It was a downtown D.C. office space acquaintance, Jua Johnson, who first tipped me to Ross for real, in 2009. We’d already applauded Ross’ breakout radio smashes by then — ‘Hustlin’ and ‘Push It’ from Ross’ Port of Miami debut in 2006 – but Deeper Than Rap was a surprise delight then, and it’s a classic now. Gotta thank Jua for the 100+ hours I’ve spent listening to ‘In Cold Blood’ on loop.
For Complex, I reviewed Ross’ new album, Mastermind. Mosey on yonder. Preview below. Choice cuts: ‘Rich Is Gangsta’, ‘Nobody’ feat. French Montana, ‘Mafia Music III’, ‘The Devil Is A Lie’ feat. Jay Z, ‘War Ready’ feat. Jeezy.
In the sense that 2009′s Deeper Than Rap marked Rick Ross’ shift into cinematic, charismatic storytelling, and widescreen appeal as a persona, Mastermind is Deeper’s rightful sequel. From jacking the synth flood of Brian De Palma‘s Tony Montana soundtrack to launching its first act through alternating Caribbean sunshine and .38 caliber hail. Traces of Trick Daddy and Young Jeezy linger—the former’s influence most clearly pronounced on Mastermind’s first single, “The Devil is a Lie.” Yet all Ross’ flows converge in tribute to Bad Boy‘s new jack soul and Drake‘s reconciliation of banging beats with R&B deceleration.
Editor’s Note, 03/13/14: I published this post three+ years ago — August 21, 2010 — under the title, End of Evangelion: My Favorite Scene From Film. To date, it’s one of the most consistently visited posts of this blog. I revisited this past weekend and thought, huh, I’m a better writer now than I was then, but I was pretty astute back then, too, IMHO. So here I’ve trimmed a few sentences but otherwise let the prose stand as was, as testament to the archival wonder of revisiting a lapsed diary. For the past two years, I’ve been writing a fiction manuscript that grapples many of Eva’s themes. Let’s see where it leads us.
Evangelion is, at face value, the story of a young man and two young women who pilot giant robots to fend against alien invasion of post-/pre-apocalyptic Tokyo. The robots are standard for popular 1990s anime; the series is essentially about the growth and devolution and psychology of the three young pilots, and of the series’ peripheral characters.
Evangelion culminates in a feature-length film, End of Evangelion. For the purposes of this post, I won’t give much other background on the series, although I certainly encourage anyone reading this to read up further elsewhere, because Evangelion is definitely worth diving into if you’ve ever appreciated Catcher In the Rye, Pink Floyd, adolescence, pop psychology, anime, animation, or weirdness generally.
This past week, at both Complex and The New Republic, I covered the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards Show. Yes, by now, like you, I’m exhausted by even minimal thought of Macklemore. And yes, I ride for Beyonce and Jay until the Maybach wheels fall off.
The New Republic
Surprise! (It was, in fact.) Last night, last minute, I hopped onto another Gawker shift and banged out a few news-y posts before bedtime.
Monday, January 13, 2014
This weekend I pulled a guest news-writing stint at Gawker, all through Saturday and Sunday. Dawning with an obit post that I ripped in the breakfast hours following Ariel Sharon’s death, and parting on a crude note: fear of super-duper HD porn.
I hadn’t written for the Denton empire since Wonkette in early ’08, so this was all quite fun and rejuvenating for me. Shouts out to Max Read and Jordan Sargent for the honor and pleasure, and to Kiese Laymon for his unspeakable sorcery of people and events.
Ah, the links — they’re below the fold.
A delayed update, I know, but of course I’m going to share the essay I wrote for Complex by which the magazine crowned Kendrick Lamar as rap’s MVP in 2013.
Without a new solo project lined up for 2013, Kendrick found himself free to hype new projects from his T.D.E. brethren—next up, ScHoolboy Q’s Oxymoron—and to spread his wings atop rap’s top tier. For Kendrick, 2013 was a year of away games. High-profile collaborations including a“Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” remix with Jay Z, and guest verses on studio releases from J. Cole,Pusha T, Eminem, and Robin Thicke.
More than just a lyricist, more than just a songwriter, Kendrick proved to be a master strategist. His delighted and accurate boast at this year’s BET Awards Cypher lit the Internet abuzz with rumors of tension with Drake, who may or may not have felt some type of way about Kendrick’s swinging for him (among others) and who kinda maybe sort fired back on his “The Language.” Others responded more explicitly: numerous New York little-knowns—incensed by Kendrick’s claim, “I’m Makaveli’s offspring, I’m the King of New York/King of the Coast, one hand, I juggle ‘em both…”—as well as Meek Mill, A$AP Ferg, the Slaughterhouse fam. Kendrick put everyone on the defensive with “Control.” Everyone was talking about it so everyone was asked about it, so everyone was forced to comment on it and to position themselves regarding it. The snowball effect. And four months later no one, not even Drake, has regained their footing to land a solid jab back at dude or else convincingly shrug it off. Kendrick is haunting motherfuckers. Unfazed, grinning that devilish grin (“Wanna see a dead body?”), he knows he’s haunting them.
More thoughts on Kendrick in this post I wrote a few months back, the morning after Big Sean‘s ‘Control’ dropped.
It’s Christmas Eve. You’re at home, on the couch in sweatpants amidst familial bickering. Already you’re agonizing the low fill of that whiskey grip you’ve got stashed at the top shelf of mom’s utility closet.
Ja Rule feels your pain.
Pain is love.
Love is Ja Rule reading How The Grinch Stole Christmas aloud to you and your insufferable loved ones.
Where would we be without Ja?
Merry Christmas, ho.
I’ve had a run of pieces over at Complex in the past couple months, including my first ever live performance write-up.
Live Review: An Ambivalent Lupe Fiasco Takes To The Stage In NYC — at Irving Plaza, just off Union Square in Manhattan, Lupe Fiasco performed a spree of classics plus a few sparse hints of his upcoming Tetsuo & Youth, Lupe’s fifth studio album. I typed a chunk of this story on my phone just as his set was winding down, a few minutes past midnight on a Tuesday.
Bad Guy: Why Eminem’s Trademark Hatred Is Indispensable To Hip-Hop — an essay by which I defend Eminem’s notorious deployment of misogyny, homophobia, and wanton mania as a legitimate creative perspective, invaluable to Eminem’s music. Rap’s real problem, I think, is indifference to the cultivation of female talent as contrast.
Old Flag, New Slaves: Kanye West, the Confederate Flag, and the Realities of Selling the Symbol – a critique of Kanye’s heedless incorporation of the Confederate flag into the merchandising for his Yeezus tour. An essay in which I prod the bounds of re-appropriation, suggesting that self-awareness, awareness of context, and self-education are key to any such efforts if they’re to be effective.
My other Complex pieces are listed here; everything listed under my byline page. So far I’ve parsed Lupe, Eminem, Kanye, Jay Z, Beyonce, and Justin Bieber. Still more essays to come at the close of the year, and at the start of the next . . .