Monday, January 29, 2007


This dude got paid $50 from co-workers for the pain he endured as part of this tasing. Had he cracked his head open like a coconut on impact, it would've taken more than $50 to put humpty dumpty back together again. Be careful, the kid uses some colorful language, but you would too if you got enough shock to jump a car flying up your arm. Watch how the muscles in his arm pull inward uncontrollably. This is phenomenal material people. I gotta get my water and then I'm off to bed.

Grindin' like a muddah right now. No time to talk. Only time to eat, work and sleep.

I can tell you this, Jackson passed his first night of obedient class. We learned SIT, STAY, LOOK and SHAKE WHAT YA MAMA GAVE YOU. Next week is HAIL A CAB.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


Where the mighty fall, the meek become giants and mere mortals become legends.

Fenway Park.

Yep, yesterday morning, I spent about an hour and a half trying to get some of the toughest sports tickets in the nation--Sox in Fenway. It's hard enough getting a decent seat when they're on the road, but getting a seat in Fenway is as tough as passing a softball-sized kidney stone. Trust me, I now can make a proper comparison.

I was shooting for June 1st (our fifth anniversary) against the Spankees, but Spank tickets are only available by drawing so I settled for Angry Tim's lowly Orioles on Labor Day weekend. It's a divisional game in the middle of the pennant race so not a bad deal, I figure.
However, Austin folks, it'll mean no SXSW. To my lovely wife, it'll mean no ski lessons this year. SXSW is really starting to lose it's draw for me. I really wanted this to be the year I returned to Austin for this event, but look at it through my eyes. Hip hop comprises only about 5% of the acts yet they sell out 100% of the time. Meaning, if you can actually find the hip hop shows at SXSW, you're gonna have to watch it with your hands in your pockets and your head held at a full tilt position. It sucks. Sweet Sarah and Duke, my apologies. I have once again let you down. I hope you understand. Hell, I'd be more apt to try to make SXSW if they'd post the freaking list of performers before they start hiking up wristband prices. Festival organizers are some suckas.
Really wanted to see if I could hook up with the Fat Laces troop while I was down there, however, that too will have to wait.
I will, however, be going to Cage this weekend in Denton with Angry Tim, Mick and maybe Mayhem. Should be a decent time. Last time I saw Cage, it was in Dallas in front of about 15 kids. No doubt Denton comes through hard. They always do. And Cage always comes through harder.

Wil, I'd like to catch up while I'm in the Getdown this weekend. Holla at me.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


You know, being a tall guy, I don't like to fall. I don't like to fall because I have much further distance to travel before smashing into the earth. And when I make contact, it hurts like the dickens. Well, yesterday, despite there being still about 1.7 miles of eight inch-deep snow between my front door and work, I set out in my ol' Doc Martens with ten extra minutes of grace. I'm a walker. It's not a religious thing, it's not a economical thing. It's a health thing...I walk.

So I'm about half a mile from the house and I'm trying to negotiate a terribly difficult intersection which was packed down into a nice iceberg the day before, it froze overnight and now I'm scooting across, trying desperately not to crack my head open. I reach the middle of the street and I feel my feet starting to glide outwards on me. Trouble.

I recover, take a few more hurried steps and it only took two steps for my feet to fly out from under me. While I was up there looking down at the earth, I thought of a lot of things. I thought about how I really resented being treated so badly at Subway when I asked to have my sub toasted. The girl just flipped. I thought about how I should've just let her finish making my sandwich and then just walk out. I thought about the fact that I really don't know what gas is going for these days. I thought about how I should listen to my wife more. I thought about how I like a frank covered in ketchup, onions and sauerkraut. I thought about MF Doom and why no one picks this dude up yet Danger Mouse is winning Grammys. I thought about...


Oh, the pain. I was lucky I had gripped my backpack because if I had put an arm out to brace my fall, I'd be using my tongue to type. My hip burned so bad on impact. Embarrassed and, moreover, quite pissed off, I act as quick as I can to recover and be on my way. However, when getting up, in my anger, I grab a handful of snow and frustratingly chunk it and in that sideways shift of body weight, I go down again.

Yeah, I'm an all-star today. I'm not sure what I yelled because I had my iPod on, but I'm pretty sure it wouldn't have aired on regular cable without some edits.

I'm waiting to see what the bruise will look like because it hasn't surfaced yet, but I'm pretty sure it's gonna be rad. My neighbor Brad told me he had a bruise he received falling off a barstool and said mine would look much like his. I eat too much red meat to bruise like this dude. He drinks beer and eats Oreos. Nonetheless, here's Brad's bruise.

Happy Tuesday, people. Contact your local record executive and ask him/her to release some music to purchase.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


Sunday night...whatta weekend.

Got absolutely pounded with snow. So much snow--it's kinda sad. We live in the flattest region of the continental United States so there's almost nothing we can do with it except shovel it and chunk it at passing motorists. I opted for both. My back and chest muscles are on fire right now from the shoveling, but I can see concrete so I'm better off than most of my neighbors.

Texas Tech beat #5 Kansas in Lubbock. Remember, if you can't be the best, make sure you beat the best. Bobby Knight ain't got no problem pissin on someone's parade and he can win the big games--it's the small, meaningless games we have problems with. Score one for the good guys.

Sent Rory off with a few celebratory beers last night. Cheeseburger celebrated his birthday by dancing with some fella's girlfriend in front of the jukebox. I encouraged it, but before I knew she was there with someone. I'll beat everyone to the question: I don't know what happened to the video of Mayhem and Angry Tim dancing. I'm sorry. I did however manage to find two different videos of yours truly doing the Eagle. Man, I'm glad I had a ride home.

Anyway, we'll desperately miss youngblood Rory and his lovely wife Roxy. Of course, D-Town ain't but five hours away (which is Texas for "trip to the store"). Here's to you, Rory. Good luck with the new gig.

My lovely wife is chasing Jax around the house, screaming at him. I think we're getting cabin fever. Speaking of Jax, he's heading to obedience training tomorrow. My goal is to have him cleaning toilets and taking out the garbage in four weeks. In eight, I'll have him making my coffee. In a year, he'll be holding a steady gig selling cigarettes to youngins at the Toot N Totum down the block. Dude's been getting too many free rides around here. He's old enough to work and there's plenty of jobs for kids like him. I'm gonna start charging him rent and a quarter of the utilities.

Model employee

Saw Children of Men today and it was much better than Children of the Corn. In fact, it was really nothing like it. The title alone was very deceiving. I was the only one in the theater so I didn't have to worry about any racial tension, thank goodness.

Oh yeah, we really only got 8.4 inches of snow here officially. Not the three feet that you see above. We had less than that when Rory and I got the bright idea to leap into the snow flat on our backs and realized there was only really four inches to break our frames from slamming down on the ground. Yeah, my neck still hurts from whiplash. Plus, I think I slipped a disc. Something ain't right.

Happy Monday.

Friday, January 19, 2007


Ah, never a dull moment in the Yellow. My lovely wife and I decided to take a load off this evening with my work day ending with a perfectly timed power outage. It started behind a tall Dos Equis and a warm bowl of tortilla soup. (MSNBC's re-running To Catch a Predator programs back to back--oh yeah). We then made our way amidst an impending snowstorm to our local romper room (movie theater) to see the just recently added Dreamgirls. The Yellow is always the last to get the good movies. My lovely wife and I know this. It's a matter of fact and nothing short of it. After listening to my lovely wife complain about how she was going to call the movie theater after Dreamgirls swung a couple of Golden Globes, it appeared in the paper this morning that it had been added to both local theaters. Good for us.

Now, I really wanted to see Children of Men, but that'd have to wait for another night. Tonight, we were going to see Dreamgirls. I just want to get that out in the open because, I'll be honest, Dreamgirls just really isn't my thing. But I'm a good sport.

We show up to a surprisingly empty theater. I mean, it wasn't empty, but it was a far cry from full. Just a smattering of people--if I may please use the word. We position ourselves on the second row, just right behind the handicap spot so I can drape my legs over the railing. I won't be comfortable, but I'll be comfortabler. The previews begin. Some lame ass Diane Keaton movie (wondering at this point how far away I am from the target market), another lame Beatles-sorta movie called Across the Universe and then a warning for a preview comes up saying that the next previewed movie features explicit language, drug use and, get this, strong killings. Now, I'm fairly sure they don't mean "strong" as in a "strong performance by the pitcher." I don't know, maybe it did mean that like "that was a really strong killing." I doubt it. It's just worth mentioning because I never read those little warnings and I found the description to be a bit peculiar. Oh yeah, it was for Zodiac, which looked quite good.
So, in the middle of the previews, the audio is shut off, dim lights illuminate the theater and five people walk in the theater across the very front and stand in the middle facing upwards toward the smattering. A very polite looking Asian fella stepped forward and gave the smattering a nice welcome message (oddly in a very strong Texas accent--it was just bizarre). Immediately, the crowd became nervously shifty and accusatory. It seemed that there were some patrons upset at the fact that it took Dreamgirls so long to reach our theaters despite putting up some impressive box offices. A woman behind us started it by barking, "It's about time!" to which my lovely wife and everyone else in the theater collectively roared, "Yeah!"
I slouch in my chair. My lovely wife was just being cute, but everyone else was obviously pissed off. The manager grinned and began to sway from side to side with tension. "What took so long?" someone else yelled. I slouch lower in my seat--just wanting to disappear, really.
All the sudden, the manager goes on the defensive. "This week, I received 72 phone calls about why we weren't carrying this movie and there's only about 62 in here." There was really only 32. He continues despite hisses and growls in the theater, "We have to make money. If you're gonna call to make this happen, you have to show up. And if you want to bring this kind of movie, you'll need to tell your friends to come see it as well."
The theater draws quiet. Then, like a boom from the back of the theather:
"What do you mean 'this kind of movie'?!"
At this point, I give the angry patron the procautious half-look where you don't swing around completely in your chair, but rather just turn a cheek to ensure this dude ain't about to bumrush the manager. I'm thinking, "Crap, I'm just here to see the movie." The manager continues to smile like an idiot, knowing that probably wasn't the best thing to say. I'm sure he meant well, but it wasn't received so well. I mean, hell, the manager was just there to introduce a few radio personalities (who were now speechless...for once). The radio personalities (reluctant to call them DJs) threw a few logo shirts into the seats, waved frightenly and bid farewell with a shuffle toward the exit. It was kinda embarassing. I thought I was gonna witness something go down in there.
The movie, itself, was pretty good. Eddie Murphy was awesome and Jennifer Hudson killed it. In fact, she killed it strongly. Even at the end of the movie, I was thinking, "Nope, still not my kind of movie," but it was entertaining nonetheless. Made me want to listen to some Ray Charles.
So here I am, on a Friday night with a fresh sheet of snow on the ground, I'm sitting at my desk writing to my not-so-faithful readers, listening to Ray Charles and watching To Catch a Predator and Chris Hansen just asked a guy for a hug. That's weird.
Rory's last day was today. Certainly sad to see him go, but the boys can't stay together forever. He's a stud and he'll do fine. We're doing drinks tomorrow night at Manham's. Should be a good time. I'll stay away from the drunken teary-eyed toasts. Improvisation is what gets me everytime. Ask BroBro. Ask Danny.
Love your neighbor. Be sensitive, but not overly sensitive. Believe in the goodness of people. Be careful on icy roads. Go Tech. Beat Kansas. Go listen to some X-Clan. Chin up, chest out and fists clinched.

Monday, January 15, 2007


I used to be famous. A remarkable guitar player that could set those gut strings on fire--ablaze from my mighty, ferocious guitar technique. Those were the days--spending countless nights drinking myself to slumber and snorting myself to infamy. It was the boom of the Sunset Strip. Our band opened for some of the greatest, sleaziest axe-swingers in the biz--from the LA Guns to the Dangerous Toys. From what I can remember, I remember it fondly.

A responsible, coke-free life would follow a little too quickly and I was reduced to a lame life at a desk with a pad of Stic-It notes, two pens (one blue and the other black) and a phone that was blocked from dialing 1-900 numbers. I had to shower, shave and reduce my swearing. Finding the avenue for my animalistic exertion would prove difficult. I got my gym membership revoked for causing a guy to bleed in a towel fight in the locker room. I drink Metamucil and crap three times a day. What a fantastically normal life I lead.

I got a ring from Matt Elders the other night and he extended an invitation to play a game called "Guitar Hero" at his place with the boys. Since I, being a former guitar slayer, had been out of the game, but not so long that I couldn't drop some science on some youngins, I decided to take up Elders on the offer. Plus, it would get me out of Guitar Center for the night.

I show up and, much to my surprise, it's a stupid video game. I thought "Guitar Hero" would be the game in which everyone would sit in a circle and detail how many stages they left in complete disarray by their mind-twisting guitar ability. Of course, I would win in that contest, but since the last game system I actually purchased was a Sega Genesis which I named "Yngwie," I was setting myself up for disaster.

They take rounds replicating the performances of rock's great bands (including Wolfmother and the Sword) while I watch from the corner--studying their methods and techniques. I was impressed. I quietly wander to the back of the line and wait patiently for my turn.

I grabbed the guitar, pulled the strap tight so that the small Fisher Price guitar sat right under my chin (like real pimps do it), put my large left hand around that tiny little neck and then followed Elders' lead as he queued up our song. I'd play bass, he'd play lead. What the song was, I can't remember. I just remember killin' it.

Through the careful guidance of my platoon, I found my comfort with the contraption. So much so, I rediscovered my "power rock moves" which used to make me the target of about 3,000 pairs of flying panties. First, it's the headbang. Now, my headbang is not simply up-and-down. That sort of jarring is simply brutal on my neck that has weakened from years of tearing down coliseum walls like Joshua at Jericho. I resort to smaller, but just as effective headbanging. In standard 4/4 time, I tip my body back and go up and down up top, then bend over and go up and down down low, then back up top, up and down, then down low up and down. It's much easier on the body and rocks the crowd just as hard. It's best exhibited by my dear friend and mass murderer with his hard rockin' sounds, Angus Young.

My second favorite move is the "leg up." Usually, it would involve me finding a monitor speaker close to a lovely lady on the front row, putting my left leg up (right leg if you're going to the "Statue of Liberty" lift) and rocking out like a crazed madman. Below is my next door neighbor, Stu, showing how it's done. Only difference is I do it to an arena that seats about 17,000 and Stu does it in a trailer that seats, comfortably, about six. Nonetheless, he always has Pearl Light iced down and he's the only cat within walking distance that has extended cable. Here's Stu. Give him a hand.

My third favorite power rock move is the "taunt." It absolutely screams experience and proves that you're a seasoned performer. When perfectly placed, it can turn the arena into a violent, roaring frenzy. I'm a fan of two different methods, but tonight, I'd only be employing one. The first method is when you come to the end of a murderous guitar lick, you look into the crowd like you're concerned that they didn't hear you. It's much like the look that your deaf grandma might give you after you tell her, "The grocery store was out of whole milk so I got skim instead." It's basically the non-verbal method of saying to the crowd, "I can't hear you. You better scream for me and my guitar here." Even better is doing a little back and forth with the crowd. Play a lick, taunt the crowd, play a lick, taunt the crowd, play a lick, play a lick, play a lick. Extended solo.

Tonight, though, I'd be using the "hand taunt" in which you extend your picking hand above your head after a tasty lick and flutter your fingers not holding the pick (your middle finger, ring finger and pinky) toward you as if you're inviting the crowd to come on stage and join your rock fest. Even better if you pout your lips like, "Ooh yeah, that feels good." They fall for it every time and won't be able to help themselves. Depending on how distant or domant the crowd is, you might have to give them some arm action to engage them. Tonight, I wouldn't have to go to this length because the digital crowd would be so enthused just to see me in action again that the finger flutter would suffice. Joey from the Guitar Center (ask him to tell you the story about when he met Don Henley backstage as a roadie for Robert Palmer) exhibits this method to a crowd of me and two other shoppers at the store. We didn't scream, but I approved his approach with a subtle, "Amen, brother."

Well, Elders emailed today announcing another Thursday "Guitar Hero" get-together. And, yes, I plan on being in attendance. It's addicting, but much healthier than the white stuff (and I'm not talking White Out). Prepare yourself for the comeback of the great j3. It's a slow return, but make no mistake, it's a comeback. Ladies, prepare yourself.

Friday, January 12, 2007


I gotta tell you, I watched Triumph of the Underdog tonight, as provided by the wonderful George From Work--a biography about the great Charles Mingus and, as much of a fan and appreciator of his work as I was before, I'm sevenfold the fan now. Let's just put it this way, he was a badass in all aspects of music, culture, politics, poetry and art. I was listening to Chet Baker this morning, but skipped right to the "m's" tonight for Mingus. Couldn't help it because the dude was so incredibly dope.

When I was a kid, one of my father's (and aunt's) students handed me a copy of Charles Mingus' Epitaph on double cassette citing that, "One day, you'll get it." It wasn't until about ten years later that I would "get it." That would mean coming to the realization that Charles Mingus is quite possibly the most spectacular, innovative, daring and complex composers of the 20th century. Hands down. If you don't hold this as the absolute truth, you're in the dark to his contributions to not only jazz, but to music as we know it today. I will provide you a few milestone recordings so you can educate yourself and be more knowledgable to the realm, the mystery, the legacy that is Charles Mingus. And now, a few of my favorite recordings, most of which are live recordings.

Right Now: Live at the Jazz Workshop

Mingus at Carnegie Hall

Mingus in Europe

Charles Mingus and Friends in Concert



Man, I gotta tell ya, the Yellow ain't got nothin' going in news. Last night, at the top of the newscast after a "check with the weather" (which revealed some embarrassing inconsistancies), we went to a community some 30 minutes away to report on a rash that some girl got on her tail end from sitting on a toilet seat at her school. That was our headline, folks.

Now, when the news is this slim, could we possibly just shorten the newscast? We're broadcasting to a metro area of almost 250,000 viewers about some girl catching a rash off a school toilet seat here! This is the same newscast that, while I sit here typing this, they're on their tenth minute into a segment about the new Girl Scout cookies. And the other 20 minutes of this half hour have been focused on the cold front coming through and an advisory to "be careful on the ice."

We need another severed head story.

I really must contact the news director here. This is an insult to my intelligence. Another filler segment they usually rely on is something I hear referred to as "Last Night's Laughs," in which they play a quick video of a joke from Jay Leno's monologue the night before and then they laugh like it was funny and then go back to the weather map. Even worse, they'll sometimes actually slow down to discuss the joke which is tremendously annoying. This morning, they played a Leno joke about the Dallas pizza chain who is accepting pesos for pizza and there's some sort joke about how fast food employees can't count regular American money and now we're making them responsible for another currency (yeah, my delivery's pretty dry, but it was a stupid joke anyway). Video ends, they return to our two delightful "newsanchors" who are giggling at the joke that wasn't funny and then the female anchor says to the male, "I hadn't heard of that--the pizza chain taking pesos," to which the idiot meteorologist replies, "Yeah, I think we need to send a factchecker out there to Jay's show."

This story has been all over the news for the last two days. And the newsanchors hadn't heard about it. I mean, I saw freaking O'Reilly talking about it yesterday and our locals want to cycle this story through a fact-checker. Horrible.

Crap, they're re-running the rash story.

Oh, now they're doing the KidCast where they bring a child to stand in front of the green screen and read the forecast. This is stupid. It's like a freaking circus.

You'd never think we were in a war right now watching this crap. No wonder Yellowians are so out of touch. They return to more Girl Scout cookies.

Found myself in Wal-Mart last night for work reasons. I heard they were running feel-good ads to help curb some of the negativity that's swirling around. I say they don't spend the money on advertisements and make their customers take competency exams in order to shop there. Only in Wal-Mart is the self-checkout slower than the regular checkout lanes. I should've just shoplifted the product because they don't prosecute any theft under $25. It would've been worth the attempt. On the way out, I about mowed over some lady talking to one of her friends in front of the exit door. Look, as far as I'm concerned, the exit at Wal Mart is a freaking emergency exit. I'm getting out of there as quick as I can before my brain cells implode and my sperm shrivel up like raisins. And if you're in my way when I'm trying to exit this hellhole, you better hope I have clearance of, at least, three feet because I'm an equal-opportunity assailant and I will not hesitate to put your ass on the ground. Politely move or I will impolitely help you move.

In other, more uplifting news, Bro Bro's moving back to Tejas. Congrats to him and his lovely wife. Off to work.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

j3's TOP 17 HIP HOP ALBUMS OF 2006

I'll give it to you straight: 2006 was a horrible year for hip hop. It was just bad. It was so bad that I couldn't even muster up a full 20 hip hop albums worth mentioning. Instead, you get 17 albums and no honorable mentions. Yeah, that bad. Is hip hop dead? Is Nas right? What went wrong? Whose to blame?
  • Blame Dr. Dre who continues work on Detox. Yeah right.
  • Blame the labels for not getting their act together and actually releasing music that we can listen to. What happened to Papoose? What happened to those Doom projects? Where's the Fugee's reunion record? Percee P? Saigon? I heard that G-Unit was going to take over the whole world this year. What happened? Houston blew up last year, but where did all that momentum go in 2006? At least a Lil Jon record?
  • Blame the Black Eyed Peas because of Fergie's stupid ass.
  • Blame the industry for abandoning the album format and, instead, adopting the nickel-and-dime mentality of ringtones and downloads. Let's not find a way to make an album better, let's make it more disposable. Ringtones, at the very core, perfectly communicate the publics view of music--good for only 20 seconds and worth 2 dollars, but not a cent more. Hip hop ain't dead, but the album as we know it might finally be. They're not interested in making artists anymore, just radio singles when radio is a dying dinosaur.
  • Blame Steve Jobs.
  • Blame Brooke Hogan who, in an interview with XXL said the first rap record she bought was Stevie Wonder's "Greatest Hits," because she's really into "old-school stuff." After Amy Linden stated the obvious that Stevie Wonder ain't hip hop, Brooke replies, "But he's urban and I look up to the old classical, original stuff." The term "urban" is nothing but marketing drivel. It would make sense that an artist that is all marketing would find a way to call Stevie Wonder "urban."
  • Blame "urban" and the consolidation of hip hop into one pop format. Rap is not pop, if you call it that then do your damn homework.
  • Blame "snap" and "hyphy" which got exposed as the very fad's they were. Both movements were dead before Lil Jon could release his next album containing the song "Snap Yo Fingers."
  • Blame Common for that silly hoodie.
  • Blame the catalog divisions for, once again, failing to promote hip hop's storied history and classic recordings.
  • Blame lupus for taking J Dilla.
  • Blame Jay-Z, Nas, LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Method Man, Juvenile, P. Diddy, Outkast, the Game, Ice Cube, Mobb Deep and Ludacris (now that's a lineup) for all releasing forgettable records. Did you know of the top 50 albums at Soundscan in 2006, only three were hip hop albums? Furthermore, the top selling hip hop album was nowhere near the top of the charts--that'd be TI's King at #17. Dismal.
  • Blame Flava Flav simply because it's easiest to.
  • Blame the following disappointments. If these five albums were half as good as they could've been, it would've been a descent year.
Artistic freedom backfires as LaFace finds out the hard way that hip hop does have its limitations—musicals. Flop of the year for hip hop. Biggest flop, possibly, in the history of LaFace. Maybe now we can focus on 10 The Hard Way.

Finally answering the question “Can DJ Shadow do no wrong?” The Outsider finds your favorite DJ savior dabbling heavy in hyphy and attempting to make the leap into the popular realm. It’s like requesting Charmin and getting sandpaper. If you want a quality DJ Shadow record, just buy the new Cut Chemist.

Definitive Jux
Still better than most emcees out there, Mo’Mega simply doesn’t hold a match to this year. Tried as I would to enjoy this album, it wouldn’t happen. But check the 9th Wonder remix of “Brothaz”—sadly not available on this album.

Def Jam
Eh, uh. The Jay record everyone was waiting for, but no one is talking about. That’s because it’s a couple of singles pinched between an hour cleanly produced, hook-heavy drip hop. Seems like Jay fans were brought up the same way I was: if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t say anything at all.

Def Jam
Hip hop, in fact, is not dead. But Nas just about killed it with this one. Nas’ favor for dramatics and always making a masterful opus rather than an album is why his greatness is a myth. He’s locked himself into a standard that not only he can achieve. I say the same thing every time Nas drops an album: if you want Illmatic, then go buy Illmatic.
Blame anyone, anything you want, but don't blame the following 17 artists for offering up the gems of 2006. Again, hate to be the party pooper, but I ain't gonna put in extra time and effort into a list recounting the year's best when the industry and labels don't want to put in extra time and effort to keep the music alive. You get 17 albums and no more. Don't blame me, I work with what I'm given.

Waco representin’. Central Texas won’t ever be known as the mecca of hip hop, but Strange Fruit Project is out to prove that Texas aint’ all screwed and chopped. The Healing is a stoutly soulful offering that flows with reverence to hip hop’s past, but blazes trails forward to hip hop’s otherwise dim future. The Healing dances, bounces, sings and grooves and, when it’s all said and done, Strange Fruit Project shake doubters aside and make a musical statement that’s impossible to ignore. Essential for fans of Little Brother.


SOUNDSCAN: 247,068

Cleverly-crafted big label hype of the year! And it’s not bad either. I’ll be honest, I was drinking the Kool Aid when the first two singles hit. I thought this was album of the year even before hearing the full record. This guy was starting to reach a feverish, Kanye-like buzz and, in the infinite wisdom of the music industry, they kept pushing the record as the demand was building. In the end, it’s a crisp, clean corporate hip hop record. It’s like processed cheese, but even Velveeta makes for good once it’s melted down. Lupe is the street corner in the hip hop community where backpackers, college hipsters and snobby geekazoid record store clerks meet—like Kanye. In the end, Food and Liquor is a contender, but don’t let anyone tell you it’s the album of the year. I’ll put it this way it’s twice as good as haters say it is and half as good as everyone at Atlantic was saying it was.


Like there’s only room for one ex-member of Brand Nubian that is not Grand Puba. I kept hearing all about Lord Jamar’s 5% record, but didn’t find it as compelling as Sadat’s Black October. It’s Sadat returning to his prizefighter form—proving there’s life after old school finding refuge at Riverside Dr. With guests on production from J-Zone and Ayatollah among others, Sadat pieces together a wonderfully entertaining long-player. And while it won’t rival every record released this year, it serves as a reminder that rappers don’t retire (Jay-Z) and it truly is the size of the fight in the dog. Hopefully, Sadat remembers that on his way to prison for brandishing a firearm at a group of teenagers in Harlem. Whatta shame.



Like a brand you can count on, People Under the Stairs are the sureshots of the independent game. This, their fifth record in seven years, finds Thes and Double doing what they do best—making tasty hip hop. In all fairness, the album does sound slightly formulaic as it relies heavily on the same elements that made their first four records so damn dope. But give them their credit, to maintain a high level of quality as PUTS have with Stepfather is commendable. Although this record drags a little long with 20 tracks, it’s packaged with a DVD featuring hidden footage of Thes bidding on a replica of a vintage record player on The Price is Right. Now that’s priceless.


The follow-up to 3:16, the first pairing 9th Wonder and L.A. vet Murs, Murray’s Revenge is a continuation of theme which sees Murs once again showing he’s underground’s premier vocalist. Infinitely funky and enjoyable, Revenge is just that as both parties return to their prime form and carefully generate an evenflow of spectacular hip hop. Murs’ signature of wearing his heart on his sleeve yet injecting enough humor to keep the mood light coupled with 9th's insanely engaging production, solidifies Revenge on this of many year-end lists. Additionally, Justus League alum Joe Scudda and Big Pooh guest, making this an album worth copping.



Ask Angry Tim about Apathy and Atlantic Records and you’re bound to catch a bad one. After signing rhymeslayer Apathy, Atlantic sat on and suffocated his career pondering their next move. Their next move would never come. Still under legal bound to Atlantic, Apathy was granted permission to shop an album to indie Babygrande. For Atlantic, it would give them a chance to test the waters without spending a dime and for Apathy, it would be an avenue for him to exert the aggression from sitting around and waiting for things to pop. Eastern Philosophy is an account of a tyrannous, battle-ready emcee on the verge of something big. Apathy is a lion out of his cage hungry for a contest. Too bad Atlantic thinks there’s only room for one white rapper in the game because their locking up of the baddest emcee in the game. Damn, Atlantic’s like the David Copperfield of labels—they can make your favorite rapper disappear like a muddah. By the way, where is that Jean Grae Atlantic keeps talking about?



9th Wonder always has knack for finding the perfect match. This time out, it’s with Brooklyn native Skyzoo with what is one of a couple sleepers on this year’s list. Cloud 9 showcases Skyzoo’s street narratives and eager energy over what is, quite possibly, 9th’s most collectively fresh and inspired production since The Minstrel Show. Overall, it’s a beautiful record and well worth the dough. If you’re demanding a refund on Kingdom Come, exchange it for this colossal set.


They were at the helm of the once-promising mid-90s underground movement, but after Elektra failed to release their debut, the Juggaknots were sent packing back to the independents. Their debut would finally see the light of day thanks to the short-lived Third Earth Records, but being the material was seven years old, the Juggaknots would have to wait for their proper introduction. Until now. Thanks to the dedicated heads at Amalgam, the Juggaknots finally got their long overdue chance to shine. Confusion is a brilliantly entertaining exhibit of the trio’s capabilities—a clever uppercut of no-bullshit hip hop. Breezly Brewin and Heroine seize every opportunity to tout their lyrical prowess as the verses of Confusion blow by at an almost reckless pace over Breezly and Buddy Slim’s arresting production. The Juggaknots have finally arrived.


On their third official studio record, Kentucky’s Cunninlynguists finally caught the ears of the massive. Strange is fluid not forced and accomplishes the development of (gasp) mood and theme. Also, setting it apart from its peers, it emotes like an old Geto Boys record and exposes a more sensitive side to the normally jestering duo. Kno’s production saddles both the deeply southern, smoky Dungeon Family sound as well as thumping enough for backpackers to nod their heads to. Deacon’s assault of blazing lyricism helps complete what is, without a doubt, a proclamation of the underground’s overdue arrival to the snobby critical realm. Incredible work.

SOUNDSCAN: 165,553

Roots’ records are always the last to get listened to. In fact, it took Angry Tim beating me over the head with it before I even picked it up. There’s a standard of excellence that comes with each Roots record and, knowing that, I typically find their recordings predictable and boring. Maybe the new digs of Def Jam did the Roots well because this record is the most cohesive, the most entertaining and the most intriguing output from the Roots since Things Fall Apart. The difference is the tempo and the compositions on the record reflect a group who finally found their identity, their footing. Nothing on the record is forced or hurried. Game Theory witnesses the sextet in a full-throttle jam session that finds Malik and Black Thought taking shots at the media, the war, the president, while ?uest intermittently pays homage to the late Dilla with his drastically improved production. Without a Scott Storch-produced radio single and the pressure of a label to exceed sales goals, the Roots returned to what they do best--innovation.


Sometimes, you gotta roll solo to see what you’re made of. Lauryn Hill did it. Busta Rhymes did it. Even Flav pulled it off--sorta. For Cut Chemist, it meant leaving the steady touring and rhythmic release schedule of Jurassic Five, joining (of all labels) Warner Bros and releasing a straight forward, ball-busting, sample-sopped, scratch-happy DJ record relatively free of wordy rappers except for a just a few. If you knew anything about Cut Chemist, you knew he had it in him. Talent oozes from everything this dude does, but nothing more communicates his contribution to the modern hip hop age like this record. And yes, not even his work for J5. Listening is a beautiful, inspired and seamless composition which exhibits Cut’s talent for track construction. More so, it cements Cut as one of the finest pairs of ears in the business as each track displays an almost genius understanding of, not just hip hop, but music as a whole. Track of the year candidate: “Storm” featuring Mr. Lif and Edan. Cut Chemist, you know the science.


The concept of minimalism in an era of hip hop where so much emphasis is put on the producer is novel at best. In fact, if you want to hear it at its best, you’d have to cross the Atlantic with artists like Lady Sovereign, MIA, the Streets and Roots Manuva. That is until this year when Baltimore’s MC Spank Rock with help of producer xxxchange perfectly combining the gigantic bass of dancehall rhythms with blips, drips and beeps at breakneck speed to deliver one of the most excitable albums of the year. It’s not fair to suggest all of Yoyoyoyoyo is all po-boy produced, because xxxchange does put together some bangers like the uberfunky “Sweet Talk” and the headnoddin’ “Coke and Wet.” MC Spank Rock is like Busy Bee with his endless shotcallin’ and spitfire lyricism. Make no mistake: it’s serious stuntin hip hop, but it bumps like a Chemical Brothers record rockin’ a 1998 New Years’ Eve house party. Don’t be a snob, just because it ain’t gotta breakbeat doesn’t mean you can’t shake ya ass to it.



It’s almost unfair how good Madlib is. Listening to the instrumental Konducta, we find ‘Lib at his finest—shining brightly as one of very few naturally-gifted producers in the game. And that’s as if his incredibly deep repertoire hasn’t convinced you yet. Supposedly billed as a soundtrack to an imaginary movie, it plays like a compilation of 35 interludes, but as you dig deeper, it truly is a masterful composition that finds ‘Lib at what is maybe his creative peak as he borrows and steals then switches and morphs sounds and samples into an explosion of hip hop goodness. What’s beautiful about ‘Lib’s creations, and this is no exception, is the noticeable unfinished, not-yet mastered rawness of the recordings—intentionally leaving tracks unbalanced and uncut. This method has become his signature and Konducta is a prime example of this technique. It’s not instrumental, it’s instru-mental.


The sleeper on the list. The Windy City’s very own Psalm One caught everyone snoozing in a serious way scanning only, get this, 2,700 units of Flyer since July. July! To put that in perspective, Twisted Sister’s crappy Christmas record sold six times that amount last week. Nonetheless, the optimist tells me that talent will win when the dust settles and Psalm One has enough talent to run circles around your favorite emcee. Possessing the effortless flow of a veteran, but the exuberance of a newcomer, her gift as an emcee cannot be questioned. With ferocity, Psalm spits fire and proclaims her arrival, with help from tastemaker Rhymesayers Entertainment. This right here is the real deal.



Since Def Jam got a tad greedy by releasing the two records separately instead of dropping what would’ve been a double album of historic proportions, I’m going rate them as one because, essentially they should be and, secondly, to advocate the purchase of both rather than either or. Def Jam gave him the “Killah” back and dude comes out swinging like a man under some freakishly frantic possession. Ghost’s mind-boggling ability to spit freshness on every outing continues to baffle critics, listeners and even his label by posting a mighty healthy 110,000 units on the first week of Fishscale. The proof is in the puddin’ and the reality is this: both Fishscale and More Fish are official. Fishscale is Ghost in prime form as he compiles more uncut dope than any one listen can fully expose. With production assistances from Just Blaze to the great MF Doom, Fishscale doesn’t miss except for, of course once again, a horrible attempt at a radio track—this time with “Back Like That” featuring Neyo. Couple it with the Theodore Unit-laden More Fish and you have a tandem that can hardly be touched this year.

SOUNDSCAN: 132,112

Rap’s obsession with realness has rotted into parody. Nothing in the rap game is real anymore. The only thing that is, in fact, real is how fake it is. It’s all a fantasy world where rappers are the heroes and the taxman is the villain. That was until Clipse blasted onto the scene back in 2002 with their still highly slept-on debut, Lord Willin’. After Jive almost killed their career by sitting on Hell for four years (a whole career for most rappers and unnecessarily long between debut and sophomore efforts), it would finally see the light of day. The result is an startling and sometimes even disturbing depiction of street life holding no reserve for their exploits as dealers and hustlas. Pusha T and Malice’s narratives are as entertaining as they are haunting begging chuckles from the listeners with their slang, their speak and the unending talent for creating metaphors and euphemisms for cocaine. Also notable is Pharrell who continues to prove he’s unstoppable as a producer as he produces yet another insanely delicious offering with a much sparser, barebone beat construction contributing to the omnipresent gloom that dominates the album. In Jive’s pursuit to sell millions of records and turn the Clipse into a single-centered act, the Clipse got the last laugh selling a modest 78,000 their first week with a cohesive and completely unmarketable gem of a record. With all the talk of coke rap, crack music—this is real trap muzik. Maybe now, Jive will finally dump them so they can get on with their careers.



Truly one of the most compelling instrumental hip hop records to release within the last decade, Dilla’s Donuts is, at first listen is somewhat confusing. But upon digestion and the multiple listens that will follow, this record drips of so much soul, you’re gonna need a couple of mops. Released just three days before Dilla would pass from lupus complications, Donuts sadly was Dilla’s outro. Maybe that’s what makes the recording so fascinating and arresting. With the average track lasting only a minute-thirty, there’s more beats than anyone listener can handle at a time. It’s an assault of scattered tempos, twisted genres, sirens, backspins, slow jams and breakbeats that’ll make your neck hurt for weeks. It’s almost a ghostly recording as if, perhaps, he knew this would be his last full offering before his untimely death and he's desperately trying to cram every funky sample he could into one session--sometimes with one track ending mid-beat before switching over to another completely different soundscape--like a kid playing around in the DJ booth with four walls of vinyl. The lesson being this: dope doesn’t need transition. Just play the damn record. Donuts is a suiting record for a repertoire as vast as Dilla’s because if you play it from beginning to end as it was obviously intended, it’s not 31 tracks, it’s just one 48-minute song. that's a boastful taunt to all aspiring beatsmiths saying, “Top this, homie.” Safe to say that won’t happen for quite some time. Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


People are frontin' on my boy in a serious way. The other day, I was driving home and in a rare moment when I was actually listening to the radio and the little computer that was randomly selecting songs to play between commercials started playing "Everything She Wants" by Wham! Dope, dope, dope.

Folks, do your research, George Michael was a madman. Dude had some serious pipes and before you knew he was gay because he got busted getting fresh with an undercover cop in a public restroom (okay, I knew before that), dude was a serious lady's man. You're just hating for hate's sake if you ain't having George Michael. Dude was kinda like the Steve Guttenberg of blue-eyed soul. You know, he had his moment and to deny him that is a grave mistake. Props due, fool!

And it takes a special man to hook the ladies with a sweater like that. Look, go back and listen to his solo stuff (except "Faith" because we know how that song goes). "One More Try," "Freedom," "Careless Whisper," "Father Figure," "Monkey," "I Want Your Sex." This guy turned out some serious bangers. That list right there is more than most pop acts could ever hope to achieve.

In his prime, George Michael was an unstoppable juggerknot of sexy and funky. Tragically, however, George's run of terror would slow to a crawl. After some legal and personal troubles fell upon him (or rather he ran directly into them), his career would take quite a shaking. Below is a recent picture of him after spending the night in his car--apparently after a hard night of partying. Every celebrity has a zombie picture although this one is quite bad. This is some True Hollywood Story ish right here.

Don't doubt the greatness of George Michael. The dude did his damn thing in a big way.

This picture doesn't really communicate why I like George. In fact, this is the kinda Vegas George. This is the George that's "still big in Europe." They're an easy sell over there, seriously. This the George I envision when someone tells me, "George Michael can still pack a stadium in Germany,"--thrusting his pelvis with those stupid eurotrash shades and satin suit--dude, is that a one piece?

Stop frontin' doe. George Michael was a playa and to deny it is foolish. It's futile.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Today, I was walking through the office and, as I'm privileged to enjoy on a daily basis, are pleasant greetings from my co-workers. Sometimes, it's a "whaddup, bro" or a "how's it goin', man?" Though today, I got one that I never, under any circumstances, want to hear again. I've been addressed this way before, but today it peaked and I finally have to put my foot down.

"What's up, hoss?"

I've decided that I'm not cool with this greeting at all. In fact, I'm offended. I just found that the name "hoss" has some negative connotations. It just sounds derrogatory. "Boss" I don't mind. Hell, I'd even take "jerk-off" before I could stomach being called a "hoss." I've always been a bigger fella just in my sheer dimensions. I'm not saying I'm King Kong, but I'm big. I got big feet, long arms, my size abnormally large skull, my wingspan, my long fingers--whatever. But, by no means am I a hoss. I did a little investigation into the origin of the name "hoss" and here's what I found thanks to our good friends at Wikipedia.

The most popular use of the word was Hoss Cartwright from Bonanza--a show way before my time and after my interest. More commonly though is its use in professional wrestling to describe a large wrestler with "a well-built body, but often with little technical wrestling ability and sometimes not much charisma" and are "hired mainly for their size." To continue, "The term 'hoss' was coined by Jim Ross, Ross uses it as a positive term, using it to say that a wrestler is large, powerful and unstoppable. However, since many of the wrestlers he applies it to are significantly lacking in the talent and/or charisma departments, and rely exclusively on their size to get over, it has come assume its current meaning as a insult."

If you call me a "hoss," you betta have your running sneakers on. If you ain't quick enough to flee, you betta be watching for the hook because I'll use it.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


You know, I've finally arrived at many Earth-shaking revelations about The Karate Kid. When you first saw it as a tike, you felt empowered, inspired--ready to drop a crane kick into the chin of the world--fueled with a Rambo-sense of strength. That's how sports movies were to a kid. We came flying out the theater doing flying kicks and karate chops. I even tied my fathers bathrobe belt around my head and began terrorizing the neighborhood.

But today, I noticed some things about the movie that left me perplexed. Confused. Lost.

First off, let's face it once and for all. Ralph Macchio is a dweeb. He's a twerp. He's the kinda kid who was just screaming to get his ass kicked. How this guy got casted for this role is beyond me. He's like a walking turd. He's like a turd in tennis shoes. Ugly navy blue and yellow tennis shoes and always with that stupid ratty plaid shirt and red sports jacket. Gosh, this kid was just beggin' for a teachin'--dirty kid from New Jersey with a geekazoid accent like Boner from "Family Ties," getting rides to Putt Putt from his mommy in a stationwagon that wouldn't even start without a push down the hill. Not even his friends had his back in the movie. They even thought he was a nincompoop. Not only that, but I've seen tulips with more meat on 'em. Not only is it unlikely that this kid could raise a fist in battle, but even more unlikely that he could wrangle in Elizabeth Shue.

Alli with an "i." Yeah, good ol' Elizabeth Shue. You forget about her in Karate Kid largely because she was working next to the Bermuda Triangle of Hollywood in Ralphie. She's lucky she survived this role. Most people remember her rebound in Adventures in Babysitting--a favorite around our house. She was cute in Karate Kid, but you kinda thought if she was the kinda girl that would date Daniel Laruso, you probably wanted none of that in the first place. F'get about her.

If you ever have a chance to watch this incredible achievement in cinema again, look for the scene where the above still was taken from--in the arcade. When they come out, Danielson has just recently acquired a beautiful old convertible from Mr. Miyagi (yeah, right--dude ain't even driven his mother's garbage can stationwagon yet and he gets this beautiful car that Mr. Miyagi has been babying for decades). What's even more spectacularly amazing is Daniel, in his unfathomable wisdom, tells Alli she can drive the car which is so incredibly irresponsible. She, in shock, exclaims, "What?!" to which Daniel replies with possibly the greatest line in all of cinematic history: "Hey, it's the eighties!" Did I miss something about the eighties?

And Daniel's poor mother. This woman had some major dependency issues. I pick her as a quality candidate for alcoholism. The lady was completely unstable and had outbursts that could only be explained by a severe addiction to horse tranquilizers. Not only that, she was completely oblivious to Daniel getting his ass kicked by Cobra Kai. She couldn't even clue in on Daniel's distress from attending a new school until he's popping off in the alley. I feel bad for her, really. It's a sad family situation there.

My wife commented that Elizabeth Shue must have been at least 5 years older than Macchio--making her appear to be old enough to be his babysitter in some scenes.

Lastly, let's talk about the Cobra Kai. I gotta be honest real quick. They still scare the crap outta me. I want none of that Cobra action. These dudes had some serious nuts loose and it wasn't the nuts in their pants. These guys would kick even their grandmothers' asses. The scene at the Halloween dance still sends shivers down my spine. Some nights I have nightmares that the Cobra Kai is waiting for me around the corner in these frightening costumes. They were maniacs.

Look at Daniel in their clutches. Yeah, he went to the dance in a shower wearing a blue t-shirt and competitive athletics-grey sweatpants. Dude, how is he getting with Elizabeth Shue?! This is where Daniel shoulda died, but Miyagi hadn't come to his rescue, Daniel would've been leaving the set in a bodybag. I find myself rooting for the Cobra Kai in much of the movie like cheering for Leatherface in Chainsaw. You just wanna see Daniel get victimized, torn to pieces. It's fun to watch. Watching Daniel kick ass is as painful to watch as a dog with no back legs crawling to a full bowl of dogfood. It's just not entertaining. I would've preferred about thirty more minutes of Daniel beatings.

All that aside, the Cobra Kai were a force that you didn't wanna play with. Let's take Dutch, my personal favorite, who I later found out is the son of the great Steve McQueen! Yeah, that's Chad McQueen right there. And he looks like he's freaking 35 years old right here. Look at the terror in his eyes. He's ready to rip Daniel into pieces and feed him to his croonies. You don't want none of dis here. Dutch will kill you five times in one strike to the face. He's like a bull ready to go into action. I whimper just looking at him.

To Dutch, it's not about winning, it's about killing. You can have Chuck Norris. If I'm going to battle, I'm taking Dutch and Leatherface.

In the end, Cobra Kai captures the very reason I don't move to the big city. I have dreams where I'm being chased by the Cobra Kai on dirt bikes through a rugged urban landscape just trying to find a trash can to hide in. I wake up at night with Sensei John hovering over me quietly mumbling, "No mercy." Or another haunting I've been having lately involves Sensei John appearing out of the darkness into a very dimly lit center room with fist clutched repeatedly yelling at a deafening volume, "Finish him!" as Cobra Kai too appear out of the darkness. Cold sweat, folks. Cold sweat.

Look at Ralphie. He just crapped his pants because he looked into the eyes of Lucifer himself. Sure Miyagi stands in supposed defiance, but really Miyagi's just having a hard time reading the lips of Sensei John saying, "I will rip your heart out of your chest in less than three seconds using only my thumb, old man." If he knew what Sensei John was saying, he'd take a few steps back.

That ol' crane trick wouldn't had flown against the real Cobra Kai. I mean, really, the crane?! Daniel would've gotten smoked by Johnny had he not simply walked into that kick. I mean, when a dude sets up with his hands in the air and one foot raised in front of him, are you expecting anything other than a high kick?! They had to give it that Disney ending because anything less would've left the entire world at an imbalance, but really Johnny would've wrapped that Jersey punk up like a soggy pretzel, b'lee dat.

Saturday, January 06, 2007


What a glorious morning it is. Woke up to Jackson barking at me because he wanted to go outside and take a crap. Let him out. He took a crap. Brewed up some fine Starbucks bean that was purchased with a giftcard, knowing good and well I wouldn't purchase Starbucks coffee with me hard-earned cash. C'mon, those jerks want $13.00 for a one-pound bag of coffee beans. How is this, one, legal and, secondly, socially accepted. That's a price for coffee that, one would think, cause an uprising. It ain't that good. But let's note the coffee buzz I have going right now is causing a ringing in my ear.
I started my year-long journey into jazz with, alphabetically, Cannonball Adderley. Dude was a madman on the sax. Cannonball was considered one of the founding fathers of the hard bop movement. I happened along a recording on Hyena Records which catches Cannonball doing jazz renditions of selections from Fiddler on the Roof. Spectacular. After a couple Cannonball records, I went and made eggs and bacon.

Opened up the paper to see what was going on in the world and saw that 2006 was a record year for DPS drug busts in the Panhandle de Tejas. The local news writer said that up to 9500 pounds of marijuana was seized which equaled the weight of 3 Nascar pro-racing vehicles and 357 pounds of cocaine were seized which equaled the weight of some Detroit Lions linebacker. I guess he knows his audience: Nascar and football. What would've been impressive is he could convert it to cans of Spam and shot glasses of cheap whiskey.
Was thinking of going in to work today, but leaning against it. Maybe it's the Cannonball Adderley in me telling me to take a load off.
Watching a documentary You See Me Laughin' right now on bluesmen from the back roads of the south and there's a feature on Cedell Davis who lost use of his legs as a youngin because of polio. Over the years, he also lost full use of his hands. He's been playing the guitar by strumming and picking with his left hand which hardly moves and he jams a butterknife through the mangled fingers of his right hand and uses the edge of the knife as a slide. They just played an excerpt from his hit, "If You Like Fat Women, C'mon Down to Pine Bluff, Arkansas." Highly recommended viewing if you can find it. Duke, I'm talking to you.
Our boy, Rory, will soon be leaving the Yellow for the Grand Ol' Getdown. Rory, you ain't getting any closer to the snow-capped mountains. Hopefully he's not thinking there's good boardin in East Texas.

We wish him and his lovely wife the best, f'real.

Good night! Just learned that bluesman Junior Kimbrough had 29 children. No wonder the dude was a poor bluesman.

Found this pic from our trip to Wolf Creek of the great Mayhem taking a shortcut to the parking lot.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Let's face it, no artist likes to be considered "local." There's a stigma around the word that screams "untalented" and "lacking ambition." As an up-and-coming rapper in today's world, you can be reduced to this lowest denominator quickly and unfairly. Well, maybe not quite unfairly. There are pitfalls to getting started that will find you in a tragic and local combination of predictaments. I didn't write the book on rap careers, but I read a few chapters along the way and the reality is this, most dudes starting out ain't gotta clue about the game, the industry and the other cool words you'll pick up along the way. It ain't easy bidness. Remember when you wanted to become a professional basketball player and your moms told you some totally fabricated statistic like "1 out of 15,000 even have a shot at playing in the NBA." Sadly, that wasn't enough convincing, but your junior high coach helped you out by cutting you off the B team because you couldn't hit a lay-up. Thus ending that dream. Okay, maybe that was just me. Either way, it's maybe twice as difficult to make it as a rapper. Here are just a few tips for all you Lil Just Down the Blocks out there.

It would help if you knew something about the actual music you're trying to create. Sadly, this is the step most commonly skipped. Look, you might think you're blazing a trail from here to the mansion in the hills with your spendidly unique sound and groundbreaking lyrics, but trust me, it's been done before. And probably it was done better. Do some research. Yeah, it ain't fun and it's kinda like school, but when someone corners you in an interview and asks you about your influences, you better have something better to say than Lil' Wayne or your screwed. Name drop, but name drop intelligently. Go way back. Like 1992 or earlier. The further back you go the better. Stay away from Snoop, Dr. Dre, NWA or Geto Boys because those are common answers and stink of horseshit. Try EPMD, Black Moon (one of my favorites), Jeru the Damaja, but know what you're talking about or someone might challenge you on it and start asking for your favorite song. You can also just throw out a rediculous answer like "I really built my flow around that Color Me Badd style." The interviewer will laugh and maybe even forget what he/she actually asked and move on to the next question. Question successfully dodged.

But know something about the music, it's history, it's social context, it's key figures or you're gonna get played when you meet someone with some serious knowledge. That person might be sitting behind a desk and nice six-digit contract one day with a pen in hand waiting for you to answer with the first four Public Enemy albums before letting you sign.

Labels, for the most part, are just out to exploit you, ring you like a slot machine and then discard you. It's a money game and you're a commodity. These days, their interest is not you and your budding rap career. It's seeing how quickly they can cash you in and get rid of you. Labels don't like rappers because they mean trouble and they're a liability. As unfair as it is, do you really think labels like dealing with all the legal troubles, insane video budgets, lavish transport, gonzo release parties, entourages, stabbings and drug possession charges? Nah, they'd rather have a chick like Norah Jones who works hard, works quietly and craps a million records. With this being said, labels generally speaking, have not dedicated the forces necessary to properly work a rap record, moreover, a rap career. And since rappers know this and have compensated for the lack of support and attention from their labels and, essentially, done all the work themselves you won't find any label jumping to bring more people on when you're doing the work of 50 people. You'll hear similiar tales from many, now successful rappers, about how they did so much hustling and pushing for the label because they didn't know what they were doing. Hell, is it any coincidence that so many rappers are now working for labels as A&R's and even CEO's? Here's what I'm getting at: thinking that once you signed, your work is done could not be further from the truth. Labels know nuttin and are trusting you do. Know the finer point of industry connections, fax machines and proper dimensions for standard cover art because you never know.

When all is said and done, you won't sell much at retail without radio and radio doesn't really need you because they already have a playlist that's six songs deep and you're gonna have to sleep with the program manager (if they have one) to get your silly song on the air. Radio doesn't like tacky-mouthed rappers up in the studio waiting around for a chance to make it and retail will stock (see also HOLD) your product, but they're not hounding you for five more units of your Xeroxed CD-R because they got a new Young Jeezy to sell. Be humble when dealing with anyone from either radio or retail because, let's face it--they don't need you. It's just the game you're going to have to play. Sorry, bro.

A little math. Take your age and divide it by two and then multiply that number by your street address and that's how many rappers are trying to make it within a 50 mile radius of your house. Time to hit the road and see what a big world it is out there. You're not alone and like your moms would probably say, "Statistically, the odds are not in your favor." Unless, maybe, you're the first rapper from North Dakota. More on locale further down.

Common myth. As a rapper/producer, don't fall for the "gotta get the biggest board and the nicest decks" jive. You gotta watch your costs in the early going. You'll be spending some money, but you don't buy the nicest guitar in the store if you're just learning. The rap world is obsessed with having the best recording equipment, the most expensive mic, a converted studio with track lighting--it's a trap. It's talent that gets you signed, not equipment.

Look at Biz Markie. Dude couldn't really rap at all, but he had hella personality and he also could spin records. He had charisma, heart and weighed about 300 pounds. Plus he was goofy as a muddah. He's still booking gigs to this day. Mike Jones ain't really that fresh, but he put in that work and did his damn thing. He's platinum now.

You're gonna have to work harder than you ever have in your life because of all the things that the music industry isn't, it's cheap. Get a full time and a part time job and hump hard. You can forget that Hustle and Flow fantasy that you have--thinking it just takes a po' pimp and a Fisher Price keyboard. You're gonna need money, but as we said before, spend wisely. Which leads me to my next piece of advise.

The most common traps of "local" rappers is the lure of the rapper lifestyle and adopting elements of it before they're really rappers. It's like a sundae without the ice cream. Weed will cloud your already delusional perspective. Weapons can be turned against you. And women will only encourage your belief that you're something special, much like mind altering drugs. Not only that, but women (in multiples) will sponge up all your financial resources before they even accrue. If you're already married or involved in a relationship with a woman, good for you. The likeliness that she'll turn on you and take everything you have is slim, but you'll be lucky if she stays with you because you aspire to be a rapper. You're gonna have to do some 'splaining.

If you're from Abilene, then you ain't from Dallas. If you're from Nacogdoches, then you ain't from Houston. It ain't your fault that's where your parents decided to squat down and live. Don't be ashamed of it. This will be very difficult because you might find yourself in conversation saying, "Yeah, right now I'm out of Dallas," like your homeless or something. Like you just travel so damn much that home is a pillow and a phone charger. No one's buying it. Say you're from El Paso and flex like you know somethin. Sure, I wouldn't go acting hard if you're from a metropolis that's less than 70,000 people because you're gonna get clowned. And I wouldn't act hard if there's no "other side" of the tracks because there's no actual tracks. But rep your area. Atmosphere put Minneapolis on the map, Three Six Mafia put Memphis on the map and Mac Lethal reps Lawrence, Kansas to the fullest. You'll get more respect if you don't lie about your origin, plus you don't want someone calling you out or it could be your downfall. Flex like Arnold and sell those CDs by the carload.

I must disclaim however, you can not act hard (see also "hawd") if the area you're reppin' doesn't meet the following criterium:


***not including city parks during cultural events, rallies or rennaisance fair

That includes the crap games. Look, you're already gambling with your life wanting to be a rapper, don't gamble your money away too. It's the very definition of stupidity. Save that money for gas, malt liquor for those late night studio sessions or a new pair of boxers. But gambling in your hopes for rapper glory is like picking up a hitch hiker with a meth pipe and a shotgun named "Lester" in the backroads of Texas on the way to California. Take up a habit like recycling cans or, say, making good music instead.
If you're looking for that Ludacris cash, you're gonna have to wait because, realistically, you can't sign a good contract. Every term of that contract is designed to lessen the liability of having you on board. Let's face it, from record executives to that little old lady at the grocery store that always eyes you like you're gonna stab her like a cellmate with a grudge and a shank, people don't like rappers. You'd get a better deal as a 12-year old cowgirl with a dream and guitar. You can try and sweet talk 'em to death, but you won't get a good deal. You could have Scott Boras as your manager and you're not gonna squeak out more than enough money for a nice Honda Accord at first. Remember this, all that gear in the videos is all rented from the cars, the palace on the hill with the green grass and waterfall pool, the dancers, the jewelry, the white tigers, the helicopters--it's all rented at a cheap rate by the record label to give you the appearance of an accomplished artist. Since you are not an accomplished artist, all that excess will have to wait until you can accomplish a triple-platinum record.

The second you stop learning, is the second you stop living. Go to school. A freaking community college--it doesn't matter. Forever, rappers have lived with the unfair perception as uneducated embeciles acting in unending thuggery and, as a representative of the culture, it's your responsibilty to make an attempt to reverse this perception. Educate yourself. Soak in all the great stuff that these wonderful institutions have to offer. You might even discover how futile your dreams of being a rapper actually are and you might finally make a prudent decision for once in your life and pursue a life as an accountant instead.

Rappers get shot. Producers don't. It's a general rule, but fairly accurate. If that's not enough of a reason to pick up another element, try longevity. Old rappers, with few exceptions, are corny. I hate to say it because I still enjoy older cats on the mic, but it's hard to rap about rapper things when you're pushing 50 and have grandkids on the way. Pick up producing. Not only is it a way you can work the game after you're past your prime, you can stand to make much more money through your work as a producer.

There you have it.

In other news, I was jamming my favorite podcast straight outta Oslo, Norway (where hip hop originated) today, Goodshit Radio and Fred Fades compiled one of the most rediculously spectacular mix of funk and jazz. Gorgeous music. It's so good, I just gotta share it with everyone. It's entitled "Tuna & Beer Mix" and it won't let you down. Check out their site where there's a link to download the mp3 or just subscribe to their infinitely ill podcast.

Trust me. It's the real deal.

Someone please give me a new Jean Grae release. I'm dying over here.