Entertainment news and musings from a pop culture geek

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Watch the Throne Tour: Illest Motherfuckers Alive

The show starts with that trippy, recurring interlude music from the album. Has anyone even figured out where that's from yet? The Sting? Some trippy, classical French ish? No one knows, but it's provocative. And it's an awesomely obvious, obviously awesome way to get a super fan like me hyped after waiting ninety minutes for The Throne to take stage. Oh, and the rest of the thousands of fans that herded into the East Rutherford IZOD center.

Under cover of darkness, both members of rap's most high profile supergroup appear seemingly out of thin air. But they're not together. Mr. West is on the stage all by himself. It takes the crowd .07 seconds to realize King Hov is on the mid-arena platform that we'd all been staring curiously at during the waiting time. "Oh shit yo, they're gonna perform the whole show on separate stages! They really do have beef now!" No, simple Page Six reader, they don't. Two songs and one "Otis" performance later they were right next to each other, comfortably rapping their hearts out in front of the now signature Givenchy-ied out flag. But those separate platforms though? Best gimmick of the night. As soon as the interlude music cut, the intro to "HAM" started up and during Jay's verse...those shits rose. As in elevated each dude about forty feet in the fucking air. You are now watching the thrones. Literally. And if that wasn't enough, the cubes were fitted with screens on all four sides playing accompanying images. Watching the Greatest Rapper of All Time and one of the Best Rappers Alive volleying bars, over and across the crowd, over titanic beats like "HAM" and "Who Gon Stop Me," while 2D great white sharks swim underneath them: easily the most theatrical, enjoyable part of the whole 2 1/2 hour show.

From then on it was stadium-ready hit after hit after hit, new classic and old. With absolutely no intermissions, Jay and Ye effortlessly bobbed and weaved through past and present jams - sometimes sharing the stage, other times ceding the show to the other for a mini solo-set - with Reasonable Doubt,  Blueprint 2, Kingdom Come and American Gangster the only projects not represented. (The least energetic moment was probably when Kanye briefly went into the 808s vault with "Heartless" though.) Of Throne's 12 tracks, the only songs left out were "Made in America" and "Murder to Excellence" although apparently these are sometimes included on random nights. "HAM" was the only deluxe edition track performed.

The show, like the album, was a perfect blend of both artists different styles. The lights that Kanye presented back in "Glow in the Dark" paled in comparison to the epilepsy-inducing laser show that was on display here. Meanwhile Jay continues to fuck with the video screen with correlating images per song, although it sometimes got a little corny. Watching lions ferociously devour deer during "Welcome to the Jungle" was acceptable. "National Geographic-esque close-ups of a soaring eagle during "Touch the Sky" were not. By the way, I know a lot of you have pegged "Jungle" as your least favorite track. Well, that shit banged on the arena speakers and was the fourth or fifth song in the setlist. I suggest revisiting it with your best sound system and a tab opened to rapgenius.com.

The showmanship wasn't only evident in the physical effects though. The raw, personal songs like "Hard Knock Life" and "New Day" were rapped side-by-side sitting down, as if the stage were a Brooklyn stoop. For the privately personal, subliminal but you-know-who-you-are "Why I Love You" the duo retreated from the foreground, Jay's blacked out Don C snapback brim down over his eyes. "What a Wonderful World" played ironically against a slideshow depicting poverty, decay, and crime. (Curiously this segued into "No Church in the Wild" instead of the assumed "Murder to Excellence.") And of course, Martin Louis the Fashionisto changed three times, each shirt trendily flowing down to his kneecaps, including the infamous Givenchy shirt as kilt that he probably wears on laundry day. And towards the end, the setlist hilariously, intentionally segued from "Big Pimpin" to "Gold Digger" to "99 Problems." Get it?

So who murdered who? As with most Jay facts that I state, it will probably be written off as Stan bias when I say he has the better stage presence. Kanye was far from terrible and for the most part kept up with Big Bro's energetic standard. But Jigga's come a long way since that travesty of a Showtime concert that had him Beans, Freeway and Dame laboring around the stage like a bunch of fat cats. He can rouse a crowd in his sleep, and he's got a litany of hits to make, and keep, an audience on their feet and losing their voice. Proof: when "Big Pimpin" dropped the water guy said fuck all and diddy bopped his heart out in the aisle. Truth. Plus dropping the beat and flowing acappella live to "Nigga What, Nigga Who" (and now his show-stopping "Who Gon Stop Me" closer) will always be cooler than Kanye's autotune warbling about Amber and love. Sorry.

This was probably one of few concerts where I never even considered sitting down once. Two and a half hours sounds like a long ass time to be standing but I never looked at my watch or yawned. Shit was like the live tour version of The Dark Knight. Funniest part is, they even missed some songs. A shit  load in fact. I don't know about you, but after the epic three-time but not one time too many encore of "Niggas in Paris" I could've stayed to watch them tear through "Primetime," "IMA," "So Appalled," "Hate," "The Bounce" for sentimentality's sake (their first collaboration) and "Never Let Me Down" (one of their most powerful collaborations). Was it better than Fade to Black, which I was fortunate to have attended? No, and not because my seats were closer for that show. But if there was ever vindication that Jay has the illest catalog out, that Ye is gunning for Top 5 status and that the album itself is a damn near if not classic, this was it.

Watch the Throne tour. Exactly what the fuck you'd think.

Friday, September 30, 2011

In Defense of "Ghetto Techno"

There's a story floating around that places Jay-Z, Kanye West, No I.D., Timbaland, and Don Cannon* in the studio. The year is 2009 and they are debating arguing how Jay should unroll the Blueprint 3 machine. Timbaland, typically [post 2007], is in favor of the Jigga man putting out a poppy, radio-friendly Z-100, tween suburban-girl ready song to hook the masses. One can only imagine Kanye, the living embodiment of one of Hov's most reliable creative inspirations, calling this the dumbest fucking idea possible. During it all No I.D. is in the corner, silently and humbly working on a beat, which Ye instructs him to play. It is hard hitting and sounds decidedly nothing like what the radio currently has to offer. Kanye outlines that a song over this beat should be against everything that's wack in hip-hop right now. And we all know how the story finishes: Jay takes the beat home, comes in the next day with what is now known as "D.O.A. (Death of Auto-tune)," shocking even Kanye with his denouncements. "That's too far nigga!"**

*Random I know, but come to think of it Hov on a Don Cannon beat could be gold. See: "Go Crazy"*

**Kanye's response to the second verse line "you niggas' jeans too tight/your colors too bright, your voice too light" over the intercom while Jay was laying the verse was hilariously kept in as an ad-lib.**

Later, during the suspicious flurry of Timbaland-only BP3 leaks, one song that got a lot of [negative] attention was the leftover "Ghetto Techno." The track was panned on the internet by Hov haters and Stans alike, as pop-pandering bullshit and an example of why the game needed to put Timbaland on sabbatical, including yours truly Mr. Rex. I recount the story above to say this: "Ghetto Techno" was without a doubt the song Timbaland was pushing Jay to use as his first single. And you know what? It's actually not as demonic as you thought it was on first listen. When I first heard "Techno" I despised it. These days the song has taken up permanent residence in my sprawling Recently Played playlist.

Don't get me wrong, I don't wish the song was the first single--I'm not even sure I ever want to see it grace an official tracklist. The first single from a returning artist (Hov was 18 months removed from his last album around the time) should be reassuring, not a complete departure from one's signature sound. The legion of Hov haters and Illuminati conspiracy theorists would've pounced on it mercilessly and the hype for BP3 would have been nil. But as a simple, insignificant throwaway? The track is fun as hell. You can't tell me that you wouldn't sing along without a care if it were Pitbull cleverly instructing you to "survive more shots than Pac had" on the hook instead of Jigga. The beat bangs. And my God is the patented Jay-Z wordplay intact. "...in the club getting bucket after bucket like Kobe," but the real highlight is @S_C_'s genius Twitter flip:

Honey's white but she dance black
had to ask the lil broad how she dance like that
But me? I'm doing me just goin hard
got a table full-a Ace like a deck of cards
fiends roll the green up
we got 1 Oak lookin like a lil Wilhelmina
but I ain't doing nothing that can get back
cuz I know half the club wanna twitter that
Tweet tweet--I smell a bird--and a rat

"Ghetto Techno" isn't what we want to hear from Jay-Z. But it's quite far from his worst song. See for yourself:

Tell me how much a Stan I am in the comments:

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Week in DMX

Your man DMX is a free man (for now) and he of erratic exclamations and random dog barks is ready to entertain again. Fresh out of the pen for a couple months now, Earl has been keeping busy the past few weeks as we head into the final quarter of the year. Whether catching up on the zeitgeist, braving social media, or releasing new music, the Dark Man X has been, to say the least, quite hilarious these past few days:

DMX learns about Lil B
Saving the best for first. On some real shit I must have watched this near ten times already, and each time has resulted in tears. I won't spoil for you, just sit back and enjoy. Needless to say, Earl is not based, but need I remind you this is the same man who said "suck my dick/and all you niggas that been to jail before know, it's about to get thick."

DMX joins Twitter
We could put this up for debate, but it'd be pointless: DMX has delivered the best (celebrity, rapper, what have you) Twitter name ever with the ingenious handle "DizarkMizanIzex." Don't waste one more second not following dude. He is either going to never use it OR take aim for the most hilarious tweets in the rap game. Pray for the latter.

The Last Hope

If this is "The Last Hope" then be afraid. Jacking Drake beats from '07 is what's hot in the streets these days X? Is the gospel album still on tap? Really though, after all the known drug usage the barks and yells aren't so cool anymore. Between this and the Based God video dude looks like he's either back on the bad stuff or fiending HARD. Someone pry Swizz Beatz away from Alicia and lock him and X in the studio together. He's the only real hope DMX has of ever reclaiming his glory days. The real question is...can X's bark come back and steal the thunder from Ross's grunt? Discuss.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Watcher: Sons of Anarchy

There are a handful of new shows worth checking out this coming season, but fall TV is all about returning favorites. The one I'm checking for the most, without a doubt? The season four premiere of Sons of Anarchy. If you're not up on this show now is the time to get familiar with seasons 1-3 on DVD, trust, you'll get through them quickly. The show in one sentence: Hamlet on Harley's, with a lot of introspection and heart amidst tons of bullets and disturbing violence that you can't tear your eyes away from no matter how much you'd like to. For those who've been waiting impatiently along with me since season three bowed last November, you'll remember Anarchy ended (minor spoilers) with the Sons getting ready for a skid bid after settling some family business. When we return, 14 months will have passed and Charming has changed into a town with little patience for the gang's usual ways of running things. A new, no-nonsense sheriff, Clay's determination to go out with as much money as possible, and old family secrets coming to light are sure to make for an explosive season. Can't wait.

Sons of Anarchy's fourth season premieres with a special 90 minute episode, Tuesday Sept. 6.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The 10 New Shows to Check For In the 2011-2012 TV Season

You're already hyped for your favorite show to return, but it may also be time to inject a little new blood into the DVR/Hulu queue/torrent tracker. Here are the ten most promising shows of the new TV season:

10. Ringer (CW) - Is there a reason CBS passed on this pilot? Or do they just not know a good show when it comes on their desk? Seeing as how infamous bad-show bait network the CW picked it up one might think it was the former, but if you've read: this then you know the Connoisseuraus isn't oblivious to the fact that the CW actually has one or two real gems. This could be another. Either way the lead is former star of one of the Top 20 Shows of All-Time, so I was always in.
Premise: Sarah Michelle Gellar, of vampire slaying and C-list horror movie fame, plays twins, one with a shitty life who is in danger of getting whacked after wet snitching some mobster tpyes. Naturally, the other sister is filthy rich, and when she disappears, Sister 1 takes over her life because conveniently Sister 2 kept her embarrassment twin a secret from everyone in her life. And of course, Sister 2 has her own secrets and danger...
Sounds Good But: That's a lot of suspension of disbelief. And how many seasons is this expected to last, exactly? Cause right now it sounds like...half of one.
Premieres: Sept 13

9. Charlie's Angels (ABC) - I love TV remakes, even though they end up not loving me (when was the last good one?). I love to turn my mind off and watch these movies whenever they're always on HBO. I love plots that involve hot women kicking ass. I love Minka Kelly.
Premise: I don't really have to write that out, do I?
Sounds Good But: Like I said, TV remakes never do well, recently spy shows have been just as shitty. Plus, Fake Vincent Chase Ramon Rodriguez as Bosley? I fucking hate that guy! Minka and the other two weren't sexy enough, they had to make Bosley young and attractive for...what? Female viewers?! Pfft, strike #1.
Premieres: Sept 22, 35th anniversary of the original

8. Person of Interest (CBS) - It stars Benjamin Linus Michael Emerson. It's a J.J. Abrams vehicle. The creative team also boasts one Jonathan Nolan...yea, that's the guy with the famous director brother, who co-scripted that movie called The Dark Knight. I was always in.
Premise: A billionaire develops a software that can predict crimes or victims, and hires an ex-CIA guy with a shady past to help him prevent crime in the Rotten Apple. Said guy played by Jim Caviziel, whom you might remember played Jesus a few years back. So it's like Charlie's Angels, but without anyone attractive. (Taraji P. Henson's name is attached, but as you can see she's absent from the footage so far.)
Sounds Good But: Is this going to feel more J.J-ey or more CBS-ey? I'm worried about the latter, seeing as how I've not-hated only one, maybe two shows on that network in all my years. It could just be a generic CBS-brand procedural with a J.J.-Nolan spin that barely registers. And the plot could be unbearably hokey as well: predicting crimes but it's not sci-fi? And he keeps this to himself why? Because he watched Minority Report?
Premieres: Sept 22

7. Life's Too Short (HBO) - Name a movie that requires some kind of dwarf, elf, goblin or simply a midget and you can bet the awesome Warwick Davis stepped in to play it (he played not one but two major roles in the Harry Potter franchise). With that hustle on lock (I guess Verne Troyer is content with that Mini-Me money) he's now looking to play a fictionalized version of himself on cable and he went to Ricky Gervais, someone that knows a thing or two about Hollywood satire. So basically, Curb with dwarfism instead of baldness? Sounds great.

Premise: Hollywood behind-the-scenes drama from the perspective of showbiz dwarfism. TV Warwick will have bills on bills on bills thanks to a nasty divorce, and no morality in his movements as he tries to get back in the Hollywood winner's circle.
Sounds Good But: I guess there's always the chance that it comes off like a bland, uninteresing inside joke like many shows of this genre can at times, but really there's too little information to call it yet. Plus, it's HBO, which after Game of Thrones has officially reached the give-anything-they-air-a-chance level. I will say that if you're the rare, unfortunate HBO viewer that's miffed by all the Curb hype, you probably won't like this either.
Premieres: 2012

6. Hell on Wheeles (AMC) - The AMC Law of Averages. One show I stayed away from because I could smell the imminent cancellation, even though it got good reviews and had a little cult following [Rubicon]. One show started strong, ended horribly, with a creator that sounds like a delusional, arrogant asshole, which they went on to...renew [The Killing]? And two contenders for Top 10 or 20 Best TV Shows of all-time in Mad Men and Breaking Bad. Either way, if you're a TV connoisseur, you have to at least watch the pilot. Or...stay away if you smell imminent cancellation.

Premise: At the beginning of the Reconstruction era, an ex-Confederate tracks the Union soldiers who murdered his wife to a railroad construction town. For added flavor there's a plot line involving Cheyenne tribes out to derail the construction.
Sounds Good But: There are like, thirty-seven Western-ish shows in development right now. Will this one be the standout or AMC's second loss? But a series where the Confederate's the protagonist and Union boys are the bad guys? Whoa.
Premieres: Nov 6

5. The River (ABC) - It's actually surprising it took recent horror movie favorite Oren Peli, of Paranormal Activity fame this long to look to TV for his next windfall. Hopefully this is not as low-key as his film franchise; the movies are cool (2 took way too long to get going) but the jungle is the place for scares wilder than spooky bumps and ouija boards.

Premise: The host of a wildlife TV show goes missing in the Amazon; six months later his wife and son get a mysterious beacon that implies he may be alive, prompting them to assemble a documentary crew and embark on a rescue mission. (Why they're interested in exploiting dude's rescue for television is anyone's guess.)
Sounds Good But: The reason why there hasn't been any good horor shows for awhile? Most of 'em suck. Also, I really hope this is not shot like the Paranormal movies, that's tiring for a series.
Premieres: Mid-season

4. American Horror Story (FX) - Not much is known about this show except that Ryan Murhpy is behind it. Ryan Murphy, in case you didn't know, is the TV auteur behind Nip/Tuck and Glee, two shows that I couldn't possibly care any less for. But the title is awesome and it's on my favorite network, and as aforementioned horror is an untapped well on TV these days.
Premise: So there's a creepy house, and a couple moves into it, and um, scary shit happens. Hey at least the title wasn't a play-on-words for a satire about like, the mundane-ness of suburbia or something. That would've sucked.
Sounds Good But: As I said, he created Nip/Tuck and Glee, two shows that are too much for me, for different reasons.
Premieres: Oct 5

3. Terra Nova (FOX) - You know that big-budget summer blockbuster, that has a lot of cool big names attached, promises eye-popping special effects and spectacle, yet for some reason doesn't meet the sum of its parts and ends up as one big multi-million dollar joyless shit show? Yea, that's what this could end up being.

Premise: In the year 2149 overpopulation and diminishing air quality is signaling the end of days for planet Earth, so scientists develop a time travel device to take settlers back to prehistoric times to save the human race. I can name at least ten different reasons why that's a bad idea but, OK sure. So it's like any other drama (the lead is a cop), just with dinosaurs in the background.
Sounds Good But: In addition to what I said above, the behind-the-scenes goings on of this show are rife with delays, budget problems, and a whole lotta script doctoring. Three bad signs.
Premieres: Sept 26 

2. Alcatraz (FOX) - Everybody fucks up, even someone with a pedigree like J.J. Abrams. So yea, Undercovers was so boring and bland that it's failure isn't even worthy of the word fiasco. So what? The best super-producers just dust it off, and come back next year bigger and better. While Person of Interest reeks of stale CBS product sprayed with J.J. scented cologne to cover it up, this right here seems like the grade-A Bad Robot product we've come to know, love, and expect. 

Premise: Fifty years ago, 302 wardens and prisoners on Alcatraz island mysteriously disappeared. Now they are randomly reappearing, with villainous intentions and it's up to a detective, and a geek  expert on all things Alcatraz to find out why. 
Sounds Good But: Mythology is unpredictable. After three great years Alias cracked under the weight of it, meanwhile in it's third year Fringe rose to the occasion and blossomed because of it. Obviously there has to be a grand plan behind the disappearance and sudden reappearance's, but I want this show to keep the plots fun and exciting in the early goings, while building to it slowly but very surely like Alias did. But what do I know, I haven't even seen the thing yet. I'm just glad to have J.J. (and Hugo!) back. Bonus points for giving the lead role to Sarah Jones, of Sons of Anarchy fame (Zobelle's daughter). She's way too hot to not be working.
Premieres: Mid-season

1. Awake (NBC) - Can someone tell me why the most exciting, interesting shows are not premiering until mid-season?! Simply put, this looks amazing and if the pilot lives up to the trailer it will be one of the most innovative shows network TV has given us in a long while. There really isn't much more I can say, just click Play. Trust, it's worth the four minute running time.

Premise: Bear with me: a detective wakes up from a car crash involving his family to find that his wife has died. However, when he goes to sleep he wakes up in a reality where his son died instead of his wife. He continues to move between both realities, visiting a different therapist in each world that tells him the other is a fake product of the trauma. Meanwhile the cases he investigates in one world begin to affect the cases in the other. Trippy stuff.
Sounds Good But: We've all seen fantastic trailers that ended up being better than the actual product. Not to mention this story doesn't easily give way to the long-form execution that TV demands. And finally, creator Kyle Killen had an exciting, bold concept show just last year...and it ended up tanking embarrassingly the first week and becoming the season's first casualty by episode two. Maybe he should've gone cable this time?
Premieres: Mid-season

Which show are you interested in the most? Any I missed? And please remember, writing in long form is quite hard. Only the amateur TV watcher judges a show on one episode alone. If anything in the pilot grabs you, then weeks 2 and 3 are must-watches before your final decision.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Bridget Kelly

Profile: You may have seen her filling in for Alicia Keys whenever Jay-Z performed "Empire State of Mind" (which was 90% of the time) but now the Roc Nation songstress is getting ready for her debut. You heard her awesome Frank Ocean penned song "Thinking About Forever" a couple weeks ago and she's following that with an EP before dropping her first album some time next year. (Who wants to bet she drops both before Jay Electronica?) Oh yea and she's kind of gorgeous. Pictures and "Thinking About Forever" video below:


Lil B and Kreayshawn Respond to Game Diss

Did you know The Game's fourth LP, The R.E.D. Album is coming out this Tuesday? Do you care? Those answers are most likely no and NO and since he knows this, Game has taken to his time-honored tradition of cooking up as much false beef as he can to make himself relevant again. Not only does that involve his annual "I-Hate-Jay-Z-Even-Though-I-Said-I Loved-Him-Last-Week-Campaign" (#fucktakingbipolarmeds, yea!) but this year he also chose to send some shots towards Hip-Hop 2011's lovable court jesters Kreayshawn (warning her against using 'nigga') and Lil B, whom he crowned  'Wackest Rapper Alive' after hearing him for the first time on Wayne's "Grove St. Party" freestyle (Clearly Game doesn't read Connoisseuraus Rex). Jay may be too big to respond but the Bay area spitters are not, and they fired back hilariously:

Kreayshawn later deleted this subliminal but by then everybody had seen it:

Meanwhile the Based God had a few quick words for Game while leaving a performance:

*Dead* at both. Game - 0.