention--gain a new appreciation in some cases.

I've had a few people that have asked me about the top three records. The top three have serious emotional value to me. There's simply no topping them in my book. We're talking the cream of the corn, here. You know whenever you throw your opinion out there, someone's gonna disagree. That's fine with me. I'd disagree with others' lists too. It's natural. But hopefully I've made a case for every album so far. Of course, the top three should really need very little explanation, but I'll do my best regardless.

I'll be fair though to those who have been following this marathon. I'll go ahead and tell you what albums are not in the top three--at least you won't be as disappointed.

Straight Outta Compton is not. Groundbreaking, but not great.

Same with Criminal Minded.

In fact, neither Dr. Dre solo projects are in the top three. I didn't think The Chronic was as ingenius as some made it out to be. In that case, no Doggystyle either. Ice Cube is all you need.

No, Ready to Die is not one of my favorite records. Let the hate begin.

For that matter, I never liked 2Pac that much either so don't expect any 2Pac records.

No Common, no Roots, no Reasonable Doubt.

No Outkast. Which reminds me, I still gotta listen to Idlewild.

In fact, none of the remaining records came out less than 15 years ago.

With that being said, no Eric B. & Rakim, Brand Nubian, Digital Underground, 3rd Bass (it kills me), Jungle Brothers, LL Cool J, Above the Law, Schoolly D, Main Source (stop complainin', Roderick), Masta Ace, Biz Markie, Stetsasonic.

If you decide to come back, thank you. If you don't, your music is not as good as mine. Go make your own list.

Somewhere in Taos

Tuesday, September 12, 2006



As we enter the home stretch of this list, we come across this record--probably not the critical favorite, but it's accomplishment on the scale of popular music as a whole is substantial. Coming off the heels of the uber-popular Licensed to Ill, the Beasties had their back against the wall knowing, if there was any mis-step in their followup, they could disappear into pop oblivion as quick as they arrived. They jumped ship at Def Jam, landed at Capitol and without the careful ear of Rick Rubin, they recruited the relatively unknown production outfit of the Dust Brothers.

An astounding musical accomplishment by the standards of 1989, Boutique was a wide, colorful spectrum of breaks and cleverly lifted samples (from Johnny Cash to the Beatles, Isley Brothers to the Eagles) as the Dust Brothers painted a masterful backdrop for the Beasties to entertain varied approaches to songwriting that saw them move away from the party anthems (even though "Hey Ladies" and "Shake Your Rump" would be album favorites) and more towards darker, more haunting material like my personal favorite, "Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun."

Boutique is the Beasties in full realization of their creative clout. The sleeve makes no mention of the Boys on the front or the back panel--unheard of for hip hop artist--and the content itself sees the Beasties pushing themselves beyond the clutches of conventionalism with the creation of the 15-minute plus, nine-movement hip hop symphony, "B-Boy Bouillabaisse."

The Beasties will never be considered one of the greatest groups of all time, but certainly the product that they have consistently produced over the years are a testament of their abilities as artists. Often times, purists are reluctant to even whisper their name, however, those who can, do so mainly because Boutique was what it was--a statement by the Beasties that, love them or hate them, they were going to be around for a long time and their commitment to the artform was not to be questioned. I'm convinced had the pivotal Boutique been half the record it is, we would have never been given the later Check Your Head or Ill Communication.

Boutique is no dress-up, but proof of the Beasties quietly transitioning from pop act to pioneers.

Album Highlights:
"Shake Your Rump"
"The Sounds of Science"
"Hey Ladies"
"Looking Down the Barrel of a Gun"
"B-Boy Bouillabaisse"

Saturday, September 09, 2006


For those who have been reading this continuing series, it's heavily centered on popular culture's manipulation, interpretation or complete bastardization of an artform in order for it to fulfill their needs (emotionally, spiritually, socially or even educationally). Instead of taking an artform in the sense it was intended, we feed it through a series of filters and sensors to rid it of its rawness and, in hip hop's case, its danger so that others can more easily digest it.

In today's instance, that digestion supposedly leads to higher education. Yeah, I doubt it, but they make some pretty stout claims.

Here's the lowdown: two accomplished college students collaborate, one behind the boards and the other behind the mic, to create an educational tool that employs the lyrical structure of hip hop to teach youngins SAT words. Pretty innocent, I suppose. So, please let me introduce you to Flocabulary.

Meet the creators.

On the left, we have Alex Rappaport (no relation to fourth Beastie Boy, Michael Rappaport). He's the music student--quite accomplished music student. Claims to be influenced by everyone from "Debussy to De La Soul." He produces the tracks for Flocabulary. I wouldn't probably tap him as hip hop producer with that green tee under the nice jacket, but whatever, most people don't think I really look the part either.

On the right of Rappaport, we have the curly-headed Blake Harrison (he goes by Emcee Escher...no kidding). He's been the lead pen on two books: Hip Hop U.S. History and The Rapper's Handbook--bet you didn't know there was one, did you? It's like a field book for fishermen, except it teaches you how to properly hold a glock, roll a joint and avoid paying child support. I'm kidding, folks. Actually, as it reads on the book itself, it's a "A Guide to Freestyling, Writing Rhymes and Battling." Eh, we'll get to that later.

Okay, so I'm watching FoxNews one morning and I see these two fellas on there getting the half-interview, half-product placement treatment and their touting something called Flocabulary. The report started out, "Hip hop in the classroom? Can it be used as an educational tool?" So I perk up because I'm thinking, "Oh yeah, here's volume six."

For just 17 bucks (bargain?), you'll receive the Flocabulary book and a 12-song compact disc with songs like "Shakespeare is Hip Hop," "Flo+Cab," "Doctor, Doctor," and the bonus track "It's All Mathematics."

Perhaps you'd like to venture out and get The Rapper's Handbook that will teach you the finer points of becoming an emcee so you can really put that expanded vocabulary to work. Here's an excerpt taken from flocabulary.com:

The Official Flocabulary 10-Pronged Technique for Learning to Freestyle Rap.
by Emcee Escher, esq.

Step 1. Start Easy.

No need to start off rhyming "the toasty cow's utter" with "most o' my flow's butter". No need to even rhyme. Just forget everything else and flow. The rhythm can be simple, the words might be 2nd grade level, but you're still freestyling as long as you make it up. This was my first freestyle rap, which I spit when I was 11 months old:

I am funny, I like bunnies, touch my tummy, mummy.

Step 2. Keep Flowing.

You're going to make mistakes. You're going to sound stupid. Make your first freestyle rap verses your stupidest verses just to get them out of the way. Keep flowing. Can't think of a rhyme? Keep flowing! Stutter over words? Keep flowing. It's inevitable that at some point some of your lines won't rhyme, won't make sense, or that you will inadvertently diss yourself (I knew one guy who accidentally dissed himself all the time when we were freestyling), just keep flowing. If you make a mistake, do your best to incorporate your mistake into your next lines like this:

I drive you bananas, apples and oranges,ah.... damn, nothing rhymes with oranges,to make it rhyme, I squeeze it into orange juice,flow's tighter than small undies...yours are mad loose.

Step 3. Rhyme

Not ever line in your ridiculous freestyle rap has to rhyme, but most of them probably will. Words that rhyme form the foundation of rapping. As soon as you know what word you're going to end line 1 with, your mind should start racing to find out a word you can use at the end of line 2. Let's say your first line is, "I'm exhausted from doing summer reading." As soon as you realize that you're going to end the line with "reading," you should think of something that rhymes, and might possibly be related: meaning,weeding,beading,ceiling,teething. Pick one and then try to carve the second line to lead toward that word. Let's say you pick "weeding", your next line might be:

I'm exhausted from doing summer reading,breaking my back digging holes, painting and weeding.

If you pick "meaning," you might say: I'm exhausted from doing summer reading, my eyes skim the page but always miss the meaning.

Step 4. Rap over beats, rap over anything.

Flow over one of our free rap beat instrumentals or pop in one of your favorite hip-hop cd's and drown out the 'real' rappers. Rap over classical music, jazz, rock, techno. Rap in the shower, on the bus, before you go to school, during your lunch break, and after dates. Freestyle rap while you're out on a jog, rocking out your iPod. Yeah, people will think you're crazy, but they won't think you're crazy when you go Platinum!

Step 5. Rap about things around you.

This is definitely the best way to prove to the crowd that you're really freestyling and not just spitting something you wrote in your room the night before. It's also a huge crowd-pleaser, 'cause its impressive and it makes everyone real glad that they're hanging out with you. Rap about things you see. Incorporate objects, actions, people, clothing, situations, and sounds into your rap. When I'm in the shower, I'll rap about what kind of soap I'm using:

Trying hard to get clean, maybe just a smidgen, I use ghetto Dove soap, also known as pigeon.

Or at a battle competition, this is crucial. You've got to spit things specific about your opponent. These are the hardest-hitting punches. Take Eminem's freestyle (not really a freestyle - because it was pre-written to sound like a freestyle) on 8-mile. He's battling a guy named Lotto who's wearing a tight, white tank top: "Lookin' like a cyclone hit you, Tank top screamin', 'Lotto, I don't fit you!'"

If you're rapping while driving around in your car, rap about how you feel or things you see.
I'm hungry driving in this old Volvo,I think I'll stop by Olive Garden and drink some olive oil.

Step 6. Include Metaphors

Metaphors and similes are an advanced but important part of freestyle rapping. They are often found in a rapper's funniest and cleverest lines, and they really differentiate beginners from skilled emcees. Take Talib Kweli's lines:

"We're like shot clocks, interstate cops and blood clots,my point is... your flow gets stopped."

Check out a quick breakdown on figurative language, and find more examples at our hip-hop metaphors page. Metaphors and similes are really the backbone of an advanced rapper. He'll spit more comparisons than a door-to-door salesman to sink the competition like a leaky submarine. Learn how to use metaphors correctly, and your rhymes will not only be funnier and smarter, but they'll sound better too. Take Kanye's line:

"Ooh, girl, your breath is harsh,cover your mouth up like you've got SARS."

Step 7. Reference current events.

See what Kanye did in that line above? He snuck in the cultural reference.Other than amazing in-rhyming and dope metaphors, the most impressive thing a freestyle rapper can do is make timely references to culture and current events. Let's say, for example, that you are at a cipher, rapping with some of your friends (dissin' each other, just goofin' around), and the day before you remember reading that Oprah recently lost 200 pounds. How dope is it if you throw that in your rhymes:

You big now, but you 'bout to get cut down,smaller than Oprah Winfrey dropping 200 pounds.

I recently heard an emcee reference soaring gas prices:

fast? son, that ain't fast.I'm rising faster than the price of gas.

The sooner you can reference it, the better.

Step 8. Pass the mic like it's contagious.

Rap in ciphers - groups of two or more rappers playing off of reach other, trading verses. This is a great way to improve and it's hell of fun. One of your friends can beat box, you can throw a beat on the stereo, or just freestyle over nothing. Take turns, cutting in whenever you want or when someone "passes you the mic" (you probably won't have an actual mic). Never drop the invisible mic! Pick it up and pass it!

Work off of others rhymes. If they throw in something about the bible, pick up that theme and run with it. Try to stick to similar topics, or riff off of topics in creative ways. Expand / reference their lines. When my friends and I cipher, we like to kick it about random stuff that we all know about, like our personal lives.

Me: Derek's life is tough, his job is rough, plus Suparna took all his dopest stuff, for her apartment in NYC, 'cause that's where she be, holding down a job at a publishing company.

Derek: Yeah, my life is tough, but not that hard, 'cause I spend all my nights watching Sponge Bob, Blake you the one with the job that sucks, asking people if they want more pepper on their halibut.

Or take this example from Eminem's battle with Lotto from 8-Mile. Lotto starts off references the old 50's TV show, Leave it to Beaver. Eminem picks it up and spits it right back, references all the characters from the show.

Lotto: Screw 'Lotto,' call me your leader. I feel bad I gotta murder that dude from "Leave It To Beaver"

Eminem: Ward, I think you were a little hard on the BeaverSo was Eddie Haskell, Wally, and Ms. Cleaver.

Step 9. Listen to great hip hop and learn.

The best rappers know how to freestyle rap. Listen to your favorites and copy (not permanently) their styles to see how they do it. Check out our best freestyles page (coming soon) for Common, Jay-Z, Talib Kweli, Mos Def and others, freestyling. Listen and learn.

Step 10. Practice.

That's all there is to it. You've got the learn how to freestyle battle rap tips. Now its time to take it to the streets. Rap all the time, practice all night and day. Practice might not make perfect, but it makes damn good! Good luck and godspeed.

My personal favorite part of the lesson is when you're instructed in popular hand gestures (see also: RAP HANDS). Below you'll see the diagrams describing the "Mos Def Hand Wave," "The Shady Chop," "The Common Flick," "The Ninja Star," and "The Tonedeff Piano."

Here's the deal. I consider hip hop educational, absolutely. But I consider it socially educational. But altering the culture to make it academically educational, in my opinion, is nothing short of a pimping of the culture. I have no doubt that both Rappaport and Harrison are fans of hip hop, but I denounce this program because it dumbs down the culture to a Disney denominator and offers it to the masses in a Hip Hop for Dummies package. Really, preservation begins with reservation. I don't really have a problem with people taking interest in or even attempting to make hip hop, however, making it seem as simple as a hobby like, say, stamp collecting or watercoloring, is the tragic maturity of a culture.

Maybe I'm a purist. Maybe I'm just a jerk. I have no ownership of hip hop, but I just can't swallow something as Cheeto as this. I support the education of the youngins. I believe the children are the future, b'lee dat. But teach them hip hop history. Teach them about Public Enemy, Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Herc, Boogie Down Productions. Teach them about the world around them. But I don't see the future of hip hop as education and I don't see the future of education as hip hop. It just doesn't make sense.

Friday, September 08, 2006



Very few records, consistantly among circle to circle, will remain atop the lists as those serious, classic, (Abbey Road--classic, folks) life-changing and, most importantly, ageless records. Maybe only a few on my list would fit that criteria, but most certainly, Enter the Wu-Tang would be there. It has almost become the rite of passage. Some like to still think it's Illmatic or Ready to Die, but I'm confident it's this record.

It hit the shelves with a whisper--at least in Leatherface, Tejas it did. No one knew what the hell Wu-Tang was. I remember, I was 16 years old watching BET (like all well-adjusted white kids) and the video for "M.E.T.H.O.D. Man" came on and I was completely open. Like a zombie, I walked to the local record store, wandered in the door and began barking the words "Wu Tang" over and over until someone looked it up in the computer (I'm convinced that's the first day anyone in the entire company searched those two words in their system).

"Shaolin shadowboxing, in the Wu-Tang swordstyle. If what you say is true, the Shaolin and Wu-Tang could be dangerous. Do you think you Wu-Tang sword can defeat me?"

"On guard! I'll let you try my Wu-Tang style."

Those very words pulled from an old Kung Fu flick began the revolution. In those very words that eerily creep in from the silence, Wu-Tang Clan sank their iron flag deep into the world of hip hop. You gotta remember, when the Wu broke through with this, their debut record, they're an unprecedented eight-piece hip hop group with the ultimate of gimmicks amongst a world of gimmicked hip hop acts: eight lyrical swordsman with a fascination for weed, old Kung-Fu flicks, dusty soul records and cash money. Destined for doom yet driven to perfection, Wu-Tang persevered and because of this relentless and tireless promotion, Wu-Tang finally broke through. Ghostface Killah, RZA, GZA, Method Man, Ol' Dirty Bastard, Inspectah Deck, Raekwon and U-God--it was the beginning--the genesis, so to speak.

When the tape was finally stocked at the record store, I bought it without hesitation. I would've bled eleven bucks to buy that cassette that day. Hell, I would've bled thirty. That's how hungry I was. I remember checking out the cover art and wondering, "What in the world is this?"--six hooded swordsmen with blank white faces crouched for attack. Bizarre. Compelling. I opened it up and unfolded the eight panels of the artwork revealing a huge Wu-Tang symbol--now possibly the most recognizable logo in hip hop. It was time to listen.

What fell upon me in that earliest listen was a discomfort--a darkness. It was an onslaught and no one was coming to your aid. You just sat there and endured the beating. The verses were absolute fire exhibiting the skill of veterans and ushered in, both individually and, more amazingly, collectively, a new sound, new concepts, new perspectives--forever altering how was hip hop was viewed from 1993 moving forward.

RZA's production from the very introduction to the last moments is a dusty, unrefined, grimey experience that beholds the quality of an old jazz record dusted off in the attic and played on the family's best hi-fi. Piano loops, hand claps, finger snaps and the hardest bass lines in the game--RZA's techniques screamed loudly of a kid who had his plan together years earlier. As a newcomer, he was already a veteran and has remained highly respected even to this day, some 13 years later.

And if you ever hear the sub-genre "horrorcore" discussed, this album is the original "horrorcore" record. It's the record that beckons, "They just don't make 'em like they used to." If you put this on tomorrow (or as soon as you can find it), it is just a flat-out hip hop record and perhaps the best. It wasn't on this list, but then again, it just depends on who you ask.

You have no excuse to not buy at least the Top 5. We'll strike up a Wu-Tang conversation later.

Album Highlights:
"Bring Da Ruckus"
"Clan In Da Front"
"Da Mystery of Chessboxin'"
"Wu-Tang Clan Ain't Nuthing to F' Wit"
"Method Man"


We've already started the process of replacing Chuck on the heels of what will a losing season for The Roundhouse ("losing" meaning we didn't win the league--c'mon, folks, we expect greatness!). It just wasn't poppin' this second season. Seemed like the rhythm wasn't really there this time out. Immediately, after getting run-ruled by a team that we should've at least given a good contest because we had beaten them before, the team started spewing out new ideas for next year's shirt.

Well, I stepped out on my own (although we had some sweet ideas goin).

My suggestion is the Drunken Miyagis. Why "Drunken," you ask? Not sure. I just thought it sounded cool. Plus, I comped up this super sweet jersey logo. Dude, Pat Morita's never looked better (rest in peace, broham).


Hey you guys!

Thursday, September 07, 2006


When I was looking for images for The Roundhouse's second campaign shirt, I came across this disturbing photo of, yes, you guessed it, Mr. Belding from "Saved by the Bell" doing shots with a bunch of college girls.

Thus leading to the inevitable question, "Man, what happened to that guy?"

More on your favorite city league softball squad, The Roundhouse, suggestions for our new team shirt and, wow, we're already to the fifth best hip hop record ever recorded (of course, according to me and only me).

Here it is for your viewing displeasure.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


I'm sure most of you heard: Steve Irwin was killed by a stingray this weekend while filming an underwater expedition. Sucks. He was like that excitable boy scout who was always sneaking snakes into peoples' sleeping bags--but he always explained afterwards that they were not poisonous and there was no reason to worry. If he was in Wu Tang, he'd be the Khaki Killa.

Dude was too goofy for his own good, but he also came under some criticism when he fed crocs with the bloody food in one hand and his newborn child under his opposite arm. Tell me this kid wasn't a complete pimp.

What sucks is some cat was on the television last night saying he imagines that the stringray that killed him was provoked citing, "That's this guy's whole schtick--he provokes the animals to get a reaction." Thought that was a rather unfair assessment of Steve, but I could see how someone could believe it.

Anyhow, kinda bummed this morning with the loss of Steve Irwin. Not in a sleepless sense, but just sucks.

My wife was telling me there's a local radio station that pitches itself as a "positive radio station" and they have newscasts that are all positive news stories. Thought it was a rather ridiculous notion. But then I was thinking this story would be the lead story on a "bummer network."

I'm such a downer this morning. Should've made my coffee a little stronger.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


The other day, I was outside letting Jackson the Super Beagle take a leak in the front yard because the back was soaked and muddy. While out front, a new neighbor from a couple of doors down approached me and introduced himself. His name was Jeff.

We were talking for just a few moments and he asked me some specific questions about, of all things, trash pick-up. "Do they not just take the trash can and actually pick it up and empty it? Or do they just pull the bags out?"

At this point, I start thinking to myself, "Man, this guy asks more questions than a four year-old."

"I'm just wondering," he continues, "because in California, they take those cans, bang them on the side of the truck and throw them back where you had them. They beat the crap out of 'em, but at least they actually empty 'em."

"Hmm, California," I say. "My brother's out in Pasadena." So much for an easy out of the conversation.

"Yeah, we just moved here from there. Hey, are you not using your old trash cans?" he asked looking at the two old Rubbermaid trash cans I had sitting next to the new beautiful trash can my lovely wife brought home.

"Nah, I've been wanting the city to pick it up, but they haven't yet."

"Well, I work for the state department and I can find a use for those."

Pause it right there...okay. Hold on a sec while I rewind it back.

"...for the state department and I can find a use for those..."

Now, I know I'm not fully familiar with all the departments of the state (and I'm only assuming that he's talking about the state of Tejas). But I know there's a Department of Transportation, a Department of Insurance, Department of Information Resources, Department of Public Safety, Department of Licensing and Regulation...what in the hell is the State Department?! And more importantly, what does the State Department do? I'm not even sure it's supposed to be capitalized. I don't even know if it exists. It's so non-descript. It's so non-specific.

It's like working for an outfit called the Company Association. What does that mean?

I looked at him with a face of confusion, but only for a moment. He just grinned at me. I told him we was welcome to the old trash cans for use with the State Department, but I didn't ask what they used them for.

I'm just going to walk in somewhere and say I'm from the State Department and see what happens. Like I'll walk into the courthouse downtown and pass a few guards saying, "Don't worry, I'm from the State Department." Better yet, I'll start up a fuss at the gas station about, say, the dirty heads on the fountain drink machine and say, "Do you know who you're talking to? I'm from the State Department, fella. I'd put a lid on it if I were you. I'm going to take this soda in for examination."

Can someone please clarify who, what, where, when and why the State Department?

Saturday, September 02, 2006



Sometimes you happen along a record that, in another life or another pair of shoes, you would have never ever heard--a landmark record that introduced you to new sounds, new processes, a new musical plane never realized. When I was working in the stores, I would watch "Rap City" faithfully even though it had really gone downhill. One day, I'm watching what was now "Rap City: The Basement" (just before the coffin) and they play a video for "End to End Burners" by Company Flow. It had me completely open. I was floored. I thought to myself, "Yes, this is what I've been looking for!" It was the perfect combination of visual and audio elements and it was a absolute assault on all that I had known hip hop to be through my young years. I began the search for this Company Flow.

It led me to special ordering this record in search of "End to End Burners." Once it arrived, come to find it out, the song was nowhere to be found on there. So there I stood with Funcrusher Plus in hand and willing money at the crossroad. I put it back in the rack.

Two weeks later, I check on it in the rack and it's still sitting in the same spot untouched. This time, I grabbed it, walked to the register and dropped my cash money for it. I listened to the whole thing from front to back. In fact, I did it about three complete times.

What was this crap?! I put it on my desk with the receipt.

Again, about two weeks later, now running out of time to return for a full refund, I decide to give it another listen. This time, I listened to it front to back about five times. I just left it in my player and let it roll over and over.

It finally sank in. This record proves that not all music is immediate. Not all art is Warhol-cool. Sometimes you have to spin it a few times, hang it in new light, stare at it when you're pissed at the system. Like that, some music needs time. You can hear some kid with a backpack saying, "One day, people will recognize the genius of Funcrusher." Maybe in a lot of ways, I was that kid. Because now, almost ten years later, it's still reverred as one of paramounts in the genesis of the late-90s underground hip hop movement.

I've got five copies of this record. In fact, I'll purchase more of them if I come across them. I can't keep myself from picking up more copies. I guess it's me paying back Company Flow for being such a numbskull and straight sleeping on this record about seven years ago. I know it sounds completely senseless, but that's my feeling.

Funcrusher could easily be considered one of the defining records in New York hip hop. That's a bold statement, I know, up against names like Run DMC, Biggie, Rakim, Nas and Hova, but like Black Moon not but four years earlier, Company Flow takes you literally underground to the grime, the dark, subterraneous corners of the city rarely highlighted in popular music. It's a field trip into the very soul of the city--diseased, confused, claustophobic and chaotic. Funcrusher is a metaphor from beginning to end. It represents the growl of a movement on the uprise. It puts a face and a mouth to the very inner city through emcees El Producto and Big Juss.

The album is a steadily heavy experience. The hypnotic effect of the low end only lays the foundation for the splitting lyricism fo El Producto and Juss. It's as unsettling as is crazy headnoddic. It perfectly balances hip hop's progression and regression--drawing from only enough influences to give you a point of reference just before completely obliterating anything you ever knew about hip hop.

You either love it or hate it because, simply put, it's probably the least accessible record on my entire list, but it's an instrumental record in the way it broke through all the walls that the art form had built around itself.

Funcrusher is like a cornered dog--eventually, it will lose any sense of reason and consequence and it will strike. If you can't find it out there, it's because I have all the copies. Call me when you're ready.

"Even when I say nothing, it's a beautiful use of negative space." --El-P

Album Highlights:
"Population Control"
"Last Good Sleep"
"8 Steps to Perfection"
"Vital Nerve"
"Tragedy of War (In III Parts)"
"The Fire In Which You Burn"