Lookin' Under The Lid: Three Dollar Bill's, Y'all!

There was a time when red baseball hats weren’t so popular. Before they went behind blue eyes, before they were rollin’ and before it was all for the nookie, Limp Bizkit didn’t care about setting trends. Although later albums caught the eye of the teeny-boppers, Three Dollar Bills, Y’all! (their 1997 debut) rooted the band with a respectable rock following.

It all started out with a record deal … and a car accident. The band (discounting guitarist Wes Borland at the time) was driving to Texas to record their album, but a nasty accident almost ended their lives. After regrouping, signing with a new label (Interscope) and bringing Wes Borland back into the mix, Three Dollar Bills, Y’all was completed. In the “Intro,” Fred Durst (LB front man) asks God to get rid of all the evil on earth and kill the pollution, leaving me to think, “Metal’s supposed to be evil. This doesn’t sound very metal.” Soon after that, Wes Borland and Sam Rivers slam the strings of their guitar and bass (respectively), introducing “Pollution” and the rest of Limp Bizkit’s effort. The most unique characteristic of this album is that the songs reveal their own identity. The hip-hopish “Counterfeit” challenges people to stop being posers, the island-sounding “Sour” focuses on a whipped boyfriend realizing his ex-girlfriend is a bitch and the bass-jazzy “Stuck” centers on a money-hungry lady trying to ride the coattails of her ex-boyfriend’s musical success. Also jammed into this record is the famous cover of George Michael’s “Faith.”

There are several ups and downs about this disc. The positives include the rhythms, which are simply badass. The way Fred Durst incorporates his rapping style with his screaming ability simply rocks (prime example would be on “Counterfeit”). DJ Lethal also incorporates several good ideas with his scratching, which gives the album a “not so clean sound.” Sometimes though, we have to take the good with the bad. “Nobody Loves Me” officially marks the beginning of Fred Durst whining. The prayer in “Intro” does not seem too metal and at the end of every song, there is about forty-five seconds of annoying noise. If it weren’t for the killer rhythms, I’d throw this album in the trash.

The Decision: Keep it in the stash.

(Would you ‘Keep it in the stash’ or ‘Throw it in the trash’? Let us know.)

Open Mic: No More Lip!

There has always been one common ground individuals could find salvage in and that is music. Music can single-handedly reveal a person’s mood, culture and inner feelings. The one thing I have always treasured, even more than song quality, is energy. I may not be a fan of a certain group, but as long as they can bring excitement to the stage, then they have earned my respect. But the minute I find out an artist is lip-synching, then my respect for the talent comes into check.

Honestly, is there any reasonable excuse to lip-synch? Pfeiffer University student, Phillip Carter thinks so. “It could be due to having no musical talent and depending if the music industry is just projecting their appearance instead of their vocal skills.” When asked about an artist’s voice going out, Carter said the singer is “shit out of luck.”

Ashlee Simpson is a prime example of being unlucky. On the October 23rd edition of Saturday Night Live, Simpson performed her hit “Pieces of Me.” When she came out for her second performance, “Autobiography,” it was spoiled when a pre-recorded track of her voice (for “Pieces of Me”) began playing. Embarrassed, Simpson did a little dance and walked off stage. Originally, she blamed her band. Her drummer, Chris Fox admitted to miscuing the song. A few days later, Simpson said she was pressured into lip-synching because her disease (chronic gastric disorder) was acting up, causing her to lose her voice. Ironically, before this incident, she was interviewed by Lucky Magazine and the topic of lip-synching came up. She told the magazine, “I’m totally against it and offended by it. I’m going to let my real talent show, not just stand there and dance around. Personally, I’d never lip-synch.” I guess there’s a first time for everything.

What I’m still surprised about is the number of excuses coming out. I could understand her voice going out, but wouldn’t that push someone even more to sing? Two years ago, I went to a concert featuring Trust Company and the lead singer, Kevin Palmer yelled out to the crowd, “I have been sick all week, so sorry if my voice sounds like shit.” His voice was just as week as Simpson’s, but he still gave it his all. Another excuse she came up with was blaming her band, but if you’re the star, the band is a reflection of you. Once again, Simpson is at fault. There is only one reason why she’s making up these excuses and Bruce Snyder (Sports Reporter at FOX Charlotte) summed it up best as he said, “She was flat-out busted and embarrassed, so she tried to cover.”

Simpson may be the latest victim, but the most notorious lip-syncers would be the ungifted pop-group, Milli Vanilli. In the late 80’s, this duo started making a presence with songs like “Girl You It’s True” and “Baby Don’t Forget My Number,” which helped to move 30 million singles. By the time their fifth single, “All or Nothing” was climbing the charts, rapper Charles Shaw leaked the lip-synch secret (he was later paid off to keep quiet). They won a Grammy for Best New Artist and shortly after, Time Magazine interviewed the pop-duo, where they compared themselves to icons like Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney. After this, Frank Farian (their creator and producer) exposed them as frauds. Milli Vanilli was not only dropped by Arista Records, but became the first act to get stripped of their Grammy. Just to imagine, this all was the result of lip-synching.

Another odd thing in the world of music is how bubblegum groups dance and sing at the same time. The microphone isn’t even normal: it is propped in-front of the mouth, so it’s always focused during movement. So, are they faking it? Pfeiffer student, Dana Vlad believes so. “I think they are lip-synching,” she said. “They would be desperate for breath, the way they’re running around and stuff.” Brandon Rudick, a sandwich artist at Subway, agrees. He said, “I think it’s pretty hard for someone to do a dance routine and sing a song at the same time.”

With fishy business going on in the music industry, what singers can be trusted? Whether it’s Ashlee Simpson, Milli Vanilli or any music artist, no one deserves to pay money to view a false act. Elton John said it best: “Anyone who lip-synchs in public on stage when you pay to see them should be shot.”

ReView: Papa Roach – Getting Away With Murder

Papa Roach can add their name to a growing list of bands who have abandoned the rap metal scene. Like others, they have attempted to recreate a new style of music and in their case, they coined the genre “punk metal.” They’re now an eerie punk band with an eerie punk sound. They’re also a band with weird hairstyles and platinum pants. After changing those characteristics, out came Getting Away With Murder, the group’s fourth album.

The title alone suggests Papa Roach has survived the most extraordinary circumstances and are finally telling their story (and in the process, rubbing it in people’s faces). In the opening cut “Blood,” Jacoby Shaddix attempts to persuade people to follow him as he sings, “Y’better join us before you get lost in the shuffle / Y’better rise against the demons that are gonna try and hold you down.” If his message is “listen to me, buy my CD and be the best you can be,” then I rather watch an army recruiting commercial. If you hear “Do or Die,” then you’ll hear the same thing. “Scars,'” one of the few intriguing songs on the album, is about helping out others when they don’t realize they have a problem, which makes me believe Shaddix was a drug addict. Over a mellow rhythm, Shaddix sings, “I tear my heart open, I sew myself shut/My weakness is that I care too much/Our scars remind us the past is real/I tear my heart open, just to feel.” Yea, definitely a drug addict.

Miraculously, the best ballad on the album sounds like their older stuff. The title track, “Getting Away With Murder” is a hard rock tune with tremendous bass pounding. It gets the adrenaline pumping so much, even Mike Tyson could win a boxing match. The chorus speaks for itself: “I feel irrational’ so confrontational/To tell the truth I am getting away with murder/It is impossible to never tell the truth/But the reality is I’m getting away with murder.”

Getting Away With Murder is a new beginning for Papa Roach. Although it’s not necessarily a good beginning, it is a new one. It definitely isn’t a platinum album and if their future efforts sound like this, they may never have another one. But whatever happens, they should ditch the platinum pants.

Papa Roach: Getting Away With Murder
Rating: 2 1/2 Stars
Record Label: Geffen
Official Website: PapaRoach.com

Open Mic: "The Musical Sphere of Influence"

On November 2nd, American citizens will choose who they want to lead their national and local governments. For the past twelve months, political rallies took place so candidates could gather support and discuss issues. While everyone has done their task to get support, one of the most encouraging voices in this political season has been the music industry. Whether it’s through song, protest or public speaking, artists have always made their political opinions known. Their messages have been so powerful, they have setup their own organizations to promote voter registration.

An important influence has been MTV’s Choose or Lose campaign and every four years, the movement keeps getting stronger. The aim of “Choose or Lose” is to get 20 million voters in the 18-30 demographic to the polls this November. Following in their footsteps is Sean “P. Diddy” Combs. Since the curtain drop of A Raisin in the Sun, he started the “Vote or Die” crusade, which accomplishes the same objective of alerting young people about politics. Combs made it known he has wanted to talk Bush and Kerry, but the opportunity never arose. He did however speak to Hillary Clinton during the Democratic National Convention.

Combs is not alone in his crusade. Plenty of punk rock bands have played a role in voter registration. At the 2004 Warped Tour, young citizens went to the booths and signed up to register. Aside from the ever-so-popular Rock Against Bush CDs/DVDs, the Rock Against Bush Tour is taking place right now, featuring Anti-Flag and Tom Morello. On top of that, the cornerstone of this brainchild, PunkVoter.com, started becoming even more popular. This association is headed up by prominent punk bands like NOFX, Bad Religion and Green Day, but members range from the Foo Fighters to No Doubt. Their target is to educate, register and mobilize over 500,000 of today’s youth as one voice. Several factors caught this group’s eye, which include protecting personal freedoms, restoring the environment and overhauling the justice department. PunkVoter.com even provides solid facts as to why they established. Did you know 60% of 2003 graduates will move back in with mom and dad because of the lack of jobs? Did you know the unemployment rate has reached nine-year highs? Did you also know the 18 to 24 year-old voter demographic has dropped to an all time low? Punkvoter.com provides various kinds of information.

America Coming Together (ACT) is also getting in on the act. ACT is a liberal group, which has concentrated on the swing states in an attempt to persuade those citizens to vote on the Democratic ticket. To aid in this mission, Bruce Springsteen has launched “Vote for Change” concerts. Artists performing on the bills include Dave Matthews, the Dixie Chicks, Pearl Jam, James Taylor, R.E.M., Jurassic 5, Babyface, Ben Harper, John Mellencamp and many more.

Rappers voicing their opinions on politics isn’t anything new either. One of the biggest breakthrough songs in this genre (“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5) was about problems in society and how change was wanted. Jadakiss is a prime example of today’s artists being political in rap. In his single “Why?,” the lyrical reference is, “Why did Bush knock down them towers/Why you around them cowards? (referring to 9/11)” This was so controversial, some radio stations edited out the lyric. Public Enemy was very vocal in years past, going back to the Reagan administration. And if you have heard the latest Beastie Boys’ album, To The 5 Boroughs, then you know of their disgust for the Bush administration. It is safe to say hip-hop has been doing their part in raising awareness for this year’s election. Russell Simmons has thrown several summits to get people involved. At one summit in particular, Eminem made an appearance to talk about the importance of this year’s election.

While musicians have done their part to make the general public aware, some won’t encourage voting because they don’t know enough about the arguments. In the October 2004 issue of XXL, there was an article narrated by Dave Chappelle entitled, “Amerikaz Nightmare,” where Chappelle sat down and talked to a few of his favorite artists. Although there were a lot of other issues discussed, politics was an element. Kanye West added his two cents in the conversation-type periodical. “That was one of my main points why I wouldn’t want to go to a lot of summits. It ‘s because I’m supposed to be speaking to 3,000 kids about something that I didn’t really know about and they be using my face,” said West.

Participation by musicians in the political arena isn’t anything new. Social issues have always been at the core of rock ‘n’ roll and it became evident when the Vietnam War broke out. Multiple artists who disagreed with the war took part in the first ever Woodstock, back in 1969. The card included acts ranging from The Who to Jimmy Hendrix and attracted what is believed to be over one million people. For three days, the small town of Bethel was host to a festival of peace, love and music, which impacted a generation.

Entertainers are role models and whether they ask to be or not isn’t the point. When fans buy their albums, go to their concerts, wear their merchandise and sing their songs, music artists instantly become role models. A lot of fans will purchase anything to do with certain talents. For example, Sean “P. Diddy” Combs has his own clothing line called Sean John. Some of the clothes could be the ugliest thing in the world and people would buy it anyway. Same goes with Jay-Z’s Rocawear and every talent’s clothing line or car line or whatever. Fans listen to these artists and hear what they have to say and honestly, if people didn’t like what they hear, they wouldn’t pay any attention to them.

The people decide who sits in Congress and who sits in the White House. Over the past couple of years, many leaders say, “your vote counts,” but maybe some citizens haven’t been educated on the issues. That’s what entertainers are trying to do with their organizations, concerts and songs. These musicians are using their voice for more than just singing. They’re vocalizing a message they hope people will hear: To get involved, make a difference and make a better America. I don’t think it’s a bad thing … I think it’s courageous.

-Special thanks to John Morrison for research

The Roots: The Tipping Point

Evolution: that’s what the Roots are all about. Always to carry the old-school banner and add their own flavor, the Philly-based hip-hop act set forth to expand their style on The Tipping Point, their sixth studio album. It’s also the first compilation centering on the group”s emcee, Black Thought.

The Tipping Point may start off slow, but it gets intense rather quickly. Take the album opener, “Star.” It may begin like a sleepy jazz tune, but after thirty seconds, the guitar and drums situate the mood, allowing Black Thought to encourage people to achieve their dreams. This sets the pace for the album because most of the tunes are just as powerful. After listening to “Why (What’s Goin’ On?),” Black Thought releases his emotions about how society has been mistreated and even his feelings towards combat. He spits, “2K4, livin’ above and under the law/Young teen joins the marines, says he’d die for the core/Inducted up into the goverment’s war/ Is it for land or money and oil/Funny how ain’t none of it yours.” Other highlights include “Don’t Say Nuthin,” a club-banger about rising to the top and “Somebody’s Gotta Do It,” a soothing song about getting through rough times.

Although the songs are cleaner on a production level, the Roots still have that rock ‘n’ roll feeling. “Boom” is a perfect example of this. With killer keyboard, insane drumming and intense guitar playing, the joint keeps building up until the chorus kicks in and Black Thought yells “BOOM!” The song has so much energy, it instantly keeps anyone’s attention. Black Thought reinforces this by incorporating a popular board game in his flow. He spits, “I could never let ’em on top of me/I play ’em out like a game of Monopoly/Let it speed around the board like an astro/And send them to jail for tryna pass go.” If you like this, you’ll flip over “Web,” a fast paced freestyle over a rock sound and a special hidden track “The Mic,” which features several guest artists expressing their love for the rap game.

There are few artists who combine energy, originality and reality into their music and yet still capture audiences with charisma and style. The Roots fill this void. Honestly, if this is just The Tipping Point, then I don’t think the world can handle the next Roots album.

The Roots: The Tipping Point
Rating: 4 1/2 Stars
Record Label: Geffen
Website: TheRoots.com

Open Mic: Selling more than a Lemonade Stand!

Everything lives and eventually, everything will die. You can ask any scientist if this is true and he or she will say yes. From that annoying squirrel that crawls up your tree to those smelly socks on your feet, everything will die … or does it?

Take the legendary British rock band, the Beatles. Sure, the group broke-up in 1970 and granted, John Lennon and George Harrison died. The point is this: the music the Beatles have produced for nearly 50 years is still being listened to by millions. These men are musical icons.

Can musical icons die though? In 1999, the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and KoRn were selling records like the Roadrunner outsmarting the Wily Coyote. All three acts rose to the top and started revolutions. These artists became the mother/father figures in their own genre. Once they emerged to the mainstream, so did groups and singers similar to these breakout phenomenons. The Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and KoRn raised the bar in this so-called labeled “pop-culture,” selling out arenas and getting multiplatinum record status. But once those all-star albums came out, future projects couldn’t compare, those later being labeled as commercial failures. Confused yet? Let me try to break it down for you.

A lot of records are terrible, but it doesn’t matter if a particular CD sucks or not. If a CD sells more than 2 millions units, then how can someone say it’s a failure? Are critics saying it’s a failure because a lot of money was spent making it and they won’t make the dough back? That is kind of hard to believe, especially if a record reaches multiplatinum status. Is it a failure because an album doesn’t sell as much as its’ predecessor? Not necessarily. It just means it didn’t sell as well. Still a bit confused? Maybe this will help. Take KoRn’ 1998 release, Follow The Leader. It sold around 6 million copies while their 1999 album, Issues sold at least 3 million. Around 2002, they dropped another project, Untouchables and only 2 million copies were moved. Untouchables was later considered a commercial failure.

Not every album is a success story; every artist will have an album or two that isn’t hot. If you are a consistent-selling talent, then it’s nothing to dwell on, but if you are a one-hit wonder, one bad song could ruin your career. For those who are unaware, one-hit wonders are artists who have a major hit, which everyone talks about, but the next tune they try to make popular just blows up in their face and the talent falls off the planet. Remember Hansen? They came out with that memorable (and somewhat annoying) jingle, “MMMBop.” Everybody ate them up like devil’s food cake! These three boys were adolescents whom had a good tune and long blonde hair. They were on top of the world for a year … before the public got tired of them. Their next effort raised less money than a lemonade stand. Hansen joins the list of classic 90’s one-hit wonders the Cardigans, Billy Ray Cyrus, Skee-Lo and Chumbawumba, all of which are true commercial failures.

One-hit wonders die, but do music icons? I’m still trying to figure out whether they will continue selling millions of records of if they’ll die like that annoying squirrel and pair of smelly socks. Maybe I’ll find out later this year as the Backstreet Boys release their first album since 2001. But people, please do me a favor … don’t call multiplatinum success a commercial failure.

Review: Amerikaz Nightmare – Mobb Deep

The alert level has just been raised in the hip-hop world. In a summer where New York emcees have dominated the radio, the Queensbridge duo of Prodigy and Havoc, otherwise known as Mobb Deep, unleashed Amerikaz Nightmare, their sixth studio album.

These men should be considered armed and dangerous. There are three things on their minds: violence, women and money. Listen to their hot single, “Got It Twisted,” and you’ll find out they mean business. Right from the start of the song, you can hear Havoc spit over an eerie beat, “Ain’t no party once we crash the party/I’mma squeeze shorty then vacate the party/You keep grillin’, I’ll pump-pump the shotty/Put you in the trunk, then dump-dump the body.” In addition to that, the Queensbridge duo discuss their constant obsession with material possessions in the old-school sounding “Flood The Block” and brag about their flashy cars and dazzling women in “Shorty Wop.”

Don’t get the wrong idea; Mobb Deep cares about society too. “Neva Change” is a calm, eye-opening song where Havoc and Prodigy talk about some never-ending generational problems, such as the lack of family. They spit, “Mama’s didn’t take care of their kids, they let ’em roam/And you can see how he or she gonna be when they get grown.”

Mobb Deep didn’t record this album alone; there are multiple guest appearances. Nate Dogg sings the hook on “Dump,” Twista spits on the “Got It Twisted Remix,” Jadakiss raps on “One of Ours Part II” and Lil’ Jon adds some flavor on “Real Gangstaz.”

It’s obvious Mobb Deep has plans to become some of the biggest players in hip-hop and could use any means necessary in completing their task. Although we didn’t learn much about Havoc and Prodigy on a personal level, Amerikaz Nightmare shows their brutal side. Mobb Deep is back ladies and gentlemen … thanks for the wake-up call.

Mobb Deep: Amerikaz Nightmare
Rating: 3 Stars
Record Label: Jive
Website: MobbDeep.net

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

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.

Blastweek #1 – "Ch-Check It Out!"

It took a bit of time … ok. It’s been six years since New York natives, the Beastie Boys released an album with new material (Hello Nasty in ’98), but that is about to change. On June 15, the rap trio will unveil their long awaited project, appropriately titled To The 5 Boroughs. In the meantime, we are left with “Ch-Check It Out,” a preview to their overdue compilation.

It seems like the Beastie Boys picked up right where they left off. The sample used in “Ch-Check It Out” sounds like a faster version of the hook used in “Intergalactic” (their 1998 hit). With the beat in place, they start trying to get people hyped, especially nerds and couch potatoes when they spit, “All you trekkies and TV addicts/Don’t mean to diss, don’t mean to bring static/All you klingons in the f—–‘ house/Grab your backstreet friend and get loud!” The rap trio also plays word association with occupations, such as being a scientist, electrician, magician and mathematician. Even the world-famous cartoon celebrity, Ms. Piggy gets a shout-out! Although they joke around, the song isn’t entirely shits and giggles. The Beastie Boys express that the people they care about prevent their heads from getting too big (except when it comes to rhyming). They spit, “I’ve got friends and family that I respect/When I think I’m too good, they put me in check/So believe when I say I’m no better than you/Except when I rap, so I guess it ain’t true.”

With an old-school flavor and friendly, but humerous touch, the Beastie Boys definitely have not forgotten their roots. After all, their album is called To The 5 Boroughs, and after hearing the leadoff track, “Ch-Check It Out,” this album should be worth checking out.

*** (3 Stars out of 5)

Staff Views

Aki’s View: *** (3 Stars out of 5) “The Beastie Boys just ranting and raving, as they do best. It’s good, but nowhere near the quality of their earlier work.”

J’s View: ***1/2 (3.5 Stars out of 5) “Typical anthem-like beastie boys song, complete with absurd fun rhymes and simplistic beats that the Beasties rock so excellently. They group has a unique signature style that no one can even come close to imitating. Somehow, they make bad come off a sheer genius in an utterly enjoyable way, using old school methods and an off kilter dork humor in their rhymes. While it’s no classic, it shows an intense amount of potential and skill, but much like their other work, it fits into a niche and either you “get it” and enjoy it or you don’t. This is nowhere near as acessable for an average radio listener as “sabotage” but a true fan might like it that way. The Beasties are back in a big way.”

Hansen’s View: ** (2 Stars out of 5) “The genre isn’t a favorite of mine, but I respect them for their longevity. This song has a solid old-school style beat, which is usual Beastie Boys and I admit it is quite catchy.”

Thanks for checking this out and leave a comment. Let us if you agree or disagree and like or dislike Blastweek. What do you think of “Ch-Check It Out?”