No Trivia

Archive for February, 2007

leave a comment

‘ego trip’s (White) Rapper Show’: Episode 08.

I feel…deflated. I don’t know if it’s because the show is over or because John Brown didn’t win. I know I was pro-$hamrock and I didn’t even really write about John Brown last week, but I’ve been slowly leaning in Mr. Hallelujah Holla Back’s direction. The problem with $hamrock is he never really delivers. He can rap but whenever he’s in the booth or in front of a crowd he dances around and rap-sings and it’s just embarrassing. His humble attitude is certainly appealing in contrast to Persia, Sullee, or Jus Rhyme but he’s gotten way too many breaks because Serch seems to love him. I was also surprised because as far as I could tell, John Brown’s 16 bars were a lot better and although his song didn’t really make any sense, it was more than just a ‘They Don’t Know’ rip-off. And was $hamrock doing the Yung Joc motorcycle dance during his performance?

My anger is probably an early sign of withdrawal because I don’t know if I actually care who wins. What is so good about the show is how entertaining it is on multiple levels; there’s enough to think about that it barely matters who wins. So, I think I’m just shook because it won’t be on next week. This show is really good and made better because it was so willing to stick-it-out even if it occasionally led to a really wack ‘8 Mile’ trivia game or let Jus Rhyme slip through every crack. It doesn’t matter because if you’re watching the show the way most people I know are watching it, there’s twenty other ways besides competition that the show is stimulating your brain.

However, I have to point out that there was some really weird stuff going on in this episode. Who the hell was Blaise Delcacroix II? I assume at some point, all the white rappers had to list a friend or something and John Brown listed this guy instead of one of his rapper friends? Is John Brown gay? If he is, it makes him even more amazing. He seemed so embarrassed and for good reason, if I were less homophobic and had some gay friends, I definitely wouldn’t want to be shown on a rap show interacting with the dude. No matter how immature or high-school that is, as John Brown says, it’s not a good look. Was this some weird, sick joke on the part of the show? Did John Brown actually know this guy? I don’t understand and it makes me even more sympathetic to him but ultimately, John Brown screwed himself over.

Brown’s pseudo-‘Take No Prisoners’ attitude got him into the top two, it put off a lot of people, particularly Serch, who seemed to be singularly focused on supporting $hamrock once Persia was eliminated. John Brown was scheming too much. Where did his rap at the end come from? In every event and elimination, Brown affected this super-slow Jeezy-esque style that barely counted as rapping. Then, once it was clear he had a chance to win he comes in and does pretty amazing at the battle and tonight, his 16 bars were pretty sick. He can obviously rap; I had no idea. I understand his strategy and it will probably make him more popular than $hamrock, so I guess it worked but he could have had that and won the contest. I still don’t understand ‘Ghetto Revival’ but his King of the ‘Burbs schtick is pretty genius. It wasn’t that he could articulate it when confronted by Persia or Lord Jamar, it’s that he didn’t want to and good for him for refusing to. Some fat angry chick who thinks she’s hood and some aged racist would give him shit about it no matter how eloquently it was explained, so he doesn’t even waste his time.

Brown’s whole idea of him being a suburban rapper is post-Kanye. He doesn’t even feel the need to present his middle-class struggle the same way that “urban” rappers present their struggle, Brown isn’t embarrassed to just admit he was born with a lot of shit that most rappers and just people weren’t. His final song ‘Car Wars’ was some attempt to acknowledge his suburban upbringing without being stereotypically unaware of the world that has given him that upbringing. Yeah, the song is muddled and is some misreading of ‘Diamonds are Forever’ or something, but it took some thought. Maybe too much thought but that’s better than another song about haters. At the same time, I do see why $hamrock won. In the comments section of this post, ‘White Rapper Show’ producer Brent Rollins was kind enough to post. Among the many interesting things he said was a comparison of the show to ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’: “But ultimately, to fall back on the Willy Wonka metaphor: the Veruca Salts of the world don’t deserve to inherit the keys to the Chocolate Factory, no matter how much they love gobstoppers…Charlie does.” So yes, $hamrock is the Charlie of the show in the sense that he is incredibly humble and respectful and those values are generally in-reverse of most reality show, so it’s just one more way ego trip flips your expectations.

The show easily could have mocked all of the white rappers, especially the stereotypical “wigger” $hamrock, but instead it shows him to be a pretty stand-up guy. In my first entry on the show I spoke of the problematic aspects of the “wigger” and tried to drum up some sympathy for “wiggers” everywhere. I did it because I had the feeling the show would never go there but I was wrong. The show balanced a sense of making fun of these goofy white kids and really giving a shit about them. Every episode seems to have a few gems that totally complicate issues of race and authenticity. When the always good-natured Fat Joe shows up to give the rappers advice, he drops this piece of advice: “Let them know ‘Yeah, I’m white but I ain’t rich. I’m just as poor as you…” That’s the kind of thing that is as under-discussed on television as the problems for racial minorities. Why can’t the show just keep going? Make it ‘ego trip’s (White) Rapper House’. My editor Monique, suggested a spin-off of just John Brown and $hamrock living in the trailer. Do something! I don’t want to write weekly entries on ‘Dice Undisputed’ (Although, I’m definitely watching that shit)! A second season better happen or I don’t know what I’ll do…

My White Rapper Show Entries
-Episode 01.
-Episode 02.
-Episode 03.
-Episode 04.
-Episode 05.
-Episode 06.
-Episode 07.

and…The White Rappers in Wii Form.

Written by Brandon

February 27th, 2007 at 7:47 am

leave a comment

‘Miami Vice’ (Michael Mann, 2006) – Unrated Version.

The first thing to understand or accept about ‘Miami Vice’ is that it is incredibly confusing. My father gave up on it because he said he had no idea what was going on. The reason for ‘Miami Vice’ being so confusing is in part because Michael Mann knows why “plot” is stupid. Real-life, despite what Robert McKee might say, does not and cannot be explained in a conflict and resolution style. When it is presented this way, the world is idealized and simplified and you are left with characters speaking unrealistically with unrealistic motivations adjusted or tweaked to fit a plot. Real-life is a great deal more tangential and chaotic. Indeed, many of us have a routine or even a linear narrative to our everyday actions, but this is constantly interrupted by smaller but no-less significant things. For example, a prostitution sting at the beginning of ‘Miami Vice’ is briefly interrupted by Crockett (Colin Farrell) hitting on a waitress. That’s the kind of realism that Hollywood’s single-minded focus on plot and clarification generally forgets. Mann attempts to represent the chaos of real-life, a chaos that is magnified for two undercover cops by ignoring conventional expectations of motivation and plot. ‘Miami Vice’s plot begins before the movie starts and is only half-completed when the credits roll. For example, if you are watching the unrated version (which I recommend) the first scene is a speed-boat race. The camera pulls out of the water and the viewer encounters the boats mid-race. The race is not explained and I don’t even think we end up seeing who wins, it turns out to be part of a different case that is involves a prostitution sting. None of this is made explicit but it is exactly what makes the movie so good: You are in the movie along with the characters, receiving information or experiencing things along with them. Mann obviously wants you to feel what is going on rather than understand it. To enjoy ‘Miami Vice’ one has to be okay with an experience that is a bit closer to actual living, where you’re not always sure what is going on or only realize what is going on after the fact.

This presentation of life, as chaotic or messy, represents how Mann holds a strong disinterest in idealization or idealized forms of any kind and is a compulsive truth-teller. The scenes of violence are not stylish or hip like a Tarantino movie, they are incredibly quick and messy. Anyone that has seen ‘Heat’ is well aware of Mann’s interest in showing his audience what actual bullets actually do. The same attitude is taken in ‘Miami Vice’; heads explode, bodies are ripped apart. Most movies use gigantic budgets to change our ugly, regular world into an exciting, hyper-realistic movie set, Mann uses all of his energy and budget to render a world as dark and harsh as the one we live in. Colin Farrell is not allowed to be handsome, instead he is made to look like some hard-living Andre Agassi-looking Jimmy Buffett fan and Jamie Foxx is forced into a role that does not allow him to ham it up. Mann makes great attempts to make his actors look more realistic, uglier. Tubbs’ (Jamie Foxx) girlfriend in the movie is attractive but pretty in a way that is attainable. Crockett’s love interest, Isabella (Gong Li), has an incredibly thick accent that makes much of her dialogue hard to understand. Martin Scorsese’s movies are celebrated for their “grittiness” when in reality, he hasn’t made a film with a hint of realism in it since ‘Raging Bull’. If you have some free time, look up the real-life versions of Jimmy Burke or Frank Rosenthal and compare them to how Deniro looks in ‘Goodfellas’ or ‘Casino’. While Mann is certainly not documentary-realistic, it is interesting that he goes to such lengths to make his characters look so regular and even ugly: bad hair, goofy suits, chains, stubble.

This realism is apparent in the movie’s dirty, third-world settings but it is there in the glamorous Miami settings as well. I think the movie’s sections in Miami, set to constantly thumping music, bright colors, and stylish dress have been misinterpreted as celebratory. They are as realistically rendered as the sections of the movie that take place in South America, where we see the dirt and grime of the third-world and implicitly, the ravaging effects of drug-dealing on those that do not benefit from it. In Miami or in the dealers’ expensive homes, we see the rewards of the drug trade. The movie constantly bounces between this Miami glitz and third-world shit. This exercise in extremes is more than simplistic Hollywood filmmaking, it is the reality of the drug trafficking situation. There are those in power and those powerful people exploit and use as heavies, the average citizens of these countries. Mann even goes as far as to present the under-discussed reality of groups like the Aryan Nation in the drug trafficking world. He holds nothing back in his single-minded focus on realism.

Realism however, does not make a movie great and it is the strands of melancholy throughout ‘Miami Vice’ that move it in the direction of a strong and I hope, lasting movie. The world is closing-in and the audience feels it along with Crockett and Tubbs, but it is made particularly affecting through the simultaneous acknowledgment of this sad reality and actions made to combat this reality. Unlike Mann’s earlier movie, ‘Thief’ wherein the response to a world closing-in is fuck-all and blow it up, ‘Miami Vice’ gives you that fuck-all feeling without entirely losing hope. It is post-nihilistic, having accepted that the world is fucked and corrupt and trying to continue living with that reality by not giving up. ‘Miami Vice’ is about connection, about love and friendship, lost, found, and rediscovered as a way of responding to hopelessness. Despite all of the shit, you keep going by caring. The movie ends with some bad guys being shot and some good guys pulling-through, some even bigger bad guys escaping, and some hearts broken. All of the shit, good, bad, and somewhere in the middle, culminates in the final five minutes, perfectly set to Mogwai’s ‘Auto Rock’, leading to an incredibly moving climax wherein all of the aforementioned feelings are contained. The last shot is Crockett walking away from the camera, but unlike Frank in ‘Thief’ who turns his back to everything, Crockett is walking back to reunite with his partner.

‘Miami Vice’ was presented as and indeed, sort-of looks like a conventional action movie but it is instead, an incredibly independent and rarified creation. How did Mann get 135 million dollars to make this? How did they let him release it as it is? Wall-to-wall music, digital-video cinematography, numerous scenes of characters simply staring or looking sad, it’s really incredible. ‘Miami Vice’ is much more “independent” in the sense of being one man’s vision than ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ or many other ultra-safe “indie” movies. ‘Miami Vice’ is a hard-ass action movie with an incredibly sensitive tone. It is an ultra-glamorous style-fest with an incredibly realistic edge. It is a movie with two handsome leads made-up to look incredibly uncool and not handsome. I ask this question complimentary: Who is this movie for?

Written by Brandon

February 24th, 2007 at 7:19 am

leave a comment

Rapper: Cavalier of Brooklyn, NY.

Drew of The Smoking Section sent me in the direction of Cavalier, part of The Dugout. There are better places than here to get press-release type stuff, so follow the links throughout this entry for official-type information…

It is a simple fact that lyric-driven rap music is simply not “in”. While the so-called “underground” is a bit more focused on the lyrical aspects of rap music, I’ve witnessed as many rappers of the Casio/scream-and-shout persuasion performing in small clubs as I have on BET. Hip-hop has been declared dead, be it sincerely, for publicity, or both, but if any of that matters to Brooklyn-based rapper Cavalier, he’s not showing it.

On ‘Dionne’, my personal favorite and the song with an accompanying video, Cavalier’s poetic but not too poetic style, is backed by warm, blissed-out production. As you listen, the feeling you’re getting is the early-90s but it is simply a feeling instead of an overt statement. That is to say, Cavalier recalls the exciting aspects of earlier rap, without sounding like an anachronism. Cavalier enters the song, full of sincere rather than performative passion: “Let me take you away to a place/Where I keep these devils from out of my face…” Oh, how wonderful it is to hear a rap song that doesn’t begin with the chorus! Instead, the beat bubbles under for a few moments and then Cavalier just begins rapping and we’ve hit the ground running and won’t stop until the cathartic chorus: “Roll that shit up…” The sing-songy chorus is so simple but incredibly catchy and acts, not as a contrast to Cavalier’s rapping but instead, all of the intensity, joy, and anger of the verse explodes into a legitimately powerful and affecting chorus about “smok[ing] them troubles away”. So many rappers, out of elitism or simple lack of skill, act as if they are too-good to make something singable or catchy, while ‘Dionne’ as well as ‘Ink’ and other songs by Cavalier, uses the chorus as a way to lodge the song in my brain but also to up the emotional level.

Currently, the great divide in rap is between, what I think of as Rap Minimalism and Rap Maximalism. Rap Minimalism, perhaps exemplified by so-called “coke rap”, is rooted in the repetition of words or content to the extent that the listener grows used to hearing the same thing. This allows the minimalist rapper to suddenly drop a single line of insight or emotion that immediately stands out in contrast with the numerous lines of cliché that preceded it, giving it additional power through that contrast. Rap Maximalism would be the opposite; as much information and insight is dropped in a single song as possible and the listener is left to pick up the pieces of what has been said. Cavalier is of the Rap Maximalist side and this side needs all the help it can get. He weaves conventional rap concerns about labels and haters to some hard-to-explain imagery that relates writing to smoking, to connections between girls, his mom, and then drops a line that exposes, in the simplest of words, a brutal reality of the world (“Most people don’t give a shit”) and in saying so, implicitly tells listeners that he, Cavalier does give a shit. And he really does give a shit. Everything Cavalier and the Dugout release appears to be made with care and enthusiasm. This dude has his shit together: excellent production, excellent rapping, a cool logo (see above), and an amazing music video. These things do matter and not because “nowadays image is important” but because it shows that these guys are willing to work to match their talent with hard work and integrity.

Written by Brandon

February 22nd, 2007 at 8:05 am

leave a comment

‘ego trip’s (White) Rapper Show’: Episode 07.

I have my whole family watching this show. My parents who are in their 40s, my 15-year-old sister, and my twenty-something friends all gather in my parents’ living room each Monday at 10 pm. On weekends, my girlfriend who doesn’t have cable at school, comes here and we all watch it again. I’m probably becoming one of those annoying people who mentions their dead friend anytime they get the chance, but since my friends’ suicide two weeks ago, the only constant in any of my friends’ or family’s life is ‘The (White) Rapper Show’. I know, at least for that hour, I’ll be entertained and have something to pick apart and discuss besides why my best friend blew his head off.

This show is just good. It has all of the seedy and exploitative aspects of reality television with some additional aspects that make it insightful and discussion-worthy. All of this is mixed together without being “have your cake and eat it too”, as in, it doesn’t suddenly redeem itself from reality television cynicism with a touching ending. The unsavory and the kinder moments are closely connected, often right after one another and sometimes at the same time. Jus Rhyme’s painfully sincere political statements make me roll over laughing but the dude never gives up or just doesn’t give a shit: How can that not move you on some level?

Last night’s episode was probably the best episode of the season, which is weird because there was literally no tension. Jus Rhyme was eliminated before the show began. I think Serch had a bit of a hand in getting Jus out of there because $hamrock’s performance was definitely the worst but it would be too outrageous if Jus Rhyme’s luck didn’t finally run out. Serch’s slight manipulation of the outcome actually helps because it connects the show to the more questionable aspects of reality television. Those connections to more conventional reality TV are as necessary to the show’s success as the elements that separate it from something like ‘Flavor of Love’. Even if $hamrock sucked in the battle, he is modest and fairly creative and better upholds the ideas of the show than Jus Rhyme. $hamrock has a pattern, beginning with his ‘White Guilt’ verse a few episodes ago, of being even-handed about issues of race. $hamrock is not apologetic about being white but is also mindful of his place as a white rapper. He is intelligently skeptical of certain racial “givens” without being rude. When Serch, who really becomes a mentor to the rappers in this episode, tells them they “can’t make fun of [black battlers'] blackness” $hamrock thinks of a few battle-lines that flip racial expectations. Serch’s reason for not making fun of their blackness is that the white rappers are “coming from outside of the culture” but when we see the crowd at Saint Andrews, it is at least 30% white and not only white, but many audience members are (gasp) hipsters! There’s a hilarious shot of some white chick that looks like she majored in French or Peace Studies or something, shaking her head in disapproval at Jus Rhyme. Ridiculous.

“Nobody is setting up a program in unemployed studies, homeless studies, or trailer-park studies, because the unemployed, the homeless, and residents of trailer parks are not ‘other’ in the relevant sense.”-Richard Rorty (80).

When the white rappers meet the locals at the trailer park, it’s incredibly entertaining but also a confrontation with the real that is never, ever, shown on television now that ‘COPS’ is no longer a phenomenon. The crazy lady in too-short shorts, the scary-as-hell-but-kinda-friendly black guy, the guy just walking around with a fishing net and a framed fishing magazine (is he on the cover?); this is not “ghetto fabulous” or Trace Adkins’ version of white trash. To temporarily idealize these people, they probably all get along in the trailer park much better than racially diverse people on most college campuses. Buff Black Man doesn’t perceive being called “Tupac” as racist and I’m sure everyone treats the crazy lady like she is crazy and none of it is that big of a deal. Yeah, these people probably beat their kids or do meth and the whites probably toss the word “nigger” around but there’s still a weird, complicated civility at work in a place like that trailer park. No doubt Crazy Lady knows who Tupac is because she has a “wigger” son.

On Friday, I was at this Salvation Army in Newark, DE and a woman very much like Crazy Lady stood in front of me in line. As the stuff she was buying was being rung up she had to run out to her car to get her wallet. She went outside to her car, came back in and somehow forgot why she went out there because she returned without her purse, then, she went back out, only to return to tell the cashier, who was an ornery 60ish gay black man with blonde hair, that she didn’t have her credit card and couldn’t pay. She pleads with the Old, Gay, Black cashier to hold her stuff but he angrily refuses and argues for a few moments before, yes, an undoubtedly mildly-retarded white worker with dreads (?!) finally agrees to hold the stuff for her. The real-life Crazy Lady thanks the dreadlocked tard and walks out, but not before she reaches over and picks up the record-box-set I was buying and told me: “That’s a real nice chessboard”. Oh yeah, and the whole time some kind of reggae mix CD is playing really loudly and I assume Gay Black Man made the CD because no company would sell such a confused compilation. The CD segued from Shaggy to Jimmy Cliff’s ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ to some non-‘Who Let the Dogs Out’ Baha Men track and back to Desmond Dekker. Try to explain that to somebody. That is what ‘The White Rapper Show’ explicitly presents with the trailer park sequence or moves towards when it puts weirdos like 100 Proof, G-Child, or any of the rappers on television and dares to show them humanely.

The final episode is next week. What will I do when it’s all over?

-Rorty, Richard. ‘Achieving Our Country’. Cambridge: Harvard UP, 1998.

Written by Brandon

February 21st, 2007 at 8:07 am

leave a comment

The Cast of ‘ego trip’s (White) Rapper Show’ in Wii Form

Bonus VH1 Reality Mii: Boston from ‘I Love New York’

Written by Brandon

February 20th, 2007 at 8:10 pm

leave a comment

Rappers in Wii Form

(Peep that Darth Maul backpack…)

So…the Nintendo Wii is the greatest thing ever. Plenty of systems have better graphics and cooler games but no system is as fun as the Wii. One of the most entertaining aspects of the system is you can create your own characters to play with called “Miis”. Obviously, you first create a Mii of yourself but that becomes boring and before you know it, you’re making celebrities, girls you went to high school with, historical figures, and yes, rappers. My friends, the extended ‘No Trivia’ “staff”, Jesse and One-Man Gangler, along with some input from me, made a bunch of rappers. Enjoy.

Bushwick Bill



Kid Creole (of the Furious Five)

Layzie Bone

Lil Wayne (Wiizy)

Mac Dre

Paul Wall


Apologies for the infrequent updates recently, most readers know know why. I have about four half-written entries so I’ll be back to my (ideal) three-posts-a-week very soon. I would also like to call attention to the comments on the post before this one. Some very kind readers have been sparking a discussion and one of the producers from ‘(White) Rapper Show’ has been kind enough to post some very thoughtful and in-depth comments.Thank you very much

SECRET BONUS Mii: Robin Thicke!

Written by Brandon

February 18th, 2007 at 5:11 pm

Posted in nintendo wii

leave a comment

‘ego trip’s (White) Rapper Show’: Episode 06.

I really don’t know what to think of John Brown. I really love the guy but ultimately I’ve been duped. Most people have hated on him for being totally full of shit and I guess I’m finally ready to admit that he is. This video pretty much defines him as everything Persia and now, $hamrock say about him: He’s what is wrong with rap music, he’s a liar, he’s not that good of a rapper, etc. However, while being a complete liar, John Brown is also the most realistic cast member on the show.

I respect Brown’s ability to have no qualms with the business aspect of being a rapper because too many rappers or just artists in general, deny that very crucial money-making aspect. If you’re not in it for money, why aren’t you rapping in your basement? Brown’s whole “I’m not a rapper. I’m an entity” thing, as well his style in the aforementioned video, reminds me of Young Jeezy’s “I’m not a rapper” mantra. I’ve always defended Jeezy’s assertion because I saw it as Jeezy being brutally honest about the business aspect while also being kind of modest about his obvious artistic ambitions. I’ll admit the dude can’t really rap but he’s certainly artistic in his interest in making a cohesive album and consistent product. I’m very weary of romanticized notions of the artist. I don’t believe in someone unequivocally “expressing” themselves so it’s refreshing when someone refuses to be called an artist. In ‘Leather So Soft’ there’s that line where Lil Wayne says “Then I get in the booth and let my soul bleed”; exactly the kind of self-important “I’m expressing myself” bullshit I hate.

So, like Jeezy, even if he sets himself up as the ultimate hustler, John Brown has some real things to say; he seems like a pretty perceptive and concerned guy. He is clearly more self-aware than the rest of the rappers and is sympathetic enough to be embarrassed for his fellow cast members when they are being clowned or clown themselves. When Jus Rhyme invites Brown to go along to dine with N.O.R.E, he has that panicky look on his face and is sort of embarrassed that he’s been picked. It’s like middle school where you’re nice to some nerdy kid because everyone gives him too much shit and then he gives you an invitation to his birthday party or something and someone in the class sees it and you’re just like “I’m not friends with that guy, seriously, I’m not.” Even John Brown’s screw-ups seem contrived as some form of publicity or expression or both. When he says that stuff about Clear Channel it was his semi-subtle way of telling Miss Jones and her group of vultures to shut up. The Hot97 trip was a debacle and not because John Brown was a retard. Like every black morning radio host, Miss Jones loves easy targets. The white rappers’ sincerity for the most part, keeps them afloat because they (except for John Brown) know when to shut up or take it as a loss. Either way, it’s still sad to see people being so cruel and worse, to see anybody, not just our beloved white rappers, totally defer to somebody, anybody. It just gave me a really sick feeling.

The event made me think of this time I was driving and a car in front of me struck a deer. The deer flew up in the air and hit the ground. With all four legs broken, it tried to get up, and instead, it just did that Curly from the ‘Three Stooges’ floor spin on the asphalt. This was so upsetting because out of fear or some weird obligation I don’t think animals really grasp, the deer seemed aware that the cars were all stopped, waiting for him to waddle off into the woods. I just wanted to tell the deer to lie down or even get out of my car hold it down; all these cars could wait or something…The Miss Jones part of the episode gave me a similar gross feeling because we were witnessing a group of people completely powerless just like that deer, the white rappers were more concerned with what they should do than what they wanted to do. No matter how wack some of the rappers are, they don’t deserve Miss Jones’ bullshit and worse, when they sort of succeeded, as when $hamrock gave them a decent freestyle but slipped on the station number, she told him he “failed”. What the fuck was that? At least Lord Jamar or Just Blaze’s assholism was relatively brief.

Well, in the end, Persia goes. I was really hoping it was going to be Jus Rhyme because he’s plain awful and it was totally fair, not cruel, when Serch put it to him like this: “I think you’re very fortunate that you didn’t go into the ice chamber earlier because I don’t think you would have lasted the first ice-ice chamber elimination. That rhyme was horrible.” Had Persia made any attempt to sell her rhyme, even if she forgot it three times over, she’d probably still be on the show and it wouldn’t have been any kind of injustice to Jus Rhyme. Next week: Insane Clown Posse!

Written by Brandon

February 14th, 2007 at 9:52 am

leave a comment

‘ego trip’s (White) Rapper Show’: Episode 05.

Within the first few minutes of this week’s episode, Sullee is already falling apart. You get a real sense of dread looming over his every action and it isn’t just some reality television foreshadowing through editing, he really is getting nervous. Sullee’s in a weird position of actually being talented but not as talented as he thinks, so it leads him in positions where he looks like a complete dumbass. Totally about to snap, he becomes convinced somehow, the honorable thing to do is punk-out under the guise of not wanting to “snitch”. Sullee really just freaked out and didn’t want to get booted or actually lose, so he turned it into some idiotic “I neva snitch” type thing. Serch’s departing lecture to Sullee was pretty much spot-on:

“Yo, you’re selling yourself out right now…and the worst part is Sullee, you’re thinking you’re doing it on a higher principle, you’re not. This is an exercise. You had cameras following you the whole time, we know everything you did. You’re caught-up in the hip-hop hype of what snitching is. Snitching is about illegal activity. Snitching is about seeing somebody do something they shouldn’t be doing and dropping dime on them. You’re not dropping dime on them. Kicking off the shoes, doing all of that, if you really want to quit bro, there’s the door. Be out.”

While Serch appears pretty eloquent there, there’s a strange part when he turns to talk to Jon Boy and the camera just holds on Jon Boy’s face as Serch rips him. It’s obviously dubbed-in later; Serch’s voice sounds totally different. Notice how much more eloquent and hardass he sounds here: “You know I can appreciate your defiance for what it is, but don’t get it twisted. You cannot get slick with me and flip the challenge. I’m not havin’ it.” I know it’s a reality television norm to edit and change, it’s not a big deal, but it struck me as a bit odd and unfair, particularly because Serch is being held-up as very real and very honest. Clearly, the speech he gives to Jon Boy was re-recorded or written afterwards and dubbed in. There’s also the sad fact that Sullee totally hustles Jon Boy into buying the whole “snitch” thing because it saves Sullee’s ass while it does nothing for Jon Boy but get him eliminated.

It’s interesting how the show finds a way to address every aspect or cliché of rap culture, including something like snitching, which you would think would be hard to fit into a good-natured reality show about rappers. Serch is totally correct when he calls the snitching “hype” but I almost wish that he or the show would have come out more forcefully against “Stop Snitching”. Perhaps they would lose their “cred” but it is worth coming out against, particularly when Baltimore police’s response to “Stop Snitching” is an idiotic campaign like “Keep Talking” which just brings more attention to “Stop Snitching” and encourages no actual opposition.

Yeah, if I commit a crime with some friends, I’d be a pretty big faggot if I told on them. However, there are some very valid arguments against “Stop Snitching” and the so-called “code” has been outrageously perverted and is one more way in which criminals and drug-dealers exploit their own communities in the same way that politicians and government types exploit the same communities. It also shows why the celebration and honor of drug dealers as somehow system fighters or anti-government rebels is absurd. Drug dealers and criminals are weak because once they do the crime, they won’t even stick it out and take the time. If poor old woman in the apartment next door reports loud noise and it leads to a drug bust, there’s a possibility she will have to fear for her life. Now, if I was involved in illegal activity like that, I’d probably live by the same code (it’s really an anti-code) but I wish these people and those that celebrate them would just let them be what they really are: scumbags. There’s nothing wrong with being a scumbag but don’t act as if you’re on some “by any means necessary” trip. The fact that “snitching” is now defined as speaking to the police in any form about any crime is truly unfortunate. The only people that benefit from an unsolved crime are criminals. Now, certainly, people in areas where crime is pervasive may not tell police for fear of their lives but that has always happened; distrust of the police is nothing new, but what is new is how the definition of snitching has stretched so far.

The form in which snitching enters the ‘(White) Rapper Show’ world is symptomatic of the way in which snitch-talk has pervaded areas that have nothing to do with street-level crime. My friend John, an accounting major, told me a story of a student from Senegal who often wore a Yankees hat and when the Professor spoke of insider trading or “whistle-blowing” this guy called it “snitching”. What? Now this guy from Senegal, probably the son of a diplomat, who has even less to do with “the streets” than I do, is calling someone who is ethically concerned about how a crooked business is run, a snitch?

Sullee took the easy way out by following self-made, personalized rules on “snitching”. The problem with everybody, with everything (I’m implicating myself here as well) is the way in which we live robotically, the way in which the “hippest” music listeners reads Pitchfork or ‘Wire’ magazine as a bible, the way the “hardest” so-called “thug” on the block frees himself of any ethical or moral quandary he might truly be in by falling back-on “stop snitching”. I think of that Nietzsche phrase, where he called all ways of comfortable living “wretched self-complacency”. That’s the problem with most “thugs” particularly the thug attitude Tupac made pervasive. It’s not even tough, it’s not even self-destructive, it’s safe, it’s lazy, it is wretchedly self-complacent.

Speaking of self-complacency…fuck happened to Jon-Boy? The guy’s head quadrupled in size since the previous episode. He begins rapping in front of the mall to disinterested black shoppers and even compares himself to Jesus! Did it all begin when some confused shopper asked for his autograph? Suddenly, Marc Ecko dresses him, he’s got some shades and a popped collar and he’s King Shit of Fuck Mountain. My favorite part, which really was like a scene from some movie about an asshole Hollywood big-shot is when Jon-Boy, when asked by the video director, as he puts his shades atop his head, goes: “Alright listen. What we do: We rap. What you do: You direct. Alright?”

I’ve been defending Jon Boy and Sullee because they could spit but it was fun to see them go down even if it leaves the show in a weird place. Persia and $hamrock can rap and I really like $hamrock because he’s got a good attitude, but neither of them say very much. Jus Rhyme can’t even rap and has totally lucked-out. I personally love John Brown, he’s really hilarious (and aware of it) and he actually seems like a really bright guy. He obviously understood the “rap about your partner’s faults” prompt as not “snitching” but as an exercise and is smart enough to realize how much time is wasted and opportunities ruined when ill-concieved ideas of pride take over. The guy is also a hook-machine, ‘Smoke in the Club’ and ‘She’s a Stunna’, someone like the Lox or post-Cuban Linx Raekwon should hire him to write their hooks. The show is beginning to lose it’s personalities; John Brown is the only one left with personality but if he ended up winning, I’d be a little confused or disappointed. Pray for $hamrock?

PS: Everyone should be nicer to Crazy Astronaut lady. Seriously, folks.

Written by Brandon

February 8th, 2007 at 6:55 am

leave a comment

Geto Boys – Mind Playing Tricks On Me 12’ Single

I wrote this early last week, before my friend Mike killed himself. The last thing I talked about with him was making a video for this metal song he was working on and the ‘Mac 10 Handle’ video. We both related to it. Sometime after that, between Monday night and Tuesday night, he pushed his couch against his apartment door, watched the movie ‘Thief’ (or just put it on), and put a shotgun in his mouth. That is all I know right now. I love you Mike.

I found the greatest thing ever this weekend: An original ‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’ Single! (See above images of the ‘No Trivia’ “staff” posing with it…). Obviously, the song is great, one of the rap songs that could be considered “perfect” but what really puts this over the edge is the design of the sleeve. A cheap-looking font outlined in black, the name of the group at the top, song title at the bottom, and in between, the boys in front of an ambulance looking awesome but definitely not “cool” and not even particularly “gangsta”. Their clothes in particular, are worth noting: Scarface wears a lime dress-shirt without a tie with the top button buttoned, Bushwick is in hospital scrubs, sitting in a lawn chair, gripping a mobile phone, with an almost-regal look on his face and Willie D. is rocking this really incredible empire-collar jean-jacket with the arms and front shredded. It’s the same stuff they are wearing on the cover of ‘We Can’t Be Stopped’ and the whole design is just a variation on that design but without the shock-value of that album cover. This single does not expose Bushwick’s missing eye, it is tastefully covered, so you just get Scarface, Willie D., and Bushwick not looking tough, not even necessarily sad, just kind of worn-out. It’s like, day-after the tragedy.

Over and over, rappers reference ‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’ when they create a particularly honest or confessional song or album. Think of Biggie’s ‘One More Chance’, essentially a song of sexual conquest, interrupted for a few moments by the very-real paranoia most of ‘Ready To Die’s other songs are obsessed with: “Is my mind playin’ tricks? Like Scarface and Bushwick/Willie D havin’ nightmares of girls killin’ me.” Although that’s the only explicit reference (I think), the influence of Geto Boys permeates ‘Ready to Die’. Recently, there’s Clipse album-closer ‘Nightmares’ with Pusha-T’s verse beginning with a direct quotation from Willie D: “I make big money, I drive big cars/Everybody knows me, it’s like I’m a movie star”. And very recently, there’s ‘Mac 10 Handle’ by Prodigy which begins “I sit alone in my dirty-ass room/Staring at candles, high on drugs” but my favorite ‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’ intertextual reference is Beanie Sigel’s ‘Feel It In the Air’ from 2005’s ‘The B.Coming’.

‘Feel It In the Air’ is the only ‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’-referencing song that even comes close to having the emotional weight of the original. It’s pretty much impossible to explain something without ruining it (which I think I do with this entry) but I’ll try. Let’s start with the beat, which I always forget is produced by Heavy D. It’s pretty much a conventional “sad” beat (slow tempo, mournful sax) but the “I can feel it in the air” singing adds something strange to it and Sigel’s rapping fits perfectly. Beanie’s slow-rapping is not to indicate that the song is “poignant” (ala’ “introspective” Jay-Z) it’s because he’s just sort of resigned to feeling shitty. Sigel alters the Scarface line, changing it to: “I sit alone in my four cornered room starin’ at hammers/Ready to go bananas” changing the lyrics in a way that makes them even more disturbing and adding a kinda-corny line like “ready to go bananas” that actually works better than thinking of something clever. It’s like those that hating-on Prodigy’s ‘Mac 10 Handle’ because arguably, it is not “lyrically” up to par with the best Mobb Deep tracks. Sometimes, being clever or articulate isn’t necessary and I’ll certainly take honesty over “lyricism” if it makes me actually feel something. Following up his Scarface-quoting, Beans makes the Scarface connection explicit in the next line when he says: “Two vests on me, two techs, extra clips on me/I know my mind ain’t playin’ tricks on me.” The reality/paranoid-hallucination division is broken, his voice in the song is so out-of-it he’s adamant that his hallucinations are real and maybe they are? Those lines also remind listeners that the rhyming words with the same word has been a Beanie trick since ‘The Truth’ so don’t blame that shit on Dipset! Beanie however, uses the rhyming the same word trick for maximum effect, as his rhyme scheme deteriorates the same way that his mind seems to be going away. The song does a good job of reflecting Beanie’s state of mind, he goes from conventional rapping, to same-word rapping, and finally allows his verse to devolve into non-rhyming lines: “Read they body language/85% communication non-verbal, 85% swear they know you/10% you know they soft, man, the other five…time to show you, just know you.” When he trails off at the end, it’s hard to even know what the hell he is talking about. The song stops being about paranoia and mental instability because the song really does, temporarily, not make sense, it actually becomes unstable.

Like many other rappers, Sigel returns to the original lament ‘My Mind’s Playing Tricks On Me’ to illustrate his feelings of self-destruction. These feelings of self-destruction that remind me of unstable relatives, friends of friends that offed themselves, or my own problems and so, the songs do work on some level that is closer to being “universal” or humanistic, not specific to the plight of the crack-dealer or gang-banger. I think that’s significant because the fundamental flaw in discussing rap music seriously comes from the moronic perspective that it is only worth discussing from the “black CNN” perspective and not the same way in which one may listen to a sad rock or a elegiac jazz composition. If I’m feeling “emo”, I’d be as likely to listen to certain dark or depressing rap songs as I would Joy Division or Charlie Parker.

Brandon’s Ten Sad Rap Songs

1. Da Summa – Triple Six Mafia (from ‘Mystic Stylez’)
2. Mind Playing Tricks On Me – Geto Boys (from ‘We Can’t Be Stopped’)
3. Tha Crossroads – Bone Thugs-N-Harmony (from ‘E. Eternal 1999’)
4. Reunion – Slum Village featuring J. Dilla – (from ‘Detroit Deli’)
5. C.R.E.A.M – Wu Tang Clan (from ‘Enter the Wu Tang’)
6. Runnin’ – Pharcyde (from ‘Labcabincalifornia’)
7. Feel It In The Air – Beanie Sigel – (from ‘The B.Coming’)
8. T.R.O.Y – Pete Rock & C.L Smooth – (from ‘Mecca & The Soul Brother’)
9. All That I Got Is You – Ghostface Killah (from ‘Ironman’)
10. Family Business – Kanye West – (from ‘College Dropout’)


-Beanie Sigel – ‘Feel It In the Air’ Video.

-Bushwick Bill – ‘Ever So Clear’:The song that describes in amazing clarity and sanity, how Bushwick lost his eye. No “cry for me” bullshit in this one, no melodrama, just how it happened. From his underrated ‘Little Big Man’ solo album.

‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’ Video:Probably the best rap video ever made.

-‘Mind Playing Tricks On Me’ Star Wars Video: Someone made a really amazing remake of the video with Star Wars figures. It’s ridiculously well-done and it manages to be really funny without being ironic or mocking the song or video.

By the way, I found that single here, ‘The True Vine’; this really great record store that just got-in a shitload of 80s and 90s rap singles. If you’re in Baltimore it’s worth going over there.

Written by Brandon

February 7th, 2007 at 11:01 pm

leave a comment

I love you Mike.

To All Three of My Readers,
I will be on a brief “hiatus”. One of my best friends is dead. He shot himself.

These were some of his favorite songs.
-’Shook Ones pt. II’ by Mobb Deep
-’Aegispolis’ by Aphex Twin
-’Neither More Nor Less’ by Tim Hecker
-’Walking in Rhythm’ by The Blackbyrds
-’Natural High’ by Bloodstone
-’Slam’ by Onyx
-’Theme from M*A*S*H’
-’Take Me Home Tonight’ by Eddie Money
-’Smokin’ Cheeba Cheeba’ by Harlem Underground Band
-’Mountains of Mars’ by Electric Wizard
-’Warning’ by Notorious B.I.G
-’Now Your Ships are Burned’ by Yngwie Malmsteen
-’Regulate’ by Warren G ft. Nate Dogg
-’Dawn Over a New World’ by Dragonforce
-Lots of Tupac.
-Lots of Wu Tang.

This is more for me, I guess.

‘Aubade’ by Phillip Larkin

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
- The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused – nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try,
That vast, moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
And specious stuff that says No rational being
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear – no sight, no sound,
No touch or taste or smell, nothing to think with,
Nothing to love or link with,
The anasthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision,
A small, unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision.
Most things may never happen: this one will,
And realisation of it rages out
In furnace-fear when we are caught without
People or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
Lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.

Slowly light strengthens, and the room takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know,
Have always known, know that we can’t escape,
Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

He is the “Rick Hunter” on my links list.
As Mike would say “Peace.”

Written by Brandon

February 2nd, 2007 at 4:02 pm

Posted in Uncategorized