Monday, November 28, 2011

Tha Carter IV vs. Watch the Throne

C'mon, should this even be a competition? Lil' Wayne hasn't been innovative for years. I guess I should be starting this out with some sort of introduction sorta giving the rundown on the rappers themselves or giving some history or something, but I'm just annoyed that no one else seems to notice that Lil' Wayne has been wallowing in mediocrity for years now. I mean I am not gonna argue that Watch the Throne is some sort of rap masterpiece or anything, but Tha Carter IV doesn't even give it a run for its money.

Tha Carter IV represents Lil' Wayne's trademark incomprehensibility devolving into boredom. Remember when he was the most quotable man in rap? I mean he was pushing the envelope. He still sounds the same, but the quirky lyrics are rote by now. Whereas Jay-Z and Kanye stick with fairly traditional rap, but find ways to make it new. Listen to Kanye's production on "Otis". Sampling soul records is a game he's been playing since The College Dropout, but listen to the way the sample doubles back on itself behind Jay's rapping! It's got the hits ("Niggas In Paris") but it keeps working to push the envelope forward too. If the two albums show anything, it's that some gimmicks (like Lil' Wayne's shtick) grow old, and classic sample-based New York rap never does.

They're both better than Based God and stuff, though. At least they're both still making rap albums instead of the whole "just release a single that's everywhere and then disappear" Soulja Boy approach. And you know who else sucks? Waka Flocka. Man, this is just depressing me about the state of rap. This is why we should be thankful for Jay and Kanye. It's hard to find guys still working at it.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Sex and Pop Music

Pop music has never been known for its subtlety – part of what makes the biggest songs big is their shock value, a tradition Madonna, Elvis, and Eminem all kept going honorably. One thing we can expect to see over time, then, is pop music slowly becoming less and less overt and more and more openly sex-crazed as time goes by.

One does have to question, though, how the pop music of tomorrow is going to be less subtle than the pop music of today, "Sexy and I Know It", or the pop music of five minutes ago, Enrique Iglesias' "Tonight (I'm F***king You)". While the LMFAO track, "Sexy and I Know It", has a goofy charm to it, Enrique's proclamation (he's f***ing you) has almost a creepy sort of vibe to it. While LMFAO focus more on their own sexiness, "Tonight (I'm F***ing You)" is just a blunt, open statement. It's happening tonight. You know it, I know it, and Enrique Iglesias knows it. Where do we go from here?

If there's any lesson to be learned from this sort of thing, it's that pop never really changes. It's all sex. Wild, crazy, heedless sex, from Elvis shaking his hips all the way down to you being Enrique Iglesias' next conquest. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. The only worry is that it will get so unsubtle that pop starts give up on songs and just start filming themselves in bed.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cars 2 Zooms in Blu

Cars 2, the Blu-ray disk, keeps all your favorite characters from Cars, while adding some great new ones. It shows the Cars in a more personified way than ever before. You can see them going shopping, eating at restaurants, and traveling all around the world. They even get to use technologies in the movie that only top agencies of the real world would have access to.

Cars from all over the world are introduced, each looking in ways that portray where they are from. Not just the cars, but even the new planes, trains, and ships made for the movie are showing their patriotism. Along with showing their true colors, Cars 2 lets the audience see the more elegant side of Cars. We finally leave Radiator Springs to party the nights away with the rich and famous cars.

Get ready to race through Japan, Italy, and France in the World Grand Prix with your favorite cars. Lightening McQueen is feeling the pressure from his new Italian rival, Francesco Bernoulli. While Mater returns, funnier than ever, and dealing with a case of mistaken identity that has him in his own race against his first real rivals.

The addition of espionage to the Cars world spices things up, giving Mater a bigger role in this second movie than in the first. It also adds mystery and introduces a love interest for Mater along the journey. The spy scenes remind you of a bunch of old spy movies of spies such as James Bond and Jason Bourne.

On top of all that, the movie incorporates and encourages Going Green in the story line. Definitely a great movie parents would want kids and even teens to watch.

The production team did a great job in animating the different countries, thinking of every detail to include making it seem as real as possible. From the big skyscrapers, to the paper lanterns and other decorations, even the music used in each scene changes according to which country they are in. They really captivated the essence of the people unique to each different country.

The bonus features included two short films around five minutes each: Hawaiian Vacation and Air Mater. Hawaiian vacation is based on the Toy Story 3, and how Ken and Barbie’s relationship is advancing. Air Mater, on the other hand, is just like one of the small segments from Disney Channel called Mater’s Tall Tales, in which Mater tells Lightening McQueen crazy stories about his past that no one can believe are true. And this time, Mater claims to have learned how to fly like a plane.

The director commentary is always a must have in all movies. It gives insightful information about movie production, the idea for the movie, and how it was made. It also talked about how Cars 2 is different and similar to Cars.

This movie took complete advantage of the amazing quality of Blu-ray. The picture quality is great, it feels like you are witnessing the events in person, not through a TV screen.

I highly recommend this movie. It is a great family movie, and even teens will get a kick out of the comedy and espionage.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The American Dream

"Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis

When I was dead broke, man I couldn't picture this

50 inch screen, money green leather sofa

Got two rides, a limousine with a chauffeur"

-The Notorious B.I.G, "Juicy"

Jay-Z was, by all accounts, a poor bastard for a long time. He grew up in the mean streets of New York, sold crack and hustled for what money he got, and fought to survive on a day-to-day basis. So is it any surprise that when he became a multimillionaire rap star, he spent a lot of lyrical time reflecting on his rise to the top?

In the #OccupyWallStreet era, the idea that American ingenuity and hard work can take the lowest beggar to the top of a capitalistic empire is at an all-time low in popularity. The only idealists left are rappers. The Notorious B.I.G, Jay-Z, the many members of the Wu-Tang Clan – these are poor, disenfranchised black men, given nothing from society, who worked their way to the top and now pull in millions of dollars (except Biggie, of course). That's the American Dream, the classic Horatio Alger story in action. Hell, Jay even named his record company after Rockefeller!

Yet rappers are decried for their violent, misogynistic lyrics. Admittedly chivalry isn't the modern rap star's strong suit, but that's not what capitalism is about! When the top one percent of America controls 40 percent of the wealth, the fact that a regular Joe from the streets with a pocket full of weed and a microphone can be a multimillionaire and married to Beyonce in ten years is one of the last exponents of classic free enterprise. Those who criticize rappers on moral grounds should instead embrace them on economic ones. After all, one of the only parts of the American cultural identity that dwarfs violence and misogyny is a dedication to free enterprise. Put simply, we've always had the disdain for hoes – but take away the idea that you can be no one and then be someone, and you've taken away that x-factor that makes America the great country it is.