Wasted Words 29

Hey peoples. It’s me again. I’m gonna drop one last column on you before I head out to vacation this week. Friday afternoon, to be exact. By Saturday afternoon, I’ll be dipping my feet in the Atlantic Ocean in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. A couple quick notes before I move on. First off, the news came to us from John last week that Baloola Palooza.com was now legally licensed and all writings contained on the site are legally protected. They are for non-profit, public use as long as credit is given to us. That’s great news, if you ask me. It gives the site a bigger sense of professionalism, and it protects our hard work from being stolen from others and written off as their own. Also, I would like to welcome the people who read these columns week after week (I’ve seen the stats, I know you’re reading), and have yet to join the Baloola Palooza forums to do so now. We’ve got several different forums to chat in; music, politics, movies/television/sports, video games, and the newly added art forum. We’ve got all sorts of different people on the boards, different backgrounds, different interests, etc. Oh, and we’ve got Richard Kane. Feel free to harass him a bit when you get over there, he doesn’t mind. But seriously, head on over to the forums and sign up, introduce yourself, and have a hell of a time with us. Now on with the column….

Hawthorne HeightsThe Silence In Black And White
2004 Victory Records

Hawthorne Heights, could they be victims of their own hype? When your label promotes you as the next Thursday or Taking Back Sunday, they’re definitely giving you rather large shoes to fill. Did they succeed? Well, for starters, these guys definitely own a copy of “Screamo For Dummies” and they follow the guidelines well. Let’s go down the list, shall we? Singer with a voice just a few notches above whiny. Check. Guy who can scream like a banshee, yet still play an instrument. Check. Cliche emo lyrics such as “she cried all night, until the salt from her tears rusted shut her eyes.” Check. Don’t get me wrong, while it seems like most bands within this genre follow the same formula, I’m still a sucker for it and enjoy it very much.

This album is very much like an emotional roller coaster. Offering up softer, heartfelt vocals one second and brutal, anger-filled screams the next. While all of the songs have a sound and personality of their own, most tend to follow the same sing/scream formula. If that’s not what you’re into, then this album is definitely not for you. They do feature a good mix of tempos on the album. They have the heavier songs such as Silver Bullet, Life On Standby, and Speeding Up The Octaves to keep the kids in the mosh pits satisfied. Then they have softer songs like Niki FM, Dissolve and Decay, and Screenwriting An Apology, for the kids up front to sing along with. One thing that I was expecting to set this band apart from other bands within the genre is that they were billed as a “triple guitar attack.” Listening to the album though, it’s really hard to tell there are three guitars in there. One would expect the music to be much more powerful and guitar driven. This disappointed me a bit. Not that the guitar work isn’t good, but I feel they should’ve taken advantage of the three guitars and really make them stand out. Aside from that, this is a very solid debut from this Dayton, Ohio band. While I will admit they’re not exactly opening up any new doors in the world of screamo, they’ll definitely make a nice addition to it. Are they ready to step into the shoes of bands like Thursday and Taking Back Sunday? Maybe they should keep them in the box for a bit and eventually they’ll grow into them. You can catch the band on tour this summer with Silverstein and Alexisonfire, as well as at Hellfest.
Recommended tracks: Ohio Is For Lovers, Life On Standby, Niki FM
Recommended if you like:
Thursday
Taking Back Sunday
Silverstein
Story Of The Year

According to the latest issue of Alternative Press, NOFX have another album on the way. Judging by the title, it sounds like a greatest hits album, but who knows with these guys. It’s called The Best Songs Ever Written(By Us) and is due out August 24 on Epitaph Records.

Speaking of the latest issue of AP. It features two great interviews this month. One with Bad Religion and the other with Lars Frederiksen & The Bastards. Both make it worthwhile to pick up the magazine. I don’t know if it’s on news stands yet though, because mine magically appears in my mail box every month.

I downloaded a couple new tracks from Christian hardcore band, Zao. Truly, Truly, This Is The End and The Rising End(The Last Prophecy) are both from their new album, titled The Funeral Of God. The album will be released on July 13 on Ferret Records and is a concept record, which bases itself on “If God decided, based on the way humans react to him, to let himself die and not be a part of it anymore.” The concept sounds interesting, and the new songs sound great. Count me in.

Heard of the FMA, or Federal Marriage Amendment? If you haven’t, you must’ve been living in seclusion for the past few months. Basically, our “God appointed” President is a homophobic bigot who thinks he has the right to decide who people can and can’t marry. The bastard wants to change the Constitution to deny gays the right to marry! Now whether or not you agree with homosexuality isn’t the issue here. It’s not a gay issue, it’s not a straight issue and it’s not a religious beliefs issue. It’s a human rights issue! Don’t you find it odd that our country is bragged about for our freedoms, yet slowly and surly they’re taking that freedom away from us? So if you want to say YES to human rights and a big FUCK YOU to discrimination, head on over to the Human Rights Campaign site and let your senator know how you feel. It takes only a minute to fill out your info, and the rest is taken care of for you. The government has gotten away with a lot fucked up things here recently, don’t let them get away with this too!

Thank you for reading. Until next time, I’m out.

Music ReView: Cypress Hill – Til Death Do Us Part

Dearly beloved … we are gathered here today to decide whether or not Cypress Hill’s latest project, Til Death Do Us Part is worth buying. With that in mind, will you take this album to the front of the line to purchase? Do you promise to listen and blast it in your stereo, to honor and cherish its’ good name, and forever love?

I … I don’t know. This isn’t the same band I know.

Cypress Hill has changed since their 2001 release, Stoned Raiders. It isn’t like they cheated on fans with the soothing sounds of Jamaica, but reggae has influenced the group so much, they decided to incorporate the style into their music. The first single, “What’s Your Number” shows their new flavor. With a sample from an old Clash song (“Guns of Brixton”), B-Real raps over the riff about a girl playing hard to get, thus making him put in the extra effort. He spits, “I offered her a drink, she turned me down blat/She said, ‘If you want my name, you gotta do better than that.'” He kept sweet-talking her and his efforts eventually paid off. At the conclusion of the tune, he proudly rhymes, “We hung all night till we lost our friends/Till they caught us bangin’ in the back of a Benz.” Other island-sounding treats include an appearance by Tego Caldern on “Latin Thugs,” cameos by Twin and Prodigy on “Last Laugh,” and Damian Marley (Bob Marley’s son) shining on “Ganja Bus” (still representing their love for marijuana).

Although their horizons expanded, Cypress Hill hasn’t forgotten their hard-hitting edge. “Another Body Drops,” the best song on the album, is about a violent experience on the streets at an early age. Over a pounding bass beat, B-Real raps, “See me hit the corner, you melt down/Slugs fly, thugs die, moment you fell down/Somebody screaming, ‘Yo, get the hell down/I’m certified nigga, where you sitting is spell bound.'” Another hot track is “Busted in the Hood,” where a kid wises-off to the cops and gets caught for drug possession. “Street Wars” and “Money” are also worthwhile ballads.

Til Death Do Us Part (titled after the group’s friendships to one another) is missing something. The lyrics are good and the beats are phat, but the record is missing a vow … the most important vow of all: energy. Every successful relationship needs it. If there isn’t any energy between a band and their music, then there won’t be a fan base. When I listen to every song on this album, I am waiting for the intensity that grabs me and tells me Cypress Hill loves this thing called hip-hop. Sadly, it never comes and sadly, I am leaving the front of the line to say, “I do” to another CD.

Cypress Hill: Til Death Do Us Part
Rating: 2 1/2 Stars
Record Label: Sony
Official Website: CypressHill.com
Future Plans: Coors Light Mountain Jam 2004

Enjoy The Silence 4

The Link between Sports, TV and Human Behaviour

I apologise for the frequency of my last 2 articles but would like to get this one on paper so to speak before i lose my train of thought. Its the summertime! (no shit Matt!) and that can only mean one thing, sports!

Now as i have done in all my previous articles i am looking at this from a purely English perspective, so i am unsure if this is the case for our readers across the BP pond, namely USA and Canada, but English life (in the mainstream) revolves around the success of our teams to triumph in everything we do. For some bizarre reason English sports fans seem to think we are better than everyone at everything, although i can openly say we are not the best at any sport i can think of!

English sportsmen and women are under immense pressure to win everything. I am sitting here at my desk watching The Wimbledon Tennis championships, funnily enough the only time of year English people give a fuck about the sport. it’s w wonderful sight to behold however, the crowd is packed full with the cross of St.George (the english flag) and they are fully behind Tim Henman (our one good Tennis player) in good old English jubilation. However it doesn’t take long for this united uphoria to turn into anxiety. Henman is quite confortable in this match playing a Morrocan guy whose name i cannot remember but everytime Henman drops a point or fluffs his 1st serve the crowd are all over him like a pack of hungry dogs.

This puts untold pressure on Henman to do better next point around even though he is being proverbally baited by the crowd. This makes it fustrating for me to watch the game as i just get fed up of hearing some drunk yobbo in the crowd shouting “Goooooooo’on Tim!”, makes the English look like a bunch of animals and really pisses me off!

The media here are no better however. Before the championship starts the newspapers will be giving away free banners and flags to support Tim Henman blah blah, England hasn’t won Wimbledon for 60 years, he is our only hope blah blah. All the focus is on this one person to deliever the ambition of a nation! Not bad for a guy who actually only came into the spot light when he whacked a ball girl in the face with a tennis ball in fustration!

The point i am trying to make is that English people are the envy of the world when we are doing well, as soon it looks bleak we turn into a nation of absolute idiots. At the same time Wimbledon is taking place it is also the European Football (Soccer) Championships taking place in Portugal and England yet again are the focal point of the tournament, not because our team is the best, but because our fans have a reputation of causing trouble wherever they go! The opening game we played France, a great game that England were winning until the last minute when France scored 2 sucker punch goals to defeat us.

The nation was in shock! Fortunately the fans in Portugal behaved, probably too drunk to cause any “Aggro” as we call it here, but back at home it was a different story. Fans left the bars and rioted! RIOTED! over a game of Football, what the fuck is that all about?

Anyway, soon after this we forgot about the France defeat and won our 2 other 1st round matches against Switzerland and Croatia, mainly thanks to our young sensation Wayne Rooney, an 18 year old boy quickly turned around our campaign scoring 4 goals in 2 games. Now the pressure was off the team and all on a teenage boy, the nation should be ashamed.

In the England then lost to Portugal in contaversial circumstances and again the nation weeps. To cut along story short, these comments are to prove a small point. Long have we read and heard about the argument that Video games and violent TV is a direct causes of violent behaviour in everyday life. This i believe is the biggest unfounded statement i’ve ever heard in my life. However, i do believe that at least in the case of the English (i cannot vouch for America/Canada) that sport is a much bigger trigger for violence and crime! So England…. you better win something soon or we’ll be overrun by crime ok!

My next point is in regards to something we all either love or hate, REALITY TV!

You can’t escape, it has come from nowhere at all to being on every TV station, 24 hours a day in some cases, but what is it about reality TV we like so much? I’ll come back to that question shortly however i wanted to tell you about a recent thought i had whilst watching a movie i had not seen for a very long time quite recently, The Running Man, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Now when this movie was released in 1987 no one had any clue what Reality TV was. The film for those who haven’t seen it is about a wrongly inprisioned man who is given the chance to win back his freedom by appearing on TV show “The Running Man” where he must survive empty handed against 4 deadly Stalkers. In the story of the film this is the highest rating TV show in history and life now revolves around the show. The ULTIMATE reality TV show. I’ve always wanted this to become a real show, shows how my head works i guess, but it offers interesting parallels to modern life and the sudden explosion of Reality TV, consider the following :-

1. We have witnessed, especially in the States, the rise of unorthodox punishments to treat convictted fellons. Participation in such an event as the Running Man or another form of Reality TV could be considered the same.

2. 9/11 has increased the justifcation of the state to use “emergency power” to tighten security. Whether or not this breach of civil rights is justifiable is unknown to us, as the crucial infor itself is witheld, in the “public interest.” Therefor, the state has taken on more powers, with fewer checks. Media corporations are commercial entities, and the success of News Corporations in recent years raises the prospect of a monopoly channel or channels controlled by a single interest group. So if the media and government were to combine, as has fleetingly occurred, the effect would be a blanket monopoly of coverage, in which the government can justify its every move through propaganda, censorship, and the many means in which the public has shown to be susceptible. The example of this is set by the Running Man as the government has collasped and the country now controlled by major corporations, Bill Gates for president anyone?

Pull these strands together, and add the prospect of continued or worse “threats from outside” as they have been characterised (real or imagined), and we have a situation in which the reality of The Running Man is one hell of a lot more realistic than in 1987, when it was a mere fantasy. To control what people see and hear is to cotnrol what they think, and to make people feel threatened from outside is enough cause for them to accept sacrafice, such as those of civil liberties, to deal with this. This is called a problem-reaction-solution effect.

Other examples of how screwed up the media are heading is the Truman Show, a wonderful perhaps tongue in cheek movie about a man who was born into a reality TV show, his home Town just one big TV studio, his wife and friends are actors, his life controlled by a creative team of producers. This was released shortly the current boom of Reality TV but just how far away are we from such a show happening?

I hope i haven’t rambled on for too long but i really think my 2 points, especially reality TV are worth discussion, i’d like to know your thoughts on how these 2 things effect human behaviour, why we are all so consumed by success and how nowdays fiction just isn’t enough and more and more we want the “real thing” on TV.

Rebuttal to Enjoy the Silence 3

In his article “Michael Moore: Patriot or Treasoness”, staff writer Matt Van Dam makes some interesting points regarding Michael Moore and his actions as a writer, filmmaker and self proclaimed patriot. Given the release of his new film “Fahrenheit 9/11” this is a hot topic sparking some heated debate and I think it is deserving of BP’s first follow up article. It is suggested that you read Matt’s piece before reading this one because it is essentially a rebuttal, though I still feel it can stand on it’s own, so it is not required.

Not to offend anyone from the start with this article but the definitions Van Dam cites for a Patriot and a “Treasoness” are not only outdated, but also based on a monarchial system. These definitions are still based on when England’s government previously believed itself to be divinely appointed and therefore without fail. Keep that in mind, the definitions don’t really hold true in the US or in this day in age at all.

Now I feel I can safely say that anyone interested enough in politics can tell you that Moore does have his own slant to things. It is undeniable; while he might not be a liar he is masterfully manipulative of the facts and often leaves out details and tweaks things to fit his views. Despite that, I for one still view him as a patriot, I truly believe in most of Moore’s causes.

Most educated Americans, liberal or conservative, will admit our government has it faults and could always use improvement. Unfortunately though there will always be a lot of people that just don’t see it that way. Some have a bizarre denial that we can do no wrong; others have no idea of what’s going on, because previously they’ve simply been apathetic to such a thing. Moore’s target audience for Bowling For Columbine is these people. He tries to sort of “shock” people into realization of these disturbing situations. Regardless of my appreciation for Moore I’ll be the first to admit parts of it are very deceptive in their methods, but mean well, shock is a commonly used practice and a powerful one if used well. Matt’s claim that it gave him a very bad impression of the United States, while interesting and still relevant is mostly because he’s not the kind of person intended for the viewing of the film, he is not a disillusioned member of American society, therefore not the person Moore is trying to change the perspective of.

I enjoy Moore and I admire him greatly for his ability to pull things together beautifully, stand up for what he believes in and create such a convincing piece; written or visual. I honestly think his heart is in the right place but I won’t deny he does himself a disservice with his small twists and skewed facts in some regards. However, one could argue that his slant to things is really no better than the slant the United States government puts on things themselves, and I don’t think Moore is any better or worse for it in that respect.

That being said, there is one thing that makes me like, admire and trust Moore much more than anyone in our government: he’s really not doing this for himself. Sure he makes a hefty profit, but he gives the money back to his community, back to charities and into ongoing projects. He is consistently raising his target on more and more people he feels are hurting society, hurting the people of this nation and doing our forefathers a disservice. I’m not saying he’s not making a sweet profit doing this, because he does, and he’s the first person to admit it, but if all he was about was making money he wouldn’t devote so much time himself into things, running his website michaelmoore.com with daily updates and stressing himself with project after project, often admitting his faults and taking on more causes. You cannot say Moore is hardly resting on his laurels and just sitting back to collect a check. Moore is someone who works for his money, and at the same time he is doing something he loves and doing it for other people.

Now, I’m not saying Moore can do no wrong, because I feel he has a lot of faults both in his person and in his work, but that’s due to the fact that he is merely human like us all and we cannot hold him to any higher standard than we’d hold ourselves.

Let me get back on point. Matt makes the argument that under the definition of patriot that Moore is no patriot. According to Dictionary.com a Patriot is defined as: “One who loves, supports, and defends one’s country.” Matt claims that because Moore makes the United States look bad and points out it’s faults he is doing it a disservice and definitely not supporting or defending it. I disagree entirely; I feel Moore by pointing out the faults of our nation is helping strengthen it. His criticisms of its actions are in defense of it, of the true values of this nation’s foundation. To assume otherwise is to try and say our government is without fault and should not be questioned. Such a belief is pompous, ignorant and flat out wrong. As I so much love to point out our great (Republican) President Theodore Roosevelt even stated:

“To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public.”

Society can only learn from its mistakes, history shows this clearly, so criticism should be welcomed and embraced. When you start trying to squash dissenting opinions you start to encroach on people’s liberties, and therefore lose sight of the original goals of this nation, the values it was built on and committing treason yourself, just because it is people in the government doing so (coughJohnAshcroftcough) doesn’t mean that it should be accepted as correct.

I know I’m going to be stretching here but much as the Declaration of Independence criticized the king of England for the good of the American people, Michael Moore’s attacks on the President, wrong or right, is done out of love for this nation, for the people, because he wants to see it improve. Moore, like you and I don’t want to see the US fall like many other systems before it. He is defending the United States in a way many don’t think to and therefore at least in my mind, a patriot.

Enjoy The Silence 3

Michael Moore – Patriot or Treasoness?

That seems to be the most interesting debate of the moment on the BP boards and something that seems to hit sensitive spots in us all. I for one being English do not know a great deal about Michael Moore, i’ve heard of his books and saw the hilarious Oscars 2002 ( i think it was) speech against Bush, but i have seen Bowling For Columbine and understand what he is fighting for.

When i saw Bowling For Columbine i must admit i really thought to myself “why the fuck would anyone want to live in America!?!” Now i truely and honestly do not wish to offend the America users of BP by that comment, but BFC portrays your country as a damn scary place to live in!

To cut a long story short after seeing BFC i was totally convinced that America is full of whackos (referring mainly to that guy who was related to one of the Oklahoma bombers and that school kid was sad he wasn’t on te most wanted list in his school!), believed Chartlton Heston is poor excuse for a human being a large percentage of America’s are uneducated enough to really believe that Marilyn Manson was somehow to blame for Columbine!

However there are a number of sources who claim that Moore is no better than the US government as he is deceitful in his depiction of the truth. I have read a number of these claims (not all) and must admit they are well researched and do make me wish to re-evalutate my stance on Moore, which until not too long ago was that he is a model American.

So is Moore’s lifelong crusade really a fight for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth (so help me god 🙂 or really just a carefully disguised attempted at changing US politics to his own suit and making a quick buck at the same time?

I cannot say for certain because i do not know the man, so that particular argument is very much open to debate. However one thing in my eyes that is definately not open to debate is the following :-

1. BFC is purely a way one ticket, it offers very little in supporting argument for Gun laws as it stands in the US, it is totally way one and very bias!

2. My title of this column is Patriot or Tresoness? By now you’ve probably made up your minds on which side you believe Michael Moore to be on, however to support my column i seeked the “exact” meaning of the two to see which best describes what i believe to be Michael Moore. (my source is dictionary.com)

Patriot = one who loves and defends his or her country

Treason = The offense of attempting to overthrow the government of the state to which the offender owes allegiance, or of betraying the state into the hands of a foreign power; disloyalty; treachery.

Now i will admit that the defination of Treason is very different in respects to the English Monarchy and the US Government, but essentially they mean the same thing. Personally i no longer see Michael Moore as the patriot i once did, he may love America but he does nothing to defend it, he makes it look weak to the world and really highlights it was a terribly run country. However more interesting he falls almost categortically into the defination of Treason as he does misleads people with he points of view ( as he did with Heston in BFC) he solidly betrays his government and is disloyal to his President.

Now weather you believe him to be either, by defination alone he is not a patriot and is very close to being guilty of treason. Now in England treason is probably the worst crime a person can commit and anyone suspected of treason would almost certainly be in prison for life, a few years ago be killed.

I would like to end this column by once again leaving this argument totally open to debate as it purely written in my own perception. However i would add that respect Moore for what he is trying to do and to stand against the US government alone is a very brave thing to do…….. i wonder what the odds are on his assasination?

The Gut: Tiger Woods

Here at BP we are an entertainment based community. That being said I know this isn’t going to be a popular statement due to the large number of people we have that music is so very important to them. I have boycotted FM radio. I am sick of the same 3 songs being played over and over. So every morning on the way to school I listen to Mike (Greenberg) and Mike (Golic) on ESPN radio. Every morning for the past few weeks they have been talking about Tiger Woods and what’s wrong with him. And on the way home I listen to the Dan Patrick show and they one day fielded responses from club pros and scratch golfers on what’s wrong with Tiger. I almost feel like I am once again listening to FM radio without the bad sound of Britney Spears or the some times offensive lyrics of Slim Shady. The reason I say that is it is the same topic over and over again. So I guess as the official BP sports writer I should chime in.

Tiger is 28 years old and has won 8 majors. He has won close to 49 million dollars since 1999 and that doesn’t include his endorsements or any appearance fees he may get. At 28 years of age he has already won more money than any other golfer, ever. He was also named PGA golfer of the year in 1997, 1999-2003. So he has won all this money and all these majors and we want to know what’s wrong with Tiger. Well here’s the thing, all of the other people on the PGA tour are professionals too and I bet they got really sick of Tiger kicking their asses all the time. So maybe they train harder, maybe they watch more tape. Maybe Tiger has just made everyone around him want to be better.

All of these sports writers want to talk about how Tiger’s getting married or Tiger needs his old swing coach Butch Harmon back. Well if getting married makes people lose their drive can somebody please explain Michael Jordan to me? He won all six rings while married. And if Butch Harmon is so great why isn’t he winning 50 million bucks on tour instead of bashing Tiger through the media? What’s wrong with Tiger you ask? Well he’s 28 years old, has well over 100 million dollars and is about to get married to a smoking young woman. I don’t see anything wrong with Tiger; the question we should be asking is what’s wrong with us.

Stylistic Reality

There is no compromising the effects of style on an individual, especially a modern American individual. Even the social drop outs who claim to not care in the least about style, avow their individuality through no descript “guilt free” clothing, or clothing that wasn’t made in a foreign sweatshop. From the trendy to the punks to the goths, style is the mode of asserting identity, it is the means by which all of us proclaim our individuality (or lack thereof) and show the world what we want other people to think, and what we think of them. Style is the most visible and the most defining of our visual culture, it is the most absurd and the most everyday.

So it is only fitting that in a society that places such emphasis on an assumed reality, that style would play a large component. Style, like reality, has become the new farce of the entertainment industry. Just like “reality TV” delivers the scripted and manipulated reality of the personal lives of strangers into every living room in the first world, style has become the new mode of entertainment, and the new way in which the entertainment industry has turned towards for approval ratings by appealing to the most basic of cultural characteristics. The society we have built cannot live without style, and so, entertainment has staked its claim in the plentiful real estate of style and as uncovered a modicum of worthy subject matter and transformed it into a booming industry.

This new wave of entertainment glory came hand in hand with the boom of reality TV. In every episode of realistic fabrication that comes with American Idol, The Bachelor and numerous other reality TV shows, there is style. The symbolic nature of clothing and accessories has made of broke many familiar strangers of the reality TV phenomenon. But the fun style can bring through the big bad machine of entertainment does not stop there. Style has its very own shows that tell you what to dress, how to act, how to host a party, design your bedroom, your garden, your spouse. The greatest feat of all was the industries ability to create a network devoted to this mound of crap. The style network is a great idea, don’t get me wrong, just as much as I believe style is important to the formation and assertation of identity, I believe that our chosen modes of entertainment and the creation of such entertainment are fundamental to the human cultural experience. But why are we so eager to accept not style as representation, but style as both form and function.

I confess, I have my guilty pleasures, I thoroughly enjoyed Trading Spaces when it was fresh and funny, and I do get into the whole frenzy of American Idol every now and then; it just seems absurd to me that the ideals and attitudes of runway models, fashion mavens and designer guru’s that were once relegated to an elite group who looked down their noses at the rest of us bumbling fashion victims has not only lost a whole lot of class, but is a integral part of the average persons TV consumption. The dumbed-down versions of interior decorating, personal shoppers and grandiose makeovers are being sold to the public as the be all and end all of the ‘reality’ of life. Style is no longer seen as personal taste and expression, but that which is to be controlled and dominated, a mysterious beast that needs conquering not to mention a cast of characters to help you, worthy of Quixote himself.

Open Mic w/ Bear Frazer: Unsolved Mysteries

It isn’t any secret hip-hop is becoming a huge media market and is being accepted by various audiences around the world. Hip-hop surely isn’t a fad; it’s a relatively fresh culture, which keeps developing every minute. This new way of life has impacted society and brought evolution in the process. There are modern dances like the Crip Walk and the Harlem Shuffle, fresh fashion like fuzzy Kangol Hats and throwback jerseys, and of course, a new vocabulary. Hip-hop allows people to create new words (like fo’ shizzle) and turn negative connotations into compliments (like ill, bad and nasty). This has also left many questions up in the air … questions I will attempt to answer and mysteries I will try to solve.

Every single genre of music has stereotypes. Along with the dubs, there are certain questions that have been (and always will be) asked because answers may seem unbelievable. In rock music, it’s “Which drug are you using?,” in pop music, it’s “Are you gay?,” but in hip-hop, there really isn’t one set proposition because the artists’ backgrounds vary. I have heard some dope songs, but was left thinking, “Wait a second … what’s the deal with this?” Therefore, I am about to confront some demons that have been running wild in my head and get to the bottom of the bottle. I’m interested in the deeper meaning of melodies and how some of these new-school phrases came into existance.

Without a shadow of the doubt, Jay-Z’s The Black Album provided tons of insight into the rapper’s life. However, in his song, “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” I’m trying to figure out how he got dirt on his shoulder. I mean, did Jigga play a lot of football back in the day? Did he like rolling around in the mud? Did someone throw dirt on his clothes? Sure, I can understand dandruff or dust, but dirt? I’m not sure about this one. Maybe he means he had to work from the ground up to get where he is today (like doing some dirty work) and now, since he finally made the bigtime, he can get that dirt off his shoulders. If that’s not the answer, then “brush your shoulders off” must be a meaningless catchphrase (but still cool, nonetheless).

In addition to “Dirt Off Your Shoulder,” Jay-Z comprised another hit single off The Black Album; non other than the notorious “99 Problems.” Although Rick Rubin produced the song, the video is more controversial. MTV and BET sparingly show the video during daytime television. It isn’t only due to the footage of a funeral, violence and prison, but because the New York emcee is murdered, thanks to several gun shot wounds. That’s why networks are very hesitant to air the clip but Jay-Z sees different. He claims the fatality in the video symbolizes the death of Jay-Z and the rebirth of Sean Carter as an artist. After much debate, a compromise was reached whereas the video would be introduced by MTV News Correspondent, John Norris, who explains what is featured in the video and asks no one to mimic it. The question here obviously isn’t why Jay-Z gets shot; he already answered that. The real mystery here is, “Does Jay-Z really have 99 problems?” After listening to this song several times, I counted about 17 problems and a bitch wasn’t one. Either he isn’t telling the people about the other 82 or he is using 99 as a metaphor, which respresents a lot of dilemnas. Jay-Z also spits, “If you’re havin’ girl problems, I feel bad for you son.” I’m sure he had girl trouble in the past, but I’m assuming Beyonce is the problem solver.

The North isn’t the only place that can coin phrases. Look at the South, in particular Lil’ Jon. He has given a new edge to “Oooookay,” “Wwwwwhat,” and “Yyyyyeah!” He even made “crunk” a mainstream word. Lil’ Jon jumped on a track with his good friends, the Ying Yang Twins to add some flavor to one of the most popular songs of 2004, “Saltshaker.” Everywhere you go or any club you enter, I am sure you will hear the words, “Shake it like a saltshaker.” Why though? “Why shake it like a saltshaker?” Maybe the Ying Yang Twins really like supper (after all, most Southerners ask for seconds)? Or maybe they have a high sodium count? Come to think of it, isn’t shake it like a saltshaker a tongue-twister? I would love to hear someone say that ten times fast. Judging by the rest of the song, it’s easily recognized that the Ying Yang Twins are demanding (not asking) women to move their booties. It’s just odd going from “She’s leakin’, soakin’ wet” to “shaking salt.” Why not “Grind it like a peppergrinder?” That is more sexual. This way, you can look and touch.

Last but not least, there’s this one-hit wonder sensation, Kelis. This smokin’ lady sings and wiggles to “Milkshake,” a real catchy tune. The lyric goes, “My milkshake brings all the boys to the yard/And their life is better than yours/Damn right, it’s better than yours/I can teach you, but I have to charge.” This is extremely exotic, but seems a little fishy. The first issue is crucial: “Does your milkshake bring any girls to the yard and what happens at the yard?” I’m hoping Kelis doesn’t discriminate against females. All humans are created equal. Don’t play hate when you can participate. The next dilemma bothers me just as much. “Does Kelis really think her milkshake is better than Baskin Robbins?” Honestly, has she ever been to there? They make a pretty mean chocolate shake. I knew I would have to do further investigation. Eventually, Kelis revealed the significance of the milkshake on MTV2’s Slanguistics. According to her, the milkshake is whatever you do best, whether it’s making love or dancing in a Karoake Bar. See … straight-up hip-hop right here! Giving new meaning to a word. No wonder why Nas is dating her. Sadly though, as captivating as this song is, I am willing to bet sometime in the future, some conglomerate like Starbucks is going to take this lyrical artwork and use it as some sort of jingle. I can picture it now. It’ll probably be something like, “Our java brings all the peeps to the yard, damn right, it’s better than yours.”

Nevertheless, there are many unsolved mysteries still roaming the hip-hop world. Tupac’s murderer is still unknown, the Notorious B.I.G.’s killer is unknown and the amount of times Suge Knight will be thrown back in jail for doing something stupid is also unknown. Although every music genre has their own unanswered questions (Did Courtney Love kill Kurt Cobain? Is Clay Aiken gay?), hip-hop will still evolve and bring new elements into its’ culture. Jay-Z, the Ying Yang Twins and Kelis have certainly solved something: don’t take everything for face value … read between the lines. Case closed.

Wasted Words 28

What’s up everyone? I’ve got a short column this week, but a column nonetheless.

New music: I picked up the Warped Tour 2004 CD the other day, along with Bad Religion’s new album, The Empire Strikes First. The Warped compilation is pretty decent, and at only $4.99, it was well worth it. Most tracks have already been released before, but there are a few new songs from Taking Back Sunday, Flogging Molly, and Simple Plan.

The new Bad Religion album is freakin’ wonderful! I HIGHLY recommend picking it up, especially for you old school BR fans. Even if you’re not an old school BR fan, pick it up and enjoy. Great band, great album, great songs, and some great messages.

Today, I went and bought Underoath, They’re Only Chasing Safety. It’s a pretty damn good album. They’re a Christian hardcore/screamo band on Solid State Records.

New Found GloryCatalyst
2004 Drive-Thru Records

On their fourth full-length release, New Found Glory returns to their roots. Somewhat. While this album has a bit of a harder sound than their last album, Sticks and Stones, there still lurks a ballad here and there. While not necessarily a bad thing, most hardcore NFG fans long for the days of Nothing Gold Can Stay. It’s obvious that the band was attempting to make a statement with this album. With the cover art (cartoon drawings depicting an instant rock star in the making), the intro song (the lyrics, “it’s more than a T-shirt, it’s more than a tattoo”), and the overall feel to the album, they seem to be attempting to distance themselves from other pop-punk bands. They even said in an interview that they were tired of being compared to these other bands. I would like to point out, however, that if you don’t wish to be compared to another band, then going on tour with them probably isn’t the best way to go about it. Just a minor complaint that I have about the album and the statement the band is trying to make. But onto the album itself.

As I said, it definitely has a bit of a heavier sound to it than their previous album, something which should please most old school fans. The band said they wanted to try new things, different sounds, on this album and it shows. The Introduction to the album is a testament to this, as they blast out thirty-seven seconds of lightening fast music, something to which they’re not well-known for. I think they should play at this pace all the time, but that’s just me. The beginning of This Disaster is definitely a bit of metal, though I swear I’ve heard it before and At Least I’m Known For Something contains some hardcore-like breakdowns. They seem to be touching on different topics than the cliche “she left me and broke my heart” stuff they usually write about. No News Is Good News and I Don’t Wanna Know are two examples of this. No News… is a commentary on society in general, and the BS that the news channels constantly pump out while I Don’t Wanna Know appears to be a tale of a sexual encounter. Overall, this is definitely a good album and I feel it’s a step in the right direction for the band. From faster, more upbeat tracks to slower, ballad-like tracks, they have included something for all NFG fans.
Recommended tracks: Over the Head, Below the Knees, This Disaster, At Least I’m Known For Something

I would like to ask all of you to please keep Johny Ramone in your thoughts and prayers. As you may or may not know, he’s in a hospital in Los Angeles, currently battling prostate cancer. I’m not personally a fan of The Ramones music, but I respect what they’ve done for punk rock and music in general. It’s always a sad thing to hear about stuff like this.

Upcoming releases:

June 29
Alexisonfire Watch Out!
Unearth HThe Oncoming Storm
Atreyu The Curse

July 13
Funeral For A Friend Casually Dressed and Deep In Conversation
Zao Funeral For God
Sparta – Porcelain

July 20
Dillenger Escape Plan Miss Machine

Thank you for reading. Until next time, I’m out.

The Gut: We are family

In the late 1970’s, the Pittsburgh Pirates had one of the best teams in baseball. They had big names like Willie Stargell and Roberto Clemente but it was their sense of team unity that made them a special team. For a while, sports seemed to lose this concept of team and instead tried to have an all star at every position. Names like Gary Sheffield are now dubbed “role players” for the New York Yankees. In addition, the stars like Shaq and Kobe have won the NBA title.

Recently however while the Yanks keep spending and the Lakers add names like Malone and Payton to be role players for them something has changed. The sense of “we” and “team” has come back. That was never more evident than watching the Detroit Pistons dominate the Lakers. You can argue that the Pistons don’t have one player nearly as good as the Lakers top two. While that may be true, the Pistons also showed something that the Lakers couldn’t fathom, heart.

The NBA is not the only place this sense of team is becoming a trend again. Looking at the last year only the super bowl champion Patriots had a real “superstar” in Tom Brady. The Tampa Bay Lightning don’t have any real notable names other than Martin St. Louis and the Marlins biggest name was Ivan Rodriguez and a year before that he wasn’t even the most popular Rodriguez on his team.

So, you must be asking yourself what’s your point. My point is to have faith in your teams. The Pistons proved last night that the odds makers in Las Vegas have no idea what they are talking about when they give the Lakers 5:2 odds to win the crown. Winning these days is all about heart and determination not which team looks the best on paper or who has the most hall of famers. As Chris Berman says, “that’s why they play the games”