Thursday, March 30, 2006

Ghostface Killah - Fishscale

As a fan of a wide range of hip hop, I try to stay current on everything that comes out fairly close to when it comes out. Then I found that my 20-gig iPod (which is actually 18.55 gigs, greedy Apple bastards) is hovering around 2.5 gigs of free space, which is not as much as it may sound like considering how quickly I went through the 16.05 that are currently occupied. I did all that math in my head, too.

So, I'm playing catch up on what 2006 has had to offer so far. But truthfully, nothing really mattered music-wise until Ghostface's new album got released.

All personal biases aside, this album is the shit. Apparently, 04's The Pretty Toney Album was not well-received (news to me), so Ghost has returned back to his Only Built 4 Cuban Linx steeze, rapping about cocaine, crack, and the process of making the former into the latter. If this is a precursor of what to expect from the forthcoming Raekwon-collaborated Cuban Linx II album coming soon (this year maybe?), then anticipation'll be sky high. Ghost continues to separate himself from the average rap-about-drug-dealing MC (ahem**Jeezy**ahem) with his intense mic presence and vivid attention to detail. On "Crack Spot", you almost feel as if you're standing next to Ghost, watching Woodrow the Basehead fall face-first on the coffee table bleeding after taking a hit of some uncut, 3 rocks falling out of his pipe.

Ghost's ear for production that fits his style is what continues to amaze the most album after album. Just Blaze laces the intense "The Champ", while the late J. Dilla's slow and harmonious "Whip Me With A Strap" has Ghost emotionally reminiscing about getting beat by his mother as a kid. Legendary N.Y. beatsmith Pete Rock produces 3 tracks, bringing out the violins on "R.A.G.U. (Rae & Ghost United)", one of the album's highlights. And, perhaps most surprising considering Ghost's record label (Def Jam), MF Doom, everyone's favorite "hey-look-at-me-I'm-a-fan-of-him-too" artist, produces 4 tracks, including "9 Milli Bros", which features the entire Wu-Tang Clan (RZA's "appearance" being a cut-and-pasted shoutout at the beginning is made up for by Cappadonna referring to himself as "the cab driver"). Although all of Doom's beats had actually been used previously from his less-publicized past, they still sound fresh as they did 5 years ago, Ghost breathing new life into 'em.

The few downsides are easily overlookable considering the overall quality of this album. There's no RZA beats, but most Wu fans have probably come to accept situations like this by now. Some of the better tracks end at about a minute in, like "Beauty Jackson" and "Barbershop", but this has become a staple of Ghostface albums, and with Fishscale at 24 tracks long and 64 minutes, it doesn't compromise the length of the album. "Back Like That" f/ Ne-Yo is expected "1st single" material, and actually becomes listenable after a while; the only bad track on here is, oddly enough, the bonus track "3 Bricks" f/ Raekwon & Biggie (better yet, a rehashed verse of Biggie's), a Biggie Duets leftover not suited for this album.

Heavy on samples and substance, Fishscale is Ghost's best album since... well, since his last one. Quietly one of hip hop's most consistent artists, Ghost has yet to lose a step, and with Cuban Linx II and Swift & Changeable (his album with MF Doom) in the works, he's found a work ethic to match.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Chicago Bulls (Schenschered Version)

Within my completely-irrelevant NBA season preview last year, back when I used to have a subprofile, I made the following prediction:

"Sacramento Kings undrafted rookie center Luke Schenscher will emerge as a key reserve for the team. I say this solely based on witnessing his performance for Georgia Tech in their game against Duke about 2 yrs. ago (the day before the Patriots/Panthers Super Bowl), which I watched while zoning off an eighth of mushrooms. I wasn't as much pleased by his playing ability as I was by his fun-to-pronounce last name. SHEN-SHUR. SHHHEN-SHUUUR. That's awesome. The red-haired Australian will quickly become a fan favorite following the 1st annual 'Eighth of Shrooms Nite' at Arco Arena."

So as to not bring into question my journalistic integrity, allow me to point out my inaccuracies in the preceding. First of all, Luke isn't Australian; he's actually from Cape Town, South Africa. Those pesky non-North American and non-European nations that breed mostly white people, I always get 'em mixed up. Secondly, Luke didn't make the Kings roster -- matter of fact, he was cut a few days after I made that post. And lastly, I was way off in assuming that he would be responsible for the complete societal acceptance of hallucenogenic mushrooms (still have my dreams, though).

I was not off, however, in predicting Schenscher having an impact on this season. Since signing a 10-day contract with the Chicago Bulls earlier this month and eventually being signed for the rest of the season, the Bulls are an impressive 5-8. On second thought, that record is pretty much terrible. But more importantly, since Schenscher's 1st day as a Bull, the Philadelphia 76ers, who currently hold the 8th and final playoff spot in the East while the Bulls have been in 9th most of the season, have gone 2-9, their lead over the Bulls dropping to only 2 games. So, while Schenscher hasn't really added anything to the Bulls, he has somehow been able to take something away from Philly. Like most young players is his position, Schenscher has wowed his team with persistence and hard work to make for lack of talent, strength, and in Luke's case, masculine-looking hair.

The Bulls find themselves in a comfortable position. They have failed miserably to fill the gap left in the middle when they traded center Eddy Curry to New York, and it has shown in their 31-40 record, yet they still find themselves a playoff contender late in the season. Furthermore, since they received New York's 1st round pick in this year's draft in the Curry trade, and Knicks GM Isiah Thomas has subsequently shitted all over his team, the Bulls will be in excellent position to draft someone from the top of this year's NCAA class. One possibility I was hopeful for was Gonzaga's Adam Morrison, who could've combined with Schenscher to provide the goofiest-looking white boy frontcourt known to man. Hopeful, that is, until he showed off his 11-year-old girl emotions in front of millions of viewers and thousands in attendance, sprawling out at halfcourt with his jersey over his face for at least a good 5 minutes.

Adam, you're scaring the children. Next time, take it the locker room. On the bright side, he managed to avoid curling up in the fetal position, which would've been embarrassing but a lot funnier.

In summation of all this, as the NBA season winds down, the Bulls may be on the outside looking in as of now, but they have an Irish-looking-though-actually-South-African four-leaf clover on their roster that shall guide them to the "Promise Land" of the 8th playoff spot and subsequent 1st-round elimination at the hands of the Pistons. God works in mysterious ways... and so does Luke Schenscher. SHHHHHHEN-SHUUUUUUR.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

A few things that suck balls...

Finals extensions due to illness.



So, what are your plans for spring break?

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Who's the man?

No, Lebron, you're the man.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Obligatory March Madness Post

This year's NCAA tournament has been nothing short of exciting. Lots of close games, game-winning shots, mid-majors pulling upsets over former powerhouses, CBS offering live broadcasts online (complete with phony Excel sheets just in case one's "boss" walks by, you know, in case you have a job like a loser), and Adam Morrison's mustache still hasn't grown in any farther.

One thing that's surprised me, though, is how easily players are making clutch free throws. When did this trend start? Icing games? Being calm under pressure? When one team is leading by 2 with under 10 seconds or so left, and they get to shoot free throws, didn't it used to be that one of 'em would always be missed so that the other team, now down by 3, would have one more opportunity to frantically drive the ball up court and get a shot off at the buzzer? Sure, it wouldn't go in half the time; rarely, in fact. But it made the endings more suspenseful. Nowadays, dudes will step up and make both free throws, making for an insurmountable 4-point lead that leaves the winning team playing half-hearted defense just to please their coach, and the losing team trying to get off a 3-point bomb that won't make a difference regardless because they know they're going to lose but don't want to concede to that fact by dribbling out the clock.

Now that the Sweet 16 has been decided, the Elite 8, Final 4, and eventual NCAA champion will follow. All this will determine who are the best players and teams of the tournament, but I would like to take a moment to acknowledge those whose God-given talent lies not only on the court, but also on their driver's licenses.

Best Name
Gonzaga's Pierre-Marie Altidor-Cespedes, whose last name is compromised of 2 names, both of which sound like an allergy medication which would have a fancy commercial, likely to be shown some time during the tournament. Imagine, if you will, a beautiful day... the sun shining over a hill, light clouds floating in the sky, flowers blooming... and then I asked my doctor about Altidor... see what I mean?
-- Runner-up - George Washington's Pops Mensah-Bonsu, who was born to have grandkids. Incredible to have your 1st name be "Pops", and it's questionable whether that is even the best part of your name
-- 2nd Runner-up - UCLA's Luc Richard Mbah A Moute, who has an "A" in his name and not even as an initial. Though I'm sure it's universally recognized, remember that you can't spell "bad" or "ass" without the "A". Word to Juelz Santana, Young Jeezy, and Arthur Fonzarelli

Best Resemblance
UConn's Josh Boone

and ousted Bone-Thugs-N-Harmony member Bizzy Bone

Boone, a junior, will probably need another year in college to become a viable draft pick in the NBA, considering he could use a few extra pounds and has a limited offensive game, not to mention shooting only 55% on free throws and having the audacity to airball one in the closing minutes of UConn's last win. But if he does make it to the pros, I'll be campaigning for his nickname -- either Bizzy Boone or Thuggish Ruggish Boone or something along those lines. Going to Cleveland would make the situation perfect.

Friday, March 17, 2006


A few months ago, I may have briefly alluded to a future Samuel L. Jackson vehicle where he plays a Witness Protection agent providing security for a witness on a flight. While on this flight, a terrorist on board, looking to kill the witness, unleashes an undisclosed number of snakes on the plane. The working title? You guessed it -- Snakes on a Plane.

Now, what would possess one to give a movie such an uninspired title? Jackson's ego, perhaps? Or maybe coming off as ridiculous could work as a marketing ploy. Whatever the reason, I, personally, struggled to believe it. The few people I told about it often had an equally hard time believing I was for real.

It's for real. [Flash Player required]

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Does this sound bitter?

For those of you who haven't heard the news, allow me to explain my week-long absence from the outside world. I possibly maybe likely could have Mono. I'll spare the effort of going through all the symptoms I'm dealing with -- Wikipedia does it so much better anyways. One thing I'll point out, however, is about the sore throat that comes along with it. When they say "sore throat", they ain't kidding. It's difficult to eat, swallow, cough, talk for extended periods of time. There's no prescription for it, so I've tried anything and everything over-the-counter -- Regular Strength Tylenol, Extra Strength Tylenol, Advil, Advil Liqui-gels, Robitussin DM, Chloraseptic, Cepacol, various forms of throat lozenges, soups, teas, and so on. And basically, nothing has worked effectively for more than a few hours. Add to that the fact that going to sleep at night guarantees at least 6 hours of going without any medication or liquid, which makes absolutely no progress.

Apparently, you can test "negative" for Mono yet still have it. Furthermore, you can test "negative" for Mono TWICE and still have it. Clearly, a medical shortcoming that doctors try to keep on a need-to-know basis. Whatever this mysterious infection that has plagued me since the beginning of the month technically is, it looks enough like Mono to have two medical opinions tell me to treat myself as if it is Mono -- although I'm suspicious of just how much of a "Doctor" the guy at Student Health is, his mustache definitely rubbed me the wrong way (no homo).

So, for the past week-plus, I've been home in the Valley, doing what one must do to get over this infection: rest. Without working internet and digital cable, I surrounded myself with whatever entertainment I could gather -- iPod, The Price Is Right (R.I.P. Rod Roddy), People's Court, newspaper, blood tests, PS2, movies. As is typical with me, and I'd assume most of the student body here, I brought a bunch of school shit back home with me and never touched any of it. Fortunately, I was able to squeeze out a couple of two-day extensions for the two take-home finals I'll have next week. Flash a doctor's note in a professor's face and they react like Craig Ehlo to Michael Jordan. [Speaking of which, this is awesome.]

The worst of all of this, though, is that because Mono can have affects on how your liver functions, I'm not allowed to drink alcohol for the next 6 weeks. Since I was first told this on March 6th, mathematically that means that the next time I'd be safe to take a drink is on April 18th. So much for St. Patrick's Day, celebrating being done with finals, Spring Break, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and occasional Mondays until then. On the bright side, I don't have any desire to drink, so I don't physically feel like I'm missing out much. Wait, should that even be considered a "bright side"?

To sum everything up, I'm in a pretty fucked up state right now. I'm tired, I'm lazy, I got shit to do that I have little desire to do, and I'm taking medications on a continuous loop -- basically my normal everyday life minus the medication part, unless you consider marijuana a medication. And by the way, I ain't touched that stuff in weeks either. Something was telling me it wouldn't be in my best interest to ask a doctor whether or not I'm safe to blaze while having Mono, and since it spreads through mouth secretions, I wouldn't want to share a bong or blunt with anybody any time soon.

So I shall proceed from here, with no timetable for recovery, no sure-fire method of getting better, and my lymph nodes protruding from my neck. Fuck yes, I'm bitter. This sucks. Have a nice day!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Medvedenko a Laker? NYET!

Sad news today coming out of Lakerland, and not just that they have to play San Antonio tonight. Long-time Laker, 2-time NBA champ, and beloved Ukrainian Stanislav "Slava" Medvedenko was cut from the team today to make room for playoff-race good luck charm Jim Jackson. Can't blame Slava for this -- he's only played 2 games this year due to a herniated disk that required surgery, and in the mean time, Brian Cook has solidified his role as the team's big man with a solid 15-20 foot shooting range. Can't blame the Lakers for this, either -- Slava's a free agent next year, the team clearly needs more offense for this last leg of the season, and Coach Jackson hasn't exactly been the biggest fan of Slava, be it his "juvenile diet" or the fact that he "never turned down a shot he didn't like", stated in Phil's book about how he would never ever never ever coach Kobe Bryant again (not expecting wifey/owner's daughter Jeannie Buss to insist on separate beds soon after*). It was a decision that best served both parties, but still sits sour for those that have been down for a long time -- now, Kobe and Devean "Ice Cube" George remain as the sole remnants of the Laker 3-peat that began the century.

I remember seeing Slava at the L.A. Auto Show, sometime around '01 or '02, with a cute girl on his side and many hand waves directed at those that noticed him. This was a time when being a Laker brought instant celebrity, no matter how little you played, how unproductive you were, or how many different hats you wore while courtside. Nowadays, the average Angelino can't tell their Von Wafer's from their Devin Green's (and for good reason, since neither plays much and when they do, they're pretty much exactly the same). But that's how they do in fickle-ass Hollywood. So, for me, Villa, and the 4 or 5 other Laker fans who still watch religiously despite their fall from grace, we tip our 40s to Slava's memory.

["*" = This hasn't been proven, but come on now.]

Sunday, March 05, 2006

RZA Lecture @ Corwin Pavilion, 3/2/06

Not surprisingly, the RZA's blinged-out watch remains on Wu-Tang Standard Time -- not sure what the time difference is with Pacific Standard, but trust me, it's different. The lecture was scheduled to start at 7, and there's a DJ spinning records (which doesn't come with many lectures, by the way) well past 7. Fortunately, all the songs are Wu-Tang classics, with a few other gems thrown in here and there. One girl seated behind me wonders why the DJ is playing so much "old shit" -- safe to assume she tagged along with friends.

Clearly, the Wu-Tang phoenix shines brightly into the sky off the coast of Isla Vista, as the crowd includes many familiar faces -- my freshmen-year R.A. Iheanyi, co-workers, last year's neighbor who never had a piece to smoke out of and always used ours, the dude in my Cold War History class who looks exactly like Keanu Reeves (star of the big screen, as well as the smallest of screens). Also in attendance: a dude in front of me with his girlfriend, repeatedly kissing her on the top of the head, also known as her hair, for some reason (at one point he gets a strand in his mouth and doesn't even notice, on some "Lady & The Tramp" shit); a bitch to my left repeatedly flashing pictures; and a fat dude who just occupied the empty seat to my right, as well as a portion of my own seat. If I weren't listening to the RZA preach, I'd probably be really uncomfortable. Except that RZA didn't come out until at least 7:25. Solid.

Some lady with some organization with some college (lucky guess, UCSB) comes out first to introduce the RZA, running down some of his accolades. But first, allow me to transform into the Wu-Tang fanatic I am most of the time, so as to be overly critical of her errors. [Transformation complete] First, she mentions his role as producer of the Wu's critically-acclaimed early work, then lists him as a producer for the likes of Raekwon and Masta Killa, as if they aren't members of the Wu-Tang Clan themselves. Then, in an ultimate "slap yourself" moment, she pronounces the "G" in "GZA" like the "G" in "give" or "ginsu", as opposed to like the "G" in "gelatin", the right way. I'm not the only one disturbed by this, as there are multiple moans in the crowd following her repeated mistakes. Before this lady can further shove her foot down her throat, she introduces the surprisingly-attractive Dr. Gaye Johnson (who may have the worst phony name to have actually been intentionally given to someone at birth) and the focus of her long-winded questions, the RZA, who receives a standing ovation and a few awkwardly-placed "W's".

Because UCSB is willing to splurge on celebrities to give lectures but not on tall chairs and working microphones, the first few minutes are a scrambled, mostly-unseen mess. Finally, people get their act together and the audience is finally able to get their $5 worth and then some. The rest is history... because it already happened. That's what history is. But anyways, here's what RZA had to say, other than "Bong bong!" very often:

-- Some of RZA's book, "The Wu-Tang Manual", focuses on the study and meaning of numbers and mathematics. Apparently, 1 stands for knowledge, 2 for wisdom, and 3 for understanding. Thus, just like 1 + 2 = 3, you can't have understanding without knowledge and wisdom, just like you can't have a child without a man and a woman. RZA also had some fun with words, defining "freedom" as having a "free dome" (or being "free" from "dumb") and "wisdom" as having a "wise dome". There were plenty of references to these symbolizations as a "philosophy" or "way of life", and though I haven't read RZA's book, these don't seem to me to being anything more than clever wordplay, maybe some cool conversation starters. Maybe it's because I don't know where all these meanings and definitions of numbers come from, because I feel as if I could go ahead and say that 11 stands for bread, and 12 stands for meat, so therefore 23 stands for sandwich

-- He talked a lot about important moments in his childhood, like when GZA took him to a block party @ 8 yrs. old and he vibed with the energy that hip hop provided, seeing dudes spinning on their heads to breakbeats. It could've made for a great "Boost Mobile" ad. He talked about selling newspapers with Ol' Dirty to save up money to buy records and equipment, and how he came to view hip hop as an "ocean" because you could basically make a breakbeat out of any record, from rock and roll to samba. Perhaps the "ocean" symbolizes sample clearance. When asked where he would keep all his equipment considering that he grew up living with 10 brothers and sisters, he said he kept it all in the dining room, which was also the living room. Since most of us in attendance live in IV, I think we could all understand what he meant

-- Proclaiming himself the "common denominator" of the Clan, he talked about the role he played in bringing the would-be greatest hip hop group of all-time together. He talked about the beef between the neighoring Stapleton (where he lived) and Park Hill projects in Staten Island, and how his house was like the anti-war zone where people from both sides met up to make music. Surprisingly, Raekwon and Ghostface, whom RZA referred to as the best duo in hip hop after EPMD, were sworn enemies at one time, and RZA felt they would've killed each other if he hadn't brought them together. On a lighter note, Cappadonna (whose mentioning sparked a dude in front to whisper "cab driver" to his friend) and Ol' Dirty had also wanted to knock each other back in the day

-- He got into Kung Fu movies as an alternative to going to school, as he was enrolled in school in Staten Island when his family moved to Brooklyn, only to transfer to a Brooklyn school as soon as his mom got evicted and was forced to move back to Staten. He talked about ditching school to watch Kung Fu flicks at local theater, 3 (sometimes 6) for $1.50. He got inspiration for them as being the closest thing to black history he had found; despite his interest in Greek mythology, its focus was too much on Gods with non-man-made powers and ability, and black history at the time was either about slavery or pimps. He liked the fact that the characters dealt with struggle, from rival gangs, cops, friends and family getting killed, as well as the "bugged out" shit they'd say. He talked about having the idea of combining his love for Kung Fu with hip hop as a way to prosper, and when explaining it to a friend, he was criticized for being on some "Chinese shit" -- then went on to say that that friend of his still lives in Stapleton to this day

-- He didn't so much urge, but rather suggested that women "preserve" their "jewels", mentioning that dressing in tight jeans and short skirts with titties hanging out is only equating foolishness (their dress) with foolishness (dudes' reactions). Also, he believes that it only adds to guy's disrespect of women, as they use words like "bitch" and "ho" because they're attracted to it but often can't get it, like the snake who couldn't reach the grapes so decided that they were sour and didn't want 'em anymore, or some silly Biblical reference like that. He then got into some Muslim stuff about Muhammed saying that since women were the bearers of the earth, they should cover up 3/4ths of themselves just like the planet is 3/4ths covered up with water, and dig the earth for the treasures they seek rather then expect them to come to them

-- He asked how many of us smoked weed, to which he got a sizeable response, then told us that he smokes "pounds" (not sure if that means weekly, monthly... daily??). Relating back to the foolishness aspect, he said that we're triggered to let the positives (getting high) outweigh the negatives (the number of brain cells we're killing). He refrained from saying he, or anyone of us, should stop, though

-- The talk turned to government for a moment, and RZA expressed his belief that America is a corporation (hence our Vice-President making millions), and was slow to react to Katrina because it didn't stand to make profit from it. He brought up the fact that New York was actually sold to the U.S. by the Dutch corporation that had owned it previously. He remained hopeful that New Orleans would emerge again as a better place, that the water would serve as a solvent to the city and wash away the bad attributes of its past, saying that New Orleans had looked like a "3rd world nation", as well as being a past U.S. murder capital

-- He discussed the personal stake he holds in the success of European rap, as Wu-Tang was one of the few major rap outfits to tour Europe back in the '90s. He feels they inspired the rise of the foreign-language MC in countries like Germany and France, and has gone back to work with such rappers, helping some emerge from selling 20,000 units to having earned gold plaques

-- When asked who he admires, he mentioned Quincy Jones, Bill Cosby, Oprah, Stevie Wonder, and Dave Chappelle, whom he called a "scientist". Somehow, it came up that Ray Charles used to look into a mirror when he'd fix his hair, and that Stevie Wonder used to measure the distance his voice would travel as a kid in order to be able to jump across building roofs with the other kids in his neighborhood, and furthermore, was encouraged to do so by his mom (yikes)

-- Towards the end, they allow people in the audience to approach two isolated microphones to ask their own questions to the RZA, which, in retrospect, was probably the worst thing they could've done. Despite being told to keep questions brief so as to keep the ever-growing lines moving, the 1st girl asked 3 "questions" about the image of women in rap videos, and some ill-conceived notion she has that rappers are closet butt-pirates because they make videos with their "shirts off, hugging each other". Like most of us in the audience, RZA wasn't sure what videos she's been watching, but removes his name from any such images and doesn't comment on it. The girl remains insistent on getting RZA to admit that commercial rap is homo by nature or something, and eventually the crowd gets restless and boos her until Dr. Johnson has no choice but to ask her to leave. The girl, who was of immense girth, then rolled down the aisle, looking dejected and possibly confused by what she was even trying to say

-- Questions from the audience eventually got better. One asked about RZA's view on the "hip hop police" and task forces intended to target rappers specifically, and RZA viewed it as an extension of the drug task forces of the '80s, targeting whichever way blacks were getting money. He was asked about his view on the Southern hip hop of the moment, which one could say is "less inspired" than other hip hop out right now (or, "shitty" is another word you could use), and RZA said he couldn't bash it because it's feeding hundreds, if not thousands, of families

-- Perhaps the greatest moment of the night came with one of the final audience questions, with a dude asking RZA how he felt about rapper "coming out of the hood" and "forgetting where they came from". RZA replied that no one wants to lives with "rats and roaches, broken elevators, and pissy hallways" their whole life, and proceeded to question the dude's intelligence -- his exact words were, "Yo, you stupid, B?" Nothing like seeing a guy get publicly chewed out by someone he probably had previously idolized

At 8:50, the question-asking session, as well as the entire event, was shut down for some unknown reason, considering that the event was advertised as going from 7-9 (and we all know what happened with that "7:00 start time"). On the bright side, I couldn't imagine RZA having much else to say without just trying to fill time. All in all, it was fresh to hear someone in the rap industry with something intelligent and enlightening to say, someone who hasn't let money change them, and someone who isn't ashamed to admit to smoking pounds of herb. RZA -- UCSB salutes you. Except that one dude you called stupid; he hates you now.