Sunday, December 30, 2007

ATMOSPHERE'S 2007: 100+ SHOWS, 3 EPs AND ONE FREE ALBUM




For being such a weak year in hip hop, Atmosphere probably had their strongest ever. They toured the states three times (once as the Murs-collab "Felt"), they released three super-nice EPs since summer and then, as a late-year gift to their fans, they released the full album Strictly Leakage on Christmas day free to anyone who wanted it. Now, when you see the word "leak" or "leakage," it typically means that new material is being "leaked" to the market to promote an upcoming release. So, yes, some of this material could show up on their upcoming release due out in April When Life Gives You Lemons, You Paint That Shit Gold. But even still, being 14 tracks deep, Strictly Leakage feels like a studio record because, well, it's so damn dope. Meanwhile, Atmosphere/Rhymesayers knowingly throws the old model out the window and, instead, do it their damned selves--putting the hustle back into hip hop. Where major label artists are sitting back in their borrowed hot tub on their rented estate waiting for their lackluster single to hit at radio, Atmosphere completed three sold out club tours where they'd sell t-shirts, thongs, vinyl, stickers, hoodies and CDs to merch-starved fans. Meanwhile, at retail, they'd sell modest numbers on the EPs keeping their name in the fixtures at the remaining brick-and-mortar accounts (except Minneapolis' own Best Buy--what the?!). The result is the continued development of the Rhymesayers brand leading to Brother Ali's 40,000+ units sold on The Undisputed Truth and 25,000+ sold on the re-release of MF Doom's MM Food.

While the major labels are still trying to figure out how to sell more records, Atmosphere's giving away 14 tracks for free. They're not even suggesting you pay for it like Radiohead--it's just free. That's because they're gonna more than make up for it by hitting towns like Lawrence, Lubbock, Missoula and Tulsa and ensuring that, at any given time, there's ten itchy wallets standing at the merch table readying a purchase (myself included). And because they're still largely i-n-d-e-p-e-n-d-e-n-t, Atmosphere and their labelmates might be taking home more than your favorite radio rapper.

When I asked Slug in Lubbock how he stays so busy, he simply replied, "I'm just not lazy." Yeah, I guess so.

Go pick up the EPs at your friendly neighborhood Hastings and download Leakage at Rhymesayers.com. You will not be disappointed.

THE YEAR-END RAP...LET'S TAKE IT BACK...WAAAAY BACK

THE YEAR IT WASN'T...



How can you not be frustrated as a fan of hip hop after 2007? In what I would consider as a historically light year of quality hip hop records was only further hurt by somewhat-typical controversies--those that always arise out of a conservative, deliberately-naive media base always out to steer attention away from real issues (like, I don't know, a war?).

It's the politicizing of music just so politics can happen. If 2 Live Crew made Nasty As They Wanna Be and there wasn't a Tipper Gore around to hear it, was it really offensive?

First to take the dive was Don Imus who could've simply made a mistake, but then he throws it back at hip hop, not blaming it necessarily, but stating that rappers call women "worse names than I ever did." The media then first calls Exhibit A and B in Mims and Unk. Yep, Mims and Unk. Two days later it's almost directly Mims and Unk's fault that Imus slipped. Let's not lose sight of the truth: Imus is a bigot. It's just that more people know that now.

And what I think is the most frustrating part of all of this is that it again stirred up this dialogue that had been fairly absent (thankfully) for the last few years. You know, old white men talking about rap like they care when they're 1) not the target audience, 2) not even buying the records anyway and 3) using a blame of the rap industry merely as easy moral fodder that, hopefully, will help lasso a larger television and/or radio audience. I'll admit, it's easy to blame the industry. I agree, some of the language is offensive. I'll also agree that children probably shouldn't listen to rap. But let's not blame rap for bad parenting. O'Reilly's just pissed because when it's not the rap industry, he's trapped into blaming Kool Aid for the world's moral problems.



Well, also that Ludacris can say whatever he wants and make millions, but the second that Bill opens his mouth to a female employee about his fantasies and what he would do with a loofah if he was alone with her, he gets hit with a lawsuit.

Then you got Glenn Beck who, almost perfectly in all ways, personifies the bored cable television whistle-blower who, depending on how much segment time he has left over will take stray and reckless shots at the rap industry. This dude's a sucka who is just looking for someone to take a swing at. In an interview with Al Sharpton, Glenn states:

"According to the Associated Press, after 30 years of growing popularity, rap music is now struggling with an alarming sales decline and growing criticism from within about the culture's negative effect on society. Rap sales slid a whopping 21 % the past year, and for the first time in 12 years, no rap album was among the top 10 sellers of the year. A recent study by the Black Youth Project showed a majority of youth think rap has too many violent images. In a poll of black Americans by The Associated Press and AOL-Black Voices last year, 50% of respondents said hip-hop was a negative force in American society. I don’t think all rap/hip-hop music is bad. But there are definitely some cancerous elements within it. The good news is that our society is now addressing it. And wouldn’t it be ironic that the violent strain in rap is headed for a slow death itself? Let’s hope so."

Yeah, rap might have been down 21%, but the industry was down anywhere between 15% and 20% so those numbers are not that significant. Country music was down 30% as of October. Personally, I find that an encouraging number. There are actually two rap records in the top 10 year to date. That might be a timing issue, though. And if only 50% of respondents said that hip hop was a negative force in American society, I'd be surprised. I would've thought it be more around 70%. Not bad. I'd see that as an improvement on our favorability. Glenn, I think you're hopeful that "society is now addressing it." But I don't think they are. Besides, if society is actually has the capacity to investigate and solve their own issues, what in the hell do we need you for?

In another segment, Glenn says, "Rap music is enslaving our kids." He continues after airing a clip of Cam'ron, hip hop's spokesman, speaking about "stop-snitching" sensation that somehow blew up this year:

"Now, it may be harsh, but when a few privileged people--white and black--are making money off the backs of others--white and black, by spreading the glorification of crime, sex and death throughout our community, that sounds like exploitation that borders on slavery to me. The chains of drugs, and violence and ignorance are just as real as the ones forged in steel. And we've got to stop it. Rappers and record executives are encouraging a culture where it's all about money and fame. If you want to put the Virginia Tech tragedy into some sort of context, this is it. Money and fame. It's everywhere in our culture...When rap stars start to preach this message to our communities, they--and the companies that promote them, and the parents that do nothing to stop this poison from entering their kids' system--are enslaving an entire generation of kids to a life of poverty, crime and death. The executives at the companies that release this garbage are modern day slave traders. You know, what Imus said, what Imus said is like Dr. Seuss compared to some of the poison that's being poured out into our neighborhoods, right directly into our kids' ears, all across the nation."






(snores)






Glenn's sensational language is nothing new and the "slave trader" comment is a common tactic employed by Glenn to startle his easily-startled audience. You can almost hear the gasps from millions of living rooms across America. Well, maybe not millions. Reality is there's more kids seeing it on broadcast television, hearing it at schools from their peers, seeing it on the large screens of movie theaters across the nation than that are hearing it off of rap records. Reality is that rap music has so very little to do with it anymore. Oh yeah, and the Virginia Tech shooter's favorite band was reportedly U2 but was also observed downloading heavy metal music. Just want to clear rap from any blame for that tragedy. Might want to be careful when you talk of "putting into context" because some might think that you're actually blaming rap for school shootings.

Look, the world is a bizarre and scary place sometimes. Tragedies happen for, sometimes, no visible reason or without any evident influence. Glenn and the media (left or right) just need an object, person or industry to point a finger at because it makes, for at least a period of time, us feel like we found the man behind the curtain, the hand on the strings. Because, let's face it, "I don't have a clue why people do stuff like this" kills your credibility with your audience.

So, to the music. The Wu Tang album sucked and Ghostface outdid himself with Fishscale and More Fish last year. Jay's American Gangster wasn't that great and Kanye put out his most incomplete and loosely assorted album of his career. Chamillionaire decided to clean up his act to prove a point and ended his career. Will.I.Am from the Black Eyed Peas apparently can do wrong. This year sucked. Of course, there were some bright points. I would say that the El-P record was very satisfying. Include the Aesop Rock None Shall Pass record in with the Definitive Jux discussion. Super Chron Flight Brothers was the dopest thing I've heard in ages. Percee P, Lupe Fiasco, Marco Polo, Brother Ali. How about those three Atmosphere EPs and the absolutely free Strictly Leakage? There were some good records. But some of them just good.

To me, this was the year of the throwback. I'm mean, f'real. That Zune is like the freaking fountain of youth for me. It's like I'm swimming in that pool from Cocoon. I feel like I'm at least ten years younger. I don't think, "Why in the hell am I wasting time listening to all these old records?" I think, "Why would I waste my time on any recording from 2007?"

I was listening to Public Enemy's "Revolutionary Generation" tonight as I drove home from dinner with my lovely wife and I just started nodding my head uncontrollably. I just kept thinking to myself, "They just don't make it this way anymore." The drums, the layers and layers of fuzz, noise, keyboards, screams, Flav's "Yeah, boy!" The politics, the anger, the movement, the momentum, the passion--shit, this is what those radio stations wanted to keep from me when I was 13?! Man, this is what I needed when I was 13.

Back in Lubbock as a kid, I remember stations saying, "All the hits and no rap." You know, like rap was some sort of disease that America's heartland was trying to stamp out one station at a time. Funny how they didn't have any problem playing Vanilla Ice and MC Hammer. Yet, Public Enemy was somehow potentially harmful. Whatever. Seriously, though. Pick up Fear of a Black Planet and play it from front to back. 17 years later helps one realize how far ahead of its time it actually was. I mean, the production and the verse on all of Fear is unrivaled in modern music of any genre. I'm listening to the title track right now. You'sa fool if you think you can trump Fear of a Black Planet. Last week, 79 people in America purchased Fear of a Black Planet. God bless 'em. Seriously.

Maybe Glenn Beck is right--maybe the rap game is a "slavetrade" of sorts, but maybe it's the rappers that are slaves and the label's are the slaveowners. I don't know. Maybe it's more pimp/prostitute sort of relationship. Maybe that's why 2007 was the year of the quick-burn single by a debut artist because established artists don't fall for the labels' bullshit anymore. Like the prostitute has become the pimp and dude's like Jay, Nas, Fiddy, Em and them are telling the labels what to do while kids like Hurricane Chris, Unk, Playaz Circle, Plies, Soulja Boy, Mims, Rich Boy and Kia Shine are the only suckas that will fall for their tactics. I don't know--maybe it's just perception.

On a somewhat unrelated note, I heard Sonnie Cheeba from Camp Lo on some kid's record named "Pittsburgh Slim" and I couldn't help but think, "Will anyone even know who in the hell Camp Lo is in ten years? Does anyone even know now?" They might be like the Strawberry Alarm Clock of the hip hop generation. Does that make Das Efx the Dexy's Midnight Runners? I don't give a good damn anyway. I'd rather listen to Das Efx than Akon any day of the week, month or year because Dead Serious was just ill as hell. When I was in Dallas over Christmas, I saw this dude buying Das Efx's Dead Serious and Black Moon's Enta Da Stage and I said to him in disbelief, "I know you ain't buying Dead Serious." He whipped around and we immediately began a fueled and furious dialogue about 1992-93 era hip hop. It lasted for only about two or three minutes as we waited in line, but at the end, there was a unspoken understanding and respect. He ended by saying in frustration, "I don't listen to the new shit because the new shit sucks. It ain't even hip hop no more." I hear ya. It was almost like I needed someone else to say it so that I felt like it just wasn't me that was losing my mind or losing my taste.

You know Traffic Entertainment held it down again this year. Besides reissuing Biz Markie's Diabolical and Goin' Off, Kool G. Rap's Dead or Alive and Masta Ace's Take a Look Around, they repressed 12"'s by everyone from Pharcyde to MC Shan. Traffic's holdin' it down, I'm tellin' you.

And if it wasn't old hip hop I was listening to, it was all those funk reissues coming down from Light in the Attic (Betty Davis, f'real, recognize), Numero Group (dope, dope, dope), Now Again/Stones Throw (as always)--with all this old music getting refreshed, remastered and released, there's no shortage of ill shit out there. Demand your local record store stock it. People need to hear these records. Maybe I'll just do a list of essential reissues.

I don't even know these kids anymore. It's just a bunch of no-namers who scan between 9,000 and 15,000 a week. I don't know where people are hearing it. How do they even know when these albums are coming out with street date pushes being so rampant? We're probably lucky that the rap industry can sell anything with so much media hate and, add to it, a host of industry-related issues with getting product out. Hell, rap interest might actually be flat when you consider that it's really no further down in physical sales than the rest of the industry and those numbers don't include the rampant downloading which has plagued rap/hip hop much more than other genres and it doesn't include, obviously, those stout mixtape sales that go unaccounted for at Soundscan.

Maybe my sulking is a result of my inability to find value in today's hip hop. It could be that I've just lost my ear for it and, instead of just admitting I'm "out of touch," I blame everyone else for putting out bad product. Could be, the product's getting better and better, I'm just getting older and older. It's tough to admit because I always liked being the source for the ill material, but man, when you ain't got it, you ain't got it.

I kinda like my new robe anyway. I don't, so much, mind being the old head listening to funk records and MC Shan. Someone said to me the other day, "I wouldn't take you for a hip hop guy just looking at you. You just don't look hip hop." Well, truth is, I don't feel very hip hop either.


So here it is: my Top 30 Recordings from 1979-1987. I'm doing so as a protest to how much hip hop sucks in 2007. Well, I say that, but maybe the truth is that it's less a protest and more a simple proclamation. I don't care if you read it. I don't care if you read it and you hate it. I don't care if you read it, hate it and never visit again. I can't write anything compelling about 2007, so I'm gonna turn it back 20 years and see what I can find. Here it is. Bored with 2007 hip hop? Yeah, me too. Check out these instead and recognize.


30
Disco3
"Human Beat Box
1984
Soon to be known as the Fat Boys, Disco3 blew the doors open like the Big Bad Wolf behind the dynamic beat-boxing of Buffy the Human Beatbox. This beatbox anthem, while primitive and a bit juvenile, is a perfect account of a young hip hop beginning to feel out its boundaries and then flying through them as it moved from the dance floors to the headphones. Someone find a towel to wipe off the mic with.

29
Audio Two
"Top Billin'"
1987
To any real head, it's probably one of the most recognizable drum patterns in hip hop history. Driven by a chopped-up beat from the Honeydrippers' "Impeach the President" (classic material), "Top Billin'", in its construction, is a simple headnodder from the beat to the rhyme pattern. But what it represents in the hip hop's history is the shift, like the Disco3, to less danceable compositions--in this case, dominated largely by a whiney vocal and a broken beat. While Audio Two would never quite match their impact left from "Top Billin'", Milk Dee would get his cash after producing Eamon's "F*ck It" which would go on to sell close to 600,000 copies. Top billin', ya'll.

28
Just-Ice
"Cold Getting Dumb"
1986
Just-Ice's legacy, unfortunately, might go relatively unrealized in the grand scheme of things, but dude was dope. For me, the difficulty at this juncture in Just-Ice's career (with three records under his belt) is not answering the question, "Was he dope?" but rather, "What was his dopest recording and where does it stand on this list?" I selected "Cold Getting Dumb" which, I'm sure, could be disputed, but this 1986 jam is a slick party-starter that brings together both that LL mic-tenacity and a slew of cowbells and chimes over a wall of bass-laden drums. It's a sometimes clumsy song that's left without a fitting ending, but it still stands strong as one of Just-Ice's greater contributions. Plus, the use of "cold" as an adverb is so nice.

27
Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde
"Genius Rap"
1981
"Genius Rap" is a bit of a misleading title only because what was "genius" in 1981 is not necessarily so in 2007. What's "genius" about this, however, is it would be the first of many recordings using the Tom Tom Club's "Genius of Love"--later to be sampled by everyone from Funkdoobiest to Mariah Carey. Dr. Jeckyll & Mr. Hyde, too, through the recording push the "back-and-forth" style where two rappers converse within, not only the same verse, but in the same line. Respect to "Genius Rap."

26
M.A.R.R.S.
"Pump Up the Volume"
1987
Yeah, I might catch a little flack for throwing M.A.R.R.S. up here because, well, they're from the UK and "Pump Up the Volume", in most corners, would be considered more "house" than "hip hop." But what M.A.R.R.S. accomplished with "Pump Up the Volume" is an trans-Atlantic echoing of U.S. hip hop culture through a wall of samples--many of which are considered cornerstone in early days of hip hop. It's like hip hop's Close Encounters of the Third Kind. M.A.R.R.S. samples the Bar-Kays, Kool and the Gang, the J.B.'s, the Jimmy Castor Bunch, the Last Poets, Graham Central Station, Trouble Funk, Bobby Byrd and, of course, the great Rakim all in one song and the result is probably the most listenable blending of standard UK-house and US hip hop in history. And if you front, I'll kick you in the teeth.

25
Biz Markie
Goin' Off
1987
Long before "Just a Friend" and Celebrity Fit Club, Biz was drenching mics with his saliva on the 1987 album Goin' Off. His goofy antics and unconventional and often sloppy beatboxing ("convention" being Doug E. Fresh) made him an instant personality and, on record, the dude perfectly blends comedy and uber-dopeness. Goin' Off is probably the most comprehensive collections of Biz's talents as he intricately melds together beatbox and lyric into the same phrasing. From the classic "Nobody Beats the Biz" to "Pickin' Boogers," Biz's clowning style and personality on Goin' Off would serve as a blueprint for hip hop's more lighthearted recordings.

24
Fearless Four
"Rockin' It"
1982
Ah, yes, the Fearless Four and their endless use of Kraftwerk's "The Man-Machine." I've always been gravitated to "Rockin' It" and I still can't explain why. It's a rare example of how early hip hop blurs the line separating "fantastic" and "annoying as hell." Depending on what day of the week it is, it's either #24 on this list or nowhere to be found. Obviously, today is one of those days. "Rockin' it, rockin' it, yes, he is rockin' it. Tito! Rockin' it, yes, he is rockin' it. Mike C! Rockin' it, yes, he is rockin' it. Peso! Rockin' it, yes, he is rockin' it. We're all rockin' it, you should be rockin' it. Rockin' it. Rockin' it!" Yeah, it's like that. Cuz' that's the way it is.

23
Grandmaster Flash
"White Lines"
1983
One of hip hop's greatest cautionary tales, "White Lines" is a 7-minute dance-listen-and-learn party jam which rather clumsily mixes hard dancefloor/disco rhythms with shocking drugged narratives courtesy of Melle Mel. "Higher, baby. Get higher, baby. Get higher, baby. And don't ever come down! Freebase!" Yeah, I know it's corny, but back in 1983 when your projects are being rotted out by crack cocaine, a danceable, message-heavy drug-detering hip hop song could have saved the world. Unfortunately, it didn't. While it failed stateside, it did manage to make quite a run up the UK chart probably more because of its danceability--tragically proving that, in the end, message doesn't really matter. Heads just really like the beat.

22
Sugarhill Gang
"Apache (Jump on It)"
1981
As easy as it is to appreciate the song "Apache (Jump on It)" and Sugarhill Gang for bringing probably one of the greatest dance tracks to record, let's come clean here. Sugarhill Gang really didn't do much except sample the shit out of Incredible Bongo Band's "Apache." Of course, many would say that Sugarhill didn't do much in their whole career except pimp a culture--the Choco Taco of hip hop. We'll say for the sake of this entry that Sugarhill was dope and "Apache" was a remarkable achievement in hip hop. But really, Sugarhill sucked and "Apache (Jump on It)" was a remarkable achievement in sampling--especially back in 1981. Sure, they weren't the only ones to sample that lucious break in the middle, but Sugarhill used it most prominently. Go find the Incredible Bongo Band's version and blast it everywhere you go. I hope those dude's got paid like mad.



21
LL Cool J
"The Do Wop"
1987
It would've been easier to defend "I'm Bad" as my favorite track from Bigger and Deffer, but I gotta be real--"The Do Wop" is up there in my top three Cool J tracks ever. It's a lesser-known song, but the greatness of the beat and LL's typical "hard-as-hell" delivery showcases his ferocious rhyme ability at only 18 years old. It's like the Ice Cube "It was a Good Day" of 1987 with LL waking up "at 9:30 on a Saturday morn" and then rolling through a sort-of Wonderland flexing and yapping about how bad-ass he is. "Some smile, try to call LL a hoodlum at times / But he don't know my autograph's on his wife's behind / LL has iced all the washed-up slobs / Vigilante of rap, so to hell with the mob / Don't run from the cops, makin suckers jock / And I'm only 18 makin more than your pops." Say it with me: Damn.



20
N.W.A.
"Dope Man"
1987
This, N.W.A.'s earliest recording, is an explicit (even by today's standards) account of the dicey and dangerous crack game in the mid-80's. It's difficult at times to identify whether N.W.A.'s account is one of celebration or damnation--at times it seems like both. But one thing is true, the greatness of this track is Ice Cube's insane two verses in which he describes, with his signature assault of one-liners, a day in the life of the Dope Man over one of the hardest beats to be brought to record by 1987. Soon to be later, remixed and re-released on N.W.A.'s classic Straight Outta Compton, the original is less the gloss, twice the grit and just as dope.



19
Beastie Boys
"Cooky Puss"
1983
As most know, before the Beastie's were the saving countries and monks from ruin and even before they were "rhymin' and stealin'", they were were a punk outfit that used to prank call Carvel asking to speak to ice cream cakes named "Cookie Puss." Such is the case here, in their first single, in which the Beasties are in transition from punk to hip hop--the beat is laced with handclaps and a grinding bass line and is delightfully headnodding. It might serve more as novelty now, but "Cooky Puss" is still fresh.



18
Cutmaster DC
"Brooklyn Rocks the Best"
1986
I'm going deep for "Brooklyn Rocks the Best" by Cutmaster DC. But as the earliest usage of ESG's "UFO" for a sample (so far as I can tell), it certainly deserves a mention on the list. "UFO" has to be the nicest sample in history of hip hop. You probably won't find anything else worth nothing off of "Brooklyn Rocks the Best," but what more do you want--it was the first to sample "UFO." Man, ya'll are hard to please.



17
Doug E. Fresh featuring Slick Rick
"La Di Da Di"
1985
Speaking of oft-sampled recordings, I present one of the finest truly acapella recordings from hip hop's history--"La Di Da Di." Featuring a young and green Slick Rick over Doug E. Fresh's fully-able beatboxing, Slick Rick essentially spits a verse of a million soundbytes. I'll play it and just list the artists that I know off the top of my head that have sampled this single verse by Slick Rick: Naughty By Nature, DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince, Black Sheep, Snoop Dogg (of course), De La Soul, Notorious B.I.G., Common and, eh, Color Me Badd. Yeah, it's a rare recording in that sense--it's like the samples just oozed from Slick Rick's verbals. It amazes me how people had to have listened to the song's four and a half minutes and thought, "Man, we should sample those two words right there." And those two words are "like this" and "hit it." When you think of it, this has to be Slick's highest profiting recording (certainly Doug E. Fresh's) because of the royalties it's collected for relatively no investment.



16
Double Dee & Steinski
"Play That Beat (Lesson 1) b/w Lesson 2 (The James Brown Mix)"
1983
In one of the earliest manifestations of the super-DJ recordings where the focus of the record is DJ with serious mixing/matching abilities, "Play that Beat (Lesson 1)" and the B-side "Lesson 2 (The James Brown Mix)" is a schooling of early DJ trickery and the marvelous world of sampling and remixing. The songs are actually two separate remixes of G.L.O.B.E. and Whiz Kid's "Play That Beat, Mr. DJ." The collaborative effort was the result of a solicitation from Tommy Boy to the DJ community as a promotion to remix the hit record. The result of the remixes are two dynamically different recordings--"Lesson 1" being very close to the original with clever inclusions of some popular breaks that, more or less, just add to G.L.O.B.E. and Whiz Kid's version where as "Lesson 2" dilutes the original into a sea of samples and breaks and even borrows the B-Boys' "Rock the House." In the end, "Lesson 2" just completely re-writes the song. The influence these two "lessons" would have over the next twenty years is evident--most prominently honored through the work of DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist who would later record their own "lessons"--4 and 6, respectively. You've just be schooled.



15
Kool G. Rap & DJ Polo
"It's a Demo"
1986
I don't care what you say, back in 1986, there were only three rappers: LL Cool J, Rev Run and Kool G. Rap. Kool G. Rap was sick. He was Rakim before there was Rakim. He was Big Daddy Kane before there was Big Daddy Kane. While "It's a Demo" was his earliest recording, it still smokes the best by your favorite rapper. Kool G. Rap, homie. Recognize.



14
Original Concept
"Can U Feel It?"
1985
Short-lived but often included on compilations of the "old school" nature with this track, Original Concept made their impact originally back in 1985 with this, the B-side to the bizarre, "Knowledge Me." It was later released on Def Jam and members Doctor Dre and T-Money would find themselves vaulted onto TV courtesy of Yo! MTV Raps. "Can U Feel It?" is a blasting DJ track which finds the Jackson 5's "It's Great to Be Here" as the central driving force behind some of the earlier appearances of the trunk-rattling bass patterns. Another group that is completely invisible in the abridged history of hip hop, but certainly important with their limited contributions. And while, "Can U Feel It?" lacks that over-the-top WOW effect that most DJ tracks of 1985-87, it still holds its own and deservedly takes the #14 slot on this list.

13
Boogie Down Productions
"The Bridge is Over"
1987
In one and a half verses, KRS-One done squashed MC Shan and Marley Marl. Taking objection to the claim that hip hop came from Queensbridge (as MC Shan proudly proclaims on the "The Bridge"), KRS col' blasts back with "The Bridge is Over" with some of the most scathing (and, in some cases--the most juvenile) lines that would ever come from the Blastmaster. But, in the end, we had one of the first record-based battle. Sure, we had Dana Dane and Roxanne Shante, but here we have KRS vs. MC Shan in a classic battle of both turf and pride. Like KRS ain't holdin' no punches. Dude, calls them out by name twice in the first five lines. Dude's these days are too scared to put names into diss records just so when a crew shows up at their pad ready to whoop some ass, they can bust the "Who said I was talking about yo boy?!" routine. KRS don't give a good damn. Dude's like, "I'm talking about Marley Marl and MC Shan. That's who."

12
Dismasters
"Small Time Hustler"
1987
Staying on the subject of beef in 1987, we come to the Dismasters and their headbanger, "Small Time Hustler." Here, the relatively unknown Dismasters make clear distinction between the "small time" and the Peter Gabriel "big time." Until I actually began compiling the recordings which I have emassed over the past two months, I came across the gem just by chance, really. Driven by the uber-ill Chuck Chillout beat and the off kilter, spitfire delivery of the group's Mike Ski and Raven-T, "Small Time Hustler" is a rare achievement when you listen to other recordings from the same era--especially coming from, otherwise, a relatively unknown crew. Seems that it would be a dose of irony for Dismasters because, well, their career would be "small time"--only recording one album and then disappearing for good. I gotta feeling it had something to do with the fact they were always seen posing in loin cloths, peep it: http://www.discogs.com/viewimages?what=R&obid=438549 .

11
Public Enemy
Yo! Bum Rush the Show
1987
What can I say, I love Public Enemy, but really do not enjoy this record. That being said, it still is better than all but ten recordings from 1979-1987. It's an accomplishment in the sense that it would be the first time we'd get to hear Chuck's booming poise and the Shocklee's production prowess, however, it's not a perfect product until It Takes a Nation of Millions drops. There are some definite highlights ("Public Enemy #1," "Miuzi Weighs a Ton"), but the rest is pretty forgettable. Just remember, a lackluster debut record from Public Enemy is still better than that new 50 Cent Curtis album.

10
LL Cool J
Radio
1985
Another album that I had no appreciation for until I began listening again (in the case of Radio, for the first time in completion). This thing is a freakin' metal record! And, at the center of it, is a mean-mugging 17 year-old LL Cool J flexing his little junior-high-weight-room biceps. His aggressive delivery, his chest-beatin' persona and his cocky rough-side-of-town swagger helps make this album one of the doper albums from hip hop's first ten years. And the 7-minute "Rock the Bells," without a doubt is a definite highlight that cemented LL's place in hip hop even after just one record as a punk-ass teenager.

09
Eric B and Rakim
"As the Rhyme Goes On (Pumpin' in Turbo Mix)"
1987
Eric B had some mad drums. I'm talking maaaaaaaaaaaaad drums. This remix of what was already a solid deep album cut on a already a classic album (Paid in Full) was fantastically improved with Eric B bringing in bonus beats, a few more breaks, a beatbox, more Beastie Boys and then just drenches it in cuts and scratches making it one of the very definitive remixes of all hip hop. Yep, I said it. It just begs the question: if the remix is better than the original, why does the original make it on the final record while the remix gets the B-side?

08
Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five
"The Message"
1982
I wouldn't put anything on here because it's simply reverred as "classic," however, one would accuse me of such for putting "The Message" at #8. Look, Old j3 would've said, "Yeah, I hear ya, 'The Message.' It's aight, but nothing I'd listen to twice in the same year." New j3 says, "It's like a jungle, sometimes it makes me wonder how I keep from going under." Altogether, "The Message" is in the same vein as "White Lines" in the sometimes cheeky blend of message and danceability. Again, we find Grandmaster Flash et al going to the costume party less as McGruff the Crime Dog and more as Travis Bickle on the verge of goin' off on some mohawking hail-of-bullets insanity. It's depiction of inner-city dissension and frustration is an exaggerated, but epic five-verse account. It's importance in the young infantile stages of hip hop of moving away from simply dancing your ass off and rather using the vocalist as a vehicle for "content" instead of just shot-calling is unmeasurable but nonetheless evident. What's funny to hear are the blantant insensitivities towards homosexuals with two uses of the word "fag." Some message, Melle Mel.

07
Run DMC
"Peter Piper"
1986
In what was originally the B-side to "My Adidas," "Peter Piper" would eventually leap from the backside of "My Adidas" to lead off the classic Raising Hell. I gotta tell you, as a kid, hearing those first words: "Now Peter Piper picked peppers and Run rocked rhymes!" acapella was like the first time you chugged a glass of wine as a young tike. And when those Bob James chimes come roaring in, you're almost short of breath. It's that excitement like you know your life is probably not going to be the same by the end of the song. "Peter Piper," probably more than any other hip hop song, has remained its listenability year after year, decade after decade. It's almost the perfect hip hop song. At the end, you're looking for your first pair of white shell-toed Adidas and a black leather jacket.

06
Eric B and Rakim
Paid in Full
1987
Popularly held among the greatest hip hop recordings ever, Paid in Full is well-deserving of this top spot and, depending on what day it is, it could be closer to #3. It's a lucious, thick and moving recording that shadowed every other duo at the time. Rakim's furious delivery and flexing behind Eric B's incredible abilities as a producer/DJ. And when I say "behind Eric B," I'm serious. Only on Paid in Full is Rakim actually taking backseat to Eric B. The tracklisting alone almost comprises a definitive hip hop collection--"I Know You Got Soul," "I Ain't No Joke," "Paid in Full," "As the Rhyme Goes On," "Eric B is President"--they just don't make 'em like they used to.

05
Boogie Down Productions
Criminal Minded
1987

Boogie Down Productions' Criminal Minded is a beast. In fact, BDP would set the mark so high with Criminal, that not only a hardcore KRS-One could exceed it with his illustrious and durable solo career. Criminal Minded is just one of those records where the talent is natural and poignant as KRS and Scott La Rock are just one of those kindred duos where it's a perfect musical, spiritual and political match--La Rock's boom bap and KRS's knowledge on the mic. And, as lo-pro as the album can sometimes sound, it's primitive construction leaves everything in the right place and not drowned out by the other.

04
MC Shan
"The Bridge"
1986
Probably the very first records to "represent"--the proverbial territorial pissing. "I'm from here and this is what we do here." But MC Shan takes that structure one further saying that hip hop, essentially, the birthplace of hip hop. No matter KRS's accusations or insults in "The Bridge is Over," "The Bridge" as a proclamation rather than a battle-cry is the ultimate in claiming your own. I imagine when that record was pressed back in 1986 that Queensbridge took Shan on their shoulders like Stallone in Rocky V after he busted up Tommy Morrison. Even if it didn't happen that way and he was later clowned by KRS, MC Shan got his shine on "The Bridge."

03
Beastie Boys
Licensed to Ill
1986
Licensed to Ill is one of those records tragically dismissed as being a novelty record that, beyond the ability to bring back memories of junior high and, perhaps, serve as good material for a party mix. The truth is (yes, the truth) that Licensed to Ill is probably one of the most sound and cohesive hip hop records from 1979-1987. The Beasties were unlikely heros--white/Jewish punks from Brooklyn who, to this point were as little hip hop as Barry Manilow. But, with the help of Rick Rubin and a few gimmick tracks ("Girls," "Fight For Your Right to Party," and "Brass Monkey"), Licensed to Ill would prove that if they packaging, the performance and the production were sound, history could be made. I'm not saying the Beasties are great lyricists, in fact, I don't know if this record's greatness really has anything to do with the Beasties themselves, but it works. It works really well. "Paul Revere," "Slow and Low," "Time to Get Ill" and "Hold It Now, Hit It"--if you put those on top of "Brass Monkey" and you got yourself a classic record. Don't ask me about Paul's Boutique, I ain't there yet.

02
Eric B and Rakim
"Paid in Full (Seven Minutes of Madness Mix)"
1987
Way I see it, there is no original edit of "Paid in Full." There is only the seven-minute version. I mean, put the seven-minute version against the album version and just try to tell me it doesn't matter. It does matter because the seven-minute version trumps everytime. Interesting fact about the remix (in case you didn't know), it wasn't remixed by Eric B, but rather by UK electronic duo Coldcut. Nonetheless, it's a phenomenal remix that proves that, sometimes, seven minutes just isn't enough.

01
Run DMC
Raising Hell
1986
From the first eight years of hip hop, there is simply no greater record than Run DMC's Raising Hell. From front to back, beginning to end, Raising Hell is a tyrant of a record. In fact, like LL's Radio, it's as much a metal record as it is hip hop--due in large part with the prominent use of rock samples, rock drums and the loud and deafening rhyming of Rev Run and DMC. Both in the popular realm and critical circuit, Raising Hell left an impact that would be long lasting. It pioneered the producer-oriented album versus the typical DJ-rapper model. It perfectly blended rock and rap--a blurring that would later be recognized in the late 90's with the introduction of Limp Bizkit and Kid Rock. And after two records already, it marked the true arrival of Run DMC as a crew you just ain't wantin' to mess with. Raising Hell is one mean record and the best from 1979-1987.

Next year, we'll tackle the Golden Era: 1988-1990. Holla. Happy New Year's. Call a designated driver and request they play Raising Hell for the ride home.

Friday, December 21, 2007

THE ROOT DOWN WISHES ALL A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY HANUKKAH

Nothing more but to wish you all the happiest of holidays while I take an extended period of "time-off." Check the post below for a precursor to the year-end list. Check below that for a slew of Eyemasters hate. If you travel, travel safe. If you eat, eat way too much. If you go caroling, take a tin of Altoids, stankmouth.

Friday, December 14, 2007

STEROIDS AND GAME 7 OF THE 2003 ALCS: SPANKS VERSUS SOX

Gotta be quick because, well, this time of year--if you're not quick, you're dead. Here's the deal, if you're not familiar with the Mitchell Report, you obviously don't watch a lot of baseball. This is probably not for you, but please keep reading if you feel compelled.

In 2003, the Yankees and Sox met in the ALCS and, in the end, the Yanks won on a walk-off homerun by a lowly Aaron Boone off of vet knuckleballer Tim Wakefield on the first pitch in the bottom of the 11th. That moment would leave a painful and itchy scar on all Red Sox fans. We would avenge it next year when we would come back from an 0-3 deficit to beat the Yanks and begin our World Series winning streak (which now stands at eight games, National League fans).

The Mitchell Report, which to explicit detail, calls out hundreds of major leaguers alleging steroid use. It includes players (current and/or former) from all major league teams. On this list are four key names for this discussion--Roger Clemens, Jeff Nelson, Jason Giambi and, yes, Aaron Boone.

In Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS, Roger Clemens started against an embattl3d Pedro Martinez. Down but not out, the Sox fought hard into the evening. Clemens pitched three short innings surrendering four runs, three earned, six hits in 17 batters. Not a great performance, but a performance. Jeff Nelson, the lousy middle relief pitcher for the Yanks would come in and get a crucial strikeout against Nomar Garciaparra in the top of the 7th with the Sox leading 4-1. Giambi as usual, being the steroid-fueled hulk he is, cranked two solo homeruns in the game. One of which almost left Yankee Stadium altogether. Heroic performance--too bad those would've been groundballs otherwise.

Then, in the bottom of the 11th inning, Aaron Boone, on the first swing of the night, hits a Wakefield pitch deep to left field for the game-winning home run. If I can't get the two Giambi homeruns back (because they're offset by Trot Nixon's two-run blast early in the game--another play alleged in the report), I want that game-winning Aaron Boone homer back. Basically, I'm calling Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS a win for the Sox.

I tell you this, it makes watching the actual homerun much easier to tolerate. In fact, I kinda find it entertaining knowing that homie Boone was juicing like a muddah. Score one for the Sox.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

THE NEW SHIRT...IN TIME FOR THE HOLIDAYS...

If you require an explanation, then you need to go back to school, homie.

For ordering information, email me directly. Looking sporty.

COOL KIDS...YEAH, IT'S DOPE.

Kris, thanks for the heads up on this one. Dopeness. I might be old and grey, but this track is col' ill. BMX-ing, homie.

It's Thursday. Thursday morning, in fact. I don't know what that means, but it can't be a bad thing.

Monday, December 10, 2007

THE EYE JAMMIE, PART II: THE EYEMASTERS CONCLUSION...

So, as you might have read in a previous post, I was to go out to the mall (hell) to straight-up (or "col'") turn in my glasses for a full refund. I spoke to Johnny (forgetting the quotes again) and
he agreed it would be better for me to leave the experience completely dissatisfied, frustrated and without a satisfactory product--it's the modern retail experience. I walk into the store and Johnny was back in the "lab" probably scorching someone's glasses. Meanwhile, some girl was scattered all over the sales floor trying to help five different people. I, feeling entitled because of my less-than-satisfactory experience, walk right up to the counter--I've waited three months for this morning. Sorry, folks, I go first.

After waiting for another five minutes (which would've been enough to set me off into a crazy rage except I had just enough coffee to set me right), Johnny appears from the back, looks me in the eye and motions me over to the register. Dude was going to just be as quick and as non-confrontational as possible because there were people in the store. He says, "Do you have your original credit card." I hand it over with the original receipt. Dude didn't even look me in the eye. He didn't even ask for the glasses he was so nervous. His hands were shaking as he frantically typed the keys on the register. I probably could've just kept the glasses and he wouldn't had known it. He was just interested in getting me the hell outta of there.

Well, he did. And without any pleasantries, I walked next door to the "optometrist" office because I wasn't really satisfied either with my prescription. My left eye had some blurriness and I wanted "Dr." Goldstick to double-check my prescription before I took my business to another, more expensive office to buy my glasses.

Because I want it done right...and without static.

But, back to Goldstick. I walk past the people seated in a line of chairs. I politely address the girl behind the desk. "Yes, I would like for Dr. Goldstick to check my prescription because I recently had it filled and experienced some blurriness in my left eye." She quickly replies, "He normally doesn't do adjustments on Saturday, but let me check with him."

Seconds later, I was being ushered to the back room of the office while some lady out front says snidely, "Now that's service." I felt like telling her, "Well, that's as good as it gets because they're gonna screw up your prescription." But I continued to the back.

I have a seat and hear Goldstick ho-humming in the other room. He then comes in and, after a moment of re-introducing myself, he swings that huge contraption in front of me and begins his "Which is better--one...or two" routine. After what felt like thirty minutes, he says, "Okay, your left eye is about a quarter off." I don't know what that means, but I would agree that it was, indeed, "off."

And, like the fifth act of the same play (http://therootdown.blogspot.com/2007/09/eyem-surrounded-by-embicilesj3-goes-to.html), he continues, "Now, I've got your contacts in stock right now so I can set you up with a box. Hold on just a sec."

"I don't need contacts--this is a prescription for glasses."

"Oh, this is for glasses not contacts."

"Well, if you're gonna get new glasses, you're going to need to get the same prescription of contacts because otherwise your eyes are going to be in a constant period of adjustment and your vision is just going to get worse and worse."

"I haven't had any problems with my contacts. My glasses broke back in September and I'm just trying to get them replaced."

"I know, I understand, but if you're wearing two different prescriptions, your vision is always going to be adjusting and your it will get worse and worse with time. I can prorate it and give you new contacts for $40."

You see, Goldstick just can't afford someone coming into his office and leaving without paying something. Dude was trying to upsell me again like he did before when he tried to get me tested for glaucoma. He continues, "Well, if you're not getting new contacts, I would strongly recommend not wearing those contacts any longer. Just wear glasses. Those contacts will just make your eyes worse."

Yeah, alright Goldstick. I stopped listening at "hello." Just fix my prescription, moron. You know, in both instances, I've never experienced less accountability and responsibility. Remember, Johnny tried to blame the "phone call" confusion on me like I just didn't answer my phone and my voicemail didn't pick up either. And then Goldstick didn't get my prescription wrong--it's because I'm wearing contacts that don't match my glasses prescription. It's all my fault as far as these cats are concerned.

I lost 1,500 brain cells dealing with these idiots on Saturday morning which, if you're counting at home, is about 1,387 more than you should lose on any Saturday morning.

As a general rule, if it has anything to do with your body, go to a professional at least two miles away from the nearest mall or Wal-Mart. These people are not professionals and no good can come out of doing commerce with them.

On Saturday, I finally retired my softball glove. This thing was purchased for my grandfather by my lovely great grandmother. It was loaned to me some 15 years ago--half a lifetime. Last season of Roundhouse action, many of my closest advisors had suggested that I finally put the pud to rest and search for a new glove. It was shadowboxed on Saturday--which I found was a fitting end to an outstanding career. Respect the Worth.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

THE YELLOW PUNK: STEREOTYPICALLY INDIVIDUALISTIC

Now, I have to properly set this up. I'm not a "punk." I've been called a "punk-ass," but that' s something completely different. I have an appreciation for some music that has been considered "punk" or "punk rock," but I do not proclaim to actually be one. I have a few Clash CDs, a couple of Sex Pistols recording and, from there, it's sparse at best. I write this purely as an observer.

My uncle was in town and he was to play a benefit show for a local kid who was tragically killed ten years ago when he was run over by a vehicle driven. The event has made the young man who was killed in the event an international hero in the punk community because the event magnified the clash between the preps and the punks. I do not wish to write on this because I can not intelligently speak on it, plus, I would never dispute how sad the event is. It's just necessary you know this before I go on.

Back to the story...My uncle, who is a talented bassist, was in town to play a benefit show and he sent me an email the day of the show announcing the time and place. I was game...always. The admission was $5.00 with a can of food or $7.00 otherwise. Piece of cake.

Donovan asked me to show up at about 10:30 because he was certain he wouldn't play any earlier. So I stroll up at about 10:20 at the large building housing the event. When I walk in, I'm hit with the pugnant smell of cigarette smoke and a mustiness that recalled the smell of an old bathrobe.

When I walk into the main room, I see assorted individuals lining the outside of the room--most of them in fairly typical punk garb. It was the "punk" you read about in old magazines. Somewhat disorderly. Clothes safety-pinned together. Mohawks. Eyeliner. Bad attitudes. Big black boots. It kinda reminded me of those old men who live as bikers on the weekend. A kinda fantasy. Now, I don't know what real punk is, but it seemed that such vanity and posing that I was witnessing was not punk. But, again, I'm on the outside.

I find my uncle and some of his buddies and we sit at the back and watch the event go down in front of us--waiting for Donovan's chance to play. Perched on a barstool, I just sat back and observed.

The event, for the most part, recalled the contained disorder of a 5 year-old's birthday party. Like, there was no disputing that things could go wrong, but they didn't. You almost wish something did. Like you wished that one of the kids jumping up and down in front of the stage acting "punk" with their hands in the air and stomping in circles in their dirty pair of Nikes actually slipped, fell and broke something. Not paralysis, but something that would slow them down. You wanted a fight to break out. That might make for a more authentic punk experience.

I, like a traveller in a foreign land, wanted to ensure I was getting the real punk experience. And, rather, what I witnessed was more like a "punk gallery." A look-but-don't-touch experience where the "individuals" more represented punk than were punk. The band that played was annoying, but at least harmonic. They ended with a rousing version of the Ramones' "Blitzkrieg Bop"--which caused some of the nearby punks to sing along and actually move away from the outside wall. For some, this would be the most excitement they'd show all night. I suppose it's more punk to be unappreciative and emotionless.

The next band that would come up with top off my truly "near-punk" experience. Some kid who was visibly stupid with drunkeness walked onto the stage with a drummer and a guitarist. The singer shouts a few inaudible things into the mic and then they go into a super-fast version of, guess what, "Blitzkrieg Bop" by the Ramones. What the?

And, not only that, the guitarist and drummer were flying through it so fast that the singer couldn't keep up with his "Hey! Ho! Let's Go!" He was anywhere from a half-beat to a full beat off. Of course, maybe to him, this was what punk was. Then, in frustration, he goes into full-on, throat-ruining screams. The crowd sat in boredom as instructed by their creed. I sat in amazement that anyone would tolerate such bullshit. I was about to bumrush the stage. It was horrible.

My uncle sat with his head in his hands just waiting to play.

A series of minute-and-a-half assaults called "songs" would follow and would end with this kid just screaming and wailing. Then, when his throat and lungs were expensed, he would invite up two mohawks to help him with some back-up screaming--sometimes all at the same time.

Lucky I didn't bring my lovely wife. She would've not tolerated this as "entertainment." Of course, I guess I barely did.

Then, at about midnight, my uncle took the stage with Perry on drums and Dustin on the Fender Rhodes. My uncle makes a quick announcement and dedication of his set: "Some call what I do 'death jazz,' but I just want to do something different. I want to put the 'F-U' back into jazz." They then launch into what would be the highlight of the evening for me. In fact, you're deaf if it wasn't the highlight for you too because they col' wrecked it.

During the first heavily percussive composition, one of the kids who was jumping around all night came up to the front of the stage and began headbanging with his devil-horns in the air. He would end his moronic dance with a "Hell yeah!" which Donovan cooly ignored and kept playing. Donovan's an older head who doesn't bullshit anymore and scream things at shows. As he played there, the louder areas of the room grew silent, heads began to turn toward the stage and all attention began to, for the first time of the night, gravitate toward the stage. He was like that old(er) spirit that commanded everyone's attention. And he didn't disappoint.

He played for about forty minutes and it was a jaw-dropping set. Dustin killed it on the keys and Perry's playing was improved from as little as a year ago. It reminded me how lucky I am to have such incredibly talented musicians in the family. For me, there were only three musicians who played that night--the rest were like circus performers dressed like Sid Vicious. And there was only one true "punk" and that was Uncle Donovan who showed those younguns how to bravely and unapologetically do your own damn thing with silent confidence and unabashed individualism.

Recognize.

THE EYE JAMMIE: A FITTING MESSAGE OF GRATITUDE TO EYEMASTERS

You know, it's not often that I really just go off. Okay, maybe it is rather often. But let's pretend it's not. As some of you know from a recent post, I've been having some difficulty working with a local eyewear place--well, not really local, but...well, it's Eyemasters. I had tried to mask their name in the past by referring to them as, I believe, Crybastards...er something. But that was because there was pending litigation. But now that it's over with, so I went into Eyemasters...

Let's rewind this story for a quick recap all the way back to September 18th when I first visited this hell hole. After having their on-site optometrist trying to jack up my bill by suggesting that I have an astigmatism and then wanting to dilate my eyes, I have some choice words for him--a diplomatic dispute, if you will--and then walk next door to Eyemasters under some sort of blind optimism, I had thought that this whole fiasco would start looking up for me. Maybe he thought I had glaucoma. Either way, the dude's a moron and I don't believe him.

So, I go next door and look for the frames I had my eye on just a day before. They're gone. After a moment of torture talking to the girl in the store and helping her locate them in a catalog, we go ahead and order the frame and the spectacles. She does some sort of voodoo math and thinks she's saving me money by halfing two different amounts and adding them together instead of halfing the total. Dumbass. Whatever.

Three days later, I get a call from her (one of only two calls that I would receive during the entire ordeal) saying that the frame I had selected was discontinued but, fortunately for me (with sarcasm), they had located one single pair at another store in the district. Another week later, the lenses and the frames are at the store ready for pick-up. I go in to pick them up and, as they are brought out to me, I mention that one of the earpieces is flung out a little and needs to be adjusted for a tighter fit. She takes it back to the "lab." She brings them back out to me and, I see that there is some sort of ghostly fuzz out of both eyes now. I wonder if it was a cleaning agent that is just drying as I pier out of the glasses. It's not going away.

Turns out, the blur is where the nincompoop in the "lab" had essentially fried my lenses with the warming mechanism used for adjustments. I mention it to the girl standing in front of me and, for a moment, she attempts to dispute it with me. I explain there's no dispute because I can guarantee her that I cannot see out of the glasses in their condition. She apologizes (kinda) and then says that she'd be reordering my lenses and my glasses might be ready in another seven to ten working days.

She did offer a solution which involved me wearing the flawed pair for a couple of days. She could order a lense of a lower quality, but that would at least provide for unobstructed vision for the period necessary for getting my higher quality lense from the lab. She calls me (the second and last call I would receive from Eyemasters during this ordeal) the next day and says that not only were my temporary lenses in but they also found another pair of the same frame so I can just come in and swap out one pair for another (and not have to worry about the "lab" scorching the lenses). I played dumb and didn't ask about how she so quickly located another pair of the same frames when, at first, she acted like it was an act of sheer heroism to locate one. Whatever.

About ten days later, I just happened to be in the area (a rarity) and decided to drop in and check on the status because I had not received a phone call. Now, not receiving a phone call is something that really pisses me off. I mean, there are different offenses in poor customer service, but the one that really gets me is the failed ownership and inability to follow-through. This will come up later.

Once I walk in, I approach a different girl and ask her if my glasses are there. She mentions that, yes, they are there. I ask when they arrived and she says, "Oh, they just came in today." Sure. Yeah, and let me guess, you were just getting around to calling me too. The lenses weren't even in the frames so she takes them to the "lab" to have them inserted into the frames. She brings them out, I put them on. Looks okay. I give them an exuberant thumbs-up and then walk out. Geez, about a month and a half later. Whatever.

I get into my car and, whaddya know, there's that mysterious blur again in the lenses. The embicile roasted my glasses again. After waiting all that time to not even get a phone call, I go in to find out that they freaking ruined my lenses again. I stomp back in and the girl that helped me mysteriously disappeared, but the manager was there. Great. Finally someone can see a suitable resolution to this here. We'll call him "Johnny" to protect his identity.

Johnny (oops, I forgot the suggestive quotations there) apologized and was very upfront about the mistake. He said that he would "take care of me" and would not only fix the lenses, but he would upgrade me to the high-index uber-protective lense that is practically indestructable. Actually, I don't know the difference, but it was Johnny's way of not having to refund anything, but instead just perk me until I was happy. He even let me take the crappy lenses home with me and gave me a free Tommy Hilfiger case. Hell yeah! Now you're talking!

As I'm walking out, I turn to him and I say, "Johnny, please assure me that you call me because this last time I was not called when my glasses came in. It's very important that you call me. Thank you." I walk out with the same glasses, a new case and a promise of an upgrade. The upgrade is really not one at all. It probably costs them pennies more for the upgrade, but it's a way of not having to refund anything to the customer. Whatever. I'm still being abnormally patient with the situation. Normally, I wouldn't be so easy to please, but I had alot of other ish on my mind. Frustrated? Yes. Livid? Not yet.

In the coming weeks, I would make probably 10-12 calls to Eyemasters checking on the status of my glasses. Now, that might sound slightly obsessive, but spread that over a FOUR WEEK period and it's not that often. Each time, I ask speak to Johnny (oops, forgot the quotations again) and it would seem that maybe I'm being avoided. Everytime I call from my cell phone, he's not there or he's out to lunch. If I call on, say, my work phone it's always, "May I ask who is calling?" I left three different messages over the 12 times that I called.

"This is (j3). Please tell him I really need to speak with him. My number is 555-5552."

"Yeah, I really need to talk to him. Can you make sure he calls me back? My number is 555-5552."

"When do you expect him back in?...Can you have him call me at 555-5552?"

It didn't really matter how I said it--dude would never return my phone calls. I guess Eyemasters defines "taking care of you" as purposefully avoiding any interaction with you and dodging you like a bill-collector. You would've thought I was Mafia Tony trying to find this kid. I just wanted him to treat me like a man and make decision like a man. But I'm getting nothing out of him. And I'm not about to drive to the mall because, well, I hate the mall and I'm not going out there just to find out my specs aren't ready.

Yesterday, I hit my peak of frustration. I don't know if Johnny was taking my kind persona as weak or submissive, but I was about to become a hella-headache if he didn't stop acting like a child, return my calls and fix this problem. I mean, realize that almost three months later, I still haven't called a district manager yet. I'm just letting Johnny take care of me.

I call yesterday on my lunch break. Here's the conversation. Dig this. Oh yeah, I'm calling from my cell phone.

"Yes, is Johnny in?"

"Uh, he won't be in until after twelve."

"It's 12:20."

"Oh, I'm sorry. It won't be until after two."

"Okay, so it switched from twelve to two in two seconds?"

"I forgot, he has alot of personal things he's needing to tend to."

"I'll call back."

This next time, I call back at about 3:30 from my work phone to see if my hunch was true about caller-ID.

"Is Johnny in?"

"May I ask who is calling?"

"This is (j3)."

"He's helping a customer right now. Can I take a message."

"You know, I've left a lot of messages over the past month that have not been returned. I think I'll wait until he's done."

I stayed on hold for close to ten minutes. You do know that when a customer is on hold at retail, the phone begins to make some sort of noise to alarm the store associates that someone is on hold. You must also realize that, for ten minutes in that store, the supposed customer, Johnny and ol' girl had to endure that sound and yet no one was picking up that phone.

No one picks up and I give up and hang up.

On the way home last night, I call up Eyemasters on my cell phone. We know how successful I'll be with this.











And whaddya know? Johnny actually picks up the damn phone. And there's a very audible nervousness in his voice. It's like he just said, "What the hell, I can't run forever." He then assaults me with a string of rehearsed excuses. He was in Midland last week. He's been busy. And, the nerve, this punkass actually says, "Your glasses came in a long time ago and I tried calling you."

Okay....

I might believe that if I didn't have to call them everytime. I mean, what does "I tried calling you" actually mean? I have voicemail. I have an answering machine at home. Was it like, all of the sudden, my voicemail didn't work just for Johnny's call? Did I someone unknowingly block Eyemasters' calls? Again, this is the kid who vowed to "take care of me," which I was quick to remind him of. I then mention that his "I tried calling you" jive almost makes it sound like he's trying to hold me responsible for all of this. He says he's going to look for my lenses to make sure they're there. Turns out that because they were received so long ago, that the "lab" manager actually pulled them and returned them because they were not picked up. Now, this is where I have to make a pretty crucial decision. I've waited a month to be told that they sent them back because I didn't pick them up. Despite calling the manager of the store at least ten times over the last month because I didn't receive the supposed "one call" from him and never picked them up, they shipped them back. That's awesome. I have no other word to communicate my apprecation at this point except for that--awesome.

I then explode in a series of obsenities over the phone. I'm not very proud of that except that I felt like I needed to do it for myself. Johnny asks, "What do you want to do?" I say, "I'd rather cut bait and just get a full refund on my glasses because if this is the trouble I have to go through just to get them, I can't imagine what it would be like if I have any trouble with them." He says, "That's your perrogative." I quickly reply, "See, the fact that you conceded so quickly means, that first, you don't really want my business and you have no intention of making me happy and, secondly, you feel like your at fault and none of this is my fault at all." He returns, "No, I just don't want to argue with you, sir." Yeah, sure.

So this morning, I'm going back in to get a full refund and consider this a three-month free rental. There's a few lessons that can be taken from this, but the overriding lesson is that my instinct was accurate--don't buy anything at the mall. And, when it comes to eyeglasses, go to one of those expensive places. It'll be worth it. You're not buying canned corn, it's eyewear. A good pair requires going a little deeper in the checkbook.

Eyemasters sucks. So does Crybastard.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

DA POCKET PROPHET HAS (COUNT 'EM) NINETEEN GENRES

Listening to MF Doom's Operation: Doomsday as I type this so it seemed appropriate to throw MF Doom up here. Yet another year goes by without a proper MF Doom album. Dude's straight MIA Doom. Miss you, homie.

Well, if you know me, you know I don't value all hip hop the same. There's differences--sub-genres, if you will. It's like all martial arts are not karate. All Italian food ain't spaghetti. All hip hop ain't hip hop. Now, I'm not saying that this list is not the most definitive list of genres, but it's nineteen different buckets that I'm categorizing every piece of music on Da Pocket Prophet. It makes it easy to pull up tracks that either fit a mood, a situation or I-just-want-some-crazy-stupid-gangsta-ish-type scenario. So here you have it. Punch holes in it, applaud it, hate it. I don't care. It's my Zune. Go get your own.

BACKPACKING.
Example: n/a
Yeah, why not just admit it. I'm a backpacker. Yeah, I got a genre called "BACKPACKING." I'm not sure what will go into it because, well, we're still in 1987. There really ain't no true backpack anthems yet, but I imagine the earliest stuff in this category would be Grand Puba solo, Black Moon, Organized Konfusion. It's like jazz--if you have to ask, you'll never know. I'll probably start using it in 1992-93 or so.
BEATBOXING.
Example: Fat Boys, Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie's "Goin' Off"
I thought it'd be important to break out some definitive beatboxing tracks even though the artform seems to have really hit a wall when beats became a lot more intricate. Fat Boys (or Disco3, as they were originally known), Biz Markie and Doug E. Fresh to name a very few, but this also includes Stetsasonic's "Faye" and DJ Jazzy Jeff and Fresh Prince's "My Buddy" featuring the great Ready Rock C. Yeah, it's a shortlist and might not every be comprised of more than twenty songs, but it's dope if you just play it as a genre and get twenty beatboxing songs.
BLOCKROCKING.
Example: "Paul Revere," "Posse on Broadway"
"We like the cars, the cars that go 'boom'." Songs in this genre blazed the trail down every 9th Street in America as the backend got lower and bass got louder. Think the backwards bass of "Paul Revere" or Nemesis "Munchies," or lowriding anthems like Dr. Dre's "Let Me Ride," Cube's "It Was a Good Day." You play this genre from front to back in a car with a good trunk, someone's going deaf and, if you don't watch it, it could be you.
BOOTKNOCKING.
Example: Just-Ice's "Latoya," "Push It," "Jimmy," "Jimbrowski"
It's important to mention that, originally, I was thinking of moving forward with a genre called "STRIPCLUBBING," but really couldn't think of anything except for 2 Live Crew to go in there and thought, rather, I'd make one called "BOOTKNOCKING" which is dedicated to songs dealing with or focused on the pursuit of the opposite sex, whether comedic, serious, degrading or just straight-up baby-making. Or it could be about safe sex, protection, the seriousness of STD's. Yeah, it's broad (no pun intended), but it's still more specific than you'll find at your local record store.
COLDLAMPING.
Example: JVC Force's "Force Field (Alternative Mix)," Chill Rob G's "Chillin'"
Cold-lamping means to just col' relax. To chill. It's more downtempo. Ain't no M.O.P. or dance ish here. It's just what you put on kick back to. Think things like, well, most of Low End Theory, "Electric Relaxation," "T.R.O.Y."--that type of vibe. You know, the type of music that you use the word "vibe" in describing. There's much more to come in this genre in the future--Digable Planets, you know.
COL'PIMPING.
Example: Too $hort's "Freaky Tales," Ice-T's "Somebody Gotta Do It"
There's plenty of songs about pimping in hip hop's history because, well, it's a reality of the environment. Keep in mind, that songs in this category do not necessarily condone or celebrate the lifestyle, but like MC Shan's "Project Ho," it actually tells the story of a man who contracts some nasty disease as a result of a rendevous with a "ho" who, you never know, might belong to $hort Dog. Prostitution, pimping, street-walkers, they're all here.

DIGGING.
Example: Bob James' "Take Me to Mardi Gras," Babe Ruth's "The Mexican"
It's all samples. In fact, it's like the hall of fame of breaks. I'm taking all the best, putting them altogether and presenting them all in one super-huge-beautiful-and-def collection. This right here is gonna be like a history lesson. Hone those sample-recognition skills by pressing play on this genre.
DISSING.
Example: Roxanne Shante's "Roxanne's Revenge"
Yeah, we're still pretty light on really bad beef, but the time will come so I might as well go ahead and reserve the space now. In about two or three years, there's gonna be so much beef on record, you'll be able to make a meatloaf. Hey, competition's part of hip hop. I didn't right the rules.
EGOTRIPPING.
Example: "Nobody Beats the Biz," "No Compeition," "Long Live the Kane"
Any just stupid-pompous exhibit that can be described as nothing more than an "ego-trip" goes here. I'm talking about when rappers refer to themselves in the third person, refer to themselves as princes, kings, queens or Christ-like figures. There's a lot of hip hop that falls into this genre because, well, the competition brings it out in the music.
GANGBANGING.
Example: King Tee, Ice-T, Eazy-E, NWA, Too $hort
Pretty simple. Hip hop dealing with, dwelling on, celebrating and/or describing the gang lifestyle. Highlights include Eazy's "Nobody Move," Ice-T's "Grand Larceny" and "High Rollers." Gun-fire, sirens, tough-talk and hard lessons of the streets. Now all those kids from the suburbs can experience the lifestyle safely and innocently. Bust a sag, cop an attitude and walk with your chin up, homeboy.
HANDCLAPPING.
Example: "Rockin' It," Monster Jam," "Rappers' Delight"
Ol' school. You know, "here's a little story that must be told." It's that toprocking ish where you put it on and heads just go into a pop and lock. Party-type stuff--1980 to 1983. Headspins. Nylon jackets. Crazy Legs. Rock Steady. "F-R-E-S-H-fresh-fresh-fresh-yo that's fresh!"
HEADNODDING.
Example: Big Daddy Kane, Eric B. & Rakim, Boogie Down Productions
This genre is really just a catch-all for everything that doesn't have any other classification. I mean, it just makes you nod your head and go, "Yep, that's def as hell." It's dominated by your real classic ish right now--"Peter Piper," "Paid in Full," "It's My Thing." It's those type of records that from the very first beat, you have an instant and continuous physical reaction that involves both your head and neck muscles. It's alright, bob that head.
MEANMUGGING.
Example: "Dangerous," "I'm Bad," "2 Hard Muthas"
"MEANMUGGING" pulls together all of those tracks that are just about how bad you are, how hard you rock, how mean you and your crew are. They're not necessarily a diss because there's no specified subject of the aggression, since it's not necessarily illegal it can't be classified as "GANGBANGING," and they're not so much an ego-trip because you're just speaking your clout and you a tough-ass lyricists. You leave the mic smoking and ain't no one gonna touch it when you're done. Think of LL's muscles. Not in a gay way, but just out of admiration and a distinct feeling of fear and respect.
PARTYING.
Example: "Brass Monkey," "Fight for Your Right to Party," Saturday Night"
No, it's not all Beasties, but almost all of Licensed to Ill does qualify for this genre. It's a definitive party record. But lesser-known, but just as dope songs belong here. Take, for instances, Rockmaster Scott's "The Roof is on Fire" or Just-Ice's "Cold Getting Dumb." Getting ill. Drinking until you pass out. Bustin' loose. Dancing until you dehydrate. This will get the party rockin'. At least, if you hanging out with real heads that can go into the robot at the drop of a Kangol.
POLITICKING.
Example: Public Enemy
Yeah, there's not much there yet, but Public Enemy will do for now. You pop off at cops, the government, Reagan--you're in. It's red, black and green. Malcolm X, MLK, Marcus Garvey. Coming up in the 90's, this genre's gonna be ill.
REPRESENTING.
Example: "South Bronx," "Straight Outta Compton," "Oakland"
Tell me where you're from. Take me there. Tell me what you do. Tell me where you roll. Tell me how you get down. Tell me what's gonna happen to me when I get there. Represent. You ain't gotta be hawd, but you gotta be real. "No Sleep Til' Brooklyn," "The Bridge," "Riker's Island," "Christmas in Hollis." Representing at its finest.
SHITTALKING.
Example: "Pickin' Boogers," "Small Time Hustlers," "Just Clownin'"
Cheap insults, moronic lyrics, gettin' stupid. It's Biz Markie picking his nose, Dismasters calling you out, Beasties prank calling in "Cooky Puss." It represents the most juvenile elements of hip hop whether parodying itself or just getting ignorant on its own. No beef, nothing illegal, not necessarily threatening...just good clean shittalking.

SMOKINGDOPING.
Example: "Dope Man," "White Lines," "Illegal Business"
Any song dealing with any element of any drug--whether condoning it or denouncing it. Any "element" can be the dealer, the user, the effects or the money you just made off of selling it. It can be coke, weed, meth, heroin. Not included in this are drugs generally accepted as being legal, specifically alcohol which all odes to alcohol will more than likely fall in the "PARTYING" genre.
TURNTABLING.
Example: "Go Cut Creator Go!", "Eric B Never Scared," "Terminator X on the Edge of Panic"
In the early days (kiddies, listen up), almost every record had the dedicated DJ cut which acted as a platform for the DJ to flex. Among the songs in this genre are some of the finest showcases by some of the finest early DJ's. DJ Jazzy Jeff, Jam Master Jay, Mister Cee, Chuck Chillout, and on and on and on. Sure, the scratching styles are a little primitive and, certainly, some haven't aged too well, but show your respect.

REDMAN MAKES LOCAL NEWS...KINDA...

Sandwiched this morning in between the story of a town in New Mexico whose residents are expressing concern about a new ethanol plant and the new weatherman advising people to "drink water because of the dangers of dehydration...you don't wanna dehydrate because that's a bad thing." Who dehydrates in December? Oh crap, now they're interviewing Santa.
Anyhow, like I was saying, Redman made the news this morning when two radio DJs from down the road at the college radio station in Canyon were relieved of their jockey duties after playing an unedited Redman freestyle over the air. The jockeys admitted fault saying they should've screened the freestyle before airing it. I'm not pissed that they got booted as much as I'm upset that they're playing Redman freestyles now and no one bothered to tell me. Last I listened, 91.1 straight-up sucked (or col' sucked). I'd listen everyday if I knew they were playing Redman.
They have a lady who trains horses on now. About to turn it over to CNN, but I just wanted to mention that every time I see a woman who trains horses, they have hair all the way down to their wasteline. It must be a cultural thing like the how all those rappers always have sagging pants.
Speaking of rappers, Pimp C from Houston's UGK died yesterday. Initial ruling was that he died of natural causes and there was no foul play, but the Houston Chronicle is now reporting that it's being treated as a homicide. Man, rappers just can't catch a break. Like it's completely unfathomable that a rapper would die naturally. Whatever, RIP Pimp C.
Johan Santana to the Sox? Maybe. I'd hate for them to trade off Jacoby Ellsbury to do so though. Kid would make a killer centerfielder for the Sox. My call is to give the Twins Coco Crisp, Jon Lester and Ryan Kalish. Paskins' Detroit Tigers are looking tough now with the addition of D-Train and A-Rod XXXL. The migration from NL to AL is in full effect. The AL just got a little stronger.
Da Pocket Prophet has introduced me to one of those hard-to-find gems from hip hop's past--the Dismasters.

Yeah, I know they look mad corny, but these dudes absolutely kill it on "Small Time Hustler," their first single to release in 1987. Their breakneck flow and the unconventional rhyme patterns really had me open. Find "Small Time Hustler" out there. It's just a jam. Dude's were ahead of their time. I'm speaking more of their music than their garb. I got two years before their full length comes out, And Then Some released in 1989. Sucks. Would like to hear it now, but patience will serve me well. I'm considering possibly modifying the requirements for inclusion in the Zune--instead of twenty years or older, I might be shrinking it to 15. We'll see.

Don't believe the hype. It's humpday.