Down On My Luck

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As an aspiring too many things to name, it’s always refreshing to see/hear video/music that’s are both progressive and well-executed. Case and point: Vic Mensa’s housey single “Down on My Luck” gets the video treatment by Ghost Robot (now officially in my pantheon of Music Video Makers). Check it out, it’s great:

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A Survey Course on Growing Up: Richard Linklater’s Boyhood

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The many faces of Mason (Ellar Coltrane)

In the Hollywood movie scene dominated by SFX filled action films, stale thrillers, and recycled romances, there is occasionally  a nugget of gold that resonates with cinema snobs like me and . This summer’s hands down “people’s champ” is Richard Linklater’s Boyhood. A film where plot twists resonate more because of their realness than because of surprise, and many a stock character you’ve  seen in other “realistic” films comes off as original. By keeping it close to the hippocampus while dancing with the heart, Linklater’s Boyhood is a survey course done right: We get the essence and experience fills in the rest.

This isn’t a heady review: I’m sure tons of film critics have torn Linklater a new heart hole so he can take on their own (the film is universally acclaimed), but I’d like to just spend some time reflecting on the magic of a movie that older folks and younger ones experience completely differently. What does an older person say when they see a 9-10 year old Mason playing capture the flag (Halo)?? I fall back into my own memories of the game (one I adopted after all of my friends). What could they really be thinking when they see him holding a Gamboy Advanced SP? Does a 7 year old Samantha singing “Oops I Did It Again” really resonate the same way? (We all laughed of course, but there’s definitely a difference)

Mason with a Gameboy Advanced SP

In all honesty, this is probably the most difficult review/reflection I’ve written yet. How do you begin to get at a story that while so uniquely applicable to your own life also seems to resonate deeply with different generations? For me, a single mother killing herself (figuratively) to make sure her children are okay is reality. Awkward encounters with a father, aren’t so much. Neither are a string of relationships compromising the one between mother and son (or daughter), but I feel it.

There’s something about the episodic nature of real life that once replicated on the silver screen, just becomes more real. The minutiae of my own life transfigure in order to interlock with the ones of the characters before me. Not even the hilarity of the truest American birthday presents (a suit, a shotgon, and a bible) could shake the bonds. And maybe that’s the magic of Boyhood.

Graduation Day, in the film world this would be high school class of 2013 (or something like that)

In college the term survey course is often a negative. It means that in the span of 15 weeks you’ll be learning about fifteen + different topics that warrant their own courses and dissertations. One leaves the class feeling extremely informed, but also more clueless then when you began. But in the case of Boyhood, we’re all phD’s in our American lives (unless you’re a kid and even then parts of this movie should relate), and this survey course is a reminder of how much we’ve learned and lived.

The Costs of Intelligence “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes”

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Like  I said in my last post, my internship is getting really hectic since there is a little less than a month left. I’ve been coming home from work less enthusiastic about doing the things I really want to do as a result and this blog/site has kind of suffered from it. For the people who actually care to read this, I apologize. 

But since it’s the weekend and work isn’t school, I’ve definitely had some time to enjoy myself. For the past couple of days I’ve binged watched East Los High on Hulu, caught up on all of the manga I read, and have started reading Berserk, which is frankly amazing. Today I also got a chance to go see the new Planet of the Apes movie, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (DotPotA).

I’m never about loading my perception posts with spoilers, but I will say this: DotPotA is one of the best action movies I’ve seen in years. Is there one complete badass who doesn’t take shit from anyone? No. Are there nothing but pulse pounding explosions and warlike effects? No. But as a film lover/maker, film is a medium of visual story-telling (there are exceptions), and any film that tells a solid story in an interesting way, wins. 

And when I rule out those modern action film tropes, I’m not discounting DotPotA as an action film. This IS an action movie. It just happens to be one that situates the action in a story of competing morals based on divergent experiences. Not to mention, what the creators didn’t (COULDN’T) spend on massive explosion effects (there were some) they had to spend on animating hundreds of apes, a few elk, and a bear to amazing results. And in all honesty, if they weren’t able to humanize these highly intelligent apes, this movie would have been an extreme failure. Instead, it was a great success.

Every fight was a fight with high stakes. Camerawork and editing combined to make life or death situations feel like they were life or death. The soundtrack never really overstepped its bounds. The acting rarely felt cheesy. And the apes rarely felt like they were just apes. 

Honestly, I could probably write forever, but I’ll keep it to this: DotPotA makes the claim that human nature isn’t human nature. While our intelligence should keep our violent instincts at bay, it also has serious costs. Grudges, jealousy, premeditated murder, dysfunctional paranoia, etc. All of these plague ape and human alike in this story that’s been told before, but never quite like this.

It’s been out for a for just a few days, but with opening day sales of 27.7 million, and a 91% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, I imagine DotPotA will only reach more moviegoers who definitely will not leave disappointed. 

If you’ve seen it, let me know what you thought.

Peace,

Raƒi

Grooves In My Heart – BazilleDX

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It’s been a sporadic week with work being a lot more stressful and frustrating than usual. School starts up in seven works or so and work ends in four so there’s starting to be some overlap.

Thank God, Based God, the Rap Gods, and one of my best friends for giving me some new life music to listen to. Originally set to drop July 18th, my brother BazilleDX dropped his newest album “Grooves In My Heart” tonight for free stream/download on bandcamp.

I’d recommend checking it out if you enjoy life music, jazz samples, and honest lyrics.

More posts to come, hope y’all are having a great weekend.

-Raƒi

No chance I’m not listening to that new Zeroh

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L.A. beat-scene member and abstract rapper Zeroh isn’t your typical hip hop artist (if the job description wasn’t atypical enough). From swinging syllables with Jonwayne, to crooning and sputtering with Lowleaf (or just making music with her), Zeroh’s the least likely to get mentioned in the “game” and that’s really how it should be. Today he dropped a soundtrack to a series of still pictures by Australian artist Ryan McShane which is part out of this world, part jiggy LA beat sounds, and part Zeroh. 

IMO, good stuff. I woke up early this morning and had music to shower to. Can’t complain about that…take a listen:

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Sometime in the spring I was eating lunch at one of the dining halls at Penn. I was just trying to enjoy my chicken tenders and do a little bit of tweaking on an instrumental I was working on when I overheard two guys talking about electronic music. And while I can’t remember the specifics of their conversation, it boiled down to them not understanding how two artists whose primary instruments were DAWS, could collaborate.

“I mean, it’s not like they’re playing instruments. Does one guy just sit there and watch the other do stuff on the computer?”

“Well, I mean I’ve heard that you have to put together a lot of different sounds to get it to sound right. So I guess that’s what they do….”

And the discussion continued, rather fruitlessly. At the time, though baffled by their ignorance of the modern music making, I myself struggled with how I would respond if someone asked me such a question. Honestly, a lot of the “collaboration” and “co-production” that gets listed on albums is about the adding and substituting of certain sounds for others. And while the pompous “musicheads” who say such collaboration is non-musical or lacking of talent and originality are certainly incorrect, this kind of collaboration is not the extent of it.

I realized quite recently that the reason why those two Penn students I overhead had trouble understanding or imagining the workings of modern music is because most of us have never understood the workings of music period.

We think we know how Beethoven composed his symphonies, but we really don’t. We think we know how Na$ wrote his lyrics, but we really don’t. Hell, we don’t even really know how certain writers, professors, and famed scholars put together their work.

Na$ and Jay Electronica, who allegedly ghostwrite lyrics for Na$’ Untitled

If it’s hard to imagine how two people using a computer can collaborate on music ask yourself this: how did Ashford and Simpson? It’s the same thing.

Music isn’t made of instruments playing sounds…music is made of sounds. Two computer-wielding musicians can share music ideas and make one song or an album.

Household Hip Hop producers J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League started out with each of the three members working on the same songs. Many prominent groups featured the dynamic songwriting and production of groups and duos. It’s not strange to think of them collaborating because you may hear the distinct voices of people and instruments, but you cannot hear the extent of someone else’s songwriting as it relates to a whole song.

The three producers who make up J.U.S.T.I.C.E. League (Kenny, Rook, and Colione)

This is really scattered, but my point is this: Music doesn’t need to be performed on different instruments to be “collaborative”. On a small scale, if I made a suggestion to change a small part of a song, I became a collaborator. On a larger one, we might figure out the best melodies to play as a team, and then only one of us might actually do the technical programing of the sound.

Now, more than ever, the sharing of melodic thoughts and ideas is extremely important to music and has become more observable. However, just because you didn’t hear or see signs of Erykah Badu in the studio with Common, doesn’t mean she didn’t have a major and direct impact on the music he made.

I hope that made sense.

Peace,

Raƒi