Glee (1997) by Bran Van 3000

Categories: 1997 and Music.

I love genre-bending. A number of my most favourite bands are bands that can play a wide variety of genres well, and make these genres sound like their own (or, alternatively, convince you they are an entirely different band). So I should like this. I should like this even though it is based in music I don’t personally love (electronic, hip hop). Read More

Licensed to Ill (1986) by The Beastie Boys

Categories: 1986 and Music.

I don’t know anything about hip hop, and even less about 80s hip hop. I have no idea whether or not this was a big deal. But I can guess, and I would guess that the sort of hardcore punk aesthetic was pretty revolutionary (and helped sell records). I can imagine that there wasn’t a lot of hip hop like this out there before this record. So I think this record is probably important. I don’t love it though; not only do I not like hip hop but I often find young bands like this obnoxious. No different here: they Read More

The Score (1996) by Fugees

Categories: 1996 and Music.

Now that I am listening to Hip Hop occasionally as part of our podcast, I sort of figured I would be able to slowly figure out what I think about individual Hip Hop records. But 5 or more albums in, I still have no idea. At bottom it is still not something I can really get into. And so I struggle with a record like this, despite the fact that I have heard their cover of “Killing Me Softly” so many times it strikes me as the definitive version, because of its seemingly outsized reliance on the music of others. Read More

Biggie and Tupac (2002, Nick Broomfield)

Categories: 2002 and Movies.

I don’t mind Broomfield’s annoying narration voice (which is noticeably different from his interview voice…why?) and his informal style when his material’s good. But here, it’s a mixed bag. He conducts numerous interviews with people involved or interested in both murders and those interviews, you would think, would certainly provide enough reason for a less vested party – say, the State of California or the State of Nevada – to re-open the investigations, but beyond that, I’m not sure there’s anything revelatory here. The thing is, it’s all circumstantial: it’s just a bunch of people telling you stuff, and maybe Read More

Beats, Rhymes and Life: The Travels of a Tribe Called Quest (2011, Michael Rapaport)

Categories: 2011 and Movies.

Full disclosure: I do not listen to Hip Hop. I have heard some here and there – at friend’s houses, on the radio, and at concerts, and now, for my podcast – but I really know nothing about it. This is an interesting documentary about a hip hop group I know nothing about it. It’s a little odd that some of the interviewees aren’t great, given the huge amount of people they interviewed (as evidenced by the closing credits). But the movie presents the history while only hinting at the breakup, then it deals with the breakup and some semblance Read More

Only Built for Cuban Linx… (1995) by Raekwon

Categories: 1995 and Music.

As someone who doesn’t listen to Hip Hop, I have a really hard time with a record like this. Ostensibly not the first “mafia” gangsta rap album, but the most important? I wouldn’t know. Is the production good? I have no idea. (It’s certainly not the Bomb Squad, though…) Are the lyrics good? Well, I feel like they are a step forward from earlier gangsta rap (that I’ve heard). But I really don’t know. So I’m giving this tentative “good” based on its reputation more than anything and waiting until I record the podcast, where someone is going to tell Read More

AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted (1990) by Ice Cube

Categories: 1990 and Music.

What the hell do I do with this? Well, here goes… So this is the second “classic” hip hop record I’ve ever given my requisite 3 listens. However, unlike the one Public Enemy record I’ve now heard, I can’t just accept it for what it is. Because, unlike that record, and like so much of hip hop (far as I know), this is something that is utterly full of contradictions. And I’m not sure what I think of those. I know that’s deliberate – it is, I suppose, one of the things that makes Hip Hop so appealing to so Read More

30 for 30: One Night in Vegas (2010, Reggie Rock Bythewood)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

I thought this series was about sports… I am a white male who was born to middle class parents in Toronto in the early 1980s. I cannot, for my life, imagine what it is like to grow up sometimes fearing for your life. I’m sure it drastically affects your outlook on life, your behaviour, and so on. Unfortunately, this film, which is more about Tupac’s assassination than it is about Mike Tyson’s return to boxing, is not a film that let’s me understand what that’s like. The director doesn’t know whether he’s making a graphic novel or a film – Read More

30 for 30: Straight Outta L.A. (2010, Ice Cube)

Categories: 2010 and TV.

This is an interesting story that I was unaware of (like totally unaware of) but unfortunately it’s made by a rapper who doesn’t know how to direct a movie. Ice Cube has clearly seen a bunch of sports docs he really likes, and he tries his hardest to emulate those films, but he really misses the mark a number of times. He spends too much time as an interviewee, and him and Snoop Dogg have some pretty inane conversations about how cool the Raiders were. He has some really interesting stuff to tackle: the connection between hip music and sports Read More

Fear of a Black Planet (1990) by Public Enemy

Categories: 1990 and Music.

This is the first Hip Hop album I have ever given my requisite 3 listens to. I am 33 years old. There have been a number of R&B (or “urban”) albums containing raps and Hip Hop that I have listened to, and I listened to an EP recently that might have sort of qualified, but this is absolutely the first Hip Hop album I have ever heard properly. The reason for that is that I am an extraordinarily white Canadian, who was raised in a middle class neighbourhood (now an upper class neighbourhood, basically) and I was always so utterly Read More

Wake Up! (2010) by John Legend and the Roots

Categories: 2010 and Music.

I don’t know John Legend and I’m barely aware of the Roots. And I only know one of the originals. But I’m reasonably impressed. The version of “Compared to What” is different enough to be worth listening to. I am making the same assumption for the other tracks, though I have no idea.This is absolutely not my thing, but I get the appeal, and it’s nice to see at least the odd band concerned that things appear to be horrible, politically speaking.I like the concept and cannot say that I know enough to complain about the execution. 7/10 Read More

…Featuring Norah Jones (2010)

Categories: 2010 and Music.

This is a compilation of some (though apparently far from all) of Norah Jones’ guest appearances after she became a star. (Though some feel more like duets.) I guess it’s a way for people to see what else she’s doing? I don’t know.Because the thing about this is that there’s a lot of different genres, and depending on what you like – or what you think of Norah Jones’ music – you may or may not like what’s on here. Yes, most of it is sort of jazz pop and roots pop, but then there’s hip hop, country, and other Read More

Hard Groove (2003) by the RH Factor

Categories: 2003 and Music.

Despite the huge number of collaborators, I feel like this is Hargrove’s most personal album. He admits that this emerged from home recordings and it doesn’t surprise me. The man was suffocated by what he was told he had to be, and then, in his spare time, he fiddled around with some contemporary (and not so contemporary) sounds and came up with something utterly unique is discography.  It’s interesting to note that even the older genres dabbled in appeared well after Hargrove’s supposed beloved era of bop. It’s unfortunate that the mainstream jazz establishment takes talented players like Hargrove and Read More

DJ Similac Presents Cut the World (2014?) by JT Cuts

Categories: 2014 and Music.

So I was walking home from work some time last week and this guy came up to me and tried to push his record on me. He asked me if I liked “dance” music. I told him no. He mentioned other genres I didn’t like. I kept insisting I didn’t listen to that stuff. I said I listened to jazz. Then he asked if I liked classical to which I answered honestly. He claimed his “beats” were somehow indebted to classical. This confused me. I don’t know what it was, but eventually I gave in and bought his record. I Read More

WIMF: the Wolfe Island Music Festival 2011

Categories: 2011 and Music.

My friend recently noted that the acronym is confusing, making one think of the IMF, so I decided to spell it out. Just putting that out there. This was the 13th edition of the festival but my first. I must say I was unfamiliar with most of the bands, though I knew many of them by name (this is what happens when you read Exclaim! constantly but never actually get around to listening to what’s in the pages). So I welcomed the experience of seeing and hearing new things, even if the music wouldn’t necessarily be straight up my alley. Read More