Thursday, June 30, 2005

1. Beanie Sigel - The B.Coming
2. System Of A Down - Mezmerize
3. Rod Lee - Vol. 5: The Official
4. Brooke Valentine - Chain Letter
5. Grand Buffet - Five Years Of Fireworks
6. Bossman - Law & Order
7. Brendan Benson - The Alternative To Love
8. Cassidy - I'm A Hustla
9. The Evens - The Evens
10. Amerie - Touch

1. Amerie - "1 Thing"
2. The Game f/ 50 Cent - "Hate It Or Love It"
3. R. Kelly - "Trapped In The Closet"
4. My Chemical Romance - "Helena"
5. Cassidy - "I'm A Hustla"
6. Mariah Carey - "We Belong Together"
7. Ying Yang Twins - "Wait (The Whisper Song)"
8. Lil Mo - "Dem Boyz"
9. T.I. - "U Don't Know Me"
10. System Of A Down - "B.Y.O.B."
11. Snoop Dogg w/ Justin Timberlake and Charlie Wilson - "Signs"
12. Common f/ The Last Poets - "The Corner"
13. Ludacris f/ Bobby Valentino - "Pimpin' All Over The World"
14. Juelz Santana - "Mic Check 1, 2"
15. The Killers - "Mr. Brightside"
16. Tweet - "Turn Da Lights Off"
17. Will Smith - "Switch"
18. R. Kelly - "Sex In The Kitchen"
19. John Legend - "Ordinary People"
20. Lee Ann Womack - "I May Hate Myself In The Morning"
21. Lil Jon & The Eastside Boyz f/ Usher and Ludacris - "Lovers & Friends"
22. Shakira f/ Alejandro Sanz - "La Tortura"
23. U2 - "Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own"
24. 112 - "U Already Know"
25. Toby Keith - "As Good As I Once Was"
26. Gucci Mane f/ Young Jeezy - "Icy"
27. Juvenile - "Sets Go Up"
28. Pitbull f/ Lil Jon - "Toma"
29. Destiny's Child - "Girl"
30. Webbie f/ Bun B - "Give Me That"
31. Vivian Green - "Gotta Go, Gotta Leave (Tired)"
32. Tyra - "Country Boy"
33. Nivea f/ Lil Jon and the Youngbloodz - "Okay"
34. Big & Rich - "The Big Time"
35. Ludacris - "#1 Spot"
36. Kelly Osbourne - "One Word"
37. Snoop Dogg - "Ups & Downs"
38. Boyz N Da Hood - "Dem Boyz"
39. Foo Fighters - "Best Of You"
40. Fat Joe - "So Much More"
41. Alan Jackson - "The Talkin' Song Repair Blues"
42. Bobby Valentino - "Slow Down"
43. Marque Houston - "All Because Of You"
44. Trick Daddy f/ Cee-Lo and Lil Kim - "Sugar"
45. 3 Doors Down - "Let Me Go"
46. Cam'ron f/ Kanye West - "Down & Out"
47. Kanye West - "Diamonds"
48. Missy Elliott f/ Ciara and Fatman Scoop - "Lose Control"
49. Paul Wall - "Sittin' Sidewayz"
50. Omarion - "Touch"

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Wednesday, June 29, 2005
Limp Bizkit/System Of A Down review in City Paper this week. The "Bleh." at the end of the 2nd paragraph was an embellishment by the editor that wasn't in my draft at all, but it cracked me up that he bothered to put it there so I let it stay.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2005
For the last 3 and a half years, I've worked for the events department of the college I went to. One of my co-workers has been there for 43 years, which is not just since way before I was born but since even before my dad went to school there. He's been there longer than most of the buildings on the campus. His last name is Batty and that's what everybody calls him, and pretty much everybody who works in our building knows him. The name almost sounds made up, just because he really is pretty much crazy. He talks to himself, and sometimes he's clearly doing it on purpose just to freak people out, but it's hard to tell how often he's doing it it for real. He also has a pretty thick local accent and kind of sounds like 8Ball from 8Ball & MJG and is really hard to understand sometimes. He's a pretty funny dude sometimes, though. He's really set in his ways and is kind of a pain in the ass to work with and has a pretty bad work ethic, but at his age, I don't really blame him. He had a minor heart attack a year or two ago, but came back to work less than a month later. He'd been talking about retiring for years, and everyone kinda wished he would. I mean, he's earned it by now, but every year he'd say this is his last year and then still be there the next. This summer he finally kept his promise, and a few weeks ago he went down to the HR office and put in the paperwork for his retirement. July 1st was supposed to be his last day of work, but last Thursday he had another heart attack, actually two of them, barely a week before retirement. Supposedly he's home already and doing ok, and since his paperwork was already put in his retirement's official. So I guess this isn't a sad story, and I don't really have any point for posting it other than to write about it and get it out of my system. But I am gonna miss that crazy old motherfucker.


Monday, June 27, 2005
top ten:

1. Billy Idol - "Dancing With Myself"
2. Imajin - "Bounce, Rock, Skate, Roll"
3. Lil Wayne - "So Much More" freestyle
4. King Tut - "Big Girl Theme"
5. System Of A Down - "Sad Statue"
6. 2Pac - "Against All Odds"
7. Bossman - "Off Da Record"
8. Rascal Flatts - "These Days"
9. DJ Paul - "Still Gettin' My Dick Sucked"
10. Master P f/ Lil Romeo - "I Need Dubs"

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Sunday, June 26, 2005
My Young Gunz review was on Stylus on Friday. For those following at home, every review I've published in the past 2 months has been of either rappers from Philly or R&B singers. I feel like I'm inadvertantly establishing a niche. But hey, Cassidy and Freeway have albums dropping this summer.

Note: In light of the end of Stylus in 2007, I decided to archive the text of all my reviews for the site on this blog for posterity, since I don't what the future holds for the Stylus domain, and have included both the letter grade ratting that accompanied the original review, and an adjusted rating that I would give the record now in retrospect.

Young Gunz
Brothers From Another
Roc-A-Fella/Def Jam
Stylus rating: C-
Adjusted rating by reviewer: C-

since becoming breakout stars of Beanie Sigel’s Philly supergroup State Property in 2003 with the hit “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop,” the Young Gunz have become the token pop rappers out of a notoriously grimy crew. No pinups themselves, Young Chris and Neef could only be considered heartthrobs standing alongside the burly Sigel and the neckbearded Freeway. On their second album, Brothers From Another, they scale back the unconvincing gun talk of last year’s debut Tough Luv, and focus on the old school aesthetic established by singles like “Can’t Stop” and “Friday Night,” right down to the Run DMC-style hats and Adidas outfits they sport on the cover.

Brothers From Another clocks in at a paltry 43 minutes, padded by the inclusion of “Grown Man Pt. 2,” a remix originally released over a year ago of a Tough Luv track. To blame the album’s mediocrity on the brevity and quick turnaround of the product wouldn’t quite be fair, though, as Chris and Neef probably couldn’t create a hot album with all the time in the world. Young Chris has perhaps one of the worst voices in mainstream hip hop, rhyming in a flat, charmless groan, and consistently fails to prove why he’s supposed to be the duo’s standout lyricist. The comparatively underrated Neef Buck is a little more nimble on the mic, upstaging his partner on the lead single “Set It Off” with the swerving flow of lines like “ain't worried bout you weirdos, your heroes, wannabe De Niro's / Til that thing get sinked wit them air holes”.

As with Tough Luv, Brothers From Another benefits from State Property producer Chad “Wes” Hamilton handling the bulk of the tracks. Hamilton has come up as one of the hottest producers in the Roc’s production stable in recent years, putting in work while Kanye and Just Blaze’s asking prices skyrocketed, but instead of elevating his status, he’s merely consistent here. Most of his contributions are creeping, minimal beats, with nothing as explosive as “Parade” from Tough Luv or Sigel’s “Gotta Have It.” Hamilton does exhibit versatility, however, giving “Tonight,” featuring Dogg Pound member Daz Dillinger, a squeaky, synth-driven beat as convincingly West Coast as anything the guest MC could have produced. Shondrae “Bangladesh” Crawford, the producer responsible for much of 8Ball & MJG’s Living Legends and Ludacris’s early albums, also turns in a beat beneath his abilities on “Same Shit Different Day,” a grating, sluggish track with a stuttering sample that resembles nothing so much as a wheezing donkey. But Swizz Beatz, previously one of the least versatile superproducers in the game, provides one of his increasingly frequent “woah, Swizzy did that?” moments on “Beef.”

Young Gunz are one of the rare acts in pop rap who’s actually at their best on the romantic tracks aimed at female fans (cf. Tough Luv hit “No Better Love”). Brothers From Another takes out ample time to serve that demographic, but misses with “Grown Man Pt. 2” featuring Kanye West and John Legend and “The Way It Goes” featuring Neef’s brother Pooda Brown, who sounds exactly like Neef but somehow worse. They come close to reproducing the magic of “No Better Love” once, though, with “Don’t Keep Me Waiting (Come Back Soon)” featuring Slim from 112 (credited as the entire group), which takes it back to 1986 with the kind of twinkly synths and slap bass that can only be properly achieved with a vintage Lionel Richie sample.

When I buy a Roc-A-Fella album, I always make a point to save the promotional inserts for forthcoming albums, mainly for the entertainment value of the ridiculously inaccurate release dates. One of my favorite inserts trumpets Summer 2003 releases for albums by Sigel and Cam’ron that hit stores only in the past 6 months. The constant delays can be frustrating for fans, but ultimately result in building up anticipation and allowing more time to pile on fresh new tracks. But since label co-founder Jay-Z took his seat as president of Def Jam and assumed full ownership of the Roc dynasty, there seems to be a new policy in action. The first two releases under the Carter Administration, Memphis Bleek’s 534 and Young Gunz’ Brothers From Another, were rushed out with minimal buzz and even less evident effort, posting pathetic first week sales. If the Gunz’ nascent careers survive such an underwhelming, underperforming album, it will only be because Coach Carter finally gives them the real guidance and time they need to not fall flat on their faces.

Reviewed by: Al Shipley
Reviewed on: 2005-06-24

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Saturday, June 25, 2005
Ted Leo/Pharmacists 6/23/05 @ the 9:30 Club:
Dial Up/2nd Ave, 11 AM/Me And Mia/Where Have All The Rude Boys Gone?/The High Party/The One Who Got Us Out/Counting Down The Hours/Little Dawn/Heart Problems/Biomusicology/Timorous Me/Hearts Of Oak/Shake The Sheets//encore: My Vien Ilin/Six Months In A Leaky Boat/(?)

It was cool to see Ted in a place as big as the 9:30 for the first time. I kind of got a concept of how much his fanbase has grown just from my immediate experiences more than the size of the venue, though: 3 years ago, I went to Ted Leo shows alone, then 2 years ago, my girlfriend starting going to see him with me, then last year, J.G.'s brother John came a long for a show, and this time, it was both of them plus John's girlfriend. I wasn't even really trying to get all of them into the music, it just kind of caught on.

Not quite the best show I've seen Ted do, but maybe the best setlist. I mean, the whole first half the set was nothing but songs I wanted to hear, and I can only think of a couple I was hoping for that weren't played. I liked how a big chunk of Shake The Sheets was played in the running order, too. I put that album high on my top ten last year, but I don't think it completely grew on me until the last few months. And last time I saw him was right before it dropped, so this was really the first show that I got to hear the songs live after getting to know those songs. Ted never seems to do very good encores, though. It was cool to hear "Six Months" with the full band, and I don't think I'd ever heard "My Vien Ilin" live before, and the last song was a familiar cover but I couldn't quite place what it was. But still, such a short and anticlimactic encore. It wouldn't kill him to hold back a crowd-pleaser or two for the very end of the show, y'know?

I've griped a little about the Pharmacists in the past, but I think the rhythm section has tightened up a little over the past couple years, and I'm liking the power trio lineup. The drummer, Chris, makes little mistakes a lot less often now, which used to frustrate me, even though I'm a drummer and I know how it is, a hundred things can go wrong with that many pieces to your instrument. And as much as I love when Ted ramps up the tempo and his strumming hand becomes a blur, sometimes I feel like they just go overboard with it and certain songs would benefit from being played at the tempo they're at on the record. I mean, I love "Little Dawn", but it was so rushed it fell like it was about to fall apart, and at the last show it was a personal highlight. Really, I'm nitpicking, which happens when I see a band enough times to notice differences between individual shows, but it was a good night. J.G. wanted to watch from the balcony, which was cool but kind of a change of pace for me. For all the dozens of shows I've seen at the 9:30, I think there've been maybe 3 or 4 where I've spent any amount of time up on the 2nd level. It's a good view, though, I should do it more often.

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Thursday, June 23, 2005
Last night I went to the Talking Head to see Rjyan Kidwell's new band, Sand Cats, play their first show ever. I've followed Rjyan's exploits on the Baltimore scene since shortly after he started performing under the name Cex a few years ago. Actually, the first time I saw him was almost exactly 5 years ago, and at the same club, when it was still the old Ottobar. He's kind of an odd guy and I get the feeling that he's pretty villified in the indie scene to the extent that people know of him. He's carved out a pretty strange path and I haven't enjoyed everything he's done, although I've seen him do some great shows and I really enjoy some of his albums. Over the last year or two he'd been kind of quiet, not releasing much, and I think for a while he lived in Chicago, and got married, but he moved back to Baltimore recently.

Sand Cats is just Rjyan and his wife Roby, and that's all I knew about the band before the show. It was...interesting. There were costumes. And kind of a theatrical element, with scripted dialogue between the songs. They both played master warriors with ridiculous names and they did battle with their instruments, him on drums and her on an electric bass. She played with a bow and made these awesome guttural bass sounds, and he just kind of pounded away primitively, accompanied a pre-recorded CD of screeching noise. Kind of the same way I remember playing drums when I got my first kit, hitting the drums as hard as possible without a very well honed sense of rhythm. It was supposed to be a fight to the death but I guess it ended as a draw. Tom was there, and before their set we were talking a lot about professional wrestling, and the whole Sand Cats thing ended up kind of fitting into that whole conversation pretty well.

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Wednesday, June 22, 2005
My first big full-page piece for City Paper (teaser headline on the front page and everything!), about R. Kelly's "Trapped In The Closet", ran today. I'm already kinda regretting writing about it so soon being so hard on the last few chapters, though, because this morning I read this on

More drama is on the way for R. Kelly. The singer has completed a mini movie for his five-part song, "Trapped in the Closet," and at the end, viewers are promised that chapters 6-10 are on the way soon. All five videos that comprise "Trapped in the Closet" will be released on a DVD accompanying Kelly's new album, TP3 Reloaded, which lands in stores July 5.


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Tuesday, June 21, 2005
I just finally got around to reading David Foster Wallace's recent Kenyon Commencement Address, which is way better than anything anyone said at my graduation, although there are some parts that feel a bit flabby and overdone. I feel like it gets at the root of some things that I agree and identify with, though, some of them kind of quaint and obvious, some of them articulated more perfectly than I've ever heard or read before.

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Monday, June 20, 2005
When you're dating a scientist, there are things you get used to. Like the fact that she knows about sites like Giant Microbes, which makes stuffed animals in the likeness of viruses and bacteria, and excitedly e-mails you when they add a new line of venereal diseases. But there's nothing that can really prepare you for the day that your girlfriend asks you to give her Syphilis.

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Friday, June 17, 2005
in my stereo:

Rod Lee - Vol. 5: The Official
Limp Bizkit - The Unquestionable Truth (Part 1)
Urban Verbs - Urban Verbs
Grand Buffet - Five Years of Fireworks
The Hold Steady - Seperation Sunday
The Evens - The Evens
Labtekwon - The Ghetto Dai Lai Llama: African Rhythm American Blues
Simon & Garfunkel - The Best of Simon & Garfunkel
Lil Mo - Meet The Girl Next Door
Bossman - Law & Order

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Thursday, June 16, 2005
This morning I gave Darren a ride to BWI after he crashed at my place and hung out for a couple days here. Darren (Gov't Names readers know him as Le Coq, longtime ILX people know him as Ramosi and a bunch of other pseudonyms) is a guy I've kept in touch with through all this message board and blog shit for a few years now. One of the funniest people I know to any extent, too, always has a crazy story to tell. He's from Vancouver and always talked up plans about crossing the border and coming out east to see people but I was never sure if those plans would ever really materialize, and still wasn't even sure until like a week ago when he was calling me from NYC. He's been hustling with a lot of stuff, getting together a record label and a bunch of other side hustles, and has already made enough money off of these things to afford a long trip out here. He was in NYC for like a week and then took a Greyhound down to Baltimore for a couple days before flying up to Montreal today for further business. He's trying to get me involved in the label and put me on the payroll, although I dunno how much time and energy I'll have to spare for that stuff the time comes for that.

To say that Darren and my idiot roommate Landon did not hit it off would be a collosal understatement. The first night Darren was here, I thought a fight was going to break out every time I had to leave them in the same room unsupervised for a few minutes, and after 2 hours in my apartment, Darren asked me to take him to a hotel instead of crashing on my couch. But evidently there wasn't a single hotel in Baltimore with a vacancy (is it that normal? was it just that the Orioles were playing a home game or was something else going on?), so he ended up staying at my place anyway, and kind of made nice with Landon and there was no further conflict. One night we hung out with Tom for a bit and went to a bar, but we didn't stay long, because it was late and Darren had already had an 8 hour bus trip that day and was pretty drained. And last night we walked around the harbor and then cruised around with Bmore club music on the radio, so I think he got a nice glimpse of the city. I think he's coming back to New York in August so I might go up there to hang out again, Darren's a good dude.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2005
Meme time!

Total volume of music files on my computer: at the moment, 565 mp3's, which I guess is a big number, but I don't feel like I download a lot or listen to music on my computer that often. I have an old iBook with pretty limited hard drive space, which means almost everytime I want to download something new, I have to find something I don't mind deleting to make room. I hope to get a new computer in the near future so that I don't have to worry about this issue anymore.

Last CD I bought was: on the same day, Grand Buffet's Five Years of Fireworks and Sloan's A Sides Win, both career retrospectives wherein I was already familiar with a lot of the songs, and was motivated to purchase mainly for the DVDs packaged inside.

Song playing right now: Chaka Khan "I Feel For You"

Five songs I listen to a lot these days: (I'll try not to make any of these redundant with similiar lists I put on this blog) NEK "Face Down" (Remix), Steely Dan "Babylon Sisters", Brendan Benson "Cold Hands (Warm Heart)", T.I. "ASAP", 112 "My Mistakes"

And I am passing this on to be filled out by:

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Monday, June 13, 2005
I'm kinda hyped about the impending arrival of The Sands, less for the involvement of SFJ (no diss, I've just never heard Ui) than that of Chris Lee, whose 3 solo albums I'm a pretty big fan of (also a critic, I think he used to write a lot for Spin). His website used to have a lot more to it, including mp3's, but it's pretty barebones at the moment.


Wednesday, June 08, 2005
Brooke Valentine review in this week's City Paper. The Brooke=Pink parallel was something that only occurred to me kind of at the last minute, but now seems almost so obvious that I'm surprised noone else came up with it.

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Thursday, June 02, 2005
top ten:

1. The Replacements - "Fuck School"
2. Tony Yayo f/ G-Unit - "I Know You Don't Love Me"
3. Boyz N Da Hood - "Dem Boyz"
4. Lil Mo - "Dem Boyz"
5. Mullyman - "Problems"
6. Nigga Say What - "Hornz Joint"
7. Devo - "Snowball"
8. Ebony Eyez - "Act Like A Bitch"
9. Ted Leo - "Walking To Do"
10. George Jones - "Her Name Is"

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Wednesday, June 01, 2005
I finally got around to cleaning up and moving around some links that I'd meaning to for a while, motivated by the urge to update the link to my friend Mat's site, which has changed domains/names multiple times in the past few months (Elysium Mons, formerly Silence Is So Accurate, formerly Olympus Mons), because lately his fiancee Emily has been guest blogging for him with incredibly entertaining results. If you give Emily enough caffeine, she starts making sounds like a train and occasionally smoke starts streaming out of her ears. And if you put a keyboard in front of her she writes some pretty hilarious stuff. Hopefully when Mat comes back from his blogging break she'll either keep posting or start her own site again.

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