Archive for the ‘Classic Chaz!’ category

CLASSIC CHAZ: Standing in the Shadow of Fallen Giants

February 11, 2011

NOTE: I originally wrote this at the end of February 2009. I was working in a Virgin Megastore at the time and, because of both the Biggie biopic Notorious and the never-ending string of Hip-Hop memorials, found myself discussing rap deaths on a daily basis. Now that it’s February again, it seemed fitting to start the month off with this discussion. This is only slightly changed from how it originally appeared on my Tumblr, but those are just mere corrections of spelling/grammar/bad writing.

Is this tasteless? As in, does this slap the taste out of my mouth?

Since “The Message,” the subject of death has often interjected itself as the most polarizing but popular party guest in the Hip-Hop lexicon. Whether a cautionary mention, braggadocios write-off or absurd glorification, it exists as the point of reference that every artist and listener can relate to. If taken literally, as some of the genre’s most vocal critics love to do, the music contains a record of thousands upon thousands of homicides, genocides and suicides that most listeners accept as (gee whiz) as aspect of the art and aren’t particularly phased by it. But along with the nameless body counts, you have those who deaths remain focal points for very different reasons.

While rap had lost plenty of pioneers and artists throughout its first twenty-five years, a select few became almost canonized by their passing. Scott la Rock of Boogie Down Productions is often seen as the first of this phenomenon, and the mid-90s had the passings of 2Pac and Biggie that signaled a defining moment for the genre’s place within American culture. But even in the wake of rappers dying at a pace currently only rivaled by professional wrestlers, February particularly stands out as the cruelest month of unfortunate losses. From J Dilla, who succumbed to lupus as his popularity was peaking, to Professor X, who died shortly before a planned and eventually successful X-Clan reunion, the shortest month has often ended with the burning out of some of the genre’s brightest rising stars.

Big L: Recoated.

Last weekend marks a decade since the passing of Big L. One-time Children of the Corn member, L developed a large cult following in the late 90s from his charismatic punchlines and vivid storytelling. Songs like “Ebonics,” a simple concept executed to perfection, “No Endz No Skinz,” where L’s penchant for punchline-after-punchline songwriting provides jaw-dropping moments build upon each other as to not peak too quickly and draw the listener in further and “Put It On” where L’s delivery compliments a series of perfectly constructed multiples to the point where the rhyme arch seems almost effortless as if any syllable would have been the first written garnered him the attention and respect from all rap audiences. While his death was the result of mistaken identity, his legacy begs the question of a misplaced one.

The same goes for Big Pun, who passed almost exactly one year after L. One of the largest artists to touch the mic, Pun’s best remembered for striking the perfect balance of, to use terms of the time, “jiggy” and “lyricism” with songs like “Still Not a Player” and arguably the greatest two bars in the genre in “Twinz ‘98.” (“Dead in the middle of Little Italy / little did we know that we riddled some middle-men who didn’t do diddly,” and that was ONE TAKE) While both were mourned and are still memorialized by their contemporaries and those they’ve influenced, they’re often left off of “Greatest Rappers of All Time” lists despite having just as much recorded material as staple Biggie Smalls.

This is what I saw when I first arrived on Ellis Island.

While many attribute this to label politics or Pun’s nationality, I feel the real difference is that Biggie got the chance to make Ready to Die, which will always be a go-to cornerstone of the genre. It’s the definitive testament to how great he was, and remains a realized vision of what he was capable of doing. He got the chance to make his masterpiece and although he was taken far too soon, his legacy isn’t as haunted by what-ifs.

Pun and, to an arguably greater extent, L never got the chance to make their masterpiece. Pun had all the talent, but his addiction to food and circle of enablers (leaving him, at one point, 900 lbs.) created an impossible filter of limitations that stopped him from really reaching his potential. While he still could murder a song he recorded in a booth laying on a mattress (“Leatherface”) and did indeed lose 100 lbs. trying to live, he never got to make that flawless full-length in an era where legends were made by “flawless full-lengths.”

The same goes for L who, if the sessions that became The Big Picture are any indication, was right on the cusp of changing the rap world. He had the charisma, look, style, sound, and writing ability of a champion but was murdered unexpectedly. Had a full album of “Ebonics” been realized, rap would be in a much different place for at least the early part of the last decade.

Yeah, this never gets old.

Basically, B.I.G. came out the gate with something iconic and refined to the point of perfection. As good as Capital Punishment and Lifestylez ov da Poor and Dangerouz are, they came from artists who hadn’t quite peaked yet and, by the somewhat unfair comparison of what could have been, are the reason why they are often denied G.O.A.T. (Greatest Of All Time) status.

So as another February draws to a close, and another tribute get made, at the end of the day it should be what these artists DID achieve, rather than what others remember them for, that should be celebrated. Will we ever get a Big L biopic? Or a Big Pun action figure? Probably not. Did they have a cutting-room floor full of acapellas allowing for a new generation of posthumous collaborations with artists who didn’t know who they were while they were alive? Thankfully, no. What they did leave were some of the greatest rap performances ever committed to wax, and that’s all an MC should ever hope for.

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

Classic Chaz: My Favorite Christmas Flicks!

December 24, 2010

Yeah, I'm not writing about any of these.

Way back in the year 2006 A.D., a midst the Hyphy movement and Tower Records liquidation, I wrote a little somethin’ somethin’ about my all time favorite Christmas films. I had forgotten about this until a few weeks back when I saw National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for the first time. Yes, I know, I had no business making a list of favorite Christmas movies with such a blank spot in my catalog. Well, here’s the thing, I *thought* I had seen it. The deal is, my Dad’s been a Timberwolves season ticket holder since before the team existed, so during my grade school years while my parents were getting divorced, if the night I was with him fell on the night of a game we spent quality time by cheering them on together. As Christmas approached, they would play clips from Christmas Vacation in-between plays to get us all in a festive mood between Christian Laettner moodswings. After a decade of Clark Griswald repetition, I could have sworn I saw the film. This was not the case. Now that I’ve seen it, I have to agree that it’s a good movie, even if now I think it suffers from not enough scenes of Wally Szczerbiak dunking.

Regardless, I stand by my four-year-old feelings feelings toward the following films. All holiday classics, all warm the 36 chambers of my heart. So let’s look back together on the Christmas movies I could make it through before I was legally old enough to drink Egg Nog!

Killa Season’s Greetings!

Your loyal Facebook friend Chaz here. Tis the season, between Christmas and New Year’s, where the B and C list of Christmas films get shown. Most of these atrocities suck in the worst way, as any combination of the words “christmas,” “deck,” “holiday,” “snow,” “winter,” “Santa,” “present” or “Toyland” usually results in something truly vile to get that Christmas Ca$h.

But some of these are truly wonderful little gems who only see the light of day this time of the year. OK, perhaps that is stretching it, BUT, I can promise you that each of these are worth at least one viewing. So, let’s begin this sleigh ride through the septic tank! Jingle balls!

John Waters' Favorite Christmas Film!

Christmas Evil (1980, Lewis Jackson)

I’ve never really been a huge fan of holiday themed horror films. While there are some certain gems that require annual viewing, but for every Charles Kaufman’s Mother’s Day or William Lustig’s Uncle Sam, there’s a dozen Valentines or April Fool’s Days. Christmas horror films are often the worst of these, with colossal wastes of time like Bill Goldberg in Santa’s Slay and the 1990’s VHS shot Santa Claws.

However, the first two starting off this list are legitimate “entries” in this genre. Christmas Evil, originally titled You Better Watch Out is far and away the best film on this list. A legitimate dark comedy about a toy-maker who has been obsessed with Santa ever since seeing a man in a Santa suit go down on his Mom as a child, he takes his double life as Kris Kringle a tad too seriously, bringing toys to the good unfortunate kids and slaughtering those who are naughty! F*** your miracle, this Massacre on 34th Street brings me FAR more cheer! Mostly because I love seeing a**holes get their come-uppens.

It’s also worth noting that the Santa figure here is played by FIONA APPLE’s father Brandon Maggart! Plus, “Home Improvement” guilty sexual fantasy Patricia Heaton has a cameo as an abusive single mother who SMACKS THE F***ING S*** out of her son! Those fun facts aside, this is a legit great film. Why aren’t you ordering this on Amazon right now? Probably because you are too busy watching…

Jack Frost (1996, Michael Cooney)

Everyone has that one moment in their life they wish they could revisit. For some, it’s their wedding night. For others, the birth of their first child. For me, it’s the cold December night my Freshman year of High School when I first watched Jack Frost.

NOT to be confused with the equally absurd Michael Keaton career killer about a boy whose father is reincarnated in the body of a snowman to help him get r-r-revenge on some bullies, this classic tells the tale of a serial killer who, on the truck ride to his execution, is part of a huge chemical accident where his DNA molecules are fused with snow. This leaves his standard physical form as manipulable as a snowman.

I vividly recall that wonderful night. The blizzard of 2000. Stars in my eyes as this waddling clunky snowman took his revenge on the family and friends of the cop who sent him to the chair in the first place. While Christmas Evil hones most of the truly clever inventiveness in terms of plot and character development, Jack Frost opts to keep concept simple with diverse execution. Christmas lights, Christmas trees, sleds, and just about every icon of the season is utilized in the barrage of over-the-top Mortal Kombat style Christmas fatalities. Did I mention Shannon “American Pie” Elizabeth is in this?

Cooler than 'Tomcats?'

Yessa, she plays the Police chief’s daughter who meets her hilarious end in one of Cinema’s all time greatest love scenes:

This image also happens to be my family crest.

Long story short, see this film! Even if you can only get the VHS with the fabulous hologram cover. But if Snowman-Rape is a little too intense for you this holiday season, than may I recommend:

Season's Beatings!

Santa With Muscles (1996, John Murlowski)

Cabin Fever, the fine people who brought you Hulk Hogan as a toy store owner/assassin in Secret Agent Club, comes the immortal Santa With Muscles. Here, Terry “Hulk” Hogan stars as an evil billionaire who suffers memory loss, believes he’s Santa Claus, and befriends an orphanage that stands on the verge of being shut down by another evil entrepreneur and his evil team that even includes (their words, not mine) an “evil geologist.”

SNL alum Garrett Morris appears, as does Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake in YELLOW FACE as a kung-fu sumo. But the celebrities don’t stop there! Inexplicably, half of the future cast of “That 70’s Show” appear, including a cutie sexy 11-year-old Mila Kunis. Not-to-mention megastar Clint “Ice Cream Man” Howard. There’s some resolution at the end involving exploding crystals beneath the orphanage, but this flick is pretty brutal and I honestly doubt you will last that long. You’re more than welcome to prove me wrong, but please remember the tagline was “He went from Naughty to Nice, and now he’s putting Bad Guys on Ice!”

But perhaps you survive Christmas with the Hulkster and need some more steroid guzzling holiday entertainment, well then let me remind you of probably the most known film on this list:

LOL, Foreign!

Jingle All the Way (1996, Brian Levant)

Like everyone else who grew up in the Twin Cities, I claim to be in this film. Here, the unfortunate governor of California stars as a work-obsessed terrible father whose wife wants him to get the latest hottest toy, “Turbo-Man,” for his son as the most important Christmas gift of his young life. Putting off the shopping until Christmas Eve, Arnold becomes competitive with a rival father, a mailman (Sinbad, who won a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for his performance) and hi-jinks ensue!

As an added bonus, Phil Hartman plays Arnold’s neighbor who covets his wife HARD. You’ve never seen such Christmas coveting! Martin Mull also appears as the racist bigot host of KQRS-92 FM, Tom Bernard. If you’re from Minnesota (and if so, please bring me some Davanni’s) you’ll see this film as the perfect snapshot of what downtown Minneapolis looked like in the mid-90s.

Just remember as you watch Arnold stumble and bumble around, that this man gets to decide who lives and who dies in California. Yep, that guy punching out a reindeer had the final say in whether Tookie Williams was executed or not. That in mind, this film could someday be used as the greatest anti-voting propaganda ever created. That is, except for:

McRibs Hath No Fury!

The Clipse’s Christmas in McDonaldland (2003, Craig Witte)

OK, this film doesn’t exist. I just really wanted to post this picture. But until you NYU film cadets choose to create this masterpiece, our only hope for some crack-centric Holiday fun is:

I swear, by the moon and the stars and the sky, this is real!

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964, Nicolas Webster)

Every Christmas film on this list owes a debt of gratitude to this, the grandpappy of all questionable Christmas flicks. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, involves the martians kidnapping Santa so he can bring Christmas to the children on Mars, until Santa (with the help of two small children) finally conquer them.

Originally introduced to me via the homies as Mystery Science Theater 3000, this film is astronomically bad. If any station you watch chooses to air this, you’re better off cutting your cable provider and committing suicide as you were born into a world no child deserves to live in. The aliens are annoying, the polar bears are CLEARLY people, and I think the select few who think Christmas should be about that Jesus guy may have the right idea.

The score is the only saving grace/final blow. “He’s fat and round and jumpin’ jimminy / he can fit down any chimminey!” goes “Hooray for (sic) Santy Claus.” Future star Pia Zadora also appears as a martian child, so if Pia Zadora’s your thing, I’d give this film my full recommendation. The MST3K version mentions my fallen mecca the Apache Plaza as well.

At any rate, I hope this exercise in season favorites has proven enjoyable for you. Please savor these season treasures while you’re still on Earth, because in Heaven they just play the first three Jaws movies all the damn time.


Classic Chaz: My Favorite ODB Moments

November 15, 2010

But I have a little problem with you...

Just stumbled upon this Ol Dirty Bastard piece I wrote five years ago randomly. With the sixth anniversary of his passing this past weekend, it seemed a coincidence worth sharing. Can’t remember where this appeared or what it was for, but here it is.

“Hut one….Hut Two….Hut Three….HUT!

Ol’ Dirty Bastard Live and Uncut!”

That was the battlecry that introduced a generation to the Wu-Tang Clan’s most charismatic and unorthadox member Russel Jones, best known as the MC with “no father to his style,” OL’ DIRTY BASTARD. From his first appearance on wax (“All in Together Now” with Prince Rakeem (Rza) and The Genius (Gza)) to stealing the show on the Wu-Tang Clan’s debut Enter the 36 Chambers to his one-of-a-kind solo albums Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version and N*gga Please he was one of the most recognizable figures in hiphop. Despite numerous legal problems and drug addictions, nothing really seemed able to slow the man down. That is, until a year ago today when this statement from his Mother was released:

“This evening, I received a phone call that is every mother’s worst dream. My son, Russell Jones, passed away. To the public, he was known as Ol’ Dirty Bastard, but to me, he was known as Rusty, the kindest, most generous soul on earth. I appreciate all the support and prayers that I have received. Russell was more than a rapper, he was a loving father, brother, uncle, and most of all, son.”

God Made Dirt

When memorializing ODB, it’s a challenge to pick exactly where to start. If you weren’t present to experience the trials and tribulations of Russel Jones while he was alive, I can imagine such a character would seem like an urban legend or folk tail. Somewhere between Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and GG Allin is the scope that best describes Dirty’s exploits on-and-off stage. So, with chronology being the only order to the following, some of my favorite ODB memories:

1) In 1995, following the successful release of Return to the 36 Chambers: the Dirty Version MTV asked to do a news special on the future Dirt McGirk and follow him around for the day. With an album still in the Billboard top-10, Dirty took his nine kids and MTV with him to the welfare office to pick up his food stamps. When MTV asked if this was morally appropriate, Dirty replied “Who would be dumb enough to turn down free money?” AWESOME!

2) If ODB was in the house, you could be certain something unexpected was going to happen. He was like Anna Nicole Smith, only replace huge t*ts, uncontrolled sexuality, and the ability to always appear coked out with a dirty chic clothing style, uncontrolled everything and the ability to always entertain even while he’s trying to piss you off. This was never more apparent than the 1998 Grammy Awards. The Wu had been inexplicably snubbed for Best Rap Performance by Duo or Group to Puff Daddy and the Family. So, during Shawn Colvin’s acceptance speech for “Sunny Came Home,” (and you have no idea how big the smile on my face just got from remembering this) ODB stormed the stage, grabbed the mic, declared he spent way too much money on clothes to lose tonight, and while Puffy is ‘good,’ Wu Tang is not only ‘The Best,’ but ‘for the children!’ ODB was then escorted offstage. And just when it seemed things couldn’t get any better, the next night America as a whole collectivly got to hear Dan Rather say “Ol’ Dirty Bastard.”

3) 1998 seemed like the year the Refugee Camp would take over the music industry. Wyclef’s solo was mandatory for any party, John Forte had “Flash the Message (Ninety-Nine)” getting us both nostalgic and educated to wear three condoms out in Brazil at the same time, Lauryn Hill had locked herself in the studio by herself prepping the world for The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and Pras hadn’t horribly dissappointed anyone yet. This was in that hazy April-Mayish period that all runs together in a haze when you’re in grade school so I’m not exactly sure on when this occured, but the event was unforgetable. Wycelf, Pras, future girl to have sex with Game: Mya, and ODB were all in the TRL-precursor “MTV Live” studio and taking call-in questions from all over America. With Wyclef being the most outspoken member, he was answering most of the questions as to how “conscious” his clique were, and how much they are trying to give back to the community. Then, and teenage single-mother from Brooklyn (is-in-the-house) called in. She said her question was specifically for Dirty. Half-asleep, Dirty perked up and stared directly into the camera while the girl spoke. She said she could see what Wyclef and Pras were doing for the community, but wanted to know what ODB’s plans were in regard to reaching out to the community. Without missing a beat, as soon as the girl finished speaking Dirty replied “Nothin’.” A five second shocked awkward silence. Then, the whole audience (And then world) erupted in laughter. That September, at the 1998 Video Music Awards, when asked who her favorite member of the Wu Tang Clan was, Madonna said “Ol’ Dirty Bastard.”

4) In 1999, Dirty was invited in the studio to record a remix with LL Cool J. Impatient with waiting for Mr. Cool James, Dirty had to go to the bathroom and took a piss on one of Jack the Ripper’s gold records. LL kicked him out. I laughed.

5) 2003, The Dirty One (then known as both Big Baby Jesus and Dirt McGirk) was released from prison and ready to reclaim his title as the clown prince of rap. And while that Dame Dash cash could get him in the studio, and parade him around with the-the-the-R.O.C., Dirty couldn’t land any solo shows at any major venues or club that would be at his stature before he hit prison/rehab. A message on his website said that if anyone at all wanted to contact him to play a show to get in touch with his manager, who he left their email and phone number. As a result, ODB got offered several shows in the New York underground, opening for various punk, ska, and techno outfits. ODB played everyone. While in most other cases of an artist of Dirty’s caliber being forced to play such shows, eye-witness accounts describe those shows to be among Dirty’s best, having a fire they hadn’t seen since the mid-90’s Wu-Peak. Following his set, Dirty went right into the crowd and reportedly had a great time getting wild and supporting the other acts on the bill.

There’s so many other great Dirty stories, and they fall on the spectrum between signing his solo contract with Elektra and inviting an A&R for Elektra to witness a woman perform fellatio on him and declare “THIS IS HOW I GET MY D*CK SUCKED: ELEKTRA STYLE!” and getting a dozen of onlookers of a 1998 car accidnet to overturn a Ford Mustang and rescue a four-year-old girl who he visited for several weeks until the media got wind of it. He’s a puzzling figure who had a heart of gold and, in his own bizarre, twisted, and dirty way, always meant well.

One year removed from his death, his music still bangs as hard as it ever did. While numerous specials made shortly before his death (VH1’s “Inside Out,” among others) made Dirty look like an exploited disenchanted figure, and the handful of leaked scrapped songs from his sessions completing the record A Son Unique show a certain spark lost from the man who once “had more anger, call me Dr. Stranger,” stories from friends said he was happy and enjoyed life up until his last days when he collasped in the Wu-Tang West 34th St. studio after sneaking a pound cocaine and Tramadol into the states by swallowing it in double-bagged Ziploc plastic bags.

Still, despite his tragic ending that took him from us far too early, Russell Jones’ contributions to hiphop (And award show security) will never be forgotten. We miss you Dirty. You’ve been an inspiration for everyone to be themselves and still pull women, get record deals, get mainstream airplay, and piss on LL Cool J’s plaques. Respect.

“God Made Dirt, Dirt’ll Bust Ya Ass.”

R.I.P. Russell Jones AKA Ol’ Dirty Bastard AKA Big Baby Jesus AKA Dirt McGirk

11/15/68 – 11/13/04

CLASSIC CHAZ: El-P “I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead” – Music Review

August 5, 2010

It's a bird, OK?!

With this week’s release of El-P’s Weareallgoingtoburninhellmegamixxx3 and my review of it over at Spectrum Culture, I thought now would be a good time to up a review I did of El’s previous album that originally ran in March, 2007 for the now defunct DropMagazine. They had me rate things on scale of 1.0 to 10.0 where this originally received a 9.5, but I’ve modified it to match the strict 1-5 motif of our little playhouse. Enjoy!

“This is the sound of what you don’t know killing you” begins the chorus of “Tasmanian Pain Coaster,” the opening track from MC/Producer El-P’s highly anticipated 2007 album I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead. Easily the best publicized independent release of the year thus far, with promotional campaigns involving the likes of the New York Times, iTunes, and the Cartoon network’s Adult Swim programming block, the former Company Flow frontman managed to bright Definitive Jux to the Billboard promised land, debuting at #78 on the top 200 and moving 11,417 units in its first week at a time when rap releases are being outsold by a two-to-one ratio by Dane Cook. With his previous release, 2002’s Fantastic Damage peaking at #198 and the label’s previous highest charter, Aesop Rock’s 2003 album Bazooka Tooth, only reaching #112, it seems the Definitive Jux bulldozer is continuing to roll strongly, picking up new fans with each go-round.

This should come as no surprise as, in the five years between releases, El has remained quite the busy beaver. While some have mistakenly referred to this time as a hiatus, El has been quite active through releasing a jazz album, overseeing the production on albums from flagship artists Cage and Mr. Lif, launching a digital download website for his label, and contributing remixes to such high-profile artists as Beck and Nine Inch Nails. Such efforts, as well as changing times, have seemingly impacted his soundscape. While he retains his trademark wall-of-sound production ethos, the transitions are far less jarring and his song structure, such as the verse-chorus-verse lyrics of “EMG” and “Up All Night,” has evolved to become somewhat more linear.

But it is the very limitation that El places himself in that allows I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead to function as such a wonderfully executed experiment of a record. Painstakingly orchestrated in the format of an actual album, a process forgotten by most in today’s ever-changing digital-music landscape, each of the albums 13 tracks not only maintain, but emphasized the project’s progressive momentum simply by being organized next to one another. And with El-P’s verses, as well as two guest appearances by Cage and Aesop Rock and countless blink-and-you’ll-miss-them cameo ranging from Trent Reznor to Cat Power to Slug from Atmosphere to former Company Flow DJ Mr. Len, all mixed as part of the presentation, instead of just at the forefront, and you have an almost daunting finished product that, on realized ambition alone, stands head-and-shoulders over any rap release in recent memory.

One of my favorite promo images.

Such layers gives not only the album a fully flourished final product, but gives the listener several options regarding how to approach ingesting it. At face value, one is treated to vivid storytelling (El encountering a ravaged acquaintance on the subway in “Tasmanian Pain Coaster,” finding love on a futuristic prison ship in “Habeas Corpses”), inspired ranting (taking Mayor Bloomberg and rappers who “went from battle rap to gun talk like we ain’t notice the change” to task on “Smithereens,” listing things more plausible than his participation in military service on “Dead Sirs”) and unpretentious coming-of-age realizations (the pitfalls of a May-December romance on “The Overly Dramatic Truth,” coping with addiction on “Poisonville Kids No Wins”). Further analyzation reveals numerous possible interpretations and gems buried within the soundscape (it took me at least a dozen listens to recognize the distorted Tickle-Me-Elmo laughter in “Tasmanian Pain Coaster”) to the point where those interested in further listening with be handsomely rewarded.

Despite all this album has going for it, there are some flaws. The least of which, is how certain songs only work within the confines of the album itself and fails to stand on their own. Yet, since this album was designed to be listened to as a whole, one can’t hold that against it. Otherwise, after such a tour-de-force, the album’s ultimate conclusion at the end of “Poisonville Kids No Wins” just seems anticlimactic, and not in a manner that falls in line with the rest of the album’s painfully bleak tone. I’d imagine El was going for the effect of having such a complex release slowly stripping itself of each layer to the point of nothing to give contrast and a certain space to breathe again following the journey, but such an ending just doesn’t function perhaps due to it’s rather quick speed after such a tumultuous journey.

Still, that’s truly knit-picking and shouldn’t dissuade you in the least from one of the most important, and enjoyable, releases our genre has seen in quite sometime. The album is intelligent, intellectual, inventive, intentionally humorous, and most importantly sounds great. Truly an outstanding effort on the part of El-Producto that he will no longer have to lose sleep over.

We give I’ll Sleep When You’re Dead a Four Out of Five

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

What is Circuit City, but the People? (J.I.L.S.)

March 17, 2010

The Circuit City of Angels.

Editor’s Note – As part of our ongoing Journeys in Liquidation Sales series here at Popular Opinions, it only seemed right to commemorate the one-year anniversary of Circuit City’s demise where much of JILS‘s inventory came from. This piece originally appeared somewhere else but I decide to have it remixed and digitally remastered with pictures, spun-back cusswords and the most nostalgic and absurd Circuit City clips the internet had to offer, including the in-store only complete Circuit City rap seen below.

“All cities are mad: but the madness is gallant. All cities are beautiful: but the beauty is grim.” ~ Christopher Morley, Where the Blue Begins

“I have a CD in stores, just in time for people to not give a kcuf about CD stores anymore.” ~ Mitch Hedberg

In three more days Circuit City, once the second largest electronic retailer in the United States, will close its doors forever. The latest mega-conglomerate to collapse, its slow burial beneath six feet of unsold Hancock and The Dark Knight DVDs has been met with an almost ‘told-you-so’ indifference and bitter obscenities due to, at a time when the store hasn’t received any new product for a month and has its entire inventory marked to 80% off, Johnny McBargainBin’s anger that he can’t find any of today’s hottest hits. The “Everything Must Go” signs adorn the walls like funeral wreaths, as EuroJungleHouseTrance echos an ominously repetitive requiem.

It’s March, 2009. Every industry, save tent manufacturers and repo men, is struggling. With the entertainment industry continuing to have problems, this latest loss is almost eclipsed by the announcement last week that Virgin will be closing all of its stores by June and Best Buy, while not closing, will be shutting down almost two-hundred locations within the next month. It’s hard to believe that just nine years after the industry (as well as downloading) hit an absolute pinnacle, the game shows no real hope for any commercially available physical media.

Circuit Breaker Heartbreaker

As much as I love the 29 CDs and 4 DVDs that I got for a combined total of under $100.00 during this retail trail of tears, it deeply saddens me that (without hyperbole) the physical music business is truly coming to an end. It’s over. Done. Ghost like Swayze. Outie 5000. And it all went so fast, too. I remember the summer of 2000 when the Mall of America had 5 different flourishing music stores inside of its gigantic singular complex. When I returned two years ago, all that remained was an single FYE that had bought out the last Sam Goody in the entire state and was having a “going out of business” sale. I felt a similar shock when I realized that since moving to New York City four years ago, 15 local music stores closed down. Come June, that number increases to 20 with Manhattan solely relying on FatBeats as its only non-electronics based music outlet. Otherwise we have J&R (who are probably not going anywhere as in 1971 they flatout bought the property for their location) and Best Buy (who are also doing-away with their music section but will be gone soon too) and that’s it.

But instead of placing blame, I’d like to take a moment to reflect on some of the great things Circuit City did. When Tower Records, the last strictly-music chain (Tower Video was always a separate entity) fell in 2006, music fans with a taste for more than “today’s hottest hits” were forced to find a new source for our more obscure cravings. While it never came close to Tower’s cornucopia of regional-rap, Circuit City did stand out for its emphasis on 1) selection and 2) catalog titles. New York does have its hip-hop stops, but with the East Coast bias nobody will admit to, and even Minnesota’s own hesitance on getting it’s hands dirty with some of the filthier parts of the south, Circuit City allowed a nationwide accessibility for everything from Eightball & MJG’s debut to Turf Talk and Lil Boosie mixtapes to every single project Cappadonna attached his name to.

They also were the only chain to reach out to the larger indie and overlooked major-label artists for nationwide promotions. The Clipse’s Hell Hath No Fury was given a ridiculously discounted price, drop taken as a hit to the store, its first week of release and thus moved the bulk of its units there. It’s also the only store major OR mom-and-pop I know of that offered free t-shirts from the like of T.I., Scarface AND Tech N9ne if you purchased their albums the week of release. And unlike Best Buy, “The City” (As it’s unfortunately titled pedestrian-friendly 2007 makeover redubbed it) kept its prices low, even after it had buried its competition. To its dying day*, new releases were $11.99, recent hits were $12.99 and extended catalog titles were $9.88. Did this policy drop help or hurt it? Who knows? The bells have been tolling since the industry eliminate the maxi-single in 2001 and the dominos have been falling ever since.

So, what can be done now? I’d suggest we ride the wave back to the shore. It’s labor day weekend, and we have a long autumn ahead of us. All CDs/DVDs are 80% off and there’s some quality stuff you might have your last chance ever to get in there. You may never have another opportunity to get Tech N9ne, Project Pat, UGK and BG’s entire discography for under $50.00 combined. So g’head. Remember as a kid when you saw the Nickelodeon Toy-Run Sweepstakes? Now’s your only chance to live it. TOO LATE! SEE YOU IN HELL! FROM HEAVEN!

So until next time…Let’s Agree to Agree!

*Or at least until it was put on Death Row.